Thursday, October 20, 2005

Red Crescent Dhimmitude

From the Washington Times (may require registration):
The president of the Iraqi Red Crescent has urged the International Committee of the Red Cross to stop sending aid marked with red crosses after the internationally protected symbol almost cost four staffers their lives.

Two truck drivers and two volunteers were delivering water and medicine to the city of Haditha four weeks ago when they were captured by insurgents, said Said Hakki, a neurology professor who returned from Florida last year to take charge of Iraqi relief operations.

"They were seized by a terrorist group who threatened to behead them because they thought the crosses on the water and food containers meant the men were Christian missionaries," said Mr. Hakki, who made his plea during a visit last week to ICRC headquarters in Geneva.

He said the terrorists seemed unmoved by the fact that the two trucks themselves were marked with the red crescent symbol typically used in Muslim countries.


In Geneva, an ICRC spokeswoman said the red cross and red crescent are not religious symbols and that international treaties require that both must be respected everywhere.

[...] the kidnappers had bound and blindfolded the four men and told them to say their final prayers before the aid workers convinced their captors that they were Sunni Muslims from Fallujah and that their supervisor was a Sunni with strong tribal connections in the area.
I guess no one really needs further evidence that the Iraqi "insurgents" are merely terrorists and criminals, who routinely flout Iraqi and international law and who have no legitimate claims of grievance against the West.

But what really bugs me about this story is the reaction of Mr. Hakki, the president of the Iraqi branch of Red Crescent. Rather than condemning the terrorists he advises the removal of a symbol that has indicated neutral humanitarian aid for nearly half a century. While it is true that he has a responsibility to protect his workers from unnecessary danger, giving in to terrorists irrational demands is not likely to work and is evidence of either cowardice or complicity. (I do not have any evidence that Hakki's comments are motivated by resentment of the West generally or Christianity specifically, but I have seen enough of that sort of prejudice masquerading as neutrality that I cannot dismiss the suspicion.)

As to whether the cross in Red Cross is a specifically Christian, it is true that, as the article indicates, it is not. The International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in 1863 by Henri Dunant and the symbol was based on a reversal of the Swiss flag. However, there is no denying that Dunant was a devout Calvinist and that Switzerland (as well as most of Europe at the time) was largely Christian. The concern for relief of suffering, while not exclusive to Christianity, is nevertheless one of its hallmarks, in notable contrast to the more fatalistic worldview of Islam. (The "Red Crescent" was not added to the name of ICRC until 1983.)

I don't wish to minimize the work of the Red Crescent generally or these four brave individuals who are obviously willing to risk their lives to help their fellow Iraqis. But appeasing terrorists has never been an effective way to promote the fundamental principles of the ICRC: "humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, universality".