Monday, April 29, 2013

Update on Abducted Syrian Orthodox Hierarchs

Recent developments include the following strong statements from Orthodox hierarchs at home and abroad:

1. A very strongly worded and brave Pastoral Letter from Patriarch John X of Antioch, in which he says:

We, however, refuse to accept what man is undergoing today. We are working in that our rejection of this situation reflects the tenets of our beliefs. We reject this situation and condemn it. 
Since we are children of the Resurrection, we are not afraid of whoever takes violence to achieve his purpose. To be killed, or kidnapped, or to have our institutions destroyed, will not change our resolve to uphold our civil life and our co-existence; to cling to our homeland and to seek the reign of justice and rights in our homelands. 
Therefore, each and every one of us, whether in the Antiochian motherlands or abroad, is invited to express his concern and personal rejection of the recent course of events, aside from any political realignment. Humanity is the object of Christianity, for our Lord was incarnate for our salvation.

This shows a vibrant and resilient incarnational theology at work even and especially in the face of the barbaric Islamic forces arrayed against Christians throughout the Muslim world. Much more in the full letter from His Holiness here.

2. The Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and South America have sent a strong letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in which they address not only the murderous abduction of Bishops John and Paul, but boldly name the Islamic forces arrayed against Christians in Syria and the Middle East:
Religious minorities, including the Christian population, have been targeted for extinction in an attempt to create an Islamic State in Syria and to impose Sharia Law as the law of the land. To that end, Christian clerics have been kidnapped and murdered, even as they tried to bring aid and comfort to their people in this war torn country, while others are still missing, taken captive by rebel forces. (emphasis added)
This is a most significant statement. The Canonical Assembly specifically warns that:
  • Christians are "targeted for extinction,"
  • due to "an attempt to create an Islamic state in Syria,"
  • which will "impose Sharia Law as the law of the land,"
  • which has already resulted in the kidnapping and murder of Christian clerics.

I, for one, am extremely heartened and encouraged by this clearly-worded and truthful assessment from our bishops. There is no tip-toeing around for fear of offending Muslims or damaging Christian-Muslim relations. Rather, it is obvious now that Islamic fundamentalism is the scourge of all peoples in Syria, the Middle East, and all around the globe. AXIOS to our bishops!

Much more in the full letter here.

3. On Online Petition to the White House has been launched to urge the Obama Administration to intervene on behalf of the abducted bishops. 100,000 signatures required by May 23, and as of this writing, there are less than 4,000:

Save Syrian Christians Bishops and Clergy men.
We the Syrian Christian expatriates in the USA, urge our government to interfere on behalf of all the innocent christian civilians, and clergy in Syria.
Two of our most beloved bishops (Yohanna Ibrahim and Paul Yazigi) were abducted recently near Aleppo while undertaking a humanitarian mission.
While the lives of many civilians (christians and non christians) are under constant threat and warrant equal concern; these two bishops were providing help and guidance to many.
We plead with you to exert pressure and influence to free them.
May God Bless you in your efforts.

Let us keep our beloved hierarchs John and Paul, and all Christians suffering under Islamic persecution, in our prayers!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Crucifixion in Islam: Christians Ascend Their Golgotha

Newly posted over at is a reworked and expanded version of an article I posted here back on April 8.

Crucifixion in Islam: Christians Ascend Their Golgotha benefits from my recent studies of the Armenian Genocide (commemorated this week, see my earlier post), and a hard-hitting conclusion.

Understanding the Islamic Bombing of the Boston Marathon

David Wood of Acts 17 Apologetics and the Answering Muslims blog drills down into the Qur'an in this video. Axios.

Understanding the Islamic Bombing of the Boston Marathon

by David Wood

In response to the Islamic bombing of the Boston Marathon, the "Why Islam?" campaign sent out a Tweet on one of history's most deliberately misrepresented verses. 

Since the same verse has been ripped out of context by Fox News, CNN, the Washington Post, and President Obama, it's time for a careful analysis of the text. 


Monday, April 22, 2013

'Ravished Armenia', a Film for Today

In solemn commemoration of the 98th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, which began April 24, 1915.

In researching the background and legitimacy of this powerful image of the crucifixion of several young Armenian women, I discovered it was not a news photo, nor a photo taken by any of the chroniclers of the Armenian Genocide (which can be found here), but rather a still from a film about that dark chapter of Islamic persecution of Christians.

That film, Ravished Armenia, was produced in 1918, and released in 1919, while the Armenian Genocide was still occurring. (It began with the 1894 massacres, and continued through the 1922 burning of Smyrna, and can be thought of more as an Orthodox Genocide, during which the Turkish Muslims murdered over 3.6 million Christians from Armenia, Thrace, Pontus, Greece, and elsewhere in the region.) The film was based on a memoir by young Aurora Mardiganian, herself a survivor and eyewitness of the atrocities depicted. She helped produce and starred in the film, which was thought lost for decades, until one surviving reel was discovered recently. Thank God this has been posted on YouTube, and I am embedding it here as a witness to Islamic religious cleansing, and as a harbinger of the renewed persecution of Christians in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and all throughout the Islamic world today.

The movie has a brief history at the start for context. Subtitles help tell the story. The stills, including the crucifixion scenes, are shown at the conclusion.

Visit the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute for a full history of the film.

Perhaps the most important point to convey here is the heroic Christian faith of the Armenian Orthodox believers, as can be seen by Aurora Mardiganian's dedication page, shown below. This was a clear case of Muslims seeking to perform a complete religious cleansing of all Christians from Turkey. This is in accordance with Muhammad's example, as he vowed that,

"I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim." (Hadith from Sahih Muslim, 19.4366).

This is what is going on right now in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and other Islamic countries, as seen in my earlier post, Islamist Ultimatum to Syrian Christians: Convert, Leave, or Die.

The Islamic world smells blood. Again.

Only this time the Islamic genocide against Christians is being actively enabled and supported by what used to be the world's bastion of freedom, the United States of America, courtesy of the Obama Administration.

Islamist Ultimatum to Syrian Christians: Convert, Leave, or Die

In conjunction with my post on the abduction of two high-level bishops in Syria, here is a sober analysis of the overall situation.

Islamist Ultimatum to Syrian Christians: Convert, Leave, or Die
(AINA) -- Syria's Christians fear an Islamist takeover should the current government be overthrown. During the ongoing civil war there has been a well-documented rise in the number of salafi-jihadist groups operating in Syria that pose a direct threat to Syria's Christian community.1 These militant opposition forces espouse an Islamist ideology, which incorporates elements of Wahhabism2 and Salafism3 and whose stated goals and objectives are by definition hostile towards Christians. Firsthand accounts from Syrian Christian refugees in Lebanon reported by award winning investigative journalist Nuri Kino detail the horror in which they described kidnappings, rapes, harassment, theft and other violent reprisals at the hands of Islamist groups.

Those who survived reported "just being Christian is enough to be a target,"4 disproving theories that violence and kidnapping directed towards Syrian Christians is purely incidental or for economic reasons. One individual openly declared "We're not poor. We didn't run from poverty [...] we ran from fear."5

There are several dozens of armed Salafi-jihadist groups both foreign and domestic currently operating in Syria that explicitly advocate Islamist agendas and possess the intentions and capabilities to commit violent persecution towards Syria's Christians. Most notably from the global Sunni jihadist milieu is al-Jabhat al-Nusra lil-Ahl al-Sham min Mujahedin al-Sham fi Sahat al-Jihad (The Front for Supporting the People of Greater Syria by the Mujahedin of Syria on the Battlefields of Jihad) A.K.A. Jabhat al-Nusra, which in December 2012 the U.S. government officially listed as a terrorist organization.6 Also, on April 9 of this year the leader of Tanzim Qai'dat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (Organization of Jihad's Base in Mesopotamia) A.K.A. al-Qaeda in Iraq released an audio announcement that officially declared the unification of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Jabhat al-Nusra including the establishment of an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, effectively expanding the threat to Syria's Christians.7 The other notable militant Islamist group is al-Jabhat al-Islamiya al-Suriya (Syrian Islamic Front), a large armed coalition force comprised of several interdependent blocs and alliances organized throughout Syria.8 Even the relatively less hardline al-Jaysh al-Suri al-Hurr (Free Syrian Army) and al-Majlis al-Watani al-Suri (Syrian National Council) are by no means monolithic entities, rather both exist as umbrella organizations comprised of several independent and competing ideological currents and sub-currents including Islamism.

Indeed, regardless of the means employed whether violent or non-violent to achieve the stated goals and objectives of these Islamist movements, the future is unfortunately no less hostile towards Christians. Within an Islamic State governed by Shari'a (Islamic Law), Jews and Christians, known colloquially as ahl al-Kitaab (People of the Book), are afforded a certain protected status called dhimmi, but only if they willingly submit to a tribute or coercive tax known as jizya.9 Based on Islamist interpretation, which is strictly literal and employs the "doctrine of abrogation" promulgated by the 13th century Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah,10 the later and more belligerentsuras (chapters) of the Qur'an take precedence over the earlier and more tolerant suras.11 As a result, the salafi-jihadists frequently reference Sura al-Tawba (The Repentance) otherwise known as Sura al-Bara'a (The Ultimatum), which is the 9th chapter of the Qur'an, to justify their violent actions. Numerous internationally recognized translations of Verse 29 of Sura al-Tawba explicitly state,

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.12

Ultimately, Syria's Christians as well as Jews will be forced to suffer persecution at the hands of Islamists unless they convert to Islam, submit to Shari'a and pay the jizya, emigrate or die.

Guilt by Association: Syria's Christians Labeled Pro-Assad

The question of who would protect the Syrian Christians after the fall of Assad has historically led many Christians to support the status quo out of fear.13 A Congressional Research Service report from August 2012 accurately portrays the dilemma of Syrian Christians who are "caught between their parallel fears of violent change and of being associated with Assad's crackdown."14 According to a September 2012 report by the Institute for the Study of War, President Assad has "used the threat of jihadists within the opposition to galvanize support for the regime among the Alawite and Christian communities."15 Similarly, the U.S. State Department's 2011 International Religious Freedom Report for Syria also recognizes the rising level of animosity towards Syria's Christians as well as Assad's attempts to translate their fears into political support by sponsoring pro-government demonstrations in predominantly Christian neighborhoods and violently rebuffing those viewed as undermining this effort.16 Consequently, even individual Christians who have neither professed nor shown any inclination of support for the regime may still be identified as pro-Assad and thereby targeted for violent persecution by the Islamists and other opposition forces, or by government security forces for being perceived as unsupportive.

"Arab Spring" is "Christian Winter" -- Persecution of Christians is a Regional Issue

Christian persecution is prevalent not only throughout Syria but also the entire region. Congressman Frank Wolf (R-Virginia) has consistently published reports testifying that Christians throughout the Middle East, specifically in Syria, Egypt and Iraq, have been suffering persecution at an alarming rate, including a sustained campaign of violence, discrimination, mass emigration and internal displacement -- all of which too often go unrecognized and unreported.17

In an urgent attempt to bring attention to and spur action from policymakers, Congressman Wolf recently traveled to the region and met firsthand with Christian refugees from several Arab nations, including Syria, and reported "In fact, it often appears that there is an anti-Christian bias at the State Department. For years the department refused to recognize that Iraqi Christians were being targeted, insisting instead that they were simply victims of generalized violence."18 Unfortunately, the same can now be said of Syria's Christians, as Western naivety falsely assumes that anti-Assad opposition forces are automatically pro-democracy, pro-secular, and pluralist and Christians are merely victims of incidental violence. However, a recent report from the British newspaper The Guardian reveals that until recently hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians sought refuge in neighboring countries like Syria, but now they are once again forced to flee due to rampant religious persecution. The report continues by stating the majority of Christians have been emptied from the broader Middle East, and while the "Arab Spring" may have sprung new life for Islamists in the region, it has most certainly brought death to Christianity in places like Syria.19

By Matthew J. Thomas

Matthew Thomas is a graduate from the M.A. program in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA. He previously worked as an intern with the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel, and as a research assistant with Naval Postgraduate School and Howard's Global Solutions. His primary research interests are on militant Islamic organizations and the Arab World. He possesses advanced foreign language proficiency in Arabic and Assyrian (neo-Aramaic), and holds a B.A. in International Relations with a Concentration in Muslim Studies from Michigan State University.

1 "Evidence of the Influx into Syria of Foreign Jihadist Fighters," Insights, Jihadist Website Monitoring Group, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, November 2012. Available online at: (Accessed 9 April 2013).

2 Wahhabism is the official religious doctrine of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a Salafist form of Sunni Islam founded by the 18th century cleric Mohammed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab that is based on an extremely strict and puritanical interpretation of the Qur'an and Ahadith(sayings, statements, acts of Prophet Mohammed), which it considers as the sole authoritative texts.

3 Salafism is a radical movement within Sunni Islam that seeks to restore the 7th century mode of Islamic governance, colloquially referred to as the pure or golden age of Islam, that existed during time of al-Salaf as-Salih (virtuous ancestors), specifically the Prophet Mohammed and al-Sahaba (companions) who include al-Muhajirun ("the emigrants" or initial followers of Islam who made the hijra or migration with Mohammed from Mecca to Medina) and al-Ansar ("the helpers" or Medinan followers of Islam), as well as al-Rashidun, known as the four "Rightously Guided Caliphs" namely Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan, and Ali ibn Abi Talib.

4 Quote taken from p. 17 in Nuri Kino, "Between the Barbed Wire," UngdomsInitiativet, 11 January 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 9 April 2013).

5 Quote taken from p. 11 in Ibid.

6 "Treasury Sanctions Al-Nusrah Front Leadership in Syria and Militias Supporting the Assad Regime," U.S. Department of Treasury, 11 December 2012. Available online at:, (Accessed 9 April 2013).

7 "Al-Qaida Iraq branch announces merger with Syrian militant group," The Washington Post, 9 April 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 9 April 2013). For a safe copy of the original audio message in Arabic see, Aaron Y. Zelin, "al-Furqan Media presents a new audio message from the Islamic State of Iraq's Shaykh Abu Bakr Al-Hussayni al-Qurayshi al-Baghdadi: 'Announcement of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham,", 9 April 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 9 April 2013).

8 Aron Lund, "Syria's Salafi Insurgents: The Rise of The Syrian Islamic Front," Utrikespolitiska Institutet, Occasional Paper No. 17, March 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 9 April 2013).

9 See p. 22 in Ibid.

10 Ibn Taymiyyah is a 13th century Islamic scholar and theologian from the Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence that is most famous for the fatwa (religious edict) that declared it permissible to wage militant jihad against the Mongols, who sacked the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate at Baghdad in 1258, because they were perceived as living in a state of jahiliyya (ignorance) and pre-Islamic paganism. Thefatwa was controversial because previously it was considered forbidden to violently oppose the Caliphate, since such actions would constitute fitna (secession). Islamists use this fatwa and historical context to justify their extremist ideology by engaging in takfir (act of calling another Muslim an apostate) and denouncing the current Muslim regimes as un-Islamic and in a state of jahiliyya.

11 See p. 76 in Bale, "Islamism and Totalitarianism."

12 See translation by Yusuf Ali for Verse 29, Chapter 9 of the Qur'an taken from "Quran.Com." Available online at: (Accessed 10 April 2013).

13 See p. 4 in Michael Singh, "Syria's Humanitarian Crisis," Testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 19 March 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 9 April 2013).

14 Quote taken from p. 2 in Jeremy M. Sharp et al., "Armed Conflict in Syria: U.S. and International Response," Congressional Research Service, RL33487, 21 August 2012. Available online at: (Accessed 9 April 2013).

15 Quote taken from p. 38 in Elizabeth O'Bagy, "Jihad in Syria," Middle East Security Report 6, September 2012, Institute for the Study of War. Available online at: (Accessed 9 April 2013).

16 See p. 7 in "Syria: International Religious Freedom Report for 2011," U.S. State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Available online at: (Accessed 10 April 2013).

17 "Wolf Calls on Religious Leaders in West to Speak Out on Behalf of Persecuted Church Globally," Congressman Frank Wolf, 9 January 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 10 April 2013). See also, "Wolf Issues Report Following Trip to Middle East," 7 March 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 10 April 2013).

18 Quote taken from p. 14 in "First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People: Report on a trip to Lebanon and Egypt," Congressman Frank Wolf, February 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 10 April 2013).

19 Rupert Shortt, "In the Middle East, the Arab spring has given way to a Christian winter," The Guardian, 2 January 2013. Available online at: (Accessed 10 April 2013). See also, Sam Dagher, "An 'Arab Winter' Chills Christians," The Wall Street Journal, 5 December 2011. Available online at: (Accessed 10 April 2013).

Bishops Violently Abducted by Islamists in Aleppo, Syria

The jihad in Syria becomes ever more emboldened. Below is the official statement from the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.

This may postpone my interview originally scheduled for Sunday, as the situation is quite fluid, and quite dangerous.

Metropolitan Paul

His Eminence Metropolitan Philip is saddened to report that, in a telephone discussion that he had today with His Beatitude John X, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, it was learned that Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), Metropolitan of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese Of Aleppo, and the brother of His Beatitude, as well as Mar Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese of Aleppo, were both abducted by terrorists in a suburb of Aleppo as they  were returning from Antioch (Antakya, Turkey) to Aleppo.

The deacon who was driving  their automobile was shot and killed in the attack.  As you know, Syria has been suffering from these acts of terror for more than 2 years.*

Mar Gregorios
We ask all of you to remember Metropolitan Paul, and Archbishop Gregorios in your prayers, asking the Lord to deliver them safely from this ordeal. All official information will be released from the Archdiocese Headquarters through official communication channels.

* Note: Actually Syria, and all Christian lands of the Middle East, North Africa, Asia Minor, and the Balkans have been suffering from Islamic acts of terror for almost 1400 years. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The 'Islamification' of Christianity

Fr Stephen Freeman makes a hugely important point in one of his recent posts, concerning the understanding (and mis-understanding) of the Scriptures, and how that impacts Protestant Christianity.

As Orthodox Christians, we must be persistently mindful of the correct understanding of the authority of the Church, and the place of Tradition and Scriptures within the life of the Church:

The notion of the Bible, distinct from the community of believers, as a source for Divine guidance and belief, is not Christianity – at least not any traditional form of it. Instead, it represents an Islamification of Christianity. In such a practice, the Scriptures of the Church become a Christian Koran, while the believer ceases to be a member of the Body of Christ, and becomes part of the People of the Book (a slavish name if ever there was one).

Read Fr. Stephen's full essay, People of the Book, for more important insights.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Terror Expert: Boston Marathon Suspects Islamic Terrorists, not Chechen Separatists

Steve Emerson was ahead of virtually everyone on reporting the national security angle of the Boston bombings. His insights below confirm for us one of our primary concerns, namely, what was the motivation and ideology behind the attacks.

Boston Marathon suspects Islamic terrorists, not Chechen separatists

By Steven Emerson

Editor's note: Terror expert Steve Emerson spoke with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly Friday about suspects' possible motives in the Boston Marathon terror attacks. The following is a summary of the information he shared with her: 

Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism reviewed videos posted on the YouTube channels of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev. 

Both brothers had YouTube channels in the United States and in Russia. Emerson's group reviewed about half of the 22 videos posted on the U.S. channel. The videos were viewed by a small number of people. One video received 5,000 views, another just 1,000 views.

Based on the content of the videos, which feature Bin Laden, calls to kill Americans, Jews, Christians and exhortations to establish a world-wide caliphate, it is clear that these message are not directed just at Chechens. "They are directed primarily against all non-Muslims and are very similar to the Al Qaeda videos we've seen in years past." 

The two brothers clearly want "to express a message that they totally sympathize with the jihadist cause. These were jihadists, they were not just Chechen separatists."

Steven Emerson is executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism and the executive producer of a new documentary about the Muslim Brotherhood in America Jihad in America: the Grand Deception.” 

Read more:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston Marathon Bomber Named for Fierce Muslim Warlord, Tamerlane

I had noticed this connection when I first saw the name published, and here is a key observation by Robert Spencer, including comments from Dr Andrew Bostom connecting the 14th century Tamerlane's motivations and tactics with modern jihadist, Osama bin Laden:
It has now been revealed that the Boston Marathon bombers were two Muslims from southern Russia near Chechnya: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a firefight with Massachusetts police early this morning, and his brother Dzhokhar, who as of this writing is still at large. 
As more and more material comes to light about the pair, their motivations become clear. On a Russian-language social media page, Dzhokhar features a drawing of a bomb under the heading “send a gift,” and just above links to sites about Islam. Tamerlan’s YouTube page features two videos by Sheikh Feiz Mohammed. According to a report published in The Australian in January 2007, in a video that came to the attention of authorities at the time, Mohammed “urges Muslims to kill the enemies of Islam and praises martyrs with a violent interpretation of jihad.” 
Tamerlan also says, “I’m very religious.” He notes that he does not drink alcohol because Allah forbids it: “God said no alcohol,” and that his Italian girlfriend has converted to Islam. Even his name indicates the world from which he comes: Tamerlan Tsarnaev is apparently named for the Muslim warrior Tamerlane. 
Andrew Bostom wrote in 2005 that “Osama bin Laden was far from the first jihadist to kill infidels as an expression of religious piety….Osama lacks both Tamerlane’s sophisticated (for his time) military forces and his brilliance as a strategist. But both are or were pious Muslims who paid homage to religious leaders, and both had the goal of making jihad a global force.”

Read the full article, wich connects most of the dots of what we already know.

UPDATED 11:18 ET - Chechen Jihad comes to America

Robert Spencer over at Jihad Watch has been assembling reports on the Boston Marathon Bombing suspects since early this morning, including screen grabs from the suspects' social media pages.

Orthodox Christians will be especially sensitive to the Chechen connection due to the numerous Chechen terrorist attacks in Russia, including the horrifically evil Beslan school hostage crisis, which ended in the deaths of over three hundred people, including 186 children, and over 700 wounded.

Links below in reverse chronological order (most recent at top):

Plus, the story about the Saudi student set to be deported is confirmed by multiple sources, in spite of ICE denials and Janet Napolitano deflecting questions about him:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Importance of 'Witnesses'

My post from April 10 (below) has been retitled and tweaked for publication over at our friend Raymond Ibrahim's site:

The Importance of Witnesses: Newly Translated Georgian Christian Martyrdoms Expose Islamic Jihad Continuity.

I hope to provide periodic articles for Raymond's blog, emphasizing Orthodox Christian theology, history and response to Islam and jihad.

Reactions to the Boston Marathon Bombings Reveal Predispositions

I had a relatively busy day yesterday, an interview in the morning and related meeting shortly thereafter, returning home a little after noon. As I typically do when at my flat, I checked my email and various news sites occasionally throughout the day.

I had been offline for a while, and so was hit hard by the news of the two bombings in Boston in mid afternoon, between 3:30pm and 4 o'clock. It was devastating, and I was honestly stunned by it.

But I must confess a predisposition soon began to whisper in the back of my mind, namely, that this had to be an Islamic-motivated or perpetrated attack. Of course, I didn't start blogging about it (and I am not one to post comments on other sites). Rather, I am sharing this for a reason. I am asking us all to look at our first assumptions as to what type of terrorist attack this was.

There seemed to be a strong bias in assumptions being shared on the major news sites and cable channels. A Huffington Post blogger tweeted, "We don't know anything yet of course, but it is tax day & my first thought was all these anti-gov groups, but who knows."

Luke Russert of NBC speculated on a possible link to Waco in 1993 (FBI assault and fire at the Branch Davidian compound), which also fell on Patriots Day. The fact that the Boston Marathon bombings occurred on Patriots Day and Tax Day was noted by many.

Less than two hours after the bombings, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen stated "I'm reminded of Oklahoma City" (which occurred on the anniversary of Waco in 1995), and framed his analysis by speculating that it could be "right wing extremists." Chris Matthews of MSNBC made the assertion that, "as a category, normally, domestic terrorists tend to be on the far right." As we all know now, by late afternoon, the NY Post was reporting that a 20 year-old Saudi national was being held in custody at a Boston hospital, where he was being treated for injuries, and was said to be cooperating with authorities.

My intent here is not to re-report breaking news during the early hours of a fluid investigation, but rather to look at how our minds jump to assumptions and theories based on how we predispose ourselves to think. This is a sign of the passions at work within us. Some in the mainstream media tend to think immediately of Tea Partiers and anti-government, right-wing extremists (in spite of there being very few, if high profile, terrorist attacks by such groups or persons), whereas many of the rest of us (aware of the many recent incidents of Muslim terrorist attacks and plots) first suspect Muslim provocateurs.

It would appear Muslims themselves are just as divided, but with different emphases and rationale, which alone are quite revealing.

Representatives of CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorist funding trial, and is thus linked to the terrorist organization Hamas, so determined by the US Justice Department) yesterday afternoon were re-tweeting a message started by a Libyan Muslim: "Please don't be a Muslim." Some shocking posts seen in screen captures on various Facebook pages show some Muslims strongly approve of the bombings, as do celebratory statements by a Jordanian Muslim leader, and Hamas, Hizballah and Islamic Jihad terror groups. Other reports show jihadists hope the bombings are the work of... jihadists.

The latest breaking news concerns arrests of jihadists in Pakistan and Afghanistan in connection with the bombings.

The tragic deaths, horrific injuries, and sheer shock and terror are the first wave of casualties. But all of us are affected in a myriad of subtle and not-so-subtle ways, which generate waves of emotions, from anguish and grief, fear and numbness, to rage and judgment. May we all turn to the Lord and His Most Pure Mother for solace and healing, as we lift up the victims and their families in prayer.

Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Methodios of Boston wrote lovingly to his flock, urging "our parishes throughout the Metropolis to offer prayers for the repose of the souls of those who tragically lost their lives today, and to pray for the healing of all those who were injured.  May the God of Peace and Mercy bring His peace upon our community."

Such is truly our best response to acts of evil in our fallen world. Let us turn to the Lord, as we strive against hate and judgments in our hearts, even as we inevitably learn more about the enemies who launched this demonic attack.

May God have mercy on us all.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Greek Orthodox teen commits apostasy, converts to Islam, becomes Jihadi Mass Murderer

This is the devastating sub-plot of this horror story, how a 'son of the Church' could deny Christ to follow the 'forerunner of Antichrist', becoming a devout Muslim who then kills 37 innocents in the January attack on an Algerian gas plant.

Moral of the story: if we do not fill ourselves with the light and love of Christ, Satan is ready to fill us or our children with darkness.

So, Orthodox parents and priests, if you see your children or youth showing an unhealthy interest in Islam, just like you would if you suspected drug use or substance abuse, please stage an intervention.

How three Canadian teens became jihad mass murderers
Source: Jihad Watch (with original comments by Robert Spencer)

"The boys emerged from adolescence immersed in twin obsessions with Islam and hip-hop music" -- as with John Walker Lindh, the Marin County Mujahid, as well. This story presents them as a "cultural contrast," but actually both Islam and hip-hop offer channels for and justifications of alienation and aggression.

"How three Canadians graduated from a rebellious high school friendship to the world of Islamist terrorism," by Adrian Humphreys, Stewart Bell, Maiya Keidan, and Tom Blackwell for the National Post, April 6 (thanks to Kenneth):
The distressed family of Ali Medlej explained the unexpected death of their son by saying he was killed in a car accident. The truth, as they — and the world — now knows, is more ghastly and perplexing: The young London man died perpetrating January’s terrorist attack on an Algerian gas plant. 
The violent end of Ali Medlej, along with Xristos Katsiroubas, his chum from school whom he helped convert to Islam, came not in a car, but in the North African desert in an attack that left 37 hostages dead, most of them incinerated in an explosion that likely also purposely killed the Canadian attackers. 
That was their startling end. 
Now everyone, even those close to the young men, wonder where their dark odyssey began. 
While the geography is somewhat clear — from London to Edmonton to Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and, ultimately, to the ill-fated gas plant in In Amenas, Algeria — it is the psychological journey, from suburban rascals to jihadi commandos, that leaves friends befuddled. 
The men, along with Aaron Yoon, who was convicted in Mauritania last year of membership in a terrorist group, were all part of a larger group of friends, mostly Muslim, at London South Collegiate Institute, a high school in the southwestern Ontario city.
The boys emerged from adolescence immersed in twin obsessions with Islam and hip-hop music. 
And if those influences offer a cultural contrast, the lives of the three men portray a similar duality, said family, many friends and former schoolmates, some of whom were close to one or more of the men since kindergarten. 
Ali, with most of those in his clique, for instance, devoutly attended prayers but also, while in Grade 12, got into trouble for taking a fake gun to a neighbouring school to settle a dispute with a student there, friends said. And although dying in a bloody al-Qaeda attack, in Grade 9, he once mocked the Taliban.

He devoutly attended Muslim prayers but was also threatening violence? How could it be? What a puzzling duality! Who ever heard of devout, praying Muslims threatening violence? Could Ali have been influenced by Qur'an passages such as "slay the pagans wherever you find them" (Qur'an 9:5) or "When you meet the unbelievers, strike at their necks (47:4)? Of course not! It would be "Islamophobic" even to think such a thing.

Xristos, in turn, was a late convert to Islam after being raised in a Greek-Canadian Orthodox Christian home and, with the zeal of a new convert, announced he was to be called Mustafa. 
“Xris [prounounced Chris] was a much more serious Muslim than Ali,” said Justin VanderTuin, 24, who was on the high school football team with Ali. “Ali certainly was not. He was a kid who drank and smoked, but I never saw Xris with any of those things.”
And Aaron, a Korean-Canadian Catholic who also converted in his teens, under influence from Ali, shunned schoolwork and reading but ended up studying the Koran and Arabic at an Islamic centre in North Africa. 
“I was surprised when I read about Aaron studying Islamic texts — Aaron, study?” said a former classmate at Cartier Public School. “He could never even remember when Confederation was.”... 
But former classmates remember Ali. 
He was known as dynamic, loud, often funny but also remembered for slamming his fist into a locker in frustration and for being physically intimidating. 
One classmate recalls Ali acting out a scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in Grade 10 English and turning it into a mock fight to the amusement of the students, although the teacher was unimpressed. 
When the class wrote their literacy test, Ali couldn’t be bothered to read the instructions and just wrote an unrelated essay on gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur. 
Several students described Ali as a bully — one calling him a “wannabe thug.” 
“He was definitely a bully in the sense that if he thought you were weak, he didn’t respect you,” said Mr. VanderTuin. 
But Devon Abrahams, 24, remembers Ali interceding when a classmate was being picked on in 2006. 
“Ali stopped him,” Mr. Abrahams said. “Ali was a good guy, stood up for a friend of mine, got high marks in school but hid it from his peers.” 
Several classmates said Ali was smart but liked to hide it. 
“He could be kind of an ass sometimes,” said Osrenko Jovic, a Western University business graduate now running his own company. “It depends who he was with. It depends which crowd it was. 
“I just don’t know what the hell happened, to be honest,” he said. “When we all left high school, that’s when he started to change.” 
Xristos Katsiroubas’ religious roots are clear from his given name, which is the Greek word for Christ. He converted to Islam about 2004 and shunned his name, introducing himself as Mustafa. 
“I think his mom was concerned about the people he was hanging out with, namely my group of friends, but they weren’t radicals, just troublemakers I guess,” said a man who was best friends with him since elementary school. Like some people interviewed, he did not want his name published and associated with terrorism. 
“I think he started going to the mosque because he was close with Ali. I think after a little while he felt at home there. 
“It was a thing for a lot of my friends to go to the mosque together. I think Xris just went along one time and eventually decided he liked it.” 
The group, however, showed little ambition about the future. That, more than the group’s growing interest in Islam, became a wedge between himself and his friends. 
“I wanted to move on to bigger and better things and they weren’t interested in doing much with their life,” he said. 
The conversion of Aaron Yoon, now 24, came as a surprise to his family, but seemed to bring him a measure of calm, his brother said. He planned to attend a London Catholic high school, although he eventually linked up with Ali and Xristos at South Collegiate.
He was an indifferent student with a propensity for silliness, said a former elementary school classmate. 
His conversion, however, seemed to ignite his academic curiosity. 
The three, despite the diverse backgrounds, were part of a clique dominated by Muslim students of Middle Eastern descent, part of a subtle racial division at the school, a classmate said. 
“They had their own little group. I was more at the side of the school with all the skaters and jocks. All the ‘inter-racial people’ were at the front of the school — that’s where they hung out.” 
Mr. Jovic said of Aaron: “He was always smiling, always a nice guy. Apparently he started changing as well after high school.” 
The end of high school did not move the boys into higher education. 
Instead, they embraced their religion more publicly: Ali started wearing traditional Islamic garb after high school and Xristos started growing a beard. 
In 2007, they moved to Edmonton in search of work, but ended up in trouble there, the CBC reported. 
Their landlady ended up evicting them from a rented condominium for causing damage, including breaking windows and punching holes in doors. Even worse, court records indicate they and another friend from London were convicted of stealing groceries in March, 2007. (London police currently have an arrest warrant for that friend, Benjamin Thomas, 24, for failing to comply with conditions for a shoplifting conviction in the Ontario city.) 
“Ali was insistent that we rent them a place because they were in a bind. I kind of felt like helping them,” CBC quoted their landlady as saying. 
Afterward, they travelled to Morocco and made their way to Mauritania. At least one of them, Aaron, pursued studies there and investigators suspect the others may have found their way to an Islamic school or centre that facilitated their entry into a jihadist group.
Aaron went in 2010 to study the Koran and Arabic, his brother said. He was reunited with Ali and Xristos in Morocco, he said. 
Aaron lost contact with his two friends in 2011 when he was arrested in Mauritania for involvement in a terrorist group. 
However they were attracted to North Africa and however they financed the trip, it was a journey from which Ali and Xristos would not return. 
Jean-Luc Marret, a senior fellow at the Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, a Paris-based public policy think tank, said some Islamic schools in the area serve as recruiting grounds for armed Islamist factions, but the process is informal. 
“What you call a madrassa can be a very mainstream organization, but with one individual inside doing radical proselytism,” he said. “You need to have the chance to meet someone, then convince him about your motivation without being monitored by the police.”...

Why don't the people in the madrassa who oppose this sort of thing (and they're the vast majority, we're always told) put a stop to it?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Prominent Greek Orthodox Bishop asks Court to stop Mosque

This is precisely the sort of firm resolve and unflinching courage required to prevent the spread of Islam. In a related story, as many as ten mosques may be built in Athens alone, if Bishop Seraphim is unsuccessful in his efforts.

Mosques are not the Islamic equivalent of church buildings. They are advance outposts for the spread of Islam, and are inextricably linked to jihad and the political aspect of Islam, which always strives to dominate and subdue whatever territory it enters. This is per the example of the first mosque, which Muhammad established in Medina (cf. The Mosque Exposed, by S. Solomon and E. Alamaqdisi).

For a succinct definition of the significance of the Mosque for Muslims, here is no less an authority than Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan:

"The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers..."

Piraeus Bishop Asks Court To Stop Mosque
Andy Dabilis - Source: Pravmir

With the Greek government set to construct an official mosque, a leading Greek Orthodox Church leader has asked the country’s highest court to block it as unconstitutional. Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus told the Council of State that the plans violate Article 13 of the Constitution, which stipulates freedom of religious conscience. He said the construction of a mosque should be preceded by an impact study on ethics and public order, the newspaper Kathimerini reported. Seraphim, known for his anti-Semitic remarks*, also told the court that he believes it goes against the constitutional principle of equality, as religious minorities wishing to erect a place of worship in Greece have so far had to apply for a building permit from the authorities. “Building a mosque in the center of Athens will not only damage public order and the morality of Greek society but also trigger a series of events which will, with mathematical certainty, dismantle the cohesion of the Greek nation as a Christian Orthodox people,” he said earlier.

* An article which relates Bishop Seraphim's anti-semitic statements (and his follow-up apology and clarification) may be viewed here. These are deplorable remarks, which I utterly reject. He is also known for some other strong views, which are addressed in the same article. His concern and warning regarding the building of mosques is, however, quite well placed.

Mainstream Media Continues to 'Wake Up' Regarding Genocidal Persecution of Christians by Muslims

Over at Monomakhos, the blog title for this story reads: Its Official: Christianity Most Persecuted Religion in the World.  Kirsten Powers' own title is a simple and direct plea for protection. But will the Obama Administration dare to offend the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt and Islamists everywhere else who are committing an escalating genocide and religious cleansing against Christians?

My guess is no.

The United States used to think of itself as a Christian country. Obama put that self-conception to death early in his first term. 50 million abortions since Roe v. Wade would seem to back him up, just as he backs up the Roe v. Wade mandate for infanticide, trying to turn it into a universal requirement through Obamacare.

At the deepest level, this is a spiritual phenomenon. We might even be so bold as to call it a 'sign'. As in, a 'Sign of the Times'.  With the ever less subtle persecution of Christians in the public square right here in America we might truly be seeing some sort of 'great winnowing'. Though we may be able to exert pressure on our elected officials to protect persecuted Christians throughout the world, we must be most intent on cleansing our hearts through repentance, cultivating a pure abode for Christ to dwell within us, that we may 'acquire the Holy Spirit'.

God help us all...

Middle East Christians need our protection

Source: USA Today | Kirsten Powers

“Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.” So asserted German Chancellor Angela Merkel late last year, causing a stir. Merkel echoed a concern expressed by then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who warned in a 2011 speech that Christians face a “particularly wicked program of cleansing in the Middle East, religious cleansing.”

Not ‘War on Christmas’

Now, this is not about clerks who say “Happy Holidays” or bans of nativity scenes in public schools. Merkel spoke of real persecution of hundreds of millions of Christians around the world. Indeed, a 2011 Pew Forum study found that Christians are harassed in 130 countries, more than any of the world’s other religions.

The just-released book Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians provides the gory details behind these statistics. Persecuted is a collaboration of the Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea, Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert to catalog the human rights abuses visited upon Christian believers from North Korea to Mali. They define this persecution as Christians “who are tortured, raped, imprisoned, or killed for their faith.” It’s a worldwide phenomenon, but Shea points out a troubling acceleration in the cradle of Christianity’s birth: the Middle East and North Africa. As London Guardian columnist Rupert Shortt wrote in January, “The religious ecology of the Middle East looks more fragile than ever, as the Arab Spring gives way to Christian Winter.”

Tragically, Christians have been forced to abandon homelands they have occupied for thousands of years. Up to two-thirds of Christians have fled Iraq in the past ten years to escape massacres, church burnings and constant death threats. Many Christians fled to Syria, where they are experiencing persecution anew. In Iran, U.S. pastor Saeed Abedini has been sentenced to eight years in prison for preaching Christianity.

Violence in Egypt

Last week, Amnesty International blasted Egypt’s government, a major recipient of U.S. aid, for its continued failure to protect Coptic Christians from discrimination and violence. Amnesty’s report comes on the heels of a fresh wave of attacks just before Easter in the town of Wasta, south of Cairo.

Lebanon was once a majority Christian country but no longer, as Christians flee the hostility. CBS News reported in 2011 that the former president of Lebanon, Amin Gemayel complained of a “genocide” against Christians in the Middle East. “Massacres are taking place for no reason and without any justification against Christians. It is only because they are Christians.”

“The future of Christians in the Middle East is very bleak,” Neil Hicks of Human Rights First told me. “What has happened in Iraq and Syria is de facto ethnic cleansing of Christians.” In other words: Christians can leave or be killed.

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, an expert on the region, told me he is shocked that American Christians aren’t regularly protesting outside of embassies drawing attention to this issue. Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is, he says, “one of the most undercovered stories in international news.” Perhaps it’s time for that to change.

Kirsten Powers is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, a Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Daily Beast.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

‘War is Deceit‘ — Should Christians Use Islamic Tactics?

by Ralph Sidway

Rather than launch into a theological-ethical discussion to try to provide a definitive answer to the question posed in my title, one which would explore the Old and New Testaments, Patristic writings, ‘Just War’ theories, etc., for this particular essay I wish to look at an account from the martyrology of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

In the Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions, the lives of saints and the examples of martyrs and confessors are a rich source of theology. These are ones who “completed this life in faith,” and so their ‘witness’ (the literal translation of the Greek word, ‘martyr’) bears considerable weight in the Church’s memory. In the mind of the Orthodox Church, martyrs and confessors present a ‘living word’ to the faithful, one which can become especially relevant during times of crisis and persecution.

The sharing of the lives of martyrs is meant to encourage and embolden the faithful to persevere, in ways that didactics or polemics cannot. Indeed, this is one of the primary reasons for collecting and publishing the lives of martyrs under the Muslim Ottomans given by St Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain. 

In our day, we can learn also from the lives of martyrs much about the application of Islamic law, in various times and places, where it deals with non-Muslims. And we can certainly learn about the responses of Christians to jihad, the dhimma contract, and Muslim practices of taqiyya and kitman. The past decade or two has seen more and more lives of saints and martyrs being translated into English from formerly very obscure traditions, and we turn now to the Georgian Orthodox Church for this interesting narrative.

Commemorated today (April 10) are the Martyrs of the Kvabtakhevi Monastery. Presented as something of a prologue to the specific events of the martyrdoms and destruction of the monastery itself, is a fascinating account of how the shrewd King Bagrat V outwitted the fierce Muslim warlord, Timur:

Martyrs of the Kvabtakhevi Monastery
In the 14th century, during the reign of King Bagrat V (1360-1394), Timur (Tamerlane) invaded Georgia seven times. His troops inflicted irreparable damage on the country, seizing centuries-old treasures and razing ancient churches and monasteries. 
Timur’s armies ravaged Kartli, then took the king, queen, and the entire royal court captive and sent them to Karabakh (in present-day Azerbaijan). Later Timur attempted to entice King Bagrat to renounce the Christian Faith in exchange for permission to return to the throne and for the release of the other Georgian prisoners. 
For some time Timur was unable to subjugate King Bagrat, but in the end, being powerless and isolated from his kinsmen, the king began to falter. He devised a sly scheme: to confess Islam before the enemy, but to remain a Christian at heart. 

Here we see an amazing scene: a Christian monarch, under extreme duress, employing in its classical form the Muslim practice of taqiyya, which may be defined as “deception” or  “dissimulation.” As Muhammad is recorded saying, “War is deceit” (Bukhari 52:269). Here are a few passages which help convey the nuances of this form of deception:

[A] problem concerning law and order [with respect to Muslims in dar al-harb] arises from an ancient Islamic legal principle -- that of taqiyya, a word the root meaning of which is "to remain faithful" but which in effect means "dissimulation." It has full Quranic authority (3:28, 16:106, and 40:28) and allows the Muslim to conform outwardly to the requirements of unislamic or non-Islamic government, while inwardly "remaining faithful" to whatever he conceives to be proper Islam, while waiting for the tide to turn. (Hiskett, Some to Mecca Turn to Pray, 101.)

Historically, examples of taqiyya include permission to renounce Islam itself in order to save one's neck or ingratiate oneself with an enemy. It is not hard to see that the implications of taqiyya are insidious in the extreme: they essentially render negotiated settlement -- and, indeed, all veracious communication between dar al-Islam and dar al-harb -- impossible. It should not, however, be surprising that a party to a war should seek to mislead the other about its means and intentions. (Gregory Davis, Islam 101.) 
Islamic teaching permits deceits, ruses, and dispensations. For an in depth examination, read about the doctrines of taqiyya, tawriya, and taysir.  Then there is Islam’s overarching idea of niyya (or “intention”), best captured by the famous Muslim axiom, “necessity makes permissible the prohibited.” According to this teaching, the intentions behind Muslim actions determine whether said actions are permissible or not. (Raymond Ibrahim, The Threat of Islamic Betrayal.)

This deception works all too well, as we see in the continuing narrative:

Satisfied with King Bagrat’s decision to “convert to Islam,” Timur permitted the king to return to the throne of Kartli. At the request of King Bagrat, Timur sent twelve thousand troops with him to complete Georgia’s forcible conversion to Islam.

King Bagrat then magnifies his deception, seeking to deliver a serious blow to Timur’s war-making capability by setting up a surprise attack on the unsuspecting troops:

When they were approaching the village of Khunani in southeastern Georgia, Bagrat secretly informed his son Giorgi of everything that had happened and called upon him and his army to massacre the invaders. 
The news of Bagrat’s betrayal and the ruin of his army infuriated Timur, and he called for immediate revenge. At their leader’s command, his followers destroyed everything in their path, set fire to cities and villages, devastated churches, and thus forced their way through to Kvabtakhevi Monastery.

The deception, although successful in the short term, seems to have been the provocation for Timur’s unleashing of a medieval “nuke and pave” strategy, to destroy the rebellious Georgians, teach them a lesson, and decisively secure the Georgian territory.

Monastics and laymen alike were gathered in Kvabtakhevi when the enemy came thundering in. Having forced open the gate, the attackers burst into the monastery, then plundered and seized all its treasures. They captured the young and strong, carrying them away. The old and infirm were put to the sword. 
As the greatest humiliation, they mocked the clergy and monastics by strapping them with sleigh bells and jumping and dancing around them.
Already drunk on the blood they had shed, the barbarians posed an ultimatum to those who remained: to renounce Christ and live or to be driven into the church and burned alive.

Here we see the classic elements of Islamic jihad — taking captives, plundering and pillage, slaughter of innocents (and because this account is posted on a Christian website, we may safely assume accounts of raping and taking captive of young women and girls as sex slaves as been edited out for a PG-13 audience), and humiliation of enemies —  as exemplified by Muhammad himself in his battles and razzias.

The narrative proceeds now to the martyrdom account itself:

Faced with these terms, the faithful cried out: “Go ahead and burn our flesh—in the Heavenly Kingdom our souls will burn with a divine flame more radiant than the sun!” And in their exceeding humility, the martyrs requested that their martyrdom not be put on display: “We ask only that you not commit this sin before the eyes of men and angels. The Lord alone knows the sincerity of our will and comforts us in our righteous afflictions!” 
Having been driven like beasts into the church, the martyrs raised up a final prayer to God: “In the multitude of Thy mercy shall I go into Thy house; I shall worship toward Thy holy temple in fear of Thee. O Lord, guide me in the way of Thy righteousness; because of mine enemies, make straight my way before Thee (Ps. 5:6-7) that with a pure mind I may glorify Thee forever....” 
The executioners hauled in more and more wood, until the flames enveloping the church blazed as high as the heavens and the echo of crackling timber resounded through the mountains. Ensnared in a ring of fire, the blissful martyrs chanted psalms as they gave up their spirits to the Lord. 
The massacre at Kvabtakhevi took place in 1386. The imprints of the martyrs’ charred bodies remain on the floor of the church to this day. (Source:

I specifically noted above that King Bagrat’s deception only “seemed” to be the provocation for Timur’s vengeful slaughter of the Georgian monastics and laity in the monastery fire. I emphasize this cause as only being apparent, based both on immediate historical context (Timur had already invaded Georgia seven times before this campaign), and on Islamic precedence and longstanding historical continuity. 

100,000 Holy Martyrs of Tbilisi
Indeed, in 1226, an earlier Muslim campaign under the Khwarezmid Sultan Jalal al-Din beheaded 100,000 Georgians in Tbilisi for refusing to deny Christ and embrace Islam:

[After the bloody and terrifying invasion,] the sultan ordered that the icons of the Theotokos [Greek for ‘Mother of God’, the theological title for the Virgin Mary used in Eastern Orthodoxy since the late first or early second century, and officially proclaimed as dogma at the Third Ecumenical Council, held in Ephesus, 431AD] and our Savior be carried out of Sioni Cathedral and placed at the center of the bridge across the Mtkvari River. The invaders goaded the people to the bridge, ordering them to cross it and spit on the holy icons. Those who betrayed the Christian Faith and mocked the icons were spared their lives, while the Orthodox confessors were beheaded. 
One hundred thousand Georgians sacrificed their lives to venerate the holy icons. One hundred thousand severed heads and headless bodies were carried by the bloody current down the Mtkvari River. (Lives of the Georgian Saints, Archpriest Zakaria Machidatze, St Herman of Alaska Press, Platina CA, pp 403, 404.)

(Such mass beheadings should sound familiar to the reader, as Muhammad is reported in the Sira to have personally beheaded over 700 men and boys — who had already surrendered — of the Banu Qurayza tribe, thus setting the example for future Islamic genocidal campaigns and Islamic punishments through to our own day.)

Considered in this context, King Bagrat’s resorting to deception might not be judged an unreasonable one. No doubt the Tbilisi genocide, having taken place barely more than a hundred and fifty years earlier, must have been at the forefront of Bagrat’s mind. And the legendary Timur and his savage armies would certainly have found other sufficient motivation to conduct their bloody jihad. As King and Defender of his peoples, Bagrat had few options open to him. It is very interesting, therefore, that he chose a tactic which so perfectly comports with Islamic practice and doctrine.

Significantly, the account of the Martyrs of the Kvabtakhevi Monastery does not judge King Bagrat on this point. As we could illustrate from numerous Christian campaigns against Muslim invaders from the seventh to the nineteenth centuries, Christians have employed a wide spectrum of tactics and strategies. 

Now, the question is, as Islamic supremacism morphs into ever more diverse forms and methods, will our response be one of situational ‘whack-a-mole’, or might we fashion a consistent, coherent 21st century strategy for the defense of Western culture, values and freedoms? Or, will we continue, not to deceive the enemy, but to deceive ourselves that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’?

Presbyterian Author Omits Crucial Info on Islamic College

It appears another soft Christian defense of Islam has been analyzed and found lacking.  (I like the book title, by the way. But I would have written a different book stemming from that title.)

Presbyterian Author Omits Crucial Information About College’s Foundersvia Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)

Rev. Ben Daniel is a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who has written a book just published by his denomination's publishing house – Westminster John Knox Press. The book, The Search for Truth About Islam: A Christian Pastor Separates Fact from Fiction, is Rev. Daniel's effort to promote good interfaith relations in the United States. The main thrust of his book is entirely reasonable: The vast majority Muslims in America are loyal, law-abiding citizens who have no intention of imposing a theocracy on their fellow citizens.

The Facebook page publicizing the book describes the text as Rev. Daniel's effort to call out and correct “many of the falsehoods, stereotypes, and misconceptions that many Christians hold.”

Zaytuna College
In an effort to accomplish this goal, Rev. Daniel highlights Zaytuna College located in Berkley, California. He describes the school, which is currently seeking accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in the United States, as “filling an important niche in American higher education” and as the “only Muslim college in the United States.” (In fact,Stephen Schwartz, an American convert to Islam, reports that there is in fact another Muslim college in the U.S., American Islamic College, an already accredited institution which was founded in 1981.)

In his description of the Zaytuna College, Rev. Daniel interviews one of the school's co-founders Imam Zaid Shakir, who says that the goal of the school is to “standardize the understanding of Islam” and train Muslim graduates to be leaders in how Islam is practiced in the United States.

Rev. Daniel chides Americans who might be fearful of the founding of a Muslim college in the U.S., writing that he has “no doubt that the existence of what Imam Zaid hopes to establish in Berkley—a fully accredited and vibrant Islamic university—would strike fear into the hearts of many Americans and provide ample fodder for the rhetorical canons of those who would have us regard Islam with trembling dread.” This fear is unfounded, Rev. Daniel asserts, because of assurances he received from Imam Shakir at the end of his conversation with him:

In parting, I asked Imam Zaid if there was anything else he wanted the Christian readers of his book to know. There was. He wanted my readers to understand that Muslims are not trying to take over America, and that 99 percent of Muslims are living peacefully in the United States, trying to make a living, trying to take care of their families, trying to take advantage of the benefits that are present in American society, trying to contribute in a positive way to the society.

Rev. Daniel suggests Zaytuna will be a lot like his alma mater, Westmont College, a Christian college located in Santa Barbara, California. “With an overabundance of Christian colleges in America, I'm sure we can make room for an Islamic college,” Rev. Daniel jokes.

There's just one problem. The school's most prominent founders, including the man Rev. Daniel interviewed – Imam Zaid Shakir – have said some pretty hateful things about America, Zionists, and Judaism. The things they have said contradict Shakir's apparent commitment to pluralism and raise legitimate doubts about the school he has established.

Hamza Yusuf
Let's start with Shakir's colleague, Zaytuna co-founder Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (Hanson), a man who has made some ugly statements that were recounted by Stephen Schwarz in 2007. Schwarz writes that Hamza Yusuf's “bigoted declamations are well recorded and widely-known” and that in 1995 he

described Judaism as "a most racist religion." On September 9, 2001, two days before 9/11, Hanson hollered in Los Angeles, “This country (America) unfortunately has a great, a great tribulation coming to it. And much of it is already here, yet people are too illiterate to read the writing on the wall.” 
In another pearl of Hansonian wisdom, the Islamist extremist side of his multiple personality babbled freely at a 1996 convention of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a paramilitary front for Pakistani jihadists. There Hanson described America as "a country that has little to be proud of in its past and less to be proud of in the present. I am a citizen of this country not by choice but by birth. I reside in this country not by choice but by conviction in attempting to spread the message of Islam in this country. I became Muslim in part because I did not believe in the false gods of this society whether we call them Jesus or democracy or the Bill of Rights or any other element of this society that is held sacrosanct by the ill-informed peoples that make up this charade of a society… [F]undamentals of Islam are being compromised… [C]onvention resolutions are meaningless Masonic exersises (sic) devised by men who desire to engage people in forums that would insure nothing changes… [T]here should be no voting or debate… [W]e have no room for ayes or nays." The final lines in this quotation reflect the standard radical Islamist contempt for all forms of democratic governance. 

So here we have a man who has called Judaism a racist religion, portrayed the Masons as an evil force in American society and who has called Jesus Christ, the Bill of Rights and the notion of democracy itself as false gods of American society and proffered the radical Islamist line that “there should be no voting or debate” regarding how society should be governed. And he's founding a college in of all places – Berkley, California – in an effort to affect how Islam is practiced in the United States.

How could Rev. Daniel have missed all this?

To be fair, Schwarz reports that in the years after the September 11 attacks, Yusuf has moderated his public utterances. Also, he has apologized for his 1995 statement that Judaism is a most racist religion. (For more detail about Yusuf's statements and his apologies, see this report by the Investigative Project.)

Nevertheless, in light of Yusuf's previously stated contempt for democracy, the Bill of Rights and of voting, it seems reasonable to ask if he is really committed to democracy and pluralism and if the college he has helped establish is worthy of the positive treatment Rev. Daniel gave it.

Any responsible treatment of Zaytuna College would include a discussion of Yusuf's past statements because we simply have no way of knowing whether or not Yusuf's moderation is the result of a change of heart, or is merely a tactical change of tone made necessary by an act of Islamist terrorism.

But Rev. Daniel omitted any reference to these statements altogether. Did he not know about them? They were readily available to anyone with access to Google!

Zaid Shakir
Now let's look at the statements issued by the man Rev. Daniel interviewed – Imam Zaid Shakir. As documented in an article previously published by, Shakir has:

suggested that the attack on the WTC in 1993 was “undertaken by Zionist forces to give proof to their allegations concerning the magnitude of ‘Islamic fundamentalist' terrorism, and as a pretext to intensify their anti-Islamic propaganda campaign in the U.S. media.” Shakir seems to think Israel and its supporters are responsible for the attack. 
Shakir has also worked to undermine pluralism in the U.S., stating, “As Christians and Jews of this country have rejected the divine law and created their own secular system of a rule, the legal and political system of America is sinful and constitutes open rebellion against Allah. For a Muslim to join with the Jews and Christians in this system is to join them in their rebellion against Allah. Allah explicitly orders against this.”

According to the Investigative Project, the article in which he suggests that Zionists were responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Towers was published in Inquiry, a magazine published by Sami Al-Arian, an operative for Palestinian Islamic Jihad. According to the Investigative Project, this publication “frequently featured reports about the PIJ and other radicals.”

The Investigative Project also reports that Imam Shakir implicated the FBI in this bombing. At a 2001 speech at Zaytuna Institute, he said, “What are the consequences of so-called ‘Jihad in America?' What are the consequences of acts like the World Trade Center bombing, which of course was aided and abetted by our good friends at the FBI?”

It should come as no surprise that Shakir has made similar statements in reference to the attack on Sept. 11, 2001, stating he doesn't “really know what happened on 9/11” and that he has encouraged his fellow Muslims in the U.S. to read a book by David Ray Griffin to find out what actually happened that day. David Ray Griffin is a leading proponent of the notion that the Bush Administration was complicit in Al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001 attack that killed approximately 3,000 U.S. citizens. In other words, he's a Truther.

So let's recap. Rev. Ben Daniel has essentially given a clean bill of health to an Imam who has (1) blamed “Zionists” for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in a magazine published by an operative for an Islamist terror organization, (2) has suggested that the FBI was complicit in the 9/11 Attack, and (3) has encouraged his followers to read the works of David Ray Griffin who traffics in outlandish conspiracy theories that encourage Muslims to deny Islamist responsibility for the 9/11 Attack.

Rev. Daniel might be less sanguine about the prospects of Zaytuna College if he were an Israeli targeted by PIJ violence or a Jew living in the United States who had to regularly listen to accusations about Jews staying home on Sept. 11, 2001 and of evil Zionists being responsible for all the troubles of the world.

And he might think differently about the school if he were a Christian who had fled Egypt, Iraq or Syria to avoid Islamist violence and oppression. And he might be less sanguine about the prospects of Zaytuna College being a positive force for change in American society if he were one of the many Muslims in the North America who want nothing to do with Islamist doctrine as espoused by the school's co-founders.

Apparently, these folks have yet to appear on the radar of Rev. Daniel's prophetic imagination.