The Myth of the Christian Arabs
In an article title "Arab Christians: An Introduction"
Dr. Walid Phares correctly wrote: "For years, the term "Arab
Christians" was used to categorize the Christians in the
Middle East. However, the concept instead of being precisely
defined was intellectually misused and politically abused."
He further wrote; This denial of identity of millions of indigenous
non-Arab nations can be equated to an organized ethnic cleansing.."
Such tactics were also used by Turkey to undermine the identity
of the Kurds and Assyrians in that country by denying their existence.
During the Saddam's rule the Assyrian of Iraq were not allowed
to identify themselves by that name and were counted as Arabs
or Kurds in the Census. Those who worked for the government were
expected to sign ethnic correction documents identifying them
The Ordeal of Arab Christians
In the following article Magdi Khalil identifies the Christians
of the Middle East as Arabs contrary to all historical evidences.
Another example of how in addition to being persecuted their
non-Arab identity is under assault.
September 03, 2005
By Magdi Khalil - The recent, simultaneous bombing of six
Iraqi churches reflects the seriousness of the predicament of
Arab Christians, who are trapped between the hammer of terrorists
groups and extremists, and the anvil of fanatic governments that
skillfully manipulate the issue of religious radicalism for their
own benefit, while reinforcing religious, ethnic and sectarian
discrimination among their citizens.
Arab Christians live in the bosom of a racist culture that
claims superiority over non-Muslims, fueled by a legacy mostly
filled with violence and hatred and a history centered on strife,
murder and viciousness.
Obviously, the Christians of the Middle East have lost the
demographic race to the benefit of their Muslim compatriots.
Their numbers continue to dwindle not just due to natural factors,
but because many of them chose, or were compelled, to emigrate.
Some fell victims to the constant pressures that escalated to
fatal attacks. And others succumbed to the temptation to renounce
their faith. The Christians of Southern Sudan were the only ones
to maintain their place in that difficult contest, and though
they paid a dear price, they discovered the means to achieve
a realistic balance of power and face off eradication designs.
A survey of the present situation of Christians living in
the Middle East demonstrates a problematic and distressing cycle:
Arab Christian populations are declining, resulting in an erosion
of their political power, which in turn causes their conditions
to worsen and ultimately drives them out of their own homeland.
This pattern is repeated throughout the region.
In Lebanon, Christians represented 50-60% of the population
prior to 1975; today this percentage has declined to 25-30%.
Most importantly, their political influence has severely weakened.
The Lebanese emigration ministry estimates the number of emigrants
at five million, more than three and a half million of which
are Lebanese Christians. In the past Lebanon was known to be
a safe haven for persecuted individuals who were hunted because
of their religious or intellectual beliefs. Today, however, it
is driving out its own children because of the Arab infringement,
the Palestinian foolishness and the Syrian occupation.
The Lebanese Patriarch Nasr Allah Safir talked with LBC TV
station about the Christian situation saying: "The Christians
feel left out, their presence being clearly unwanted". He
commented on the injustice committed against Lebanese Christians:
"Lebanon was in a state of war, and it was the agreement
of El Taef that put an end to this war, but only a partial and
selective implementation of the agreement was carried out."
The writer Mushee Maouz confirmed this statement in his book
, with the following words: "Since 1943, and for many decades,
the Maronite Christians of Lebanon, the Shi'a, and the elite
Sunni have worked together in a diverse, legal and democratic
system that was controlled by minorities. However, the shift
in favor of Muslim communities, Radical Arab nationalism and
military Palestinian existence, as well as the Syrian and Israeli
intervention ended up alienating the Maronites and forcing them
to take a defensive stance."
Iraq witnessed an increase in Christian emigration following
the defeat of Sadam Hussein in the second Gulf War, as the political
speech took religious tones and the economic situation continued
to deteriorate. Once Baghdad fell at the hands of the Coalition
troops, the fanatics came out of their dark caves and began attacking
the liquor shops owned by Christians. As a result more than two
hundred shops had to be closed. The attacks became more serious
as they then targeted Christian women who were not veiled, Christian
residences, and finally took the lives of a number of innocent
Christians citizens. The final attacks targeted Christian churches
during Sunday services and resulted in a large number of casualties
and injuries. News reports mentioned that thousands of Iraqi
Christians were forced to migrate to Syria in the aftermath of
such attacks, proof enough that the so called "resistance"
is nothing but another facet of the vicious terrorism that assaults
innocents and ultimately seeks to ruin the new Iraqi experience.
During a few decades, the percentage of Palestinian Christians
has dropped from 17% to less than 2% of the total population.
The Israeli newspaper reported that entire neighborhoods in Beit
Gala, Beit Lahm and Beit Sahur have been emptied of Christians
because of the overwhelming Islamic tide that has turned the
Palestinian cause into an Islamic issue, and the growing power
of the fundamentalists who are imposing their rules and views
on the Palestinian community. According to the BBC, the Christian
inhabitants of Jerusalem, who, in 1920, represented 50% of the
population, currently represent a mere 10%.
The Palestinian , under the leadership of Islamic organizations,
had a detrimental effect on the Christians who were required
to pay a type of tax to those organizations to support suicide
missions. News coming out of the Holy Land is disturbing. In
Gaza, Christian women, in fear of being attacked by Islamic fanatics,
have donned the veil. During the crisis in the Church of the
Nativity, a reporter from Los Angeles managed to sneak into the
church and indicated that the terrorists have raided the church,
leaving nothing intact. They used the wood of the temple as fire
fuel, and the pages of Bibles as toilet paper. Another incident
that took place in Nazareth City, when the fanatics tried to
build a mosque right in front of the Church of the Annunciation,
clearly reveals the intentions of the fundamentalist organizations
to establish an Islamic state on this most sacred Christian ground.
The situation of Egypt's Copts is definitely not promising,
as they are now more marginalized then ever. The reports issued
abroad refer to them as "an isolated minority", "a
minority under siege", "a persecuted Church" and
"an oppressed minority". To quote Mushee Maouz: "The
Copts' participation in political life is minimal. The peaceful
integration of the Copts into their society started in the middle
of the 19th Century, but was regularly interrupted by the militant
Islamic movement that disconcerted the Copts and created tensions
between Muslims and Christians. The Copts continued to swing
back and forth between integration and rejection throughout the
20th Century, and isolation became the common pattern under the
rule of autocratic regimes." This dismal situation propelled
a million and half Christians to emigrate to the United States,
Europe and Australia. The exact number of the Christian minority
living in Egypt remains a well guarded government secret.
Of all the Arab regimes, the Syrian and Jordanian regimes
are deemed the best in their dealings with Christian citizens.
Nevertheless, the Islamist movement and the deteriorating economic
situation have badly affected the Christians in these two countries.
Since the events of September 11, tensions are running high in
the region, and hatred towards all that is related to the West
is growing almost to the point of triggering a collision between
the East and West. To quote the British reporter Martin Buckley:
"The Christians in Jordan feel that they are being pushed
into a difficult corner, either to belong to the Western World
or to the Arab World." Growing suspicions surround the Christians,
falsely accusing them of being "a fifth column" or
an "inside enemy" - another example of a prevalent
mindset that constantly casts doubts about the Christians' loyalty
and patriotism. It seems that Christians are sadly destined to
pay the price whenever tensions or conflicts arise between the
Arab World and the West.
Throughout the ages of Arab invasion and Ottoman occupation,
Christians of the Middle East: the Copts, Armenians, Syrians,
Maronites, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Aramaeans have suffered
from persecution along with other minorities like the Shi'a,
Kurds and Druz. Their situation improved, however, when the modern
state was founded after the collapse of the Ottoman rule and
at the onset of Western colonization, becoming more engaged in
their societies in response to the emergent concept of citizenship.
Unfortunately, at the escalation of militant regimes and fascist
religious movements, a relapse occurred costing the minorities
most of their justly earned citizenship rights.
The bleak situation of the Christian Arabs has caught the
attention of honorable men who chose to confront the sinister
tide that has overtaken the region, and some of them paid dearly
for their courage such as Dr. Farag Fouda and Prof. Saad Eddin
Ibrahim; the former who was assassinated in 1991, and the latter
who was jailed during 2000-2003.
A number of Arabic writers have recently produced candid articles
and other publications calling attention to the ordeal of Arab
Saudi Prince Talal Ben Abdelaziz wrote an article entitled
"The Survival of Christian Arabs", in , a Lebanese
newspaper, stating the following: "The Christian Arabs'
situation is the product of an environment overwhelmed by fanaticism
and a violence level which can trigger disasters of historical
proportions, and, most of all, the product of an environment
strongly disposed to eliminate the different other. The continued
existence of the Christian Arabs in their homelands will reinforce
the foundations of the modern state, the cultural diversity and
democracy, and put an end to the continuous loss of scientific,
intellectual and cultural abilities in our region. Their emigration
is a mighty blow that will prove detrimental to our future."
Mr. Muhammad Hasanayn Haykal wrote the following words in
the magazine entitled : "I personally feel, as others certainly
do, that if we do not address the issue of Christian emigration,
if we continue to overlook it or neglect it on purpose, then
we will face an Arab scene that will not just be different from
the current one, but one that would have definitely lost part
of its assets on a human and cultural level. It would be such
a loss if the Eastern Christians leave believing that there is
no future for them or their children here, Islam would then be
left alone in the East, with only the company of Zionist Judaism
- and most specifically that of Israel."
As for Mr. Galal Amin, he wrote the following enlightening
words: "Evidently, the issue of Muslims and Copts is not
a religious issue, it stirs up all our issues: education, freedom,
rational thinking, justice, ethics and development. If this argument
is valid, then it is obvious that if we want to see Muslims freed,
we need to free the Copts first".
Mr. Tarek Heggy wrote the following comment: "Progress
and modernization are infectious! And it is up to the minorities
of the Middle East to pass on these notions into our region".
There were many other inspiring words, in addition to a significant
visit from Pope John Paul II, who wished to support and encourage
the Middle East Christians. However, no matter how important
the words and visits are, neither of them is capable of achieving
significant results. Only when the foundations of the modern
state are firmly set in place, can we dare hope that this situation
will change. Democracy, liberty and citizenship - the basics
of a modern state - were the factors that initiated the integration
of Christians within their societies in the first half of the
last century; and it was the absence of these factors during
the second half of the last century that sent them back into
the dark ages of isolation and persecution, where they still
Magdy Khalil is an Egyptian writer and analyst residing in
the USA. You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org