There is no doubt at all that ethnic and religious minorities in the Arab world or anywhere else, have the right to live peacefully, and to preserve their cultural, social and religious identities as full-fledged citizens. They should not suffer any kind of pressure, blackmail or persecution by the majority. But at the same time they should know that even democracy is always at the side of the majority.
That is why it hardly allows the followers of small ethnic or religious groups to occupy high positions such as the post of president, no matter how powerful those groups are politically or economically. For instance, certain minorities in the US are extremely powerful, especially financially, but none of their followers can become the US president, because the presidency is usually occupied by one from the Protestant majority.
The only Catholic American who managed to become president was John F. Kennedy, and he, strangely enough, was assassinated.
We have also seen the big hullabaloo raised in the American media during the last election campaign about the religious origins of Barack Obama. It tried to play on the Islamic name ‘Osama’ which rhymes with Obama to derail the latter’s campaign. Many Americans thought he had a Muslim background, which made a lot of them very unhappy. In a word, a large majority of Americans could not accept a Muslim as president of their country, although over seven million Muslims live in the US.
Obama himself tried hard to prove to the Americans that he is a Christian, and that there is no Muslim blood in his veins whatsoever. In fact, the first thing he planned to do on a visit to Ireland was to be seen by world media praying at a well known Protestant church.
Although western countries are thought to be secular, their constitutions provide that the president, the king or the prince should belong to the religion of the majority. In the UK, for instance, the king or the queen are the head of the Church of England.
The Greek constitution stipulates in clause 47 that anyone who ascends the Greek throne should be a follower of the Orthodox Eastern Church, even though there are millions of Catholics and Protestants in Greece, apart from millions of Muslims. Nobody has ever objected to clause 47 which insists that the ruler should belong to the religion of the majority.
Similarly, the seventh clause of the Spanish constitution provides that the king must be a follower of the Catholic church, as it is the faith of the majority.
Likewise, the first clause of the Danish constitution lays down as a condition that the king should be a member of the majority Lutheran Protestant church, even though there are a lot of Orthodox and Catholic Christians in Denmark.
Not far from Denmark, clause four in the Swedish constitution insists that the king must be a pure Protestant. We have never heard Catholics, or Orthodox Christians, or for that matter Muslims, call for the removal of clause four.
Arab secularists might argue that the democratic system is the best solution for Muslim countries which have ethnic minorities or religious sects as it protects their rights and prevent the majority from persecuting them. Nobody should object to that, but at the same time, the Muslim majority has the full right to prevail politically, socially, and culturally in Arab countries, as is the case with the western majorities.
And so, the minorities in the Arab world should never ever be a hindrance to the aspirations of the majority as is the case these days with their hostile attitude towards certain revolutions.
It is actually stupid and very unwise of certain minorities to unite in the face of the majority clamouring hard to topple autocratic regime, no matter if such rulers are quite suitable to and preferred by the minorities. This should in no way make the minorities derail the revolution being sought by the majority.
In actual fact, it is not at all in the interest of the minorities to antagonise the majority just to defend a hated regime, as this might appear very opportunistic. It might even lead to revenge attacks later against the minorities for allying themselves with a regime rejected by the majority, especially if the latter seizes power afterwards.
Minorities in the Arab world should think very carefully before blindly supporting this or that notorious regime to achieve short-term gains. They should not allow themselves also to be used as a leverage or a tool by some regimes against the majority.
Some shaky Arab rulers are frightening minorities these days that the Muslim majority might persecute them later if the regime fails. The rulers in question have been presenting themselves over the decades as secularists, and they claim that the new regimes might be Islamist, which is not true. Minorities should not even fear the emergence of an Islamic government, as the new regimes, unlike the toppled ones, will be really democratic, and everything will be decided at the ballot box. Therefore, minorities should be far-sighted and not allow some of the falling dictators to use them in their fight to remain in power. And had there been real wise people within the minorities and not just mercenary leaders, they would have sided with the rising majority to help the revolutions succeed, or at least they should have kept their mouths shut.
Dr Faisal Al Qasim is a Syrian journalist based in Doha.