Wednesday, August 06, 2014
Editor’s note: Raymond Ibrahim was recently interviewed by Fronda, a leading website in Poland. The English-language version of the Polish interview, originally titled “Raymond Ibrahim: Prostration before Islam,” follows:
Raymond Ibrahim: I am a little of all that and more. Due to my background, academic and personal, I have had a long interest in the Middle East and Islam, especially the historic and contemporary interaction between Islam and Christianity. After the strikes of September 11, 2001, I took an interest in the current events of the region vis-à-vis the West, and what immediately struck me was how, on the one hand, the conflict was almost identical to the historic conflict, one of continuity—at least that is how many Muslims were portraying it.
- Who is Raymond Ibrahim? A scholar, a writer, an activist? What is his mission and the main goal?
But on the other hand, in the West, the narrative was very different and based on a “new paradigm,” one that saw Islam and Muslims as perpetual victims of all sorts of outside and material pressures, mostly from the West. Thus the analyses that were being disseminated through media and academia were to my mind immensely flawed and, while making perfect sense to people in the West—for they were articulated through Western, secular, materialistic paradigms—had little to do with reality as I saw and understood it.
That was one of the reasons I left academia and began writing for more popular audiences, to try to offer a corrective to these flawed narratives. My first book, The Al Qaeda Reader (2007), was meant to do precisely this—to compare the words of al-Qaeda as delivered to the West and as delivered to fellow Muslims, and to show how when speaking to the West, al-Qaeda and other Islamists used Western arguments, claiming any number of grievances, political and otherwise, as being the source of their jihad. Obviously such arguments, widely disseminated by Western mainstream media, made perfect sense to the West.
But al-Qaeda’s Arabic writings that I discovered when I was working at the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., and which I translated for the book, made completely different arguments, basically saying that, irrespective of all grievances, Muslims must hate and wage jihad on all non-Muslim “infidels” until they come under Islamic authority, according to the worldview of Sharia, or Islamic law.
So in a way, you can say my mission since then has been to open Western eyes to the truths and reality of Islam—at least the reality of how it is understood and practiced by many Muslims—for Western eyes have been closed shut in recent times.
Raymond Ibrahim: That’s an interesting way of putting it. Along with obvious benefits—being bilingual (Arabic and English), for example—yes, I do believe my background gives me more subtle advantages. Growing up cognizant of both worlds and cultures has, I believe, imparted a higher degree of objectivity to my thinking. Most people’s worldviews are colored by whichever culture they are immersed in—hence exactly why so many Western people tend to project their own values on the Islamic world, convinced that any violence and intolerance that comes from that region must be a product of some sort of socio-political or economic “grievance”—some sort of material, not religious, factor. While I understand, appreciate and participate in Western values and norms, because of my “dual” background, I also cannot project such values and norms on non-Western peoples (and vice-versa, of course).
- You have a dual background. You were born and raised in the U.S. by parents who were born and raised in a Coptic community in Egypt. Are you the ‘clash of civilizations’ personified? What kind of advantages and disadvantages does such an identity and upbringing lead do?
This has caused my worldview to be, I believe, more neutral and objective, less colored by cultural values and references. Conversely, I have, so far, not encountered any notable disadvantages from such a background—other than perhaps being overly objective and not always able to participate in the common.
Raymond Ibrahim: I prefer to think of it as a dire wake up call to the West. The topic of Muslim persecution of Christians is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. In Crucified Again, I look at the history of this phenomenon, the Islamic scriptures that support it, and the modern era. And what I find and document is unwavering continuity. According to Islamic teaching, Christians and other non-Muslims are “infidels,” and as such, they are seen as at best third class subjects in Islamic states. They cannot build or renovate churches, display crosses or Bibles; they have to pay tribute with humility, according to Koran 9:29; they cannot speak well of Christianity or criticize Islam. They are even required to give up their seats to a Muslim if he demands it, according to strict Islamic teaching (and as found in the “Conditions of Omar,” an important text that discusses how Christian minorities are to be treated under Islam).
- In addition to numerous articles in a variety of media, you are also the author of two books. The last one, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians argues that martyrdom is not a thing from the past. It is not a book with a happy ending, is it?
Now if you look at history—as recorded by early Arabic/Islamic historians—you will see that that is exactly how Christians were treated under Islam for centuries; that is exactly how nations like Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and all of north Africa, went from being Christian majority to Muslim majority over the centuries: most Christians opted to convert to Islam rather than constantly suffer from third-class status as well as sporadic persecution.
And today, what we are seeing is simply the ongoing continuation of history, as Christians continue to be persecuted, continue to dwindle in numbers in lands that were Christian centuries before Western Europe embraced the faith. Yet, according to Western analysts, etc., all of this is some sort of “misunderstanding” or because Muslims are angry about Israel—anything and everything but codified religious intolerance, even though the latter is so well documented, doctrinally, historically, and in current events.
Raymond Ibrahim: No, it will exacerbate Christian persecution. From my perspective, the more the West and/or Christianity kowtow to Islam—and that is what modern day “interfaith outreach” often amounts to—the more aggressive that religion becomes.
- There are many initiatives aimed at bringing the ‘spirit of dialogue’ between the religions. In the Catholic Church we even celebrate a Day of Islam. What is your opinion on this kind of inter-faith outreach? Will it be successful in decreasing the persecution of Christians or helping individuals like Asia Bibi?
Here, again, is another example of Westerners projecting their norms onto others, namely, Muslims. In the Western paradigm, itself an offshoot of Christianity, showing tolerance and forgiveness will supposedly cause some sort of reciprocation from the one being forgiven and tolerated—since everything is always supposedly a “misunderstanding.” Yet in Islam, might has always made right, and “tolerance” has always been seen as sign of equivocation or weakness—a lack of conviction. If Christians praise Islam, so many Muslims conclude, that is because they feel it is the truth—not because they are trying to find commonalities, a paradigm that is foreign to classical Islam, which sees the world in terms of right (Islam) and wrong (non-Islam).
Again, history sheds some light on this. In the medieval era, there were Christians like Francis of Assisi who tried to have dialogue with Muslims—but in order to get to the truth, including by asking hard questions about Islam often in the context of Christian teaching. Such dialogue is of course admirable because it is sincere. But trying to have dialogue in order to find and parade some minor “commonalities”—while overlooking and ignoring the fundamental differences, which are much more immense and the true sources of conflict—is simply a game of wasting time.
Raymond Ibrahim: It’s the “elephant in the room” because few things show such remarkable continuity between the past and the present—while still being thoroughly ignored and treated as an aberration by academia, media, and government—as Muslim persecution of Christians. If you look at the true history recorded by both Muslims and Christians during the Medieval era—one Muslim historian tells of how one caliph destroyed 30,000 churches—you will see that the persecution and subjugation of Christians is an ironclad fact of history.
- In your writings regarding the Muslim persecutions of Christians, two themes are constantly recurring. Firstly, you claim that it constitutes “an elephant in the room” and secondly you believe that liberal academia and media are biased “whitewashing Islam and blaming the West” for Islamic attacks against non-Muslims. Can you explain the reasons for such arguments?
Today, not only do we see Christians persecuted from one end of the Islamic world to the other, but we see the same exact patterns of persecution that Christians experienced centuries ago, including hostility for and restrictions on churches, hostility for the crucifix and other Christian symbols and icons, restrictions on Christian worship and freedom. (I discuss this in more depth here and here.) As for academia and media, they reject modern day persecution of Christians for a plethora of reasons—not least because they tend to be ideologically anti-Christian—but primarily because it contradicts their entire narrative, specifically the notion that, far from being persecuted, Christians themselves are the most intolerant groups, and that Muslims are “misunderstood others” who have been oppressed by the West.
These themes are today so predominant in the West that few can believe they are almost entirely fabricated—but so they are, according to both history and current events, both of which are naturally suppressed or distorted by academia and media in the interest of keeping their ideologically-charged narrative alive.
Raymond Ibrahim: Again, one need only turn to history, followed by doctrine, to see that mainstream Islam has always been about power. Its founder and prophet, Muhammad, was a warlord, who went on caravan raids and incited his followers to attack and plunder other tribes that rejected his “prophecy,” seizing their property and women and children—and all in the context of “God told me so.” After his death, his followers did the same, giving people three choices: be part of their “team” by converting, or else keep their religious beliefs, but pay tribute and live as third class subjects, or else die. In this context, and over the course of several centuries of jihadi conquest, the Islamic world was forged.
- In her book, Tenth Parallel, Eliza Griswold writes that religion becomes means of political emancipation, especially between the equator and the tenth parallel, where Christianity and Islam meet. So perhaps it is not about spirituality but power?
All this is well justified by the Koran and Islamic Sharia. Compare and contrast this with Christianity’s founder, Jesus Christ: far from a warlord, he preached mercy, peace, and spirituality. And that’s one of the problems: Westerners are so well acquainted with Christianity that they tend to project its approach to Islam—naively thinking that all religions must be the same, primarily spiritual, not concerned with the temporal. But Islam is immensely concerned with the temporal—with power.
- You have written about conceptual failures dominating the Western discourse on Islam. What are the main fallacies and why are they dangerous?
Raymond Ibrahim: Along with the aforementioned fallacy of projecting Christian/Western worldviews onto a distinctly different religion/civilization like Islam, secular Westerners almost always try to understand Islam through secular and materialistic paradigms—the only paradigms they themselves are familiar with. Thus the mainstream interpretation in the West is that “radical Islam” is a byproduct of various sorts of material discontent (economic, political, social) and has little to do with the religion itself.
Westerners apparently think this way because the secular, Western experience has been such that people respond with violence primarily when they feel they are politically, economically, or socially oppressed. While true that many non-Western peoples fit into this paradigm, the fact is, the ideologies of Islam have the intrinsic capacity to prompt Muslims to violence and intolerance vis-à-vis the “other,” irrespective of grievances.
Conceptually, then, it must be first understood that many of the problematic ideologies associated with radical Islam trace directly back to Sharia, Islamic law. Jihad as offensive warfare to subjugate “infidels” (non-Muslims); mandated social discrimination against non-Muslim minorities living in Muslim nations (the regulations governing ahl al-dhimma); the obligation to hate non-Muslims—even if a Muslim is married to one—all of these are clearly defined aspects that have historically been part of Islam’s worldview and not “open to interpretation.”
For example, the obligation to wage expansionist jihad is as “open to interpretation” as the obligation to perform the Five Pillars of Islam, including praying and fasting. The same textual sources and methods of jurisprudence that have made it clear that prayer and fasting are obligatory, have also made it clear that jihad is also obligatory; the only difference is that, whereas prayer and fasting is an “individual” duty, jihad is understood to be a “communal” duty (a fard kifaya). All these intricacies must be understood before Westerners can understand Islam on its own terms.
Raymond Ibrahim: Again, as mentioned, political and economic grievances may be a reality; yet it is a distinct fact that, wherever Islam is—including in immensely rich nations like the Gulf nations—violence and intolerance of non-Muslims exist. For example, Christian persecution around the world today is being committed at the hands of Muslims of all races, languages, cultures, and socio-political circumstances: Muslims from among America’s allies (Saudi Arabia) and its enemies (Iran); Muslims from economically rich nations (Qatar) and from poor nations (Somalia and Yemen); Muslims from “Islamic republic” nations (Afghanistan) and from “moderate” nations (Malaysia and Indonesia); Muslims from nations rescued by America (Kuwait) and Muslims claiming “grievances” against America. Moreover, much of the underdeveloped world is suffering from economic, political, and social problems—and yet it is the Islamic world where terrorism in the name of God (Allah) is rampant. One does not hear of, say, disenfranchised Cuban dissidents crashing explosive-laden vehicles into government buildings—while screaming Jesus is great. Yet sceams of Allah is great in the context of terror attacks are ubiquitous.
- One of the most popular views as to the reasons of Islamic terrorism is that it is based on political and economic grievances. The recipe to achieve the peaceful world would be then to remove the factors contributing to poverty or oppression and this way disarm the ‘relative deprivation’ bomb. Do you think it is feasible?
Raymond Ibrahim: Although Muslims are exhorted to be truthful, taqiyya is an Islamic doctrine that permits them to deceive non-Muslims, who by nature are deemed enemies. Some Western scholars and apologists for Islam insist that taqiyya is a very arcane teaching developed by Shi’a and to be used only when their lives are in danger. In reality, however, taqiyya—as well as its sister teaching, tawriya—is used by mainstream Islam (Sunnism) and gives Muslims great freedom to deceive infidels if the deception can be rationalized as a way to help empower Islam over non-Muslims.
- You have devoted one of your publications to the concept of taqiyya. Can you explain what taqiyya is and why is it important to know it in the West?
Normative Islamic teaching is so that, almost anything can be rationalized as permissible—for example “martyrdom operations” (even though suicide is banned by Islam)—as long as they can be perceived as helping empower Islam. Islamic prophet Muhammad himself permitted deceit, including to one’s wife. One of the few Arabic language books devoted to the subject, At-Taqiyya fi’l-Islam (Dissimulation in Islam) makes it clear that taqiyya is hardly limited to Shi‘a dissimulating in fear of persecution. Written by Sami Mukaram, a former Islamic studies professor at the American University of Beirut and author of some twenty-five books on Islam, the opening sentences of the book clearly demonstrate the ubiquity and broad applicability of taqiyya: “Taqiyya is of fundamental importance in Islam. Practically every Islamic sect agrees to it and practices it … We can go so far as to say that the practice of taqiyya is mainstream in Islam, and that those few sects not practicing it diverge from the mainstream … Taqiyya is very prevalent in Islamic politics, especially in the modern era.”
Raymond Ibrahim: My advice is to take heed of what I call “Islam’s Rule of Numbers,” which is basically the unwavering, statistical fact that, the more Muslims grow in numbers (and thus strength), the more aggressive they become. In the U.S., for example, where Muslims are less than 1 percent of the population, acts of Islamic intolerance are relatively uncommon. Islamic assertiveness is limited to political activism dedicated to portraying Islam as a “religion of peace,” the painting of any and all critics as “Islamophobes,” and sporadic, but clandestine, acts of terror.
- Do you have any words of advice to countries like Poland where the influence of Islam is still relatively weak but increasing due to immigration and certain radicalization of indigenous Muslim groups (e.g. Polish Tatars stopped their traditional prayers for Poland which used to be their custom)?
In some Western European nations, where Muslims make for much larger minorities—for example, the UK and France—open violence and religious intolerance is common. But because they are still a vulnerable minority, Islamic violence is always placed in the context of “grievances,” a word that, as we have seen, pacifies Westerners.
Where Muslim numbers reach 35-50 percent of a population, the full-blown jihad is often declared, as in Nigeria, which although is half Christian half Muslim is also one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a Christian. In short, Islamic aggressiveness is very much a product of Islamic strength in numbers. I discussed this at length here.
Raymond Ibrahim: Much of this view is based on selfishness, of the modern West’s egoistic and highly individualistic worldview. What such people are really saying is that, by and large, if nothing changes and people remain indifferent, they themselves and their generation will go through life fine without much worry from the Islamic question. But this position also shows absolute indifference to future generations and the world they will inherit. In short, yes, most Europeans today may not personally suffer from Islam. But they are opening the floodgates wide to the potential suffering of their descendants.
- Inevitably one stumbles upon the ‘so what?’ question. Nobody persecutes Christians in France and churches are not burnt in Germany. It is doubtful that Europe will be washed away with the waves of Islam. To the contrary, it looks like Europe wants to leave religions behind. Would you not say so?
Monday, July 21, 2014
Days before the recent Israel/Hamas conflict erupted, the Presbyterian Church USA withdrew $21 million worth in investments from Israel because, as spokesman Heath Rada put it, the Israeli government’s actions “harm the Palestinian people.”
Soon after, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and was asked if he was “troubled” by the Presbyterian Church’s move. Netanyahu responded:
It should trouble all people of conscience and morality because it’s so disgraceful. You know, you look at what’s happening in the Middle East and I think most Americans understand this, they see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions. Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians—Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation. You know I would suggest to these Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come and see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour, go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice, one is, make sure it’s an armor plated bus, and second, don’t say that you’re Christians.
It’s difficult—if not impossible—to argue with Netanyahu’s logic. Indeed, several points made in his one-minute response are deserving of some reflection.
First, the obvious: why is it that self-professed Christians completely ignore the horrific Islamic persecution of fellow Christians in the Middle East, while grandstanding against the Jewish state for trying to defend itself against the same ideology that persecutes Christians?
And he is absolutely right to say that the persecution of Christians in the Mideast has reached a point of “savagery of unimaginable proportions.” Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the atrocities Mideast Christians are exposed to—the slaughters, crucifixions, beheadings, torture and rape—is the absolute silence emanating from so-called mainline Protestant churches in the U.S.
Note also the nations Netanyahu highlighted for their brutal persecution of Christian minorities: Libya, Syria, and Iraq. Indigenous Christians were markedly better off in all three nations before the U.S. got involved, specifically be empowering, deliberately or not, Islamist forces. Now, according to recent studies, Christians in all three nations are experiencing the worst form of persecution around the globe:
- Libya: Ever since U.S.-backed, al-Qaeda-linked terrorists overthrew Gaddafi, Christians—including Americans—have been tortured and killed (including for refusing to convert) and churches bombed. It’s “open season” on Copts, as jihadis issue a reward to Muslims who find and kill Christians. This was not the case under Gaddafi.
- Syria: Christians have been attacked in indescribable ways—wholesale massacres, bombed and desecrated churches, beheadings, crucifixions, and rampant kidnappings—since the U.S.-sponsored “Arab Spring” reached the Levant.
- Iraq: After the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein, Christian minorities were savagely attacked and slaughtered, and dozens of their churches were bombed (see here for graphic images). In the last decade, Christians have been terrorized into near-extinction, with well over half of them fleeing Iraq.
If the Presbyterian Church has problems with governments that persecute people—in this case, the Israeli government’s purported treatment of Palestinians, hence the Presbyterian Church’s divestment from Israel—perhaps it should begin by criticizing its own government’s proxy war on fellow Christians in the Middle East.
Christians are also being targeted in the P.A. territories—by the very same elements the Presbyterian Church is trying to defend.
In 2012, for example, a pastor noted that “animosity towards the Christian minority in areas controlled by the P.A. continues to get increasingly worse. People are always telling [Christians],Convert to Islam. Convert to Islam." And in fact, the kidnapping and forced conversions of Christians in Gaza is an ugly reality.”
More recently, nuns of the Greek-Orthodox monastery in Bethany sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urging him to respond to the escalation of attacks on the Christian house, including the throwing of stones, broken glass, theft and looting of the monastery property. “Someone wants to send us away,” wrote Sister Ibraxia in the letter, “but we will not flee.”
Sadly, the hypocrisy exhibited by the Presbyterian Church is not limited to that denomination. Some time back, fifteen leaders from various U.S. Christian denominations—mostly Protestant, including the Lutheran, Methodist, and UCC Churches—asked Congress to reevaluate U.S. military aid to Israel, again, in the context of supporting “persecuted” Palestinians.
Yet nary a word from these same church leaders concerning the rampant persecution of millions of Christians at the hands of Muslims in the Middle East—a persecution that makes the Palestinians’ situation pale in comparison.
Other “leftist” Protestants do find time to criticize Muslim persecution of Christians—but only to blame Israel for it. Thus, Diarmaid MacCulloch, a Fellow of St. Cross College, wrote an article in the Daily Beast ostensibly addressing the plight of Mideast Christians—but only to argue that the source of Christian persecution “ in the Middle East is seven decades of unresolved conflict between Israel and Palestine.”
In reality, far from prompting the persecution of Christians, the Arab-Israeli conflict is itself a byproduct of the same hostility Islamic supremacism engenders for all non-Muslims. The reason hostility for Israel is much more viral is because the Jewish state holds a unique position of authority over Muslims unlike vulnerable Christian minorities who can be abused at will (as fully explained here).
Little wonder, then, that more Arab Christians—double the number of each of the preceding three years—are now joining the Israel Defense Forces.
They know they can count on basic human rights protection from Israel than from many of their fellow Christians in the West. After all, beyond the sophistry, distortions, and downright lies emanating from some of these Christian denominations, the fact remains: both Jews and Christians are under attack from the same foe and for the same reason: they are non-Muslim “infidels” who need to be subjugated.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Originally published by PJ Media in two parts.
In order to prevent a clash of civilizations, or worse, Islam must reform. This is the contention of many Western peoples. And, pointing to Christianity’s Protestant Reformation as proof that Islam can also reform, many are optimistic.
Overlooked by most, however, is that Islam has been reforming. What is today called “radical Islam” is the reformation of Islam. And it follows the same pattern of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation.
The problem is our understanding of the word “reform.” Despite its positive connotations, “reform” simply means to “make changes (in something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it.”
Synonyms of “reform” include “make better,” “ameliorate,” and “improve”— splendid words all, yet words all subjective and loaded with Western references.
Muslim notions of “improving” society may include purging it of “infidels” and their corrupt ways; or segregating men and women, keeping the latter under wraps or quarantined at home; or executing apostates, who are seen as traitorous agitators.
Banning many forms of freedoms taken for granted in the West—from alcohol consumption to religious and gender equality—can be deemed an “improvement” and a “betterment” of society.
In short, an Islamic reformation need not lead to what we think of as an “improvement” and “betterment” of society—simply because “we” are not Muslims and do not share their reference points and first premises. “Reform” only sounds good to most Western peoples because they, secular and religious alike, are to a great extent products of Christianity’s Protestant Reformation; and so, a priori, they naturally attribute positive connotations to the word.
At its core, the Protestant Reformation was a revolt against tradition in the name of scripture—in this case, the Bible.With the coming of the printing press, increasing numbers of Christians became better acquainted with the Bible’s contents, parts of which they felt contradicted what the Church was teaching. So they broke away, protesting that the only Christian authority was “scripture alone,” sola scriptura.
Islam’s reformation follows the same logic of the Protestant Reformation—specifically by prioritizing scripture over centuries of tradition and legal debate—but with antithetical results that reflect the contradictory teachings of the core texts of Christianity and Islam.
As with Christianity, throughout most of its history, Islam’s scriptures, specifically its “twin pillars,” the Koran (literal words of Allah) and the Hadith (words and deeds of Allah’s prophet, Muhammad), were inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Only a few scholars, or ulema—literally, “they who know”—were literate in Arabic and/or had possession of Islam’s scriptures. The average Muslim knew only the basics of Islam, or its “Five Pillars.”
In this context, a “medieval synthesis” flourished throughout the Islamic world. Guided by an evolving general consensus (or ijma‘), Muslims sought to accommodate reality by, in medieval historian Daniel Pipes’ words,
translat[ing] Islam from a body of abstract, infeasible demands [as stipulated in the Koran and Hadith] into a workable system. In practical terms, it toned down Sharia and made the code of law operational. Sharia could now be sufficiently applied without Muslims being subjected to its more stringent demands… [However,] While the medieval synthesis worked over the centuries, it never overcame a fundamental weakness: It is not comprehensively rooted in or derived from the foundational, constitutional texts of Islam. Based on compromises and half measures, it always remained vulnerable to challenge by purists (emphasis added).
This vulnerability has now reached breaking point: millions of more Korans published in Arabic and other languages are in circulation today compared to just a century ago; millions of more Muslims are now literate enough to read and understand the Koran compared to their medieval forbears. The Hadith, which contains some of the most intolerant teachings and violent deeds attributed to Islam’s prophet, is now collated and accessible, in part thanks to the efforts of Western scholars, the Orientalists. Most recently, there is the Internet—where all these scriptures are now available in dozens of languages and to anyone with a laptop or iPhone.
In this backdrop, what has been called at different times, places, and contexts “Islamic fundamentalism,” “radical Islam,” “Islamism,” and “Salafism” flourished. Many of today’s Muslim believers, much better acquainted than their ancestors with the often black and white words of their scriptures, are protesting against earlier traditions, are protesting against the “medieval synthesis,” in favor of scriptural literalism—just like their Christian Protestant counterparts once did.
Thus, if Martin Luther (d. 1546) rejected the extra-scriptural accretions of the Church and “reformed” Christianity by aligning it more closely with scripture, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (d. 1787), one of Islam’s first modern reformers, “called for a return to the pure, authentic Islam of the Prophet, and the rejection of the accretions that had corrupted it and distorted it,” in the words of Bernard Lewis (The Middle East, p. 333).
The unadulterated words of God—or Allah—are all that matter for the reformists.
Note: Because they are better acquainted with Islam’s scriptures, other Muslims, of course, are apostatizing—whether by converting to other religions, most notably Christianity, or whether by abandoning religion altogether, even if only in their hearts (for fear of the apostasy penalty). This is an important point to be revisited later. Muslims who do not become disaffected after better acquainting themselves with the literal teachings of Islam’s scriptures and who instead become more faithful to and observant of them are the topic of this essay.
How Christianity and Islam can follow similar patterns of reform but with antithetical results rests in the fact that their scriptures are often antithetical to one another. This is the key point, and one admittedly unintelligible to postmodern, secular sensibilities, which tend to lump all religious scripture together in a melting pot of relativism without bothering to evaluate the significance of their respective words and teachings.
Obviously a point by point comparison of the scriptures of Islam and Christianity is inappropriate for an article of this length (see my “Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam” for a more comprehensive treatment).
Suffice it to note some contradictions (which will be rejected as a matter of course by the relativistic mindset):
- The New Testament preaches peace, brotherly love, tolerance, and forgiveness—for all humans, believers and non-believers alike. Instead of combatting and converting “infidels,” Christians are called to pray for those who persecute them and turn the other cheek (which is not the same thing as passivity, for Christians are also called to be bold and unapologetic). Conversely, the Koran and Hadith call for war, or jihad, against all non-believers, until they either convert, accept subjugation and discrimination, or die.
- The New Testament has no punishment for the apostate from Christianity. Conversely, Islam’s prophet himself decreed that “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.”
- The New Testament teaches monogamy, one husband and one wife, thereby dignifying the woman. The Koran allows polygamy—up to four wives—and the possession of concubines, or sex-slaves. More literalist readings treat women as possessions.
- The New Testament discourages lying (e.g., Col. 3:9). The Koran permits it; the prophet himself often deceived others, and permitted lying to one’s wife, to reconcile quarreling parties, and to the “infidel” during war.
It is precisely because Christian scriptural literalism lends itself to religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Western civilization developed the way it did—despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.
And it is precisely because Islamic scriptural literalism is at odds with religious freedom, tolerance, and the dignity of women, that Islamic civilization is the way it is—despite the nonstop propaganda campaign emanating from academia, Hollywood, and other major media that says otherwise.
Those in the West waiting for an Islamic “reformation” along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation, on the assumption that it will lead to similar results, must embrace two facts: 1) Islam’s reformation is well on its way, and yes, along the same lines of the Protestant Reformation—with a focus on scripture and a disregard for tradition—and for similar historic reasons (literacy, scriptural dissemination, etc.); 2) But because the core teachings of the scriptures of Christianity and Islam markedly differ from one another, Islam’s reformation has naturally produced a civilization markedly different from the West.
Put differently, those in the West uncritically calling for an “Islamic reformation” need to acknowledge what it is they are really calling for: the secularization of Islam in the name of modernity; the trivialization and sidelining of Islamic law from Muslim society.
That would not be a “reformation”—certainly nothing analogous to the Protestant Reformation.
Overlooked is that Western secularism was, and is, possible only because Christian scripture lends itself to the division between church and state, the spiritual and the temporal.
Upholding the literal teachings of Christianity is possible within a secular—or any—state. Christ called on believers to “render unto Caesar the things of Caesar (temporal) and unto God the things of God (spiritual)” (Matt. 22:21). For the “kingdom of God” is “not of this world” (John 18:36). Indeed, a good chunk of the New Testament deals with how “man is not justified by the works of the law… for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Gal. 2:16).
On the other hand, mainstream Islam is devoted to upholding the law; and Islamic scripture calls for a fusion between Islamic law—Sharia—and the state. Allah decrees in the Koran that “ It is not fitting for true believers—men or women—to take their choice in affairs if Allah and His Messenger have decreed otherwise. He that disobeys Allah and His Messenger strays far indeed!” (33:36). Allah tells the prophet of Islam, “We put you on an ordained way [literarily in Arabic, sharia] of command; so follow it and do not follow the inclinations of those who are ignorant” (45:18).
Mainstream Islamic exegesis has always interpreted such verses to mean that Muslims must follow the commandments of Allah as laid out in the Koran and Hadith—in a word, Sharia.
And Sharia is so concerned with the details of this world, with the everyday doings of Muslims, that every conceivable human action falls under five rulings, or ahkam: the forbidden (haram), the discouraged (makruh), the neutral (mubah), the recommended (mustahib), and the obligatory (wajib).
Conversely, Islam offers little concerning the spiritual (sidelined Sufism the exception).
Unlike Christianity, then, Islam without the law—without Sharia—becomes meaningless. After all, the Arabic word Islam literally means “submit.” Submit to what? Allah’s laws as codified in Sharia and derived from the Koran and Hadith.
The “Islamic reformation” some in the West are hoping for is really nothing less than an Islam without Islam—secularization not reformation; Muslims prioritizing secular, civic, and humanitarian laws over Allah’s law; a “reformation” that would slowly see the religion of Muhammad go into the dustbin of history.
Such a scenario is certainly more plausible than believing that Islam can be true to its scriptures in any meaningful way and still peacefully coexist with, much less complement, modernity the way Christianity does.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Why are some of the biggest Western mainstream media outlets—especially the New York Times (NYT)—often apologetic, not only for radical Islamists, but for al-Qaeda, an organization responsible for, among other atrocities, killing nearly 3000 Americans on September 11, 2001?
A recent NYT report titled “Abduction of Girls an Act Not Even Al Qaeda Can Condone” tries to exonerate al-Qaeda of the actions of another jihadi organization, Nigeria’s Boko Haram—when both groups are not only affiliated but remarkably similar in outlook and method. The report’s opening sentence summarizes its thesis: “As word spread like wildfire on Twitter and Facebook that Nigerian militants were preparing to auction off more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls in the name of Islam, a very different Internet network started quietly buzzing too,” one which, according to the NYT, reflects “the dismay of fellow jihadists at the innocent targets of Boko Haram’s violence”:
“Such news [abduction of Nigerian schoolgirls] is spread to taint the image of the Mujahedeen,” wrote one dubious poster on a web forum used by Islamic militants whose administrator uses a picture of Osama bin Laden. “I have brothers from Africa who are in this group,” attested another, insisting that they were like “the Quran walking the earth [i.e., righteous and just].”
Boko Haram, the cultlike Nigerian group that carried out the kidnappings, was rejected long ago by mainstream Muslim scholars and Islamist parties around the world for its seemingly senseless cruelty and capricious violence against civilians. But this week its stunning abduction appeared too much even for fellow militants normally eager to condone terrorist acts against the West and its allies.
“There is news that they attacked a girls’ school!” another astonished poster wrote on the same jihadi forum …
The NYT’s assertion that Boko Haram’s “stunning abduction appeared too much even for fellow militants” is strange indeed.
The fact is, this “stunning abduction” pales in comparison to the many other atrocities Boko Haram has committed, and as documented in Gatestone Institute’s Muslim Persecution of Christians series, where not a month goes by without numerous atrocities committed by the Nigerian jihadis, including the bombing or burning of hundreds of churches, especially on Christmas Day and Easter Day, which have left hundreds of worshippers dead or dismembered in the last few years.
Indeed, Boko Haram’s jihad has resulted in more Christians killed than in the rest of the world combined.
As for the recent abduction, there is certainly nothing “stunning” about it. In fact, back in 2012, Boko Haram warned that it would do just this, declaring that it was preparing to “strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women.” Before and since then it, has kidnapped, raped, and/or converted countless Christian girls.
Perhaps the only thing “stunning” is that this latest raid on schoolgirls, the majority of whom are Christian, was widely reported and managed to reach the Western mainstream.
Thus it’s not the act of abduction itself that, as the NYT puts it, is “too much even for fellow militants”—but rather that the world heard about it. Hence why Muslim clerics and the NYT had to respond—the former with formal disavowals of Boko Haram, the latter with articles like this.
Next the NYT quotes a supposed al-Qaeda expert saying, “The violence most of the African rebel groups practice makes Al Qaeda look like a bunch of schoolgirls.”
This is strange indeed. Is the incineration of nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11 the act of a “bunch of schoolgirls”? (For a long list of atrocities committed by al-Qaeda and the Taliban before September 11, 2001—many which make the recent Nigerian abduction seem like child play—click here.)
The NYT also fails to mention that most African Islamic groups waging jihad to enforce Islamic law—from Nigeria’s Boko Haram to Somalia’s al-Shabaab—are closely affiliated to al-Qaeda, often seen as regional branches of the terrorist organization.
The NYT is never the first to report on atrocities committed by jihadis against Christians and other minorities, but it is always first to try to whitewash and apologize for the jihadis’ role whenever news of jihadi atrocities appears from other media outlets. The article, by Adam Nossiter and David Kirkpatrick, continues with information that is simply false:
Its [Boko Haram’s] violence is broader and more casual than Al Qaeda or other jihadist groups. Indeed, its reputation for the mass murder of innocent civilians is strikingly inconsistent with a current push by Al Qaeda’s leaders to avoid such deaths for fear of alienating potential supporters (emphasis added).
All this is nonsense. For example, in 2012—after it had decapitated countless Christian men and women on the accusation of apostasy as well as any number of other atrocities—far from being ostracized, Somalia’s al-Shabaab was heartily welcomed into the al-Qaeda fold by Ayman Zawahiri.
As for Boko Haram, it too has deep connections to al-Qaeda. According to the United Nations Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, Boko Haram is affiliated with the core leadership of al-Qaeda as well as its nearby Maghrebi branch.
Next the NYT declares that Boko Haram’s extreme violence “was the subject of the dispute that led to Al Qaeda’s recent break with its former affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.”
This invention seems meant to distance al-Qaeda from yet another brutal savage Islamic organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS], which has also been committing any number of atrocities—including crucifying people, bombing churches, and raping non-Muslims. In reality, “atrocities” are hardly the reason for the conflict between ISIS and al-Qaeda. ISIS was committing atrocities even when it was connected to al-Qaeda. The dispute was about power politics.
Why is the NYT trying so hard to make al-Qaeda and other Islamists look better—to exonerate them of the widely exposed crimes of Boko Haram and ISIS?
If people started to connect the dots and understand that all Islamists (al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, al-Shabaab, al-Nusra Front, etc.), when they commit atrocities against non-Muslims, do it simply out of religious hate, the narrative that Western governments and mainstream media so stubbornly uphold—that al-Qaeda’s terrorism, including 9/11, is based on “grievances against the West and Israel,” and not Islamic supremacism and religious hate—would quickly unravel.
The NYT article even manages to invoke the grievance paradigm when discussing Boko Haram’s terror: “Boko Haram tapped into growing anger among northern Nigerians at their poverty and lack of opportunity as well as the humiliating abuses of the government’s security forces.” Boko Haram may well have tapped into a poverty level— most people in “developing countries,” including southern Nigeria, are poor—but the NYT totally disregards that many noted jihadis are doctors, engineers, well-educated and often affluent, including al-Qaeda leader Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohammed Atta, and Major Nidal Hasan.
A recent Danish statistical study of immigrant families even finds that “Muslims [are] 218 percent more criminal in second generation than first,” despite the fact that the second generation are more prosperous and educated than their first generation parents.
Yet the NYT insists on portraying terrorists as victims.
Al-Qaeda itself already put this question of grievances to rest. The late Osama bin Laden, in a private letter to Saudi Muslims, rhetorically asked:
Our talks with the infidel West and our conflict with them ultimately revolve around one issue… Does Islam, or does it not, force people by the power of the sword to submit to its authority corporeally if not spiritually? Yes. There are only three choices in Islam… Either submit, or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.
Friday, June 06, 2014
Evidence has again emerged indicting that if Western mainstream media actually reported more on the sufferings of Christians throughout the Islamic world, their lot would likely improve.
Meriam Ibrahim, a woman who is imprisoned in Sudan and sentenced to death on the charge that she apostatized from Islam and converted to Christianity—and who recently gave birth to a baby girl in prison—was reportedly going to “be freed in a few days,” according to a BBC report:
Abdullahi Alzareg, an under-secretary at the foreign ministry, said Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman.
Khartoum has been facing international condemnation over the death sentence.
In an interview with The Times newspaper, British Prime Minister David Cameron described the ruling as “barbaric” and out of step with today’s world (emphasis added).
Of course, soon after the BBC reported that Ibrahim would be freed, other reports appeared indicating that that is only a rumor—one that the BBC, which regularly tries to minimize the specter of Muslim persecution of Christians, jumped on—that Sudan was merely trying to save face before the international community.
According to the imprisoned Christian woman’s husband: “No Sudanese or foreign mediator contacted me. Maybe there are contacts between the Sudanese government and foreign sides that I’m not aware of.”
At any rate, why did Sudan say Ibrahim was going to be released? After all and despite what Sudan’s under-secretary says—that “Sudan guaranteed religious freedom and was committed to protecting the woman”—Khartoum’s Islamist government upholds Islam’s apostasy law, which actually guarantees that born Muslims do not have “religious freedom.”
As just one example, back in June 2012 in Sudan, a Muslim woman divorced her husband after he converted to Christianity. The court automatically granted her custody of their two sons (according to Islamic law, children of divorced parents are to remain with the father, but if the latter is an apostate, they go to the mother). When the father tried to visit his children, his ex-wife threatened to notify authorities. “They might take the case to a prosecution court, which might lead to my sentencing to death according to Islamic apostasy law—but I am ready for this,” the Christian man had said. “I want the world to know this. What crime have I done?”
And that’s the whole difference: “the world” did not “know this,” whereas the major media did report on Ibrahim’s plight, thereby exposing Sudan to international condemnation.
Precedents of this phenomenon—international outrage prompting Islamist governments to rethink their abuse of Christians—have occurred in other Muslim countries.
For example, back in September 2012, two other Christians under arrest and awaiting execution in the Islamic world—one, like Sudan’s Ibrahim, charged with apostasy in Iran, the other with blasphemy in Pakistan—were also released, but only after much widespread international condemnation, that is, only after the mainstream media exposed their plight.
As CNN had reported:
A Christian pastor sentenced to death in Iran for apostasy was reunited with his family Saturday after a trial court acquitted him… Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, born to Muslim parents and a convert to Christianity by age 19, was released after being held in prison for almost three years under a death sentence…. His case drew international attention after his October 2009 arrest, and the 34-year-old pastor refused to recant his Christian beliefs (emphasis added).
Right around the same time, Pakistani authorities released a teenage Christian girl accused of blasphemy and facing the death penalty. Up till then, local Muslims had insisted that 14-year-old Rimsha Masih be put to death, warning that, if released, they would “take the law into their own hands.” Her case also reached the international community, sparking widespread outrage and condemnation of Pakistan.
Earlier, in 2006, one Abdul Rahman was exposed as an apostate to Christianity and subsequently arrested, incarcerated, and sentenced to death. Because his story also received widespread media attention and international condemnation—and even a phone call from the U.S. Secretary of State Rice to Afghanistan’s president—Abdul Rahman was released under the pretext that he was mentally retarded, though most sources indicated he was quite sane. (Muslim governments regularly portray apostates and blasphemers whom they wish to release as retarded, since, according to Islamic law, the insane are not responsible for their actions. Even Pakistan’s Rimsha Masih, prior to her release, was portrayed as mentally retarded.)
The point here is that such prisoners of conscience are not released because their respective governments suddenly decided to act according to universal standards of human rights. If so, they would not have arrested the accused in the first place. Nor should such releases suggest that Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, or Sudan are rethinking Islam’s apostasy and blasphemy laws, which prescribe the death penalty.
After all, there are countless more Christian “blasphemers” and “apostates” rotting on death row in all three countries, not to mention all around the Islamic world.
As with Sudan, Christians in the aforementioned countries are habitually persecuted, imprisoned, and or killed. In Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians, Iran’s persecution of apostates to Christianity is so widespread that it warrants a special “spotlight” section; Pakistan also gets a special spotlight section for its frequent arrests and imprisonments of Christian “blasphemers.”
Indeed, just days ago a Christian couple in Pakistan, one illiterate the other disabled, received the death sentence for allegedly sending “blasphemous” text messages.
However, unlike Sudan’s Ibrahim, Iran’s Nadarkhani, Pakistan’s Masih, and Afghanistan’s Rahman, the Western mainstream rarely if ever hears about these many unfortunates.
And that’s the whole difference.
Unlike the many faceless Christians persecuted all around the Islamic world, the Western mainstream media actually reported on these three, prompting public outrage, international condemnations, and in some instances the threat of diplomatic actions and/or sanctions.
For Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan such “infidels” were simply too much of a liability to punish as Sharia demands—the same Sharia, incidentally, that teaches Muslims to be lax and tolerant when in their interest, such as when the international community puts them in the spotlight.
Thus such freed Christians are a reminder of the important role the Western mainstream media can play in alleviating the sufferings of minorities throughout the Islamic world. For if they were not reported on—as the overwhelming majority of persecuted Christians are not reported on—they would surely still be in prison on death row, where so many other nameless and faceless Christians remain.
So consider the impact the mainstream media could have if they were to report the full truth and extent of Muslim persecution of Christians; if they stopped portraying the few they do report on as anomalies but rather as the tips of a very big and ugly iceberg.
The fact remains: the overwhelming majority of people in the West remain woefully ignorant of the sufferings of non-Muslims under Islam, thanks to the mainstream media’s general indifference or worse.
However, as precedent suggests, when enough people in the West do hear about them, they do act, prompting their governments and human rights groups also to act, prompting Islamist governments to realize that persecuting this or that Christian is simply not worth it.
In the case of Sudan’s Meriam Ibrahim, time will only tell if the major media will forget about or try to dismiss her story—as the BBC may be doing—or whether they will continue exposing the truth of her plight, which, at this point, is likely the only way this wife and mother who refuses to renounce Christianity for Islam can ever hope to escape execution.
Raymond Ibrahim, a CBN News contributor, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians and The Al Qaeda Reader. He is also Shillman Fellow, David Horowitz Freedom Center; Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum; and Media Fellow 2013, Hoover Institution.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
A recent New York Times article exemplifies why the Times simply cannot be trusted. Written by one David Kirkpatrick and titled “Vow of Freedom of Religion Goes Unkept in Egypt,” the article disingenuously interprets some general truths in an effort to validate its thesis.
Much of this is done by omitting relevant facts that provide needed context. For example, Kirkpatrick makes Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the military—widely recognized as the heroes of the June 2013 revolution that toppled former President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood—appear responsible for the poor state of religious freedom in Egypt, when in fact the military has no authority over the judicial system, which is independent.
Even so, there is much evidence that Egypt, while far from becoming a Western-style democracy, is on the right path—one certainly better than under the Muslim Brotherhood. But these are seldom mentioned in the NYT report. Most recently, for example, the military-backed government jailed a popular Islamic scholar for contempt against Christianity—something that never happened under Morsi, when clerics were regularly and openly condemning and mocking Christians.
Similarly, Sheikh Yassir Burhami, the face of Egypt’s Salafi movement, is facing prosecution for contempt against Christianity for stating that Easter is an “infidel” celebration and that Muslims should not congratulate Christians during Easter celebrations. Previously under Morsi, Burhami was free to say even worse—including issuing a fatwa banning taxi drivers from transporting Christian priests to their churches.
Some positive developments are twisted to look as attacks on religious freedom. Kirkpatrick complains that “The new government has tightened its grip on mosques, pushing imams to follow state-approved sermons,” as if that is some sort of infringement on their rights, when in fact, mosques are the primary grounds where Muslims are radicalized to violence, especially against religious minorities like Coptic Christians, amply demonstrated by the fact that the overwhelming majority of attacks on churches and Christians occur on Friday, the one day of the week when Muslims congregate in mosques and listen to sermons.
“State-approved sermons” are much more moderate and pluralistic in nature and the government’s way of keeping radicals and extremists from mosque podiums.
If Kirkpatrick truly cared about the religious freedom of Egypt’s minorities, he would laud this move by the government, instead of trying to portray it as an infringement of the rights of the radicals to “freely” preach hate.
Another positive development overlooked by the article is that Egypt’s native church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, was involved in drafting the new, post-Morsi constitution, and was allowed to voice its opinion over controversial Article Two, which deals with how influential Islamic Sharia will be in governing society. The Church accepted a more moderate version than the previous one articulated under Morsi, which the Church as well as millions of Egyptian Muslims, were against due to its draconian, Islamist nature.
Speaking of the Copts—who are Egypt’s litmus test concerning religious freedom—a closer examination of them alone demonstrates the disingenuous nature of Kirkpatrick’s observations.
Early in the report, and in the context of stating that “the new military-backed government has fallen back into patterns of sectarianism that have prevailed here for decades,” Kirkpatrick asserts that “Prosecutors continue to jail Coptic Christians …. on charges of contempt of religion.”
Interestingly, while this suggests Christians are being jailed under the current government on charges of blasphemy, a close reading reveals that that is not the case. Rather, Kirkpatrick is referring to the many Copts who were incarcerated under Morsi’s reign, some of whom still remain in jail.
Kirkpatrick seems to think that those not yet freeing Christians—due to the chaos it would likely cause among the already highly aggrieved Islamist/Salafi population—are as religiously intolerant as those who threw them in prison in the first place.
Of course, back then under Morsi, when the full extent of “legal” persecution of Christian Copts in the context of “blasphemy” was revealed, the NYT and Kirkpatrick were remarkably silent.
The dissembling continues. Writes Kirkpatrick: “Many Coptic Christians and other religious minorities cheered the military takeover because they feared the Muslim Brotherhood, a religiously exclusive movement whose leaders have a history of denigrating non-Muslims” (emphasis added).
Christians did not “fear” the Brotherhood because their leaders have a long “history of denigrating non-Muslims,” but rather because their leaders have a long history of inciting violence and hate against Christians, leading to countless attacks on Copts and their churches over the decades.
Under Morsi, Coptic Christianity’s most symbolic church and papal residence, St Mark Cathedral, was savagely attacked by an Islamist mob, aided and abetted by state security. Then, Coptic Pope Tawadros said that Morsi had “promised to do everything to protect the cathedral but in reality we don’t see this…. We need action not only words… There is no action on the ground… This flagrant assault on a national symbol, the Egyptian church, has never been subjected to this in 2,000 years.”
Also speaking of the Copts, Egypt’s litmus test on religious freedom, Kirkpatrick fails to inform his readership that due to Muslim Brotherhood incitement against them for participating in the June revolution against Morsi, in “retaliation,” some 80 churches in Egypt were bombed, burned, or simply attacked by Brotherhood supporters.
And, also left unsaid by the NYT, it was Sisi who pledged that the armed forces would rebuild and renovate the destroyed churches. According to church officials, the army will be done renovating and rebuilding 16 of the churches destroyed by the Brotherhood by the end of June, at which point they will begin phase two of renovating the rest of churches.
Far from pointing this out, Kirkpatrick implies Sisi is indifferent to the Copts, writing for example that “unlike a rival presidential candidate, [Sisi] declined to attend Mass” at the Coptic cathedral during Easter. The fact is, due to Brotherhood assassination attempts—which the rival presidential candidate need not worry from—Sisi has had to decline many public events, not just Easter.
From here one can understand why Kirkpatrick’s next assertion makes perfect sense, even as he offers it with some puzzlement: “But the complaints about continued sectarianism have not deterred church leaders from firmly supporting Mr. Sisi as their protector against worse treatment by the Muslim majority. The Coptic pope, Tawadros II, has hailed Mr. Sisi as overwhelmingly popular, ‘a competent patriot’ on ‘an arduous mission,’ and ‘the one who rescued Egypt.’”
In short, when it comes to religious freedom and tolerance, the current government, although far from perfect, is also better than its Brotherhood predecessor. Hence why, not only the Coptic Church, but the majority of Egypt’s millions of Christians, support Sisi.
Needless to say, that is not the impression the Kirkpatrick gives, as he quotes an unknown Copt calling the pope’s statements which were supportive of Sisi “stupid and myopic.”
Thus it is only in the most general of ways that Kirkpatrick’s NYT article is accurate—in that, yes, religious freedom is still very problematic in Egypt, especially for minorities such as the Copts. It is true that police and security often do little to protect the Copts and their churches from Islamists–but this is partially because police stations are also under attack. Even the Coptic Pope recently confirmed that, in light of the circumstances, the police and government in general are doing much better than under Morsi.
Overlooked and ignored are the true culprits of radicalization—the Muslim Brotherhood and allied Islamists, who, through the mosques and satellite stations, have been radicalizing Egypt for decades. It will take a long time, if ever, to eradicate their influence, but the post-Brotherhood government is a first step in the right direction—despite the NYT’s nonstop propaganda to whitewash the Muslim Brotherhood and sometimes even al-Qaeda.
Raymond Ibrahim, a CBN News contributor, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians and The Al Qaeda Reader. He is also Shillman Fellow, David Horowitz Freedom Center; Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum; and Media Fellow 2013, Hoover Institution.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Islamic law permits the possession of concubines, or sex slaves. This has been demonstrated countless times, including through Islamic clerics quoting Islamic scriptures, and through ordinary Muslims, past and present, acting on it.
That said, Islamic sanctioned sex-slavery does not perturb the Western world simply because the powers-that-be—specifically academia, media, and government—ignore it, and all other unsavory phenomena associated with Islam, out of existence.
Interesting, therefore, are the responses from the authorities—comical one might even say—when one of these everyday anecdotes actually does surface to the general public.
Enter the recent abduction of nearly 300, mostly Christian, teenage schoolgirls in Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram, yet another Islamic terrorist organization plaguing mankind. As expected, the group justified its actions in Islamic terms, with its leader declaring on video, “I abducted your girls. I will sell them on the market, by Allah….There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell.”
Of course, for those in the know, none of this is surprising. In March 2012, Boko Haram warned that it would do just this, declaring that it was preparing to “strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women.”
Moreover, of all the human rights abuses I catalog in Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians—and these are depressingly many—Boko Haram’s has resulted in more Christians killed than in the rest of the world combined.
The group has bombed or burned hundreds of Christian churches in the last several years, most when packed for service, including on Christmas Day and Easter Day, leaving countless worshippers dead or dismembered. In its bid to cleanse northern Nigeria of all Christian presence—a repeatedly stated goal—it has threatened to poison the food eaten by Christians and stormed areas where Christians and Muslims were intermingled, singling the Christians out before slitting their throats.
Go to my monthly “Muslim Persecution of Christians” series (currently 31 in all), and see the innumerable atrocities that Boko Haram has been responsible for in the last two-and-a-half years—many of which make the recent Nigerian girls’ abduction pale in comparison.
The real news here is that the so-called mainstream media, which generally downplays or ignores Boko Haram’s terror campaign (see here for example), actually reported on this particular atrocity, prompting both Western and Muslim authorities—who are much more accustomed to, and comfortable with, pretending these sorts of things don’t exist—to respond in awkward, hypocritical and, in a word, foolish, ways. Thus,
Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. had been in touch with Nigeria “from day one” of the crisis. But repeated offers of U.S. assistance were ignored until Kerry got on the phone Tuesday with [Nigerian president] Jonathan amid growing international concern and outrage over the fate of the girls in the weeks since their abduction…. “I think now the complications that have arisen have convinced everybody that there needs to be a greater effort,” Kerry said at a State Department news conference. “And it will begin immediately. I mean, literally, immediately.”
“Convinced everybody”? Is Kerry referring to himself? After all, there might not have been any need for “greater effort,” the need to act “immediately. I mean, literally, immediately” had Kerry only let the Nigerian president and government do their job one year ago, when they were waging a particularly strong and successful offensive against Boko Haram in the very same region that the schoolgirls were recently kidnapped.
Back then, in May 2013, soon after Nigerian forces killed 30 Boko Haram members, Reuters reported that “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a strongly worded statement [to the Nigerian president] saying: “We are … deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism” from Boko Haram.
Perhaps this sheds more light on why “repeated offers of U.S. assistance [regarding the kidnapped girls] were ignored” by Nigeria, “until Kerry got on the phone” (whatever that means).
As for Kerry’s predecessor, Hillary Clinton, who is now bemoaning the lot of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria—saying it’s “abominable, it’s criminal, it’s an act of terrorism and it really merits the fullest response possible”—when she was Secretary of State, and in a position to help offer “the fullest response possible” she repeatedly refused to designate Boko Haram as a “foreign terrorist organizations,” despite the countless atrocities it had already committed, despite the fact that it had boasted it would “strike fear into the Christians of the power of Islam by kidnapping their women,” as it just has, and despite urging from the CIA, FBI, Justice Department, and several congressmen and senators.
Her logic was once voiced by her husband, former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Back in February 2012, in a speech in Nigeria, Clinton declared that “inequality” and “poverty” are “what’s fueling all this stuff”—a reference to Boko Haram’s terror—and warned the government that “It is almost impossible to cure a problem based on violence with violence”—a precursor to Kerry’s May 2013 condemnation of the Nigerian government’s tough offensive against Boko Haram, which would supposedly “only escalate the violence and fuel extremism.”
In short, just like the Obama administration has been a thorn in Egypt’s war with the Muslim Brotherhood, so too has it been a thorn in Nigeria’s war with Boko Haram—despite all its current handwringing and “outrage” over this latest—that is, known—atrocity.
As for the “Islam” aspect of Boko Haram’s violence and Christian persecution, needless to say the Obama administration rejects it outright. Thus, after the 2012 Easter Day church bombings by Boko Haram that killed dozens of worshippers, U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson was quick to insist that “religion is not driving extremist violence”—or, in the aforementioned words of Bill Clinton, “inequality” and “poverty” are “what’s fueling all this stuff.”
Still, because this latest kidnapping anecdote has received sufficient media attention, including in the Arab and Muslim worlds, some Muslim leaders have been forced out of their comfort zone to respond.
Thus, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayib, the Grand Sheikh of Egypt’s Al Azhar—regularly touted as the Muslim world’s most prestigious institution of Islamic learning—was quick to condemn Boko Haram’s actions of kidnapping and selling “infidel” women, saying, “these actions have no connection to the tolerant and noble teachings of Islam.”
As for Egypt’s minister of endowments, Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar al-Gum‘a, he too released a statement saying that “the terrorist deeds of Boko Haram have nothing to do with Islam, especially this latest deed of kidnapping girls. Instead, they are terroristic, criminal actions, and Islam is clean of them.” He then went into White House spokesperson mode, saying that poverty, economics, and the rest were the true motivators for Boko Haram’s savagery.
One can sympathize with Egypt’s state sheikhs—after all, they are busy fighting their own brand of Islam misunderstanders, the Muslim Brotherhood and their fellow ideologues, who have been abducting male Coptic Christians for ransom and females for sexual abuse, slavery, and/or conversion to Islam.
Happily for these moderate clerics, few are openly challenging their assertions that Islam is clean of Boko Haram’s actions. Based on precedent, they often have no response and can become hostile.
For example, some years back, when Sheikh Gamal Qutb, a one-time Grand Mufti of Al Azhar, was asked on live Arabic-language TV if Islam permits sex slaves, he refused to give a direct answer, preferring to prevaricate. When pressed for a clear answer by the Muslim female host, he became hostile and stormed off the set. He eventually returned, only to be implored again by the host, who said, “Ninety percent of Muslims, including myself, do not understand the issue of sex slavery in Islam and are having a hard time swallowing it,” to which he gruffly responded, “You don’t need to understand!”
And there you have it. From Obama administration officials who helped empower Nigeria’s Islamic terrorists, only to wring their hands and feign outrage now at their behavior, to Islamic clerics who confidently dismiss accusations against Islam, only to put their heads in the sand and hope no one calls them out—here is just a small example of what officialdom would have to deal with if the full totality of crimes committed in the name of Islam were to become common knowledge.
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Several are the important lessons learned from last year’s “Brave German Woman” incident.
Context: On November 10, 2013, a Muslim imam was invited to give the Islamic call to prayer inside the Memorial Church of the Reformation in the city of Speyer, Germany—a church dedicated to honoring Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation.
“When the brave German woman, whose real name is Heidi Mund, heard about the event, she prayed,” reports CBN News. Not sure what she would do upon arrival, she grabbed her German flag emblazoned with the words “Jesus Christ is Lord” and headed for the concert:
“Until the imam started with his shouting [“Allahu Akbar!”], I did not really know what to do. I was just prepared for what God wants me to do,” she told CBN News.
Then the Muslim call to prayer began, and Heidi said she felt something rising up inside her.
“I would call it a holy anger,” she recounted. “And then I rose with my flag and I was calling and proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord over Germany”…
And she repeated the words of Martin Luther in 1521 after he refused to recant his faith in scripture alone: “Here I stand. I can do no other” and “Save the church of Martin Luther!”
Video shows another concert-goer trying to calm her by saying, “This is a concert for peace.”
Mund can be heard responding in German, “No it’s not! Allahu Akbar is what Muslims scream while murdering people! Don’t be fooled! Don’t be fooled! This is a lie!”
She was thrown out of the church.
“They should have thrown the imam out and not me because I am a believer in Jesus Christ, but he serves another god. This Allah is not the same god. And this is not the truth.”
“This ‘allahu akbar,’ they use it when they kill people,” she argued. “This is, for me, worship to an idol, to their god. And when a Muslim calls ‘allahu akbar’ in a church, that means this church is not a church anymore, it’s a mosque.”
For more details on this story, check out CBN News’ various interviews and videos of and with Mund.
Now for some lessons concerning the significance of this anecdote:
Mund’s observations about the phrase “Allahu Akbar” are spot-on. Islam’s war cry, signifying the superiority of Muhammad’s religion over all things, the takbir (“Allahu Akbar”), is habitually proclaimed in violent contexts, specifically attacking and slaughtering non-Muslims, whether beheading “infidels” or bombing churches.
Muhammad himself used to cry it aloud prior to attacking non-Muslim tribes that refused to submit to his authority and religion.
Accordingly, Mund’s outrage at hearing an Islamic imam hollering out Islamic supremacist slogans is justified. Proclaimed in a church, “Allahu Akbar”—which in translation literally means “Allah is greater [than X]”—means “Allahu is greater than the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible, and Father of Christ.”
And assuming the imam proclaimed Islam’s credo or shehada as is standard in the Muslim call to prayer (that “there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”) that too is tantamount to declaring that the biblical God is false, and the message (or Koran) delivered by Muhammad—which includes a denunciation of Christ’s divinity, death, and resurrection—is true (see for examples Koran 4:157, 4:171, 5:17, 5:116, 9:30-31, 19:35).
This is precisely what the vandal who earlier painted in Arabic the phrase “Allahu Akbar” across the door of another German church likely had in mind.
Yet despite all this, despite the fact that only two or three generations ago, almost every Christian would have been incensed to hear a Muslim shouting Islamic slogans that by nature contradict Christianity inside a church, Mund was chastised by fellow Christians for her stand and kicked out.
This speaks volumes about how far Western European nations have plummeted into a cesspool of moral relativism, where even in prominent churches Christian truths are attacked, and those who take a stand are ostracized for being “intolerant”; it speaks of the naivety and nihilism that predominate in the West; of the effects of years of brainwashing and indoctrination in the name of “multiculturalism,” crippling the ability to think rationally; of how political correctness has censored not only words but the ability for people to connect-the-dots in the quiet of their own minds.
There is, however, a flipside to all this: Mund’s video denouncing the imam “went viral,” says CBN News, signifying its appeal; and many who saw it interpreted her actions as “brave”—hence the appellation. “Bravery” often refers to an act that, while laudable, few have the courage to do. That this title is so naturally and widely applied to Mund suggests that there are many who agree with her; they just lack the same courage, or conviction, to take a vocal stand—hence why she is the “Brave German Woman.”
The fact is, beneath Western Europe’s nihilistic veneer, many there would agree with Mund’s sentiments. Not all are sheep. But due to the aforementioned forces—decades of indoctrination in militant secularism/atheism, multiculturalism, Christian-bashing, and political correctness—they are unable to articulate their grievance.
Yet, whether they are able to express it or not, they remain disgruntled at Muslim affronts and weak responses from European elites.
After all, Muslims hollering Islamic slogans inside European churches is not quite an infrequent phenomenon. Last Christmas, the Chaplain of Royal Holloway University invited a veiled Muslim woman to read Koran verses during church service, again, despite the fact that the Koran contradicts the key tenets of Christianity.
Sometimes Muslims “invite” themselves to churches. Thus, days ago, also in the UK, a Muslim man—“dressed like a terrorist” and wearing a bandana with the Arabic phrase, “Allahu Akbar”—entered a church during service and started yelling things like “ this is rubbish, you should be preaching Allah, turn to Islam, we send boys of 10 to war.”
And last Easter in France saw a Muslim man dressed in traditional Islamic attire enter a church during mass, set up his carpet next to the altar
This is to say nothing of the violent crimes and rapes Muslims are increasingly responsible for in Europe.
The point is, more and more Western Europeans are becoming disgruntled, even if most are not yet “brave” enough to show it, and even if the powers-that-be, including media and government, continue to downplay and suppress them.
Days ago, for example, Britain’s Liberty GB party leader Paul Weston was arrested and is facing up to two-years’ jail time simply for quoting Winston Churchill’s unflattering observations about Islam in public.
In short, time will tell whether the powers-that-be will allow legitimate criticism of Islam to vent in Europe, or whether they will continue to suppress it—until the simmering cauldron of discontent spills over in ways much more dramatic than quoting Luther or Churchill, as has happened all too often in European history.
Raymond Ibrahim, a CBN News contributor, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians. He is also Shillman Fellow, David Horowitz Freedom Center; Judith Friedman Rosen Writing Fellow, Middle East Forum; and Media Fellow 2013, Hoover Institution.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
According to Sham Times and other Arabic websites, jihadi social media networks posted the above picture of a child sitting on the ground while surrounded by armed men pointing their rifles at him. The caption appearing with the picture, purportedly posted by a supporter of the Free Syrian Army, is “Our youngest hostage from among the hostile sects of Kessab.”
Kessab is a predominantly Christian Armenian village in Syria near the Turkish border. Earlier it was invaded by jihadis, who terrorized, pillaged churches, and prompted some 2000 residents to flee. Initial reports had stated that about a dozen families remained as hostages.
Since the picture appeared on Arabic social media, many have expressed shock and outrage, condemning the Syrian “rebels,” while others cast doubt on the authenticity of the picture.
Of course, those wondering what the jihadis have to gain from taking such a picture and making it public would do well to remember that these are the same “rebels” who decapitate people and wave their severed and bloodied heads in front of cameras while smiling; these are the same “freedom fighters” who literally eat their victims on camera.
Surely “teasing” an infidel toddler – a subhuman – with their rifles and sharing it with their sadistic comrades via the Internet for a “laugh” should not be too surprising?
At any rate, the fact remains: the “Free Syrian Army,” along with other “rebel” groups operating in Syria, are guilty of countless barbaric crimes against humanity — including against women and children.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Who is ultimately responsible for the ongoing attacks on Christians and their churches throughout the Islamic world?
Focusing on one of the most obvious nations where Christians are regularly targeted—Egypt’s Coptic Christians—one finds that the “mob” is the most visible and obvious culprit. One Copt accused of some transgression against Muslim sensibilities—from having relations with a Muslim woman, to ruining a Muslim man’s shirt—is often enough to prompt Muslim mobs to destroy entire Christian villages and their churches.
Days ago, for example, after her cross identified Mary Saleh George as a Christian, a pro-Muslim Brotherhood mob attacked, beat, tortured, and slaughtered her.
However, a recent Arabic op-ed titled “Find the True Killer of Mary” attempts to look beyond the mob to identify the true persecutor of Christians in Egypt. According to the op-ed:
Those who killed the young and vulnerable Mary Saleh George, for hanging a cross in her car, are not criminals, but rather wretches who follow those who legalized for them murder, lynching, dismemberment, and the stripping bare of young Christian girls—without every saying “kill.” [Islamic cleric] Yassir Burhami and his colleagues who announce their hate for Christians throughout satellite channels and in mosques—claiming that hatred of Christians is synonymous with love for God—they are the true killers who need to be tried and prosecuted… The slayers of Mary Saleh are simply a wretched mob, with the body of a bull but the brain of a worm. It’s not the puppets on the string who need punishing, but rather the mastermind who moves the puppets with his bloody fingers behind closed curtains that needs punishing.
One fact certainly validates this Arabic op-ed’s assertions: the overwhelming majority of attacks on Christians in Egypt and other Muslim nations—including the slaughter of Mary Saleh George—occur on Friday, the one day of the week that Muslims congregate in mosques for communal prayers and to hear sermons.
The significance of this fact can easily be understood by analogy: what if Christians were especially and consistently violent to non-Christian minorities on Sunday—right after they got out of church? What would that say about what goes on in Christian churches?
What does it say about what goes on in Muslim mosques?
The Arabic op-ed also does well to name Sheikh Yassir al-Burhami as one of those who “announce their hate for Christians throughout the satellite channels and in mosques, claiming that hatred of Christians is synonymous with love for God.”
For example, Dr. Burhami—the face of Egypt’s Salafi movement—once issued a fatwa, or Islamic edict, forbidding Muslim taxi and bus drivers from transporting Coptic Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.”
As for hating non-Muslim “infidels,” many Islamic clerics, especially Salafis, believe that the doctrine of “Loyalty and Enmity” (or wala' wa bara') commands Muslims never to befriend or be loyal to non-Muslims.
Burhami himself appears on video asserting that if a Muslim man marries a Christian or Jewish woman (known in Islamic parlance as “People of the Book”)—even he must still hate his wife, because she is an infidel.
When asked at a conference how Islam can allow a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman and yet expect him to hate her, Burhami expounded as follows:
Where’s the objection? Do all men love their wives? How many married couples live together despite disagreements and problems? Huh? That being the case, he [Muslim husband] may love the way she [non-Muslim wife] looks, or love the way she raises the children, or love that she has money. This is why he’s discouraged from marrying among the People of the Book—because she has no [real] religion. He is ordered to make her hate her religion while continuing marriage/sexual relations with her. This is a very standard matter…. Of course he should tell her that he hates her religion. He must show her that he hates her because of her religion, and because she is an infidel. But if possible, treat her well—perhaps that will cause her to convert to Islam. He should invite her to Islam and call her to Allah…. In fact, let me tell you: whoever rapes a woman, does he necessarily love her? Or is he just sleeping with her? He’s sleeping with her for her body’s sake only, and he does not love her in reality, because if he loved her, he wouldn’t have hurt her. Therefore it is possible to have sexual relations [between a Muslim man and a Christian or Jewish woman] without love. This is possible, but as we said, he is commanded to hate her (emphasis added).
Burhami even said that the Muslim husband cannot initiate greetings to his non-Muslim wife when he comes home—according to the teachings of Islam’s prophet as recorded in the hadith.
Like all other Islamic clerics, Burhami justified “infidel-wife-hating” by quoting some of the Koran verses that form the cornerstone of the doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity:
Otherwise what do you do with the undisputed texts [of the Koran], such as “Thou wilt not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist [or reject submission to] Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred… “O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors…” [Koran 58:22 and 5:51, Yusuf Ali translation]. What do you do with such a verse? What do you do will all these verses?
Indeed, what does a Muslim do with all these Koran verses and sayings attributed to Islam’s prophet Muhammad?
Such is the dilemma.
From here it becomes clear that the aforementioned Arabic op-ed discussing the slaughter of Mary Saleh George is only partially correct. It is true that behind the mindless mob stand Islamic clerics like Burhami, inciting hatred for Christians and other infidels. But that is not the complete picture; for behind all these clerics stand Islam’s scriptures—the Koran and hadith—commanding enmity for the infidel.
Raymond Ibrahim, a CBN News analyst, is author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians.