Civil Rights?

North Americans often assume that people will or at least should function as if their behavior is governed by Judeo/Christian-based laws or ethics. A teacher colleague of mine discovered to her shock that isn’t always the case.

Even here in the north central part of North America, many immigrants from Africa and the Middle East are our neighbors these days. Just because these newcomers have come to the “land of the free” doesn’t mean they have shed any of their assumptions, prejudices, or culturally engrained ways of handling relationships. When my colleague objected to the way a neighbor had treated her, the neighbor replied, “You’re an infidel (not a Muslim). So I can treat you any way I like.” Remember now, this incident occurred in North America in the twenty-first century!

Evidently, a Muslim’s understanding of Sharia (Islam-governed law) holds that Muslim accountable for how he or she treats another Muslim. (And punishments for disobedience can be quite severe.) Apparently, any activity or attitude of a Muslim is permissible toward a non-Muslim.

That expectation evidently hasn’t changed since twelve hundred A.D. after the Seljuk Turks took over Armenian territory to establish the Ottoman Empire. By 1915, the Empire’s Armenian population had already endured centuries of subjugation as second class citizens (See “Segregation Device: Shoes by Firman,” December 7, 2012 posting). Whenever an Ottoman Turk had a mind to harass, beat up, steal from, rape, or even kill an Armenian, the Turk could do it with impunity. The Armenian had no recourse. Any attempt at a protest usually resulted in more mistreatment.

Justice and civil rights existed only for Muslim Turks in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. 



4 thoughts on “Civil Rights?

  1. Wow! I had no idea. We have some friends who are Muslims. We often talk with them about Jesus. They have always been respectful and interested. I know they are deeply committed to Islam but they have never called us infidels…at least to our faces! They have told us they respect us because we live what we believe and study the Bible to seek its truth. they say most people who call themselves Christians, are not believers. That’s why we always refer to ourselves as Believers.

    • Hi, Rebecca. Thank you for visiting my blog and making a comment. As a teacher of English learners, I have worked with hundreds of Muslim adults over a dozen years. Most were Somalis. A few have been rude or aggressive and not pleasant to deal with, just like my colleague’s neighbor. Most of the ones in my classroom worked at trying to figure out the best way to relate to me. Those with the most education were better at figuring that out than the Muslims in my preliterate classes. I give them credit for their efforts and I did my best to be respectful and simply love them. But things didn’t always go smoothly.

      Sounds like you have some very special friends. I encourage you to maintain your open exchange and find ways to demonstrate your love for them.

      Being a Christian Believer in a Muslim dominant country (like the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey) is a very different experience. That was especially true one hundred years ago.

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