Among the more extraordinary events of the present time was the visit of the Pope to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This was the first recorded visit of a leader of Christianity to the Arabian peninsula, from which Christians (and Jews) have historically been excluded. This in itself is extraordinary, that a group could exclude all other religions from a whole sub-continent, merely because their prophet lived there! Of course, up to and during Mohammed’s time Jews and Christians did live in the Arabian peninsula. But, they were all killed or driven out by the Muslims.
Now in the modern world, where they need Western tourists and connections to the wider world, some of the small Gulf Arab States are seeking to project the image of modernity and tolerance. Hence the declaration by the UAE of a year of tolerance, during which they invited the Pope and other world religious leaders to attend a conference on Peace and Tolerance. Very nice. Of course, one should not forget that these tiny sheikdoms lived through centuries of mutual conflict and were only brought into the modern world by British control and American oil dollars. But, now some of them are opting for a more peaceful coexistence and in fact Abu Dhabi now calls itself the Land of Peace.
In contrast, in most other parts of the Muslim world, Christians are under physical attack, in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Libya, Turkey, Pakistan and more, Christians are being blown up in their Churches and Cathedrals and receiving death threats. (They can’t attack Jews living there because they already expelled or killed all of them, except in Morocco). So we should be pleased that at least in some parts of the Arab Muslim world there is a tendency towards tolerance and modernization. Even the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, considered the most important in the Arab world, came to Abu Dhabi and embraced the Pope.
But, let’s not get too carried away by this gesture. One of the Gulf Arab States, Qatar, while also modernizing, has embraced extremism to the extent that the other Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia have broken diplomatic ties with it. Qatar pays the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas m$15 per month in Gaza (thru an agreement with the Israeli Govt., so that they can pay for their electricity and water, etc.). Qatar also flirts with ties with Iran. Recently an Israeli Arab woman was murdered in Turkey by her brother and father because she wanted to go to medical school. A Christian woman named Asia Bibi who was rumored to have blasphemed against the Koran in Pakistan was beaten by a mob and then condemned to death in 2010. She spent 8 years on death row before she was declared innocent of the crime, but she was recently forced to leave the country under State protection because mobs were rioting demanding her death. The Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared that blasphemy laws must be retained as they protect Islam.