Saturday, December 10, 2011

Congressional Hearings Offer Truth, Glimmer of Hope

The below videos of Raymond Ibrahim's recent Congressional testimony regarding Muslim persecution against the Egyptian Coptic Christian community is one of the most helpful brief presentations I have yet seen on this extremely urgent issue. Mr. Ibrahim presents the historical context of Islam's domination of Egypt since the Muslims conquered the ancient nation in 641A.D., and demonstrates through historical analysis the unbroken continuity of the institutionalized discrimination against and persecution of Christians by Muslims in Islamic cultures spanning fourteen centuries and several continents, cultures and languages. 

I cannot recommend watching these videos (or reading the transcripts) strongly enough. In addition to shining the clear light of real historical scholarship on the plight of Egypt's Copts, and offering sound, measured advice on what an informed American policy towards the new Egypt might look like, Ibrahim also exposes one of the great failings of our time, namely the willful subordination of modern Western academia to politically correct self-censorship when it comes to the study of Islam and its relations with non-Muslims. Of course, Western mainstream media is notorious for misreporting the situation in Egypt and the rest of the Islamic world so as to avoid casting a bad light on Islam. When 3,000 Muslims destroy and burn a Coptic church, the MSM reports it as "sectarian violence," which implies two relatively evenly matched protagonists, rather than the one-sided genocidal religious persecution it, in fact, is.

For the sake of brevity, I am posting the videos below,  following a brief intro detailing Raymond Ibrahim's credentials. If you wish to read the transcripts online, you can do so here. A PDF version of the transcript is available also. For videos and transcripts of the testimony by Coptic activist Cynthia Farahat and some of the other witnesses, please visit the Center for Security Policy.

Raymond Ibrahim testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House of Representatives. Reps. Frank Wolf and James McDermott presented "Under Threat: The Worsening Plight of Egypt's Coptic Christians."
Raymond Ibrahim is a Middle East and Islam specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. A widely published author, best known for The Al Qaeda Reader (Doubleday, 2007), he guest lectures at universities, including the National Defense Intelligence College, briefs governmental agencies, such as U.S. Strategic Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency, provides expert testimony for Islam-related lawsuits, and has testified before Congress regarding the conceptual failures that dominate American discourse concerning Islam.

An Ex-Muslim's Urgent Wake-Up Call

"The only reason we’re talking about Islam is because it doesn’t mean peace. Islam wasn’t hijacked by a “small minority of extremists” on 9/11, it was hijacked by a very small minority of moderates whose embarrassment in being associated with such an immoderate religion leads them to engage in moderate truth telling about it, proving their irrelevance as allies." - Bosch Fawstin
One of the first books I read on Islam was by an ex-Muslim scholar who goes by the pseudonym Ibn Warraq (to protect his life). Titled "Why I Am Not A Muslim," it is a powerfully written and impeccably researched and documented warning about the false religion and totalitarian ideology of Islam. The author is a self-proclaimed atheist, as are a number of prominent ex-Muslims warning about their former religion (e.g. Nonie Darwish), as is the author of the piece below, Bosch Fawstin. This is perhaps to be expected, as the only personal encounter with "God" these brave survivors have had is with the satanic, false god Allah, who was in fact an Arabian peninsula pagan deity who predated Muhammad and Islam by centuries (Muhammad's tribe worshipped Allah as one among many pagan deities, and his father was surnamed 'Ibn Allah', or 'slave of Allah).

We can learn a great deal from testimonies such as these, not the least of which is the need to stand firm and unafraid in denouncing the false religion of Islam as an ongoing crime against humanity, of which Winston Churchill famously wrote: "the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world." (Full quote here.)

Mr Fawstin's text below is a call to arms, to wage war against Islam as war should be waged. It is a hard saying. But what is the Christian response?

The Christian response to Islam, as I write in my book, is to theologically demolish it and show how and why it is false, perverted, and utterly of the devil. The Orthodox Christian response is to expand and enhance the patristic denunciations of Islam by such luminaries as St John of Damascus and St Gregory Palamas, as well as the modern critiques of Islam by figures such as New Martyr Fr Daniil Sysoev, Fr Zakaria Botros, Fr Dcn George Maximov, Fr Daniel Byantoro, and others.

Yet in waging theological warfare against Islam, we must also, as did all these Christian examples here noted, join to it loving care for and evangelical outreach towards Muslims, many of whom, in their heart of hearts, yearn to be liberated from the system of lies in which they are held captive. Ours is a spiritual warfare, where the eternal fate of souls is at stake.

Perhaps, over time, if we Orthodox Christians can rouse ourselves to live our most holy faith with warmth and zeal, and acquire the Holy Spirit (according to the famous teaching of St Seraphim of Sarov), we might be vouchsafed to witness mass conversions of Muslims to Christ, and we might see such brave-hearted souls as Bosch Fawstin and other ex-Muslims encounter the True God Who is Love and complete their dramatic odyssey from darkness to Light.  May it be so!

Non-Muslim Muslims and the Jihad Against the West
Bosch Fawstin - December 2, 2011
My name is Bosch and I’m a recovering Muslim.

That is, if Muslims don’t kill me for leaving Islam, which it requires them to do. That’s just one of the reasons I’ve been writing and drawing against Islam and its Jihad for a number of years now. But fortunately for us, Islam hasn’t been able to make every Muslim its slave, just as Nazism wasn’t able to turn every German into a Nazi. So there is Islam and there are Muslims. Muslims who take Islam seriously are at war with us and Muslims who don’t aren’t.

But that doesn’t mean we should consider these reluctant Muslims allies against Jihad. I’ve been around Muslims my entire life and most of them truly don’t care about Islam. The problem I have with many of these essentially non-Muslim Muslims, especially in the middle of this war being waged on us by their more consistent co-religionists, is that they give the enemy cover. They force us to play a game of Muslim Roulette since we can’t tell which Muslim is going to blow himself up until he does. And their indifference about the evil being committed in the name of their religion is a big reason why their reputation is where it is.

So while I understand that most Muslims are not at war with us, they’ve proven in their silence and inaction against jihad that they’re not on our side either, and there’s nothing we can say or do to change that. We just have to finally accept it and stop expecting them to come around, while doing our best to kill those who are trying to kill us.

Another problem with Muslims who aren’t very Muslim is that they lead some among us to conclude that they must be practicing a more enlightened form of Islam. They’re not. They’re “practicing” life in non-Muslim countries, where they are free to live as they choose. But their “Islam” is not the Islam. There’s no separate ideology apart from Islam that’s being practiced by these Muslims in name only, there’s no such thing as “Western Islam”.

Non-observant Muslims are not our problem, but neither are they the solution to our problem. Our problem is Islam and its most consistent practitioners. There is nothing in Islam that stays the hand of Muslims who want to kill non-Muslims. If an individual Muslim is personally peaceful, it’s not because of Islam, it’s because of his individual choice, which is why I often say that your average Muslim is morally superior to Mohammad, to their own religion. The very rare Muslim who helps us against Jihad is acting against his religion, but that doesn’t stop some among us from thinking that his existence somehow means that he represents more than himself.

The only reason we’re talking about Islam is because it doesn’t mean peace. Islam wasn’t hijacked by a “small minority of extremists” on 9/11, it was hijacked by a very small minority of moderates whose embarrassment in being associated with such an immoderate religion leads them to engage in moderate truth telling about it, proving their irrelevance as allies.

In addition to these politically active moderates, when you see well-assimilated Muslims in the West, you’re not seeing Islam in action, you’re seeing individuals living up to the old adage, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. They’re essentially post-Islamic Muslims who have rejected Islamic values and have embraced Western ones. But since the process of their assimilation was implicit – as it happened naturally by their exposure to Western, i.e., pro-life, values – both Muslims and non-Muslims alike prefer to generously give Islam some credit for it. But a good Muslim, by our standards is a bad Muslim by Islamic standards. Objectively good human beings, who identify themselves as Muslim, give Islam a good face, one far better then it deserves. This only gives us a false impression about what it is we’re facing, with just another excuse not to face it. And this leads to our acceptance into our culture of stealth jihadists who have figured out how to say what we want to hear, while they scheme behind the scenes to further Islamize the West.

In the name of distinguishing the enemy from Muslims who mean us no harm, far too many Western commentators have avoided using the name “Islam” for the enemy’s ideology, and instead have decided to create their very own terms for the threat we’re facing, terms that are alien to the enemy. Terms such as:

Islamic Fundamentalism.
Islamic Extremism.
Totalitarian Islam.
Political Islam.
Bin Ladenism.
Radical Islam.
Militant Islam.

We didn’t use terms such as “Radical Nazism”, “Extremist Shinto” and “Militant Communism” in the past.

“Militant Islam”, Political Islam”, etc., are redundant terms. Our pretending otherwise has proven disastrous. Thousands of American lives, both civilian and military, have been sacrificed because of policies predicated on the myth that “Islam means peace.” We didn’t try to reform Shinto or Nazism during World War II; the major changes in those cultures took place only after we thoroughly de-militarized them.

And it’s no accident that Western analysts of Islam who are most informed about Islam are also most critical of it, while those least informed are least critical. But then there are those who, in their study of Islam, have become so enamored with their subject that, instead of sticking to what Islam is, they often write about what it isn’t, what they hope it might be. They seem preoccupied with doing their part to save Islam from those who have allegedly corrupted it.

The Muslim world is where the true meaning of Islam can be found in practice. Islam – not any alleged deviant form of it – means misogyny, censorship, anti-Semitism, homophobia, wife-beatings, beheadings, honor killings, pedophilia/“child marriages”, murdering infidels, etc. This is evil, and Islam sanctions every bit of it, but we’ve been told that we must respect “one of the world’s great religions” because it’s a religion. Following 9/11, the only thing George W. Bush knew about Islam was that it was a religion, and that apparently was a good enough reason for him to exonerate it as he did. And his advisor on Islam, David Forte, told Bush exactly what he wanted to hear, that “Nothing this evil could come from religion.” But 9/11 did come from a religion. Whatever else 9/11 was, it was an act of faith.

And Bush saying “Islam is peace” shortly after 9/11 gave the enemy a gift they couldn’t have foreseen. Here was the one man who was charged to defend America from their attack and here he was defending the very ideology that motivated the attackers. Honesty is the best policy in general, and when it comes to war, it’s a moral imperative to find out the truth, to tell the truth and to act on the truth, no matter what sacred cow is killed in the process. And so a big part of why nearly 3,000 victims of jihad on 9/11 haven’t been avenged is because of respect for religion, even for a religion that calls for our destruction.

Muslims who really care about Islam are part of an organized effort to spread Islam, and I sometimes refer to this collective effort by Muslims as “Organized Islam.” No matter the means involved, Muslims working towards a more Islamic world want the same thing the jihadists want. This organized effort includes Mosques, Muslim organizations, Muslim individuals writing books, blog posts, etc. And they all invariably engage in anti-Western, Anti-Israeli propaganda, at the very least.

I often hear that we should be working with the Muslim world. [*This is a position openly taken by Orthodox priest and professor Fr Theodore Pulcini in his booklet 'Face To Face'; no surprise that his texts are featured on Muslim proselytizing websites. - RZS]  Working towards what? As Ayn Rand writes, “In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.” Any time we spend “working” with a culture that calls for our destruction, we are working towards our own destruction, consciously or not.

While it’s true that jihadists don’t represent most Muslims, they do represent Islam. But then why don’t most Muslims engage in jihad? Like in any culture, heroes are a small minority, and that goes for Islamic culture as well. The jihadists are Islam’s heroes; they are the ones most dedicated to following Allah’s commands and they’re celebrated in the Muslim world for it. They are also the only ones to whom Islam guarantees paradise. And their rarity was made even clearer when we learned that only the pilots of 9/11 knew it was a suicide mission. Our enemy knows that it’s tough to get even hardcore Muslims to sacrifice their lives for Islam, but they don’t want us to know that. Just as they don’t want us to know that behind their boast that they love death is the fact that they hate life.

And while Muslims who blow themselves up in order to kill non-Muslims are a small minority, Muslims who would explicitly condemn them are an even smaller minority. And while I think that Muslims are mere sheep to their Jihadist wolves, there are also too many Muslim cheerleaders for jihad. How many Muslims celebrated 9/11? Far too many. Even in my own lax Muslim upbringing in America, there was an omnipresent anti-Semitism and misogyny. Some members of my family admired Adolph Hitler, who I refer to as “Islam’s Favorite Infidel.” Regarding misogyny, the birth of a girl became a day of mourning for Muslim women in my family; they understood the suffering this girl would endure under Islam, even in America.

Though we say we’ve been at war for over ten years, we haven’t even begun to fight the war the way we should be fighting it. And those calling for a change within Islam during this war would be surprised at how much Islam can be changed through an honest war on our behalf. You can’t make a violent religion like Islam non-violent by argument, only by greater retaliatory force against state sponsors of jihad terrorism.

The future of Islam and the well-being of Muslims is said to be of importance to us. Post – 9/11, the defense of our culture, our values, our very lives has been optional, but our defense of Islam has been absolute. It began with Bush’s “Islam is peace” and it continues with Obama, who said in his Submission Speech in Egypt in 2009, in front of members of The Muslim Brotherhood, “I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” If only he felt the same about America.

We can’t be both for Islam and for ourselves. This enemy is fully on their own side and fully against us and they’ve made themselves believe that they’re the good guys and that we’re the bad guys, and our actions have done nothing but turn their hatred of us into an ever-deepening contempt. Before we see the enemy for what it is, we need to see ourselves for what we are. Only then can we, with full moral conviction, make them pay for what they’ve done and move us towards victory.

Our problem is not “Islamophobia”, but Islamophilia. It is this uncritical, uninformed, absolute defense of Islam by Western elites after 9/11 that I refer to as Islamgate. It’s a scandal for the ages that few involved would ever admit to being part of. [* Theologically speaking, even accepting Islam's claims to be an 'Abrahamic Religion' and 'worship the Same God' makes a Christian an unwitting accomplice of the enemy. This reason alone is enough to purchase my book, 'Facing Islam'. - RZS]

I care about the truth. I care about Western Civilization. I care about myself, my loved ones and my friends. I care about Iife. And that’s why I don’t care about Islam.

Our altruistic concern for the future and well being of the Muslim world has come at the expense of American lives and treasure. We’ve placed the well being of “The Muslim World” above our own self-defense. We’ve placed today’s Big Lie, “Islam means peace”, above the truth we need to act on. We’ve placed the lives of Muslim civilians above the lives of our soldiers, placing them in absolutely unnecessary danger in order to protect innocent (or even guilty) civilians. Our Rules of Engagement might as well be renamed the Golden Rules of Engagement, as our soldiers have been forced to treat the enemy the way we’d like to be treated. And the enemy takes full advantage of that, as they do of all of the policies our morally vain politicians have concocted. We need to shift the focus onto our own well-being at the enemy’s expense for a change.

We’ve tried everything since 9/11 except real war. War is the answer to Jihad.
So who cares about Islam? Muslims, Jihadists, Islamophiles, Leftists who naturally side with anti-American ideologies, guilt-ridden fellow travelers who think America is usually in the wrong, and religionists who believe any religion is better than none. But since Leftists and Islamophiles usually know very little about Islam, who truly cares about Islam? Those who are at war with us.

In the end, I care about Islam and the Muslim world as much as the Muslim world cares about America and the West. This is war. We can’t be on both sides. I’m not rooting for Islam or the Muslim world.

I’m rooting for us.

Source, including author credits.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Incarnation of God, Part 3

In this installment, Fr Steven Kostoff posts a continuation of Archbishop Kallistos' discussion of "Salvation as Sharing," touching on one of the early heresies, and the definitive, four-word rebuttal by St Gregory the Theologian. Below this segment, I will offer a few thoughts on how this applies to Islam vis a vis Orthodoxy.


Exploring the Incarnation III: The Full Humanity of Christ
Fr Steven C. Kostoff

...The very possibility of God “sharing” His life with us, is already a profoundly moving concept.  How much more overwhelming is the very reality of this sharing!  For we firmly believe that this is precisely what God has done in Christ – given to us a share in His divine uncreated grace and glory through the Incarnation of the eternal Word become man as Jesus of Nazareth.  In this passage, you will be impressed by how strongly Archbishop Kallistos stresses the point of the full humanity of Christ.  Christ did not only seem to be human, He was and is, in fact, fully human, because the Word became flesh!  The sharing and exchange in the Incarnation between God and humankind is thus fully reciprocal and total.  Archbishop Kallistos writes the following:

   This notion of salvation as sharing implies two things in particular about the Incarnation.  First, it implies that Christ took not only a human body like ours but also a human spirit, mind and soul like ours.  Sin, as we saw has its source not from below but from above; it is not physical in its origin but spiritual.  The aspect of man, then, that requires to be redeemed is not primarily his body but his will and his centre of moral choice.  If Christ did not have a human mind, then this would fatally undermine the second principle of salvation, that divine salvation must reach the point of human need.    The importance of this principle was re-emphasized during the second half of the fourth century, when Appolinarius advanced the theory – for which he was quickly condemned as a heretic – that at the Incarnation Christ took only a human body, but no human intellect or rational soul.  To this St. Gregory the Theologian replied, “The unassumed is unhealed.”  Christ, that is to say, saves us by becoming what we are; he heals us by taking our broken humanity into himself, by “assuming” it as his own, by entering into our human experience and by knowing it from the inside, as being himself one of us.  But had his sharing of our humanity been in some way incomplete, then man’s salvation would be likewise incomplete.  If we believe that Christ has brought us a total salvation, then it follows that he has assumed everything.
The Orthodox Way, p. 74-75


Islamic theology has always stumbled at the Incarnation. Indeed, the Koran threatens and condemns Christians for believing Christ to be God incarnate, emphasizing instead the humanity of Isa (Jesus), as seen in these passages:

The similitude of Isa before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”: And he was. (Sura 3:59)
In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the Son of Mary. (Sura 5:19)
They do blaspheme who say: “God is Christ the son of Mary . . .” They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. (Sura 5:75,78)
Christ the son of Mary was no more than an Apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how God doth make His Signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth! (Sura 5:78)

Now, aside from the obvious purpose of repudiating Jesus Christ and Christianity and exalting Muhammad and Islam, these verses could sum up for many the profound challenge of grappling with the Mystery of the Incarnation, and the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. Indeed, only the Holy Spirit can whisper to the heart of man of the Truths of Christ and the Father. (We should remember, too, that the Koran completely misunderstands and misrepresents the Christian dogma of the Trinity, describing it as consisting of God as Father, Mary as Mother, and Isa as Son (Sura 5:116). Muslims also infer, from the Christian teaching that Jesus is the Son of God, a literal act of physical copulation between God and the Virgin Mary. We recognize in this Islam's carnal bias in approaching spiritual realities.)

While we flatly reject (based on both the Old and New Testaments) the Koranic verses which deny the divinity of Christ, we can respond warmly to the portion of Sura 5:78 which asserts that Jesus had to eat his daily food. This is indeed one of the many aspects of the Incarnation, that the Word of God so humbled Himself that He became limited and needy, just as we are, requiring food, water, sleep, rest.

But these considerations are the most basic. The more profound aspects of the Incarnation lie in this theme of Salvation as Sharing, and in St Gregory's observation that 'what is unassumed is unhealed'. This goes to the immeasurable depths of the mystery, and it indirectly shows the inadequacy and falseness of Islam.

While many relate Jesus to Muhammad, the proper comparison is between Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, with the Koran, which Islam claims is the literal words of God in book form. Yet which would be the most perfect form of communication, indeed, of communion? For God to impart His words in a mere book? Or for His Living, Co-Eternal and Co-Unoriginate Word to become man, so as to share the very Life and Grace of God with fallen man?

This is the message of the Incarnation. God comes to us in our low estate, to share in our nature so as to transform it from within. He even shares in our death, destroying the power of death through His Resurrection, raising us with Him in His Ascension to Heaven as the Divinized Man, and through all these powerful acts enables us to become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4). No book can do that, nor can mere obedience or submission to a legal framework. The Apostle Paul was writing as much against Islam as he was against the Judaizers when he exhorted the Galatians, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage" (Gal 5:1).

Leaving aside the violent commands and supremacist dictates of the Koran, and the depraved character of Muhammad, and all the rest by which Islam stands self-condemned as a satanic counterfeit of True Religion, based on the simplest considerations, that is, the foundational (and antithetical) premises behind Christianity and Islam, we must fervently, joyously and with complete abandonment run to and embrace our Incarnate Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, born of the Ever-Virgin Theotokos (Birthgiver of God) Mary for our salvation and for the life of the world. And once we begin to live our most profound faith to such a degree of fulness, acquiring the Holy Spirit and the Grace of God, we may be granted to see those around us being saved. May the Mystery of the Incarnation be ever more fully manifest in us!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Imperative of Jihad for the Faithful Muslim

Below is a very helpful excerpt from Robert Spencer which surveys more than a millennium of authorized Islamic scholarship up through our own day, to show the continuity of Muslim teaching on the necessity of waging jihad to subdue and dominate the entire world for Allah. Every now and then it is necessary for us to be reminded of this indisputable doctrine at the core of Islam's self-understanding and worldview.


Very early in the history of Islam, Muslims noticed and began to grapple with how Muhammad's messages changed in character over the course of his prophetic career. 
Muhammad's earliest biographer, a pious Muslim named Ibn Ishaq, explains the progression of Qur'anic revelation about warfare. First, he explains, Allah allowed Muslims to wage defensive warfare. But that was not Allah's last word on the circumstances in which Muslims should fight. Ibn Ishaq explains offensive jihad by invoking a Qur'anic verse: "Then God sent down to him: 'Fight them so that there be no more seduction,' i.e. until no believer is seduced from his religion. 'And the religion is God's', i.e. Until God alone is worshipped."
The Qur'an verse Ibn Ishaq quotes here (2:193) commands much more than defensive warfare: Muslims must fight until "the religion is God's" - that is, until Allah alone is worshipped. Ibn Ishaq gives no hint that that command died with the seventh century.
Nor do all contemporary Islamic thinkers believe that that command is a relic of history. 
According to a 20th century Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh 'Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, "at first 'the fighting' was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory." He also distinguishes two groups Muslims must fight: "(1) against them who start 'the fighting' against you (Muslims) . . . (2) and against all those who worship others along with Allah . . . as mentioned in Surat Al-Baqarah (II), Al-Imran (III) and At-Taubah (IX) . . . and other Surahs (Chapters of the Qur'an)." (The Roman numerals after the names of the chapters of the Qur'an are the numbers of the suras: Sheikh 'Abdullah is referring to Qur'anic verses such as 2:216, 3:157-158, 9:5, and 9:29.)
This understanding of the Qur'an isn't limited to the Wahhabi sect of Saudi Arabia, to which Sheikh 'Abdullah belongs, and which many Western analysts imagine to have originated Islamic doctrines of warfare against unbelievers. Jihad theorist Sayyid Qutb, who was not a Wahhabi, subscribes to the same view of the Qur'an. In his jihad manifesto Milestones, he quotes at length from the great medieval scholar Ibn Qayyim (1292-1350), who, says Qutb, "has summed up the nature of Islamic Jihaad." Ibn Qayyim outlines the stages of the Muhammad's prophetic career: "For thirteen years after the beginning of his Messengership, he called people to God through preaching, without fighting or Jizyah, and was commanded to restrain himself and to practice patience and forbearance. Then he was commanded to migrate, and later permission was given to fight. Then he was commanded to fight those who fought him, and to restrain himself from those who did not make war with him. Later he was commanded to fight the polytheists until God's religion was fully established."
Qutb summarizes the stages: "Thus, according to the explanation by Imam Ibn Qayyim, the Muslims were first restrained from fighting; then they were permitted to fight; then they were commanded to fight against the aggressors; and finally they were commanded to fight against all the polytheists." He further quotes Ibn Qayyim as emphasizing the need to wage war against and subjugate non-Muslims, particularly the Jewish and Christian "People of the Book": "After the command for Jihaad came, the non-believers were divided into three categories: one, those with whom there was peace; two, the people with whom the Muslims were at war; and three, the Dhimmies....It was also explained that war should be declared against those from among the 'People of the Book' who declare open enmity, until they agree to pay Jizyah or accept Islam. Concerning the polytheists and the hypocrites, it was commanded in this chapter that Jihaad be declared against them and that they be treated harshly." Qutb says that if someone rejects Islam, "then it is the duty of Islam to fight him until either he is killed or until he declares his submission."
In fact, some classical Islamic theologians are as far from thinking that the verses commanding jihad against Infidels no longer apply in our own age as you can get. 
Some assert that the Verse of the Sword (Qur'an 9:5, "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them") abrogates no less than 124 more peaceful and tolerant verses of the Qur'an.Tafsir al-Jalalayn, a commentary on the Qur'an by the respected imams Jalal al-Din Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Mahalli (1389-1459) and Jalal al-Din 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr al-Suyuti (1445-1505), asserts that the Qur'an's ninth sura "was sent down when security was removed by the sword." Another mainstream and respected Qur'an commentator, Ibn Kathir (1301-1372), declares that Qur'an 9:5 "abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term....No idolater had any more treaty or promise of safety ever since Surah Bara'ah [the ninth sura] was revealed." Ibn Juzayy (d. 1340), yet another Qur'an commentator whose works are still read in the Islamic world, agrees: the Verse of the Sword's purpose is "abrogating every peace treaty in the Qur'an."
None of them say that the Verse of the Sword applies only to the seventh century.
Ibn Kathir makes this clear in his commentary on another "tolerance verse": "And he [Muhammad] saith: O my Lord! Lo! these are a folk who believe not. Then bear with them, O Muhammad, and say: Peace. But they will come to know" (43:88-89). Ibn Kathir explains: "Say Salam (peace!) means, 'do not respond to them in the same evil manner in which they address you; but try to soften their hearts and forgive them in word and deed.'" However, that is not the end of the passage. Ibn Kathir then takes up the last part: "But they will come to know. This is a warning from Allah for them. His punishment, which cannot be warded off, struck them, and His religion and His word was supreme. Subsequently Jihad and striving were prescribed until the people entered the religion of Allah in crowds, and Islam spread throughout the east and the west."
And so today. The Saudi Sheikh Muhammad Saalih al-Munajid (1962-), whose lectures and Islamic rulings (fatawa) circulate widely throughout the Islamic world, demonstrates this in a discussion of whether Muslims should force others to accept Islam. In considering Qur'an 2:256 ("There is no compulsion in religion,") the Sheikh quotes Qur'an 9:29, as well as 8:39 ("And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism, i.e. worshipping others besides Allaah), and the religion (worship) will all be for Allaah Alone [in the whole of the world]"), and the Verse of the Sword. Of the latter, Sheikh Muhammad says simply: "This verse is known as Ayat al-Sayf (the verse of the sword). These and similar verses abrogate the verses which say that there is no compulsion to become Muslim."
Underscoring the fact that none of this is merely of historical interest is another Shafi'i manual of Islamic law that in 1991 was certified by the highest authority in Sunni Islam, Cairo's Al-Azhar University, as conforming "to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community." 
This manual, 'Umdat al-Salik (available in English as Reliance of the Traveller), spends a considerable amount of time explaining jihad as "war against non-Muslims." It spells out the nature of this warfare in quite specific terms: "the caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians . . . until they become Muslim or pay the non-Muslim poll tax." It adds a comment by a Jordanian jurist that corresponds to Muhammad's instructions to call the unbelievers to Islam before fighting them: the caliph wages this war only "provided that he has first invited [Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians] to enter Islam in faith and practice, and if they will not, then invited them to enter the social order of Islam by paying the non-Muslim poll tax (jizya) . . . while remaining in their ancestral religions."
Also, if there is no caliph, Muslims must still wage jihad. In any case, the desire to restore the caliphate ultimately highlights the expansionist, imperialist, totalitarian, globalist aims of the jihad movement, even as today it presents itself as a defensive action against Western evils. That expansionism is based on Qur'anic passages such as 9:29 and the life and teachings of Muhammad. The Pakistani Brigadier S. K. Malik's 1979 book The Qur'anic Concept of War (a book that carried a glowing endorsement from Pakistan's then-future President Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who said that it explained "the ONLY pattern of war" that a Muslim country could legitimately wage) delineates the same stages in the Qur'anic teaching about jihad: "The Muslim migration to Medina brought in its wake events and decisions of far-reaching significance and consequence for them. While in Mecca, they had neither been proclaimed an Ummah [community] nor were they granted the permission to take up arms against their oppressors. In Medina, a divine revelation proclaimed them an 'Ummah' and granted them the permission to take up arms against their oppressors. The permission was soon afterwards converted into a divine command making war a religious obligation for the faithful."
Imran Ahsan Khan Nyazee, Assistant Professor on the Faculty of Shari'ah and Law of the International Islamic University in Islamabad, in a 1994 book on Islamic law quotes the twelfth century Maliki jurist Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd. Ibn Rushd reports on a consensus (ijma) among Muslim scholars on jihad warfare - and in traditional Islamic legal terms a consensus among scholars, once reached, cannot be modified. "Why wage war?" asks Ibn Rushd, and then he answers his own question: "Muslim jurists agreed that the purpose of fighting with the People of the one of two things: it is either their conversion to Islam or the payment of jizyah." Nyazee concludes: "This leaves no doubt that the primary goal of the Muslim community, in the eyes of its jurists, is to spread the word of Allah through jihad, and the option of poll-tax [jizya] is to be exercised only after subjugation" of non-Muslims.
But if this is so, why hasn't the worldwide Islamic community been waging jihad on a large scale up until relatively recently? Nyazee says it is only because they have not been able to do so: "the Muslim community may be considered to be passing through a period of truce. In its present state of weakness, there is nothing much it can do about it."

The Incarnation of God, Part 2

In this second installment of his series exploring the Incarnation, Fr Steven Kostoff shares an excerpt from Archbishop Kallistos Ware's The Orthodox Way, a modern Orthodox classic which is at once highly readable, yet deeply profound. This posting, on the theme of "Salvation as Sharing," illumines the divine nature, the mystery of the Incarnation of God, and God's tender lovingkindness and infinite condescension towards us, as well as the exalted destiny of man, and is thus perfectly suited to the Nativity Season.

For our purposes here, Archbishop Kallistos' presentation on "Salvation as Sharing" describes the "God Who is Love," and thus by inference reveals precisely the dark ontological poverty and brutal misanthropy of Islam. Islam claims God has no "associates;" Allah is emphatically and horrendously alone (no wonder he is so grouchy and vindictive) and is characterized only by his will, his power, his unknowable otherness. Islam’s aggressive and intolerant monotheism, in rejecting "Salvation as Sharing," and the tenderly intimate and compassionate nature of God, not only “mutilates” God (as St. John of Damascus so graphically puts it), but collapses down into a solipsistic theological black hole, from which no light emanates, and which can only be propped up by threats and violence.  Hence the message of Muhammad and the Koran to wage relentless jihad against all non-Muslims until all the world is brought under the domination of Allah, as evidenced in these two key verses (which abrogate over one hundred peaceful verses in the Koran):

"Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them, and capture and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush" (Koran 9:5).  
"Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and his Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the People of the Book (i.e. Christians and Jews), until they pay the jizya with willing submission and feel themselves subdued" (Koran 9:29). 

Islam is about domination, submission and the nullification of the value of the person, individual conscience and freedom. Allah explodes violently into the world through the false-prophet Muhammad, in complete opposition to the Christian Gospel and openly seeking to usurp and destroy Christianity. Pondering the Mystery of the Incarnation during the Nativity season equips us to better expose the "god" of Islam as merely the most crude and even satanic caricature of the true Triune God Who is Love, and thus reject the "Same God" claim put forth by Muslim apologists and unthinking Christians.


Exploring the Incarnation II: Salvation as Sharing
Fr. Steven C Kostoff

To continue our series of passages that open up the Incarnation for us to deeper levels of understanding, I would like to draw from [Archbishop Kallistos Ware's] wonderful book, The Orthodox Way.  Those who have already read these passages will have their memories refreshed; and those reading these passages for the first time will experience the joy of encountering a living response to the age-old mystery of the Incarnation and some of its profound implications for our understanding of Christ and of our own lives in Christ.  There will undoubtedly be some new insights here that may strike you for the first time.  In the chapter entitled “God as Man,” there is a sub-section further that bears the heading “Salvation as Sharing.”  The first part of this section develops this theme in the following manner:

The Christian message of salvation can best be summed up in terms of sharing, of solidarity and identification.  The notion of sharing is a key alike to the doctrine of God in Trinity and to the doctrine of God made man.  The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that, just as man is authentically personal only when he shares with others, so God is not a single person dwelling alone, but three persons who share each other’s life in perfect love.  The Incarnation equally is a doctrine of sharing or participation.  Christ shares to the full in what we are, and so he makes it possible for us to share in what he is, in his divine life and glory.  He became what we are, so as to make us what he is.

   St. Paul expresses this metaphorically in terms of wealth and poverty:  “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ:  he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich” (II COR. 8:9).  Christ’s riches are his eternal glory; Christ’s poverty is his complete self-identification with our fallen human condition .  In the words of an Orthodox Christmas hymn, “Sharing wholly in our poverty, thou hast made divine our earthly nature through thy union with it and participation in it.”  Christ shares in our death, and we share in his life; he “empties himself” and we are “exalted” (PHIL. 2:5-9).  God’s descent makes possible man’s ascent.  St. Maximus the Confessor writes:  “Ineffably the infinite limits itself, while the finite is expanded to the measure of the infinite.”

   As Christ said at the Last Supper:  “The glory which thou hast given to me I have given to them, that they may be one, as we are one:  I in them and thou in me, may they be perfectly united in one” (JN. 17:22-23).  Christ enables us to share in the Father’s divine glory.  He is the bond and meeting-point:  because he is man, he is one with us; because he is God, he is one with the Father.  So, through and in him we are one with God, and the Father’s glory becomes our glory.  God’s Incarnation opens the way to man’s deification.  To be deified is, more specifically, to be “christified”:  the divine likeness that we are called to attain is the likeness of Christ.  It is through Jesus the God-man that we men are “ingodded,” “divinized,” made “sharers of the divine nature” (II PET. 1:4).  By assuming our humanity, Christ who is Son of God by nature has made us sons of God by grace.  In him we are “adopted” by God the Father, becoming sons-in-the-Son.
The Orthodox Way, p. 73-74

Friday, December 2, 2011

New-Martyr Fr Daniil Sysoev: "To Make the Whole World Love Christ"

The below is a personal recollection of the great missionary and new-martyr Priest Daniil Sysoev, who was killed by a Muslim extremist on November 19, 2009 before the altar of the church he founded in Moscow.

Daniel Sisoev: "To Make the Whole World Love Christ"
by Seraphim Maamdi
November 21, 2011

My acquaintance with Fr. Daniel was God’s mercy toward me.
When I watched his disputes with the Muslims and heard his sermons, there arose in me a great desire to get to know him. At that time I was unaware that he had a missionary school. Then I became acquainted with a student-missionary of his, who also spoke with Father about me. Fr. Daniel gladly agreed to make my acquaintance.
When I met him I was impressed by his burning faith and the brave spirit which he was able to share with those around him. I was also amazed by his knowledge of the fundamentals of the faith and his wondrous exgetical gift, by his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and the interpretations of the Holy Fathers — all of this made an impression on me and inspired me to go by the same path.
Of course, I was also impressed by his love for the Lord, his zeal for His service. He very much loved to preach about Christ; and I can say for myself that the greatest commandment that I received from my preceptor is this: “The purpose of a missionary is to make the whole world love Christ.”
I remember that Father said to me, “Seraphim! There is a large Kurdish population in Saratov. Vladyka blessed us to go there. So — will you go?” I hedge a little and aid that I still wasn’t ready, that I was a bit intimidated. Of course, I was still not very knowledgeable about of luminous faith. At that time I truly wasn’t ready yet, but after his martyric end, my brother and I, with the blessing of Bishop Longin, made the first missionary journey to Saratov.
He called me to bravery and said many things that I will remember for my entire life, especially this: “If a man sets out on the path of missionary, there is no way back. The Lord will demand of such people the talent that they received and buried.” And this: “Prayer is the most important thing in the missionary life: unceasing prayer is first, last and central. It is an essential part of the life of the missionary. The study of the Holy Scriptures is one of three chief activities of the missionary. And, as you understand, all of this is in the liturgy. Therefore, the more you go to services, the more success awaits you in your mission.” And also: “We preach the Gospel for the sake of God, before Him, and for the salvation of people.”
I told him that our people are simply fed up with religious lies, that they are going to the torments of hell without murmuring.  He strove by all means to help us in missionary work among the Kurds. First of all he gave us books of the New Testament in the Kurdish language. (By the way, I learned to read in Kurdish from that very book which Fr.Daniel gave me.) He told us to assemble the Kurds in order to read passages to them. He also applied his abilities to the task of translation. Such concern amazed and inspired me.
I remember once we were discussing the possibility of a missionary journey to the Iraqi Kurds (who are in a center of Yazidism), so that there also the preaching of Christ might conquer the local Kurdish population. I said that I knew our laguage only poorly, and that moreover there is a different dialect there (Sorani), and that I was sure to receive a martyr’s crown there, since the radicalism of the Iraqis is known to the whole world.
Fr. Daniel told me to fear nothing, that the Muslims had threatened him personally fourteen times, saying that they would behead him — but should we hold back out of fear? The important thing, he said, is to firmly and bravely bear the Word of God, and to be witnesses of Christ, lest we forget that this is a great honor. (I believe that, by Fr. Daniel’s prayers, the time will come when the Word of God will be preached there.)
He often said spoke of martrydom, as if he knew that the Lord would glorify him in precisely this way. And behold, the Lord made him worthy of a martyr’s crown. The ancient Christians rejoiced in this situation, but we were saddened.
I remember that when I learned of his death I was very grieved and thought, “If only he could have had a few more years.” But later I acknowledged that the will of God is in all things. I humbled myself and glorified God, for now we have an intercessor in heaven, the hieromartyr Daniel, who prays for us and helps us in our missionary endeavors. I would even say that he is continuing his missionary work.
Not long before his death there was a striking event. One one of the Muslim forums, I found a photo of Fr. Daniel. The Muslisms, with the help of photoshop, had given him the clothing of a medieval crusader, and a sword, all against the background of a certain church. This made me laugh quite a bit, and I decided to show Fr. Daniel. We were very amused and Fr Daniel asked me to put it in a frame, so that I could remember him by it.
After his martyric end, when I was burdened with deep sorrow, remembering him, I looked at the photo from my personal archive. When I saw the photo, I was simply stunned. I became apparent that the church in front of which he was standing in the photograph was the same Church of the Apostles Peter and Paul in Yasenevo, where his funeral was held!
After his death, many people became interested in his labors, and gradually they came to Christ. I personally know many people who came to the Church through his books.
I remember when his honorable body was in the Church, a great number of people came to bid farewell to him, and many of them had a feeling as if a great holy thing had been brought. Peope with their children piously venerated the honorable relics of the saint. It was amazing, but that was how God disposed the people. Before long, Orthodox people from Serbia, Greece, the USA and other countries began to venerate Fr. Daniel as a hieromartyr. As the Lord says: “I will glorify them that glorify me.” (I Kings 2:30)
Everyone wondered at his love and fatherly concern. I remember our first missionary journey to Moscow. Father served a moleben, gave counsels and admonitions. We opened a map of Moscow and divided it up by regions. We got a very good education, so that we would be able to preach the Gospel and be ready to give answer about our hope with meekness and piety. (I Pet. 3:15)
Our last meeting was deeply moving. On the day before his martyric end, the lecture was led by Yuri Maksimov, who later became Deacon George. After the lecture we discussed many things, particularly the questions of Ouranopolitism and Nationalism. Father said that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and that a Christian must not be attached to anything earthly. We are on the earth as if in a guest house, but our home is there, where Christ is at the right hand of the Father. His last lecture was about God the Father. He gave this lecture on the day before his death.
Just a few months before his death I asked Fr. Daniel’s blessing to establish two networking groups. One was about himself (in order to publish his lectures and articles), while the other was for doing missionary work among muslims. Amazingly, after his death the groups were filled with people, and many acknowledged that they started coming to the Church by reading hearing his lectures and reading his books.
I received three blessings from Fr. Daniel: for missionary work, for frequent Communion (every Sunday), and just a few days before his death I asked his blessing to write a book.
Yazidism has a very distorted view of Christianity, and Father counseled me to deal with this problem. I believe that he is praying for me and helping me to write apologetic works. I feel his help. It happens that a question arises, and you listen to his lectures and immediately find the answers to your questions.
I am truly thankful to the Lord that he vouchsafed me to study with the Hieromartyr Daniel. I finished his one-year missionary course.
If I were now to forsake missionary activity, this would be very base and unjust toward him, since he gave his life for Christ, giving us an example of how serious he was, that he loved not his own life, even unto death (Rev. 12:11). As one of the great missionaries said, missionary work is a truly holy work, equal to that of the apostles. Blessed is the one whom the Lord choses and places in such service (St. Innocent of Moscow).
When he preached to non-Christians and the heterodox, he manifest an exalted love for them. What could be more important than the salvation of a human soul? Because of this  love he was made worthy of a martyr’s crown. It is wondrous, but it happened just as the Lord said: “There will come a time when everyone who kills you will think that he is serving God.” (John 16:2)
As His Holiness Patriarch Tikhon of Moscow and All Russia said in his condolences on the death of Fr Daniel, “The Lord has called His faithful servant to himself, having given him
the ability to become a confessor of the faith and a martyr of the Gospel.”
And Paul admonishes us: “Remember your preceptors, who preached the word of God to you and, looking to their end, imitate their faith.” (Hebrews 13:7)
He opened to the Holy Scriptures to me in the light of the Holy Fathers, made me wise in the faith of Christ, and also taught me to bear the Word of God. Now he is praying for us at the throne of God, so that we might painstakingly bear the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Now is the acceptable time. We must gather all the children of God into unity of faith, for many have forgotten the chief commandment of the Gospel, to preach the Gospel to all creatures. (Mk. 16:15) In the person of the Apostles, the Lord commanded all Christians: “Go forth and teach all nations.” (Matt. 28:19) We must convince all people to come to the Truth, and we
must bring them to Him. This is the will of God.
As St. John Chrysostom said: “It is a great virtue to boldly and openly preach Christ and to prefer this to everything else. It is so great and wondrous that the Only-Begotten Son of God confesses such a man before His Father, although this reward is not proportionate. You preach on the earth, and He preaches in the heavens; You before men, and He before His father and all the angels.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Series: The Incarnation of God, Part 1

I have hesitated posting for slightly over a month now, as I sincerely wish for this blog to be unique in how it addresses the challenge of Islam. Several times over the past few weeks I have considered posting one or another of Raymond Ibrahim's penetrating articles (and reserve the privilege to still do so!). His are among the most worthy and helpful. But as Raymond's blog is featured on the left margin here, I chose against reposting his work, and have instead sought to be patient, and try to "find my voice" as it were.

With the beginning of the Advent Season and the Nativity Fast, I felt I might best offer some reflections on the Mystery of the Incarnation, and specifically how pondering that can divinely strengthen us for the challenges we face. This week, Fr. Steven Kostoff of my home parish, has begun a series of brief meditations precisely on exploring the Incarnation of Christ. The first two of these are exceptional, especially when one reads them with an eye to understanding how the Christian Faith is, truly, the end of all religion, and especially of Islam.

This first meditation features a selection from Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh on The Jesus Prayer as Perfect Confession of Faith. I will interject a few points below [enclosed in brackets], and will end this preface by asking you to especially consider everything said about the Incarnation in the context of how it impacts certain key dogmas of Islam, including its denial of the Holy Trinity, its teaching that Jesus was merely a man, a Muslim prophet, and its belief that God is so other, so removed from mankind, that his ways cannot be known by humans, who are commanded simply to "submit" (the literal meaning of the word "Islam").


Exploring the Incarnation I
Fr. Steven C. Kostoff

...The Incarnation of Christ is a dogma of the Church.  This does not mean that it is an arid concept that demands blind adherence.  That would be true of a totalitarian ideology. 

[This is precisely the nature of Islam, which has a highly rigid, legalistic structure, founded on the Koran as the literal, pre-eternal and unchanging words of Allah, and on the example of Muhammad, who is held up as the perfect man and the best example to be emulated, and whose example guides the formation of Islamic law and life. Islam exerts totalitarian control over every facet of a person's life, breaking down and superseding individual conscience, and establishing shariah law as the ultimate uber-conscience, which directs a person in how to think, how to live, how to behave in every situation. Actions and beliefs are categorized as either obligatory, recommended, permitted, disliked, or forbidden. Going against core Islamic pillars such as belief in Allah as the only god and in Muhammad as his messenger is to commit apostasy, for which extreme punishment (death) is prescribed.]

 A dogma is the revelation of divine Truth; a description of reality at its most deepest level; and an invitation to assimilate that Truth to our own lives in a transformative manner.  Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  This implies and combines orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxis (right practice/living).  A dogma is meant to “count” in our lives, so that our lives reflect a living faith in the truth of what a particular dogma expresses.  Our faith in the Incarnation should have a daily impact on our lives:  God became man so that man could become like God!  (Or God was humanized so that humans could be divinized).  The New Adam has come to restore our fellowship with God.

Perhaps a good way to maintain such a focus during this Advent season is to be supplied with a series of well-written passages from Orthodox theologians – both ancient and contemporary - that uncover for us some of the depth and profundity of the Incarnation.  From now and until Nativity, I will hopefully send out a fair amount of such wonderful texts that show the consistency of Orthodox belief in the Incarnation “from generation to generation,” together with the endlessly creative and insightful ways that the truth of the Incarnation can be expressed.  

What does it actually mean to say that God became man?  Can God actually be born?  If so, what does that say of His mother?  If Jesus is God how can He also be human?  How do we understand the union of the divine and the human natures in the Person of Jesus Christ?  Reading some of these texts carefully, and then meditating on what we read will help us with dealing with such perplexing questions and in our search to further understand the mystery of the Incarnation “in an Orthodox manner.”

We will begin with a passage from Metropolitan Anthony Bloom that our Fall Adult Education class read and discussed together the other evening.  This passage is taken from Met. Anthony’s discussion of the practice of the Jesus Prayer.  What are we saying when we address Christ in prayer as the Lord Jesus Christ?  The metropolitan writes the following as a kind of profession of faith:

To see in the man of Galilee, in the prophet of truth, the incarnate Word of God, God become man, we must be guided by the Spirit, because it is the Spirit of God who reveals to us both the Incarnation and the lordship of Christ. We call him Christ, and we affirm thereby that in him were fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament.  To affirm that Jesus is the Christ implies that the whole history of the Old Testament is ours, that we accept it as the truth of God.  We call him Son of God, because we know that the Messiah expected by the Jews, the man who was called “son of David” by Bartimaeus, is the incarnate Son of God.  These words sum up all we know, all we believe about Jesus Christ, from the Old Testament through the ages.  In these few words we make a complete and perfect profession of faith.
From Metropolitan Anthony of Sorouzh – Selected Writings, p. 135

[In this brief paragraph, Metropolitan Anthony sums up one of the most important components of our faith, that is, the perfect continuity and linkage between the Old Testament and the New.  Jesus Christ is prophesied about, foreshadowed, pointed to and even seen (as through a glass darkly), throughout the Old Testament. Jesus Christ fulfills and completes the Old Testament,  transfiguring it into the New through His birth, baptism, public ministry, and ultimately by His suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Islam seeks, on the other hand, to appropriate and re-cast the Old and New Testaments to justify its own existence. Yet what we see, when we honestly look at the history, teachings, practices and fruits of Islam, is a sad and dark return to pre-Christian pagan ignorance, brutality, bondage and legalism. Christ came to set us free of such things. And if the Son sets us free, then we are free indeed!]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Let's make every day "Oxi Day"

October 28 is the annual Greek holiday "Oxi Day," (pronounced "okh-ee") when Greeks celebrate:

"General Ioannis Metaxas' strong reply of 'oxi' (no) to Mussolini's request to allow Italian troops to come into Greece at the beginning of WW II. The result of this stern message was powerful, and in the end, helped to maintain Greece’s course of neutrality for generations to come. Nevertheless, the Italians did invade Greece, but were subsequently driven back into Albania... On that cherished day in Greek history, prime minister Ioannis Metaxas not only rejected Italy's ultimatum, he chose the road of resistance... Cypriot countrymen also drew inspiration from Greece's refusal to let Italian troops invade in 1940 in the face of continued Turkish aggression." (Source)

Commemorated also in Greek Orthodox churches the Sunday closest to October 28, this is actually quite a profound holiday, one which takes its name from the simple word "No."

How important is this word? The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us:

"Let your 'yes' be 'yes', and your 'no', 'no'. Anything more than this comes from the evil one" (MT 5:37).

Thus, a simple and clear 'yes' or 'no' is the righteous response. Equivocation and nuanced dialogue is to be avoided. But that is a topic for another post.

In our time, a new "Oxi Day" is most desperately needed, not to stem the incursions of secular fascists, but to repudiate the efforts of today's threatening totalitarian ideology: Islam.

Cloaked in the garb of religion, Muhammad's followers seek to shield themselves against legitimate criticism:

  • of Islam's harsh teachings about women being valued half or a quarter than a man, 
  • of Islam's treatment of Christians, Jews and other non-muslims, 
  • of Islam's practices of polygamy, female genital mutilation, and other backwards cultural anomalies, 
  • of the barbaric punishments codified in sharia law for apostasy, blasphemy, theft, adultery, etc., 
  • and especially its command to wage jihad against the unbelievers until all the world is brought under the rule of Allah...

Adherents of this radical supremacist ideology are making every effort to insinuate Islamic precepts (sharia law) into American life, culture, and law. Every week sees new reports of Muslims claiming to be discriminated against by employers, schools, and even ordinary U.S. citizens. The most outrageous recent example is that of Muslim students at Catholic University, who claim their rights are being violated by the presence of crucifixes in classrooms, and who are insisting on special Muslim prayer spaces. (Interestingly, President Obama insisted on crosses being covered when he spoke at Georgetown University in April 2009.)

Pious Muslims are supposed to observe prayer five times a day. However, the demands of job, school or circumstance allow Muslims to observe their prayer times in whatever manner is convenient. Orthodox Christians understand this concept very well, having the Hours of Prayer, and in general, the full cycle of services which devout Orthodox may strive to observe, and which are kept in Orthodox Christian monasteries. It is not uncommon for Orthodox Christians to group together the First and Third Hours in the morning, or the Sixth and Ninth in the afternoon. Some defer them until after the work day is ended, and have a brief, early-evening rule. Most monastic communities group the Hours with other services, so as both to enable a flow to the services, and to allow for sufficient time for work and other obediences.

The point is, that precise observation of prayer times is never thought of as etched in stone, but is rather a fluid obligation, adaptable to one's situation in life. Indeed, for a Christian, the goal is not punctual but unceasing prayer, unceasing communion with the Lord. To believe otherwise, exalting the literal times of prayer over the spirit of continuous spiritual communion with God, is to be pharisaical — or something worse.

In the case of Muslim demands for prayer breaks at specific times, for prayer rooms, foot baths, wearing the hijab in violation of safety regulations, and on and on ad nauseum, such demands are merely convenient opportunities for Muslims to advance the notion that special consideration must always be granted for Islam and the followers of Muhammad. Over time, precedents are set, so that Somali workers at a Swift meat packing plant in Colorado striking for prayer breaks can point to Muslim taxi drivers in Minneapolis who refuse to accept passengers who are carrying or have been drinking alcohol, who all in turn bolster the notion that shariah law must be respected and observed by all Americans, because Muslims are a special, privileged class of people. How does this agenda get advanced? By Muslims challenging American law and culture in the courts, in the media, and in every possible forum, insisting their demands be met and accepted. Otherwise the employers, school, or non-Muslims are certain to be defamed as Islamophobic bigots. 

The Islamic supremacist challenge need not be of such a functional nature as prayer breaks and the like. It is just as often advanced in the marketplace of ideas. The Islamic claim that Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Muslim prophets (an infamous bus ad which has run in many major cities), and that Allah is the God of Abraham, the God of the Old and New Testaments (favorite Muslim claims in inter-faith dialogues), are especially pernicious, and must be repudiated by Christians wherever and whenever they are confronted by them. Such claims are blatant efforts to co-opt and Islamize Christianity and Judaism. In the absence of a robust Christian refutation of such Islamic proselytizing techniques (dawah) the old legal maxim holds: Silence implies assent.

Over time, as supremacist Muslim claims proliferate, and more and more Americans back down, Islam becomes the de facto established religion in America, and Muslims can claim exalted, preferential status and treatment.

Perhaps Catholic University can inaugurate a new era of American "Oxi Days," and simply tell the Muslim students to adopt a common sense solution to their problem: If you don't like Catholic crucifixes, you are free to withdraw from Catholic University and choose a secular university.

Muslim demands for preferential treatment?   Just say "Oxi."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs and His Significance

Like many, I am mourning Steve Jobs, founder and visionary of Apple, Inc., who died yesterday after a brave battle against a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Steve (many of us Apple users call him by his first name, thank you very much) was a unique visionary, who revolutionized several industries (personal computing, music distribution, mobile telephones, digital animation), and created whole new product categories which have transformed our lives and the future of culture and technology (the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad). 
As CEO of Apple, the company he co-founded and will forever be identified with, Steve led the design and launch of the first truly successful tablet computer, the iPad, which he introduced as a "revolutionary and magical device."

Although a consummate showman, Jobs usually shied away from any such hyperbole, describing products as "really great," "the best iMac we've ever shipped," etc. Apple watchers famously described his presentation skills as the Jobs "Reality Distortion Field." But with the iPad, it's not hyperbole, and there's no need for a huckster to distort reality once you see it. I own one, and it is revolutionary, even magical. How magical? Well, had someone created such a slate five centuries ago, they might have been burned at the stake.

Yes, under Steve Jobs we have seen something close to alchemy. We have seen vision, art and imagination perfectly wedded with technology. Revolutionary. Magical. Yet still deeply personal. Steve Jobs most dramatically touched our lives through devices you touch. His creative touch lives most powerfully through the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

Known for his intense, at times even fierce persona, Steve's insistence on excellence and drive to create "insanely great products" reportedly also drove some of his employees to frustration or even despair. His rise from the mid-1970s to the launch of the Mac, then fall after being ousted from Apple in 1985, then his return to Apple as iCEO in 1997, and his success in leading it to become the most powerful and successful tech company in the world, and for a time this past August, the most valuable company in the world (surpassing even Exxon), is a story of almost fable-like import. There is much more to be revealed about Steve Jobs in a significant biography to be released soon. His importance is so enormous that we Christians should seriously ponder this man's legacy, example, and what his ultimate message may be.

For now, I'd like to offer the below observation by a blogger who goes by the alias The Anti-Jihadist, who gives us a perspective on Steve Jobs' significance which in our insulated American lives we might not at first consider.

How we should remember Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the co-founder and (until very recently) the Chief Executive Officer of Apple, died yesterday at the young age of 56. He is being universally remembered and hailed as a creative and entrepreneurial talent of the first rank, earning numerous mainstream media comparisons to other giants of American business like Rockefeller, Edison and Henry Ford. In short, he was the consummate genius that only a free, non-Muslim society could conjure up.

Steve Jobs' brilliant life and career should always remind all of us that people can not reach even a small fraction of their potential under the shadow of Islam. It is mainly in the free, democratic Western World where most of the world's creative and inventive talents are born or choose to make their homes. It is mainly in the West where one finds, even now, the freedom to innovate, to pursue your dreams, and to reap failure or success based primarily on your merits and abilities. Freedom nurtures genius and ingenuity; totalitarian creeds destroy them.

Societies that lack fundamental freedoms and true tolerance for gifted individuals -- namely, Islamic societies -- are remarkably consistent in failing to produce noteworthy human capital or talent. The rare exceptions we find to this maxim -- the ones who manage to escape the death grip that Islam has on the minds, souls and psyches of so many -- prove this rule all too well. The world would have been much poorer if Steve Jobs had not been blessed with being born in a free society, in America; a society that allowed and encouraged him to reach for the apex of achievement in any field he so chose. What if Steve Jobs had had the misfortune to have been born in a place like Saudi Arabia or Pakistan? What would have become of his talents then? Would the world had been for the better or worse for it?

Let us take this time to mourn and remember the late, great Steve Jobs, but let us now especially remember the lesson that his life teaches us: freedom of the individual is one of the most important gifts imaginable to the human race. The human enterprise cannot and will not progress nor succeed without it.