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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Christianity becoming extinct in its birthplace, says Holland

Christianity becoming extinct in its birthplace, says Holland

A Report from Lapido Media

20th September 2013

‘Medieval scale of horror . . . ’  Historian Tom Holland. Photos: Stephen Sizer‘Medieval scale of horror . . . ’ Historian Tom Holland. Photos: Stephen SizerMIDDLE EAST historian Tom Holland told a briefing in London last night that the world is watching the effective extinction of Christianity from its birthplace.
In an apocalyptic appraisal of the worsening political situation in the region, a panel of experts provided a mass of evidence and statistics for the end of the region’s nation states under the onslaught of militant Islam.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Australian Christian Egyptians Mourn Deaths and Injured During Country's Violent Rampage

Reposted from Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese.  See here.
"We who stand for 80,000 Christian Egyptians in Australia are deeply saddened by events and the tragic loss of life in Egypt on Wednesday. No matter the difference in our political or religious stance, it is unacceptable to see such bloodshed and the destruction of public buildings and churches throughout Egypt," the leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Australia, Bishop Anba Suriel and Bishop Daniel said in a joint statement this morning.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Letter to the Sydney Morning Herald on "Twisting Islam to Justify Cruelty" by Paul Sheehan

To the Editor
The Sydney Morning Herald

I am writing to congratulate you on publishing Paul Sheehan's courageous and fair-minded piece "Twisting Islam to Justify Cruelty" (May 27, 2013). There needs to be a conversation about radical Islamic theology and its Koranic foundations.  Sheehan is to be commended for tackling this thorny subject.

Concerning Mohamnmad Abdalla's response "Critical opinion of Islam ignores the fundamental truths", his article is littered with misrepresentations.

Violence and Context in Islamic Texts

This article was first published by Gatestone (here).

Recently, the journalist Paul Sheehan, reflecting on the Woolwich beheading of Drummer Lee Rigby, invited consideration of the view of Muslim violence in authoritative Islamic texts. In the Sydney Morning Herald of May 27, 2013, Sheehan observed that the Koran and the teachings of Muhammad seem to be a factor behind Muslim violence, and offered these critical observations:
  • Many violent attacks on civilians are done in the name of Islam.
  • The existence of violent Islamic sectarian conflict and the repression of religious dissent in Muslim nations give the lie to the "absurd claim" that Islam is "the religion of peace."
  • Many verses in the Koran call for violence against unbelievers, and these are invoked by Muslims who murder others: "So many Muslims have been encouraged to murder civilians by such exhortations that the rate of violent incidents perpetrated in the name of Islam is staggering, a toll that shows no sign of subsiding."
A rejoinder was published the next day by Associate Professor Mohamad Abdalla, founding director of the Islamic Research Unit at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia. Abdalla rejected the proposition that Islam supports killing innocent people: "A contextual reading of the Koran or Hadith leads to one conclusion only: there is no justification for killing of innocent people…"

Friday, June 7, 2013

Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood: what is the difference?

For western lay people, it can be hard to distinguish one radical Muslim from another.  What is the difference between Salafis and the Muslim Brotherhood?  Are they really all that different?  And why do Western governments seem to favour and even partner with Brotherhood-backed groups, but denigrate Salafis?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Dhimma Returns to Syria

The following report comes from Martin Janssen in Amman, Jordan (original in Dutch). The preceding notes and translation from Dutch into English are by Dr. Mark Durie, an Anglican vicar in Melbourne, Australia, author of The Third Choice, and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

In his report Janssen tells of his experience of a prayer walk in Amman, held on May 21 2013 for the two abducted Syrian clergy, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim.  These Archbishops have been captured by Syrian rebels.

After the prayer walk Janssen had the opportunity to meet with Syrian Christian refugees, who told him how they came to flee their homes and villages.  Their village was occupied by rebel forces, who proceeded to announce that they were now under an Islamic emirate, and were subject to sharia law.

The Christian residents were offered four choices: 
1. renounce the ‘idolatry’ of Christianity and convert to Islam;
2. pay a heavy tribute to the Muslims for the privilege of keeping their heads and their Christian faith (this tribute is known as jizya);
3. be killed;
4. flee for their lives, leaving all their belongings behind. 
Some Christians were killed, some fled, some tried to pay the jizya and found it too heavy a burden to bear after the rebels kept increasing the amount they had to pay,  and some were unable to flee or pay, so they converted to Islam to save themselves.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Islamophobia Comes to Canberra

This post was first published by the Gatestone Institute.  See:
Are we to let our freedoms be shaped by the worst kind of intolerance found in the sharia badlands? How will discrimination among religions based on fear distort human rights?
Like student magazines all over the world, Woroni, put out by students at the Australian National University, publishes satire. It did when I attended 30 years ago, and it still does today. Much of what is written is offensive to someone or other, but it is a rare day when the university pays any attention.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wilders in Australia and the "Islamic Problem" - Part II

This is the second in a four part series of posts written in response to Geert Wilders’ visit to Australia in early 2013.

In a previous post I contrasted Geert Wilders’ view that ‘Islam is the problem’ with the claims of many Muslims who preach with equal conviction that ‘Islam is the solution’, and examined evidence of the negative characteristics associated with belief in Islam, including disadvantaged human development outcomes. 

These days many leaders in the West find it convenient to sweep the ‘problem’ of Islam under the carpet. Long gone are the days of Theodore Roosevelt, Wilders’ hero, who declared  in Fear God and take your own part that values such as freedom and equality only existed in Europe because it had the military capacity to ‘beat back the Moslem invader’.

However, given the negative outcomes associated with Islam, one of which is Geert Wilders’ need for constant armed guards (some others were enumerated in the previous post), the question whether Islam is the problem or the solution is not something to be just swept under the carpet. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Woolwich Killing: "We must fight them as they fight us."

Today in Woolwich, England, a man reported to be a British soldier was cut down by two Anglo-African Muslims wielding knives and a machete.  One of the killers, speaking in a home-grown English accent, is heard (here) to say:
The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British solidiers, and this British soldier is one, is a eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth. By Allah, we swear by the Almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. So what if we want to live by the sharia in Muslim lands. Why does that mean you must follow us and chase us and call us extremists and kill us? Rather you are extreme. You the ones.  When you drop a bomb, do you think it hits one person, or rather your bomb wipes out a whole family. This is the reality.  By Allah if I saw your mother today with a buggy I would help her up the stairs.  This is my nature. But we are forced by the Qur'an in Sura at-Tauba [Chapter 9 of the Koran], through many, many ayah [verses] throughout the Koran that [say] we must fight them as they fight us, a eye for a eye and a tooth for a tooth. I apologize that women had to witness this today, but in our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments.  They don’t care about you. Do you think David Cameron is gonna get caught in the street when we start busting our guns?  Do you think the politicians are going to die? No it's going to be the average guy, like you, and your children. So get rid of them.  Tell them to bring our troops back so we ca.., so you can all live in peace. Leave our lands and you will live in peace. That's all I have to say.  Allah's peace and blessings be upon Muhammad ...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Boston Bombings and Understanding the Islamic Worldview - Interview with Mark Durie on Christian Worldview Radio

This in an edited transcript of an interview of Mark Durie by David Wheaton on Christian Worldview Radio.

David Wheaton:   Perhaps you watched the Boston Marathon bombings that killed four people and injured more than 200 others and wondered, “Why would two young Muslim men, who were granted political asylum in America years ago, educated in our schools, and received financial aid from U.S. taxpayers, set off two bombs in order to murder and maim as many Americans as possible?”

It’s a very good question.  It has been said that, “All Muslims are not terrorists … but almost all terrorist attacks against America are committed by Muslims.”
Why is this?  What is it about Islam — or perhaps about America? — that leads two young Muslims to murder the people that have actually taken them in?
Mark Durie, an Australian pastor and author of three books on Islam joins us from Australia The Christian Worldview all the way from Australia.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Challenging Worldview Clichés

Over the past decade I have had the opportunity to speak to thousands of people about Islam across five continents.  At question time, the same issues keep coming up.  The questions which have stayed in my mind are all about world view assumptions.  These are key ideas which control the thinking of Western people when they are engaging with Islam.

Over time I have come to recognize some of these beliefs as clichés.  These ideas were once original and even controversial, but over time they have become like mental wallpaper: ever-present, overlooked, comfortingly familiar, and increasingly anachronistic, yet setting the tone.  People so readily process matters of the utmost importance through the grid of trite ‘truisms’ that are in fact easily falsifiable yet comforting falsehoods. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sheikh Al-Bouti dies by the means he promoted

On March 21, Sheikh Dr Mohamed Said Ramadan Al-Bouti of Syria was killed, along with 40 others, by a suicide bomber at the Iman mosque in Damascus.

A 2009 publication edited by John Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin listed the 500 most influential Muslims in the world. Al-Bouti was no. 23.  He was Imam of the Ummayyad Mosque and Dean of the Department of Religion at Damascus University, where he had taught Islam for more than half a century. Aged in his eighties, Al-Bouti was regarded as one of the eminent Sunni jurists of the modern era.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Aid or Jizya?

In sharia law, jizya refers either to tribute paid by non-Muslim nations to ward off jihad attack, or to a head tax paid by conquered non-Muslim adult males living under Islamic conditions.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Wilders in Australia and the "Islamic Problem" - Part I

Wilders in Melbourne

 Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ recent speaking tour in Australia brought him to my home town of Melbourne.  I have been pondering his message since his visit, and this is the first of a series of blog posts which engage with it. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is violence a sign of Islam's strength or its weakness?

In the early biography of Muhammad written by Ibn Ishaq there are many fascinating and intriguing incidents.  One unforgettable story tells how Huwayyisa came to embrace Islam:
The apostle said, ‘Kill any Jew that falls into your power.’ Thereupon Muhayyisa b. Mas'ud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time though he was the elder brother. When Muhayyisa killed him [Ibn Sunayna] Huwayyisa began to beat him [Muhayyisa], saying, ‘You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?’ Muhayyisa answered, ‘Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.’ He said that this was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam. The other replied, ‘By God, if Muhammad had ordered you to kill me would you have killed me?’ He [Muhayyisa] said, ‘Yes, by God, had he ordered me to cut off your head I would have done so.’ He [Huwayyisa] exclaimed, ‘By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvellous!’ and he became a Muslim.
(The Life of Muhammad, by Ibn Ishaq,  translation by Alfred Guillaume, p.369.)
What a story!  Muhayyisa hears Muhammad urge Muslims to kill any Jew they could get their hands on.  So he goes out and kills Ibn Sunayna, his associate and business partner.  The assassin’s older brother Huwayyisa is amazed.  He protests that Ibn Sunayna had been the one putting food on Muhayissa’s table, and begins to beat up his brother, presumably for idiocy.  Muhayissa replies that he would have killed Huwayyisa too - even decapitating him - if Muhammad had commanded it.  Huwayyisa exclaims ‘what a marvellous religion!’, and follows his younger brother into Islam.

Does a story like this show Islam to be a great religion or a weak one?

This thing is, sometimes terror works.  Huwayyisa was not at any immediate risk in this story.  But he was deeply impressed by the alteration brought about in his brother by Islam.  This story reflects the intimidating, even traumatic effect of encountering a religion which inspires deadly violence in someone you thought you knew as a reasonable person.  The fact is that such trauma can jolt someone over to the ‘winning side’ of a faith which has the spiritual muscle to inspire violent acts in violation of the most stringent social norms.

This raises an important question:  Is Islam’s violence done in the name of Allah and his prophet something Muslims should be proud of or ashamed about? And should non-Muslims admire it - like Huwayyisa - or deride it?

Well, it all depends upon your perspective.  Ibn Ishaq, the author of the Life of Muhammad apparently thought this was a splendid story which reflected well on Islam.

When Malaysian apostate from Islam Lina Joy tried to get her Christian faith recognized by the Malaysian authorities her (ultimately unsuccessful) legal battle launched a storm of commentary.  Al-Jazeera reported the fears of some Malays that if Malaysia were to allow conversions to Christianity, this might set off ‘mass conversions’ away from Islam.  This implies a lack of conviction about the appeal of Islam among the religions.  It implies that Islam is weak.

Islam’s apostasy law declares that the lives of those who leave the religion have no value: they can be freely put to death.  Abdurrahman Wahid, former president of Indonesia, was scathing about those who depend upon such violence to ‘defend’ Islam:
“Nothing could possibly threaten God who is Ominpotent and existing as absolute and eternal Truth... Those who claim to defend God, Islam, or the Prophet are thus either deluding themselves or manipulating religion for their own mundane and political purposes.  We witnessed this in the carefully manufactured outrage that swept the Muslim world several years ago, claiming hundreds of lives in response to cartoons published in Denmark.  Those who presume to full grasp God’s will, and dare to impose by force their own limited understanding of this upon others, are essentially equating themselves with God and are unwittingly engaged in blasphemy.”(From Silenced by Paul Marshall and Nina Shea, p.xvii)
However not all Muslims share the views of President Wahid.  Some take pride in the apostasy law as evidence of Islam’s supremacy. Dr Wan Azhar Wan Ahmad, senior fellow at the Institute of Islamic Understanding in Kuala Lumpur, commented that the apostasy law reinforces Islam’s truthfulness and perfection, and  respect for ‘freedom of worship’ demands that non-Muslims must grant Islam the right to use violence against apostates:
  “If Islam were to grant permission for Muslims to change religion at will, it would imply it has no dignity, no self-esteem. And people may then question its completeness, truthfulness and perfection. ...
If Islam forbids apostasy, not only the Muslims must observe it, but the followers of other religions that do not have such provisions must appreciate and respect this position as well. This is actually the freedom of worship that must be perceived by all.”
Among Muslims who are unapologetic about killing non-believers who have left Islam must be counted Yusuf al-Qaradawy, who recently declared:
‘If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment, Islam wouldn't exist today. Islam would have ended with the death of the Prophet. So opposing apostasy is what has preserved Islam to this day.’
 Al-Qaradawy affirms on a recent Egyptian television broadcast that it was violence which caused Islam to thrive and survive:

With sixty million regular viewers of his ‘Sharia and Life’ program, the views of Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawy are not to be sneezed at.  And they certainly cannot be written off as Islamophobic!

As long as the apostasy law is upheld, and even praised, by leading Islamic scholars such as Al-Qaradawy, no-one can credibly dismiss the proposition that Islam relies on and was advanced by violence.

The question is not whether Islam has prospered through violence, but whether this shows Islam is a great religion, or a weak one.

Mark Durie is an Anglican vicar in Melbourne, Australia, author of The Third Choice, and an Associate Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum.