Thursday, October 30, 2008

FREE book by Martin Kramer: Ivory Towers on Sand

Ivory Towers on Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America by Martin Kramer is available for free as a pdf file. This book was published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Washington DC, US.

The book appeared six weeks after 9/11 and had a great impact as it discusses the presuppositions of the American institutes that made them complety miss what was happening inside the world of Islam.
Download the book from HERE.

Table of Contents:
An American Invention;
Said's Splash;
Islam Obscured;
Misstating the State;
The Beltway Barrier;
The Cultivation of Irrelevance;
Conclusion: When Gods Fail;

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Muslim convert to Catholicism tells Pope Islam is not inherently good

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The Muslim-born journalist baptized by Pope Benedict XVI at Easter asked the pope to tell his top aide for relations with Muslims that Islam is not an intrinsically good religion and that Islamic terrorism is not the result of a minority gone astray.

As the Vatican was preparing to host the first meeting of the Catholic-Muslim Forum Nov. 4-6, Magdi Allam, a longtime critic of the Muslim faith of his parents, issued an open letter to Pope Benedict that included criticism of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. In the letter, posted on his Web site Oct. 20, Allam said he wanted to tell the Pope of his concern for “the serious religious and ethical straying that has infiltrated and spread within the heart of the church.”

He told the Pope that it “is vital for the common good of the Catholic Church, the general interest of Christianity and of Western civilization itself” that the Pope make a pronouncement in “a clear and binding way” on the question of whether Islam is a valid religion. The Catholic Church’s dialogue with Islam is based on the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions (”Nostra Aetate”), which urged esteem for Muslims because “they adore the one God,” strive to follow his will, recognize Jesus as a prophet, honor his mother, Mary, “value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”

The council called on Catholics and Muslims “to work sincerely for mutual understanding” and for social justice, moral values, peace and freedom. Allam told Pope Benedict he specifically objected to Cardinal Tauran telling a conference in August that Islam itself promotes peace but that “’some believers’ have ‘betrayed their faith,’” using it as a pretext for violence.

“The objective reality, I tell you with all sincerity and animated by a constructive intent, is exactly the opposite of what Cardinal Tauran imagines,” Allam told the pope. “Islamic extremism and terrorism are the mature fruit” of following “the sayings of the Quran and the thought and action of Mohammed.”

Fighting for Muslim women’s rights

Some of the world’s leading Islamic feminists have been gathered in Barcelona for the third International Congress on Islamic Feminism, to discuss the issues women face in the Muslim world. Some of the women taking part in the conference explained the problems in their home countries, and where they hoped to make progress, BBC reports.

Interesting are the comments of Asma Barlas, a Pakistani author. She commented thatr religions
...always come into cultures, they don’t come into abstract and pure spaces. Islam came into a very patriarchal, tribal and misogynistic culture. One of the deepest damages to Islam has been its reduction to “Arabisation”. I’m not going to say that the Arabs are particularly misogynistic in a way that nobody else is, but I do think there are very particular traits and attitudes towards women that have crept into Islam.
I have a friend who has been studying the interface between what he calls the Persian models and the Arabist models of Islam in the subcontinent and surprise, surprise: the Arabist models are misogynistic, authoritarian, unitarian and the Persian models are much more plural and tolerant.
This is a fight on two fronts - on the one hand we are struggling against the kinds of oppression dominant in Muslim patriarch societies and, on the other, Western perceptions of Islam as necessarily monolithic, and confusing the ideals of Islam with the reality of Muslim lives. If we read the Koran as a totality rather than pulling out random verses or half a line, that opens all kinds of possibilities for sexual equality.
Interesting how this woman suggests that Islam is not monolithic, and that it needs a new hermeneutic for interpreting the Quran. Read more on the BBC website on this conference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

FYI: 'Islam means peace...'

Among at least 24 aid workers killed in Somalia this year was one who was beheaded last month specifically for converting from Islam to Christianity, among other charges, according to an eyewitness. Muslim extremists from the al Shabab group fighting the transitional government on Sept. 23 sliced the head off of Mansuur Mohammed, 25, a World Food Program (WFP) worker, before horrified onlookers of Manyafulka village, 10 kilometers (six miles) from Baidoa.

The militants had intercepted Mohammed and a WFP driver, who managed to escape, earlier in the morning. Sources close to Mohammed’s family said he converted from Islam to Christianity in 2005. The eyewitness, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said the militants that afternoon gathered the villagers of Manyafulka, telling them that they would prepare a feast for them. Five masked men emerged, carrying guns, wielding Somali swords and dragging the handcuffed Mohammed. One recited the Quran as he proclaimed that Mohammed was a “murtid,” an Arabic term for one who converts from Islam to Christianity. Mohammed remained calm with an expressionless face, never uttering a word, said the eyewitness.

No, Islam does not mean peace. It means submission.

This news comes from the very good website of Compass Direct News.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Church and repression of media in Egypt

The MidEast News Source reports about repression of the media in Egypt. With the coming demise of president Mubarak and the appointment of his son as the new king, sorry, president, it seems the authorities try to be ready for total media control.

The Church in Egypt should dare to speak out against these repressive measures, but it will probably not do so; usually the Church is quit satisfied when radical Islam is suppressed.
Eleven media executives have been arrested in Egypt on charges of belonging to an Islamic organization affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the newspaper The Daily News Egypt.

Not only these radical Muslims but also the totally secular Cairo Media Company (CMC) is the victim of the government. It was today fined $27,000 by a local court for breach of media-related permits and possessing equipment without permits. The CMC made headlines earlier this year for distributing footage of demonstrators tearing up and stamping on posters of Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.
CMC owner Nader Gohar told Al-Jazeera that the verdict meant that he probably would be out of business within six months to a year and that five or six other media companies in Cairo were heading the same way.

The Church should be wise and show its protest against these abuses of the freedom of speech.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mistakes in the Quran

Abu Dawud pointed me to this website of some Copts, called - I assume they live in the USA. This is an organization of conservative Orthodox Christians, united in St. Mark Evangelistic Association.

One section of the website combines a lot of information on the Quran. It lists the usage of incorrect grammar, wrong spelling, and loan words than were misunderstood by Muhammad. Have a look and see whether this is useful for you. It shows the mindset of eastern Christians and how they believe they can best address Muslims.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

HIV-aids in Egypt

Yesterday a friend of mine visited from Egypt. He works for a well-known, large, international, very very very respected institute. He told me that in his organization they believe that the situation around HIV-aids in Egypt is desparate. He mentioned figures of 10-15 million people with HIV in Egypt.

I did not believe my ears - official figures speak of 20,000. So I asked again, and he confirmed that in his very respected organization, the estimation is 10-15 million. So I asked again, whether all senior staff agrees about this, and he confirmed.

So why do you not speak about this? 'We would have a massive problem with government, and we are not allowed to.'

He pointed to the army as the major hotspot, the place where HIV is contracted and transferred.

I can still hardly believe the figure. Is this credible? Easy to check, you would think, but no, Egypt does not allow research into this. My friend pointed to the high incidence of Hepatitus C and the many people dying from tuberculosis and similar ailments as confirmation.

But still, phew, is this credible? Problem is, I can assure you, the man is an expert in HIV-aids and he works, as I said, for an almighty credible institute...

Islam economy the answer to economic crisis

Shoib-bin-Mukhtar, an Islamic Scholar from Al-Azhar University spoke at a conference on the global financial debacle in the Kashmiri capital Srinagar. He said that some twenty percent of US population is trapped in deep debts, more than the assets they hold today. He informed that this debt amounted to some six trillion dollars. Mukhtar said that the “Islamic economic system has been a success for thousands of years and it is for sure going to benefit the present world as well”.

Thousands of years? If this gentleman has to teach us about economy, the Lord be with us. ”Solutions to all problems are embedded in Islam, he said adding “We should not narrow down the concept of Islamic economics to Islamic banking or finance but Islamic economics is a much broader concept and it surely has the potential to be an alternative to capitalistic economic system”.

When will Muslims wake up and ask their scholars the probing questions? Show us a Muslim country without oil, where poverty is not rampant? A society where economic development is steady and healthy? The Islamic world is lagging behind in economic, social and intellectual development. Maybe give some freedom of thought and speech to you citizens? Allow economic experiments, intellectual freedom? All those things that a healthy society needs?

More in the Kashmiri Observer.

Brothers, brothers....

Christian unity is beautiful and an important precondition for mission in the Arab World. People will see somethimg of God in our relationships if those are lived in love. That is why the ongoing fight by some denominations over rights in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem is such an aberation. Brothers! Wake up! AP carries a story on the issue. The great Coptic-Orthoodox and the fantastic Ethiopian-Orthodox Churches fighting over where to have a fire exit installed and more.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Presecution in Algeria

Courthouses in Algeria are collecting more and more Christians. Operation Mobilization reports the sentencing of five missionaries and several local believers.

The Christians received two to three years in prison plus fines, but they are appealing. Although persecution is an opportunity to witness and grow, it's also emotionally draining.

So far, 20 churches have been told to stop their activities, but they're ignoring this order. In September, six members of a house fellowship were handcuffed after the meeting and held in custody overnight. Their gathering "disturbed the faith of Muslims," and the believers were ridiculed, pressured and accused of becoming Christians for the money and visas. "The only visa we have received is that to heaven," the believers replied.

Among the Christians that visited the court in Tiaret to learn about trial results were local newspapers and internationals. Some of the cases included six believers who were sentenced to two years in prison and two believers that were going through trial again. In the first case, believers were accused of "shaking the faith of Muslims" and "holding religious meetings without permission," On top of the two-year prison sentence, the Christians were fined $5,000 euros apiece. In a separate case, two believers have to face the judge in Tiaret for a second time. Previously held for three days after being found not guilty for carrying Christian literature, the believers are facing trial again.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What level of Delusion...

Paul-André Durocher, Roman Catholic Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall writes HERE that the misuse of the Qu'ran by terrorists doesn't make Islam a religion of violence. Wow Rt Rev., that is deep. But the opposite is also not true. The fact that terrorists misuse the Qur'an does not mean that Islam is a religion of peace.

The bishop asks us who wrote: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." Yeah... we get the gist. Do not use one verse and use that for warmongering. But bishop, it is not just a verse in the Qur'an, it is all over the Qur'an. And the hadith make very very clear that the violent verses in the Qur'an are exactly that. Violent verses that are normative for the behavior of Muslims.

It would be very bad to give the impression that all Muslims are prone to violence. But bishop, you are an ostrich. Islam is, in its sources, a religion that cannot do without violence. Without violence and the fear of it, Islam cannot maintain its hold over its followers. Read man. Read!

Mosque of Jesus Christ in Madaba (Jordan)

In Madaba our muslim brothers have called a mosque the 'Mosque of 'Isa al-Masih'. They say they have done this in order to create closer ties with the Christians of the city. Dutifully those Christians said that this was such a fine idea. But do we think they really care a bit? As if naming a mosque after the foundation of our faith, makes any difference. The imam will continue to preach that 'Isa was 'just a prophet' and that he did not die on the cross.

Just imagine that a Church in Amman decides to call itself the Church of Muhammad... Why not? I happen to know many Muhammad's who go to church, as they met Jesus as he really is. But would the authorities in Amman allow such name for a Church?

Names of Mosques or Churches do not mean much. What they preach, that is the issue.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sharia is not fun

Haider Ala Hamoudi, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh, is criticizing the many fatwa's of salafi Muslims that seem to aim at taking any join out of life. Watching Mickey Mouse is haraam, the eating of certain deserts, flying kites... is Islam against joy in life?

Hamoudi considers the fatwa's 'mostly for vulgar entertainment value (it really can be funny how ridiculous some of these things get, it's my version of Jerry Springer to look through them), but I've sort of noticed a pattern'. What is the pattern? According to Hamoudi:
If I might proffer a simple, additional reason that some of this might be coming about is that for the most part, the Islamist resistance is filled with angry and frustrated people, in many cases very extreme ideologues, who don't really think very highly of fun, as might be said of ideologues the world over, whether Marxists or abortion doctor killers or whoever. To them, the world is serious business, not to be laughed at, and ideas in their purity meant to prevail. The notion that their ideas aren't entirely consistent in application (it's the world, they never will be, when you try to force the world into the consistent idea, it usually ends pretty badly) engenders a furious reaction. They don't believe it, they insist it is consistent, and pure, and comprehensive and absolute.
Interesting reading - and funny because of the examples Hamoudi uses. Read more on his website. For this very article by Hamoudi, see HERE.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Smile: Kadhafi about Barack Obama

Sorry, a bit off-topic here, but I could not resist. Elections in the USA are a permission for many transgressions.

In the last few days, I see many pro-Republican websites and blogs where the story appears that according to the Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi, Barack Obama is a Muslim of Kenyan origins who studied in Islamic schools and whose campaign may have been financed by people in the Islamic and African worlds. Kadhafi said this on TV in June. Funny how these words are now, months later, brought to us by MEMRI, the institute that exists to support Israel and that will do anything to get a Republican president elected.

I do not vote for Obama, let me ensure you that. But it is so funny how his alleged Islamic background is now 'confirmed' by no-one less than the Libyan leader. Do you know that years ago, Kadhafi said on TV that Shakespeare was an Arab Muslim who immigrated to England? His real name was Sheikh Zubayr. If you believe that to be credible, than, by all means, treat Kadhafi as a credible source of information about Obama.

Mission - Absolute Priority

Pope Benedict XVI about the need for mission:
The missionary mandate continues to be an absolute priority for all baptized persons who are called to be "servants and apostles of Christ Jesus" at the beginning of this millennium.
To be taken seriously by all baptized Christians!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Another St Francis Missiological Conference

This month, 20 or so mission practitioners from the Muslim world meet to present and discuss papers on the cutting edge of Church, Islam, and Arab World. The subjects of the papers promise great mind-stretching discussions! The papers will probably be published in the December issue of St Francis Magazine - so keep coming back!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Coptic Christian to prison... ridiculous

An Egyptian Coptic Christian woman has been sentenced to three years in prison for failing to uphold her Islamic identity – an identity she didn’t know she had for over four decades.

Sisters Shadia and Bahia Nagy El-Sisi, both in their late 40s and residents of the small east Delta town Mit-Ghamr, were arrested and tried for claiming their official religious identity as Christian. Unknown to them, their religious identity officially changed 46 years ago due to their father’s brief conversion to Islam. Both are illiterate.

Shadia El-Sisi was tried for stating her religion as Christian on her marriage certificate and sentenced to three years in prison on Nov. 21, 2007. She was released two months later. Last Sept. 23 a judge also sentenced Bahia El-Sisi to three years in prison for “forging” her marriage certificate by stating her religion as Christian. This story of Compass News can be found on OneNewsNow

Iran critical of discrimination in the world of Islam

The Iranian News Agency (IRNA) reports that 200 Iranian instructors have asked Saudi King Abdullah for stopping insults to pilgrims to the holy sites in that country. The letter reads, among other things,
Unfortunately, many cases of insult and disrespect to the followers of other sects are seen in the land of revelation near the tomb of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). ... Such acts will increase schisms among Muslims.
Muslims like to stress how united they are, but this letter shows that the shiite Muslims are not happy with how they are being treated when on pilgrimage in Mekka. The fact that this letter is published by IRNA is also an insult by Iran to Saudi Arabia, even though the language used sounds friendly. The Saudi KIng, Abdullah, is told in public by Iran that he is not implementing his role as protector of the holy sites too well.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Allah no longer has 99 most beautiful names

During the last weeks, scholars at al-Azhar have agreed to dump some of Allah's most beautiful names. The firebrand sheikh Yusuf al-Badri has even started a courtcase in Egypt to forbid any singing of the 99 most beautiful names.

What is happening to Islam? Are the foundations shaking? Ah.. it is this Coptic-Orthdox priest Zakari. On his daily TV program on LifeTV (owned by Joyce Meyer by the way...) he has been tearing these 99 names apart. And Islamic scholars had to agree with him. How can you call Allah, just to give a few examples, The Hurtful (al-Dharr), or the Useful (al-Nafia).

About 20 more names are now seen as too problematic to be used. A clear proof that the Christian TV broadcasts to the Arab World are not in vain; beside leading many to Christ (see HERE for instance), they are obviousuly impacting Islamic theology. Here the 99 names, on a Sufi website, as long as it lasts.

Training Islamic missionaries in using the media

Qatar University’s College of Shariah and Islamic Studies has started offering a new four-year programme on Da’wa (spreading the message of Islam) and media from this autumn, it was announced yesterday. Interesting is that this college not only teaches the traditional Islamic sciences, but also media and journalism. Clever of course: if you want your message to be heard, go for the media!

“The goal is to produce graduates committed to and well-versed in interaction and dialogue across the major religions and in far-reaching communities throughout the world to present Islam, its culture and its values,” said Zakaryya Abdel-Hady, head of the Department of Da’wa and Islamic Culture as well as the programme. More HERE in the Gulf Times.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mubarak proves to be a dictator

Interesting news from our brothers in Egypt... Mubarak, its president, has pardoned an outspoken newspaper editor sentenced to jail earlier this month for publishing false information about Mr. Mubarak's health. An Egyptian appeals court last month ruled that Ibrahim Eissa should spend two months in prison, prompting sharp criticism from press freedom groups and pro-democracy activists.

Eissa is editor-in-chief of the independent "Al-Dustour" daily newspaper. He was prosecuted for publishing stories last year saying President Mubarak, now 80 years old, was in poor health. A lower court originally sentenced him to six months with labor. Eissa has been facing a number of other court cases over the past year stemming from his reports critical of Egyptian leaders.

By overturning the ridiculous decision of the court, Mubarak shows the almighty power that he has. He is above the law, like all Arab rulers we live under. Thereby proving the point of Mr Eissa. Thanks to VOA for this story.

Missions Magazine

Redcliffe College in the UK published a quarterly missions magazine, Encounters, on its website. Allways useful, and sometimes focussed on mission in the Muslim world. Good reading.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Are the Arabs really Arabs?

Saudi researchers have mapped the first Arab genome in a project to put the Arab world on the global genetic map and improve healthcare. Geneticists from Saudi Biosciences say unlocking the genetic profile of 100 people from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries will help tackle medical problems in Saudi Arabia and encourage sorely-needed scientific research.

“The advantage of the project is that it studies the differences between peoples, and that will explain the spread of specific illnesses such as diabetes, heart diseases, etc.,” said Saeed al-Turki, Arab Human Genome Project Coordinator.“Twenty-five percent of the Saudi population has, or is liable to have diabetes and that will form a big burden on health services,” he said.

Almost one in four Saudis over 30 has diabetes, according to the World Health Organization. The project will help establish if the high incidence is due to a shift to urban living and rich diets among rural and Bedouin populations, as often claimed.

The project, with the backing of Prince Ahmed bin Sultan, a son of the crown prince, could also help establish a clearer picture of the historic migration of the Semitic peoples, who include Arab tribes, ancient Jews and others, from Africa into the Arabian peninsula.

There is likely to be some sensitivity in the historically and culturally diverse Middle East around the mapping, given the importance many people place on being of Arab descent. Some Muslims are keen to claim Arab ancestry because the Prophet Mohammad was an Arab, and Islam and Arabic spread hand-in-hand.

“Tribes of the Arabian peninsula will account for 50 genomes and 50 will be from other Arab nationalities such as Egypt, Syria, Libya, etc.,” said geneticist Ibrahim al-Abdelkarim. “It's a sensitive subject. People who speak Arabic call themselves Arabs but 'the Arabs' involve different groups.”

Tribes of the Arabian peninsula pride themselves on having “pure” Arab origins and there are groups throughout the Arab world that embrace and reject Arab identity.