Friday, February 29, 2008

New Blog: Vagante Priest

Welcome to the Blogosphere, Fr Greg, sometimes reader and commenter here at Islam and Christianity. His new blog is:

VagantePriest


Check it out!

Muslim Accommodations Task Force, coming to you soon!

Muslim students at Australian universities have demanded that class schedules be changed to work around their prayer times, and that male and female students be provided with separate cafeterias and recreational areas.
This is in line with similar initiatives in the United States, where the Muslim Students Association carries, on the “Muslim Accommodations Task Force” page of its website, pdfs of pamphlets entitled “How to Achieve Islamic Holidays on Campus,” “How to Establish a Prayer Room on Campus,” and “How to Achieve Halal Food on Campus.”

The MSA directs Muslim students to present these demands in the context of multiculturalism and civil rights. “Most campuses,” explains the publication on getting recognition of Islamic holy “include respecting diversity as a part of their mission statement. They consider enrollment of diverse students an asset to the community, as they enhance the classroom learning experience and enrich student life. Try to find these statements specific to your campus, and explain that recognition of Islamic holidays would serve as a practical example of upholding these ideals.”

Such recognition would also serve to right wrongs done to Muslims on campus: “If any cases of bias against Muslims took place on campus in the recent past, present the proposal as an opportunity to foster cooperation and increase understanding.” It would be a simple matter of civil rights: “Additionally, if special holiday recognition is being offered to other faith communities (Jewish, Catholic, Protestant), Muslims have strong grounds to make a petition for equal consideration of their holiday requirements.”


From HERE

The Didache: deacons and bishops

One of the most contentious issues, and important issues, surrounding early church history, is regarding how the church is organized. Some of the Pauline writings and the Didache both seem to lump the offices of elder/presbyter and overseer/bishop together. Yet by the time of Ignatius of Antioch (early 2nd C.) we have a very clear differentiation between the offices of the elder/presbyter and the overseer/bishop.

The main question then, as far as I can see, is this: when the Didache talks of "apostles" is it referring to the actual Twelve and Paul? If this is the case then it would be reasonable to view them as the main authorities in the church. On the other hand if it using the word apostle in the way we today use the word missionary (as in Ephesians 6), then we have what appears to be a non-monarchial form of government. These questions are also related to dating the Didache.

Chapter 15.—Bishops and Deacons; Christian Reproof

1. Appoint, therefore, for yourselves, bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord, men meek, and not lovers of money, 1 Timothy 3:4 and truthful and proved; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers. 2. Despise them not therefore, for they are your honoured ones, together with the prophets and teachers. 3. And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the Gospel; Matthew 18:15-17 but to every one that acts amiss against another, let no one speak, nor let him hear anything from you until he repent. 4. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the Gospel of our Lord.

Erik Twist: Why Catholic? part 2

Why Catholic? part 2

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obsession, anyone seen this movie?


Trailer looks interesting. Has anyone seen this? I'd be interested in knowing what you thought.

Obsession: Radical Islam's War against the West

Didache 9: a liturgical church

Here we see that very early in the Christian church (possibly before the some books of the NT came into their final forms--as we have them today) it was customary for pre-composed formulae to be used during various parts of the worship. We see here that the eucharist (thanksgiving) was celebrated weekly, unlike the practice of many evangelical and charismatic churches today.

Also notice: here the wine is taken first, and then the bread. Also: the 'words of institution' are not included. I am speaking about the narrative from Matthew where we read about the Last Supper. Finally: communion, as then and is now, must only be for those who have been baptized.

Very interesting material:

Didache Chapter 9.—The Thanksgiving (Eucharist)


1. Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. 2. First, concerning the cup: We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David Your servant, which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. 3. And concerning the broken bread : We thank You, our Father, for the life and knowledge which You made known to us through Jesus Your Servant; to You be the glory for ever. 4. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Your kingdom; for Yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever. 5. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord has said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs.

Didache: say the Our Father thrice daily

This shows that by the end of the 1st C. or early in the 2nd C. Christians were being taught to RECITE the Our Father. This is important because evangelicals generally speaking do not like to recite anything, even the Lord's Prayer. (This chapter also teaches Christians to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays of every week, by the way.)

Didache 8:2, 3:

2. Neither pray as the hypocrites; but as the Lord commanded in His Gospel, thus pray: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us today our daily (needful) bread, and forgive us our debt as we also forgive our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (or, evil); for Yours is the power and the glory for ever. 3. Thrice in the day thus pray.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Baptism in the Didache

The Didache is a very early Christian document. It is dated early 2nd C. by most scholars, though some date it as early as 70 AD:

Chapter 7. Concerning Baptism

1. And concerning baptism, thus baptize ye: Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. 2. But if you have not living water, baptize into other water; and if you can not in cold, in warm. 3. But if you have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. 4. But before the baptism let the baptizer fast, and the baptized, and whatever others can; but you shall order the baptized to fast one or two days before.

Erik Twist: Why Catholic? part I

My good friend Erik over at Of Priests and Paramedics has (finally) posted the first part on his series explaining why he (and his family) decided to enter into full communion with Rome. (You all might know that I don't like calling this 'conversion' because that term should be reserved for changing religions entirely.)

Here is the link, please give it a good read.

Why Catholic?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Part XVII: Intro to the Shari'a (Sharia, Shari'ah, Shariah)

Part XVII: Intro to the Shari’a
by Abu Daoud

During a recent five-month sojourn in the West I had the opportunity to do a good amount of teaching on Islam, and there was one question that people kept asking: what exactly is the shari’a? Where does it come from? These are the questions I want to tackle in this paper:

Generally one hears the word shari’a translated as “law” but that’s not quite right. It would be more like the Jewish understanding of Torah in fact. It does contain positive laws (thou must) and negative law (thou shalt not), but it also has a whole series of other classifications, including things that are recommended but not mandatory (certain prayers, for example) and things that are frowned upon but not forbidden (smoking, entering churches). There are also categories for things that are neutral, and a category for things upon which there is no judgment.

The shari’a then is like law with a whole body of advice thrown in for good measure. Moreover it is not mutable. While there are several schools of shari’a its origin is divine and thus the shari’a is immutable like God. For example, its provisions about slavery, stoning adulterers, slaying the one who offends the Prophet, the inferiority of Christians and Jews under Muslims, or the permanent injunction to wage jihad—none of these things can be repealed or changed.

Furthermore the shari’a touches on every single aspect of life. It is not then a “law” in the Western understanding of law, which is established to protect social order and freedom (or what have you). Some of the aspects of it make sense to the human mind, but ultimately its nature is not like ours and our obligation is not to understand it but simply to obey it. It is not meant for Muslims alone, but for all of humanity, and indeed it is the vision of Islam and the purpose of jihad to make the world submit to the shari’a of God. So there really is a cosmic dimension to this concept. Much of the shari’a simply stands beyond understanding.

The source of the shari’a is revelation. In Islam revelation takes two forms: the Qur’an and the sunna. The Qur’an does contain rules about things like divorce, inheritance, the value of certain witnesses, the division of the spoils of jihad, gambling, alcohol, and so on. But much is left unanswered, which is where the second source becomes so important: it is found in the collection of sayings and deeds of the Prophet and his companions. These deeds and sayings are individually called “hadith” and the plural in Arabic is “ahadith.” After Muhammad had died and Islam was growing quickly several Muslim scholars went about collecting these ahadith, and it become important to form a chain of witnesses from the present to Muhammad, so they will often start, “Ahmad heard from Yusef, who heard from Yaqub, who heard from Omar, that the Prophet used to eat dates on the morning” or something like that. Some of most important collections of ahadith are those done by Al Bukhari, Abu Dawood, and Muslim, but there are many others.

Since the Prophet was the perfect man or ideal man, it followed that even his words and way of being (sunna) were in themselves a form of revelation regarding Allah’s will for humanity. So this is the second form of revelation that forms the bedrock of the shari’a.

Through centuries of Islamic jurisprudence, Quranic interpretation (ijtihad), and the use of analogy, the shari’a finally reached a form around the 13th Century (some say earlier) where it basically was considered to be complete in that it had all the resources needed to make judgments on any topic. Thus further revision via new interpretations of Revelation (Qur’an and the sunna) were no longer permitted or needed.

In conclusion the shari’a is Allah’s will for all of humanity revealed in the Qur’an and the way of life (sunna) of Muhammad. It is complete and immutable and has been so for many centuries. The society that abides by the shari’a will be prosperous, just, and powerful. It is the will of Allah that the whole of humanity be made to submit to the shari’a.

HUGE NEWS: Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts

Wow, things are happening these days! First the stufff about those ancient texts from Yemen that they are working on in Germany. Now this. This is news. It is exciting. God bless them. Maybe I was wrong, maybe Islam can modernize and be reformed...Alhamdulillah!

Turkey in radical revision of Islamic texts


Turkey is preparing to publish a document that represents a revolutionary reinterpretation of Islam - and a controversial and radical modernisation of the religion.

The country's powerful Department of Religious Affairs has commissioned a team of theologians at Ankara University to carry out a fundamental revision of the Hadith, the second most sacred text in Islam after the Koran.

The Hadith is a collection of thousands of sayings reputed to come from the Prophet Muhammad.

As such, it is the principal guide for Muslims in interpreting the Koran and the source of the vast majority of Islamic law, or Sharia.

But the Turkish state has come to see the Hadith as having an often negative influence on a society it is in a hurry to modernise, and believes it responsible for obscuring the original values of Islam.

It says that a significant number of the sayings were never uttered by Muhammad, and even some that were need now to be reinterpreted.

'Reformation'

Commentators say the very theology of Islam is being reinterpreted in order to effect a radical renewal of the religion.

Its supporters say the spirit of logic and reason inherent in Islam at its foundation 1,400 years ago are being rediscovered. Some believe it could represent the beginning of a reformation in the religion.

Turkish officials have been reticent about the revision of the Hadith until now, aware of the controversy it is likely to cause among traditionalist Muslims, but they have spoken to the BBC about the project, and their ambitious aims for it.

The forensic examination of the Hadiths has taken place in Ankara University's School of Theology.

An adviser to the project, Felix Koerner, says some of the sayings - also known individually as "hadiths" - can be shown to have been invented hundreds of years after the Prophet Muhammad died, to serve the purposes of contemporary society.

"Unfortunately you can even justify through alleged hadiths, the Muslim - or pseudo-Muslim - practice of female genital mutilation," he says.

"You can find messages which say 'that is what the Prophet ordered us to do'. But you can show historically how they came into being, as influences from other cultures, that were then projected onto Islamic tradition."

The argument is that Islamic tradition has been gradually hijacked by various - often conservative - cultures, seeking to use the religion for various forms of social control.

Leaders of the Hadith project say successive generations have embellished the text, attributing their political aims to the Prophet Muhammad himself.

Revolutionary

Turkey is intent on sweeping away that "cultural baggage" and returning to a form of Islam it claims accords with its original values and those of the Prophet.

But this is where the revolutionary nature of the work becomes apparent. Even some sayings accepted as being genuinely spoken by Muhammad have been altered and reinterpreted.

Prof Mehmet Gormez, a senior official in the Department of Religious Affairs and an expert on the Hadith, gives a telling example.

"There are some messages that ban women from travelling for three days or more without their husband's permission and they are genuine.

"But this isn't a religious ban. It came about because in the Prophet's time it simply wasn't safe for a woman to travel alone like that. But as time has passed, people have made permanent what was only supposed to be a temporary ban for safety reasons."

The project justifies such bold interference in the 1,400-year-old content of the Hadith by rigorous academic research.

Prof Gormez points out that in another speech, the Prophet said "he longed for the day when a woman might travel long distances alone".

So, he argues, it is clear what the Prophet's goal was.

Original spirit

Yet, until now, the ban has remained in the text, and helps to restrict the free movement of some Muslim women to this day.

As part of its aggressive programme of renewal, Turkey has given theological training to 450 women, and appointed them as senior imams called "vaizes".

They have been given the task of explaining the original spirit of Islam to remote communities in Turkey's vast interior.

One of the women, Hulya Koc, looked out over a sea of headscarves at a town meeting in central Turkey and told the women of the equality, justice and human rights guaranteed by an accurate interpretation of the Koran - one guided and confirmed by the revised Hadith.

She says that, at the moment, Islam is being widely used to justify the violent suppression of women.

"There are honour killings," she explains.

"We hear that some women are being killed when they marry the wrong person or run away with someone they love.

"There's also violence against women within families, including sexual harassment by uncles and others. This does not exist in Islam... we have to explain that to them."

'New Islam'

According to Fadi Hakura, an expert on Turkey from Chatham House in London, Turkey is doing nothing less than recreating Islam - changing it from a religion whose rules must be obeyed, to one designed to serve the needs of people in a modern secular democracy.

He says that to achieve it, the state is fashioning a new Islam.

"This is kind of akin to the Christian Reformation," he says.

"Not exactly the same, but if you think, it's changing the theological foundations of [the] religion. "

Fadi Hakura believes that until now secularist Turkey has been intent on creating a new politics for Islam.

Now, he says, "they are trying to fashion a new Islam."

Significantly, the "Ankara School" of theologians working on the new Hadith have been using Western critical techniques and philosophy.

They have also taken an even bolder step - rejecting a long-established rule of Muslim scholars that later (and often more conservative) texts override earlier ones.

"You have to see them as a whole," says Fadi Hakura.

"You can't say, for example, that the verses of violence override the verses of peace. This is used a lot in the Middle East, this kind of ideology.

"I cannot impress enough how fundamental [this change] is."

Saint Clement of Rome on justification

Clement of Rome (AD 30-100) was a personal friend of Paul's and is thought to be, after Peter, Linus, and Cletus, the fourth bishop of the Roman church (what would later be called the Pope).

He is, to my knowledge, the earliest of the Church Fathers whose writing still exists. This is a challenge to Muslims who find in the New Testament many spurious doctrines that they claim have been corrupted from the original injiil which Jesus son of Mary ('Issa bin Maryam) received from Allah. The probable date of this letter is around 97 AD, though some put it earlier. That means it was completed in the same decade as the Gospel according to St John.

Here is a brief section on justification by faith in this very early work, which was read widely in the ancient churches. This is from his letter, written on behalf of his church in Rome to the church in Corinth.

All these [OT figures], therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


1 Clement 32

How they used to get bishops

From HERE:

February 26, 2008
St. Porphyry of Gaza
(353-421)

We go far back in history today to learn a bit about a saint whose name is not familiar to most of us in the West but who is celebrated by the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches.

Born near Greece in the mid-fourth century, Porphry is most known for his generosity to the poor and for his ascetic lifestyle. Deserts and caves were his home for a time. At age 40, living in Jerusalem, Porphyry was ordained a priest.

If the accounts we have are correct, he was elected bishop of Gaza—without his knowledge and against his will. He was, in effect, kidnapped (with the help of a neighboring bishop, by the way) and forcibly consecrated bishop by the members of the small Christian community there. No sooner had Porphyry been consecrated bishop then he was accused by the local pagans of causing a drought. When rains came shortly afterward, the pagans gave credit to Porphyry and the Christian population and tensions subsided for a time.

For the next 13 years, Porphyry worked tirelessly for his people, instructed them and made many converts, though pagan opposition continued throughout his life. He died in the year 421.

Sudanese Impressions

Some recent travelers to Sudan talk about their time in Khartoum, it's not a long read:

[...]First of all, Sudan is the first country we have visited that is not really a tourist destination. A lot of people, for instance, dream of visiting Egypt or Morocco--and even Jordan--but never have we heard anyone speak of a yearning to visit Sudan. We like to do a little bit of basic research before going anywhere, but there is no "Lonely Planet" Sudan travel guidebook, and surprisingly the Internet doesn't provide much information either. Even finding a map of Sudan--when we were in Sudan--was difficult. That Sudan is not a travel hot spot--and that the government doesn't seem to care that it isn't--in itself made our trip different from others we have taken.[...]

Read it all at Mishmish.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Night Journey of Muhammad (AKA al isra, al miraj)

Muhammad’s famous Night Journey (Isra and Miraj) is the basis of the Islamic claim to Jerusalem as an Islamic holy city. The only thing the Qur’an has to say about it is this the first verse of sura 17, which says that Allah took Muhammad from “the Sacred Mosque” in Mecca “to the farthest [al-aqsa] Mosque.” There was no mosque in Jerusalem at this time, so the “farthest” mosque probably wasn’t really the one that now bears that name in Jerusalem, but Islamic tradition is firm that this mosque is in Jerusalem.

Muhammad’s vision of this journey was as dramatic as his initial encounter with Gabriel. According to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad described the vision to one of the Muslims as beginning “while I was lying in Al-Hatim or Al-Hijr,” that is, an area in Mecca opposite the Ka’bah, identified by Islamic tradition as the burial place of Hagar and Ishmael, when “Gabriel came and stirred me with his foot.” Soon after that “someone came to me and cut my body open from here to here” – and he gestured from his throat to his pubic area. The one who had come to him, Muhammad continued, “then took out my heart. Then a golden tray full of Belief was brought to me and my heart was washed and was filled (with Belief) and then returned to its original place. Then a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey was brought to me.” This was the Buraq, which Muhammad further described as “an animal white and long, larger than a donkey but smaller than a mule, who would place his hoof a distance equal to the range of vision.” It was, he said, “half mule, half donkey, with wings on its sides with which it propelled its feet.”

“When I came up to mount him,” Muhammad reported according to Ibn Ishaq, “he shied. Gabriel placed his hand on its mane and said, ‘Are you not ashamed, a Buraq, to behave in this way? By God, none more honorable before God than Muhammad has ever ridden you before.’ The animal was so ashamed that he broke out into a sweat and stood still so that I could mount him.”

They went to the Temple Mount, and from there to heaven itself. According to a hadith, Muhammad explained: “I was carried on it, and Gabriel set out with me till we reached the nearest heaven. When he asked for the gate to be opened, it was asked, ‘Who is it?’ Gabriel answered, ‘Gabriel.’ It was asked, ‘Who is accompanying you?’ Gabriel replied, ‘Muhammad.’ It was asked, ‘Has Muhammad been called?’ Gabriel replied in the affirmative. Then it was said, ‘He is welcomed. What an excellent visit his is!’”

Muhammad entered the first heaven, where he encountered Adam. Gabriel prods Muhammad: “This is your father, Adam; pay him your greetings.” The Prophet of Islam duly greets the first man, who responds, “You are welcome, O pious son and pious Prophet.” Gabriel then carries Muhammad to the second heaven, where the scene at the gate is reenacted, and once inside, John the Baptist and Jesus greet him: “You are welcome, O pious brother and pious Prophet.” In the third heaven, Joseph greets him in the same words, and Muhammad and Gabriel go on, greeted by other prophets at other levels of heaven. [...]


Surely you want to know how the story ends! Read it all HERE.

Where art thou, O moderate Islam?

From HERE:

That Proper Interpretation of Islam which will allow for Muslims to coexist peacefully with non-Muslims as equals on an indefinite basis, without implementing any endeavor to impose Sharia, continues to be the great unicorn in which everyone believes but no one has actually seen.

It would be great for the Pakistani authorities to reform the madrassas. But what will be taught in the reformed madrassas? How will the reformed madrassas counter the jihadist claim to represent the pure, true teachings of Islam? If such a counter to that claim is readily available, why do the condemnations of terrorism by American Muslim advocacy groups continue to be so vague and hollow?

Everyone believes in this Proper Interpretation of Islam that is peaceful and tolerant -- why then is it so hard for Muslims actually to point to it and explain its contents in contradistinction to the Islamic arguments of the jihadists?

Perhaps in reply someone will trot out the soothing theories of some Western academic, the latest from Akbar Ahmed or Khaled Abou El Fadl or Reza Aslan or the moderate du jour. These are, however, in the final analysis, just that: theories. Where is the mainstream Islamic theological construct that abjures Islamic supremacism? The peaceful Muslims of the world, who exist in huge numbers, are the products of cultural and political factors, not of theological reform of Islam's jihad doctrines. Consequently the exponents of such doctrines can always portray themselves as the exponents of the full, and true, and pure practice of Islam. [...]

Saint Francis Magazine

Very excellent resource for missions and religious news:

Saint Francis Magazine

Please read it on a regular basis.

30,000 Hits for Islam and Christianity

I guess it's a big number, for a little blog run by one guy. But I have to tell you all that a lot of those hits are from people looking for pictures of the Maldives :-)

But you know, ma sha' Allah, as they say--as God wills...

The Anglican Church in Egypt

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Pilgrims and...Beer?

From Pilgrims Pub:

"During the voyage of the Mayflower, the cooper who guarded the Pilgrims' casks of beer and pipes of gin and brandy was the famous John Alden. The supply was of no small importance to the Pilgrims. When the Puritans set sail, they were well freighted with astounding amounts of alcohol. In the hold of skip, the Arabella, which hit the seas for America in 1630, sloshed some 42 tuns of beer, 10,000 gallons of wine, and, "almost as an afterthought , fourteen tuns of fresh water," A tun of beer was a wooden barrel-like vessel and was also a unit of measurement, equal to about 252 gallons. Also aboard there were 120 hogshead of malt for brewing, since a hogshead is between 63 and 140 gallons, we are talking about 7,560 gallons at minimum. And note: This was just the official supply-most families brought their own backup barrels."

More protests about Muhammad cartoons

So yeah, more protests. And they want Pakistan to break off diplomatic ties with Denmark. Guess who that's going to hurt more. Oh yeah, and why are they burning US flags? Did they have som leftovers from the last protest? I'm just not sure how these things work :-(

But here's the link:

Pakistani cartoon protesters burn Danish, US flags


KARACHI - Hundreds of angry Muslim youths rallied in major cities in Pakistan on Friday and torched Danish flags to protest against the recent republication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).

Witnesses said about 150 supporters of fundamentalist party Jamaat-i-Islami gathered outside a mosque in the port city of Karachi, flying banners demanding Pakistan sever diplomatic ties with Denmark.

“We don’t need to have diplomatic relations with a country that hurts our religious sentiments,” the banners read, as demonstrators burned Danish and US flags and chanted: “Death to the cartoonist.”

In the capital Islamabad, cries of “Say no to Denmark” rang out as about 300 students from colleges and Islamic schools crowded outside the city’s biggest mosque, witnesses said.

They burned an effigy of the Danish cartoonist amid chants of ”Crush Denmark” and “We love our Prophet.”

Up to 200 religious studies students held similar rallies in the central city of Multan.

Protest leaders vowed to continue their demonstrations.

“We are observing this protest across the country today and we would not avoid sacrificing our lives for this sacred cause,” said Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, one of the demonstrators.

To Muslims, such drawings are blasphemous since Islam prohibits any images of the prophet.

Pakistan on Tuesday summoned the Danish envoy in Islamabad to lodge a “strong protest” over republication of the cartoons in Denmark.

The pictures originally appeared in September 2005, sparking anger and protests across the Muslim world. Five people died in Pakistan in February 2006 during violent protests against the cartoons.

At least 17 Danish dailies reprinted a drawing earlier this month, vowing to defend freedom of expression a day after police in Denmark foiled a plot to murder the cartoonist.

Protests swiftly broke out across Pakistan, with hundreds of youths gathering in major cities on February 15 burning effigies of the Danish prime minister.

Hardliners are also unhappy with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s close ties with the US.


For those of you who never read it, here is the link to my article Cartoons and Riots which I wrote back in the day when this first was an issue.

Shaking hands with women forbidden by shari'a

This will soon be the law in the UK if Archbishop/Mufti Williams gets his way :-)
But anyway, here is the hadiith:

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “If one of you were to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle, that would be better for him than his touching a woman who is not permissible for him.” Narrated by al-Tabaraani from Ma’qil ibn Yasaar; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Jaami’ no. 5045.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Egypt 'monitoring attacks on Islam ahead of Dutch TV film'

From AFP:

CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt on Friday deplored what it called gratuitous attacks on Islam and said it was closely monitoring plans by a Dutch filmmaker to release an anti-Koran film.

"It is regrethttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.giftable that European lawmakers and politicians use gratuitous methods to gain electoral votes by attacking the sacred values and religions of others," foreign ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement.

Dutch far-right deputy Geert Wilders has said he will be airing on television in the Netherlands in March a controversial anti-Islam film called "Fitna" (Ordeal), which accuses the Koran of inciting people to murder.

Such politicians, Zaki said in reference to Wilders, "focus their hatred on Islam" and plan to broadcast a film undermining Islamic symbols.

These acts "feed hatred against Muslims and encourage extremism and confrontation instead of opting for dialogue based on mutual respect," Zaki said.

Egypt is monitoring the situation "very closely," he added, but also noted the "comprehension" of the Dutch authorities over Cairo's concerns.

Wilders said in November that the film will show his view that the Koran is "a horrible and fascist book" that inspires people to commit "awful acts."

"I hope that it will open people's eyes to the fact that the Koran should be banned like 'Mein Kampf'" by Adolf Hitler, he told the Dutch news agency ANP.

This month Egypt banned the sale of four European newspapers for printing pictures deemed offensive to Islam and summoned the ambassador of Denmark, where the press published cartoons that have enraged the Muslim world.

At least 17 Danish newspapers republished a controversial cartoon earlier this month, featuring the Prophet Mohammed wearing a turban that looked like a bomb with a lit fuse.

The cartoon was one of 12 drawings first published in September 2005 by the Danish Jyllands-Posten newspaper that sparked bloody riots across the Islamic world.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Raymund Llull: First Missionary to the Moslems

The entire text to this book which I just quoted is available online. It is a quick read and very well-written. Very engaging book really. Lull is an awe-inspiring individual. Certainly one of my greatest heroes--now more than ever.

And did I mention it was written by Samuel Zwemer? Himself a father of Protestant missions to Muslims?!

Raymund Lull: First Missionary to the Moslems

Raymund Lull (Ramon Lully): Tears and Blood

I see many knights going to the Holy Land beyond the seas and thinking that they can acquire it by force of arms; but in the end all are destroyed before they attain that which they think to have. Whence it seems to me that the conquest of the Holy Land ought not to be attempted except in the way in which Thou and Thine apostles acquired it, namely, by love and prayers, and the pouring out of tears and blood.

Blessed Raymund Lull (Ramon Lully)

Qtd. in Zwemer, Samuel M. 1902. Raymund Lull: The First Missionary to the Moslems. London: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

P. 52-53

Missio Dei: the sending of God

From the font of all knowledge, Wikipedia:

Missio Dei is a Latin theological term that can be translated as the "sending of God." Mission is understood as being derived from the very nature of God. The missionary initiative comes from God alone.

In 1934, Karl Hartenstein, a German missiologist, coined the phrase in response to Karl Barth and his emphasis on actio Dei (Latin for “the action of God”).

When kept in the context of the Scriptures, missio Dei correctly emphasizes that God is the initiator of His mission to redeem through the Church a special people for Himself from all of the peoples (τα εθνη) of the world. He sent His Son for this purpose and He sends the Church into the world with the message of the gospel for the same purpose.[1]


Mission is not primarily an activity of the church, but an attribute of God. God is a missionary God. "It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world; it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church."[2] There is church because there is mission, not vice versa. The Church must not think its role is identical to the missio Dei; the Church is participating in the mission of God. The church's mission is a subset of a larger whole mission. That is, it is part of God's mission to the world and not the entirety of God's work in the world. [...]

The Taj Mahal: Islamic Architecture...sorta

The great Taj was built by Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal Emperor, in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It was completed in 1648 after 200,000 man-years of labor. Koranic verses adorn the four exactly symmetric entrances and appear to remain of constant size even as they recede from the observer. The minarets tilt slightly away from the main structure so as to fall outward in the event of earthquake. Pretty clever!

It seems that Shah Jahan had actually begun construction on a second Taj exactly opposite the first on the far bank of the Jamuna river. It was to be built entirely from black marble in order to compliment the first, made entirely of white. But his son managed to throw the old man into prison before he could truly break the bank. Still, that would have been something.

Interestingly, Shah Jahan was something of a religious syncretist, who incorporated Hindu, Jewish, Zoroastrian, and Christian themes into the otherwise distinctively Islamic edifice. According to our Muslim guide (I think I did detect a raised eyebrow when I produced my sign), he wanted to found a new religion based on the belief that all religions lead to God. Shocking as our readers will find it, his idea went exactly nowhere. Yet his magnificent accomplishment remains: another great achievement wrought -- as has so often been the case in the course of Islamic history -- by a heretic.


From HERE.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Islamization of Europe continues apace

It’s well-known, and widely (if quietly) lamented, that birthrates among Islamic immigrants and their children are vastly higher throughout Europe than those of native peoples. I’ve read at least one prediction that France will have an Islamic majority within 50 years—assuming the Moslems’ stern desert creed proves resistant to our contraceptive culture. (Hard to know who to root for there....) Indeed, Eurocrats openly advocate the mass importation of (still more!) young and fertile immigrants from the Middle East, the better to fund the cozy retirements which the dying peoples of Europe voted themselves after World War II. It’s hard to imagine a more perverted scheme for keeping oneself in office, than to sell your motherland into the seraglio, to auction it off piece by piece to an intolerant, alien civilization. It’s as if members of the Byzantine government in the 15th century were to gradually dismantle the walls protecting the city, to use the stones for Roman baths. As Burke once said, “People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.”

BrusselsJournal.com

News from Yemen

Bad news from Yemen these days:

Oil production is down, a third of the government budget goes to fuel subsidies, and some people are complaining that the Saudis are exporting Wahabi/Salafi Islam to Yemen.

Read more at the most excellent Yemen blog in the net: www.armiesofliberation.com.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How did the Albanians become Muslims?

The newest nation, Kosovo, is ethnically speaking Albanian. Though Albania itself is a sovereign nation of its own, which borders Kosovo.

Albanians are largely Muslim. How did that happen? you ask:

The Albanians are a genuine nation. Their national symbol derives from a seal of their national hero George Kastrioti, alias “Skanderbeg.” He led an independent Albania from 1443 until his death in 1468. After having served in the Turkish Ottoman army, Skanderbeg rebelled in 1443. He choose a Roman/Byzantine eagle as his standard, abjured his Muslim faith and liberated the Roman-Catholic Albanians, thereby halting the advance of Islam into Christian Europe. Ten years after his death, in 1478, Albania was conquered by the Turks who ruled it until 1912 and imposed Islam. Over 400 years of Ottoman rule resulted in a nation that has a 70% Muslim majority, though it proudly displays the Roman eagle and has Skanderbeg, a Muslim apostate and a defender of Christianity, as its national hero. Such are the ironies of history.

The province of Kosovo lies to the northeast of Albania. It, too, was originally inhabited by Illyrians but by 850 it had become the heartland of the Slavic Serbs. In the 14th century it fell to the Ottomans. The Turkish occupation imposed Islam and brought in Muslim Albanians. When the province was reunited with Serbia in 1912, the Muslim Albanians had already begun to replace the Christian (Orthodox) Serbs as the predominant people in the province. Today, owing to their demographic growth, 90% of Kosovo is Muslim and Albanian.


From HERE.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Church in the USA: winners and losers

Which churches are the country's largest?
by Julian Duin

It's always intriguing to see which churches have grown and which denominations have faded in the past year. According to the 2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches (a Bible of sorts for us religion writers), the fastest-growing religious body in 2007 was the Jehovah's Witnesses at 2.25 percent.


Following them were the Mormons at 1.56 percent and the Roman Catholics at .87 percent. Compare this to last year's states that had the Catholics out front at 1.94 percent, followed by the Assemblies of God at 1.86 and the Mormons at 1.63.


The denomination with the biggest decrease is the Episcopalians at 4.15 percent.
There are all sorts of arguments why some of these figures on the list below are bogus. For instance, several of the historic black churches with the "no increase or decrease listed" after their name do not release statistics at all. So the membership figure after their name is a guess at best. Plus churches' standards for membership are different. Baptist groups tend to count only those who have made an adult profession of faith. More liturgical churches include any child that has been baptized.


Still, the majority of church groups on this list are not growing. Of the top three churches [Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists and United Methodists], the Methodists are losing members.


There are some surprises here. The Lutheran Church/Missouri Synod decreased by .94 percent. I thought all conservative churches were growing. Ditto for the two Orthodox bodies listed here that are also losing members.


And there are more members of the Assemblies of God than Episcopalians. Guess which of the two gets more news coverage.


Here are the top 25:


1. The Roman Catholic Church, 67,515,016 members, an increase of .87 percent.
2. Southern Baptist Convention, 16,306,246 members, an increase of .22 percent.
3. The United Methodist Church, 7,995,456 members, a decrease of .99 percent.
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5,779,316 members, an increase of 1.56 percent.
5. The Church of God in Christ, 5,499,875 members, no increase or decrease reported.
6. National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc., 5,000,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
7. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,774,203 members, a decrease of 1.58 percent.
8. National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., 3,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
9. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 3,025,740 members, a decrease of 2.36 percent.
10. Assemblies of God, 2,836,174 members, an increase of .19 percent.
11. African Methodist Episcopal Church, 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
11. National Missionary Baptist Convention of America, 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
11. Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., 2,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
14. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), 2,417,997 members, a decrease of .94 percent.
15. Episcopal Church, 2,154,572 members, a decrease of 4.15 percent.
16. Churches of Christ, 1,639,495 members, no increase or decrease reported.
17. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
17. Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, Inc., 1,500,000 members, no increase or decrease reported.
19. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,443,405 members, an increase of .21 percent.
20. American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., 1,371,278 members, a decrease of 1.82 percent.
21. United Church of Christ, 1,218,541 members, a decrease of 0.47 percent.
22. Baptist Bible Fellowship International, 1,200,000, no increase or decrease reported.
23. Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, 1,071,616 members, no increase or decrease reported.
24. The Orthodox Church in America, 1,064,000, no increase or decrease reported.
25. Jehovah's Witnesses, 1,069,530 members, an increase of 2.25 percent.

Hating Islam but not hating Muslims?

A politician recently said that he hates Islam, but does not hate Muslims. But this article from Arab News, which is overall well-written if not logically rigorous, is a rejoinder to that. I give you the last section, and ask for your opinion:

Is it possible to hate Islam while not hating Muslims? Or is Islam such a deep and profound element of Muslims' identity that the Muslim and his faith are the same thing?

But the Dutch politician was careful with his words. He did not say he hated Muslims, he said he hated Islam. In his view, he is merely criticizing an ideology, not attacking a people. But when I read his words I felt personally attacked. He is not criticizing my religion; he is expressing hate in the set of beliefs that makes me a Muslim. He is very clearly expressing hatred for Muslims and his affirming the contrary only makes it all the more offensive to Muslims. His words not only offend me but more importantly threaten me. I accept being offended. I do not accept being hated for what I believe in.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Shari'a and martinis

This quote is just too good to pass up, also from BrusselsJournal.com:

Archbishop R. Williams‘ position raises issues.

(1) Why should the process that facilitated Europe‘s rise by privatizing religion, be reversed?

(2) One might argue that integration presupposes acceptance by the majority. Should this be extended to include accepting a now alien and previously consciously rejected system?

If so, why should this be required, since not the English have recruited their immigrants but that it was these Moslems who asked to come. Why? Because the system whose protection they requested has worked so well. Analogously, is it my right to attend a AA meeting and demand a double martini?

Decline of Roman Empire: Decline fo Europe

Great stuff, from BrusselsJournal.com:

An Excess of Inconvenient Similarities

[...] Modern Europe has an uncanny ability to imitate those last sad stages of the Roman Empire. It does it though with such persistence and gusto that it does appear like a parody of the Roman Empire in decline. If Aristophanes was around the time when the Romans were liquidating the shop he would definitely come up with something like the Europe of today to satirize it.

“The number of ministers, of magistrates, of officers, and of servants, who filled the different departments of state, was multiplied beyond the example of former times; and (if we may borrow the warm expression of a contemporary), ‘when the proportion of those who received exceeded the proportion of those who contributed, the provinces were oppressed by the weight of tributes’”.

This is from Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Retroactively Gibbon has become the authority on modern European politics.

Gibbon on our military strength:

“But the armies of Rome, placed at a secure distance from danger, were enervated by indulgence and luxury. Habituated to the baths and theatres of Rome, they took the field with reluctance, and were chiefly composed of veterans who had almost forgotten, or of new levies who had never acquired, the use of arms and the practice of war.”

On our civilizational morale:

“We have already seen how various, how loose, and how uncertain were the religious sentiments of the Polytheists. They were abandoned, almost without control, to the natural workings of a superstitious fancy. The accidental circumstances of their life and situation determined the object as well as the degree of their devotion; and as long as their adoration was successively prostituted to a thousand deities, it was scarcely possible that their hearts could be susceptible of a very sincere or lively passion for any of them.

When Christianity appeared in the world, even these faint and imperfect impressions had lost much of their original power.”

On our taxes and demographics:

“The horrid practice, so familiar to the ancients, of exposing or murdering infants, was become every day more frequent in the provinces, and especially in Italy. It was the effect of distress; and the distress was principally occasioned by the intolerable burden of taxes, and by the vexatious as well as cruel prosecutions of the officers of revenue against their insolvent debtors.”

On our laws and public spirit:

“But the operation of the wisest law is imperfect and precarious. Their power is insufficient to prohibit all that they condemn, nor can they always punish the actions which they prohibit. The legislators of antiquity had summoned to their aid the powers of education and of opinion. But every principle which had once maintained the vigour and purity of Rome and Sparta was long since extinguished in a declining and despotic empire.”

I have only read Gibbon’s first two volumes. I dread to go on.

A new favorite: Mission to Jerusalem

Hi All,

I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading the great material appearing on Harry Gunkel's blog, Mission to Jerusalem. While I don't live there over the years I have visited the city a good number of times and it is always an enigma to me. He does a great job capturing the tension and difficulty and, yes, the beauty of living in that city.

If you don't read it often please check it out:

Mission to Jerusalem

It is worth your time.

The Bee and the mystery man

From a commentary on the 16th surah of the Quran, the Bee:

Verses 97-128 defend Muhammad and the Qur’an against some of the charges of the unbelievers, and call all people again to accept Muhammad’s message, which is the message of Abraham (v. 123), and worship Allah alone. Allah laments that whenever he abrogates a verse of his revelation and replaces it with another, the unbelievers accuse Muhammad of making it all up (v. 101). But actually Muhammad’s revelations come from the Holy Spirit (v. 102) – that is, Gabriel. The unbelievers claim that Muhammad is learning the contents of the Qur’an from a man and then passing them off as divine revelation, but the one they have in mind is a foreigner, while the Qur’an is in pure Arabic (v. 103). Ibn Kathir grants that “maybe the Messenger of Allah used to sit with him sometimes and talk to him a little, but he was a foreigner who did not know much Arabic, only enough simple phrases to answer questions when he had to.” Who was this mysterious foreigner whom the Qur’an is so anxious to diminish in importance? Some suggest Muhammad’s wife’s uncle Waraqa, who first identified him as a prophet, and who used to, according to Islamic tradition, “write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write.” Or it may have been one of Muhammad’s early companions, Salman the Persian: the Arabic word translated here as “foreign” is Ajami, which also means Persian.

Then in v. 106, in a notable departure from the Christian concept of martyrdom, Allah allows Muslims to deny their faith when under “compulsion,” as long one’s heart remains “firm in Faith.” Ibn Kathir explains: “This is an exception in the case of one who utters statements of disbelief and verbally agrees with the Mushrikin [unbelievers] because he is forced to do so by the beatings and abuse to which he is subjected, but his heart refuses to accept what he is saying, and he is, in reality, at peace with his faith in Allah and His Messenger.” This is another foundation for the idea of religious deception in Islam, which we saw in discussing 3:28.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kosovo declares independence

Well, the article is here at CNN.com:

Kosovo declares independence


But is this good news? Probably not, I think. It is quite ironic that you have the UK and the US helping to establish what will be basically a Muslim state to the detriment of the surrounding Orthodox Christian state of Serbia.

While the Albanian Kosovars are not very devout, once you have a Muslim state you have a good beginning point for shari'a. Muslims will generally fight against shari'a, even if they don't like it. Non-Muslims (excepting the Archbishop of Canterbury) will generally resist the instauration of shari'a.

It should also be understood that Kosovo is basically a state of the EU--they are providing much of the police force and government bureaucracy. It will be interesting to see where this ends up--other than the fact that Russia is really mad.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Christians targeted in Gaza

...just before dawn Friday, masked gunmen attacked the Gaza City premises of the YMCA and blew up its 8,000-volume library, according to Eissa Saba, the center's director. A second bomb was defused. A dozen gunmen overpowered two security guards and brought them to northern Gaza, where they were later released.

It was the latest attack on institutions associated with Christianity, attacks condemned by Hamas, Fatah and local nongovernmental organizations like the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. About 3,500 Christians, mostly Greek Orthodox, live in the Gaza Strip.


From IHT:

http://iht.com/articles/2008/02/15/mideast/gaza.php

Arab development, or lack thereof

Weigel again, quoting a 2002 study of Arab development: “the Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one-fifth of the number that Greece translates. The accumulative total of translated books [into Arabic] since [the ninth century] is about 100,000.’ More books are translated into Spanish in an average decade or two than have been translated into Arabic in a millennium.”

From HERE.

Iran introduces law that imposes death penalty on converts (murtaddiin)

Ah, the smell of shari'a in the morning! But Dr. Williams, the Grand Mufti of Canterbury, only wants shari'a for things related to family law. Well guess what, someone in your family leaving Islam is very much a family matter. I guess now the question for Dr. Williams is simply this: which manner of execution does he prefer? Shari'a permits stoning, crucifixion, and beheading. Which one does he like the best? (Let us note that burning a person to death is prohibited by the shari'a.)

Iran introduces law that imposes death penalty on converts

Karl Barth and "The Great Passion"


So what is Abu Daoud reading these days? you ask... Far be it from me to deprive you all of this important information!

Right now I am reading the very boring and arduous "The Great Passion" by Eberhardt Busch, which is a book about the theology of Barth. You see, I did not study theology at a university that was particularly interested in Neo-Orthodoxy, so I found it was a something of a blind spot in my education which I should fill.

I like Barth, I guess. I had read his book on evangelical theology before and I found it to be quite helpful. I especially like his theology of the Word and his understanding the Bible as the witness to the Word, which is the Word Incarnate. In other words, when we speak of the Bible as the Word of God, it is because of its status as a unique and authoritative witness to the Word Incarnate. Jesus Christ IS revelation.

I also like his reconfiguration of election as an intra-Trinitarian dynamic. The question, who is elect? is answered: the Son is the elect of the Father. I find that to be a corrective to the hyper-individualistic approach to election that one sees in five-point Calvinism. It also hi-lights the important of the church, because it provokes the question, how is one found to be "in the Son"? The answer is, we are found to be in the Son when we are in his body--the church. We are in the Son when we are built upon him--a temple of living stones built on his foundation. We are found to be in the Son when we are in his bride. This does not obliviate the obligation of the individual to make choices and decisions in life, but it does bring us back to a more Jewish and communal understanding of salvation, which I find all over the Bible, in both testaments.

Are you and I elect? If we are in his Son, then we are elect, because we are united to the one who is the elect of the Father from all eternity.

But I am having a hard time getting into his grouchiness about natural theology and his ultra-negative comments about religion. Anyway, this is what I'm reading and it's pretty slow-going. Perhaps I should consider it a Lenten discipline :-)

Shari'a, life, revolution and justice

From Muslim Brotherhood scholar Al Qaradawi:

Al-Qaradawi says that "all the rules and laws of Islam contain all that is in favour of people in this life and the hereafter." He adds: "The Islamic shari'ah serves the interests of mankind in their life and religion." He says: "Among these are the political interests. What God decreed in the political field in terms of laws is aimed at establishing the truth and justice, safeguarding dignity, and taking care of people's rights. This is why it was very strict on the issue of revolting against the ruler. By revolting here I mean armed revolt. This is because this will pave the way for sedition and indiscipline. As a result, perhaps blood might be shed, people might be killed, and houses and property might be destroyed."

Al-Qaradawi adds: "The issue is not that if anyone becomes angry at a ruler he then should brandish his sword and revolt against him. No. It is true that Islam does not accept the culture of submissiveness and humiliation by the rulers, but it is also does not accept that if anyone becomes angry at another one he then should carry out an armed revolution, especially since this will lead to instability and pave the way for interference by others and foreigners in the country's affairs." Al-Qaradawi then gives examples of revolts against rulers from the Islamic history.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Shari'a in the UK

From HERE:

[...] Witness the archbishop's insistence that he wasn't advocating the "inhumanity" of Sharia à la Saudi Arabia or Iran where adulterers are stoned and thieves have hands amputated. No, no, he told us. He was just referring to the use of Sharia to resolve marital disputes, he insisted.

But that is precisely where the "inhumanity" of Sharia lies for women. As a Muslim woman -- born in Egypt, raised in Saudi Arabia -- I can only laugh at the archbishop's naiveté. In Egypt, as in many Muslim countries, the legal system has been completely modernized with the exception of one area that stubbornly remains caught in the web of edicts issued by Muslim scholars who lived centuries ago -- family law.

Sharia is used only to govern the lives of women and children.

Sudanese-American law professor Abdullahi An-Nai'm long ago pointed out the lie at the heart of calls for Sharia: They are essentially an attempt to "protect a patriarchal system."

There are already some Sharia councils operating in Britain for Muslims who agree to abide by their rulings, but these are unofficial bodies not recognized by British law. It's not difficult to imagine women being pressured to "agree to abide" by such rulings. And it's just as easy to understand why a man would choose them over the secular legal system which would not be as tilted in his favor.

Why on earth are these religious cop-outs allowed to exist in the UK?
[...]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Missionary Saints: Cyril and Methodius

My favorite kinds of saints, it is their feast day today (Feb. 14th), in addition to being the feast day of Saint Valentine. But read up on these guys and see they great stuff they accomplished for the Kingdom of God:

[...]A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task.

Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet
, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then.

That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit.

Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release.

The Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, and Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated.

Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church.[...]


From HERE.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Europe in the House of War

(This article is so excellent that I am posting it in its entirety. Please read it all.--Abu Daoud)

Europe in the House of War
by Spengler

Violence is oozing through the cracks of European society like pus out of a broken scab. Just when liberal opinion congratulated itself that Europe had forsaken its violent past, the specter of civil violence has the continent terrified. That is the source of the uproar over a February 7 speech by Archbishop Rowan Williams, predicting the inevitable acceptance of Muslim sharia law in Great Britain.

Not since World War II has British opinion been provoked to the present level of outrage. Writing in the Times of London, the editor of the London Spectator, Matthew d'Ancona, quoted former British Conservative parliamentarian Enoch Powell's warning that concessions to alien cultures would cause "rivers of blood" to flow in the streets of England. Times columnist Minette Marin accuses the archbishop of treason.

Coercion in the Muslim communities of Europe is so commonplace that duly-constituted governments there no longer wield a monopoly of violence. Behind the law there stands the right of the state to inflict violence, and the legitimacy of states rests on what German political economist and sociologist Max Weber once called "the monopoly of violence". Once this right is conceded to private groups, the legitimacy of government crumbles. No one appreciates this more than the British, whose tradition of protecting individual rights under law is the oldest and strongest in the West, excepting the United States, which inherited English Common Law.

By proposing to concede a permanent role to extralegal violence in the political life of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury pushed his phlegmatic countrymen over the edge. No one is better than the British at pretending that problems really aren't there, but once their spiritual leader admits to an alien source of coercion and proposes to legitimize it, they understand that a limit has been reached.

Williams' exercise in what might be termed the Higher Hypocrisy shows how deeply Europe has descended into the Dar al-Harb, or the "House of War" in the Muslim terms for all that lies outside the "house of submission", or Dar al-Islam. Europe's governments refuse to rule, that is, refuse to enforce their own laws because they fear violence on the part of Muslim immigrant communities who refuse to accept these laws. "No-go" zones proliferate that non-Muslims dare not enter. In the United Kingdom, according to evidence presented by respected journalists and public-interest organizations, Muslim community organizations, Muslim police officers and medical personnel collaborate to stop women from escaping domestic violence.

The erring spiritual leader of the Church of England persuades me that Europe's Man of Destiny is the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who for two years has lived in hiding under constant police protection for the crime of criticizing Islam. It is a measure of the degradation of Europe's body politic that is only one means to expose the motives of Williams and his ilk, namely to draw fire from Muslims who overtly threaten violence against any public figure who questions the authority of Islam.

Contrary to his critics, Wilders is not provoking violence. The violence is already there, a matter of workaday fact in Muslim enclaves throughout Europe. In an act of great personal courage, Wilders is enticing violent elements out of the tall grass in order to expose them to public opprobrium.

It is triply hypocritical when Williams, the spiritual leader of the Church of England, speaks of sharia law as if it were a private matter of conscience between consenting parties, rather like the use of rabbinical courts by Orthodox Jews. First, he admits outright that Muslim communities combine to coerce women but pretends that this is not relevant to sharia. Secondly, he offers concessions to sharia in the first place to appease the threat of social violence on the part of Muslims. As a final insult to conscience, he cites as his authority on sharia Professor Tariq Ramadan, who notoriously refuses to condemn the stoning of women for adultery, precisely because Muslim legal rulings specifically endorse such violence.

There is overwhelming documentation that Muslim entities in Britain wield the threat and fact of violence against dissenters, particularly the most vulnerable, namely young women. The fact is so scandalous that in his February 7 address, Williams felt compelled to address it directly, in order to insist that the subject fell entirely outside the issue of law - a conclusion he must know to be false.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the bishop of Rochester, warned on January 7 of the spread of "no-go" zones in England that non-Muslims dare not enter. As a result, Nazir-Ali has received death threats against himself and his family and requires protection.

The British authorities will take measures to protect bishops from the threat of violence, but they leave to their own devices thousands of Muslim women. According to a February 2008 report by the Center for Social Cohesion, Islamist groups and individuals frequently link ideas of honor with the welfare of the Muslim world. By using words such as Ird and Namus in a political context, they imply that by protecting the chastity of Muslim women, the security and collective honor of Islam and Muslim states and individuals can also be defended. This politicization of women's bodies helps create an environment where the abuse and control of women is tolerated.

Muslim communities, the report documents, terrorize women who refuse arranged marriages or otherwise break with social norms:

Almost all refuges dealing with Asian women report on the existence of informal networks which exist to track down and punish - with death if necessary - women who are perceived as bringing shame on their family and community. In many cases, women fleeing domestic violence or forced marriages have been deliberately returned to their homes or betrayed to their families by policemen, councilors and civil servants of immigrant origin.

Muslim coercion against women extends to psychiatric hospitals, the Times of London's religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill reported on February 7 (cited in Rod Dreher's indispensable Crunchy Con blog, .) Glenhill quoted a women's rights advocate as follows:

The men get tired of their wives. Or bored. Or maybe the wife objects to her daughter being forced into a marriage she doesn't want. Or maybe she starts wearing Western clothes. There can be many reasons. The women are sent for assessment to a hospital. The GP [general practitioner] referring them is Muslim. The psychiatrist assessing them is Muslim and male. I have sat in these assessments where the psychiatrist will not look the woman patient in the eye because she is a woman. Can you imagine! A psychiatrist refusing to look his patient in the eye? The woman speaks little or no English. She is sectioned (committed to a psychiatric ward). She is divorced. There are lots of these women in there, locked up in these hospitals. Why don't you people write about this?

That brings us back to the archbishop of Canterbury, who acknowledged the fact of coercion of women in his February 7 address, but insisted that because it belonged to "custom" rather than "religious law", he preferred to change the subject:

Recognition of "supplementary jurisdiction" in some areas, especially family law, could have the effect of reinforcing in minority communities some of the most repressive or retrograde elements in them, with particularly serious consequences for the role and liberties of women. The "forced marriage" question is the one most often referred to here, and it is at the moment undoubtedly a very serious and scandalous one; but precisely because it has to do with custom and culture rather than directly binding enactments by religious authority, I shall refer to another issue.

That makes a lurid lie out of Williams' bland assertion that adherence to sharia "assumes the voluntary consent or submission of the believer":

Sharia depends for its legitimacy not on any human decision, not on votes or preferences, but on the conviction that it represents the mind of God ... while such universal claims are not open for re-negotiation, they also assume the voluntary consent or submission of the believer, the free decision to be and to continue a member of the umma.

Williams was lying. His authority in matters of sharia is Ramadan, whom the Department of Homeland Security prevented from accepting an American university appointment. Ramadan set off a scandal In 2003 when he refused to condemn violence against women (calling instead for a "moratorium," that is, a temporary cessation) precisely because Islamic law sanctions such violence. The Westernized Ramadan will twist himself into a pretzel rather than disagree with Islamic jurisprudence.

Six million Frenchmen watched Ramadan defend the stoning of women for the crime of adultery in a televised debate with the present President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, then the Interior Minister. As quoted by Paul Berman in The New Republic of June 4, 2007, the transcript reads as follows, Ramadan refuses outright to say that he is against stoning adulteresses:

Sarkozy: A moratorium ... Mr Ramadan, are you serious?

Ramadan: Wait, let me finish.

Sarkozy: A moratorium, that is to say, we should, for a while, hold back from stoning women?

Ramadan: No, no, wait ... What does a moratorium mean? A moratorium would mean that we absolutely end the application of all of those penalties, in order to have a true debate. And my position is that if we arrive at a consensus among Muslims, it will necessarily end. But you cannot, you know, when you are in a community ... Today on television, I can please the French people who are watching by saying, "Me, my own position." But my own position doesn't count. What matters is to bring about an evolution in Muslim mentalities, Mr Sarkozy. It's necessary that you understand ...

Sarkozy: But, Mr Ramadan ...

Ramadan: Let me finish.

Sarkozy: Just one point. I understand you, but Muslims are human beings who live in 2003 in France, since we are speaking about the French community, and you have just said something particularly incredible, which is that the stoning of women, yes, the stoning is a bit shocking, but we should simply declare a moratorium, and then we are going to think about it in order to decide if it is good ... But that's monstrous - to stone a woman because she is an adulterer! It's necessary to condemn it!

Ramadan: Mr Sarkozy, listen well to what I am saying. What I say, my own position, is that the law is not applicable - that's clear. But today, I speak to Muslims around the world and I take part, even in the United States, in the Muslim world ... You should have a pedagogical posture that makes people discuss things. You can decide all by yourself to be a progressive in the communities. That's too easy. Today my position is, that is to say, "We should stop."

Sarkozy: Mr Ramadan, if it is regressive not to want to stone women, I avow that I am a regressive.

"You should have a pedagogical posture that makes people discuss things" such as stoning women, Ramadan insisted, which is to say that were he to condemn violence against women outright, he would be unable to speak to Muslim communities.

That is Williams' source. Coming from the leader of a major Christian denomination, this depth of hypocrisy is satanic, if that word has any meaning at all.

Unlike his Church of England colleague, Bishop Nazir-Ali, Williams does not require a security detail. But it appears that every European journalist and politician who attacks Islam requires personal protection, starting with the stout-hearted Dutchman Wilders. In the cited New Republic report on Tariq Ramadan, Paul Berman reported:

When I met Hirsi Ali at a conference in Sweden last year, she was protected by no less than five bodyguards. Even in the United States she is protected by bodyguards. But this is no longer unusual. Buruma himself mentions in Murder in Amsterdam that the Dutch Social Democratic politician Ahmed Aboutaleb requires full-time bodyguards. At that same Swedish conference I happened to meet the British writer of immigrant background who has been obliged to adopt the pseudonym Ibn Warraq, out of fear that, in his case because of his Bertrand Russell-influenced philosophical convictions, he might be singled out for assassination.

I happened to attend a different conference in Italy a few days earlier and met the very brave Egyptian-Italian journalist Magdi Allam, who writes scathing criticisms of the new totalitarian wave in Il Corriere della Sera - and I discovered that Allam, too, was traveling with a full complement of five bodyguards. The Italian journalist Fiamma Nierenstein, because of her well-known sympathies for Israel, was accompanied by her own bodyguards. Caroline Fourest, the author of the most important extended criticism of Ramadan, had to go under police protection for a while. The French philosophy professor Robert Redeker has had to go into hiding ...

So Salman Rushdie has metastasized into an entire social class, a subset of the European intelligentsia - its Muslim wing especially - who survive only because of their bodyguards and their own precautions. This is unprecedented in Western Europe during the last 60 years.

Postscript: I had not intended to mention James J Sheehan's silly book on Europe's postwar conversion to pacifism, Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?, the object of many glowing reviews by soft-headed liberals, most recently by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in the February 8 New York Times. Sheehan admires modern Europe for abandoning war; it does not occur to him that Europe also has abandoned being European. Abysmal non-immigrant fertility rates condemn most of Europe's peoples to effective extinction during the next century or two. It deserves a one-word review by Homer Simpson, namely, "Doh." If there are to be no future generations, what soldier will lay down his life for them? The word "demographics" does not appear once in Sheehan's plodding account, which liberal reviewers praised as if it were a roadmap to the millennium.

Sheehan is woefully misguided. Europe may not have war, but it already has violence: its political authorities cringe and scurry and evade and lie in the face of actual or threatened violence by its Muslim communities. If its duly-constituted governments abandon their monopoly of violence to self-appointed religious leaders, the likelihood is that a river of blood will flow, just as Powell warned in 1968.

END

Population explosion continues in Yemen

One of the poorest, least developed, and least educated countries in the world. The Northern Yemenis are also our unreached people of the day:

Yemeni population increases with 1,555,200 babies each year, according to a recently released bulletin by the National Council of Population at the Ministry of Health.

The bulletin also pointed that the country receives 193,600 newborn babies a month, 4,320 a day, 360 an hour and 6 in every minute. Built on these statistics, the council estimated Yemen’s population to reach 37 million souls just ten years as of now.

In return, the council warned against this inordinate increase rate of population, emphasizing it hinders the authorities from meeting their growing demands especially in economic, health, education and infrastructure fields.

A recent study attributed the high fertility rate to the rampage of illiteracy particularly among women in the countryside where the percentage reaches over 77 percent. Further, rural families that depend on agriculture for their living prefer to have more children as agriculture demands more workers than other activities. [...]


From The Yemen Post, HT to Armies of Liberation (in the blog roll).

Ex-Muslims meeting eachother and hanging out...

Well, I'm not a Muslim or an ex-Muslim but this is an interesting way for this growing community to meet others:

Ex-Muslims Meet Up

Ex-Muslims' Survey

I have decided to add this page to the blog roll over on the right-hand side of your screen.

If you are an ex-Muslim I would be glad to post your testimony here on this blog. Also, please do fill out the survey on the Survey website.

For fairness sake I am willing to do the same for Christians who have become Muslims.

Ex-Muslims' Survey


“I wish lots of them [ex-Muslims] would tell about their apostasy and encourage muslims to find out the truth about Islam. Everyone should have the possibility to leave islam without consequences all over the world. Different organizations and governments should help and support apostates who have faced problems or threats in their own countries. ”– Maddalena, Finland

Obama: the first Muslim-born president?

From HERE:

[...]Perhaps Mr. Obama strikes the Europeans as the “most European candidate” because he was born a Muslim. If America can have a Muslim-born leader, why not Europe, many Europeans will ask. They know that the latter is “unavoidable” (to use the archbishop of Canterbury’s words). In America, Mr. Obama’s Muslim family background (unlike Mr. Romney’s Mormonism) is a non-issue because he attends a Christian church. Nevertheless, being born from a Muslim father, raised by a Muslim stepfather, having been enrolled at school (in Indonesia) as a Muslim and having attended Friday prayers at the local mosque as a young boy, he cannot be seen by Muslims as anything but a Muslim, especially because he has never explicitly rejected the faith of his fathers nor said anything negative about it.

The day Barack Hussein Obama comes to the White House many Muslims, also in Europe, will see it as a vindication of recent announcements by radical Islamists that the green flag of Allah will soon fly over the White House, Buckingham Palace, the Vatican and the other “fortresses of the West.”

Since perception is often more powerful than reality the importance of an Obama presidency cannot be underestimated. The American political establishment, including the Republicans, are very naive about the Islamic threat to Europe. Rather than working against the Islamization of Europe American policies tend to hasten the process. America is an ally of Saudi Arabia – a dictatorship which funds the most extremist Islamic organizations. America pushes for the independence of Kosovo, which will establish an Islamist regime in the heart of Europe. America wants the European Union to accept Turkey as a member state. If Mr. Obama proceeds with these policies (as he is likely to do) and withdraws from Iraq, thereby indicating that America has lost the war, the radical Islamists in Europe will become even more arrogant than they are today.

Obviously, America is not to blame for Europe’s present predicament. The demographic and religious vacuum in Europe, which is being filled by Muslim immigrants and by Islam, is entirely of Europe’s own making. The Europeans – and they alone, not the Americans and not even the Muslims, who were invited to come to Europe – are to blame for the Islamization of the old continent. The irony, however, is that America does not seem to draw lessons from Europe’s predicament.[...]

Ex-Muslims and apostates of Islam

One reader of this blog left a comment which implied that conversion from Islam to Christianity doesn't happen so I wanted to post a couple of links to sites where you can read personal stories from ex-Muslims who have become Christians:

Muslims for Christ

Answering-Islam.org

This one has some conversions to Christianity and also some who simply became atheists or agnostics: Apostates of Islam

And here are some short statements on why different apostates left Islam: Ex-Muslims' Survey

And finally More than Dreams about Muslims who had dreams or visions of Jesus which led to their conversions.

There are other sites as well, but that's a good start.

The love and compassion of Muhammad

The love and compassion of Allaah’s Messenger (may Allaah exalt his mention) for all kinds of creatures was not of the kind claimed by today’s ‘humanists’. He was sincere and balanced in his love and compassion. He was more compassionate than any other person. He was a Prophet raised by Allaah, the Creator and Sustainer of all beings, for the guidance and happiness of conscious beings - mankind and jinn - and the harmony of existence. Therefore, he lived not for himself but for others; he is a mercy for all the worlds.

From HERE.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Kindness of the Prophet

Towards Children

He (may Allaah exalt his mention) was especially fond of children and used to get into the spirit of childish games in their company. He (may Allaah exalt his mention) would have fun with the children who had come back from Abyssinia and tried to speak in Abyssinian with them. It was his practice to give lifts on his camel to children when he returned from journeys. [Al-Bukhaari]

He (may Allaah exalt his mention) would pick up children in his arms, play with them, and kiss them. A companion, recalling his childhood, said: "In my childhood I used to fell dates by throwing stones at palm trees. Somebody took me to the Prophet (may Allaah exalt his mention) who advised me to pick up the dates lying on the ground but not to fell them with stones. He (may Allaah exalt his mention) then patted me and blessed me." [Abu Daawood]


From HERE

The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe

From HERE:

The Muslim Brotherhood, today widely regarded as the largest Islamic movement in the world, was founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928. Its member groups are dedicated to the motto: "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."

Research analyst Lorenzo Vidino writes about The Muslim Brotherhood's Conquest of Europe: "Since the early 1960s, Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers have moved to Europe and slowly but steadily established a wide and well-organized network of mosques, charities, and Islamic organizations." Their ultimate goal "may not be simply 'to help Muslims be the best citizens they can be,' but rather to extend Islamic law throughout Europe and the United States. With moderate rhetoric and well-spoken German, Dutch, and French, they have gained acceptance among European governments and media alike. Politicians across the political spectrum rush to engage them whenever an issue involving Muslims arises or, more parochially, when they seek the vote of the burgeoning Muslim community. But, speaking Arabic or Turkish before their fellows Muslims, they drop their facade and embrace radicalism."

Moreover, "While the Muslim Brotherhood and their Saudi financiers have worked to cement Islamist influence over Germany's Muslim community, they have not limited their infiltration to Germany. Thanks to generous foreign funding, meticulous organization, and the naïveté of European elites, Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations have gained prominent positions throughout Europe. In France, the extremist Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (Union of Islamic Organizations of France) has become the predominant organization in the government's Islamic Council. In Italy, the extremist Unione delle Comunita' ed Organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia (Union of the Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy) is the government's prime partner in dialogue regarding Italian Islamic issues."

The irony, according to Vidino, is that "Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna dreamed of spreading Islamism throughout Egypt and the Muslim world. He would never have dreamed that his vision might also become a reality in Europe." [...]

The Anglo-Islamic Church

The Anglo-Islamic Church
by Gary Fletcher

This unbelievable headline caught my eye immediately. Archbishop: Adoption of Sharia Law in U.K. is 'Unavoidable'

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has suggested that it "seems unavoidable" that elements of Islamic law be accepted into the British legal system.

I suggest a better headline would have been: "Archbishop of Canterbury Loses His Mind." Why in the world would the leader of the Church of England advocate for the imposition of Islamic law in Britain?

So profound a misunderstanding of the proud English and British heritage from the leader of the Church of England it is incomprehensible. Ironically, his comments demonstrate either ignorance of or hostility toward the historic commitment of the British people to freedom and self-determination. The first nation to emerge from the political chaos of the Middle Ages, the defiant victor over the militarily superior Spanish Armada in the 16th century, the last bastion in Europe against the forces of fascism in the century past, the people of the United Kingdom surrender their autonomy to no foreign power, secular or religious. Surrender is precisely what the Archbishop now says is "unavoidable."

Most astonishing, these comments by the Archbishop disavow the most significant underlying values which have defined British history. For at least eight centuries, Britons have been motivated by the struggle to extend human rights further and yet further. With Magna Carta in the 13th century, the power of the King was extended to the nobility. In the 17th century the historic "Rights of Englishmen" were set forth. Freedom has been extended to the former serf, to all the citizens, to former slaves, to the people of the former colonies. Britain is the mother country of many of the most dedicated and influential democracies in the world today, including Canada, Australia, and the United States of America, and provided the political model for democracy to take hold in the world's second most populous nation, India. The people of Britain have exhibited for centuries a love of freedom and the desire to spread freedom to oppressed people everywhere. It might not be too much to say that this is the defining self-concept of the modern United Kingdom. Islamic Sharia is an oppressive system, offensive to freedom-loving peoples everywhere. This is particularly so in Britain.

Judging by his comments, the Primate of All England would have the people of Britain accept imposition of a religious intolerance not seen in Britain since the time of Queen Mary I ("Bloody Mary") in the 16th century. The Archbishop stated that sanctioning Sharia will improve community relations and aid integration. I'm sure he is correct, in a sense. The burglar who is handed the keys to the store by the shopkeeper is very happy with his lot, very approving of the shopkeeper. Proponents of Sharia undoubtedly will be very happy with the remarks of the Archbishop, particularly if such comments are acted upon by either Church or government. [...]

Saudi Arabia bars all things red through Valentine's Day

When I think of Valentine's Day I think, "I wonder where I could get an icon of Saint Valentine?" But it looks like I'm not the only who has unconventional thoughts:

Saudi Arabia bans all things red ahead of Valentine's Day

(CNN) -- Saudi Arabia has asked florists and gift shops to remove all red items until after Valentine's Day, calling the celebration of such a holiday a sin, local media reported Monday.

With a ban on red gift items over Valentine's Day in Saudi Arabia, a black market in red roses has flowered.

"As Muslims we shouldn't celebrate a non-Muslim celebration, especially this one that encourages immoral relations between unmarried men and women, " Sheikh Khaled Al-Dossari, a scholar in Islamic studies, told the Saudi Gazette, an English-language newspaper.

Every year, officials with the conservative Muslim kingdom's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice clamp down on shops a few days before February 14, instructing them to remove red roses, red wrapping paper, gift boxes and teddy bears. On the eve of the holiday, they raid stores and seize symbols of love.

The virtue and vice squad is a police force of several thousand charged with, among other things, enforcing dress codes and segregating the sexes. Saudi Arabia, which follows a strict interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism, punishes unrelated women and men who mingle in public. [...]

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Egypt court recognises reversion to Christianity

This is a big deal, I think this is already part of the law in Jordan. In Lebanon and Turkey one can actually convert from Islam to Christianity. But in all other Middle Eastern countries (minus Israel) it is illegal. This is a start. I look forward to the day when someone's conversion from Islam to Christianity is lawfully accepted by a government. That will open the flood gates.

Egypt court recognises reversion to Christianity

CAIRO, Feb 9 (Reuters) - In a landmark case, an Egyptian court ruled on Saturday that the state must recognise the right of Christians who convert to Islam to change their minds and revert to Christianity, court sources said.

Until now, Egyptian courts have upheld a traditional reading of Islamic law in such cases, prohibiting the conversion from Islam to any other faith, regardless of the convert's original religion.

While Egyptian law is largely secular and modelled on the French legal system, personal status issues such as conversion, marriage and divorce are governed by the religious laws of the relevant community. Egypt is primarily Muslim, but has a substantial Coptic Christian community as well.

Saturday's ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court said 12 people who had converted to Islam from Christianity and then back again could have their reversion to their original faith stated on their government identity papers.

Authorities had allowed the 12 to change their religious status on their identity documents when they converted to Islam, but had so far refused to allow them to change it back.

"This opens the door of hope to hundreds of Copts who converted ... and were then unable to return," said Mamdouh Nakhla, a human rights lawyer. [...]

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The excellence of the Apostles' Creed

I love the Apostles' Creed. I am happy to see that more evangelicals are realizing what a great treasure it is! Check it out, from CT:

I love Christian doctrine. Perhaps that's because of the way I was brought up.

No, it wasn't that my church taught me to love doctrine. In fact, it taught me to hate it by emphasizing all the things that our group had right that everyone else had wrong. In my youth, doctrine was not about being illuminated by the truth, it was about memorizing arguments that would prove other Christians wrong.

But when I finally broke out of that sectarian "remnant" mindset, I discovered that there was a classical Christian tradition that was not bankrupt (as I had been taught). There was indeed a rich foundation, built up out of biblical truth. I fell in love with what I thought I had despised.

There were several doors into my new experience: C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity was one, as was John R. W. Stott's Basic Christianity. Much less celebrated, but equally important to me, was J. I. Packer's I Want to Be a Christian (later renamed Growing in Christ).

At some point—I can't remember quite when—I realized that one of the best ways to know what is central to Christian faith—what is "Mere" or "Basic"—is to meditate on the Apostles' Creed. That was an important element in Packer's I Want to Be a Christian, and I discovered that he was doing what others had done before him: Using the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as the framework for Christian instruction. [...]