Another hundred years of religious wars?

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Another hundred years of religious wars?

Ali Ashraf Khan

Pope Benedict’s call to protect the lives of Christians in the Muslim world is another example of one-sided sense and perception; where was he when Muslims were massacred in Bosnia, Palestine, Lebanon, Indian Held Kashmir and other parts of the world! That is why his recent call to protect Christian lives after an incident in Egypt resulted in a harsh reaction: Egypt recalled its ambassador from the Vatican and the meddling of the Christian Church into the internal affairs of Egypt was deplored by the Muslim religious elite and the media. When the same happened in Pakistan it was the religious parties only, in the first place the Jamaat-i Islami who in the light of their clear foreign policy strategy protested against this interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs common men are at a loss to understand why can’t we bring these unmanned drones down when the violate the territorial sovereignty of Pakistani airspace. Iran has brought down two unmanned aircrafts recently. It is just because Pakistan’s rulers are busy with filling their pockets and struggling for their own survival so they do not react.

There is no doubt about the fact that it is the task of every Sovereign government to protect minorities of any religion, ethnicity or else, though protection does not mean protection from the law of the land. In any case it seems to me that a harsher attitude towards Christians in a Muslim country these days has something to do with the attitude of Christian countries towards their Muslim population because hate begets hate. The so-called war against terror which has become a war against Islam and Muslims, their different culture and values is having repercussions in the Muslim world and nobody should be surprised about that: We reap what we sow. And there is no denying the fact that preoccupation and hatred against Islam and Muslims is growing fast in the West due to one sided propaganda and, as Baroness Warsi has just remarked, has passed the diner-table test and is a commonly accepted attitude now in Great Britain, but also in the rest of the Western countries. Maligning Islam, Satanic verses, caricatures of the

Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) but also banning of head scarf, Guantanamo, burning the Qur’an and so many other incidents have poisoned the atmosphere deliberately, as one should say, and as a scenario designed to deliberately prove the ‘clash of civilizations’ thus making Islam the next enemy after communism and in fighting that enemy get access to the resources of the Muslim countries.

This attitude of enmity and discrimination has a long history; it started in the 12th century with the crusades and this historical example is until today very much present in the minds of the hawks like former President Bush and many others who might not have referred to it in public expressis verbis like Bush did. But interestingly at that time in the 12th century Islam did not yet pay back in the same coins. We know the stories of Salahuddin Ayubi re-taking Jerusalem without repeating the massacres of non-Muslims Christians, which before had been committed by the crusaders against the Muslim and Jewish population of that city. We also know the story of Islam in Spain where Jews and Christians lived in peace under Muslim rule for five hundred years. Only when the Reconquista of the Spanish-catholic armies came Muslims were forcefully converted to Christianity, expelled or massacred.

But there are many examples from our days also. In modern Egyptian history when elections for the first parliament were going to be held Zaghlul Pasha tried to seek the Christian minority’s support for 1924 elections under the constitution of 1923, a pre-condition was given that Zaghlul Pasha should enter into a written agreement for protecting the rights of Christian minority. Zaghlul Pasha called for a blank stamp paper, signed it and gave to the Christian delegation, write what you want I have signed it; this was the attitude of Muslim rulers towards Christians then. So the Wafd party of Zaghlul Pasha won the elections with a large majority claiming 90 % seats. King Fuad I, a lackey of the British who bitterly opposed the Wafd party, dissolved parliament before the end of 1924 and would not call a new election until 1926. Again the Christians put a pre-condition to support Wafd party, they demanded two reserve seats for Christian minority in the parliament, Nahas Pasha agreed to gave them four reserved seats in the parliament saying that even after that we still remain the rulers in Egypt. Wafd party won the elections again in 1928 with its new leader, Nahas Pasha who then became prime minister of Egypt. Today they seem to be oblivious of history and the sagacity of Muslim leaders towards their Christian minority.

Looking at the centre of today’s conflict is surely the US aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan. By now it has become evident that there were never any weapons of mass destructions in Iraq - and Tony Blair while being grilled by an inquiry committee had to admit that he knew about it – and still the US invaded the country and killed thousands of innocent civilians and upset the inner balance of the country to an extend that Iraq today is facing the threat of falling apart. The same is the case with Afghanistan. Though it is quite clear today that Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban were not involved into the 9/11 attacks the country has been invaded and millions of Afghan people have been killed, maimed and driven out of their homes; the country is facing destruction and the whole region especially Pakistan has been taking the brunt of this war: it is as a result of the war in Afghanistan that Pakistan has now Pakistani Taliban, that we are facing terrorist attacks on a daily basis and that the economy and the life of millions of Pakistani people has been damaged. While the Americans have conveyed through Saudis and Turks that if Mullah Omar led Taliban disassociates from Al-Qaeda, he and his party is more then welcome for the West. What a change of hearts and at what cost?

This is the real face of the conflict between Muslims and Christians today. One can not expect that Muslims are taking all this without resistance. By now the situation has become so vulnerable that it will take generations to get out of it. If the pope doesn’t understand that – this is his right, he had abdicated involvement into politics under the treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and now he should keep himself to it and not try to distort message of God, which is dignity of mankind and respect for humanity in the world and do not narrow it down to the Christians only.

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