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Friday, October 28, 2011

MyPeace on Australian TV and "Islamic Values" is an Australian dawah (i.e. missionary) website.  It is designed to invite people to convert to Islam.  Disingenuously it states that it exists to "address the many misconceptions about Islam".

MyPeace is unashamed in declaring the superiority of its beliefs.  For example characterizes Christian beliefs as 'blasphemous', 'distorted' and 'extreme'.  It also speaks of the Islamic Christ, who when he returns will, by military force destroy all other religions, and usher in a utopia of Muhammadan sharia law across the earth.  Furthermore, 'only Muslims today actually follow Jesus and his true teachings. Their way of life is much more in tune with the way of life Jesus practiced than any of the modern day “Christians."'  In order words, Islam is the true Christianity.

This is an example of how MyPeace 'addresses misconceptions' about Islam.

MyPeace grabbed national attention with a series of billboards in Sydney earlier this year.

This week it is about to launch a TV ad campaign.  The ad can be viewed here.

The text of the ad is:
"To save one life is as though you have saved all of humanity". [Sura 5:32]
"Show kindness to your parents, just as they cherished you in childhood." [Sura 17:23-24]
"Give in charity of the good things you earn"
"Even a smile is charity"

"Explore the real values of Islam at"
The text is read by a man with a broad Australian accent over scenes of:
  • a lifesaver saving a young boy in the Australian surf, 
  • an elderly (unveiled) woman who has a shawl put around her shoulders to warm her, and 
  • someone giving charity to a destitute young man.
Islam is based upon the Quran and the teachings and actions of Muhammad.  The ad neatly reflects this.  Australians should be more aware of both the Quran and Muhammad's life and witness.

In the interests of 'addressing misconceptions' about Islam, I offer the full text of Sura 5:32-34, which is the first passage from which the TV advertisement quotes:
For this reason [i.e. Cain killing Abel] did We prescribe to the children of Israel that whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men; and whoever keeps it alive, it is as though he kept alive all men; and certainly Our apostles came to them with clear arguments, but even after that many of them certainly act extravagantly in the land.

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement. 
Except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (Sura 5:32-34)
This cheery text includes a quote, somewhat altered, but still unmistakeable (in bold above) from the Talmud:
"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. Jerusalem Talmud Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a)
There is multiple irony in MyPeace's advertisement.  First the 'life-saver' verse  is in fact a Jewish text.  Second this verse is followed by and conjoined to a verse which calls for apprehending, killing, crucifying, and chopping off fingers and limbs of those who oppose Allah and Muhammad 'in the land'.

In reality verse 32 aims its message against Jews (and perhaps also Christians), of whom it is said that Allah's 'apostles came to them with clear arguments'.  What  should happen to such as these who 'make mischief in the land'? (v.32).  The answer is found in the next verse: those who behave badly 'in the land'  should be killed, mutilated or crucified.  Well, except for those who convert to Islam (i.e. those who 'repent' see Ibn Kathir on verse 34):  it is acceptable to let those who convert keep their fingers, arms, legs, lives and liberty.

Ibn Kathir goes on to report the view that this verse is in fact a warning against taking the life of a Muslim (but not of non-Muslims, because their lives are not protected in Islam like the lives of Muslims):
He who allows himself to shed the blood of a Muslim, is like he who allows shedding the blood of all people. He who forbids shedding the blood of one Muslim, is like he who forbids shedding the blood of all people
This is not a Nice Verse.

MyPeace is to be commended for bringing such an interesting and important passage to the attention of the Australian public.  But they did not go far enough: let them present the whole passage to ordinary Australians, together with the interpretations of great Muslim scholars  (such as Ibn Kathir) so that popular misconceptions about Islam can be eradicated in Australia.

Or else, if MyPeace's goal is just to give a positive spin to Islam, they might like to reconsider leading with another verse, and stay clear of Sura 5:32.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Muslim Persecution of Christians: September, 2011 by Raymond Ibrahim

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Australian Parliament Calls for an End to Coptic Persecution in Egypt

Today, the House of Representatives honoured Australia’s commitment to religious freedom with a clear endorsement of a historic private member’s bill addressing the ongoing persecution of the Coptic Christians of Egypt.

On 19 September, Mr Craig Kelly MP, Liberal Federal Member for Hughes moved the following:

That this House:

(1) recognises that Coptic Christians in Egypt are suffering ongoing and increasing persecution;

(2) condemns the recent attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt;

(3) expresses its sympathy for Coptic Christians who have been victims of recent attacks in Egypt; and

(4) calls on the Government to:

(a)   issue a public statement condemning the ongoing attacks against the Coptic Christian minority in Egypt;

(b) make immediate representations to the United Nations to end the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt; and

(c) strongly urge the Egyptian Government to provide equal rights and protection for all Egyptian citizens regardless of race or religion.

Speaking to his private member’s bill, Mr Kelly noted that Egypt “is currently experiencing a period of unprecedented transition, the success of which hinges on full respect for the rule of law and compliance with international human rights standards including freedom of religion”.

At 10:00am today, Mr Kelly’s motion was passed by all members of the House.

With approximately 30 Coptic Christians observing proceedings from the Gallery, Mr Kelly acknowledged the presence of His Grace Bishop Suriel, Rev. Father Johnathan Isaac, Rev. Father Gabriel Yassa and former Sutherland Shire Councillor Magdi Mikhail.

In his statement to the House, following the passing of his motion, Mr Kelly referred to the brutal military violence against Coptic Christian demonstrators on 9 October 2011, which left at least 24 dead and at least 270 injured.  He stated the motion just passed could not have been more timely.  He was right.

Mr Kelly urged members of the House to view videos demonstrating armoured military vehicles ploughing into unarmed Christian protestors, “although graphic and horrific.. to understand the gravity of the situation.”

In an emotional recount of a young Christian woman’s testimony, the House heard of how Miss Vivian Magi, tried to protect her dead fiancĂ©’s body from soldiers after he was run-over an armoured vehicle.  She told Egyptian TV:

“His body was in the middle of the wheels. His legs were torn. His head hit the pavement, breaking his skull.  Soldiers gathered around us and started to beat him up.  I begged them to leave him.. Then a soldier with a red cap came, shouting, cursing and hitting me with a stick then tried to beat him up. I threw my body on him (her fiance) … and the soldier said to me: ‘You infidel, why are you here?’”

Mr Kelly condemned the violence of the military, the very body that was meant to be protecting its civilians. He said that on that fateful day, the army had committed “mass murder” in Cairo. He also referred to the role that Egyptian State television played by instigating the violence, calling on so-called “honest Egyptians” to rush to the defence of the military who were under the attack of Coptic protestors, when in reality, it was the Copts who were being gunned down and beaten.

He spoke to the role of the international community, stating:

“Now is not the time for silence or appeasement from the international community, for as the Copts go so may go the entire Middle East. If a Christian minority cannot live in a country with a Muslim majority population without suffering persecution and institutionalised discrimination our future looks bleak.

…The moderate voices in Egypt must be put on notice in the strongest terms to root out any anti-Christian element in the army and to give equal rights to all Coptic Christians and to ensure their protection.”

The Australian Coptic Movement (ACM) thanks Mr Kelly for voicing the concerns of Australian Coptic Christians and for bringing the plight of the persecuted Christian minority of Egypt to the attention of the Australian Government.  After attending a protest held by the ACM earlier this year, Mr Kelly did more than appreciate the extent of ongoing persecution that the Coptic Christians have suffered for decades.  He did more than just offer words of sympathy.  It is because of his tireless efforts that the result of today’s vote in that Chamber went the way it did.

The ACM also thanks each member of the House of Representatives today for doing the right thing by passing the motion.

The House of Representative’s endorsement of Mr Kelly’s motion sends a clear message to the Egyptian caretaker Government and indeed the world, that Australia does not and will not stand by in silence, whilst innocent Christians are being persecuted for their faith.

The Australian Coptic Movement
Sydney, Australia

More on the Recent Massacre of Copts in Cairo

In my last blog post I emphasized the role of the Egyptian military in killing Copts last Sunday.  However it seems that most of the killings may have been done by gangs of Muslim men who took to the streets.  In my previous post I had noted that one of the men's bodies in the morgue had had his throat cut, a mark of a religious ritual slaying which pointed to the activity of religious civilians rather than to soldiers.  An important eyewitness account by Reva Bhalla throws light on what was happening:
As I neared the crowd, scores of mostly young Muslim men pushed their way past me carrying large wooden sticks and whatever rudimentary weapons they could fashion out of household kitchen items. Walking in groups of three or more with a confident swagger, they told everyone along the way that Copts were killing Muslims and soldiers and called on others to take revenge. The reality at this point did not matter; the mere perception that Copts were killing soldiers and Muslims was all that was needed for Muslim mobs to rally. While this was happening, state media was broadcasting messages portraying the Copts as the main perpetrators.
The crowd in Maspero was only about 1,500 people by my estimation, but a growing Muslim mob was pushing it deeper into downtown toward Tahrir Square. From where I and several other observers were standing, many of the Muslim rioters at first seemed able to pass through the military barricade to confront the Copts without much trouble. After some time had passed and the army reinforcements arrived, the military started playing a more active role in trying to contain the clashes, with some footage showing an armored vehicle plowing through the crowd. Some rioters claimed that Salafists from a nearby district had arrived and were chanting, “Islamiyyah, Islamiyyah,” while others parroted state media claims about “foreign elements” being mixed in with the demonstrators. As the night wore on, the scene of the riots split into roughly three sections: the Muslims on one side, the military in the middle and the Copts on the other.
This was not the best environment for a woman, especially one without an Egyptian ID card. A member of the security forces put a gun to the chest of a young, Egyptian-born female reporter, accusing her of being a foreign spy, before a group of young men came between her and her assailant, pulling her back and insisting she was Egyptian. The Muslim mob badly beat at least two young Coptic women in the crowd, after which throngs of young Coptic men gathered to take revenge. 
 A Copt alone on the wrong side of the army barricade became an immediate target, and I watched as scores of Muslim men carried one Coptic man after another into dark alleyways. These men likely contributed most to the final civilian death count. Cars with crosses hanging from their rearview mirrors were attacked with incendiary devices, their windows smashed.
In the light of this testimony, it is deeply shocking that Egyptian government officials and state media were so quick to stoke anti-Christian enmity (for example by putting out a subsequently discredited report that soldiers were being killed by Christians).  This gives more than enough cause for Western governments to call upon Egypt's rulers to protect Egypt's Christians and not sacrifice them to the mob.

A perfect example of a very shabby response to these events is the press release put out by the Whitehouse:
The President is deeply concerned about the violence in Egypt that has led to a tragic loss of life among demonstrators and security forces. The United States expresses our condolences to the families and loved ones of all who were killed or injured, and stands with the Egyptian people in this painful and difficult time. Now is a time for restraint on all sides so that Egyptians can move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt. As the Egyptian people shape their future, the United States continues to believe that the rights of minorities – including Copts – must be respected, and that all people have the universal rights of peaceful protest and religious freedom. We also note Prime Minister Sharaf's call for an investigation and appeal to all parties to refrain from violence. These tragic events should not stand in the way of timely elections and a continued transition to democracy that is peaceful, just and inclusive.
For security forces were not killed - this was part of the misinformation put out by Egyptian authorities which incited the killings of Copts.  Shockingly President Obama has given official credence to the very reports which have caused innocent people to have their throats cut in dark allies. 

Samuel Tadros' bitter complaint seems more than justified:
Perhaps I ought to join the president in his concern and call for restraint: I call upon the security forces to refrain from killing Christians, and upon Christians to refrain from dying.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Double-Bind Upon the Copts: dhimmitude in action

Over the weekend, violence on Cairo's streets resulting in the deaths of dozens of Copts and the wounding of hundreds more.  The killings occurred when the Egyptian military dispersed a protest against a recent incident of church destruction in Elmarinab village, in Aswan province.  Videos, including footage shown on Egyptian television, protray military vehicles deliberately running over bystanders (here and here), and another taken in a morgue shows a man whose throat had been cut.

The church destruction took place on 30 September when a mob of thousands of Muslim men went on a rampage after attending Friday prayers at local mosques in the village.  Father Salib of St George's church said that his church was destroyed, along with some homes and other property belonging to local Copts, after a local Imam told Muslims to 'take matters into their own hands' (see here).  The trigger for the attack was officially approved renovation work on the church building, which had become so dilapidated that it had been declared unsafe (see here).  Reports indicated that the military looked on while the destruction was taking place.  Afterwards Egyptian media reports denied the incident: for example the Governor of Aswan provide went on state television to deny that the building had been a church.

Why would restoring a church have caused Muslims to be enraged?
Why would church renovations be a topic for a Friday sermon in a mosque?
Why would Egyptian military stand by and do nothing?  Or run over protestors?
Why was the attack denied and covered over by the media?

The answers are theological:  they involve Islamic political theology.

For many secular western people, the word 'theology' carries little meaning.  The term could be better rendered as 'ideology', but one which is based upon spiritual presuppositions and beliefs. 

These days many critics of Islam are stating that Islam is not a 'religion' at all, but an 'ideology'.  There are 184,000 hits on Google for the phrase "Islam is an ideology".  See for example Geert Wilders explaining that Islam is 'not just another religion' but is 'an ideology'.

It is not necessary to turn to Islam's critics to hear this view.  An article posted by Muslim students on the Student Association website of Northern Illinois University is entitled 'Islam is an ideology'.  It explains that Islam requires that all legislation must be god-given, which means laws are to be based upon the Qur'an and the life of Muhammad (the Sunnah):  "Islam forbids for any legislation to be taken other than that contained in the Qur'an and Sunnah".  Moreover  the very practice of Islam itself requires that the state must be Islamic, for 'our worship of Allah is incomplete' without the full application of the five pillars of Islam, and each pillar "remains suspended in part while the Islamic state is not existent, as they depend upon the state for their full implementation."

What this is saying is that Islam demands that the state - indeed any state - must be regulated according to sharia law, and unless and until Islam dominates in the public sphere, Muslims will not have true freedom to practice their religion.  The Northern Illinois State University article also counts it a failure of Christians and Jews, that they have submitted to other authorities besides God (for example in a democracy, where the people have power to determine the government):  such submission is idolatry (shirk) "the very mistake that the Christians and the Jews have made until the present day."

I do not agree with those who say that Islam is not a religion.  It is a religion.  But both Geert Wilders and the Muslim Student Association of Northern Illinois University are also correct.  Islam classically demands a political realization, and specifically one in which Islam rules over all other religions, ideologies and competing political visions.  Islam is not unique in having a political vision or speaking to politics - most varieties of Christianity and Judaism have a lot to say about politics - but it is unique in demanding that it alone must rule the political sphere.

Today, the root of massive human rights abuses being suffered by the Copts is entirely theological.  Their difficulties are grounded in an Islamic vision for society which affords a clearly defined place for non-Muslims and specifically including Christians.  Not all Muslims are seeking to implement this vision, but many are, and there is no coherent alternative vision being offered to Muslims in Egypt today.

The Islamic political vision, which is the root of the Copts's sufferings, demands that non-Muslims accept a place defined for them by Sharia law.  This is the status of the dhimmi, who is permitted to live in an Islamic stated under terms of surrender as laid out in the dhimma pact.  These terms are a well-established part of Islamic law, and can be found laid out in countless legal text books (see for example here, Ibn Kathir's commentary on Sura 9:29).

The pact of surrender of non-Muslims is understood in Islamic law to include a series of conditions, which conquered Christians (such as the Copts) have endorsed.  For example, the Pact of Umar, established after conquest with the Christians of Syria, stated:  
"These are the conditions that we set against ourselves and followers of our religion in return for safety and protection. If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion."
 These conditions include:
"We made a condition on ourselves that we will neither erect in our areas a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk, nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration."
The 'crime' of the Copts in Aswan province was simply that they wished to repair their church.  This is opposed by the (theological) logic of the dhimma pact, which states that non-Muslims are not allowed to repair places of worship, on pain of being treated as 'people of defiance and rebellion', from whom 'safety and protection' has been withdrawn.  In other words, such a person can be killed and their belongings plundered (because they are entitled to no protection under Islamic law).

For some pious Muslims in Egypt today, the act of repairing a church is a flagrant provocation, a breach of the peace, which amounts to a deliberate revocation of one's rights to exist in the land.  This becomes a legitimate topic for sermons in the mosque, as the faithful are urged to use their hands to uphold the honor of Islam.  It is seen as no injustice, and even a duty, to destroy the church and even the lives of Christians who have the temerity to repair their churches.  Likewise those who go to the streets to protest church destruction are also rebels who have forfeited their rights to 'safety and protection'.

It is this theological worldview which motivates both the church destruction, and the killing of protestors by members of the military chanting 'Allahu Akbar' (Allah is greater). 

Such ideas are not new.  They are as old as Islam itself.  However for obvious reasons - the sheer offensiveness of Islam's ideological treatment of non-Muslims - the dhimma  is concealed and its provisions denied.

On the one hand the dhimma is denied by many in the West.  Emblematic of this denial was President Obama's claim in his Cairo Speech in June 2009 that "throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality".  Western denial explains the reluctance of Western media to give coverage to the present-day sufferings of the Copts, for to look too closely at the pattern of these afflictions will bring into the light of day the underlying cause, which is the dhimma.  If the dhimma must be denied, then its manifestations must be denied as well.  To do otherwise is just too threatening for comfortable Western leaders and opinion makers.  The consequences of openly acknowledging the existence and persistence of the dhimma system are just too overwhelming.
On the other hand, some Muslims who to varying degrees share the dhimma worldview have proved themselves to be masters of misdirection and concealment.   For example, although St George's church had official documents approving its renovation, the Governor of the Aswan Province went on air to state that the building was a "guest home" and not a church, and the fault of the Copts was that they built it 13 meters high instead of 9 meters.  In response Father Salib of St George's said that the Governor had signed the approval for the renovations himself in 2010.  The Governor's comments are most revealing. He is in fact appealing to the dhimma worldview, because restrictions on the height of buildings are part of the dhimma pact:  non-Muslim buildings are required in Islamic law to be lower than Muslim buildings.  (Even in Melbourne, Australia, Muslims have been known to protest when they considered plans for a Christian Community Centre to be too high.)  The Governor was in fact defending the destruction of the church with reference to dhimma criteria: how dare those Christians build their church so high! How understandable that local youths wanted to tear it down!

Also when the Governor spoke of 'reconciliation' meetings between the Muslims and Christians in Elmarinab, he was indulging in a common piece of deceptive terminology for what has often turned out to be standover tactics designed to compel Christians - under threat of violence, kidnapping or destruction to their possessions - to accept that none of the attackers will be prosecuted.  Here another feature of the dhimma legal system comes into play, namely that non-Muslim testimony against Muslims is invalid in a court of law, so Christians have no effective way of bearing testimony to what Muslims have done to them.  The Governor's account must be accepted over that of the Christians because he is a Muslim and they are not.  This asymetrical view of the worth of human testimony encourages systemic abuses against the truth.

There are many other ways in which the manifestations of the dhimma are denied and concealed in Egypt.  Initial Egyptian media reports of the October 9 demonstration reported the killing of soldiers by protestors, and not the dozens of Copts who were killed.  There were also reports that the military attacked a television station to prevent it from reporting on the killings (see here).  Such local 'filtering' of abuses functions to confuse and dull the minds of the Western media observers.  So Western media reflects the bias of the dhimma worldview. 

It must also be acknowledged that Egyptian Muslims who act from a dhimmitude mindset vary a great deal in the degree of their commitment to the dhimma, and in the degree to which they will support an explicit revival of the dhimma.  Some Egyptian Muslim leaders have been unashamed in making public calls for full reinstatement of the dhimma system, including the disciminatory jizya tax, but many other Muslims simply subscribe to the worldview of dhimmitude because they absorbed it as part of their mother's milk.  It just seems normal not to prosecute Muslims who attack Christians and burn their churches.  It just seems normal to disbelieve Christian testimony.  It just seems normal to rejoice that a Christian girl, kidnapped, raped and coerced into marrying a Muslim, has converted to Islam, and is now under his guardianship and cut off from her family.  Such prejudice is just normal.

 Meanwhile the Copts are in a double bind.  If they protest against the abuses brought upon their heads by the dhimma system, they are treated as rebels, and the value of their blood and possessions discounted accordingly:  the more they protest, the less right they have under Islamic law even to exist.  On the other hand, the more they acquiesce, the more voracious and emboldened their persecutors will become.  This is  what happened in Elmarinab:  after the Christians made major concessions, their radical Muslim neighbors just demanded further concessions.

At the same time, Western praise for the "Arab Spring", and the recent waves of protest across the Middle East is giving the Copts hope that the world just might pay attention to their plight.  They are no strangers to suffering and martyrdom - endurance of persecution has run in their veins for two thousand years - but yet they are hoping the world has the moral integrity to pay attention.  They take to the streets out of the conviction that, although it should cost them their lives, they must speak out and be heard.

In this light, I do commend the Australian Coptic Community, under the leadership of Bishop Suriel, for their courageous stand, in calling on the Australian government to expel the Egyptian diplomats (see here):
Bishop Suriel, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Australia, is demanding the expulsion of  the Egyptian Ambassador, and two Egyptian Consul Generals.  In a Statement issued today, Bishop Suriel notes:
 “Their presence in Australia is of no meaning to the Coptic community in Australia, in light of the events which have occurred in Egypt, and their subsequent failure to act in a capacity which represents the interests of both the Coptic and Muslim dynamic of the community. They have failed to take a proactive approach to advocate for the rights of the Coptic people in Egypt or to speak out against the atrocities and intense persecution the Coptic people in Egypt are facing.”
The international community will be held accountable if they do not act swiftly on the brutal attacks towards Egypt’s Coptic Christians who are suffering under a modern day form of apartheid where institutionalised discrimination and deadly attacks have a become a way of life for Egypt’s 15 million Copts.
Such a response would be timely and appropriate to the desperate injustices faced by Christians in Egypt today.

Egypt: Destroying Churches, one at a time

by Raymond Ibrahim
Hudson New York
October 10, 2011

What clearer sign that Egypt is turning rabidly Islamist than the fact that hardly a few weeks go by without a church being destroyed, or without protesting Christians being attacked and slaughtered by the military?

The latest chaos in Egypt—where the military opened fire on unarmed Christians and repeatedly ran armored vehicles over them, killing dozens—originates in Edfu, a onetime tourist destination renowned for its pharaonic antiquities, but now known as the latest region to see a church destroyed by a Muslim mob.

This church attack is itself eye-opening as to the situation in Egypt.

Read further at: