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Malek Twal: "Islamist terrorism targets more Muslims than Christians."

The ambassador of the League of Arab States in Spain, Malek Twal, has dismantled to Omnes the thesis of the flight of Arab Christians from the Middle East because they are Christians. As a representative of the Arab League, based in Cairo and which brings together 22 states, he assures that the real reason is the absence of peace, and for this he asks for help from "Christian Europe".  

Francisco Otamendi-November 27, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Malek Twal

Malek Twal had clear priorities in his participation in the recent Catholics and Public Life congress at the CEU. "What I want you to remember from my speech," he said, is "that Christianity and Christians will remain in the Holy Land despite all the difficulties," and that "their permanence depends on the support that Europe and America give them and their Muslim brothers."

Omnes wanted to delve into the matter for at least three reasons. 1) Because "Arab Christians are patriotic people and do not leave their home countries except in harsh and unbearable circumstances," Malek Twal noted. 2) Because despite those circumstances, "there are still half a million Christians in Iraq and more than a million Christians in Syria, and Christians still represent the majority in Lebanon," the ambassador added. And 3) Because the terrorist threat remains. 

These were his words, accompanied by CEU San Pablo University professor Antonio Alonso Marcos. As you will see, the nuances of the leader of the Arab Leaguewho is Jordanian, and has a wife and four children, have their interest. The interview took place days before the announced cease-fire.

Are you a Christian?


Do you know the Foundation for Islamic Culture? Omnes follows educational initiatives of that foundation.

-Yes. This association is promoting the message of the Pope Francis with the Imam of Al-Azhar. It is a very important message, because it is a common Christian, Islamic message, a message of peace.

Does the Arab League share the document of human fraternity?

-No, no. The Arab League is a regional organization of political character although it has an economic, social mission, etc., but the origin of the Arab League is a regional organization of political coordination among Arab countries, twenty-two.

What does the League of Arab States think of the document?

-Within the Arab League we have a department that deals with intercultural and interreligious dialogue. All initiatives concerning dialogue in the world are important initiatives and it is interesting for us in the Arab League. 

In this initiative we have one Arab country, the Emirates; another party, Al-Azhar, which is a religious institution in the largest Arab country, Egypt. The initiative is very important for us in the Arab League. We are not a legal party to this initiative, but we are happy about this declaration that was adopted at the same time by the Holy See and Al-Azhar.

It is inevitable to talk about the Israeli-Palestinian war, the conflict.  

-First of all, this is not a conflict because a conflict is between two states; this is an aggression by a state against a people, the Palestinian people, which has been under occupation for 75 years by a state, the Israeli state. The aggression comes from a State that has all kinds of weapons against a people that has been under occupation for many years in a closed strip, by land, sea and air.

But within the Palestinian people there is a radical minority called Hamas.

--Hamas is a component of Palestinian society. Occupation results in various kinds of resistance movements. Hamas is a component of Palestinian society, radical, but we must understand that, according to the rules of physics, every action is followed by a reaction. Hamas' radicalism is the reaction to the occupation, which is insufferable. 

In this context, how do you qualify the Hamas attack on October 7 on civilians in Israel?

-The council of Arab ministers, when it met 4 days later, condemned all attacks against civilians on both sides. For us, the safety of civilians is very important, on both sides. We do not call this a conflict, as I said, but an aggression against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Let's talk about Christians. The paper is entitled "Christians in Arab countries". With the logical differences, how are Christians doing in these Arab countries?

-The Christian communities in the Middle East are going through a very difficult period. Not because they are Christians, but because the situation is very difficult, for Christians and Muslims. An example. Lebanon is a country with a Christian majority, the president is Christian, but the Christians are living in extreme difficulty, like the Lebanese Muslims, who are also living in a very difficult situation.

This is in general, but if we look at a Christian community in different countries we see differences. For example, Christians in Jordan have always been privileged, despite being a minority, because they always have my role, my quota. We are overrepresented, in politics, in the economy, in parliament, but this does not mean that we do not have problems. The problems do not come because we are Christians, but because we have a situation that is not normal in the whole region. The absence of peace, of security, of stability....

If we talk about the Christians in Iraq, or in Syria... They are people very integrated in society, socioeconomically, in politics... We remember the famous Christian foreign minister, Tariq Aziz; the father of Arab nationalism, Michel Aflaq... The Christian communities in Iraq and Syria were always in the forefront. 

However, the number of Christians is decreasing. 

-Yes, the number of Christians is decreasing. They are going through a very difficult period of wars for years, as is well known. 

The problem of Christians in all these countries is that they are very qualified. As they have the best education in the country, as soon as there is a problem they say: well, what future do I have here, and they go abroad, to Switzerland, America or Canada, wherever. It is not the most vulnerable or the poorest who leave, but the most capable. Christians, within society, belong to the middle or upper middle class, that's why they go to the best schools, the best universities....

Coptic Christians in Egypt have suffered attacks and violence. Is it because they are Christians?

Yes and no. Christians have been victims of Islamist, not Islamic, terrorism. It is very important to select terms. There is a big difference between Islamic and Islamist. I am talking about Islamist terrorism, a person who takes Islam as a motive, they are people who have nothing to do with Islam.

The same victims are more Muslims than Christians. Terrorists attack all those who are not like them. When there is an attack against a Coptic church, the victims are Copts, but yesterday or tomorrow the victims are Muslims.

Another thing, the victims of the Taliban, of Al Qaeda, are Muslims, they are not of another religion. It is very important to understand that for a terrorist, their enemy is those who are not like them. Moderate Muslims, open to the world, are enemies for terrorists.

Another example: who are the victims of Taliban terrorism in Pakistan. There are no Christians in Afghanistan, in Pakistan they are all Muslims. Well, there are a few Christians, yes.

What guidance would you give to help Christians in the Middle East?

I say to the Christian Europe that the best way to help us is to work together for the cause of peace, to give peace to the Muslims, to the Palestinians, to the Syrians, to the Iraqis... The most important thing is stability, security, and all this depends on peace. If we don't have peace, we don't have security and if we don't have security, all Christians are tempted to emigrate and leave. 

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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