The Arabic language daily Asharq Al-Awsat (also available online in English) did not limit itself to events in Malaysia (www.aawsat.com), reprinting reports from Reuters that quote Christians directly—for example, “There are extremists in this country and the government seems unable to do anything,” said Wilson Matayun, a salesman who attended Mass at St Anthony's Church in Kuala Lumpur. “I am losing faith in the government,—but also gave its top editorial writer Hussein Shobokshi a chance to express a radical critique of events in Egypt in an article titled “Kill ‘em all”. In one passage, the journalist wrote, “A collective punishment is a punishment that aims to target innocent victims; this is something that cannot be accepted by religion, morality, logic, or anybody with a conscience.”
The New York Times, which had covered anti-Christian violence and attacks in the past, excluded religion as their main cause in Malaysia, arguing instead that they are part of political strategies adopted by local parties vying for power. “Religion has become a much more useful tool for parties who depend on playing on ethnic divisions,” Mr. Ooi said: “They find it difficult to talk about racial issues but possible to talk about religious issues. We are seeing the result of that political opportunism over the last two decades.” The line between race and religion is blurred in a country where the Constitution equates Muslim and Malay identities, said Jacqueline Ann Surin, editor of The Nut Graph, an analytical Malaysian news site.“Malaysia is peculiar in that we have race-based politics and over the past decade or so we have seen an escalation of this notion that Malay Malaysians are superior,” she said. “That has been most apparent from consistent attempts by the U.M.N.O. leadership to promote the notion of ‘ketuanan Melayu,’ or Malay supremacy or dominance.” The United Malays National Organization is the governing party».
In an article titled “Allah – the Word,” (atwar.blogs.nytimes.com), Anthony Shadid, a Baghdad-based editorial writer for the New York Times, expressed a certain astonishment that a violent battle over language should break out in Malaysia of all places, a country universally known for its strict respect for Muslim practices, rather than in a Mideast country. Here, some Muslims want the word Allah to remain a Muslim prerogative and are willing to defend their claim by force. Shadid wrote, “No one would hold up the Middle East as a beacon of acceptance. Indeed, tolerance in the region never quite matches its diversity, its truth apparent in the withering of Iraq’s proud Jewish and Christian communities and the sectarian strife that simmers and sometimes explodes in Egypt and Lebanon. A contest in much of the Middle East is under way to claim everything from history to power. At heart, that contest revolves around the axis of identity, now more than ever defined religiously. But in the Middle East, colloquial Arabic, drawn from the millennia-old tongue in which Muslims believe God spoke to Muhammad, has yet to become a battleground. Inshallah, God willing, everyone says about everything in the future tense, from an appointment the next day to the sun rising in the east. The same goes for In Allah rad, if God wills it. The word Allah infuses virtually every salutation, greeting and condolence, spoken upon departure and arrival, and at birth and death, a centuries-long refinement of mutual social exchanges that ensures almost no moment is awkward. Kater khair Allah, a Christian in Hikmat’s town would say to his Muslim neighbor.”
However, the most scathing critique came from the Wall Street Journal, which openly spoke about “Islamic christianophobia” (online.wsj.com) and slammed the general lack of awareness about the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world. “In Egypt, seven Coptic Christians were murdered yesterday by a Muslim gunman as they filed out of a midnight mass in the southern town of Nag Hamadi. In Pakistan, more than 100 Christian homes were ransacked by a Muslim mob last July in the village of Bahmaniwala. In Iraq that same month, seven Christian churches were bombed in Baghdad and Mosul in the space of three days. Such atrocities—and there are scores of other examples—are grim reminders that when it comes to persecution, few groups have suffered as grievously as Christians in Muslim lands. Fewer still have suffered with such little attention paid.”
No wonder then, writes the WSJ, that Christians are abandoning their homelands in favour of Europe and the United States. “It might seem natural that at least some attention would be paid in the West to the plight of these Christians. Instead, attention seems endlessly focused on "Islamophobia," not least at the U.N.'s misnamed Human Rights Council. In November, much of Europe went berserk over the Swiss referendum to ban the construction of minarets (though not of mosques). But the West's tolerance for its large Muslim populations stands in sharp contrast to the Muslim world's bigotry and persecution of its own religious minorities. That's a fact that ought to be borne in mind the next time Westerners berate themselves about their own supposed ‘intolerance’.”
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