Iraqi Christians Seek Shelter from Sharia

by ANDREW E. HARROD September 21, 2016

Knights of Columbus (KC) Supreme Knight Carl Anderson called for a "clear-eyed view of the history of Islamic cultures and their failure or rejection of secularization" in his September 8 gala dinner address at Washington, DC's Capitol Hill Club.  His "new realism in our approach to issues of human rights" in the Middle East during In Defense of Christians' (IDC) 2016 National Advocacy Conference buttressed IDC's regional autonomy proposals for long-suffering Iraqi Christians.

For Anderson, the "central, and the most challenging, question" is "can governments recognize and truly respect human rights if they are also committed to an Islam that totally organizes life on both the political and social levels."  He quoted University of Virginia Professor John M. Owen IV's book Confronting Political Islam:  Six Lessons from the West's Past:  

We must grapple with the following unsettling fact:  secularism has been tried in the Middle East, and in many places it has not worked.  Islamism is in fact a reaction to secularism, imposed many decades ago by Europeans and Muslim secularists. Those who say that the Middle East must go through what the early modern West went through must recognize that that has already happened.  What is more, far from killing off traditional Islam, secularization transformed it into a potent, variegated modern ideology.  All over the Muslim world, Islamist groups and parties-some extreme, some moderate, all determined to weaken secular government-draw support.  Nowhere is the irony more striking than in lands where secularism was tried with the most determination. 

Concerning such issues a "discussion must soon be undertaken in this country and throughout the non-Islamic world," Anderson stated, but "dialog is possible only when all the participants agree upon the meaning of the words they use."   "When we here speak of human rights, we are referencing those rights enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948.  By contrast, whenever "Islamic governments speak of human rights, they may be thinking of those rights as defined-or as confined-in the Sharia-based Cairo Declaration" (1990) from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  

Such sharia norms created a "system of religious apartheid" in the Middle East, Anderson stated.  Accordingly, future American aid to the "region must not be used to rebuild a discriminatory system that continues to impose second-class citizenship upon religious minorities."  Aid "should be contingent on the application of full rights of citizenship to every citizen of Iraq and other countries in the region."  

IDC's September 9 panel "Genocide and Persecution:  Past and Present" at the Dirksen Senate Office Building described how such sharia discrimination is an "incubator for genocide," according to KC Vice President Andrew WaltherMona Malik from the Assyrian Aid Society of America similarly cited Anderson's description of sharia's second-class citizenship for non-Muslims as a "precursor to genocide" like that perpetrated by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  While sharia in the current Iraqi constitution drafted during the American-led post-2003 regime change codifies "flagrant disregard for human rights," Iraqi identification cards specifically name only Arab, Kurdish, and Turkman ethnicity.  Assyrians, a people with 6,000 years of history in Iraq, appear on these cards merely as "‘other' in our own homeland."

Malik emphasized that Christian genocide in the Middle East is not merely a modern phenomenon of ISIS, but rather various "genocides have been happening for the past 100 years and they are still happening now."  Armenian National Committee of America-Eastern Region Board Member Armen V. Sahakyan noted that the "ghost of the Armenian genocide is still haunting the region."  From 1915 to 1923, the Ottoman Empire during its final years slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians and another 1.5 million from other Christian minorities.  Yet thousands of modern Turkish streets and public buildings bear Talaat Pasha's name, "one of the masterminds of the Armenian genocide."

To end this history of suffering, IDC panelists proposed an autonomous province in northern Iraq's Nineveh region, home to many of Iraq's Christian, Yezidi, and other minorities, at a September 7 National Press Club press conference.  This Nineveh province would take its place in a decentralized Iraqi federal state modeled on Bosnia, as advocated by Senator Joe Biden and others in 2006, IDC spokesman Andrew Doran stated.  As Philos Project Executive Director Robert Nicholson explained, the Nineveh province would have locally-raised security forces and host an international rapid deployment force.

"Everyone wants to help the Christians with aid, but until now there has been no structure through which to deliver it," Nicholson stated.  Intermediaries like Iraq's central government had often diverted aid intended for Iraqi Christians.  Therefore Middle East Christians need a "protected homeland at least in Iraq, a foundation on which to build their shattered society."  

Armenia, Israel, and Iraq's Kurdish Regional Government demonstrated that threatened peoples can survive and even thrive by governing territory, Nicholson noted.  From the audience, Assyrian-American activist and conference speaker Nahren Anweya also indicated that Assyrians should emulate Israel and revive their national existence, including their own military units.  "Maybe ISIS was a good thing, because it really woke up the world" to longstanding Islamic oppression of Assyrians, she stated.

Despite IDC's focus on Middle East Christians suffering at the hands of their Muslim neighbors, Doran stressed that "we are here to be a voice for the Christians and others in the Middle East, not in some sectarian sense."  "We want to send a message to Muslims in both the West and the Middle East, in our words and in our deeds, that we are not adversaries, but brothers and sisters struggling against common enemies" like dictators and extremists such as ISIS.  "Muslims have also suffered terribly; numerically they have suffered worst of all."  

"We are not anti-Islam," stated from the audience conference speaker Bishop Gregory Mansour.  Somewhat incongruously amidst the conference's various statements, he dismissed ISIS as "criminal gangs hiding behind Islamic, Quranic teaching."  Yet Anderson's well-founded realism calls into question Middle East Muslim reciprocity towards Doran and Mansour's ecumenical goodwill.

A version of this piece also appeared on http://www.religiousfreedomcoalition.org/

Andrew E. Harrod is a freelance researcher and writer who holds a PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a JD from George Washington University Law School.  He is admitted to the Virginia State Bar.  He has published over 400 articles concerning various political and religious topics at the American Thinker, the Blaze, Breitbart, Capital Research Center, Daily Caller, FrontPage Magazine, Institute on Religion and Democracy, Independent Journal Review, Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jihad Watch, Mercatornet, Philos Project, Religious Freedom Coalition, Washington Times, and World, among others. He is a fellow with the Lawfare Project, an organization combating the misuse of human rights law against Western societies.  He can be followed on twitter @AEHarrod.


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