Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Rev. Keith Roderick, a defender of religious prisoners of conscience since 1982 as the Director of the Society of St. Stephen and Co-Director of the International Taskforce on Soviet Jewery. After responding to the appeals of Coptic Christians in 1987, he began working for Christians and other minorities from predominantly Muslim countries. He organized the Coalition for the Defense of Human Rights in 1993, the largest umbrella organization representing these minorities. Fr. Roderick also serves as the Washington Representative of Christian Solidarity International and is the Canon for Persecuted Christians for the Diocese of Quincy, the only Canon defending persecuted Christians in the Episcopal Church. FP: Rev. Keith Roderick, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Roderick: Thank you.
FP: We’re here today to discuss the capability that of non-Muslim minorities to resist Islamization. What do you think is the reality and where is the potential?
Roderick: Non-Muslims have survived centuries of Islamization, but just barely. The fact that they still exist in spite of conquest, violent persecution and institutional discrimination is remarkable. Unfortunately, accommodation to the pressures of Islamization has opened their communities to demise. Non-Muslims in Islamic societies never speak from the perspective of power. The historic realities of living as a “them” in a society that is religiously, politically, and economically delineated between “us” (Muslim) and “them” (Khafir) means that non-Muslims speak from the perspective of victimization. Their survival response has often been to submit to the forces of their own oppression rather to resist them. Accommodation as the strategy for survival has all too often meant abandonment of their cultural identity and values. Nevertheless, Christians and other non-Muslims have shown remarkable resilience.
Perhaps resilience itself may be the most powerful force of resistance to Islamization.
FP: What is the goal of the Islamist?
Roderick: The goal of the Islamist is to order all things in society by Islamic law. That goal is inherently racist. It assumes that a favorable balance of power favoring Muslims is the norm. Some argue that co-existence between Muslims and non-Muslims in the past is a template for today. However, unless there is the acceptance of true parity between Muslims and non-Muslims it is delusional to believe that such a peaceful “co-existence” can be achieved. The imbalance of power always and inevitably works against the non-Muslim in Islamic society.
Therefore, to be resilient in the face of this reality means that the minority must seek to preserve the integrity of his own culture. When one finds that all of the institutions of society are constructed to ensure that non-Muslims remain second class citizens, it becomes necessary to seek out one’s own cultural institutions to identify with and strengthen. Integration into a society of mutual benefit presupposes equality and security. When these are denied to minorities, “co-existence” becomes a facade to justify the status quo of discrimination and prejudice.
It is true that, even in the deepest throes of “Jim Crow” American society, whites and blacks lived and worked together. However, this did not signify a just society. Institutional inequality, prejudice, and insecurity made true co-existence impossible until the black minority asserted their basic civil rights and the white majority, under the pressure of that movement, institutionalized into law equal rights and security for all.
FP: Is there anything non-Muslim minorities in Muslim majority countries can do in terms of their disempowerment?
Roderick: Non-Muslim minorities should not expect to be saved by a “champion” from the United States or Europe. They cannot wait to have someone else preserve their existence. During the past 20 years Western countries have been supportive of the self-determination campaigns of Muslims, but neglectful of others, especially Christians. They should expect, however, that allies will join them in solidarity. Coalition building among various ethnic and religious groups who have experienced jihad and subsequent Islamization is becoming an important instrument of unity and strength.
When Igbo and Pakistani Christians, Indonesian Christians and Copts, Maronites and Assyrians recognize a common history of oppression that they share, they see the value of working to form a common strategy of resistance. Co-religionists in the West suffer a lack of passion for supporting non-Muslim minorities. There is often more interest in inter-religious dialogue than in speaking on behalf of those persecuted. It is part of the West’s self-denial.
Western Christians and Jews were in the forefront of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., the campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, and the Save Darfur actions. Yet, when it comes to defending minorities in the Islamic world, they suddenly turn timid.
Where is the sense of moral obligation and courage to advocate for Coptic monks that are beaten in their monasteries in Upper Egypt, or for Christians, Mandaeans, and Yezidis, murdered and ethnically cleansed from the land where they are indigenous in Iraq? What happens to Christians and other minorities in the Middle East, Pakistan, Indonesia, etc. is not isolated from the fate of Christians in the West who will face soon enough similar challenges. Inner cohesion and external solidarity are necessary components to the kind of resilience that resists Islamization.
FP: Why is the West in the state of “self-denial” that you refer to?
Roderick: It is difficult for many liberals, who dominate the pulpits, as well as the political and academic institutions of the West, to accept Christians as victims. There is a general misconception that Christians are new to the Middle East, that they are interlopers, rather than threatened indigenous cultures, all of whom predate Islam.
I suspect that there may be fear that by drawing attention to Christians and other minorities who are suffering as the result of Islamization, one might be accused of being anti-Muslim or bigoted. Political correctness is a strong force in our society.
FP: In terms of the silence that you discuss in terms of how we have betrayed non-Muslims in the Islamic world, what do you think are the causes? For instance, the lib-Left purports to be against racism, yet it says nothing about the racism inherent in the Islamist agenda? Where is the outcry from the Left? Why its silence?
Roderick: Someone from the Middle East told me once that Westerners play games, looking for win-win outcomes. Islamists play for win-lose outcomes. Liberals have a very difficult time dealing with the kind of triumphal attitudes inherent in Islamism. They think that everyone should be able to paint reality in subtle shades of gray. Islamic intolerance and barbarism is often excused as merely cultural expression.
Several years ago my family was involved in liberating a young Philippina girl who had been given as a wedding gift to a Saudi student attending our local university. When challenged about the enslavement of this young girl by one of his students, the university provost cautioned that we should be more sensitive, because in Saudi culture this sort of thing is acceptable.
Silence can only be construed as tacit consent of the Left. Two million Southern Sudanese were killed in the 20 years of terrible blood letting. This genocide was a direct consequence of the jihad instigated by the Islamic Front leaders in Khartoum. Religious conservatives were in the forefront of the movement to halt the slaughter and bring about a comprehensive peace. When that same Khartoum regime launched its jihad against Muslims in Darfur, religious conservatives again protested. This time they were joined by liberals in calling for an end to the violence. In fact, liberal organizations made it the cause de jour for a myriad of celebrities. All well and good, but where were they when Christians and animists were being murdered?
All that the Christians and other non-Muslims of the Middle East want from the Left is a little more consistency in compassion. The liberal press has occasionally been responsive to the plight of the Christians of Iraq, but one suspects that it is not because of an authentic sense of solidarity, but the fact that the issue provides one more opportunity to show the failure of the Bush administration.
FP: What must we do to confront the Islamist agenda and to defend non-Muslims who are victims of Islamism?
Roderick: As I argued previously, resistance must be in the form of strengthening the non-Muslim communities within. The Islamist agenda is to annihilate the history and cultures of non-Muslim indigenous communities. We should encourage the non-Muslim communities to demand their rights and stand in solidarity with them as they do so. Non-violent resistance is a course that brings much risk. However, in face of the reality that non-Muslim minorities possess so little political power to bring about true parity with Muslims, thus security, this is the only course that remains practical. All institutions and social-political systems, including Islam, are constituted by human beings with conscience. There are many who may brutally act according to blind faith, but there are certainly others who respect the dignity of every human being. To these we must appeal with the reason of justice.
FP: Rev. Keith Roderick, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Roderick: It was a pleasure to have this discussion. Thank you.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy.