Twice the Oppression: Christian and Female in Palestine

Women in the Middle East face several challenges, even more if they are not Muslim (ShareAmérica)
Women in the Middle East face several challenges, even more so if they are not Muslim. (ShareAmérica)

EspañolI was in Europe right at the time when multiple terrorist attacks linked to Islamic fundamentalism hit Paris.

As I worked for a short period, I started having long and enriching conversations with a young Palestinian woman whose identity I cannot reveal due to security concerns. My interview below touches on many topics related to her experiences.

What is it like being a Christian in a Muslim country?

In my country, Christians are a minority of approximately 1 percent, so I’m always harassed by Muslims for not wearing the veil (hijab) and clothes associated with Muslim women, or for not adapting to their religious rules.

Are you allowed to celebrate holidays such as Christmas or Easter?

It’s very difficult to celebrate the Christian holidays the way I’d like to celebrate them. A decent number of Muslims take part in the celebrations for the sole purpose of harassing Christians and ruining the celebrations.

They don’t respect Christianity in the same way that we have to respect Islam.

Christians are not allowed to celebrate religious holidays if the state — attempting to curry political favor — sides with Muslims in their calls for bans.

What do you have to do during Muslim holidays?

I’m not allowed to eat or drink in public during Ramadan (the ninth month of the Islamic calendar when fasting is practiced from sunrise to sunset).

In fact, if I try to do something, even in my workplace where many Muslims work, I will be fined and sent to prison.

What happens with the families of these Christian communities?

It’s so difficult to live in a community that is so closed-minded that Christians even have to protect their children from being attacked by Islamic extremists.

Christian men can be murdered in the name of Islam if they have a relationship with a Muslim woman. However, if a Muslim man has a relationship with a Christian woman, the woman will be forced to convert to Islam and have to abide by their religious rules, alienating her Christian family.

That’s why the men in our Christian communities must keep an eye on their daughters at all times.

Muslims tend to have a lot of children, despite not being able to afford medical care or education. But they do it in order to increase the number of Muslims and to hold the majority in their respective countries.

How difficult is it to be a woman the Muslim world?

As mentioned in their holy book, Muslim men are authorized to marry four women. They can also beat their spouses for not obeying them, according to the Qur’an:

Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth.… Those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them.

It seems that some contemporary translations are trying to change the meaning of the word “strike,” but the same meaning is given in verse 8:12:

I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.… Whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.’

Do you think that Muslims can change their minds depending on the culture where they live?

I used to think that if some Muslims lived in the West, they could become more civilized. But the reality is that they will always have the same mentality toward women who don’t belong to their religion, or who don’t dress like Muslim women, or those who don’t adhere to their beliefs.

So this harassment is something you suffer daily…

They have harassed me and persecuted me so many times, and not just in my country, but also in Western nations. They have insulted me on so many different occasions…

Is there one experience, in particular, that you want to share?

In college, I worked with a male Muslim colleague on my thesis. When he came over to my house to work on it, he ended up humiliating me for being Christian and didn’t respect my hospitality in my own home.

What would you tell those who argue that Islam is a religion of peace?

From my perspective, and based on what I have lived and suffered through all these years, I don’t believe that Islam is a religion of peace. If you closely observe the world, you can find chaos and massacres in the countries governed by Muslims and where the majority of the population is Muslim.

We have seen more than 20,000 attacks committed explicitly in the name of Islam just in the last 10 years. And nowadays, European countries — Christian for the most part — are being attacked in the name of Islam. As a matter of fact, Muhammad himself said that “a Muslim can never be convicted to death for killing a non-Muslim.”

The reality is that Islam is the only religion in which a person is bound to it, because Islam threatens anyone who abandons or converts to another faith with the death penalty.

From my experience, and based on how I’ve been treated in every Islamic country that I regularly visit, I have started to believe that Islam teaches that those of us who are not Muslims are actually not human beings.

What does the message of Muhammad boil down to?

Muhammad, the prophet and founder of Islam, killed people for being critical of his religion.

Muslims have been told that they have to emulate him, who said many times that he had been “called by Allah to fight against men until they testify that there is no God other than Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger.” In fact, during the last nine years of his life, Muhammad ordered 65 military campaigns to carry out this calling by Allah.

Muhammad inspired men to search for war just as you see today with the Islamic State. He decapitated captives, enslaved children, and raped women captured at battle. Again, Muslims are called to imitate this example. In the same sentiment, Muhammad ordered Muslims to initiate a war against other religions in order to force them to submit to Islam.

There is not one mention in the Qur’an about the love of Allah towards non-Muslims. On the contrary, the Qur’an speaks of Allah’s cruelty and hate towards non-Muslims over 500 times.

How do you survive in such an environment?

Every day of my life I have fear being attacked or murdered for being a Christian, although I do believe that some Muslims are open-minded and more accepting of me. I have met many of them.

But this is because they are not very familiar with their religion. They don’t obey the entire Qur’an or have not been very detailed with their reading of it.

Translated by Scott Myers.

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