Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bishop Luke of Seidnaya: 'Orthodoxy is being destroyed in Syria'

This brief report features direct allegations made by a respected hierarch of "mass murder" and "systematic destruction" of churches in detailing the "scale of persecutions" of Orthodox Christians in Syria.

Bishop Luke of Seidnaya: Orthodoxy is being destroyed in Syria
Damascus, March 29, 2013

In his interview to the MEDIA, a Hierarch of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Bishop Luke of Seidnaya, has disclosed the scale of persecutions suffered by Orthodox Christians of this region since the very beginning of the uprising against the regime of Bashar Al-Assad, reports

By now, 138,000 Christians have been banished from their homes and at the same time Christian Churches are systematically destroyed. "They are killing people. A human life is of no value for them," in such words Bishop Luke is describing the situation in the country.

Thus, in the city of Homs, anti-government forces have committed mass murder of Christians. Hundreds of people have been killed. Dozens of cases of sexual assault have also been recorded.

"The damage done to our Churches is great. They are burned, plundered, their walls are broken. If a human life is of no value for these criminals then will they spare our shrines? Our parishioners are beaten up and attacked. All this is obtaining "legal status" because revolution is happening and nobody is protesting against it," notes the Orthodox Hierarch.

"Our ancestors settled in this land long before Islam appeared here. A great number of saints, who preached love, were martyred in this land," notes the Very Reverend Bishop Luke who, in spite of all horrors described above, continues to call Muslims "brothers". And how can it be otherwise, since Orthodoxy rejects hatred for other religious convictions?

Unfortunately, Orthodox Christians in Syria are now abandoned to their fate. They are becoming vulnerable victims of Muslim fanatics. And the only way they can oppose violence in this situation is prayer and hope in help of God, Who does not abandon those who trust in Him.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Christians Under Attack in Syria: CBS Video

CBS News provides a refreshingly honest piece on the crisis facing Christians in Syria. Let's pray this heralds a trend of honest and frequent reporting by the mainstream media on the plight of Christians suffering increasing persecution throughout the Islamic world.

Note that the report clearly states the Christians in Syria predate even the founding of Islam by several centuries. The same is true of the Copts in Egypt, the Orthodox in Asia Minor (Turkey); you get the idea.

The priest's last words, "They don't want us here," refers of course to the Muslim extremists wanting to drive out or eradicate Christians from Syria.  They are following the example of Muhammad, who gave  non-Muslims three choices: convert to Islam, submit to Islamic rule as a humiliated second-class populace (dhimmi), or die. Muhammad himself vowed that he would "expel the Christians and Jews from the Arabian peninsula, and would not leave any but Muslim" (Hadith from Sahih Muslim 19.4366). This is why the Christian population has collapsed throughout the Islamic world over the last few decades.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dealing with Denial

This article by Dr. Daniel Pipes, though dealing with Islamic terrorism and national security matters, can help inform our own efforts as we confront Muslim persecution of Christians throughout the Islamic world, as we counter Muslim efforts at deception and proselytism (such as the 'A Common Word' initiative), and as we encounter Muslims in our daily lives, and seek to live out before them and share with them the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We see among some Orthodox clergy, hierarchs and academics the same pattern of denial as Dr Pipes describes among government and administration officials. While we might understand their reasons, which are likely quite similar to those Dr Pipes lists below, yet I believe we can make the far more convincing case that presenting a forthright and honest challenge to Islamic supremacism, the global phenomenon of Muslim persecution of Christians, and Islam's 'theological jihad' against Christianity will accomplish at least three goals:

1)  Gain respect from moderate Muslims, who may be in a position to influence and help improve the lot of Christians in Islamic countries,

2)  Draw greater attention among our elected officials to the human rights abuses of Christians in the Islamic world, and thus help improve their conditions,

3) Invigorate and inspire Orthodox and other Christians to a deeper, richer and more authentic Christ-centered life through the robust theological catechism which would result from sustained truth-telling about Islam.

We might even dare to hope that a more fervent laity will lead to greater missionary success among Muslims, and that more and more may come to see the 'true light' in Christ, which we should always hold as our highest goal in this endeavor.

Why the U.S. Denies the 'Islamic' in Islamic Terrorism

Over three years after Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009, the classification of his crime remains in dispute. In its wisdom, the Department of Defense, supported by law enforcement, politicians, journalists, and academics, deems the killing of thirteen and wounding of forty-three to be “workplace violence.” For example, the 86-page study on preventing a repeat episode, Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood, mentions “workplace violence” sixteen times.[1]

Indeed, were the subject not morbid, one could be amused by the disagreement over what exactly caused the major to erupt. Speculations included “racism” against him, “harassment he had received as a Muslim,” his “sense of not belonging,” “mental problems,” “emotional problems,” “an inordinate amount of stress,” the “worst nightmare” of his being deployed to Afghanistan, or something fancifully called “pre-traumatic stress disorder.” One newspaper headline, “Mindset of Rogue Major a Mystery,” sums up this bogus state of confusion.[2]

In contrast, members of Congress ridiculed the “workplace violence” characterization and a coalition of 160 victims and family members recently released a video, “The Truth about Fort Hood,” criticizing the administration. On the third anniversary of the massacre, 148 victims and family members sued the U.S. government for avoiding legal and financial responsibility by not acknowledging the incident as terrorism.[3]

The military leadership willfully ignores what stares them in the face, namely Hasan’s clear and evident Islamist inspiration; Protecting the Force mentions “Muslim” and “jihad” not a single time, and “Islam” only once, in a footnote.[4] The massacre officially still remains unconnected to terrorism or Islam.

This example fits in a larger pattern: The establishment denies that Islamism—a form of Islam that seeks to make Muslims dominant through an extreme, totalistic, and rigid application of Islamic law, the Shari’a—represents the leading global cause of terrorism when it so clearly does. Islamism reverts to medieval norms in its aspiration to create a caliphate that rules humanity. “Islam is the solution” summarizes its doctrine. Islam’s public law can be summarized as elevating Muslim over non-Muslim, male over female, and endorsing the use of force to spread Muslim rule. In recent decades, Islamists (the adherents of this vision of Islam) have established an unparalleled record of terrorism. To cite one tabulation: counts 20,000 assaults in the name of Islam since 9/11,[5] or about five a day. In the West, terrorist acts inspired by motives other than Islam hardly register.

It is important to document and explain this denial and explore its implications. The examples come predominantly from the United States, though they could come from virtually any Western country—except Israel.

Documenting Denial

The government, press, and academy routinely deny that Islamist motives play a role in two ways, specific and general. Specific acts of violence perpetrated by Muslims lead the authorities publicly, willfully, and defiantly to close their eyes to Islamist motivations and goals. Instead, they point to a range of trivial, one-time, and individualistic motives, often casting the perpetrator as victim. Examples from the years before and after 9/11 include:

1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane in New York: “A prescription drug for … depression.”[6]
1991 murder of Makin Morcos in Sydney: “A robbery gone wrong.”
1993 murder of Reverend Doug Good in Western Australia: An “unintentional killing.”
1993 attack on foreigners at a hotel in Cairo, killing ten: Insanity.[7]
1994 killing of a Hasidic Jew on the Brooklyn Bridge: “Road rage.”[8]
1997 shooting murder atop the Empire State Building: “Many, many enemies in his mind.”[9]
2000 attack on a bus of Jewish schoolchildren near Paris: A traffic incident.
2002 plane crash into a Tampa high-rise by an Osama bin Laden-admiring Arab-American (but non-Muslim): The acne drug Accutane.[10]
2002 double murder at LAX: “A work dispute.”[11]
2002 Beltway snipers: A “stormy [family] relationship.”[12]
2003 Hasan Karim Akbar‘s attack on fellow soldiers, killing two: An “attitude problem.”[13]
2003 mutilation murder of Sebastian Sellam: Mental illness.[14]
2004 explosion in Brescia, Italy, outside a McDonald’s restaurant: “Loneliness and depression.”[15]
2005 rampage at a retirement center in Virginia: “A disagreement between the suspect and another staff member.”[16]
2006 murderous rampage at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle: “An animus toward women.”[17]
2006 killing by a man in an SUV in northern California: “His recent, arranged marriage may have made him stressed.”[18]

This pattern of denial is all the more striking because it concerns distinctly Islamic forms of violence such as suicide operations, beheadings, honor killings and thedisfiguring of women’s faces. For example, when it comes to honor killings, Phyllis Chesler has established that this phenomenon differs from domestic violence and, in Western countries, is almost always perpetrated by Muslims.[19] Such proofs, however, do not convince the establishment, which tends to filter Islam out of the equation.

The generalized threat inspires more denial. Politicians and others avoid mention of Islam, Islamism, Muslims, Islamists, mujahideen, or jihadists. Instead, they blame evildoers, militants, radical extremists, terrorists, and al-Qaeda. Just one day after 9/11, U.S. secretary of state Colin Powell set the tone by asserting that the just-committed atrocities “should not be seen as something done by Arabs or Islamics; it is something that was done by terrorists.”[20]

Another tactic is to obscure Islamist realities under the fog of verbiage. George W. Bush referred once to “the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East”[21] and another time to “the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.”[22] He went so far as to dismiss any Islamic element by asserting that “Islam is a great religion thatpreaches peace.”[23]

In like spirit, Barack Obama observed that “it is very important for us to recognize that we have a battle or a war against some terrorist organizations, but that those organizations aren’t representative of a broader Arab community, Muslim community.”[24] Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, engaged in the following exchange with Lamar Smith (Republican, Tex.) during congressional testimony in May 2010, repeatedly resisting a connection between Islamist motives and a spate of terrorist attacks:

Smith: In the case of all three [terrorist] attempts in the last year, … one of which was successful, those individuals have had ties to radical Islam. Do you feel that these individuals might have been incited to take the actions that they did because of radical Islam? 
Holder: Because of? 
Smith: Radical Islam. 
Holder: There are a variety of reasons why I think people have taken these actions. It’s one, I think you have to look at each individual case. I mean, we are in the process now of talking to Mr. [Feisal] Shahzad to try to understand what it is that drove him to take the action. 
Smith: Yes, but radical Islam could have been one of the reasons? 
Holder: There are a variety of reasons why people … 
Smith: But was radical Islam one of them? 
Holder: There are a variety of reasons why people do things. Some of them are potentially religious…[25]

And on and on Holder persisted, until Smith eventually gave up. And this was not exceptional: An almost identical denial took place in December 2011 by a senior official from the Department of Defense.[26]

Or one can simply ignore the Islamist element; a study issued by the Department of Homeland Security, “Evolution of the Terrorist Threat to the United States,” mentions Islam just one time. In September 2010, Obama spoke at the United Nations and, using a passive construction, avoided all mention of Islam in reference to 9/11: “Nine years ago, the destruction of the World Trade Center signaled a threat that respected no boundary of dignity or decency.”[27] About the same time, Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, stated that the profiles of Americans engaged in terrorism indicate that “there is no ‘typical’ profile of a homegrown terrorist.”[28]

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, rightly condemns this mentality as “two plus two must equal something other than four.”[29]

Exceptions to Denial

Exceptions to this pattern do exist; establishment figures on occasion drop their guard and acknowledge the Islamist threat to the civilized world. Gingrich himself delivered a uniquely well-informed speech on Shari’a in 2010, noting, “This is not a war on terrorism. Terrorism is an activity. This is a struggle with radical Islamists in both their militant and their stealth form.”[30]

British prime minister Tony Blair offered a stirring and eloquent analysis in 2006:

This is war, but of a completely unconventional kind. … What are the values that govern the future of the world? Are they those of tolerance, freedom, respect for difference and diversity or those of reaction, division and hatred? … It is in part a struggle between what I will call Reactionary Islam and Moderate, Mainstream Islam. But its implications go far wider. We are fighting a war, but not just against terrorism but about how the world should govern itself in the early 21st century, about global values.[31]

The current British prime minister, David Cameron, gave a fine analysis in 2005, long before he reached his current office:

The driving force behind today’s terrorist threat is Islamist fundamentalism. The struggle we are engaged in is, at root, ideological. During the last century a strain of Islamist thinking has developed which, like other totalitarianisms, such as Nazism and Communism, offers its followers a form of redemption through violence.[32]

In 2011, as prime minister, Cameron returned to this theme when he warned that “we need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of these terrorist attacks lie. That is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism.”[33]

The former foreign minister of the Czech Republic, Alexandr Vondra, spoke his mind with remarkable frankness:

Radical Islamists challenge practically everything that our society claims to stand for, no matter what the Western policies were or are. These challenges include the concept of universal human rights and freedom of speech.[34]

George W. Bush spoke in the period after October 2005 about “Islamo-fascism” and “Islamic fascists.” Joseph Lieberman, the U.S. senator from Connecticut, criticized those who refuse “to identify our enemy in this war as what it is: violent Islamist extremism”[35] and sponsored an excellent Senate study on Maj. Hasan. Rick Santorum, then a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, gave a notable analysis:

In World War II, we fought Naziism and Japanese imperialism. Today, we are fighting against Islamic fascists. They attacked us on September 11 because we are the greatest obstacle to their openly declared mission of subjecting the entire world to their fanatical rule. I believe that the threat of Islamic fascism is just as menacing as the threat from Nazism and Soviet Communism. Now, as then, we face fanatics who will stop at nothing to dominate us. Now, as then, there is no way out; we will either win or lose.[36]

Antonin Scalia, an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, observed in an opinion that “America is at war with radical Islamists.”[37] A New York Police Department study, Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, discusses “Islamic-based terrorism” in its first line and never lets up. It contains explicit references to Islamism; it states, “Ultimately, the jihadist envisions a world in which jihadi-Salafi Islam is dominant and is the basis of government.”[38]

So, reality does on occasion poke through the fog of denial and verbiage.

The Mystery of Denial

These exceptions aside, what accounts for the persistent denial of Islamic motives? Why the pretense that no elephant fills the room? An unwillingness to face the truth invariably smacks of euphemism, cowardice, political correctness, and appeasement. In this spirit, Gingrich argues that “the Obama Administration is willfully blind to the nature of our enemies and the forces which threaten America. … it’s not ignorance; it’s determined effort to avoid [reality].”[39]

These problems definitely contribute to denial, but something more basic and more legitimate goes further to explain this reluctance. One hint comes from a 2007 Ph.D. dissertation in politics submitted by Gaetano Ilardi to Monash University in Melbourne. Titled “From the IRA to Al Qa’eda: Intelligence as a Measure of Rational Action in Terrorist Operations,” it refers frequently to Islam and related topics; Ilardi has also been quoted in the press on the topic of radicalization. Yet in 2009, as acting senior sergeant of the Victoria police, he was the most vociferous of his twenty law enforcement colleagues insisting to this author that the police not publicly mention Islam in any fashion when discussing terrorism. In other words, wanting not to refer to Islam can come from someone who knows full well the role of Islam.

Confirming this point, Daniel Benjamin, the Obama administration’s coordinator for counterterrorism in the U.S. State Department, explicitly refutes the idea that silence about Islam means being unaware of it:

Policymakers fully recognize how al Qaeda’s ideologues have appropriated Islamic texts and concepts and fashioned them into a mantle of religious legitimacy for their bloodshed. As someone who has written at length about how al Qaeda and the radical groups that preceded it have picked and chosen from sacred texts, often out of all context, I have no doubt my colleagues understand the nature of the threat.[40]

Ilardi and Benjamin know their stuff; they avoid discussing Islam in connection with terrorism for reasons deeper than political correctness, ignorance, or appeasement. What are those reasons? Two factors have key importance: wanting not to alienate Muslims or to reorder society.

Explaining Denial

Not wanting to offend Muslims, a sincere and reasonable goal, is the reason most often publicly cited. Muslims protest that focusing on Islam, Islamism, or jihad increases Muslim fears that the West is engaged in a “war against Islam.” Joseph Lieberman, for example, notes that the Obama administration prefers not to use the term “violent Islamist extremists” when referring to the enemy because using such explicit words “bolsters our enemy’s propaganda claim that the West is at war with Islam.”[41]

Questioned in an interview about his having only once used the term “war on terror,” Barack Obama confirmed this point, stating that “words matter in this situation because one of the ways we’re going to win this struggle is through the battle of hearts and minds.” Asked, “So that’s not a term you’re going to be using much in the future?” he replied:

You know, what I want to do is make sure that I’m constantly talking about al Qaeda and other affiliated organizations because we, I believe, can win over moderate Muslims to recognize that that kind of destruction and nihilism ultimately leads to a dead end, and that we should be working together to make sure that everybody has got a better life.[42]

Daniel Benjamin makes the same point more lucidly:

Putting the emphasis on “Islamist” instead of on “violent extremist” undercuts our efforts, since it falsely roots the core problem in the faith of more than one billion people who abhor violence. As one internal government study after another has shown, such statements invariably wind up being distorted in the global media, alienating Muslim moderates.[43]

This concern actually has two sub-parts for two types of Muslims: Those who would otherwise help fight terrorism feel insulted (“a true Muslim can never be a terrorist“) and so do not step forward while those who would not normally be involved become radicalized, some even becoming terrorists.

The second reason to inhibit one’s talk about Islam concerns the apprehension that this implies a large and undesirable shift away from how secular Western societies are ordered. Blaming terrorist attacks on drugs gone awry, road rage, an arranged marriage, mental cases going berserk, or freak industrial accidents permits Westerners to avoid confronting issues concerning Islam. If the jihad explanation is vastly more persuasive, it is also far more troubling.

When one notes that Islamist terrorism is almost exclusively the work of Muslims acting out of Islamic convictions, the implication follows that Muslims must be singled out for special scrutiny, perhaps along the lines this author suggested in 2003:

Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism, as do Muslim chaplains in prisons and the armed forces. Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches and temples.[44]

Implementing such a policy means focusing law enforcement attention on a community that is defined by its religion. This flies in the face of liberal, multicultural, and politically correct values; it also will be portrayed as illegal and perhaps unconstitutional. It means distinguishing on the basis of a person’s group characteristics. It involves profiling. These changes have unsettling implications that will be condemned as “racist” and “Islamophobic,” accusations that can ruin careers in today’s public environment.

Islam-related explanations may offer a more persuasive accounting than turning perpetrators into victims, but the imperative not to tamper with existing social mores trumps counterterrorism. This accounts for police, prosecutors, politicians, and professors avoiding the actual factors behind Islamist attacks and instead finding miscellaneous mundane motives. Those soothing and inaccurate bromides have the advantage of implying no changes other than vigilance against weapons. Dealing with unpleasant realities can be deferred.

Finally, denial appears to work. Just because law enforcement, the military, and intelligence agencies tiptoe around the twin topics of Islamic motivation and the disproportionate Islamist terrorism when addressing the public does not stop these same institutions in practice from focusing quietly on Islam and Muslims. Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that they do just this, and it has led to an effective counterterrorism effort since 9/11 with close scrutiny on everything from mosques to hawalas (informal Muslim financial exchanges). As a result, with rare exceptions (such as the Fort Hood shooter), Islamist terrorist networks tend to be stymied and successful assaults tend to come out of nowhere from perpetrators characterized by sudden jihad syndrome.

Arguing against Denial

While respecting the urge not to aggravate Muslim sensibilities and acknowledging that the frank discussion of Islam can have major consequences for ordering society, this author insists on the need to mention Islam. First, it is not clear how much harm talking about Islam actually does. Genuine anti-Islamist Muslims insist on Islam being discussed; Islamists posing as moderates tend to be those who feign upset about a “war on Islam” and the like.

Second, little evidence points to Muslims being radicalized by mere discussion of Islamism. Quite the contrary, it is usually something specific that turns a Muslim in that direction, from the way American women dress to drone attacks in Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan.

Third, while conceding that discussion of Islam has costs, ignoring it costs more. The need to define the enemy, not just within the counsels of war but for the public, trumps all other considerations. As the ancient Chinese strategist Sun Tzu observed, “Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles.” Karl von Clausewitz’s entire theory of war assumes an accurate assessment of the enemy. Just as a medical doctor must identify and name a disease before treating it, so must politicians and generals identify and name the enemy to defeat it.

To censor oneself limits one’s ability to wage war. Avoiding mention of the enemy’s identity sows confusion, harms morale, and squanders strengths. In brief, it offers a recipe for defeat. Indeed, the annals of history record no war won when the enemy’s very name and identity may not be uttered; this is all the more so in modern times when defining the enemy must precede and undergird military victory. If you cannot name the enemy, you cannot defeat him.

Fourth, even though law enforcement et al. find that saying one thing in public while doing another in private works, this dishonesty comes at the high price of creating a disconnect between the high-flying words of politicians and the sometimes sordid realities of counterterrorism:

Government employees at risk: On the one hand, out of fear of being exposed, public servants must hide or lie about their activities. On the other, to do their work effectively, they must run afoul of studiously impartial government regulations, or even break the law.

A confused public: Policy statements piously reject any link between Islam and terrorism even as counterterrorism implicitly makes just such a connection.

Advantage Islamists: They (1) point out that government declarations are mere puffery hiding what is really a war against Islam; and (2) win Muslim recruits by asking them whom they believe, straight-talking Islamists or insincere politicians.

Security theater” and other pantomimes: To convince observers that Muslims are not specifically targeted, others are hauled in for show purposes, wasting finite time and resources.[45]

An increase in resentments and prejudices: People keep their mouths shut but their minds are working. An open public discussion, in which one could condemn Islamists while supporting moderate Muslims, would lead to a better understanding of the problem.

Vigilance discouraged: The campaign of “If You See Something, Say Something” is fine but what are the costs of reporting dubious behavior by a neighbor or a passenger who turns out to be innocent? Although vigilant neighbors have been an important source of counterterrorism leads, anyone who reports his worries opens himself up to vilification as a racist or “Islamophobe,” damage to one’s career, or even a law suit.[46]

Thus does the unwillingness to acknowledge the Islamist motives behind most terrorism obstruct effective counterterrorism and render further atrocities more likely.

When Denial Will End

Denial is likely to continue until the price gets too steep. The 3,000 victims of 9/11, it turns out, did not suffice to shake Western complacency. 30,000 dead, in all likelihood, will also not suffice. Perhaps 300,000 will. For sure, three million will. At that point, worries about Muslim sensibilities and fear of being called an “Islamophobe” will fade into irrelevance, replaced by a single-minded determination to protect lives. Should the existing order someday be in evident danger, today’s relaxed approach will instantly go out the window. The popular support for such measures exists; as early as 2004, a Cornell University poll showed that 44 percent of Americans “believe that some curtailment of civil liberties is necessary for Muslim Americans.”[47]

Israel offers a control case. Because it faces so many threats, the body politic lacks patience with liberal pieties when it comes to security. While aspiring to treat everyone fairly, the government clearly targets the most violent-prone elements of society. Should other Western countries face a comparable danger, circumstances will likely compel them to adopt this same approach.

Conversely, should such mass dangers not arise, this shift will probably never take place. Until and unless disaster on a large scale strikes, denial will continue. Western tactics, in other words, depend entirely on the brutality and competence of the Islamist enemy. Ironically, the West permits terrorists to drive its approach to counterterrorism. No less ironically, it will take a huge terrorist atrocity to enable effective counterterrorism.

Addressing Denial

In the meantime, those who wish to strengthen counterterrorism by acknowledging the role of Islam have three tasks.

First, intellectually to prepare themselves and their arguments so when calamity occurs they possess a fully elaborated, careful, and just program that focuses on Muslims without doing injustice to them.

Second, continue to convince those averse to mentioning Islam that discussing it is worth the price; this means addressing their concerns, not bludgeoning them with insults. It means accepting the legitimacy of their hesitance, using sweet reason, and letting the barrage of Islamist attacks have their effect.

Third, prove that talking about Islamism does not lead to perdition by establishing the costs of not naming the enemy and of not identifying Islamism as a factor; noting that Muslim governments, including the Saudi one, acknowledge that Islamism leads to terrorism; stressing that moderate Muslims who oppose Islamism want Islamism openly discussed; addressing the fear that frank talk about Islam alienates Muslims and spurs violence; and demonstrating that profiling can be done in a constitutionally approved way.

In brief, even without an expectation of effecting a change in policy, there is much work to be done.

Daniel Pipes ( is president of the Middle East Forum. He initially delivered this paper at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel.

[1] Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood, Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., Jan. 2010.
[2] The Australian (Sydney), Nov.7, 2009.
[3] Associated Press, Nov. 5, 2012.
[4] Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood, p. 18, fn. 22.
[5] “List of Islamic Terror Attacks,”, accessed Dec. 19, 2012.
[6] The New York Times, Nov. 9. 1990.
[7] The Independent (London), Sept. 19, 1997.
[8] Uriel Heilman, “Murder on the Brooklyn Bridge,” Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2001, pp. 29-37.
[9] The Houston Chronicle, Feb. 26, 1997.
[10] Time Magazine, Jan. 21, 2002.
[11] “Terror in LA?” Honest Reporting (Toronto), July 8, 2002.
[12] Los Angeles Times, Oct. 26, 2002.
[13] Daniel Pipes, “Murder in the 101st Airborne,” The New York Post, Mar. 25, 2003.
[14] Brett Kline, “Two Sons of France,” The Jerusalem Post Magazine, Jan. 21, 2010.
[15] “Italy: McDonald’s Jihad Foiled,” Jihad Watch, Mar. 30, 2004.
[16] The Washington Post, Jan. 11, 2005.
[17] Los Angeles Times, July 30, 2006.
[18] San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 30, 2006.
[19] Phyllis Chesler, “Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?” Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2009, pp. 61-9.
[20] Dateline, NBC, Sept. 21, 2001.
[21] Remarks, The Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., June 27, 2007.
[22] Remarks, UNITY 2004 Conference, Washington D.C., Aug. 6, 2004.
[23] Al-Arabiya News Channel (Dubai), Oct. 5, 2007.
[24] Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, Feb. 3, 2009.
[25] Testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Washington, D.C., May 13, 2010.
[26] Testimony before the U.S. House Committee for Homeland Security, Washington, D.C., Dec. 13, 2011.
[27] Remarks, U.N. General Assembly, New York, Sept. 23, 2010.
[28] “Nine Years after 9/11: Confronting the Terrorist Threat to the Homeland,” statement to the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Washington, D.C., Sept. 22, 2010.
[29] Newt Gingrich, “America Is at Risk,” American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C., July 29, 2010.
[30] Ibid.
[31] Speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Aug. 1, 2006.
[32] Speech at the Foreign Policy Centre, London, Aug. 25, 2005.
[33] Munich Security Conference, Feb. 5, 2011.
[34] Alexandr Vondra, “Radical Islam Poses a Major Challenge to Europe,” Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2007, pp. 66-8.
[35] Joseph Lieberman, “Who’s the Enemy in the War on Terror?” The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2010.
[36] “The Great Test of This Generation,” speech to the National Press Club, Washington, D.C., National Review Online, July 20, 2006.
[37] Scalia J., dissenting, Lakhdar Boumediene, et al., Petitioners, Supreme Court of the United States v. George W. Bush, President of the United States, et al.; Khaled A. F. Al Odah, next friend of Fawzikhalid Abdullah Fahad Al Odah, et al., Petitioners v. United States, et al., June 12, 2008.
[38] New York: 2007, p. 8.
[39] Gingrich, “America Is at Risk.”
[40] Daniel Benjamin, “Name It and Claim It, or Name It and Inflame It?” The Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2010.
[41] Lieberman, “Who’s the Enemy in the War on Terror?
[42] Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees, Feb. 3, 2009.
[43] Benjamin, “Name It and Claim It, or Name It and Inflame It?
[44] Daniel Pipes, “The Enemy Within and the Need for Profiling,” The New York Post, Jan. 24, 2003.
[45] Daniel Pipes, “Security Theater Now Playing at Your Airport,” The Jerusalem Post, Jan. 6, 2010.
[46] M. Zuhdi Jasser, “Exposing the ‘Flying Imams,’” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2008, pp. 3-11.
[47] “Fear Factor,” Cornell News (Ithaca), Dec. 17, 2004.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI's Prophetic Coda

One of the last acts, and certainly one of the most significant, of Pope Benedict XVI was his convocation of a consistory for a vote on the canonisation of three Blesseds, which included Martyr Antonio Primaldo and his 799 companions, who were beheaded one by one by Turkish Muslims in 1480. Benedict inserted his announcement of his retirement into his remarks during this consistory, thus linking and emphasizing both actions.

I would dare to consider this a prophetic witness, a call and reminder to all Christians to stand for our faith in Jesus Christ.

Here is the story, courtesy of creeping sharia:

Pope Canonizes 800 Italian Martyrs Beheaded by Muslims for Refusing to Renounce Faith
Posted on March 10, 2013 by creeping

Pope Benedetto XVI announced that he will leave his ministry at 8pm on February 28.
He made this announcement during a consistory for the canonization of the martyrs of Otranto beheaded one by one by the Ottoman Turks.

Antonio Primaldo and his companions, 800 Christians, were murdered for hatred of their faith by Muslims during the Turkish siege of the town of Otranto, in South-East Italy, on August 13, 1480.

Blessed Antonio was a tailor in the city of Otranto, Italy, in the 1400s.  In 1480 the city was invaded by Turkish Moslems, their 150 ships and 18,000 troops greatly outnumbering the 6,000 inhabitants of the town.  The conquerors executed the elderly bishop, Archbishop Stephen Pendinelli, and took the women and children into slavery.  They rounded up all the men between the ages of fifteen and fifty—some 800 men in all.  The Ottoman captors threatened to kill all the men, but promised to grant their lives and the freedom of their women and children if the men would simply renounce Christ and become Muslim.

Blessed Antonio remained firm, and encouraged his fellow citizens to stand strong in their faith.  “My brothers,” he said, “until today we have fought in defense of our homeland, to save our lives, and for our earthly governors.  Now it is time for us to fight to save our souls for the Lord.  And since he died on the cross for us, it is fitting that we should die for him, remaining firm and constant in the faith, and with this earthly death we will earn eternal life and the glory of martyrdom.”

Blessed Antonio was the first to be beheaded, followed by 799 others.  Tradition holds that Blessed Antonio’s headless body remained standing and could not be knocked down by the Turkish soldiers.  Only when the last of the men was slain did his body collapse of its own accord.  One of the Muslims, seeing this miracle, was converted and professed his faith in Christianity—after which he was immediately impaled upon a scimitar by his own comrades-in-arms.

From our previous post on the The Skull Cathedral of Otranto (pics).

On August 12, 800 citizens were taken to the hill of Minerva, now called the Hill of the Martyrs, and beheaded because they refused to renounce their Catholic faith. Their remains were taken to the cathedral and the skulls preserved in the altar piece as a prominent reminder of these 800 martyrs.

Image: Andreas C.

Image: Laurent Massoptier

The Ottoman Wars were motivated by territory gains and eradicating the Christian faith while spreading the Muslim one.

There’s a similar remnant of Muslim jihad in Serbia. See it in our post, Chele Kula: Tower of Skulls.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pope Francis and Islam, Part 1: Muslim Persecution of Christians

Here is a very patient discussion, with reference to historical context, of some of the issues surrounding Islam which the new Pope of Rome will soon have to face.

Will Pope Francis Challenge Muslim Persecution of Christians?
By Robert Spencer — March 14, 2013

Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis, assumes the papal throne at a time when Christians in many countries around the world are more threatened, and are living more precariously, than they have for centuries. Christians face violent persecution on an increasingly frequent basis in Pakistan, Egypt, and Nigeria, and to a lesser degree in Malaysia, Indonesia, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. Yet for the most part the Church in recent years has been silent about this persecution, and in the West has pursued “dialogue” with Islamic groups that glosses over the grim and bloody realities that all too many Christians in the Islamic world face. Will Pope Francis end this deceptive and fruitless posturing and raise his voice for his threatened and embattled brethren?

The Catholic Church has adopted an irenic stance toward Islam ever since the Second Vatican Council issued its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) in 1964. This document asserts that the “plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind” (16).

The statement that “the plan of salvation also includes” Muslims has led some to assert that the Council Fathers were saying that Muslims and Islam should not be criticized or challenged. This has become such an axiomatic assumption for many Christian clerics that they dare not utter a word to disrupt Muslim-Christian “dialogue” even when Muslims worldwide shed the blood of innocent Christians with increasing impunity.

Also, as Pope Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, noted, Vatican II was not a super-council whose teachings superseded all previous Church teaching; rather, its teachings must be understood in light of Catholic tradition. “The council did not formulate anything new in matters of faith, nor did it wish to replace what was ancient,” he said in October 2012. “Rather, it concerned itself with seeing that the same faith might continue to be lived in the present day, that it might remain a living faith in a world of change.” When it comes to Islam, the consistent focus in earlier statements about Islam is generally not on what Muslims believe but on the hostility of Muslims to Christians and Christianity. In that vein, Pope Benedict XIV, in 1754, reaffirmed an earlier prohibition on Albanian Catholics giving their children “Turkish or Mohammedan names” in baptism by pointing out that not even Protestants or Orthodox were stooping so low: “None of the schismatics and heretics has been rash enough to take a Mohammedan name, and unless your justice abounds more than theirs, you shall not enter the kingdom of God.” Pope Callixtus III, in a somewhat similar spirit, in 1455 vowed to “exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet in the East.”

Some Catholics will argue that the statements of Benedict XIV and Callixtus III (and other statements like them from other popes) simply reflect a very different age from our own, and moreover that Vatican II’s statements reflect a more mature spirit and a greater amount of the charity toward others that Christians ought to exhibit.

And that may well be so, although it must be noted that even though they are only fifty years old, the statements of Vatican II on Islam reflect the outlook of a vanished age no less than do those of the earlier popes. For in the 1960s, secularism and Westernization were very much the order of the day in many areas of the Islamic world. It was, for example, unusual in Cairo in the 1960s to see a woman wearing a hijab, an Islamic headscarf mandated by Muhammad’s command that when appearing in public a woman should cover everything except her face and hands. Today, on the other hand, one would be surprised on the streets of the same city to see a woman who is not so attired.

The hijabs in Cairo are but one visible sign of a revolution—or, more properly, a revival—that has swept the Islamic world. Islamic values have been revived, including not only rigor in dress codes but also hostility toward Western ideas and principles. The “Arab Spring” uprisings that began late in 2010 have led to a reassertion of the political aspects of Islam, as opposed to Western political models, all across the Middle East. Western ideas of democracy and pluralism that were fashionable in elite circles all over the Islamic world in the first half of the twentieth century have fallen into disrepute.
In other words, the Islamic world that the Fathers of Vatican II had in mind is rapidly disappearing. The tone of these statements must be evaluated within the context of their times. For the documents of Vatican II are no less a product of their age than the statements of Benedict XIV and Callixtus III are a product of theirs. Just as the time of crusading knights has vanished, so has the time of a dominant secular West striding confidently into what it terms the “modern” age.

Although it will always be the Christian’s responsibility to reach out with respect and esteem to Muslims, the hostility that the Islamic world had always displayed toward Christendom was never—at any time before or since—less in evidence than it was in the 1960s, and so a statement of friendship was never more appropriate. That situation does not prevail today, a fact that has a great many implications for the prospects for dialogue as well. Western-minded Muslims who have a favorable attitude toward the Catholic Church no longer have the influence among their co-religionists that they once had, at least in the Islamic world.

That is not to say, however, that we have returned to the world of Benedict XIV and Callixtus III, when Catholics understood that Mohammedanism, as it was then popularly styled (to the indignation of Muslims themselves), was steeped in falsehood—perhaps even diabolical—and dedicated to the destruction of the Church and to the conversion or subjugation of Christians. We are separated by centuries of cultural assumptions from the world in which it was even possible to think of one’s faith as having enemies and needing to be defended. Catholics of the modern age have long assumed that such a world was gone forever, and there is some reason to believe that it is indeed.

But with Muslim persecution of Christians escalating worldwide, there is also considerable evidence that that rough old world is returning; that it may never have been as far away as it seemed. That is the world with which Pope Francis will have to grapple.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Question of Islam

One of the foremost Christian writers on Islam, Dr. Mark Durie, has begun a new series of articles reflecting on the message of one of the foremost political/secular critics of Islam, Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders. These are some of the most serious questions to be asked, and answered, about Islam.

Wilders in Australia and the "Islamic Problem" - Part I
by Dr. Mark Durie

Wilders in Melbourne

 Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders’ recent speaking tour in Australia brought him to my home town of Melbourne.  I have been pondering his message since his visit, and this is the first of a series of blog posts which engage with it.  

Wilders came to warn Australians about Islam: “I am here to tell you how Islam is changing the Netherlands and Western Europe beyond recognition. I am … here to warn Australia about the true nature of Islam.” (See the text of his speech here).  Wilders turns on its head the Islamic supremacist claim that the Islamic system is superior and Islam the solution to all humankind’s problems. For Wilders, “Islam is the problem, and we should not be afraid to say so.” (Marked for Death, p.64)

To attend Wilders’ Melbourne speech, guests had to make their way past a cordon of police and a hostile collection of left-wing protestors. Once inside, they then had to pass security checks before finding a seat in the auditorium.

The ‘warm-up’ for the evening was a brilliant presentation by Sam Solomon, a former Muslim jurist, now a convert to Christianity, on the Koranic theological basis for discrimination in the socio-political realm. He argued that Islamic theology supports the systematic elevation of specific groups over others: Muslims over non-Muslims and men over women. He invited Muslims to sign his Charter of Muslim Understanding, which affirms universal principles of peaceful co-existence, human dignity and mutual respect between people.

After a brief delay, apparently due to security concerns, Geert Wilders took the podium to address the question of Islam. By the ‘Question of Islam’ I mean the question whether Islam itself is the explanation for the disadvantage faced by Muslims and their non-Muslim neighbours in the world today, including poverty, abuse of women, religious discrimination and persecution, inequality and injustice, societal failure, inferior educational and health outcomes, despotism, violence, and economic backwardness. 

Examples of these disadvantages abound.

Religious Liberty Outcomes

Globally, a significant Islamic presence in a society bodes ill for the religious freedom of non-Muslims.  Because Christianity is the most numerous faith in the world today, Christians are affected most by this principle.  In 2007 the British Secret Service put the number of persecuted Christians in the world at 200 million. Where are there 200 million located?  Open Doors, an organization which advocates for persecuted Christians, maintains a watch list of 50 countries where the persecution of Christians is most intense. In four out of five of these countries, the context for persecution of Christians is Islamic. (Of the remaining 10 watch list countries, four regimes are communist-atheist, two are predominantly Christian Orthodox, one is Hindu, another Buddhist, one is run by a military junta, and in Colombia rebels persecute Christianity because it is bad for the drug trade.)  

Economic Outcomes

The challenge of Islamic disadvantage is also economic.  Bernard Lewis observed in What Went Wrong (p.47) that the total exports of the Arab world — minus oil — are less than Finland’s.  In this light of this statistic, compare the economic trajectory of South Korea — which has gone from absolute poverty to being a world leader since the Korean war ceasefire 60 years ago — to that of Egypt, which for decades has suffered worsening social services, declining living standards and increasing insecurity.

In the United Nation’s 2011 Human Development Report no Muslim state could be found in the top 25 countries for Human Development outcomes. The highest ranked majority Muslim country in the Human Development Index which does not have either significant oil resources (like Kuwait) or a sizeable non-Muslim population (like Malaysia) is the very secular Azerbaijan, placed at no. 79. In keeping with the trend, predominately Muslim Bosnia-Herzgovinia is ranked considerably lower for its Human Development Index than either Catholic Croatia or Orthodox Serbia, although these three countries share the same language. Even within individual countries Muslims are often at the bottom of the heap, from Europe to India.

Outcomes for Muslim Women 

Islam is also linked to patterns of disadvantage for Muslim women.

A September 2010 study of so-called “honour killings” by Phyllis Chester, based on media reports, found that 96% of reported European perpetrators were Muslim.

A recent Dutch report on Violence against Women in Islam, put out by Wilders’ own party, has revealed that although 5% of Holland’s population are Muslim, in September 2010 a staggering 77% of the women in Dutch women’s shelters came (they or one of their parents) from just three Muslim countries: Turkey, Morocco and Iraq. 

The disadvantages facing Muslim women are not just a matter of individual acts of abuse such as domestic violence or honor killings.  Systematic abuses and discriminatory practices are embedded in practices mandated by Islam itself.  Examples abound, such as female circumcision, which has been claimed to be an Islamic practice by Muslim scholars; women’s inferior status as witnesses in sharia courts (a woman’s testimony is worth only half a man’s); the system of male guardianship of women and associated restrictions on the movement of women; child marriage of girls (following Muhammad’s example); the right, taught in the Qur’an, of husbands to beat their wives; discrimminatory laws determining the rights of women in marriage, divorce, and inheritance; and the 50% discount on the value of a women for the purposes of legal compensation. In all these respects and more, Muslim women are considerably worse off than both non-Muslim women and Muslim men. 

In the light of these realities, it is reasonable ask to what extent the religion of Islam itself is the cause of Muslim women’s unequal and inferior status.

The Claim that Islam is the Solution: the Egyptican and Iranian Experiments

Despite all the evidence to the contrary — the litany of human suffering associated with Islamic faith and practice — for decades the Muslim Brotherhood has been confidently proclaiming its utopian slogan that ‘Islam is the solution’ to the people of Egypt. Many in the Egyptian population were convinced by this message, at least enough to vote the Brotherhood into office. The result is a grand national experiment in which Islam is being put to the test.

Not only the Brotherhood, but a wide variety of Muslim organisations with global aspirations promote the view that the lack of Islam is the fundamental human problem, including the House of Saud, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Tablighi Jama’at, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which with its 57 member states is the “collective voice of the Muslim world” and the largest international organisation outside the United Nations  itself. 

With all these groups, Geert Wilders disagrees.  His position is quite the opposite.  Contra the Muslim Brotherhood, Wilders’ prophecy for Egypt would be that the fruits of the Arab ‘spring’ will bring a season more aptly called ‘Winter’ precisely because it is Islamic.  The Brotherhood ascendancy will not usher in an era of national salvation, but only more dysfunction, worsening rights for women, more vulnerability for non-Muslims, increasing violence, insecurity and economic failure.  

What we see happening today in the Muslim Brotherhood’s grand ‘Egypt experiment’ is a vindication of Wilders’ thesis.  For all that he is vilified in Europe, he is being proved right in Egypt.

One of the reasons Islamic radicals opposed former President Mubarak was that Mubarak introduced laws which gave more rights to women than they had under Islamic law.  For example in 2008 Egyptian women were granted greater custody rights over their children after divorce than the sharia permits, and in 2000 Egyptian women were given the right to divorce their husbands without having to prove fault, a provision which allowed women a way to escape from abusive marriages. However these protections are now being wound back by Egypt’s legislators, in the name of making Egypt more sharia-compliant (this wind-back is being strenuously opposed by Egyptian women and human rights activists).

Denial can be deadly. One of the tragedies of the Islamist Winter unfolding across the Middle East is that its coming was hastened by American foreign policy.  There was a blindness in the White House about the implications of empowering radical Islam — whether in Lybia, Egypt or Syria.  This was grounded in a refusal to engage with the reality that Islam itself is a real threat to the people of the Middle East.

Qazi Hussain Ahmad, the former leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan, declared in June 2012 that Islam is the ‘only solution’ for mankind.  He praised Ayatollah Khomeini for proving this to the world, and commented that the global Islamic awakening was inspired by the Islamic Revolution in Iran.  He said “Imam Khomeini gave a great lesson to the Muslims all over the world. ... Revolution had dispelled many misconceptions against Islam and depicted the true face of Islam.”

This begs the question: ‘What is the true face of Islam?’

Has the Iranian experiment vindicated the Islamic solution?  What do Iranians think now that the Revolution has ‘dispelled misconceptions’ about Islam and depicted its ‘true face’ to Iranians?

I spoke recently with an Australian Anglican Bishop who reported that he is conducting confirmations involving Iranian Christians all over the city.  Around the world today the Iranian diaspora is leaving Islam in droves. People are rejecting Islam in Iran too, but there it is more dangerous because the radical Islamist regime still holds power and the penalty for rejecting Islam is death.

Why are Iranians rejecting Islam?  It is because Iranians have seen the ‘true face’ of Islam, up close and personal, and they have rejected the ‘Islamic solution’.  They have found that Islam is the cause of so many of their difficulties and not their salvation.  As a result, I have met Iranians who  agree passionately with Geert Wilders. They are pleased to agree with Wilders, but not because they are Islamophobes.  They are just sick and tired of all the lies.

In my next post I will consider the view that ‘the problem’ of Islam is not the religion itself, but  ‘extremism’, consider how this perspective manifests itself and critique its debilitating implications.

Mark Durie is an Anglican pastor in Melbourne, Australia, and author of The Third Choice: Islam, Dhimmitude and Freedom.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Holy Forty-Two Martyrs from Ammoria, March 6

They were all commanders of the Byzantine Emperor Theophilus. When the Emperor Theophilus lost the battle against the Saracens at the city of Ammoria, the Saracens captured the city, enslaved many Christians and among them these commanders. The remaining Christians were either killed or sold into slavery.

The commanders were thrown into prison where they remained for seven years. Many times the Muslim leaders came to them. They counseled and advised the commanders to embrace the Islamic Faith, but the commanders did not want to hear about it. When the Saracens spoke to the commanders, saying, "Mohammed is the true prophet and not Christ," the commanders asked them,

"If there were two men debating about a field and the one said, `This field is mine,' and the other, `It is not, it is mine,' and near by, one of them had many witnesses saying it is his field and the other had no witnesses, but only himself, what would you say, `Whose field is it?'" 

The Saracens answered, "Indeed, to him who had many witnesses!"

"You have judged correctly," the commanders answered. "That is the way with Christ and Mohammed. Christ has many witnesses: the Prophets of old, from Moses to John the Forerunner, whom you also recognize and who witness to and about Him [Christ], but Mohammed witnesses only to himself that he is a prophet and does not have even one witness."

The Saracens were ashamed and again they tried to defend their faith in this manner: "Our faith is better than the Christian Faith as proved by this: God gave us the victory over you and gave us the best land in the world and a kingdom much greater than Christianity."

To that the commanders replied:

"If it were so, then the idolatry of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hellenes, Romans, and the fire-worship of the Persians would be the true faith for, at one time, all of these people conquered the others and ruled over them. It is evident that your victory, power and wealth do not prove the truth of your faith. We know that God, at times, gives victory to Christians and, at other times, allows torture and suffering so as to correct them and to bring them to repentance and purification of their sins." 

After seven years, they were beheaded in the year 845 A.D. Their bodies were then thrown into the Euphrates river, but they floated to the other side of the shore where they were gathered and honorably buried by Christians.

St John the New Martyr of Bulgaria (March 5)

The holy New Martyr John was born in Bulgaria in 1775. Since fanatical Moslems believed that they would be assured of an eternal “paradise” where they would enjoy beautiful virgins and an abundance of food if they could force Christians to deny Christ and follow Mohammed, they spared no effort to convert Christians through flattery or by threats of death.

When John was still a boy, he fell in with Moslem companions. Through various ways, he was led to renounce Christ and to follow Islam. He came to his senses when he was about sixteen, and was stricken with grief at his denial of Christ. He fled to Mt. Athos to the Great Lavra. Here he spent his time in repentence under the guidance of an Elder.

He lived a monastic life of great strictness for three years, yet his conscience continued to trouble him. With the blessing of his Elder, he decided to travel to Constantinople to wipe out his apostasy by confessing Christ in a public way and by shedding his blood.

The young monk dressed himself as a Turk, which a Christian was not permitted to do. Arriving in Constantinople, he went directly to the church of Hagia Sophia, which had been turned into a mosque. Right in front of the Moslems, he made the Sign of the Cross and began to recite Christian prayers. 

Then he said in a loud voice that he had been born a Christian, but had fallen into error and renounced Christ. Now, he declared, he wished to renounce the false religion of Mohammed in order to follow Christ once more.

The Turks fell into a frenzied rage when they heard his words. They seized him and began to torture him in various ways. “Renounce Christ,” they said, “and return to the Moslem faith, or you will be killed.”
St John replied, “Without Christ, there is no salvation.”

The furious Hagarenes dragged the saint out to the courtyard to behead him. In this manner, St John received the crown of martyrdom in 1784 at the age of nineteen.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Muslims Set Sights on Cordoba Cathedral

In this report we see why it is so difficult to trust Muslim professions of peaceful coexistence. Europe is clearly in the crosshairs of an emboldened Islam.

Muslims Challenge Ownership of Cordoba Cathedral
Thu, February 28, 2013
by:  Soeren Kern via

A court in southern Spain has acquitted eight Muslims who were accused of resorting to violence to break a ban on Muslim prayers in a cathedral in the city of Córdoba.

The Córdoba Cathedral is built on the site of what was originally the Visigothic church of San Vicente, which was built in the year 590. After the Islamic conquest of Spain, Muslims razed the church and in 786 replaced it with a mosque, the second-largest in the world at the time. In 1236, Córdoba was reconquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile in the Reconquista, and the mosque was subsequently consecrated as a church, which it has remained ever since.

Some observers say the ruling, which caught Spanish public prosecutors completely by surprise, reflects a desire by local judges to dispense with a highly sensitive case that has the potential to inflame Muslim sensibilities.

But the ruling is likely to embolden the growing Muslim community in Spain and elsewhere, who believe they have a legitimate claim to the historic monument because of its former identity as a mosque.

The trial, held at Criminal Court of Córdoba on February 4, 2013, involved an incident that took place on March 31, 2010 at the Córdoba Cathedral, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba, one of the most visited monuments in Spain.

An altercation broke out when eight members of a group of 118 Muslim tourists from Austria unrolled their prayer rugs inside the church, kneeled on the floor and began praying loudly. When security guards ordered them to stop, the Muslims responded by attacking them.

After a dozen police reinforcements were called into the church to arrest the Muslim offenders, they, too, were attacked. Two security guards were injured in the melee, which police said was planned in advance.

Spanish public prosecutors had asked the court to sentence the eight defendants to a total of 15 years in prison for disturbing public order, assaulting law enforcement officers and injuring the security guards.
During the trial, the Muslim defendants denied all of the accusations against them, saying they were the ones attacked by the security guards and the police, and not the other way around.

During their testimony, the plaintiffs displayed evidence of their injuries to the court; but they also offered what the judge considered to be contradictory accounts of several details of the incident. As a result, the defendants were acquitted based on a lack of evidence.

Prosecutors were blindsided by the ruling, which they say will be appealed. The decision was all the more surprising because another judge involved in the case had previously ruled that the incident was indeed premeditated, that the defendants were "clearly organized" (they had used walkie-talkies to coordinate their movements inside the building), and that security cameras had recorded the incident.
Some observers have speculated that the judge's decision may have been politically motivated. They point to the fact that before becoming a judge, Rascón was a politician with the Spanish Socialist Party, which is firmly committed to multiculturalism and has long sought to undermine the influence of the Roman Catholic Church in Spanish society.

In his ruling, Judge Juan Luis Rascón said although it was proved beyond a doubt that the defendants engaged in Muslim prayers in the cathedral, they did so "in an area not specifically dedicated to Catholic worship." He added that there were "logical doubts" [dudas lógicas] as to whether the incident was planned in advance. Moreover, there was no proof that the ringleader of the group, Zaid El-Aifari, actually assaulted a security guard with a knife, as the prosecutor had alleged.

Rascón also said it is not within the court's competence to assess whether Muslim prayers performed inside a Catholic church could be considered to be a provocation.

Finally, Rascón said that although the defendants' behavior may be considered by some to be "socially reprehensible," to convict them would "do a disservice to freedom of religious thought and respect for the plurality of religions."

In any case, the dispute over Muslim demands to share the church are unlikely to subside.
All had been relatively quiet at the Córdoba Cathedral for more than 750 years, until January 2004, when Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden began encouraging Muslims to "reconquer" Spain for Islam by declaring it to be "the lost Al-Andalus."

In a speech titled "Message to the Muslim People," bin Laden said: "No Muslim territory should ever become non-Muslim. … Let the whole world know that we shall never accept the tragedy of Andalusia."

Andalusia, a region in southern Spain, derives its name from Al-Andalus, the Arabic name given to those parts of Spain, Portugal and France that were occupied by Muslim conquerors (also known as the Moors) from 711 to 1492.

Many Muslims believe that much of Spain still belongs to them, and that they have every right to return and establish their rule there.

In April 2004, not long after bin Laden's call to arms, the president of the Islamic Council of Spain [Junta Islámica], the late Mansur Escudero, formally petitioned Pope John Paul II for the right to pray in the Córdoba Cathedral, in the interests of promoting "inter-faith dialogue." At the time, the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue rejected the request out of hand.

In December 2006, Muslims sought to capitalize on Pope Benedict XVI's efforts to defuse Muslim anger after his so-called Regensburg Lecture, in which he quoted disparaging remarks by a 14th century Byzantine emperor about the Prophet Mohammed.

In a letter to the Pope, Escudero wrote: "We invite you to create a new example, to send a message of hope to the world. Do not fear. Together we can show the violent, the intolerant, the anti-Semites, the Islam-phobes and also those who believe that only Islam has a right to remain in the world, that prayer is the strongest weapon imaginable."

The letter says Spanish Muslims do not intend to take control of the building or "recover a nostalgic Al-Andalus." Rather, they seek to restore the "spirit of Al-Andalus, where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in relative harmony."

Shortly after mailing his letter to the Pope, Escudero declared: "Al-Andalus will continue being Al-Andalus for Muslims of all ages. It is there; we have created it. Here we have our dead, who remain alive, awaiting Resurrection Day."

In September 2007, bin Laden's deputy, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, said: "Reconquering Al-Andalus is the duty of the Islamic nation in general and of you [the Al-Qaeda fighters] in particular."

In October 2007, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa endorsed Escudero's demands during an OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) conference against "Intolerance and Discrimination" held in Córdoba. In his opening remarks, Moussa said Muslims must be allowed to pray in the Córdoba Cathedral "to demonstrate our religious coexistence."

Moussa said: "All churches and mosques are built for prayer and to be used for this end; I think there wouldn't be a religious clash at all; the clash would be instead of a political nature." However, he ignored questions pertaining to why Christians are not only forbidden to pray in mosques but are even prohibited from building churches in some Muslim countries.

The Roman Catholic Church in Spain has so far held its ground by continuing to reject Muslim demands for joint use of the cathedral. It says Muslim proposals "fit within the framework of a false dialogue."

According to the Bishop of Córdoba, Demetrio Fernández, the recent violence shows the impossibility of sharing a house of worship with Muslims, which would be akin to "sharing a wife between two husbands." As a result, he says, the ban on Muslim prayers must remain in place.

Fernández asks: "Would they be happy to do the same in any of their mosques? Absolutely not. I understand their religious feeling and they have to understand ours as well. The religious feeling is the deepest one in the human heart, so it is not possible to share."

[Of particular interest to Orthodox Christians is this historical note:]

In an opinion article in the Spanish newspaper ABC, Fernández compared the situation in Córdoba to the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist in Damascus. After the Arab conquest of Damascus in 634, the Byzantine cathedral was converted into a mosque. Also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, it is considered by some Muslims to be the fourth holiest site in Islam.

Says Fernández: "We wouldn't think of asking for the Damascus mosque, because it belongs to the Muslims and for them it is an emblematic place. It is the same for Christians because Saint John's basilica is very important to us, but we understand that history does not go back. It only goes forward. So, it does not make sense to ask for the Córdoba Cathedral to convert it into a mosque. It does not make sense because history is irreversible."

Many Muslims disagree with Fernández, and the dispute is unlikely to go away until the church concedes defeat. As the Muslim population in Spain continues to grow in size (it is expected to nearly double by 2030) and in political influence, history may be reversed earlier than most Spaniards might imagine.