Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Islam and Islamism: An Interview with Daniel Pipes

This is an excellent primer on the modern resurgence of Political Islam, or as Dr. Pipes calls it, Islamism. I disagree on a couple of key points, specifically, I would contend that the Islamists have a more legitimate claim to promoting authentic Islam than the 'moderates' do. But this is still a very insightful interview and is a 'must read'.

Islam and Islamism in the Modern World
By Tom Bethell 
An interview with Daniel Pipes.

Daniel Pipes, one of our leading experts on Islam, established the Middle East Forum and became its head in 1994. He was born in 1949 and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His father, Richard Pipes, was a professor of Russian history, now emeritus, at Harvard.

Daniel studied Arabic and Islamic history and lived in Cairo for three years. His PhD dissertation became his first book, Slave Soldiers and Islam (1981). Then his interest in purely academic subjects expanded to include modern Islam. He left the university because, as he told an interviewer from Harvard Magazine, he has “the simple politics of a truck driver, not the complex ones of an academic.”
His story of being harassed through the legal system by a Muslim who later committed suicide was recently told in The American Spectator (“A Palestinian in Texas,”  TAS, November 2012). He has been personally threatened but prefers not to talk about specifics except to note that law enforcement has been involved.

I interviewed Pipes shortly before Christmas, when the Egyptians were voting on their new constitution. I started out by saying that the number of Muslims in the U.S. has doubled since the 9/11 attacks.

DP: My career divides in two: before and after 9/11. In the first part I was trying to show that Islam is relevant to political concerns. If you want to understand Muslims, I argued, you need to understand the role of Islam in their lives. Now that seems obvious. If anything, there’s a tendency to over-emphasize Islam; to assume that Muslims are dominated by the Koran and are its automatons—which goes too far. You can’t just read the Koran to understand Muslim life. You have to look at history, at personalities, at economics, and so on.

TB: Do you see the revival of Islam as a reality?

DP: Yes. Half a century ago Islam was waning, the application of its laws became ever more remote, and the sense existed that Islam, like other religions, was in decline. Since then there has been a sharp and I think indisputable reversal. We’re all talking about Islam and its laws now.

TB: At the same time you have raised an odd question: “Can Islam survive Islamism?” Can you explain that?

DP: I draw a distinction between traditional Islam and Islamism. Islamism emerged in its modern form in the 1920s and is driven by a belief that Muslims can be strong and rich again if they follow the Islamic law severely and in its entirety. This is a response to the trauma of modern Islam. And yet this form of Islam is doing deep damage to faith, to the point that I wonder if Islam will ever recover.

TB: Give us the historical context.

DP: The modern era for Muslims began with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798. Muslims experienced a great shock at seeing how advanced the blue-eyed peoples from the north had become. It would be roughly analogous to the Eskimos coming down south and decimating Westerners, who would uncomprehendingly ask in response, “Who are these people and how are they defeating us?”

TB: So how did they respond?

DP: Muslims over the past 200 years have made many efforts to figure out what went wrong. They have experimented with several answers. One was to emulate liberal Europe—Britain and France—until about 1920. Another was to emulate illiberal Europe—Germany and Russia—until about 1970. The third was to go back to what are imagined to be the sources of Islamic strength a millennium ago, namely the application of Islamic law. That’s Islamism. It’s a modern phenomenon, and it’s making Muslims the center of world unrest.

TB: But it is also creating discomfort?

DP: It has terribly deleterious effects on Muslims. Many of them are put off by Islam. In Iran, for example, one finds a lot of alienation from Islam as a result of the Islamist rule of the last 30-odd years.

TB: Has it happened anywhere else?

DP: One hears reports, especially from Algeria and Iraq, of Muslims converting to Christianity. And in an unprecedented move, ex-Muslims living in the West have organized with the goal of becoming a political force. I believe the first such effort was the Centraal Comité voor Ex-moslims in the Netherlands, but now it’s all over the place.

TB: Nonetheless, Islam has lasted for 1,500 years.

DP: Yes, but modern Islamism has been around only since the 1920s, and I predict it will not last as a world-threatening force for more than a few decades. Will Muslims leave the faith or simply stop practicing it? These are the sort of questions I expect to be current before long.

TB: What about Islam in the United States?

DP: In the long term, the United States could greatly benefit Islam by uniquely freeing the religion from government constraints and permitting it to evolve in a positive, modern direction. But that’s the long term. Right now, American Muslims labor under Saudi and other influences, their institutions are extreme, and things are heading in a destructive direction. It’s also distressing to see how non-Muslim individuals and institutions, particularly those on the left, indulge Islamist misbehavior.

TB: How do they do that?

DP: Well, turn on the television, go to a class, follow the work of the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center, and you will see corporations, nonprofits, and government institutions working with the Islamists, helping promote the Islamist agenda. The American left and the Islamists agree on what they dislike—conservatives—and, despite their profound differences, they cooperate.

TB: Presumably some Muslims here deconvert, right?

DP: There are some conversions out of Islam, yes. And the Muslim establishment in this country is quite concerned about that. But numerically it is not a significant number.

TB: The ones who convert don’t talk about it very much?

DP: In some cases they do; they take advantage of Western freedoms to speak their minds. They are the exceptions, though.

TB: I suspect that the decline of Christianity has encouraged Islam.

DP: Very much so, as the contrast between Europe and the United States reveals. The hard kernel of American Christian faith, not present in Europe, means that Islamists are far better behaved in the United States. They see the importance of a Christian counterforce.

TB: Earlier, you mentioned Algeria. It is a big Muslim state that we don’t hear about today.

DP: Twenty years ago Algeria was a major focus of attention. That long ago ended, although in France coverage is still significant. Algeria is ripe for the same kind of upheaval that we have seen in other North African states, such as Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. I think it is likely to happen before too long.

TB: What about Syria?

DP: Assad’s power is steadily diminishing and I cannot see how his regime will remain long in power.

TB: Should the United States get involved there?

DP: No, Americans have no dog in this fight and nothing in the U.S. Constitution requires us to get involved in every foreign conflict. Two wretched forces are killing each other; just look at the ghastly videos of the two sides torturing and executing the other. Listen also to what they are saying. It’s a civil war involving the bad and the worse. I don’t want the U.S. government involved. That would mean bearing some moral responsibility for what emerges, which I expect to be very unsavory.

TB: So you are supporting the Obama position?

DP: Yes, though he reaches it with far more angst. Also, there appears to be some serious, clandestine U.S. support for the rebel forces. The September 11 meeting in Benghazi between the Turkish and the American ambassadors was very curious. They are both based in Tripoli, hundreds of miles away. What were they doing in Benghazi? Arranging for American arms going via Turkey to Syria, it appears.

TB: How important has Israel been to the revival of Islam?

DP: It is a major factor in the neighboring states. But elsewhere, in Morocco, Iran, Malaysia, it has minor importance.

TB: Since the “Arab Spring,” Israel seems increasingly beleaguered.

DP: Not really, not yet, though I agree that it will be more beleaguered with time. Its neighbors are so consumed with their own affairs that they hardly pay Israel attention. But once the neighbors get their houses in order, Israel will most likely face new difficulties.

TB: You have questioned U.S. support for Islamic democracy, which does seem naïve.

DP: The U.S. has been the patron for democracy for a century, since Wilson’s 14 Points, and a wonderful heritage it has been. When an American travels the world, he finds himself in country after country where his country played a monumentally positive role, especially in democratizing the system. We naturally want to extend this to Muslim-majority countries. Sadly, these for some time have offered an unpleasant choice between brutal and greedy dictators or ideological, extreme, and antagonistic elected Islamists. It’s not a choice we should accept.

TB: So what should we do?

DP: I offer three simple guidelines. One, always oppose the Islamists. Like fascists and Communists, they are the totalitarian enemy, whether they wear long beards in Pakistan or suits in Washington.
Two, always support the liberal, modern, secular people who share our worldview. They look to us for moral and other sustenance; we should be true to them. They are not that strong, and cannot take power soon anywhere, but they represent hope, offering the Muslim world’s only prospect of escape from the dreary dichotomy of dictatorship or extremism.

Three, and more difficult, cooperate with dictators but condition it on pushing them toward reform and opening up. We need the Mubaraks of the world and they need us. Fine, but relentlessly keep the pressure on them to improve their rule. Had we begun this process with Abdullah Saleh of Yemen in 1978 or with Mubarak in 1981, things could have been very different by 2011. But we didn’t.

TB: Egypt might be the test case.

DP: Well, it’s a bit late. Mohammed Morsi is not a greedy dictator but he emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood, and his efforts since reaching power have been purely Islamist.

TB: What about the recent elections?

DP: I do not believe that a single one of the elections and referenda in Egypt was fairly conducted. It surprises me that Western governments and media are so gullible on this score.

TB: You could say we were supporting the democracy element in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Were we not?

DP: Yes and rightly so. The initial demonstrations of early 2011 were spearheaded by the liberals and seculars who deserve U.S. support. But they got quickly pushed aside and Washington barely paid them further attention.

TB: We gave foreign aid to Mubarak. Was that a bad idea?

DP: That aid dates back to the utterly different circumstances of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979 and became progressively more wrong-headed. It should long ago have been discontinued. More broadly, I believe in aid for emergencies (soup and blankets) and as a bribe, but not for economic development. That the Obama administration is contemplating aid, including military hardware, to the Morsi government outrages me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

American Muslim Jurists and Other Muslim Groups plan Armed Jihad in USA has recently published some extremely serious articles documenting statements by American Muslim groups and individuals (including by a respected imam) which make it clear that armed jihad is the goal once Muslims in America have gained sufficient strength in numbers and arms:

American Muslim Jurists: Offensive Jihad? Not Yet.

Imam Preaches Armed Jihad in D.C. High School

'Nuanced' platitudes about Islam by academics and clergy never seem to address these sorts of initiatives, which spring directly from Islamic doctrine, which is of course based not only on the Qur'an, but on the life and example of Muhammad, as handed down in the Sira (Life of Muhammad) and the Hadiths (sayings and traditions by and about Muhammad).

Iran: Imprisoned American pastor tortured, threatened with death -- "the message is you will be treated this way until you become a Muslim"

As posted on JihadWatch:

Iran: Imprisoned American pastor tortured, threatened with death -- "the message is you will be treated this way until you become a Muslim"

"All people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed." -- The renowned Qur'an commentator Ibn Kathir

Islamic Tolerance Alert from the Islamic Republic of Iran: "Imprisoned American says Iranian captors 'waiting for me to deny Christ,'" by Lisa Daftari for, February 22 (thanks to Daniel):

American pastor Saeed Abedini, jailed in a notoriously brutal Iranian prison for his Christian faith, is facing physical and psychological torture at the hands of captors demanding he renounce his beliefs, according to supporters.

The 32-year-old married father of two, who left his home in Boise, Idaho, to help start an orphanage in his latest country, detailed “horrific pressures” and “death threats,” is a letter to family members, according to his U.S.-based attorneys.

“My eyes get blurry, my body does not have the strength to walk, and my steps become very weak and shaky,” read the letter, sneaked out of Evin prison in Tehran. "They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ. But they will never get this from me.”

Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison for threatening the national security of Iran through his leadership in Christian house churches. The American Center for Law and Justice has provided legal support for Abedini’s family in the U.S. and is working through various government means to help win the pastor’s release. ACLJ Executive Director Jordan Sekulow said the fact that the torture is happening after Abedini's trial, a sham he and his attorney were not even allowed to attend, is particularly chilling.
“This is post conviction," Sekulow said. "This isn’t about a trial. This is about life, and the message is you will be treated this way until you become a Muslim.”

Family and friends of Abedini have long suspected the worst regarding his treatment in the prison, but the latest letter confirmed their fears.

“This is only second time we’ve heard from him, but this makes sense in light of how Christians are being treated in Iran," Sekulow said. "He can’t communicate this message every day. It’s our job to get this important message out to everyone.”

Abedini has denied evangelizing in Iran since being arrested and admonished more than a decade ago. He has made over nine trips to Iran since 2009, but says he traveled to visit family and friends, and on his last trip over the summer of 2012, finalize details on a family established orphanage. Authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into Evin prison....

Friday, February 22, 2013

Islam or Death - Egypt's Christians targeted

The new Islamist group reported in this story, Jihad al-Kufr, is doing nothing new. They are merely following the example of Muhammad, the dictates of the Qur'an, and the example of jihadis from the seventh century in continuity to our own day. What is interesting about this story is its disturbing eschatological undertone, which is not reported by Lisa Daftari.

According to Islamic doctrine and teaching on jihad and the dhimma contract, non-Muslims (and supposedly, especially, the 'Peoples of the Book', Christians and Jews) are to be offered a 'third choice'. If they refuse to convert to Islam, they may preserve their lives if they submit to Muslim rule over them, pay the jizya tax, and accept the humiliating conditions of the dhimma contract. However, once the Muslim Prophet Isa (i.e., Jesus) returns to destroy Christianity, the 'third choice' will no longer be available. Islam will rule the world, and conversion or death will be the only options available for non-Muslims. Perhaps this new group, Jihad al-Kufr, anticipates the end times in its manifesto. Their threats against the Copts certainly echoes the evil wave against non-Muslims boiling up all throughout the Islamic world.

Islam or death? Egypt's Christians targeted by new terror group
By Lisa Daftari
February 21, 2013

A group of Christian priests from a local Coptic church in Egypt were told to convert to Islam or face death, according to an Arabic news site.

The incident, which comes in the midst of continued persecution and pressure on Egypt’s Christian community, took place this week in the town of Safaga, near the Red Sea, the El Balad site reported.
According to El Balad, the threats are from a new group in Egypt, Jihad al-Kufr, whose name translates to Jihad against non-believers or non-Muslims. The group targets non-Muslims, and reportedly pressures them to convert to Islam.

“It’s not the first time. This is happening every day,” said Adel Guindy, president of Coptic Solidarity and a member of Egypt’s Coptic community who travels between Paris and Cairo. “This one incident caught the attention of the news agencies, but there are worse things happening to the Christians every day in Egypt,” he said.

Christians have felt increasingly at risk since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, which resulted in the rise of President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

“It has definitely worsened under the revolution. Once the worst part of the society surfaced -- the Islamists -- the Copts are paying a heavy price. The West doesn’t really feel our pain. It’s a war of attrition,” Guindy said.

Copts are the largest Christian community in the Middle East, and the most prominent religious minority in the region. Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people.

Egypt’s new constitution has come under scrutiny by many for including elements of Sharia, or Islamic law, while simultaneously legitimizing the marginalization of the country’s religious minorities by denying them legal protection. It also granted increased powers to Morsi, who self-declared sweeping powers in a Nov. 22 power grab that prompted heavy international criticism.

The new constitution was ratified after its second referendum in late December, winning more than 70 percent of the vote. Moderate Egyptians took to the streets to protest the rushed ratification, but the demonstrations were quickly quashed.

Some believe members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic extremists, emboldened by the constitution’s passage, have stepped up attacks against Egyptian Christians.

“There was a relative amount of freedom (for Christians) before Egypt’s revolution, and many were hoping for more freedoms, and now things are unfortunately much worse and much more difficult,” said Jason DeMars, founder of Present Truth Ministries, a Christian advocacy group that tracks religious persecution around the world.

“It’s what they’ve always wanted to do, but Mubarak held some of that back because of the support he got from the United States and other Western countries,” DeMars said. “People were paying attention, but now the extremists are seeing this as an opportunity to crack down on the community there.”

Extremists over the weekend set fire to a Christian Church in the Province of Fayoum, the second such assault against the town’s Coptic population in a month. The attackers ripped down the church’s cross and hurled rocks at church members, injuring four people including the priest, according to a report by Morning Star News.\

There have also been several reported cases of rape and harassment of Coptic women. Two women in traditional Islamic headdress cut off the hair of two Christian women on the subway in Cairo in December, the Egypt Independent reported. It was the third such incident in two months.

And last week, an Egyptian court forced two Coptic Christian boys, ages 10 and 9, to face trial for “insulting the Koran,” according to reports. The boys were arrested after playing in a pile of trash, which authorities claimed included pages of the Koran.

Egypt's Coptic Christian leader, Pope Tawadros II, spoke openly this month when he dismissed the new constitution as discriminatory.

"We are a part of the soil of this nation and an extension of the pharaohs and their age before Christ,” he told the Associated Press. “Yes, we are a minority in the numerical sense, but we are not a minority when it comes to value, history, interaction and love for our nation."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Orthodox patriarch opposes plan to make Hagia Sophia a mosque

This is another bold statement by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. May the Lord protect and strengthen him.

CWN - Feb. 20, 2013 - Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople has staked out his opposition to convert the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

Once the patriarchal basilica of Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque when Muslims conquered the city [in 1453; Constantinople had been Christian for over a thousand years prior]. In 1935, Turkey’s government made the building a museum, as part of the secularizing campaign under the leadership of Kemal Ataturk. But today Turkey’s government, while professing the same secular principles, has supported a campaign to build new mosques and convert some historic buildings into mosques. A proposal to make the Hagia Sophia a mosque is now under consideration in the Turkish parliament. ''We want Santa Sofia to remain a museum,” said Patriarch Bartholomew. The Orthodox prelate said that if the museum is converted to any religious use, it should become a Christian church, since it was built for that purpose.

Related Story: Turkey reopening converted churches as mosques

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Could Islam be 'Reformed'?

This is a very significant article (originally published in 2010) by one of the most insightful writers on Islam today, Dr. Mark Durie of Australia, author of Revelation: Do We Worship the Same God?, and The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude, and Freedom. As with most things related to Islam, when discussing the idea of 'reforming' it, we must be very clear about our terms and what precisely we mean. This Dr. Durie does, with a patient pedagogy that permeates all his writings.

"They ARE the Reformation"

By Mark Durie

On December 1, 2009, Wafa Sultan and Daniel Pipes debated whether and to what extent a 'moderate' Islam is possible.  Although both are opponents of Islamic radicalism, on this question they did not agree.

Wafa Sultan argued that Islam is Islam, pure and simple, and there can never be such a thing as 'moderate Islam'. On the other hand, Daniel Pipes argued that the answer to radical Islam must be moderate Islam: Islam can be moderated, and the effort to support Muslim moderates is both necessary and worthwhile.

The two participants in the debate are as contrasting a pair as one could imagine.  The ex-Muslim Wafa Sultan is undoubtedly a powerful voice in her native Arabic, and even in English she is impassioned and speaks with a memorable turn of phrase.  In contrast, Daniel Pipes is measured and softly spoken, carefully and persistently making his case.  He challenged her to explain what practical solutions she could offer to the challenge of radical Islam.  She challenged him to show the results produced by his promotion of moderate Islam.

I commend the debate to readers, not because one party won the day, but because the speakers were addressing important questions, which will exercise many minds for years - perhaps generations - to come.

My concern here however is to focus on an important comparison between medieval Christianity and present-day Islam, which was raised by someone in the audience, who asked:

"I will suggest that this [radical Islam] is not that different from Christianity at the time of the crusades, which was a very belligerent religion compared to what it is today.  So look at that in terms of the evolution of a religious doctrine, and how long does that take?"

The questioner went on to speculate whether the acceleration of change, which we see in the world around us, could allow a reformation of Islam to happen more rapidly than happened with Christianity.

On countless occasions over the years I have heard this comparison: Christianity has undergone its reformation, so why not Islam? The European reformation took centuries: why wouldn't an Islamic reformation also take time?  Isn't it all a matter of time.

This line of thinking arises from a world view which looks at ideologies through the lens of 'progress' or 'evolution', shaped by a kind of Darwinism.  The underlying presupposition is that human societies evolve as time passes, progressing and becoming more humane and more advanced.  

Clearly not everyone in the West works from this assumption, but many do.  As recently as the 1960's, it was even fashionable among Western secularists to believe that religion had had its day altogether. Many announced that God was, at last, 'dead'.  The death of God was widely  regarded as one of the positive benefits of progress.

The idea of progress is not simply a concept - it has become part of the warp and woof of our everyday language.  We speak of ideas, policies and practices as 'backward' or 'regressive', 'progressive' or 'advanced'.  Time has become a yardstick to measure the ever-improving character of human social order.  It is the embedding of the idea of progress into our everyday language which gives credibility to the question "Can Islam not undergo its own reformation too?"

But do societies really tend to evolve, becoming more and more advanced?  Do social institutions inevitably improve with time?  Is progress more than just an idea - is it a law which governs the history of religions?

I find it very difficult, looking back over the ethical wreckage of the 20th century, to subscribe to the presupposition of progress. The worst atrocities of the past 100 years were perpetrated by regimes which held up an ideal of social evolution, and which were motivated by a vision of human progress.  One recalls, for example of the careers of Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot.  Such shameful monuments to 'progress' as National Socialism and Communism do not inspire confidence that human societies and ideologies can and must improve with time.

There is another problem with comparing today's Islam with pre-Reformation Christianity, and this has to do with the meaning of 'reformation' itself.  It has become accepted by many thinking people today that 'reformation' means some kind of softening, a 'moderating' process.  Indeed a manifestation of 'progress'.  This is far from the truth.

Throughout the whole medieval period the idea of reformation (reformatio) was prestigious, and many reform movements chased after this ideal.   Reformation meant going back to one's roots, and just about everyone agreed that this was a Good Thing.  For medieval Christians, a reformed Christianity meant being more Christ-like, more apostolic, and more Pauline.  Wealthy St Francis read Jesus' words about giving away one's possessions to feed the poor, so he followed this teaching, and many flocked to join him.  Thus the Franciscans were founded as a reform movement.  

St Francis was a radical reformer. He was not inspired by a vision of making Christianity more moderate and progressive.  What moved him was a desire to follow the Jesus of Gospels.  

Likewise Luther recalled the words of St Paul about freedom in the letter to the Galatians - 'for freedom Christ has set us free' - to exort the German Nobles to claim their own freedom from ecclesiastical authority.

The European Reformation - so often invoked in comparisons with Islam today - was driven by a desire to re-form Christianity a second time,  taking it back to its roots.  It sought to move ahead by going backwards.  Its inner logic had nothing to do with the modern idea of progress or the Darwinian concept of 'evolution'.  The Reformation was not a 'progressive' movement in the modern sense, but one which sought to 'regress', renewing the example of Christ and his apostles.  

This is why Luther and other reformers encouraged believers to read their Bibles for themselves, in their own native tongue.  Luther regarded it as the duty of every Christian to be constantly renewing their own faith from the original sources.  LIke St Francis, Luther was a Christian radical.

It is true that some changes brought in by the European Reformation had a moderating effect on Western intellectual life. There developed a greater emphasis on freedom and individual responsibility, for example. The Protestant work ethic was one bi-product of this emphasis. Yet these developments did not take place out of a desire to develop a more moderate form of Christianity, but because they they were regarded as conforming more to the  Bible.

Therefore, according to the core meaning of 'reformation' - a return to one's roots - reforming Islam  would mean making it more Muhammadan.  An Islamic reformation would produce a religion which is closer to the Koran, and above all, closer to the example and teaching of its founder.  

The hankering of some Westerners after an Islamic reformation begs the question of what would it mean to be follow Muhammad's example more closely?

As it happens, such a movement has been underway for more than 100 years, and is in full swing today.  It is what we know today as Islamic radicalism. The ideal of an Islamic reformation has produced, among many other results, the global jihad movement, the push for sharia revival and reimplementation of the Caliphate. This is what a desire to revive the example and teaching of Muhammad has led to.

There are two two main reasons why renewing the example of Muhammad leads to Islamic radicalism. 

One is that Muhammad combined within himself the offices of king, judge, general and religious leader, thus unifying politics, law, the military and religion.  To follow his example means creating a theocratic political order, where the laws of the land are controlled by Islamic theology.  In contrast Christian tradition has always distinguished the secular from the ecclesiastical, based on the older Hebrew religious distinction between priests and kings.  This feature of medieval Christianity - the distinction between religion and politics - was severely criticised by famous Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun.  Muslim thinkers had always regarded it as one of the key weaknesses of Christianity.

The second reason why renewing Islam leads to radicalism is that many of the harsher elements of Islamic law - such death for apostates, stoning adulterers, cutting off the hands of thieves, enslaving one's enemies, and killing non-believers - are firmly grounded in Muhammad's example.

Australian Muslim Waleed Aly was entirely correct when he said Islam has already had its Reformation, and the outcome has been Islamic radicalism:  

"Still, Western calls for an Islamic Reformation grow predictably and irrepressibly stronger, while those familiar with the Islamic tradition easily observe that radical and terrorist groups such as al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, cannot be cured by Reformation for the very simple fact that they are the Reformation." [People like us: how arrogance is dividing Islam and the West, p.xv].

For those today whose world view is shaped by the ideal of progress, and look out upon Islam peering through the frame of Western assumptions about 'backwardness', 'progress' and 'evolution', Waleed Aly's insight can be difficult to grasp.  Yet it is essential that it be understood and appreciated.  

In today's world, if what is needed is more moderate manifestation of Islam, then the very last thing that could ever accomplish this would be an Islamic Reformation.

Muslim leads Arizona State Senate in Anti-Christian prayer

One of the least understood aspects of Islamic theology and practice concerns Islam's opening prayer, the 'al-Fatiha', which is also the first sura of the Qur'an. Functionally similar to the Trisagion Prayers in Orthodox Christian worship, the al-Fatiha is repeated by devout Muslims seventeen times a day, and concludes with these verses:

...Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those against whom Thou art wrathful nor of those who are astray.

Offered as a prayer to “the Master of the Day of Doom,” ‘The Opening’ refers specifically in these its final two verses to the Christians and the Jews. In traditional Islamic teaching, Islam alone is 'the straight path'. In his classic commentary on the Qur'an, Ibn Kathir discusses the wrong paths:

“The two paths He described here are both misguided,” and that those “two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them. The path of the believers is knowledge of the truth and abiding by it. In comparison, the Jews abandoned practicing the religion, while the Christians lost the true knowledge. This is why ‘anger’ descended upon the Jews, while being described as ‘led astray’ is more appropriate of the Christians.” (Ibn Kathir, Commentary on Koran 1:7, Vol 1, p 87.)

This is the mainstream Islamic view, held to by most Muslim jurists, though not all Muslims realize whom they are condemning when they pray ‘The Opening’. Regardless, it is clear that in the Islamic view, Jews and Christians alike are under Allah’s judgment and wrath, and this view is reinforced for the faithful Muslim seventeen times a day, thousands of times a year.

The travesty described below is precisely the result of ignorance concerning Islamic theology and practices.

"CAIR-AZ Chairman Leads Prayer on Arizona Senate Floor," from CAIR Arizona, February 7:

On Thursday, February 7th, 2013 - the Arizona State Senate's prayer invocation was led by Anas Hlayhel - the Chairman of the Arizona Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-AZ.)

Hlayhel, who also serves as the part time imam of the Islamic Center of the Northeast Valley led the lawmakers and all those in attendance through the reading of al-Fatiha (the opening chapter of the Holy Quran) in addition to an additional prayer thereafter...

By the way, no American local, state or federal governing body, nor any organization of any kind (especially not any Christian church or group), should have any contact whatsoever with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) or any of its representatives, as CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case -- so named by the Justice Department. Furthermore, CAIR operatives have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups. Several former CAIR officials have been convicted of various crimes related to jihad terror.  CAIR's cofounder and longtime Board chairman (Omar Ahmad), as well as its chief spokesman (Ibrahim Hooper), have made Islamic supremacist statements

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Suffering Serbs

Recent reports from the Balkans indicate heightened Muslim activity against Orthodox Christian Serbs. Here are a few key stories highlighting the events:


Aleksandar Vulin says threats and protests in front of the Serb medieval monastery Visoki Dečani were an attempt to complete the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. According to the director of the Government’s Office for Kosovo and Metohija, they also aimed to remove any evidence of the existence of Serbs there.  Continue reading...

RADICAL ISLAM SURGING IN BALKANS - Washington, Feb. 10, 2013

Just as al-Qaida is extending its reach through franchises from the Arabian Peninsula and across North Africa, it could soon be linked up with the growth of radical Islamists in the Balkan countries that once made up Yugoslavia...

With its breakup in the 1990s, Sunni Muslims began to spread into Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo, which once was the heart of Christian Serbia. This spread is offset by Christian majorities in Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.

The Balkans, however, have a history of Islamist concentration since the end of the Cold War. Osama bin Laden, for example, began setting up charities there as a way of funneling money to help with the spread of Islamist militancy against the Christians in the 1990s.

Indeed, the Balkans were where Muslims retreated following the unsuccessful siege of Vienna on September 11, 1683. It was a battle of the Holy Roman Empire along with other military forces of Christian countries to counter the spread of the Ottoman Empire into Europe.

The region is facing “a growing challenge from imams trained in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey who are promoting a more fundamentalist and radical form of Islam,” according to a report in the open intelligence group Langley Intelligence Group Network, or Lignet.

Even the Vatican recently noted that “enormous funds (are) pouring in from Saudi Arabia and Turkey” to radicalize Muslims in the region.

A Macedonian security official said that radical Islamists “exist in larger numbers than what the public knows.”  Continue reading...


Head of the Serb Orthodox monastery Visoki Dečani Sava Janjić has said that Kosovo Albanian extremists continue to make threats against the monastery.

He noted that he was concerned about their announcement that they would usurp the monastery’s land despite the decision of the Supreme Court of Kosovo.

The court determined that 23 hectares belonged to the monastery and ruled against two companies who claimed that the land belonged to them.

“This would be very dangerous because Visoki Dečani is not just a church and it owns a land that is important for the survival of monks,” Janjić stressed.

He told B92 that he had discussed the issue with KFOR Commander Volker Halbauer on Saturday.
“He assured us that our safety was not threatened and that KFOR would protect the monastery from attacks of local extremists,” Janjić said.

He warned that the Albanian extremists continued to make threats and that they had announced that they would “radicalize” the protest and take away the monastery land.  Read the full article...


Albanians last night completely destroyed the monastery “Assumption of the Virgin” in southern Serbia. Monastery of the Assumption of Virgin” which is located in the vicinity of Vladicin Han was vandalized last night. The door was smashed, and the entire interior were broken. The money from the candle sales and other item inside the monastery is stolen, and all the icons were smashed. Mother Paraskeva (62 years old) confirmed this information. She was very upset fear for her safety. “I’m afraid they will come back, but I’m not going anywhere. I’m here alone and old, but let them come, someone has to defend, “said Paraskeva.

“There’s nothing left, this is terrible! The whole world stood up on his feet because of a cartoon of Muhammad, but when all monasteries and churches destroyed, no one responds,” she added.Asked whether he knows who could have done this, Paraskeva replied that everything is known, but that no one will be interested in this case.

“Albanians from Kosovo were organized with the intention of coming to destroy the Serbian monasteries in this area! This is not the first time something like this happens. Last year on Good Friday they attacked me, I did not have a stick, who knows if I managed to defend myself, “said the visibly shaken Paraskeva.

“Albanians from Kosovo are organized and planned to come and destroy Serbian monasteries in this area. This is not the 1st time something like this happens. Last year on Good Friday they attacked me. If I didn-t have my stick, I would hardly protect myself.  Read the full story...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Robert Spencer: The Pitfalls of 'Dialogue'

One of the chief reasons I wrote my book, Facing Islam, was to warn against Orthodox Christians carelessly and naively engaging in inter-faith dialogue with Muslims.  Robert Spencer has a new book coming on the subject, and in this post highlights some of the serious problems with the idea, concentrating on the pernicious 'A Common Word' initiative. (For further analysis of 'A Common Word', see Dr. Mark Durie's excellent resource site.)

The Pitfalls of “Dialogue”

By Robert Spencer

Robert McManus, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts, recently dropped me from a scheduled appearance at a Catholic conference in Worcester on the grounds that “Mr. Spencer’s talk would impact negatively on the Church’s increasingly constructive dialogue with Muslims.”

In the name of interreligious dialogue, it’s not uncommon for Muslim spokesmen to visit churches with the stated goal of clearing up “misconceptions” about Islam. Such sessions often include the Muslim speaker’s downplaying the reality of jihad activity and Muslim persecution of Christians, and offering his Christian audience bland assurances that such things have nothing to do with authentic Islam.

On a larger scale, Muslims have engaged in several high-profile attempts at dialogue with Catholics in recent years, to which Catholics have generally responded with enthusiasm. Yet, there is less to these attempts at outreach than meets the eye. The two most visible and well-publicized attempts by Muslims to reach out to Catholics turn out, on close examination, to be thinly veiled exercises in proselytizing. All of these attempts at “dialogue” share several common characteristics, including most notably a downplaying and glossing-over of the differences between Christianity and Islam, an over-emphasis on the similarities between the two religions, and a call to Christians to abandon or modify certain of their core beliefs, while never budging an inch on Islamic doctrines.

One notorious example of this came a few years ago, when 138 Muslim leaders and scholars from all over the globe issued a more extensive appeal to Christians for mutual understanding, entitled A Common Word Between Us and You. The “Common Word” initiative is quite extensive, with ongoing conferences and other mutual endeavors between Muslims and Catholics, as well as between Muslims and other Christian groups. The Common Word website describes the project in enthusiastic terms: “Never before have Muslims delivered this kind of definitive consensus statement on Christianity. Rather than engage in polemic, the signatories have adopted the traditional and mainstream Islamic position of respecting the Christian scripture and calling Christians to be more, not less, faithful to it.”

Following a pattern that’s common in documents like these, data contradicting the assertions in A Common Word Between Us and You are not addressed and refuted but simply ignored. Nothing is said, for example, about the Islamic claim that the Christian Scripture has been corrupted. While claiming they want to respect Christian Scripture and build on common ground, the Muslim scholars (despite copious Qur’an quotes) never mention Qur’an 5:17, which says that those who believe in the divinity of Christ are unbelievers; or 4:171, which says that Jesus was not crucified; or 9:30, which says that those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are accursed; or 9:29, which mandates warfare against and the subjugation of Jews and Christians. Why should they mention these unpleasant passages in the midst of trying to build bridges? Because they are precisely the obstacles to such bridges. For there to be any true and honest dialogue, verses like these must be addressed in some way, even if only to give them a benign interpretation.

When Pope John Paul II died, the Washington Post reminded its readers how “during his long reign, Pope John Paul II apologized to Muslims for the Crusades, to Jews for anti-Semitism, to Orthodox Christians for the sacking of Constantinople, to Italians for the Vatican’s associations with the Mafia and to scientists for the persecution of Galileo.” In reality, he never apologized for the Crusades; the closest he came was on March 12, 2000, the “Day of Pardon,” when he said, “[W]e cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.”

Though it’s hardly an “apology for the Crusades,” nonetheless one would be hard pressed to find a similar statement from any Muslim leader, still less one of the pope’s stature, acknowledging any wrongdoing on the part of Muslims individually or of any Islamic state. The idea of a Muslim asking pardon and forgiveness from a non-Muslim is anathema to Islamic theology. But some kind of reciprocity of this kind would seem necessary for genuine dialogue.

Reading the entire Qur’anic verse from which the phrase “a common word between us and you” was taken makes clear the Common Word initiative’s agenda: “Say: ‘People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.’ And if they turn their backs, say: ‘Bear witness that we are Muslims’” (3:64). Since Muslims consider the Christian confession of the divinity of Christ to be an unacceptable association of a partner with God, this verse is saying that the “common word” that Muslims and the People of the Book should agree on is that Christians should discard one of the central tenets of their faith and essentially become Muslims.

Not a promising basis for an honest and mutually respectful dialogue of equals. The Common Word document’s explanation for this was disingenuous, not mentioning that according to the mainstream Islamic understanding of what it means to “ascribe a partner to God,” the Christians were guilty of this sin:

The words: we shall ascribe no partner unto Him relate to the Unity of God, and the words: worship none but God, relate to being totally devoted to God. Hence they all relate to the First and Greatest Commandment. According to one of the oldest and most authoritative commentaries on the Holy Qur’an the words: that none of us shall take others for lords beside God, mean “that none of us should obey the other in disobedience to what God has commanded.” This relates to the Second Commandment because justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbour.

The Common Word document suggests its true intentions in its Qur’anic epigraph: “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and contend with them in the fairest way. Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.” This verse (16:125) is a curious choice to head up a document that is ostensibly devoted to finding common ground for dialogue and mutual cooperation—unless the intention is actually only to proselytize.

The use of this epigraph recalls the words of the Egyptian Islamic supremacist writer Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966), the great theorist of the Muslim Brotherhood: “The chasm between Islam and Jahiliyyah [the society of unbelievers] is great, and a bridge is not to be built across it so that the people on the two sides may mix with each other, but only so that the people of Jahiliyyah may come over to Islam.”

Muslims in the U.S. and Europe often term their outreach to non-Muslims “bridge-building,” but to Muslims this expression has a very different meaning. Bishop McManus, and those like him, should take careful note.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His upcoming book, Not Peace But A Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam, will be available March 25.