Israel Criticized for Helping Christians, But What Are Muslims Doing?

By Ray Hanania

May 22, 2014 6 min read

Most do not want to talk about the topic. Even more get angry when you do.

As a Christian Arab, I have no choice. I must talk about it. And I have to ask the tough questions. For example: If Israel thinks it is so important to address the challenges facing Christian Arabs, why don't Muslims feel the same way.

I suspect Israel is reaching out to Christian Palestinians, not because it's the right thing to do, but because they need to counter the growing concerns from Christians in the West about Israel's oppressive policies.

Yet, sometimes the motives for doing the right thing are irrelevant, especially when Christian Palestinians are not only suffering at the hands of Israel, but also they are suffering at the hands of the Muslim Arab world.

Muslims brush aside this important topic arguing that "Muslims and Christians are brothers and they suffer together," such as in Palestine where Christians and Muslims fought "side-by-side to defend Palestine."

They do suffer equally. They do resist side-by-side. But it sadly has had no positive impact on how Muslims treat Christians.

In the Middle East today, only the Christians are disappearing, while the numbers of Muslims and Jews are increasing.

Part of the problem is that Muslims are not doing enough to stand up and defend Christian Arabs who are attacked from Islamic extremists. Another part of the problem is that Muslims do not want to address the problem, believing if they don't, the problem will go away. But it will not go away. Israel recognizes this and is doing something.

Whenever I write about the plight of Christians and I mention that Christians are persecuted not only by Israeli policies but also by Islamic religious extremists, I am lectured — mainly from Muslims — on how Islam respects Christians more than others and I should stop bringing up the issue.

When I was president of the Palestinian American Congress in 1995, Islamic extremists from the Mosque in Bridgeview who were associated with Hamas in Gaza, attacked me saying, "Electing a Christian as leader of the Palestinian American Congress is like American electing a black president of the United States."

Of course, Americans did elect a black president of the United States 13 years later in November 2008.

Why are Muslims seemingly so defensive when we raise the issue of Christian persecution? And how can Muslims be more supportive?

The first step is to recognize that Islamic extremism is a disease. It's a cancer that is undermining Islam, a religion of peace that honors the same "One God" honored by Jews and Christians. We are all from the same family.

But extremist Muslims view Christian Arabs, Jews and Israelis as infidels. They constantly attack Christian Arabs, and, too often, mainstream or "moderate" Muslims remain silent.

Why are they silent? Because many Muslims who oppose the extremists deep down believe that only extremist violence can force real change, such as in Palestine.

Violence is the driving force behind the Arab Spring, which was never a movement led by Christians. We only happened to share the same suffering. The leadership of the Arab Spring is driven by Muslim activism and extremism. Today we know the Arab Spring is a failure. Rather than democracy, the Arab Spring has wrought more suffering, replacing one tyrant with another.

To survive, Christians need friends in the Middle East. And if Israel is willing to extend its hand to help us, I am not sure that as a Christian Palestinian I can say no. We should be listening to the Israelis and negotiating with them to end their practices of discrimination.

If Christian Arabs can force Israel to change its policies, maybe Christian Arabs can also help Israel change its discriminatory policies against Muslims.

The real problem, though, is that Islam is not an Arab religion, even though it originates in the Arab world. Today, non-Arabs dominate Islam, and non-Arabs have different priorities than Arabs.

Instead of supporting Christian Arabs, the Muslim world patronizes Christians. We can't get elected to office without an Arab government creating a "Christian" seat because the Arab leaders know that the Muslim voting population will not support Christian candidates.

Besides Lebanon, what Arab country has elected a Christian president?

I can say with certainty, that no Muslim Arab country will ever elect a Christian president. I can also say with equal certainty that there has never been a Christian Arab dictator.

Will Muslims listen and change? Or, will they simply respond with anger like they always do, criticizing me for raising the issue and arguing that they respect Christian Arabs better than anyone else?

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist managing editor of The Arab Daily News atwww.TheArabDailyNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @RayHanania. To find out more about Ray Hanania and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visitwww.creators.com.

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