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Christians in the Middle East
As per a report published in the Washington Times on 19 July, 2014, 'Christians in Iraq are heeding an ultimatum by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to convert to Islam, get out or be killed.
The ISIL announcement also said that Christians could stay and pay a tax, often known as a "jizya," though the exact amount was unspecified. A jizya is a historical policy of allowing non-Muslims to keep their own religion and their property if they pay a certain amount to Islamic rulers.

In centuries past, there have been examples of Christians paying the tax and living peacefully with Muslims. Recently however, it has often been exploited as a form of extortion against non-Muslims.

The announcement by the ISIL came on 18 July, 2014 and should be considered as a very serious issue. However, I caution that this is no plot for ethnic cleansing of Christians in Iraq and Syria as ISIL fighters would seriously like to see Christians fleeing the region. Killing them would be their last option. However, this sermon has great contagion effect and many radical Muslim organizations in the Middle East and the North Africa could follow the suit.

The fact is that this high consciousness era is letting people reinvent and rediscover past and religion and there is some tendency to regress. This is particularly true of Muslims in the Middle East and the North Africa. The upheavals of the past three years or so have put Islamic societies of the region in a differentiating dilemma to choose between traditional and modern values. A majority- probably a decisively among the Muslims of the region- would prefer the revival of early post-Mohammedan era and past habits related with it. But then they want to force their views on a majority of non-Muslims and non-believers too.

The revival of the past may remind one of brutal conflicting histories. Many archaic and once forbidden practices could be revived and this could indeed put many liberals, atheists and non-Muslims of the region in great trouble. Sure, there are not too many Christians in the Middle East and the North Africa but still they can have significant presence in some societies: like Druze Christians in Syria and Coptic Christians in Egypt. Majority of them are facing suppression and measurable discrimination of varying degree. And the objections to their practices have marked quasi-similarity: the radical Muslims of these societies do not like Christians at all and they want all of them to get out of the region. It is a near impossibility and if and when it happens such would be a very disturbing and destabilizing trend.

This is the irony of the decade that increasing consciousness is mostly conflicting and competing and while many nations are compelled to look for more symbiotic means because of economic selfishness with other differing nations and there is clear cut case of secular convergence there, but the fact remains that there is more trouble than peace in this identity-driven and identity-dominated world.

This is true about Arab and other Islamic societies as well, though because of consumerism induced nationalism many of the Arab states are becoming more dependent on the West. But they are becoming more vocal and more assertive as well. Despite much prohibition of nationalism in Islamic traditions, the fact is that Islamic nations' younger generations are becoming more and more vocal nationalists and they have started discriminating between 'us' and 'they' even within their own sects and tribes.

Christians in the past have been living rather peacefully in many Middle Eastern and the North African countries until before the dawn of modern consciousness though there were turbulent times too. But to convert to Islam, abandon the region, face the death or else pay a tax are all humiliating options for the Middle Eastern Christians, who do not have any direct relationship with Western and White Christians.

But the fact is that Christians in the Arab world are facing the wrath of mostly radical but sometime even moderate Muslims because of the Arab nations' hot and cold relationship with the West. Even though Christianity does not belong exclusively to the West but the fact remains that the West dominates all over the globe. Except for the same books, Holy Trinity and some principal beliefs, there is hardly any similarity between the Arab Christians and the Western ones. But then passions are passions and revenge is a very common trait in the present world.

The conflict between Christians and non-Christians is not confined to Arab world and Iran; it is also present in the South Asia and Africa. The fact is that the condition of Christians is pathetic in Pakistan. In India, Christians very much dominate the education sector though the majority of them are in conflict with the far Hindu Right.

The continent of Africa has all kinds of conflict among all kind of people and as such conflicts between Christians and Muslims are not only local in nature but are also consequence of whatever is happening in the globe. The dark color of Africans does not make them ideologically-random people and many of them are as passionate as their other religious brethrens and counterparts in the globe are. But mostly disputes between Christians and Muslims in Africa become very ugly and violent because of tangible reasons, while in non-African nation-states it is more consequential and ideological.

However, there are many ethical similarities between the Christianity and Islam. The fact is that Prophet Mohammad considered Jesus to be a Prophet of Islam and Islam accepted many of the beliefs of the Old Testament. But it is also true that in his later life, the last Prophet of Islam criticized and condemned Jews and Christians a lot. And as per the doctrine of naskh the latter Verses are more authentic. Also, the current dominant opinion of Ummah validates them as per the doctrine of ijma.

However, as a religious group Christians are not only the most powerful but also the most innovative people though this is applicable largely to Western Christians. Minority Christians are good contributing nationals too, including in many West Asian, South Asian and East Asian nations. The fact is that China would one day be dominantly Christian in composition, irrespective of whether it opts for reforms or not. Such would not only have great impact on how China conducts its own business but it would also have wider ramifications for the whole globe.

The problems with Christians living outside their majority states arise not only from ethical and religious issues but from political ones as well and the latter is dominant in most of the cases. I think in all honesty that Christians should be spared in the Middle East and be allowed to live life respectfully and peacefully though I also know that it is a very 'hard-to-follow' suggestion to be made. My advice for Christians in the Arab world, as always unsolicited though, would be to pay jizya as the last resort and not to abandon their ancestral places.

The Western nations should make sure that their support to minority Christians does not lead to the latter's persecution in their homelands. But the Westerners should always help the minority Christians globally, irrespective of their identity. There is a great bond among Christians since Christianity's inception though as a religious grouping they have fought the maximum wars among themselves in the past. The unity among Christians is the best and the most needed thing for the whole world in modern times.

I know that there is a continuing conflict going on among Jews and Arabs in Israel-Palestine region. I have written over this issue multiple-times but let me reiterate: I stand for Palestinian land rights; Jerusalem can be compromised, possibly; the issues about security, borders and waters can be negotiated rather easily; but to be realistic Palestinian refugees can never return to Israel.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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