Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Arabs: deep disrespect for the USA, and agreement with al-Qaeda of the University of Maryland published a very interesting survey, done in some Muslim countries in 2008 and published this week. Good for understanding the Arab world - a must read! You can download the pdf-file HERE.

Friday, February 27, 2009


In the latest hearing of a Muslim-born Egyptian’s effort to officially convert to Christianity, opposing lawyers advocated he be convicted of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, and sentenced to death.

More than 20 Islamic lawyers attended the hearing on Sunday (Feb. 22) in Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary’s (see photo left, with his daughter) case to obtain identification papers with Christianity designated as his religious affiliation. Two lawyers led the charge, Ahmed Dia El-Din and Abdel Al-Migid El-Anani. “[El-Din] started to talk about the Quran being in a higher position than the Bible,” one of El-Gohary’s lawyers, Said Fayez, told Compass. “[El-Din said] people can move to a higher religion but not down, so people cannot move away from Islam because it is highest in rank.”

Compass Direct reports about this case

Allah is allowed again in Christian publications in Malaysia

Associated Press reports that the Malaysian government has softened an earlier ban on the use of the word "Allah" by Christian publications to refer to God and is allowing them to use it as long as they specify the material is not for Muslims. The government had earlier argued that the use of Allah in Christian texts might confuse Muslims, who might think Allah refers to their God.

Poor Muslims in Malaysia. I never realized they are so vulnerable and ignorant. But they have, alhamdulillah, a government that cares for them.
Thus far I never heard that Muslims believe that Christians have 'another God' than Islam. Malaysia seems to have another view.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bashir promises free elections in Sudan - do not hold your breath...

President Omar al-Beshir, who faces a possible arrest warrant for alleged war crimes in Darfur, said on Thursday he wanted to hold "free" elections soon to guarantee stability in Sudan.

"I am looking forward to holding free elections in the near future and I ask all parties to prepare themselves for the next elections," Beshir told opposition party leaders.

"There is no security and economic stability without political stability," said Beshir, who was speaking at the congress of the key opposition Umma Party, also attended by diplomats.

Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 military coup, won a presidential election in 2000 with nearly 90 percent of all votes cast, in a ballot slammed as a sham by the opposition.

MORE of this AFP story HERE.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Not very wise of the Vatican to complain about anti-Christian TV show in Israel

The Vatican has lodged a formal complaint with the Israeli government over a TV programme that “ridiculed and blasphemed” Jesus and Mary. I think this is not wise. I guess that the Vatican has done this in order to divert attention from its own maverick anti-Semite bishop Williamson, who gets so much bad press for the Roman Catholic Church these days. But in the context of the Middle East, I think the complaint of the Vatican is rather unhelpful.

We need more liberty to say what we like! We do not need censorship over religious opinions. If the Vatican tells Israel when statements about the Christian faith should not be made publish because they are seen as an insult by Christians, why then should Muslims not forbid Christians in the Arab World to say what they want?

Be consistent and fight for freedom of speech everywhere!

O yes, what did the Israeli program say? The host denied Christian traditions - that Mary was a virgin and that Jesus walked on water - saying he would do so as a “lesson” to Christians who deny the Holocaust, a reference to the Vatican’s recent lifting of the excommunication of a bishop who denied 6 million Jews were killed during the Second World War. The rehabilitation sparked outrage among Jews.

The host, a well-known Israeli comedian Lior Shlein, also claimed that Mary became pregnant at 15 by a schoolmate and said that Jesus could never have walked on water because “he was so fat he was ashamed to leave the house, let alone go to the Sea of Galilee with a bathing suit.”

More Islam in Tunisia

A survey in Tunisia showed a record increase in the number of listeners that tune in to the Islamic “Zaytouna” radio station, rating it as the most listened to station in Tunisia. Sofiene Chourabi looks at the reasons for this sudden rise in popularity. Is Tunisian society becoming more Islamic?
Interesting reading on Menassat.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sufism as the antidote to Islamic radicalism

Barbara Plett of BBC wrote a beautiful piece on sufism and its power in Pakistan. Worth reading!

Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban?

It's one o'clock in the morning and the night is pounding with hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense, laced with dope.

I'm squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming sessions.

It's packed with young men, smoking, swaying to the music, and working themselves into a state of ecstasy.

This isn't how most Westerners imagine Pakistan, which has a reputation as a hotspot for Islamist extremism.

Devotional singing

But this popular form of Sufi Islam is far more widespread than the Taleban's version. It's a potent brew of mysticism, folklore and a dose of hedonism.

HERE the whole article on BBC's website.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Liberal Arabic website Elaph again accessible in Saudi Arabia

A two-year Saudi block against the London-based Elaph online daily has been lifted just a week after a radical shake-up of the government. The lifting of the ban has not been officially announced by Saudi ministers, but the website’s technical department revealed a 40,000 hike in visitors from the Kingdom last Thursday - the first day the block was lifted.

According to Saudi daily Arab News, a high government official ordered the Communications and Information Technology Commission to lift the block, which was implemented in 2006 after a ‘blasphemous” letter was published on the site.

"We are happy here in Elaph. Saudi readers are very important to us," said Fahd Saud, Elaph's managing editor in Saudi Arabia, in an interview with the newspaper. "The amount of readership and advertisements were both affected by the block," Saud added.

The lifting of the ban was one of many steps taken toward increased openness in the Kingdom being initiated by King Abdullah showing the government fully understood the importance of free press in the country's development , Saud added.

The offending letter was published by accident in the ‘Your View’ section of the site. The site was closed a month later without an official explanation - despite the letter being pulled within an hour and a public apology by publisher and editor in chief, Othman Al-Omair, on Al Arabiya TV channel.

"A technical error resulted in the publication of a particular opinion piece, but within an hour it came to our notice and the article was dropped," Saud said. However, the ban was widely attributed to publisher Al Omair's controversial public outbursts on media censorship and state intervention in presenting accurate news and analysis.

From ArabianBusiness.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Saudi Muslim cleric warns: biofuels could be sinful

A prominent Muslim scholar in Saudi Arabia has warned that those using alcohol-based biofuels in their cars could be committing a sin. Haha - is he worried that Saudi's oil becomes useless? Islam warns against drinking alcohol - but why would it be wrong to use it as fuel?

The warning was issued by Sheikh Mohamed Al-Najimi, a member of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, an institute that studies Islamic jurisprudence for the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, an international group with a permanent delegation to the United Nations. According to the Al Arabiya News Channel, an international news outlet is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Mr. Najim directed his warning to Saudi youths studying abroad.

Al Arabiya notes that Najimi stressed that this warning was not an official fatwa, or religious edict, just his personal opinion. Najimi added that the issue “needs to be studied by the relevant religious bodies.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sudan's 1st Catholic Radio Station Plans Expansion

JUBA, Sudan ( Radio Bakhita, the first Christian radio station in Sudan, looks to expand its facilities to accommodate the political and sociological demands foreseen in the coming years.

The radio station was started in December 2006, on the occasion of the canonization of Daniel Comboni, the first Catholic bishop in Sudan.

It is located in the country's capital, Juba, and is headed by a Mexican Comboni missionary, Sister Cecilia Sierra. The missionaries started the station, but are currently training Sudanese people to take over the responsibilities of its operation.

A statement on the Comboni missionarys' Web site expressed the need for larger facilities faced to the coming challenges.

It read: "Given the high rates of illiteracy, the devastation of public structures and the precarious communications system, FM radio stations are most effective for disseminating information and educating the people about issues that concern them."

The country has been through difficult times, it said, but this year a greater challenge will arise as Southern Sudan, predominantly Christian, will vote for the first time in its history.

As well, in 2011, South Sudan will decide if it wants to be united to the North -- predominantly Muslim and Arab -- or to declare itself an independent nation.

The statement about the radio station affirmed its mission to promote enduring peace and development and to counteract violence. It recognized that Sudan has lived the past 50 years in internal wars that have left deep wounds, and the primary work of the Church in the postwar stage is to be an instrument of reconciliation and healing.

Other radio stations will be launched soon, as part of a network with Radio Bakhita, to meet the sociological needs of the people.

Moroccan Human Rights Campaigner who accused police of drugstrafficking is arrested

The leader of a Moroccan human rights group that has spoken out about drug trafficking has been arrested, members of his group said Thursday.

Chakib Khiyari, the chairman of the Rif Association for Human Rights, was arrested during a police raid in his house in the northern Morocco town of Nador on Wednesday, said the association's deputy head, Mohammed Hamouchi.

About 10 plainclothes officers from the Casablanca-based National Brigade police unit along with police officers searched Khiyari's house and confiscated his computer, Hamouchi said.

Colleagues have had no news from the rights group leader since then, they said.

The association focuses on promoting human rights in the Rif, a remote region of northern Morocco inhabited mostly by the Berber ethnic minority and where most of the country's hashish is grown. Morocco is the world's second-largest hashish producer and has vowed to crack down on drugs.

Officials at Morocco's Interior Ministry could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Hamouchi suggested Khiyari's arrest could be linked to his accusations that several police officers were involved in drug trafficking. The human rights group sent a letter to Morocco's King Mohammed VI naming some security forces members allegedly involved in the illegal trade.

In January, 29 Royal Marines, 17 police and 15 members of auxiliary services were among a group of 81 people arrested in Morocco on charges of involvement in an international drug ring.

The Interior Ministry says it seized 97.5 U.S. tons (88.5 metric tons) of cannabis in a 10-month period in 2008.

From Associated Press.

TALK OF THE SOOKHDEVIL: British Evangelical Author Attacked For Exposing Militant Islam

Taken from

Were you shocked by this headline? Perhaps you were, especially if you are familiar with that gracious Christian leader Patrick Sookhdeo. Perhaps as shocked as I was to see a headline on reading "Review of rotten book by the Sookhdevil" - quite an attention-grabber.

Indigo Jo, the blogger who coined that headline, is certainly good with words. He is also a convert to Islam, known as Yusuf, original name Matthew Smith. A self-confessed truck driver with a degree in politics who lives with his parents in Surrey, Matthew Smith has become not just a Muslim but an Islamist. This he makes clear on his website where he describes himself as pro-madhhab Le. pro-sharia.

His blog reviews a review of Patrick Sookhdeo`s respected work "Global Jihad: The future in the face of militant Islam". The book was published back in 2007, which raises the question of why Matthew Smith a.k.a Yusuf a.k.a Indigo Jo should on 31 January 2009 post a damning comment about it on his blog. Conveniently he gives us the answer: "Ben White of Fulcrum, a website for evangelical Anglican Christians, has drawn my attention to a review he has written of Patrick Sookhdeo`s 2007 book Global Jihad."

The plot thickens. Why should an evangelical Christian go out of his way to point out to a radical Muslim a negative review of another evangelical Christian`s book? Was he put up to it by the evangelical group Fulcrum? If so, what was their purpose? To destroy the Sookhdevil and his ministry?

As a matter of fact this kind of betrayal of one Christian by another to a Muslim is not as uncommon as you might think, especially if - as in this case - the betrayer is white and the betrayed is not. Let me give you another example.

In December 2005, Pastor Daniel Scot was speaking in Australia to Christians about Islam. Scot, originally from Pakistan, had moved to Australia because of persecution in his home country, where his bold defence of the Christian faith had led to him being accused under Pakistan`s "blasphemy law". In Victoria, Australia, he had fallen foul of the new state law on religious "vilification", in a case brought by the Islamic Council of Victoria. (Incidentally, Gary Bouma, a white Anglican priest, gave evidence for ICV against Scot because he did not like charismatic Christians.) White Christians who attended the 2005 meeting - which was not in Victoria - took Scot`s material to the Islamic Council of Victoria to get him into still more trouble. Imagine the distress this betrayal caused him.

More recently, and back in the UK, consider the case of CRIB (Christian Responses to Islam in Britain), a body which appears to be administered by the umbrella mission organisation, Global Connections. An invitation-only meeting was called by Bryan Knell of Global Connections, on behalf of a group which included Tim Green, Howard Jones, Steve Bell and Colin Chapman. The 22 participants, who met at All Nations Christian College 21-22 July 2008 and included someone from the college, were sworn to secrecy. At the meeting a document was drafted called "Gracious Christian Responses to Muslims in Britain Today". It is embargoed until the CRIB conference this summer in London, but various prominent Christians in the UK are being approached privately to sign up to it.

So what was this secret meeting for? What is this secret document about? Believe it or not, a main aim of both was to discredit two British Christian leaders who are converts from Islam (one being Patrick Sookhdeo) and a British Christian ministry not connected to either of them. What do the three intended victims have in common? Simply that they all draw attention to the ongoing Islamisation of the UK. In a classic case of shooting the messengers, or rather stabbing them in the back, CRIB condemns these timely warnings for instilling a fear of Islam. It almost beggars belief, yet a number of sources have confirmed it. Ben White, whose foolish, ignorant and spiteful review of "Global Jihad" was prominent on the Fulcrum website for some time, claims to have lectured at All Nations Christian College. Do we detect a pattern emerging? A pattern of victimisation? A pattern of betrayal? And it is all tinged with the age-old evil of racism, not to mention the C hurch`s besetting sin, contempt for converts from Islam.

Maybe you are tempted to comment, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me. Why such a fuss?" The fuss is because, in the context of Islam, words can all too easily lead to broken bones - or worse. Daniel Scot received death threats in Pakistan and was threatened by an armed mob on one occasion. Another time he would have been thrown off a balcony by an angry mob of students, except that a professor intervened just in time to save him.

The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Rev. Michael Nazir AIi, of Pakistani origins, now has to have a body guard, not just for himself but also for his Englishborn wife and their two sons. His forthright comments on Islam in Britain have led to death threats from the British Muslim community, threats which the police take very seriously. Furthermore, good ministries are being undermined, and might even be destroyed. Ben White`s review of "Global Jihad" soon appeared on the Church Mission Society, and also on the website of Richard Sudworth, one of their missionaries, who urged people to read the review and see what really underpins the ministry of Barnabas Fund.,Barnabas Fund, headed up by Patrick Sookhdeo, is an aid agency sending practical help to persecuted Christians. If Sudworth`s comment damages its work, he will have reduced the support available for faithful Christians living courageously in hostile contexts. But of course, they are mostly non-white and ma ny of them are converts, so their wellbeing is perhaps of little interest to him.

What could be of more interest to him is the evangelical culture of betrayal which might, just might, affect him too one day. Suppose the habit of betrayal spreads, and the betrayers are themselves betrayed. Sudworth was at one time a missionary in Tunisia, who naturally wanted to keep his own material secret. What if he now seeks to return there, and his activities are reported to radical Muslims in the region? Steve Bell, involved in calling the CRIB meeting at All Nations, heads up Interserve, which also sends white missionaries to the Muslim world. The venue itself, All Nations Christian College, exists to train missionaries to share the Gospel with Muslims amongst others. Global Connections, the home of CRIB, exists to link missionary agencies together. Elaine Storkey, chair of Fulcrum, is also president of Tearfund, a vast relief and development agency which sends Christian workers to many.different countries, some of them extremely sensitive. What if they were denounced to local Muslims, followed and killed? The tentacles of treachery can spread far. Canon Graham Kings, the theological secretary of Fulcrum and also vicar of Islington, north London, who seems to have a personal vendetta against Patrick Sookhdeo, might find that missionaries from his church were betrayed as they served God overseas. He himself might be threatened, or his family.

But putting these possible future scenarios aside, what on earth is going on in the evangelical camp right now? Not only have they turned on each other, but they have even enlisted the aid of a radical Muslim in their attempts to destroy one of their own. Is this a series of unconnected events which coincidentally revolve around the same few people and organisations? Or is there a plan? Was young Ben White officially representing Fulcrum when he contacted Indigo Jo? Or is White a na.ivecat`s paw, who was manipulated into taking this outrageous action? Is he linked through All Nations Christian College to CRIB? Was he chosen for his known hatred of Israel, bordering on anti-Semitism? From anti-Israel to pro-Palestinian to pro-Muslim to anti-convert is not a difficult path to follow. Whoever was behind it, did they hope, expect or know that Indigo Jo would literally demonise their fellow- Christian with the epithet "Sookhdevil"?

----I am white Western missionary. I am writing this because of my concern about what I see happening, in particular the attacks on and betrayal of Christian converts from Islam and other non-white Christians by white Western Christians. I have been in full-time Christian ministry, including evangelism amongst Muslims, for many years. I am concerned at the growing divide between missionaries and converts from Islam. February 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Slow return of calm for Christians in Iraq?

Mosul (AsiaNews) - Over the past two months, dozens of Iraqi Christian families have returned to Mosul. In the local community, there is a climate of "hope and fear"; in Baghdad, the government seems to be paying more attention to the conditions of refugees.

Today, authorities in Mosul announced the return of a substantial group of Christian families to the city. One official confirms that "between January and February, 81 families returned to their homes." According to the department for immigration and refugees, there are still 10,000 families of refugees in Al-Hamadaniya, a district 30 kilometers east of Mosul.

From Baghdad, there are signs of interest in the condition of refugees. The government says it is "taking care of the Christians," and the "concrete problems" of the people are beginning to be discussed. "This aspect," a local source confirms for AsiaNews, "is evident also in the results of the elections for the renewal of the provincial councils. Slogans of a religious nature were banned, and concrete questions were discussed: the shortage of electricity, of running water, of hospitals and health care, of telephone and postal communications, of roads and infrastructure."

Yesterday, Asghar al-Moussaoui, Iraq’s deputy minister for immigration and refugees, criticized European nations for "inciting Christian families to flee Iraq." "This statement is hardly credible," the source says, "especially at the present time: it seems more an individual position than that of the government, and sounds like quite a stretch." There are still many families of refugees in Jordan who are waiting for expatriate visas, and it is "difficult" for them to return to Iraq.

For the Christians in Kurdistan, the situation is different: "These families," the source concludes, "hope to return to Mosul for two reasons. They want to take possession of their homes, their businesses, their property. Also, it is expensive to rent apartments in the Kurdish area, and often families are not able to afford them."

Iraqi minister criticise European countries that encourage Christians to leave country, says causing them harm.

Asghar al-Moussawi, a deputy minister responsible for displaced people and refugees, said that Iraq needs all its people to stay and help improve the country's prospects. He chose the visit of Germany's foreign minister on Tuesday to criticise European countries that encourage Christians to leave the war-torn nation. "The fact that certain governments are encouraging the emigration of Iraq's Christians is unacceptable," Moussawi was quoted as saying by the Centre for National Media, a government organisation.

More on Middle East Online

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Jihad TV in Europe

Their propaganda notwithstanding, Hamas and, two years ago, Hezbollah suffered devastating military defeats that may diminish their ability to attack Israel with rocket fire. But these Iranian-backed terrorist organizations are deploying another dangerous weapon in their war against Western democracies -- terrorist television stations.

Thanks to Arab satellite companies, Hezbollah's al-Manar and Hamas's al-Aqsa TV stations can still beam their incitement and hatred into European living rooms, radicalizing Muslim immigrants throughout the Continent.

Read more in the Wall Street Journal.

Middle East Times: truths and lies about its religious owners

Claude Salhani, an editor of The Middle East Times writes an article this week against Jihad al-Khazen of the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper for lying about the religious affiliation of the Middle East Times. No wonder; in the sensitive environment of Egypt Middle East Times had to clean its tarnished image! Khazen was speaking of the Middle East times as the "Jewish Middle East Times Magazine." The response of Middle East Times:

Khazen's information in attributing a religious affiliation to the Middle East Times was completely erroneous.[...]

The Middle East Times prides itself as being one of the rare, if not the only publication dedicated to coverage of the Middle East to not openly take sides in the Arab-Israeli dispute. We offer a voice and a forum to both sides on an equal basis. In fact, we are often accused by both sides of supporting the other; a clear indication that we are doing something right.

We do need to point out that he [...] is engaging in "Goebbelsian" tactics in meshing half-truths with half lies and mixing them in with truth and fact - the perfect way to disseminate propaganda.

As journalists trying to report the truth, let us not add to the untruths.

Absolutely! But Middle East Times, then you must not lie as well. Indeed, I am sure there is no 'Jewish' money behind you. But your weekly is owned by News World Communications, Inc. and that is owned by the Unification Church of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Even a cursory search makes that clear. See Wikipedia! Would you not think that it is 'untruth' to claim that you have no religious affiliation? Or has the Unification Church sold Middle East Times? Maybe you can clarify?

Mind you! I am not complaining about the Middle East Times. I like the weekly, I like its independent reporting. But eh.... there IS a religious affiliation.

Monday, February 16, 2009

10 ways to defend Muhammad's marriage with six-year-old Aisha

I came across this interesting article by a Muslim who thinks he can defend the idea that the prophet of Islam 'married' a girl of six years old, to consume that 'marriage' when she was nine. I will not comment on the text; you go ahead ;-)

Here the text:

Important Note:
The age or even the name of Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) wife Hazrat Aisha (ra) is not mentioned in the Quran, which is believed to be the Revelation from God. Therefore, if anybody can prove with objective argument or solid evidence that a true Prophet of God cannot marry a girl of Hazrat Aisha's age then the ahadith that mention her age will be proven to be false, and Muslims have no problem at all in rejecting them either. But, unfortunately, no will ever be able to prove it, anyway! Therefore, there is NO point of bringing up this kind of non-issue to attack the character of Prophet Muhammad. So, the anti-Islamic haters are dismantled right here. And that will surely end and refute the false accusations against Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) marriage to his beloved wife Hazrat Aisha (ra). Do we need to move on further? Let's see…

Introduction: First of all Islam has no problem with early marriage, in general. It is left to the parents to decide if their children should marry or not with her or his consent. But if they are married at young age, the marriage should be consummated AFTER the age of puberty and AFTER the girl reaches her menses. This is because the Prophet Muhammad (pub) consummated his marriage after Aisha reached PUBERTY, according to ahadith. Islam does not support pedophilia or child molestation under any circumstances. This is because the Quran associates marriage to physical and mental maturity and adulthood. I will give two Quranic verses to prove this.

The Quran 4:6: Make trial of orphans until they REACH the age of marriage; if then you find SOUND judgment in them, release their property to them; but consume it not wastefully, nor in haste against their growing up. If the guardian is well off, Let him claim no remuneration, but if he is poor, let him have for himself what is just and reasonable. When ye release their property to them, take witnesses in their presence: But all sufficient is God in taking account.

The Quran 4:21: And how could ye take it when ye have gone in unto each other, and they have taken from you a solemn covenant?

Both of these verses together indicate that marriage is a covenant. Agreement between man and woman at the age of maturity and where they can make good judgments. Therefore, they have to be developed.

Step 1: Hadith of Aisha's age: 'Aisha, may God be pleased with her, narrated that the Prophet was betrothed to her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years. (Saheeh al-Bukhari, Vol. 7, Book 62, No. 64) Of the four ahadith in Saheeh al-Bukhari, two were narrated from 'Aisha (7:64 and7:65), one from Abu Hishaam (5:236) and one via 'Ursa (7:88). All three of the ahadith in Saheeh Muslim have 'Aisha as a narrator. Additionally, all of the ahadith in both books agree that the marriage betrothal contract took place when 'Aisha was "six years old", but was not consummated until she was "nine years old". All Muslim scholars agree that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Aisha were engaged for nearly three years before marriage. And in these three years the Prophet did not have (sexual relations with her) until much later after the age of 9 years, once she reached puberty and moved in to the Prophet's house after the age of 9.

Step 2: It's biological fact that a young woman can produce a child and get married when she has had her menses. Here is the fact that Aisha (ra) had her menses at 9 years old: "The messenger of Allah (SAW) said to me: Get me the mat from the mosque. I said: I am menstruating. Upon this he remarked: Your menstruation is not in your hands." (Sahih Muslim, Hadith No.15973)

Step 3: Many haters want to complain about the marriage of the Prophet to Aisha but they don't want to complain the age of (Mary the mother of Jesus) "Joseph, Mary's husband, was 90 years old" when he married 12 to 14 year old Mary. (Catholic Encyclopedia) Visit catholic website: Mary was pregnant with a child in her hand when she was 12 yrs old. Proof references:

Step 4: So Aisha (ra) who was 9 years old, and according to hadith, when she was betrothed to the Prophet. And Mary mother of Jesus who was 12 years old according to the Catholic Encyclopedia was a young girl who reached the menses and decided to get married. I want to raise a question to Christians. Would you marry your daughter to Jesus if she reached her menses, and if Jesus asked for her hand? If Yes, then you need to be consistent. If No, then are you saying that you don't trust Jesus?!

Step 5: Age of consent in the Bible. Also keep in mind that both for Marry (the mother of Jesus) and Aisha's young marriage was a practice even in the Christian Bible. Ezekiel 16:4-14 states a girl after her (breast) and (pubic) hair developed he had sex with her: (Ezekiel 16:4-14) "You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your (pubic) hair grew, you who were naked and bare. Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love." As you can see the Bible clearly supports that after he realized her (breast) were formed and she had (pubic hair) he had sex with her and according to (her age in the Bible) she was anywhere between ages 8 to 13 yrs old because that's the age her breast formed according to science.

Step 6: When does puberty start? Although puberty usually starts between ages 8 to 13 in girls, it may start earlier or later. Everyone's body changes at a different time. Whether you have breast at age 10 or have not started your period by age 14, do not worry. Everyone goes through puberty eventually. Proof from science health:

Here is also proof that when a young woman has reached her menses and gone through puberty she can produce a child even at 9 yrs old. Picture of Thailand mother at 9 years gives birth:

Step 7: What is the age of consent in history around the world? Child brides as young as eight were common among the Byzantine emperors and nobility. According to William of Tyre, Agnes was only eight on her arrival at Constantinople, while Alexius was thirteen; in fact Alexius was born on 14 September 1169. Child brides, whether Byzantines or foreign princesses, were the norm rather than the exception, especially from the late twelfth century:

California U.S.A in 1859, age of consent (7 years old):

California U.S.A in 1889, age of consent (10 years old), was the first state to change the age of consent to 14, which it did in 1889! After California, other US states joined in and raised the age of consent too:

Massachusetts U.S.A, age of consent (12 years old with parental consent):

Spain, age of consent (12 years old):

New Hampshire U.S.A 2008: 18 generally; 14 for males and 13 for females, in cases of "special cause" with parental consent and court permission:

New Mexico, age of consent (13 years old):

Japan, age of consent (13 years old):

So as you can see from the above evidence that even in western cultures marrying your daughters as young as 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13 years old was a practice amongst Christians in America and other parts of the world! 12 year old Romanian Christian getting married:

Step 8: BIBLE AND JEWISH TALMUD ACCEPT HAVING SEX WITH CHILDREN 3 YEARS OLD! (Bible Numbers 31:17-18: "Now kill all the boys [innocent kids]. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every GIRL who has never slept with a man.") It is only natural for girls who have never slept with any man to be young in age! In the case of the time that these verses occurred, the girls were as young as three. Here is the Jewish Talmud's historical elaboration on what exactly took place by Moses and his men when they took the virgin girls as spoils of war.

Step 9: Here is the evidence of age timeline from the book of Genesis from the (Christian) and (Jewish) Bible: Jewish commentators agree she was 3 yrs old including Rashi because she was "barren" from giving children. And Isaac said my wife is barren. Because she was able to have children at 3 yrs old. ISAAC’S AGE WAS 37 WHEN HE MARRIED 3 YRS OLD (Rebecca) BIBLE: BOOK OF GENESIS! Rivkha (Rebecca's) age:

Isaac's age:

JEWISH TALMUD: A girl three years and one day old is betrothed by intercourse. (Sanhedrin 7/55B) A girl three years old may be betrothed through an act of sexual intercourse. (Mishnah Niddah 5:4)

Step 10: Hazrat Aisha was a legal WIFE of Prophet Muhammad, and not anything else. Yet some evil minded Christian Missionaries invented the lie against Prophet Muhammad to justify/hide the crimes of thousands of pedophile priests in their churches? Before revealing the crimes of their pedophile priests, no one ever raised question about the legal marriage of Prophet Muhammad with Hazrat Aisha.

Conclusion: I wish to also remind you that the Prophet was married to his first wife Khadija (ra) who was 15 years older than Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)! To conclude, we have proved with solid evidence that the marriage of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to Aisha is Biblically validated, scientifically correct, and even historically correct amongst Christians! In fact Hazrat Aisha (ra) is one of the greatest scholars and teacher in Islam.

For more details and reference please visit:

Source of this write-up (with some editing):

New patriarch for Syriac Catholic Church installed in Beirut

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNS) -- Amid cheers and ululation, the former head of the Syrian Catholic diocese in the U.S. and Canada was installed as patriarch of the Syrian Catholic Church.

Saying that he will "serve, not for personal interests, but to win Christ," Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan (see picture with the former pope John Paul XXIII) was installed Feb. 15 at a Mass steeped in rituals characteristic of the Catholic Church's Eastern rites.

People applauded and cheered and women ululated during the entrance procession at Our Lady of the Annunciation Syrian Catholic Church in Beirut. The veiled Patriarch Younan was led into the church by several Syrian Catholic bishops, including Cardinal Ignace Moussa Daoud, retired Syrian patriarch.

The new patriarch made his way past patriarchs, cardinals, bishops, priests and nuns of the Eastern and Latin churches, as well as the Orthodox churches. He took his seat under the crucifix behind the altar, where he remained covered in a lace veil, a symbol of Jesus' 40-day fast in the desert, until he was officially enthroned as patriarch just before Communion.

Cardinal Daoud celebrated the Mass in Arabic and Aramaic.

Immediately following his enthronement, Patriarch Younan blessed the faithful as he was lifted three times in his chair.

"Blessings ... long life," the faithful chanted in Arabic. Women in the choir ululated amid the cheers and applause.

Patriarch Younan said, "It is a great honor I don't deserve, but I put my whole trust in the one who said, 'You have not chosen me; I have chosen you.'"

Thanking those "who had traveled a great distance," the new patriarch praised "my dear friend," Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, "who truly was my father in the faith since my very beginning as a missionary priest then as bishop in the United States."

"With his fraternal support and solicitude, His Eminence allowed our small Syrian Catholic community in Newark, N.J., to grow in size and grace," he said. Cardinal McCarrick served as archbishop of Newark from 1986 to 2000.

Worldwide there are an estimated 200,000 Syrian Catholics, including 60,000-65,000 in the United States and Canada. Patriarch Younan was sent to the United States to serve the Syrian communities there in 1986. From 1995 until his January election as the new patriarch of Antioch, Patriarch Younan was the head of the Newark-based Syrian-rite diocese in the United States and Canada.

Cardinal McCarrick, speaking in French, said Patriarch Younan was like a little brother "who I am proud to consider as my spiritual friend."

On the altar, Cardinal McCarrick sat alongside Cardinal Nasrallah P. Sfeir, patriarch of the Maronite Catholic Church.

In his address, Patriarch Younan expressed delight that his classmate from Rome, Syro-Malankara Bishop Abraham Kackanatt of Muvattupuzha, India, was able to attend.

"Your presence today is an urgent reminder for all of us to strengthen our ecclesial and liturgical communion," PatriarchYounan said.

In his remarks, Bishop Kackanatt said the patriarch was returning to the roots of the church, "the cradle of conviviality and spirituality."

"I pray that the patriarch will bring a new spirit to this church and all churches. May you bring more unity and love to all the churches thriving here today that, unfortunately, are not in full communion," Bishop Kackanatt said.

Drawing cheers from the estimated 150 people who came from Syria -- some from Patriarch Younan's home village, Hassake -- the patriarch noted he "was born in Syria, where my parents found refuge after fleeing" Turkey. A delegation of 35 people came from Istanbul, Turkey.

Some 70 people came from Iraq, and numerous Iraqi flags were visible throughout the church.

Father ST Sutton, who served as secretary to Patriarch Younan while he was a bishop in the U.S., said the new patriarch is "very intelligent, very collegial and open-minded. And he has a great sense of humor."

"He is a prayerful man. The ultimate climax of his prayer life is the Eucharist," the priest said.

Father Sutton said Patriarch Younan has a keen sense of the universality of the church.

"If anything, he is a bridge-builder and a healer. He has no personal agenda except to unite and serve the Lord," said Father Sutton.

The priest said the patriarch's departure from the United States is "bittersweet" and that the faithful are awaiting a new bishop, scheduled to be selected during the July synod.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Increasing suicide rates in Egypt

From the blog of Mostafa Hussein: (

Mental health policies and practice are full of problems. An old law, incomplete and disconnected services, insufficient practitioners, lack of awareness, poor training, distortion by religious ideologies and lack of research and statistics.

Discussing all this is difficult because of the amount of it. The new mental health law is a hot topic now with stomach-turning discussions on how some people think that humans living in this country deserve fewer rights.

Suicide is one aspect of mental health policy that is looked upon with a very strange perspective. Because of the religious prohibition on killing oneself, it became a given that all Islamic nations report an unrealistically low rate of suicide. Claims that Islam protects from suicide prompts silent laughs from anyone who can think.

I am not saying that Islam (or religiosity) doesn't protect from mental illness. This is not the issue here. The problem is that the source of this is interpretations of the holy text. Not any scientific method.

These claims feed the vicious stigmatizing circle of mental illness being a result of lack of faith. With people associating mental illness with an unavoidable internal guilt that they can't deal with.

Arabic media propagates the same myth. For more than a year now, I read everything on Google news written in Arabic and mentions the word Psychiatry. A disturbing number of articles written on how the mentally ill should resolve to faith to convalesce. Or the criminal statement that mental disorders are caused by lack of faith. These statements are from psychiatrists. To be fair, most of these statements are from Saudi and Jordanian press.

Religion aside, It seems that suicide rates are looked upon as failure rates. You can blame anything you don't like for increasing the number of suicide.

Per Bjorklund linked to and translated an article in El-Badeel linking Suicide with unemployment.

El Badeel reports: According to a report presented to the people's assembly by independent MP Gamal Zahraan, 12.000 young men in Egypt committed suicide in the last 4 years. The main cause, according to Zahraan, is high levels of unemployment. Zahraan also accuse the government of denying the true extent of the unemployment problem. While the government talk about unemployment levels of 9 percent, the IMF and the World Bank put the numbers at 18 and 22 percent.

And the numbers of suicide look like that:

  • 2005: 1,100 person commited suicide
  • 2006: 2,300 (more than doubled)
  • 2007: 3,700 (again doubled)
  • 2008: It doesn't say a figure but says it doubled again and the totall for the four years reached 12,000. Lets say 7,400 (even though if we deduct the numbers above from the totall of 12,000 we should have 4,900 only)

Anyone can use suicide rates to blame anything. This MP is using suicide rates to blame the government for economic mismanagement and poor outcome. The following is the comment I left on Per's blog:

This is a mental health problem not primarily an economic one.

Blaming unemployment for suicide without a credible causal link is complete non-sense. A statistically significant positive correlation might exist between unemployment and suicide but the real value or significance of this is questionable. Depression is main cause of suicide in the world.

Suicide rates in Egypt, and most Islamic countries, are never publicized. Probably the reason is because suicide is stigmatized and considered a lack of faith.

Studies were done by independent scholars in the 80s about suicide were very small and measured suicide rates in limited areas. They came up with a very small figure of 0.1 in 100,000. Suicide rate in Sweden is around 13 in 100,000.

Those figures in the El-Badeel if credible might be realistic. The 2007 number cited equals a rate of 5.3 in 100,000. While the 2008 figure is around 10.6 which is almost the same suicide rate in the USA and Chile.

However, if these numbers were true, doubling in the number of suicides every year is alarming. A never heard of phenomenon, I think.


I agree with Per's response:

I agree that simplistic explanations should be avoided and that you can't simply blame unemployment for all suicides in Egypt, but I don't understand why there can't be a link between mental health and economic factors. We heard of many cases of people taking their lives after losing their savings in the financial crash, for example. Surely lacking any prospects of a meaningful occupation and living under constant economic hardships could increase the risk of becoming depressed.

But I would like to add that:

Economics control life events and depression is caused by both vulnerability (genetic or familial) and stress (life events like jobs, divorce, etc..).

Yes, there is a link between economics and health (including mental health primarily). But linking economic hardships with suicide is what I disagree about.

Here is a diagram that might explain my point of view:

This is like linking economy with coughing. Economy affects the number of people who develop TB for example. But TB is the reason people are coughing more.

Surely the economic conditions and living standards in Egypt are very difficult. There are also different reasons for suicide. In the end a man who shot himself or woman overdosing on pills probably didn't do that because of merely losing a job. They lost something more significant.

Patrick Sookhdeo, The Challenge of Islam to the Church and Its Mission - a book review

Bill Muehlenberg, Christian Today Australia Columnist, writes this book review:

Patrick Sookhdeo, who was born a Muslim, is now a Christian convert living in England. He is a world authority on Islam, jihad and terrorism, and has been warning the West and the church for decades now about the threat they face from militant Islam. This book is perhaps the best brief summary of these issues now available.

There are plenty of good books around which inform Christians about Islam, what it believes, what it does, and how it should be approached. This book does all this, but its main concern is to warn believers who think that Muslim-Christian dialogue is the way to go, and that interfaith relations can be constructive for both parties.

This book is really about how two global missionary faiths are in conflict, and how one seems to be making great gains (Islam) while the other (Christianity) is basically asleep at the wheel. The truth is, Islam is on a mission to not just convert Christians, but to see the entire world submit to Allah and come under sharia law. But most Christians are completely unaware of all this.

This bookreview can be read HERE

Bible Society of Egypt at Bookfair

On my recent trip to Egypt, I had the chance to work with (and shop at) The Bible Society of Egypt. In Egypt, it is illegal to give Christian materials away for free because that is considered "evangelizing" non-Christians, but it is legal to sell the Bible and other materials... for really cheap. Enter The Bible Society~

The Bible Society of Egypt has three main goals: to make the Bible affordable (so that anyone who wanted a copy could get one without money being an issue), available (they are creative in making it accessible to the people who want it... including services like free home delivery, a hotline number, and 12 bookstores), and understandable (making the Bible available in the language of the people and in simpler forms, like audio and video, that can be understood by less-literate and illiterate customers).

More on this blog from a visitor from the USA.

BBC: Converts to Christian faith in Egypt fear for their lives

Mr El Gohary and his daughter fear for their lives' after converting Maher al-Gohary has converted from Islam to Christianity. In spite of facing death threats, he's engaged in a legal battle to have his changed religion recognised on his official Egyptian documents.

We drive through the chaotic streets of Cairo to meet Mr Gohary's lawyer at a petrol station. His client lives in hiding, and doesn't disclose his address. He faces threats to his life - as a result of abandoning Islam for Christianity. When we meet, in a small first floor office on an anonymous Cairo street, Maher al-Gohary is matter-of-fact about the dangers he faces.

"I am afraid. Many, many people can kill me and my daughter anytime," he says. I asked him whether he felt these threats to his life were serious. "Yes," he replied. "Anyone may kill us in the street." His teenage daughter, also a Christian, sits at her father's side. She, too, has been warned about the consequences of religious conversion.

"While I was going to school, someone stopped me and told me if my father does not go back to Islam, they will kill him and kill me," she tells me. Legal recognition Her father's legal challenge is a simple one. He wants his state identification documents amended, so that his religious status is described as Christian. Such a change would also mean his daughter could receive Christian religious education.

His lawyer, Nabil Ghobreyal, has already represented his client at several legal hearings - but no judge has yet issued a final verdict. At the most recent, on 7 February, Mr Ghobreya believes he made a convincing case that Egyptian civil law offers no obstacles to religious conversion. He believes the real problem is that the law is being ignored.

(c) Christopher Landau
BBC Religious Affairs correspondent, Cairo

Sweeping changes ahead in Libya?

Leader Moammar Kadafi on Saturday called on Libyans to endorse his proposal to dismantle the national government and give the country's oil wealth directly to its 5 million people.

Kadafi has urged a sweeping revision of government bureaucracy, saying the whole Cabinet system should be dismantled to free Libyans from corruption and mismanagement. His plan has run into opposition from senior officials, who stand to lose their jobs in a government purge.

"Do not be afraid to take directly the oil money and the responsibility to create the right government structures that further the interests of the people," Kadafi told representatives of the country's Basic People Congresses.

The people's congresses are the backbone of Libya's government structure and function as the country's top executive and legislative bodies. They represent people at district and village levels across the country, and vote on laws and government policy.

But in practice, Kadafi decides on key policy, particularly regarding oil.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saudi Arabia sacks two important religious leaders

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has sacked two powerful religious officials in a wide ranging shake-up of the cabinet and other government posts, as can be read on the website of BBC. One of the dismissed men was the head of the controversial religious police force. The other was the country's most senior judge. The king also appointed the country's first-ever female minister and replaced the head of the central bank.

King Abdullah, who came to power in 2005, has for a long time had the reputation of a reformer - and the latest appointments have the makings of one of the biggest shake-ups in Saudi public life for many years. The sacked head judge, Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan, caused controversy last September when he said it was permissible to kill the owners of satellite TV channels which broadcast immoral programmes. Sheikh Salih Ibn al-Luhaydan said some "evil" entertainment programmes aired by the channels promoted debauchery. Our correspondent says the sheikh may well be paying the price for airing his opinions.

Sheikh Ibrahim al-Ghaith has lost his job as head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which enforces Saudi Arabia's conservative brand of Islam, Wahhabism. The commission has wide powers to search for alcohol and drugs, to crack down on prostitution and ensure shops are closed during prayer times. The religious police have been widely criticised recently over allegations of brutality - the kind of comments that could never have been made publicly a few years ago.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Initiating Insider Movements - critique on 'Common Ground

Recently I attended the Common Ground (CG) symposium in Atlanta, Georgia as part of a larger mission team wrestling with issues of contextualization in Muslim ministry. What I saw and heard, however was no small cause for alarm.

Muhammed was made out to be "a prophet in a New Testament sense" with his sins amply justified; the Qur'an the revelation that leads to Biblical truth; the people of Islam those "who love Jesus and His Kingdom" and Allah revealed in the Qur'an as the functional equivalent
of the YHWH.

The ground rules of the conference were:
Never—speak bad against the Qur'an
Never—speak bad against the People
Never---speak bad against the Prophet
Never---speak bad against Allah

In order to accomplish this, CG resorted to using a revisionist history of Islam and the life of Muhammed with a not-too subtle whitewashing of both as well as pouring Christian values into the texts and prescribed activities of Islam to make them appear more saintly. The Al-Fatiyah prayer was said to be "pretty." Theologically the conference could only be portrayed as shallow,
depending on extensive proof-texting and eisegesis to further the agenda.

What is the agenda of the Common Ground Consultants?
I believe it is a way to propose a silver bullet to those who are discouraged about their results in Muslim ministry. Thus, under the guise of results and supposed love for Muslims, CG packages the best of the American dream informed by the spirit of the age, or the Zeitgeist:

-instant and guaranteed results-------the "victory stories" by a global battery of witnesses attested to this.
-persecution avoidance-----chameleons live longer than martyrs went the rationale
- a good image----now you can write home about the immense following you have created

This American dream falls far short of God's mission vision and the results that I see forthcoming are divisiveness, heretical tendencies, spurious conversions, and heterodoxy.

'Salaam Corniche'

PS an article on this conference 'Common Ground' will be published in in the near future

Arabic language endangered in the Arabian Gulf

The Arabic language is endangered due to the domination of the English language, particularly in the GCC communities where thousands of expats live, a senior Qatari official has said.

Dr Marzook Basher Binmarzook, of the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, said the language was also under threat from the domination of the English language in school curriculums and the impact the media has on the Arabic-speaking audience.

Binmarzook was speaking at a press conference to announce a seminar titled Language and Identity, due to take place from Feb. 15-17 at Sharq Village and Spa, Qatar daily Gulf Times reported on Friday.

For more see HERE.

Arab Media; Effective or Ineffective

All is fair in love and war; but not everything is acceptable in war, says Mshahri al-Zaydi (see picture), a Saudi journalist in al-Sharq al-Awsat.

The media is one of the things which is not acceptable in war; the media which is affiliated to each of the parties involved in the conflict, and which abounds in our region.

The Arab media- whether it likes it or not- is one of the battlefronts of these multifaceted and diverse conflicts. Some media agencies attempt to be as professional as possible with regards to their style and their media content, they avoid using rousing language, and rather concentrate on strong content and being the first on the scene. They also rely on the richness of their discussion programs which shines light on the shadowy areas behind the news.

More on this al-Sharq al-Awsat story on Arab Media HERE.

Arrest warrant for Sudanese President soon to be issued by International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court's pretrial judges have decided to issue a warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan's Darfur region, according to an official at the United Nations.

Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be charged by the Hague-based court with war crimes, and the first Arab leader to face the prospect of being tried for atrocities by an international tribunal. The decision, which was first reported Wednesday night on the New York Times' Web site, is expected to be announced within two weeks.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Explaining the Fatherhood of God to Muslims...

Mission Frontiers had an article about the Fatherhood of God in its latest issue. The article can be found HERE. The article upsets me! It discusses the Fatherhood of God, in my opinion, from a wrong starting point.

We must first look at the meaning of 'Father' in the God-Jesus relationship. Indeed, to speak of physical fatherhood in that case is not correct, but Father does designate the God from whom the Son 'generated' in a very substantial manner. There is equality in substance.

Many efforts to explain 'Father' in a non-physical manner make the term mean something less than what the word Father means in the New Testament. We call God 'Father', in the very first place, because He is the Father of his Son, Jesus Christ. IN CHRIST He is our Father. This means that whenever we try to understand the Fatherhood of God - that and nothing else should be the starting point.

China to build a new hajj-railway in Saudi Arabia

Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, is in Riyadh on a three-day tour. He announced ,a deal to build a 230mph rail link between Mecca and Medina, to will cut the 4-hour car journey between Mekka and Medina to just half an hour. The train will help alleviate congestion during the Hajj.

"This train will be able to rapidly evacuate the crowd at the peak of the Hajj," said Yang Honglin, the Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, adding that the line will have a maximum capacity of five million people a year. The railway will be built by China Railway Construction Corporation, together with a Saudia Arabian company and an unnamed French firm. The deal is said to be worth £1.2 billion and should be completed by 2013.

It is the first time that the two countries have signed a major public works agreement, although Huawei, the giant Chinese telecommunications company, is already the largest supplier of communications during the Hajj. The main focus of Mr Hu's trip is likely to be oil supplies to the world's most populous nation. "Saudi Arabia is the biggest oil exporter to China. We value the role it plays and look forward to strengthening cooperation in this field," said the Chinese foreign ministry.

Trade between the two countries has doubled since 2005 and rose 65 per cent last year to Pounds28.7 billion. Sinopec, the Chinese state-owned oil company, is negotiating a deal with Saudi Aramco to build two refineries in Saudi Arabia. Chinese officials said there are now 62 Chinese companies working in the kingdom, employing over 15,000 Chinese workers.

Info from

Saudi Arabia has no shame; Prison and 100 lashes for gang-raped woman for 'adultery'

A Saudi judge has ordered a woman should be jailed for a year and receive 100 lashes after she was gang-raped, it was claimed last night. The 23-year-old woman, who became pregnant after her ordeal, was reportedly assaulted after accepting a lift from a man. He took her to a house to the east of the city of Jeddah where she was attacked by him and four of his friends throughout the night.


A judge in the Saudi city of Jeddah, pictured, ruled that the woman was guilty of adultery and should be jailed for a year. She later discovered she was pregnant and made a desperate attempt to get an abortion at the King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces.

According to the Saudi Gazette, she eventually 'confessed' to having 'forced intercourse' with her attackers and was brought before a judge at the District Court in Jeddah.

He ruled she had committed adultery - despite not even being married - and handed down a year's prison sentence, which she will serve in a prison just outside the city. She is still pregnant and will be flogged once she has had the child.

The Saudi Arabian legal system practices a strict form of medieval law. Women have very few rights and are not even allowed to drive. They are also banned from going out in public in the company of men other than male relatives.

(c) MailOnline

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Abducted in Egypt: Ben White writes for The Guardian

Last Friday night, after a peaceful, small-scale march north of Cairo in solidarity with the besieged Palestinians of Gaza, Egyptian secret police kidnapped one of the event organisers, Philip Rizk. Philip is an Egyptian-German blogger, film-maker and activist, who had previously lived in Gaza for two years. As I write this, no one has yet received confirmation of his location or had any communication with him.

There are more detailed accounts of what happened on Friday and events since then on various blogs. The family, while desperately worried, have been working with local activists and friends abroad to mobilise a campaign for Philip's release (the Facebook group attracted more than 2,500 members in the first two days).

However, Phil would be the first to point to the fact that what has happened to him is all too common in Mubarak's Egypt. In fact, this "Mafia-style" abduction, and the Palestine focus of Philip's work that made him a target for Egypt's mukhabarat, draws attention to some larger developments in Egypt and the region.


Monday, February 9, 2009

In Kosovo, whole Muslim families turn to Catholic faith

PRISTINA, Kosovo (CNS) -- Although armed conflict in Kosovo ended nearly a decade ago, the capital city still feels like a place hit recently by war or natural disaster. Electricity goes out often, water is strictly rationed, U.N. jeeps are ubiquitous and people look harried.

Along the main road leading to Pristina, every other lot is full of old cars, stolen from other European countries and picked clean or abandoned by families who fled the war.

But during Sunday Masses at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua, an active Catholic community packs the pews. There are families and old people, a full-voiced choir, eight young altar servers and long lines to receive the Eucharist.

The church, located in a working-class neighborhood, was built in the 1960s after the communist regime demolished the Catholic cathedral in the city's center.

More of this article by Victor Gaetan for CNS HERE.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Book by Jalal Amin very critical of the Egyptian state under Mubarak

A new book assessing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s era described his state as weak, purposeless, driven by individual rather than national interests and plagued by unprecedented corruption.

The book, titled “Egypt and Egyptians in Mubarak’s Era 1981-2008,” carries ruthless criticism of Mubarak’s era, concluding that Egypt is currently in “a state of ordeal” on all political, social and economic fronts.

It dismisses the state under Mubarak’s rule as “weak, having neither the capacity nor the will to sanction those who violate the law, has no national project or patriotic objective that the people can rally around, and accords more importance to satisfying external forces which protect it, keep it in power and provide it with assistance than to satisfying the people. All this happens at a juncture where Egypt has opened up the world and to high consumption levels…”

More on Jalal Amin's book in the LA Times HERE.

Worshipping in mega-churches in Qatar

When the Rev. Tomasito Veneracion arrived in this Muslim nation seven years ago, his Roman Catholic parishioners prayed in small groups scattered in apartments, schools, and one tiny makeshift chapel. At Easter, Indian Catholics gathered in one place, Filipinos in another, Arabs in yet another.

But with last year's opening of Our Lady of the Rosary Church, his congregants for the first time had a recognized, central place to worship. On Christmas Eve, 15,000 attended a midnight mass, with those who couldn't cram into the 2,700-seat church watching on video screens outside.

"When I first came here, the church was not recognized. But now we are enjoying this gift," Father Veneracion says. "It's a tremendous feeling of relief that we can breathe, worship, and pray in a place without fear and without disturbance."

The Anglican church in Qatar is building a church just beside the Roman Catholic church. Bill Schwartz is its rector. (See picture) More on this building of megachurches in Qatar HERE.

Church in Sudan grows

The Episcopal Church of the Sudan has grown to 25 dioceses with the creation last month of the Diocese of Terekeka. On Jan 24, the Archbishop of Juba, the Most Rev Daniel Deng Bul Yak convened the first synod of the diocese centred in the town of Terekeka in the Sudan’s Central Equatoria State, approximately 50 miles north of Juba.

In his synod address, Archbishop Deng said the province had waited to create a new diocese for Terekeka archdeaconry of the Diocese of Juba for the Mundari people until they could support a bishop with his own house, car, office and with funds for economic and social development projects.

Last year the leaders of the Mundari community responded that they had raised the funds to support a bishop, and would commit to building schools and hospitals.

More on Religious Intelligence

Saturday, February 7, 2009

First Arab feature film about Jesus Christ this year

Lebanese exhibition and production shingles Eagle Pictures and the Marwa Group are making “The Resurrected,” a $2 million biopic of the life of Jesus. Production is set to begin in the summer with a Middle Eastern theatrical release set for Easter 2010.

Lebanese helmer Samir Habchi (“Beirut Open City”) is in negotiations to direct the project, while thesp Youssef Al-Khal is set to play the Messiah. Project will depict Jesus’ life in flashbacks and be seen from the perspective of Mary Magdelene, who will be played by Nadine Al-Rassi. Pic will focus on the redemptive nature of Jesus’ message. The producers will be taking elements from all four Gospels.

“This is a real attempt to go back to the mutual respect which existed between Christians, Muslims and Jews in this region for centuries,” said Eagle topper Jamal Al-Sharif. “We’ve seen films about Jesus from the West but there has never been an Arabic production about him despite the fact that he came from here.”

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion” was a huge hit in the Arab world when it was released, particularly in Lebanon where there is a large Christian population. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates even changed the law forbidding the depiction of prophets to allow for the film’s theatrical release there.

Producers will be lensing on location in many of the sites where Jesus is believed to have visited, including Qana and Tyre in South Lebanon. They are also hoping to lense in the towns of cities of Nazareth and Bethlehem, although that will be dependent on the political situation there.

Eagle and Marwa execs have put together a $50 million fund drawn from private Arab investors to help turn Lebanon into a production powerhouse. While the country has a long history of TV and film producing expertise, it has long been hampered by political instability.

The two companies have already started production on romantic comedy “Larita and Aziz,” featuring local stars George Khabbaz and Rita Barsoum. Eagle and Marwa also have three Ramadan TV skeins set to go into production in time for delivery this year.

Al-Sharif is hoping “The Resurrected” can help bring Lebanon’s divided factions together. He has received the official blessing for the production from Lebanon’s Maronite Christian Patriarch, while the country’s prexy and speaker of parliament have both pledged to attend its Beirut preem next year.


Religious police in Saudi Arabia escort 12 British women away from British University exhibition in Riyadh

Why the law that applies in Riyadh does not in Jeddah?" "Are we two States in one State?" asked Friday Saudis who were upset by "a scandal "caused by the religious police during an education exhibition organized by Al-Yamama University in the Saudi capital.

"A scandal"

Last Sunday (January 25, 2009), members of the religious police (or Moutawa), who are responsible for enforcing the Sharia (religious law), hit the headlines by ordering a dozen young British women to immediately leave the university’s premises where an exhibition "EDUEX 2009” was held and attended by 62 British universities.

More HERE in Watan.

Egypt detains a German activist Philip Rizk

How great it is to not live in a dictatorially ruled police state like Egypt! Egyptian police have detained an Egyptian-German political activist and blogger on Gaza Strip issues, his sister and an eyewitness said Saturday. Reuters reports about it.

Philip Rizk, 26, a graduate student at the American University in Cairo, was detained by police Friday night while returning to Cairo from Qalyoubia, north of Cairo, his sister Jeanette told Reuters.

Rizk and a group of activists had been holding a march in the rural areas north of Cairo in solidarity with Palestinians and to raise awareness about the effects of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, according to Salma Said, an activist who was with Rizk when he was detained.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said he had received no word of the detention.

Said said police had detained their vehicle for several hours and then said they wanted to talk with Rizk. They put him in a vehicle with no licence plates and sped off. Other policemen then blocked the activists' vehicle to prevent them from following.

"We don't know where he is, and there is no formal charge," Rizk's sister said. She added that the German embassy had been notified and were attempting to locate him.

Rizk, who blogs at Tabula Gaza ( is "passionate" about Gaza and had recently completed most of the work on a short documentary about non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation, according to his sister.

She said that Rizk, who lived in Gaza for two years, had been helping get medicine into the coastal enclave that was recently the target of a 22-day Israeli offensive that left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead.

Too much optimism over Iraqi elections

Now that their nemesis, George W. Bush, has left office, the mainstream media can be unbridled in their optimism about the future of Iraq. After 9/11, they chose to allow themselves to be duped by the Bush administration's fairly lame reasons for the clearly unrelated U.S. invasion of Iraq and have been bitter about the quagmire ever since.

Given that Barack Obama, whom most media covered favorably during the election campaign, has taken office, their coverage of the recent Iraqi provincial elections indicates that they have flipped and now see a glass half full in Iraq rather than a glass half empty. They have touted the Iraqi elections as a wild success, with purple-thumbed Iraqi citizens depicted as supporting a centralized Iraqi state over autonomy for Iraq's regions.

Not so fast. Read further by Ivan Eland on

Saudi Arabia to the defense of human rights

Saudi Arabia told the UN Human Rights Council on Friday that its status as an Islamic state should safeguard fundamental rights rather than fuel abuse, as it faced western calls for action to stop violations. This is reported by AFP.

Zeid Al-Hussein, vice president of the country's three-year-old human rights commission, acknowledged there were violations in the country, often as a result of "individual practices" rooted in its tribal history.

But he insisted that Islamic law and practices should complement the legal standards the United Nations upholds.

"I wish to emphasize that -- and I weigh my words very carefully -- religious particularities, as correctly viewed in Islam, supplement rather than detract from international human rights standards," he told the Council.

"I am aware that, in most Islamic countries, individual practices do not always reflect the true essence of Islam and much remains to be done to ensure that human rights are promoted and protected," Hussein said.

HERE the whole story.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Bubonic plague in Algeria among al-Qaeda: latest info

Rumors of a plague outbreak among al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) members in the caves of Algeria's eastern Tizi Ouzou province first appeared in Algiers' Arabic language Ech Chorouk el-Youmi newspaper on January 6. The story gathered little attention until a new version was published by London tabloid The Sun on January 19, 2009, under the sensational heading: "Anti-Terror bosses last night hailed their latest ally in the war on terror - the BLACK DEATH." The article went on to describe how "At least 40 al-Qaeda fanatics died horribly after being struck down with the disease that devastated Europe in the Middle Ages." The AQIM unit, based in caves of the coastal Tizi Ouzou province, "was forced to turn its shelters in the Yakouren forest into mass graves and flee," with AQIM leaders fearing the survivors would surrender to "escape a horrible death" (The Sun [London], January 19).

More HERE.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Saudi convert's blog back on line - thanks Google!

The weblog "Masihi Saudi" ( came back online this morning. I would like to think that it was because we and others complained about Google's censorship. Blogger never provided an explanation for why the site had been pulled down originally or why it was now back up. For whatever reason, it's back up and that is good!

The Arabic blog can be found here. You can read the computer translation by clicking here.

Anglican and Lutheran bishops not allowed into Gaza

The Rt Rev Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem that includes Gaza, after two hours of waiting was denied entry into the Gaza Strip at the Israeli EREZ security Crossing Point this morning along with Lutheran Bishop Mounib Younan

A spokesman for the Anglican diocese said that both Bishops were on a pastoral visit to include the al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza, an institution of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, and to members of their communities as part of a five-member delegation of the Jerusalem Heads of Church. The decision for the pastoral visit was apparently made two weeks ago and negotiations for the permits were begun with the Israeli authorities for that purpose. They had been informed that their request to enter Gaza had been granted.

Read more on ReligiousIntelligence

New book on mission in Arab World: Ministry of Reconciliation

I just mailed a new book to the printer on mission in the Arab World, titled Ministry of Reconciliation. HERE you can find more information on this book that will be useful for missionaries in the Arab World, but also for missionaries worldwide, as well as for people interested in the field of Church, mission and Arab World. Order your copy today - go to Grassroots Mission Publications.

Inter-faith project in Egyptian Anglican Church

Anglicans in Egypt are vital for bridge-building between Christians and Muslims, says the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler, an Episcopal Church mission partner who has spent the last five years as priest of a suburban church in Cairo.

"Anglicans in this part of the world have a disproportionate influence, which is a real catalyst for building" friendships and understanding between Christians and Muslims, said Chandler, 44, who explained that after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001, he sensed a growing divide between East and West.

Chandler saw an opportunity to do creative things at St. John's Church in Maadi, a community he describes as theologically and liturgically broad. Under his leadership since 2003, the church's three priorities have centered on Muslim/Christian relations, community development, and faith and the arts.

Built in 1931, the last building designed by international architect Sir Herbert Baker, the church today is host to 10 congregations worshipping in many different languages and an Arabic service is offered every Sunday evening.

The church's commitment to deepening interfaith relations is highlighted through education programs and cultural events, such as the current exhibition featuring the creative work of 18 Arab and Western artists. More on EpiscopalLifeonline.

Two Egyptians arrested at bookfair for selling Bibles

The Egyptian State Security Investigations arrested yesterday Sunday two Christian men. Mina Adel Shawky, a Pharmaceutical student and Essam Kadis Nassif, at the Cairo International Book Fair. Both were charged with proselytizing.

According to a Press Release received from Dr. Naguib Gabraeel, President of the Egyptian Human Rights Confederation, that he called upon the State Security Investigations to rapidly release the two detainees, as their action would escalate religious tensions.He added that there is no such thing as "crime of proselytizing " in the law, for which a person could be penalised for.He also said that arresting those two men is against the principle of equality, and questioned what would have happened if these two men were Muslims distributing the Koran?!

Especially there are whole wings at the Fair, full of Islamic books and the Koran, which are distributed for free.Dr. Gabraeel assured that should the State Security not release them, he would call for a sit-in, to embarrass the Authorities by not treating its citizens equally.