Posts Tagged ‘Muslim’

Hijab for a Day

February 4, 2013

Here is a bit of nonsense reported by the BBC. The idea is that non-Muslim women should wear a hajib for a day and this will somehow increase understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims and help to end the dreadful specter of Islamophobia.

World Hijab Day calls on non-Muslim women to try out life under the traditional head scarf. Can it lead to more religious tolerance and understanding?

“Because I’m not very skilled I’m wearing what you could call a one-piece hijab – you just pull it over your head. But I’ve discovered the scope is endless. There are all sorts of options.”

So says Jess Rhodes, 21, a student from Norwich in the UK. She had always wanted to try a headscarf but, as a non-Muslim, didn’t think it an option. So, when given the opportunity by a friend to try wearing the scarf, she took it.

“She assured me that I didn’t need to be Muslim, that it was just about modesty, although obviously linked to Islam, so I thought, ‘why not?'”

Rhodes is one of hundreds of non-Muslims who will be wearing the headscarf as part of the first annual World Hijab Day on 1 February.

Originated by New York woman Nazma Khan, the movement has been organised almost solely over social networking sites. It has attracted interest from Muslims and non-Muslims in more than 50 countries across the world.

For many people, the hijab is a symbol of oppression and divisiveness. It’s a visible target that often bears the brunt of a larger debate about Islam in the West.

World Hijab Day is designed to counteract these controversies. It encourages non-Muslim women (or even Muslim women who do not ordinarily wear one) to don the hijab and experience what it’s like to do so, as part of a bid to foster better understanding.

“Growing up in the Bronx, in NYC, I experienced a great deal of discrimination due to my hijab,” says organiser Khan, who moved to New York from Bangladesh aged 11. She was the only “hijabi” (a word for someone who wears the headscarf) in her school.

“In middle school I was ‘Batman’ or ‘ninja,'” she says.

“When I moved on to college it was just after 9/11, so they would call me Osama Bin Laden or terrorist. It was awful.

“I figured the only way to end discrimination is if we ask our fellow sisters to experience hijab themselves.”

Non-Muslims are not the ones who need to learn about tolerance. If Khan thinks she has been badly treated by some name calling, what does she have to say about the fate of women in Muslim countries who choose not to wear a hajib or veil.

If your an unveiled female then watch out, because soon enough you might be getting your hair burned or if “the gang” is having a good day, then they will only end up shaving it all of.

A couple of weeks ago when the two 12 year old girls in aswan got their hair cut by their teacher for not wearing the veil, we said ok, ONE crazy woman, don’t be happening again.

Two ladies wearing the Niqab attached two coptic unveiled females on the metro. The first victim was the 13 year old magy, “you can’t imagine what I am going to do to you” said one of the attackers out of the blue to little magy, seconds later magy was shocked to see that her hair is on the back of her jacket, an unexpected hair cut.

The second incident which was reported by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Two women wearing the Niqab attacked the 30 year old Nariman Samuel, dragging her off the metro carriage violently. Samuel was attached while trying to help a pregnant women sit on the metro, right before the attackers called her an “Infidel” and injured her.

This brings us to last Saturday’s events, where six women “the gang” wearing Niqab attacked another unveiled women outside the high court at around 8pm. They beat her and attempted to burn her hair. Thankfully two men were able to save her before she got seriously hurt.

If Khan thinks there is discrimination against Muslims in western countries, what does she have to say about the often horrific discrimination against non-Muslims in Muslims countries.

Christian communities and individuals have played a vital role in the Middle East, the cradle of Christianity, as of other religions.  Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in Castelgandolfo on September 2, 2007, is not alone in warning that “[c]hurches in the Middle East are threatened in their very existence.”

The outlook for Christians is indeed bleak.  The Arab countries have not abided by the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights (Article 18) of December 1948, which states that “[e]veryone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.”  Discrimination against non-Muslims has always been present in the Arab Muslim world.  In the Ottoman Empire, as elsewhere, Christians were second-class subjects, except for a short period after 1856 when the sultan conceded the principle of equality of the law to all subjects.

No reliable census has been available in Arab countries for many years, but the estimate of Christians in the Middle East numbers about 12 million.  Accused of identification with Western colonialism and imperialism, they are now facing aggravating hostility and persecution of various kinds.  The Christians and their institutions, in a context of internecine wars in the area, a falling birth rate in the midst of an increase in the number of Muslims, and the political rise of extreme Islamist groups, face physical brutality; destruction of their churches; discrimination in basic rights as well as in employment opportunities; boycotts of their businesses; and malignity in many forms of popular culture, television programs, and school textbooks.  They are unable to practice or have difficulty in practicing their faith and fear prosecution by law for offences of apostasy and blasphemy, devices intended to intimidate or prevent critical speech.

Even those regimes and ideas, such as Nasserism, Pan-Arabism, and Arab nationalism, which in the past exemplified to some extent moderation in religious matters regarding Christians, now play a less significant role.

Increasing violence and brutality against Christians is now evident in almost all the Arab countries, except Jordan under the relatively benign King Abdullah.  Even there, those Muslims who converted to Christianity face severe discrimination.

Just a little bit worse than a bit of name calling, wouldn’t you say? If we really want to improve understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims, how about a let’s pretend women are human beings day? Or, why not a let’s not go into a murderous frenzy every time someone insults the prophet Mohammed day? This might do a whole lot more good towards promoting civilized behavior than wearing a hijab would.

 

 

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Not So Merry Christmas For Many

December 25, 2012

I hope everyone who is reading this is having a very, merry Christmas and that you are all having a wonderful time with your families. As you celebrate this joyous holiday, keep in mind that Christmas is a time of fear for Christians in the Middle East. There are a couple of articles at Jihad Watch that I think are worth sharing.

First, Christmas in Pakistan. This article is from Deutches Wille.

Christians celebrate Christmas amid growing fear of persecution and rampant economic and social discrimination in Muslim-majority Pakistan. The year 2012 was one of the worst years for them in the country.

In many parts of the world, Christmas means a time of celebration. But for Christians in Pakistan, who live under constant fear of persecution by the state and majority Sunni Muslims, there is not much to celebrate.

Christians make up about two percent of the 180 million people living in Pakistan. Rights organizations say that like any other religious minority, they face legal and cultural discrimination in the Islamic Republic.

Blasphemy is a sensitive topic in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, where 97 percent of the population is Muslim. Controversial blasphemy laws introduced by the Islamic military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s make life for Christians more difficult. Activists say the laws have little to do with blasphemy and are often used to settle petty disputes and personal vendettas; they say the Christians are thereby often victimized.

Before the rise of Islamic extremism and religious intolerance in Pakistan, Christians celebrated Christmas with much enthusiasm. They would put stars on their houses and decorate their towns with lights and flags. But many now worry about the risk of being conspicuous.

“We are scared. We are frightened. We cannot sit together, we cannot speak loudly, we cannot celebrate openly. We receive threats,” Ashraf Masih, a street sweeper, told AFP. “If we sit together and talk, all of a sudden the Muslim owner of the house will come and ask ‘Why are you here, what are you talking about?'”

Qadri was celebrated by extremists for the murder of a governor critical of blasphemy laws

Aslam Masih, a 37-year-old gardener, told AFP in an interview that previously they used to celebrate Christmas in the town church but now it it had been closed.

Here is Robert Spencer’s piece at PJ Media on the jihad against Christmas.

Armed guards are patrolling outside churches in Nigeria. Christians in Pakistan and Indonesia are cowering in fear. Why? Because it’s Christmastime.

Many Muslims take a dim view of Christmas at best, and at worst actively menace Christians celebrating it. This is a worldwide phenomenon. Sheikh Yahya Safi, the head imam of Australia’s largest mosque, summed up an all-too-common view when he warned in a fatwa Saturday that “disbelievers are trying to draw Muslims away from the straight path,” and that “a Muslim is neither allowed to celebrate the Christmas Day nor is he allowed to congratulate them.”

Likewise the chairman of Indonesia’s top organization of Muslim clerics declared: “It’s better if they don’t say ‘Merry Christmas.’ It’s still up for debate whether it’s halal or haram, so better steer clear of it. But you can say ‘Happy New Year.’”

Muslim intimidation and violence against Christians around Christmas is only an extension of the intimidation and violence Chrisitans increasingly suffer throughout the year. Yet these incidents have received only scant attention in the mainstream media. And not only the international media, but also the human rights establishment and the United Nations continue to take virtually no notice. In their conceptual framework only Westerners can do evil and Christians cannot possibly play the role of victim. The chimera of “Islamophobia” consumes their time, attention, and resources; after being so consumed with this fiction, what can be left over for the actual persecution of Christians?

And so for the all-too-real Christian victims of Muslim fanaticism and hatred in Islamic lands, it’s yet another quiet, hushed, precarious Christmas.

And last, Christianity began in the Middle East yet the religion is close to being extinct there. Centuries of discrimination and intimidation ave decimated the oldest Christian communities in the world. Jihad Watch has an article from the Telegraph on this.

The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group.

And it claims politicians have been “blind” to the extent of violence faced by Christians in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The most common threat to Christians abroad is militant Islam, it says, claiming that oppression in Muslim countries is often ignored because of a fear that criticism will be seen as “racism”.

It warns that converts from Islam face being killed in Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Iran and risk severe legal penalties in other countries across the Middle East.

The report, by the think tank Civitas, says: “It is generally accepted that many faith-based groups face discrimination or persecution to some degree.

“A far less widely grasped fact is that Christians are targeted more than any other body of believers.”

It cites estimates that 200 million Christians, or 10 per cent of Christians worldwide, are “socially disadvantaged, harassed or actively oppressed for their beliefs.”

“Exposing and combating the problem ought in my view to be political priorities across large areas of the world. That this is not the case tells us much about a questionable hierarchy of victimhood,” says the author, Rupert Shortt, a journalist and visiting fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford.

He adds: “The blind spot displayed by governments and other influential players is causing them to squander a broader opportunity. Religious freedom is the canary in the mine for human rights generally.”

And yet Islamophobia is supposed to be a major problem of our time. If you are not afraid of the most violent and intolerant religion in the world than you are not paying attention to what is going on.

Merry Christmas to all. Hopefully Christmas will be a time of joy for everyone sometime soon.

 

 

Did Mohammed Exist?

April 27, 2012

Although skeptics and scholars have been exploring the concept of the “historical Jesus”, that is the “real” Jesus behind the figure in the Gospels, for some time now, few have been willing to examine the “historical Mohammed“. Most likely the reason for this has been a combination of fear and the simple lack of solid historical information on the early years of Islam. The investigator of early Christianity has the advantage, first that no church will issue a fatwa calling for his death, no matter how skeptical he is, and second, although historical information about Jesus of Nazareth outside the New Testament is rather scanty, we actually know quite a lot about first century Judea. The early Christians lived in a relatively literate culture and the earliest writings about Jesus were produced within a generation of his death. The same cannot be said of the early Moslems, who lived in a largely illiterate backwater. As far as anyone can tell, the Koran did not take shape until several decades after Mohammed’s death. The earliest writings about Mohammed were not written until more than a century later. The first biography of Mohammed was written by Ibn Ishaq about 130 years after his death. The Hadiths were not written down until about 200 years after his death. So, there is not much information available to confirm or reject the tradition Islam view of Mohammed’s life and teachings. Added to that, scholars who inquire too closely or skeptically about such matters are apt to find their lives in danger, and the Saudi government seems determined to see that no archaeological evidence of Mohammed’s time survives.

Therefore, Robert Spencer, is doing us all a great service by peeling back the layers of legend and tradition to get at the historical Mohammed, in his latest book, Did Mohammed Exist?. As the title suggests, Spencer has good reason to suspect that Mohammed, at least the supposed founder of Islam, did not, in fact, exist. I hope that Spencer has the very best security personnel working for him.

I have not yet read this book since it is not available on the Kindle. I hope it will be very soon. If not, I might have to order the hardback edition. Since I have not read it, I will have to refer you to Zombie’s excellent review on PJMedia. I’ll quote a few excerpts but you really have to read the whole thing, then go and get Did Mohammed Exist?

The Evidence

To tackle such a big subject, Spencer focuses on five potential sources of information about Muhammad:

1. Documents from the era (7th and 8th centuries) written by independent (i.e. non-Muslim) outside observers;
2. Documents from the era written or created by Arabs/Muslims themselves;
3. The Qur’an itself;
4. The Hadiths, Islamic commentaries and sayings collected in the 8th and 9th centuries; and
5. The first biography of Muhammad, written by Ibn Ishaq over a century after Muhammed’s lifetime, on which all subsequent biographies are based.

Over the course of 200 pages, each category is carefully examined for solid evidence of Muhammad’s historicity, and each category is found wanting.

Of particular interest to a skeptic like me is the first category, because it is the only one that counts as a truly independent source. I simply assume that Islam, like most religions, boasts sacred texts which are self-referential and self-confirming (turns out I was wrong, but more about that later).

So: What did non-Muslims have to say about Muhammad and Islam, during his lifetime, and for 60 years afterward?

Nothing.

They made no mention of Muhammad or Muslims or Islam at all, at least until around the start of the 8th century. In case you’re thinking that there’d be no reason for outsiders to mention the religion of some obscure far-off tribe, remember that starting with the date of Muhammad’s purported death in 632, Arabs galloped out of the desert and conquered or captured almost the entirety of the Near East, the Middle East and North Africa in just a few decades. They encountered many cultures and civilizations, but none of those conquered peoples seem even to have heard of Islam or Muhammad.

Now remember, Tacitus refers to the Christians being persecuted by Nero in the 60’s AD, within 30 years of the death of Jesus. Josephus mentions Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews, written around AD 94. The passages are disputed and almost certainly in part an interpolation, still most scholars believe they are, in part, genuine. The fact that there is no written mention of Mohammed 60 years after his death is suspicious.

Here is some more.

There are many puzzling details which tend to cast doubt on the standard narrative of Islam’s early years — that is, Muhammad’s life, and the decades immediately after his death when Arabs conquered the Middle East under the banner of their new religion, Islam. For example, a record exists of what was essentially a religious debate between a Christian in Antioch and an Arab commander at the height of the Arab conquest of the region, but, as Spencer notes,

In it the author refers to the Arabians not as Muslims but as “Hagarians” (mhaggraye) — that is, the people of Hagar, Abraham’s concubine and the mother of Ishmael. The Arabic interlocutor denies the divinity of Christ, in accord with Islamic teaching, but neither side makes any mention of the Qur’an, Islam, or Muhammad.

Imagine debating a “Christian” about religion, and he never mentions the Bible, Christianity, or Jesus. You might begin to doubt that he was a Christian at all.

And, jumping to the book’s conclusion, that’s exactly what Spencer posits: That the 7th century Arabs may have practiced a sort of nonspecific monotheism, loosely syncretized from pre-existing Judaic and Christian beliefs; but this new religion at first did not have a name, did not have a supposed “founder,” did not have a sacred text, and did not have rigid rituals. All of those were added much later, but fashioned in such as way as to retroactively assert their own 7th-century origins.

Surprising even for me was the book’s revelation that even among Arabic documents and artifacts, there is no mention of or example of any Qur’anic text until the year 691, a full 80 years after Muhammad supposedly started dictating it, and 60 years after it was completed and purportedly became the central text of Arab society. And even that 691 appearance — an inscription on the Dome of the Rock — may not have been a copy of Qur’anic text. From Spencer’s book:

This Qur’anic material is the earliest direct attestation to the existence of the book — sixty years after the Arab armies that had presumably been inspired by it began conquering neighboring lands. … Given the seamlessly mixed Qur’anic / non-Qur’anic nature of the inscription and the way the Qur’an passages are pulled together from all over the book, some scholars, including Christoph Luxenberg, have posited that whoever wrote this inscription was not quoting from a Qur’an that already existed. Rather, they suggest, most of this material was added to the Qur’an only later, as the book was compiled. … It may be that both the Dome of the Rock and the Qur’an incorporated material from earlier sources that contained similar material in different forms.”

Did Muhammad Exist? is essentially one big hoisting of Islam by its own petard. A religion that purports to be “revealed,” and perfect and unchanging from its inception, has a serious burden of proof; but as Spencer shows, Islam fails to supply that proof.

While the book goes into great detail about the literary and philological evidence for and against Muhammad’s existence, some readers may ask themselves, “But what about the archaeological evidence?” Unfortunately, Spencer does not address that side of the argument, primarily because there’s basically nothing to say: The Saudi government (as well as the Islamic Waqf controlling the Temple Mount in Jerusalem) has gone to great lengths to suppress or destroy any archaeological remains which might shed light on Islam’s earliest days. All the legendary sites associated with Muhammad in and around Mecca and Medina have been intentionally and irretrievably disturbed, eradicated and/or built over, so any rigorous archaeological investigations confirming or undermining Islam’s origins are now impossible. One suspects that the Saudis have obliterated Mecca’s history intentionally, fearful that impartial evidence may undermine Islam’s various historical claims. While this is not a significant omission, the book’s argument would have been slightly strengthened if this confirming detail had been discussed, if even for just a paragraph or two.

Did Muhammad Exist? is a popular book for a popular audience. Put another way: Spencer makes no claim to have uncovered original research. All he has done, yet done quite effectively, is marshall the findings of dozens of scholars from the last hundred years, including people like Günter Lüling, David Margoliouth, Patricia Crone, and most notably Christoph Luxenberg, the philologist whose recent work challenging the very linguistic basis of the Qur’an as an Arabic document has caused such a sensation that for his own safety he must work under a pseudonym. Spencer draws all these threads together to make a convincing case that, when one examines all the evidence these experts have uncovered and ponders all the theories which might explain that evidence, the currently dominant theory (that Muhammad existed) is the least likely to be true. Much more in line with the known facts is the theory that Islam slowly coalesced from earlier monotheistic Judeo-Christian beliefs, and that most of the historical details about the evolution — including and especially the existence of a prophet from Mecca — were later concocted to retroactively give a veneer of official sanctity to the new religion.

There is no controversy when scholars examine the historicity of Jesus. Biblical archaeologists work freely, with no danger to their persons or their careers. Even if some literalist Christians find the scholarly conclusions distressing, no death threats are issued. Christianity has survived all critiques of its origins, relying on the strength of its message and not the provability of historical details. One would hope that Islam reacts similarly.

They won’t.

I am going to have to get this book.

Apologies

February 27, 2012

By now the burning of Korans by US forces in Afghanistan is old news, as is President Obama’s apology, although the rioting and killings continue. As far as I am concerned an apology would certainly have been appropriate if a delegation of Afghans had peacefully approached the commander of the US base and explained to him that this action was not appropriate, etc. But, that is not what happened. Instead, the Afghans began rioting, probably incited by the Taliban. Under such circumstances, no apology from any American is warranted or should have been offered.

I think we need to make it very clear that desecrating a Koran does not justify taking the life of a single human being. In fact, the burning of a whole pile of Korans does not justify the murder of a single human being. To apologize while rioting is going on muddles the issue and tends to lend credence to the idea that the murders are justified. Not to mention making more dangerous for the troops serving there.

I would like to add that if Muslims are outraged by the desecration of the Koran, well, I am outraged by the contents of this “holy” book. I am outraged by the misogyny, the anti-Semitism, the calls for violence against the unbelievers, the description of unbelievers as the worst of people, and many, many other ideas and themes of that book. As far as I am concerned, The Koran belongs on my bookshelf right next to Mein Kampf, although I will say that Mein Kampf was better written.

I can’t tell the difference.

Plus Ca Change

January 20, 2012

It really is depressing to consider how things never seem to really change, despite all of the changes the world has been through over the past century. It never seems to be the good things that stay the same. Rather it seems that the worst in human nature is the most resistant to positive change no matter how hard we try. A case in point is this article in the Jerusalem Post by Aaron D. Rubinger concerning the resurgence of European antisemitism.

Over the course of 2 months, I visited Jewish communities in the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium and the UK and interviewed dozens of Jewish leaders as well as “laymen” – both Jews and non-Jews. While attempting to determine the seriousness of contemporary European Anti-Semitism, I experienced what I would term “déjà Jew” – the peculiar sense that we, the members of Jewish people, are reliving an experience from the past; that we have somehow time-traveled and are now re-experiencing  occurrences that are all too familiar.

From the mid-1930s to early 1940s, Jews who recognized that they were no longer safe in Europe anxiously sought refuge abroad. Sylvain Zenouda, the co-founder and current vice president of the Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l”Antisèmitism—an organization which monitors and documents anti-Semitism in France—told me that educated young Jews in France with the financial means to do so have either fled the country or are making plans to flee. Again?

80 years ago, our people were being verbally abused and brutally assaulted in public places. And now it seems to be happening all over again. Viviane Teitelbaum, a minister in the Brussels Regional Parliament, related an incident that occurred this past November involving a 13-year old Jewish girl in Brussels. The girl was brutally assaulted at her school, resulting in her hospitalization for multiple injuries including a concussion. The attackers were not members of the Third Reich’s SS, but a group of female Muslim students at the same school. The ringleader pronounced her to be a “filthy Jew!” Apparently, in the weeks prior to the attack, the girl’s father had approached the authorities and the school with complaints that there had been threats made by fellow classmates against his daughter.  Upon hearing that his concerns were simply brushed aside, I immediately thought of Yogi Berra’s famous gaff: “This is like déjà vu all over again!”

2 generations ago, some Jews sought to protect themselves by masquerading as Aryans. In an interview conducted in November, a Parisian mother related how the fear of being physically attacked by Muslim extremist thugs means that it is “not rare at all today” for French Jewish students to attempt to pass themselves off as Muslim – with some even going as far as to fast on Ramadan. One case in point was a Jewish girl of North African descent who for years was successful in this deception, until finally she was “exposed” when Muslim girls caught her eating matzah in the bathroom during Pesah. After her classmates beat her viciously, they invited their male Muslim friends to their school to participate in a gang rape.

Now, I know that most, if not all, of the attacks on Jews in Europe are by the growing numbers of Muslim immigrants. But, I also know perfectly well that if the authorities in France and elsewhere were seriously interested in stopping such incidents, they would be stopped. But that would take courage and it is a lot easier to look the other way.

 

Zeal

October 12, 2011

This is a funny part of Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

You probably think that is just a joke. People wouldn’t really hit their heads to show their religious zeal, would they?

Well, actually yes. Take a look at this

The zebibah, Arabic for raisin, is a dark circle of callused skin, or in some cases a protruding bump, between the hairline and the eyebrows. It emerges on the spot where worshipers press their foreheads into the ground during their daily prayers.

I didn’t really want to know. I especially didn’t want to know that this injury caused by bashing one’s head into the floor is considered a signifcant accomplishment.

“The zebibah is a way to show how important religion is for us,” said Muhammad al-Bikali, a hairstylist in Cairo, in an interview last month. Mr. Bikali had a well-trimmed mustache and an ever-so-subtle brown spot just beneath his hairline. “It shows how religious we are. It is a mark from God.”

Yes, there really are Muslims who hit their heads on the floor during prayers to show how pious they are. This actually explains quite a lot about what is going on in the Middle East.

Of course in fairness, I don’t actually know how common this practice is and other religions have had their nutcases, but still, I have to wonder.

Persecution

September 23, 2011

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, now known as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has declared that Islamophobia is the worst form of terrorism and a threat to global peace.

Rising “Islamophobia” is a threat to peace and coexistence in a multi-cultural and diverse world, the chief of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said here Friday as he extended support to the right to self-determination in Kashmir in accordance with the UN resolution to solve the 60-year-old dispute between India and Pakistan.Addressing foreign ministers and other participants from the West and Islamic countries in an international summit, OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said the political dialogue among civilisations was a must.

“It is important for the civilisations to understand cultural, religious and ethnic differences, without which mutual coexistence is impossible,” Ihsanoglu said in his address to ‘Common World: Progress through Diversity’ in this Kazakhstan capital.

The international summit here was held in the backdrop of a widening gap between the Muslim and Western worlds.

“Islamophobia, targeting Muslims, is on the rise in the world,” he said, adding “Islamophobia not only stands in front of the Muslims, but the whole humanity.”

“Women wearing hijab are vulnerable to attacks by those who project Muslims as a threat to European existence,” he said.

“Stability, peace and security in the world are inseparable from each other. Muslims are psychologically, economically and socially affected by Islamophobia. Such a dramatic situation is a segregation based on race and religion,” the OIC chief said.

He said Islam is a religion of peace and advocated reconciliatory measures between Muslims and Christians.

Foreign ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) yesterday expressed grave concern at the rising tide of discrimination and intolerance against Muslims, especially in Europe and North America. “It is something that has assumed xenophobic proportions,” they said in unison.

Speaking at a special brainstorming session on the sidelines of the 34th Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM), the foreign ministers termed Islamophobia the worst form of terrorism and called for practical steps to counter it.

The ministers described Islamophobia as a deliberate defamation of Islam and discrimination and intolerance against Muslims. “This campaign of calumny against Muslims resulted in the publication of the blasphemous cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in a Danish newspaper and the issuance of the inflammatory statement by Pope Benedict XVI,” they said. During a speech in Germany last year, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said the Prophet had brought the world only “evil and inhuman” things. The Pope’s remarks aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world.

“The increasingly negative political and media discourse targeting Muslims and Islam in the United States and Europe has made things all the more difficult,” the foreign ministers said. “Islamophobia became a source of concern, especially after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but the phenomenon was already there in Western societies in one form or the other,” they pointed out. “It gained further momentum after the Madrid and London bombings. The killing of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh in 2004 was used in a wicked manner by certain quarters to stir up a frenzy against Muslims,” the ministers pointed out. Van Gogh had made a controversial film about Muslim culture.

The OIC foreign ministers deplored the misrepresentation in the Western media of Islam and Muslims in the context of terrorism. “The linkage of terrorists and extremists with Islam in a generalized manner is unacceptable,” they said. “This is further inciting negative sentiments and hatred in the West against Muslims,” they said. The ministers also pointed out that whenever the issue of Islamophobia was discussed in international forums, the Western bloc, particularly some members of the European Union, tried to avoid discussing the core issue and instead diverted the attention from their region to the situation of non-Muslims and human rights in the OIC member states.

The foreign ministers said prejudices against Islam were not helping the situation. “Because of Islamophobia, millions of Muslims in the Western countries, many of whom were already underprivileged in their societies for a variety of reasons, are further alienated and targeted by hatred and discrimination.”

Discrimination against Muslims is certainly a growing problem. We are all familiar with the stories of Muslims being unable to practice their faith freely. Mobs have burned down mosques in many places. Christians and Jews who convert to Islam are often harassed and threatened with death unless they return to their original faith. Muslims who proselytize are imprisoned. In some places Muslims must flee their homelands to save their lives.

Oh, wait. None of that is happening. Actually, all of that is happening, only not to Muslims. Everything I have said above is part of everyday life if you happen to be a non-Muslim, especially a Christian, in a Muslim country. This article from To the Source tells what is happening in the real world.

Marzieh Amirizadeh spent 259 days in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison – witnessing firsthand the horrifying reality of a “global humanitarian crisis” largely ignored by the media and the world’s democratic nations.

“One of the worst things (I saw) was the execution of two of my fellow prisoners,” recalls Amirizadeh, 32, who was accused by the Iranian state with being an “anti-government activist,” a charge that masks the real reason behind the imprisonment – her faith in Jesus Christ.

“I had never experienced such a thing. One of those killed was my roommate. We had spent a lot of time together. And one day they took her to be executed. For a week I was in shock that killing a human being was so easy.

“After these executions the spirit of sorrow and death hung over the prison. There was deadly silence everywhere. We all felt this. The sadness was overwhelming. We stared at each other but had no power to speak. It was horrifying and tangible.”

Amirizadeh’s experience is part of what experts say is a growing “humanitarian catastrophe” that dwarfs recent ones in Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Haiti and other nations. More than 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Jesus, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.

In Egypt and France, the increases were mainly the result of government restrictions. Restrictions on religion were particularly common in the 59 countries that prohibit blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion. While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion, in practice they often serve to punish religious minorities such as Christians whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical.

“Christians are harassed in the largest number of countries,” says Brian Grim, a senior researcher at Pew.

The Middle East and North Africa had the largest proportion of countries in which government restrictions on religion increased. Egypt, in particular, ranked very high – in the top 5 percent of all countries in 2009 – on both government restrictions and social hostilities involving religion.

“There are a few patterns we can point to,” Grim says. “One is that in the Middle East and North Africa where government restrictions on religion are already high, and the highest of the five regions of the world we looked at, we saw substantial increases of up to 30 percent.”

Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, persecution of Christians has intensified with church burnings and slaughters in Iraq, Egypt, Iran and other nations, Farr says.

Eight of the top 10 countries on the Open Doors 2011 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians have Islamic governments while 38 of the top 50 are Muslim-dominated societies. A study by Open Doors found about 2,000 Christians – the most of any nation – were killed in Nigeria in 2010 in religious riots involving Islamic extremists.

Iraq came in second as the country with the largest number of martyrs in 2010 with 90 Christians murdered. The worst atrocity occurred Oct. 31 in Baghdad when Islamic extremists held hostage and then killed at least 58 Syrian Catholics as they met for a Sunday evening mass in the Cathedral of our Lady of Deliverance. Tens of thousands of Christians are fleeing Iraq. The number of Christians in Iraq has dropped in half to 334,000 since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

“Christians are caught in the crosshairs,” says Jerry Dykstra, spokesman for Open Doors USA. “We thought in Iraq that Christians would have more freedom, but that is not the case at all. In fact, more Christians are fleeing Iraq than ever before.”

The persecution of Christians seems to be bad in Communist countries like China, North Korea, and Vietnam, most likely due to their governments’ continued anti-religious policies.

Chinese Christians have experienced six years of “escalating persecution” from the government, not only those who attend house churches, but those at government-sanctioned churches too, says Mark Shan, spokesman for the China Aid Association.

One of the largest cases of persecution occurred in September 2009 when 400 police and government officials descended upon the Linfen house church in Shanxi, demolished the building and clashed with hundreds of the church’s 50,000 members. Dozens were severely beaten and more than 30 were hospitalized. Nearly a dozen church leaders were sentenced to prison or labor camps.

“The means of persecution includes detention, fines, labor camps and prison sentences – or mafia methods such as beatings and disappearances,” Shan says. “But the house church movement in China is getting bigger and stronger through persecutions, and Christianity is growing rapidly. Christian faith will overcome any restrictions and hostilities and transform Chinese society. No one can stop that. We may see that happen in this generation.”

Persecution is also very bad throughout the Middle-East and North Africa. I am not at all sure why. These countries are not Communist. In fact they are all known to be very religious. Islam is the dominant religion there, but as Islam is a religion of peace that respects everyone’s beliefs, I am mystified. Perhaps the answer will come to me.

For some reason, this persecution is not getting much attention in the mainstream media. This is something that has to change and Christians in the United States need to get involved in this fight for freedom.

Ramadan

August 11, 2011
A green version of http://commons.wikimedia.or...

Image via Wikipedia

I have been remiss in not noting the start of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and devout Muslims fast during the daylight hours throughout the month. This means that they may not eat, drink, smoke, or have intercourse while it is light outside. Traditionally, it is light when one can distinguish between a light thread and a dark thread. Ramadan started August 1 in our Gregorian calendar and will end on August 29 this year.

The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar. Unlike the solar Gregorian calendar, The Islamic calendar is based on the phases of the Moon. There are twelve months of 29 or 30 days with extra days added in a thirty year cycle to keep the calendar in phase with the Moon. The problem is that twelve Moons add up to 354 days, eleven days shorter than the solar year. Most cultures with lunar calendars add a leap or intercalary month every few years, the exact cycle depending on the calendar. Moslems, however do not add an intercalary month. There is even a verse in the Koran that forbids adding an extra month.

The number of months in the sight of Allah is twelve (in a year)- so ordained by Him the day He created the heavens and the earth; of them four are sacred: that is the straight usage. So wrong not yourselves therein, and fight the Pagans all together as they fight you all together. But know that Allah is with those who restrain themselves

Verily the transposing (of a prohibited month) is an addition to Unbelief: the Unbelievers are led to wrong thereby: for they make it lawful one year, and forbidden another year, in order to adjust the number of months forbidden by Allah and make such forbidden ones lawful. The evil of their course seems pleasing to them. But Allah guideth not those who reject Faith. Koran 9:36-37

For this reason the Islamic calendar is not synchronized with the seasons. The year cycles through the season every 33 years. It is as if Christmas were in winter one year, autumn six years later, summer even later, and so on. Because the Islamic calendar is not synchronized with the seasons it cannot be used for agricultural purposes. A farmer couldn’t plant, harvest, etc on the same date or month as the previous year because they would not correspond to the proper seasons. Nowadays, outside of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic calendar is used only religious purposes. For other purposes, the Gregorian calendar is used.

The calendar seems impractical compared to the Gregorian calendar but it does have one advantage, in that the fast of Ramadan cycles through the seasons so that for at least part of the 33 year cycle, the fast is held in the cooler, winter season with shorter days. But, then, for part of the cycle, including this year, the fast is in the summer with the longest days of the year.

Mustafa Akyol

July 27, 2011
Taken from Mustafa Akyol site"

Mustafa Akyol

Over at National Review Online, Kathryn Jean Lopez interviewed Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish Muslim who wrote a book titled, Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty.  In his book and interview, Aykol makes the case for an Islam more receptive to Western ideas about liberty and freedom. He does not believe that it is necessary to abandon Islam in favor of westernization but argues that Islamic traditions and scriptures favor freedom.

LOPEZ: You ask, “Could authoritarian Muslims be just authoritarians who happen to be Muslim?” But isn’t it a huge obstacle that they have as much Islamic material to work with?

AKYOL: Sure, there is a lot of material in the classical Sharia that Muslim authoritarians of today can refer to — as they do. But I am showing that those materials were also products of authoritarians who happened to be Muslim a millennium ago. One of my basic arguments is that most authoritarian elements within the Sharia come from post-Koranic (i.e., “man-made”) parts of Islam. I also show that the more liberal strains within this “man-made” tradition were suppressed by the more rigid camp, which we face in the modern world, in its purest form, as Wahhabism.

So, essentially, he argues that Islam, in its purest form is not an authoritarian ideology, but rather that authoritarians in the early, formative years of Islamic law strongly encouraged the development of authoritarian strains in the laws and traditions of Islam. I like how he implies that the supposedly ultra-conservative Wahhabis are, in fact, innovators.

Naturally, he contends that the worst practices associated with Islam are based more in culture than in anything the Koran commands

LOPEZ: Honor killings and female-genital mutilation: Even if in your reading the Koran doesn’t prescribe them, does it matter when this seems to be a growing or widespread — or at least not uncommon — problem among Muslims?

AKYOL: When you show believers that what they consider God’s commandment is just the tradition of men, you have a better chance of convincing them to abandon the terrible elements in those traditions. (Jesus, too, criticized the Pharisees for holding fast to “the tradition of men,” while leaving “the commandment of God.”) Horrors such as honor killings and female-genital mutilation are such terrible traditions, which come from patriarchal taboos, not Islam. (Female-genital mutilation has no place in the Koran. As for honor, the Koran also considers adultery a grave sin, but finds the male and the female equally guilty, and yet I have never seen a boy or a man falling victim to an “honor killing.”)

LOPEZ: Is this book a call for a Muslim reformation?

AKYOL: Well, if that is a reformation with a capital R, as in Christianity, no. For, as I have said, we don’t have a central religious authority in Islam that we can reform. But I certainly argue for renewing our understanding of Islam, rather than preserving it as it was interpreted 1,000 years ago. The medieval division of the world into “House of War” and “House of Islam,” for example, is totally irrelevant today, for many Muslims feel much safer in lands that are ruled by non-Muslims.

Good point about honor killings. I have a feeling that  that practice would end quickly if it were applied to men. I am not sure how any Muslim scholar could reliably differentiate between the teachings of God and the teachings of men. As far as I know, everything in the Sharia is supposed to be of God.

It is interesting that many Muslims would feel safer in non-Muslim countries. Back during the Crusades, many of the Muslim population of the Holy Lands preferred to live under the rule of the Crusaders, to the disgust of Muslim chroniclers. It would seem that the Crusader tax collectors were not as rapacious.

LOPEZ: Should Muslims and non-Muslims be able to work together on the issue of religious freedom? We are facing some serious threats to individual conscience rights of religious people here in the U.S. Could there be a real coalition?

AKYOL: Of course. Actually, many pious Muslims will be positively surprised to learn that there are Westerners who really care about religion and want to cooperate for the rights of all religious believers. For historical and geographic reasons, most Muslims know the West only from Europe, which is, as you know, thoroughly secular. That is, in fact, one of the reasons that many pious Muslims reject any reform in their tradition. Once a prominent Islamic intellectual in Turkey told me, “We don’t want to begin with concessions, in order to end up like those godless people in Amsterdam.” He probably would find more common ground with people from America’s Bible Belt.

I thing that Akyol is absolutely right about this. I don’t imagine that our incredibly vulgar popular culture is winning us many friends in that part of the world. Conservative Christians and Muslims probably would get on well together if it weren’t for the ‘kill the infidel’ thing and the anti-Semitism.

LOPEZ: You don’t appear to have a problem with Sharia courts in England. This isn’t a matter of religious intolerance but justice and practicality: How can a country with dual legal systems possibly work?

AKYOL: I look at that as I look at the Halakha of Orthodox Jews. The British “Sharia courts” actually evolved from the same arbitration courts that Orthodox Jews also have used for decades. And their scope is limited to issues such as settling financial and family disputes. If they violated any basic human right, such as ordering a corporal punishment, I would certainly oppose them. But there is no harm, I believe, in allowing conservative communities to settle some of their disputes according to their traditions, as far as they remain under the umbrella of the law of the land. This is not a dual legal system, which had its merits in the pre-modern times, but a sub-level system under a single national law.

Another example might be canon law, which governs the Catholic Church. I don’t the precedent though and I think it is only a matter of time before Sharia courts in Britain begin to demand jurisdiction in criminal cases.

LOPEZ: The issue of Israel is one that seems to be an irresolvable one in the Middle East. As a Muslim, do you believe there is a realistic peace plan?

AKYOL: Sure. It is commonly known as the two-state solution. And, on both sides, there are people who would settle with that solution, along with people who have more maximalist goals. On both sides, I support the minimalists.

Here, let me also add that I don’t see the Palestinian–Israeli conflict as a religious one: It is a land dispute between two nations. Yes, Jerusalem is sacred for Muslims, as it is to Jews and Christians, but, as a Muslim, I am not horrified to see it under the Israeli flag as long as the Dome of Rock is open to Muslim worship — as it is now. I value Palestinians’ claim to East Jerusalem as well, but out of a respect for their national aspirations, not any theological necessity.

He’s right but he misses the essential point. Until the Muslim world abandons the Islamic version of the Brezhnev Doctrine, Muslim territories must be Muslim forever, Palestinian-Israeli conflict is going to continue.

LOPEZ: You’re a fan of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but he’s moved the country a little more Islamist than some would like, hasn’t he?

AKYOL: Well, I would not define myself as a “fan” of Erdoğan, though I value the political change that Turkey has gone through under his party, the AKP. I also see the AKP as the most important experiment of democracy within the Muslim cultural sphere. (The Turkey before AKP, which was kept hyper-secular by a bunch of sinister generals, did nothing but give a bad name among Muslims to the secular state.)

Meanwhile, though I disagree with Michael Rubin and his very pessimistic outlook on Turkey, I do see problems in Erdoğan’s style, such as his confrontational tone and intolerance of criticism. But these are issues with his personality, and problems with Turkish political leaders in general. (As I once said, “AKP is not too Islamic, it is too Turkish.”) Personally speaking, my ideal Turkish leader is President Abdullah Gül, whose worldview is similar to Erdoğan’s, but whose tone is much more conciliatory, modest, and nuanced.

LOPEZ: What was your lesson from seeing your father in jail for writing? It might have made some young boys look for a different career.

AKYOL: I think it showed the eight-year-old me that there are tyrants in the world, and they can hurt your beloved ones for no reason. It also taught me, as I figured later, that secularism is no guarantee for freedom or democracy. (It was the all-secular Turkish military, after all, which imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Turks and tortured many of them.)

Here is another point: In the past decade, Americans have repeatedly heard the stories of ex-Muslims such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, explaining how they, in their childhood, were oppressed by some ruthless cleric in a radical madrassa. My story reminds them that Muslim kids can be oppressed by some ruthless officer in a secular garrison as well. When people see both of these stories, perhaps, they might feel that the problem with tyranny is not a direct problem with Islam.

LOPEZ: Does it worry you that there is as much court action by the Turkish government against journalists as there is?

AKYOL: Yes, it does worry me. But I was more worried in the ’90s, when death squads, on the orders of Turkey’s overbearing generals, were assassinating journalists. What I mean is that press freedom has always been attacked in Turkey, and things are actually better now than they were before. This should not minimize today’s problems, but it should put them in context. The basic trouble is that we have illiberal laws about “insulting state officials” or “spreading terrorist propaganda,” and courts are often aggressive in executing them.

Moreover, the recent impression that whoever criticizes the AKP goes into jail is simply not true. A few journalists are in custody (wrongly in my view) for allegedly taking part in coup schemes, whereas most others are accused for pro-PKK propaganda, or membership in Marxist-Leninist terror groups.

LOPEZ: The murder last year of Catholic bishop Luigi Padovese doesn’t suggest everything is as peachy for Christians in Turkey as you paint it, does it?

AKYOL: No, it is not peachy at all. Not just Bishop Padovese, but also Fr. Andrea Santoro and three Protestant missionaries were brutally killed in Turkey in the past decade. But please note that these murders were committed by ultra-nationalists, not Islamists. (In Turkey, the Islamist movement has been largely peaceful, whereas violence has been a hallmark of Kurdish separatists, Turkish fascists, and the Communists.) It might be worthwhile to note that some of the people suspected of arranging the killing of the three missionaries in eastern Turkey were also the same people who are on trial for conspiring a military coup against the AKP.

It is a good, and forgotten,  point that the military rulers of Turkey were not exactly paragons of human rights. I am far less confident than Aykol is about Erdogan and the AKP. I think there is a good chance that Turkey will go the way of Iran under the AKP, though I’m sure Aykol knows far more about Turkish politics than I do.

LOPEZ: Would you encourage full transparency in the building of mosques? Would you be supportive of communities asking questions — such as, who is funding this? — before permits are issued? A board member who supports Hamas, for example, would understandably be an issue.

AKYOL: I would care more about the content of the preaching in a mosque, than about its financial resources. As for supporting Hamas, well, I condemn the terrorist actions of that organization, but I see that it is also a political party with hospitals and charities. (Had they been more strategic about it, they might have made the IRA/Sinn Fein division that the Irish nationalists did.) So, any support for terrorist acts is of course intolerable, but holding someone responsible for donating to, say, a Hamas-related hospital or kindergarten, and opposing a mosque for simply getting money from that same donor, might be too much.

In Turkey, we have similar questions regarding the PKK, the Kurdish terrorist group. My take is to condemn the violent acts of the PKK, but also to understand that it has a political wing and many social networks, which I don’t oppose. I actually think that tolerating the peaceful side of a quasi-militant movement might be a better strategy for its moderation, rather than blocking it by all means.

I am not for letting Hamas off the hook quite so easily as that. Bad people do good deeds for all sorts of reasons, good public relations, salving consciences, etc. Hitler was nice to his dog and his secretary.

I hope that Mustafa Akyol is successful in his efforts, both for the West’s sake and the Middle East’s. I can’t say that I am very optimistic though and I think that he downplays just how difficult modernizing Islam is likely to be. At the very least the Sunni Muslims are going to have to reopen the door of Ijtihad, or Islamic jurisprudence that was closed around a thousand years ago. This will not be easy or safe as anyone who proposes new interpretations of the Koran or Sharia stands a good chance of being labeled an apostate or heretic.

Moral Equivancy about Norway

July 26, 2011

I didn’t think that it would take the Left long to exploit the killings in Norway to promote their own agenda and I was right. At the very least they will use this atrocity to pretend that Christianity is somehow inherently violent while still refusing to make the connection between the violent teachings of Islam and the violent acts of some of the adherents of that faith.

Consider this cartoon which appeared in USA Today today.

If I were unencumbered by facts and logic as many liberals are,  I could see the parallel between two isolated incidents sixteen years apart and the more than 17,000 terrorist attacks by Jihadists in just the last ten years since 9/11. Not to mention the fact that Timothy McVeigh identified himself as an agnostic and was inspired by “The Turner Diaries“, which was written by William Pierce, a neo-Nazi who had contempt for Christianity.It’s not clear yet what Anders Breivik’s religious affiliation is, but it is notable that, as far a I know, he did not quote from the Bible to justify his murders, nor have any Christian leaders, of any denomination done anything to condemn both of these murderers. In contrast, Osama bin Laden was considered a hero by many Muslims and violence is still preached in all too many mosques in the West.ut

There is simply no parallel between the actions of an evident lunatic and terrorists acting on the teachings of a religion that does indeed preach hate and intolerance. But, look for this distinction to be blurred by the media in the coming days, weeks, and years.


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