Friday, 10 August 2012

A Christian Voice for Assad

Remember Christian Voice? They're the miniscule pressure group, headed by one Stephen Green (who may be, for all I know, the only member) that first came to prominence campaigning against Jerry Springer the Opera. Recently, Green - exposed last year in the Mail (of all places) as a perpetrator of domestic violence - has descended into what looks like rabid conspiracy theorising fuelled by anti-Muslim paranoia. A few days ago the Christian Voice website carried a hilarious article speculating (from a position of studied neutrality) whether the Illuminati and other secret rulers of the world would carry out a "terrorist" atrocity at the Olympics.

I got a press release from Christian Voice today bemoaning the news that William Hague is to give £5m in aid to Syria's rebels. It read in part:

Last month, Christian Voice posted an article giving thanks to Almighty God for Russian and Chinese resistance to the anti-Assad USA and EU UN bloc, saying that only the Russians and Chinese were standing between the Christians, Syria’s Alawite minority, of whom President Assad is the most prominent member, the state of Israel, and a bloodbath.

You can tell the way Stephen Green's Icke-like mind works from statements like this:

If we step out of Mr Hague’s simplistic ‘Assad = dictator = bad, rebels = democracy = good’ mindset, we see that no one side is a pure as the driven snow, but that the deciding factor is that the USA/EU/Soros sponsored rise of the Muslim brotherhood and Al Quaeda elements in Syria and across the Middle East is a thoroughly bad thing.

Stephen Green goes on to warn that Syria's Christian minority "will be exterminated" if the opposition emerge victorious, as now looks increasingly likely. In fact, Hague's gesture strikes me as largely a symbolic recognition of that probability, intended to shore up democratic, secular and pluralist tendencies within the opposition. To suggest that the radical Islamists, who do indeed form part of the rather ramshackle opposition movement, are about to sweep all before them strikes me as at best a fundamental misreading of the situation (as it was a misreading of the situation in Libya), but withholding support from Syria's mainstream majority will only strengthen them. The largest element in the opposition consists of Sunnis whose opposition to the Ba'athist goverment is tribal rather than primarily political or religious. We should encourage them.

Assad's regime has been a secular one, and Syria's ancient Christian communities have been freer to practise their religion than those in many other parts of the middle east. But Syria has also been a firm ally of Iran, a sponsor of Hamas and Hizbollah, and an inveterate enemy of Israel. It has been no friend of the West, although an uneasy alliance of convenience was established after 9/11. Between an Iran-backed secular dictatorship and a Saudi-backed Islamist regime there may not seem much to pick. So we must hope something relatively moderate to replace the doomed Ba'athist hegemony.

That is not a simplistic "black and white" position; it is a nuanced and practical one. What is simplistic is to assert that the Arab Spring will inevitably lead to a radical Islamic takeover of the entire region. That hasn't happened in Tunisia or Libya, and the early triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egyptian elections has led to a noticeable secular reaction. There are, of course, dangers, and Middle Eastern Christians deserve more support than they often get from their co-religionists in Europe. But continuing with the time-honoured policy of propping up tyrants is no longer a solution, given that many of the tyrants are tottering or already gone.

I wouldn't have bothered with Green's latest outpouring had I not seen The Telegraph's right-wing blogging vicar, Peter Mullen, making exactly the same point this morning. Mullen put Hague's move down to "cliché, sentimentality and fantasy" about "aspiring democrats bravely spending their lives (and their mobile phone accounts) against the brutal dictator Assad":

No doubt Assad is a very nasty piece of work, but many of those who are opposing him are by no means pure as the driven snow; and many of them may actually be a great deal worse. The “activists” – as the relentlessly euphemistic BBC refers to Assad’s opponents – are not aspiring democrats at all. The reality is that the opposition to Assad is largely an uprising of Sunni militants whose aim is not simply to cast out the foul dictator but to exterminate all those who do not share their own extreme views: the Alawites, the Druze and the Christians especially.

Now that sounds remarkably similar to Stephen Green. It even features the same cliché about Assad's opponents not being "pure as the driven snow". Are they actually the same person? I think we should be told.

Here's Mullen:

The fact is that every few hundred years there is a militant Islamist insurgency. It has to be defeated. It was defeated at the Battle of Tours, at Lepanto, in Malta. Only a few centuries ago, they were at gates of Vienna. And if we don’t take decisive action, they will soon be there again.

And here's Green:

Our leaders are caught like rabbits in the headlights by Islam’s militant tendency. 9/11 and the 7th July London bombings took them unawares. Trapped in a multi-cultural matrix, unassailed by truth or fact, they had to pretend that the militants were perverting Islam, when in fact they were simply, logically, working out its theology of world domination.

Not easy to tell the difference.