Sunday, March 29, 2009

Syria no longer isolated thanks to relations with Iran

Robert Worth argues in the International Herald Tribune that one of the effects of Syria's links with Iran, is that is now no longer isolated in the (Arab) World. Good reading. Here the article:

Today, Syria seems to be coming in from the cold. A flurry of diplomatic openings with the West and Arab neighbors has raised hopes of a chastened and newly flexible Syrian leadership that could help stabilize the region. But Syria has its own priorities, and a series of upheavals here — including Israel's recent war in Gaza — make it difficult to say where this new dialogue will lead.

It is not just a matter of the Obama administration's new policy of engagement. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France led the way with a visit here last September. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who was said to be furious at the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, welcomed him warmly in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, this month. Photographs of the two men smiling and shaking hands have been on the front pages of all the major Arab newspapers, along with frequent headlines about the "Arab reconciliation."

At the root of these changes is Syria's alliance with Iran. Saudi Arabia and the other major Sunni Arab nations once hoped to push Syria away from Iran through isolation, and now — like President Obama — they appear to be trying sweeter tactics. For the Syrians, the turnabout is proof that their ties with Iran are in fact useful, and accord them an indispensable role as a regional broker. Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries "have great stakes in maintaining good relations between Syria and Iran, because at difficult times they will find Syria helping them," said Faisal Mekdad, Syria's vice minister of foreign affairs, during an interview here.

Read the whole article HERE

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Approach 'Islam' from 6 angles, says Rami Khouri

At a gathering of experts in international humanitarian law (IHL) in Geneva this week, much of the focus was on countries and societies where Muslims form a majority of the population. There was also a discussion of terrorism, and how groups that engage in terrorism can be dealt with in relation to IHL.

Much of this discussion centered on terror in and from Islamic societies. This is understandable to a large extent, given the massive media coverage of the terror that has become such a common and disfiguring part of many Muslim-majority societies. It would be the same if a discussion of modern anti-Semitism ended up talking mostly about Christian Europe and Russia; or a discussion of covert operations for regime-change addressed the actions mostly of the United States and Great Britain in the past 50 years; or if a review of settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing centered largely on modern Israel and Apartheid South Africa.

Some historical concepts are indelibly associated with some parts of the world. The association of terrorism with Islamic societies is a sign of our times. When I was asked to speak on these issues, I suggested that the best way to get an accurate and complete picture of Islamist political trends and the role of terror in Muslim lands was to acknowledge six ways to approach Islam, that help to define it. These sometimes converge, and often do not:

For Khouri's approach, see his article in the Lebanese DAILY STAR

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reconciliation in Algeria

As the Algerian elections draw near, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika stepped up criticism of religious extremists and those who were once involved in acts of violence, calling on them to "ask the people for forgiveness" before they can join the political process.

Bouteflika sent the message during speeches and discussions while on tour for his electoral campaign. It has sparked controversy and left many to speculate on the future of Algeria and its reconciliation policy.

"Those who have attacked the people, tarnished Algeria's image abroad, committed crimes and massacres against women and children, must acknowledge their actions and ask the people for forgiveness," Bouteflika told hundreds of voters in the city of Tiaret on March 19th.

"The doors of national reconciliation remain open," Bouteflika added.

More on Maghrebia

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Saudi man of 47 marries girl of 8 years old - yuck

An appeals court in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has rejected and refused to certify a court ruling allowing a 47-year-old man's marriage to an 8-year-old girl, said a relative of the girl with knowledge of the proceedings.

Under the Saudi legal process, what the appeals court ruling means is that the controversial marriage is still in effect, but a challenge to the marriage by the girl's mother is still alive.

Rights groups hailed this week's decision because it keeps the mother's challenge going.

"I think that it happened because of the mother, because she refused to accept the [original] verdict, because she challenged the court in and took it to the appeals court, said Saudi women's rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider. "I really admire the mother for this."

The mother is extremely relieved, the family member told CNN. She also expressed her thanks to the head of the appeals court for the attention paid the case, according to the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Riyadh on Tuesday.

Read more on CNN.com

persecution of Iraqi Christians

If you are a Christian, and your son or daughter was killed because of your faith, what would you do? If your Muslim neighbor came to you and said, "Your daughters must convert to Islam and marry our sons, or we will kill your entire family," how would you respond? "Convert or die" is the message of choice for Islamic jihadists in Baghdad and Iraq who are working overtime to rid Iraq of "infidel" Christians.
More on this story, see HERE
For an video on this, watch HERE

Campaign against efforts of Islamic states for a law against defamation of religons

UN Watch - UN Watch, Freedom House, The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the International Humanist and Ethical Union and 183 other non-governmental organizations from more than 50 countries around the world today called on U.N. member states to reject a "pervasive and mounting campaign" by Islamic states to ban criticism of religion under international law. (See joint NGO statement below.)

"It’s an attempt to gut the concept of human rights of its original meeting, which is to protect individuals from harm or state control, not to shield a set of beliefs from critical inquiry," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch, an independent human rights monitoring organization.

"Our freedoms of speech and religion are facing a combined assault by multiple regressive resolutions this week at the U.N. Human Rights Council, and proposed provisions for next month’s Durban 2 conference that endorse the Islamic proposal to change a core UN treaty on racism."


We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations,

Deeply concerned by the pervasive and mounting campaign by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to produce U.N. resolutions, declarations, and world conferences that propagate the concept of “defamation of religions,” a concept having no basis in domestic or international law, and which would alter the very meaning of human rights, which protect individuals from harm, but not beliefs from critical inquiry;

Deeply concerned by the attempt to misuse the U.N. to legitimize blasphemy laws, thereby restricting freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press;

Deeply concerned that “defamation of religions” resolutions may be used in certain countries to silence and intimidate human rights activists, religious dissenters, and other independent voices; Alarmed by the resolution on “defamation of religions” recently tabled at the current 10th session of the UN Human Rights Council;

Alarmed by the draft resolution on freedom of expression circulated by Egypt, whose amendments seek to restrict, not promote, protections for free speech;

Alarmed by the recently-announced initiative of the U.N. “Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards” to amend the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by adding a protocol on “defamation of religions”;

Alarmed by provisions in the latest draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference that, through coded language and veiled references, endorse and encourage these anti-democratic initiatives;

1. Call upon all governments to oppose the “defamation of religions” resolution currently tabled at the UN Human Rights Council, and the objectionable provisions of the freedom of expression resolution;

2. Call upon all governments to resist the efforts of the “Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards” to alter the ICERD;

3. Call upon all governments not to accept or legitimize a Durban Review Conference outcome that directly or indirectly supports the “defamation of religions” campaign at the expense of basic freedoms and individual human rights.

More can be read HERE

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why Morocco cut its relations with Iran

The recent political rift between Morocco and Iran was long overdue. Morocco ‘stand, far from being reactive, is deliberate and pragmatic. It was based on clear indicators as to Iran’s malign intent vis-√†-vis Morocco. Unlike other Arab nations, especially Middle Eastern ones which, by virtue of their geographic proximity to Iran, are compelled to deal with it, Morocco can afford to forgo relations with the Islamic republic. This is not the first time the two countries have an axe to grind with each other; in 1981, Tehran ceased its diplomatic relations with Rabat for hosting the deposed Iranian shah. It took a decade for relations to thaw.

The past few years saw an expansion in economic cooperation between the two countries; Morocco’s strategic geographic location provided Iran with a launching pad to European markets; still, trade between Morocco and Iran did not surpass $20 million; chump change in both countries’ international trade revenues.

Some Analysts speculated that Morocco severed its diplomatic relations with Iran in response to the latter’s irredentist claim against its neighbor Bahrain. The Moroccan government did send a missive to Bahrain reemphasizing its solidarity with the government of King Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa. The move angered Tehran which summoned the Moroccan charg√© d’affaire to forcefully express its disapprobation.

Other analysts contend that Morocco is being used as a proxy by Saudi Arabia and other Arab Sunni Gulf countries to weaken Iran’s influence in Arab countries. Saudi Arabia has been competing with Iran for strategic leadership in the Gulf. Adherents to the Shiite ideology in Saudi Arabia constitute 20 per cent of the population and are a powerful influencing element for Iran. In February 2009, thousands of Saudi Shiites protested what they labeled discriminatory and anti-Shiite actions by the Saudi government. Such demonstrations were unprecedented in the Saudi kingdom. Saudi intelligence believes the demonstrations were fomented by Iran.

Morocco’s foreign minister, Taib Fassi Fihri, presented yet another explanation to Morocco’s cessation of its diplomatic relations with Iran. He stated that Iranian officials and their missionaries have been actively proselytizing in Morocco using cultural activities as a cover. Their campaign to spread the Shiite ideology reached beyond Morocco’s borders to target Moroccan immigrants in Europe. Morocco considers such activities undermining to its religious fundamentals and interfering with its internal affairs. Iranian foreign minister Monouchehr Mottaki denied the accusation and called Morocco’s reaction a setback to Muslim unity and erosive to Palestinian support.

The rest of this article HERE

Monday, March 23, 2009

Algeria starts 2 new satellite TV channels

Algerian Television has launched two new satellite channels in a sector which was previously restricted to three similar channels: one for local transmission, one for emigrants living outside Algeria and one similar to the first.

One of the new channels is called “Rabi’a” (the fourth) and speaks Tamazight with five different dialects. It is concerned with news from Algeria and the world. Mohammad Zardoumi, the manager of this channel said that its goal is to shed light on the cultural diversity of the Tamazight language which is a characteristic of the Algerian people.

The other channel, al-Qur’an, is dedicated for different religious programs. The channel will broadcast eight hours a day starting 4 pm. The manager, Mohammad Awadi, hopes that this channel will have a great impact on some social classes in Algeria, while its main goal is to safeguard the religious patrimony away from extremism.

(Source: menassat.com)

Realted story: HERE

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hardliners in Saudi Arabia: no woman, no music on TV

A group of Saudi clerics urged the kingdom's new information minister on Sunday to ban women from appearing on TV or in newspapers and magazines, making clear that the country's hardline religious establishment is skeptical of a new push toward moderation.

In a statement, the 35 hardline clergymen also called on Abdel Aziz Khoja, who was appointed by King Abdullah on Feb. 14, to prohibit the playing of music and music shows on television.

"We have great hope that this media reform will be accomplished by you," said the statement, cynically. "We have noticed how well-rooted perversity is in the Ministry of Information and Culture, in television, radio, press, culture clubs and the book fair."

More HERE

Iran triggered an arms race in the Middle East

The Middle East may be on the verge of a nuclear arms race triggered by the inability of the West to stop Iran's quest for a bomb. Since Tehran's nuclear ambitions hit the headlines five years ago, 25 countries -- 10 of them in the greater Middle East -- have announced plans to build nuclear power plants for the first time. This write Amir Taheri in the Wall Street Journal.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Oman) set up a nuclear exploratory commission in 2007 to prepare a "strategic report" for submission to the alliance's summit later this year. But Saudi Arabia is not waiting for the report. It opened negotiations with the U.S. in 2008 to obtain "a nuclear capacity," ostensibly for "peaceful purposes."

Egypt also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement, with France, last year. Egyptian leaders make no secret of the fact that the decision to invest in a costly nuclear industry was prompted by fears of Iran. "A nuclear armed Iran with hegemonic ambitions is the greatest threat to Arab nations today," President Hosni Mubarak told the Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.

Last November, France concluded a similar nuclear cooperation accord with the UAE, promising to offer these oil-rich lands "a complete nuclear industry." According to the foreign ministry in Paris, the French are building a military base close to Abu Dhabi ostensibly to protect the nuclear installations against "hostile action," including the possibility of "sensitive material" being stolen by terrorist groups or smuggled to Iran.

For the whole article see HERE

Millions of Iraqi's watch Christian TV programs

A new survey found that about 5.3 million Iraqis, or about 19 percent of the population, watch the Christian satellite programs on SAT-7, the ministry reported Friday.

As Iraq’s tiny Christian community numbers less than 600,000, it is safe to say that most of SAT-7’s viewers are Muslims. According to the CIA World Factbook, 97 percent of Iraq’s population is Muslim (Shia 60-65 percent, Sunni 32-37 percent).

Data collected in the recent nationwide study conducted by Intermedia, an independent audience research firm, found that 97 percent of Iraqis have access to satellite television, and 18.8 percent watch SAT-7. The study also found that 2.6 million are watching on a regular daily or weekly basis.

SAT-7 is a Christian television ministry created by and for the people of the Middle East and North Africa. Its mission is to make Christ’s message of hope available to every home in the Middle East.

Each week, between nine and ten million people tune into the network, whose programs are broadcasted in three languages – Arabic, Farsi and Turkish.

The study by Intermedia found that SAT-7 is only 1.7 percentage points behind BBC Arabic in the number of people aware of the channel.

“It’s quite amazing when you consider that BBC Arabic has an annual budget of 25 million British pounds,” says SAT-7 CEO Terence Ascott. “A year ago when the BBC channel launched, that amount was worth about 50 million dollars. SAT-7’s total budget, split among three channels in 2008, was only 13 million dollars. Talk about value for your money!”

In addition to effective use of funds, SAT-7 says it is also glad that it can provide desperately needed support to the struggling Christian community in Iraq.

“Iraqi Christians have really suffered in recent years and many have fled the country,” says David Harder, SAT-7’s communications manager. “Iraqis often call and text us asking for prayer. Fortunately, through our programs, SAT-7’s Arabic producers and hosts can show God’s love and offer encouragement.”

Though SAT-7 has for years been aware of its impact in Iraq from the responses they receive, the recent study has confirmed to the ministry just how far they are reaching.

“[N]ow we know that literally millions of Iraqis, Christian and non-Christian, are watching the broadcasts,” Harder said.

Established in November 1995, SAT-7 aired its first broadcast in May 1996. Aside from strengthening believers, the satellite TV ministry has been working to present a more accurate image of Christianity in the Arab world, where people often associate Christians with negative images from the Western world.

(c) the christian post

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Support for Michel Aoun: Maronite separatism in Lebanon

I am starting to realize how much Aoun represents the bulk of the Christians in Lebanon. The reason: because he voices an often hidden but always present streak in Christians to see themselves as separate from the rest of the nation. Aoun today is the true successor of the leadership that went against the Hariri governments in the 1990s and early 2000s and was a constant though less visible presence in politics at the time.

What I am talking about of course, is a deep seated sectarianism which is something particularly unique to the Christian community in the country. Aoun’s tough talking and continuous demonization of the Sunni leadership and the Hariris in particular is what has made him popular in the wake of Rafic Hariri’s killing in 2005.

I am beginning to realize that many if not most Christians will vote for Aoun in the coming elections, because he gives them a sense (maybe a false sense) of strength and a sense of independence within the Lebanese political scene. He makes the common Christian person feel that there is a strong and independent Christian leadership that is somehow reclaiming a lost age of power for the community.

More on Lebanon Review

St John of Damascus on Islam

St John of Damascus is a very important witness to early Islam. He was born into a very privileged family in Damascus (his grandfather had been the administrator of the city at the time the Muslims took it) and he grew up and served in the court of the caliph. He was entirely familiar with Islam (a name it did not yet possess, apparently), and thus what he has to say about it, and the context in which he places it, is of great historical importance. For one thing, this is a single chapter in his work On Heresies, part of his larger work, The Fountain of Knowledge. Thus, during his lifetime, St John did not consider Islam to yet be a separate religion, but rather a Christian heresy.

HERE the complete text of what John of Damascus wrote on Islam.

Bahrain and Shi'a Islam: oppression giving an opening to Iran

Bahrain is governed by King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and the Al-Khalifa family—Sunni Muslims ruling over a population that is overwhelmingly Shia. This religious schism is itself not the issue though. Rather, it is the complete political and economic marginalization of Bahrain’s Shia population and their lack of any meaningful representation within the government which is at the heart of all its problems.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has long documented the country’s human and civil rights abuses. It recently determined that of the 1,000 employees working for the country’s National Security Apparatus (NSA), over two-thirds are non-Bahraini, while the percentage of Shia Bahraini citizens employed is less than 5 percent (despite the Shia conservatively constituting over two-thirds of the population). They otherwise occupy low-level jobs or act as paid informants. The paramilitary Special Security Forces (SSF) acting under the supervision of the NSA, number 20,000—90 percent of whom are non-Bahraini, and without a single Bahraini Shia member.

By Royal Decree, the NSA and SSF may arrest and interrogate anyone they wish, are immune from prosecution, and are not under the oversight of any monitoring body. According to the BCHR, they are responsible for arresting hundreds of activists, torturing citizens, and running smear campaigns that result in the detention and imprisonment of anyone suspected of opposing Al-Khalifa family rule.

The Shia are also not found in any important governmental ministry and are poorly represented in the public sector.

In January, thousands of them peacefully protested against the kingdom’s citizenship laws which in effect, are the Arab equivalent of Israel’s infamous Citizenship Law. They permit Sunnis from other parts of the Muslim world to become expedited, naturalized citizens of Bahrain for the sole purpose of manipulating the confessional makeup and altering the sectarian balance of the country in favor of the Al-Khalifa’s natural constituency. The Shia population, and their demands, are thereby diluted.

What [the Arab] leaders fail to appreciate, according to Rannie Amiri, a shi'ite commentator, is that Arab Shia citizens are loyal to their own country, not Iran. Without being accorded basic civil and human rights though, and marginalized politically and socioeconomically, there is no way to demonstrate this. As a result, when Iran—a Shia Muslim nation—speaks up for their co-religionists, an artificial Arab-Iranian polemic is created.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Problems with identity cards in Egypt

In Egypt, the Churches love to see the religious affiliation taken off the ID-cards that all people carry. Some hope that Egypt's decision to recognize Baha'i as an acceptable religion, may now lead to all religions taken off the ID.

After many years of being denied the right to legal documentation, Egypt's Supreme Administrative Court removed any grounds for preventing Baha'is from receiving proper official identity documents.

SandMonkey commented on the court ruling saying:

This will mean that they will be able to lead a more normal and humane lifestyle, as opposed to the daily humiliation they would receive in order to get any paperwork done with the Egyptian government- from getting birth certificates, to applying to school and colleges to getting IDs passports, and death certificates.

Read more by Marwa Rakha on GlobalVoicesOnline

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saudi Shi'ite asks for independent state because of oppression

Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr from the oil-rich Qatif province in Saudi Arabia has called for independence for the region from the central government in Riyadh. His call came due to the government’s oppression of the country’s Shi’ite population and after Shi’ite worshipers were attacked in the holy city of Medina two weeks ago by Saudi security forces, Arabiaradio.org reported.

“Our dignity is being held, and if it’s not let free, we will examine other options, and any legitimate option will be examined” Al-Nimr said in a video posted online.

Hundreds of Shi’ites demonstrated in Medina two weeks after the religious police filmed female Shi’ite pilgrims visiting the graves of revered Shi’ite figures in Medina. “We saw with our own eyes how the dissension forces beat up women. Where’s the dignity? Where’s justice?” Al-Nimr said.

The ensuing clashes have increased tension between the government and the kingdom’s Shi’ite community, which constitutes between five and 10 percent of the population.

Saudi Arabia practices Wahhabism, a strict form of Sunni Islam. Shi’ites often complain they are discriminated against by the government and say they face restrictions on religious freedom. Most Saudi Shi’ites live in the eastern part of the kingdom.

Around 15 percent of Muslims worldwide adhere to Shi’ism, constituting the second-largest group of believers in Islam after the Sunnis. The main bone of contention between Sunnis and Shi’ites is the issue of succession to the Prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have died in 632 AD (CE). Iran has the highest concentration of Shi’ites, with the vast majority of its 70 million-strong population adhering to this branch of Islam. Other Shi’ite concentrations are located in Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Pakistan and Lebanon.

Source: The MediaLine

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Prayers for rain in Saudi Arabia

Istisqa (rain-seeking) prayer were performed here on Wednesday throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in line with the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who has urged the Muslims to perform special prayer at the time of drought or delay in rainfall. Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Aal Al-Sheikh, Grand Mufti of the Kingdom, led the prayers in Riyadh. Istisqa prayers were also performed at several universities and boy schools throughout the Kingdom.

Source: Saudi Gazette

Our Egyptian brothers should stop selling their organs

The poverty of Cairo's slums forced a young couple to sell nearly everything they had. When that wasn't enough, each of them sold a kidney.

The clandestine pre-dawn operation in a small private hospital ended with the man and wife being dumped semiconscious in taxis - the payment for their kidneys tucked into their clothes, they say.

Now, a year later, penniless once more, they are too weak to even move around their apartment. Unable to afford follow-up care, their health is so fragile they spend much of the day in bed in a dark room.

"If anyone had made clear to me the danger, I wouldn't have done it," said Abdel-Rahman Abdel-Aziz, gaunt and looking older than his 24 years as he lay in bed beside his wife. He pulled up his sweatshirt to show the scar from the operation.

For years, word has spread among Egypt's destitute that selling a kidney - sometimes for as little as $2,000 - can be a quick way out of a debt or to keep from sinking deeper into poverty. At rundown cafes, they are hunted by middlemen working for labs that match donors and recipients, many of whom are foreigners drawn to Egypt's thriving, underground organ trade.

Egypt is one of a half dozen countries identified by the World Health Organization as organ-trafficking hot spots. Under international pressure, other trouble spots like China, Pakistan and the Philippines have outlawed organ sales and barred foreigners from undergoing transplants to stop "transplant tourism."

More of this article of Associated Press here.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Islam about women, Jews, dogs and donkeys

Dr. Sami Alrabaa gathered on FaithFreedom a whole lot of interesting hadiths about women in Islam. I just give you a few here, but more can be found on FaithFreedom. Just click the link.

Women who pass by a praying man annul his prayer:

Narrated ‘Aisha: The things which annul prayer were mentioned before me (and those were): a dog, a donkey and a Woman. I said, “You have compared us (women) to donkeys and dogs. By Allah! I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in (my) bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I disliked to sit and trouble the Prophet. So, I would slip away by the side of his feet.” (Book #9, Hadith #493)

A Jew also annuls the prayers of a man:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: Ikrimah reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas, saying: I think the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone’s throw. (Book #2, Hadith #0704)

Prophet Muhammad discriminates even against black dogs:

Abu Dharr reported: The Messenger of ‘Allah (may peace be upon him) said: When any one of you stands for prayer and there is a thing before him equal to the back of the saddle that covers him and in case there is not before him (a thing) equal to the back of the saddle, his prayer would be cut off by (passing of an) ass, woman, and black Dog. I said: O Abu Dharr, what feature is there in a black dog which distinguish it from the red dog and the yellow dog? He said: O, son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) as you are asking me, and he said: The black dog is a devil. (Book #004, Hadith #1032)

OPEN LETTER ABOUT C-5 PHILOSOPHY

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus. Jan & I have just returned
from 6 weeks in Indonesia where we observed the C5 model in many
places. For nearly 20 years, we have been monitoring what is called
the C1-C6 spectrum. The C5 aspect seems to have evolved into a
deviation of the historic biblical model. Many different aspects of
this C5 model are being promoted, taught, and practiced by members of
historic evangelical mission groups as well as by some of the newer
agencies created for unreached peoples.

Our concern, along with that of others, is that individuals are
developing this philosophy with little or no accountability to the
Church at large. This may relate to your agency and its supporters.
In our research, we have discovered the following aspects of C5 that
are not commonly reported in journal articles.

Some C5 people are encouraging Muslim converts to remain in their
former religious practices. Their teaching is not just about
indigenous cultural practices. They promote having followers of Isa Al
Masih continue to call themselves Muslims and some urge and teach the
performance of /sholat/ prayers and other Muslim religious
ceremonies/practices. Some courses are being conducted by expat
missionaries to teach non-Muslims how to do the /sholat/ prayers.

Some expat missionaries have joined the mosque by praying the
/syahadah/ (the official affirmation of faith which is “There is no
god but Allah and Mohammad is his prophet”). We know of 3 expat
missionaries in Indonesia alone who have done this but people speak of
some in other countries as well. Some are members of evangelical
mission agencies. Other expat missionaries are simply going to the
mosques and introducing themselves as “Muslims” (since the word
“Muslim” means submission to God) and following the mosque prayers.
Many expat missionaries support these practices either directly or
indirectly. We recently talked with a number of these who do not seem
to understand the implications either biblically or culturally. Since
the entire C1-C6 model has never developed a theological base, it is
not surprising that they have not thought through many of the
implications.

There is a seeming lack of inquiry concerning how this C5 “Muslim
followers of Isa” approach is perceived theologically or politically
by the Muslim community.

C5 teaching redefines Christian theology by creating a process of
salvation similar to oriental religions where one has to go through a
series of steps or experiences before one can be saved; e.g., first
believing in Jesus as prophet, then learning that he is more than a
prophet, etc. Each step requires a new affirmation of faith.

Some of the C5 people have created new translations of the Bible where
the terms “Son of God” and “Lord” are changed to cloud their meaning
in order to accommodate Muslim sensitivity to biblical teaching.
Others write journal articles where scripture is reinterpreted to
support the idea that Paul & other biblical figures accommodated their
teaching to other religious traditions.

Some are using new terms such as “insider” to promote the idea that
Muslim converts themselves have created these distinctive patterns.
Our research leads us to conclude that the C5 theory & practices have
been created and driven by expat missionaries and mission agency
money. Missionaries in Indonesia tell us there is only incidental
financial support from local believers.

If your agency is not a proponent of C5, I hope you will make that
known so that your agency will not be associated with this cult-like
movement.

Sincerely in Christ Jesus,
Roger Dixon

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saudi Arabia liberalizing? Sufism in the Kingdom

Faiza Saleh Ambah (yes her! see hereunder...) wrote a very interesting article for the Washington Post from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, about the increase of Sufism in the Kingdom. What is happening! Well, Jeddah,we know we can breath a bit better in this city than elsewhere in the Kingdom, but still - remarkable!

A hush came over the crowd as the young man sitting cross-legged on the floor picked up the microphone and sang, a cappella, a poem about Islam’s prophet Muhammad. His eyes shut tight, his head covered by an orange-and-white turban, he crooned with barely contained ardor of how the world rejoiced and lights filled the skies the day the prophet was born.

The men attending the mawlid — a celebration of the birth and life of Muhammad — sat on colorful rugs, rocking gently back and forth, while the women, on the upper floor watching via a large projection screen, passed around boxes of tissues and wiped tears from their eyes.

The centuries-old mawlid, a mainstay of the more spiritual and often mystic Sufi Islam, was until recently viewed as heretical and banned by Saudi Arabia’s official religious establishment, the ultraconservative Wahhabis. But a new atmosphere of increased religious tolerance has spurred a resurgence of Sufism and brought the once-underground Sufis and their rituals out in the open.

Read this whole article HERE

Malaysia allows Muslim convert to become a Christian again


A Malaysian religious appeal court in the northern state of Penang granted a woman's wish to formally renounce Islam on Monday, in a rare case where Muslims are allowed to leave the faith.

Siti Fatimah, an ethnic Chinese woman formerly known as Tan Ean Huang (see picture), had converted to Islam in 1998 in order to marry her Muslim lover. In Malaysia, a majority Muslim country, non-Muslims must convert to Islam before they can legally marry a Muslim.

"It is clear from the evidence that she converted to Islam just for the sake of marrying an Iranian man," Penang state Sharia Appeal Court judge Ibrahim Lembut said in his ruling.

"She has never followed any aspect of the Islamic teachings and has been living a non-Muslim lifestyle right from the day of her conversion. This shows the conversion itself is doubtful," he said.

This is a Reuters Report - the whole story is HERE

Algeria begins Islamic satellite TV channel

The Algerian government will launch a first-of-its-kind religious TV station this month, intended to satisfy the programming demands of a large cross-section of citizens and enhance national religious identity.

Officials from the ministries of communications and religious affairs, charged with implementing the project, are engaged in meetings to make the final arrangements for the channel's launch.

"The new TV station will air religious programmes presented by Algerian Muslim scholars who will offer fatwas and preaching that are in line with the Maliki School adopted in Algeria," said Minister of Communication Azzedine Mihoubi. (see picture)

The new satellite channel, which will initially broadcast eight hours per day, fills in a large gap in broadcasting that has led many Algerians to watch religious TV channels from the Gulf. Much of the programming on these stations differs from the school of Imam Malik Ben Anas, reports Said Jameh for Magharebia in Algiers. We suspect the channel also wants to counter the impact of Arabic Christian channels like LifeTV and Miracle Channel.

"The mission of the new station is to preserve the religious authority of the state, as represented in the Maliki School, which is now threatened by the surge in Salafist thought," explained Minister of Religious Affairs and Waqf Bouabdellah Ghlamallah.

Ada Felahi, media advisor with the religious affairs ministry, told Magharebia the new channel is hoped to be "an icon of moderation and a platform for disseminating correct religious ideology".

He noted that the station's religious discourse centres on "highlighting the values of tolerance and peacefulness and forsaking destructive ideas", with the greater goal of "achieving security and inviting terrorists to return to their senses".

Algeria also operates Radio Qur'an, a station that broadcasts diverse religious programmes, recitations from the Qur'an, and interpretation of the Hadiths over the airwaves. The radio station, through special programming presented by Algerian and foreign Muslim scholars, has helped convince several terrorists to forsake violence and return to society.

The Ministry of Religious Affairs has long encouraged imams and other leaders to speak out against terrorism.The new TV channel is part of a comprehensive national programme to launch specialised channels, such as one featuring Amazigh culture and language, another targeting children, and a third with scientific programming.

The first to appear on the religious station's programming will be prominent Algerian scholars and preachers.

Salima, a 38-year-old homemaker, follows "Fatawa Ala Al Hawaa" every Thursday on the first national channel, where she can inquire about religious matters. The new channel will allow her to communicate better with Algerian Muslim scholars.

"Launching such a channel will lead to having cassette tapes for the fatwas of Algerian scholars that are in conformity with the Maliki School adopted across the country. This, in turn, will limit the invasion of foreign cassette tapes," said Abderrahmane Sadaoui, a seller of religious cassette tapes.

Muslim writer in Egypt criticizes monotheistic religions

Youssef_ziedan “Cut evil tongues, throw them with their sins into the sea. ... Know that our God, Jesus Christ, was addressing us, His children in all times, when He said: I did not come to bring peace to earth but a sword.”

With this incendiary sermon in his latest novel, Youssef Ziedan drew a portrait of St. Cyril, one of the 5th century's canonized popes of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. By projecting the image of a pope resistant to theological debate, and by shedding light on what the author contended were concealed moments of violence in the early centuries of the Coptic Church, Ziedan’s new novel, “Beelzebub,” has shocked the Coptic community. At first glance, some might conclude the novel targets the church exclusively. A deeper read, however, exposes a controversial Muslim author with strikingly unconventional views on monotheistic religions in a society steeped in religious conservatism.

Ziedan, in an interview in Alexandria, said in a defiant tone that his work aimed at challenging the monopoly claimed by different religious institutions over the truth of faith and history. “I don’t deconstruct the text, but I reexamine the religious institution and religious heritage,” said Ziedan. “I analyze religious knowledge and consciousness.”

Yet, this is not the crux of Ziedan’s views. His critique goes beyond the role of religious institutions to the essence of monotheistic religions: “The substance is the same; it is based on the superiority of oneself over others under the pretext of possessing a god who owns the truth. This element of superiority is the same in all three religions, which gives rise to violence. As long as religions last, violence will persist. ”

Azazel_cover The novel features a 5th century Egyptian monk in Alexandria and delves into the history of divisions among fathers of the church over the nature of Christ. The work sympathizes with sects that challenged the divine nature of Christ, and it quickly ignited fury within the Coptic Church, which has about 10 million followers in Egypt.

The book was dismissed by the church as the Arabic version of "The Da Vinci Code" and as an attempt to interfere with the internal affairs of the Coptic Church and destroy the Christian faith.

Aside from the church, some lay Copts decided to take the author to court in an attempt to ban the novel. The controversy has been good for sales. In almost a year, the book went into its fourth printing -- quite a breakthrough by Egyptian standards. The book also drew the attention of many literary critics at home and abroad. It recently has been short-listed for an International Prize for Arabic Fiction, co-managed by the Booker Prize foundation in London. The winner is expected to be announced Monday (March 16).

Ziedan, an Islamic philosophy scholar who introduces himself as a Sufi thinker, has written more than 30 books. He serves as the director of manuscripts and acquisitions at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. "Beelzebub," published in January 2008, is his second work of historical fiction. His first, “Shadow of the Serpent,” came out in 2006 and glorified prehistoric pagan civilizations over Semitic monotheistic ones.

His new novel’s title is imbued with connotations that might be perceived as seriously dangerous by any religious leader. Unlike in classical religious thought, Beelzebub (Satan) is not cursed as the voice of evil but implicitly hailed as the voice of human reason, which pushes the protagonist throughout the novel to question the universe around him. It is the voice of doubt, passion, rebellion, instinct and intuition. In a nutshell, Ziedan argued that Beelzebub is the reflection of real human nature rather than the “puritanical” Utopian version promoted by religion.

“Beelzebub is the isolated part of the human being,” said Ziedan. “This part or this real human being has been obscured by religious structures. Religion provides us with a puritanical dream, which can never be realized because it goes against human nature.”

Ziedan is taking great risk in espousing such an outlook in this society. The 51-year-old author likely has earned enemies besides the church. There are known instances when Egyptian intellectuals who challenged religious dogmas were killed, faced assassination attempts or became mired in legal chases by Islamic fundamentalists.

—Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo for the LA Times

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The impact of Sharia on women in Saudi Arabia

Islamic legal code, the Sharia, continues to make grounds in the West. Sharia Court, operational in Canada since 1991, was abolished in 2006 in the face of intense campaign from human rights activists. Although widely practiced by the Muslim community over the year, Sharia Court received official recognition in the U.K. for dealing with civil and some criminal cases (domestic violence etc.) in 2007.

Since some 40% British Muslims want the establishment of Sharia Court with a fewer of them opposed to it, this is possibly the first-step in the gradual process of establishing full-fledged Islamic legal codes in Britain. As Muslim immigrants in the West, from Europe to North America, are showing increasing support for Sharia, demand for Sharia Court in other Western countries will definitely intensify in light of this British concession. What people in the West must make themselves aware of is that Sharia laws are extremely discriminatory, indeed humiliating and degrading, toward non-Muslims. It is also highly discriminatory and humiliating toward Muslim women.

In order to get a grasp of the nature of Sharia law, one may have a look at Afghanistan under the Taliban, Iran and Saudi Arabia, where Sharia laws are applied to varying strictness. In the wake of the just-concluded International Women’s Day, this essay will attempt to make it clear what Sharia law means for Muslim women.

The rest of this essay by M.A. Khan can be found HERE


Friday, March 13, 2009

The shame of Arab Media Support for Sudanese al-Bashir

“Even if al Bashir were to be found guilty of what he has been accused, the issuance of an arrest warrant is nothing more than an attack on Arab conscience, dignity, and identity.”

This is a quote from one of the arguments made in defence of President Omar al Bashir, which is just one example of a deluge of similar “bold” Arab positions that have been flooding the television stations, newspapers and internet sites since the International Criminal Court [ICC] issued an arrest warrant for al Bashir accusing him of committing war crimes in Darfur.

Indeed, since the arrest warrant was issued, the majority of Arab media has united in condemning this move.

However, this same media did not unite to report on the suffering of the people of Darfur, whose pictures and stories were hardly visible in the Arab press, and today we see sweeping demonstrations being staged in solidarity with al Bashir that remind us of the rallies that used to take place during the Saddam Hussein era. The live transmissions of al Bashir’s speeches, where he rouses public opinion and dances waving his stick or sword to the cheers of the crowd, have formed the dominant image of him on our satellite channels over the past week.

More of this article in Al-Sharq al-Awsat by Diana Mukkaled HERE.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

'Criminalize defamation of Islam'

The Islamic states circulated a new resolution at the current session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday that would criminalize defamation of Islam as a human rights violation and encourage the imposition of Shari'a.

According to the nonbinding governmental resolution, titled "Combating Defamation of Religions," anything deemed insulting to Islamic sensitivities would be banned as a "serious affront to human dignity" and a blatant violation of religious freedom.

The resolution would attempt to influence "local, national, regional and international levels" to incorporate such guarantees of this perceived freedom in their "legal and constitutional systems."

"It is a covert package coordinated by Pakistan against the West," said Leon Saltiel, director of communications at the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, on Thursday. "They think there is too much liberty and freedom of expression in the Western world, which therefore defames religion."

More on The Jerusalem Post

Great progress in Iraq: shoe-thrower only gets 3 years jail

An Iraqi court on Thursday jailed for three years the journalist who shot to fame in the Arab world for throwing his shoes at former US president George W. Bush. Muntazer al-Zaidi (picture left), a 30-year-old television journalist, was sentenced to three years in jail. For throwing a shoe? What sort of laws does that country have? Well, better than under Saddam. Under him he would have been in front of the firing squad.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Egyptian cleric: boycot Jewish starbucks!

As Jews around the world are celebrating Purim, one Egyptian cleric has used the holiday to launch an attack against Starbucks, claiming that the woman in the logo of the international chain is Queen Esther, and her presence warrants a boycott of the company throughout the Arab world.

"Starbucks is to be found in Mecca, in Al-Madina, opposite the King Abdul Aziz Gate in Mecca, opposite the Al-Majid Gate in Al-Madina, as well as in Cairo," Egyptian cleric Safwat Higa said during a sermon which aired on Al-Nas TV, and which was documented by the MEMRI watchdog group.

"Starbucks is to be found everywhere, with this logo." "Have any of you ever wondered who this woman with a crown on her head is? Why do we boycott Starbucks? I will tell you, so you will know why you should boycott this company, and what this logo stands for," he continued.

"As I've already said, it is not enough to avoid entering this coffee shop. It is not enough to refrain from drinking this coffee. You must urge people never to go there, but none of you should even consider throwing a stone, breaking anything, or burning [the place] down." "The girl in the Starbucks logo is Queen Esther. Do you know who Queen Esther was and what the crown on her head means? This is the crown of the Persian kingdom. This queen is the queen of the Jews. She is mentioned in the Torah, in the Book of Esther. The girl you see is Esther, the queen of the Jews in Persia," the cleric said. "The Crown you see here [in the Starbucks logo] is the crown of the kingdom of Xerxes," Higa said.

"We want Starbucks to be shut down throughout the Arab and Islamic world," he concluded. "It is inconceivable that in Mecca and Al-Madina, there will be a picture of Queen Esther. Can you believe that in Mecca, Al-Madina, Cairo, Damascus, Kuwait, and all over the Islamic world there hangs the picture of beautiful Queen Esther, with a crown on her head, and we buy her products?"

Source: Jerusalem Post

Sudan robs property of UN and other NGOs

St Francis Magazine has heard from sources in Sudan that personnel of NGOs that have been forced to leave Darfur by the Sudanese government, were allowed to leave with one suitcase per person only. Computers, personal laptops, even money, were not allowed to be carried out of the country.

RNW reports that United Nations emergency aid coordinator John Holmes is accusing the Sudanese government of stealing UN vehicles, computers and aid goods. UN staff who tried to prevent this were reportedly threatened by soldiers. The UN accusations come just days after the Sudanese government decided to expel 13 international aid organisations. The Sudanese measure was prompted by a warrant for the arrest of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, issued by the International Criminal Court in The HaguThe ICC accuses the Sudanese president of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Libya tortures four Christian converts from Islam

International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Libyan intelligence officials have detained and tortured four Christians for converting from Islam. The Christians have been imprisoned for the past seven weeks in Tripoli, Libya’s capital.

Libya’s External Security Organization is believed to be behind the detention and torture of the Christians, according to our sources. The security agents have barred the families from visiting the detained converts and are putting severe physical and psychological pressure on the Christians in order to force them to reveal the names of other converts. Fearing for their lives, converts from Islam are on the run.

The detention and the torture of the Christian converts come at a critical time in Libya’s relations with the international community. The country has been improving its relations with the international community following the lifting of sanctions imposed on it due to its involvement in the bombing of an American airliner in which 270 people were killed.

By torturing the four Christian converts and stifling religious freedom, Libya is once again violating basic principles of the international human rights law.

ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, Jonathan Racho, said, “We call upon Libyan officials to stop torturing the four Christians and release them from detention. Libya must respect the rights of its citizens to worship freely and not to be tortured. We particularly ask the Libyan leader and the current head of the African Union, Mr. Muammar Gaddafi, to set the prisoners free and demonstrate his country’s commitment to respect human rights. ”

Please pray for the safe release of the detained believers. Also pray for comfort and strength of their families. Please call the Libyan embassy in your country and politely ask the Libyan officials to release the Christians.

Coptic Australians make 100s of Coptic books available: online and free

Bless those Copts in Australia - they are making great numbers of books by Coptic-Orthodox writers available on the web. Pope Shenouda III, Fr Tadros Malaty and others. 200 different titles thus far. If you, like most of us, do not have time to go to Egypt and learn from this ancient church, this is your chance to better understand the Christians in Egypt! Have a look at Coptic Orthodox Electronic Publishing Australia - www.coepa.org.

Dangerous increase of diabetes in Saudi Arabia

About 25-27% of all citizens of Saudi Arabia suffer from diabetes. That is one person in each nuclear family. AFP reports that in Riyadh only, about 90 people each month have a foot amputated due to diabetes.

This is bad enough, but Dr Abdulaziz al-Gannass, foot and ankle surgeon at the National Guard King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh reports that the number of diabetes-linked amputations is rising quickly and beginning to occur at younger and younger ages. "We used to see the age from 45 to 60. This year we started to see it from 30. I was shocked to see them in the emergency room."

Gannass attributes these shocking figures to poor diet and high sugar consumption, lack of exercise and smoking. When someone needs an amputation, he is already in such bad shape that he has on average only a five-year lifespan, Gannass said.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Should Muslims celebrate the birthday of their prophet?

This is one of the issues faced by Muslims these days; whether we can/should/must celebrate Maulidur Rasul (Prophet Muhammad's Birthday) or not. Like any other contradictions, Islam always teaches us to turn to the Holy Quran and the Sunnah.
O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination. (an-Nisaa' 4:59)
One thing that we have to realize is that the scholars never have an agreement about when Prophet Muhammad was born. Some said that he was born in the month of Rabiul Awwal while others said otherwise. For those who believe that he was born in Rabiul Awwal, they have further contradictions about the day; whether it was the 8th, 9th, 12th, 17th, etc.

The truth is that we never have a clear record of when Prophet Muhammad was born. This is because the Companions never celebrated his birthday even though they were the closest ones to him. Prophet Muhammad never ask them to. If his birthday was celebrated, then they would be tonnes of Hadiths about how they celebrated Prophet Muhammad's birthday, just like there are a lot of hadiths about solah, fasting, zikir, etc.

The fact is, he was born just like everybody else. The birth of Prophet Muhammad was a major turning point in the history of the world. However, the issue of when he was born is not important. If we can't determine it, it doesn't mean that he didn't exist. There are other influential individuals that we don't know when they were born but we still acknowledge their existence and all the significant and wonderful changes they brought to the world.

Ibn Kathir narrated that one Companion once suggested to Saidina Umar al-Khattab, one of the Khulafa ar-Rasyidin, to start the Hijriah Calendar with Prophet Muhammad's birthday, but Umar rejected that proposal and made the day of Hijrah as the starting point of the Hijriah Calendar.

In Fatawa al-Azhar, it was agreed that Islamic historians do not know who started the celebration of Maulidur Rasul except for the fact that the government of Syiah Fatimiyyah in Egypt did it. They also celebrated other Ahlul Bait's (Prophet Muhammad's family) and Prophet Isa's (Jesus) birthdays. It was then put to a halt by their Khalifah (leader), al-Musta’la billah. Then, it was being practiced again by certain governments and states. That's the history of Maulidur Rasul.

It is indeed proper to reminisce the history of Prophet Muhammad with the intention of following his footsteps. However, we have to keep in mind what have been stated above. It's not wrong to make public talks about Prophet Muhammad's jihad (struggle) in bringing Islam to the world during the month of Rabiul Awwal or other months for that matter. However, we can't be "seasonal Muslims" who only remember Prophet Muhammad on certain days and occasions.

Other than that, we have to realize that if we truly follow his footsteps then we would never add or innovate anything to the religion that he had completely delivered to us in perfection.
...This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion... (al-Maidah 5:3)
Follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the well guided Khalifah who are after me. Hold firmly to it with your teeth, and beware of innovation. Verily, every innovated matter is bid'ah and every bid'ah is misguidance, and every misguidance lead to Hellfire. (A hadith from Ahmad, Abu Daud, Ibnu Majah, Muslim)
Because Prophet Muhammad never showed us specific Ibadah on his birthday (if we were to celebrate it) such as solah, fasting or specific recitations. So how are we to say that the Ibadah we do on this day were from the Sunnah?
He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah. But if any turn away, We have not sent thee to watch over their (evil deeds). (an-Nisaa' 4:80)
In conclusion, Prophet Muhammad's main goal was that he was followed, not celebrated. So, the issue that we have to put forth is how much of the Prophet's teachings do we follow. Every year we celebrate "Maulidur Rasul". Are we closer to the path that Prophet Muhammad had paved for us?

Credits :
1. This article was translated from http://drmaza.com and can be found on Ibnu Azlan's blog

Religious clashes in Dama'a, Egypt

An Egyptian town has been placed under curfew after a man was killed and several wounded in inter-religious clashes. Clashes in Dama’s, in northern Egypt, began after rumors spread that a Muslim girl from the area was involved romantically with a Copt boy.
According to a report in the London-based Al-Quds Al-‘Arabi, the boy’s father was killed in the clashes, several others were wounded and the police arrested a number of the people involved in the brawl. Egyptian authorities imposed a curfew on Dama’s, home to some 25,000 people, in order to calm matters down. More than 1,000 soldiers have been deployed there to maintain security.
The religious tension comes at an unfortunate time for Cairo, as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is heading for Washington in the coming weeks and will not want these incidents to draw attention to Cairo’s treatment of religious minorities. Sectarian tensions are a recurring theme in Egypt. Human-rights organizations accuse Mubarak’s government of discriminating against Copts, who constitute around 10 percent of the country's 80 million inhabitants, constituting the largest Christian community in the Middle East.

The pope's view of Islam inspired by an Egyptian Jesuit

Before he was Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger would hold an annual summer retreat for his former theology students that focused each year on a single theme of acute concern. Three months after his rise to the papacy, Benedict XVI continued the tradition with a closed-door encounter in the Vatican's breezy summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. The topic chosen that first year with him as Pope was Islam, and the keynote speaker was Father Samir Khalil Samir, a soft-spoken, Cairo-born Jesuit and an expert on Muslim history and theology.

Thirteen months later, Benedict set off the most explosive moment of his papacy with a lecture at his old university in Regensburg, Germany, about faith and reason and the risk that Islamic theology makes the religion particularly prone to violence. Even as criticism of the speech spread in both Muslim and Catholic circles, Samir was among the first and most steadfast defenders of the Pope's message about Islam. Indeed, they were the same ideas Samir had been espousing for years. (See pictures from Pope Benedict XVI's first year.)

A new book has just been released by Ignatius Press (the longtime U.S. publisher of Ratzinger's work) that lays out in fine detail the Jesuit's vision of Islam's ancient tenets and current tendencies. Called 111 Questions on Islam, it is the translation of a book-length interview two Italian journalists conducted with Samir in 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The priest says that in reviewing the material before the English-language release, he was struck by how little there was to update. "The major points that I laid out are the same today, after more than six years," Samir told TIME in a telephone interview. "This means the problems that we face with Islam continue to be more or less the same."

Read the whole article in Time Magazine.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

IslamWatch: website of ex-Muslims

On the website IslamWatch ex-Muslims are 'telling the truth about Islam'. A good reason to have a look there every now and then. The website posts interesting articles.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Outrage in Malaysia over renewal of ban against using ALLAH by Christians

Religious groups in Malaysia on Friday expressed outrage over a government ban on the use of the word "Allah", or God in Arabic, in any non-Muslim publication, saying the move was a violation on the freedom of religion, reports DPA.

In a statement released late on Thursday, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism said the government had no legal right to ban the use of a word that predated the Koran and Islam.

The council "views any attempt to proscribe the use of the term 'Allah' in any way to any religion as untenable from the standpoint of language, theology or history," it said in its statement. "No religion can claim exclusive possession or use of this term."

Malaysia's constitution declares it a secular state but with Islam as its official religion. About 60% of Malaysia's 25 million people are Muslims.

Last month, the government lifted the ban on the use of "Allah" in the Herald, the country's main Roman Catholic newsletter, after the publication's editors took the matter to court for the right to use the word.

The Herald had argued that the Arabic word is a common reference for God that predates Islam and has been used for centuries as a translation in Malay.

Decision revoked

However, their victory was short-lived as the government revoked its decision two weeks later after fierce outbursts from Islamic hardliners.

A spokesperson from the country's National Evangelical Christian Fellowship said on Friday that the ban was "purely a political move".

"The term has been used for years by Christians and is even used in the Indonesian Bible," he said on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

"We believe this is nothing more than a political gimmick and it won't stand for long," he said. "We should be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel soon."

The spokesperson declined to elaborate on what the group would undertake if the ban remained.

Malaysia's minorities have often complained that their constitutional right to practice their religions freely has come under threat from the Muslim-dominated government.

Progress for women's rights in the Arab Gulf states

Arab women in the Gulf States have made small but notable gains in the past five years, according to a new Freedom House study of women's rights in the region. The nongovernmental organization conducts studies and creates programs to promote freedom and democracy around the world.

The title of the new Freedom House study sums up its major finding. It's called "Gaining Ground: Women's Rights in the Arab Gulf." Senior researcher Sanja Kelly says it updates a similar study the organization conducted five years ago in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Kelly says the results of the study were quite encouraging. "Even though this is still perhaps the most restrictive region in the entire world in terms of women's rights, we are noticing that women's rights activists have successfully pressed for change in many instances."

More on VOA news

Morocco cuts diplomatic relations with Iran

Morocco has cut diplomatic links with Iran, amid a row over comments made by an Iranian politician last week. Iran's former interior minister Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri said Bahrain used to be Iran's 14th province, and that it still had a seat in Iran's parliament.

Rabat led a chorus of disapproval from Arab states, who interpreted the remark as a claim of sovereignty over Bahrain. Now, for Morocco this is not a very costly decision; but we wonder why they did come to the conclusion that ties had to be cut. There must be more behind this, as Tehran issued an apology, claiming Mr Ali's comments had been misunderstood and saying it made no claim to Bahrain. Mr Ali said he was merely making a comparison between the current system of government in Iran and previous systems.

Morocco is accusing the Iranian embassy in Rabat to play a role in trying to make the Kingdom more shiite. Maybe this is a major reason? Or maybe the relationship of Iran with the regime in Mauretania?


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Indictment of Bashir: Arabs respond with all the tired, old lingo

If the answer is "six milliseconds", the question surely is, "how long did it take for the Arabic satellite TV channels to jump from coverage of the International Criminal Court's indictment of Bashir to cries about neo-colonialism, Palestine, and the Zionist-Western conspiracy to divide Sudan?" This knee-jerk reaction is pitiful, writes Andrew Stroehlein (photo) in a good article on this matter:

My colleague, Nadim Hasbani, has a great piece in Al Hayat today, trying to counter this automated response of the Arab world by highlighting how Arab leaders have manipulated the case of Darfur and fallen in line behind Bashir. He delivers a message the Arab public debate desperately needs to incorporate:
If today the ICC has enough evidence to arrest an Arab leader for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, it is in large part because for the past six years, when those deaths where taking place in Darfur, the international community - including Arab countries - did little to stop him… The problem actually is that Arabs are leaving themselves out of the international justice system. We act as if we were targeted by justice instead of helping to bring about justice, for ourselves as well.
Unfortunately but not surprisingly, Bashir's successful manipulation of Arab public opinion continued today, with the President of Sudan telling the cameras that the ICC was a tool of Israel and the US. Strange that apparently no one in the Arabic media has pointed out that neither country is a signatory to the ICC. In fact, rejection of the ICC is a policy that Israel, the US, and the entire Arab League (apart from Jordan) agree on. Ah, but to reveal that would break the narrative of a Western-Zionist conspiracy, and who in the Arabic media is willing to give up such a perennial favourite?

It wasn't always this way, mind you. Many in the West may be surprised to learn that Al Jazeera was the first international television broadcaster to break the Darfur story back in 2003 -- an explosive scoop that got the Qatari-based station booted from Sudan for a time. They got back in, and they currently have a correspondent in Darfur, but their coverage is now toned down and not victim-focused.

But Arabic channels were not the only ones who forgot the victims yesterday. Following the ICC press conference, BBC World TV incomprehensibly had as one of its first studio guests a Western mouthpiece for the Khartoum regime, moaning about how this was white-man's justice etc. What that particular white man failed to mention was that all of the 300,000 dead and millions displaced in Darfur because of the policies of Bashir's ruling National Congress Party are not white. His logic is that dark-skinned people ought to be left alone to kill other dark-skinned people, and the rest of the world ought to just shut up.

Now, some readers will doubtless think about leaving a comment on this blog saying that BBC World was just trying to offer a balance of views in the interests of journalistic fairness. But it's nonsense to take that approach in such extreme cases like this. Imagine: "Well, we've just heard from a woman who was gang raped, so let's crossover to our studio in London, where we can get a different perspective from our next guest, the director of the pro-rape lobby group..."

Sorry, that's not an acceptable approach, and it's insulting to BBC journalists who have reported from the ground in Darfur over the years and have helped to highlight the crimes committed there. Their work shouldn't be undermined by inviting in some ridiculous and offensive guest running PR for one of the world's most appalling regimes.

In general, however, the English-language media, including the BBC, have been reasonably good on the ICC indictment, with the announcement interrupting normal programming or the issue taking top billing with lots of print articles in the run-up to yesterday. Al Jazeera English ran with the press conference from The Hague for quite a long time, including into the journalists' question period, which was useful, I think, but even more so was their time chart on Darfur on the studio back wall, which gave a great overview of the long-running conflict. Most importantly, the Western media mostly put the victims first, which is what journalism should always keep front and centre in these matters. It was a stark contrast with the Arabic-language channels, which portrayed Bashir as the victim in all this.

Within hours, however, the ICC story started to drop down the priority ladder on some English-language satellite channels, with Brown's speech to the US Congress dominating in the UK and Clinton's Middle East trip grabbing the most attention in the US.

What happens in the international media next will be interesting. Bashir will no doubt keep calling people into the streets in his support as long as the world's TV cameras are willing to film it. The regime of course makes itself look ridiculous with these media stunts -- do any governments in the world apart from the most authoritarian ones ever organise public demonstrations to prove their popular support in the face of international outrage at their abuses? But the real test is whether the international media, particularly the Arabic-language channels, keep falling for his line or whether they instead keep focused on the real victims here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Charles de Foucault: missionary-martyr to Muslims

On 21 September 1912, Father de Foucauld wrote to Madam de Bondy: «Pray also for all the Moslems of our north-west African empire now so vast. The present hour is extremely grave for their souls as it is for France. For the eighty years that Algiers has been ours, we have been so little occupied with saving the souls of the Moslems that one might say that we have not been occupied with it at all. Nor have we taken the trouble to manage them well or to civilise them. We have kept them in submission, nothing more. If the Christians of France fail to understand that it is their duty to evangelise their colonies, it is a fault for which they will have to render an account, and it will result in the loss of a vast number of souls who might have been saved.»

A good article on Charles de Foucault can be found on www.catholicism.org

HCJB Christian radio claims it reaches million Arab households

Recent research shows HCJB Global, an international media and healthcare ministry, is now reaching more than 1 million Arab households weekly across the North Africa/Middle East region via radio broadcasts through its strategic media outreach. The research was conducted by Intermedia (www.intermedia.org), an international media research organization.

Million households? That sounds incredibly high... All Christian and secular radio broadcasters say that there audience have gone down since the 1990s, but HCJB skytrocketing?
More of this story HERE.

The prophet of Islam wanted homosexuals killed

Islam's teaching on homosexuality is clear: Prophet Muhammad said, “Kill the one who sodomizes and the one who lets it be done to him.” (Tirmithi) If you have an interest in finding our what Islam teaches on the issue, have a look at this blog.

A Call for Prayer and Fasting for the Nation of Sudan

ICC in The Hague has issued its decision concerning the Prosecution application of 14 July 2008 for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan. We appeal to the Sudanese nation and friends of Sudan to stand with us in the gap at this time to intercede for deliverance and peace. Please pray with us for:
The Church in Sudan.

Khartoum city
.

The president, ministers, premiers, members of Parliament, provincial authorities, mayors, advisors, ambassadors and government officials.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

The Darfur situation.

The country of Sudan as a whole.

Foreigners in the country.
There are several possible scenarios that might happen in the following weeks. Here are 3 that have been written about:
1) Scenario one—President Bashir opts for confrontation with the international community: By intensifying the aggressive crackdown in Darfur that he began in Muhajiriya in advance of the warrant, increasing aerial bombardments of civilians, restricting or expelling humanitar­ians and peacekeepers, stepping up support for Chadian rebels, threatening to withdraw from the CPA, or backtracking on counterterrorism cooperation, Bashir could force the interna­tional community to take more assertive action or back down
2) Scenario two- Internal pressure forces Bashir from office: Given the mounting pressure from within, Bashir could decide to peacefully step aside and cede control to a new NCP candidate, who would participate in the upcoming national elections. Alternatively, rivals within the party could attempt to take power by force.
3) Scenario 3- Bashir stalls for time: After years of what the new U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice calls “bluster and retreat,” by the international community, Bashir may well calculate that the pressure arising from the arrest warrant will eventually dissipate.