From the Revd R. C. Paget
Sir, — As an Arabist and Middle East-watcher for more than 30 years, I was encouraged by reading such a perceptive piece on the Arab Spring by Gerald Butt (Features, 30 December). This, combined with Jeremy Moodey’s letter, “The episcopate fights shy of the real issues”, addressing a key obstacle to progress in the question of the Palestinians, brings your readers correctly up to date. But what insights and truths may we learn from this?
I would mention just two of critical importance for future prayers and plans.
First, it was our (Western) greed that maintained the socially unhealthy status quo in those countries, and we can therefore expect few favours from whoever wins elections there, be it the liberals or, almost certainly, the Islamists, who will drop their West-placating disguises as soon as they succeed, offering us a foretaste of the kind of society desired here by a growing number of Muslims, especially the young and the impressionable.
Dr Michael Nazir-Ali and others were right courageously to point this out, unpopular though it was with the naïve and the disingenuous. To avoid a “clash of religions” — which, of course, is nothing of the sort — our politicians and bishops really must demand from the leaders of our Muslim communities a greater willingness both publicly and privately to stigmatise Islamic extremism, while, for the benefit of society as a whole, the former really must curb their desire to appear reasonable or popular and not resort to fudging or looking for other scapegoats in the face of awkward facts and unpalatable truths.
Second, in terms of native Christian flight from the Middle East, especially Palestine, the United States cares not one iota for a continuing Christian presence there, since it adds “complications” to the much prefered “straight-fight scenario” of Jew verses Muslim, a view sadly and disturbingly espoused by a growing number of extremist Christians both in the US and now in Europe.
Sadly, 2012 will bring forth greater chaos and bloodshed in the region, a terrible prospect, but one that plays into the hands of unprincipled Western capitalists and Islamic fundamentalists alike.
R. C. PAGET
The Vicarage, Brenchley
Kent TN12 7NN