Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Just another reason not to visit the Nile.

From Little Green Footballs this morning I learned that Israel’s largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, has an online English edition. My eye was immediately captured by this article called, "On the Brink of Extinction"; which reports on the various reasons for the accelerated decline in the Christian Communities in the Middle East.
In the 1930s, George Antonius authored his seminal work on Arab nationalism, “The Arab Awakening.” Michel Aflaq established the pan-Arab Ba’ath party, and Anton Sa’ada formed the Syrian Social Nationalist Party.

George Habash, Nayef Hawatmeh, and Wadia Hadad established the Arab nationalist movement, which gave rise to the PLO’s Palestinian Liberation Organization’s left wing groups. These educated Christian Arabs and others (such as former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz) attempted to blur the religious distinctions among Arabs, partly by adopting a fiery anti-Zionist stance. Similarly, Christians have also distinguished themselves among the Israeli Arab leadership.

However, the pressure exerted by radical Islam, which barely tolerated the autonomous Christian presence amidst it, had its influence. In the past decade, Christians have almost completely vanished from the Israeli Arab community and Arab world’s leadership.

The reason is, first and foremost, demographic - Christian Arabs are quickly becoming an extinct minority. An especially low natural growth rate coupled with stepped-up emigration have dropped their share to 1.7 percent of Israel’s population (160,000).

The intifada accelerated their decline: thousands left the Bethlehem area to for South America and are not planning to return. Meanwhile, the Copts in Egypt are already paying a "skull tax" (jizyah) to radical Muslims, while Lebanon is continuing to lose its Christians. These data have led the Vatican to estimate Christian communities in the region will vanish in several years.

So, now the secular Egyptian government is turning a blind eye as radical Islamic groups levy a "skull tax"” on Coptic Egyptians. My jaw wouldn’t be dropping off the floor if this were reputed to be happening in Iran, Yeman or Saudi Arabia but secular Egypt? So now I have another reason not to visit.

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