April 9, 2008 Special Dispatch No. 1850

Saudi Columnist Laments Expulsion of Christians from Arab Countries

April 9, 2008
Special Dispatch No. 1850

In the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Saudi columnist Hussein Shubakshi discussed the phenomenon of Christian emigration from Arab countries. He criticized the fact that this trend was being ignored, and warned of its serious and far-reaching ramifications for Arab society as a whole.

The following are excerpts from Shubakshi’s article: [1]

"[Jewish Emigration from Arab Countries] Helped Invalidate the Claim that Religious Moderation, Coexistence, and 'Acceptance of the Other' [Prevailed in Arab Countries]"

"The Arab East was [once] a paragon of peaceful coexistence between different religious groups. Abundant evidence of this model arrangement could be found in school classrooms, trading companies, and cultural projects. [This situation existed] until the Jews were expelled from the Arab countries for the first time, which took place in the wake of the declaration of the Zionist state. The response [to this declaration] by the security apparatuses of several Arab governments was inane, in that they came to regard the Jewish communities with suspicion, skepticism, and apprehension, and tormented them in order to force them to emigrate [from Arab countries]. Neither can the despicable activities of Zionist organizations be ignored - [activities] aimed at frightening the [Jewish] communities, thereby forcing them to emigrate to Israel.

"[Jewish emigration from Arab countries] had a significant negative impact on the material wellbeing of society, and on economic diversity, in the Arab world. It helped invalidate the claim that religious moderation, coexistence, and 'acceptance of the other' [prevailed in Arab countries].

"It is obvious that, today another wave of emigration is underway, and that the Arab world is being drained of its Christian residents. The rate of Christian emigration from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Sudan, and Syria has reached astonishing proportions. Palestine in particular is facing a plan to eradicate the entire deeply-rooted Christian presence from all its territories. Christian Palestinian emigrants settle primarily in Chile, especially the capital Santiago, where the Palestinian Christian [community] now numbers 70,000. There is also a process of Christian migration from other Arab regions to Europe, Australia, the U.S., and Canada."

Today, Extremism "Has Become the Most Powerful Means of Expelling Christians from Their Arab Motherland"

"With the spread of extremism and the prevailing lack of understanding of the basic [principles] of coexistence with the other - which were put into practice by the Prophet [Muhammad himself] - it comes as no surprise that an extremist vision dominates the religious discourse. This is what is happening today: [Extremism] has become the most powerful means of expelling Christians from their Arab motherland.

"This forcible expulsion is evidence of the narrow limits of tolerance and acceptance of the other - [and the narrowness of these limits] is clearly evident from the actual outcome. The fact that Christian Arabs do not feel secure and protected [in Arab countries] is a very grave problem, which must be dealt with immediately - because [without a solution, emigration] will continue to exact a price that must eventually have to be paid by everyone, without distinction, including the Muslims themselves.

"But keeping silent in the face of the continuing emigration, and ignoring the numbers [of Christians] abandoning [Arab countries] - as if this concerned no one - is incomprehensible. The Arab world has always been a meeting place for [different] civilizations, where [different] religious [groups] coexisted and [different] cultures blended...

"Today, in light of these worrying signs, we cannot keep [turning a blind eye to] this phenomenon. [Christians] are leaving, not by the dozens, and not even by the hundreds - but by the thousands. Nor is this happening in secret; [indeed], it is happening openly and collectively.

"The reasons [for Christian emigration from the Arab countries] are quite clear: They include fear, worry, and other [factors brought about by] society's failures. This second wave of emigration is a huge failure that should not be ignored - because it is the region that is losing out the most."


[1] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 2, 2008

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