Tuesday, March 30, 2010

American Christian couple deported from Morocco

They knew it was a possibility, but never really believed it would happen to them. Eddie and Lynn Padilla say their family was torn apart when the Moroccan government deported them and other Christian workers at an orphanage in the Islamic country. 

Now they worry about the future for little Samir and Mouhcine, the two Moroccan boys they were raising.  "If I think about it too much I just start crying. I look at their pictures and I just can't believe that I'm not with them," Lynn Padilla said.

She and her husband Eddie Padilla moved to Morocco 4 years ago to work at the Village of Hope in a rural area about 5 hours northeast of Casablanca. The orphanage in the village of Ain Leuh took in children who were usually abandoned because they were born out of wedlock. They are children who might have otherwise died or been left to fend for themselves living on the streets. MORE HERE

Friday, March 26, 2010

Al-Qaeda wants to attack Saudi oil industry

The Saudi Interior Ministry announced yesterday that it had uncovered a plot to attack Saudi oil facilities and arrested 113 suspected members of al-Qaeda.  The 113 militants reportedly were organized into three cells and had been planning suicide attacks on oil and security facilities in Saudi Arabia’s oil-producing Eastern Province.  Fifty two of the suspects were from Yemen, which has become the primary base for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula after many cells based in Saudi Arabia were uprooted in previous Saudi crackdowns. MORE HERE

Church in problems in Egypt

Egyptian Christians have requested our prayers following violent incidents against Christians in Marsa Matrouh, near the Libyan border, and in Luxor, southern Egypt.

The violence in Marsa Matrouh occurred on Friday 12th March. The incident started at a church which also hosts a clinic and other social service activities. Local Muslims launched an attack in which 28 people were injured (24 Chrisians and four Muslims), two of them seriously, and in which 17 houses, 12 cars and two motorcycles owned by Christians were destroyed or damaged. The violence was reportedly encouraged by the leader of a local mosque because building work on church property was deemed to be blocking a road.

Police took several hours to disperse the crowd and bring the sitution under control. Many Christians had taken refuge inside the church, 16 of whom were subsequently taken to a police station and detained. Four were released the next day because they were minors. The 12 adults remain detained whilst claims of riotous behaviour are investigated.The Egyptian Christian newspaper Watani quoted a church leader as saying, "Even if the Church had violated the law - which is not the case - then the law should have been upheld and legal procedures ought to have been taken. It should never have been left to a fanatic preacher to take the law in his own hands, inciting such violence, damage and pain."

On Thursday 18th March another incident occurred in Luxor. A large-scale redevelopment project is currently underway which involves the demolition of various buildings, including a Presbyterian church compound. The owners of these buildings are currently negotiating with the authorities over compensation payments. Although negotiations with the church are still ongoing, several buildings within the church compound were demolished, including the pastor's residence. The pastor and his family were forcibly evicted from their home and the pastor was assaulted. Egyptian church leaders are organising a petition to protest the mistreatment of the pastor. (c) MEC

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Arab rights groups call on Mideast leaders to help guide Sudan

A coalition of Arab rights groups from 20 countries called on the Arab League to "show leadership on Sudan" by getting involved during the potentially volatile upcoming year of elections and referenda.
The groups ask the Arab states to take steps like prioritizing a ceasefire in Darfur and supporting the inclusion of Arab civil society in monitoring elections and the upcoming referenda.
The call comes prior to the Arab Summit, to be held on March 26, 2010 in Seret, Libya, in an open letter addressed and delivered to Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa.
The letter comes out of a meeting more than 100 civil society organizations in Morocco, held March 6-7, 2010. It reminds the Arab leaders that during 2009 more than 2,500 people were killed in South Sudan and 391,400 displaced while in Darfur there were 40,000 new displacements in recent weeks and at least 60% of the population continues to require humanitarian assistance. MORE HERE

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'Allah' on Facebook is angering Muslims

Thousands of Muslim Facebook users have pushed to remove an Arabic-language Facebook page created by a user taking on the identity of Allah, or God. The user claimed he/she was an atheist and believed in no God but him/herself, saying that Muslim prophets would be able to connect with users through the site and answer their questions, according to news reports.

The page, displaying warped Koranic verses and making fun of Islam, soon garnered a 600,000 strong following and drew thousands of responses to its status updates, many of them scolding the creator. Campaigners who said it was an insult to Islam and to God demanded Facebook remove the page and some even urged users to boycott Facebook altogether. MORE HERE

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

One of largest Islamic websites in crisis as employees in Egypt stage sit-in

The future of one of the largest Islamic websites in the world was in doubt today after hundreds of staff walked out, accusing new managers of trying to hijack the site in order to promote a hardline, conservative agenda., writes The Guardian:

IslamOnline, which draws over 120,000 visitors a day and is one of the most popular internet destinations in the Middle East, was plunged into crisis following an attempt by the website's senior management in Qatar to wrest control of the site's content away from its editorial offices in Cairo.
Insiders claim that the move, which would involve many of the site's 350 Egypt-based staff losing their jobs, is part of a broader effort by conservative elements in the Gulf to reshape the identity of a media outlet long viewed as a bastion of liberal and reformist voices within the Islamic world.
"This is not an issue of money," journalist Fathi Abu Hatab told the Guardian via telephone from the website's offices, which are currently under occupation by staff. "It's a matter of editorial independence and media ethics, and we are not going to back down. They are trying to hijack IslamOnline, and we are resisting." MORE HERE

Monday, March 15, 2010

New York Times on preaching Jesus through the Qur'an

January was an ugly month in Malaysia. At least 10 churches were firebombed or vandalized, as was a Sikh temple. Severed boars’ heads — particularly offensive to Muslims, who are not supposed to eat pork — were found on the grounds of two mosques. The cause of this inter-religious strife was a court battle over whether non-Muslims may use the Arabic word “Allah” to refer to God.
The reports from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, described events that we imagine could never happen in the United States, where free speech is supposed to guard against such conflict. But we have fights over religious language, too, even if the violence rarely rises above name-calling.
On Feb. 3, Ergun Caner(photo) president of the Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, in Lynchburg, Va., focused attention on a Southern Baptist controversy when he called Jerry Rankin, the president of the denomination’s International Mission Board, a liar. Dr. Caner has since apologized for his language, but he still maintains that the “Camel Method,” a strategy Dr. Rankin endorses for preaching Christianity to Muslims, is deceitful. MORE HERE

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Morocco planning to expel more missionaries

(Compass Direct News) - Moroccan authorities deported more than 40 foreign Christian aid workers this week in an ongoing, nationwide crackdown that included the expulsion of foster parents caring for 33 Moroccan orphans. 
Deportations of foreign Christians continued at press time, with Moroccan authorities expressing their intention to deport specifically U.S. nationals. Sources in Morocco told Compass that the government gave the U.S. Embassy in Rabat a list of 40 citizens to be deported.
The U.S. Embassy in Rabat could not comment on the existence of such a list, but spokesperson David Ranz confirmed that the Moroccan government plans to deport more U.S. citizens for alleged "proselytizing."
"We have been informed by the Moroccan government that it does intend to expel more American citizens," said embassy spokesperson David Ranz. MORE HERE

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fighting between Muslims and Copts in Egypt

At least 24 people were injured in northern Egypt when fires were started and fighting broke out between Christians and Muslims Friday, an official said on Saturday.
"Security was able to control fires that erupted in three homes and two cars," Ahmed Hussein, governor of the northern governorate of Marsa Matrouh, told state television. Relations between Egypt's Muslims and mainly Coptic Christians are usually calm but can become strained and sometimes erupt into violence over issues such as inter-faith relationships and land.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt's roughly 78 million people. The rest are mostly Sunni Muslim. (c) Reuters

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Amnesty International asks: When Will Egypt’s State of Emergency End?

The Egyptian government went before the United Nations Human Rights Council last month and insisted that there is no torture and that State of Emergency provisions are used only against terrorists.
Tell that to Dr. Taha Abdel Tawab.
The doctor, a well-known supporter of former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed ElBaradei, was allegedly taken to a state security office and tortured for his support for ElBaradi, who is frequently named as a potential opposition presidential candidate.  According to the Arab human rights organization ANHRI, Tawab was transferred to Senorus hospital in serious condition.
ANHRI has asked government officials to investigate the incident but say they have not received a response.  Egypt has a long history of failing to provide public, independent investigations of security officers accused of torture.
The incident comes just days after Amnesty International called upon the Egyptian government to implement UN recommendations that would end torture and other abuses done in the name of security.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights’ findings, made public on March 9, criticized abuses made in the name of national security in Egypt.  The report criticized the wide discretion allowed to the SSI and commented that “SSI officers in practice enjoy carte blanche in deciding on whom to arrest”. MORE HERE

Morocco - Islam before humanness?

All of the 33 children in the Village of Hope orphanage in Morocco will be abandoned by their foster parents. Twenty multinational staff were given 3 days to leave the country without any explanation of what would happen to the children.  Simultaneously in various cities workers and national believers have been questioned and some booked for a night.  A total of 30 Christian workers have been deported, in some cases without a chance to go home and pick up some clothes.  This is part of a crackdown on Christian activities in Morocco. :)
Many are fearful they would be next.

Morocco is a democratic monarchy. They pride themselves of allowing freedom of religion. This crack down has been caused by pressure from Muslim extremists against missionary work.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Malaysia: When ‘Allah’ was not the only word banned

By Debra Chong (Malaysia Insider)

KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — Allah is not the only word banned by the Home Ministry from use by non-Muslims.

The Malaysian Insider recently obtained a copy of two letters sent out in 1986 by the ministry through its publishing division and addressed to the Council of Churches Malaysia (CCM).

It lays down a laundry list of words the federal government claimed — and still claims — are sensitive to Muslims who make up the biggest group in multi-religious Malaysia.

The first letter was dated April 1, 1986 and was undersigned by one Tengku Ali Tengku Chik on behalf of the secretary-general of the home ministry, better known by its initials in Bahasa Malaysia, KDN (Kementerian Dalam Negeri).

Tengku Ali wrote: “I am instructed to inform that this Ministry is concerned with the use of Islamic phrases in the translated Bible (Bahasa Malaysia) in which use of those words could confuse followers of the two religions. For example, ‘Tuhan’ is translated as ‘Allah’ in which the term has been used in the religion of Islam and have always been mentioned in the religion of Christianity as ‘God’ or ‘Tuhan’ only.

“Therefore, the Ministry requests your cooperation to refrain from using those words considered sensitive. As a guide, a copy of Appendix A is attached with suggested phrases for your use when translating into Bahasa Malaysia. Other terms, if any, will be told later,” he added.

“For your information, recently the Ministry had similarly chided a publication in Sabah, that is ‘Catholic Sabah’ to stop from using those confusing words when making translations,” he highlighted.

The appendix listed 16 words that were considered “sensitive to Muslims” and came out with their replacement without apparently consulting the CCM beforehand. They are:

“Al-Kitab” to be replaced with “Baibel (Bible)”.

“Allah” to be replaced with “Tuhan (God)”.

“Firman” to be replaced with “Berkata (Say)”.

“Rasul” to be replaced with “Utusan (Massanger – sic)”.

“Syariat” to be replaced with “Ajaran”.

“Iman” to be replaced with “Percaya (believe)”.

“Kaabah” with no suggested replacement.

“Ibadah” to be replaced with “Amalan (worship)”.

“Injil” to be replaced with “Baibel/ Bible”

“Wahyu” to be replaced with “Revelasi”.

“Nabi” to be replaced with “Propet”.

“Syukur” to be replaced with “Terima kasih”.

“Zikir” to be replaced with “Mengingatkan/ Menyebut”.

“Solat” to be replaced with “Sembahyang”.

“Doa” to be replaced with “Memohon”.

The ministry’s instructions do not stop there. In a separate column, it also notes the whys behind the ban.

“Maksud Al-Kitab ialah Al-Quran. Oleh itu istilah nama ini tidak boleh digunakan (The meaning of Al-Kitab is Al-Quran. Therefore the term cannot be used.)

“Firman ialah kata-kata mulia khusus bagi Allah sahaja (Firman is a specific noble word for Allah only).

“Rasul ialah nama panggilan kepada Utusan Allah yang disebut dalan Quran. Nama Jesus Kristas tidak disebut di dalam Al-Quran (Rasul is a name for Allah’s Messenger as mentioned in the Quran. The name Jesus Christ is not mentioned in the Quran).

“Syariat dikhaskan kepada Ugama Allah sahaja (Syariat is specially for the religion of Allah only).

“Injil yang sah sudah tidak ada masa ini (A legitimate Injil no longer exists).

The ministry noted there were no replacement words for “wahyu” and stated that only the word “revelasi” could be used.

The curt tone adopted in the letter appeared to suggest a superiority complex towards the practitioners of religions other than Islam, in particular, Christians who are considered by Muslims elsewhere in the world as fellow Children of the Book with a shared history.

The home ministry letter also claimed that the “Injil” no longer exists because the Muslim understanding of it is limited to the Old Testament; for Christians, the focus of their religion is in the teachings of Jesus Christ which forms the New Testament

The apparent arrogance was summed up in the afterword to the appendix, which ironically is sub-headlined “Panduan Umum” or general guide.

“Bible ditulis dalam Bahasa Inggeris (dan Bahasa Latin Romawi). Bahasa rasmi Agama Kristian ialah Bahasa Inggeris (dan Bahasa Latin Romawi). Jadi ‘Bible’ hendaklah ditulis dan disebarkan dalam Bahasa Inggeris (atau Latin). Jangan gunakan sedikitpun Bahasa Arab dalam Bible kerana Bahasa Arab adalah bahasa rasmi Agama Islam. Menggunakan Bahasa Arab

dalam ‘Bible’ boleh mengelirukan dan mempengaruhi orang Islam kepada Agama Kristian. [Bible is written in the English language (and in Roman Latin). The official language for the Christian religion is English (or Roman Latin). So ‘Bible’ must be written and disseminated in English (or Latin). Do not use even a little bit of Arabic in the Bible because Arabic is the official language of the religion of Islam. Using Arabic in the Bible can confuse and influence Muslims to Christian religion.]”

In that brief paragraph, the home ministry also explained the real reason why words of an Arabic origin are “exclusive” to Islam.

It also appeared to have seen fit to decide, on behalf of both Muslims and Christians, how they should each practice their respective religions although the Federal Constitution states the Malay monarchs hold sway over Islamic practices in their own states.

The Federal Constitution also states Malaysians who are not Muslim are free to practise their own faith, which most would sensibly understand that their religions are not subject to Islamic interpretations.

Eight months later, the ministry sent out another letter, this time addressed to Christian publications.

This time, it was undersigned by one Hassan Jantan on behalf of the ministry’s secretary-general. A copy of the letter was also forwarded to the police Special Branch director at Bukit Aman.

Dated December 5, 1986, the letter refers to a “confusion” that has happened within the community over the use of “Islamic words” used in the Bahasa Malaysia edition of Christian publications.

The letter then states the federal government had decided to allow Christian publications to use 12 words — from the original list of 18 banned words — on the condition that the books or pamphlets to be distributed or sold carry the word “For Christians” on the front cover.

The 12 Arabic-origin words allowed for use are: “Al-Kitab, Firman, Rasul, Syariat, Iman, Ibadah, Injil, Wahyu, Nabi, Syukur, Zikir, Doa”.

The ministry remained unconverted on four other words: “Kaabah”, “Batitullah”, “Solat” and “Allah”.

This time, the ministry did not give a point-by-point explanation on why certain words could now be used.

Instead, the letter said the federal government had relaxed its stand “only to preserve public peace and avoid misunderstanding between Muslims and Christians”.

At the same time, it reminded the Christian publications that the state Islamic councils had the power to decide on all Islamic affairs in their respective states, which is redundant because that fact is already laid down in the Federal Constitution and the Christian publications had no tried to impose their views or rules of their beliefs on anyone who was not a Christian, let alone a Muslim.

The ongoing dispute pitting Muslims and Christians has been raging these past 20 years behind closed doors without the public being any wiser until the churches, seeing no other avenue to have their case heard by a neutral panel was forced to take it up with the court.

It has been reported that the National Fatwa Council, which oversees the practice of Islam throughout the country but has no authority over the practice of other religions, had suddenly in 1982 declared certain words, including “Allah” as exclusive to the religion of Islam.

But “Allah” is the only word the Christian churches are seeking to use. They have not laid any claims on “Baitullah”, “solat”, or “Kaabah”, church officials say.

They argued that then Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Cabinet issued an order which has effectively curtailed the freedom of non-Muslims in the practice of their religions.

Christians Expelled from Morocco for 'Proselytizing'

Foreign Christians working in Morocco have been expelled by authorities. Among the 20 deported foreigners, 16 are workers who cared for abandoned and orphaned children.

In a Sunday raid, police seized Christian literature and CDs at the "Village of Hope," near Meknes. They accused workers of trying to convert minors to Christianity, which is against the law in Morocco.

According to the Village of Hope Web site, all foreign workers had to go. "They have not told us how long we have left, but it will be between one and three days," Village of Hope member Chris Broadbent wrote.

"This is despite the fact that we have always been open about our faith to the authorities and for 10 years they have allowed VoH to take in and foster children abandoned by this society," he added. "Children who would otherwise be killed or placed in state run 'mega' orphanages." The group left behind 33 children who'd been in their care.

Morocco's official news agency said police were enforcing laws to preserve the nation's religious and spiritual values. The country's constitution protects Islam as the official religion. Morocco's population is 99 percent Muslim.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Fear Of Muslim Collective Punishment Grips Christian Villagers in Upper Egypt

Fear has gripped the inhabitants of the upper Egyptian village of Sheikh Telada in Samalout, 250 kilometers south of Cairo, as they anticipate collective punishment against them by the village Muslims, in the wake of two sectarian incidents which took place in the village during February. They fear their fate would be similar to that of Farshout, Nag Hamadi and Bahgoura, where Muslims destroyed, burnt and looted Coptic homes and properties prompted by incidents provoked by Muslims against only one Copt.

State security forces have forced the Coptic villagers to remain indoors, and place a news blackout on the village. The presence of state security in the area is viewed with suspicion. Activist Mariam Ragy of the advocacy group Katibatibia sees in their presence "a way to keep Copts prisoners in their own homes and not for their own protection." Rafaat Samir of the Egyptian Union Human Rights Organization sees in it a slow death for the Coptic villagers. "Is the state security incapable of protecting the Copts so as to force them to remain indoors and abandon their work and schools?" asks Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub. "Is security so powerless every time the Copts are placed under siege by a mob imposing collective punishment on all village Copts?" MORE HERE

Arab World not impressed by elections in Iraq

Elections across this region have long been viewed as not much more than window dressing to tidy up the image of authoritarian leaders and absolute monarchs eager for greater legitimacy.
So from the outset, when Iraqis poured into the polls on Sunday to elect a new Parliament, the mere act of voting was not seen as a step toward democracy. That perception, combined with Election Day violence, American occupation and Iranian influence, left few analysts and commentators in the Middle East declaring the elections a success and Iraq on the road to stability.
“Iraq is a failure and a big mess,” said Hussein al-Shobokshy, a columnist for the Saudi Arabian owned pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat. “Iraq is a scary model right now,” he added. “It is so divided, vulgarly so. MORE HERE

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Church asks Christians in Iraq to vote, in spite of attacks

Rome, Italy (CNA) -- With elections just days away, and after weeks of violence by Muslim extremists that have left numerous Christians dead, the Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, called on "all Iraqis to cast their votes for the good of Iraq."

Speaking to the Italian news agency SIR, the cardinal said, "We are praying that everything will take place orderly and without violence. We will do everything in our power for the good of the country and the people."

He then condemned the violence of recent days, which has pitted "Iraqis against Iraqis, parties against parties, each one fighting for his own interests ... These are internal struggles that are leaving many victims."

The Patriarch also commented on his recent visit to Mosul, where Muslim extremists recently killed eight Christians. "I met with the Christian population and with civil officials from local communities who came to the chancery to speak with me. They are all in agreement about working and collaborating to restore calm and safety to the city," he said.

"For our part, we are praying for peace and reconciliation. We have the Synod for the Middle East on the horizon, which will be an occasion to work not only for Iraq but for the entire region," he added.

Also urging participation in the elections was Auxiliary Bishop Shelmon Warduni of Baghdad who told the Fides news agency, "We exhort all Christians to vote and to elect candidates who will work for the good of Iraq, so that human rights and religious freedom will reign again in the country."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Morocco to be first Arab nation in EU summit

Morocco will this weekend become the first Arab country to hold summit-level talks with the European Union when it meets the 27-nation bloc in Spain, which holds the EU presidency, officials said.

The meeting starting Saturday in the southern city of Granada will be a chance for the EU to grill Morocco on its human rights record and lack of development, including high rates of illiteracy, a European diplomat said. MORE HERE

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Chritsians escaping from Mosul

The United Nations humanitarian arm reported today that 4,320 Iraqi Christians have been displaced following recent unrest in the northern city of Mosul. The latest figure, as of yesterday, represents an increase of about 200 people since Saturday, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which added that the influx of displaced Christian families from Mosul city to nearby districts in the Ninewa governorate has slowed down over the past few days.
OCHA noted that there are protection concerns for the Christian families remaining in Mosul, including unconfirmed reports that they are confined to their homes out of fear for their safety.
In addition, Christian university students are reportedly not attending classes and workers are not attending their places of work.
In October 2008, more than 12,000 Christians fled Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, following an upsurge in attacks, threats and intimidation, with some returning later after hearing that the security situation had improved.
Deadly attacks against Christians in the city occurred again in December 2009.

Copyright (C) 2010, Assyrian International News Agency.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Historical analysis predicts Middle East earthquake

An Israeli geologist says there is a strong risk of a major earthquake in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and surrounding areas, writes Alasdair Soussi the Irish Times.
AS IF the Middle East wasn’t in enough difficulty, an eminent Israeli scientist has warned that another, geological-based disaster could hit the region in the very near future.
Research carried out by Dr Shmulik Marco, an academic at the Department of Geophysics and Planetary Sciences at Tel Aviv University, has suggested that an earthquake of at least the same magnitude as those which recently devastated Haiti and parts of Chile is a real threat to Israel, Palestine, Jordan and the surrounding area.
“A strong earthquake in the Holy Land might well be imminent,” says Marco, a visiting professor at the Department of Earth Sciences at England’s Durham University. “After a period of major earthquakes about every 400 years (in roughly the first millennium) we’ve had a period of 1,000 years of no significant earthquakes, and this is what’s making me worried.”MORE HERE

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Arabic Music - based in Orthodox Liturgy

Assumptions bother me.  Especially when they generalize a culture that has such a diverse history.  I am speaking of course about the Arab world.  More so in particular about the Levantine area which includes the countries of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Jordan.  This area is also known by such names as, Bilad il-Sham, Al-Mashriq, or Greater Syria.  Most people ASSUME that since I am an Arab, I am Muslim.  While I have nothing against my Muslim brothers and sisters, I am Christian, and more specifically an Orthodox Christian.  Many people fail to realize that most of the Levantine area was Orthodox Christian before the rise of Islam.  So how does music fit into all this?
To start, lets take a brief Western music history lesson.  Music in Western civilization has its roots within the Catholic church.  The Catholic church had a huge influence on all aspects of life in Western history including music.  Out of the religious musical tradition we start to see the emergence of secular music in the West around the end of the Medieval period and the beginning of the Renaissance period  The same thing can be said about "Eastern" or Arabic music.  This is one instance were "East" mirrors "West".  As I have stated in previous posts on this blog, Arabic music has its roots in the Byzantine Church.  If we you listen to Orthodox Liturgical chant, you can easily hear similarities with Arabic music such as, style, melodic shape, intonation, and maqamat (modes).
Now let me show you how Arab music has its roots in the Orthodox Church.  Before reading any further, listen to this video (click here).  The video from YouTube is an excellent example of Byzantine in the Orthodox Church.  There are eight modes or "tones" in Byzantine chant.  Tones 1 and 5 are close to maqam bayati in Arabic music. Tones 2 and 6 are close to maqam hijaz. Tones 3 and 7 are mix of maqams ajam and jiharkah. Tone 4 is a variant of maqam sikah.  Tone 8 is close to maqam rast.  Without going in to all the theology and theory behind Byzantine chant, the basic differences between each tone or mode is the tone treats that certain maqam or mode.  In the video example it is clear that the choir is chanting in tone 2 or in Arabic music we would say this sounds like maqam hijaz.  While the choir is not singing the hijaz scale as it would be sung or performed in Arabic music with regards to tuning, it has many things in common with its treatment of that maqam.  The "dominant"* note in tone 2 and maqam hijaz is the fourth scale degree.  The treatment of the notes below the tonic of the the mode share common principals.  In Arabic music maqam hijaz usually plays the tetra chord below the tonic as maqam rast.  For example if I were to play maqam hijaz on "D",  the notes below the tonic would be G, A, B half-flat, C, and D. This would sound like maqam rast in Arabic music.  In the YouTube video the choir does almost the same thing with the notes below the tonic.  They do not complete the rast tetra chord at first by going all the down to the G, but they still use the "quarter tone"**  on the second note below the tonic, about 50 seconds into the chant they do complete the rast tetra chord starting from the fifth note below the tonic and ascending upwards to the tonic again with differences in tuning from the Arabic tradition.  Another way we know that tone 2 is close to hijaz in the video is by listening to the intervals between the second and third note of the mode.  While again there is a difference between the Arabic tuning of the hijaz scale and the Byzantine tuning, there still is a wider interval between the second and third note of the mode which is characteristic of maqam hijaz.
Aside form the similarities in modes  or maqams and their treatment, there is also a stylistic similarity.  Listen to these two videos, one of a priest chanting (click here), and the other of a violin taqasim*** performed by Sami Al Shawwa (click here).  If you listen carefully you will hear that Arabic music and Byzantine chant share many similarities when it comes to ornamentation and phrasing.  This can be illustrated by observing the Ornaments the priest does with his voice and comparing them to the ornaments done in the violin taqasim.  Other similarities include the use of drones, sliding and bending of notes, and of course modulations in and out of the maqams or modes.  It is much easier for some one who has grown up listening to Arabic music and Byzantine chant all his or her life to spot these similarities.  For those who are not well versed in either type of music, the best thing to do would be to really listen to each detail of both types of music.  The principals of both styles of music are the same, and that is to uplift the listener, or in other words, Tarab.  Tarab is used in both Byzantine chant and Arabic music.  Tarab in Byzantine chant is used to elevate the listener to a higher state of prayer while Arabic music uses tarab purely as an affect on the listener so that he or she may enjoy or apperciate the music on a deeper level.  In any case both genres of music are intended to impact the listener in one way or the other. 
As I have stated in the second paragraph, Western music has its roots in the Catholic Church which was the dominant religion in the West at the time.   In this blog I  have shown how Arabic music and Byzantine chant are alike.  The similarities are clear, and it is a fact that the Orthodox Church was the main religion in the Arab world before the rise of Islam.   It would make sense that Arabic music has its roots in the Byzantine Church.  Religion has always been there to witness and be a part of a cultures growth and expansion.  We see this not only in the Arab world, but with the Greek, Russian, and European civilizations as well. So it comes to no surprise that a religion such as the Orthodox Church would have some hand in the development of Arabic music.  But then again, I may be assuming.

* Dominant is a term used in Western music that is used denote the fifth scale degree.  The dominant in Arabic music is not fixed like Western music, it could be the fourth, fifth, an even the third scale degree.

** Quarter tone is a generic term for notes between whole steps that are not in the Western tuning system.  These notes are not necessarily in between half steps, the maqam or mode would usually determine the tuning of the "quarter tone"

*** A taqasim is an improvisation in Arabic music that starts and ends on the same maqam or mode.

(c) Arabic Music

Monday, March 1, 2010

St John of Damascus: Orthodox teacher under the Umayyads

Dr Asad Rustum (1879-1965), official historian of the Apostolic Church of Antioch, wrote this long article on the Melkites and how they suffered under the Umayyads.  St John of Damascus is treated extensively.  Worth reading!
This is a difficult epoch during which the Jacobites (اليعاقبة) took advantage of the ongoing wars between the Byzantines and the Umayyads (Muslims, as they were called at the time), in that they pointed to Muslims that the Byzantine Christians of the Middle East were indeed Melkites—King=Melek in Semitic, hence, Melekites/Melkites=Subjects of the Emperor—and they charged them with spying on behalf of the Byzantine Empire. As a result, the Umayyads persecuted the so-called Byzantine Melkites and prevented them from appointing Patriarchs in the Apostolic Thrones of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. Previously, it was stated that the following Patriarchs of Antioch (Macedonius, Georgios I, and Makarios) ruled the Apostolic Throne of Antioch from as far as Constantinople. This preventive measure which was imposed by the Umayyads affected four Patriarchs of Antioch, namely: Theophanes I (681-687), Stephanos III (687-690), Georgios II (690-695), and Alexandros II (695-702). It is probable, although not concretely evident, that the last two of these Patriarchs returned to Antioch (1). Ironically, during this period as well, the Jacobite Patriarchs also ruled their throne while they were placed far from Antioch, in places like Diar Bekir and Malatia. Interestingly, one of the Jacobite Patriarchs, namely, Elias, won the favor of the Umayyads and was granted their permission to build a church in Antioch, yet nonetheless he was prevented from dwelling in that cityMORE HERE