“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” Niccolò Machiavelli, The Prince
At the launch of the ‘Religious Freedom in the World Report’ the Prince of Wales spoke of his anguish at the plight of Christianity in the Middle East. He urged Muslim leaders to ensure believers have respect for other religions instead of remaining ‘silent’ over the suffering of minorities.
The report by charity ‘Aid to the Church in Need’ claims that across the world, Christians remain the most persecuted religious minority, while Muslim countries predominate among states with the most serious violations of religious freedom.
The report and the subsequent announcement by Prince Charles fits within an overall narrative that attempts to associate Islam and Muslims with violence and barbarity. Something that the media and the political establishment have been drip feeding the wider population for a number of years. While this narrative helps prepare the population to support Britain’s foreign adventures in the muslims world, it also conveniently ignores the role Western colonialism has played in constructing the Muslim world and the resulting violence and fragmentation that is currently seen. This slanted narrative of minority persecution in the Middle East is used in justifying an interventionist agenda in the Muslim world.
A willingness to condemn bloodshed, tyranny and injustice when it conveniently fits the ‘Islamic extremism’ narrative is highly disturbing and begs the question of ones sincerity. Actions do speak louder than words, while 2000 Muslims were killed in Burma and a further 90,000 displaced since 2012, the world witnessed no condemnation of Burma by the Prince of Wales, what the world in fact saw was the Prince of Wales planting trees with Aung San Suu Kyi. Let us remember the Rohingya Muslims have been dubbed “the most oppressed people in the world.” Nor did we see any condemnation when muslims were butchered and forcibly “cleansed” from Central African Republic by Christian militias. Shockingly there were even cases of cannibalism of Muslims by Christians, yet still not a mention from the Royal. Although the world is well aware of the plight of Tibetans under communist Chinese rule little or anything is mentioned of the Uighur Muslims who can face decades in jail for merely suggesting self determination for the Uighurs. Similarly there’s been little condemnation of the ongoing massacres in Syria by Bashar al-Assad, the focus of his tyranny clearly diverted by the excessive attention by the British media on Isis. Assad’s regime having displaced millions of Muslims and killed hundreds of thousands, with reports of gruesome torture of those wishing to see an end of oppression and dictatorship, and the establishment of an Islamic system.
Neither did we hear anything from any of the Royals over the half a million deaths in Iraq as a direct result of the US/UK led invasion. This came after a brutal sanction regime was placed on Iraq in the 1990s that left half a million Iraqi children dead. Not only silence by Prince Charles over the occupation and invasion of Afghanistan but he actively supported his sons joining the armed struggle to maintain British occupation. It needs to be remembered that the former head of the armed forces, Sir Richard Dannatt, made it clear on the BBC radio 4 ‘Today’s’ programme that the purpose of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was to prevent the reestablishment of the caliphate. British army travelling thousands of miles to restrict the legitimate right of Muslims to be ruled by a system that reflects their belief. Surely this is a form of state discrimination!
Perhaps the famed ‘non political’ position of the royal family was the reason for such silence yet that didn’t stop the Prince of Wales from criticising Muslims in a highly political move.
By-product of colonialism
The sectarian violence that seems to flare up every now and then in the Muslim world is the by-product of colonialism. Non-Muslims living in the Muslim lands historically enjoyed relative peace and security, the presence of a large number of Coptic Christian in Egypt, or the Yazidis in Iraq is testimony to this. The advent of Western colonial intervention led to fragmentation along ethnic and religious fault lines, Palestine and Kashmir to name two examples. The Sykes-Picot agreement carved up lands that were unified by a common language, religion and history arbitrarily between the French and British. Current tensions in the Levant are a direct result of such ‘sharing of the spoils’ and the imposition of ‘puppet rulers’ when direct colonialism was no longer economically feasible.
The most glaring example of colonialist intervention in the Muslim lands, was the Balfour declaration and creation of a foreign entity, the State of Israel. The British in collusion with Zionist leaders carved out a state in the heart of the Middle East. A state that justified its existence as being necessary for a specific religious/racial grouping, namely the Jews. The history of this conflict is well known and sadly very one sided. Since Britain occupied Palestine in 1917, they worked hard to create a new state in collusion with Zionists with the Balfour Declaration of 1917 leading to the declaration of the state of Israel in 1948 and the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Muslims from their lands. The continued support by the West has remained unabated.
More recently, Western intervention in Iraq, has led to the fragmentation along ethnic and sectarian lines. Institutionalising these division under Bremmer, led to the Sunni uprising against the oppressive Maliki regime who had systematically incited sectarian tensions.
Indeed there exists problems in the Muslim world, there is no doubt about this. There are cases in some Muslim countries where the rule of law has given way to mob rule resulting in non Muslims being abused. There are also examples of shadowy organisations which often have links with security agencies of secular Muslim regimes that undertake attacks on churches and other religious institutions. These attacks tend to only serve the secular regimes interest – demonisation of any Islamic opposition in order to justify the secular dictatorship continued rule. Yet these are the very same secular dictators whom the West continue to provide support for. Therefore the current crisis in the Muslim world is a construct of wider political problems facing the Muslims, most of which are a legacy from the colonial era and many of which are perpetuated by Western interference today.
Britain and the Hypocrisy of Religious Freedom
The Prince of Wales advocates religious freedom, however in Britain this ideal is set aside when Muslims begin expressing political opinions based on Islam.
Earlier this year in the Conservative Party conference, Theresa May said “defeat the ideology that lies behind the threat”. A battle cry if there was any against Islam and Muslims in Britain. This statement was not about people with militant views, but rather Muslims that have political and key islamic opinions.
For the Muslim community there is also more proof of religious (in)tolerance in the form of ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’. Empowering the police to apply to the High Court to restrict “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. Harmful is to include a risk of public disorder or the vague-sounding “threat to the functioning of democracy” as well as the ability to ban broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web, social media or in print. Taking part in public protests or speaking at any public event would also be banned.
The restriction of expressing Islamic ideas, monitoring of Islamic institutions, forced promotion of secularism, a Trojan horse trampling over Muslim Schools and more to look forward to – Britain is no reference point in this subject of tolerance to minorities. Such concerted efforts by the political establishment to demonise Muslims and Islam has led to a situation where intolerance to Muslims in the UK has become commonplace. Muslim women attacked, hijabs ripped off, verbal abuse of Muslims, vandalism of mosques, violent attacks against Muslims are becoming more common in a less tolerant Britain. But again no comment from Prince Charles on these issues.
Humanitarian for One, Unfortunate for the Other
In reality, Prince Charles’ speech highlights how when it comes to Western interests, Muslim life, is insignificant – unless there is a political benefit. For decades Iraq has been bombarded with no consideration of the damage done to the people in the forms of their lives, their economics, their health, their wellbeing and their future.
This speech comes at a time when Britain wants to galvanise more support for the continuing intervention in Iraq and the Middle East. Unsurprisingly this speech comes a few days before the British government announced more troops will engage in Iraq.