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Friday, December 24, 2010

Nina Shea - Islamists' 'War against 'the Other': "We in the free West have a duty toward these endangered communities"

DECEMBER 23, 2010 4:00 A.M.
Islamists’ War against ‘the Other’Under Islamist pressures, Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians are vanishing from their ancient homelands.
The enduring symbol of Christmas, spanning the world’s diverse Christian cultures and the history of two millennia, is the nativity scene inspired by the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Artistically synthesizing the two gospel stories, the nativity scene is infused with profound Christian meaning and symbolism.
John the Baptist, whose own birth is linked to Jesus’s in Luke’s account, exhorts Christians to “prepare the way of the Lord,” and traditionally many do so during the Christmas season by meditating on these tender devotional scenes. One of the earliest surviving is a 5th-century bas relief from Naxos, Greece. Whether modern nativity scenes are modeled on the famous “live crèches” staged by St. Francis of Assisi in the 13th century, those painted by Renaissance artists, the Baroque Neapolitan crèches (one is displayed in the White House), or simple folk versions, they remain popular worldwide.
This year, one aspect of the nativity scene deserves special reflection. Gathered around the manger that serves as the Christ Child’s cradle are representatives of three ancient religious groups indigenous to the region: Mary and Joseph, the first Christians; the shepherds of Bethlehem, the Jewish “city of David”; and the Magi, the name for Zoroastrian priests, who followed a celestial sign from their home in the East looking for the “King of the Jews.” (Though not depicted in the nativity art, John the Baptist himself attracted many followers, some of whom never converted to Christianity and became known as Sabean Mandeans.)
These figures in the Christmas story represent the principal monotheistic religions of Middle Eastern antiquity. It would not be until six centuries later that Islam arose in the Arabian peninsula. Even today, the Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and a group the Zoroastrians inspired, the Yezidis, as well as the Sabean Mandeans, constitute the main non-Islamic religions in the Greater Middle East.
But this is coming to an end. Since 2004, a relentless wave of Islamist terrorist attacks targeting Iraq’s indigenous Christians has prompted that group to flee en masse. At the time of Saddam Hussein’s fall, the number of Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Orthodox, Armenians, Syriacs, and other Christians in Iraq was estimated at 1.4 million. Half of these Christians have since fled, and some observers speculate that this may well be the last Christmas in Iraq for the half remaining. In fact, it’s not just the Christian community that faces existential threats, and it is not just in Iraq. Every one of the indigenous religious communities evoked by the nativity story is disappearing from the region’s Muslim-majority countries.
Religious demographics are kept as state secrets in the Muslim Middle East, and most of those countries’ governments have not conducted a census in decades. Still, while the data are soft, it is established that Christians are by far the largest remaining non-Muslim group, and that they are clustered principally in Egypt, Iraq, and the Levant. It is estimated that they number no more than 15 million, a minute fraction of the region’s overall population. Lebanese scholar Habib Malik writes that these Christians are in a state of “terminal regional decline.”
The majority are Egypt’s Copts, numbering between 8 and 12 million. A year ago, Coptic worshippers were massacred during a Christmas Eve attack on their church in Naga Hammadi in southern Egypt, and several Coptic villages have been targeted by pogrom-like mob violence. In recent decades, Lebanon’s Christians have seen a sharp drop in their numbers, down from the majority there to one-third of the population, about 1.5 million. Syria has about 1 million; Jordan, about 185,000. The West Bank has about 50,000, and Gaza, 1,000 to 3,000. In Turkey, the site of Constantinople, which was the center of Byzantine Christianity from the 4th to the 15th century, some 100,000 Christians remain, less than 0.2 percent of the population. Iran counts about 300,000 Christians. Not all those who have fled from Iraq have left the region. About 60,000 have found refuge in Syria, for example. However, their presence is tenuous: They are barred from working and aid from abroad is scarce; some of the women have turned to prostitution, according to the Chaldean Catholic bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, SJ.
The Persian Gulf region and northern Africa have long since been “cleansed” of their indigenous Christian churches. Native Christians — mostly evangelicals, probably numbering in the thousands — worship largely in secret; Saudi Arabia has only one publicly known native Christian, the oft-imprisoned and extremely courageous Hamoud Saleh Al-Amri. Foreign workers, including over a million Christians, now living in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf are denied rights of citizenship and, in the former, even the right to have churches. Morocco summarily deported scores of foreign Christian educators and social workers last spring.
The other religions have contracted even more sharply in the Muslim Middle East. Since the establishment of the state of Israel, some of the region’s Jews voluntarily left Muslim-majority countries; but as many as 850,000 of them, such as the Jews of Baghdad sixty years ago, were driven out, forced to leave land and possessions behind, by freelance terror and government policies. The parts of Iraq, Egypt, and Yemen that had been great Jewish centers since Old Testament times now have Jewish populations numbering in single, double, and triple digits, respectively. Estimates of Morocco’s native Jewish community, now the largest in the Arab Middle East, range from 2,000 to 6,000. Iran is home to 20,000 or so Jews. Turkey has 25,000.
Zoroastrians, based on the plains of Iran since their religion’s founding somewhere between 1800 and 1500 b.c. by the devotional poet Zarathustra, are estimated to number between 45,000 and 90,000. Iran scholar Jamsheed Choksy has documented (see “Religious Cleansing in Iran,” by Nina Shea and Jamsheed K. Choksy, July 22, 2009) a “steady decline through emigration away from Iran since the Islamic Republic’s intolerance toward minorities began in 1979.” Iran’s largest non-Muslim community is the Baha’i, founded after Islam in Shiraz, in southeastern Iran, and severely repressed as a heresy; Baha’is in Iran number about 350,000. Non-Muslim communities collectively have diminished to no more than 2 percent of Iran’s 71 million people.
Yezidis, who draw upon Zoroastrian beliefs, are found in northern Iraq; hundreds of thousands of them have fled in recent years, leaving half a million still in their native land. Sabean Mandeans, mostly based in Baghdad and Basra, are down to one-tenth of their pre-2003 population of 50,000.
In past centuries, Islamic conversion by the sword and pressures under the grossly discriminatory dhimmi system took their toll on the Middle East’s “People of the Book” (Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians). Now, factors such as lower birth rates, and emigration because of conflict at home and economic opportunities abroad, are commonly offered to explain these communities’ accelerating decline. Less plausibly, the region’s rulers, Western academics — many of whom they fund outright or otherwise provide inducements to — and religious leaders they essentially hold hostage also blame Zionism.
But the leading, and most obvious factor, one that was on full display during the Baghdad church massacre this October is rarely openly acknowledged or discussed: that is, the rise of extremist Islamist movements and the fact that most of the region’s governments finance, sympathize with, or appease them, or are too weak to keep them under control.
The fact that within the Muslim Middle East indigenous non-Muslim religious communities across the spectrum — Christians of every denomination, Jews, Zoroastrians, Sabean Mandeans, Yezidis, Baha’is — are all rapidly heading toward extinction, while Muslim sects flourish in the same areas, points to this underlying phenomenon of Islamic radicalism.
Writing on this issue, Fouad Ajami eloquently put it this way: “The Islamists are doubtless a minority in the world of Islam. But they are a determined breed. Their world is the Islamic emirate, led by self-styled ‘emirs and mujahedeen in the path of God’ and legitimized by the pursuit of the caliphate that collapsed with the end of the Ottoman Empire in 1924. These masters of terror and their foot soldiers have made it increasingly difficult to integrate the world of Islam into modernity. . . . But the borders these warriors of the faith have erected between Islam and ‘the other’ are particularly forbidding. The lands of Islam were the lands of a crossroads civilization, trading routes and mixed populations. The Islamists have waged war, and a brutally effective one it has to be conceded, against that civilizational inheritance.”
We in the free West have a duty toward these endangered communities, especially Iraq’s besieged and abandoned Christians. Donations can be made to the Catholic Chaldean Federation; St. George’s ecumenical congregation in Baghdad, led by Anglican canon Andrew White; and the Assyrian-aid organization associated with Archdeacon Emanuel Youkhana of the Assyrian Church of the East. Gazing on the crèche this Christmas, let us prayerfully reflect on what each of us can do to help.
— Nina Shea is the director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Egypt Cuts a Deal: Christians Fed to Muslim 'Lions'

I commend the urgent message of this accurate and insightful article by Raymond Ibrahim to readers' attention.  This truly is a most serious matter about which I have been deeply concerned for some weeks now.

I also note that Muhammad Salim al-Awwa, the scholar mentioned below whose interview on Al-Jazeera has been inciting so much hatred against Egyptian Christians, was one of the signatories to the Common Word letter from Muslim scholars to the Christians of the world.  (Among other things, the Common Word letter claimed that Islam endorses the Biblical principle of loving for one's neighbour.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Interfaith dialogue with Dhimmis: What does it mean? What are the implications?

Lecture and Book Signing with Revd Mark Durie, Ph.D.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - 7:00 p.m.
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA  90049

Here is the link that opens to the invitation:

Those who are prepared to engage in substantive interfaith dialogue with Muslims must gain a comprehensive education in Islamic doctrine, tenets and practices, including the very alarming political ideology of Islam. In that way, some thorny and exceptionally unpleasant issues can be appropriately targeted and addressed for clarification.

“Interfaith is like motherhood and apple pie. Everyone supports it. But there is one proviso. Dialogue can only work when both parties are genuinely committed and we avoid making concessions in order to curry favor that merely create a façade of goodwill but in reality compromise our dignity, enabling evil to flourish. Interfaith relations must be based on honest and frank dialogue designed to create goodwill based on shared values.”- Isi Leibler

The Third Choice offers indispensable keys for understanding Islam’s influence in global politics, including interfaith dialogue initiatives, the widening impact of sharia revival, deterioration of human rights in Islamic societies, jihad terrorism, patterns of Western appeasement, and the increasingly volatile relationship between migrant Muslim communities in the West and their host societies.

Dr. Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist and pastor in the Anglican church.  He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom. A graduate of the Australian National University and the Australian College of Theology, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA and Stanford, and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1992.

Dr. Mark Durie will be available after the lecture to answer questions and sign copies of his book,
The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.
(Books available on the night for a one-off price of $10 - cash or cheques only.)

Entrance to the lecture: $10 per person
Cash or check at the door

By email —
or call (818)704-0523

Students attending the lecture will receive a free personally signed copy of The Third Choice.  Please have your student ID ready to present.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Set My People Free - Anti Apostasy Law Rally in Martin Place, Sydney

At noon, on Saturday August 28, 2010, a crowd of a few hundred people gathered at Martin Place, in Sydney, to protest against Islam's apostasy law.  This law, based upon the example of Muhammad and the teachings of the Qur'an, declares that a man who leaves Islam should be killed.  For female apostates Islam's legal schools differ:  some say the penalty is death, while others stipulate confinement of the apostate for as long as they live, or until they revert to Islam. 

I was one of the speakers, and my speech has been broadcast in a two-part YouTube video.
Part 1 (also here):

and Part 2 (also here):

Richard Fernandez was one of those present in the crowd, and has blogged on the event in his post entitled The Age of Apostasy.

See also my blog post on Islamic apostasy fatwas, which was posted to my Common Word Blog in February 2008.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"You exploit the very freedoms that democracy gives you" Tracy Grimshaw on Channel 9 TV.

Tracy Grimshaw, host of Nine Network's A Current Affair conducted a gutsy interview of Australian Hizb-ut Tahrir spokesperson Uthman Badar. The background for the interview was Hizb-ut Tahrir's second Caliphate Conference, held Sydney Australia on Sunday 4 July.

Grimshaw presented Badar with quotes from the Hizb-ut Tahrir website.  He refused to reject the proposition that "He who does not rule by Islam should either retract or be killed", saying that was not going to respond to soundbites, and "there is a very clear difference between a man-centric worldview and a God-centric one."

Grimshaw's crucial challenge to Badar went unanswered:
"By any perception, you are exploiting the very freedoms which you exhort your followers to reject.  ... If it were not for our secular democracy that you have denounced you would not be allowed a voice in this country."

At the end of 2006 I expressed concern about the first Australian Caliphate conference, held in January 2007:
"This event is a manifestation of the mechanisms for radicalisation within the Australian Islamic community, and their vitality.
If we wake up in 10 years' time and wonder what went wrong, historians who are able to look back and analyse the rise of radical Islam in Australia will identify events such as this conference as part of the answer."
Tracy Grimshaw must be commended for her bold interview, and her courage to tackle the moral bloody-mindedness of a group which exploits freedom in order to destroy it.

The original Channel 9 video link is here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Links and Resources on the Current Persecution of Afghan Christians

1. Here are some links to reports on the situation of Christians in Afghanistan.

New York Times: Afghanistan suspends two aids groups. May 30.

Reuters: Afghanistan to probe NGOs after “preaching” report. May 31

International Christian Concern: Afghan parliamentarian calls for execution of Christians. June 2

Christian Today: Afghan parliamentarian calls for execution of Christians. June 3.

Elizabeth Kendal Blog: fghanistan: what chance do 'apostates' have when their government is pursuing peace and reconciliation with an ascendant Taliban? June 10. - A VERY GOOD OVERVIEW

World Magazine: Kill the Christians.  June 18.

Barnabas Fund Report: Afghan Christians plead for help as they are exposed and threatened with execution. June 18.

Barnabas Fund: Letter from Afghan Christians in India. June 18. 

2. Addresses to which readers might consider sending a letter of protest:

US Ambassador to Afghanistan

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry
C/O Department of State
22101 C St NW
Washington DC 20520

Afghan Ambassador to the USA
 Ambassador Said T. Jawad
The Embassy of Afghanistan
2341 Wyoming Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008


Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan

Ambassador Paul Foley
Kabul Bag
Locked Bag 40
ACT 2604


Afghan Ambassador to Australia
Ambassador Dr Amanullah Jayhoon
The Embassy of Aghanistan
PO Box 155
Deakin West 

ACT 2600

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Name of Israel Will Be Remembered No More!?

by Daniel Shayesteh, former Iranian Revolutionary Guard and co-founder of Hezbollah in Iran.

I never cease to be amazed at how the enemies of Israel have been trying to destroy her for thousands of years, aiming to annihilate her, so that no record of her name, Biblical values and God would remain in history.  Yet amazingly she still survives.  As an ex-fundamentalist Muslim, reading the following passage for the first time, I was astonished by what the Psalmist wrote:

They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, so that the name Israel may be remembered no more.” For with one heart they have plotted together; they have made a covenant against You-- the tents of Edom, and the Ishmaelites; of Moab, and the Hagarites; Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek; the Philistines with the people of Tyre; and Assyria has joined with them; they have helped the sons of Lot (Psalms 83:4-8).
Who are these nations who were drawn into such unity against Israel? To my amazement, they are the forefathers of the Saudi Arabians, Palestinians, Jordanians and non-Aryan Iraqis, who were living in the area centuries before the rise of Islam.

Eventually, Islam revealed itself as the best servant of hostility and established itself as the political religion of these nations, employing all available means to destroy Israel and remove her name from the face of the earth. It is quite remarkable that despite millennia of opposition to Israel, she is still a nation, has a land to govern with the rule of law, and will be around until the end of history.

Why? What is the secret behind the survival of Israel?


About Daniel Shayesteh:

Dr Shayesteh was born into a Muslim family in Northern Iran. He became a radical Muslim leader and teacher of Islam in the militant Free Islamic Revolutionary Movement, closely supporting Ayatollah Khomeini.
However, after falling out of favor with Khomeini’s political group, he escaped to Turkey where there began an amazing journey to faith in Jesus Christ.
Daniel's mission is to help others understand and lovingly respond to those who do not know Christ.
Daniel is also deeply concerned for the future of Western societies, their loss of confidence in Judeo-Christian values, and their persistent naivete about the implications of the world-wide Islamic revival.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Third Choice in The New English Review

The New English Review has just published Dhimmitude Dominates, which is a review by Jerome Gordon of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.
Gordon writes:
While browsing through a Barnes and Noble in Westport, Connecticut in 1988, I chanced upon a book on the bottom shelf of the Judaica section with the curious title, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, by Bat Ye’or. Bat Ye’or is a nom de plume meaning in Hebrew “daughter of the Nile.” I perused the paperback volume shocked by the revelations that the Muslim realm was not the tolerant Islam that Medievalist scholars had conveyed.....  Click here to read on.

Also included in the February 2010 edition of New English Review is an essay The Dhimma's Return, which analyses the modern day re-imposition of Sharia conditions upon non-Muslims living under Islam, as well as the creeping advance of the 'dhimmitude of the West', as dual manifestations of the world-wide Sharia revival.  I argue that one of the distinctive characteristics of dhimmitude is silence: there is the silence of historians (see my critiques of Bernard Lewis and revisionist history text books), the silence of politicians, clergy and police, and machinations at the United Nations to impose silence as a legal requirement upon the whole world:
When the Ayatollah Khomeini ushered in the Iranian Islamic revolution in 1979, Muslims all over the world greeted this event with enthusiasm. At last, so it was thought, Islam would be implemented rigorously to reinstitute an Islamic utopia on earth. Yet along with the Islamization of Iran came the return of the laws of the dhimma. Click here to read on.