Sunday, November 30, 2008

The truth about what’s wrong in the Arab world

Muhammad Ayish wrote a good opinion article on the launch in Cairo last week of the First Arab Cultural Development Report by the Beirut-based Arab Thought Foundation. He wrote this in The National the UAE.

The report has been received with considerable excitement around the region, not only for its significant revelations about the dire conditions of knowledge in the Arab world, but because it is the first critical account of pan-Arab cultural development to be produced by Arab intellectuals; published by an independent Arab organisation; and launched in an Arab city with rich cultural traditions.

See HERE for more.

Saudi's enjoy French art in Riyadh

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudis and foreigners crowded into a gallery at the French Embassy to view paintings and sculptures by seven Saudi women artists, the latest opening in a growing art scene in the conservative kingdom. More on this in the Washington Post.

One artist took advantage of the venue to hang an abstract painting of a woman, with one breast depicted -- a hint of nudity still taboo outside the diplomatic confines of the embassy, where Saudi Arabia's religious police cannot enter.

This week's showing in a small hall was packed with expatriates -- and, more significant, Saudis, whose presence was a reflection of the surge of interest in the arts in the kingdom in the past few years. Local art shows have been on the rise, more Saudi artists are participating in overseas exhibits, and more universities and schools are offering arts degrees. And the first nongovernmental arts society was established a year ago, with four women on its 10-member board.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"The Shi'ite Movement Has Launched a Forceful Onslaught on Egypt"

Egyptian MP Muhammad 'Ali Ibrahim, also editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Gumhouriyya, complained about the spread of the Shi'a and about Sh'ia missionary activity in Egypt. He called for the expulsion from Egypt of Shi'ite Iraqis who have settled there in recent years, and added that if the Shi'a continued to spread, Egypt would meet the same fate as Lebanon or Iraq.

As people emerged [from the mosques] following evening and Ramadan prayers in the city of Sixth of October - especially the Al-Hasri Mosque and other mosques in the Sixth District - they [were met by young boys who] handed out a book titled 'Charity that Keeps on Giving - "Bihar Al-Anwar" by Imam Al-Majlisi.' [On this occasion] the book was handed out by young boys, but on other occasions, copies [of the book] were [simply] left near the mosque entrance, so that the worshippers [could pick one up as they left] and read it. I asked a friend of mine who lives in Sixth of October to send me a copy without delay, but although he searched diligently in several mosques, he returned empty-handed - the boys who had handed out the books had vanished immediately after finishing their task. READ MORE HERE.
Amazing, how this respected leader in Egypt shows s much venom against the Shi'ites. My prediction: the Sunni-Shia divide will be the one central problem in Arab politics in the years to come.

Islam would never condone the acts of barbarity in Mumbai

I read this in an editorial of The Daily Star of Lebanon:
The atrocity that occurred on the streets of Mumbai will unfortunately add to the pressures that ordinary Muslims around the world must face in this age of the global "war on terrorism." There will be those who will point to the attacks as "proof" that Islam is part and parcel with intolerance and barbarity. Muslims will again be forced to correct the ignorance that assumes the worst about Islam by ignoring a simple truth: that no religion in the world would condone such acts of depravity, least of all Islam.
Well well, brothers... Hollow words, I fear. I would have felt relief if the terrorists in Mumbai had been Hindu's, buddhists, sikhs, atheists, communists. But guess what. When the attacks began, we all knew immediately: Muslim extremists.

Indeed, to say that Islam is behind this, would be unfair. But it is more than fair to say: an important sect of Islam is behind it. Wahhabi. Salafi. What term shall we use?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Why more missionaries go to Lebanon these days

Lebanese model, Layal Makki, has been crowned Miss Arab World -Malihat Al Arab- in a ceremony held in Beirut a few days ago. Layal, who is 22 years old, now wears the crown after Miss Arab World 2004, May Khaleel. The ceremony was hosted by Star Academy graduate Amal Al Anbary, who also entertained the attendees with a few Nancy Ajram songs and 'Fi Yom we Lela' by the end of the night.

Five Saudi Blogs

Ahmad al-Omran has a blog, Saudijeans, on which he lists these Saudi blogs in English which he likes most. Nice reading - thank you Ahmad!
  1. Crossroads Arabia: John Burgess keeps his spot on the list as he continues his daily effort to put Saudi Arabia in context. Essential reading for anyone interested in a country that is full of contradictions and paradoxes.
  2. In the Making: My friend Aysha has studies screenwriting in the US and recently came back home to tackle the absurdity of living in the capital. She seems to be coping well, but she is currently seeking a new direction for her blog. My suggestion: short stories from Riyadh.
  3. American Bedu: Carol Fleming’s blog got an honorable mention last time. Since then she moved the blog to a new domain and keeps adding valuable content. This daily updated blog is certainly one of my favourites.
  4. Hala_in_USA: I started reading for Hala al-Dossary in Arabic in al-Hayat daily where she writes regularly. She later moved to the US to study and started this English blog where we get a chance to read her observations about this experience among other things.
  5. Saudiwoman’s Blog: I’ve never met Eman al-Nafjan, but a friend of mine that I introduced to Eman blog met her and described her as one impressive Saudi woman. Some of my favourite posts on her blog include those about notable Saudi personalities.

Hate those who hate the Prophet

Among the most important indicators of one’s sincere love of the Prophet, says Shaykh ‘Abdul-’Azeez al-Qaar in the Gulf Times of Qatar, is to 'hate those who hate him and to become an enemy against those who set him as their enemy. Also, it is to stay far away from innovators and those who are enemies and opponents of his Sunnah and to reject all matters that oppose Islamic Law.'

In this article the shaykh explains that the greatest enemies of the prophet are those who believe in the Quran only, and those who deny the truth of certain ahadeeth.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Freedom FROM Speech. Whereto, United Nations?

The United Nations saw another shred of its tattered dignity stripped away November 24, when a committee of the General Assembly approved what amounts to a direct assault on Western liberal democracy. In an 85-50 vote, with 42 abstaining, the so-called Third Committee adopted a resolution, submitted by a caucus of Islamic nations, to criminalize expressions deemed to be “defamation of religion,” with special concern for Islam. All U.N. member states would be called on to amend their criminal codes accordingly. The measure’s next stop is the General Assembly, where it is expected to win handily, probably in December.

The U.N. is no stranger to assaults on decency and common sense. Indeed, the new ban on religious defamation is essentially a restatement of a measure approved by the General Assembly last year but barely noticed at the time. More HERE.

Struggle to stay Christian

He sat in my office, a Turkish scholar and theologian who helps people who are tortured for their faith. According to Ziya Meral, it's the converts from Islam to Christianity who are some of the most forsaken on Earth.
The police don't help them; their families hate them; and their friends want to kill them. And some of the worst treatment occurs in the gulags of America's allies.

"Egypt is one of the worst countries in terms of torture," Mr. Meral said. "Once you are detained, that's it. The security services can keep you without charges for six, seven months, and then renew those charges."

It was there he encountered a man who had endured horrific suffering for leaving Islam. "A few days into his torture, he broke down and gave up hope," Mr. Meral said. "They were laughing and saying, 'You're screaming and there is no one out there. No one can help you.'"

Religious riots in Ain Shams, Cairo: 2 videos, pics.

Our friends from Egypt report that not all is well. Thousands of Muslim protestors on Sunday (Nov. 23) attacked a Coptic church in a suburb of Cairo, Egypt, burning part of it, a nearby shop and two cars and leaving five people injured.

Objecting to a newly constructed extension to the Coptic church of St. Mary and Anba Abraam in Ain Shams, the huge crowd of angry protestors gathered outside the church at around 5 p.m. following a consecration service for the addition earlier that day.

Chanting, “We will demolish the church,” “Islam is the solution” and “No God but Allah,” according to Helmy Guirguis, president of the U.K. Coptic Association, rioters pelted the church with stones and burned part of the structure; priests and worshipers were trapped inside, and five people were injured. More HERE from Compass Direct News.

The following videos show the mob storming the church, chanting "Allahu Akbar!" With thanks to the website of AINA.

Video 1 - Video 2

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Old Dutch Church in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

American Bedu often has interesting insights in life if Saudi Arabia. Have a look at this one:

If only Jeddah could talk, what deep secrets would it reveal? I for one believe there are many unique stories just waiting to be told about Jeddah if only we are fortunate enough to unearth them.

For example, a few months ago, a good friend of mine, Donna Abu Nasr, who is the Bureau Chief of the Associated Press in Riyadh wrote this fascinating story about Eve and her final resting place at a graveyard in Jeddah: Sadly though if you are a woman and visiting Jeddah and wish to see this resting place, you would be prohibited from entry as women are not allowed in the graveyards of Saudi Arabia.

As a result, my friend Donna was only able to get a photo of the gate leading in to the cemetery and hearing through the words and visions of men who were willing to speak on what they saw once inside. And then just recently I was speaking with an expat who shared another interesting story with me. He was based in Riyadh but on one weekend a Saudi friend took him to Jeddah and proceeded to give him a tour of the out-of-the-way sites.

According to the expat, the Saudi took him to an area to view the ruins of an old 17th Century Dutch church. That’s right…in conservative Saudi Arabia where no other religion but Islam can be openly practiced, there seem to be signs, such as the ruins, that it was not always this way in the Kingdom.Now regrettably I have been unable to verify the location of these ruins.

However I do know the expat well who shared this experience and have no doubt of its validity. Perhaps some of my Jeddah readers may be able to share more information on the location and genesis of these ruins? While I could find little information about the existence of church ruins in Jeddah, I did find this submission proposing that the historical area of Old Jeddah be nominated as a World Heritage Site. The justification states that the history of Jeddah goes back to beyond Islamic times leading credence towards understanding how maybe Jeddah could have been openly an interfaith city so to speak in earlier times.

Sharia undermines civil law in Egypt

Egyptian human rights workers are looking to international bodies for support against Muslim judges who use sharia (Islamic law) to undermine custody rights of Christian mothers.

Despite provisions such as Egyptian law’s Article 20, which dictates that minors should remain with their mother until age 15, judges consistently rule in favor of Muslim fathers in custody disputes with Christian mothers. Islamist judges typically resort to Article 2 of the Egyptian Constitution, which states that “principles of Islamic law are the principal source of legislation.”

More on this issue on Compass Direct News.

Islamist De-Radicalization in Algeria: Successes and Failures

Find here a good paper on the de-radicalization of Islam in Algeria. A good paper for understanding the policies and problems of this important Arab country.

Book review: Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity

A book on christianity in the lands of the Arab World is always welcome. Since 2002, Penn State scholar Philip Jenkins has been describing in several books the changes and the faces of global Christianity for the 21st century, with membership growth and ecumenical power shifting to the Christians in Africa, Asia and Latin America. But his newest book, "The Lost History of Christianity," travels back nearly 1,500 years to a forgotten empire of Christian churches in the Middle East and Asia, co-existing with non-Christian regimes, but eventually falling prey to persecution and ethnic/racial cleansing. Here a book review.

Some excerpts:
"Given the breadth of the empire, church leaders frequently engaged in dialogue with heads of other world religions, including Islam and Judaism, but also Buddhism, Daoism and Zoroastrianism," said the Penn State historian. "Most eastern Christians had lived under Muslim political power, largely flourishing although subject to legal disadvantages."

In addition, the major contributions of Eastern Christians to the scholarship of medieval Arab societies are not well known. Nestorian, Jacobite, Orthodox and other Christians preserved and translated the science, philosophy and medicine of the ancient world to centers such as Baghdad and Damascus.

"Much of what we call Arab scholarship was in reality Syriac, Persian and Coptic, which is not necessarily Muslim," Jenkins noted. "They were the Christian roots of the Arabic Golden Age."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hizbollah, an imminent danger?

The Middle East Times published an article on Hizbollah here.

Here is an excerpt:

CIA Director Michael Hayden said last week that al-Qaida was still the largest threat to the United States. He added, "If there is a major strike on this country, it will bear the fingerprints of al-Qaida."

But some analysts say that the focus should not go entirely on al-Qaida, stressing that the capabilities of the Shiite organization Hezbollah should not be underestimated.

Pre Sept. 11, 2001, Hezbollah was the organization believed to be responsible for the deaths of the largest number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks. Former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called Hezbollah "the A-team of terrorists, while al-Qaida may actually be the B-team."

Today in a context of major tension with Iran regarding its nuclear program, Iraq and Lebanon, just to mention a few, intelligence analysts warn that the Hezbollah threat against the West should not be taken off the radar.

Hezbollah is believed to maintain a vast network of operatives across the world; from Europe to Africa to the Middle East, to Latin America and even North America.In Africa, and in particular in the predominantly Sunni Maghreb, extremist Shiites are making inroads. The threat of potential Shiite terrorism is something Morocco knows something about, having dismantled earlier this year a large terrorist cell known as the Belliraj network. Members of this cell included a correspondent of the Hezbollah-run Al-Manar TV. According to intelligence sources they were planning terror attacks in Morocco.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pope: Religious Dialogue with Islam not possible

The New York Times quotes Pope Benedict XVI; his statement of this Sunday could have broad implications in a period of intense religious conflict. Pope Benedict XVI cast doubt on the possibility of interfaith dialogue but called for more discussion of the practical consequences of religious differences.

The pope’s comments came in a letter he wrote to Marcello Pera, an Italian center-right politician and scholar whose forthcoming book, “Why We Must Call Ourselves Christian,” argues that Europe should stay true to its Christian roots. A central theme of Benedict’s papacy has been to focus attention on the Christian roots of an increasingly secular Europe.

In quotations from the letter that appeared on Sunday in Corriere della Sera, Italy’s leading daily newspaper, the pope said the book “explained with great clarity” that “an interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the word is not possible.” In theological terms, added the pope, “a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses.”

But Benedict added that “intercultural dialogue which deepens the cultural consequences of basic religious ideas” was important. He called for confronting “in a public forum the cultural consequences of basic religious decisions.”

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope’s comments seemed intended to draw interest to Mr. Pera’s book, not to cast doubt on the Vatican’s many continuing interreligious dialogues.

“He has a papacy known for religious dialogue; he went to a mosque, he’s been to synagogues,” Father Lombardi said. “This means that he thinks we can meet and talk to the others and have a positive relationship.”

To some scholars, the pope’s remarks seemed aimed at pushing more theoretical interreligious conversations into the practical realm.

“He’s trying to get the Catholic-Islamic dialogue out of the clouds of theory and down to brass tacks: how can we know the truth about how we ought to live together justly, despite basic creedal differences?” said George Weigel, a Catholic scholar and biographer of Pope John Paul II.

This month, the Vatican held a conference with Muslim religious leaders and scholars aimed at improving ties. The conference participants agreed to condemn terrorism and protect religious freedom, but they did not address issues of conversion and of the rights of Christians in majority Muslim countries to worship.

The church is also engaged in dialogue with Muslims organized by the king of Saudi Arabia, a country where non-Muslims are forbidden from worshiping in public.

Yemen's new multi-million $ mosque draws criticism

The inauguration of an enormous new mosque named after Yemen's authoritarian president has bewildered the people of this impoverished Arab country — especially when they learned it cost a staggering $60 million.

It's a massive sum in a country that ranks as the poorest in the Arab world and is beset by internal armed conflict, terrorism and severe malnutrition.

"We need schools and hospitals," said Salem Ahmed, a government employee. "Many Yemenis have to travel abroad for medical treatment. This is hypocrisy." More on this site of AP.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Egypt: Christians Arrested, Shops Looted in Village

Authorities in an Egyptian village arrested 50 Coptic Christians, whose shops were then looted, to pacify Muslims following violence that erupted on Nov. 4 over a Christian boy’s unwitting break with local custom. Muslim villagers attacked the homes and shops of Coptic Christians in violence-prone Tayyiba after 14-year-old Copt Mina William failed to dismount his donkey as a funeral procession passed. Members of the procession reportedly beat William before completing the procession.

The processional members later attacked homes and shops of local Copts before police broke up the crowd with tear gas. A source told Compass that police arrested a disproportionate amount of Christians to create a false sense of equanimity and to pressure Christians into “reconciliation” with the attackers so the Copts would not prosecute them.

Police in the village have since harassed Copts through intimidation, “fines” and racketeering, taking an estimated $50,000 from village Christians, sources said. Once police lifted the curfew, Coptic shopkeepers returned to their stores to discover that they had been looted. “It is unreasonable that a mistake by some 14-year-old should lead to all that rampage,” a village Coptic priest known as Father Augustinus told weekly newspaper Watani. “Something ought to be done to halt all this.” Source: Compass Direct News.

Michael Jackson a Muslim now. Bless you, Islam!

Jackson has converted to Islam and changed his name to Mikaeel, according to reports. The singer wore traditional Islamic dress as he pledged his allegiance to the Koran at a friend's home in Los Angeles, The Sun reports.

Jackson, who was raised a Jehovah's Witness, reportedly decided to convert after discussing religion with a music producer and songwriter on his new album - both of whom were converts to Islam. The Sun reported singer Yousef Islam - formerly knowns as Cat Stevens - turned up to help Jackson celebrate.

Read the full story at The Sun.

Jackson is due to give evidence in court next week after being sued by Sheikh Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, second son of the King of Bahrain. Sheikh Abdulla, who is seeking $US7 million ($10.7 million), claims he helped support the cash-strapped Jackson in the aftermath of his child molestation trial. Sheikh Abdulla claims Jackson promised to pay back the money, while Jackson says he thought it was a gift. Jackson is expected to give evidence to a London court via video link from LA.

Kind Abdallah's hypocricy with his interfaith conference

If you are the undisputed monarch of a wealthy nation, you probably think you can say or do most anything without repercussion. But when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia stood before the United Nations late last week to proclaim his opposition to "religious intolerance," anyone listening would have to think: Of all the gall! Joel Brinksley, professor of journalism, writes this critical article.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When will they pronouce Barack Obama to be a kaafir?

Al Qaeda Declares War on Obama; In the terrorist group’s first video message to Obama since his election, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s number two, calls Obama a “House Negro” who “claims” to be Christian to be elected to high office. The new video says that because Obama has chosen to support Israel and has threatened to strike Pakistan and send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, he has decided to continue “the crimes of the American crusade.” More HERE.

This is militant Islam’s version of the welcome mat. And it shows that Al-Qaeda has apparently taken Obama at his word when the president-elect vowed to “defeat” the militant Taliban and organizations like Al Qaeda and hunt down Usama bin Laden. I have not heard Muslims call Obama a kaafir, but in Islamic terms, that is what he is, wit ha Muslim father. I wonder how this will impact the view of the Muslim world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Iraqi Christians warned: flee or die

Al-Ittihad, the website of the daly newspaper of the Kurdish PUK party, published this letter ordering all Christians to immediately leave Iraq:
The General Secretariat of the Adherent of Islam Brigade has decided to address the final warning to you and to all your adherents and flocks, the infidel Christian Crusaders, in Baghdad and the other governorates and order you to leave immediately, in masses and permanently from the Muslim countries (Iraq) and to join Pope Benedict the sixteenth and his followers who crossed over the greatest symbols of humanity and Islam.

There is no place for you infidel Christians among the Muslim believers in Iraq from now on. Otherwise, our swords will be legalized over your neck and the necks of you followers and flocks similar to what happened to the Christians living in Mosul.

God is our witness. He who warns is excused. The General Secretariat of the Adherents of Islam Brigade.
In case you forget, Islam means peace.

Things changing in Saudi Arabia? interfaith conference

Very interesting opinion article by Sabria S. Jawhar in the Saudi Gazette: She speaks of the interfaith conference recently held at the UN, with deep involvement of Saudi Arabia in general and King Abdullah in particular. One of the first things she mentions is that there were:
few unexpected surprises and [...] historic moments. Israeli President Shimon Perez made positive comments regarding the intent of King Abdullah’s efforts to bring about international dialogue of religious issues. He also spoke encouragingly about the Saudi-initiated 2002 Arab peace plan that would bring peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors in exchange for Israel returning to its pre-1967 borders.
Oops... a frontal attack against those is Saudi Arabia who want no contacts with Israel! Sabria also mentions the request for churches to be built in Saudi Arabia, and she shows surprising openness to the concept.
It’s been my feeling all along, and I have stated this before, that most Saudis liken the Land of the Two Holy Mosques to the Vatican. We do not expect a mosque to be built inside the Vatican, so why must we consider placing a church in Jeddah or Riyadh.
But having said that, Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal noted that it is up to Muslims to decide whether such public worship will be permitted.
“The Kingdom is the cradle of Islam and a country where millions of Muslims come every year to perform the Haj and the King is the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
Thus, the Kingdom is responsible for (reflecting) the desire and will of the Ummah worldwide,” Prince Saud said last week.
Surely, by making the building of churches in Saudi Arabia a matter of the whole umma, this is ducking the issue. At the same time, the suggestion is: if there is a broad consenses that it is okay to build churches in Saudi Arabia, so be it! Look HERE for the whole articles in the Saudi Gazette.

Farouk Hosni... man of censorship, man of UNESCO?

The Egyptian minister of culture for the past decades, Farouk Hosni, is candidate for the UNESCO chair in Paris. Read the biting comment from one Egyptian woman who is not impressed with Farouk Hosni. The Lord keep us save! This is the same man under whose enlightened guidance, motherloads of books are banned from Egypt. Culture....

Monday, November 17, 2008

To the defense of the prophet: He existed!

Sure, Muhammad did really exist. I came across this interesting argument on the blog of Gypsy Scholar. He has an important argument:

....the famous "criterion of dissimilarity," popularly known as the "criterion of embarrassment," which roughly says that any 'embarrassing' statement about or by a respected religious founder occurring in a pious work written at an early period in the history of the religion is probably true. The sira (biography) and sunnah (deeds) contain so many 'embarrassing' reports of words and deeds attributed to Muhammad that I find difficulty in accepting that such words and deeds were later invented by pious Muslims. The more likely conclusion is that Muhammad really existed and that he said and did some 'embarrassing' things.

The most famous of embarrassments is the disputed "Satanic Verses" incident, in which Muhammad is reported -- in the early, pious Muslim literature -- to have recited Satanically inspired verses praising three pagan goddesses as daughters of Allah. Of this report, one eminent scholar of Islam has written:
"Muhammad must have publicly recited the satanic verses as part of the Qur'ān; it is unthinkable that the story could have been invented by Muslims, or foisted upon them by non-Muslims." (William Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Mecca, Karachi: Oxford University Press, 1993, p. 103)
Since such an embarrassing story exists in the early Muslim literature, and since this literature was written from pious motives, then the story would not have been invented. Muhammad must really have recited such embarrassing verses, and he could only have done so if he had existed. Therefore, Muhammad really did exist, despite the scholarly opinion of Professor Muhammad Sven Kalisch.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Muslim prof: 'Muhammad never existed'

Who said that Islam does not have its free thinkers? Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany’s first professor of Islamic theology, fasts during the Muslim holy month, doesn’t like to shake hands with Muslim women and has spent years studying Islamic scripture. Islam, he says, guides his life.

So it came as something of a surprise when Prof. Kalisch announced the fruit of his theological research. His conclusion: The Prophet Muhammad probably never existed.

Muslims, not surprisingly, are outraged. Even Danish cartoonists who triggered global protests a couple of years ago didn’t portray the Prophet as fictional. German police, worried about a violent backlash, told the professor to move his religious-studies center to more-secure premises. An article aboute Kalisch HERE, and excerpts from his speech HERE.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Father Zakaria Boutros estimates at least 1,000 Muslims a month pray to receive Christ with his telephone counselors

Botros - on the air by satellite TV in the Arab world since 2003, has practically become a household word in the Muslim world. An Arabic newspaper has named him Islam's "Public Enemy #1."

Millions hate him, to be sure, but they are watching. They are listening. They are processing what he is saying and they are talking about him with their friends and family. When Botros challenges Radical clerics to answer his many refutations of Islam and defend the Qu'ran, millions wait to see what how the fundamentalists will respond. But they rarely do. They prefer to attack Botros than answer him. Yet, the more the Radicals attack him, the more well-known he becomes. The more well-known he becomes, the more Muslims feel compelled to tune in.

As more Muslims tune in, more are coming to the conclusion that Botros is right and in turn are choosing to become followers of Jesus Christ. Botros estimates at least 1,000 Muslims a month pray to receive Christ with his telephone counselors. Some of them pray to receive Christ live on their air with Botros. And this surely is only the tip of the iceberg, as it represents only those who are able to get through on the jammed phone lines. There simply are not currently enough trained counselors to handle each call.

Friday, November 14, 2008

If Dubai goes down, all go down

The Peninsula, Qatar's online daily, published a highly critical story about Dubai this week, fearing total collapse of the economy:
So enough about the struggling middle class. In this global financial crisis, how are the really rich holding up? To find out, I spent several days in Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and world capital of conspicuous consumption.

So far, the ultra-rich are bearing up well. If the scene at Dubai’s luxury Burj al Arab hotel is anything to go by, there’s still robust demand for hotel rooms that start at about $1,500 a night and bikinis that cost $800. This level of consumption is impressive, especially when you consider that the super-rich must struggle with a serious unemployment problem—almost none of the designer-clad men and women who grace the Burj al Arab appear to have, uh, jobs. But they cope bravely with this situation, finding in it an opportunity to pay culturally enriching visits to Dubai’s many beaches, nightclubs and shopping malls.

OK, for us normal human beings, it’s hard not to be revolted by Dubai, which boasts the world’s tallest hotel (the aforementioned Burj al Arab, which is shaped like a sailboat and soars in solitary splendor over its own artificial island), one of the world’s largest indoor ski slopes and the largest shopping mall in the region. Crammed with cold-eyed Russian oligarchs, coked-out London pop stars and the spoiled princelings of global finance, Dubai is repulsive enough to make most ordinary mortals start rooting for the collapse of global capitalism.
For more, go HERE.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Saudi Arabia's law: medieval and barbarious

Egypt on Thursday barred doctors from taking up jobs in Saudi Arabia after an Egyptian medic was sentenced to 1,500 lashes and 15 years in jail for allegedly turning a Saudi princess into a drug addict. Manpower and Immigration Minister Aisha Abdel Hadi has "stopped issuing work permits to Egyptian doctors in Saudi Arabia until the end of the crisis," the independent Al-Masry al-Youm newspaper reported.

The decision came after talks between the Egyptian consulate and the Saudi Arabian authorities reached a dead-end, the newspaper quoted an unnamed official as saying. No permits will be issued until further notice, it said, but added that Egyptian doctors already in Saudi Arabia can continue working because they have contractual obligations.

Doctor Rauf Amin, 53, was sentenced for giving the unidentified princess morphine to ease her pain following a riding accident, which allegedly turned her into an addict. The penalty against Amin, who is being whipped at the rate of 10-15 lashes a week during his prison term, has sparked protests in Egypt.

Hamdi al-Sayyad, director of Egypt's Doctors Syndicate, last week described Amin's trial as unfair and his sentence -- which was doubled on appeal in March from 750 lashes and seven years prison -- as torture. "He did not have a fair trial; there was not even any adequate medical expert opinion," he said.

"This judgment is more about torture than justice and does not correspond with any kind of law, human rights or even sharia (Islamic law)."

Flogging is a standard punishment in the ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom, which enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Egypt and meddling in Sudanese affairs

Look at that... the dictators always support each other... Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak firmly supports Sudan's unity, which could be attained by peace and development process in the south of the neighboring country. Mubarak voiced the support at a joint press conference with Salva Kiir Mayardit, Sudan's first vice president and the president of the southern Sudanese government during his visit to Juba, the capital of southern Sudan. More HERE.

Whenever the USA or Europe speak one word about human rights in Egypt, it is considered meddling in the internal affairs of Egypt. Mubarak obviously has no problem to meddle in the internal affairs in Sudan, where they will hold a referendum on the issue of unity in a few years time.

Copts the victims of Islamisation says prize-winning Egyptian author

Coptic Christians, women and other minorities are paying the price of increasing Islamisation in Egyptian society, leading author and intellectual, Tarek Heggy, has told Adnkronos International (AKI). The fundamentalist opposition Muslim Brotherhood was one of the groups responsible and was indoctrinating young people through its welfare work, Heggy said.

“I believe the major problem for the Copts in Egypt is related to the overall cultural environment. The more radical society becomes, the worse the situation gets. This is also true for Bahaiis,” Heggy said, referring to a smaller religious minority in Egypt which now numbers only a few hundred people. Read more HERE.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Church in Saudi Arabia

Jubail is a Saudi city in the Eastern Province where oil was first discovered in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s. Near Jubail are the ruins of what was unearthed in the mid-1980s by a group of people attempting to dig their vehicle out of the sand. The Saudi government will not issue permits to visit it because 'the site is being excavated.' In any case, the original ruins contained four stone crosses, which later went missing, though the marks where the crosses were are still visible. The ruins are thought to date from the 4th century, which make them older than any known church in Europe. Not much else is known but speculation is that it was in some way connected to one of the five Assyrian Church of the East bishoprics which are known to have existed in this area of the Gulf in the 4th century.

The four photographs here were taken in 1986 by Robert and Patricia McWhorter shortly after the ruins were partially excavated and protected by the Saudi Department of Antiquities.

Saudi Poet/Blogger Arrested for Apostasy

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information reported today that blogger Roshdi Algadir was arrested by the Hisba apparatus in Saudi Arabia on 4th November. He was taken from his place of work in Al-Dammam city, held for three hours, beaten up and forced to sign an agreement never again to publish his work on the internet. The reason behind the attack is the poem that Algadir has posted on his blog.

Roshdi Algadir, winner of an international award for his collections of poetry had posted some on them on his blog. Following this he was surprised by a number of the Hisba apparatus snatching him from his work, beating him and accusing him of apostasy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Abuna Zakaria: was Muhammad from Allah or the devil?

Life TV’s Father Zakaria Botros recently ran a show dedicated to answering the question, “Was Muhammad a messenger from God or Satan?” As usual with these shows, viewers were asked to call in and respond to this question, with poll results revealed at the end of the show.

His co-host in this particular show was an ex-Muslim woman turned Christian, who, a few shows earlier, used to still wear a hijab, but not today---as Zakaria Botros put it, in English, her "new look." She said that such an offensive question—ascertaining the divine or demonic source of Muhammad’s prophethood—would have enraged her in former days, and how, till today even, it makes her feel awkward, uncomfortable. Such was her conditioning. Read further HERE on JihadWatch.

Jihadwatch has a long article on this very TV program; one of the interesting things Zakaria does, is to show how in Islam, Muhammad is much more important than Allah. Anyway, good reading. Pity that Jihadwatch puts these programs in the context of their own political goals, just a MEMRI does. Zakaria wants to proclaim the Gospel and lead Muslim to Christ; he has no interest in supporting the USA or Israel, as Jihadwatch and MEMRI do. A worrying thing actually; the missionaries are now used to defend the homelands? Not good.

Father Zakaria's own website


Friday, November 7, 2008

Seeing 'The Other' as the enemy - Arab Times

Khaled Aljenfawi writes a very useful article in the Arab Times newspaper about how in Arab society, 'the other' is seen. He point to the great ability in Arab society and education to make enemies of 'the others'. I wonder whether we do not have the same habit in all societies? This is a piece of what Khaled writes:
In schoolbooks of most Middle-Eastern curricula, the “Other” is usually portrayed as the enemy. He or she tends to be non-Muslim, preferably Christian or Jewish, and sometimes another Muslim individual who happens to hail from a different Islamic sect. In the case of Christians and Jews, a typical Arab curriculum usually represents them not as real, individual persons who breathe, eat, suffer, and die just like Arabs or Muslims, but rather as members of a threatening, alien group, using techniques of dehumanization and demonization. At times, it is taken to the extreme and calls for the annihilation of the “other.”
HERE the complete article.

Civil war in Libya?

By Raed Rafei and Borzou Daragahi, LA Times, November 8, 2008

According to human rights organizations and a Libyan opposition group, security forces have been battling rebels for five days in Kufrah, which is among a cluster of oasis towns in the country's southeast. The fighting has left at least 11 dead, said the rights groups, which are in touch with sources in Libya.

By Friday the fighting appeared to have come to a halt, with rebels and government troops taking up positions around the town and most observers anticipating further clashes.

"The situation is very critical," said a resident of the town reached by telephone Friday who declined to identify himself because of security concerns. "The whole town is in disarray."

The clashes involved members of the Tabu tribe and erupted after the Libyan government enforced what some considered discriminatory laws against the group, said Haytham Manna, spokesman of the Paris-based Arab Commission for Human Rights. He said that all the dead were civilians and that at least 40 people were injured in the clashes.

"The city is totally under siege by the security forces," he said. "There is a lack of medical and other basic services."

After decades as an international pariah, Libya recently mended relations with the West, including the United States, despite lingering worries about the country's human rights record. Officials in the capital, Tripoli, could not be reached for comment Friday, the Muslim Sabbath. A spokesman for the Libyan Embassy in Paris reached by telephone told The Times, "We have nothing to say" about the clashes in Kufrah.

The Tabu tribe is one of Libya's largest. Its members are darker skinned than most Arabs and live near the borders of Sudan and Chad.

Tensions between the government in Tripoli and Tabu tribesmen began in December when the government stripped them of their citizenship and accused their leaders of siding with Chad, a rival of Libya. Recently, some government officials urged the Tabus to depart for Chad.

Clashes began Monday when tribesmen set fire to a local government office to protest rules that prevented their children from attending schools and collecting food rations, Manna said.

The fighting escalated when the government dispatched military units and helicopters from the capital to quell the rebellion, said Manna, who drew information from lawyers, scholars and activists in Libya.

Observers say the humanitarian situation is deteriorating.

"There is a serious lack of food," Issa Abdul Majid Mansour, who leads the Libyan Tabu Salvation Front, said in a phone interview from Norway, where he lives. "Stores are closed. The wounded are in their homes without proper treatment. There are some shops that are burned down. Reporters and medics cannot reach the area of the conflict."

Manna said the region's remoteness was encouraging security forces to act with impunity.

"The danger on the central government is minimal because the tribe in the south is isolated," he said. "Libya is capable of isolating them from the rest of the world because of its good recent connections with the West."

Council of ex-Muslims met in London

The Council of Ex-Muslims met in London recently. On this website you can find an extensive description of their meetings.

Prayer for Egyptian woman and her sons

Middle East Concern asks us for prayer for this situation. How lovely to live in democracies... and how tough it can be for our brothers and sisters in the lands of Islam.

On 21st October Middle East Concern requested prayer for Kamilia, an Egyptian Christian, and her two twin sons, Mario and Andrew, aged 14. She is appealing against the loss of custody of her sons to her ex-husband who changed the religious registration on the sons' birth certificates from "Christian" to "Muslim" three years ago.

We regret to report that Kamilia's appeal has been denied. However, a further submission is being prepared by her lawyers. Mario and Andrew will remain with Kamilia while the appeal process continues.

On 24th September an appeal court awarded custody to her ex-husband in spite of (i) Egyptian law's Article 20 that grants custody of children to their mothers until the age of 15 (ii) a fatwa, i.e. religious ruling, from Egypt's most senior Islamic scholar, Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, stating that Kamilia should retain custody.

Egyptian Christians request our prayers that:
a. Kamilia, Mario and Andrew will know the presence and enabling strength of Jesus each day
b. Kamilia will regain legal custody of Mario and Andrew
c. Mario and Andrew's religious registration will be restored to "Christian"
d. All officials and lawyers involved will be convicted by the Spirit of the injustices in this case and act fairly
e. All non-Christians involved will hear the true message of Jesus, and be drawn to His acceptance and forgiveness of all that respond to His love for them

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Book by Luxenberg on the Qur'an in English: a must read!

We wrote here earlier on the great book by Christoph Luxenberg, on the language and the origins of the Qur'an.
The book was only available in German for a long time but it isnow available in an English version:

Christoph Luxenberg, The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran (revised and enlarged ed.), Berlin (Verlag Hans Schiler) 2007, ISBN-10: 3-89930-088-2, ISBN-13: 978-3-89930-088-8, Hardcover, 355 pages, 40.00 €
For more information and to order online see:

Pope Benedict XVI opens Christian-Muslim dialogue with very interesting speech

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2008 - Catholics and Muslims must show the common belief that we are members of one family loved by God our Creator, and uphold the dignity of every human person, says Benedict XVI.The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience the members of the newly formed Catholic-Muslim Forum at the conclusion of its three-day seminar. The forum is comprised of 29 members of each creed and was formed by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and representatives of the 138 Muslim leaders who sent an open letter to Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders in October 2007.

After greeting the participants of the forum, the Holy Father assured them of his prayerful attention to the progress of the seminar. He expressed the awareness "that it represents one more step along the way towards greater understanding between Muslims and Christians within the framework of other regular encounters which the Holy See promotes with various Muslim groups."

Sweet words... is the pope denying the crucial differences? I think not, our holy father is as evangelical as I hope to be! Read more on ZENIT.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Islam and public order: house of cards

What would happen to Islam if the governments of the Muslim world would no longer come to its defence whenever Islam is 'under attack'? I think the religion as it is would collapse. It cannot do without the use of force.

The Moroccan government has banned an issue of the French magazine L'Express International, claiming it insults Islam in articles exploring the relationship between that religion and Christianity. Information Minister Khalid Naciri said Sunday that he had no choice but to ban the current issue because of the offensive nature of the articles it contained. The minister said the kingdom's press code allows the government to shut down or ban any publication deemed to offend Islam or the king. Naciri did not specify exactly what was considered offensive, but told The Associated Press that our country should not be used by anyone to spread articles that could be prejudicial to our religion or undermine public order.

Indeed. Censorship. Do not let people think for themselves. The brain-police is needed, or the house of cards collapses.