Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
I was born to Chinese parents. Raised as a Christian in a Muslim country. And we spoke English as a first language at home.
Which is, to say, I grew up in the most eclectic of environments. Where the singing of Methodist hymns was as familiar a sound to me as the Muslim call to prayer during dawn and dusk. And where I celebrated Chinese New Year and Christmas just surely as I celebrated the festival of Eid alongside Muslim friends.
I didn’t see it as exotic. Or intriguing. Or strange. It was just the nature of life in Malaysia.
Then 9/11 happened. Then Afghanistan. Then Iraq. Christians like myself began to come under persecution. Not outright, of course. In subtle ways.
It came in the form of the secret police blending in among us. Attending our church services. Observing our sermons and our rituals. It also came in the form of bibles being seized. Desecrated with official stamps. Stamps that said, ‘For non-Muslims only.’
Things gradually escalated with an ever-tightening array of Islamist laws. Which made life difficult for Muslims who had decided to convert to Christianity.
They had to hide. Practise their faith in secret. Their loyalties were placed into question.
I escaped the worst of it, thankfully. My parents had the foresight to pack me off to New Zealand for university studies. And after graduation, I decided to stay. I had found a country of freedom. Of liberty. Of common sense.
Then again, that’s easy for me to say. I’m a Christian migrant in a country founded by Christian migrants. Muslims in New Zealand, much like Muslims in other Western countries, have not fared as well. They face prejudice, hostility and questions about their loyalty. In other words, an mirrored inversion of the kind of discrimination I experienced back in Malaysia, the old country.
There is some real-world relevance here.
Prior to 9/11, Al Qaeda tried to recruit American Muslims to do their bidding. They failed. They couldn’t even secure one recruit. American Muslims were patriots through and through. They wouldn’t ever dream of doing anything to harm their country. It is indeed telling that Osama bin Laden went ahead with 9/11 by using foreign Arab operatives. It was an external attack. Not an internal one.
Post-9/11, however, it’s a drastically different scenario. Almost all of the attacks levelled at the United States since then have been carried out by American Muslims. Wayward men tired of being treated as second-class citizens. Men who sought solace in poisonous Islamist doctrine. Think of the Fort Hood shootings. The attempted Times Square bombing.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from all this, it is that the overbearing response to terror, rather than terror itself, that corrodes a civil society.
Once a nation starts down the slippery slope of persecuting its own citizens, it only succeeds in creating an environment ripe for dissent and violence.
For every Ground Zero mosque controversy or Koran burning incitement, the terrorists recruit thousands and win the ideological argument. It only extends a conflict that, by now, has lasted longer than America’s involvement in both world wars put together.
If there ever was a time for the West to secure and maintain the moral high ground, it is now.
Alienating your citizens, your greatest assets, in the name of national security is a price that’s too high to pay.
I’ve been there.
John Ling is a Malaysian-born writer based in New Zealand. His novel, The Blasphemer, explores the post-9/11 relationship between the West and Islam. It is available now as a Kindle e-book at Amazon.com.