Do as I say, not as I do: Religion in the Middle Eastern Uprisings

A wave of revolutions have taken place across the Middle East, and in their wake, a lot of people are asking what sort of government do they want to see. Unfortunately, a lot of the people asking these questions are neither from nor based in the Middle East. Westerners feel the need to meddle with these newly emerging regimes and shape them according to their own personal bias.

Recently in Egypt the democratically elected Islamist president was ousted by the military and a new government is being formed. In Syria the process of overthrowing the old regime is still going on and the opposition groups are becoming increasingly fractious. They are divided along religious and ideological lines mainly in their views of what the new Syria should look like. Iraq and Libya are facing the same problems of spreading sectarian violence.

In the UK bloggers are pontificating over what people far removed from them should do. Mainly they talk about which factions the UK should support. Religion is frequently a factor in this as it is divisive across the Middle East. The growing conflict between Shi'a and Sunni Muslims for control of certain countries is well documented, however, other groups such as Alawite Muslims in Syria stand to gain to lose depending on what form of future government rules there. The Middle East is also home to a lot of Christians, especially in Egypt where Christians make up ten percent of the population and are worried about the implications of an Islamist government. Syria also has a sizeable Christian population (again around ten percent of the population) who have similar concerns as Sharia law spreads amongst the rebel groups.

Recently the Catholic Herald wrote an article in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and criticising the UK's support of the Syrian opposition. Conservative Christian bloggers were quick to point out that Christians were better protected under Assad's brutal Ba'athist dictatorship, which is secular, than they would be under an Islamist government. This was accompanied by a chorus of support for the Middle East's secular regimes. It seems that Conservative Christian bloggers support secularism in the Middle East but have a different attitude to the UK where they are deplore the “aggressive secularism” of the British government in its plans to legalised gay marriage. The hypocrisy of this is beyond belief. I do not see how you can justify supporting a dictator who uses chemical weapons against his own population whilst criticising a government's attempts to extend equal rights to all its citizens. I assume the fact that chemical weapons are not mentioned in the Bible as sinful makes the Syrian government more righteous than the British one. According to certain Conservative Christian bloggers, secularism in the Middle East is the best form of government - even if it comes couched in brutal military oppression - but in the UK secularism threatens to undermines the basic values of the family.

Another claim of Conservative Christian bloggers is that the UK is a Christian country and that government policies should encourage Christian values. In reality only 13% of people identified as being members of the Church of England in the last census. Congregation numbers are falling across the UK and many Churches are left without a folk. They can hardly be representative of a silent majority of British citizens who want the British government to enforce Christian values. Still, Conservative Christian bloggers assert that the UK is a Christian nation and the government should reflect this. In the Middle East, the majority of the population not only identify as Muslims but actively practise the religion, and want their governments to match the demographic make up of their nations. Especially in some countries where years of military rule has enforced secularism to prevent an Islamic uprising. Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected as an Islamist leader by the population of Egypt. The West preaches democracy and then complains about the outcome when the Middle East takes up the mantra. Conservative Christian bloggers would prefer secular regimes in the Middle East (secular Middle Eastern regimes only come in the aggressive kind) despite the wishes of the population for a government that reflects their values. Again this hypocrisy is staggering. The UK can barely be described as a Christian nation beyond that the fact that we have an established church that is heavily in decline due to overwhelming Christian apathy. However, according to Conservative Christian bloggers the UK government should adopt Christian values (despite widespread support for gay rights and a woman's right to choose) while the Middle East must have aggressive secular regimes despite what the people of these countries want.

Hypocrisy among Conservative Christians bloggers is nothing new, but this latest wave of hypocrisy is surprising and I advise Conservative Christian bloggers to look at the difference between what they desire in the Middle East and desire here at home. It's hard to claim to be the voice of morality when you clearly endorse whatever is best for your own group above the needs and wishes of the general population. If Conservative Christian bloggers do not like the aggressive secularism of the British government then I invite them to live under the Assad regime and see what really aggressive secularism is like before telling Middle East countries what they should do.