Saturday, July 20, 2013

Religious Freedom and the Middle East

Writing for the Washington Post, Andrew Doran, a former State Department employee, writes about the plight of Middle Eastern Christians as revolutions continue to shake the Middle East. He argues that they are caught in the middle between Muslim fundamentalism and modernity.  He notes that Muslim religious toleration has been a hallmark of Islamic history, especially during Islam's golden age in medieval Spain under the Umayyad dynasty. There, Christians and Jews were seen as "people of the book."

What happened to that "medieval moment?"  Doran believes that it disappeared, in part, because of the rise of secularism. "The preeminence of secularism in the West coincided with – and likely contributed to – the rise of fundamentalism in the Middle East. Perhaps most disconcerting for Middle Eastern Christians, generally proponents of liberalism, is how comfortable Western liberal democracies have become with political Islam and even extremism. In consequence, many feel betrayed, especially by America..  

Is Doran right?  Are western democracies too comfortable with political Islam and even fundamentalism? This could be an interesting discussion in class and the article could also serve as a good review of Islam's golden age.

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