‘US’ AND ‘THEM’: THE POLITICS OF CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM CONFLICT

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The Mamasapano Crisis (25 January 2015) uncovered the deep psychosocial divide between Christians and Muslims in the Philippines. Photo by Lakan Sumulong.

Have you found yourself into the divisive language of ‘us’ and ‘them’? Or perhaps are you struggling to combat this divisive language? I would say, it happens to all of us—one way or another, and realize we’re stuck in a wicked socially constructed situation. As rational being, you are always at choice about these things. It might be said that, for a rare individual or group, who automatically and instantly begin to look for possibilities that will ever be able to crawl out, and escape from politics of ‘us’ and ‘them.’

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(Photo Credit: http://crooksandliars.com/files/primary_image/15/02/islamaphobia.jpg)

It might be suggested that, in awake of 9/11 attacks, this politics of ‘us’ and ‘them’ was framed within the ‘global war on terror’ propaganda, also called the Bush Doctrine. However, Noam Chomsky argues, this war against terrorism is originally from Regan years, and was subsequently turned into a doctrine of [Islamophobic] “crusade” by the former US president G. W. Bush [i]. This western renewed barbarism cultivated with anti-Arab people and anti-Islam tone. It is a fertile ground for the proliferation of hate speech or hate crime against Arab people and Muslim. Most written accounts of our times, and the narrative about Arab people, and about the religion of Islam, painted a picture of considerable racist epithet. For example, the classical movie of Arabian Nights, Arab people depicted as lustful, deceitful and barbaric. Clearly, politics of ‘us’ and ‘them’ runs deep with anti-Muslim sentiment or Islamophobia in western mass media and conservative political party around the globe. Obviously, after 9/11 attacks, this image of Arab people and Muslim dominated and imprinted in Western imagination, particularly in policy makers. For example, Islamophobia is part of the anti-immigration discourse in European Union [ii], including US national security [iii].

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(Photo Credit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/omar-alnatour/why-muslims-should-never-have-to-apologize_b_9526296.html)

One of the dominant myth in the conflict of Israel-Palestine, Christian community was under attacked and terrorized by radical Muslim Palestinians in the West Bank. This is the popular subject of debates on social networks. In June 2010, the Middle East Monitor (MEM)-Briefing Paper provides an overview of the Christian presence in the Palestine, the estimated number of Palestinian Christian in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem is 51, 710, making the percentage of the Palestinian Christian in the Occupied Territories 2% of the Palestinian population [iv]. Demographically speaking, the highest percentage of Christian population in Palestine live in these cities, Bethlehem (43.4%), followed by Ramallah (24.7%), then Jerusalem (17.9%). There is no agreed-on history of early Christian populations in Palestine. This is partly due to the difficulties of re-creating the history of an oral society, and partly because of the distorted representation of Palestinian society and history.

One of the most misleading perspectives of Palestine-Israel conflict, Christian population is decreasing due to Islamic fundamentalism or the so called, “persecution of believers” by their Muslim neighbours. An American intellectual namely, Timothy Seidel, rejected these unsubstantiated information and distorted representation. According to Seidel, these misrepresentations are unfortunately used to distract the international community from the brutish realities of Israeli occupation in West Bank and Gaza Strip. Seidel argues,

“…the plight of the Palestinian Christian is very much connected to that of the Palestinian Muslim in that both, whether in the Occupied Territories or inside Israeli itself, are experiencing daily injustices at the hands of oppressive and discriminatory policies imposed on them by the Israeli government [v].”

Seidel describes,

“Palestinian Christians, like their Muslim brothers and sisters, have experienced a long history of dispossession and have not been immune to Israeli policies of occupation and discrimination. If anything, they have felt more strongly the feelings of forsakenness, knowing full well that many Christians in North America and Europe support without question the state of Israel in its oppression of their people. Daily experiences of humiliation at checkpoints, of land confiscation to make way for the separation barrier, the illegal occupation and colonization of Palestinian territory, lack of mobility and access to basic services, unemployment, poverty, and no sense of hope for a better future for their children have all contributed to this growing emigration of Palestinian Christians from the historical land of Palestine.”

During my voluntary work as Ecumenical Accompaniment in 2012, I talked with one of the local Palestinians in Bethlehem. He told me that, “for centuries there was no such conflict nor even today.” These misleading and distorted information, reinforcing stereo-typing of Muslims as fundamentalists who generate terror. To assign the blame on the ‘usual suspect’ is a fruit of divisive language of “us” and “them.” Interestingly, on Sunday December 6 2015, Barak Obama argues, the highest priority of his administration is keeping the American safe against terrorism. Then, President Obama elaborates, our fight to defeat ISIL is not a war with Islam [vi]. It seem that Obama’s speech tried to give them a clear picture of the real enemy. However, the damage in the image of Arab people and Muslim, as I said, runs deep in the imagination of Western people. Perhaps, I would say, one of the reasons is constant distorted representation of Arab people and Muslim, why the international community do nothing to protect Palestinian rights against human rights violations of the State of Israel.

In South Africa December 211, Christians and Muslims have launched a document in an effort to counteract these divisive language and distorted image, to distract the international community from the brutish realities of Israeli occupation in West Bank and Gaza Strip [vii]. The demonization of Palestinians as radical Islamists, and accusing Muslim Palestinians by terrorizing their Christian neighbours, calls the attention of Christian and Muslim communities around the globe. Seeking alternative resources to challenge these distorted image of Palestinian Muslims, to counter this dominant view about Islam as the primarily enemy. The document is entitled, An Islamic Response to Kairos Palestine. This document drafted in South Africa in December 2011 in response to Kairos Palestine 2009 Bethlehem. The Greek word, ‘Kairos’ simply means it is a moment to speak the truth now. It might assume that this document is a recalls of the powerful statement from South African Christian in the apartheid era, the Kairos Document: Challenge to the Church, issued in 1985. In short, it called the Christian community to side with the oppressed [ix]. The Kairos Palestine 2009 document was a product of religious, social-cultural, and political-economic sufferings that characterized Palestinians struggles under Israeli Occupation [viii]. The impact of Israeli Occupation has been catastrophic. The starting points of the document reflect and ask three powerful questions; what is the international community doing? What are the political leaders in Palestine, in Israel and in the Arad world doing? What is the Church doing? In summary, the Kairos Palestine 2009 document inspired Palestinian Christians to the nonviolent resistance against Israeli Occupier (para 4.2-6). Using ‘civil disobedience,’ ‘disinvestment,’ ‘economic, and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupations”.

In solidarity with Palestinian struggles, An Islamic Response to Kairos Palestine document came into being. Today, an Islamic response to Palestinian struggles are important part of Palestine-Israel dialogue. The document offers a Quranic perspective to Palestinian struggles. The Holy Quran uphold justice and mercy, with a concern to protect family life, and vulnerable. Perhaps, one of the challenging questions from this document, where have all Arab states in the midst of this human tragedy? It seems that Arab states, appeared to be incapable of taking collective action with regard to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian people. Finally, being a morally-committed people, we should unite together to support of Palestinian freedom, who find themselves adrift in a world hostile to their future, because of Israeli occupation.

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(Photo Credit: http://www.thejc.com/files/imagecache/body_landscape/images/07102014-106746560.jpg)

An Islamic Response to Kairos Palestine document emphasizes the idea of a non-sectarian conflict, and debunks the notion of  ‘us’ and ‘them’, in the form of Christian-Muslim conflict, often used as a propagandist mantra by right-wing nationalists in the context of global war on terror. In solidarity with Muslims and Christians of the Palestine, this document serves as a rejoinder to the true meaning of a form of spirituality without borders amidst of the thriving imposition of an apartheid policy, which aims to dismantle the authentic peaceful relations of Palestinian, Jewish and Christian communities.

 

Sources:

[i] http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/33888-horror-beyond-description-noam-chomsky-on-the-latest-phase-of-the-war-on-terror.

[ii] http://www.euro-islam.info/key-issues/immigration/.

[iii] http://fair.org/extra/on-homeland-islam-means-terror/.

[iv] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/briefing-papers/1208-christian-muslim-relations-in-palestine.

[v] https://electronicintifada.net/content/christianity-palestine-misrepresentation-and-dispossession/6280.

[vi] https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2015/12/05/president-obama-addresses-nation-keeping-american-people-safe.

[vii] http://www.peaceforlife.org/resources/statement/pfpl/135-an-islamic-response-to-kairos-palestine.

[viii] http://www.kairospalestine.ps/content/kairos-document.

[ix] http://www.fosna.org/content/kairos-palestine-document-prayerful-call-palestinian-christians-end-occupation.

 

Permanent link to this article: https://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2016/03/us-and-them-the-politics-of-christian-muslim-conflict/

3 comments

    • Luz on 08.May.2016 at 0438

    Thank you very much for your informative article. indeed, we must challenge these distorted representation.

    • Aireen Unarse on 07.May.2016 at 2308

    Thanks to this articles.😃

    • Patricia ann on 07.May.2016 at 2259

    Thank you for this wonderful article.

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