Sunday, June 29, 2014

We need an answer to radical Islam

Rev. Majed El Shafie

The collapse of Arab countries and the takeover by radical Islamist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (abbreviated "ISIS") of Iraq and sizable chunks of the Middle East did not really surprise me. As a native Egyptian born to a Muslim family and ultimately a Christian convert, I know the violent nature of Islam from up close.
Islam does not recognize the state, but considers the entity as something artificial. That is precisely why for decades Arab countries were run by dictators and why, as these nations fell, a power vacuum was created leading to violence and instability. For examples, look no further than Syria, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and now Iraq. Various Iraqi tribes were quick to get rid of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who consistently discriminated against the country's Sunnis, pledging their allegiance to ISIS instead. The West, which backed al-Maliki, did not recognize these failings on time and did not judge properly how al-Maliki would put down minorities.

But Iraq is just a symptom. In every single Arab country, and in most Muslim states in general, there are certain phenomena that preclude the passage of democracy -- that's something the West simply doesn't get. They should open their eyes and witness the rampant illiteracy preventing substantive reform. Truthfully, Middle Easterners just don't understand who and what it is they are voting for. Education should top the list of priorities, for otherwise democracy will fail, and it's not happening in Arab countries. At the same time, secularism should be pursued, as should the freedom of religious faiths and a separation between religion and state.
When we talk about Arab countries and Muslim countries in general, we must understand the nature of Islam so we can grasp just what it is we're dealing with. From day one, Islam didn't give minorities much in the way of rights. It always put down women. It is a religion of violence and intolerance. Its leaders today preach increasingly less tolerance because moderate Islamic leaders are being shoved aside -- yet another tragedy in the Arab world.
Moderate Muslims say that extremists have taken their religion hostage, explaining how it is actually a religion of peace. Every time I sit down to speak with such moderate Muslims, I challenge them. I say: "So fight alongside the rest of the world against the extremists." But they remain silent. The extremists prevail. These moderates do not understand that when the extremists finish up with the Christians, the Bahais and the Jews, they're going to come for them. They're the next in line. Look no further than what ISIS is doing in Iraq to the women who refuse to wear head scarves.
Nevertheless, their only criticisms are against Israel -- the only democratic country in the Middle East with free elections, free speech and protection for minorities. So many people have declared Israel an apartheid state, yet it is the Knesset that boasts Arab MKs. How many Jews are represented in the Palestinian parliament? It would appear as though it is pretty easy to rebuke Israel while diverting one's attention from the real problem: the rule of an Islamic, human-rights-violating overlord.
I'm still optimistic. I'm always hopeful. But to change various minorities' circumstances in the Middle East, we must work together -- Jews, Christians and Bahais -- alongside moderate Muslims. One cannot act alone. Without cooperation, a solution will never come.
Rev. Majed El Shafie is the founder of the One Free World International human rights group, which defends minority rights in the Middle East, and is a member of the International Christian Embassy, the largest Christians-Zionist organization in the world.

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