The Muslim scholars, according to this report, repeatedly referred to Christians and Muslims living in harmony in the Middle East for centuries. They don’t seem to have mentioned, unsurprisingly, the institutionalized discrimination inherent in the dhimmi status — Christians lived in harmony with Muslims only when they knew their place, which was decidedly second-class.
The dhimma was abolished in the Ottoman Empire by the Tanzimat reforms of 1856, under Western pressure, but the legal discrimination and harassment of dhimmitude still remains part of Islamic law — the Islamic law that Islamic supremacists are fighting by violent and non-violent means to implement throughout the world. The great historian Bat Ye’or has documented what it was like to live under the dhimma in her essential and groundbreaking study, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam. One key element of the “contract of protection” that Christians and other dhimmis were made to live under in the Islamic state was the prohibition on speaking out against the status of the dhimmis, and saying anything critical of Islam or Muhammad.
How seriously that command is still taken, even in states where Sharia is not fully enforced today, was vividly illustrated by Robert Moynihan of the excellent and informative site Inside the Vatican. In an article entitled “Silent Cry of a Hero,” Moynihan contrasts the silence of Chaldean Catholic Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly at the present Synod about Muslim persecution of Christians in Iraq with his statements over the last few years about that persecution:
One of the great mysteries of this year’s Synod of Bishops is the silence of Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly of Baghdad regarding the suffering of the Catholic Church in his country. In Rome this month he has been saying that things are fine in Iraq. But this is in contrast with his own statements in the past. Why the change?
“The terrorists have destroyed the most beautiful symbol of the Chaldean Church in Iraq.”–Emmanuel III Delly, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and Primate of the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic sui juris particular church of the Catholic Church, and now a Cardinal, on July 12, 2004. He was then the head of some 1.5 million Chaldean Catholics in Iraq, and was speaking after the bombing to smithereens of the architecturally splendid bishop’s residence in Mosul, in northern Iraq
“Christians are killed, chased out of their homes before the very eyes of those who are supposed to be responsible for their safety.” –Emmanuel III Delly, May 6, 2007 (three years later), speaking from the altar of the church of Mar Qardagh in Erbil, Kurdistan (northern Iraq), where he was celebrating Mass. He was then the head of fewer than 1 million Chaldean Catholics in Iraq […]
“The situation in some parts of Iraq, is disastrous and tragic. Life is a Calvary: there is no peace or security… Everyone is afraid of kidnapping… Sixteen of our priests and two of our bishops have been kidnapped and released after an extremely high ransom. Some of them belong to the ranks of the new martyrs who today pray for us in heaven: the archbishop of Mosul, Faraj Rahho, Fr. Raghid Ganni, two other priests, and six more young men.” –Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly, in Rome on October 14, 2008 (two years ago), in his address to the Synod of Bishops; Delly was then the head of about 750,000 Chaldean Catholics in Iraq, down from 1.5 million five years before
“The population of this country, crossed by two famous rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, is 24 million, all Muslims, with whom we live peacefully and freely. In Baghdad alone, the capital of Iraq, Christians have 53 chapels and churches. The Chaldeans have more than seven dioceses in the country, the Patriarch of the Chaldean Church lives today in Baghdad. Christians are good with their fellow Muslims and in Iraq there is mutual respect among them. Christian schools are highly thought of. Today people prefer to attend these schools directed by the Christian institutions, especially those run by the religious orders. Despite all the political and religious situations, and emigration, we now have nearly one million Christians in Iraq out of 25 million Muslims. We have the freedom of religion in our Churches. The Bishop or Priest, religious leader is listened to and respected by his fellow citizens. We have our own seminary, and Chaldean monks and nuns and religious.” –Patriarch Delly, remarks to the Synod of Bishops at the close of the day’s session Friday, October 15, 2010, five days ago; Delly is now the head of less than 500,000 Chaldean Catholics in Iraq, as more than 1 million, or two-thirds of the entire Chaldean population, has left Iraq since 2003
–Persecution, then, gives rise to a particular technique of writing, and therewith to a particular type of literature, in which the truth about crucial things is presented exclusively between the lines.– — Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing, 1952; Strauss maintained that a man who wishes to tell the truth in times of persecution must conceal the truth to avoid being arrested and executed; only those who can read the concealed meaning “between the lines” will understand that the words a persecuted man is speaking are not what he truly wishes to say. Strauss also theorized that persecuted men would leave “clues” in their writing so that attentive readers would realize that they were trying to get a message across which they could not speak openly….
Exactly so. And so much for these claims from the Muslim spokesmen at the Synod about Christians and Muslims living in harmony. Their claims are historical, of course, not contemporary, but there were plenty of Christians in Delly’s position in previous times as well, not daring to speak out openly for fear of making a bad situation even worse.
The quality of their propaganda is no better when it comes to Islamic apostasy law. Al-Sammak says that the Islamic death penalty for apostasy was only enforced “when changing religions meant joining the enemy – it was punished as an act of treason.” Now, he says, Muslims recognize that “there is no compulsion in religion, that’s what the Koran says.” But the Qur’an said that back when “changing religions meant joining the enemy” — it isn’t as if “no compulsion” was added to the book later. And since Islam is or ought to be a state as well as a religion, as Muslim leaders themselves will proudly tell you, it is hard to see how apostasy from Islam and treason against the Islamic state could be separated in any case.
But even more ominous are the comments from the Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad: “You are free to choose any religion in your heart, because religion is a very, very private matter for everybody, but conversion means something else. If you are no longer a member of your original faith group is an act of unacceptable ‘propaganda.'”
In other words, you can leave Islam as long as you do so secretly. If you make your conversion known, that is “unacceptable.”
Did any of the Synod Fathers catch the implication of that statement?
“Muslim scholars address Synod of Bishops,” by Cindy Wooden in the Catholic Herald, October 20 (thanks to David):
Muslim scholars have told the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East that Islam promotes respect for Christians and Jews and that the entire region will suffer if Christians depart.
Muhammad al-Sammak, Sunni adviser to the chief mufti of Lebanon and secretary general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, and Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad Ahmadabadi, a Shia professor at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, spoke at the gathering at the invitation of the Pope.
Mr al-Sammak said Christians are not the only people suffering in the Middle East or tempted to emigrate.
“We share our sufferings. We live them in our social and political delays, in our economic and developmental regression, in our religious and confessional tension,” he said.
Did he really say, “We share our sufferings”?
At the same time, he told the Synod, the “new and accidental phenomenon” of Christians being targeted because of their faith is dangerous, and not just for Christians. By attacking Christians, he said, misguided, fundamentalist, politically manipulated Muslims are tearing apart the fabric of Middle Eastern societies where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived side by side for centuries. They also are showing “Islam in a different light than the one it truly reflects” and working against one of the fundamental teachings of Islam: the teaching that differences among people are the result of God’s design and part of God’s will for humanity, Mr al-Sammak said.
The emigration of Christians makes it difficult for the rest of the region’s Arabs to live their identity fully, he said. “They [Christians] are an integral part of the cultural, literary and scientific formation of Islamic civilisation. They are also the pioneers of modern Arabic renaissance and have safeguarded its language, the language of the holy Koran,” he added.
Mr al-Sammak told the bishops he hoped the synod would be “something more than the cry of Christian suffering which echoes in this valley of pain”, which is the Middle East. He said he hoped the Synod would mark the beginning of “Islamic-Christian cooperation that can protect Christians and watch over Islamic-Christian relations, so that the East – the place of divine revelation – remains worthy of raising the banner of faith, charity and peace for itself and for the entire world.”
Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad said the Koran’s view of Christian-Muslim relations is one of “friendship, respect and mutual understanding,” even though there have been “dark moments” in the relationship over the past 1,400 years.
But the “illegitimate acts of certain individuals and groups” should not be attributed to the religion to which they belong, he said.
In Iran and most other Muslim countries, he said, “Christians live side by side and in peace with their Muslim brothers. They enjoy all the legal rights like other citizens and perform their religious practices freely.”
He said leaders of all religions must recognise that their people no longer live cut off from believers of other faiths, and religious leaders have an obligation to help their faithful understand the respect that is due to the other.
The ideal, he said, “would be the state where believers of any faith freely and without any apprehension, fear and obligation could live according to the basic principles and modes of their own customs and traditions. This right, which is universally recognised, should in fact be practised by states and communities.”
Earlier Mr al-Sammak had said the death penalty for apostasy from Islam to Christianity dated from a time “when changing religions meant joining the enemy – it was punished as an act of treason”. While some still think converts should be punished, he said the “golden rule” of Islam is that “there is no compulsion in religion, that’s what the Koran says”.
Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad said: “You are free to choose any religion in your heart, because religion is a very, very private matter for everybody, but conversion means something else. If you are no longer a member of your original faith group is an act of unacceptable “propaganda”.