Jonathan Kuttab, a “Jerusalem-based Palestinian human rights lawyer and peace activist,” argues in the Lebanese Daily Star that the West’s conflict is and always has been with the Arab world, not with Islam, and that Arab Christians are the natural allies of Muslims in that struggle, “dreaming of a revival of a modern, relevant, vibrant, tolerant form of Islam.”
A “revival” of a “modern, relevant” Islam? Let it pass. It’s bad enough that he ignores persecution of Christians by Muslims, on Islamic grounds, in the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, and elsewhere — as we have documented exhaustively here. It’s bad enough that he whitewashes and glosses over the second-class status and enforced, institutionalized discrimination that Christians would most assuredly face under his “tolerant form of Islam.”
If that is not so, let Jonathan Kuttab show me one Palestinian Muslim leader who has renounced the laws of the dhimma and declared that he will not enforce them if he gets the chance. Ahlan, Jonathan. Contact me at email@example.com.
“Arab Christians are nationalists, not ‘fifth-columnists,'” from the Daily Star, with thanks to Sr. Soph:
Those who expect or accuse Arab Christians of siding with the West, and of being a “fifth column” for outsiders, have been consistently proven wrong. To the contrary, the unique position of Arab Christians, with their knowledge and understanding of the West has always been used to promote the interests of the Arab world and press for its positions at every turn of the road. Even Christian institutions created by missionary funds and efforts, such as the American University of Beirut, turned out to be hot-beds of Arab nationalism and think tanks for creatively promoting the interests of the Arab world in confronting the West. Arab Christian institutions, such as schools, hospitals and non-governmental organizations, which are often funded by Christian churches in the West, continue in the same tradition to promote the interests of their people, especially in the face of invasion, occupation or aggression by the West.
Part of the reason for this, of course, is that there was nothing religious, or Christian, about the onslaught of the West. Arab Christians were cognizant from the beginning that they were facing colonial and imperial interests that threatened their societies and that wanted to dominate its resources and populations for purely secular gain. Therefore, they saw no more contradiction in fighting off these forces than the original Christian Arabs saw a need to fight the European Crusaders, who, incidentally, wreaked havoc with Arab churches and subjugated local Christians no less than their Muslim counterparts.
This history is well worth remembering in the current context when again the confrontation between the Arab world and the West uses religious terms and is presented as a struggle between Western Christianity and Islam. To be sure, much of the political effort of Arab Christians found expression in secular nationalism, for which they were early pioneers and zealous advocates. From publicists and writers such as George Antonious to Albert Hourani to Michel Aflaq to George Habash to Edward Said, Arab Christians have been prominent leaders in the Arab nationalist movement. One of the tenets of that movement has always been setting aside religion as a matter of personal choice and insisting on equal responsibility of Christians and Muslims in the national enterprise. Their slogan was “religion belongs to God, but the homeland belongs to all.”
While Arab nationalism was not anti-religious in its secularism, it was always emphatic in acknowledging the equality of Christians and Muslims, and the need to leave religion to the spiritual sphere. Still, Arab Christians recognized that their societies were culturally and socially Muslim and participated in that culture, dreaming of a revival of a modern, relevant, vibrant, tolerant form of Islam.