Minorities and Citizenship in the Arab World
Minorities & Citizenship in the Arab World
Sunday, 25 September, 2016
An Introduction by Jacob Thomas
Any critique of Islam from a Western source is branded as a sign of “Islamophobia.” But what if the source is from the Arab world? It has been my goal ever since I began to contribute articles to FaithFreedom, to rely on Arabic-language articles/essays that analyze the present malaise in the Arab/Muslim world. They are contributed by liberal/reformist intellectuals who would love to see Islam join the rest of the world, and stop its Imperialistic impulse. The following article is my translation from Al-Awan website, written in defense of the human rights of minorities, who quite often, are marginalized, if not persecuted. The article doesn’t bear the name of the author. No explanation is for placing a photo of the Crucifix under the title!
“We Muslims are tolerant of minorities. We adhere to the Qur’anic injunction, ‘There is no compulsion in religion’ (The Cow: 2:256). We don’t punish anyone who leaves Islam. Buddhists are free to build their temples among us, so are our Christian brethren and our Jewish cousins, they are free to build their churches, monasteries, and synagogues in our lands. You may change your religion as you change your shirt. A Copt is a citizen, not a Dhimmi; a Shi’ite is welcome in a Sunni-majority land, and a Sunni is equally welcome in a Shi’ite-majority land. All religions may be practised in our Arab and Muslim world. May Allah protect us from the envy and evil designs of the West!”
Anyone who believes the above propaganda piece as diffused by Muslims, would have swallowed a mega lie! Several meetings have been sponsored and funded by Islamic organizations in the West, to portray “authentic” Islam as tolerant faith, ready to co-exist with other civilizations. Actually, this is nothing but throwing dust in the air! Facts on the ground don’t support that idealistic view.
How is it possible to build a genuine citizenship for all groups, within a culture that is based on Shariah, a legal framework that distinguishes a Muslim from a non-Muslim, and discriminates against the latter? A realistic account of the past not tainted by Islamist ideology, would reveal the miserable nature of that “happy and glorious” past!
A look at the present scene reveals the emptiness of all claims of Islamic tolerance. Where is justice when a young Algerian lady who had embraced Christianity, was sentenced to prison; in a land whose constitution guarantees freedom of religion? The Algerian authorities were disturbed that evangelism was going on openly in the country! But why should the state interfere with the personal convictions of its citizens? Why do Muslims deny to others, what they allow to themselves? And what’s the difference between “Evangelism” and “Da’wa?” Muslim “Da’iyas” (preachers) are allowed to proclaim their Islamic beliefs in Western countries! But woe unto Christians if they are caught preaching their faith in a Muslim land!
While the International Declaration of Human Rights guarantees freedom of belief or unbelief, and the right of every person to change his/her faith; non-Muslims and ex-Muslims suffer from discrimination in most Muslim-majority countries. It wasn’t long ago, when the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood declared, “I feel closer and appreciate much more an Indonesian or a Malaysian Muslim, over against an Egyptian Copt.”
Beginning in 2002, Copts have been leaving Egypt in great numbers, due to the attacks that have been perpetrated against them. Their daughters are kidnapped, raped, and forcefully married to Muslim men. Some of their churches and monasteries have been burned, and their crops destroyed. In the Gaza Strip, Hamas has instituted a Jizya Tax leveled on Christians since they don’t participate in Jihad against Israel!
A Saudi journalist and human rights activist wrote, “I am one who has received my primary and middle education in Saudi Arabia. I also attended special institutions for the memorization of the Qur’an. I can testify to the damage that they have caused to the minds of the youth. In a textbook on ‘Monotheism” that’s taught at Secondary Schools, hostility toward the ‘Other’ is officially taught. In Chapter 13 of the textbook, written by Muhammad Abdul-Wahab, all other religions are branded as false, causing nothing to their adherents but evil!
I need not to go on reflecting on the absence of religious freedom in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Quite often, the authorities fight religious pluralism, by financing and defending an ossified Islamist theology.
Arabs and Muslims can enter the age of freedom and equality only when they allow freedom of religion for all citizens.
One last point. Why are the radicals of all other religions, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, and others, kept isolated from the general public and marginalized? While at the same time, Fundamentalist Islamic organizations, are free to “swim among the Muslim masses, like a fish in its own environment?” Wise is that person who can really distinguish a “Moderate Muslim” from a “Fundamentalist Muslim!”
In the final analysis, Secularism, that is separation between religion and the state, remains the only way that would liberate religious, ethnic, and racial minorities living in a culture of an unyielding and discriminatory religious majority throughout the Arab world.
The URL for the Arabic text: