'It Never Occurred to Us that Muslim Neighbors Would Betray Us...'

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Ideally a neighborhood is a small family, a community of people who are kind and sympathetic to one another, who share the common interests of their locality even if they differ in other ways. But just as the vision of the family in Islamic law is that of a community of a man and his slaves rather than a community of love between a man and a woman, so also the ideal neighborhood that Islamic supremacists envision is not exactly the kind of place where you might lean over the fence and have a friendly chat with your neighbor.

We have seen illustrated anew in Syria recently, as Robert Fisk (of all people!) reported last week in the Independent: “The Diab family,” Fisk wrote, “can never return to Maaloula. Not since the Christians of this beautiful and sacred town saw their Muslim neighbours leading the armed Nusrah Islamists to their homes.”

“We knew our Muslim neighbours all our lives,” says one Christian whose home was destroyed. “Yes, we knew the Diab family were quite radical, but we thought they would never betray us. We ate with them. We are one people.”

The Christians, he said, had even looked after the wives and children of local jihad fighters while they were away:

A few of the Diab family had left months ago and we guessed they were with the Nusra. But their wives and children were still here. We looked after them. Then, two days before the Nusra attacked, the families suddenly left the town. We didn’t know why. And then our neighbours led our enemies in among us.

This was an ugly shock, because previously “there was a kind of coexistence between us. We had excellent relations. It never occurred to us that Muslim neighbours would betray us. We all said ‘please let this town live in peace – we don’t have to kill each other’. But now there is bad blood. They brought in the Nusra to throw out the Christians and get rid of us forever. Some of the Muslims who lived with us are good people but I will never trust 90 percent of them again.”