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|Sun Jan 09, 2011 8:17 pm Double Dhimmitude, Part II
|Double Dhimmitude, Part II
by Gerald A. Honigman
Wake up, my dear Coptic friends. It's long past due that a new dawn should arise in relations between our two peoples.
First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People…
The above expression seems to have first been referred to by Professor Bernard Lewis, in a January 1976 article in Commentary, titled "The Return of Islam.” He was describing the foreboding atmosphere pervading Arab countries in the days leading up to the '67 Middle East war. Among other probable places, it also appeared in an article, "In the Muslim City of Bethlehem," in The New York Times Magazine on December 24, 1995 describing graffiti written on Bethlehem walls to frighten the Christian population.
Late in 2010, scores of Christians in Iraq and Egypt were murdered in their churches and elsewhere, reminiscent of a far wider slaughter of Lebanon's Christians (especially Maronites) in the 1970s.
The above are but a few of many murderous examples of how Christians have fared in the Dar ul-Islam. The history and fate of the regions' Jews have been as bloody or worse, as described in the first Double Dhimmitude essay…
Please recall that dhimmitude describes the status of peoples conquered by both Arabs and other successive Islamic armies since the former burst out of the Arabian Peninsula waging Jihad in the name of the Dar ul-Islam against the rest of the world from the 7th century C.E. onwards. It refers primarily to those who are known as Ahl al-kitab--People of the Book--Jews and Christians.
Like the Jews, many if not most Christian populations in the region consist of ethnically different, pre-Arab conquest peoples.
In North Africa, for example, Jews pre-date the Arab conquest by millennia.
Ibn Khaldun, one of the greatest Muslim scholars of all time, wrote of the forced Arabization of the native Imazighen ("Berbers") and their brave resistance to the Arab onslaught six centuries ago. He recorded their alliance with the Jews, who fled the Roman conquest of Judaea over five centuries earlier to North Africa. Under the leadership of the Jewish queen, Dahiyah al-Kahina (the priestess), both Jews and Imazighen fought the Arab invaders, settlers, and colonizers of their lands.
When this subject arises, I often refer to a quote from one of Egypt's best known, pre-Arab, native Copts--the late President Sadat's Foreign Minister, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali-- to exemplify the plight of non-Arab and/or non-Muslim peoples in the region conquered via Jihad by Arab and successor Islamic armies.
In Amos Elon’s Flight Into Egypt (New York, 1980, pp. 84-91), the Israeli author reviewed his encounters with Boutros-Ghali. Here's Elon…
[i]In his office, there is a map of the Middle East on which Israel is still blacked out…Israel must integrate by accepting the nature of the area…that nature that is Arab.
In a tape of a long discourse delivered in 1975 to Professor Brecher he proclaimed that…in the vast area between the Persian Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean everyone had to be Arab or risk continuing strife.
Still, Boutros-Ghali felt that there might be a solution. How? Well, Israel could become an Arab country. Most Israelis were (Jewish) immigrants from Arab countries anyway.[/i]
The only way for non-Arabs to be "accepted" is for them all to turn themselves into Uncle Tom Uncle Boutroses. And note that the problem is really two-fold here--a religious and a racist one--and committed by the same folks who love to speak about allegedly racist Zionism.
Let's leave this aspect of the problem for now, however, as I attempt to tackle another even more delicate one…
Too often, dhimmi Christians have needed no help from their Arab Muslim conquerors to oppress dhimmi Jews.
Long before the massive Arab invasions of the 7th century C.E., the 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, Church Father Saint John Chrysostom, for example, had an enormous influence on the teachings of the eastern churches.
While in Antioch, John denounced Jews and Judaizing Christians in a series of eight sermons (homilies). Among other things, it appears that he wanted Jewish Christians, who for centuries had kept connections to their Jewish roots, to choose between Judaism and Christianity. Those sermons later played a considerable part in the further development of Christian anti-Semitism. Later, they were extensively used by the Nazis in their war of extermination against the Jews.
Here's some of Chrysostom's "saintly" teaching in Homily 1…
The Jewish people were driven by their drunkenness and plumpness to the ultimate evil; they kicked about, they failed to accept the yoke of Christ, nor did they pull the plow of his teaching. Another prophet hinted at this when he said: "Israel is as obstinate as a stubborn heifer."
Although such beasts are unfit for work, they are fit for killing. And this is what happened to the Jews: while they were making themselves unfit for work, they grew fit for slaughter. This is why Christ said: "But as for these my enemies, who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and slay them."
You [Jews] did slay Christ, you did lift violent hands against the Master, you did spill his precious blood. This is why you have no chance for atonement, excuse, or defense.
When the Church of Egypt's native Copts broke with Byzantium, it retained at least as virulent a strain of anti-Semitism as its own Byzantine tormentors possessed, and it actively promotes this hatred to this very day. There had been a large Jewish community in Egypt by the time of Jesus' birth, especially in Alexandria, and early Christianity's competition with that community probably contributed to this animosity.
As just one example of this problem in modern times, Pope Shenouda III, the Church's current leader, has made numerous anti-Semitic statements. In an interview on Egyptian Television on April 8, 2007 he proclaimed that “the Western Churches were wrong to exonerate the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ." He then criticized others' statements apologizing for Christian anti-Semitism.
In 1840, the Middle East witnessed what had already become commonplace in Europe for centuries...a blood libel against Jews. An Italian Catholic friar in Damascus vanished, and Jews were accused of murdering him to use his blood for ritual purposes. Torture and death of Jews soon followed.
For those of us who read Geoffrey Chaucer's medieval Canterbury Tales while in school, we came to know poor little Hugh of Lincoln in "The Prioress's Tale." His murder was blamed on the Jews in England in 1255, and he was soon canonized. Jewish communities were periodically bled both financially and physically as results of such lies.
So, after the Arab conquests, just as the Nazis found eager collaborators among numerous peoples whom they conquered in their persecution and slaughter of the Jews, too many native, Middle Eastern Christians were also kindred spirits with their own Muslim oppressors when it came to the subject of the Jews. The latter's rejection of the Prophet of Islam's overtures and claims had lead to their mass slaughter in the Arabian Peninsula right at the dawn of Islam, and their rejection of Christianity's claims for Jesus (especially those dealing with divinity) would yield even more subjugating and murderous consequences for them in Christendom.
While some Middle Eastern Christians had simply inherited and modified their own anti-Semitism from traditional Christian teaching, others--feeling exposed and now vulnerable themselves living among real or potentially hostile dominant Muslim populations--sought common ground with their own off again/on again new tormentors by turning the focus on everyone's favorite common demon, the Jew.
Here's an example of what a mix of that above deadly combination looks like.
Early in 2003, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan, Irineos, sought appointment as the Patriarch of Jerusalem. Letters with his signature to Yasir Arafat contained, among other things, the following gems…
You are aware of the...disgust...all the Holy Sepulchre fathers feel for the descendants of the crucifiers of our Lord Jesus...crucifiers of your people...Jewish conquerors of the Holy Land of Palestine.
Christians played an important role in the nascent Arab nationalist movement in the late 19th and 20th centuries, and the above explanation was certainly one of the main motivating factors for this. This was not unlike some Jews seeking to be absorbed under the potentially protective, inclusive unifying umbrella of various socialist movements in Christian Europe around the same time.
So, given this unfortunate history, where do we go from here?
Given the fact that an especially militant form of Islam is in the ascendancy (even previously moderate Muslim states like Turkey are now falling under the Islamists' sway), continuous oppression of non-Arab and/or non-Muslim peoples in the region is likely to remain a fact of life for quite some time to come.
Is not the moment ripe for members of all of these victimized folks who have fled abroad to begin a dialogue among themselves--Egyptian Copts, Lebanese Maronites, Iraqi Assyro-Chaldeans, Jews, Muslim Kurds and Imazighen, black Africans from the Sudan, and other victims of Arab subjugation, racism, and Islamist intolerance? All of these peoples represent native populations who fell victim to Arab conquest and Jihad in the name of the Dar ul-Islam from the 7th century C.E. onwards.
As just one example, many Copts now live outside of Egypt. While, in some cases, their situation is still very tenuous--especially because many have family back in Egypt--there is a golden opportunity for two much oppressed dhimmi populations, in particular, to finally start to take steps to undo their poisoned relationship of the past.
The age-old anti-Semitism of the Church must finally be rejected.
The demonization and dehumanization of the Jew throughout Christendom (i.e., "Why do you not hear the words I tell you? It is because you are of the devil, and you do your father's desires," John 8:44, New Testament) must finally be put to rest, and the Copts have been among the slowest to come around to making peace with their Jewish older brethren in G_d.
Both peoples and faith communities must learn to approach each other with much more respect and understanding. And since it has not been Jews who have been demonizing Copts, the ball, as is said, is thus in the latter's court if progress is to be made along these lines.
While there are currently some courageous Muslim spokespersons out there, hopefully, there will come a time when far more moderate voices within mainstream Islam will also join in this endeavor.
For now, however, despite the potential dangers, it is time for an old piece of Middle Eastern wisdom to finally sink in... the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Copts, Jews, and other victims of Islamist oppression must waste no more time in finding ways to work together for all of their mutual benefits.