Monday, December 31, 2007

Madonna and Child

I believe that the Madonna and Child is either the most-painted scene ever, or the second most-painted scene after the crucifixion. Here is an Asian version of the figure, showing how Christianity truly break every cultural boundary and is, in its very essence, translatable.

HT to Intentional Disciples.

The "right to preach hate"

Lengthy article on European immigration at the Brussels Journal:

By their entry, immigrants become subject to common sense obligations. The more so as, in exchange for the privilege of refuge and its opportunities, they have voluntarily accepted these. This might sound obvious, however, given the attitude of some immigrant groups and their apologists, the matter is apparently not self evident to all.

Some aliens that gain admission to economically advanced and politically democratic societies nurture resentments. They are directed against the way of life and even the existence of their host country. Bluntly put, intolerantly they do not accept the identity of the citizens of the state and its order that is harboring them. Concurrently, they demand for themselves what they deny their benefactor. Of the traditions they find and that they are, having chosen it, honor bound to respect, they uphold only one. It is that, regardless of their actions and advocated cause, their right to preach the hate of their host community is to be protected to an extent that nears extraterritoriality.

Inflation in Jordan

While this is not generally covered in the international press, there has been some pretty heavy inflation in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the last few years. Prices on basic goods--flour, water, gas, lamb, chicken--have all gone up considerably. The price of real estate has increased rather steeply. Gas prices are set to increase in January as the government continues to eliminate subsidies. Here is a recent example from a Jordanian blogger on the difficulties this is creating in their society:

What’s Worse Than The Government?


…heartless people…

AMMAN - The authorities said they will intensify measures to prevent retailers from stockpiling oil derivatives as several distributors of fuel and gas were reportedly arrested and referred to court Saturday…Officials said the new measures are meant to curb a trend among some petrol station owners and gas cylinder distributors to turn back customers claiming that they ran out of supplies in a bid to sell what they have early next month at higher prices. [source]

Sunday, December 30, 2007

CS Lewis Quote

HT to the blog T19:

Lying at your feet is your dog. Imagine, for the moment, that your dog and every dog is in deep distress. Some of us love dogs very much. If it would help all the dogs in the world to become like men, would you be willing to become a dog? Would you put down your human nature, leave your loved ones, your job, hobbies, your art and literature and music, and choose instead of the intimate communion with your beloved, the poor substitute of looking into the beloved's face and wagging your tail, unable to smile or speak? Christ by becoming man limited the thing which to Him was the most precious thing in the world; his unhampered, unhindered communion with the Father.

--C.S. Lewis

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Muhammad: Treat the people with ease

Al Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 275:

Narrated Abu Burda: That his father said, "The Prophet sent Mu'adh and Abu Musa to Yemen telling them. 'Treat the people with ease and don't be hard on them; give them glad tidings and don't fill them with aversion; and love each other, and don't differ."

Muhammad: "War is Deceit"

From the the hadiith of Al Bukhari

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 268:

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle called,: "War is deceit".

Volume 4, Book 52, Number 269:

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah: The Prophet said, "War is deceit."

The United Methodist Church, an African church

Ms. [RACHEL] ZOLL: The growth or explosion, really, of Christianity overseas is having an impact within the United States. As just one example, the United Methodist Church, which is considered and is and always has been very much of a middle class American church, if the current growth trends continue will become a majority African church within the next couple of decades. They're already dealing with the fact that there are Methodists from the Philippines and from Korea who are planting churches within the United States as well, and they're trying to figure out the relationship there. Another impact of it is that a lot of very entrepreneurial, very evangelical-minded or evangelically minded African pastors are coming over here to plant churches in the United States. Now, for people who don't watch these things closely, they are puzzled. Why does, in a very religious country, does anyone need to plant more churches? But these are very fervent believers, and they think that the American church has lost its spirit and has become co-opted so much by the culture that they're here to save us.

From HERE.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pakistan: Islamic Dis-unity

Peel off the rhetoric of Islam and the all-too-familiar pattern of power politics can be seen running through Pakistani history. In an attempt to dodge, fudge, and suppress the ethnic and linguistic diversity of the country, successive civil and military regimes have played up religion as a symbol of unity. None of them has been successful. In fact, the more the state relied on Islam as a political slogan, the sharper and more irreconcilable these divisions have become.

In the process the myth that Pakistan is a religiously homogenous Muslim country has also been shattered. Those who identify themselves as Muslims are more precisely either Shias or Sunni-Barelvis or Sunni-Deobandis, or Wahhabi or Ahle-Hadith or Maududi’s followers, or belong to one or the other of the many mutually exclusive sects and cults. (Even the constitution of Pakistan concedes that “[I]n the application…to the personal law of any Muslim sect, the expression ‘Qur’an and Sunnah’ shall mean the Qur’an and Sunnah as interpreted by that sect.) So problematic has been the task of interpreting “true” Islam that the constitution had to be amended to insert a clause to define who is a Muslim -- rather who is a non-Muslim. Similar sectarian disputes, which have marked efforts to Islamize education and laws, have often taken a violent turn. [...]

From HERE, great article, I recommend you read it all.

The Cultivation of Christmas Trees

The Cultivation of Christmas Trees
by TS Eliot

‘There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
Some of which we may disregard:
The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
The rowdy (with pubs being open till midnight),
And the childish—which is not that of the child
For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
(Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
The expectation of the goose or turkey
And the expected awe on its appearance,
So that the reverence and the gaiety
May not be forgotten in later experience,
In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
Or in the piety of the convert
Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
Displeasing to God and disrespectful to the children
(And here I remember also with gratitude
St. Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
(By ‘eightieth’ meaning whichever is the last)
The accumulated memories of annual emotion
May be concentrated into a great joy
Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
When fear came upon every soul:
Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
And the first coming of the second coming.’

Dec. 28: Feast of the Holy Innocents

Every now and then I post stuff RE the liturgical calendar, and today is a special day, one honoring children martyrs, martyred without their knowledge, but nevertheless for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Especially striking is the two readings and how well they work together. It also reminds us of the alughter of the children by Pharaoh in the days of Moses, showing us that Jesus is the new Moses who comes to reveal God's Law. Here we find as well a foreshadowing of the violence of empire against God's Kingdom which culminates in the Cross of our Lord. (HT to Continuum.)

December 28th, The Feast of the Holy Innocents

For the Epistle. Rev. xiv. 1.

I LOOKED, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps: and they sung as it were a new song before the throne, and before the four beasts, and the elders: and no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth. These are they which were not defiled with women for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.

The Gospel. St. Matt. ii. 13.

THE angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saving, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, an be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. Then Herod, when he maw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, amid slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Jihad...allowed to grow unchecked

Anwar Sadat. Benazir Bhutto. Theo Van Gogh. Daniel Pearl. Three thousand Americans on 9/11. The editors of Jyllands-Posten -- almost. Salman Rushdie -- almost. Pervez Musharraf -- almost. We could go on, but maybe you get the point. The message is perfectly clear: Challenge the jihad, pay with your life.

A radical Islamic army seething with rage and delusion grows stronger, slaughtering more and more of our potential allies, as we spend years debating whether, to save our civilization, our warriors should ever be allowed to pretend to drown a captured enemy combatant.

If we don't see this threat with greater clarity, we will lose our chance to thwart its ambitions before it reaches its full strength. What we are seeing is only a taste of what is to come if the jihad is allowed to grow unchecked.

From HERE.

Pakistan: of grave conern to the West

Today's assassination in Pakistan of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto should be a stark reminder that terrorists are engaged in a very real war against modern civilized society. Bhutto had her own ethically questionable background; but her current public political posture was pro-Western, democratic, peaceful and against the radical Islamic terrorists who may have been responsible for her death. While the investigation must go forward, initial speculation is pointing to those radical Islamic terrorist elements operating in Pakistan, perhaps even al-Qaeda.

What happens over the next several days will be a crucial test for the Pakistani people and government. It may also indicate if this attack is part of a larger jihadist plan of action within Pakistan. Given Pakistan's supposed critical status as an ally of the US in counter-terrorism efforts, and Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, what happens inside Pakistan over the coming days and weeks should be of grave concern to America and the West. [...]

From HERE.

Pakistan: Civil War Imminent

I have long been saying that Pakistan is really the problem spot in Dar al Islam, probably more so than Iran. The reason is that Iran is in fact a functioning nation state and the government has the ability to stop or at least hinder terrorism in and from that country. Pakistan has a huge population which is very uneducated and the government itself is unstable. I should also add that there are very large numbers of Pakistanis in the UK and a civil war would mean two things: one, their numbers would swell further as people seek (and are granted) asylum there, and two, that the violence and fighting would spill over into the UK as each faction tries to coerce the UK government by means of terror into supporting their side. (Like this: if you don't supply MY side with arms we'll blow up another subway full of people.)

Anyway, John over at Fisher of Men has a good post and I recommend you read it all. It's not long:

Fisher of Men

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Iraqis Crowd Churches for Christmas Mass

Iraqis Crowd Churches for Christmas Mass
Dec 25 01:36 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD (AP) - Thousands of Iraqi Christians made their way to church through checkpoints and streets lined with blast walls, many drawing hope from a lull in violence to celebrate Christmas Mass in numbers unthinkable a year ago.

Death is never far in Iraq—two separate suicide bombings north of Baghdad killed at least 35 people and wounded scores more. But the number of attacks has fallen dramatically in the past few months—the U.S. military says by 60 percent since June.

"We did not celebrate last year, but this year we have security and we feel better," said Rasha Ghaban, one of many women at the small Church of the Holy Family in Karradah, a mainly Shiite district in downtown Baghdad where many Christians live. "We hope our future will be better, God willing."

Families streamed into the church's courtyard, wrapped in heavy winter jackets to protect them from the early morning chill. Young children with neatly combed hair held their parents' hands, and women stopped by the front door to pick through a basket of small lacy headscarves, placing them over their hair before walking in.

The pews were almost full—women toward the back and on the right side of the church, the men on the left—and still more people streamed in. Outside, police armed with automatic rifles manned a checkpoint at the corner of the narrow street, searching every passing car for possible bombs.

Christians have often been the target of attacks by Islamic extremists in Iraq, forcing tens of thousands to flee. Many of those who stayed were isolated in neighborhoods protected by barricades and checkpoints. Less than 3 percent of Iraq's 26 million people are Christians—the majority Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, with small numbers of Roman Catholics. [...]

Seventh-Day Adventists and Breakfast

Wow, this is quite interesting. In the Middle Eastern city I was previously living in there was a Seventh-Day Adventist church, and a school as well. Anyways, part of the American splintering of Christianity into a bazillion different denominations. From Wikipedia, here:

Since the 1860s when the church began, wholeness and health have been an emphasis of the Adventist church. Adventists are known for presenting a "health message" that recommends vegetarianism and expects abstinence from pork, shellfish, and other foods proscribed as "unclean" in Leviticus 11. However according to some studies, the majority of Adventists do eat meat. The church discourages its members from the use of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs (compare Christianity and alcohol). In addition, some Adventists avoid coffee and other beverages containing caffeine.

The pioneers of the Adventist church had much to do with the common acceptance of breakfast cereals into the Western diet. John Harvey Kellogg was one of the early founders of the Adventist health work. His development of breakfast cereals as a health food led to the founding of Kellogg's by his brother William K. Kellogg. In Australia, the church-owned Sanitarium Health Food Company is one of Australia's leading manufacturers of health and vegetarian-related products.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Blessing Meme

Rob over at Catholic Scripture Study has blessed me! Many thanks to him for this! I am obviously moving up in the blogging world :-)

In turn I am to bless three bloggers, so here they are:

One: Harry Gunkel over at the recently-birthed blog Mission to Jerusalem. Thank you Harry for reminding me of the conflict that we all face when we arrive in the Middle East, and quite particularly of the intractable tension of the Holy Land. Thank you for your honesty and candor.

Two: Aysha Alkusayer of In the Making! Shukran jazilan ya Aysha! I doubt that whoever started this thought it would spread to Muslim bloggers and bloggeraat (that's the Arabic feminine plural for 'blogger' :-) Thank you Aysha for being full of life (which is what your name means after all), for seeking wisdom, and sharing your insights and thoughts with us all. May our Creator guide us both to wisdom and everlasting life as we contemplate both feasts: ours of the birth of Jesus and yours of Eid al Adha--the feast of the sacrifice.

Three: Taylor Marshall of Canterbury Tales. Taylor, you provide a wealth of historical and ecclesiastical knowledge. I love it. Keep it coming! (I am still waiting for your explanation RE when bishops started wearing purple and why...)

If Harry, Aysha, and Taylow want to continue passing on this blessing all they need to do is:

a) bless 3 blog buddies each

b) Include the ‘God Bless you’ image in their post

c) Explain briefly why they are blessing the people they are blessing

d) pray/include in the post the prayer for the recipients of the blessing.

e)The recipient/sender of a blessing should type in the com box of Deb’s original post that a blessing has been sent to them so we can keep track of how many blessings are being given. For easy reference a link to her post will make it into Deb’s sidebar.

Muslimas traveling and the 'mahram'

A mahram is a MALE companion from the woman's family or her spouse. From Islam Q&A:


We live in the country. Sometimes I like to visit my uncle who lives in a city that is 50 km further than us. I have to use mixed transportation and go alone because my father thinks it is very expensive to use transportation. He leaves the matter of meeting my uncle or not up to me. There is no other place I can go to. I visit my uncle every 5-8 months. Am I allowed to travel without a mahram?.

Praise be to Allaah.

The saheeh Sunnah indicates that it is not permissible for a woman to travel without a mahram. This includes both long trips and short trips, according to the majority of scholars. Everything that is called traveling is forbidden for a woman unless she has a mahram with her. [...]

Population Explosion in Yemen

Hat tip to Armies of Liberation:

SANA’A, Dec. 15 — In the Fourth National Conference for Population Policy, held under the theme, “Toward further implementation of a population policy,” participants stressed the necessity of providing family planning and reproductive health services in all health care centers.

Some of the papers reviewed warned against the risk of increased population growth, indicating that UN estimates show that if population growth in Yemen continues to increase at the present rate, the population will increase from its current 22.4 million to 29.9 million in 2015, then to 43 million in 2025, 62 million in 2035 and 90 million in 2045, finally reaching 108.6 million in 2050. [...]

Studies also indicated that the annual 3 percent population growth rate is one of the key challenges facing development efforts. They also showed that Yemen is categorized as one of the least developed countries in human resource, ranked 174 out of 184 countries. According to the studies, poverty levels have progressively increased, from 19 percent in 1992 to 34 percent in 1999, and lastly 34.4 percent in 2005.

They also advised utilizing resolutions of free of charge health care units in addition to family planning consultations, encouraging women to breastfeed babies naturally, and increasing efforts to increase society awareness about prenatal care.[...]

Jane over at makes a good point about this, saying, "But thats what happens when girls get married at 14 and have an average of seven kids."

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sex, lies, Palestine and jihad

Nice video here from Palestinian TV. The idea is that the guy is so enraged when his girl is shot down that he starts "operations" against the Zionist entity and is happily reunited with his girl (and others!) in paradise.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Converting to Catholicism?

Converting to Catholicism?
by Abu Daoud

Since I just posted a blurb about Tony Blair "converting" to Catholicism I thought I would share my thoughts on how to correctly use that word.

My sense is that one does not convert within a religion (Christianity), but from one religion to another, or no religion to a religion. Thus Tony Blair, who was Anglican and is now Roman Catholic, has not converted. Rather, he has "entered into full communion with Rome," or more simply, "has become Roman Catholic."

Usually there is some kind of official rite or ritual so that one can become this or that kind of Christian. I am Anglican, and even if I started going to a Methodist church and went there for years, I would remain Anglican. Unless I changed my membership and was received into the UMC.

Of course, neither the Methodist nor the Anglican churches make any claims to be the true church, but rather understand themselves as communities within the true church. On the other hand, both the Catholic Church (which is a whole family of churches, the largest of which is the Roman) and the Orthodox Churches (which is like a confederation of churches, the largest of which is the Russian Orthodox) understand themselves to be, in some way, the true church--the one that Jesus himself founded.

This does not mean that Catholics and Orthodox understand other Christians to be outside of the grace of God necessarily. What it does mean is that they are imperfectly connected to Christ's body, the Church. The Church for them (Catholics and Orthodox) is certainly connected to the visible hierarchy, to the visible congregation.

To further complicate matters Catholics acknowledge that Orthodox Christians have a valid priesthood and sacraments (unlike us Anglicans whose orders are void). But the Orthodox in general have been loathe to admit that Catholics have a valid priesthood and sacraments.

And I'm not even getting into the question of the Oriental Orthodox here, who, unlike the Orthodox and Catholics, did not accept the Definition of Chalcedon in 451.

All this to say, my preference is not to speak of one kind of Christian "converting" to another kind of Christians. Even if we accept that some churches have a more valid claim to apostolic origins--and I think that historically speaking we must accept some such claims--it is wrong to say that entering the communion of this or that fellowship or community or Church is in fact a conversion.

Tony Blair becomes Roman Catholic

"I'm very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church," the statement quoted Murphy-O'Connor as saying.

"For a long time he's been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he's been following a program of formation for his reception into full communion. Our prayers are with him, his family and his wife at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together," Murphy-O'Connor said.

There had long been speculation that Blair planned to convert to Catholicism. His wife, Cherie, is Roman Catholic, the couple's children have attended Catholic schools, and Blair had regularly attended Catholic, rather than Anglican, services.

Read it all at CNN.

Friday, December 21, 2007

No fun in Islam :-(

"Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious."

-- Ayatollah Khomeini

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mishmish: Eid al Adha

There is a great entry over at Mishmish about Eid al Adha as they are experiencing it over in Amman, Jordan. It is not long and there are some great pictures taken by the blogger.

Check it out:


Rationalizing terror

From IHT:

[...] An essential first step is admitting we have a problem. The terrible attacks of recent days occurred during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam's most solemn act of atonement. The introspection and self-criticism of this sacred time offer an ideal moment to acknowledge the sacrilege of terrorism and the sin of being a passive bystander.

We must also avoid the temptation to rationalize murder. "The attack is wrong," goes a common refrain, "but we must understand the root causes."

There can be no "buts" - no qualifications or justifications that indulge the political grievances and religious sanction claimed by extremists.

Taking an unequivocal stand against human sacrifice does not require radical reinterpretation of Muslim tradition. In fact, it is addressed directly in the new-year holiday of Eid al-Adha - the "Festival of the Sacrifice" - which commemorates Abraham's near-sacrifice of Ismael. In the Koran, it is Abraham's first-born son, not Isaac, whom God demands as a sacrifice. Bound to the altar, Ismael is spared at the last second, as Abraham's knife falls on a lamb instead.

Some focus on the first half of this incident, hailing Abraham as a man so obedient to God's will that he would kill his own offspring without hesitation. A twisted manifestation of this interpretation was on display last week in Toronto, as Muhammad Parvez strangled his teenage daughter to death for refusing to wear a hijab.

Here was a neighborhood parent (not a radical in a faraway land) so consumed with righteous anger that he would sacrifice his own daughter. [...]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dollar's falling value harming missionaries

Pinching Pennies
The dollar's fall has squeezed missionary budgets—with no reprieve in sight.

The dollar's falling value translates into a pay cut for many American missionaries, who receive funding for their work from church and denominational budgets and from the gifts of supporting Christians. According to the U.S. Center for World Mission, many are finding their dollars worth 8 to 12 percent less than they expected this year. In Europe, dollars have lost 45 percent of their buying power since 2002.

Read it all HERE.

Europe: "Islam will become the majority"

'Muhammad boys' prove 'Islam will enter every house in Europe'
Terror leader boastful after British government lists most popular baby names

JERUSALEM – Statistical information released yesterday showing Muhammad is the second most popular boys name in Britain "proves Islam is becoming the majority in the UK and will one day enter every house in Europe," a senior terror leader told [WorldNetDaily] in an interview.

"We see from this study of Muhammad's name that Islam is on the rise and cannot be stopped no matter what your crusader governments do," said Muhammad Abdel-Al, spokesman and a leader of the Popular Resistance Committees terror group. [...]

"In Europe there is no need for war because if people keep on joining Islam in these countries then Islam will become the majority, which I think is the process that is taking place now, so there will not be any necessity to have war with [non-Muslims]," he said.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

World food stocks dwindling...

Not exactly religious news, but very important. Look for more aggressive and desperate immigration to the West from the places where food production is low and population is growing quickly (that includes almost all of the Middle East and North Africa).

As countries in Europe are Islamized look for declining economic and agricultural productivity in those countries. Historically once a country has been put under an Islamic government, even if the population is not majority Muslim (like parts of Asia Minor and the Balkans under the Turks), the governmental and industrial and educational systems have atrophied and become nepotist and tribal, which is a permanent aspect of Islamic government because of its roots in 7th C. Arabia.

But anyway, enough of my predictions, here are some blurbs from the actual article:

ROME: In an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the top food and agriculture official of the United Nations warned Monday.

The changes created "a very serious risk that fewer people will be able to get food," particularly in the developing world, said Jacques Diouf, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The agency's food price index rose by more than 40 percent this year, compared with 9 percent the year before - a rate that was already unacceptable, he said. New figures show that the total cost of foodstuffs imported by the neediest countries rose 25 percent, to $107 million, in the last year.

At the same time, reserves of cereals are severely depleted, FAO records show. [...]

"In the U.S., Australia, and Europe, there's a very substantial capacity to adapt to the effects on food - with money, technology, research and development," Howden said. "In the developing world, there isn't."[...]

Diouf noted that there had been "tension and political unrest related to food markets" in a number of poor countries this year, including Morocco, [India,] Senegal and Mauritania. "We need to play a catalytic role to quickly boost crop production in the most affected countries," he said.

Fundamentalists and disagreement

Fundamentalists never can just disagree. The person they fall out with is not only on the wrong side of an issue, they are on the wrong side of God. […] A church split builds self righteousness into the fabric of every new splinter group, whose only reason for existence is that they decide they are more moral and pure than their brethren.

--Frank Schaeffer

(Hat tip to From the Pew. This also applies to Muslim fundamentalism by the way.)

Fashion and faith meet, on foreheads of the pious

Fashion and faith meet, on foreheads of the pious

CAIRO: There is a strong undercurrent of competition in Egypt these days, an unstated contest among people eager to prove just how religious they are. The field of battle is the street and the focus tends to be on appearance, as opposed to conviction.

It is not that the two are mutually exclusive, but they are not necessarily linked. As Egyptians increasingly emphasize Islam as the cornerstone of identity, there has been a growing emphasis on public displays of piety. [...]

The zebibah, Arabic for raisin, is a dark circle of callused skin, or in some cases a protruding bump, between the hairline and the eyebrows. It emerges on the spot where worshipers press their foreheads into the ground during their daily prayers.

It may sometimes look like a painful wound, but in Egypt it is worn proudly, the way American professionals in the 1980s felt good about the dark circles under their eyes as a sign of long work hours and little sleep.

Two decades ago, Egypt was a Muslim country with a relatively secular style. Nationalism and Arabism had alternated places as the main element of identity. But today, Egypt, like much of the Arab Middle East, is experiencing the rise of Islam as the ideology of the day. [...]

Read it all over at IHT.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Middle East Hemorrhaging Christians

From Christianity Today:

But we should be ... distressed about the decline story, especially that of Christianity in the Middle East. No one knows precisely how many of the Middle East's 293 million people are Christians, but nearly everyone acknowledges that Middle Eastern Christianity has been in steady decline for decades. In some local areas, officials record declines of 75 percent or more. Recent violence in the region is accelerating that decline. Some observers estimate that the region's population of 10 to 15 million Christians will continue to spiral downward during the next 50 years.

On paper, Egypt is the country with the greatest number of Christians—5.8 to 11 million, or 8 to 16 percent of Egypt's 75 million people. But despite their numbers, "Copts," as Egyptian Christians are known, have suffered from oppressive legal restrictions. Until very recently, permission to repair a church roof anywhere in Egypt could only be obtained from the president himself. Those few Muslims who wish to become Christians experience intense persecution. Many Christians in Egypt are seeking a new future in the West.

Until half a century ago, Lebanon was the only Middle Eastern country with a Christian majority. But because of immigration and higher birth rates among Muslims, Lebanon's Christian population has dwindled from around 58 percent at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, to an estimated 39 percent (1.4 million) today. So sensitive is the issue that the Lebanese government has not conducted an official census of religious affiliation since 1932. Lebanon's Christians, mostly Maronites (Eastern Rite Catholics), have been traumatized by the killings of Christian politicians and the work of the terrorist group Hezbollah, and have thus fled the country. ...

Abu Daoud says: Take it to the Lord in prayer. There are more Muslims converting than ever before, but it is not nearly enough to balance this Christian exodus from the MENA. Is God calling YOU to go to the Middle East or North Africa to support the Christian population and share the Gospel with Muslims? Ask yourself this question seriously. You are never too old or too young, never too educated or un-educated, too sick, too tired.

Ezra the son of God?

Qur'an 9.30: And the Jews say: Uzair [Ezra] is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!

COMMENTARY: No Jews have ever been found who match the Qur’an’s description of them, in v. 30 of sura 9, as proclaiming that Ezra is the Son of God. Ibn Juzayy explains that only a small group of Jews actually said this, but “it is ascribed to all of them because they followed those who said it.” The Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs attributes this belief to the Jews of Medina. In any case, this belief, asserted by the Qur’an and thereby confirmed as true in the minds of many Muslims, makes the Jews as well as the Christians guilty of shirk, the association of partners with Allah, which is the worst sin of all. Ibn Juzayy quotes another Islamic authority saying that the Christian belief is “atrocious disbelief.” Adds Ibn Kathir, “This is why Allah declared both groups to be liars,” for “they have no proof that supports their claim, other than lies and fabrications.”

From HERE.

Hajj Factoid

Did you know it is permissible in Islam to hire someone to go on the hajj in your stead. It is called hajj by proxy in some circles.

I have known this for some time, but I figure it might be new info to some readers.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hart: sacrifice and credit

God's balances are not righted by an act of immolation, the debt is not discharged by the destruction of the victim and his transformation into credit; rather, God simply continues to give, freely, inexhaustibly, regardless of rejection. God gives and forgives; he fore-gives and gives again. There is no calculable economy in this trinitarian discourse of love, to which creation is graciously admitted.

David Hart
Beauty of the Infinite
P. 351

Hart: totality's economy of violence

This book that I'm reading, The Beauty of the Infinite, by David Bentley Hart, is really good. I am enjoying it a lot. I am now about 3/4 through it and hope to finish this week or next. I will be supplying a few quotes here and there:

In Christ, totality's economy of violence is overcome by the infinity of God's peace, inasmuch as one order of sacrifice is overcome by another: sacrifice of the immolation of the beautiful is displaced by a sacrifice whose offering is one of infinite beauty.

P. 344

Saturday, December 15, 2007

KSA: Obsessed with Segregation

From the indefatigable Saudi Jeans:

For some reason, Arab News chooses not to name KSU when they write about the stifling restrictions Saudi Arabia’s oldest university impose on their female students. Considering how this country is obsessed with segregation, there is no surprise here. And the ironic thing is, they say the university “is supposed to be a place where young women experience greater freedoms.” Says who? Wake up girls! This is freakin’ K of SA you are living in. The university, as you may expect, claim that the point of these restrictions is to protect the students. Again, no surprise. Welcome to Saudi Arabia, where everyone claims moral authority over the rest.

In the other hand, the newspaper chooses to name another university in Riyadh, Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University, which supposedly is even more strict than KSU. It is said that IMSIU is to launch a new college of medicine, but according to Ali Al Mousa in Al Watan daily, the university president could not answer the question of whether female students would be accepted in the new college. Al Mousa tends to cut the president some slack because answering that question might put him in confrontation with the extremists who would, for sure, use the ’segregation’ card. Let’s wait and see how this drama is going to play out. [...]

Abu Daoud says, especially interesting are the comments at Saudi Jeans. Also, if you don't know what indefatigable means click HERE.

Family Violence is un-Islamic

CALGARY - An imam from Alberta was planning to go on a weekend hunger strike to bring attention to domestic violence and how it is completely against the teachings of Islam.

Any violence involving families is "absolutely un-Islamic," Syed Soharwardy of the Calgary Islamic Centre said Friday.

"We should not be using religion as a scapegoat to justify what we need. We should resolve our disputes based on reasoning, logic (and) cool-mindedness."

The imam's comments came after the death earlier this month of 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez of Mississauga, Ont., who reportedly had a long-standing dispute with her family over her apparent reluctance to wear the traditional Muslim headscarf, the hijab.

Her father, who has not yet entered a plea, has been charged with her murder.

From HERE.

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Islam's Silent Moderates"

An insightful critique. Could it be that the famed 'moderate Muslims' are simply a media fabrication? I am starting to lean in that direction:

But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these? How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted — and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?

Usually, Muslim groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference are quick to defend any affront to the image of Islam. The organization, which represents 57 Muslim states, sent four ambassadors to the leader of my political party in the Netherlands asking him to expel me from Parliament after I gave a newspaper interview in 2003 noting that by Western standards some of the Prophet Muhammad’s behavior would be unconscionable. A few years later, Muslim ambassadors to Denmark protested the cartoons of Muhammad and demanded that their perpetrators be prosecuted.

But while the incidents in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and India have done more to damage the image of Islamic justice than a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the organizations that lined up to protest the hideous Danish offense to Islam are quiet now.

I wish there were more Islamic moderates. For example, I would welcome some guidance from that famous Muslim theologian of moderation, Tariq Ramadan. But when there is true suffering, real cruelty in the name of Islam, we hear, first, denial from all these organizations that are so concerned about Islam’s image. We hear that violence is not in the Koran, that Islam means peace, that this is a hijacking by extremists and a smear campaign and so on. But the evidence mounts up.

Hat tip to T19, read it all HERE.

Aysha: Islam is the religion...which overwrites all others

Amongst Muslims, it is a given that Islam is the religion which concludes and overwrites all others. It is the answer; universal, and timeless. All religions before it were time and people specific, but Islam comes as a religion finale.

Yet if it is also a given that when God created the world everything had already been decided and realized, why wasn’t Islam the first? Why didn’t the answer arrive any earlier? And why are we now left with multiple faiths quarreling together on the very same earth?

Could it be possible that when humans first arrived on earth, things were not “fully realized”? Were humans an experiment, a very sophisticated one, left to unveil its possibilities under the watchful eye of God? And could that be the answer as to why creations have stopped after humans?

Read it all at Aysha's website and leave comments over there. She is an inteligent and thoughtful Muslima and it is refreshing to read her reflections from time to time.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Islam is under attack?

From The Oxford Cross-Cultural Research Institute:

The message that comes across loud and clear and burrows into the consciousness of Muslims is that Islam is being targeted. Most Muslims around the world are convinced, with good reason, that Islam is under attack from people in the West.

Muslims, unlike the Jewish race, do not define themselves primarily through ethnicity. Islam is a core component in the identity of a Muslim and so when Islam is perceived to be under attack, the natural consequence is one of trauma and anxiety. The subsequent reaction is frustration and simmering anger at one's own inability to combat the onslaught. In this perturbed state of victimisation there is a natural tendency to gravitate towards the first person who offers to defend Islam.

Unwise choices at this crucial juncture lead some into counterproductive violence and self-fulfilling prophecies. The attack on the Quran and Islam is followed by a violent reaction, which then leads to the blaming of the Quran and Islam and the cycle repeats itself. The attacks on Islam are justified through violence perpetrated by Muslims, which in turn is justified via more attacks on the Quran and Islam and so on. My fear is that if this is allowed to continue it will most certainly lead to Huntington's 'Clash of Civilisations', a clash that will last until, of course, one side becomes extinct. Muslims do not have an emperor through whom to surrender when on the brink of catastrophe as the Japanese did in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Muhammad and the sons of apes and pigs

A tantalizing new blog here, which some might find offensive. But I think it is very important because it is an anti-Islamic blog founded by Copts. The Copts are the ethnic group from Egypt prior to its Islamization and Arabization under the infleunce of Sword of Islam (which I have written about HERE). The pharoahs for example were of that people group.

Here is a taste of what they are serving, but judge for yourself:

In the Ten commandments Jehova God commanded Mohamed in:

Exodus 20: 3, 5 " Thou shalt have no other gods before me.Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them" ...
Mohamed broke God's commandment by worshiping allah the moon god, the crescent, the god of the ka'aba stone and the black stone. (One of the title of the Saudi king is :the servant of the ka'aba)

Exodus 20:7 "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." ...
Mohamed broke God's commandment by spreading lies, deceptions, hate, promiscuity, immoralities, and false teachings in the name of God

Exodus 20:9 "Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work" ...
Mohamed and his followers broke God's commandment by sleeping for a whole month of ramadan as was practised by the pagans, while living off the charities of other countries and being a burden on the civilized producing world .

Exodus 20:13 "Thou shalt not kill." ...
Mohamed broke God's commandment by attacking and killing peaceful people and countries, and commanded his followers to keep killing until the whole world surrender and profess that no God but allah and Mohamed is his prophet.

Exodus 20:14 "Thou shalt not commit adultery." ...
Mohamed broke God's commandment by committing adultery, and was caught by his wife Hafsa committing the act in her bed and in her house with his maid Mary the Copt.

Exodus 20:15 "Thou shalt not steal." ...
Mohamed broke God's commandment by robing caravan and looting people, and declaring "my earning is under the shadow of my sword"

Exodus 20:16 "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." ...
Mohamed broke God's commandment by bearing false witnessing against God himself and teaching his followers to lie and deceive others for the benefit of Muslims and Islam.

Exodus 20:17 "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's." ...
Mohamed broke God's commandment by coveting the wife of any man. Any women that Mohamed lay his eyes on, her husband should divorce her and give her to Mohamed. He even forced his adoptive son to divorce his wife so he can marry her.

Mohamed and his followers, not only broke every commandment of the God of the Bible, but defiled Him by claiming he is the same "allah" of the stone ka'aba. Sadly, some Christians and Jews, either by ignorance, hypocrisy or for vain gain support this deception and risk the wrath of the God Who said: "Exodus 20: 5 for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

In sha' Allah, if God wills...

Great stuff from Intercultural Training:

Inshaalah is a phrase that Muslims and Arabs will use frequently, and it reflects deep-rooted beliefs on pre-destination and fatalism. Literally translated, Inshaalah means God willing. Taken in its everyday use, or abuse, it could mean yes, or no, and it could mean leave it with me, can we talk about this on another occasion or please drop the subject. It is a highly contextual phrase, and its precise meaning will depend on the request or issue being discussed, the relationships, power distance, and naturally body language and intonation. It is thus no wonder that it defeats most newcomers!

It made me laugh! But very insightful and true :-)

Islamic Violence or Domestic Violence?

A Canadian girl was killed by her father for not dressing according to Islamic norms:

A cab driver has been charged with murdering his 16-year-old daughter after she was allegedly attacked in a clash with her strict Muslim family over whether or not to wear the hijab, the traditional Islamic head scarf for women.

Muhammad Parvez, 57, was charged after his daughter Aqsa Parvez died in hospital late on Monday. The victim's older brother, Waqas Parvez, was charged with obstructing police in connection with the girl's death.


"There should be zero tolerance for violence of any kind against women or girls," said Shahina Siddiqui, the president of the Islamic Social Services Association.

"The strangulation death of Ms. Parvez was the result of domestic violence, a problem that cuts across Canadian society and is blind to colour or creed."

"We call for the strongest possible prosecution of Ms. Parvez's alleged attacker," said Faisal Kutty, the legal counsel for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.

From HERE, hat tip to

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Algerian Terror

In case you haven't heard, there were two powerful explosions in Algeria recently. Basic news can be fount at IHT, and an analysis of the situation from the counter-terror point of view can be found at Counter-Terror Blog.

Pakistan: Apostasy as a Capital Crime

From The Telegraph (UK), with a hat tip to Wahaudi:

Pakistan is currently considering a Bill that would make apostasy a capital crime for men and one carrying a sentence of imprisonment for women. As it is, ordinary Pakistanis take the law into their own hands and kill Muslim apostates. The same thing happens in Turkey where, earlier this year, two people were killed for "having turned away from Islam".

Patrick Sookhdeo was born a Muslim, but later converted to Christianity. He is now international director of the Barnabas Fund, an organisation that aims to research and to ameliorate the conditions of Christians living in countries hostile to their religion. He notes that "all four schools of Sunni law, as well as the Shia variety, call for the death penalty for apostates. Most Muslim scholars say that Muslim religious law - sharia - requires the death penalty for apostasy. "In 2004, Prince Charles called a meeting of leading Muslims to discuss the issue," adds Dr Sookhdeo. "I was there. All the Muslim leaders at that meeting agreed that the penalty in sharia is death. The hope was that they would issue a public declaration repudiating that doctrine, but not one of them did."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Abu Daoud is an Augustinian?

Which theologian are you?
created with
You scored as Augustine

You have a big view of God and also take human sin and depravity very seriously. Predestination is important for you.



Friedrich Schleiermacher


Jonathan Edwards


Karl Barth


Jürgen Moltmann




Paul Tillich


Charles Finney


John Calvin


Martin Luther


Traditional shari'a and the dhimmi contract

This is very important material that every non-Muslim should know, please read the complete section.

From HERE:

He [Ibn Kathir, a Muslim jurist] then goes on to outline the notorious Pact of Umar, an agreement made, according to Islamic tradition, between the caliph Umar, who ruled the Muslims from 634 to 644, and a Christian community.

This Pact is worth close examination, because it became the foundation for Islamic law regarding the treatment of the dhimmis. With remarkably little variation, throughout Islamic history whenever Islamic law was strictly enforced, this is generally how non-Muslims were treated. Working from the full text as Ibn Kathir has it, these are the conditions the Christians accept in return for “safety for ourselves, children, property and followers of our religion” – conditions that, according to Ibn Kathir, “ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace.” The Christians will not:

1. Build “a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk”;
2. “Restore any place of worship that needs restoration”;
3. Use such places “for the purpose of enmity against Muslims”;
4. “Allow a spy against Muslims into our churches and homes or hide deceit [or betrayal] against Muslims”;
5. Imitate the Muslims’ “clothing, caps, turbans, sandals, hairstyles, speech, nicknames and title names”;
6. “Ride on saddles, hang swords on the shoulders, collect weapons of any kind or carry these weapons”;
7. “Encrypt our stamps in Arabic”
8. “Sell liquor” – Christians in Iraq in the last few years ran afoul of Muslims reasserting this rule;
9. “Teach our children the Qur’an”;
10. “Publicize practices of Shirk” – that is, associating partners with Allah, such as regarding Jesus as Son of God. In other words, Christian and other non-Muslim religious practice will be private, if not downright furtive;
11. Build “crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets” – again, Christian worship must not be public, where Muslims can see it and become annoyed;
12. “Sound the bells in our churches, except discreetly, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims, nor raise our voices [with prayer] at our funerals, or light torches in funeral processions in the fairways of Muslims, or their markets”;
13. “Bury our dead next to Muslim dead”;
14. “Buy servants who were captured by Muslims”;
15. “Invite anyone to Shirk” – that is, proselytize, although the Christians also agree not to:
16. “Prevent any of our fellows from embracing Islam, if they choose to do so.” Thus the Christians can be the objects of proselytizing, but must not engage in it themselves;
17. “Beat any Muslim.”

Meanwhile, the Christians will:

1. Allow Muslims to rest “in our churches whether they come by day or night”;
2. “Open the doors [of our houses of worship] for the wayfarer and passerby”;
3. Provide board and food for “those Muslims who come as guests” for three days;
4. “Respect Muslims, move from the places we sit in if they choose to sit in them” – shades of Jim Crow;
5. “Have the front of our hair cut, wear our customary clothes wherever we are, wear belts around our waist” – these are so that a Muslim recognizes a non-Muslim as such and doesn’t make the mistake of greeting him with As-salaamu aleikum, “Peace be upon you,” which is the Muslim greeting for a fellow Muslim;
6. “Be guides for Muslims and refrain from breaching their privacy in their homes.”

Un-Islamic dress and murdered women

Like they say in London, "Islam: our religion today, your religion tomorrow."

From the AP:

BAGHDAD - Religious vigilantes have killed at least 40 women this year in the southern Iraqi city of Basra because of how they dressed, their mutilated bodies found with notes warning against "violating Islamic teachings," the police chief said Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Jalil Khalaf blamed sectarian groups that he said were trying to impose a strict interpretation of Islam....

"The women of Basra are being horrifically murdered and then dumped in the garbage with notes saying they were killed for un-Islamic behavior," Khalaf told The Associated Press. He said men with Western clothes or haircuts are also attacked in Basra, an oil-rich city some 30 miles from the Iranian border and 340 miles southeast of Baghdad.

"Those who are behind these atrocities are organized gangs who work under cover of religion, pretending to spread the instructions of Islam, but they are far from this religion," Khalaf said.

All about Al Bukhari

I quote from the hadiith quite often, and generally you will find the reference to one of two men (though I do sometimes use others): Al Bukhari, and Muslim. Both of these men were Muslim scholars who put together collections of hadiith that came to be regarded as authentic for various reasons. Christianity has no clear parallel to the hadiith, but maybe you could think of it as a collection of early Patristic material which has been carefully edited to remove spurious writings.

But here is some info on Muhammad al Bukhari, one of those two scholars, maybe I will post some info on Muslim (that was his given name) some other time:

Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari. Popularly known as Al-Bukhari (Arabic: البخاري) or Imam Bukhari (810-870), he was a famous Sunni Islamic scholar of Persian ancestry, most known for authoring the hadith collection named Sahih Bukhari, a collection which Sunni regard as the most authentic (Arabic: Sahih) collection after the Qur'an.

Bukhari was born in July 20, 810 CE (Shawal 13, 194 AH ) in the city of Bukhara, in what is today Uzbekistan. His father, Ismail Ibn Ibrahim, was a known hadith scholar that died while Bukhari was young...

At age of sixteen, he, together with his brother and widowed mother made the pilgrimage to Mecca. From there he made a series of travels in order to increase his knowledge of hadith. He went through all the important centres of Islamic learning of his time, talked to scholars and exchanged information on hadith. It is recorded that he stayed at Basrah for four or five years, and in the Hijaz for six; while he travelled to Egypt twice and to Kufah and Baghdad many times.

When the authorities in Basrah received information of his arrival, they fixed a time for him to deliver a lecture. At the lecture, he was able to confine himself only to such Hadith as he had received on the authority of the early Hadith scholars of Basrah, and had nonetheless been unknown to the audience.

... [He] devoted himself to the collection, study, proof-reading, organizing (arrangement) of traditions (Hadiths). For that purpose he traveled all over the Islamic world, all the way to Egypt, Syria, Arabia, and Iraq, seeking hadith narrators and listening to them. It is said that he heard from over 1,000 men, and learned over 600,000 traditions, both authentic and rejected ones, and thus became the acknowledged authority on the subject.

After sixteen years' absence he returned to Bukhara, and there drew up his al-Jami' al-Sahih, a collection of 7,275 tested traditions, arranged in chapters so as to afford bases for a complete system of jurisprudence without the use of speculative law, (see Islamic Law). His book is highly regarded among Sunni Muslims, and considered the most authentic collection of hadith (a minority of Sunni scholars consider Sahih Muslim, compiled by Bukhari's student Imam Muslim, more authentic). Most Sunni scholars consider it second only to the Qur'an in terms of authenticity...

From Wikipedia.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Orthodox Patriarch: Europe will simply vanish

From HERE:

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II exhorted European countries to retain their Christian heritage or risk fading into oblivion as nations.

"Modern Europe will not create a new post-Christian culture and civilization but will simply vanish from history," Alexy II said at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow on Wednesday evening.

"Losing their Christian roots, the people of Europe will sign their own death warrant," he added.

The Catholic Church and several other EU countries, notably Poland, Italy and Germany, have been lobbying European Union leaders to state and include Europe's Christian roots in the EU constitution.

Alexy II has been very active in Russia and internationally in defense of Christianity and traditional morality.

Tehran Times: Neo-Andalucean Dawn

From the Tehran Times:

A number of groups are associated with this reawakening and one of them is the Neo-Andalucian movement, which is a progressive pan-Islamic movement.

They use the appellation Neo-Andalucian because Muslim Andalucia was a center of learning and, at least for a time, a very tolerant place where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived in peace and harmony for the most part.

Muslim scholars like Ibn Arabi and non-Muslim scholars like Maimonides arose in Andalucia.

Islam teaches Muslims to seek out knowledge and to be tolerant toward non-Muslims who are not at war with Islam.

Also, the fall of Andalucia in 1492 marked the beginning of the 500-year decline of the Islamic world.

The Neo-Andalucians want to start an Islamic revival to end this 500-year decline, hence the identification with Andalucia. [...]
The real war is the cultural war for the souls of the people, not the war for the people’s money, resources, and territories.

In an article entitled “Al-Andalus, the lost pearl” published in the September 7, 2005 edition of the Tehran Times, Aliefudien Al-Almany wrote:

“Out of the Andalus experience we can learn many things. We Muslims have to realize that Allah, the Most High, helps us if we help Him in His cause. This means that if we practice our religion -- pray, pay zakat to the needy people, and do good deeds, then success is guaranteed -- not only in the next life, but also in this life.”

“Muslims are looking forward to a second, a third, and many more Andalusias, where they can live in peace, justice, prosperity, and dignity together with all kinds of people from other religions. However, sacrifices must be made.”

Yes, we must create many more Andalucias, and yes, sacrifices must be made.

To uphold the banner of Islam and defend the faith, to start the new Islamic Renaissance, unite the Islamic world, and uplift the oppressed Muslim masses, we must strengthen our faith, dedicate ourselves to the cause of Islam, and struggle hard for the cause of Allah.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hajj or Jihad?

From Islam Q&A:

I have done the obligatory Hajj, praise be to Allaah, and I have done ‘umrah. Is it better for me to travel for ‘umrah, or to give this money in charity to the mujaahideen who are fighting for the sake of Allaah?.

Praise be to Allaah.

Both travelling for ‘umrah and spending for the sake of Allaah are good deeds, but the benefit of ‘umrah is limited to the one who does it, whereas the benefit of spending on jihad is more far-reaching, so spending on that is more appropriate and takes precedence.

And Allaah is the Source of strength. May Allaah send blessings and peace upon our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions.

'umrah is an additional pilgrimage to the two holy cities.

Irenaeus and the Gnostics

From Christian History:

God became flesh
The Gnostics who threatened Irenaeus's community tended to divide things into two realities—one good, the other bad. In response to such dualism, Irenaeus presented the unity of apostolic faith.

For example, Irenaeus' opponents divided "Christ" from "Jesus." Christ, they said, was a divine spirit-being from the heavenly realm (the Pleroma, or "fullness") who did not become really incarnate, so he could not really suffer. He was not truly human, but either only seemed to be human or temporarily inhabited a human named "Jesus."

But Irenaeus was too familiar with the constant threat of martyrdom to let such dualism deceive his flock. The real, bloody passion and death of Christ was a fundamental element of Christian faith. Martyrdom imitated it, and Christians confessed it in baptism and worship. Irenaeus responded with a strong biblical statement that Jesus Christ was one person, both divine and human, and that he really was crucified.

This is what gave comfort to those who were martyred: "[Christ] knew, therefore, both those who should suffer persecution, and he knew those who should have to be scourged and slain because of Him; and He did not speak of any other cross, but of the suffering which He should Himself undergo first, and His disciples afterward."

At the root of the Valentinian Gnostic myth known by Irenaeus was a division between two Gods: the supreme, transcendent Father revealed by Christ, and the arrogant Demiurge, the creator of the physical world, who was identified with the Old Testament God of the Jews. Therefore, the Gnostics divided reality into two opposing realms—the heavenly world of spiritual beings (named "Aeons") and the material world of trees, rocks, earth, flesh, and blood.

In contrast to this, Irenaeus declared: "But there is one only God … He is Father, He is God, He the founder, He the Maker, He the Creator, … He it is whom the law proclaims, whom the prophets preach, whom Christ reveals, whom the Apostles make known to us, and in whom the church believes." These words reveal another important theme for Irenaeus: the harmony between the Old Testament and the emerging New Testament, between the prophets and apostles. The Creator spoken of by Moses is the Father revealed in Christ. His redemptive plan has been the same throughout history.

The Valentinian Gnostics also taught that, since the material world was created by an imposter, an ignorant deity, it had no value and must perish. The human body, as part of the material world, could never be immortal. This is why Christ could not have been truly human and why, the Gnostics believed, there would be no bodily resurrection or redemption of the created order. Salvation was purely spiritual.

But according to Irenaeus, the "spiritual" person is made up of the "the union of [material] flesh and [the human] spirit, receiving the Spirit of God." God created the physical world, and so that world has value and will be redeemed and renewed someday. God created the human body, and the body will be raised again incorruptible and immortal.

Against the Valentinians, Irenaeus emphasized the supernatural, redemptive ministry of the Holy Spirit who renews both the body and the spirit. This ministry of the Holy Spirit strengthened the martyrs to bear witness unto death in hope of bodily resurrection. This promise was based on the reality of Christ's incarnation: "For if the flesh were not in a position to be saved, the Word of God would in no wise have become flesh."

The faith that saves

The Gnostics had an elitist understanding of salvation; they divided humanity into two categories, the "spiritual ones" who belong to the Father and the "material ones" who belong to the Demiurge. As the "spiritual ones," the Gnostic believed, they were destined for salvation because of the divine spark within them (unlike the rest of humanity, who are asleep and have no hope).

Not so for Irenaeus. All humans are fallen—dead in their sins—and in need of redemption. Salvation is not a matter of destiny but of faith. The eternal Son of God, who became human, reunited God with humanity. Those who believe in him have the life of the Holy Spirit in them—and only they can be called "spiritual": "as many as fear God and trust in His Son's advent, and who through faith do establish the Spirit of God in their hearts—such men as these shall be properly called both 'pure,' and 'spiritual,' and 'those living to God,' because they possess the Spirit of the Father, who purifies man, and raises him up to the life of God."

So we see in Irenaeus the great orthodox doctrines of unity: One God, who is the Father and Creator of all things, immaterial and material, and who orchestrates one harmonious history of revelation and redemption; one Savior, who is both divine spirit and human flesh, both Christ and Jesus; one human nature, which is both spiritual and fleshly; one salvation of both the spiritual and material realms, which is by faith.

These were the doctrines Irenaeus received from those who had passed the apostolic teaching down to him. This was the orthodoxy that protected his flock against the wolves of heresy and that gave Polycarp and the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne the faith to endure even to the end.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Elections in Jordan

For those of you interested, Mishmish has an interesting section on the recent elections in Jordan, an important country in the ME and home to many Iraqi refugees.

Elections in Jordan

Two Reasons for Failing Ministry

I found this to be quite insightful, from Bp. Bill Atwood, an African Anglican bishop ministering the USA:

In parish ministry there are two major factors that keep congregations from fulfilling their potential in the Kingdom of God. One factor is the clergy and the other is the laity. Clergy often have a hard time letting go and really allowing substantive ministry to emerge from the people. The baptized are often eager to minister, but they are also often not eager to receive ministry from another lay person. Many would like to be accepted in ministry by the clergy and the other members of the church, but when it comes to their own needs, they want to receive ministry from the rector!

Even when clergy get a vision of releasing others for ministry, while the people are learning and developing, there will be painful mistakes. Sometimes the rector will hear parishioners complain, "You let me down. You weren't there for me." It is at that point that the temptation is strong to fall back into a priest-centered ministry and do it ourselves. Perhaps the ministry that is developing, learning, and growing will not be at the same level as that of the "professional" clergy. We have to get past that, though, because the ministry will eventually be broader, greater, and more powerful when many people are discipled, released, and are working together.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

CS Lewis on Purgatory

Someone posted this question on a “MySpace” message board. Since I took the time to respond, I figured I could make use of my response here as well.

Did C.S. Lewis believe in Purgatory? Yes, but…

Wayne Martindale has a great discussion of this in his recent book, Beyond the Shadowlands (2005, Crossway)…

"To summarize, among theologians who believe in Purgatory, there are two views: Purgatory is reserved for those who are already saved as part of their sanctification or preparation for heaven (that’s one view), or for those who are in the process of being saved (that’s the second). Lewis embraced the first view." (202)

Lewis rejected what he called the "Romish" view of Purgatory- that one could be saved there. For Lewis, no one who is in Purgatory is lost. Rather, people spend time in Purgatory to be cleansed of their sin so they may stand before God in all of His holiness. In Letters to Malcolm he put it this way, "The saved soul, at the very foot of the throne, begs to be taken away and cleansed." (108)

--Roger Overton, from HERE

The Creation of Dioceses

I think the newest diocese in the Roman Catholic church is Mongolia, but feel free to correct me. There are many hundred dioceses throughout North Africa and the Middle East that have had their hierarchy "suppressed." I do know that in the Anglican church there are four diocese for the Middle East:

Province: The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
The Diocese of Jerusalem (includes Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon)
The Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf States
The Diocese of Iran
The Diocese of Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa

Sudan was originally part of this structure but it became its own Province.

But here you go, courtesy of New Advent, the gift that keeps on giving:

(1) Creation of Dioceses

Strictly speaking, it is only in missionary countries that there can be question of the creation of a diocese, either because the country was never converted to Christianity or because its ancient hierarchy was suppressed, owing to conquest by infidels or the progress of heresy. Regularly, before becoming a diocese, the territory is successively a mission, a prefecture Apostolic, and finally a vicariate Apostolic. The Congregation of Propaganda makes a preliminary study of the question and passes judgment on the opportuneness of the creation of the diocese in question. It considers principally whether the number of Catholics, priests, and religious establishments, i.e. churches, chapels, schools, is sufficiently large to justify the establishment of the proposed diocese. These matters form the subject of a report to Propaganda, to which must be added the number of towns or settlements included in the territory. If there is a city suitable for the episcopal see, the fact is stated, also the financial resources at the disposal of the bishop for the works of religion. There is added, finally, a sketch, if possible accompanied by a map, indicating the territory of the future diocese. As a general rule, a diocese should not include districts whose inhabitants speak different languages or are subject to distinct civil powers (see Instructions of Propaganda, 1798, in Collectanea S. C. de P. F., Rome, 1907, no. 645). Moreover, the general conditions for, the creation of a diocese are the same as those required for dividing or "dismembering" a diocese. Of this we shall speak below.

British imam's daughter under police protection after converting to Christianity

British imam's daughter under police protection after converting to Christianity
by Ruth Gledhill

A British imam's daughter is living in fear of her life under police protection after she received death threats from her family for converting to Christianity.

The young woman, aged 32, whose father is a Muslim imam in the north of England, has moved house 45 times to escape detection by her family since she became a Christian 15 years ago.

Hannah, who uses a pseudonym to hide her identity, told The Times how she became a Christian after she ran away from home at 16 to escape an arranged marriage.

The threats against her became more serious a month ago, prompting police to offer her protection in case of an attempt on her life.


The Bishop of Rochester, Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, will claim "freedom to believe" is under threat in Britain because of Islamic hostility to conversion.


Dr Nazir-Ali will speak out on behalf of Hannah and others suffering persecution for their beliefs in the UK at today's launch of Lapido Media, a new charity which is seeking to promote "religious literacy" in world affairs.

The Bishop is expected to describe how sharia law in many countries, including parts of Britain, punishes apostasy with death and is viewed as treason by theocratic governments. Dr Nazir-Ali will call on society to offer greater protection, by increasing understanding of what makes people vulnerable.

Pakistan-born Dr Nazir-Ali, who has a Christian and Muslim background, is patron of Lapido Media, funded by donations and trusts including the Jerusalem Trust. The word ‘lapido’ means ‘to speak up for’ in the Acholi language of Northern Uganda. The charity has been named in honour of the courage of Acholi church leaders who campaigned for an end to a little-reported 20-year war there, involving the abduction of 25,000 children.

Hat tip to Wahaudi

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Leo the Great on the Nativity

Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. ... Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the Gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fullness of time ... has taken on him the nature of [humanity], thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that which he had conquered. And in this conflict undertaken for us, the fight was fought on great and wondrous principles of fairness; for the Almighty Lord enters the lists with his savage foe not in his own majesty but in our humility, opposing him with the same form and the same nature, which shares indeed our mortality, though it is free from all sin.

- Leo the Great (c. 400-461), from Sermon XXI, Feast of the Nativity

Sarkozy in Algeria: A Mediterranean Union

Interesting development here that, if it comes to pass, could really change the dynamic of the whole Mediterranean region:

[...] Mr. Sarkozy arrived Monday in an effort to cool decades of tense relations and ink new business contracts with France's ex-colony, which gained independence in 1962, as well as pitch his idea for a Mediterranean Union, a regional community that would unite the 21 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

The union, an initiative that Sarkozy proposed soon after becoming president, would focus on security, immigration, and environmental and cultural linkages among all countries, from Morocco to Malta to Israel, and help coordinate trade between this region and Europe. But his message in the region is reaching many skeptical ears, both those wary of a former colonial master as well as those concerned such a formal compact would simply open the door to European imports and guarantee hydrocarbon-hungry Europe a reliable supply of energy. [...]

Jerusalem: Separation Wall or Security Barrier?

From Harry Gunkel over at Mission to Jerusalem:

On Saturday I went on a tour cosponsored by Al Quds University here and UN-OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). It was a tour of The Wall around Jerusalem. Do you know about the wall? It's also known as the Security Fence or the Separation Barrier. Its construction was begun about 2002 by the Defense Ministry of Israel, which by the way receives a great deal of your tax money as foreign aid. Its stated purpose was to provide security against suicide bombers from the West Bank. Now the wall forms an almost complete physical barrier between Israel and the West Bank. Maybe this is the model for what some folks in the US want on the Mexican border. Our tour was confined to the area around Jerusalem. It is the area that gets alot of attention because of the importance of this city and its future status in peace negotiations.

One side says the wall is necessary for protection against a people who are bent on violence and destruction. The other side says the wall is a method of apartheid and racial cleansing. It seems to me as a newly arrived outsider that there is a grain of truth in both sides but no more than a grain. It is far more complex than that and does injustice to the situation to reduce it so.

I encourage you to learn more about this wall. And rather than come up with all kinds of wacky references from Google, why don't you start with some documents and maps from the UN who are actively involved in monitoring the situation?

But all that aside, there is the matter of living with the wall. Look at the slideshow photos and the web album.

The Wall is only one part of the SECURITY question here. A later blog will offer some reflections on that. For now, I invite you to be aware of this, learn more about it, and ask how life must be for your brothers and sisters when things like Walls are part of life.

Sunday marked the beginning of Advent and we had our Church Christmas Bazaar. Some photos of that are included in the slideshow. Life goes on in the shadow of the Wall.

I think it is always Advent here in this place. Always hoping, always waiting for new life and new opportunity. Patience as well, amazingly enough, although sometimes it's hard to distinguish patience from resignation. I hope it's really mostly patience.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bat Ye'or on the Jizya

The Jizya is the tax that the People of the Book (Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians) are required to pay when they live in Dar al Islam. It matters not that such people form a majority of the population, by the way. I mean, I'm tired of hearing speak about "religious minorities." All that matters is that the government is Islamic. If the US president were Muslim or became Muslim then the entire non-Muslim population would become "dhimmi", even though they for a large majority of the population, and they would all have to pay this jizya. Here is a fine quote from Bat Ye'or about the jizya. This book is a must read, by the way:

The poll tax was extorted by torture. The tax inspectors demanded gifts for themselves; widows and orphans were pillaged and despoiled. In theory, women, paupers, the sick, and the infirm were exempt from the poll tax; nevertheless, Armenian, Syriac, and Jewish sources provide abundant proof that the jizya was exacted from children, widows, orphans, and even the dead. A considerable number of extant documents, preserved over the centuries, testify to the persistence and endurance of these measures. In Aleppo in 1683, French Consul Chevalier Laurent d’Arvieux noted that ten-year-old Christian children paid the jizya. Here again, one finds the disparity and contradiction between the ideal in the theory and the reality of the facts. 

The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam, pp. 78-9.

Gingrich: Who funds Al Qaeda? You

Sleepwalking into a Nightmare
by Newt Gingrich

[...] And let's be honest: What's the primary source of money for al Qaeda? It's you, re-circulated through Saudi Arabia. Because we have no national energy strategy, when clearly if you really cared about liberating the United States from the Middle East and if you really cared about the survival of Israel, one of your highest goals would be to move to a hydrogen economy and to eliminate petroleum as a primary source of energy.

Now that's what a serious national strategy would look like, but that would require real change.

So then you look at Saudi Arabia. The fact that we tolerate a country saying no Christian and no Jew can go to Mecca, and we start with the presumption that that's true while they attack Israel for being a religious state is a sign of our timidity, our confusion, our cowardice that is stunning.

It's not complicated. We're inviting Saudi Arabia to come to Annapolis to talk about rights for Palestinians when nobody is saying, "Let's talk about rights for Christians and Jews in Saudi Arabia. Let's talk about rights for women in Saudi Arabia."

Abu Daoud says: wow, this article by Gingrich is chock-full (sp?) of useful information. I recommend a complete reading of it. Hat tip to what has become one of my favorite blogs about KSA (The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), Wahaudi.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

How to use worship to evangelize

Tips from Lausanne World Pulse:

Tim Keller suggests three “practical tasks”5 which can help us in providing an accepted and meaningful worship for unbelievers.

First, get unbelievers into worship. In many psalms, we encounter the repeated message for the pagan nations to join the people of God in rendering homage to YHWH (Psalms 2:10-12; 22:27-28; 47:1-9; 57:7-11; 66:1-4, 8-9; 67:1-6; 68:32-34; 72:16-19; 86:8-10; 96:1-13; 98:4-9; 99:1-4; 100:1-5; 111:1-4; 117:1-2). With such a renewed message, it is unavoidable for the Christian worship to involve those who are far away from Christ. A worship which includes believers only and closes the door for others will prevent these very believers from inviting their families, neighbors and friends to attend the church. Therefore, it is the role of the pastor to put in his or her mind while planning the worship that some unbelievers will be present the next Sunday. He or she must then ask the question, “How would I communicate with them?”

Second, make worship comprehensible to unbelievers. Through avoiding unnecessary theological or evangelical cultural jargon, explaining the service as the preacher goes along, directly addressing and welcoming outsiders, using aesthetics, celebrating deeds of mercy and justice, presenting the sacraments in a way that makes the gospel clear and preaching grace, the worship conductor makes the worship more tangible and comprehensible to unbelievers.

Third, lead unbelievers to a commitment. This would come in one of two ways:

During the service. As the Lord’s Supper is distributed, the nonbeliever can be encouraged not to take the elements, but rather to take Christ himself as savior. The next time the Eucharist if offered, he or she can participate. Another solution is to have a “prayer of belief” after the sermon. This prayer can be conducted by the pastor to help the unbeliever express his or her faith reaction toward the word of God.

After meetings. This can be fulfilled through an immediate follow-up meeting with the pastor and his or her assistants. During this time, the pastor or staff can answer difficult questions and clarify obscure theological or spiritual points.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Christ as a Philosopher: Spe Salvi

Towards the end of the third century, on the sarcophagus of a child in Rome, we find for the first time, in the context of the resurrection of Lazarus, the figure of Christ as the true philosopher, holding the Gospel in one hand and the philosopher's travelling staff in the other. With his staff, he conquers death; the Gospel brings the truth that itinerant philosophers had searched for in vain. In this image, which then became a common feature of sarcophagus art for a long time, we see clearly what both educated and simple people found in Christ: he tells us who man truly is and what a man must do in order to be truly human. He shows us the way, and this way is the truth. He himself is both the way and the truth, and therefore he is also the life which all of us are seeking. He also shows us the way beyond death; only someone able to do this is a true teacher of life

I love his reference to the early church, which is here even pre-Constantinian, which is important for all those folks who think (incorrectly) that COnstantine somehow corrupted the church when he made Christianty the religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th C.

I also love the mention of Christ as a philosopher. This is a great encyclical. I think he honestly grapples with the world today.

And finally, his story of Bakhita who believed in Jesus, who was a slave-woman from Sudan--am I the only one who noticed that she was quite possibly Muslim by birth? I mean, she could have been animist, but she could have been Muslim as well (I will check into this, btw).

I am not finished with the entire encyclical yet, but what I have read (including the discussion of Luther's interpretation of Hebrews 11:1) I really like.

This is a very intelligent encyclical, and quite edifying for this Christian who happens to not be Roman Catholic.

Teddy-bear Jihad

No doubt Allah is profoundly insulted by this teddy bear...or as they say in the Londonistan, "Whoever insults the Prophet must be beheaded."

Anyway, I'm sure you have all heard about this before, but The Economist has the best treatment of the story I have seen so far.

No Picnic: a teddy bear row in Sudan

In more elevated western circles, it is becoming commoner to hear the view that Islam itself (rather than any extremist interpretations of the faith) is posing a challenge to western values that must be resisted.

Bishop of Rome's new letter: Spe Salvi

Well, the good old bishop of Rome, the servant of the servants of God (that is actually one of his official titles, btw), has come out with a new encyclical, Spe Salvi. Have not read it yet but hope to do so fairly soon. Will let you know what I think.

For now, here is the hyperlink:

Spe Salvi