Bishop Nazir-Ali Calls for Equality for Christians and other Groups, Women in Arab Spring Countries

ZURICH, Switzerland, June 5, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Anglican Bishop of Rochester and co-head of the Anglican-Al Azhar Dialogue, warned in a speech hosted by Christian Solidarity International (CSI) last Thursday against the rising threat of a “tyranny of the majority” in countries affected by the recent Arab revolutions, and called on all concerned to commit themselves to equal rights for religious minorities and women in these countries.

In his lecture, entitled, “The Arab Spring and its Aftermath: Implications for Muslim-Christian relations,” Bishop Nazir-Ali criticized what he called the Western “love affair” with democracy promotion in the Middle East, and argued that democracy alone is “not enough” to ensure peace and equality in the region, especially given the continued influence of Islamic sharia law, as traditionally understood, which has historically relegated women, Christians and religious minorities to a second-class status.

Bishop Nazir-Ali pointed to several Middle Eastern countries where  Western intervention to promote democracy had failed because of a lack of protection for fundamental rights, including Iraq, where Christians have been “savagely attacked,” Syria, where a “delicate balance” between religious groups is threatened by the possibility of a “Salafi-Wahabbi government …facilitated by what the Western powers and Saudi Arabia and Qatar are doing at the moment,” and Afghanistan, where political freedom has increased, “but not for the Christians,” especially Christian converts from Islam, who still face imprisonment and execution.

According to Bishop Nazir-Ali, the events in those countries, as well as the Arab revolutions and the recent Islamist terror attacks inLondon and Paris, are occurring “against the backdrop of an Islamic resurgence,” affecting both Shia and Sunni Islam.  The bishop warned of a coming “huge-scale Shia-Sunni conflict throughout the region,” which will determine the fate of the region’s Christian groups.

Bishop Nazir-Ali argued that countries affected by the Arab Spring must commit themselves to three principles to make a successful transition to states governed by the rule of law: “one law for all,” as opposed to different laws for different religious groups, equality before that law, and “common citizenship” for men, women and all religious groups.

Bishop Nazir-Ali’s speech was part of a series of lectures hosted by CSI on the future of religious minorities in the Islamic Middle East.  His talk, along with the other lectures in the series, can be viewed at  A CSI-supported conference, “The Future of Religious Minorities in the Middle East, North Africa and the Two Sudans,” will be held at St. Antony’s College at Oxford on June 7-8.