Noel Muscat ofm
During these last months we have been invaded by news of wars and terrorist acts occurring in Syria and Iraq, perpetrated by extremist Islamic elements calling themselves ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). All of a sudden the world has seen unfolding before its very eyes a bad dream in which Islamic extremists are beheading foreign journalists and aid-workers with barbaric methods, expelling from their homes thousands of Christians from Syria, and Muslims of various groups different from the Sunni majority from Kurdistan, occupying oil installations and acquiring millions of dollars in the illegal sale of petroleum as well as in clandestine aid from other Arab countries, and welcoming in their ranks thousands of volunteers who came over from Europe to fight for the cause of the holy war of Islam.
The political answer to this problem has been ambiguous, to say the least. The USA and Europe, together with other allies, have responded by bombarding some positions of these extremists, but they have done little to defend the populations of Syria and Kurdistan who have had to escape from their homes. The same countries of the West have done next to nothing to protect the Christian presence in these countries, a two thousand year old presence predating Islam, with the result that Christianity is doomed to disappear altogether from Syria and Iraq. These extremists have kidnapped Christian missionaries, and even brutally killed some of them. It is to be said that these missionaries were ministering to the Christian population and were doing no kind of proselytism whatsoever.
Because of dishonest political interests we have seen the USA and the European Union undecided as to what they can do in front of the ambiguous politics of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President of Turkey, who although a close ally in the NATO Alliance is the leader of a pro-Islamic government in a country where the constitution declares a secular state. Lately we have also witnessed a statement by the same Erdogan in which he said that it was not Christopher Columbus who “discovered” the Americas in 1492, but “Muslim sailors arrived in America before 1178” and Columbus stated that he saw a mosque in Cuba! On the one hand Turkey welcomed the Christian and Kurdish refugees who escaped from Syria and Iraq, but on the other hand it exerted its military might to prohibit them from crossing back across the border to defend their lands and their homes from ISIL.
The same is happening in the politics of the West regarding the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who because of the crisis in Ukraine has now been distanced from collaboration with the West and is supporting with arms those countries of the Middle East where there is violence, including the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
In many other Arab countries there is tension and a power vacuum. A typical example is Libya, where the rebel militias are controlling the airport in Tripoli and the oil installations, and where the legitimate government is practically inexistent and controls small sections of the country.
In Africa there are Islamic extremists who are sowing terror and confusion, especially Boko Haram (“western education prohibited”), who have kidnapped groups of young girls from schools and sold them in slavery forcing them to convert to Islam. The list can go on…
The world political situation is certainly a source of fear. The problem lies in the fact that the so-called civilised countries seem to have little power to control the situation. The danger is serious, because it was exactly from these Western countries that thousands of Islamic terrorists left for the holy war, after having lived in Europe that declares itself to be free and secular. This means that in Europe there is a privileged place for those who know how to fight for their rights as minorities, whether they are Islamists, gay activists, etc., on condition that the idea that Europe was born as a contintent based on human dignity rooted in Christianity be eradicated from the minds and hearts of its citizens! Indeed, we have arrived at the point in which all signs of Christianity in social and political life are prohibited and savagely persecuted, in favour of the defence of all kinds of political, cultural and ideological fundamentalism embraced by those who want to be “different” in a militant way. The ugly result of this mentality is evident in many countries, and is also breeding xenophobia against immigration and ending in violent manifestations. The same continent that wants to base its life on freedom from every Cristian religious adherence is now falling prey to new kinds of dangerous fundamentalist “religions”.
The situation in the Holy Land is under strong political and military control, but it is evident that there is a situation of stalemate that does not augur any good for the future. If the State of Israel, allied to the USA, has managed to control Islamic fundamentalism (and this, in itself, is a positive aspect), it is not realising that any military control by means of occupation is a time bomb that can explode at any moment. The methods of military and political repression can work, but only up to a certain extent. Islamic fundamentalism can also threaten the Holy Land, especially if fundamentalist elements of nationalism on the part of Israeli religious extremists are allowed to prosper.
Some political analysts are speaking about the danger of approaching a “third Intifada”. Whether this might happen as it has already occurred twice is still open to discussion, since it is true that Israel has succeeded in controlling terrorist acts in an efficient way. However the danger lies in the fact that people do not realise the importance of the link that could result between terrorist actions by Islamic fundamentalists and the just quest for Palestinian autononmy and independence in the territories that Israel has occuped in 1967. Unfortunately Israel and the USA do not seem to want to admit that, in order to keep Islamic fundamentalism at bay, they need to address the Palestinian problem in a genuine way, namely to recognise the right of Palestinians to have a viable State of their own on the lands that Israel occupied in 1967.
International diplomacy needs to understand that we are living in a world where, through the mass media, there is no limit to the spreading of Islamist ideology born in Iraq or Syria into events that occur in the Holy Land, and indeed in Europe and the USA. It is necessary that political leaders understand this reality before it is too late, that is, before Islamic fundamentalism, that was born also thanks to the promotion of forced secularism in Europe, will invade with terror and violence the same countries that boast that they are democratic and free. If this happens there is the danger that the only response to Islamic fundamentalism would be that of Jewish and Christian fundamentalism. I think that such a response would radically go against all principles of belief of the majority of Jews, Christians and Muslims the world over. It is high time that we wake up from our sweet slumber in which we think that we can continue to enjoy an easy-going and free life far from the imminent danger that is knocking on our door.