Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Water and Living Water?

Water is what the Arab World needs desparately. The Economist had an article about the lack of water, and this week the IHT has an article that focuses on Cairo. Can you believe it, 40% of Cairo does not have clean water in the home. The whole Arab World suffers and the combination of drought, population growth and industrialization is a drama.

How should we as expats in the Arab World live, work and testify to Christ with this water-issue in mind?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can Muslims marry 9 year old girls? Fatwa Fights

Morocco’s top body of Islamic scholars has condemned a Muslim theologian for issuing a religious decree that girls as young as nine years old can marry. The high council of Ulemas “denounces the utilisation of religion to legitimise the marriage of nine-year-old girls”, it said in a statement on Sunday. Sheikh Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al-Maghraoui earlier this month said the marriage of nine-year-old girls was allowed by Islam as the Prophet Mohammed consummated the marriage to one of his wives when she was that age.

Eh brothers, why is this 'utilization of religion'? If the prophet's example and words are not acceptable, how should Muslims then decide about rights and wrong?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why bother about contextualization....

If we see that our beloved Saudi Muslims sisters just loooove Oprah Winfrey, why would we worry about contextualizing our Christian message ;-)

When "The Oprah Winfrey Show" was first broadcast in Saudi Arabia in November 2004 on a Dubai-based satellite channel, it became an immediate sensation among young Saudi women. Within months, it had become the highest-rated English-language program among women 25 and younger, an age group that makes up about a third of Saudi Arabia's population. ... More HERE in the New York Times

The Quran Loves You

How does an imam and a hafiz of the Qur'an, maintain his spiritual life? In an interesting interview in Egypt Today, Sheikh Mohamed Gebril answers the question. Some statements caught my attention particularly:
When I read the Qur’an, God will speak to me directly, and if anyone wants to speak to God then he should read His book – and what an honor it is to read it.
Does he suggest that reading the Qur'an is the best way to speak to God? I think he does mean that. A rather liturgical style of religion.
One must choose the proper time to review and study the Qur’an. One’s mind should not be busy with other matters, as the Qur’an gets jealous and likes to be the focus of attention. If you love the Qur’an then you will be loved back, and if you neglect it then you will be neglected.
The Qur'an loves you? We knew it of course, in Islam God himself is distant, and his book is near. I find it interesting to see how this teacher of Islam idolizes the book, because that is what it seems to be. Just as we sometimes meet Christians who kiss their Bible as if it is God himself.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mission and Dictatorship

On 20 August, Gaddafi's son Seif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, shared a gem of insight with the world. When he announced his withdrawal from political life, he stated:
The Arab nations live in a forest governed by dictatorships that have imaginary parliaments and constitutions.
I believe these dictatorships are one major stumbling block for Christian mission in the Arab World, as they make it very hard for muslims to become followers of Christ. I am often asked why Muslims are so resistant against the Gospel; I usually point to the happy marriage between the dictatorships and Islam. In general, the dictators are upheld by Muslims society, as long as they speak the language of Islam. And that is what they do, especially in the realm of conversions to the Christian faith.

I do not think Muslims are more resistant to the Gospel than anyone else. Their rulers and society make it, however, rather hard to seriously consider the option of giving one's allegiance to Jesus Christ.

What we need is not new methods, new 'keys to the heart of Muslims', new contextual mission, what we need is true democracy. I believe that the Church in the Arab World and beyond should have democracy in the Arab World high in its banner. Not in the sense of one-man-one-vote only, but also in the sense of upholding the right of each individual to make his own choices, lead the life he likes, andf believe what he wants to believe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Islam Lite

The Coptic priest, Abuna Zakaria, has a bounty on his head of 60 million dollars by al-Qaida, it seems. Read more on him HERE. It is interesting how one evangelist on TV in the Arab World can upset muslims so badly. I guess this is because he invites Muslims to read their own sources, Qur'an and ahadith, and asks them whether what they read is credible. Oh, the doubts he is sowing in Muslim minds!

Until the 1950s, hadly any Muslim in teh Arab World coud read Arabic, and you can argue, that this was a main reason for Islam to be rather heterodox in the Arab World. Then many people became literate, and Islam became more a fundamentalist religion of the book. Bad habits and beliefs were rejected. And now, these literate Muslims are facing the darker sides of what Islam officially teaches. Very upsetting for many. Is that maybe why at the moment, a more 'evangelical' style Islam is in vogue? An Islam that hardly looks at its sources, but that is a sort of 'Islam lite' that can speak of loving God, the love of God, serving other people, and where Muslims sing a sort of praise and worship music for Allah, thei beloved?

Is this Sufism revived? Look on the website of one of the very popular Islam Lite preachers, Moez Masoud, and you see him quote Rumi. Moez is miles apart from what Islam considered traditionally a preacher - he speaks to his audiences in a very conversational style, brings in musicians, and gives his young audiences a great evening in which they realize again that Islam is a religion of peace and love for God, and that Muhammad al-rasul allah is truly to be loved, and that critics like Abuna Zakaria are totally wrong.

Very worrying indeed: the criminalization of criticizing Islam

Our brother Rev Bassam Madany pointed me to this important article in the Wall Street Journal. There are strange happenings in the world of international jurisprudence that do not bode well for the future of free speech. In an unprecedented case, a Jordanian court is prosecuting 12 Europeans in an extraterritorial attempt to silence the debate on radical Islam.

The prosecutor general in Amman charged the 12 with blasphemy, demeaning Islam and Muslim feelings, and slandering and insulting the prophet Muhammad in violation of the Jordanian Penal Code. The charges are especially unusual because the alleged violations were not committed on Jordanian soil.

The Wall Street Journal has more on this. I find this VERY worrying indeed. Our liberty to even share our Christian views on Islam may be at stake. We better speak our before it is too late.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Islam group urges jihad by forest fires

AUSTRALIA has been singled out as a target for "forest jihad" by a group of Islamic extremists urging Muslims to deliberately light bushfires as a weapon of terror. US intelligence channels earlier this year identified a website calling on Muslims in Australia, the US, Europe and Russia to "start forest fires", claiming "scholars have justified chopping down and burning the infidels' forests when they do the same to our lands".

The website, posted by a group called the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network, argues in Arabic that lighting fires is an effective form of terrorism justified in Islamic law under the "eye for an eye" doctrine.
More can be found HERE.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Happy birthday to you..... NO! HARAAM!!!!

Shortly after prominent Saudi cleric Salman al-Audah said on Saudi television that it was OK to celebrate birthdays for Moslems, the country’s grand mufti and top religious authority, Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al Sheik, responded saying that celebrating birthdays is a foreign innovation - a Christian one - and, as such, forbidden.”Christians have Mother’s Day, an eid for trees, and an eid for every occasion,” the enlightened and highly intelligent Al Sheik said. The previous mufti, Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Baz, also considered it haram, forbidden, to celebrate birthdays. “It’s not permissible to take part in them,” he said. “Birthday parties are an innovation … and people are in no need of innovations,” this great Saudi Arabian thinker said several years ago.

What is most interesting about this recent debate is that al-Audah broke with his fellow leading clerics publicly. Birthdays are considered ‘forbidden’ by most Saudis, especially by the religious leaders. They do not even support celebrating the birthday of the prophet Mohammed.

Al-Audah obviously disagrees with that, believing it to be fine if people want to celebrate their own or someone else’s birthday. He did, however, point out that one should not call birthday’s eid. The reason for this is that an eid should be strictly religious, according to al-Audah that is. Eid is an Arabic word meaning “feast.” For more on this see HERE

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Troubles ahead in the Arabian Gulf?

The Economist has an interesting article on Expat Labour in the Arabian Gulf. The local populatiuon is increasingly worries about how their culture is changing. Hey, that is the culture of Islam that is being changed. The countries there want economic growth, but this is only possible with expat labour. In the UAE, 90% of labour in the private sector, is expat. The population is growing at an explosive rate, from 4.3 million in 2005 to 6 million now.

Just imagine... in many Gulf states the majority is expat. How will this impact the religious situation in the holy lands of Islam in the years ahead? More in The Economist.