Showing posts from 2006

Islam and Victimhood

Part IX: Victimhood and Muslim Identity (December 2006) “No one admits that his own yoghurt is sour.” --Syrian proverb I want to suggest in this post that victimhood has become an integral and essential element in Muslim identity today. There are a number of reasons for this, some of them are valid, but many of them are not. I want to explain why and how this has come to be the case today. If I may quote Sam Huntington, “The problem is not Islamists, it is Islam: a civilization convinced of its superiority and obsessed with its inferiority.” Islam is unlike Christianity in that it makes certain guarantees, namely that if a society is faithful in following Islam (and the sharia’) then certain consequences must follow: material wealth, political power, an ever-widening scope of authority over non-Muslims, scientific and economic advancement, justice and good governance, and so forth. It is very clear though to people throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) that other tha

Films from KSA?!

Interesting article here on some recent films from KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). While this is not about religion explicitly, I think it offers some good insights into the tension we see throughout Dar al Islam regarding change. In KSA many households have sat TV and can watch most anything they like, but actual movie theatres which are much easier to monitor are completely forbidden. Amazing. I like Izidore's attitude about her work. I also appreciate her family's artistic qualities. Very few people here in the ME are interested in art unfortunately. Saudi Filmmakers

Jesus was a good Muslim, and stuff on being a dhimmi

Here is a review by Bat Ye'or of a recent book. Bat Ye'or is one of my great historians. Her name means Daughter of the Nile, and she was born in Egypt to Jewish parents. She is not a citizen of France where she does most of her writing. She is the world's foremost scholar on dhimmitude, that is, the continued existence of Christian and Jewish communities in the Muslims world. Unfortunately the Western press has often mutilated the term and spoken of rights of "religious minorities". This is utterly absurd and shows their absolute ignorance regarding Islam. Dhimmitude only requires a Muslim ruler. Indeed, if a European country were taken over by a Muslim government then all the non-Muslims would be dhimmis--even if that is 80 or 90% or the population. This was in fact the case in much of Turkey, at times there were entire regions that were over 80% Christian, yet they were still under the dhimmi. In any case, a fine review from a brilliant scholar: Do

Liturgy? Hmm....

Liturgy, translated from the Greek word (which occurs a few times in the NT, see my post below for more on that) means 'work of the people'. Recently, my friend Erik, who is studying theology at Oxford, preached the sermon below. Please check it out, it is very insightful from a Western point of view. Liturgy refers to, in modern terms, the flow of the worship service. Don't get me wrong: every church has a liturgy. Sometimes it is written down, like in most Lutheran or Episcopal churches, sometimes it is simply memorized by the congregation, like in most Baptist or non-denom churches. There is music, then a prayer for this, then a prayer for that, then a sermon, then a prayer for X, then there is Y, and finally there is Z. That is liturgy, to put it in rather vulgar terms. This is what he is talking about. Please read his homily carefully and post your comments on his blog at Priests and Paramedics In terms of our work here, the question for us is: what kind of lit

Harsh Sentiments

It has been tough these last few weeks to talk with Christians here in the ME. Many people have a very bitter attitude towards Islam. One pastor I spoke with told me point blank that Muslimss are evil, and they may act like they know God but it is all false. Another brother complained about the election of a Muslim to the USA House of Representatives. "Islam is like a cancer, once it enters in it destroys everything. You will see." God have mercy on us.

This Morning's Church Visit

I visited a Sriac Orthodox Church this morning here in our city. What's that? Glad you asked. It is part of a family of what are called here Oriental Orthodox Churches. Not to be confused with Eastern Orthodox, these churches did not accept the definition of Chalcedon, which you can check out at New Advent if you like. Other churches in this famiyl are th Ethiopian Orthodox, Coptic, and Armenian Apostolic. The language there is Syriac. That is, you should not think this is a "syrian" church, in term of the actual nation of Syria. It is named after it's liturgical language. The book of liturgy, which was kindly gifted to me, has three columns: Syriac (with the Syriac alphabet), Syriac (with the Arabic alphabet), and Arabic. Quite fascinating. Am working on figuring out the contours of the Lord's Prayer in Syriac right now. Then will move on to the Creeds, and then possibly (if I get that far) to the Great Thanksgiving. People were friendly, and I got to me

The Pope on Islam and Evangelism

Pope urges 'firm, humble' dialogue with Muslims Nov 10 2:16 PM US/Eastern Pope Benedict XVI urged Catholics to engage in "firm and humble" dialogue with Muslims, in an address to bishops from Germany, which has a sizable Muslim minority. Pope Benedict said Catholics should manifest their beliefs with the same conviction as Muslims, who "are attached with great seriousness to their convictions and their religious rites." The pope, who will travel to mainly Muslim Turkey at the end of the month, said Muslims "have the right to our firm and humble witness for Jesus Christ." Such dialogue "obviously presupposes a solid knowledge of one's own faith," he added. Pope Benedict is to pay a four-day visit to Turkey, his first official trip to a Muslim country, starting on November 28. The planned trip follows uproar across the Muslim world over remarks by the pope in September seen as linking Islam and violence. From Breit Bart

Islam and Christianity in Europe

Great article here. I wish there were more info on Islam in Europe. I think the percentage of the population in Europe that is Muslim will increase greatly in the coming years. Demography and Europe

Liturgy in a Middle Eastern Environment

A Selection from a Work in Progress (WIP) by Abu Daoud Before one embarks on the difficult task of evaluating, critiquing, and revising liturgy, it is important to answer two questions (at least): what is the purpose of liturgy? And, how does one evaluate the success of a liturgy? The word liturgy is derived from the Greek and means the work of the people. The Greek word does appear in the New Testament a number of times. In Luke 1:23 it is in reference to the cultic duties of the Levitical priesthood at the Temple, specifically in reference to Zechariah father of John. It is used in 2 Cor. 9 in reference to the giving of the Corinthian church for the saints in Jerusalem. In Phil 2 Paul speaks of the ministry of the Philippian church to him as a leitourgias. And Hebrews 8:6 and 9:21 refers to the ministry of Christ in the heavenly Temple, of which the earthly Temple was only a shadow, as a liturgy. Thus the usage of the actual word is very diverse in the NT. It has at once sp

Book Meme

From my friend's blog at DawnomitesDomain The rules are: 1. Grab the nearest book. 2. Open the book to page 123. 3. Find the fifth sentence. 4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions. 5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest! And I would have to add a 6. to that: don't include dictionaries and atlases, because those were the closest books to me: Thus Aubrey Moore argues that evolution restored 'the truth of the divine immanence', which Deism had denied--but this led to a pantheistic reaction. In relation to these extremes, orthodox theism could be presented as reasonable, as 'the safegaurd of rational religion against deism and pantheism'. Another attempt to integrate evolutionary theory with previous Christian thought was made in this volume by J.R. Illingworth, who argued that

Islam and Victimhood

I found this post to be very englightening: It is true! The Muslim community understands itself to be unqiuely favored and priveleged before God. Moreso of course than communities of Christians or Muslims should be. Thus the demand for ever-expanding rights will never cease. Even here in the Middle East where the national constitutions explicitly spell out inferiority of rights under Islam for those communities. And yet, there are many people who would like to see those limitations increased and the already-limited freedom of Christians further curtailed. Why? Allahu Akbar! God is great, thus the greater the humiliation of Christians and Jews, the more God is exalted. Some Muslims don't agree with this, thanks be to God. But once you get to the core of the matter they will admit that Muslims should and must have superior rights and supremacy than others. That is how Islam has always been and will always be

Meeting with a Mercenary

I met Stephen (Steven?) at XXXXXXXX, a restaurant-bar at one of the big hotels near our place. As I was forging through Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” (more on that later), I noticed that one of my neighbors was speaking with a decidedly un-Arabic accent and we started chatting. Following are excerpts from my rather long conversation with Stephen, a Scottish mercenary, who has just arrived from Baghdad earlier that day: When I was in Angola, my troops and I would travel around from place to place. And these little kids would somehow find out where we were. They would come and set up camp outside of our camp—the oldest one of them must have been 12 years old. And there was one I liked especially, they called him Babba. I would sit him on my lap and give him good food from my plate. He must have been about two and a half. One day I noticed he was not there, so I called for him and did not find him. I went out into the brush—th

Persecution of Iraqi Christians

Thousands of frightened Iraqi Christians are fleeing Iraq, after an escalation in anti-Christian violence. Several horrific attacks on Christians in the last three weeks have increased the fear amongst the Christian community. This appears to be a response to a call by militants for increased violence during the Islamic fasting month, Ramadan (which this year is 24th September - 23rd October). See the Rest:

A Church in Exile (The Chaldean Catholics)

Father Denis and I walked from the Jesuit House in the neighborhood next to mine to the make-shift church that the Iraqi Christians had set up in a small apartment. I had called him on the phone earlier today to ask if I could go to the Chaldean mass with him, and he was cautious. “The bishops just released a letter to the Iraqi Christians telling them to be careful with evangelicals. This is their community: their language, the people they dance with, they worship with, and when you take one person out of the community it is like tearing the fabric of who they are.” I assured him that I wanted to learn only and had no plans of recruiting the Chaldean Christians for my church. He recalled that the Anglican churches had a good history of respecting other traditions so he would talk to the priest there and see if it was OK for me to come. He called back later to let me know it would be fine. I would have never known we had arrived at the church had it not been for the sign readi

A Parable

A Parable "There was a king, and in his kingdom there were two cities that we having grave problems. One city sent a messenger to the king to ask for help. The king sat down and wrote a letter to the city and sent the messenger back. "The other city sent a messenger to the king, and the king sent his son to that city to address the problems there. Which of these two cities has received the greater honor?" I told this parable to a Muslim friend today, and here was his answer: the city that received the prince has received the greater honor. When he arrives he will see what the problems are and take immediate action; the people of the city cannot disobey him. The city that received the letter from the king--in that city maybe the mayor will read it and tear it up, or maybe he will read it and not take action right away. I responded: and this is the difference between Islam and Christianity: we believe that the Word of God is a person, Muslims believe that the Word of

Cartoons and Riots

I was chatting with a friend of mine who lives in Saudi Arabia yesterday. She has always lived there, her dad has three wives, she has never been outside of the Middle East. She is a smart lady, and witty too. I asked her about the cartoon debacle and she said what many folks here are saying: they don't have the right to offend Islam that way. I just got back from spending some time with a very moderate Muslim friend who is not an Arab. His sisters don't wear head coverings, he doesn't go to mosque often. He compared the cartoons to people who praise the holocaust. I said that it was illegal to incite violence against a group, which is what you have in his holocaust example. Here violence was not being incited against Muslims. He repsonded, but it led to violence on the part of Muslims--so what's the difference? These two twenty-somethings represent the future of the Middle East. They are well-educated, multi-lingual, intelligent people, and they are both dear f

Part I: The Qur'an: Introduction

It is often said that the Qur'an is like the Bible: one is the holy book for Muslims, and the other is for the Christians. This is not a very accurate way of looking at the situation though because the two books are very different. The Bible is really a collection of many kinds of writings (prophecy, poetry, genealogy, history, personal letters, and so on) written by a large number of people across over a thousand years. The Bible was written in three languages across three continents (Europe, Asia, Africa). The Qur'an is wholly different. According to Islam, it was not written by anyone, it was revealed, word for word, from God, by the angel Gabriel (Jabriil in Arabic) to Muhammad throughout his life. The Qur'an consists of 114 chapters, called surahs in Arabic. These surahs are organized like Paul's letters to the churches: from longest to shortest. The second is "The Cow" which is 31 pages long (in the translation I use), and the last one is "The