While a Palestinian priest utters sweet dhimmi nothings — saying, as dhimmis have always said, that the Muslims are wonderful, and the Christians identify with them — the reality suggests otherwise. “Christmas under Hamas rule,” by Katya Adler for BBC News (thanks to Mark Durie):
Earlier this year, the Islamist Hamas party took control of Gaza, home to a thriving Christian community now preparing to celebrate their first Christmas under Hamas rule.
Manawel Musallam – priest, headmaster and Gazan – is a rotund, avuncular man, fond of wearing berets.
I have come to his office to ask how Christians in Gaza were faring on this, their first Christmas under the full internal control of Hamas.
“You media people!” Father Musallam boomed at me when I first poked my head around his door.
“Hamas this, Hamas that. You think we Christians are shaking in our ghettos in Gaza? That we’re going to beg you British or the Americans or the Vatican to rescue us?” he asked.
“Rescue us from what? From where? This is our home.”
“You see,” Fr Musallam told me, as he gazed indulgently at the goings-on on stage. “Our identity is a multi-layered one.”
“Of course, I am a Christian believer, but politically I am a Palestinian Muslim. I resist Israel’s military occupation, obviously not with weapons.
“The Jihad can never be mine but with my words, my sermons, I am a Palestinian priest.”
“We have lived alongside Muslims here since Islam was born,” said Fr Musallam, waving his arm at the stage.
“They have a special word for us, the Christians of Palestine. They call us Nasserine – the people of Nazareth. They recognise that we have always been here.
“Even the more extreme Muslims see a difference between us and other Christians they regard as enemies and call Crusaders.”
There is no evidence to suggest the Hamas government here officially discriminates against Christians but its takeover in Gaza – its military wing’s leading role in armed resistance against Israel, along with the Islamic Jihad faction – have all led to the increasing Islamisation of Gazan society.
And that has encouraged some extremist Muslims to take action.
A Christian bookshop owner was killed here a couple of months ago.
There was a kidnap attempt on another Christian recently.
And a number of Christian families we spoke to say they had received death threats.
They question Hamas’ willingness to take action to protect them.
However, it was under Hamas armed escort that we met the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, on a special pre-Christmas visit to Gaza.
It was quite a spectacle.
The Patriarch, dressed in a purple cassock, stepped out of a black, shiny Mercedes at the Latin Church in Gaza City.
A crowd of police cars screeched to a halt all around him, lights flashing and sirens screaming. Bearded gunmen dressed in black jumped out to guard him.
In previous years, the Patriarch’s Christmas sermon has concentrated on the suffering of Palestinians under Israeli military occupation but this year he preached steadfastness in the face of intimidation by Islamist fanatics.
“They forget we are all God’s creatures,” he told a concerned-looking congregation.
“But nobody can tell us Christians how to dress, how to live or how to pray”.
The patriarch called on the Hamas government to take responsibility and to protect the Christian citizens of Gaza, along with everyone else.
As the crowded church was belting out hallelujahs, I stepped into the church courtyard for some fresh air.
The Muslim call to prayer was beginning to echo from the myriad of mosques all around.
I thought how this reflected the situation in Gaza in Christmas 2007 – that while the muezzin were on loudspeaker, the church bells here are played from a cassette tape.
A nervous young nun adjusted the volume – loud enough to peel through the church but not to penetrate its walls – it might risk offending Muslim Gazans passing by.
Mark Durie sums it up:
I was reminded by this story of the text of the 7th century “Pact of Umar“, in which Chrisitans, when surrendering to Islam, agreed to silence their bells: “We shall use only [wooden] clappers in our churches very softly.”
The prohibition on ringing bells was one of the universal restrictions imposed by Islamic law upon ‘dhimmis’ – non-Muslims living under Islam after conquest. The bells of Middle Eastern Christians fell silent for more than a thousand years, until the European Powers dismantled the dhimmi system during the 19th and 20th centuries. Now the age-old discriminatory laws are being enforced again, and Hamas is proving as good as its word, for when it took power in Gaza the local Christians were told that as they were now in a full Islamic system they ‘must accept Islamic law’. The silence of the bells bears witness that Hamas has told the truth about its intentions.
The silence is bad enough, but what distressed me most about Adler’s report was her claim – paradoxically in the very same article – that “There is no evidence to suggest the Hamas government here officially discriminates against Christians”¦”
This Christmas season Gazan Christians are being resubjected to the odious, humiliating discriminations of the dhimmi system. This makes Christmas a very good time for the rest of the world to wake up and pay attention to the stark historical reality of dhimmi Christians’ lives under Islamic rule, and to the intolerable reimposition of these conditions in many Muslim societies in the present day.