The Middle East is the poorer as its minorities die

While the rest of the world is furiously globalising and becoming more multicultural, the Middle East is moving in the opposite direction: it is divesting itself of the ancient minorities which once made the region richly diverse. Marcus Rubin writes in Haaretz: (with thanks: Lily)

“Last month I spent a few days in Yemen, and saw the sad remains of the once-thriving Jewish community there – a few Stars of David on the buildings and some fake Jewish jewelry in the shops.

“The story is the same across the region. Having been brutally kicked out of almost all the Arab countries, Jews in the Middle East are now almost only found in Israel, where – to make matters worse – they are now busying themselves with building walls and keeping everybody else out of the Jewish fortress. Even the few desperate refugees from the genocide in Darfur, kindred persecuted spirits, one should think, that make it all the way here, find the door to Israel shut.

“There are so many problems and conflicts in the Middle East today that it can seem hopeless to point to any one of them as the worst. Would it really help appease radical Islamists if the Israel/Palestine conflict was resolved? I doubt it. Extremists will always find something else to battle against. But living in Israel and traveling as a journalist in the region during the past few years has convinced me that the real tragedy and root of many of the ills currently afflicting the region is that while the rest of the world is furiously globalizing and becoming more and more multicultural, the Middle East is moving in the opposite direction.

“Iraq is a depressingly good example of both the process and how fast it goes. An ancient civilization with a bewildering array of ethnic groups and religions has turned on itself with a vengeance after the ill-advised American invasion, and is rapidly dissolving into a hodgepodge of small warring enclaves of Kurds, Sunnis, Shias and others. A sorry fate for them, but even worse for the smaller Iraqi groups like the Yazidi and the Mandeans, who risk utter annihilation in the current mayhem.

“This is new. The 60,000 Mandeans in Iraq are the last Gnostics, a religious community that has survived for almost 2,000 years. It has managed to cope with everything from the Arab invasion to the Mongols and the Europeans, but now seems all but certain to vanish from the Middle East. If the Mandeans are to survive at all, they will probably have to relocate to Europe and the United States, leaving both Iraq and the Middle East yet a little bit poorer and less diverse.”

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  • Minorities fare badly when empires disintegrate. This has been demonstrated when the Hapsburg Empire and British Empires disintegrated, and today (to a lesser degree) in Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

    Minorities did quite well under the Ottomans, who were Moslems. It is Islamism rather than Islam that poses problems for non-Moslems.

  • Well. wsithout Islam this minorities wouldn’t have been facing persecution, don’t you think so?


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