Criticizing Islam by Middle Eastern Christians
I receive thousands of emails every year. I treasure very few of them for some reason or another. Last year, I had some email exchanges with a researcher of Islam I have great respect for. Because both of us grew up in a close proximity in a specific area in the Middle East, we wanted to know a bit more information about each other. Our emails involved talking about Christians in the Middle East. There are two common words are used to denote a Christian in the Middle East: “Masihi” and “Nusrani”. The word “Masihi” is mostly used by Christians, but also by Muslims sometimes. The most common used word amongst Muslims to denote Christians is “Nasara” (plural of “Nusrani”).
My friend is from a Muslim background. I am not. I said the “Shahada” a dozen times or so, just to show some Muslims I was discussing religion with that a “Shahada” is no more than hot air. It does not make a “Muslim”. But in reality, I was never a Muslim. In fact, I always saw Islam as a backward religion.
Now, my friend’s uncle was a well-traveled man in the Middle East. He had a well-known expression of his “ma fi nasara? ya khsara!”. This expression translates to “There are no Christians? What a loss”. His uncle was lamenting the fact that if an area in the Middle East does not have a Christian community in it, is not even worth visiting. The uncle was a Muslim, at least by name. But he saw, through his travels, that the areas that lack some Christian community do not have cleanliness and civility. Now that says a lot and, in a sense, proves my observations of Muslim and Christian communities, at least in the areas where I grew up in and had a chance to develop good relations with Muslims and Christians alike.
In the Christian communities, women and girls had a say in the house. They were educated. Families expectations were for all males and females to get a good education, and try to be successful in an honest work environment. Were there exceptions? Off course, not all humans are the same.
In Muslims communities girls education is not stressed as much. When visiting a Muslim’s house, women had no presence. They stayed in the inner part of the house. Isolating the females seems to be an essential part of Muslims’ lives. What a shame. Do they think others are there to abuse Muslim women?
In any case, it seems clear that Muslims and Christians, even when they live in close proximity, they do have different community structures where women are on the losing end of Muslim communities.
I believe that the spread of Islam is partly blamed on Middle Eastern Christians
When Islam invaded the Middle East, Christians made no fuss about it. In fact, they thought the invaders liberated them from the rule of Rome. The Muslim invaders had no concept of a running government. They relied on the Christians of the Middle East to do that for them, and to teach them the “how to” in running a functional state. John of Damascus is just one example in this regard. In a sense, Christians planted the seeds of their destruction in the greater Syria region. This was in the past, but what about the present times of the twentieth and twenty first centuries? Well, It saddens my heart to report to you that Middle Eastern Christians are still fooled by the Muslim media on a large scale. For example, most Middle Eastern Christians believe the Arab Media regarding all conflicts with Israel since 1900. Most believe that Israel is an evil entity. When Yaser Arafat was alive, all Palestinian Christians I knew believed him to be the legitimate leader of the Palestinians.
In summary, Christians of the Middle East side with the Arab regimes against Israel. They do not see anything wrong with any “Islamic” country they live in. They do not see the wrong in an “Islamic” country.
What about Christian intellectuals of the last one hundred years
For some reason, Christians mostly wanted secular governments in the Middle East. But even so, they did that without any criticism of Islam. Bear in mind that secularism is the antithesis of Islam. Despite that, one cannot find any criticism of Islam by the major Middle Eastern thinkers of the last century. For Example, Michel Aflaq, a Christian, was the founder of the Ba’th party that ruled over Syria and Iraq. Despite his large amount of writings for a secular state, he never criticized Islam.
Another favorite thinker of mine is Antoun Sa’adeh who is also from a Christian background. He is the founder of the Syrian national Party that almost took over Lebanon government at one time. Sa’adeh was a great Social thinker for reasons beyond the scope of this article. He was a secularist. But despite his strong secular views, he never criticized Islam. In fact he viewed Islam and Christianity as two sides of the same coin. One title of one of his books suffices as an example here. One of his books is titled “Islam in its two messages: Christianism and Muhammadanism”.
What a shame. Christian thinkers of the Arab world of the last century did not have the balls to criticize Islam in a direct way.
A look toward the future
If people like Ali Sina and Mohammad Asghar and M A Khan and many others from Muslim background criticize Islam, then why do we not have Arab thinkers from Christian background who criticize Islam?
For once, Muslims will dismiss such criticism because it came from a non-Muslim. But even so, this does not give any answer to valid criticism. Criticizing Islam is not a difficult thing to do. Islam is replete with weaknesses that can be easily attacked by honest researchers. So, even if such criticism is dismissed because it came from a non-Muslim,that in itself does not show that such criticism is not valid or justified.
I do expect intellectual Christians from Arab background to come out in numbers and show great criticism of Islam and its draconian beliefs in the coming years. My belief is based on the fact that western critics of Islam, though Christians, are taken seriously by Muslim apologetics. Arab Christian intellectuals will learn that Criticizing Islam is not a prejudice against Muslims. Rather, it is a dismantling of a barbaric belief system that plagued the Middle East for fourteen centuries.