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Muslims must be more supportive of Christian Arabs
Saudi Gazette Newspaper Sunday, October 06, 2013
By Ray Hanania
Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a rightwing anti-peace Zionist, met with a Christian Orthodox priest from Nazareth, Father Gabriel Nadaf, to discuss ways Christian Arabs could become more a part of Israel. The meeting enraged Muslim activists who denounced Father Nadaf as a “Christian Zionist,” and as a “Jew.”
I understand what Father Nadaf is doing. He recognizes that Christian Arabs live in a precarious world with Muslims. They believe that just maybe, Israel might be a better protector of Christian Arab interests. Christian Arabs are denounced for even raising this issue in public. We’re not allowed to talk about it. It’s haram! It’s a sin. But to Christian Arabs, it is real.
In truth, the relationship between Christian Arabs and Muslim extremists is worsening. But the real problem is that mainstream Muslims are doing nothing to confront these fanatics, and in fact they even refuse to see it as a problem that needs to be addressed. But the hatred by Muslim extremists against Christian Arabs is growing. It’s getting worse and many Christian Arabs believe that maybe Israel cares about us more.
This problem has to be viewed in a different, more complex context. The Arab-Israeli conflict is not a simple issue of two sides hating each other. Christians are in the middle. On the one hand, Muslims claim we are “brothers” in arms against Israel. But what happens to us when Israel is gone? Will Muslims respect us or, will Muslims merely resort to confronting us next.
There is an old Arab saying that I grew up with as a child that goes: “On Saturday the Jews. On Sunday the Christians.” We all know what that means. Once Israel is out of the way, Christian Arabs will be next.
Many moderate Muslims have told me the fear is unjustified. They even argue that bringing it up undermines the “Arab” cause. What is the Arab cause though if it is not about freedom for everyone? It’s not just about Palestine.
Muslims do not like it when I bring up the issue of the growing hatred by many Muslim extremists against Christian Arabs like myself. Christian Arabs are not allowed to question Muslim actions. We’re not allowed to criticize Muslim acts. When we do, we are denounced by Muslim extremists more viciously than the way they denounce Israel.
Recently, a Muslim whom I have known for nearly four decades turned on me calling me a “Christian Zionist.” I’ve been called a “Christian Zionist” and a “Jew” before by other Muslim activists who are angry with what I write.
However, this was an individual who 35 years ago was going to be thrown out of the country by US Immigration. As a young journalist, I saw him as an Arab, not as a Muslim. I saw him as being me. And I wrote columns fighting for his rights until Immigration relented and he was allowed to stay.
I didn’t write the columns because I saw him as a Muslim. I wrote the columns because I saw in him the same fate that I felt could face me and other Arabs, Christian and Muslim. But back in the 1970s, Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs in the West were one and the same.
Today, that is not the case. And when he wrote to me excoriating me because I married a Jewish woman and I am raising our son as a “Jew,” rather than as a Christian, or as he wrote, better yet, “as a Muslim,” I tried to reason with him arguing that he can’t let his hate of Jews misdirect his intelligence. The more I pushed back, the angrier he got. He then sent out an email – as have other Muslim extremists – claiming I am really a “Jew” and that I am a “Christian Zionist” and that I am selling out Palestine to “the Jews.”
To most Muslims, this probably sounds like ranting coming from an idiot moron whom I should ignore. But these “idiot morons” are far too common in Muslim society. And worse, Muslims seem unbothered by their presence or their attacks against Christian Arabs. “Just ignore him,” Muslim friends tell me. “He doesn’t represent the mainstream Muslim community.”
I agree. But he does represent a significant minority of Muslims that continues to grow in strength and size. Their voices are unchallenged.
Their voices of rage and hatred should be confronted not by their Christian Arab targets but by the mainstream Muslim community. I shouldn’t be the one confronting him. Mainstream Muslims should be confronting these wild voices of hateful insanity.
It’s incidents like these that have many Christians today concerned about the real long-term goals of Muslims. Are Christian Arabs equal or are we just a short-term opportunity to be abandoned once Israel is destroyed by them.
I don’t hate Muslims. I respect Islam. And I often describe myself as being “Muslim by culture” because in my experience as a Christian Arab, I have often shared the same experiences with Muslims. But, I don’t want to destroy Israel. And, I don’t hate Jews. And the more Muslim extremists attack Jews, the more it concerns me as a Christian Arab.
I am not alone in my views. The vast majority of Christian Arabs feel the same way. They are concerned about the failure of the Muslim world to confront and control extremists. That’s one reason why so many Christian Arabs support the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad. They feel safer with a secular dictator like Assad than they do with an Islamic leader.
In the end, fanaticism and extremism frighten Christian Arabs more than a secular dictator, and even more than Israel.
– Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist. He can be reached at www.TheMediaOasis.com or follow him on Twitter @RayHanania
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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