Sunday, 12 September 2010

9/11 overshadowed by controversy

Nine years on an angry America, still reeling in the wake of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression, mourned the victims of the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. This year the anniversary was overshadowed by two controversies: the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’, and Pastor Terry Jones’ threat to burn copies of the Koran. Fortunately Pastor Jones did not go ahead with his stunt and everybody breathed a sigh of relief. Emotions had been running very high in the Muslim world. There had been protests in a number of countries, and President Yudhoyono of Indonesia warned that the act could threaten “peace and international security.” General Petraeus warned the event would endanger the lives of American servicemen and women.

I heard on BBC Radio 4 how Muslims in America were increasingly feeling under siege. I can understand why they feel uncomfortable right now with the acrimonious debate about the Ground Zero Mosque still raging, but I question whether they are really ‘under siege’. Even after the 9/11 attacks American Muslims did not face any major acts of retribution. I think that will be the case this time too. Whatever their feelings of victimization, they are a far cry from the real discrimination many Christian minorities face in many Muslim majority countries.

James Corum, Dean of the Baltic Defence College in Estonia, writes in The Telegraph:
In many Islamic countries, Christian minorities – including the descendants of the earliest Christian communities in the Middle East – suffer under laws that make them second-class citizens. Not only do they have fewer legal rights, but the exercise of their faith is cruelly regulated by governments in the name of Sharia. In America, we criticise the plan to build a mosque near the 9/11 murder site even while agreeing that American law provides the clear right of Muslims to do such a thing. But in many Muslim nations no Christian can build or even repair a church without approval (usually not forthcoming) from a hostile government ministry.

Much worse, murder, kidnappings, forced conversions and attacks against Christians by radical Muslims are common in the Islamic world, especially in the Middle East and in Pakistan. Every year, hundreds of Christians are murdered by religious fanatics. Even when a Muslim government disapproves of such violence, officials and police often stand aside and allow the attacks rather than confront a politically powerful radical Islam.

In short, Christians are today living in one of the great eras of persecution. That persecution comes from a minority of Muslims – but an influential minority. Christians should use this day to educate the Western public about the suffering of fellow Christians, and to confront peacefully the rulers and populations of Muslim nations with their failure to maintain rights supposedly guaranteed by the UN Charter.
The suffering of Christian minorities in many Muslim majority countries is largely ignored by the mainstream media. Western leaders are even aware of the issue but stay silent on the matter lest they complicate relations with Muslim countries. The consequences of Pastor Jones' actions if he had gone ahead with them would have been extremely severe for Christians living in Muslim majority contexts. The Koran is regarded by Muslims as the literal word of God transmitted from heaven, so to destroy it is the ultimate sacrilege. I’m sure Christ would not have approved of deliberately offending and provoking others to the point of violence. But He probably would approve of Christians standing up for the basic human rights of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

It is surprising that the eccentric pastor of a very small Pentecostal church in Florida, known for previous public-seeking misadventures, managed to attract so much attention. Fuelled by the internet, 24 hour news and media sensationalism the story grew bigger and bigger until it became the main news of the day. Pastor Jones certainly didn’t speak for the vast majority of Christians or America. The event was condemned by all mainstream Christian churches, President Obama, Hillary Clinton as well as many ordinary Americans. Yet the media handed this man a megaphone to speak to the world. I’m sure there are some sections of the media that are secretly delighted a ‘Christian pastor’ could have made such a huge error of judgement. They have milked this story for it was worth.

Unfortunately I feel many Muslims throughout the world still feel Pastor Jones represents Christians and the west. This is what some of the more extreme elements within Islam want Muslims to believe. A sense of victimization and hurt only aids their agenda. For this the media must take some of the blame.


Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi JL:)

I do not completely blame the media.They have to create a sensation to sell their news.In fact, in the two English dailies I get at home,I see there are quite a lot of entries mostly about murders,rapes,corruption,bribery,robbery,scandals,liquor tragedy etc.

The thing is Christians are a passive lot and suffer in silence.Even if the majority of the Christians hate Muslims, they just put up a calm exterior to prevent a backlash.Muslims believe in retribution.You are already aware a Christian professor's palm was cut off in Kerala for apparently no reason by the Muslim fanatics.To rub salt on the professor's wound, the management dismissed him from service.The is how the Christian majority acts.
Always appease the enemies.

I don't understand how the Muslims can even dare to think of building a mosque near ground zero after the the deliberated murder of so many innocent people and wanton destruction of such a massive,grand property which the American considered their their great pride and achievement.

Muslims will dare do this only in democratic countries because of the freedom they enjoy.I strongly feel their freedom should be curtailed.

I admire a Catholic country like France introducing a law to ban the veil and impose fines on people wearing veils.This is called guts.

Best wishes:)

JI said...

Hi Joseph,

Interesting views and I share much of them. Muslims generally operate on the principle of honour and shame, while Christians operate on the principle of right and wrong. That is one key difference. So any offence caused to Islam or the Muslim community is seen by Muslims as justification for revenge. Islam is also more than a set of beliefs. It has political, social, judicial and military dimensions to it.

It's very sad to hear about the Christian professor in Kerala. The college and church should have been more supportive. It was bad enough getting his hand chopped but getting sacked is more painful emotionally.

I think atheists and Muslims are two of the most intolerant people today. They are very strategic in their thinking and determined to get what they want. Bit by bit they try to change society to suit them. Meanwhile Christians, as you say, are passive and naive. They also have little unity. Sometimes they need to speak out and make a stand, otherwise they are bound to suffer. I see this happening in the UK. The church is being increasingly marginalised. I'm glad the Pope, who is currently touring Britain, raised this issue.

I think building an Islamic centre so close to Ground Zero is a provocative act. Even after all the protests the people behind the proposal are not willing to back down. This makes you wonder what the real motives are!

Best wishes,

Amrita said...

In Pakistan Christians are persecuted and treated as second cless citizens.

The Islamic fundamentalist is a threat looms large all ove r th e world. Look what they did at the Jama Masjid in Delhi 2 days ago.

JI said...

Hi Amrita,

In Pakistan the recent floods were a double whammy for Christians. Not only were they badly affected by the floods, but they also faced discrimination in the distribution of aid. This is what the Pakistani newspaper Dawn had to say:

“Discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds is deeply entrenched in Pakistan and will not change overnight. Yet that it is being used as an excuse to strip people of their rights as equal citizens even during a time of calamity is abhorrent.”

This is not a just world!

Hopefully the Commonwealth Games in Delhi will go ahead. It would be a major embarrassment for India if it didn't.

Best wishes,