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Monday, September 24, 2012

Christianity, its Demise in the Muslim World. Lebanon, the Next War

Hezbollah effectively controls Lebanon, if not administratively then by its optional use of terror.  No one dares stand up to the militias and if they do there is always another civil war (1975-1990) to contemplate.

Syrian chaos has led to a loss of control over Lebanon and has opened it up to al-Qaida influence and therefore further competition between Sunni and Shiite militancy.  This will in turn escalate tensions creating a tinderbox that could reignite the Lebanese Civil War. Last time around Lebanon lost at least 150 thousand dead, a further 1 million wounded, some 350 thousand internally displaced and another 1 million people who permanently abandoned their country. When we consider that twenty-two years on from the end of the civil war, Lebanon has only 4 million inhabitants, these statistics represent a monumental tragedy.  Even today the dead represent some 4% of the population. In Britain with 62 million people, that is the equivalent of 2 ½ million dead and 15 million refugees.

At the time of the Syrian invasion of Lebanon, Haffez al-Assad produced a list of 800 Christian leaders that he decided must be ‘brought under Syrian control’. In Lebanon’s ‘Night of the Long Knives’, Assad’s thugs decapitated the Christian political and military leadership of the country with this single act of wholesale murder.  The   UN did not discuss it, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International failed to utter a single word of complaint. The Vatican, The Worldwide Church of England, the Methodist and Episcopal hierarchies; the Global clergy, all in fact remained silent.

Is it any wonder therefore, that then as now, everywhere, terrorism is regarded as a right and a strategic weapon to be employed by the Arab and Islamic faithful?

It has become one of the best known clich├ęs of our time and one of humanity’s most derelict truths:

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

-         Martin Niemoller

For Israel the choice could eventually be between sharing a border with Pakistan (al-Qaida) or Iran (Hezbollah) in the North and in Gaza.  The fragmentation of the Arab world does not necessarily presage the disintegration of the Arab world but it does mean a long period of violent conflict with the entire region engulfed in crisis. The Arab spring was meant to deliver democracy (at least in our Western dreams it did) but the reality is turning out to be the replacement of dictatorship with (fascist) Islamic theocracies.

Ethnic tensions are now focused on Shiite and Sunni, between heretical sects of Islam and fundamentalist Muslim Nazi bigots; on Christian minorities used to sharing power (as in Syria) and those Christians previously ‘protected’ by sympathetic dictators (as in Egypt, Libya and Iraq).  Other minorities, such as the Kurds, are also experiencing renewed persecution (as in Turkey). Those who would love to live in a democratic country stand naked and defenceless against Islamists whose disgust for democracy is only second to their hatred for those proposing it.

Lebanon is a microcosm of the Islamic world.

A popular Arab expression goes “First comes Saturday and then comes Sunday” (We will ‘deal’ with the Jews first and then we will ‘deal’ with the Christians). Meanwhile the Arab Spring has ruined the strategy in spite of the pragmatic obeisance to authority and hierarchic intolerance that corrupts Christian behaviour in the Arab world.  Christians are no longer a veil to disguise the true intent of Muslim regimes.  As a propaganda vehicle they barely serve the purpose of demonstrating conditional tolerance to the Christian West as attacks against them escalate and increase in ferocity.

If, before the Arab Spring each regime brutalised its own people the difference is that today brutalisation has been privatised. Extremists of all shades reassert a visceral hatred for those with whom they disagree.

You cannot depoliticise conflict when it is predicated on ethnic, ideological and theological differences. Politics is drenched in historic memory, much of it mythic. Faith ignores fact.

News fatigue is the excuse we give to describe an event that is played out on our television screens for longer than is deemed to be worthy of attention. Unfortunately, this can be translated as meaning no more than a journalists boredom with the subject, their cowardice (after the probable targeted killing of two foreign journalists in Syria, in February this year), or their refusal to report the news because it conflicts with their world view.  It has left the Christians of the Islamic world both unprotected and in mortal danger. Just as ethnic cleansing and elimination of the Jewish presence in the Muslim world was theologically and politically inevitable, once Israel came into existence, the empowerment of Islamic fundamentalism has similarly created a momentum for the end of Christianity outside of everywhere except, of course,  Israel.

By advocating its own version of triumphalist identity politics, with all that it entails the Arab Spring is inextricably changing into a Winter of Repression and fundamentalist realignment.  And while Islamists will use the political interregnum as a period of distraction to focus on settling accounts with minimal fuss and press coverage, at this time all Israel can do is to batten down the hatches.

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