Nor would Middle Eastern Christians have welcomed imperial Western oil companies, backed by their European viceregents, diplomats, intelligence agents, and armies, any more than Muslims did. Look at the long history of Latin American reactions to American domination of their oil, economics, and politics. The Middle East would have been equally keen to create nationalist anticolonial movements to wrest control of their own soil, markets, sovereignty, and destiny from foreign grip--just like anticolonial struggles in Hindu India, Confucian China, Buddhist Vietnam, and a Christian and animist Africa.
And surely the French would have just as readily expanded into a Christian Algeria to seize its rich farmlands and establish a colony. The Italians, too, never let Ethiopia‚s Christianity stop them from turning that country into a harshly administered colony.
But maybe the Middle East would have been more democratic without Islam? The history of dictatorship in Europe itself is not reassuring here. Spain and Portugal ended harsh dictatorships only in the mid-1970s. Greece only emerged from church-linked dictatorship a few decades ago. Christian Russia is still not out of the woods. Until quite recently, Latin America was riddled with dictators, who often reigned with U.S. blessing and in partnership with the Catholic Church. Most Christian African nations have not fared much better. Why would a Christian Middle East have looked any different?
And then there is Palestine. It was, of course, Christians who shamelessly persecuted Jews for more than a millennium, culminating in the Holocaust. These horrific examples of anti-Semitism were firmly rooted in Western Christian lands and culture. Jews would therefore have still sought a homeland outside Europe; the Zionist movement would still have emerged and sought a base in Palestine. And the new Jewish state would still have dislodged the same 750,000 Arab natives of Palestine from their lands even if they had been Christian--and indeed some of them were. Would not these Arab Palestinians have fought to protect or regain their own land? The Israeli-Palestinian problem remains at heart a national, ethnic, and territorial conflict, only recently bolstered by religious slogans. And let‚s not forget that Arab Christians played a major role in the early emergence of the whole Arab nationalist movement in the Middle East; indeed, the ideological founder of the first pan-Arab Ba.th party, Michel Aflaq, was a Sorbonne-educated Syrian Christian.
But surely Christians in the Middle East would have at least been religiously predisposed toward the West?
Without Islam, the peoples of the Middle East would have remained as they were at the birth of Islam--mostly adherents of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
The culture of the Orthodox Church differs sharply from the Western post-Enlightenment ethos, which emphasizes secularism, capitalism, and the primacy of the individual. It still maintains residual fears about the West that parallel in many ways current Muslim insecurities: fears of Western missionary proselytism, the perception of religion as a key vehicle for the protection and preservation of their own communities and culture, and a suspicion of the „corrupted‰ and imperial character of the West. Indeed, in an Orthodox Christian Middle East, Moscow would enjoy special influence, even today, as the last major center of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Orthodox world would have remained a key geopolitical arena of East-West rivalry in the Cold War. Samuel Huntington, after all, included the Orthodox Christian world among several civilizations embroiled in a cultural clash with the West
This, then, is the portrait of a putative „world without Islam‰. It is a Middle East dominated by Eastern Orthodox Christianity--a church historically and psychologically suspicious of, even hostile to, the West. Still riven by major ethnic and even sectarian differences, this Middle East possesses a fierce sense of historical consciousness and grievance against the West. It has been invaded repeatedly by Western imperialist armies; its resources commandeered; its borders redrawn by Western fiat in conformity with the West‚s various interests; and regimes established that are compliant with Western dictates. Palestine would still burn. Iran would still be intensely nationalistic. We would still see Palestinians resist Jews, Chechens resist Russians, Iranians resist the British and Americans, Kashmiris resist Indians, Tamils resist the Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, and Uighurs and Tibetans resist the Chinese. The Middle East would still have a glorious historical model--the great Byzantine Empire of more than 2,000 years standing˜with which to identify as a cultural and religious symbol. It would, in many respects, perpetuate an East-West divide.
It does not present an entirely peaceful and comforting picture.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Publicada por Miguel Madeira em 14:35