This is the first part of a 3-part article by our guest writer Stephen St. George, a Catholic born in Iraq who now lives in the United States, and who knows through direct experience what it means to be a Christian in a Muslim-majority country. Here he describes his early experiences in Iraq.
If I throw a small pebble into a huge body of water like an ocean, it will make small waves that have almost no effect and fade away in no time at all. Surely, if a thousand people were to each throw a pebble at the same time, the effect would be much bigger waves that would last longer.
By writing this article, I am throwing a single “pebble” in this violent, troubled “ocean” that is our present world. I hope you would join me and throw at least one pebble of truth, so that we may make a noticeable difference.
I was born in Baghdad, Iraq. I am one of seven siblings. Life was difficult, as my dad was the only breadwinner and we lived at the edge between being poor and being less poor than some of our neighbors. In a large family like mine, especially if you are the oldest, you grow “older” faster. I had my share of chores in the small apartment(s) we lived in most of my teenage years, and I was the only one (at least that’s what I thought) who knew of the financial difficulties my parents were going through. As a result, through my early years, I developed a consciousness of my surroundings that a young person might not be aware of amid the joys of being young and innocent.
I was only about four as I remember sitting on my dad’s shoulders among the thousands of spectators as the young king Faisal was being paraded in the streets of Baghdad in a golden carriage. Then later in 1958, I remember the news on the radio of the uprising and military coup that resulted in the murder of the king and his family. I distinctly remember the brutal ways in which some of those people were killed. The king’s uncle was tortured by being forced to sit on an oven with the burners on! Another relative of the king was dragged in the streets by a car or motorcycle then hung from a tree. I was seven years old then, and these events boggled my mind. How could people treat other people with such savagery? I could not find any answers, not even from any adult family member or school teacher. No one talked about these atrocities, and you were not supposed to ask any questions!
One day in 1963, I remember being at the dentist’s office with my mom, when all of a sudden we heard the thunderous mob outside running and shouting. Later, we discovered that Abd Al-Karim Qasim, the new prime minister who was part of the military coup that murdered the members of the royal family in 1958, was himself tortured and killed. Mind you, this was not an ordinary assassination, no sir! I heard on the news the details of his torture and how he was seated on a chair and spat on and beaten even after he was dead! These acts are usually carried out in the Arab world to strike fear in the population in order to quell any resistance!
Afterwards, I remember that during many walks back from school while passing by one of Qasim's former palaces, I would see his armored vehicle displayed inside the palace gates with what seemed like hundreds of bullet dents. Again this form of public intimidation was meant to scare anyone who even entertained any thoughts of dissent.
Iraq was now under the control of the Ba’ath Party, Saddam Hussein’s party.
Abdul Salam Arif was Iraq’s second president, but he died in what was then reported as a helicopter crash in 1966. All I remember from that time was what people were saying: “He went up as flesh, and came down as ashes”. This could have been another assassination/accident.
Arabs are not in favor or not even allowed to vote for their next president! The way parties come to power is through violence or intimidation!
My nightmare as a young man growing up in such a savage environment continued with memories of watching Muslims in the streets beat themselves and their young boys with chains and swords and the blood running down their faces and backs. Do an Internet search of "Muslim Ashura or Ashoura"!
I learned early on that as a Roman Catholic and a Christian, I was living in Iraq as a second-class citizen. I had no right to question anything, no right to express my opinion, unless I wanted to be shouted at, spat on, or beaten by Muslims. They don’t debate issues. They threaten you! The only truth they know is what has been burned into their brains from the Quran or the teachings from the life of Mohammed!
Talking about the lack of freedom and privacy in the Middle East, I remember the letters I received from a penpal from the USA (a girl in Pennsylvania) being opened and of course read prior to delivery. I also remember hiding from the police while walking home from school for fear of having my “long” hair shaved because of a law that forbade teenage boys from having their hair come down over their forehead! Girls, at the same time, were being stopped in the street, and if their skirt was a little above the knees, it would be ripped and their legs would be painted.
They stopped this nonsense when a minister’s daughter had that done to her! That’s how justice is served in the Middle East, not because it’s right, but because in cases like this one, it got too close for comfort to the ruling class!
Then when I was a sophomore in high school, on an early morning, the school bus was late picking me up and a few of the students who were waiting with me. We decided to walk towards Baghdad’s Liberation Square hoping to meet the bus on its way to us. I will never forget the awful sight of 14 men who were hung around the perimeter of the square. These people were found guilty of spying, “tried” the night before and used as another spectacle and warning to anyone contemplating going against the Ba’ath party in Iraq.
In the early part of the 1970s, I left everything behind and traveled to Beirut, Lebanon to seek asylum in the United States of America. I became a US citizen about 32 years ago and I’ve lived in the US for close to forty years now. I’ve seen Muslims who come to live in America, but constantly spit on it, burn its flag, and then demand respect!!??
I watch as Muslims burn Churches and murder Christians in Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Kenya, and even in the West. They rape non-Muslim girls because, according to them, they don’t dress properly! Tell me, what’s a bigger offense in God’s eyes, someone who dresses provocatively, or someone who rapes or kills innocents?
From my own experience living in Iraq and Lebanon, I know that Muslims are raised and taught to hate anyone who does not believe in their Allah (not the God of Abraham and Moses)!!
But what I cannot ever understand is why some misguided souls in the West (mostly liberals) make excuses and defend what Muslims do???? Have these people lived in the “paradise” that is the Middle East for even one day? Have they seen the Muslim-on-Muslim (different Islamic sects) violence and Muslim-on-non-Muslim violence? The answer of course is an emphatic NO!!
How can a Westerner who grew up in a free country appease or even support or speak positively of Islam or Muslims actions? My take on this is, if that person is an average Joe, and he is uninformed (a topic for another article regarding the role the treasonous media is playing in misleading the general public), I sure hope he/she opens his/her eyes, ears, and mind and SEE and HEAR what’s going on around him/her. On the other hand, if we are talking about politicians, and they are appeasing Islam for the sake of gaining traction with this voting bloc, getting elected and having a cushy government job with endless benefits for life, then they are treasonous people who are selling out their country and countrymen for their own immediate gains!
The second and third parts of the article coming soon.
Photo Ashura by Allan Donque made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0).