"Middle Eastern Christians relish this: we can finally call Muslims out on their hypocrisy but, more importantly, we have a voice."
Donald Trump is good for Middle Eastern Christians
by Najwa Najib, Medium, October 29, 2016
(h/t Jihad Watch)
The 2016 presidential election has turned into a breeding ground for op-eds about every possible topic under the sun, though most focus on Donald Trump and the supposed danger he poses to the world in general and to Muslims in particular. People who have absolutely no right to speak on topics of domestic policy, foreign policy, Islam, whatever, have suddenly been given soapboxes. Where these used to be targets at which we all mostly rolled our eyes, they are now elevated.
Off the top of my head, I can think of big names with big things to say about Donald Trump’s policies. Louis CK compares Trump’s run to “being Germany in the ’30s,” where apparently they did not “[see] the shit coming”. In a New York Times op-ed, Aziz Ansari, not a practicing Muslim, fears for his Muslim family’s safety because he thinks that, in rounding 0.03% of Muslims being investigated for potential ISIS extremism down to 0, those 1,000 under investigation will do the same damage as 0 extremists could. Jill Soloway, creator of a show no one wants to watch, said in the press room following her Emmy win that “any moment [she has] to call Trump out to being an inheritor to Hitler, [she] will,” because Trump apparently ‘otherises’ Muslims. This defence of Muslims comes after screaming “topple the patriarchy” twice on stage during the actual show. She defended Islam, the inherently patriarchal religion whose adherents gruesomely and happily punish the “Jewish people, queer folk, trans folk” she patted herself on the back for featuring on her television show in her Emmy acceptance speech. Clearly, Jill Soloway’s grasp of Islam is matched only by Aziz Ansari’s statistical genius and Louis CK’s history knowledge.
While simultaneously pushing the narrative that Donald Trump’s candidacy would not have been possible without the media — apparently, the Hollywood elite feel that Donald Trump’s history-making run for President is due to Celebrity Apprentice and not to a widespread fatigue of the self-congratulating same-old same-old — the media also pushes the notion that Donald Trump is Hitler. Donald Trump is Hitler on the Emmys stage. Donald Trump is Hitler in the New York Times. Donald Trump is Hitler in newsletters. Donald Trump is Hitler anywhere that statement can be repeated, over and over again, unopposed and unchallenged.
Other more invested people can write and have written about how of course Donald Trump is not Hitler, about the sheer audacity of saying such a thing about a man whose daughter and grandchildren are Jewish. Those people might also explain how Führer Trump could only have run and won in 2016 because of that audacity, because of what the media pass for truth, because of the death of journalistic integrity.
But this piece is not a defence of Donald Trump.
I don’t know if I’m allowed to write passionately and honestly about anything, even about the continued genocide and erasure of my people and of all Middle Eastern Christian peoples. Where does this lament for my people fit in a world where click-bait and listicles pollute what’s left of journalism and where it seems almost everyone operates under the notion that “Donald Trump is literally Hitler”?
My people — Middle Eastern and North African Christians, Arabs, Assyrians, Armenians, Coptic, Catholic, Orthodox, etc. — where do we fit?
Social Justice Warriors and Wankers
There is indeed privilege in the Middle East but it is not racial. Actually, privilege extends only to Muslims... Muslims are the white people of the Middle East but with the added social justice bonus of every charge against them actually being true.
Today, black Americans are allowed to carry on as if they are the most persecuted people in the world, as if such a thing could be measured and as if any data point to them as inherently oppressed. I guess bullying and guilting white people is a win, a win leading to unearned invitations to the Oscars, thinkpieces about sitting out the national anthem, and a shift from an important conversation about violence in inner cities to cop killings that, following the Aziz Ansari method, amount to an infinitesimal number of deaths. This win allows black Americans part of this movement to say that black lives matter (which, sure, OK) but also that all white people are terrible. All white people are supposed to “check their privilege” and stop pushing their “mayo” opinions on people. White is bland and boring and violent and hateful. Fifty years ago, black activists and their allies sought to end segregation. In 2016, blacks want ‘safe spaces,’ places where they segregate themselves from others, and no non-blacks can possibly be allies because we are all part of the problem and everyone is an anti-black racist and Donald Trump is literally Hitler. This is of course ridiculous but actually it is not. This is the majority’s way of thinking now. This is what we have devolved into. Everyone is either a racist or a self-hating ally or black.
But what about Middle Eastern Christians? Where do we fit?
Middle Eastern Christians are not white or black or bound by Western ideas of race and privilege. There is indeed privilege in the Middle East but it is not racial. Actually, privilege extends only to Muslims. In the Middle East, all the things black people wrongly complain about are true for non-Muslims. Black Americans can pretend they are oppressed but they can run for office, they can own land, they can worship freely, they can sit out national anthems, they can work and provide for themselves and their families, they can rest in their graves undisturbed. Middle Eastern Christians by and large can’t do any of that. Wanting people to like you is not a civil rights issue, no matter how much the Black Lives Matter movement tries. In the Middle East — a blanket term for the Levant, the Gulf, North Africa, whatever country geopolitical analysts ascribe to it on any given day — Muslims don’t like non-Muslims and that has for 1,400 years meant that we cannot live proverbially or literally. To be clearer, Muslims take our livelihoods and our lives. Muslims are the white people of the Middle East but with the added social justice bonus of every charge against them actually being true.
I personally think that the Quran is garbage and that the prophet of Islam was not a great guy. (I’d phrase that differently but then some Muslims might blow the publishers’ headquarters up. Doesn’t seem worth it.) If anyone is literally Hitler, Mohammad’s mass killings of Jews and other non-Muslims, his conquests and warmongering campaigns, his slaves, his propensity for rape, make him a pretty good candidate. (I personally think and believe these things and get enjoyment out of saying them because people do not want me to. But real criticisms of Islam come from its ex-Muslim scholars and their stuff is available to read and dissect everywhere. (And people really should because guess what? We’re all kuffar in this together.))
My issue, right now, is not Islam but is Muslims. I don’t mean the Muslims in the ISIS videos, either. I mean regular Muslims, the non-silent majority of Muslims.
Muslim Victims and Muslims’ Victims
Despite the beheadings of 21 Copts in an ISIS video, it is not ISIS that poses the biggest day-to-day risk to Copts. It’s just Muslims.
Muslims are not innocent. Sure, if we pretend all Muslims in the world are the self-righteously offended ones who do not like Donald Trump, then maybe we can find a way to cry for whatever perceived wrongs people like Linda Sarsour and Hend Amry are making careers out of. Most Muslims, though, live in the Middle East or in places like Indonesia and Malaysia and Pakistan, where they treat non-Muslims with the same hate and violence and psychopathic homicidal delight that Middle Eastern Muslims reserve for my people. In reality, most Muslims are not Aziz Ansari’s family and they’re not ISIS. Most Muslims are just everyday jerks, enjoying the spoils of their ‘privilege,’ happily forcing non-Muslims in general and Christians in particular to eat it. I would not ordinarily take the time to be eloquent about the treatment of my people and then devolve into calling Muslims “jerks” but, hey, if it’s good enough for white people…
That is my main problem. If oppression, whether perceived or real, means that the victims have the right to say anything about their oppressors because their victimhood absolves them of basic decency, then Middle Eastern Christians, African Christians, Pakistani Christians, Indonesian Christians, etc. should be the only people allowed an opinion about Muslims. We are not a monolith but most of us do not have much good to say.
So let’s talk.
In Egypt, Copts are “garbage people”. The Zabaleen, a literal translation, are trash collectors who must also live from and among that trash on the outskirts of the rest of society because, for the average Egyptian Muslim, that’s all a Christian should be entitled to. The government in Egypt blocks the construction of Coptic churches and hardly reacts when those already standing are torched by Muslims weekly. Copts are considered suspicious by Muslims: they are educated and humble so their girls and women are therefore worth kidnapping for the purpose of forced conversion and marriage. Despite the beheadings of 21 Copts in an ISIS video, it is not ISIS that poses the biggest day-to-day risk to Copts. It’s just Muslims.
In Iraq and Syria, Assyrians are on their way out. A proud people that have maintained their ethnoreligious identity and, unlike the Copts and against all odds, have kept their liturgical and colloquial languages intact, Assyrians have suffered several genocides and massacres since adopting Christianity in its infancy. Since 2003, Assyrian populations have plummeted. Church massacres, displacement, etc. all precede ISIS and, when Mosul fell to the group, it is mostly because so many of the Sunni residents welcomed it. Assyrians, indigenous to the Middle East, will soon be wiped from it. It takes a long time to wipe an indigenous people from its land. It takes about 1,400 years.
In the rest of the Middle East, Christians fare no better. Churches are torched, large Muslim mobs are encouraged to harm Christians by sheer ineffectual Muslim policing, apostasy is punishable by death both by Middle Eastern governments and by proud Muslim parents who honour-kill their deviating-from-Islam children.
Middle Eastern Christian history has been bulldozed, painted over, ruined. I could forgive that if it had remained history but Muslims have never stopped.
In Jordan, sharia is given priority by the government. Sharia bans conversion from Islam and prohibits children who do not convert to Islam with their parents from receiving inheritances. In Saudi Arabia, being openly Christian is a crime. In Yemen, killings of nuns doing charity work supporting an entirely Muslim population have been documented for over 20 years. The swell propelling all of this is just Muslims.
Muslim concepts like jizya — a tax for non-Muslims that amounts to no more than a protection racket — have allowed Muslims to subjugate non-Muslims in the Middle East for centuries. Middle Eastern Christian history has been bulldozed, painted over, ruined. I could forgive that if it had remained history but Muslims have never stopped. Conquests and the cultural changing of hands is part and parcel of civilisation-making but Muslims still do it while simultaneously claiming to be oppressed and blaming American imperialism for the state of the Middle East as if pan-islamisation is not the real culprit. For Muslims and in Islam, Muslim supremacy is to be enforced with an iron fist — more appropriately, with a sword.
Inevitably, Muslims will point to ancient holy wars to forgive their collective history. “But the Crusades!” Crusaders did not much differentiate between the Muslim and non-Muslim people they came to fight and Middle Eastern Christians, with the exception of Lebanese Christians who fought with the Crusaders, took the brunt of the fighting between the knights and the Saracens. Besides, even with a series of Crusades launched, the Crusaders eventually stopped. Muslims haven’t.
Where do we fit?
I can’t trace my family tree back more than a couple of generations. The ones before them were exterminated or chased away from one home to another... I do not know the names of great-grandparents, of those before them. I’ll never know. All I know is what was done to us and who did it.
Most Middle Eastern Christians can’t trace their family trees back more than a couple of generations. I can’t trace my family tree back more than a couple of generations. The ones before them were exterminated or chased away from one home to another. The churches that kept their records were burned, destroyed. Some oral history of both sides of my family remains and some of it is substantiated by genealogical studies and migration maps. It’s a sad state of affairs, a multi-century cycle of being exiled and orphaned. I do not know the names of great-grandparents, of those before them. I’ll never know. All I know is what was done to us and who did it.
But I’m apparently not allowed to mourn this and I’m also not allowed to talk about what Muslims still do to us because that’s somehow racist. Muslims are brown and brown is better than white so I should just shut up about 1,400 years of oppression. If by sheer dumb luck there is an audience receptive to Middle Eastern Christians’ justified wariness of Muslims, it’s the right-wing Protestant contingent, sympathetic to our plight so long as we forsake our rites and become Bible-thumping evangelicals, born again and divorced from the first and oldest Churches.
Where do we fit?
It hurts me when I see Muslims and non-Muslims both shouting Middle Eastern Christian voices down. It wounds me. It kills my ancestors all over again. It burdens our coming generations with genetic bitterness and anger. And I’m jealous. I’m jealous of how deftly Muslims in the West have scrubbed their history and their hellish Allahu akbar mobs from the discourse. I’m jealous of how they have aligned themselves to movements like Black Lives Matter which demonise both white people and Christianity for being their religion (“Christianity is the white man’s religion”). I’m jealous of how they have shielded themselves from criticism, shielded their religion from criticism. And I’m angry.
I’m angry that my people — my ancestors, my family back home — have been stabbed in the back, have had their mouths muffled by those in the West with whom we happily and successfully integrated. Middle Eastern Christians came to America 100 years ago and we made it better, as doctors, lawyers, scientists, law-makers, engineers, entrepreneurs. Now, when we talk about the Muslims who drove us here because we feared for our lives, it’s the white Americans who once welcomed us who shut us up. Black deaths at the hands of a select few police officers apparently warrant more of a platform than hundreds of years of unrecognised genocides. Muslims who make a couple of superficial gestures to support black activism (laughably, Muslim groups — masters of PR, if nothing else — raised money to rebuild black churches in America but have never done anything to rebuild Middle Eastern churches and Churches they themselves destroyed) fall on the right side of what’s acceptable. Middle Eastern Christians with justified reservations? Not so much.
So we don’t fit. Everyone is either a racist or a self-hating ally or black. Brown Middle Eastern Christians Lives Don’t Matter.
On Presidents and Prophets
Muslims have always believed that the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam and they’ve left a trail of Middle Eastern Christian blood behind them where they’ve instated that belief.
In 2012, at an event as global and critically important as the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama, after using Copts, women, and broke students as talking points, said that the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. That’s a direct quote, one that gets a lot of play in the alt-right spheres of the internet, on the Facebook accounts of hillbillies who are convinced that Obama is a secret/not-so-secret Muslim intent on destroying the Constitution and replacing it with whatever hadith most Muslims can agree on. I don’t think that’s likely. Obama has killed thousands of Muslims through his drone strikes, his policies on Libya (aka the new and thriving capital of the so-called Islamic State), his arming of death-mongering ‘Syrian rebels’. Apparently, the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam but it’s ripe for the taking for American presidents who wholesale kill his followers.
But still. He said it. He said it on a global stage. He said in English what Quranic Arabic has proclaimed for 1,400 years. In Islam, those who do not follow the Muslim idea of Allah are disbelievers to be fought, vanquished. Muslims have always believed that the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam and they’ve left a trail of Middle Eastern Christian blood behind them where they’ve instated that belief.
But maybe it’s better if Middle Eastern Christians aren’t remembered by the political class. Ted ‘Zodiac’ Cruz, before he became a footnote in a book about the intersection of memes and politics, said to us that, “If [we] will not stand with Israel and Jews, then [he] will not stand with [us]”. Never mind that Israel persecutes Christians, picking up the slack for Middle Eastern Muslims on the rare occasions they drop it. John McCain looked downright suicidal when a Syrian Christian woman held him and America accountable for what they have done to Syria, to Syria’s Christians. His callous lack of emotional response — a microcosmic representation of American foreign policy — did not change, even as she told him that Middle Eastern Christians are sick and tired of being considered collateral damage by most of the American political class. (It’s also worth mentioning that Senator Robert Black, GOP member of the Virginia Senate, has been lampooned by Democrats and Republicans alike for his support of the Syrian Arab Army, support which notably stems from the Army’s protection of Syria’s Christians.)
Hillary Clinton, a bloodthirsty war hawk even by the standards of the Clinton-friendliest of publications, pushes for intervention, considers Libya a win, and wants to do the same to Syria. Where will Syria’s Christians, including indigenous Assyrians, go then? If ISIS bastion Libya is a win, what does Clinton, noted warmonger and harbinger of death, have planned for Syria’s Christians?
American presidential candidates aren’t good for Middle Eastern Christians. That is, they weren’t, before Trump.
Donald Trump Is Good for Middle Eastern Christians
We can now interject with a pointed “um, no” when Muslims in the West claim that they pose no danger to America because they live “side-by-side with Christians” back home.
It’s that last one that really interests me.
Like him or not, Donald Trump is effectively changing the world. We’ve thrown out ideas of traditional candidates, acceptable sound bites, political correctness. In his brash presence in this election, Trump has carved a place out for those of us who did not fit anywhere before. Sure, the alt-right loves him and the liberal left hates him but in the hubbub of their back-and-forth those of us previously left out have found a way in.
We can now ask Muslims outraged at Trump’s run why his words are more offensive to them than Clinton killing and displacing thousands of Muslims. We can now point out that Omar Mateen was an extremist by everyone’s standards but the mosque he attended where anti-gay rhetoric was spewed regularly is attended by the ‘moderate Muslims’ liberals love to court so much.
We can now interject with a pointed “um, no” when Muslims in the West claim that they pose no danger to America because they live “side-by-side with Christians” back home.
Middle Eastern Christians relish this: we can finally call Muslims out on their hypocrisy but, more importantly, we have a voice. That’s not something Hitler went around giving people, I’m pretty sure…