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Reflections on Missions to Muslims by a German Parish Priest - Father Christoph-Sperling

May 18, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

Introduction

Following the end of WWII, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and other Western European countries sought to revive their industries, aided by the United States’ Marshall Plan. The lack of a labor force prompted them to welcome workers from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.

Initially, the plan was that the guest workers would eventually return to their homelands. That didn’t happen; and before too long, their families joined them. The demographic scene altered radically, with new social and religious factors impacting European societies.

Christian churches faced the challenge of proclaiming the Gospel to their new neighbors. A German parish priest took up the task of bringing the Good News to his Muslim neighbors. He wrote a book about the challenge of Christian missions to Muslims in Germany. A summary was posted on the website of the French Catholic organization: Jésus Le Messie - Le forum (jesus-messie.org).

The following are translated excerpts from his book.

“I don't remember receiving any teaching about Islam, during my theological studies. I had general and vague information about the subject. Having been a priest for a few years in my parish, a Catholic discussion group asked me to give a lecture on Islam.

“One Sunday, during the celebration of the Mass, I noticed a foreign-looking gentleman among the worshippers. Following the Mass, I sat down with him on one of the back benches. He took a German translation of the Qur'an out of his pocket and gave it to me! He turned out to be a Muslim missionary who had come from Braunschweig, an hour's drive away. What an astonishing commitment!

“How I wish there existed a similar commitment among Christians, to bring the Gospel to the Muslims in Germany!

“I visited West Africa several times and found its culture strongly impacted by Islam. During my stay in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, I visited the largest mosque in Sub-Saharan Africa. It was built in 1982 under President Ahmed Sékou Touré, with help from Saudi Arabia, and accommodated 2,500 women and 10,000 men.

“In 2014, I met a young girl in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, who had converted from Islam to Catholicism. She went through a three-year preparation for baptism. In Africa, candidates for baptism must come to catechism every week for three years. The girl told her parents that she was attending an adult education center. It was only at the end of her studying the Catechism, that she told her parents that she wanted to be baptized. At first, she met strong disapproval from the family. Eventually, her parents relaxed their opposition. She was baptized taking Gertrude as her name.

“Having grown in my knowledge of Islam, I wrote a book on Missions to Muslims. It was published in German, Arabic, French and English. Here are the main points of my book:

The Primacy of Grace

“There is a notion that conversions depend on our own skills and initiatives. But we must remember the primary role of God in the process of conversion, as our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘I have sent you to reap what you have not worked for, others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.’ John 4:38

“Quite often, it seemed that my efforts bore little or no visible fruit. And then, suddenly, unexpectedly, a harvest moment arrives. A high school student surprised me by asking me to baptize her. She wasn’t a Muslim, but the daughter of unbaptized parents in an extremely secular environment.

“The Muslim converts I was preparing for baptism were called by God, not by me. My role was to cooperate with the grace that God had given. This is explicitly taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in John 6:44, ‘No one can come to me except the Father who sent me draws him.”

Our Cooperation with Grace

“St. Paul set forth the process by which conversions take place in his Letter to the Romans 10:13,14:

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?

“It’s a sad fact that in much of the Catholic Church, Christ's mission to proclaim the Gospel is dormant. This topic is addressed in a book by Father Henri Boulad.i (See endnote for details)

“Furthermore, there is widespread naivety about fanatical Islam. For example, in our small town, some kilometers walk from my home, lived a 20-year-old Iraqi man who was arrested on November 2023 in Lower Saxony, for planning to attack a Christmas market. Then, on April 12, two teenagers were arrested in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg for planning attacks on Christians and police officers.

“In his book ‘Lord, Stay with Us,’ Cardinal Robert Sarah, the impressive African shepherd, wrote:

“‘The best Europe should offer the world is its identity, its civilization deeply irrigated by Christianity. Instead, Europe offers Muslims, irreligion, and unfettered consumerism? Is it any wonder, that young Muslims take refuge in Islamic fundamentalism?

“The tragic fact is that at present, Europeans are ashamed of their Christian heritage. Immigrants, after settling in Europe, end up despising it, because they do not discover anything sacred in it."

Islamist Terrorists have been in Europe for several Generations

"Many of the Islamist terrorists have been in Europe for several generations. They are children of the consumer society. Disoriented by European nihilism, they throw themselves into the arms of radical Islamism.

“The causes of terrorism are largely religious. We can only combat this phenomenon by offering young people from immigrant backgrounds a real spiritual perspective. Who will have the courage to propose to them a Europe proud of its Christian heritage? Who will invite them to embrace an identity that is based on Christian morality and values? The evangelization of young Europeans of Muslim origin should be a pastoral priority. They expect us to give a clear and firm testimony. But, in the name of a misunderstood interreligious dialogue, we are pusillanimous and timid in proclaiming Christ.”

Concrete and specific Needs

“The Catholic philosopher Ferdinand Ulrich, who died in 2020, told me that during the student riots of '68, a Communist student leader came to see him at the University of Regensburg and questioned him about the content of his lectures: ‘So, what you are saying here is exactly what we want. But I must ask you now: do you know people who live as you say? Then I would go to that place.’

“But the professor didn't know where to send the young man. It’s often our distress. What do we do when someone comes to us and says, ‘I have read the gospel. Where can I find people who are living what I have read? Where can I join them?’ Praise God there are many strong believers and loving Christians in our parishes. But it is difficult to show those who are looking for places where the Gospel is being lived in small communities; where it is not only studied but practiced. Such places exist, but there are too few of them. Where they would be welcomed and accepted in an authentic Christian community that is not closed in on itself?

“I would like to quote here another great cardinal of our time: Willem Jacobus Eijk of Utrecht. In his book of interviews with Andrea Galli, he expressed himself as follows: ‘The Gospel must be proclaimed to all the inhabitants of this world. However, to evangelize the world again, the Church must also put her own house in order.’

“According to him, these lessons must be drawn from the painful experience of the almost total collapse of church life in the Netherlands in the 1960s and 1970s. First, there is a need for instruction that leads to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Secondly, an unambiguous teaching that does not put water in the wine of the Gospel.”

God’s grace is given when He wills, to whom He wills, and how He wills

“He loves all men. He loves our Muslim neighbors. We Christians must not regard them with suspicion and as strangers, but above all as people loved by God. In this love, we must not deprive them of the Gospel, which has been entrusted to us without any merit on our part. Because of the great crisis of the church and the state of our society, this enterprise may seem to us impossible. But our goal is not primarily numerical success. It is a question of bearing fruit. Jesus said, ‘He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit.’ (John 15:5) ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.’ (Matthew 9:37)

“It’s wonderful that this Forum took place, and for the first time in Germany. I want to thank the couple Xavier and Anne Alloy and all the others for their great commitment. May God make this commitment bear fruit for His glory and the salvation of souls. Thank you for your attention.”

Postscript

The information in the end note refers to a little-known phenomenon that impacted the lives of several Christian families in Syria and Lebanon, during the nineteenth century. Taking advantage of opportunities for work in Egypt, they moved there. The Jirjis Zayden, an Orthodox Christian family from Beirut, established a publication company in Cairo, including the daily Al-Ahram, a weekly pictorial magazine, Al-Musawar, and a monthly journal, Al-Hilal, with literary, political, and historical articles. Growing up in the Levant, I appreciated reading vowelled Arabic Children’s Stories published by this institution.

i According to Wikipedia: Henri Boulad, SJ (Egyptian Arabic: هنرى بولاد; 28 August 1931 – 14 June 2023) was an Egyptian-Hungarian priest in the Jesuit order, author, and commentator who lived in Egypt. He was a member of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. Henri Boulad was born in Alexandria, Egypt on 28 August 1931. His father came from a Syrian Christian family originally from Damascus, but settled in Egypt in 1860. The Boulad family belongs to the old Damascene bourgeoisie and has produced many clerics including Father Abdel Massih (Damascus) and Father Antoune Boulad (Monastery of the Holy Savior, Lebanon).

Posted in Articles

The Legacy of Tidiane N'Diaye An African Scholar and Historian

May 09, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

On 22 May 2018, I published an article about the Slave Trade in East Africa. It was a review of “Le génocide voilé: Enquête historique.”i (The Veiled Genocide: An Historical Inquiry) The book was published in 2008 by Editions Gallimard in Paris, France. The author, Tidiane N’Diaye, is a Senegalese anthropologist and economist, living in Dakar, the capital of Senegal, West Africa.

The book was introduced with this summary:

« Les Arabes ont razzié l'Afrique subsaharienne pendant treize siècles sans interruption. La plupart des millions d'hommes qu'ils ont déportés ont disparu du fait des traitements inhumains. Cette douloureuse page de l'histoire des peuples noirs n'est apparemment pas définitivement tournée. La traite négrière a commencé lorsque l'émir et général arabe Abdallah ben Saïd a imposé aux Soudanais un bakht (accord), conclu en 652, les obligeant à livrer annuellement des centaines d'esclaves. La majorité de ces hommes était prélevée sur les populations du Darfour. Et ce fut le point de départ d'une énorme ponction humaine qui devait s'arrêter officiellement au début du XXe siècle. »

The following is a translation of the summary:

“The Arabs have raided sub-Saharan Africa for thirteen centuries without interruption. Most of the men they deported have disappeared, due to their inhuman treatment. This painful page of the history of Black people does not seem to have been completely ended. The beginning of this treatment of the Blacks began when the Arab Emir and General Abdallah ben Saïd, imposed upon the Sudanese a “Bakht” (an agreement) in 652, forcing them to furnish hundreds of slaves annually. Most of them were men who were taken from the people of Darfur. That became the point of departure for an enormous human operation that continued officially until early in the 20th century.”

Philippe Triay, a French writer, sent questions about this subject to Mr. Tidiane N’Diaye, who graciously answered them. They were posted on 30 April 2015, under the title « L’autre esclavage : un aperçu de la traite arabo-musulmane » “The Other Slavery: An Overview of the Arab-Muslim Slave-Trade.”

The following are excerpts from Tidiane N’Diaye’s response:

“To date, the most analyzed and documented forms of slavery and the slave trade have been the Trans-Atlantic ones. Several essays, novels, and movies have dealt with the subject, allowing the public to learn about this tragic history.

“However, Europe did not have a monopoly on the slave trade. There were others, like the East African and trans-Saharan trades organized by the Arabs. Those were violent and devastating for Africans and their descendants, as were the Trans-Atlantic ones, which were supported by Islam and Christianity for a long time.

“My main concern is with the East African and Trans-Saharan trades. The reason for calling my book “The Veiled Genocide” is due to the massive castration of African captives during the Arab-Muslim slave trade.

“While slavery has been known throughout history among all nations, and on all continents, what is less known is that the African slave trade was inaugurated by the Arab-Muslims; it lasted around thirteen centuries without interruption. It was accompanied by a generalized castration of incalculable numbers of Black captives. Its impact was greater than the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. The saddest thing about this historic tragedy is that most of the deported people were deprived of having any descendants, due to the policy adopted by the Arabs.

“The Trans-Atlantic slave trade lasted for four hundred years. Despite its monstrosity and the humiliations that befell the captives, a slave had an inherent monetary value. His master wanted him to be productive in the long term. Thus, the goal was not the extermination of a people. “Furthermore, the Arab-Muslim trade went on for thirteen centuries. Most of the men they had deported have disappeared from history. From the moment Africa had become the main source for the provision of slaves, in the collective Arab consciousness, a Black person also became a symbol, or a synonym, of slavery.

“In the Arab world, the notion of the basic inferiority of Black people took deep root, which explains the acceptance of the ill-treatment of Black captives, and the means used to deny them any descendants. The result is that in our day, they have almost disappeared in Turkey, Yemen, and Iraq; and very few survivors can be found in North Africa and Saudi Arabia.

“To learn about the heavy toll of that slave trade, I compared the archives of these countries with the testimonies of explorers like Cameron, Stanley, Dr. Livingstone, and Msgr. Lavigerie. I read, as well, the horrific descriptions of the Arab slave-traders at the castration centers. I concluded that between 70% to 80% of the slaves perished. Combining the Trans-Saharan and East African trades, we arrive at a total of 17 million who were castrated. Some of them died or were brought alive to the Arab world and beyond.

“The Arab-Muslim slave trade was a veritable genocide of Black people. By way of comparison, around 70 million African descendants of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade now live in the Americas; mainly in the United States, Brazil, and the Caribbean islands, while only a tiny minority of Africans have survived in the Arab-Muslim lands.

“While there are no degrees in the classification of horrors, or a monopoly of cruelties perpetrated on human beings, the Arab-Muslim slave trade was far more devastating for Black Africa than the Trans-Atlantic trade.

“It is unfortunate that the Arab-Muslim slave trade is little known or studied. It is puzzling that many would like the subject to be covered up under a veil of forgetfulness, for religious or ideological solidarity. It’s as if a virtual pact had been concluded between the victims’ descendants and their tormentors, leading to this denial. This silence, or the underestimation of the extent of the Arab slave trade, results in unique attention being focused on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“Furthermore, Arab-Muslim intellectuals attempt to erase the very memory of this infamy, as if it had never happened! They fail to consider critically their own history and to debate such issues with their compatriots. African Americans who convert to Islam, seem to be oblivious to the Arab-Muslim slave trade, as if any mention of this subject is an attempt to minimize the evils of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade!

“Thus, a veil of silence has for a long time covered up a dark page of our common history, as we also observe this strange amnesia on the part of Black elites. They are wrong to ignore the memory of this genocide. Equally, it’s unscientific when they concentrate their attention on the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. By writing my book, I lift the veil over this dark page of our history. My book is a memorial to this martyrdom of Black people; their descendants must no longer remain hypocritically selective, focusing exclusively on Western crimes.’’

Le génocide voilé Enquête historique - Poche - Tidiane N'Diaye - Achat Livre | fnac

It was back in 2008, that Tidiane N’Diaye’s book was published in Paris, France. In a sense, the veil has been lifted only in the Francophone world. As I reflect on this matter, I wonder whether the reticence to publish an English translation was to avoid promoting a negative view of Arab-Muslim history. Had the author been a Westerner, such a theory might have been plausible. In fact, Tidiane N’Diaye, several African writers agree with his account of the horrors of East African Slavery, like Salah Trabelsi, Muhammad Ennaji, and Ibrahim Thiabe. They presented well-researched lectures in impeccable French; a testimony to the sophistication achieved by Francophone Africans, since the end of French colonialism, in the early 1950s.

Having listened to the presentations several times, I was impressed by the passion and sincerity of the African scholars. Their goal was to give a truthful narrative of one of the most shocking events in African history. Their professional standing coupled with the zeal to unveil a historic tragedy, could be felt in the delivery of their papers.

For me personally, publishing this information is a sacred duty. Having grown up in the Levant as an Eastern Christian, whose ancestors lived as Dhimmis under Islamic colonialism for centuries, I welcome the publication of this book and hope many people will read it. The humiliations and deprivations inflicted on my forefathers pale into insignificance when compared with the sufferings of Black Africans! The least I can do for the memory of East African and Trans-Saharan captives is to share this information, gleaned from French-language presentations of trustworthy, honorable, and brave African scholars!

 

Postscript

There is an interview on YouTube with Tidiane N’Diaye (dated 17 January 2015) where the author refers to the main points of his book. The audio is in French and lasts 9 minutes. 

  
i: Éditions Gallimard is one of the leading French publishers of books. The Guardian has described it as having "the best backlist in the world". In 2003, it and its subsidiaries published 1,418 titles. 
 

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A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO THE ISLAMIC DENIAL OF THE DEATH AND RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

April 25, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

Compared to the Bible, the Islamic tradition, based on the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sirat Muhamad, presents an entirely different and antithetical account of the Person and Work of Jesus, the Messiah. The New Testament relates the story as written by the disciples of Jesus Christ, Matthew and John. Paul, a convert from Judaism, became an ardent missionary and spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean World. He sent his Epistles (Letters) to churches he had founded and dealt with doctrines relating to the work of Jesus and with ethical matters.

For the last 1400 years, Christians have responded to the Islamic version of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The following are translated excerpts from an article posted on the French Catholic website, Jésus Le Messie (Jesus the Messiah).

Biblical and Logical responses to the Islamic account.

The Biblical Argument:

“Several people who suffered and died as martyrs had actually seen the resurrected Jesus. (1 Corinthians 15:6; Matthew 27)

“Jesus prayed for his executioners ‘Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). His mission was to suffer and die, revealing that there was no limit to God's forgiveness. Had Jesus not died and risen again, how could we understand the historical testimonies reporting the death and resurrection of Jesus, in the Gospels and the Epistles? Had Jesus Christ not died and risen again, how can we explain the very existence of Christianity?”

The Logical Argument:

“Neither Jewish nor pagan authors denied the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. There are numerous testimonies from non-Christians, starting with the Jewish historian Flavius who wrote ’Jesus who was a wise man, if indeed we must consider him as a man, so admirable were his works. The leaders of our nation, having accused him before Pilate, had him crucified. He appeared to them alive and resurrected on the third day…’

“How could God have manifested Himself, other than by the Incarnation of His Son?

“How could Muslims, six centuries before the birth of Muhammad, know what happened in Jerusalem around 33 A.D.? Should we refuse to believe in the fulfillment of God's Promises by the ministry of Jesus Christ, simply because the Quran contradicts them?”

Posted in Articles

OBSTACLES TO A MUSLIM’S PILGRIMAGE TO CHRISTIANITY

April 15, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

The pilgrimage of Algerians from Islam to Christianity is taking place in our times. Converts confront several obstacles that must be surmounted to accomplish their journey.

The obstacles to Muslims leaving Islam are based on the Qur’an and the actions of Abu Bakr, the first Muslim Caliph. Upon learning of the death of Muhammad in 632AD, several Arab tribes, who had accepted his claims as Prophet and leader of the Umma (the New Islamic Community), decided to return to their previous tribal status quo. Immediately, Abu Bakr led punitive campaigns against them, forcing them to return to Islamic rule. These campaigns are known in history as Huroob al-Ridda (Wars against Apostasy). From then on, the Umma believed that 'once a Muslim, always a Muslim,’ i.e., there is no going back; al-Ridda is not tolerated.

THE TESTIMONY OF AUGUSTIN, AN ALGERIAN CONVERT

The following Is translated from Témoignages - Augustin (jesus-messie.org):

“My name is Augustin. I am Algerian, I am 33 years old, I am married, and I have two children. I am a convert from Islam.

"I lived all my life in Algeria as a moderately practicing Muslim. Around the age of 17, I became a very conservative Sunni Muslim. I lived during this period for two years, which was followed by the rise of several questions about my religion.

“In August 2015, I met an Englishman at my work. He began to speak to me about Jesus Christ and the Gospel. He suggested that I read the Bible. I installed an app on my phone and read some Bible verses; I found them helpful as they spoke to me personally!

“So, I began to question my faith. Why the multiplicity of the prohibitions and the laws and practices in Islam? I consulted the most reliable sources, hoping to get answers and deepen my faith in Islam.

“That didn’t happen in my spiritual pilgrimage. I was led to Jesus Christ on January 17, 2017.

“As a converted Algerian, I experienced several problems in Algeria; I suffered pressure from my family. In our neighborhood, an ex-terrorist turned radical Muslim threatened to kill me. I managed to leave for France with my wife and my two children on October 11, 2017. We settled in the city of Rouen.

“The first thing I did after our arrival in France was to meet a priest and ask for baptism. The priest explained that for converts, it's a journey that requires at least two years for the instruction in the Christian faith of the family members. Gradually, we began to attend Mass and met many parishioners. Our baptism took place on May 6, 2019, at the Easter Vigil at Rouen Cathedral.”

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ISLAMIC IMPERIALISM’S THIRD FEATURE: The Acquisition of “Surriyyas” Concubines

April 06, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

In March 2024, I posted an article on “The Nature and Extent of Islamic Imperialism.”

I pointed out that Islam was responsible for the rise of a unique imperialistic venture in history. No other world faith combined religion with politics and church with state as Islam has done as it spread through the sword. Muslims glorify their Futuhat (Conquests), claiming they were done in the Pathway of Allah.

Within one hundred years after the death of Muhammad, Islam had spread from India in the east to Spain in the west. The Islamic empire spread contiguously as a land mass, with a lasting impact on the conquered lands. While a few lands eventually freed themselves from Islamic domination, most others remained part of Darul Islam (Household of Islam).

In this article, I refer to an almost forgotten feature of Islamic Imperialism: The Acquisition of “Surriyyas”, a word that is often translated as “Concubines.”

The invading Arab Islamic armies not only acquired new lands where they imposed the Jizya tax on Christians and Jews but also sent scores of young women as concubines to Medina, Damascus, and Baghdad. This action constituted a new feature of Islamic Imperialism as described in a book by Professor Darío Fernández-Morera, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Hispanic Studies at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.

Commenting on the rosy picture some Western authors depicted of the Islamic occupation of Spain (711-1492), Dr. Fernández-Morera responds to such claims:

“This book aims to demystify Islamic Spain by questioning the widespread belief that it was a wonderful place of tolerance and convivencia of three cultures under the benevolent supervision of enlightened Muslim rulers. As the epigraphs throughout this book illustrate, the nineteenth-century romantic vision of Islamic Spain has morphed into today’s ‘mainstream’ academic and popular writings that celebrate ‘Al-Andalus’ for its ‘multiculturalism,’ ‘unity of Muslims, Christians, and Jews,’ ‘diversity,’ and ‘pluralism,’ regardless of how close such emphasis is to the facts.” P. 1

Amazon.com: The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise

Concubinage in Early Islamic History

The following are examples of the widespread acquisition of concubines taken from Wikipedia:

Umayyad Caliphate

“One Umayyad ruler, Abd al-Rahman III, was known to have possessed more than 6000 concubines.[93]

Abbasid Caliphate

“The royals and nobles during the Abbasid Caliphate kept large numbers of concubines. The Caliph Harun al-Rashid possessed hundreds of concubines in his harem. The Caliph al-Mutawakkil was reported to have owned four thousand concubines.”

Almoravid and Almohad Empires

“In Al-Andalus, the concubines of the Almoravid and Almohad Muslim elite were usually non-Muslim women from the Christian areas of the Iberian peninsula. Many of these had been captured in raids or wars and were then gifted to the elite Muslim soldiers as war booty or were sold as slaves in Muslim markets.[95]

Ottoman Empire

“The Ottoman rulers would keep hundreds, even thousands, of concubines in the Imperial harem. Most slaves in the Ottoman harem comprised women who had been kidnapped from Christian lands via the Barbary slave trade or the Crimean slave trade. Some had been abducted during raids by the Tatars while others had been captured by maritime pirates.[104] Female war captives were often turned into concubines for the Ottoman rulers.”

The information gathered from Western and Arab sources supports the thesis that Islamic colonialism was unique as it included the acquisition of women and using them as sex slaves, which are usually referred to as “concubines.” For a description of the fate of men who were acquired as slaves, please see The Veiled Genocide: A Forgotten Historic Tragedy.

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Stifling Islamic Enlightenment

March 28, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

On 15 April 2007, the liberal Arabic website, Al-Awan, published an article on the Problematique of Islamic Fundamentalism by Hashem Saleh.

بقلم: الأوان

معضلة الأصولية الإسلامية - هاشم صالح

I decided to title this review of the article, “Stifling Islamic Enlightenment,” as the author’s purpose was a critique of Islamic Fundamentalism that stifles Islamic Enlightenment.

Hashem Saleh described Religious Fundamentalism as follows: 

Religious Fundamentalism consists of a literal adherence to religious texts, a faulty understanding of their meaning, and a total adherence to the pathway of a distant past, coupled with despising the present and the future. The Fundamentalist’s view is anchored in a specific era of the past, which is regarded as superior to all other periods.

It's important to note that Fundamentalism is not merely an Islamic phenomenon; it has risen among all major religions without exception at a certain period of its history. Religious radicalism may lead a believer to murder a person of a different religious commitment. Thus, Fundamentalism has several varieties; it may be Islamic, Jewish, or Christian. There is a Sunni or Shi’ite Fundamentalism, a Protestant or Catholic Fundamentalism, and even a Hindu Fundamentalism.

It's necessary to distinguish between the Fundamentalist concept of religion from the liberal or rational concept of religion. Such an attempt has been a difficult task even for educated people so we can understand the problem for less educated people. Therefore, I looked for the way Arab and foreign intellectuals have dealt with this subject, such as Muhammad Arkun, Cornelius Kastoriades, Muhammad Sherif Ferjani, Maxime Rodinson, Gile Kappel, Ghassan Touweini, and several other authors. That resulted in discovering four major roots or sources of this phenomenon.

At an important period in the history of Islamic Civilization, a group known as the Mu’tazilites, began their initiative to go beyond traditional thought by fostering a rational intellectual system.  They held three major beliefs.

First, they stressed the absolute unity of Allah and the createdness of the Qur’an. The Abbasid Caliph al-Ma’mun (800 AD) championed their beliefs and imprisoned Imam ibn-Hanbal, a strong advocate of uncreatedness of the Qur’an.

The second belief of the Mu’tazilites was the Justice of Allah. They posited that Allah desires only the best for man, but through Free Will, man chooses between good and evil and thus becomes ultimately responsible for his actions.

In the third doctrine, Allah’s justice was a matter of logical necessity: God must reward the good (as promised) and must punish the evil (as threatened).

The Mu’tazilite Project failed due partly to the repressive measures that were used against them; additionally, their work was too abstract for the common people, and thus, they failed to gain their support. Had they succeeded, a historical reading or exegesis of the Qur’an might have arisen. Ultimately, a spirit of tolerance may become prevalent throughout the Islamic world.

1200 years after the failure of the Mu’tazilite Project, I thought perhaps the rise of several liberal websites could foster an Islamic Enlightenment. However, Al-Awan has disappeared from the internet. Another liberal website, Tanweer, was a Kuwaiti website that is also no longer active; perhaps it was stopped by the Kuwaiti authorities. The disappearance of Al-Awan and other liberal Arabic websites does not encourage our hope for the rise of an Islamic Enlightenment movement.

Previously, I wrote about similar topics in the following articles on Academia.edu:

  • The Conspiracy Theory and the Closing of the Arab Mind 2 July 2017
  • Toward Understanding the Turmoil in Islamic Lands
  • The Predicament of the Islamic Mind May
  • THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ARAB FORUMS ON THE INTERNET
  • The Quest for Reforming Islam
  • The Ideological Roots of Radical Islam
  • Modernity & the Qur'an
  • The Muslims’ Captivity to their Tragic History
Posted in Articles

THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF ISLAMIC IMPERIALISM

March 20, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

Most Arab and Muslim writers, even those who claim to be moderate, hardly ever admit that Islam was responsible for the rise of a unique imperialistic venture in the history of mankind. No other major world religion combined religion with politics, church with state, as Islam has done during the last 1400 years. And no other religion spread primarily through the sword, as Islam has done. Muslims glorify their early Conquests, claiming that they were accomplished with the approval of Allah, who gave them the right to bring mankind under their rule.

The West has been imperialistic; I lived under the French presence in the Levant during my formative years. At the school I attended, most subjects were taught in French. We studied the history of the Near East, but the emphasis was on “Histoire de France.” The title of our geography book was “La France et ses Colonies.”

However, when the French departed, they left no lasting impact on the area. The same applies to the other European Empires: they began in the 19th century and spread for 150 years, only to disappear soon after WWII. An important feature of Western Empires is that they were outre mer, “Overseas.” Not so with Islam, it spread contiguously as a land empire, with a lasting impact on the native populations.

An excellent analysis of the Nature and Extent of Islamic Imperialism was done by the British author, V. S. Naipaul.

In 1979, he visited four non-Arab Islamic countries, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He met with various people and discussed the impact of Islam on their daily lives. His first book, Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, was published by Random House, New York, in 1982. Here are excerpts from his book:

“Islam in Iran was even more complicated. It was a divergence from the main belief; and this divergence had its roots in the political-racial dispute about the succession to the Prophet, who died in 632 A.D. Islam, almost from the start, had been an imperialism as well as a religion, with an early history remarkably like a speeded-up version of the history of Rome, developing from city-state to peninsular overlord, to empire, with stresses at every stage.” P. 7

Almost two decades later, Naipaul revisited these four Islamic countries and met with the persons he had talked to in the 1970s. He produced a follow-up book, Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among the Converted People. It was published by Random House in 1998.

The author returned to the theme of his previous book, and pointed to the unique nature of Islamic imperialism, namely, to make “the Converted People” forget their entire past, as if history began with the Islamic Conquests of their countries. In the Prologue of this work, he wrote:

“Islam is in its origins, an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s worldview alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert must turn away from everything that is his. The disturbance for societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain unresolved; the turning away must be done again and again. People develop fantasies about who and what they are; and in the Islam of the converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism. These countries can be easily set on the boil.” P. xi

The historian Efraim Karsh dealt with the same subject in his book, Islamic Imperialism: A History, published by Yale University Press, New Haven, and London, in 2006. In his Introduction, Professor Karsh contrasted Christianity with Islam:

“The worlds of Christianity and Islam, however, have developed differently in one fundamental respect. The Christian faith won over an existing empire in an extremely slow and painful process, and its universalism was originally conceived in spiritual terms that made a clear distinction between God and Caesar. By the time it was embraced by the Byzantine emperors as a tool for buttressing their imperial claims, three centuries after its foundation, Christianity had in place a countervailing ecclesiastical institution with an abiding authority over the wills and actions of all believers.

“The birth of Islam, by contrast, was inextricably linked with the creation of a world empire and its universalism was inherently imperialist. It did not distinguish between temporal and religious powers, which were combined in the person of Muhammad, who derived his authority directly from Allah and acted at one and the same time as head of the state and head of the church. This allowed the prophet to cloak his political ambitions with a religious aura and to channel Islam’s energies into ‘its instruments of aggressive expansion, there [being] no internal organism of equal force to counterbalance it.’”P. 5

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A CHALLENGE TO THE HISTORIC ROLE OF THE SERMON IN MISSIONS

March 20, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

Recently, I became aware of organizations that claim that the mere distribution of the Scriptures constituted Christian Missions.

I am not referring to the American Bible Society (1816) or, to the British and Foreign Bible Society (1804.) These organizations work as auxiliaries to the Church’s Mission, by supporting the translation and publication of the Scriptures in many languages.

The availability of the Bible, both in print and in digitized form, is a great blessing for Missions. But it’s important to remember that historically, it is a modern phenomenon and dates to Gutenberg’s invention of the press in 1455. Centuries before, Bibles existed as “manuscripts,” a Latin term that means “handwritten.”

Great as the achievements of the press have been, the sermon remains the basic means for spreading the Christian faith. Christianity was born on Pentecost Sunday when the apostle Peter preached his inaugural message. These are excerpts recorded in Acts 2:

“Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said, ‘Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. … This is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy…. Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesús, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it…This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.’ And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.”

Similar, but shorter sermons, are found in Acts 3: 11-26; Acts 4: 5-12; 27-32. The Epistles of Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John are replete with sermonic materials that played a basic role in the Mission of the Church.

From the New Testament’s sermonic materials, the following are historical/theological works that elucidate this subject.

Professor R. V. G. Tasker’s The Gospel Behind the Gospels, (Chapter 1 of “The Nature and Purpose of the Gospels.” SCM PRESS LTD 1957.

“The four Gospels though they are found at the beginning of the New Testament, were not the first literary products of the Christian religion. They were written almost certainly between the years AD 65 to 100; though they embody sources written sometimes earlier. In any chronological arrangement of the New Testament books, the Gospels would have to be placed after the letters of Saint Paul, this is a fact of great significance and is of vital importance to a true understanding of the Gospels themselves.

“There were at least thirty-five years of Christian teaching and Christian missionary activity, before the believers were in possession of the written records of Christ’s life and teaching, which we know as the Four Gospels, and which ever since they received general recognition, that is, before the middle of the second century, have played an indispensable part in all subsequent Christianity. Our faith today is bound to be conditioned by the four Gospels. The faith of the earliest Christians was independent of them.

“Early Christendom began by the preaching or proclamation of a series of statements, which together made-up what was called the Good-News or Gospel; and a person was a Christian in so far as he accepted by faith those statements as true. The statements were concerned with Jesus of Nazareth, but they were not primarily statements about anything He had said, merely because he had said it, or almost about his manner of life while on earth, merely because it was His manner of life, or about his personality or indeed about any of the kind of things that are of interest to our modern biographer. The uniqueness of Christianity lay in the unique character of the statements which were proclaimed as the Gospel. As to the content of these statements there is remarkable agreement in the summaries of them given in the Epistles of Saint Paul, and in the early chapters of Acts.

“Here we see that what was proclaimed as the Gospel was, to quote from the Epistle to the Romans, ‘the Good News that's what God had promised by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, that is in the Old Testament, concerning a blessed age to be inaugurated by God's anointed messenger, or Christ, had been fulfilled in Jesus. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the divine guarantee that such a fulfillment had taken place. It was indeed the Resurrection of Jesus which set a divine seal upon his life and death and gave it a unique significance. Jesus was ‘declared to be the son of God as Paul asserts by his resurrection from the dead.’” Pp. 9-11

Another Biblical scholar, F. F. Bruce, referred to the necessity of reading the Scriptures in the light of the historic Christian Tradition. In his book, Tradition Old & New, he wrote:

“Hold fast to the traditions,” wrote Paul to the Christians in Corinth. Yet some would regard freedom from any kind of tradition as the sign of spiritual maturity and emancipation. That is because of the mistaken idea that tradition is always bad.

“Yet the living tradition, the continuity of Christian life, is indispensable. Without it, Scripture would have had no context. If we could suppose that the church had been wiped out in the Diocletian persecution and the church’s scripture lost, to be rediscovered in our own day like the Dead Sea Scrolls, would the rediscovered scriptures once more have the effect which we know them to have in experience, or would they, like the Scrolls, be an archeological curiosity and a subject of historical debate? On the other hand, the living tradition without the constant corrective of Scripture, (or, in more modern language, without the possibility of ‘reformation according to the Word of God’), might have developed out of all recognition if it did not have indeed slowly faded and died.” P. 128 Tradition, Old & New, The Paternoster Press, Exeter, Devon EX2 4JW

I trust that the Biblical and theological materials I presented are sufficient to show the inadequacy of the claim that the mere distribution of the Scriptures constituted Christian Missions.

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MEMORIZING THE SCRIPTURES - A NECESSITY IN PREACHING

March 16, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

When the Apostle Paul dictated his Letter to the Romans, he quoted from his memorized passages of the Old Testament. Likewise, the other writers of the New Testament. They followed a time-honored tradition. They set an example for Christians throughout the succeeding centuries.

Thus, a minister of the Word of God must memorize the Biblical text he intends to use in his sermon.

Here is an example from Saint Augustine’s work, who memorized the Biblical texts of his sermons.

“St. Augustine as the draughtsman of the doctrine of God's Word in which the Word served not only as a lesson or, as a guide to the newly converted, but inspired faith and worked salvation as vocation, as a call by God. Saint Augustine preached in the conviction that God Himself was present in the faithful words of His preacher.” Dr. A. D. R. Polman’s The Word of God according to St. Augustine.

I continue with excerpts from “The Many Benefits of Scripture Memorization.” For an entire book on this topic, see How to Memorize Scripture for Life by Andrew M. Davis.

“First of all, our salvation begins…by hearing and believing the words of the gospel, we are born again (John 3:3) and justified by faith in Christ (Gal. 2:16). Saving faith comes…by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). …Scripture also reveals that the way we make progress in our Christian faith is…by hearing God’s word with faith (Col. 2:6-7).

“Once we have come to life spiritually through faith in Christ…God has set before every Christian two infinite journeys: the internal journey of growth in holiness and the external journey of evangelism and missions.”

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THE LEGACY OF BAT YE’OR A FORGOTTEN HISTORIAN OF DHIMMITUDE

February 24, 2024
By Bassam Michael Madany

Islam spread mostly at the expense of Christian lands since its rise in the seventh century. Muslim conquerors referred to Christians and Jews as “Dhimmis,” a term that means “protected.” This classification included severe rules for the conduct of their lives, including the payment of the annual Jizya tax.

The condition of being a Dhimmi is known as Dhimmitude. I’m astonished that historian Philip K. Hitti (1886-1978), who authored several books on the History of the Arabs, remained silent about the plight of Christians and Jews living under Islam. When researching the reason for his omission, I came across this explanation generated by Microsoft Copilot in response to “Had professor Philip Hitti dealt with the plight of Christians under Islamic rule”:

Philip Khuri Hitti did not explicitly deplore the treatment of Christians and Jews under Islamic rule. While Hitti’s research provided valuable insights into the dynamics between different religious communities, he maintained a scholarly and objective perspective. His work aimed to illuminate historical contexts rather than express personal opinions or judgments. It’s essential to recognize that scholars like Hitti contributed to our understanding of complex historical relationships, but their role was primarily academic rather than advocacy oriented. The treatment of religious minorities under Islamic rule remains a multifaceted topic, and various scholars have explored it from different angles.”

While “a scholarly and objective perspective” should avoid “advocacy”, it should not avoid discussing systemic discrimination, even if it was inconvenient to narratives fashionable in academia. Avoiding the discussion of such topics is tantamount to self-imposed censorship. In Hitti’s case, it’s hard to understand it, since he was of Lebanese background and his parents must have mentioned “Dhimmitude” and told him about the 1860 massacre of Christians in Mount Lebanon and Damascus, Syria. I should add that several Western historians have assiduously avoided any reference to this aspect of Islamic history.

So, we are indebted to Bat Ye’or (Daughter of the Nile) who took the initiative by writing a book on the treatment of Christians and Jews in Islam. I learned about her work from an article in First Things, by Richard John Neuhaus, who commented on her book “The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude.”

Bat Ye’or was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Cairo, Egypt in 1933. During the Nasser regime that began in 1952, life for Egyptian Jews became intolerable. That led the family to leave Egypt in 1957 and go to the United Kingdom as refugees. Bat Ye'or married the British historian and activist David Litman in September 1959. A year later, they moved to Switzerland and lived there until his death in May 2012. They were blessed with three children.

The French author Jacques Ellul contributed the Foreword for the book. Here are some timely excerpts:

“In Islam, Jihad is an institution and not an event, it is part of the normal functioning of the Muslim world. The conquered populations change status (they became Dhimmis), and the Shari'a tends to be put into effect, overthrowing the former law of the country. The world, as Bat Ye'or brilliantly shows, is divided into two regions: the Dar al-Islam and the Dar al-Harb; the "Domain of Islam" and "the Domain of war." The author has the courage to examine whether a certain number of events that we know in the West, do not already derive from a sort of "Dhimmitude" of the West, vis-a-vis an Islamic world that has resumed its wars, hostage-taking, terrorism, the destruction of Lebanese Christianity, the weakening of the Eastern Churches (not to mention the wish to destroy Israel.)” Bordeaux, France 1991

Bat Ye’or described the plight of Eastern Christians under Islam [pages 73,74]:

"This is not a book about Islam; it neither examines its expansion nor its civilization. Its objective is the study of that multitude of peoples subjected by Islam, and to determine as far as possible the complex processes—both endogenous and exogenous—that brought about their gradual extinction.

“I am indebted to the Lebanese Bashir Gemayel for the term ‘dhimmitude’ which he used on two occasions. This word could not better express the actual subject of my research, begun in 1971, on the manifold and contradictory aspects of a human experience which millions of individuals have endured over the centuries, sometimes for more than a millennium.

“A remarkable chronicle written by a Monophysite monk, a native of Tel-Mahre a village in Mesopotamia, gives a precise description of the fiscal situation of non-Muslims. The chronicle completed in 774, provides almost photographic detail of one of the turning points in history. The description covers Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, and Palestine, in the 8th century at the time the Dhimmis formed most of the rural populations; small landowners, artisans, or sharecroppers farming the fiefs allotted to Arabs; a numerous Jewish peasantry lived alongside Christians villages: Copts, Syrians, and Nestorians. This chronicle reveals the mechanism which destroyed the social structure of a flourishing Dhimmi peasantry in the whole Islamized Orient.”

Excerpts from the Epilogue of the book [pages 261-265]:

“Here are peoples who having integrated the Hellenistic heritage and biblical spirituality, spread the Judeo-Christian civilization as far as Europe and Russia. Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, conquered by nomadic bands, taught their oppressors, with the patience of centuries, the subtle skills of governing empires. the need for law and order, the management of finances, the administration of town and countryside, the rules of taxation rather than those of pillages of pillage, the sciences, philosophy, literature, and the arts, the organization the transmission of knowledge--- in short, the rudiments and foundations of civilization.

“They were the peasants who sowed, planted, and farmed, who plowed. Harvested, worked in the fields, cared for the orchards and the cattle, beekeepers and vine growers, farmers, and labourers. In the towns they were the artisans who worked, hammered, wove, and fashioned objects, the glaziers, sailors, and merchants. They were also the town planners who conceived the towns, the architects who designed the mosques and the Islamic palaces, the masons who built them and the people who maintained bridges and aqueducts.

“Decimated by razzias (Arabic term for Invasions) in the countryside, they sought refuge in the towns which they developed and embellished. Branded with opprobrium, the conquerors still chose to drag them from region to region to revive ravaged lands and restore ruined towns. Once again, they built, again they worked, once again they were driven out, pillaged and ransomed. And as they dwindled, drained of their blood and spirit, civilization itself disappeared, decadence stagnated, barbarism reigned over lands which, previously when they had been theirs, were lands of civilization, of crops and of plenty.

“The elites who fled to Europe took their cultural baggage with them, their scholarship, and their knowledge of the classics of antiquity. Thenceforth, in the Christian lands of refuge --- Spain, Provence, Sicily, Italy cultured centers developed where Christians and Jews from Islamized lands taught to the young Europe the knowledge of the old pre–Islamic Orient, formerly translated into Arabic by their ancestors. Straddling the two shores of the Mediterranean, intermediaries between two civilizations, they ensured trade, exchanges, the circulation of commodities and ideas, and the transfer of technology, enriching themselves and others by their ingenuity. Then in the 19th century when Europe lifted the screed of opprobrium which stifled them, again they met their challenge of modernity. Railways, telegraph, printing, journalism, transport, industry, banking: everywhere they were the promoters, the leaven of civilization and evolution. Once again, tireless artisans of progress, builders of civilization, they created the “infrastructure of modernity from Persia to the Maghreb [northwest Africa]. And once again driven out despoiled, decimated, they fled to the Americas, to Europe, to Israel, where Armenians, Maronites, Syrians, Chaldeans, Copts, and Jews, live from their own labor and not from international charity. Henceforth, from Turkey to Iran and the Arab countries, micro communities struggle along, the last remnants of multitudes of Christians and Jews who formerly populated those lands. Only cemeteries and ruins recall their past. Their historical, political, and cultural lights dissolve in the great oblivion of time, and, in their usurped history, the profound sense of dhimmitude is revealed: obliteration in nonexistence and nothingness.”

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ISRAEL AT 75 And Paul on Israel’s Future

November 28, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Introduction

The current news from the Middle East is dominated by the Attack of the 7th of October and its aftermath. As a writer on the History of the region, I don’t comment on current issues, which are the domain of newspapers and other means of communication.

I share this article with my readers to help them understand the complicated nature of the issues that have dominated the lives of Mideastern people since the end of the Second World War.

On the 15th of May 2023, Israel celebrated its 75th as a nation. Time marches on. I remember that Saturday morning in 1948 when the BBC broadcast the news.

As the dawn of that day began, Arab armies greeted their neighbor by attacking from the north, the east, and from the south. The Haganah that had defended the Jewish people in Palestine during the British Mandate, became the IDF (Israeli Defence Force). Since that attack, Israel has been involved in a non-stop effort to defend itself and its people.

There are two aspects to the subject of the future of the State of Israel: one is historical/political, the other is in Apostle Paul’s teaching in his Letter to the Romans chapters 9-11.

We will begin with the historical/political side.

Prior to the Arab/Islamic conquest of the Holy Land in the middle of the seventh century, most of the people in Palestine were Christians, with a Jewish minority living alongside. The Islamic conquest resulted in the Arab Muslims gradually becoming most of the Palestinian population.

While most of the Jews had been living in the Diaspora for centuries, they maintained a strong yearning for a return to their ancestral land. They expressed that longing during the Passover celebration each year with the phrase “Next year in Jerusalem.”

During the 19th century, Jews were persecuted in Russia and discriminated against in Western Europe. The rise of anti-Semitism became evident in the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Captain Dreyfus, who was Jewish, was charged by the French High Command with spying for the Germans. He was found guilty and spent time at Devil’s Island in French Guyana, South America. French author Émile Zola took up the defense of Dreyfus and wrote his famous letter “J’accuse” in defense of Dreyfus.i

Theodor Herzl, a Jewish correspondent of a Viennese newspaper, covered the Dreyfus trial. He became convinced that there was no hope for the Jews to achieve complete emancipation in Europe. He became the father of the Zionist Movement, which advocated the establishment of a national home for the Jews. After many debates at World Zionist Congresses, it was decided to establish this home in Palestine. After his death, the Zionist Movement was assumed by Chaim Weitzmann, a Polish Jew who was teaching chemistry in England. During the war he helped the British Navy by inventing materials used to combat German submarines. Eventually, the British Government published the Balfour Declaration, which favored the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

At the end of WWI, the British assumed the government of Palestine with a mandate from the League of Nations. For the next 30 years, Great Britain found strong opposition from Palestinian Arabs against the plan. In 1946, the British Government brought the matter to the United Nations. A U.N. Commission of Inquiry studied the matter and proposed the partition of Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews accepted the plan; the Arabs rejected it. Britain ended its presence in Palestine on 14 May 1948 at midnight. David Ben-Gurionii, with other Jewish leaders, declared the birth of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948.

Those opposed took immediate action. Armies from Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Iraq, and Egypt entered Palestine in response. By mid-June 1948, the United Nations Security Council managed to pass a cease-fire between the opposing sides. But that was not the end of the conflict. Other major wars between Israel and the Arab countries took place in 1956, 1967, and 1973. Eventually, Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat took the initiative of signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1978, and in 1994, Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel.

During the second decade of the 21st century, the United States succeeded in getting several Arab countries to agree to normalize their relations with Israel. This is in a set of documents called the Abraham Accords.

The Accords ended the official Arab denial of the right of Israel to exist. However, a determined foe of Israel is now the Islamic Republic of Iran. To prove its utter faithfulness to Islamic tradition, the Iranian regime assumed an active opposition to Israel. It supports the radical Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian HAMAS in Gaza, with weapons used to continually harass Israel. While it is impossible to predict the future, the past 75 years give evidence that Israel’s existence may be frequently challenged.

Thus far the political history of the modern State of Israel.


As a Christian committed to the Biblical views of world history, I turn to The New Testament teaching on the Future of Israel.

In Romans 9 – 11, Saint Paul begins by focusing on the future of Israel, as some Jews had come to faith in Christ, while the vast majority had rejected Him as the Messiah.

Paul lists the privileges the Jews had received as witnesses to God’s glory: the Covenants, the receiving of the Law of Moses, the worship in the Temple, and the promises of God. He refers to their founding fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Finally, the Apostle mentioned that the promised Messiah was a descendant of the Patriarchs.

In Chapter 10, Saint Paul describes his desire and prayer for the people of Israel to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ. He acknowledges their zeal for God, a zeal demonstrated though efforts to obtain salvation by keeping the Law, something available only by faith in Jesus Christ. To be saved “one must confess that Jesus is Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead” (10:9)

Chapter 11 sums up Paul teaching about the future of Israel.

God has not rejected His previously chosen people, Israel. God’s relationship with Israel as a nation continues. Israel’s hardening will end when the “fullness of the Gentiles” has come to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul warns Gentile believers not to feel superior to Jewish unbelievers, since it was their faith in Christ that brought them salvation.

The future of believing Israelites is not to be separated from the future of believing Gentiles. Israel’s hope for the future is the same as that of believing Gentiles.

Chapter 11 of Romans ends with a poem structured as a hymn, expressing Paul’s profound reaction both to God’s ways and to His mercy to sinful human beings. He finishes his hymn with a statement of worship: “to God be the glory forever, Amen.”


iJ’accuse, (French: “I accuse”) a celebrated open letter by Émile Zola to the president of the French Republic in defense of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer who had been accused of treason by the French army. It was published in the newspaper L’Aurore on Jan. 13, 1898.

iiDavid Ben-Gurion, orig. David Gruen, (born Oct. 16, 1886, Płońsk, Pol., Russian Empire—died Dec. 1, 1973, Tel Aviv–Yafo, Israel), First prime minister of Israel (1948–53, 1955–63) 

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A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO ISLAM

November 01, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Muslim Prophet Muhammad was born in 570, at Mecca, Arabia. At the age of 25, he married Khadija who was 40. They had one daughter Fatima Khadija died in 619. According to Islamic tradition, Muhammad’s prophetic career began at the age of 40, when the angel Gabriel appeared to him. He was greatly perturbed after this first revelation but was reassured by his wife and her cousin. Muhammad continued to receive revelations. When he began to proclaim his message in Mecca, he was met with strong opposition.

With a few followers, he left for Medina in 622, a date that marks the beginning of the Islamic Lunar Calendar 1 A.H. (Anno Hejira) i.e., the year of the Migration. This move marked the transformation of Muhammad into a Leader of the Muslim Community, the Umma. Those who came with him from Mecca are called Al-Muhajirun (Immigrants), the people who welcomed him at Medina are known as Al-Ansar (Partisans).

Muhammad began a series of raids on the Caravans of the Meccan merchants that were en route to Palestine and Syria. By 630, the Resistance among the Meccans collapsed, he and his supporters from Medina entered Mecca triumphantly, and destroyed the idols at the Kaaba (site of the Black Stone). The triumphant Prophet-Statesman returned to Medina, where he died of a high fever on Monday, the 8th of June 632.

After the death of Khadija, Muhammad married several wives, one named Aisha, a young girl whose father, Abu Bakr, was a close friend. Upon Muhammad’s death, leaders of the Muslim community in Medina chose a successor (Khalifa). The first Caliph was Abu Bakr, the father of Aisha. He died in 634, and was followed by Omar, Uthman, and Ali. These four men are known as the “Rightly Guided Caliphs.”

Omar assumed the Caliphate in 634 and launched the Conquests (Futuhat), eastward into Syria, Mesopotamia, and Persia, and westward into Egypt and beyond. He was assassinated in 644 by a Persian slave. Uthman became the third Caliph in 644 but met with opposition, as there was no consensus about his choice. He was assassinated in 656. He was followed by Ali, a cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad.

Muawiya, the military governor of Syria who was related to Uthman, claimed that Ali was involved in the murder of the new Caliph. He opposed Ali’s assumption of the Caliphate. Ali, with a considerable army, fought Muawiya, and while gaining the upper hand in the battle, a disagreement arose in his camp that led to his assassination. That opened the door for Muawiya (a member of the Umayyad clan) to become the Caliph.

Under the Umayyads, the Caliphate became a dynasty. The capital was moved from Medina to Damascus, Syria. It lasted until 750. During its rule, the Islamic conquests reached Spain, and were stopped by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours, near Poitiers, France, in 732 AD.

The Umayyads faced several enemies, the followers of Ali, known as the Shi’ites, and other Muslim factions. Abu’l Abbas Al-Saffah, a descendent of Muhammed’s uncle, led a large army that defeated the Umayyads in 750. The Abbasids built their capital in Baghdad, Iraq. They were followed by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, after defeating the Byzantines, and renamed their capital Constantinople, Istanbul.

The Ottoman Caliphate was abolished in 1924 by Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic. He instituted a secular regime, and initiated a Latinized Turkish Alphabet, thus helping the Turkish masses to become literate. Ataturk’s reforms lasted for several decades after his passing in 1938 but were gradually overturned by Recep Tayyip Erdogan early in 2000.

According to a recent article from the AFP news service:

“President Erdogan will mark Turkey's centenary Sunday [the 29th of October 2023] by honouring the republic's revered founder, while chipping away at the foundation.

“Erdogan and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk have become the seminal figures of modern Turkey, their contrasting styles and visions defining the shape of society and the country's place in the world.

“Dubbed "reis" ("chief") by supporters, Erdogan is now Turkey's longest-serving leader, overseeing a massive modernisation drive that has sustained his popularity in poorer and more religiously conservative provinces since 2003.

“Meaning the "father of all Turks", the surname Ataturk was bestowed on Mustafa Kemal by Turkey's parliament after the field marshal drove out foreign armies and built a new, staunchly secular republic from the Ottoman Empire's ruins.

“Now, Erdogan is walking a fine line between paying respects to the man who created the country, and building his own legacy -- one that critics fear is pulling Turkey back into its Ottoman past.”

In Islam, the Sunni-Shi’ite divide began with the assassination of Ali in 661; it solidified in 680 when his son Hussein was assassinated with his entourage, at Karbala, Iraq. Most Muslims adhere to the Sunni tradition, while around 10% are Shi’ites, live in Persia (Iran), Iraq, and Lebanon. There are no Shi’ite communities in Egypt and the rest of North Africa.

In Sunni Islam, there developed four official schools for the Interpretation of the Shari’a Law. While in Shi’ite Islam, the Interpretation of the Law is handled by religious scholars known as Ayatollahs. In Sunni Islam, an Imam is any authorized leader of worship at the Mosque. While in Shi’ite Islam, an Imam is usually a descendent of Ali through Hussein, who yields absolute power in religious and political matters.

For sources about early Islamic history:

A Revised Version of Early Islamic History

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Commemorating the 22 Anniversary of 9/11

September 26, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Islamist attack on the United States at the dawn of the third millennium was, in a sense, more far-reaching than the Japanese attack on Peal Harbor, as it sought to destroy the very institutions of America.
To commemorate this event in 2023, I begin with excerpts from my Reflections on the 17th Anniversary of 9/11.
In 1453, the Ottoman Turks ended the Eastern Roman Empire, renamed its capital from Constantinople to Istanbul, and turned the Basilica Aya Sophia into a mosque.
In 1683, an Ottoman army of 200,000 soldiers laid siege to Vienna for two months. The Hapsburgs received help from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire. The Ottomans’ defeat was followed gradually by the decline of their empire.
In WWI, the Ottomans joined Germany and Austria-Hungary against the Allies. The war ended with the defeat of the Ottomans and the dismemberment of their empire. The new leader of Turkey, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk abolished the Caliphate in 1924, and initiated a program for the secularization of Turkish society. 
The abolishing of the Caliphate sent tremors throughout the Muslim world. In 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna. Its influence spread throughout the Arab world. Its goal was the re-establishment of an Islamic world order based on the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunnat Muhammad.
The Brotherhood engaged in violent acts of assassinations of political leaders. When the Egyptian Army overthrew King Farouk in a coup in July1952, the Muslim Brotherhood was opposed to its policies of secularization. In 1954, its attempt to assassinate President Nasser failed and was followed by severe measures against its activities, including the execution of its ideologue, Sayyid Qutb.
The defeat of the Arab armies by Israel in the Six-Day War of June 1967, resulted in the revival of Radical Islam. A decade later, with Ayatollah Khomeini’s assuming power in Iran, Several Jihadist events followed.
The attack on U.S. Embassy in Tehran, on 4 November 1979. Sixty-six U.S.  embassy personnel and Marine guards, were blindfolded and held captive. 52 of the hostages were held captive for 444 days. 
                                                                                                                                     Shi’ite terrorists attacked the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut, on 23 October 1983, resulting in the death of 241 U.S. peacekeepers who were there with the UN’s approval.                                                                                                                                                             
The United States embasies were bombed on 7 August 1988, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and in Nairobi, Kenya, resulting in the death of more than 200 people.
On 12 October 2000, USS Cole, docked in Aden harbor for a fuel stop. A small boat carrying explosives and two suicide bombers approached the port side of the destroyer and exploded, creating a 40-by-60-foot gash in the ship's port side, killing 17 crew members, and injuring 39.

The intensification of the Jihad against the West took place on 9/11.

A remembrance ceremony was held at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on the 17th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Rev. Paul Britton, brother of a victim opened with prayer. Names of the victims were read by family members, while bells were tolling.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf spoke about the forty heroes who, after meeting and praying for guidance, voted to storm the cockpit. Their action prevented the destruction of the Capitol Building, in Washington, D.C. 
AT THE MEMORIAL SERVICE AT THE PENTAGON, in Washington, D.C., Vice President Pence was the speaker. The Marine Corps Choir provided the songs, with a bell tolling as the names of the victims were read. The attack resulted in the death of 184 killed, military, civilians at work, and visitors, including a grade-school class with their teacher, visiting from California
What I’ve been missing from the various published online accounts of the Attack, is any reference to the role of the Qur’an in galvanizing the wills of the hijackers, enabling them to commit their horrific attacks. Atta quoted from parts of the Qur’an known as the “Sword Texts” (Ayat al-Sayf.) They encourage Muslims to kill the Infidels. It’s as if political correctness, prevented highlighting the Qur’anic Ayas (verses) that teach violence against the Infidels! 
My suspicion grew as I watched a televised program, hosted on Tuesday 11 September 2018, by the Bipartisan Policy Center, to honor the “9/11 Commission” Co-Chairs. The Bipartisan Policy Center honored former Governor Thomas Kean (R-NJ) and former Representative Lee Hamilton of Indiana (D-IN) for their work as co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission.
Dan Coats, Director of the National Intelligence, who delivered the keynote address, remarked about his experience on September 11, 2001, and how his position was created, because of recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. Dan Coats explained that full cooperation of all federal, state, and local authorities before 9/11, didn’t exist. And that no single electronic library existed for the security agencies. Now, all that has been remedied. The event held under the auspices of the Bipartisan Policy Center was very instructive. I was riveted by the lively discussion that took place. 
However, I felt deeply disappointed. Not one word by any participant in the event, uttered the words, Islamic Terrorism. One member of the Bipartisan Policy Center referred often to the “Fragile States” where terrorism incubates. The implication was that Islamic terrorists came from underprivileged poor and marginalized homes. 
In fact, most of the 19 hijackers belonged to middle class families. The leader, Muhammad Atta attended well-known universities in Egypt and in Germany. It wasn’t poverty that led him and his fellow-terrorists, to plan his acts; rather he was converted to Salafism (Islamic radicalism) at the Jerusalem Mosque in Hamburg, Germany.
Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Mosque in Hamburg, where Atta was radicalized, was closed by the German authorities nine years later, in 2010. 
Because of the failure, or reluctance of Western political leaders to acknowledge the religious component of terrorism, Islamic terrorism will be with us for a long time. When a diagnosis of a problem is wrong, there can be no solution to the problem! So, this unconventional warfare, which was launched in earnest in 1979 by the new regime in Iran, will go on indefinitely since the Jihadists rely on their belief in a Divine mandate to engage in their murderous acts. Islamic Eschatology (teachings about the End Times) bolsters their beliefs, by painting a vivid picture of the violence that would attend the triumph of Islam globally. 
As mentioned in my Introduction, while the early conquests of Islam took place rapidly, nevertheless, the Christian West stopped them at Tours, France, and at Vienna, Austria. Nowadays, the West’s secularized worldview keeps its leaders from realizing that Islam has resumed its Jihad against the West. To protect the West against this new kind of asymmetrical warfare, is to call it by its true name.
The URL for the Bipartisan Policy Center event on 11 September 2018 is:
https://www.c-span.org/video/?451324-1/bipartisan-policy-center-honors-911-commission-chairs.
 

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Watching the Ongoing August 15, 2023, Intifada

September 09, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Two southern Syrian provinces have risen-up against the oppressive Assad regime in Damascus. Unlike previous uprisings since 1970, President Bashar Assad has not sought to squelch this Intifada. One reason is the provinces are adjacent to Jordan, Lebanon, and occupied sections of the Golan Heights. The most likely reason is the fact that the population is Druze, a religious sect related to Shia Islam. The Druze have been fiercely independent and had opposed the French presence in Syria between 1920 and 1946. I remember their 1936 uprising against the French and its news that was covered in the newspapers that my father read.

The previous uprisings that took place since the Assads (Hafiz and Bashar) assumed power in 1970 were immediately crushed with brute force. Not this one! Why, and what is the plan of his foreign protectors, Iran & Russia?

Nowadays, there’s a major factor, the Internet or social media. The world is watching the ongoing drama from its epicenter: Al Suwayda and Daraa.

Crowds of people, men, women, young people, and children, some carrying banners with large Arabic words that broadcast their grievances:

Down with the despot!

We’ve had enough

We want to live as free people.

The scene resembles a grand festival. Crowds were parading, carrying large colorful banners, some from local areas, others displaying the Syrian flag. Young men climbed a local government building that had large pictures of extolling the achievements of the Assads. They tore the pictures and threw the pieces into the air. As those pieces kept raining down on the streets, it appeared that everyone was having a great time.

One thing I observed was the dress of both men and women. Very few men wore tribal outfits, meanwhile I couldn’t see one woman wearing traditional Islamic garb. They appeared no different than Western women! One leader wore a short sleeve blouse and blue jeans. Many wore something similar. Finally, have they joined modern free humanity?

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LOUIS SEGOND’S CONTRIBUTION TO BIBLE TRANSLATIONS

August 29, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Introduction

During the mid 1930’s, the United Bible Societies published a poster with this title: THE BIBLE IN 1000 LANGUAGES AND DIALECTS, noting that that made the Scriptures the most translated book in history.

Throughout history, the translation of the Bible was undertaken either by several translators or by one person.

200 BC marked the completion of the Septuagint Greek Manuscripts, which contain the 39 books of the Old Testament plus 14 books of the Apocrypha. The received account is that 70 scholars in Alexandria, Egypt accomplished this monumental task. The Septuagint was the first known translation of a major portion of the Bible into another language, and since it was a translation from a relatively obscure language (Hebrew) to the lingua franca of the educated populace within the Roman Empire (Greek), it made God's word accessible to much of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Examples of an individual translator

382 AD Jerome produced the Latin Vulgate Manuscripts, which contain all 80 Books (39 Old Testament + 14 Apocrypha + 27 New Testament). The Vulgate was the first known translation of the entire Bible into another language, and since it was a translation from the language of the educated (Greek) to the language of the masses (Latin), it made God's Word accessible to a larger portion of the members of the Catholic church.

Martin Luther’s complete translation of the Bible into German was released in 1534. Luther produced one of the first translations into a contemporary medieval language, making the Bible accessible to German speakers, which was especially important due to the Protestant Reformation.

A year later, in 1535, John Calvin’s cousin, Pierre Robert Olivétan, translated the Bible into French from the original Hebrew and Greek. Olivétan provided the same service to contemporary French speakers.

Also in 1535, William Tyndale made the Bible accessible to contemporary English speakers.

What is notable about each of these ground-breaking translations is how they expanded access to God’s Word to a major new population and spurred scholarship in additional languages.

During the nineteenth century, France’s empire consisted of large parts of Africa. It included the North African lands of Algeria (1848), Tunisia (1881), and Morocco (1912) and several parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. French colonialism was accompanied by educational institutions that contributed to the rise of a cadre of national authors of importance.

Another feature of French colonialism was the presence of Catholic and Protestant missionary activities where the translation of the Bible and other Christian literature into French was done. For centuries, the only available version was that of Olivétan’s translation of the1530s. Since then, the French language had modernized considerably, and there had been advances in the practice of Bible translation, such as the work of Constantin von Tischendorf. Thus, there was a great need for a new translation of the Bible into French. Which brings us to Louis Segond's translation of 1910.

Louis Segond

Louis Segond (LSG) - Version Information - BibleGateway.com

Louis Segond (3 May 1810 – 18 June 1885) was a Swiss theologian who also translated the Bible into French from the original Hebrew and Greek. For his biography, see his Wikipedia entry.

In 1871 he began his translation, work that he completed in 1880. The British and Foreign Bible Society commissioned and published a revised edition in 1910. That version continues to be popular in the French-speaking world today.

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Hendrik Kraemer: A Great Missions Scholar (1888-1965)

August 14, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Part One

The First International Missionary Council met Edinburgh, Scotland in 1910. It marked the formal beginning of the Ecumenical movement. The Second International Missionary Council met in Jerusalem, Palestine, in 1928, and discussed a wide range of topics from industrialization to race relations.

The International Missionary Council asked Dr. Hendrik Kraemer to prepare a study guide for the meeting of the third IMC to be held at Tambaram, near Madras, India in 1938.

“At the time Hendrik Kraemer was Professor of the History of Religions at the University of Leiden, The Netherland. Born in 1888, Kraemer was raised at a Reformed Church orphanage in Amsterdam. He began a spiritual journey culminating as a missionary to Indonesia, including translating the Bible and encouraging the Indonesian churches. Back home, he survived a Nazi concentration camp during WWII, and became an internationally recognized Christian leader. He died in 1965.”

Kraemer, Hendrik (1888-1965) | History of Missiology (bu.edu)

The Study Guide that Dr. Kraemer wrote:

The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World.

In this article, I quote from passages of this book to show the relevance of Kraemer’s work, now that serious departures from Historic Christian Missions have taken place since the book was published eight decades ago.

“The Western Crisis is characterized by the almost complete replacement of all absolutes by relativism. Yet people starve and degenerate without ideals. So, the world ‘bristles with idealisms, noble and ridiculous, pure and demonic’ - idolatrous pseudo-absolutes (race, nation, classless society, a ‘holy’ or ‘eternal’ country; showing people cannot live on relativism alone. But when all is relative, ‘nothing is really worth-while, because it has no foundation in Eternity.’”

Kraemer described the Crisis of the Church thus:

“The tension between the Church’s essential nature and its empirical condition means the Church is always in a state of crisis. As a divine-human society it ‘is not one of the many religious and moral institutions that exist in the world.’ As an incarnated empirical human institution, it simultaneously witnesses against an evil-dominated world, while also witnessing to it being God’s creation and object of redeeming quality. The Church experiences crisis between the world and divine orders but is often unconscious of this because unless it realizes its nature and mission, behaves as if it was just a religious and moral institution.”

“The Church in its present crisis must face two main facts:

“1. Increasing secularization. The Corpus Christianum, the ‘indissoluble unity of Church, Community and State’ in Medieval Europe has been shattered, with the Church seeming irrelevant to most people.”

“2. The necessity for a fundamental re-orientation of the Church to the world. The Church must go ‘to the bottom in its criticism of and opposition to the evil of the world’ and ‘to the bottom in its identification with the sufferings and needs of the world.”

“The Church needs the Gospel realism that is deeper than the cynical and pessimistic realism of modern man, taking man and God radically and seriously. In the past a minority in the Churches have borne responsibility for the missionary task. For the Church to become a living body the majority must grasp this vision, e.g., not large individual gifts but financial contributions from the total membership are needed.”

“Kraemer contends that the Bible is the only legitimate source from which to derive our knowledge of the Christian faith in its real substance. He finds the Bible to be both radically religious and intensely ethical. Yet the ethical is subordinated to the religious because the Bible is radically theocentric. It is always the Living, eternally active God, the indubitable Reality, from whom, by whom and to whom all things are.”

Kraemer refers to the contrast between Christianity and the world’s religions.

“All philosophy, all idealistic religion, all consistent mystical religion, all moralism are man’s various attempts at self-redemption and instinctively they reject the truth that God and God alone can work redemption.

“So, while we are faced with God’s revelation in Christ, we are also confronted with the revelation of man. That is, man wants to be God, and this is supremely seen when man finds God or the Eternal Mind in himself. The Cross, while being God’s grace, simultaneously is God’s judgment since it reveals not only God’s love but also natural man’s blindness to God’s revelation and refusal ‘to recognize that the divine grace, as manifest in Christ, means the divine judgment on man’” (I Cor 2:8).

Christianity is the religion of the Incarnation.

“This stresses that an act of revelation makes the Christian faith possible; that what is revealed remains a mystery. The truly amazing thing about the Incarnation is that this doctrine of God really becoming man is proclaimed precisely by that religion which affirms an indelible distinction between God the Creator and man His creature, which all religions that assume the essential identity of God and man indignantly reject.”

Christianity means justification by faith.

“Romans 1-8 presupposes that the moral perfection of God requires the moral perfection of man. Therefore, Christ is the crisis of all religions and philosophies because they are all clumsy or magnificent evasions of the fact that it is impossible for sinful man to correspond to God in his perfection. Only God can make the impossible possible in Jesus Christ. Further, assurance of salvation can only be gained after such radical questioning and with such a radical answer.” (Rom 8:38, 39)

Christianity is the religion of reconciliation and atonement.

“Man wanted to be ‘like God’ and so his natural relation to God, his Lord and Maker, has been destroyed. By speaking of reconciliation and atonement, stress is laid on the need for God to take the initiative to restore the natural relation, on the indispensable need for forgiveness.”

The Kingdom of God.

“All problems in all spheres of life in this broken and disordered world reflect the underlying root of all evil, namely the disavowal of God’s will, the rejection of divine rule. Man cannot create the Kingdom of God, nor an ideal society. Only God can create the new order and therefore must take the initiative which he has done in Christ, by his saving Will.

The Christian faith is a new way and quality of life.

“The peculiar nature of this way of life stresses that God as Creator and as Renewer stands at the beginning of Christian faith. For a new and real relationship with God, not moralism or intellectualism, is the reality.

“Ordinary human thinking is inclined to embrace Voltaire’s blasphemy: ‘It is his job to forgive.’” But God’s love is radical: ‘His holy condemnation of sin and the sinner is a sign of His love, because disregarding the reality of sin would be indulgence, not love. Only if one takes holiness seriously, can one take sin seriously and understand that sin is, by its nature, irreparable.”

The Christian Ethic.

“As for the Christian faith so too the Christian ethic ‘is embedded in the same sphere of concrete religious realism and is radically religious and theocentric, in doing the will of God. Consequently, the Christian ethic is summed up as Augustine captured it: “Love God and do what you like!

“In both the Gospels and apostolic writings, the religious and the ethical are intertwined (e.g., Phil 2:12-13). The backbone of the Christian ethic is the inseparable connection between what God has done (the indicative) and therefore what man must do (the imperative).”

The Attitude Towards the Non-Christian Religions

“The Christian religion revolves around two poles: the knowledge of God and man. The non-Christian religions are not merely sets of speculative ideas about the eternal destiny of man. Christianity is built on the prophetic and apostolic witness to a divine order that transcends and judges the whole range of historical human life in every period. It follows that Christianity’s relation to the world is dialectical, combining a fierce “yes” and a fierce “no”, reflecting the “yes” and “no” of God who judges the world, yet simultaneously claims it for his love.”

“When we do this, we will deeply appreciate that it is offensive to speak glibly of the superiority of Christianity. While it is possible, with respect to the historical manifestation of Christianity, to point to certain traits which indicate superiority to other religions, there are other traits for which the same can be argued for non-Christian religions. What makes Christianity unique among religions is that radical self-criticism is one of its chief characteristics, since even it must bow to the sovereign Will of God.”

“Man’s condition is dialectical, of divine origin, yet corrupted by sin and rebelling against the divine will, as eloquently stated by Pascal: ‘What a chimera man is! What a novelty, what a monster, how chaotic, how full of contradictions, what a marvel! Judge of all things, a stupid earthworm, a depository of truth, a heap of uncertainty and error, the glory and refuse of the universe.’”

“The missionary and the Christian take both sides of the dialectical condition of non-Christian religions seriously because Biblical realism does so too. Inspired by this Biblical realism, the attitude towards the non-Christian religions combines down-right intrepidity and radical humility: One will often meet representatives of the non-Christian religions who justly fill one with deep reverence, because they represent in their whole life an extraordinary degree of devotion to the reality of the world of the spiritual and eternal. Nevertheless, in the light of Christ’s revelation it is a disturbing thing that such advanced spiritual personalities often do not show the least comprehension of the greatest gift of Christ – the forgiveness of sins “

Points of Contact

“A good missionary is expected to eagerly search out points of contact. Many considerations make this a legitimate and necessary quest:

“Biblical realism’s presentation of God as ‘deeply and strenuously concerned about man and the world’ is reflected in its passionate anthropomorphism and the Incarnation, showing ‘God wants, even passionately wants, contact with man, and thus through the act of His revelation shows His belief in the possibility of contact.’ It would make the Gospel void and meaningless to dismiss this, the strongest argument for the existence of the point of contact in man.”

“The factuality of point of contact is also indicated by our common humanity, a common psychological apparatus characterized by “our common capacity for religious and moral experience, effort, achievement and failure, our common aspirations, needs and dreads.”

“The problem of the point of contact is always surrounded by confusion: This has been aggravated by the Barthian ‘thunder stroke’: ‘There is no point of contact.’

“The effect of this Barthian position is to make preaching, religious education and instruction, missions, theological discussion, and instruction, all look rather absurd. While a surer grasp of points of contact does facilitate more effective mission ‘it has the same tendency as all human instruments, to induce us to entertain a delusive trust in these points of contact. The sole agent of real faith in Christ is the Holy Spirit.”

“The light of revelation in Christ exposes all religious life, whether lofty or degraded, as under divine judgment, since it is misdirected, thus turning all ‘similarities’ (points of contact) into dissimilarities. The revelation in Christ says ‘no’ to every point of contact, denying its development would lead to apprehending the revelation in Christ. But it also, dialectically, says ‘yes’, uncovering in the misdirected expressions of religious life “the groping and persistent human aspiration and need for ‘the glory of the children of God.’”

Points of contact can only be found by antithesis. Dialectically, we must discover ‘in the revealing light of Christ the fundamental misdirection that dominates all religious life and at the same time the groping for God which throbs in this misdirection, and which finds an unsuspected divine solution in Christ.

“There is only one point of contact which leads to many points of contact, namely the disposition and attitude of the missionary. As long as a man feels that he is the object of interest only for reasons of intellectual curiosity or for purposes of conversion, and not because of himself as he is in his total empirical reality, there cannot arise that humane natural contact which is the indispensable condition of all real religious meeting of man with man. Consequently, the problem of the points of contact is a problem of missionary ethics and not merely a problem of insight and knowledge.”

ISLAM

“Though it is a branch from the prophetic stock of Judaism and Christianity it has become, like Roman Catholicism, a syncretistic religion incorporating theocratic and legalistic Islam, mysticism and various sorts of popular religion, in which the naturalist vein of the primitive apprehension of existence shines through.”

Islam is distinguished from naturalist religions by the prophetic message proclaimed by Muhammad as the direct revelation of God and its derivation from Judaism and Christianity.”

Islam is a simple religion with a concise creed: There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His Apostle. In its constituent elements and apprehensions, Islam is a superficial religion. In keeping with the nature of Islam as a religion involving absolute surrender to God it ‘might be called a religion that has almost no questions and no answers.

Islamic revelation, wahey, is externalized and fossilized in a set of immutable divine words, the Quran. In Biblical realism, however, revelation means God is ‘constantly acting in holy sovereign freedom, conclusively embodied in the man Jesus Christ… The foundation of Islam is not; The Word became flesh. It is, The Word became book.”

“Superficiality is also expressed in Islam’s clumsy, external conception of sin and salvation. In a facile and unconvincing manner, it speaks of the tabula rasa of the human mind at birth. Obedience in surrender to the God of Omnipotence is the core of Islam. But obedience in fellowship with the God of Holy Love is the core of Biblical realism. The eventless relation between God and man in Islam, stands in sharp contrast to the eventful relation of Biblical revelation.”

“The riddle of Islam is that despite its superficiality, it grips its adherents more tightly than any other religion. Even nominal Muslims are willing to die for Islam or to kill a man deemed to be a defiler of Islam.”

“Also, the riddle of Islam is that though so superficial and unoriginal (considering its origin and material), its adherents believe it possesses absolute religious superiority. From this superiority-feeling and from the fanatical self-consciousness of Islam, is born that stubborn refusal to open the mind towards another spiritual world.”

“How might this riddle of Islam be solved? By reference to the core of Islam (the aims of Muhammad) – the strength and weakness of Islam:

“Islam is radically theocentric engendering passionate awe as reflected in the common Islamic statements Allahu Akbar (God is great) and La sharika lahu (He has no associate):’God’s unity and soleness, His austere sovereignty and towering omnipotence, are burning in white heat within Islam.”

“Muslims test against shirk, the unpardonable sin of giving God an associate (seen as polytheism). There is a process of super-heating in the religious concepts of Islam. Allah is “white-hot Majesty, white-hot Omnipotence, white-hot Uniqueness. His personality evaporates and vanishes in the burning heat of His aspects.” These depersonalized aspects – though there is a personal connotation – are the real objects of religious devotion. ‘The surrender to Allah, the fundamental attitude in Islam, has that same quality of absolute ruthlessness. The ideal believer, the abd (or servant, as Islam says) is, so to speak, personified surrender and nothing else.”

“God’s Will becomes virtually august divine arbitrariness. ‘This hyperbolic theocentricity… derives from the fact that man has no real place in the relation of God and man… Man is entirely absorbed in the greatness and majesty of God and vanishes away” God is too exalted to have fellowship with man, or to be his Father. The intrinsic unity of the religious and the ethical is destroyed by this hyperbolic theocentricity and, consequently, such problems as that of theodicy and of the cry for a God of righteousness are entirely absent.”

A note of explanation

The Internet and social media have broken down the walls surrounding Islam for the last 1400 years. This has allowed critical views of Islam to impact the young generation and for Christian Missions to propagate the Gospel on YouTube and on Satellite Television. The rich information of Kreamer’s “The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World,” provides a helpful source for young missionaries in the preparation of their messages in reaching Muslims in a relevant and timely manner.

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THE NECESSITY OF PREACHING THE GOSPEL TO MUSLIMS: AN EXAMPLE FROM FRANCE

July 29, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

We live in a globalized world. The Internet has made it possible to communicate across international boundaries rapidly and inexpensively. Another new phenomenon is the growing migration of people from Africa and Asia to Europe. While some migrants assimilate, linguistically and culturally, Muslims in general, don’t. They live in enclaves around big cities attempting to live as if they were in Daru’l Islam.

I would like to acquaint my readers with the work of a French Roman Catholic organization that is involved in Proclaiming the Good News of the Messiah to Muslims. The following is the link to their website: Jésus Le Messie - Le forum (jesus-messie.org)

Here are excerpts that I have translated from the Introduction, using the English Standard Version for Bible verses. 


“For a long time, to proclaim the Gospel to Muslims, missionaries had to cross the seas, as Saint Francis did, who went to Egypt and witnessed to its Sultan. 
“Nowadays, Christians who want to share the Good News with Muslims, all they must do, is cross a street to meet Muslims. Several of them are thirsty for the truth about God.”

The Biblical Foundations for Missions to Muslims 

“To be involved in Missions to Muslims is a measure of the health and seriousness of our faith. As Saint Paul wrote: ‘For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’” I Corinthians 9:6

The Christian testimony (Al-Shahadah)

“Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans: 10:9,10

The Holy Spirit works through the Proclamation of the Good News

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” I Corinthians 2: 1-4

The Core of the Message is Jesus and Jesus crucified

“Since in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” Corinthians 1: 21-25 

Pitfalls in Missions to Muslims

“Having laid down the foundation of Missions, Jesus Christ crucified, we are warned against pitfalls we face as we seek a point of contact with Muslims. Avoid false claims such as these:

  • ‘We worship the same God.’
  • 'God isn’t concerned about points of doctrine.’
  • 'Islam, when properly interpreted, is opposed to violence.’
  • 'Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have Abraham have as father.’”

The necessity of Apologetics and Polemics: Christian Missions defends Truth and condemns Error              

“For the love of Christ controls us because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. That we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:14,19 
“While our primary goal is evangelizing Muslims, we should be concerned about future Muslims who potentially are our children, all those who face the danger of being Islamized. What a tragedy for European parents to see their children convert to Islam! Our children need to be immunized against Islamization. Thus, we must not shy away from polemics, as some insist on simply proclaiming the faith, and not denouncing the error.”  

“In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, he denounced the errors that had crept into their churches in the strongest language: ‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one, we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.’” Galatians 1:6-10

“Muslims are afraid of going to Hell (Jahannam) and want to enter Heaven (Al-Jannah.) The only way to enter Heaven is to believe in Christ as Lord and Savior. This was made clear by the Lord Jesus Christ to Nicodemus, a Jewish theologian: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.’” John 3:16-18

 

It is very encouraging to learn about this French website of an organization in the Roman Catholic Church. It shows its concern for the large Muslim presence (5 million) in France. The are several oral testimonies of converts in French.

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A TUNISIAN’S JOURNEY TO CHRISTIANITY

July 17, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The following is a translated testimony of a Tunisian convert posted on the French website Jésus Le Messie - Le forum (jesus-messie.org):

I was born in Tunisia in a Muslim family. My parents were very pious, they said their five prayers a day, they fasted during Ramadan. We were ten children. I confess that I did not say my prayers five times a day. My parents taught us a lot of moral values. I'm sure my parents didn't really know the Quran. In fact, questions were taboo. I think I knew three or four Surahs from the Quran.

At the age of 22, I had no idea what Sharia was all about. Thanks to President Bourguiba, i women went to school, could work, they were present in all areas of society. Dad wanted his seven daughters to attend school. I was very happy in my family.

When my parents died, I left at the age twenty-two for Saudi Arabia. I had to wear the veil and learn to say my five prayers to be like everyone else. I lived sixty kilometers from Mecca where I finally discovered what Islam and Sharia were all about!

I began to ask several questions:

"How can God allow a man to have four wives and even more?"

"How can God allow divorce so easily?"

"How can God allow a thief's hand to be severed?"

"How can God allow the stoning of women?"

Once, I attended by chance, a stoning on a Friday. It was in Saudi Arabia and is meted out on Fridays! In this land I discovered another type of this faith. I discovered that poor people are recruited from all over the world. Young girls who had come from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand to work as maids, are often raped! Those who became pregnant are sent back to their homelands to face the results of ruined reputations.

I left Saudi Arabia and moved to Paris, France. I lived in a neighborhood where there were no Muslims, At the apartment there were many French families. They were kind and very welcoming to me; but they never spoke to me about their faith.

God was no longer part of my life. I made a good living; I had my comfortable life. I visited everything in Paris, except the churches. I met a French man who introduced me to his Catholic family and to his friends. And little by little, I started to get interested in the Christian faith, in the Christian culture, in the Holy Scriptures and to ask a lot of questions.

One day I went to Montmartre to look at some paintings. I entered the Sacré-Coeur Church ii where I stayed for three hours. I went back home and sat on the sofa, drinking my cup of tea. I felt as if someone touched my shoulder. I looked around but saw no one! I began to reflect on that experience. At last, I realized what was missing in my life: it was Jesus Christ.

Eventually, I asked for Holy Baptism, which I received in 2002. Since then, Christ has become my whole life. I try to live in harmony with the Ten Commandments. The Eucharist is my sustenance. Since I had never smoked, I can run to church every day!

I give my testimony at every opportunity. When I testify to Muslims, they listen as if they were expecting it. I reproach Christians for not talking about their faith. The other day a Muslim asked me, “Why does your rosary have a cross?” I replied in Arabic, "It's because I'm a Christian." She was amazed because she had no idea that there were Tunisian Christians!

This is my plea: “We must proclaim that our hope has a name, it’s ‘Jesus Christ,’ the only savior of the world. We can no longer remain silent.”

i Habib Bourguiba | Tunisian Independence Leader & First President

ii https://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com

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The Blind Spots of Bernard Lewis

June 16, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

During the 1990s, I taught a course on the History of the Middle East, since the rise of Islam, at a college in suburban Chicago, Illinois, USA.

I used Bernard Lewis’s books, as I appreciated his interpretive approach. I liked most of the books but was disappointed by the flaws that marked his historiography.

Bernard Lewis was born in the United Kingdom. He took his undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of London, in the School of Oriental and African Studies, and specialized in the History of Islam. During World War II, he served at the British Army’s Middle East Command Headquarters in Cairo, Egypt. After the war, he returned to the University of London where he taught Middle Eastern History. He remained there until 1974, when he came to teach at Princeton University in the fall of that year and retired in 1986.

Here is a list of some of his works. The Arabs in History, London 1950; The Emergence of Modern Turkey, London and New York 1961; The Assassins, London 1967; The Muslim Discovery of Europe, New York 1982; The Political Language of Islam, Chicago 1988; Race and Slavery in the Middle East: an Historical Enquiry, New York 1990; Islam and the West, New York, 1993; Islam in History, 2nd edition, Chicago, 1993; The Shaping of the Modern Middle East, New York, 1994; Cultures in Conflict, New York, 1994; The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, New York, 1995; The Future of the Middle East, London, 1997; The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, London, 1998; A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of life, letters and history, New York, 2000; What Went Wrong? Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response, New York, 2002

What I appreciated in Bernard Lewis

As we attempt to understand other cultures, quite often we see them, consciously or unconsciously, through the prism of our own worldview. In other words, we seek to understand others by comparing them with what we already know, with our ways of thinking and outlook on life. Such a method does not produce a genuine understanding of the other; this is especially the case in our attempt to understand Islam. It’s helpful to seek to understand Islam from within the Muslim point of view.

For example, in one of his earliest works, The Arabs in History, Bernard Lewis cautions us against using Western categories of thought when we study the history of the Arabs, and of Islam.

“The European writer on Islamic history labours under a special disability. Writing in a Western language, he necessarily uses Western terms. But these terms are based on Western categories of thought and analysis, themselves deriving in the main from Western history. Their application to the conditions of another society formed by different influences and living in different ways of life can at best be an analogy and may be dangerously misleading. To take an example: such pairs of words as Church and State, spiritual and temporal, ecclesiastical and lay, had no real equivalents in Arabic until modern times, when they were created to translate modern ideas; for the dichotomy which they express was unknown to mediaeval Muslim society and unarticulated in the mediaeval Muslim mind. The community of Islam was Church and State in one, with the two indistinguishably interwoven; its titular head, the Caliph, was at once a secular and religious chief.” Pp. 19, 20

Professor Lewis ended his Introduction with these words:

“Such words as ‘religion’, ‘state’, ‘sovereignty’, ‘democracy’, mean very different things in Islamic context and indeed varying meanings from one part of Europe to another. The use of such words, however, is inevitable in writing in English and for that matter in writing in the modern languages of the Orient, influenced for close on a century by Western modes of thought and classification. In the following pages they are to be always understood in their Islamic context and should not be taken as implying any greater degree of resemblance to corresponding Western institutions than is specifically stated.” P. 20

In “The Muslim Discovery of Europe,” Mr. Lewis explains why Islam failed to take Europe seriously as it was emerging from the Middle Ages and was about to play a major role on the world scene.

“It may well seem strange that classical Islamic civilization which, in its earlier days, was so much affected by Greek and Asian influences should so decisively have rejected the West. But a possible explanation may be suggested. While Islam was expanding and receptive, Western Europe had little or nothing to offer but flattered Muslim pride with the spectacle of a culture that was visibly and palpably inferior. What is more, the very fact that it was Christian discredited it in advance. The Muslim doctrine of successive revelations culminating in the final mission of Muhammad led the Muslim to reject Christianity as an earlier and imperfect form of something which he, himself, possessed in its final, perfect form, and to discount Christian thought and Christian civilization accordingly. After the initial impact of eastern Christianity on Islam in its earliest period, Christian influences, even from the high civilization of Byzantium, were reduced to a minimum. Later, by the time that the advance of Christendom and the retreat of Islam had created a new relationship, Islam was crystallized in its ways of thought and behavior and had become impervious to external stimuli, especially those coming from the millennial adversary in the West.” P. 300

Having illustrated the strong points in the writings of Bernard Lewis, several of his books are disappointing. He claims that Islam has been a tolerant religion, especially in its attitude to the People of the Book, i.e., Jews and Christians.

It is true that when Jews and Christians surrendered to the invading Islamic armies, they were given the status of “dhimmis,” an Arabic word that means, “Protected Ones.” But this so-called “protection” while allowing them to maintain their faith, deprived them of most of the rights they had enjoyed prior to their conquest. Severe restrictions were placed on dhimmis. They could not propagate their faith, they had to pay the Jizya tax, and when their houses of worship needed repair, it was extremely difficult to get a permit for such repairs. Some of their churches were confiscated, such as the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Damascus, Syria, that became the historic Umayyad Mosque.

It's a pity, that despite his erudition and knowledge of several Islamic languages, Bernard Lewis ignored the ignominious treatment of Jews and Christians within Daru’l Islami. I can never comprehend that a scholar of his stature ignored the writings of a fellow Jewish scholar, Bat Ye’or, whose works about “Dhimmis” and “Dhimmitude” are well known both in their original French and in their English translations.

In The Dhimmi, Bat Ye’or wrote about the book’s purpose:

“Its aim is much more modest. It has grown out of an independent reflection on the relationship between conqueror and conquered, established as a result of a special code of warfare, the jihad, for in the “drama” acted out by humanity on the stage of history, it is clear that the dhimmi peoples bore the role of victim, vanquished by force; and indeed, it is after a war, a jihad, and after a defeat, that a nation becomes a dhimmi people. “Tolerated” in its homeland, from which it has been dispossessed, this people lives thereafter as if it were merely suspended in time, throughout history. For the pragmatic political factor that decides the fate of a dhimmi people is essentially a territorial dispossession.”ii

The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam (Introduction)

The late Professor Jacques Ellul, of the University of Bordeaux, France, having taken a special interest in the history of the peoples conquered by Islam, made these comments in the Preface of The Dhimmi.iii

“It is within this context that Bat Ye'or's book The Dhimmi should be placed: and it is an exemplary contribution to this crucial discussion that concerns us all. Here I shall neither give an account of the book nor praise its merits but shall simply indicate its importance. The dhimmi is someone who lives in a Muslim society without being a Muslim (Jews, Christians, and occasionally "animists"). He has a particular social, political, and economic status, and it is essential for us to know how this "refractory" person has been treated. But first, one ought to realize the dimensions of this subject: it is much more than the study of one "social condition" among others. The reader will see that in many ways the dhimmi was comparable to the European serf of the Middle Ages. The condition of serfdom, however, was the result of certain historical changes such as the transformation of slavery, the end of the State, the emergence of the feudal system, and the like, and thus, when these historical conditions altered, the situation of the serf also evolved until his status finally disappeared.

“The same, however, does not apply to the dhimmi: his status was not the product of historical accident but was that which ought to be from the religious point of view, and according to the Muslim conception of the world. In other words, it was the expression of the absolute, unchanging, theologically grounded Muslim conception of the relationship between Islam and non-Islam. It is not a historical accident of retrospective interest, but a necessary condition of existence. Consequently, it is both a subject for historical research (involving an examination of the historical sources and a study of their application in the past) and a contemporary subject, most topical in relation to the present-day expansion of Islam. Bat Ye'or's book ought to be read as a work of current interest. One must know as exactly as possible what the Muslims did with these unconverted peoples because that is what they will do in the future (and are doing right now). It is possible that my opinion on this question will not entirely convince the reader.”

Another point of history that Bernard Lewis failed to remember or to mention is the Devshirme, the practice of the Ottoman Turkish conquerors in Eastern Europe whereby they forcibly took young Christian boys from their parents and made them adopt Islam. As they grew up, they were formed into an elite army corps known as the Janissary. These soldiers participated in the further Ottoman conquests in Central and Eastern Europe. It is not easy to calculate the number of Christian boys from the Balkans who were taken away from their families over the several centuries that this institution lasted. But one can imagine the deep hurts that were left in the societies of the countries affected by this evil system. It is not too much to speculate that the collective memory of the people of Eastern and Central Europe regarding the years of Ottoman oppression must have played a role in the serious troubles that erupted between Serbians and Bosnians in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Yugoslav Federation.

So, I can’t help asking myself: what motivated Bernard Lewis to persist in his silence about the Devshirme?

It is with great sorrow that I write these critical words about Bernard Lewis.iv But for a historian who enjoyed such an international reputation, as the dean of Middle Eastern and Islamic scholars, and an authority whose wisdom is sought by various governmental agencies, to have remained silent on subjects of great importance, is both unexplainable and incomprehensible!

On the legacy of Professor Bernard Lewis, read:

The Legacy of Bernard Lewis.pdf (harvard.edu)

i Daru’l-Islam, an Arabic term for the Household of Islam, the entire Islamic world.

ii The quotations are taken from Bat Ye’or’s book, The Dhimmi. The complete text is available on www.dhimmi.org

iii Jacques Ellul died in 1994 at 82. A jurist, historian, theologian, and sociologist, he published more than 600 articles and 48 books, many of which were translated into a dozen languages (more than 20 into English). From 1950-70 he was a member of the National Council of the Protestant Reformed Church of France. Professor at the University of Bordeaux, his oeuvre includes studies on medieval European institutions, the effect of modern technology on contemporary society, and moral theology. In American academic circles, he was widely known for "The Technological Society" written in the 1950's (English edition, 1964) and recognized as one of the most prominent of contemporary thinkers.

iv Bernard Lewis bibliography. Bernard Lewis (31 May 1916 – 19 May 2018) was a British-American historian, public intellectual, and political commentator. Lewis' expertise was in the history of Islam and the interaction between Islam and the West. His advice was frequently sought by policymakers, including the Bush administration.

Posted in Articles

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ARAB FORUMS ON THE INTERNET

June 02, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

A couple years before the Arab Spring began in Tunisiai and spread to other Arab countries, a group of Arab intellectuals met in Kuwait to launch an Enlightenment Movement throughout the Arab world.

To accomplish their goal, they started a website “kwtanweer” whereby reformist Arab intellectuals posted their views in articles. I began viewing the articles in 2006; for some unknown reason the website disappeared in 2009. I downloaded 118 articles and book reviews; some of which I translated and posted on my websites. The term Tanweer is Arabic for Enlightenment. (An archived version of the website appears to be corrupted with malware.)

Another Arabic-language website was launched in 2012, Al-Awan, a term denoting a ripe time, or it’s time for action. Several Arab authors contributed to this website that served as a Journal. It began in 2012 and stopped, without notice, in 2020. I have 29 articles downloaded from this website in my files. (The following URL is an archived edition of Al-Awan https://web.archive.org/web/20200417061042/https://www.alawan.org/.)

Some serious events have taken place following the disappearance of these websites, depriving Arab readers from knowing the views of seasoned authors and writers on current issues in the Middle East and elsewhere.

As an example of the value of Internet Forums, I share this report posted by an attendee of the meeting at the Cultural Center in Kuwait City:

“I spent two days enjoying the discussions on important topics at the Kuwaiti Cultural Center discussing the Age of the Enlightenment in Europe. We learned how Europeans were liberated from a mindset that had kept them captive to supernatural beliefs. That enabled them to progress in several areas of life.

“At present, young Kuwaiti intellectuals are very concerned about the subject as they live within a traditional society that’s transitioning into Modernity? They are keenly aware that the Europeans, prior to the Enlightenment, had gone through difficult times, occasioned by sectarian religious wars. European intellectuals called for the secularisation of society and the end of the Church’s involvement in the affairs of the State.

“What took place during the sixteenth century in Europe is happening nowadays in the Arab world. The rise of violence, terrorism, and the censorship of speech is a daily experience. Sectarian conflicts have flared up in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Somalia, Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon.

“To deal with these conflicts, certain members of our societies point to the European Enlightenment as a place where we can find answers for the solution of our nagging dilemmas. At the meeting in the Cultural Center, we were privileged to listen to a ‘literary symphony’ given by Dr. Muhammad Arkoun. He took us on a tour of the sources of intellectual thought the Greek philosophers Aristotle and Socrates and the Muslim philosophers and historians like Ibn Khaldun, Ibn Rushd to remind us of a past that encouraged intellectual freedoms.

“We applaud the efforts members of the Center of Dialogue and Culture whose untiring efforts to organize these meetings, and hope that more like these will take place in the future and helping to revive the Kuwaiti intellectual life.”

i The Arab Spring (Arabic: الربيع العربي) was a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across much of the Arab world in the early 2010s. It began in Tunisia in response to corruption and economic stagnation.[1][2] From Tunisia, the protests then spread to five other countries: Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain.

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The Arab League’s Welcome of Assad’s Regime

May 30, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Watching the Summit of the Arab League’s meeting at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in May 2023 was like watching a show on the theater of the absurd.

Soon after Syrian Air Force plane touched down at Jeddah Airport, a triumphant Bashar al-Assad emerged and came down the steps to be greeted by Prince Badr bin-Sultan, deputy governor of the Mecca region.

The decision to readmit Bashar al-Assad to membership in the Arab league was met with strong criticism by Arab commentators on the social media.

These are excerpts:

“On what basis that action was taken, while many Syrians were looking for their imprisoned, or disappeared sons, or daughters, or husbands, or wives?”

“As long as the Assad Regime exists, there can be neither justice, nor solution for the problems of the Syrian people.”

“The return of Al-Assad to the Arab League in lieu of his trial, sends a message to the world that war criminals can escape punishment.”

Commenting on the readmission of Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League, the New York Times wrote:

“Most Arab governments cut ties with Syria early in the war, as Mr. al-Assad’s government laid siege to entire towns and sent millions of refugees fleeing to neighboring countries. The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in 2011; and Saudi Arabia, one of the leading regional powers, supported some of the rebel groups fighting Mr. al-Assad’s rule with funding and weapons supplied in covert coordination with the United States. But as the years passed and Mr. al-Assad clung to power, regaining control over large parts of Syria, regional leaders shifted their approach.

“Now, many deal openly with his government, arguing that shunning him accomplished little. This way, officials say, they can at least try to influence developments in Syria that affect the entire region, such as the flow of drugs across its borders, and the fate of the millions of refugees who remain in neighboring countries, where officials say they have strained their resources and stirred resentment from citizens.” https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/18/world/middleeast/syria-assad-arab-league.html

In the United States, The American Coalition for Syria lobbied Congress for the US to sanction the Assad regime. This resulted in. US lawmakers introducing a bill opposing the normalization with Syria's Assad as reported by Reuters on 11 May 2023.

“A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced a bill… that would prohibit the government from recognizing or normalizing relations with any Syrian government led by Assad, who is under U.S. sanctions, and expands on the Caesar Act, which imposed a tough round of sanctions on Syria in 2020. The proposed legislation comes after Arab states turned the page on years of confrontation with Assad on Sunday by allowing Syria back into the Arab League, a milestone in his regional rehabilitation even as the West continues shunning him after years of civil war.” https://www.reuters.com/world/us-lawmakers-introduce-bill-combat-normalization-with-syrias-assad-2023-05-11/

Here are excerpts from the London Times regarding this topic on 19 May 2023

“President Assad of Syria is taking his seat at the Arab League today, officially ending more than a decade of isolation on the world stage in a development that has been vehemently opposed by western powers and Syrian activists. Assad arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday before the summit, keenly waiting to retake the seat that he lost 12 years ago. Saudi Arabia, which previously backed the armed opposition trying to take down Assad’s government, has engineered the Syrian dictator’s re-entry into the regional fold.

“The end of his isolation was cemented, and he had made no concessions to get there. For many of the people who have suffered at the hands of the regime, Assad’s reintegration into the international community is seen as a slap in the face that will only embolden his brutality.

“The Assad Family has been in power for more than 50 years! It was in 1970, that Hafez al-Assad became an absolute ruler of Syria. He was grooming his son Bassel to be his successor; but that would not take place as Bassel died in a car crash near Damascus. His son Basher studied medicine at the University of Damascus, graduating as an ophthalmologist in 1988. After serving as an army doctor at a Damascus military hospital, he moved to London, England, in 1992 to continue his studies.” The Times view on the Arab League: Assad’s Return

The information about the Syrian tragedy covered several aspects of the civil war. However, no mention was made about the enormous cultural damage inflicted on the refugee Syrian school age generation that missed formal education.

Syria, like the rest of the Arab world, has a unique linguistic tradition, the coexistence of Modern Standard Arabic (Classical) with various regional dialects. The MSA is the same from Morocco to Iraq, and is the only form for written Arabic, from school textbooks, newspapers, magazines, the Qur’an, th Bible, all the way to the codices of the vast Arab cultural heritage. While conversations at home and in society, take place in colloquial Arabic.i

The delegates to the special Summit of the Arab League took no steps to repair this cultural damage! They flew back home with an air of triumph having ‘solved’ the Syrian catastrophe, by welcoming back the Assad Regime into the fold.


i “What we refer to as "dialectal Arabic" is in truth a bevy of languages differing markedly from one country to the other, with vast differences often within the same country, if not within the same city and neighborhood.” by Franck Salameh Middle East Quarterly Fall 2011 https://www.meforum.org/3066/does-anyone-speak-arabic

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A Sampling of Audience Response to Hamed Abdel-Samad’s Series on the Major Problems of Islam

May 16, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

In Hamed Abdel-Samad TV program Box of Islam No. 215, he listed (in thirty episodes,) the major problems of Islam. A basic and active motif in Islam has been the use of religion in the service of politics. It functioned during the caliphates of the Rashidun, the Umayyads, the Abbasids, and the Ottomans

Rather than analyzing and commenting on these problems, as I often do in my articles, I share some of the comments made by the responders to the thirty episodes posted by Abdel-Samad on his YouTube channel Hamed.TV.

This sampling shows the opinions of the literate Arab audience able to access the Internet and interact with the speaker.

Here is the list of the problems mentioned by Hamed Abdel-Samad:

  • Problem 1: Separation of religion from politics.
  • Problem 2: Removal of obstacles to modernization.
  • Problem 3: Salafism i.e., Fascination with the past.
  • Problem 4: The Authority of the Qur’an.
  • Problem 5: The opposition to philosophy.
  • Problem 6: The Muslim doctrine of God and its impact on society.
  • Problem 7: The low view of women.
  • Problem 8: The weakness of economic activities and absence of inventions.

Excerpted comments:

Professor Hamed, you are a great person! How I wish Muslims would learn from you! What a loss it will be if they don’t!

Certainly, the Box of Islam program pinpoints the source of the problems we face in Islam. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your work. We are fortunate to be enlightened by you during these difficult times.

“Un grand merci au fond du cœur Mr. HAMED ABDESSAMAD pour vos éclairages. Comme vous l'avez dit dans une ancienne vidéo. l'islam est comme une maison dont les fondations sont fissurées et les pseudo réformistes ou ceux qui défendent l'islam dit des lumières essaient de peindre la maison avec une peinture plus attrayante au lieu de détruire cette maison et construire une autre avec des fondations solides ..En fin l'islam est un danger pour toute l'humanité y compris pour les musulmans eux même...il est donc temps ,pour les musulmans, de se réveiller de ce coma des instructions islamiques qui a trop duré 1444 ans ça suffit.”

(My translation of the French text)

“A big thank you from the bottom of my heart Mr. HAMED ABDESSAMAD for your insights. As you said in an old video, Islam is like a house with cracked foundations and the pseudo reformists or those who defend Islam who try to paint the house with an attractive paint, instead of destroying this house and building another one with solid foundations. In the end, Islam is a danger for all humanity, including for Muslims themselves. It is therefore time for Muslims to wake up from this coma of Islamic instructions which have lasted too long for 1444 years. It’s enough.”

I left Islam eight years ago. Since then, my life has become much better. You are the king of Enlightenment; please don’t stop your programs. Thanks so much!

I appreciate greatly your powerful efforts, Mr. Hamed Abdel-Samad, to liberate us from myths and fables.

Your series has been both interesting and enlightening. You are building free and thoughtful generations.

Thanks professor Hamed for your enlightenment. We are living in a new age while Muslims are still in their old cave! The winds of change are blowing hard, and everything is changing. It’s the law of life.

Thanks for all your contributions to enlightening the present generation. Future Arab generations will show their appreciation of your thoughts and actions toward lifting us from our present situation. Islam will undergo a change in its present form. You were right when you said, anything built on falsehood is false!

I send you my greetings and appreciation for the great work you have been doing by enlightening the public. Your drawing attention to the major reasons for the backwardness of Muslims and their cultural and ethical subjects to which no rational person would disagree. Now, there is hope thanks to the availability of digitizing and the information available on the Internet. They are signs of the dawning of the age of Enlightenment based on science and technology Coupled with lessening the impact of religion, by making it a personal matter, and opening the door for reforming the educational system.

Posted in Articles

The Middle East: At the Rise of Islam

May 09, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

In our previous lecture, we covered the history of the early Church highlighting the development of episcopacy, and the eventual division of the Church between East and West. We alluded to the further divisions that occurred in the East, as the Church grappled with the subject of the natures and wills of Jesus Christ. As a result, more schisms took place. The Orthodox Church used the arm of the Byzantine Empire to persecute those who refused to accept orthodoxy as defined by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.

The non-Chalcedonian Churches were regional, and were located in such geographical areas as Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia. Since Byzantium held political power over Egypt and Syria, it persecuted these independent Churches with the blessing of the Orthodox Church. This forms a sad chapter in the history of the Church, especially as these churches had already suffered during the first three centuries of the Christian era, prior to the conversion of Constantine. Beginning with 451, the persecutors were fellow Christians!

South of the Byzantine Empire lay the vast Arabian Peninsula. Most of it consisted of barren desert regions. They were inhabited by warring tribes, with a few urban centers such as Mecca and Medina. In the southern part of Arabia, lay the rich land of Yemen, the home of the Queen of Sheba of OT times.

In order to keep the Arabian tribes from invading the southern areas of the Empire; the Byzantines encouraged some semi-nomadic tribes to be their clients, and to act as defenders of the southern borders of the Empire. Most of these tribes had accepted the Christian faith, and for a good deal of time, they kept their agreement with Byzantium.

The great threat to the Eastern Empire lay further in the East. For centuries, Persia had been a rival of Byzantium. In fact, during most of the 6th Century, the two empires fought each other over areas known nowadays as the Middle East.? Persia considered Mesopotamia (Iraq) as within its sphere of influence and had some native client tribes that kept peace on the borders of Arabia. All seemed quiet on these two fronts until the sudden rise of Islam early in the 7th century. Persia and Byzantium faced the challenge of a new faith that had a very active political component.

At this point, it must be noted that by the time Muhammad was born in Mecca (570 AD,) Persia and Byzantium had exhausted their resources, having fought each other for an entire century. The subsidies promised to their client 'states' were rapidly diminishing. So, when the Arabs, after the death of Muhammad in 632 AD, burst out of Arabia and began the conquest of the Middle East, those Christianized tribes were not eager to fight them on behalf of either Persia or Byzantium. Some, joined the invading Arab tribes, while others offered hardly any resistance to their military incursions. By the middle of the 7th century, the Persian Empire fell, and the Byzantines lost Syria (including Palestine) and Egypt. By 732 AD, the Arab/Islamic armies had conquered parts of Asia, Africa, and Spain, calling the latter, Andalusia.

As mentioned before, most of the population of Syria and Egypt were Monophysite Christians. Since they were considered heretical, they were persecuted by the Byzantines. At first, these Christians welcomed the advancing Arab armies imagining they were their liberators! Ironically, to the East, i.e., in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq,) the Nestorians had enjoyed more freedom than their fellow-Christians to the West, since they lived within the Persian Empire. At that time, Persia professed Zoroastrianism, a dualistic faith that taught the existence of two equally powerful and antagonistic principles: good and evil. But Persia did not withstand the advancing Arab armies, and quickly collapsed, thus allowing the invaders to proceed further East to the borders of India.

At this point, I would like to advance the thesis that the Arabs, having adopted Islam, were no longer to continue in the age-long custom of raiding one another. Muhammad had convinced them that they had become one nation (Umma.) As their local resources were scarce, they looked northward and eastward for a new source of booty. In their first incursions beyond Arabia, they were surprised by their rapid success within the Byzantine and Persian Empires. Here we must remember the historical fact that their conquests preceded their reflecting on the meaning of their spectacular successes in building a world empire. In the early history of Islam, practice came first, theorizing followed conquest. Eventually, they developed a strong belief that it was the will of Allah for Muslims to conquer the world. Thus they divided the world into two areas: Dar al-Islam (the Household of Islam) those areas conquered by Muslims, and Dar al-Harb (the Household of war), those areas yet to be conquered through warfare!

During the lifetime of Muhammad, and especially after his migration to Medina in 622, he dealt with Jewish and Christian tribes of Arabia. He had hoped that these followers of 'heavenly' (theistic) faiths who had received God?s Revelations through Moses, David, and Jesus, would now welcome him as the final Messenger of God. That did not happen however. Soon after he conquered Mecca in 630, he persecuted the Jews, slew some of their men, and enslaved their women and children. After his death, his successors (the Caliphs) decreed that no Jew or Christian may continue to live within Arabia. This prohibition is still maintained today. Exception is made for non-Muslim technicians to live temporarily in Saudi Arabia, but none may hold any worship services even within the sanctity of their homes. This prohibition was illustrated by the fact that when President Bush visited Saudi Arabia in November 1990 during Operation Desert Shield, he had to leave the Saudi territory in order to attend a Thanksgiving Day service on board of a U.S. aircraft carrier stationed in the Persian Gulf!

What about the conquered lands? The invading Arab/Islamic armies expected all pagan subjects to Islamize; but they did allow Jews and Christians to remain within their faith according to specific restrictions. The Arabs granted them the status of 'Dhimmis,' an Arabic word that literally means 'under the protection' of the new masters. The terms of this 'protection' were defined by the 'protectors.' Religious traffic flowed one way: from Judaism or Christianity, to Islam, and never vice-versa. Once a Muslim, always a Muslim. The Law of Apostasy was imbedded in the Quran, and an apostate could expect no mercy, death was the penalty for leaving Islam. Christians were restricted to worshipping within their churches, but were not allowed to evangelize. No new church buildings could be built. Christians were expected to pay a poll tax for the 'protection' they received from their new masters.

Since both the Persian and Greek administration of the conquered areas had collapsed, the Arabs allowed the Christians (natives) of Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia, to continue in their governmental work, and to use the local languages. But slowly, while Islamization slowed down, Arabization of the culture proceeded without delay. Within about 200 years after the arrival of the Muslims, Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia were Arabized. This can been seen by the fact that the first known translation of the Bible into Arabic by national Christians took place near Damascus, in the middle of the 9th century!

Having established the historical background for our study of the Plight of Eastern Christianity under Islam, we shall proceed in our next lecture, to the study of sources that document our thesis. We shall rely on a book, The Decline of Eastern Christianity, From Jihad to Dhimmitude, by Bat Ye'or, published in 1996 by Associated University Presses, Cranbury, NJ.

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The Future of Israel According to Saint Paul

May 06, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Future of Israel According to Saint Paul

Bassam Michael Madany

1 May 2023

On Saturday, the 15th of May 1948, the BBC broadcast the news of the birth of The State of Israel. At dawn, Arab armies responded by attacking from the north, the east and the south. The Haganah that was defending the Jewish people in Palestine during the British Mandate, became the IDF (Israeli Defence Force,) that has been guarding the country for the last seventy-five years!

There are two aspects to the subject of the Future of the State of Israel: one is Historical/Political, the other is Biblical as taught by Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans, Chapters 9-11.

 

The Historical/Political Background

Prior to the Arab/Islamic conquest of the Holy Land in the middle of the seventh century, most of the people living in Palestine were Christians, with a Jewish minority living alongside. The conquest resulted in the Arab Muslims becoming a majority of the Palestinian population. While most of the Jews lived in the Diaspora for centuries; they maintained a strong yearning for returning to their ancestral land. They expressed that at the Passover celebration with "Next year in Jerusalem!"

During the19th century, Jews were persecuted in Russia and discriminated against in Western Europe. The rise of anti-Semitism became evident at the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the son of a wealthy Jewish textile manufacturer in France. In 1894, Dreyfus was accused of selling military secrets to the German military attaché. He was arrested on October 15, and on December 22, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. He entered the infamous penal colony of Devils Island off the coast of French Guyana, on 13 April 1895.

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) was a Jewish correspondent for the Viennese newspaper Neue Freje Presse in Paris. He covered the Dreyfus trial and became convinced there was no hope for the Jews to achieve complete emancipation in Europe. In 1896, he published “The Jewish State,” and became the father of the Zionist Movement that advocated the establishment of a national home for the Jews. After many debates at World Zionist Congresses, it was decided to establish this home in Palestine.

After Herzl’s death, the leadership of the Zionist Movement was assumed by Dr. Chaim Weizmann, a Polish Jew who was teaching chemistry in England. During WWI, he helped the British Navy by inventing materials to combat German submarines. Eventually, the British Government published the Balfour Declaration, favoring the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine.

At the end of WWI, the British assumed the government of Palestine with a mandate from the League of Nations. For the next thirty years, Britain faced a great opposition from the Palestinian Arabs against the plan. In 1946. The British Government brought the matter to the United Nations Organization. A U.N. Commission of Inquiry studied the matter and proposed a Partition of Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews accepted the plan, while the Arabs rejected it.

Britain ended its Mandate in Palestine on 14 May 1948. David Ben-Gurion with other Jewish leaders, announced the birth of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948. The response of the Arab states was immediate. Armies of Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan, Iraq, and Egypt entered Palestine to thwart the Zionist victory.  By mid-June 1948, the United Nations Security Council arranged a cease-fire between the warring sides. Major wars between Israel and the Arab states took place in 1956, 1967, and 1973. Eventually, Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat took the initiative of signing a peace treaty with Israel, followed by Jordan.

During the second decade of the 21st century, the United States succeeded in getting several Arab states to an agreement of normalizing their relations with Israel in a document called The Abraham Accords. https://www.state.gov/the-abraham-accords/

The Accords ended the official Arab denial of the right of Israel to exist, However, the Islamic Republic of Iran became a determined foe to Israel. It supplies   Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Hamas organization in Gaza with weapons to harass Israel. While it is impossible to predict the future, the past 75 years give evidence that Israel’s existence may be frequently challenged.

 

Saint Paul’s Teaching on The Future of Israel in Romans 9 -11

Saint Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome is as a major work on Christian doctrine. Most likely, it was organized by people who had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, an event narrated in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Peter’s sermon was delivered to a vast audience of pilgrims from several parts of the world, including visitors from Rome. Around three thousand believed and were baptized. 

While waiting for an occasion to visit Rome, Paul wrote an exposition of the Christian Faith, that he called The Gospel. 

The first eight chapters of the Letter act as a Commentary on the Gospel. In chapters 9,10, and 11, Paul focused on the future of Israel. In Chapter 9, Paul listed the privileges the Jews had received as witnesses to God's glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law of Moses, the worship in the temple, and the promises of God. Another privilege Paul listed was that through the line of the patriarchs came Christ, the promised Messiah. In Chapter 10, Paul described his desire and prayer for the people of Israel to be saved through faith in Christ.  

In chapter 11, Paul asked if God has rejected His chosen people, Israel. His answer: "By no means!" and points to himself as the first evidence that God has not rejected Israel.

Paul now asserts that Israel's hardening will end when the "fullness" of the Gentiles has come to God through faith in Christ. The "fullness of the Gentiles" means "the complete number.”

The meaning of this verse has been hotly debated by Bible scholars. What does Paul mean, exactly, when he says that all Israel will be saved? Many Bible teachers have concluded that by "all Israel," Paul means the Nation of Israel as a whole. 

Chapter 11 ends with a poem, structured as a hymn, expressing Paul’s profound reaction both to God's ways and to His mercy to sinful human beings. 

“To God be glory forever. This is both a statement of fact and a prayer for its fulfillment. Glory will flow to God forever, and Paul affirms that is exactly as it should be in the form of a prayer. He ends this section of his letter with a formal amen.”

 

Postscript

In the preparation of this article, I have relied on and quoted extensively from the website of https://www.bibleref.com/Romans/9/Romans-9-2.html                                   

I found the material in harmony with my life-long study of this subject, in the writings and the lectures of the following Bible scholars: 

John H. Gerstner 
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/evangelical-history/legacy-john-gerstner-presbyterian-historian-mentor-r-c-sproul/

Oswald T. Allis 
Oswald Thompson Allis (September 9, 1880 – January 12, 1973) was an American Presbyterian theologian and Bible schola. He taught at Princeton Seminary, then left to found and teach at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvnia.  

John Murray 
John Murray (14 October 1898 – 8 May 1975) was a Scottish-born Calvinist theologian who taught at Princeton Seminary and then left to help found Westminster Theological Seminary, where he taught for many years. He was ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1937. 
 

 

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A Colourful History of Antioch

May 06, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

A Colourful History of Antioch

Bassam Michael Madany

20 March 2023
 

Antioch was founded in 300 B.C. by Seleucus I Nicator, a general of Alexander the Great. The new city soon became the western terminus of the land routes over which goods were brought from Persia to the Mediterranean. 

Antioch’s strategic command of north-south and east-west roads across northwestern Syria greatly contributed to its growth and prosperity during the Hellenic, Roman, and Byzantine times. The suburb of Daphne was a favourite pleasure resort and residential area for Antioch’s upper classes. Seleucia Pieria, at the mouth of the Orontes River, was the city’s harbour.

Antioch was the centre of the Seleucid Kingdom until 64 B.C., when it was annexed by Rome, and made the capital of the Roman province of Syria. It became the third largest city of the Roman Empire in size and importance, after Rome and Alexandria, with its magnificent temples, theatres, aqueducts, and baths. 

Antioch was also one of the earliest centres of Christianity; it was there that the followers of Christ were first called Christians, and the city was the headquarters of the missionary Saint Paul.i

In the 4th century A.D. Antioch became the seat of a new Roman office that administered all the provinces on the empire’s eastern flank. Because the church of Antioch had the distinction of having been founded by the apostles Peter and Paul, its bishops ranked with the bishops of the other apostolic centers Jerusalem, Rome, and Alexandria. 

Antioch prospered in the 4th and 5th centuries from nearby olive plantations, but the 6th century brought a series of disasters from which the city never fully recovered. A fire in 525 was followed by earthquakes in 526 and 528. The city was captured by the Persians in 540 and 611.

During the early Arab-Islamic Futuhat (Conquests), Antioch was occupied in 637, and became much smaller. Its fortunes changed in 969, when the Byzantines recaptured the city, and it served as a frontier barrier against Islamic powers. The Seljuk Turks occupied the city in 1084, only to be ejected in 1098, when it was captured by the Crusaders, who made it the capital of one of their kingdoms. In 1268 the city was taken by the Turkish Mamluks, who razed it to the ground. Antioch never recovered from this last disaster, and it had declined to a small village when it was taken by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. It remained part of the Ottoman Sultanate for the next four centuries.

In WWI, the Ottomans sided with Germany and Austria. The victory of the Allies led to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. Syria and Lebanon came under the rule of France by Mandate from the League of Nations. With the end of the Ottoman rule, Turkey became a Republic under General Mustapha Kemal Ataturk. He initiated radical changes in the country: Abolishing the Caliphate in 1924, a process of secularization of society, and the adoption of a Latin alphabet in lieu of the Arabic script.

During the 1930s, certain parts of the Turkey were still under occupation by Allied Forces, Ataturk sought to end their rule by negotiation. He succeeded in terminating the French occupation of Cilicia (Asia Minor). Encouraged by that success, Ataturk claimed that the Syrian province of Alexandretta, which included Antioch, belonged to Turkey. Actually, Alexandretta was the most cosmopolitan part of Syria, and was the home of French, British, and Italian schools. The population consisted mostly of Christians from various communions: Orthodox, Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, and Protestant. A significant remnant of the Armenian Genocide had also settled in Alexandretta. Nevertheless, France handed the province over to Turkey in June 1939. Around 90,000 people of the province moved to other parts of Syria and to Lebanon. 

“Remarkably, few remains of the ancient Antioch are now visible, since most of them lie buried beneath thick alluvial deposits from the Orontes River. Nevertheless, important archaeological discoveries have been made in the locality. Excavations conducted in 1932–39 in Daphne and Antioch uncovered many fine mosaic floors from both private houses and public buildings. Dating largely from the Roman imperial period, many of the floors represent copies of famous ancient paintings that otherwise would have been unknown. 

“The activities of the modern town are based mainly on the agricultural produce of the area, including the intensively farmed ‘Amok plain. The chief crops are wheat, cotton, grapes, rice, olives, vegetables, and fruit. Antioch has soap and olive-oil factories, cotton ginning and other processing industries.  Before the Province of Alexandretta (that included Antioch) was annexed by Turkey, its population was around 220,000. Eight decades later, Antioch’s population alone, had reached 216,960ii

Demographically, Antioch had become a Turkish city, as I experienced during my visit in July 1975. When reporting on the massive 7.8 earthquake of 6 February 2023, most Western media, referred to Antioch as “the ancient Turkish city of Antakya.” The irony is that Antioch had become Turkish, in a relatively short time! While during the four centuries of Ottoman Turkish rule of Syria, which included Antioch, the population retained their Arabic language and culture. 

The world response to the 6 February 2023 destructive earthquakes has been heartwarming. Aid groups from several parts of the world rushed to help, not only in Turkey, but in nearby Syrian areas The United Nations’ estimate of the devastating earthquakes is about 50,000 people killed, with many more injured, and hundreds of thousands homeless. The magnitude of the geological damage to the area in and around Antioch is beyond belief! It would make the rebuilding of the city a gargantuan challenge in the future!

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1. Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.  So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus. Acts of the Apostles13:1-4 

iiii Antioch | modern and ancient city, south-central Turkey | Britannica

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Reflections of the Earthquakes' Impact on Alexandretta, Antioch, and Seleucia

May 06, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Reflections of the Earthquakes' Impact on Alexandretta, Antioch, and Seleucia

Bassam Michael Madany

9 March 2023

Last month, I celebrated my 95th birthday. A few days later, on Monday, 6 February, a massive earthquake hit an area in southern Turkey that flattened the place beyond recognition. It was the place where I was born and spent the first eleven years of my life. 

This is a story that goes beyond earthquakes and natural disasters; it’s an account of a forgotten tragedy, as most of those who had experienced it, have passed away. 

The Middle East was conquered by Islam in the seventh century. Christians and Jews were allowed to keep their faith by paying the Jizya tax. My ancestors remained Christian, and for some time kept their Aramaic language and culture. By the ninth century, they had Arabized but didn’t Islamize. A Christian scholar in Damascus undertook the translation of the New Testament into Arabic, providing the Christians of the Levant with the necessary spiritual food. i

The Mongolian destruction of the Abbasids in 1250 was a disastrous event for Middle Eastern peoples. Eventually, the Seljuk Turks governed the area, and were followed by the Ottoman Turks, in the sixteenth century. The Ottomans had global ambitions, their conquests included the Byzantine empire in 1453, and lands in eastern and central Europe. In 1529, they laid siege to Vienna, but failed to conquer Austria. One hundred fifty years later, the Ottomans returned with a larger army, and attempted to enter Vienna. Thanks to the help the Austrians received from the Poles, the Ottomans failed and retreated, leaving behind several sacks of coffee beans!  

The Ottomans were staunch defenders of Sunni Islam, as their Sultans had assumed the role of Caliphs. While ruling the Balkans and the Middle East, the Ottomans did not force the subject peoples to adopt Turkish. Middle Easterners kept their Arabic language. During the nineteenth century a revival of Arab culture took place in Egypt under the regime of Muhammad Ali Pasha and his successors.

In Lebanon, American missionaries founded the American University of Beirut. Several of its graduates moved to Egypt where they published newspapers and magazines. The translation of the Bible into Arabic was a major event in the 1860s, a work of significant importance for the Arabic-speaking Christians of the world.

In WWI, the Ottomans took the side of Germany and Austria. The victory of the Allies led to the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire. Syria and Lebanon came under the rule of France by Mandate from the League of Nations. My education took place during the French presence at British and French schools. That included learning English, French, and Classical Arabic. 

With the end of the Ottoman rule, Turkey became a Republic under General Mustapha Kemal Ataturk. He initiated radical changes in the country: Abolishing the Caliphate in 1924; a process of secularization of society, and the adoption of a Latin alphabet in lieu of the Arabic alphabet.

As certain parts of the Turkish mainland were still under occupation by Allied Forces, Ataturk sought to end that rule by negotiation. In the 1930s, the French ended their occupation of Cilicia (Asia Minor.) Not satisfied with those accomplishments, Ataturk claimed that the Syrian province of Alexandretta belonged to Turkey. He renamed the area as Hatay and kept pressing France to cede it to Turkey.

The province included Antioch and Seleucia as well and was the most cosmopolitan part of Syria. Besides the French schools, there were British and Italian schools. The population was mostly Christians of various communions: Orthodox, Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, and Protestant. A significant remnant of the Armenian Genocide had settled in Alexandretta.

The pressure on France kept increasing. In 1938, Turkish Forces entered the province.  At the school I attended, a Turkish teacher arrived to teach Turkish. He was an amiable person, friendly, but smoked a lot. He taught us to sing the Turkish National Anthem!

I’ll never forget June 1939. My mother passed away of a stroke on the tenth of the month. France handed the province over to Turkey; around 90,000 residents left for other Syrian provinces and to Lebanon. Our family settled in Beirut, Lebanon. To have remained in Alexandretta meant our total Turkification. That was not an option for our family. My ancestors had willingly adopted the Arabic language a millennium before. It became ours, and we loved both the Classical and the Colloquial dialects. 

When the successive earthquakes happened on 6 February 2023, one news media with no historical knowledge of the area, reported the following:

“Turkey's historic city of Antakya, known in Roman and medieval times as Antioch, has been flattened by powerful earthquakes in the past – and rebuilt itself.” 

Do eighty-four years of Antioch’s occupation qualify it as an historic Turkish city?! Antioch was the capital, of th Seleucid Kingdom, a Macedonian Greek dynasty (312–64 BC.) It was founded by Seleucus I Nicator. Carved from the empire of Alexander the Great, the Seleucid domain included Babylonia, Syria, and Anatolia. When the Romans conquered the area in 64 BC, they kept Antioch as the capital of the region that included Palestine. 

Antioch qualifies as an historic Christian city “It was in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” Acts 11: 26b. The Antiochian church ordained Paul and Barnabas as missionaries; they sailed from its port Seleucia, on their world mission.

My reflections were evoked by the February earthquakes in a region that had witnessed other types of human disasters caused by political ambitions.
 

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(2) Review of the Arabic Text of MT. SINAI ARABIC CODEX 151 | Bassam Michael Madany - Academia.edu

 

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THE ESCHATOLOGY OF THE IRANIAN REGIME SOURCE OF ITS INTRANSIGENCE

May 06, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

THE ESCHATOLOGY OF THE IRANIAN REGIME

SOURCE OF ITS INTRANSIGENCE

Bassam Michael Madany

10 February 2023

The 31 January 2023 issue of the Wall Street Journal carried this headline:  

         “Iran’s Deadly Street Protests Are Replaced by Quiet Acts of Rebellion.”

It began, “Four months after a nationwide uprising erupted in Iran, a lethal crackdown and an ailing economy have quieted antigovernment street demonstrations.”

Whether the quieting of the “antigovernment street demonstrations” will last, only time would tell. In this article, I explain how the Eschatology (End-Times beliefs) of the Iranian Religious authorities, provides them with an inflexible steering of the governance of the country at this crucial time in Iran’s history. This would mark the first time in the History of Islam, when the religious establishment took over the reins of government.

From its beginnings, Islam became a State whose leader was prophet, legislator, and ruler. Muhammad didn’t leave any instructions regarding the leadership of the Islamic Umma after his passing. Some of his close associates, rushed to choose Abu Bakr as the First Caliph in 632 AD. After his death in 634, Umar succeeded him. His rule lasted ten years, during which the Islamic Futuhat (Conquests) began. After his assassination in 644, Uthman became Caliph. He collected manuscripts of the Qur’an; chose one as a Textus Receptus and sent copies to several Islamic-occupied territories. Uthman’s caliphate was riddled with controversies, which led to his assassination in 656.

Ali (cousin and a son-in-law of Muhammad) assumed the Caliphate in 656. However, Muawiya, the governor of Syria contested the election of Ali, leading to war between the two men. When Ali accepted arbitration between the two factions, some of his followers rebelled and murdered him in 661. Muawiya assumed the role of Caliph and founder of the Umayyad Dynasty, with Damascus as its capital. It lasted for nearly 100 years, during which Islam spread from India in the east to Spain in the west.

Ali’s followers, known as these Shi’ites (partisans) refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Umayyad Caliphate. Ali had two sons by Fatima (daughter of Muhamad,) Hasan and Husain. Hasan declined to assume the role of the Shi’ite leadership, leaving the position to his brother Husain. In 680, he moved to Kufa in Iraq to reclaim the Caliphate. He was defeated and massacred at the Battle of Karbala, on 10 October 680 (10 Muharram 61 AH)

From this point on, the Shi’ites would become an underground opposition movement. Husain and his descendants carried the title of Imam. (In Sunni Islam, an Imam is simply the leader of a mosque, in charge of the daily and weekly Salaats (worship services.)

The Umayyad Caliphate was challenged by the Abbasids who defeated them in 750. The blood bath that followed resulted in the extermination of every member of the Umayyads. One member managed to flee to Al-Andalus (Spain,) where he began a rival Islamic caliphate.

The Abbasids were descendants of an uncle of Muhammad. It was during their Caliphate that the Arab Islamic civilization flourished. Baghdad became the capital of the Abbasids, translation of works from Persian, Aramaic, and Greek sources was accomplished at the House of Wisdom. The Four Schools for the Interpretation of the Islamic Shariah were founded; the Sirat Muhammad (Life of the Prophet) was composed, first by Ibn Is’haq, and revised by Ibn Hisham. The initiative for all these accomplishments came from the Caliphs.

An intellectual group known as the Mu’tazilites appeared on the scene and discussed doctrinal and philosophical issues. A major theological topic was the Qur’an’s createdness. When Imam Hanbal preached the uncreatedness of the Qur’an, the contemporary Caliph Al-Ma’moon imprisoned him. That precipitated an event known as Mihnat al- Qur’an (the Ordeal of the Qur’an!)

Following the Mongolian advance and the destruction of Baghdad in 1258, the Abbasid Caliphate had reached its twilight. Eventually, the Sunni Caliphate was assumed by the Ottoman Turks; it lasted until the early years of the 20th century. Rival Shi’ite caliphates arose in Egypt under the Fatimites, from 969 to 1171. Persia that had followed Sunni Islam for centuries, underwent a radical change in 1501, when Ismail I, the first Shah of the Safavid Dynasty (1601–1722), captured Tabriz and proclaimed Twelver Shi’ism to be the faith of his new realm.

The Twelvers believe that, at the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, the spiritual-political leadership of the Islamic Umma, was to pass down to Ali, and to ʿAlī’s son Husain and to other Imams (leaders) down to the 12th. He was born around 870, and went into occultation, (a state of concealment by God) in 874. This Hidden Imam is still alive and bears the title of Mahdi. Upon his return, he will inaugurate an era when the Twelver Shi’ism would be the dominant faith in Islam.  

It becomes clear from a review of Islamic history that the state played an exclusive role in all the decisions that impacted Muslim society. Beginning with Uthman’s choice of the official manuscript of the Qur’an, to Al-Mamoon’s standing for the createdness of the Qur’an. It was the Fatimites rulers who imposed Shi’ism on Egyptians and founded the University Mosque of Al-Azhar.

Things changed drastically during the Ayyubid Dynasty’s occupation of Egypt (1171-1250.) Egypt was reintegrated into the Sunni world, with Al-Azhar University Mosque becoming a bastion of Sunni Islam.

Early in the 16th century, Egypt with the rest of the Middle East, were incorporated into the Ottoman Empire that played the role of defender of Sunni Islam. During the 19th century, the Ottomans had to deal with the Wahhabis, a fundamentalist Islamic movement in Arabia. Aided by the Saudi tribe, the Wahhabis captured Mecca that had been under Ottoman control. Gradually, the Saudis extended their rule over Arabia. While Wahhabi Islam continued to be the official faith of the kingdom, political, economic, and social issues; remained in the hands of the House of Saud.  Saudi Arabia in the Third Millennium is drastically different from the 1930s! Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has initiated several reforms — concerts, movie theaters, and a permission for women driving cars, without a male chaperon! The impetus for change and modernization in Saudi Arabia came from the governing authorities, and not from the Wahhabi establishment who have been the custodians of “authentic” Islam.

It is evident that a modus operandi that had lasted for 1400 years, namely the primacy of the state in governance, was broken when Ayatollah Khomeini became the religious and political leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a religious establishment professing the Eschatology of Twelver Shi’ism took over the reins of governance in Tehran, they claim their authority is derived from the infallible Mahdi. This led the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran to become intransigent, in their response to the ongoing Intifada of the young generation of Iranii

 

i Iranian Youth is the largest population bloc in Iran. Over 60 percent of Iran’s 80 million people are under 30 years old. Iranian youth are among the most politically active in the 57 nations of the Islamic world. As the most restive segment of Iranian society, the young also represent one of the greatest long-term threats to the current form of theocratic rule. https://iranprimer.usip.org/resource/youth

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Raymond Lull the Pioneer Missionary to Islam A Tribute

May 06, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Raymond Lull the Pioneer Missionary to Islam A Tribute

Bassam Michael Madany
18 January 2023
 

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound.  II Timothy 2:8,9 (ESV)

The Arabic text is from the Smith-VanDyke translation of the Bible
8اُذْكُرْ يَسُوعَ الْمَسِيحَ الْمُقَامَ مِنَ الأَمْوَاتِ، مِنْ نَسْلِ دَاوُدَ بِحَسَبِ إِنْجِيلِي، 9الَّذِي فِيهِ أَحْتَمِلُ
الْمَشَقَّاتِ حَتَّى الْقُيُودَكَمُذْنِبٍ. لكِنَّ كَلِمَةَ اللهِ لاَ تُقَيَّدُ

From my earliest days, I became interested in missions. My father’s library in our home in Latakia, Syria had several books, in English and in Arabic, relating stories of men and women who had left their homes in Europe and America and spent their lives in the Far East, India, the Middle East and Africa in obedience to the Great Commission.

I had not heard of Raymond Lull until my early twenties when a British Missionary lent me a book by Dr. Samuel Zwemer on the life and ministry of this Spanish missionary scholar. 

Raymond Lull (known in Spain as Ramon Llull) was born on the Island of Majorca, Spain, in 1235. He belonged to a rich family. He led a very worldly life until his conversion in his late forties. For the last part of his life, he was involved in intense Christian missionary work among Muslims in North Africa. The following paragraph is from Dr. Zwemer’s Biography of this pioneer missionary to Islam.

“There is no more heroic figure in the history of Christendom than that of Raymond Lull the first and perhaps the greatest Missionary to Muslims. He was years ahead of his time; a great thinker as well as doer, establishing missionary colleges to carry the Gospel to Muslims, while personally obeying Christ's command to 'Go' himself. Heaven enlightened Lull to know the love of God and to do the Will of God as no other of his generation. From a powerful vision of Christ's unrequited Love at the time of the bloody Crusades, Lull began his own crusade of love. Lull's motto was, He who loves not lives not; he who lives by the Life cannot die.” 

During Lull’s lifetime, Spain was partially occupied by the Arab Muslims since the beginning of the 8th century. His missionary labors took place during the weakened and diminishing presence of the Arab Muslim rule in Spain.

Continuing the excerpts from Dr. Zwemer’s Biography of Raymond Lull:

“Lull’s chief concern after his conversion was that all men everywhere should become Christians. He visited Rome, urging several Popes to establish schools for preparing missionaries. He convinced the Church Council at Vienne (France) in 1311, to establish missionary colleges in various parts of Europe. He lectured in major cities and encouraged the learning of the Arabic language to preach the Gospel to the Arabs of Al-Andalus (the Arabic name of Spain)

“In 1276 Lull founded the College of Miramar in Majorca, which trained men in the study of Arabic and prepared missionaries for service in Islamic lands. He made repeated missionary trips to these lands and continued writing. Altogether, he wrote some 150 or 200 works in Latin, Arabic, and Catalan on such diverse subjects as theology, philosophy, logic, and poetry. Most of them were apologies for the faith and indicate not only his primary desire to convert the infidel but also his attempt to make philosophy subordinate to theology to obtain that goal. 

“On one of his missionary journeys in North Africa, he was held in prison for over six months. All manner of attempts were made to persuade him to convert to Islam. Instead, he was successful in winning a small number of converts, among whom he later secretly labored for almost a year!

“Raymond Lull visited the city of Tunis three times, to win converts. One of his methods was to walk down the street preaching in a loud voice, shouting the fallacies of the Muslim faith and the truth of Christianity. Twice he was expelled; when he returned to Tunis the third time, he was stoned to death in 1315, at the age of eighty!”

My purpose in writing this article is not primarily to give an account of the work of the first Western missionary to Islam. Rather to explain that his biography dispelled a notion I had about the impossibility of engaging in missions among Muslims. During my early years, Western Protestants and Catholics used educational institutions as missionary methods. I was educated in these schools. Some of my fellow students were Muslims; when it came to religious courses, they were exempt from taking them! I don’t recall any conversion to the Christian faith from Muslim students, during my entire educational experience from 1934 to 1945.

Furthermore, I was fascinated with stories of missions in China, Korea, India, and sub-Saharan Africa. Those were the places to engage in the proclamation of the Good News and succeed in founding Christian churches!

I had the call to the ministry of the Gospel in 1948. I enrolled at the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1950. At the seminary library I read Dr. Zwemer’s “The Cross Above the Crescent: The Validity, Necessity, and Urgency of Missions to Moslems” I wrote a letter of thanks to Dr. Zwemer care of Zondervan Publishing House in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I received a wonderful response from him who at the time was living at his daughter’s home in Alexandria, Virginia. He encouraged me in my theological studies.

As I reflect on those events of 70-80 years ago, it was my initial contact with Samuel Zwemer’s books, and later his correspondence, that were used by our Lord to direct my general interest in mission work, to a specific calling of bringing the Gospel to the Arab World.

After graduation and marriage in 1953, I served for two years as Bible teacher at a Protestant missionary school in Latakia, Syria. As conditions for missions worsened, I immigrated to Canada, laboring in church work with the Canadian Bible Society.

In 1956, I began an Arabic literature ministry and published by first book, THE INSPIRATION OF THE HOLY BIBLE. While taking a year of theological studies at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, (1957-1958) a copy of this book came to the attention of the Secretary of the Sudan Interior Mission in this city. He approached me about the possibility of broadcasting the Gospel in Arabic on ELWA, the missionary radio station of the SIM, in Monrovia, Liberia. That began my thirty-six-year life work of reaching the Arab world from Morocco to Iraq, 1958 to 1994 During the 1970s, I began a weekly program on the powerful Medium Wave transmitter of Radio Monte-Carlo in Monaco. The Arabic-language ministry was strengthened by correspondence and follow-up literature.

A new phase of missions began in the 21st century, with the Internet allowing a proclamation of the Good News by North African nationals who had crossed over to the Christian faith. A notable example is that of Brother Rachid’s ministry that consists of a weekly live call-show on both YouTube and Al-Karma satellite TV.

https://www.youtube.com/user/BROTHERRACHID

Posted in Articles

More on The Veiled Genocide

May 06, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

More on The Veiled Genocide

Bassam Michael Madany

9 January 2023

On three different occasions, I posted articles commenting on the Senegalese author Tidiane N’Diaye’s book Le Genocide Voilé (The Veiled Genocide). It was published in Paris, France in 2008. Last week, I discovered more information about the subject that was posted on YouTube on 24 May 2018; where the author gave further comments on the trans-Sahara and eastern slave trade.

This video is a translation of Tidiane N’Diaye’s short presentation broadcast in French by France info. He introduces his book Le Genocide Voilé (The Veiled Genocide) on the trans-Sahara and eastern slave trade. He goes on to lament the fact that the subject remains hardly known or acknowledged among the Arabs. It is a chapter of African history that is still taboo: the slavery of black populations by the Arab world. Senegalese researcher Tidiane N'Diaye explains. There is no degree in horror, nor a monopoly on suffering or cruelty. But it is safe to say that the trans-Sahelian and Eastern slave trade was far more devastating for African populations than the transatlantic slave trade.

N'Diaye explains, if I titled my study "veiled genocide" it is because generalized castration annihilated any possibility of transmission, any possibility of descent, which explains today that their presence in the Arab world is an epiphenomenon. Also, a rather important clarification: when I say Arab-Muslim, it does not mean that I am trying to reduce peoples to their religion or culture.

You have between 400 and 500 million Muslims in Africa today. It seems that most Muslim intellectuals are reluctant to approach this page of our history, a painful page that not only should Arab-Muslim scholars have opened, but African intellectuals hesitate. And what resonance today? What is happening today in Libya, with African slave marches, is simply a kind of continuity in the treatment that Arab-Muslims reserved for Africans. Since today it is estimated that 45 million individuals are still enslaved. And as luck would have it, it is essentially in the Arab-Muslim world. African students living in the Maghreb are often treated in a rather despicable way.

African maids have their passports confiscated in Lebanon and elsewhere. By dint of silencing a crime, it risks repeating itself. Just as Elie Wiesel said, “Whoever ignores his past exposes himself to him starting again.” Hence the need for a work of memory so that the horrors of the past never fall into oblivion.

Please click on this link to watch the video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jxc5ENT8ajg

Posted in Articles

Islam & the Non-Muslims

May 05, 2023
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

Islam & the Non-Muslims 
An Arab Viewpoint 
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

Quite early in its history, Islam’s belief system was given direction by Islamic jurists; they divided the world into two realms; Daru’l Islam and Daru’l Harb, (The Household of Islam and the Household of War.) This was an apt description of the era when Islam was triumphing and expanding its territories in Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was an application of the teachings of the authoritative texts of Islam that called for fighting the Infidels wherever they are found.

This ideological principle, reinforced by the Islamic warriors’ success on the battlefield, resulted in the addition of several new words to Islam’s vocabulary to describe non-Muslims. They were to be called “Infidels” (Kuffar) or “Polytheists” (Mushrikoon), and for Christians and Jews, the term “Ahlu’l-Kitab” was to be used, signifying that they possessed divinely revealed books, even though by the time Muhammad came on the scene, the jurists claimed these revealed books had been corrupted.

It was not until the fall of the Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1918 that this description of non-Muslims began to change. Several of the Ottoman territories in the Middle East came under the rule of the British and French governments so that at least officially, Christians, Jews, and Muslims were called by their proper, i.e., religiously-based names. But the use of the old vocabulary persisted among the Muslim populace.

When the colonial powers left the Middle East after the end of WWII, the nationalistic fervor did not abate, especially during the regime of the popular Egyptian leader, Gamal Abdul Nasser. 
However, after the disastrous June 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Arab nationalism gave way to Islamic Fundamentalism which is known in Arabic as Usooliyya. The old vocabulary designating the non-Muslim populations began to resurface in the Middle East. This phenomenon shocked some reform-minded Arab intellectuals who began calling for a more civil and tolerant view of non-Muslims living within Daru’l Islam. One way these liberal intellectuals differentiated themselves from those who used the traditional nomenclature was to refer to all non-Muslims as “Al-Akhar” (The Other) a less strident, neutral Arabic word.

Early in January, 2009, the Kuwaiti website kwtanweer posted an article on this subject with this title, “The ‘Other’ According to the Islamic View” (Al-Akhar fi’l Tasawwor al-Islami)

Here are translated excerpts from this timely article, followed by my comments.

“According to the Islamic view, the ‘Other’ is any non-Muslim. He may be a follower of Judaism or Christianity, a Zoroastrian, or an atheist. Sunnis would add to this list all those who don’t follow their brand of Islam such as Shi’ites, Ismailis, Ahmadiyya, and Abadiyya. The vast majority of Shi’ites have the same attitude as the Sunnis vis-à-vis those Muslims who do not follow their own understanding of Islam, not recognizing, for example, Non-Twelvers Shi’ites. 1

“The Muslim view of the ‘Other’ is not a theoretical subject; it translates itself into the practical areas of life on earth, as well as the afterlife. So we find real discriminatory practices in the areas of human rights, duties, and the treatment of those classified as ‘Others.’ For example, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, only a Shi’ite may become President; which implies the non-Shi’ite is not a Muslim, and is therefore not eligible to occupy the office of president! And even though the vast majority of Sunni countries with written constitutions have no specific article that bars a Shi’ite from assuming the office of president, nevertheless the very idea of such a thing happening is unthinkable.

“The discriminatory practices against non-Muslims are actually very grave. Usually, all non-Muslims are regarded as Kuffar. They may be either followers of revealed religions such as Christianity and Judaism, (with Zoroastrianism added by some Fuqaha 2), or simply heathens. The difference between them is that the former are allowed to pay the Jizya tax, thus gaining the freedom to remain in their own religion, while the heathens have only one choice: either convert to Islam, or have your neck cut off! One must add here, for the sake of objectivity, that such an awful rule was seldom put into practice, even though the sacred text was very clear that this was the proper punishment! There were quite a few differences within the Four Sunni Schools for the interpretation of the Shari’ah Law whether followers of non-revealed religions (heathens,) may pay the Jizya tax, and thus avoid Islamizing.

“All non-Muslims living within Islamic societies are thoroughly marginalized. After all, the sacred text requires the killing of the Mushrikeen 3, wherever they may be found. See, Qur’an, Surat al-Tawbah #9 (Repentance) ayat 5 and 29.

When the sacred months are over, slay the pagans wherever you find them. Capture, besiege, and ambush them. If they repent, perform prayers and pay the religious tax, set them free. God is All-forgiving and All-merciful (9:5)

Fight against those People of the Book who have no faith in God or the Day of Judgment, who do not consider unlawful what God and His Messenger have made unlawful, and who do not believe in the true religion, until they humbly pay tax with their own hands. (9:29)

“It is clear that these verses do require fighting those who do not believe in Allah, or the Last Day, and forbid what Allah and His Prophet have forbidden, and do not practice the true religion, even though they are the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), and they must pay the Jizya with an attitude of abject humility!

“Regardless of what the constitutions of Arab and Islamic countries may clearly state regarding nondiscrimination and equality between all their citizens, it is a well-known fact that non-Muslims are regarded with suspicion, and treated as second-class or third-class citizens. The testimony of a non-Muslim against a Muslim is not admissible in a court of law. When a Kafir kills a Muslim, he will surely be punished with the death penalty; whereas if a Muslim murders a Kafir, the Muslim is not liable to the death penalty, according to the Hadith of Bukhari. It is well-known that a non-Muslim may not marry a Muslim woman. Some authoritative texts command that Muslims may not greet Jews or Christians. And should a non-Muslim greet a Muslim, the latter may ‘take back’ (reject) that greeting. And when a Muslim meets a Jew or a Christian on the road, he should make it hard for them to proceed easily on their way.

“When it comes to the Jizya tax that Muslims are to impose on non-Muslims, it constitutes a very complicated matter in the relations between the two groups. At present, it is not applied in any Muslim society, even though the consensus of the Fuqaha is that it must be paid to spare the lives of the Kuffar, or merely to allow them to live within Daru’l Islam. Some even claim that the Jizya is a punishment laid on the Kuffar for their refusal to accept Islam. As Ibn al-Qayyim put it: ‘The Jizya is placed on the heads of the Kuffar to humiliate and debase them, making them feel inferior.’ 4.

“While Islam was tolerant with the People of the Book in allowing them to practice their faith, nevertheless it placed upon them some severe restrictions such as forbidding showing the Cross over their churches, or praying and reading their Scriptures in a loud voice.

“Some may say that most of these restrictions are no longer being applied. This is true. However, the very fact that they exist (in the sacred texts of Islam) constitutes a sword placed over the necks of non-Muslims that may go into action any time. This is why it is necessary to strengthen those constitutions and man-made laws (i.e. not based on Shari’a) for the protection of individual freedoms and personal rights against the encroachments of the religious leaders, by forbidding them to interfere in the peoples’ daily lives, in a tyrannical manner.”

Thus far my quotations from the article.

This article appeared on an Arabic website known by the name of “Tanweer,” which is an Arabic word meaning “enlightenment”! The writer shows that he has broken out of the chains that bind so many other Muslims by daring to enlighten his readers with some of the serious flaws in Islamic theology. He was not afraid to show just how intolerant Islam is.

The strength of his words is verified in the history of Islam itself and in its sacred texts. For example, at the very time when Islam was spreading its hegemony, at first in the Arabian Peninsula, and later on in the world at large, the two verses he quoted from the “Repentance” Surah explicitly mandated the killing of non-Muslims. Verse 5 is very clear in the Arabic original, “Faqtulu al-Mushrikeen haythu wajadtumuhom” translated as “kill the Infidels wherever you find them.” Verse 29 of that same chapter, mandates fighting against those who give no credence to the basic teachings of the Qur’an, and refers specifically to “allathena ootu’l Kitab” i.e. those who have been given the Book (which they consider to be Allah’s previous revelations, the Torah, the Zaboor or Psalms, and the Injeel.)

While it is true that these Medinan texts are not being put into practice in many parts of the Islamic world where non-Muslim minorities live, yet they have not been abrogated, and may be used any time a radical Islamic group takes it upon itself to initiate a plan of persecution and murder of non-Muslims.

The writer ended his article by pleading for the strengthening of “those constitutions and man-made laws (i.e. not based on Shari’a) for the protection of individual freedoms and personal rights against the encroachments of religious leaders, by forbidding them to interfere in the peoples’ daily lives, in a tyrannical manner.” However, one has to ask: where in the Arab world can be found those who are willing to declare that man-made constitutions and laws should be considered as more authoritative or normative than the so-called “divinely-inspired” rules and regulations of the Qur’an? Thus, while I appreciate the author for bringing this subject to the attention of the readership of kwtanweer, I have to conclude that his closing sentiments are nothing more than wishful thinking!

1. Several sects and sub-sects arose in Islam after the assassination of Ali. Some Shi’ites believe that it was the Twelfth Imam (descendant of Ali) who went into occultation, and would return to earth to bring justice; others believe that it was the Seventh Imam. Ahmadiyya Muslims follow an Indian Muslim who claimed that he was a Prophet. Ismailis are radical Shi’ites, and so are the Nusayris, and the Druze. Abadiyya are the spiritual descendents of the Khawarej who assassinated Ali in 661 A.D. 
2. Fuqaha, plural of Faqih, a legal authority in Islam, similar to a theologian. 
3. Mushrikeen, all non-Muslims who do not adhere to the strict monotheism of Islam. 
4. Ibn al-Qayyim (1292-1350) was a Syrian Sunni jurist and a commentator on the Qur’an.

http://www.kwtanweer.com/articles/readarticle.php?articleID=2119

Posted in Articles

Ex-Muslims Attracted to Western Secularism

May 05, 2023
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

From my earliest days, I noticed a certain fascination with Western secularism that was exhibited by Arab authors who dealt with modern history. For example, they showed a high regard and admiration for the French Revolution of 1789, notwithstanding the unbelievable bloodshed and turmoil that resulted from it.

During the past century, that attraction has manifested itself specifically in the rapid spread of Marxist ideology throughout the Middle East. In the 1960s, a Muslim professor at the American University of Beirut, Dr. Sadeq Jalal al-Adhm, published, “A Critique of Religious Thought.”(Naqd al-Fikr Al-Deeni.)  This book was critical, not only of the Qur’an, but of all theistic religions. His approach and methodology were thoroughly Marxist. He got into trouble with the Lebanese authorities, but was exonerated from the charge of inciting divisions among the Lebanese religious communities. Al-Adhm stuck tenaciously to his secular ideology. The last sentence in a revised and expanded version of his “Critique” was this: “It is beyond doubt that Dialectical Materialism is the best known attempt to formulate a complete and universal worldview that can be reconciled with the spirit of this age and its sciences. I believe that this is exactly what Jean-Paul Sartre meant when he said: ‘Marxism is the philosophy for our times.’” 

We now have unassailable proof that Marxism has been an utter failure, both ideologically and practically. We need only to read Aleksander Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago” to see that Sartre, Albert Camus, and all their Middle Eastern disciples, were wrong in their prophecies.

Having said that, I don’t want to imply that Western Secularism has ceased to attract Arab and Muslim intellectuals. For example, early in 2006, I came across a relatively new Arabic-language website, www.kwtanweer.com , serving as a forum for dialog among Arab intellectuals who are concerned about tajdeed (renewal), tahdeeth (modernization), and Islah (reformation.) As I glance daily at their contributions, I can’t help but notice how most of them manifest the impact of Western secular worldviews on their thoughts. This is clearly seen by their repeated references to such philosophers as Nietzsche, Kant, Descartes, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

In May 2006, a Syrian Muslim contributed an unusual article to the Tanweer (Enlightenment) site, in which he related his painful spiritual journey that ended with his leaving Islam. Its title was, “From Religion to No Religion: The Confession of a Muslim who has renounced Islam.” 

Here are excerpts from this article, followed by my analysis and comments:

“No one chooses his religion or his beliefs. Religion is similar to the names we bear; they are given to us without our participation in the choice. I was born and grew up in a Muslim society, and within a Muslim family. If I had ever been asked whether I would one day be without any religious commitment, my answer would have been: never!  Like people around me, I believed that Islam was the true and eternal religion.

“And yet, I couldn’t help that, inwardly, I had to contend with many doubts. The more I read Islamic thought, the more my doubts increased. My mind became filled with questions that had no answers. So, I embarked on a spiritual quest for Allah. I convinced myself that all my doubts originated with Satan. It was my duty as a believer, when assailed by doubts and questions, simply to implore Allah for forgiveness, and seek to forget them. However, this method didn’t work; I couldn’t eradicate my doubts. In fact they remained firmly embedded in my mind.

“One day I decided to assume the role of an atheist and engage a group of believers, with arguments that stemmed from unbelief. My real aim was to discover areas of weakness in the position of atheists through such an encounter. I found a group of men at the Shari’ah School that was adjacent to the Law School where I was studying. I set forth my arguments for the position of unbelief. Surprisingly, they were unable to properly handle them.

“My old doubts increased. This led me to read more, and my critique of religion increased. For the first time, I began to read Islam from the standpoint of a critic. Finally I decided to adopt the position of having no allegiance to any religion, which meant my forsaking Islam.

“I believe that it is extremely difficult for a person to be at the same time both religious and rational. The logic of faith forces one to accept teachings as absolute, and that must not be questioned. Thus, you’ll find yourself either forsaking your mind and denying it any function, or continuing on the path of religion. The other choice requires a person to follow the directives of his mind, thus leading him eventually to forsake his religious beliefs.

Analysis

I don’t claim to possess a complete knowledge of the spiritual and intellectual background of this ex-Muslim; but I can surmise that he was not immune from the influences of the modern world upon him. Early in the Twentieth-Century, Syria was already experiencing the impact of Western thought. As a result, Arab nationalism was born. And when the Ottoman Empire collapsed after WWI, nationalism became a powerful factor in the resistance to French colonialism that was imposed on the country by the League of Nations. Eventually Syria gained its independence in 1946. After an attempt to unite with Egypt failed in the early 1960s, successive Syrian regimes claimed attachment to the ideology of Ba’ath Arab Socialism. Then, as a result of the Arabs’ debacle in the Six-Day war of June 1967, the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement

re-appeared as a political force in Syria. It attempted to offer an alternative to the hegemony of Hafedh al-Assad over Syria, but was crushed violently by his military forces in the city of Hama.

Now while some of this young Muslim’s doubts may have originated in his own mind, they could not have been unaffected by the intellectual climate where several competing secular ideologies were at work. This may be noticed in the paragraph where he questioned the compatibility of faith with reason. “It is my conviction that it is extremely difficult for a person to be at the same time both religious and rational. The logic of faith forces one to accept teachings as absolute, and that must not be questioned. Thus, you’ll find yourself either forsaking your mind and denying it any function, or continuing on the path of religion. The other choice requires a person to follow the directives of his mind, thus leading him eventually to forsake his religious beliefs.”

His thesis asserted that no one could be a religious believer, and rational at the same time. However, this claim, in its turn, was based on a presupposition showing his adherence to a secular worldview. As a secularist, he rejected, a priori, all religious beliefs, claiming they are incompatible with reason. But is human reason ever neutral?  

It so happens that this ex-Muslim, ever since his leaving Islam, has been very busy in spreading his ideas on other Arabic-language web sites, one operated by a group of Arab intellectuals advocating “irreligion,” or “no-religious faith,” (la-Deen, in Arabic). They are waging a secular da’wa that finds in the Internet, a safe and convenient forum for their defence of atheism. The many titles of his contributions (all in Arabic) indicate that, now that he has made his decisive choice for “la-Deen,” he must go on as an ardent da’iya (missionary), proclaiming and defending his new found secular faith!

Thus far my analysis. Here are my comments.

When reflecting on the attraction that Western secular worldviews have had for Arab and Muslim intellectuals, I’ve often asked myself, is there “a common denominator” between Islam and secularism? This question may appear rather preposterous! What commonality can exist between a deeply religious worldview such as Islam exhibits, and the variety of secular worldviews that have appeared in the West for the last several centuries?

The answer is that there exists a common thread between Islam and secular worldviews. It lies in the doctrine of man. To put it theologically, it is found in the area of anthropology. Both Islam and Western secularism teach the inherent goodness of man. While the Qur’an acknowledges the historicity of Adam’s fall, it does not teach a doctrine of Original Sin. In fact, the Islamic teaching about the condition of man is not that much different from the views of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the “fathers” of Western secularism. He wrote: «L’homme est naturellement bon, mais la société a corrompu cette bonté. »  Man is naturally good, but it is society that has corrupted this goodness.”

At this point, I quote from Chapter Six of my book, The Bible and Islam, where I dealt with the Islamic doctrine of man.

“In 1957, a group of Muslim and Roman Catholic scholars met in a monastery at Toumliline, a small Berber town near Meknes, in Morocco. One of the main speakers was Dr. Uthman Yahya, a scholar from Al-Azhar University (Seminary) in Cairo, Egypt. “The title of his paper was: "Man and His Perfection in Muslim Theology”. These are some excerpts from an English translation published by the quarterly journal, THE MUSLIM WORLD, Volume 49, No. 1, January 1959:

“The Qur’an confronts us with man in two distinct states: the first in his original constitution, the prototype created in the image of God, the second man in his actual condition. In the primordial state man was created in entire harmony. He was perfectly constituted. The Qur’an gives us this description: "We created man in the most noble form” As contrasted with his ideal prototype man in his actual state is feeble (Surah 4:28), despairing (11:9), unjust (14:34), quarrelsome (16:4), tyrannical (96:6), lost (105:2), etc. It is true that Muslim theology does not speak of original sin and of its transmission from generation to generation. But we see clearly in the light of these quotations that there are two distinct states of man: that of his original nature and that of his actual fall ... The possibility of man's deliverance and the way to follow have been indicated by the Qur’an in its address to sinners, fathers of the human race: "Go forth all of you from hence and if there comes to you guidance from Me then he who follows my guidance shall have nothing to fear, nor shall they know distress” ( 2:38) By this solemn affirmation God Himself takes action (entre en acte) for the salvation of man in the path of right. Islamic tradition then has the means to lead man to final perfection, the effect of which is liberation from the fear and from the sadness that prevent man from attaining that eternal blessedness which is life in God and for God.”

In commenting on the paper of Dr. Yahya, the editor of The Muslim World wrote:

“Dr. Yahya’s exposition of Muslim theology and its concepts of man and his salvation raise several deep questions. The Christian must always be perplexed about its ready confidence that 'to know is to do,' that man’s salvation happens under purely revelatory auspices and that through the law given in the Divine communication is the path that man will follow once he knows and sees it. The whole mystery of human recalcitrance and ‘hardness of heart’ seems to be overlooked.” [Emphasis is mine] 
 

The similarity between the anthropology of Islam and that advocated by Western secularism is striking. It causes Muslims to be attracted to Western secular teachings about man and his present condition. So that when they are assailed by religious doubts, due to their encounter with Western secularism, they can move more easily from “Deen” to the new-found “la-Deen.” In either commitment, they don’t have to basically change their anthropology. Of course, the fundamental difference between Islam and secularism remains; the first proclaims a supernatural worldview, while the other advocates a purely this worldly-view.

The phenomenon of Muslims becoming ex-Muslims and promoting their new-found secular faith presents the Christian with serious challenges.

First, it is obvious that when Muslims forsake their religious tradition and become non-religious persons, it implies that they have not sought or considered the alternative, i.e. moving from Islam (a heavenly religion, in their parlance) to Christianity, another heavenly religion. One reason for that is that Western secularism has been greatly at work spreading its worldview ever since the end of the Eighteenth-Century. When Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798, he came not only with a military force, but was accompanied by scientists, archeologists and other tokens of Western civilization. Middle Easterners were dazzled by their presence. They welcomed and absorbed many aspects of Western culture after they were stripped of any Christian meaning or connection. For their part, during their imperialist presence, neither the French, nor the British, had other ambitions than to expand and defend their colonial interests. They did not seek to promote Christianity, for that would have gravely disturbed the status quo of Mideastern societies.

So, Arab intellectuals, when absorbing various aspects of Western secular views, heartily welcomed the notion of the inherent goodness or neutrality of man. And when things turned sour for them in their elaboration and application of their political plans, they could always blame the colonialists, or the local autocratic rulers. They never considered that the real problem resided fundamentally within the fallen nature of man.

Taking the above into consideration, we may point to the urgent challenge that faces the Christian nowadays, namely to present the Biblical view of man, and the divine remedy for reclaiming man from his fallen condition. In the past, it was very difficult to communicate this Biblical diagnosis, coupled with the claims of Jesus Christ to the followers of Islam. In fact, one of the last essays that Samuel Zwemer wrote on this subject was entitled, “The Glory of the Impossible.” Not long after he penned that tract, Christian radio came in as a wonderful tool for the spread the Christian message in the Muslim World. I had the privilege of being on the air for thirty-six years, broadcasting daily the message of the Word of God in Arabic to the peoples of North Africa and the Middle East. It was not a one-way ministry, as a great amount of response came to these daily messages. The letters received from Muslims indicated a thirst and an eagerness to learn more about the Kitab (the Bible,) its contents, and its basic message.

There are also Christian organizations that use satellite television to spread the knowledge of the Gospel among Muslims. We give thanks to God for all these wonderful means. One of the latest advances in communication is the Internet and its use for spreading the message of the Bible among the followers of Islam. The benefits of the Internet are enormous and can hardly be fully gauged. One of its greatest advantages is that the Gospel becomes present and available to anyone who has access to the Internet, and at anytime that is convenient to the seeker.

Let me give an example. After my retirement from my radio and literature ministry in 1994, a goodly number of my broadcast messages have been placed on a web site that would allow anyone who understands Arabic, to listen to a Bible-based sermon or lesson.

This is its URL: www.audio.arabicbible.com

Furthermore, all the printed materials I produced over the years are also available on a website, not only to read, but also to download and print for further study. The URL for this site is: www.kalimatalhayat.com  (In Arabic it means: Word of Life)

And thanks to the tremendous advances in the capacity of storing digital materials on compact disks, the above-mentioned materials (both audio and in script) are also available on a CD for free distribution. This is very important for those who, while possessing a computer, are unable to access the Internet.

I would like to close by stating that great as these improvements in the means of communications are, the most important factor remains the message. What are the basics of the message that should be made known to Muslims, who are considering leaving Islam?

The basics of the message are found and taught in that Magnum Opus of Paul, his Letter to the Romans. Realizing that the Good News he proclaimed was foolishness to the Rationalists of his days, and an offense to the contemporaneous Legalists, he nevertheless taught and defended the thesis of man’s fallen condition, and the mighty grace of God that saves man from his plight, based on the redemptive work of the Messiah, the Son of God. The Law of God, imprinted on the conscience of man, and clearly revealed in the Ten Commandments, far from being the Savior of man, reveals the utter hopelessness of his condition. Man’s salvation does not happen under purely revelatory auspices, or according to the Utopian schemes of rationalist ideologues.  Man’s salvation occurs when he surrenders to the Messiah who died on the cross, and rose again on the third day. This must be our answer to the questions that are going on in the minds of many Muslims today. What a pity that so many who leave Islam behind imagine that they have found their solace in the arid speculations of Western secularists!

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Why the Copts of Egypt Fear Fridays

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany
Author: Jacob Thomas on Jun 03, 2007

On 17 May, 2007, while glancing at the website of the online daily, Elaph, I noticed a very intriguing title of an article on the plight of the Christian community in Egypt: “Why Do the Copts of Egypt Fear Fridays?” The writer, himself an Egyptian now living in France, gave a realistic explanation that should stir our thoughts, and make us fully aware of the suffering of this brave minority. I share with the readers of FFI excerpts from the article, and follow with my analysis and comments.

“Islamists have taken upon themselves the responsibility to stoke the fires of religious discord and civil strife whenever they had been extinguished. The result is that Egypt becomes the victim, and both Muslims and Christians end up being the losers. It is quite evident that Islamists don’t want the attacks against the Copts to stop.

“The last attack on the Copts took place on Friday, 11 April, 2007, in the village of Behma, of the El-‘Ayat Township, in El-Giza Province. Rumors had spread that Christians were about to make an addition to their church building. Five hundred Islamists gathered, and attacked Christians in their homes and places of business. They shouted Allahu Akbar, as they embarked on their new ghazwa (conquest), resulting in the torching of 27 homes and places of business. They proceeded to loot the contents of the shops, taking all they could find of precious metals and jewelry. After all, why not engage in the plunder, having been assured by the Islamists’ fatwas that the Christians’ possessions were legitimate war booty?! Thankfully, they stopped at that point, and did not take Christian women captives as a prize of their ugly ghazwa; however, many Christians in that village were injured.

Why Afraid of Fridays? 
“When I was in Zurich, Switzerland, attending the “Conference on the Plight of Women and Minorities in the Middle East and North Africa,”* an Egyptian Coptic correspondent told me, ‘We Copts, worry about our own safety and possessions on Fridays, can you tell me why?’ I answered her, ‘Certainly, you must know that the Islamist virus has been spreading in Egypt, in our media, in our educational institutions, and in the Friday sermons at the mosques. Islamists have altered the very nature of the Friday sermons, changing them from messages on religious and moral issues that are meant to ennoble human beings by elevating their souls toward their Creator, and enabling them to become tolerant in their relations with their fellow human beings. On the contrary, the Friday sermons have become lessons in hatred and envy of the ‘Other’ declaring him to be a Kafir, and calling for war against the ‘children of apes and pigs,’ i.e. Christians and Jews. Thus when a Muslim leaves the mosque he has become like a time-bomb, ready to explode on any Christian he encounters on his way. This is why the Friday sermon has become a very dangerous matter.

“I don’t know why we have never seen a Christian, who leaves his church on Sundays, goes ahead and sets fire to a Muslim house, or assaults a Muslim and kills him! I cannot understand why anyone who kills a Copt and burns his possessions nowadays is regarded as mentally ill! Actually, Islamists have succeeded in employing religion for their political goals. In my discussion with a historian of contemporary Egyptian history, he told me, ‘The Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) regard Copts as an easy prey; so whenever the government arrests one of their members, they attack a church, or the Christian population. These acts come to the attention of the world public opinion, causing the Egyptian government to stop persecuting the Ikhwan. In other words, Islamists use the Copts as a means to get their members released from prison!’

“Whenever attacks on Christians take place, the Egyptian police seem to be absent! And when they finally appear at the scene, it is too late. By then the Islamists would have attacked Christians, beaten them, and robbed them of their goods. I remember when I was in Muharram Beik, Alexandria, a Muslim told me, not realizing that I was a writer, that a policeman who guarded a church building told the attackers, ‘go ahead and attack the church, but only from its back door; then, I won’t interfere with your act!’

“The Islamist International**, under the leadership of Yousef al-Qaradawi, Rashed

Al-Ghanoushi, and Fahmi Houweidi, issued fatwas allowing for the murder of women, children, and the unborn, in Israel. But they have been silent about the killing of civilian Muslims in Morocco and Algeria, and equally silent about attacks on our Coptic brothers. These attacks receive the silent assent of the Islamist fuqaha who approve the killing of innocent Muslims and peaceful Christians, as long as the murderers are Islamists like themselves!”

Analysis 
The writer of the article draws the attention of the wide readership of Elaph to this unbelievable state of affairs in Egypt, where Copts fear the advent of every Friday. This sixth day of the week has become the occasion for attacks on their persons, homes and property; almost immediately after the worshippers leave the mosques!
 
Comments 
Many readers may find it difficult to see a connection between worship at a mosque and the destructive acts that follow. Actually, this has become a regular experience of many Christians in Egypt. This is why Copts have come to dread Fridays.

I must confess that I was rather surprised to read these words from the article: “Islamists have altered the very nature of the Friday sermons, changing them from messages on religious and moral issues that are meant to ennoble human beings by elevating their souls toward their Creator, and enabling them to become tolerant in their relations with their fellow human beings.”

The writer manifests an extremely idealistic picture of what a Friday khutba (sermon) should be. I have listened to many sermons broadcast over the airways from Cairo, Riyadh, Rabat, and Damascus. The moral and spiritual elements within a typical Friday khutba are quite often, minimal. Rather, what the khateeb (preacher) proclaims is a list of the past glories of Islam, the ills that have befallen the Islamic world since the beginning of the 20th century, and a call for rallying the forces of Islam to regain their glorious past. Added to that, are the usual imprecations that are hurled against the enemies of Islam with a ferocious intensity!

Should we then be surprised that Muslim worshippers, whether in Cairo, Alexandria, or Karachi, after having listened to a fiery preacher denounce the enemies of Islam, ‘leave the mosque as a time-bomb, ready to explode on any Christian they may encounter on the road?’

*For information about some of the lectures delivered at the Zurich Conference, please consult the following articles posted on the FFI site: “Leaving the Muslim Brotherhood” posted on 14 April, 2007; and “A New Minority in North Africa” posted on 18 May, 2007.

**The Islamist International is a new term, reminiscent of a by-gone organization, “The Comintern,” i.e. (The Third International that was formed in Moscow in 1919); which sought to spread Communism all over the globe. Events in the Islamic world, point to the rise of an Islamist International, grouping jihadist organizations, working together for a global jihad, and the resumption of the futuhat of early Islam. 

http://www.news.faithfreedom.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1327

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On Defining the "Other"

May 05, 2023
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany
Rev. Bassam M. Madany

Historically, Muslims have regarded non-Muslims as Kuffar* i.e. non-believers. Of course other classifications were used, for example, Jews and Christians living within Daru’l Islam, were regarded as Dhimmi**. They enjoyed certain rights within the overall Islamic Shari’a.

In day- to-day relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, the latter have always been looked upon as Kuffar. But due to the presence of non-Muslim workers in Saudi Arabia to help with its economy, some Saudi intellectuals and members of the royal family have called for a redefinition of non-Muslims, regarding them not as “unbelievers” but as the “Others.”

A French online newspaper reported on 23 June, 2005, on the recommendations of the National Dialogue Forum that took place in Saudi Arabia, and which dealt with the topic of a redefinition of the “unbeliever,” by regarding him simply as the “Other.” Here are excerpts from the article:

Several participants at the “National Dialogue Forum” being held at Abha, in Saudi Arabia, called on Wednesday, for a modification of the religious discourse, by adopting a less trenchant vocabulary. Thus, they proposed that the word Kuffar (unbelievers), that is normally used to designate non-Muslims, be replaced, in the media and in the sermons [at the mosques], by the term “the Others.”

Furthermore, they called for “a rejection of that type of education that teaches future generations hatred for ‘the Other.’” The participants at the meeting invited the religious institution to recognize its errors, and to correct them, especially in those areas of proselytizing and justice.

The Forum met again on Wednesday, bringing together around fifty persons, including women, ‘ulemas (religious teachers), and intellectuals. They were to prepare for the fifth round of the National Dialogue Initiative. Their work has thus far insisted on the necessity of “knowing ‘the Other,’ in order to be successful in dialoguing with him.” One lady participant at the Forum, as reported by the daily al-Watan, called attention to the “inequities resulting from the prohibition of the freedom to practice their religions as imposed on foreign residents of Saudi Arabia.” She also called for “respecting these foreigners, dialoguing with them, and authorizing them to freely practice their beliefs.”

[Translation from French is mine: Bassam M. Madany]

 

The reference to the proceedings of the “National Dialogue Initiative or Forum” was not restricted to the Western press, but the daily Arabic online Al-Sharq-al-Awsat in its 24 September, 2005, issue dealt with the proceedings of the conference under this headline: “On Defining ‘the Other’: A Discussion between Two Generations at a Preparatory Session of the National Dialogue Initiative.” While this daily is published in London, it has close connections with Saudi Arabia, and is most likely financed by Saudi sources.

The preparatory meeting took place in Saudi Arabia, where the participants discussed the subject of the Other. The new Arabic term chosen to designate the non-Muslim was

Al-Akhar. First, I would like to quote from the report, and then add my comments.

“On Tuesday, 20 September, 2005, the preparatory meetings of the National Dialogue Initiative that took place at the Meridian Hotel in Jeddah, ended. A large generational gap surfaced at the close of the discussions. It became clear, during the meetings which had lasted for three days that the sixty-three adult participants were looking for an exact and proper definition of “Al-Akhar.” At the same time, seventeen young men and women who participated in a training program, in conjunction with this meeting at Jeddah, had already completed their deliberations, having concluded that their relations with the “Akhar” must have one purpose only, that of calling him or her, to convert to Islam.  

“The specific goal that had been set for these young men and women was to teach them the art of dialogue, and the proper means of communications. They were expected to learn the relation between dialogue and convincing the ‘Other’ of one’s point of view, without alienating him. However, as far as these young people were concerned, only the non-Muslim should be classified as “Al-Akhar,” regardless of where he or she had come from.”  

What a revelation! I have no idea when or why “The National Dialogue Initiative” began in Saudi Arabia. But that several preparatory meetings under its umbrella had already taken place is something to ponder and reflect on. First, it is necessary that these discussions be placed within a historical framework that, for more than a millennium, had defined the relations between Muslims and all types of non-Muslims. Here is a brief summary: 

Soon after the migration of Muhammad to Medina in 622 A.D., a new Islamic vocabulary came into existence. The Meccan believers who migrated to Medina were called, Muhajiroun.  As for those from Medina itself who joined them and acknowledged the mission of the Prophet, they were designated as the Ansar, i.e. the Partisans. At first, the residents of Arabia, who were of the Jewish or Christian faith, remained in their particular religion, but their status as Dhimmis required that they pay the Jizya tax in order to enjoy the “protection” of the Islamic Umma. However, before too long, all Christians and Jews were expelled from Arabia; but a Jewish minority continued to live in Yemen until recent times.  

As the Islamic conquests gathered steam soon after the death of Muhammad in 632, all the conquered peoples of the Middle East, North Africa, and Andalusia (Spain) were treated according to the terms of the emerging Islamic Shari’ah. A Dhimmi had to pay the Jizya, as well as to submit to all the stringent requirements of Dhimmitude. This meant that his status was lower than that of Muslims. Another classification was made that proved to be detrimental to the unity of the growing empire. Non-Arab Muslims were called, Mawalis. Theoretically, they were considered on par with Arab Muslims, but not in practice. That created a tremendous resentment among them, and was a major factor in the violent downfall of the Umayyad Caliphate in 750.  

Eventually, Muslim jurists divided the world into two segments: Daru’l-Islam, (the Household of Islam,) and Daru’l-Harb, (the Household of War.) The latter category included all the areas of the world that had not yet been conquered by Islam. It was legal to conquer such lands, and the means was war.

Up till about 1950, Muslims lived almost exclusively within their realms. So there was no question about what to do with the Other.  Should they happen to be members of the People of the Book, i.e. Jews or Christians, they had the choice of embracing Islam or live under the regime of Dhimmitude. But if they were followers of a pagan religion, there was not much choice, they had to convert or else face persecution, and quite likely death. This happened in India over a long period of time.  

The fact that Saudis are now discussing a new modus vivendi with the Other, indicates that a totally new situation in the history of Islam has surfaced. First, it was precipitated by the discovery of oil in Saudi Arabia. This brought thousands of Others from Europe, America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, to work on Saudi soil. Their presence is essential for the wellbeing of the Kingdom. Add to that, millions of Muslims from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent rushed to work in Western Europe soon after the end of WWII. Such a totally new phenomenon for Islam has initiated some serious discussions among Saudi intellectuals, as they began to realize the full implications of the emerging globalized and inter-dependent world.  

Thus far, I have sketched out the classical Islamic view of non-Muslims. I now return to quote from the article of 24 September 2005:  

“The differences between the two groups did not consist only in their ages, or in the degree of their education. Their real differences consisted in their definitions of the identity of the ‘Other.’ Here it must be mentioned that the theme of dialogue initiative was ‘We and the ‘Other’: Toward a National Vision for Dealing with Western Cultures.’  

“The average age of the academicians, intellectuals, and businessmen and businesswomen who met at the main hall of the Meridian, ranged between the mid-thirties to the mid-forties. As far as they were concerned, the ‘Other’ may belong to various categories; he may be a Bedouin or a city dweller; a Sunni, or a Shi’ite, or a Kafir; a man or a women; a tradionalist or a secularist. In other words in their view, the term ‘Other’ should be understood etymologically. In that sense, it should not carry any baggage other than its literal meaning. At the conclusion of their meetings they arrived at several recommendations.

“In contrast, the ages of the students who participated in the learning sessions and who had come from Saudi secondary schools, ranged between sixteen and eighteen. They defined the Other as a Kafir or Infidel. For them, the term was not understood etymologically, but culturally and religiously. So, as far as they were concerned, the goal for learning the art of dialogue was restricted to da’wa (calling) i.e. inviting the ‘Other” to embrace Islam, the true Pathway of Allah.

The reporter for Al-Sharq al-Awsat emphasized the generational gap that separated the adult participants from the young people who felt no need for a nuanced definition of the Other.

“The young adults arrived at this consensus: there was no reason at all to depart from the age-long outlook that had defined all non-Muslims, as Others. In other words, they saw life in terms of black and white. For example, an eighteen year old student from a school in Mecca who participated in the training sessions said: ‘the Other is anyone who differs from us in religion; so the purpose of our dialogue must simply be to ask him to embrace Islam. We should accomplish that through kind words coupled with an exposition of the principles of the Islamic Shari’ah.’”  

The author of the report went on to explain:

“The third preparatory meeting in Jeddah was related to the coming Fifth National Dialogue Initiative which was scheduled to take place at Abha, in the Province of ‘Asir. As mentioned above, the students did not have the same outlook as the adults who participated in the discussions. Their differences may be the result of two contrasting milieus that surrounded their upbringings: the older generation having grown up within a conservative community. Now, some of them who may have studied or lived overseas would prefer to liberate themselves from the grip of the traditional restrictions that had governed relations with the Other. At the same time, the young generation who grew up in the space-age, and as a reaction to the allurements of modernity believes that the proper way to deal with the subject at hand is to return to the traditions of the past. It is this conviction which leads them to regard all Others as objects of Da’wa, i.e., the duty to invite them to embrace Islam. Unlike the adult intellectuals and business people who have to rub shoulders with many Others, both at home and abroad, these young adults are not the least interested in being accepted by those classified in the Shari’a as Kafirs or Infidels.

The reporter ended his article by asking some crucial questions:  

“Is the next generation in Saudia to entertain the same thought pattern that surfaced among the young adults, namely that dialogue with the Other should take place only  within the restrictions of the Shari’ah? In other words, dialogue for the young students always meant Da’wa. Is there any hope for the thoughts and deliberations of the adult conferees to be taken seriously in the future? For example, is there any room for a new classification of people that would place the Akhar in a neutral category, thus eliminating the stigma of Kafir? In other words, may we expect some changes in the status quo?”  

Thus far, I have allowed the reporter to share with us his musings. It is quite evident that two divergent points of view appeared in this report. One view is rather encouraging; as it indicates that some intellectuals and business people in Saudi Arabia are actually attempting to re-open the door of Ijtihad. They are suggesting the need for a new hermeneutic in the interpretation of the Qur’an, Hadith, and the Shari’ah. However, this door has been closed for around 500 years, and every attempt to re-open it since then, has eventually failed.  

With respect to the projected meeting at Abha, in Saudi Arabia, for the discussion of the Other, may we now entertain the hope for the resumption of Ijtihad in a milieu that has been dominated for decades by the radical Wahhabi school of interpreting the sacred texts? If we take seriously the conclusions of the young adults who participated in their own sessions, the outlook for any basic change vis-à-vis the “Other,” remains dim. I am afraid they represent a major section of Saudi public opinion. I may be wrong in this conclusion, but my study of past attempts at reforming Islam has convinced me that any real change is not on the horizon!

More than two years have passed since the meetings of the National Dialogue Forum took place. As I glance at the headlines of several Arabic-language online dailies, including Al-Sharq al-Awsat, to my dismay, I find nothing more about the topic. Could it be that those who control the media and the intellectual life in Saudi Arabia have decided that it was too risky, at this time, to suggest a new definition of non-Muslims? Certainly the use of “al-Akhar” would have marked a move in the right direction for any genuine dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims in our globalized world.

*Kuffar, the Arabic word for unbelievers; its singular form is Kafir.

**Dhimmi, an Arabic word that designated the status of Jews and Christians living within the Household of Islam, i.e. Daru’l Islam.

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Why Islam Is Different from All Other Faiths

May 05, 2023
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

Most Americans as well as other Western people, assume that Islam is just a religion like any other of the world’s major religions which include Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Shinto. The assertion is almost universally made that “Islam is a peaceful religion,” and anything in Islam that might be termed radical, is only due to the extremists in its midst. Such extremists, or Islamists so-called, have highjacked this “peaceful” faith.

There is one basic fact about Islam that is not taken into consideration in this widely-held view. The world needs to understand that Islam is a synthesis of religion and politics in one indivisible entity. History bears this out for all with eyes to see. More importantly, the synthesis is supported by the authoritative texts of Islam: the Qur’an and the Hadith.

Muhammad claimed that in the year 610 A.D., Allah called him to be a prophet to all mankind. He soon began preaching the Oneness of Allah, and the vanity of idol worship. He claimed to have received “revelations” that “descended” upon him while he lived in Mecca. However, opposition arose from the leaders of that city forcing him to move to Medina in the year 622.

622 A.D. is a most significant date. It marks the first year in the Islamic lunar calendar, known as Anno Hejira, i.e. the Year of the Migration. An activist interpretation of continuing “revelations” was becoming manifest. Muhammad in Medina steadily fostered a distinctively political and juridical course of action. Opposition to him was then seen to be opposition to Allah. Some of the Surahs (Chapters) of the Qur’an sanctioned the use of force in opposing the enemies of the Prophet. And force was used so that by 630, Muhammad had vanquished his enemies, and returned in triumph to Mecca. Thus, before his death in 632, Muhammad had become both a Prophet and Political Leader of the New Community of Believers, known as the Umma.

The history of Islam proves the thesis that Islam is different from all other faiths. Here are the facts:

  1. Several Arab tribes gave their allegiance to Muhammad while he lived, but went back on Islam after he died. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr, waged war against them and forced them back into Islam. In Islamic history, they are known as “Huroob al-Radda,” i.e., the wars against Apostasy.
  2. The expansion of Islam took place by military force. Between 632 and 732, Muslim armies successfully overran the Persian Empire, and took Syria, Egypt, and North Africa from the Byzantine Empire. They were prevented from making even further expansion into Europe at the Battle of Tours/Poitiers that was fought on October 10, 732, between forces under the Frankish leader Charles Martel and a massive invading Islamic army led by Emir Abdul Rahman Al-Ghafiqi. During the battle, the Franks defeated the Islamic army and Emir Abdul Rahman was killed. This battle stopped the northward advance of Islam from the Iberian Peninsula.
  3. It must be noted that all the early and very deadly disputes among Muslims were of a political, and not of a religious nature:
    1. Caliphs Umar and Uthman were assassinated by disgruntled Muslims.
    2. Third Caliph Ali (cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad) had to face an insurrection by the Governor of Damascus, and was murdered by one of his own followers for having accepted arbitration with his opponent.
    3. A new dynastic Caliphate, the Umayyad, came into existence in 661, and made Damascus the capital of the expanding Islamic Empire. Enemies of this Umayyad dynasty brought it to an end, in a blood bath in 750.
    4. The Umayyads were followed by the Abbasid dynasty which moved the capital of the Islamic empire to Baghdad. It was mainly during the Abbasid’s relatively long history that Muslims engaged for a time in discussing theological and juridical subjects.
  4. The Turks took on the mantle of spreading Islam after the fall of Baghdad in the 13th century. They succeeded in expanding the Islamic Empire at the expense of the remnants of the Byzantine Empire. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, and renamed it Istanbul. In 1529, they laid their first siege of Vienna. Then, in 1683 a huge Turkish army under Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa surrounded Vienna. The Ottomans failed for the second time to conquer Vienna, as John III, king of Poland, came to the help of the Austrians. A decade later, the Treaty of Karlowitz cost Turkey Hungary and other territories.
  5. The fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, and the abolishing of the Caliphate in 1924, caused a great crisis in Islamic history. But it did not change the basic beliefs of Islam. Islam remains a religious-political ideology which animates the radicals in the Arab-Muslim world, and gives legitimacy to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda elsewhere.
  6. One little-known by-product of Islamic Jihadism is the continuing struggle between the Algerian government and the radical Islamist group, FIS (Front Islamique de Salut) Islamic Salvation Front. Since 1991, around 200,000 Algerian civilians have been murdered by members of FIS.

These facts of history should make it clear what the true nature of Islam is. To claim that Islam is a peaceful religion evades the real question whether Islam should even be regarded simply as a religion. More appropriately it should be seen as a thoroughly ideological synthesis of religion & politics in one indivisible entity.

The “War on Terror” as declared by President Bush in the aftermath of 11 September, 2001, evaded the true nature of the war. “Terror” is an abstract concept; one cannot fight abstractions. Muhammad Atta & his colleagues attacked vital centers and symbols of America by super-violent means due to their political-religious beliefs. It is unfortunate that political correctness has overtaken political discourse in the United States and the West in general, such that the authorities refuse to see the true identity of the enemy: Islamic Jihadism, which stems from the teachings of the Islamic faith. There is no logical or legitimate reason to keep using the meaningless term, “The War against Terror.” It is as a struggle against Islamist Jihadism! And this particular vision of Islam which is espoused by violent extremists needs to be understood. Is it reformable one might ask? There is reason for some hope. Arabic-language websites, operated by reform-minded intellectuals, denounce Islamism and Islamists as well. They are not afraid to propose far-reaching proposals on how to view certain passages from the Qur’an, particularly those known as the Sword Verses, by suggesting they should no longer be considered normative!

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Learning from the "New" Maghrebi Christians

May 05, 2023
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

During the second half of the 20th century, Evangelicals spent a great deal of time and energy on the subject of contextualization, especially regarding missions to Muslims. At a Caucus on Missions held near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in July 1985, I read a paper on “Neo-Evangelical Missiology and the Christian Mission to Islam.” In my critique of this missiology, I said:

“During the last two decades, some severe criticisms have been levelled at the missionary work which has been undertaken since the days of William Carey. We are told by these critics, for example, that missions among Muslims have been a failure. Most of the missionaries of the past, so the critics say, were not good at ‘cross-cultural communication.’ This happened because missionaries failed to ‘contextualize’ the Christian message.” www.www.unashamedofthegospel.org/rethinking_missions_today.cfm 

In order to correct the “mistakes” of the past, some Evangelicals proceeded further in their efforts to contextualize the Gospel among Muslims, guided by Cultural Anthropology and secular theories of communications. Without going into the history of the various stages of contextualization, by the time the 21st century had arrived, the latest genre of contextualization, as propounded by the “Insider Movement,” has made considerable inroads into various missionary organizations, claiming to offer the ideal and successful approach for the evangelization of Muslims.

The majority of the advocates of the “Insider Movement” come from Western Evangelical circles that, unlike the pioneer missionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries, do not seem to be adequately versed in Islamic languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, or Malay. This is not to belittle their scholarship, but to indicate that their work suffers from a lack of acquaintance with what present-day Muslim intellectuals are writing on religious topics in general, and on the emergence of an indigenous Christian Church in the Maghreb (Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco.)

Thanks to the Internet, it has become possible to study materials on this new phenomenon by consulting Arabic-language reformist websites. If we embark on a serious research in this area, we come across a subject that is being discussed in Maghrebi and European circles, namely the “Phenomenon of the New Maghrebi Christians.”

(Dhahirat al-Masihiyyeen al-Judod fi Dual al-Maghreb al-‘Arabi)

It would be uncharitable, if we ignore or dismiss the testimonies of our Maghrebi brothers and sisters in our discussions of missions to Muslims in the 21st century. After all, they are the ones who have made the journey from Islam to Christianity at a great cost. It is only reasonable to listen to the accounts of their conversion, and the way they have expressed their new life in Christ, by joining or organizing, national congregations of Masihiyyeen (Christians.)

I would like to share my study of this phenomenon, and learn from the “New Maghrebi Christians” how they have arrived at a totally different paradigm of missions to Muslims, than the one offered by the “Insider Movement.”

It was around four years ago, that I came across the term “Masihiyyoo al-Maghreb” (The Christians of North Africa,) in the Arab media. That indicated the presence of a considerable number of North African Muslims who have embraced the Christian faith. In March 2007, a conference was convened in Zurich, Switzerland, by “Copts United,” under the leadership of an Egyptian Christian engineer named Adli Yousef Abadir, and chaired by Dr. Shaker al-Nabulsi, a Jordanian Muslim intellectual. The theme of the conference was “The Defense of Minorities and Women.” The Arabic online daily Elaph reported on the proceedings of the conference.

One of the lectures was entitled “The Christians of the Maghreb under the Rule of Islamists,” where it must be noted that the Maghrebi converts to Christianity were called, “Masihiyyoo al-Maghreb” and not “followers of ‘Issa,” the way the Insider Movement likes to refer to converts from Islam.

Another term referred to them as “Al-Masihyyoon al-Judod” i.e. the New Christians of the Arab Maghreb:  
 

Here are translated excerpts from that lecture delivered in 2007, at the Zurich Conference:

“The New Christians’ phenomenon throughout the Arab Maghreb has come to the attention of the media. For example, the weekly journal, Jeune Afrique, devoted three reports on this subject with respect to Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. In March 2005, the French daily Le Monde devoted a complete report about this topic. And Al-‘Arabiyya TV channel telecast two reports on the subject that had been recorded in the Kabyle district of Algeria.

Jeune Afrique estimated that the number of people who have embraced Christianity in Tunisia was around 500, belonging to three churches. A report on the website of “Al-Islam al-Yawm” prepared by Lidriss el-Kenbouri, and dated 23 April 2005, estimated the number of European evangelists in Morocco was around 800, and that quite often, their evangelistic efforts were successful. The report further added that around 1,000 Moroccans had left Islam during 2004. The magazine “Al-Majalla,” in its No. 1394 issue, claimed that the number of New Christians in Morocco was around 7,000; perhaps the exact number may have been as high as 30,000.

“The report that appeared in the French daily Le Monde claimed that during 1992, between 4,000 and 6,000 Algerians embraced Christianity in the Kabyle region of Algeria. By now, their numbers may be in the tens of thousands. However, the authorities are mum about this subject, as an Algerian government official put it; ‘the number of those who embraced Christianity is a state secret.’”

“When we enquired from those who had come over to the Christian faith to learn about the factors that led to their conversion, they mentioned several factors, among them was ‘The violence of the fundamentalist Islamist movements.’ A Christian evangelist working in Algeria reported: ‘These terrible events shocked people greatly. It proved that Islam was capable of unleashing all that terror, and those horrific massacres! Even children were not spared during the uprising of the Islamists! Women were raped! Many people began to ask: Where is Allah? Some Algerians committed suicide! Others lost their minds; others became atheists, and still others chose the Messiah!’”

“Quite often, the ‘New Christians’ testified to the fact that what they discovered in their new faith was love; it formed another factor in their conversion. These are some of their words: ‘We found out that in Christianity, God is love.’ ‘God loves all people.’ ‘What attracted us to Christianity is its teaching that God is love.’”

It is quite evident that the testimonies of these new Maghrebi Christians are extremely important. The Christian message came to them through various means, but it struck them as a word of a loving God in search for His lost sheep. They embraced the Messiah who died on the cross, and rose again for their justification. Notwithstanding all the difficulties they faced, they clung to the Biblical Injil that had brought them peace with God, and the gift of eternal life.

The link to this Arabic-language report is: http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/ElaphWriter/2007/4/225336.htm

Almost two years after the Zurich Conference that dealt with the plight of Maghrebi Christians should the Islamists succeed in taking over the reigns of government I read the following report posted on 22 January, 2009, on the Arabic-language Aafaq (Horizons) website. It detailed the news of young Algerians who have converted to Christianity because they had become disaffected with Islam. Here are excerpts from the report datelined Algiers:

“Some Amazigh websites have disclosed that many Algerian young people have left Islam and adopted Christianity. They confessed that they did so due to the ugliness of the crimes perpetrated by the Salafist ‘Da’wa and Combat Movement’ against civilians. They were tremendously disappointed and disenchanted with Islam, claiming that it was responsible for nurturing these Jihadists who have been terrorizing and murdering innocent people.

“The website noted that the spread of Christianity in Algeria has even reached areas that were entirely under the influence of the Islamists, such as in eastern Algeria. Furthermore, the Christian expansion in the country was not due exclusively to missionary organizations, as certain Islamic groups claim. The reason is to be found in Islam itself. It has been associated in the minds of the youth with Irhab, assassinations, and crimes against innocent people. They remember that many of the crimes were committed during the 1990s, and occurred in distant villages of Algeria when young women were abducted, taken to the mountains as “captives,” gang-raped, and then killed by having their throats slit. Such horrific scenes took place in Algeria over several years and resulted in the very word “Islamic” becoming synonymous with Irhab!

“The report added that in Islam a woman is regarded as an enemy that must be fought with all means. She must be punished for the simplest mistake, while men go unpunished when they commit similar misdeeds. Thus, a woman is held responsible for the simplest act, and is liable to be put to death, since she is by nature a “Shaytana” i.e. a female Satan. This seriously misguided and misogynist view of women causes young men to worry about their own sisters, and be anxious about their future daughters as well.

“It went on to explain that the Irhabis who committed those awful crimes against women held to a view of Islam that took for granted that discrimination between the sexes is normal. They believed in the notion that the bed is the sole reason for a woman’s existence. In northern Algeria alone, 5,000 women were raped. This Amazigh source regards these radicals as ‘Allah’s guards on earth’ who refuse to act as civilized human beings.”

The website ended its comments on the alienation of Algerian youth by stating “that as long as Islam is unable to get out of its closed circle, and evolve according to the requirements of a civil society that is open to love, tolerance, and coexistence with others; it will continue to alienate more young people.”

In the Providence of God it has transpired that the despicable actions of the Irhabis in the bloody and dark decade of the 1990s have contributed to more than 20,000 Algerians converting to the Christian faith.

Reporting on the same topic of conversions to Christianity that are taking place in Algeria, on 24 April, 2009, the Aafaq website posted an article, with this headline:  
Religious Leaders in Algeria Are Demanding the Punishment of the Apostates.

Here is my translation of the news item: 

“An Algerian policeman and his daughter have made a public confession that they have embraced Christianity. The policeman’s announcement precipitated a tremendous amount of discussion and argument in Algeria, causing the religious authorities to demand that the police department dismiss him from his position since his actions proved him to be an Apostate, a Murtad

“The policemen declared to the Algerian newspaper al-Nahar that his previous life as a Muslim was filled with anxieties and the absence of peace of mind. He added that the radical Islamist movements that had massacred women and children caused him to become fearful of Islam which he held responsible for the bloodshed. His life was caught up in a deep struggle that eventually led him to embrace Christianity, that according to him, ‘has given me peace of mind.’ 

“As to the daughter of the policeman, she explained that the reason she embraced Christianity was due to her feeling that Islam treated women as maids and concubines, only to be sexually exploited by men. Muslim men regard women only from a physical point of view. Now, having embraced Christianity, she began to feel as a dignified human being. Her decision was final, and she didn’t regret it at all. 

“The Algerian religious authority reacted swiftly by declaring that Irtidad (Apostasy) is tantamount to becoming a Kafir (Unbeliever,) and thus becomes subject to capital punishment unless an apostate repents by returning to Islam. It is estimated that there are around 10,000 Christians, most of whom live in the Kabyle district of Tizi Ouzou. Some unofficial sources claim that the number of Christians in Algeria is more than 100,000; they are to be found all over the country, especially in the west of Algeria around Oran and Mostaganem, most of these converts are young men and women. They claim that the reason that prompted them to embrace Christianity was Islam’s responsibility for murder, terror, and rape, as perpetrated by the Islamist groups who, in 1992 started their Jihad against civilians with the hope of getting closer to Allah!”

It is noteworthy that both the policeman and his daughter openly confessed that they had embraced Christianity, using the Arabic word al-Masihiyya and not another Arabic term such as the Qur’anic “Nasraniyya.” The word Masihiyya is used by Arabic-speaking Christians throughout the Middle East. To embrace Christianity and publicly announce it is a courageous act of the “New Maghrebi Christians!”

Finally, I would like to refer to an article by a reformist Algerian intellectual that was posted on 7 July, 2009, on the daily online Al-Awan (Kairos) website. He unmasked the hypocrisy of the Islamic propaganda machine that seeks to paint a rosy picture of the human rights conditions in the “Lands Governed by the Sharia.” He began, with tongue in cheek, to quote a paragraph written in a flowery Arabic style that sang the praises of the superlative tolerance and magnanimity shown to the various religious and ethnic minorities living within Daru’l Islam. Then he proceeded to list certain actions taken by Muslim governments that contradicted the empty claims enumerated in the propaganda piece. I must confess that I was fascinated with his sarcasm and wit which comes through especially forcefully in Arabic!

Here are excerpts from the article.

“We are a tolerant people. With us, there is no ‘compulsion in religion.’ We don’t punish apostates, or force them to return to Islam. Buddhists living among us are free to build their temples. As to our Christian brothers and Jewish cousins, they have all the freedom to build their houses of worship without any hindrance. [Among us] you are as free to change religion as you are to change your shirt. There is true freedom in Daru’l Islam. A Copt is a citizen, and not a dhimmi. A Shi’ite enjoys the same privileges as a Sunni in a Sunni majority land; the same thing obtains for a Sunni living in a Shi’ite majority country. The Ahmadis 1 and the Bahais 2 are well-treated. In fact, all religions are properly treated in our Arab-Muslim world. May Allah protect us from the evil designs and calumnies of the West who are very jealous on account of our blessings, the blessings of justice, peace, and Islam.”

“Now, anyone who takes seriously such propaganda, [referring to the words of the paragraph above] is a fool for believing such lies! The meetings that take place, and the funds that are spent to present Islam as a tolerant religion, are nothing but smoke-screens.

“The facts gleaned from the Islamic world don’t reveal an idealistic and tolerant Islam. How can a genuine spirit of citizenship prosper in the Muslim world, where the Sharia mandates not only discrimination against non-Muslims, but their ultimate elimination?

“Any keen observer of the condition of human rights in the Muslim world is able to dismantle meaningless discourse that seeks to present to the world an idealistic Islam. Such an observer cannot but take note of the total lack of individual freedoms and human rights in all those countries where their laws are based on Sharia, and not on human reason.

“It is necessary to dismantle the very structures of Islamist discourse based, as we know, on purely verbal formulations and vapid eloquence. Doing so would reveal the true nature of that miserable and imagined “glorious Islamic past,” a past that the Islamists are trying to resurrect, which can only mean that entire Muslim societies will continue to remain underdeveloped!

“Let us observe realistically the present state of affairs in the Arab-Islamic world so that we may not be duped by the empty claims of the Islamists. Where is that vaunted justice when a young Algerian woman is brought to trial, simply because she chose to embrace Christianity in a country with a constitution that guarantees freedom of belief? The Algerian Government claims that there is a widespread evangelization movement taking place in the country. But what exactly is the problem with that? Should the State be responsible for the conscience of its people and their inner convictions? Why do we forbid others to engage in activities which we allow ourselves? What’s the difference between “da’wa” and “tabshir” (evangelism?) And can there be harmony between the Sharia as the basis of legislations and the principle of religious freedom?

“In the final analysis, it is only when we adopt a secular outlook as the basis of our laws that we can arrive at a just solution to the problem of religious, ethnic, and racial minorities who are at present ‘submerged’ in the sea of an intolerant Muslim majority throughout the Arab world.”

This information gleaned from Arabic-language sources on the phenomenon of the “New Maghrebi Christians,” is extremely important. Western Christians are being told by some “missiologists,” that Muslims converting to the Lord Jesus Christ, need not call themselves “Masihiyyeen,” nor stop their former Islamic practices such as attending the Friday services at the mosque, or fasting during Ramadan. This novel “missionary” theory is being offered as a “quick fix” to solve the problem of the paucity of fruits in missions to Muslims.

I risk being regarded as an extremely judgmental person when I describe the Insider’s missiology as a purely Western construct, that manifests a radical discontinuity with the missiology of the great missionaries of the past, from St Francis of Assisi and Raymond Lull in the Middle Ages, down to the days of the pioneers of the 19th and 20th centuries such as Henry Jessup, Cornelius Van Dyck, Eli Smith, Samuel Zwemer, and J. W. Sweetman. As an Eastern Christian who spent most of my life bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the followers of Islam, I find it ironic that the Insider Movement, while intending to be “culturally sensitive”, becomes in the final analysis a rather imperialistic, even hegemonic effort. Yet, this attempt to sell a new genre of missionary theory is being implicitly rejected by those brave New Maghrebi Christians. Both they and those who report about them in the Arab press, use the term “Masihiyyeen,” as a testimony to their solidarity with other Arabic-speaking Christians, and as full members of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” in the words of the Nicene Creed.

It is my fervent hope that we pay more attention to the Biblical directives on missions, at the very time when they are being undermined by the advocates of the Insider Movement. We should never forget that notwithstanding the Jewish and Gentile outright rejection of the gospel of the cross, Paul did not hesitate to proclaim it. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but for us who are being saved, it is the power of God, (dunamis Theou estin.)” (I Corinthians 1:18) The basis of our salvation is the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ; and its instrumental means is the kerygma, i.e., the Word of the Cross, whether it is formally preached by a minister of the Gospel, or given as a marturia (testimony) by a Christian.

Paul expanded on this basic missionary doctrine in verse 21: “For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, it pleased God, through the foolishness of the preached message (kerygmatos) to save those who believe.”

Indeed, I cannot hide my joy when I hear news about the rebirth of the Christian Church in North Africa. I praise God for the boldness of these new Maghrebi Christians who are not ashamed of the Cross of their Savior, but place its symbol in the humble meeting rooms where they worship Him. They show in a concrete manner that they are “unashamed of the Injeel,” since it is the power of God that they had experienced in their own lives when He enabled them to leave Islam, and join the great company of the Masihiyyeen (Christians). He will also preserve them should the Islamist forces manage to take over the lands of the Maghreb.

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Algerians Alienated from Islam Are Turning to Christ

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Algerians Alienated from Islam 
Are Turning to Christ 
By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

 

When recounting the history of the early Islamic Futuhat, I get tears in my eyes as I reflect on the disappearance of the Christian Church in North Africa. This tragedy took place in a part of the world that, prior to the rise of Islam, had made significant contributions to the historic Christian Faith. One of the greatest North Africans was Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430). All Christian traditions know what an important role he played in the formation of the seminal Church doctrines that constitute Christianity. His legacy contributed in an important way to the rise of the Protestant Reformation.

During the 19th century, Protestant missionaries went to Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, and sought to re-plant the Gospel in those countries after many years of Islamic hegemony over the land and people. The opposition to their work was great, and the few converts who came to experience liberation from Islam endured great persecutions when their conversions became public.

During my 36 years of radio missions to the Arabic-speaking world (1958-1994), I developed a special interest in the growing number of North African listeners who corresponded with Saatu’l Islah (Reformation Hour) requesting the Bible-based literature we offered. I will never forget those letters from Algeria in the early 1960s, written by members of the FLN (the French acronym for Front de la Liberation Nationale.) Those correspondents were involved in the war against France, which had colonized their country since the middle of the 19th century.

Over the years, I mailed thousands of Arabic books and tracts to my North African listeners acquainting them with the claims of the Biblical Messiah. I remember one listener who, upon receiving my book Freedom in Christ, spent two weeks in prison after being charged with communicating with a “subversive” organization!

So it was with great pleasure that I read about two years ago on Elaph, an Arabic online daily, the text of a lecture delivered at a Conference held at Zurich, Switzerland, on The Plight of Women and Minorities in the Middle East and North Africa, (24-26 March, 2007.) The title of one lecture was: The Christians of the Maghreb under the Rule of Islamists. http://www.elaph.com/ElaphWeb/ElaphWriter/2007/4/225336.htm

I quote some pertinent parts to illustrate the wonderful news that the Christian Church is being re-established in that important region of Africa.

The New Christians’ phenomenon throughout the Arab Maghreb has come to the attention of the media. For example, the weekly journal, Jeune Afrique, devoted three reports on this subject with respect to Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. In March 2005, the French daily Le Monde devoted a complete report about this topic. And Al-‘Arabiyya TV channel telecast two reports on the subject that had been recorded in the Kabyle district of Algeria.

Jeune Afrique estimated that the number of people who have embraced Christianity in Tunisia was around 500, belonging to three churches. A report on the website of “Al-Islam al-Yawm” prepared by Lidriss el-Kenbouri, and dated 23 April 2005, estimated the number of European evangelists in Morocco to be around 800, and that quite often, their evangelistic efforts are successful. The report further added that around 1,000 Moroccans had left Islam during 2004. The magazine “Al-Majalla”, in its No. 1394 issue, claimed that the number of New Christians in Morocco was around 7,000; perhaps the exact number may be as high as 30,000.

“The report that appeared in the French daily Le Monde claimed that during 1992, between 4,000 and 6,000 Algerians embraced Christianity in the Kabyle region of Algeria. By now, their numbers may be in the tens of thousands. However, the authorities are mum about this subject, as an Algerian government official put it; ‘the number of those who embraced Christianity is a state secret.’”

The paper mentioned several important factors that led people to convert to Christianity:

“When we enquired from those who had come over to the Christian faith to learn about the factors that led to their conversion, they mentioned several factors, among them was ‘The violence of the fundamentalist Islamist movements.’ A Christian evangelist working in Algeria reported: ‘These terrible events shocked people greatly. It proved that Islam was capable of unleashing all that terror, and those horrific massacres! Even children were not spared during the uprising of the Islamists! Women were raped! Many people began to ask: Where is Allah? Some Algerians committed suicide! Others lost their minds; others became atheists, and still others chose the Messiah!’”

“Quite often, the ‘New Christians’ testified to the fact that what they discovered in their new faith was love; it formed another factor in their conversion. These are some of their words: ‘We found out that in Christianity, God is love.’ ‘God loves all people.’ ‘What attracted us to Christianity is its teaching that God is love.’”

The testimonies of these new Maghrebi Christians are heartwarming. The Christian message came to them through various means, but it struck them as a word of a loving God in search for His lost sheep. They embraced the Messiah who died on the cross, and rose again for their justification. Notwithstanding all the difficulties that they were to face in the future, they clung to the Biblical Injil that had brought them peace with God, and the gift of eternal life.

Almost two years after the Zurich Conference that dealt with the plight of Maghrebi Christians, I was overjoyed to read the following report posted on 22 January, 2009, on the Arabic-language Aafaq (Horizons) website. It detailed the news of young Algerians who have converted to Christianity as they became ever more alienated from Islam. Here are excerpts from the report datelined Algiers:

“Some Amazigh .1 websites have disclosed that many Algerian young people have left Islam and adopted Christianity. They confessed that they did so due to the ugliness of the crimes perpetrated by the Salafist ‘Da’wa and Combat Movement’ against civilians. They were tremendously disappointed and disenchanted with Islam, claiming that it was responsible for nurturing these Jihadists who have been terrorizing and murdering innocent people.

“The website noted that the spread of Christianity in Algeria has even reached areas that were entirely under the influence of the Islamists, such as in eastern Algeria. Furthermore, the Christian expansion in the country was not due exclusively to missionary organizations, as certain Islamic groups claim. The reason is to be found in Islam itself. It has been associated in the minds of the youth with Irhab, assassinations, and crimes against innocent people. They remember that many of the crimes were committed during the 1990s, and occurred in distant villages of Algeria when young women were abducted, taken to the mountains as “captives,” gang-raped, and then killed by having their throats slit. Such horrific scenes took place in Algeria over several years and resulted in the very word “Islamic” becoming synonymous with Irhab!

“The report added that in Islam a woman is regarded as an enemy that must be fought with all means. She must be punished for the simplest mistake, while men go unpunished when they commit similar misdeeds. Thus, a woman is held responsible for the simplest act, and is liable to be put to death, since she is by nature a “Shaytana” i.e. a female Satan. This seriously misguided and misogynist view of women causes young men to worry about their own sisters, and be anxious about their future daughters as well.

“It went on to explain that the Irhabis who committed those awful crimes against women held to a view of Islam that took for granted that discrimination between the sexes is normal. They believe in the notion that the bed is the sole reason for a woman’s existence. In northern Algeria alone, 5,000 women were raped. This Amazigh source regards these radicals as ‘Allah’s guards on earth’ who refuse to act as civilized human beings.

“The website ended its comments on the alienation of Algerian youth by stating that as long as Islam is unable to get out of its closed circle, and evolve according to the requirements of a civil society that is open to love, tolerance, and coexistence with others; it will continue to alienate more young people. Ultimately, it is the actions of the Irhabis that have been responsible for the Christianization of more than 20,000 Algerians during the bloody and dark decade of the 1990s.”

I was thrilled by this piece of news, especially because it appeared on a widely-read Arabic-language site. Within 5 days (by 27 January) 17 comments were posted on the aafaq website. Five demanded that the Sharia Law of Apostasy should be applied to the converts; and should they refuse to revert to Islam, they must be put to death.

A few comments claimed that Islam was not responsible for the acts of the Islamists. Two comments quoted from the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers…” Other comments criticized severely those who asked for the murder of the apostates.

We need to learn more about the growth of the Church in North Africa since the Western media show little interest in the spread of the Gospel in Daru’l Islam. Furthermore, this information is extremely important to Western Christians who are being told by some experts on missions, known nowadays as “missiologists,” that Muslims converting to the Lord Jesus Christ, need not stop their former Islamic practices such as attending the Friday services at the mosque, or fasting during Ramadan.

This novel “missionary” theory is known as the “Insider Movement.” It is being offered enthusiastically by some Evangelicals as a “quick fix” to solve the problem of the paucity of fruits in missions to Muslims.

Actually, it is a serious departure from the Biblical teachings for missions in this New Testament era. As a European Evangelical colleague described this movement, “I think this is a horrible heresy into which many missionaries and even churches are getting.

It is my fervent hope that we pay more attention to the Biblical directives on missions, especially those of Saint Paul. For notwithstanding the Jewish and Gentile outright rejection of the gospel of the cross, Paul did not hesitate to proclaim in I Corinthians 1:18: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but for us who are being saved, it is the power of God, (dunamis Theou estin.)” The basis of our salvation is the person and redemptive work of Jesus Christ; and its instrumental means is the kerygma, i.e., the Word of the Cross, whether it is formally preached by a minister of the Gospel, or given as a marturia (testimony) by a Christian. Paul expanded on this basic missionary doctrine in verse 21: “For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know Him, it pleased God, through the foolishness of the preached message (kerygmatos) to save those who believe.”

Indeed, I cannot hide my joy when I hear news about the rebirth of the Christian Church in North Africa. I praise God for the boldness of these new Amazigh Christians who are not ashamed of the Cross of their Savior, but place its symbol in the humble meeting room where they worship Him. I am mostly thankful that their example is a loud rebuke and rebuttal to the claims of those Western Christians who are peddling their unbiblical theories of missions, and thus departing from twenty centuries of missionary principles and practices.

1. Amazigh is the name preferred by the original people of North Africa. The Arab invaders called them Berber. During the French colonial era, their region in Algeria was known as the Kabyle, a word derived from the Arabic, ‘Qabila,’ a tribe. After independence, non-Arab Algerians began to use their ancient name, ‘Amazigh.’ It is especially among them that Christianity is spreading nowadays. There is growing awareness of the fact that their ancestors were Christian, prior to the Islamic invasions of the 7th and 8th centuries A.D.

To read the Arabic text of the article from Algiers, please go to: 
http://www.aafaq.org/print.aspx?id_print=7858

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The Desperate Plight of Iraqi Christians

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Several factors have contributed to the world’s neglect of the condition of Iraqi Christians. The Iraqi government for instance has recently been preoccupied with other matters, one being negotiating the terms of a treaty with the United States which attempts to resolve the issues surrounding the presence of United States military forces in the country. Another factor is the truism that people in general have trouble seeing beyond their own interests. Spectacular events do tend to get their attention especially when the media cover them 24/7. Such was the case with the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai, Another reason for the scant attention given to the suffering Christians of Iraq is that few people in America or other Western democracies care much about the issue. The United States has recently gone through an interminably long presidential election cycle which overshadowed most other world events. A serious economic downturn has occurred which is affecting everyone. And now there is another shocking scandal surrounding the Illinois Governor dominating the news. Sadly, the plight of Iraqi Christians is low on the radar screen of the self-absorbed world community. Yet, one can be thankful that not all have forgotten the newly dispossessed Eastern Christians. Christians around the world are becoming increasingly concerned and trying to do something about it.

To draw attention to the plight of Iraqi Christians at this particular time does not imply that persecution is a new phenomenon for Eastern Christians. Ever since the invasion of the Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and North Africa by Arab-Islamic forces, the condition of the native Christian and Jewish populations has been very precarious. The Islamic invaders instituted Shari’a Law in the lands they conquered and the followers of Christianity and Judaism were subjected to draconian measures meant to “humble” them, and restrict their religious and civil freedoms. So the problem for Christians living under Islam has been present for 1400 years. But now in the 21st century, with the marvels and speed of world-wide communication, especially the Internet, more people are becoming aware of the persecution of Christians in the Arab world, and specifically in Iraq.

On Friday November 14, the daily online Internet site Elaph published an article with this title, The Responsibility of the International Community for the Fate of Iraqi Christians. Included here is a translation of the entire text, followed with my comments.

“The world stands helpless as it witnesses the unfolding of another bloody chapter in the ‘Tragedy of Eastern Christians.’ This time, it involves the Christians of Iraq, most of whom are Chaldean Assyrians, the original inhabitants of the country. They are the victims of organized campaigns of ethnic-religious cleansing in their historic homeland. To date, thousands of Christians have been murdered, and more than 250,000 have been forced to seek refuge outside Iraq.

“Just as in all of the previous blood-drenched chapters that began around a century ago during the colonialism of the Ottoman Empire, the perpetrators have been Muslims, whether Turks or Kurds, Arabs, or Foreigners. They have all participated in the decline of the Christian presence in the East. The Christian community has almost completely disappeared from the Arabian Peninsula, as well as in North Africa. In some places such as Turkey and Iran, the Christian presence is getting smaller and smaller, and is threatened with total extinction due to political, social, economic, and religious factors. Against the backdrop of such ethnic and religious tyranny inflicted upon them in their historic homelands, Eastern Christians have been forced to seek refuge and safe havens in other countries. No longer available to them in the lands of their birth are even the barest rights that are given to the Muslim inhabitants. Their dreams of becoming citizens of modern secular states are being shattered everywhere.

“No doubt the American invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, increased the deterioration of the security situation in the area, and added to the festering ethnic and religious animosities allowing the Islamist movements to concentrate their attacks on the Eastern Christians of Iraq. Many who are very concerned about their fate wonder whether it will be similar to that of the Iraqi Jews who have disappeared from Iraq because of the severe discriminatory measures taken against them after the rise of Israel. With respect to the ordeal of Eastern Christians, the French author, Annie Laurent,* predicted after the 9-11 events ‘that Christians living in the Muslim world would become martyrs on account of their faith, and victims of the radical Islamist aggression.’

“It is true that the number of Muslims killed in Iraq far exceeds the number of Christians murdered in the country. However, Arab (Shi’ite and Sunni) and Kurdish militias are fighting for political and economic privileges for their own communities. And Christians are being murdered even though they are not involved in these disputes; and were not responsible for the American presence in their land. Iraqi Christians are killed because of their faith, while we witness almost total silence from the Arabs. A few voices against such persecution are raised from the ranks of liberal intellectuals. The silence from the majority Arab population is explained as an undeclared Iraqi, Arab, and Islamic plan for bringing about a forced migration of Eastern Christians from the area. Reports indicate that the mass murders and expulsion of the Christians of Mosul and other Iraqi cities occur under the very eyes of the American and Iraqi armies, and in collaboration with some militant Iraqi groups.

“We have doubts about the seriousness of the American and European position vis-à-vis Eastern Christians. The reaction of the ‘International Community’ to the murder and forced migration of Mosul’s Christians has been limited to issuing words of regret and condemnation, and asking for aid to be provided to the dispossessed. In spite of the size and well-documented catastrophe that has befallen Iraqi Christians; the great powers have not called for the convening of an International Conference to deal with their cause, or for measures to be taken against the repetition of the massacres and abductions that took place in Iraq. No call was made for securing a safe area for these rejected people. On the other hand, we are fully aware that the ‘International Community’ took specific measures during the 1990s, to help the Kurds in the northern part of Iraq, by preventing the forces of Saddam Hussein from pursuing them, and by establishing a safe zone for them. Recently, Britain, a traditional ally of America, refused to even consider the idea of coming to the aid of Iraqi Christians. The British minister responsible for the Middle East declared at a joint press conference with the Kurdish prime minister that ‘the United Kingdom is not convinced of the necessity that there be a secure area for Christians.’

“As we contemplate the dark scene in Iraq and the dismal state of its Christians, added to the precarious state of Eastern Christians in general, we are terribly disappointed and angry at the ‘International Community’ for its unwillingness to protect Iraqi Christians, abandoning them to face all the dangers surrounding them alone. Isn’t it rather surprising and questionable that, at the very time when Iraq is being emptied of its Christian population and its other small ancient community groups such as the Sabeans, Mandeans and Yezidis, the French ambassador in Baghdad would declare that ‘the Europeans were pleased with the rise of a pluralist and democratic Iraq?’

“Several Christian leaders in the Middle East and elsewhere have expressed deep disappointment about the plight of Christians in Mosul and other parts of Iraq, charging the Iraqi government and the occupying American forces with responsibility for the protection of Christians and all other minorities in the country. Christians have become victims of the internecine fights between the major Muslim factions of Iraq, when actually they have not been part of these struggles. Some newspapers have reported eye-witness accounts of armed bands passing through checkpoints manned by Iraqi army soldiers and the Kurdish armed men of the Pesh Merga on missions to murder Christians in Mosul. These criminal activities were not stopped. Neither were the threatening letters posted on the homes of Christians living in Kurdistan, telling them to leave or face certain death! It is well known that the Kurds play a very important and basic role in the central government in Baghdad, and in all the branches of the Iraqi state, and yet no finger was lifted to stop these horrible terrorist acts.

“We are supposed to be living in a new and open world that is confronting international terrorism in order to arrive at a humane society free of violence and all sorts of hatred and prejudice. So, it becomes the right of the ‘threatened peoples’ to demand protection from the ‘International Community,’ especially after the United Nations have taken action against mass killings, war crimes, and ethnic cleansing, when the local governments have failed to assume responsibility for the safety of their persecuted communities. On Tuesday, November 11, Father Frederico Lombardi, Pope Benedict XVI’s representative, questioned whether the Iraqi government was serious about protecting the Christians in Mosul. According to Reuters, he called on the Iraqi government and human rights organizations to work harder for the protection of the Christians in Mosul, who are being systematically attacked and kidnapped in a planned campaign. Is the ‘International Community’ waiting for an increase in the number of murdered Christians before they are convinced of the failure or unwillingness of the Iraqi government to provide the needed protection for Iraqi Christians before it takes positive action for their protection?”

Comments

There is little anyone could add to this article. It informs us of the appalling conditions for Christians and minorities in Iraq, especially in Mosul and several other towns in the northern part of the country. While the American intervention in Iraq successfully toppled the regime of the despot Saddam Hussein and liberated the Iraqis from decades of his regime’s cruelty and terror, some unintended consequences have also arisen. The lawlessness that followed the American liberation unleashed the terrorists’ attacks on U.S. soldiers and precipitated bloody warfare between Sunnis and Shi’ites. No sooner had a relative peace been established, and al-Qaeda forces on the run, a shocking campaign of ethnic cleansing surfaced. It was directed against Christians, Mandeans, Sabeans, and Yezidis.

Christians and other minorities in Iraq were first marginalized, then Christian churches were destroyed, and many leaders murdered. The exodus of those able to leave began and continues still. Receiving countries, notably Jordan, are none too happy to accept these refugees. We are told that enlightenment is advancing in Iraq and one hopes and prays this is the case. Yet there are elements of the population who want to destroy “the Other” amongst them as though they didn’t belong to Iraq. But they do. They are of the ancient Chaldean race, a noble, biblical and still existent people. Would that we can see in the future a return of these people to the place of their birth!

As I finish these lines, a relatively new Arabic-language site has come to my attention. It is www.aafaq.org (Horizons,) and from it I learned about another horrible massacre of four women and three men of the Yezidi faith, on Sunday evening, December 14. The crime took place in Sinjar, in the north of the country.

As has already been mentioned, the Western media are preoccupied with economic and political matters affecting Western interests. Do they even follow the tragedies that happen almost on a daily basis in the world influenced by Islamic interests? Why should not the so-called “International Community” show more concern for the dispossessed of Iraq and elsewhere? Why the liberation of Iraq from a bloody Baathist regime should have led to its being emptied of all its minority groups? When Serbia was engaged during the latter part of the 20th century in a terrible campaign of ethnic cleansing directed against Bosnians, the United States and its NATO allies intervened forcefully to end that genocide. Muslims were the beneficiaries and some might even argue that in the aftermath, Christians have been lumped in with the truly evil Serbian elements and now they are being persecuted and marginalized. Why the United States and the Western nations that are keeping the Balkans somewhat quiet at the moment, continue to keep silent about what’s going on in Iraq? The French author Annie Laurent was right when she predicted after the 9-11 events ‘that Christians living in the Muslim world would become martyrs on account of their faith, and victims of the radical Islamist aggression.’

It is important to note that the continued presence of non-Muslim religious communities within the Middle East is considered by the dominant Muslim majorities, as an implicit denial of the finality and superiority of Islam. Therefore, there is no raison d'être for their continued existence. This judgment may sound like an extremely shocking explanation for the rise and persistence of anti-Christian and anti-Jewish sentiments among the Muslim majorities of the area. But I believe it must be taken into consideration when trying to understand the hatred that leads to the type of ethnic-religious cleansings that are going on in Iraq and elsewhere.

I am grateful to this courageous Arab writer who brought to the attention of the readers of Elaph, the desperate plight of Iraqi Christians. It is now the turn of Western Christians basking in their freedoms, to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in Mesopotamia. We should make every attempt to prevail upon our political leaders in voices loud and clear, by telling them:

Don’t forget Christians, Mandeans, Sabeans, and Yezidis. Liberating Iraq should not have ended with many of these people being murdered, many others having their homes stolen, and many, if so privileged, being forced to leave their homeland for other lands which do not even welcome them. What kind of a legacy will the United States, Britain and free nations everywhere leave behind in Iraq, if this situation is not addressed and rectified? The crimes we see occurring against our fellow men be they Christians, Mandeans, Sabeans, or Yezidis or any other neglected minority, in that desperate place must not be forgotten, and every effort taken by free nations everywhere to right a palpable wrong.

Note 
*Annie Laurent, [Né en 1949] 20e siècle

Annie Laurent est docteur d'État en sciences politiques pour une thèse sur "Le Liban et son voisinage (1943-1984)", obtenue à l'université de Paris-II. Journaliste et écrivain, collaborant à des revues scientifiques et grand public, elle a vécu pendant cinq ans au Liban où elle éditait le périodique "Libanoscopie" (1988-1992). Elle a publié, entre autres ouvrages : "Guerres secrètes au Liban", Paris, Gallimard, 1987 ; Collectif, "Vivre avec l'islam ?", Paris, Saint-Paul, 1996 ; « Au cœur du dialogue interreligieux », "Cahier d'EDIFA", n° 6, 1999 ; "Pour l'amour de l'Église", entretiens avec l'abbé Christian Laffargue, Paris, Fayard, 1999.

Annie Laurent, who was born in 1949, received her doctorate in political science for her thesis on “Lebanon and its Environment (1943-1984)” from the University of Paris-II. She is a journalist and a writer, whose works appear in scientific journals as well as in popular magazines. She has lived in Lebanon for five years during which she was the editor of “Libanoscopie” from 1988-1992. Among her publications are the following: “The Secret Wars in Lebanon,” (1987,) “Living with Islam,” (1996,) “In the Heart of Inter-religious Dialogue,” (1999,) and “For Love of the Church” (1999)

Translation by Rev. Bassam M. Madany

The URL for the Arabic article in Elaph:

http://www.elaph.com/Web/AsdaElaph/2008/11/382652.htm

Posted in Articles

Our Men and Their Men

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Author: Jacob Thomas on Saturday, July 19, 2008

There is no end to the surprises I get when glancing at the Arabic-language websites that offer forums for liberal thinkers. Last month, I noticed a brief article on the Kuwaiti Tanweer site: “Rijaluna wa Rijaluhom.” It was a very frank comparison between Muslim clerics and their Christian counterparts. Here are excerpts from the article, followed by my analysis and comments.

The writer began with a shocking statement followed by his reasons for making it: 

“By men, I refer here to Christian clerics and their Muslim counterparts. It is my conviction that on a social level, a Christian cleric is one million times better than a Muslim cleric. Muslim clerics exhibit a condescending attitude toward their people. This may be observed, for example, in their being called, “Ulema,” plural of “Alim,” a term which means a “scientist.” Since a Muslim cleric’s diploma is granted by a religious institution; it has no value or relevance whatsoever in the general fields of knowledge and science! And regardless of his very limited knowledge, we find him issuing fatwas on all kinds of topics. In fact, I have never heard of a Muslim cleric who admitted his ignorance about any subject!

“By contrast, there isn’t one Christian cleric who provides answers to all kinds of questions. Rather, he consults his church, seeking the opinion of his people; and the result is far from resembling those fatwas which come clothed with an irrational halo of sanctity. In fact, several fatwas have advocated murder. For instance, a fatwa was issued in Saudi Arabia allowing for the murder of Dr. Shemlan al ‘Aessa simply for the way he responded to a question that was put to him by a Kuwaiti Islamist. Let’s not forget the fatwa that led to the assassination of the writer, Dr. Farag Foda; or the one that authorized the murder of the well-known novelist, Naguib Mahfoudh, the only Arab writer that has earned the Nobel Prize for Literature! Fortunately, the assailant failed in his attempt. Add to that, the numerous fatwas against the Kuffar, and those who have committed the sin of radda (apostasy.) In short, a Muslim cleric has become a perpetual cultural calamity, and a source of a dictatorship that opposes all true knowledge and freedom.

“Let’s now consider the case of a Christian cleric. Actually, he has learned a great deal from the experiences of the Middle Ages and the Reconquista of Spain that ended with the expulsion of the Muslim population that had lived there for seven centuries. He limits his concerns to his needs and to those of his congregation. He regards no one in society as his enemy. People come to him seeking the Lord’s forgiveness. He doesn’t declare anyone to be a kafir. And when someone makes derogatory remarks about the Messiah, the church deals with him in a conciliatory manner. The church does not seek legal actions in order to defend its beliefs. Has anyone heard a Christian cleric issuing a fatwa authorizing the murder of a Christian or a non-Christian, after charging him with apostasy? Have we ever heard of a Christian cleric that has ready answers to all kinds of questions, as the case is in our own Muslim societies?

“A Christian cleric is more merciful in his relationships with his people than his Muslim counterpart. Nowadays, we witness a bitter harvest being gathered by Muslims due to the fatwas issued by their clerics: Irhab, assassinations, oppression, and an absence of a creative literary activity. The irony is that when Muslims are fed up with their own societies, they flee to the heavenly West! Even Muslim clerics choose the infidel West, when they leave their own countries. This why the West is filled with Irhabis; it explains why Muslims find little respect in the West, since they are regarded as potential terrorists, unless they can prove the opposite!

“A Muslim cleric’s sin is unforgivable due to the harmful fatwas that he has proclaimed, and which have resulted in the death of his society. Therefore, I will continue to show more respect for Christian clerics on account of their humane attitude towards all people.”

Analysis

The author of “Our Men and their Men” is very upset by the behavior of several Muslim clerics. His statement, “a Christian clergyman is one million times better that a Muslim clergyman,” sounds rather shocking, especially when you read it in the original Arabic. He was venting his anger on account of the great harm done to Islamic societies by irresponsible men who had arrogated to themselves the right to issue religious edicts.

Comments

At the outset, I must say that this comparison between Muslim and Christian clerics is done exclusively on an ethical basis. The author is not comparing Islamic teachings or doctrines with those of the Christian faith. In other words, as a Muslim, he approached his subject pragmatically, and not theologically.

Another thing I would like to observe is that the writer arrived at his conclusions, on account of the experiences he may have had, during his residence in the West.

He alluded briefly to the lessons Christian religious leaders must have learned from the experiences of the Middle Ages. This is rather a vague statement. He may have had in mind Martin Luther, a German monk who revolted against the practice of selling “indulgences” guaranteeing forgiveness of sins for a sum of money given to the church! Luther became the leader of a reform movement that spread throughout Europe. One of the results of his work was the “democratization” of the government of the church. The old hierarchal structure was dismantled among the Protestants, and was replaced by a simpler form where people from the congregation were chosen as elders and deacons, to work with the minister. Once or twice a year, the entire congregation would meet to discuss financial and spiritual matters, and participate in the election of new office holders.

While the writer may have had such facts in mind, as he described a Christian cleric’s work in his society, he failed to consider the ultimate cause for the differences between Muslim and Christian clerics.

Let me explain. Muslim and Christian men who enter their vocations are likely to face many temptations. In other words, neither is inherently perfect in his relationship with his society. If there is any difference between the two, it must not be located in the person himself, but in the authoritative texts of his faith.

If a Christian clergyman is conciliatory and humane in his attitude towards his people, it is due to his conformity to the ethics of Christ that were marked with tolerance and love. Early in his preaching, Christ taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” And Paul, who was responsible for the spread of the Christian faith in the Mediterranean world, wrote these words to the young Christians in Rome: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.”

It is such ethical teachings that have informed and impacted the behavior of the Christian clerics over the years.

On the other hand, our writer was not willing to dig deeper into the matter, and to look for a doctrinal reason that would have explained the basis for any Muslim cleric’s fatwa authorizing the assassination of a member of his society. Violence is embedded in the sacred text of Islam. This is recognized by some liberal Muslims.

On 22 June, 2006, I posted an article on this website that referred to the subject of Islamic violence, as advocated in the Medinan chapters of the Qur’an. Here are excerpts from that article:

“Early in June, I was struck by an article with this title: ‘Religious Reformation in Islam: ‘Islam of Mecca” versus “Islam of Medina.’ (Al-Islah al-Deeni Fi’l-Islam: Islam ‘Mecca’ Fi Muwajahat Islam ‘Al-Medina.’

“I found this article quite bold in positing the existence of a confrontation (Muwajahat) between the Islam that was revealed in Mecca, and the Islam that was, later on, revealed in Medina. The author began by stating his theory about the existence of ‘two Islams.’

“For a long time now, Westerners have been hearing from two divergent groups within Muslims. One group keeps telling them, “Islam is a religion of tolerance, peace, and mercy.” The other tells a contrary story, “Islam is a religion of jihad, killings, and the persecution of non-Muslims.”

“Obviously, Westerners find themselves in a quandary. Which group are they to believe? Is it possible for a religion to proclaim, at the same time, two contradictory messages? Something must have gone wrong with the telling of the story of Islam.

“One explanation is that there are actually two Islams. There is the Islam of Mecca, and then, the Islam of Medina. The first Islam (as revealed in Mecca) is characterized by peace and the absence of violence; that is when Muhammad was weak and persecuted by the leadership of the Quraysh tribe.

“But when he migrated to Medina, he became strong, and eventually organized an Islamic state. It was during this period (622-632,) that he received surahs that called for Jihad against the unbelievers in Mecca, as well as the Jews and Christians in Arabia. Therefore, those who claim that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance are right; and those who say that Islam is a religion of jihad are right. The problem is: to which Islam are they pointing, is it to “the Islam of Mecca, or the Islam of Medina?”

“Ultimately, if a real reformation is to take place, it would require the adoption of a new view of the sacred text, and the rise of a new fiqh (hermeneutic) based on reason as informed and enlightened by the new sciences. This requires that the reformists must cling to the ‘Meccan Islam,’ with its basic spirituality, tolerance, and love; while at the same time, rejecting the ‘Medinan Islam’ that promotes violence and jihad against non-Muslims.” [End of quotation from the 2006 article] 
*****

“Our Men and Their Men” was a very revealing article; it shed light on some of the perplexities that haunt Muslim intellectuals Unfortunately, the writer of this article, was either unable or unwilling to go as far as the one who (around two years ago,) had acknowledged the root cause of Islamic violence, namely in the Medinan chapters, and especially in those verses described as Ayat al-Sayf, i.e. the Sword Verses. It is not enough to lament the sad state of affairs in Daru’l Islam, a far-reaching reformation is needed that would declare the Meccan surahs as the only basis for faith and action! Is there any Muslim today who is willing to take part in this Mission Impossible?

Posted in Articles

Why Do our Young Adults Become Apostates?

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Author: Jacob Thomas on Monday, July 28, 2008

On 8 July, 2008, I noticed an article on the Tanweer website that had a very revealing title: “Limadha Yulhidu al-Shabab?” A literal translation would read: “Why do al-Shabab Become Apostates?” ‘Shabab’ is the plural of ‘Shab,’ and refers to young adults.

The writer is a lady intellectual and a regular columnist for the Kuwaiti online Al-Jarida, an Arabic term for “Newspaper.” The topic is not usually discussed in the Arab media, as it happens to be a very sensitive one. Furthermore, it is overshadowed by the almost continuous reporting about the Islamists, or radical Muslims, some of whom have regressed into Irhabis. Is it really possible that some Muslim young adults are turning against their faith, and adopting what amounts to be an atheistic worldview?

Let me first quote from this article, and follow it by my analysis and comments.

“As we follow the discussions that are going on among young adults over the Internet, we notice an elevated tone in the call for ‘Ilhad’ or apostasy in the Arab homeland, including Kuwait. What is rather strange among these young adults is that for them ‘Ilhad,’ is not simply a personal conviction; rather it is a point of view that has assumed an independent existence. It claims that it can lift the nation from ignorance, backwardness, and retrogression in all areas of life. What’s extremely puzzling about this phenomenon is that during the height of the spread of Communist and Socialist ideologies in the Arab world in the 20th century, no one ever called for an outright denial of the ‘Creator.’ Those movements restricted themselves to fighting all religions, regarding them as the “Opium of the People.” The spread and the extremist nature of this new wave of unbelief, requires our study and research, as it has several ramifications.

“After the rise of the Soviet Union as a great power in the early years of the last century, several Arab organizations adopted the Communist and Socialist ideologies, as a solution that would guarantee equality, justice, and freedom. Those movements did not surface as a reaction to Islam per se, or to certain Islamic groups. They arose as an alternative for the capitalist ideology, and as a reaction to Western colonialism that had impacted most Arab lands. So it was not unusual for Arab Socialists to participate in religious ceremonies, such as attending the Friday prayers at the mosques. One could hardly find in the Arab Socialist discourse, any arguments about the existence of the Creator, or a call to apostasy and unbelief.

“At present however, in spite of the disintegration of the Socialist and Communist systems, and the rise of the Islamist tide; we witness the appearance of an extremism of an opposite kind, as a natural reaction to the ideology and practices of political Islam. These young adults (shabab) having grown up in societies that experienced neither foreign occupation, nor colonialism, find their countries in a worse shape than in colonial times.

“As these young adults attempt to change the present order, they clash with the Islamists, who now play the role of the Church during the Middle Ages. For example, they encounter a person who, because he wears the ‘amama (a Muslim cleric’s headgear,) claims infallibility, and seeks to impose his own views on others; arrogates to himself the right to declare these young adults as ‘Kuffar,” and seeks to drag them before the courts.

“These radical Islamists preach hatred, murder, and suicide, in the name of Allah. As a reaction, the ‘shabab’ having also become the targets of the Islamists’ deep-seated hatred, tend to apostatize. In fact, it is the Islamists who, by their words and deeds, bear the responsibility for pushing the “shabab” into unbelief. Would they ever realize the enormity of their crime?”

Analysis

The author of the article charges the Islamists with the crime of pushing some young adults into apostasy. This genre of unbelief constitutes a new phenomenon in the Arab world, and requires the serious attention of moderate or liberal Muslims such as the writer herself.

Comments

One can understand the distress of the columnist in observing the rise of ‘Ilhad’ among the ‘shabab,’ throughout the Arab world, including her own country, Kuwait. I wonder though, whether she has considered that some Arab young men reject Islam, and become “unbelievers” not so much on account of the words and actions of Islamists, but for other weighty reasons. For example, back on 31 May, 2006, I posted an article on this website with this title Muslims Questioning Islam. It dealt with a young man from Damascus, Syria, who described his journey from faith to unbelief. Throughout the entire narrative, there was no indication that he had acted in reaction to an Islamist ideology. After much reading and reflection, he came to the conclusion to leave Islam. Here are excerpts from his testimony:

“Since I belonged to a religious family I became very religious, committed to Islamic teachings, and very faithful in performing all the duties of my faith. I was a very strong believer in Islam. I defended it emotionally, and with zeal. However, I had to contend with doubts and questions without finding answers to them.

“All the religious authorities kept telling me: everything in the Qur’an is true, and everything that did not agree with it was wrong and false. As for your doubts and suspicions, they proceed from Satan. If you keep on dealing with these doubts, don’t forget to seek refuge in Allah and implore Him to defend you from the evils of the devils.  
“I believed, and I grew up. The intensity of my clinging to Islam led me to read … Islamic books, ancient and modern, ultra conservative as well as those open to new ideas. The more I read … the more my doubts increased. My mind became filled with questions that had no answers.

“I could not eradicate my doubts. In fact they remained embedded in some dark corners of my mind waiting for an appropriate moment to reappear with strength and to confront me anew.

“Once, while I was still a religious Muslim, a satanic idea came to me. I decided to assume the role of an atheist and confront a group of religious men with my arguments. Actually, my real aim was to strengthen my ability to engage in apologetics, and to discover areas of weakness in the position of the atheists through such encounter.

"So, I went to the College where the Shari’ah is taught as it was close to the Law School where I was studying. I chose a bunch of bearded men and sat among them. I began to engage them in a religious discussion, setting forth my own arguments for unbelief. I allowed my tongue to wax eloquent with all kinds of proofs for my position. I was surprised to find them unable to deal with my arguments!

“For the first time, I began to read Islam as a critic … This led me to finally arrive at my position of no religion, and of forsaking Islam. It is very difficult to summarize the multitude of my readings and reflections in a few lines. That would require several pages. Some samples of my critique of religion can be found in articles I write for a network of irreligious Arabs (www.ladeeni.net)

“I am convinced that the Internet has a tremendous value as it serves anyone who has an idea to defend. It has opened for us a limitless space … to express our views. In fact, if it were not for the Internet, we would not have been aware of the existence of the irreligious or non-religious current within Arab and Islamic societies. Perhaps the day is coming when I would be able to speak openly and boldly using my real name, and say: “Yes, I am an irreligious person, and these are my reasons.”

I quoted from my 31 May, 2006, article not to disagree with the findings of the author of “Why do our Young Adults Become Apostates?” but to correct the notion that those who leave the Islamic faith do so only in reaction to the Islamist discourse and violent actions. The story of the Damascus “Shab” who confessed his “ladeen” (irreligion) shows that in today’s globalized world, with the Internet facilitating exchanges of ideas, it is inevitable that some Muslims will forsake their faith and become either apostates, or embrace another religious faith. And regardless of the motives for such radical events taking place within the Household of Islam, this new phenomenon will grow during this new century. For the challenges facing Islam are so powerful and complex, that to continue repeating the warn-out mantra that Islam is the solution for mankind’s problems, has been proven utterly bankrupt. I won’t be surprised if more defections will take place among the ‘shabab” of the Arab world.

Posted in Articles

Losing the War against Jihadism

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Author: Jacob Thomas on Saturday, May 31, 2008  
By Jacob Thomas

On Memorial Day weekend, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen spoke on C-Span2 about their book “Days of Infamy.” They gave a riveting account of how the Japanese planned and executed their attack on Pearl Harbor, on 7 December, 1941. That day is known in America as the “Day of Infamy.”

Another day in American history deserves the same designation. I refer to 11 September, 2001, when Islamic Jihadists attacked the United States causing the death of thousands of innocent civilians in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.

Many changes have taken place in our lives as the result of that attack. The most noticeable one is experienced daily in American airports where long lines of passengers have to be thoroughly searched, and all prohibited items confiscated by agents of DHS “The Department of Homeland Security.” We are thankful that no similar attack has taken place since that fateful day in 2001. However, we cannot but be puzzled by the directives of this federal agency that were issued recently regarding the appropriate and inappropriate vocabulary that may be used in reference to Islamic Jihadists. This official “advice” was highlighted in an op-ed article by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal of Tuesday, 27 May, 2008. Its headline was: “Homeland Security Newspeak.”

Here are some excerpts.

“The Department of Homeland Security thinks it's a bad idea to use the word ‘liberty’ when describing America's foreign policy goals. Nor does it much like the terms ‘Islamist’ and ‘jihadist.’ Heaven forbid the federal government cause needless offense in the current war against, well, whoever.

“Such are the recommendations on ‘Terminology to Define Terrorists,’ a nine-page, ‘Official Use Only’ memo issued in January by Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. It purports to represent the suggestions of a ‘wide variety’ of unnamed American Muslim leaders consulted on the subject. And while it is not a statement of official policy, it neatly captures the sophisticated government thinking about its rhetorical strategies for what used to be called the ‘Global War on Terror.’ 
Now, thanks to the DHS brain trust, we are offered a ‘Global Struggle for Security and Progress.’

“In ‘1984,’ George Orwell famously created Newspeak, ‘the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year.’

“In the new dispensation, much of which has reportedly been adopted by the State Department, using the word Islamic is out because it potentially ‘[concedes] the terrorists’ claims that they are legitimate adherents of Islam.’ Use of the word jihad is said to ‘glamorize terrorism.’ Islamist – a neutral and broadly accepted term for those who espouse Islam as a political system – is frowned upon because ‘the general public … may not appreciate the academic distinction between Islamism and Islam.’ Using the word Salafism, the religious variant of Islam espoused by al Qaeda, may have the unfortunate effect of demonizing those Salafists who aren’t violent.

“Last October, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was a guest of honor at a Ramadan event at which, according to one participant, he was publicly thanked by the president of the Islamic Society of North America for ‘keeping the doors open so we can advise you on how to engage the Muslim world.’

“For the record, the ISNA was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the case of the Holy Land Foundation, a U.S.-based charity alleged to have had ties with Hamas. Imagine if the Kennedy administration had consulted with the Workers World Party on strategies to contain the Soviet Union, and you get a sense of what Homeland Security is doing today.

“No doubt the government really does need better terminology to describe the war we're in, which is against violent Islamic extremists and every regime, warlord, charity, school or imam supporting them. No doubt, too, we need the support of every Muslim we can rally to our side. Those many millions who do not shrink from the word ‘liberty’ might just fit the bill.”

Thus far, my quotations from The WSJ. I recommend that the entire article by Bret Stephens, be read for its excellent description of the mindlessness exhibited by a governmental agency that purports to lead the fight against the Islamists’ aggressive plans to attack us! The URL for the article is: online.wsj.com

When I finished reading Homeland Security Newspeak, I was aghast! I couldn’t believe the recommendations of a federal department that was assigned by the Congress of the United States, to be responsible for the security of the land! The jargon preferred by the DHS tended to conceal rather than reveal the truth about Islamic terrorism. It is my strong conviction that God has given us, human beings, the gift of speech in order to reveal the truth, and not to conceal it. “Newspeak” falsifies reality and truthfulness. It is the mark of totalitarian regimes, and not of democracies.

Furthermore, the directives of the DHS manifest an abysmal ignorance of Islam, its history, and its religious-political ideology. Islam is unique among the major world religions. It’s unlike Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Christianity, and Judaism. Islam combines religion with politics in one indivisible entity. This a fact firmly embedded in Islamic history.

The founder of Islam preached the Unity of Allah and the vanity of idols between 610 and 622 A. D., in his hometown, Mecca. He gained a few followers. After he migrated to Medina in 622, he became both a “Prophet and Statesman.” He led his small army in several raids against the Meccan caravans. He expropriated the Jewish inhabitants of a nearby oasis, killing the men, and enslaving the women and their children. Whereas the revelations that “descended” in Mecca tended to be almost uniquely religious and ethical, the ones that came down in Medina between 622 and 632 (the year of his death) dealt with war and peace, civil laws, economics, and rules that govern the relations between believers (Muslims) and unbelievers.

After Muhammad’s passing, his successors, the Caliphs inherited his political mantle only. They began the futuhat (conquests) of the world. And by 732, the nascent Islamic Empire stretched from Spain to Western India! The Umayyad Caliphate (661-750,) was renowned for its expansionist policy, and may be regarded as the continuation, on a global scale, of the raids undertaken by Muhammad against his foes in Arabia. This imperialist impulse or motif of Islam was carried further by the Ottoman Turks. After their conquest of the heartland of the Byzantine Empire, they gave it a death blow in 1453, with their conquest of Constantinople, now to be known as Istanbul! In 1529, the Ottomans laid their first siege to Vienna, repeating that almost a century and a half later.  
The failure to capture Vienna marks the beginning of the decline of this last Islamic Empire.

In relating briefly the history of Islamic imperialism, I have tried to show that the cessation of Islamic expansionism was due to Islam’s inability to engage in new futuhat. This became apparent after the fall and dissolution of the Ottoman Caliphate in the aftermath of WWI. However, for the purists or Salafists in Islam, conquests must go on, if not by means of conventional wars, they can still take place by terrorist “raids” on the lands of the Infidels.

The recommendations of the Department of Homeland Security, vis-à-vis the proper nomenclature to be used when referring to Islamic terrorists or jihadists, are actually ludicrous. The very term “Islamic Terrorism” (Al-Irhab al-Islami) is actually used in the Arab press. For example, the online daily, Elaph.com devoted three articles on Islamic Irhab on 22, 23, and 25 July 2007. In concluding his third article on this topic, the writer asked: “Having dealt with the subject [of Irhab in the Islamic World] in the first two articles, may we conclude that this phenomenon does not receive popular support within Islamic societies? Definitely not! The opposite is true; for this is exactly why Irhab has enjoyed a great degree of continuity, in spite of the efforts to contain it, in the majority of the countries of the world.”

A note of explanation is needed regarding the popularity and impact of this Internet medium throughout the Arab world. Elaph began publishing its online daily on 21 May 2001; on December 2006, the Audit Bureau of Circulation certified that Elaph’s web traffic “showed 665,849 unique users and 12,332,686 page views in that month. Elaph’s uniqueness was also apparent in the even spread of its readers among Arab countries and as well as Europe and North America.”

In my daily visit to the Elaph website, I glance at the variety of articles and reports, and especially note the responses received as “Letters to the Editor.” It is astonishing to discover the variety of readers, and their comments on the articles! I must confess that, as far as I remember, there were no outcries, or objections, when the term “Al-Irhab al-Islami” was used.

Elaph is not the unique online source of enlightened Arab thought. I have already mentioned in my previous contributions to FaithFreedom website, the Kuwaiti website, kwtanweer.com  
(Tanweer is an Arabic term for enlightenment) This scholarly Internet journal has published  
forthright and objective articles dealing with the subject of Islamic Jihadism and Irhab. Here are some titles that indicate no reticence whatsoever in the use of a terminology that is being frowned upon and regarded as taboo by the DHS. “The Psychology of Irhab,” 9 February, 2007; “The Politics of Salafism;” “Religious Education and its Relation to Irhab,” 20 April 2006; “The Caliphate: An Impossible Dream,” 2 September 2007. All these articles, written by a variety of Arab intellectuals who subscribe to the ideals of democracy, freedom, and modernity; use a vocabulary that describes accurately and fearlessly, the dangerous worldview that dominates some large segments of Arab society. So, why should we, in the land of The Bill of Rights, have to be “advised” of our Department of Homeland Security or the Department of State to be cautious about the use of words that reveal the truth about Islamist ideology? And why do we consult some unnamed Muslim “leaders” in the USA, or such organizations like ISNA (Islamic Society of North America) or CAIR (The Council on American-Islamic Relations?)

Our brave men and women are engaged in a heroic fight against Jihadism in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them have already laid down their lives in the cause of resisting the attempts of Salafists and Jihadists to destroy the free world, and create another global caliphate. We betray them and their loved ones at home, when we bind ourselves by political correctness, and fail to speak the truth about a mortal danger. If courageous and liberal voices in the Arab world are not afraid to describe the dangers coming out of radical Islam, and when they write articles and essays on the subject, we, in the free world, betray them by refraining to call a spade a spade. And just as the war in Vietnam was lost in the USA, so also our war in the Middle East will be lost in the home front, if we indulge in “Newspeak” rather than boldly speaking of the global Islamist Jihad.

In closing, I wonder about the reports of the press-attaches in our embassies in Cairo, Damascus, Riyadh, Beirut, Amman, Kuwait, the Gulf, and other capitals in the Arab world! Do they visit the uncensored websites of Elaph, Tanweer, and other Arab Internet sources that tell the truth about the challenges of radical Islam? If they do, they better enlighten the high echelons of the State Department, and plead with them, not to advise the young Department of Homeland Security to resort to vapid and meaningless terms when speaking of the Islamic Irhab. We can win the war against Jihadism, by telling the truth about its global threat, and by joining our voices to those valiant Arab intellectuals who are not afraid to openly and boldly speak about this menace to their homelands, and to the rest of the world.

Posted in Articles

Bernard Lewis Strikes Back

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Author : Jacob Thomas on May 10, 2008 - 01:14 AM

The war against radical Islam is being waged militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, this conflict is being sabotaged by academics who occupy important chairs in American universities within the departments of Middle East Studies. The public is unaware of their activities as they spread their propaganda within the classrooms of our universities. This sad state of affairs was recently highlighted in an article in The Wall Street Journal, of Friday, 2 May, 2008.

In the print edition, the article had this headline:

Bernard Lewis Takes on Political Correctness in Middle East Studies

When I looked up its online version, it carried this revealing title:

Balance of Power: A New Group Counters Leftist Agitprop in Middle East Studies

I would like to quote from this article, adding my comments on this extremely important subject that should receive the attention and scrutiny of the Western public.

Charlotte Allen began the article by asking, “What to do if you are a college professor and the academic society that represents your field has been overrun by political correctness? One answer is: Form your own organization.

“That is how, six months ago, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (Asmea) came into being. Now claiming 500 members and gearing up to publish its own scholarly journal, Asmea is meant to be a corrective to the 2,600-member Middle East Studies Association, the premier professional society for scholars of the Middle East. That organization is now regarded by many as stiflingly politicized. Institutionally, it engages in nonstop Israel-bashing and seems to blame America for every economic and geopolitical wrong on the planet.

“Interestingly, both the Middle East Studies Association and the new Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa were founded by the same person: Bernard Lewis. Now 91, Mr. Lewis is the eminence grise of scholars of Islam. His 60-year scholarly career encompasses more than two-dozen books and decades of teaching, first at the University of London and then at Princeton, where he is now a professor emeritus. He gave up on MESA to found Asmea last fall because he wanted there to be "a truly open academic society."

Mr. Lewis spoke those words at Asmea’s first annual conference at a Washington hotel last weekend. The two-day gathering -- featuring only eight panels and roundtables, in contrast to the hundred or so at MESA’s annual meeting in Montreal in November --- showed the promise and also the problems that are part of any professional society’s attempts to defy orthodoxy.”

We may be extremely puzzled as to how MESA that was founded by Mr. Lewis became such an ideologically motivated association of academics who are bent on destroying the very raison d’etre of their discipline. The answer is found in the life and writings of the late professor Edward Said (1935-2003). By the way, I have always been puzzled by the transliteration of the Arabic name of our professor, since for English-speaking people, it should have been properly spelled, Sa’eed!

In 1978, he published “Orientalism,” a book that charged “Western scholarship on Islam was all but worthless because it had been motivated by efforts to further the ‘colonial’ interests of Western imperial powers, still intent on dominating the East.”

It is unbelievable how many “experts” in the history of the Middle East, fell for the unsubstantiated thesis of Mr. Said. As the WSJ article explains, “Unlike Mr. Lewis, Mr. Said had no training in Islamic or Mideast studies (he was in fact, for years, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University). Even so, Mr. Said continues to exert a powerful influence on many American Islamicists; He is their guru, and "Orientalism" is their catechism.”

Over the years, I have always regretted the trajectory of Edward Said’s life. Coming from an Eastern Christian background, rather than devoting his scholarship to deal with the plight of his people over fourteen centuries of Islamic imperialism, he became the typical Dhimmi who offered his services to the defence of Islam, and to the denigration of the excellent work of British and French Orientalists. Furthermore, he was not equipped to deal with the subject as his training was in another field of knowledge.

An American Orientalist, and President of the American University of Beirut, Malcolm Kerr, who was murdered by radical Islamists on the campus of his university on 18 January 1984, described “Orientalism” in December, 1980:

“This book reminds me of the television program ‘Athletes in Action,’ in which professional football players compete in swimming, and so forth. Edward Said, a literary critic loaded with talent, has certainly made a splash, but with this sort of effort he is not going to win any major races. The book contains many excellent sections and scores many telling points, but it is spoiled by overzealous prosecutorial argument in which Professor Said, in his eagerness to spin too large a web, leaps at conclusions and tries to throw everything but the kitchen sink into a preconceived frame of analysis. In charging the entire tradition of European and American Oriental studies with the sins of reductionism and caricature, he commits precisely the same error.”

From the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 12 (December 1980), Pp. 544-547.

In 2007, Ibn Warraq wrote a masterpiece, “Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.” (Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2119) 
This 556-page work, demonstrates the utter nonsense of “Orientalism,” and should be read by academics and politicians, in order to understand the nefarious impact of a book that claimed to be a scholarly expose of the West, but was actually a literary fraud.

Here are some quotations from Ibn Warraq’s book:

“To argue his case, Said very conveniently leaves out the important contributions of German Orientalists, for their inclusion would destroy --- and their exclusion does indeed totally destroy --- the central thesis of Orientalism, that all Orientalists produced knowledge that generated power, and that they colluded and helped imperialists found empires. As we shall see, German Orientalists were the greatest of all scholars of the Orient, but, of course, Germany was never an imperial power in any of the Oriental countries of North Africa and the Middle East. … Would it have made sense for German Orientalists to produce work that could help only England and France in their empire building?” P. 44

Another relevant excerpt shows the unbelievably disastrous effects of Said’s work:

“Said has much to answer for, Orientalism, despite its systematic distortions and its limited value as an intellectual history, has left Western scholars in fear of asking questions --- in other words, it has inhibited their research. Said’s work, with its strident anti-Westernism, it has made the goal of modernization of Middle Eastern societies that much more difficult. His work, wherein all the ills of Middle Eastern societies are blamed on the wicked West, has rendered much-needed self-criticism by Muslims, Arab and non-Arab alike, nearly impossible. His work has encouraged Islamic fundamentalists, whose impact on world affairs needs no underlining. P. 54

One last quotation from Part 3 of Warraq’s superb book is sufficient to demonstrate the unbelievably destructive nature of Said’s Orientalism:

“Stephen Schwartz once wrote, ‘[Bernard Lewis] has, it is true, been brutally attacked --- most notably by the charlatan Edward Said. Said’s Orientalism, a ridiculous imposture from its first page to its last, is now a standard text in Anglo-American universities, but reads like the product of a rather dense college student who has discovered Marxism; there can be no more telling condemnation of the present sate of American academy than the ascendancy of Said.” P. 299

Back to the WSJ article,

“The MESA Web site features links to the society’s many denunciations of Israel and its defense of such controversial academics as Rashid Khalidi, an apologist for the Palestinian Liberation Organization and a member of Columbia's faculty. As for last year’s MESA meeting in Montreal, some 11 panels were devoted solely to Palestinian grievances.”

As to the newly organized ASMEA, one academic who attended its meeting in Washington, D.C., said,

“‘There’s been a lot of lamenting about the political correctness that’s taken over MESA,’” says Tristan Mabry, a visiting assistant professor of government at Georgetown University who decided to attend the Asmea conference for a breath of fresh air. ‘The A-No.1 issue that dominates MESA is always Israel, and even if you're not interested in Israel [Mr. Mabry’s research focuses on Pakistan, India and Bangladesh], where you stand on Israel is always a litmus test.’”

“Asmea aims to attract centrist scholars such as Mr. Mabry, and its conference dealt with matters that are clearly off-limits at MESA unless approached from an anti-American and anti-Israeli perspective: terrorism and suicide-bombing, for instance. In point of fact, however, relatively few of the 250 attendees last weekend were scholars at universities. Many were members of the military, defense specialists, think-tank researchers and free-lance writers. The presence of the defense contingent was understandable: In today's highly politicized academic climate, many scholarly societies forbid their members to consult for the U.S. military or intelligence services. The scholarship of Asmea's members may be the government's only academic resource for information useful in current Mideast conflicts.”

The chairman of ASMEA is Bernard Lewis, and its vice-chairman is the Lebanese-American scholar, Fouad Ajami, the director of Middle East studies at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

My sincere thanks go to the WSJ for publishing an article on the decline and fall of MESA, and the birth of a truly scholarly association that deals accurately with the history and culture of the Middle Eastern nations. It’s high time that the Western public discovers what has taken place in the departments of Middle Eastern Studies at several of our universities, where they had uncritically swallowed the spurious thesis of Edward Said’s Orientalism. The war against global jihadism cannot be won as long as the home front is being weakened by the writings of Edward Said and his disciples who are still very active in spreading the lies about Western Orientalism.

http://www.news.faithfreedom.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1889

Posted in Articles

The Debacle of the "Common Word" Initiative

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

Muslims are extremely sensitive to any direct or implied criticism of Islam. This became quite evident when Pope Benedict XVI made reference to Islam in his Regensburg address on September 13, 2006. A month later, 38 Muslim scholars responded to the Pope’s words. The text of their answer can be accessed on the website of a Jordanian organization, http://www.acommonword.com/

Continuing their campaign to win the good will of the West, 138 Muslim scholars addressed the Christian World in a message entitled, “A Common Word Between Us and You.” I quote the following passages from this message to illustrate the Muslims’ concept and purpose of this initiative:

“The final form of the letter was presented at a conference in September 2007, held under the theme of “Love in the Quran,” by the Royal Academy of The Royal Aal al-Bayt* Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan, under the Patronage of H.M. King Abdullah II. Indeed, the most fundamental common ground between Islam and Christianity, and the best basis for future dialogue and understanding, is the love of God and the love of the neighbor. 

“Never before have Muslims delivered this kind of definitive consensus statement on Christianity. Rather than engage in polemic, the signatories have adopted the traditional and mainstream Islamic position of respecting the Christian scripture and calling Christians to be more, not less, faithful to it.  

“It is hoped that this document will provide a common constitution for the many worthy organizations and individuals who are carrying out interfaith dialogue all over the world. Often these groups are unaware of each other, and duplicate each other’s efforts. Not only can ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’ give them a starting point for cooperation and worldwide co-ordination, but it does so on the most solid theological ground possible: the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet, and the commandments described by Jesus Christ in the Bible. Thus despite their differences, Islam and Christianity not only share the same Divine Origin and the same Abrahamic heritage, but the same two greatest commandments.” 

Quoted from “The Amman Message Islamica Magazine The Great Tafsir Project of the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute R.I.S.S.C. 2007 C.E. 1428 A.H.

One Christian response to the “Common Word” overture came from scholars of the Yale Divinity School. They released a statement “warmly embracing the open letter ‘A Common Word between Us and You.’”  It was entitled, “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to A Common Word between Us and You.” Here are excerpts:

“We receive it [A Common Word] as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors." 
 

“Since Jesus Christ says, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Matthew 7:5), we want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g.in the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. in excesses of the ‘war on terror’) many Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors.  Before we ‘shake your hand’ in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.” 
 

“…..’Let this common ground’—the dual common ground of love of God and of neighbour – ‘be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us,’ your courageous letter urges.  Indeed, in the generosity with which the letter is written you embody what you call for.  We most heartily agree.”

“The statement was issued by Harold Attridge, dean of Yale Divinity School and Lillian Claus Prof of New Testament; Miroslav Volf, director of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and  Joseph Cumming, director of the Reconciliation Program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture; and Emilie M. Townes, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of African American Religion and Theology and president-elect of the American Academy of Religion. More scholars are expected to endorse the statement as it is circulated at Yale Divinity School and at other academic institutions across the country.”

The Yale Divinity School Response gathered many signatures throughout the USA, including some who are associated with conservative Protestants. Since that time, a controversy has surfaced among the Evangelical circles, leading some signatories to announce the withdrawal of their support for the Yale Response. Mark Tooley, the director of United Methodist Action at the Institute for Religion and Democracy, contributed an article entitled, A Dialogue in Bad Faith, to the online www.FrontPageMagazine.com  on January 10, 2008. Here are some excerpts:

“Controversy continues to swirl around the predominantly Religious Left and Evangelical Left response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You,’ the statement issued by 138 Islamic authorities in October.  

“The Muslim declaration was relatively moderate and invited dialogue with Christians. Mostly left-leaning religious studies faculty from the Ivy League organized ‘Loving God and Neighbor Together’ as a ‘Christian Response.’ It offered regrets for the Crusades and the War on Terror, while eagerly accepting the invite to dialogue with Islam. The Muslim statement, of course, offered no apologies for Islamist conquests or terror. 

“Predictable Evangelical Left activists such as Jim Wallis signed as well as more moderate Evangelicals, including the president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Leith Anderson and the NAE's increasingly left-leaning Washington spokesman, Richard Cizik. Rev. Anderson hoped that his signature would be ‘especially helpful to Christians who live and minister in Muslim-majority countries.’ And he likewise expressed concern that ‘not signing could be damaging to these Christian brothers and sisters who live among Muslims.’

“On January 3, a publication of James Dobson’s conservative ‘Focus on the Family’ criticized evangelicals who endorsed ‘Loving God and Neighbor Together.’ It quoted Southern Baptist theologian Albert Mohler, who slammed the statement's ‘naiveté,’ including the Crusades apology. ‘I just have to wonder how intellectually honest this is,’ he said. ‘Are these people suggesting that they wish the military conflict with Islam had ended differently - that Islam had conquered Europe?’ 

“In response to the Focus on the Family critique, ‘emerging church’ guru Brian McLaren vigorously responded with his own op-ed for Jim Wallis’ Sojourners. He likened the troubles between Christendom and Islam to an unpleasant domestic dispute between spouses who are in need of good counseling. 
“McLaren wondered about his fellow Christians: ‘How can we not apologize for our sins? Should we claim we have no sins? Or should we knowingly refuse to acknowledge them? Isn’t the humility to confess sins a Christian virtue?’ In an analogy that would surprise persecuted Christian minorities in Islamic countries, he portrayed Muslims as ostracized outsiders in need of Christian inclusion: ‘I’m sorry when anyone feels alienated by those of us who try to follow Jesus' command to be peacemakers and to treat others as we would be treated, but didn't Jesus, when faced with a choice of reaching out to those considered untouchable outsiders by the Pharisees, side with the excluded?’

“Was McLaren implying moral equivalence between the U.S. and al Qaeda’s radical Islamist allies? If so, he would not be entirely alone among many signers of ‘Loving God and Neighbor Together,’ who are desperately anxious to separate themselves from U.S. policies or conservative evangelicals who support them. Many of these signers are pacifist absolutists and genuinely see no ethical distinctions between terrorist strikes and a U.S. military response to them. 

“The NAE’s Leith Anderson admitted ‘there were lines in the Christian letter that were not quite what I would write’ and ‘sometimes we all sign onto things that are not all that we would like them to be.’ But he hoped that the Christian response to the Islamic overture would foster ‘mutual respect between the two largest religions on the globe’ and broader religious liberty.  Anderson expressed fear that Christians in Muslim lands might suffer if he declined to sign. Endorsing Christian apologies to Islam in order to protect Christians from being persecuted or killed by Islamic authorities or mobs hardly bodes well for constructive Christian-Islamic dialogue.”

Having begun their initiative of dialogue with Christians, the Muslim side continued their efforts by sending Seasons’ Greetings to Christians. On the last day of December, 2007, they purchased a half-page ad in The Wall Street Journal that ran as follows:

A Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas and New Year Greetings, 
December 2007

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 
May God bless Muhammad and his kin and bless Abraham and his kin 
Al-Salaam Aleikum; Peace be upon you; Pax Vobiscum 

Peace be upon Jesus Christ who says: Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected 
(Chapter of Mary; the Holy Qur’an, 19:33).

During these joyful holidays we write to you, our Christian neighbors all over the world, to express our thanks for the beautiful and gracious responses that we Muslims have been receiving from the very first day we issued our invitation to come together to ‘A Common Word’ based on ‘Love of God and love of Neighbor’  

We thank you and wish you all a joyous and peaceful Christmas Holiday Season commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, may peace be upon him. 

We Muslims bear witness that: There is no god but God, without associate, and that Muhammad is Servant and Messenger, and that Jesus Christ is His Servant, His Messenger, His Word cast to Mary, and a Spirit from Him … 
(Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Ahadith al-Anbiya’)*** 

The Christmas and New Year Greetings, continued by referring to the coincidence in 2007, between Muslim and Christian feasts: (Hajj, Christmas and New Year), and called attention to the patriarch Abraham who was not allowed by God to sacrifice his son, thus affirming and proclaiming the sanctity of human life. Then in an attempt to assume a moral high ground by making Islam eminently “Pro Life,” it referred to those “Muslim scholars who issued a historic declaration affirming the sanctity of human life – of every human life – as an essential and foundational teaching in Islam upon which all Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement (see details at www.duaatalislam.com).” 

The “Message” ended with these words: 

“May the coming year be one in which the sanctity and dignity of human life is upheld by all. May it be a year of humble repentance before God, and mutual forgiveness within and between communities. 

“Praise be to God, the Lord of the world.” 

The WSJ advertisement coming on December 31, 2007, claimed to be a “Season’s Greetings” addressed to the Christian World. It was prompted by “the beautiful and gracious responses that we Muslims have been receiving from the very first day we issued our invitation to come together to ‘A Common Word’ based on ‘Love of God and love of Neighbor.’  

At this point, I would like to address the translation of the Qur’anic words, ‘kalimaton sawa’ as “A Common Word.” While kalimaton means a word, the choice of common for sawa’ is debatable. I have read the text in the Arabic Qur’an several times, and was not convinced of the accuracy of the choice of “common.” I consulted a standard Arabic-English dictionary, Hans Wehr’s “A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic,” edited by J. Milton Cowan, and published in 1961 by Otto Harrassowitz, in Wiesbaden, Germany. Sawa’ was given several English equivalent words: equal, equality, equally, indiscriminately, without distinction, in like manner, evenly. The word ‘common’ was not among them. 

I realize that no word, in any language, can be understood simply on the basis of its etymology. According to the universally accepted rules of hermeneutics, the context is extremely important in determining the exact meaning of a word. This is especially the case as we attempt to translate a word from Arabic into a European language. Thus, in order to understand the meaning of the Muslim Christmas and New Year’s greeting, it is necessary to reflect on the context of the “Common Word” message, taken from Chapter 3 of the Qur’an, Surat Al-‘Imran. This passage sets forth “The Conditions for Dialogue” between Muslims and Christians. As we read some of the verses from Chapter 3, which are normative for Muslims, it becomes clear that dialogue with non-Muslims can only take place on the basis of the normative teachings of the Qur’an.  

Here are some verses from Surat Al-‘Imran, in Arberry’s Translation of the Qur’an:

Say: 'People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.’ And if they turn their backs, say: 'Bear witness that we are Muslims.’ V. 64

No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters. V. 67 
 

People of the Book! Why do you disbelieve in God’s signs, which you yourselves witness? People of the Book! Why do you confound the truth with vanity, and conceal the truth and that wittingly? V. 70,71 
 

Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers. V.85

It is clear that those Muslims who issued the invitation to dialogue, and adopted the term, “A Common Word” (kalimaton sawa’on baynana wa-baynakom,) from the Qur’an, declared their complete adherence to the teachings of their sacred book.  Furthermore, it must be noted that the tone of the texts from Chapter III is decidedly polemical. Christians are charged with the sin of shirk, i.e. in claiming that Allah had associates! Then they are exhorted to “serve none but God.” Thus, if Christians engaged in dialogue with Muslims, they are expected first to renounce their belief in the Trinity.  

Another Islamic requirement is to accept the authenticity of the Qur’anic version of Sacred History. This implies the rejection, for example, of the Biblical accounts of Abraham’s life. Thus verse 67 of Chapter III, categorically states: “ma kana Ibraheemu Yahudiyyan wala Nasraniyyan, walaken kana Hanifan Musliman …” (Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Nazarene, but he was a Hanif** and a Muslim…) [Translation mine]

Verses 70 and 71 address the Christians, as those who mix truth with vanity, and who refuse to believe in Allah’s signs. A pretty bad trait for those who are to dialogue with Muslims!  

Finally, the exclusivist nature of Islam is seen in verse 85:

“Waman yabtaghi ghayr’l Islami deenan, falan yuqbala minhu, wahua fil’akhirati min’al khasereen.”(He who seeks a religion other than Islam, that will not be acceptable of him, and at the Last Day, he will be among the Lost.)  [Translation mine]

Having dealt with the Qur’anic context of “A Common Word,” I turn to the text of the December 31, “Greeting.” I find it very difficult to receive it as a bona fide “Season’s Greetings.” While its title seems genuine, as one proceeds to analyze its contents, it reveals expressions and views that are thoroughly alien to the history of Christianity as recorded in the Bible, a book that antedates the Qur’an by several centuries.

For example, the reference to Jesus Christ is taken from the text of the Qur’an. It naively assumes that Christians would gladly accept it, rather than stick to the authentic accounts of the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. These words from Surat Maryam 19:33, make Jesus say, “Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected.” It is rather ludicrous to quote from this chapter regarding Jesus Christ. Among other things it recounts a Mary who was alone under a palm tree, about to give birth to Jesus; who after he was born, addressed the critics of his mother for her supposedly immoral conduct, while yet a baby! Did those who drafted the “Message” really expect Christians to be that gullible and prefer that bizarre account, to the ones given in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke?! 

The “Message” continued, “We Muslims bear witness that: There is no god but God, without associate, and that Muhammad is Servant and Messenger, and that Jesus Christ is His Servant, His Messenger, His Word cast to Mary, and a Spirit from Him …(Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Ahadith al-Anbiya’) 

All Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant,) subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity, and the deity of Jesus Christ. Arabic-speaking Christians begin their prayers by invoking the name of God in this way: “Bismil Aab, wal Ibn, wal Ruh al Qodos, Ilah Wahed, Amen.” (In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.”) They would not regard it as a compliment, or a basis for dialogue, that Muslims consider Jesus Christ merely as “Servant, or as Messenger.”  

The “Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas and New Year Greetings,” was a genre of Islamic propaganda aimed at Western people. The drafters of the “Season’s Greetings” hoped that their attempt would bear fruit among Christians. After all, who would ignore at that time of the year, such a gesture of good will? Here are Muslims who publicly declare that they honor and recognize Jesus as a prophet, isn’t that great? But who is this Jesus they honor? He is certainly not the Jesus Christ whose birth Christians celebrated on the 25th day of December, 2007. He is a pale shadow of the Biblical Christ; in fact he is a pseudo-Messiah. He is the Messiah of Surat Maryam (19) that contains an intensive polemic against the historical and real Messiah of the Bible. 

I don’t know how many of the readers of the December 31, Wall Street Journal, received at its face value, the “Message of Thanks…” I guess some who have been impacted by political correctness, may have welcomed the message as an expression of good will. But I certainly hope that those readers, who have done their homework on the history and sacred texts of Islam, would have realized that the WSJ ad is contradicted by the concrete facts of history. Islam remains a world religion that adheres to an imperialistic worldview, and looks askance at the Bible, with its supreme authority for Christians, in all areas of faith and life.  

Notes 
*Royal Academy of The Royal Aal al-Bayt: A Jordanian academy under the auspices of King Abdullah II.

The term, Aal al-Bayt, refers to descendents of the Prophet Muhammad, who was of the Hashem clan, and of the Quraysh tribe. Literally, Aal al-Bayt, signifies, Members of the House, of Hashem.

The kings of Jordan are descendents of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, who claimed descent from Muhammad. During WWI, he allied himself with the British against the Ottoman Turks. After the war, his son Faysal became king of Iraq, and his son, Abdullah, prince of Transjordan. After the birth of Israel in 1948, Abdullah became king of “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

**Hanif: Refers to those Arabs, in pre-Islamic Arabia, who rejected paganism, and professed belief in a creator God.

*** Sahih Bukhari: Refers to a collection of Hadiths (Traditions of Muhammad’s life and sayings) that are regarded as authentic. Many of the collected Traditions were spurious. Bukhari’s collection is considered as containing authentic (in Arabic, Sahih,) sayings of Muhammad.

Posted in Articles

Season's Greetings or Islamic Propaganda?

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Author: Jacob Thomas on Sunday, January 06, 2008

By Jacob Thomas 

On Monday, 31 December, 2007, the Wall Street Journal published the following “Message” on page A9:

A Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas and New Year Greetings, 
December 2007 

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful 
May God bless Muhammad and his kin and bless Abraham and his kin 
Al-Salaam Aleikum; Peace be upon you; Pax Vobiscum 

Peace be upon Jesus Christ who says: Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected 
(Chapter of Mary; the Holy Qur’an, 19:33).

During these joyful holidays we write to you, our Christian neighbors all over the world, to express our thanks for the beautiful and gracious responses that we Muslims have been receiving from the very first day we issued our invitation to come together to ‘A Common Word’ based on ‘Love of God and love of Neighbor’ (see www.acommonword.com for the document and the responses). 

We thank you and wish you all a joyous and peaceful Christmas Holiday Season commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, may peace be upon him. 

We Muslims bear witness that: There is no god but God, without associate, and that Muhammad is Servant and Messenger, and that Jesus Christ is His Servant, His Messenger, His Word cast to Mary, and a Spirit from Him … (Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Ahadith al-Anbiya’) 

The “Message” continued by referring to the coincidence this year, between Muslim and Christian feasts: (Hajj, Christmas and New Year), and referred to the patriarch Abraham who was not allowed by God to sacrifice his son, thus affirming and proclaiming the sanctity of human life. Then in an attempt to assume a moral high ground by making Islam eminently “Pro Life,” it referred to those “Muslim scholars who issued a historic declaration affirming the sanctity of human life – of every human life – as an essential and foundational teaching in Islam upon which all Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement (see details at www.duaatalislam.com).”

The “Message” ended with these words: 

May the coming year be one in which the sanctity and dignity of human life is upheld by all. May it be a year of humble repentance before God, and mutual forgiveness within and between communities.

Praise be to God, the Lord of the world.”

I would like to analyze this “advertisement-message,” and add my comments. 

Analysis 
The WSJ “ad-message,” coming on the last day of 2007, purports to be a “Season’s Greetings” addressed to the Christian World. It was prompted by “the beautiful and gracious responses that we Muslims have been receiving from the very first day we issued our invitation to come together to ‘A Common Word’ based on ‘Love of God and love of Neighbor.’  

It must be noted here, that a Christian response to the Muslim overture, “A Common Word,” was drafted by some members of the Faculty of the Divinity School of Yale University, with several signatures of well-known academics and ministers appended to it. 

Comments 
In our attempt to understand the true meaning of the Islamic greeting of 31 December, it is first necessary to reflect on the context of the initial “Common Word” message, taken from Surat Al-‘Imran. This Qur’anic passage sets forth what I would like to call “The Rules of Engagement” for Muslims when they dialogue with Christians. Dialogue with non-Muslims can only take place on the basis of the Islamic authoritative texts. Here are some Ayat of Surat Al-‘Imran, in Arberry’s Translation of the Qur’an:  

Say: 'People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.’ And if they turn their backs, say: 'Bear witness that we are Muslims.’ V. 64 
No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian; but he was a Muslim and one pure of faith; certainly he was never of the idolaters. V. 67 
People of the Book! Why do you disbelieve in God’s signs, which you yourselves witness? People of the Book! Why do you confound the truth with vanity, and conceal the truth and that wittingly? V. 70,71 
Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers. V.85 
Verse 85 in the Arabic original reads as follows:  “Waman yabtaghi ghayra’l Islami deenan, falan yuqbala minhu, wahua fil’akhirati min’al- khasereen.” 

It is clear that those Muslims who issued the invitation to dialogue, and adopted the term, “A Common Word” (Kalimaten sawa’en baynana wa-baynakom,) from the Qur’an, wanted to declare their complete adherence to the teachings of their sacred book. Furthermore, it must be noted that the tone of these texts from Chapter III is decidedly polemical. Christians are charged with the sin of shirk, i.e. in claiming that Allah had associates! Then they are exhorted to “serve none but God.” Thus, if Christians want to engage in dialogue with Muslims, they must first renounce their belief in the Trinity. 

Another Islamic requirement is to accept the authenticity of the Qur’anic version of Sacred History. This implies the rejection, for example, of the Biblical accounts of Abraham’s life. Thus verse 67 of Chapter III, categorically states: “ma kana Ibraheemu Yahudiyyan wala Nasraniyyan, walaken kana Hanifan Musliman …” (Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Nazarene, but he was a Hanif and a Muslim…) [Translation mine] 

Verses 70 and 71 address the Christians, as those who mix truth with vanity, and who refuse to believe in Allah’s signs. A pretty bad trait for those who are to dialogue with Muslims! 

Finally, the exclusivist nature of Islam is seen in verse 85: 
Waman yabtaghi ghayr’l Islami deenan, falan yuqbala minhu, wahua fil’akhirati min’al khasereen.”(He who seeks a religion other than Islam, that will not be acceptable of him, and at the Last Day, he will be among the Lost.) [Translation mine] 

Having dealt with the Qur’anic context of “A Common Word,” I turn to the contents of the 31 December “Message.” I find it very difficult to receive it as a bona fideSeason’s Greetings.” While its title seems genuine, as one proceeds to analyze its contents, it reveals expressions and views that are thoroughly alien to the history of Christianity as recorded in the Bible, a book that antedates the Qur’an by several centuries. 

For example, the reference to Jesus Christ is taken from the text of the Qur’an. It naively assumes that Christians would gladly accept it, rather than stick to the authentic accounts of the life of Jesus Christ as recorded in the New Testament. These words from Surat Maryam 19:33, make Jesus say, “Peace is upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am resurrected.” It is rather ludicrous to quote from this chapter regarding Jesus Christ. Among other things it recounts a Mary who was alone under a palm tree, about to give birth to Jesus; who after he was born, addressed the critics of his mother for her supposedly immoral conduct, while yet a baby! Did those who drafted the “Message” really expect Christians to be that gullible and prefer that bizarre account, to the ones given in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke?! 

The “Message” continued, “We Muslims bear witness that: There is no god but God, without associate, and that Muhammad is Servant and Messenger, and that Jesus Christ is His Servant, His Messenger, His Word cast to Mary, and a Spirit from Him …(Sahih Bukhari, Kitab Ahadith al-Anbiya’) 

All Christians (Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant,) subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity, and the deity of Jesus Christ. Arabic-speaking Christians begin their prayers by invoking the name of God in this way: “Bismil Aab, wal Ibn, wal Ruh al Qodos, Ilah Wahed, Amen.” (In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen.” They would not regard it as a compliment, or a basis for dialogue, that Muslims consider Jesus Christ merely as “Servant, or as Messenger.” 

The “Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas and New Year Greetings,” was a genre of Islamic propaganda aimed at Western people. The drafters of the “Season’s Greetings” hoped that their attempt would bear fruit among Christians. After all, who should ignore at this time of the year, such a gesture of good will? Here are Muslims who publicly declare that they honor and recognize Jesus as a prophet, isn’t that great? But who is this Jesus they honor? He is certainly not the Jesus Christ whose birth Christians celebrated on the 25th day of December. He is a pale shadow of the Biblical Christ; in fact he is a pseudo-Messiah. He is the Messiah of Surat Maryam (19) that contains an intensive polemic against the historical and real Messiah of the Bible. 

I don’t know how many of the readers of the 31 December, 2007, Wall Street Journal, received at its face value the “Message of Thanks…” I guess some who have been impacted by political correctness, may have welcomed the message as an expression of good will, especially at this time when we are involved in wars within Islamic lands. But I certainly hope that other savvy readers, who have done their homework on the history and sacred texts of Islam, would have realized that the WSJ ad is contradicted by the concrete facts of history. Islam remains an imperialistic worldview, and has never surrendered its dream of world domination. This they keep on trying to accomplish, either by force, or by subterfuge!

Posted in Articles

Western Dhimmitude

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Author: Jacob Thomas on Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nowadays, some Western scholars who deal with Islam behave like dhimmis. This is in sharp contrast with those 19th century European scholars who produced works of lasting value on Islam that were marked by objectivity and genuine scholarship.

I feel constrained to deal with the phenomenon of Western Dhimmitude having listened recently to a video clip of an interview with the Director of the Reconciliation Program, at Yale Divinity School. It dealt with Pope Benedict’s quoting of a 14th century Byzantine Emperor who had made a critical remark about Muhammad. The interview, dated 15 September, 2006, can be accessed at http://www.yale.edu/divinity/video/cumming_msnbc.shtml

In order to refresh the memory of the readers, and to place the interview in its proper context, I quote from Wikipedia, the following information about the controversy. 

On September 12, 2006, while lecturing on ‘Faith, Reason and the University’ at the University of Regensburg, where he was formerly a professor, Pope Benedict quoted the opinion of Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, ‘Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.’ The Pope later explained that the remark was meant to compare early Muslim teaching on religious freedom with the later teaching on jihad, and was cited as part of a larger theological assertion, that ‘reason and faith go hand in hand, and that the concept of a holy war is always unreasonable, and against the nature of God, Muslim or Christian.’

“The Director of the Vatican press office, Federico Lombardi, explained the Pope's statement: ‘It was certainly not the intention of the Holy Father to undertake a comprehensive study of the jihad and of Muslim ideas on the subject, still less to offend the sensibilities of Muslim faithful. Quite the contrary, what emerges clearly from the Holy Father’s discourses is a warning, addressed to Western culture, to avoid 'the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom.'

“There were public protests, including violent ones in the West Bank where two churches were firebombed, over his comments in various countries in the subsequent days. There has been a death threat on the Pope since the lecture from a group linked to Al Qaeda.”

Three days after the Pope’s remarks, Dr. Joseph Cumming, Director of the Reconciliation Program, at Yale Divinity School was interviewed by MSNBC.

The interviewer asked: “Is it true that Islam was spread by the sword?  Can that be said of any other religion?”

The Director replied: “Well, it is certainly true that all religious faiths and secular ideologies use religion to justify violence.”  

I thought I was listening to a politician who was obfuscating in his response, not wanting to go on record regarding the role of the sword in the history of Islam. The listeners to the television news channel needed to know whether Islam was spread by the sword or through peaceful means. A sincere question required an honest answer. To say, “it is certainly true that all religious faiths and secular ideologies use religion to justify violence,” was not an answer.

To begin with, I would like to offer a contrast between the first three hundred years in the histories of Christianity and Islam. From A.D. 1 until around 310, Christians were persecuted by the Roman Empire. Jesus Christ was crucified during the rule of Pontius Pilate, the representative of Rome in Palestine. Peter and Paul, two leaders of the early Church were martyred during the reign of Emperor Nero. This mad ruler started the fire that burned Rome, blamed the Christians for it, and punished them with horrific acts of cruelty. Several waves of persecution followed during the second and third centuries; so that one of the Church Fathers coined the saying, “The Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

In contrast, Islam did spread by the sword. Muhammad’s work in Mecca was not successful. So he moved to Medina, where he assumed the position of prophet and ruler. He led military campaigns against the Meccan caravans, and eventually entered Mecca as a triumphant ruler. After his death in 632, his successors launched the Futuhat (conquests) and managed to destroy the Persian Empire and parts of the Byzantine Empire. By 732, Muslims ruled lands stretching from India to Spain.

Furthermore, the response of Yale’s Director of its Reconciliation Program posited moral equivalence between Islam and the other major world religions. But history does not bear testimony to the veracity or accuracy of his claim. He should know better. I am not denying the fact that Christian nations were involved in building empires; and for centuries ruled many parts of the world. I grew up under French rule, attended French schools, and for some time, French was my primary language.

However, when we make judgments about religious faiths, we must begin by comparing the authoritative texts of these religions. Christ and his apostles clearly taught the distinction between God and Caesar, Church and State. Not so in Islam. From A. D. 622 (A. H. 1) religion and politics, “church” and state, became intertwined and inseparable in Islam.

At this point I would like to quote from my article, “Islamic Imperialism”: A Neglected Topic that appeared on the FFI website on 23 September, 2006. In that article I pointed to the fact that there was a “basic imperialistic impulse within Islam.” I quoted from a book by Professor Ephraim Karsh, (Head of the Mediterranean Studies Programme, King’s College, University of London,) ISLAMIC IMPERIALISM: A HISTORY. (Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2006)

In his Introduction, Professor Karsh contrasted Christianity with Islam:

“The worlds of Christianity and Islam, however, have developed differently in one fundamental respect. The Christian faith won over an existing empire in an extremely slow and painful process and its universalism was originally conceived in spiritual terms that made a clear distinction between God and Caesar. By the time it was embraced by the Byzantine emperors as a tool for buttressing their imperial claims, three centuries after its foundation, Christianity had in place a countervailing ecclesiastical institution with an abiding authority over the wills and actions of all believers. The birth of Islam, by contrast, was inextricably linked with the creation of a world empire and its universalism was inherently imperialist. It did not distinguish between temporal and religious powers, which were combined in the person of Muhammad, who derived his authority directly from Allah and acted at one and the same time as head of the state and head of the church. This allowed the prophet to cloak his political ambitions with a religious aura and to channel Islam’s energies into ‘its instruments of aggressive expansion, there [being] no internal organism of equal force to counterbalance it.” P. 5

In the Epilogue of Professor Karsh’s book, we read the following:

“Contrary to widespread assumptions, these attacks, [reference here is to 9/11/2001]

and for that matter Arab and Muslim, anti-Americanism, have little to do with US international behavior or its Middle Eastern policy. America’s position as the pre-eminent world power blocks Arab and Islamic imperialist aspirations. As such, it is a natural target for aggression. Osama bin Laden and other Islamists’s war is not against America per se, but is rather the most recent manifestation of the millenarian jihad for a universal Islamic empire (or umma). This is a vision by no means confined to an extremist fringe in Islam, as illustrated by the overwhelming support for the 9/11 attacks throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds.” P. 234 Emphasis is mine, JT

To go back to the comments of the Director of the Reconciliation Program at Yale Divinity School, I ask: why didn’t he give a straight answer to the question of the interviewer? As a member of a theological and academic faculty, has he forgotten that language is meant to reveal and not conceal the truth?

As a descendent of dhimmis who endured 1300 years of humiliation and persecution from the hands of the Muslim conquerors of the Levant, I know what it is to lead a life of a dhimmi, and the necessity to watch one’s words when uttering anything about Islam or its founder. But why should some Western scholars, who have studied Arabic and Islam, behave like dhimmis and avoid telling the truth about Islamic imperialism?

What leads Westerners to engage in camouflaging the true nature of Islam? Perhaps, it is their eagerness to be seen as engaged in an attempt to reconcile the West with Islam. But should that reconciliation require a re-writing of the histories of all non-Islamic faiths, while ignoring the fact that Islam has distinguished itself in the use of the sword in its expansion?

As long as Islam clings to the authority of the Qur’an, Hadith, and the Sunna of the Prophet, Islam remains as an exclusivist worldview. Its basic impulse or motif continues to be imperialistic. Its hegemony extends beyond the geographical sphere; as it appropriates the religious personages of the past from Adam to Jesus, by declaring them as proto-Muslims.

Islamic reconciliation with the rest of the world, will not take place thanks to the endeavors of some Western scholars’ wishful thinking, but only when the Muslim world recognizes that the Medinan Surahs of the Qur’an (that harbor the Ayat al-Sayf, the Sword Texts) are no longer normative in our globalized world. Until that day, Islam remains a religion of the word and the sword. If you don’t believe that, just glance at the flag of Saudi Arabia, with the words: La Ilaha illa’llah, Muhammad Rasool Allah, superimposed over two swords, and tell me what those symbols mean.

http://www.news.faithfreedom.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1670

Posted in Articles

Anxious for Dhimmitude

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

By Mark D. Tooley 
FrontPageMagazine.com | 10/18/2007

A large group of senior Islamic clerics and teachers has recently issued “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a statement addressed to churches urging greater comity between Muslims and Christians. The clerics unapologetically espouse Muslim teachings, while asserting there is common theological ground between the two faiths. The Vatican and some conservative Protestants have commented that the Muslim outreach merits a thoughtful response.

But the Religious Left, always anxious to burnish its multicultural credentials, has responded to “Common Word” with enthusiasm.

The National Council of Churches’ (NCC) top (though outgoing) interfaith official hailed the Islamic outreach, saying it will fuel the “urgency” of the NCC’s own Muslim-Christian dialogue. Part of the NCC’s own interfaith ministry, as Shanta Premawardhana described it, is standing “in solidarity with Muslims at a time when many Muslims in the United States faced significant levels of discrimination,” post 9-11.

Premawardhana thanked the Muslim clerics and scholars for speaking out against Muslim “extremists.” Similarly, he boasted, the NCC is trying to “counter the voices of extremist Christians with initiatives aimed at teaching Christians about Islam and helping churches build relationships with mosques in their local communities," Premawardhana added.

Actually, “Common Word” did not criticize Muslim “extremists.” Nor did it attempt to modify Islamic teachings that demand that non-Muslims live in subordination to Islamic authority in majority Muslim societies. But it did call for non-violent interaction between Muslims and Christians, and it actually speaks of “freedom of religion.” This makes it “moderate.”

Perhaps an even more effusive reaction to “Common Word” was a quickly organized but lengthy statement from Ivy League seminary scholars, who were “deeply encouraged and challenged” by the Muslim outreach. They titled their piece “Loving God and Neighbor Together,” dedicated it, in typical seminary speak, to the “Infinitely Good God whom we should love with all our being.”

“We receive ‘A Common Word as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians world-wide,” the academics enthused. “In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love and our neighbors.”

The Ivy League seminary professors included with every reference to Jesus Christ a “Peace be Upon Him,” in a wan attempt to show the Muslims how attuned they are to Islamic lingo. No doubt the Islamic scholars will be impressed.

And the Ivy Leaguers opened their manifesto with apologies for Christianity’s perceived sins against Islam. “We want to begin by acknowledging that in the past (e.g. the Crusades) and in the present (e.g. the war in Iraq) Christians have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors.”

Naturally, the Ivy Leaguers want the Muslims’ forgiveness for all of Christianity’s countless outrages. “Before we ‘shake your hand’ in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.”

The “Common Word,” unlike the left-wing Western religious response to it, carefully avoided political statements. There is no mention of Iraq, or the Palestinians, or even of the Crusades. No apologies are offered for any of Islam’s historic depredations, nor did the Islamic clerics request any apologies from their Christian audience. But the Religious Left, when conversing with perceived victims of the Christian West, is always anxious to extend remorse.

The Ivy Leaguers also took some other political swipes, warning against serving “idols” such as a “ruler, a nation, [or] economic progress,” which leads to “deep and deadly conflicts.” The professors commended the Muslim clerics & scholars for their “generosity” and courage.

“It is with humility and hope that we receive your generous letter, and we commit ourselves to labor together in heart, soul, mind and strength for the objectives you so appropriately propose,” the Ivy Leaguers concluded portentously, sounding like a sad caricature of the Founding Fathers.

The Ivy League signers of “Loving god and Neighbor Together” included the dean of Yale Divinity School, the president of Princeton Theological Seminary, the dean of Harvard Divinity School, and several seminary professors from those schools.

Unlike the responses from the NCC and the Ivy Leaguers, the Muslim statement definitively asserted Islamic beliefs about Allah, about Muhammad as his only Prophet, about the authority of the Koran, and about divine judgment. Neither the NCC nor the academics appeared to be anywhere near as resolute in presenting Christian doctrines about God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, and the end times.

If the Muslim scholars behind “Common Word” do not already know it, they will soon learn: left-wing clerics and scholars in the West often will not talk about much less defend Christian theology because they themselves do not believe in its historic doctrines. For them, Christianity is mostly just a vessel through which the goals of the political Left can advance.

In dialogues with Muslims, the Religious Left wants to apologize for Christianity and form common alliances against traditional Christians and Jews, while also denouncing various foreign and military policies of the U.S. No doubt, many “Common Word” Muslim scholars and clerics will be glad to indulge this. But if they are looking for substantive exchanges over theological differences between Christianity and Islam, they will have to look elsewhere.


Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

Posted in Articles

Islam's Peace Offensive

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

By Stephen Brown and Jamie Glazov 
FrontPageMagazine.com | 10/16/2007

In a move eerily reminiscent of the Soviet “peace offensives”, 138 leading Muslim scholars have composed a letter to Christianity’s leaders, with Pope Benedict’s name heading the list, requesting a meeting to discuss the “common essentials of our two religions.” The authors warn that “the survival of the world” is at stake if the two religions do not make peace, which, the Muslim authors believe, is possible since the basis of Islam and Christianity is “the two commandments of love.” 

While it is at least admirable that these learned representatives of Islam acknowledge that their religion is at war with Christianity (since much of the Christian world is in denial), the main sticking point, the letter makes clear, is the aggressive nature of Christianity. The Muslim scholars emphasize that: “As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes.” 

The problem with this theme, however, is that the religious believers being oppressed and driven out of their homes in the world today are Christians, and other non-Muslims, who find themselves trapped under Muslim rule. It is not surprising that the Muslim scholars’ “peace” letter nowhere mentions the murder of Palestinian Christian Rami Ayyad, who was recently abducted, tortured and murdered in Gaza City. Six months earlier, a bomb had destroyed his Christian bookstore, the Holy Bible Society. Ayyad’s murder and the bombing of his bookstore are consistent with the pattern of barbaric violence that is being carried out by Muslims against Christians in the Gaza strip today, particularly by a jihadist group that calls itself “The Righteous Swords of Islam.” 

Christians living under the Palestinian Authority are habitually brutalized and must now practice their religion in secret. Hamas is planning to enforce the jizya, the special tax mandated by the Qur’an (9:29) for Jews and Christians. Christian women, meanwhile, must veil themselves or face dire consequences. A few years ago, members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades shot dead two Christian women for not wearing the Islamic veil. The Muslim group explained: “We wanted to clean the Palestinian house of prostitutes.”  

It is no wonder then that a mass exodus of Christians is occurring under the Palestinian Authority - just as has been the case almost everywhere where Christians have been trapped under Islamic rule. Bethlehem used to be 85 per cent Christian sixty years ago. Today, after decades of Muslim persecution, Christian believers in one of Christianity’s most holy sites comprise only 15 per cent of the population. 

In Iraq, meanwhile, Christians are the victims of a reign of terror being waged by Muslims – a tragedy epitomized by the murder of Syrian Orthodox priest, Fr. Boulos Iskander, by Muslims in the Iraqi city of Mosul. To be sure, Rami Ayyad’s and Fr. Iskander’s tragic fates represent the victimization of all Christians, everywhere from Egypt to Pakistan and from Sudan to Nigeria, at the hands of Muslims. Christians in these Islamic settings suffer constant discrimination, harassment and persecution. 

In the context of these ugly realities, the question must be asked: why did the Muslim authors of the “peace” letter not mention these ingredients of Muslim-Christian “relations”? Why did they not condemn the persecution of Christians by Muslims and denounce the teachings on which this persecution is based? Why did they not acknowledge that it is Muslims, not Christians, who are killing other Muslims and driving them out of their homes today? For instance, the United Nations calls Darfur the worst human rights situation in the world today. It is a place where Muslims have killed about 300,000 of their fellow Muslims. And the worst case of war being waged against Muslims on account of their religion exists between Shiites and Sunnis—who slaughter each other off in Islamic countries like Iraq and Pakistan in the thousands. Al Qaeda and its extremist allies are no slackers when it comes to killing Muslims, the Algerian civil war being a good example. Oppression and honor murders of Muslim women in both Islamic and western countries are also not committed by Christians and peoples of other faiths. It is Muslim men who oppress them, not just driving them out of their homes, but also throwing them to their deaths over the balconies of their domiciles. Why did the Muslim authors of the “peace” letter not mention these facts? 

If the Muslim authors of the “peace” letter truly wanted to make peace with Christians, one would also think that their letter would have contained a categorical rejection of traditional Islamic law that mandates the death penalty for any Muslim who leaves Islam, in accordance with Muhammad’s command: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” Indeed, this is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Thus, Muslims who have converted to Christianity have suffered—and continue to suffer—vicious persecution all over the Islamic world. Christianity, meanwhile, has no equivalent of such a teaching and Christians are free all around the world to convert to the religion of their choosing—including to Islam without a fear for their lives. 

It is also curious: why did the Muslim authors not include a condemnation of Sura 9:29 of the Qur’an, which commands Muslims to fight Jews and Christians until they “pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued”? 

At the same time, why did they also not renounce the imperative in Islam to subjugate the world under the rule of Islamic law, which is deeply embedded within Islamic theology (see Qur’an 9:29, discussed above; Sahih Muslim 4294; and a host of other evidence from all the Sunni madhahib and Shi’ite sources as well). Indeed, all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that it is part of the responsibility of the umma to subjugate the non-Muslim world through jihad. Muslims waging jihad against the West perpetually justify their acts on the basis of what they read in the Qur’an. If Islam and Christianity are truly to exist peacefully, isn’t it vital that this reality be dealt with by Muslims who want true peace with Christianity? 

If the Muslim authors of the letter truly wanted peace, one would also think that they would have mentioned and repudiated Qur’an 5:17, which says that those who believe in the divinity of Christ are unbelievers, or 4:171, which says that Jesus was not crucified, or 9:30, which says that those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are accursed. One would think they would know it is common sense that renouncing these teachings is a mandatory stepping stone to better relations with Christians. 

Overall, the main issue ignored by this letter is that it is the Christian West that has shown its tolerance and respect for the Muslim religion by allowing millions of its adherents to immigrate here, to build their mosques and religious schools (sometimes with taxpayers’ money), proselytize and practice their faith unmolested, protected by scores of laws and human rights codes. Which begs the question: if Christianity was so aggressive and thought itself at war with Islam, why would it allow millions of the enemy’s followers to settle within its borders? Church leaders in Muslim countries would be overjoyed to enjoy just a slight percentage of the freedoms and legal protections granted to Islam in western countries. And what has the West received in return for its tolerance? The attacks of 9/11, the Paris riots, the Madrid and London bombings, and countless other thwarted terrorist attacks – not to mention “peace” letters accusing it of an exterminating aggression. 

The Muslim “peace” letter and its calling of a Christian-Muslim peace conference reminds one of the old Soviet practices of always claiming victim status and talking peace while waging war around the world—and at home against its own people. And the Soviets always approached peace talks with the one-way street attitude: what’s ours is ours; what’s yours is negotiable. Even from the theological point of view, the Bishop of Rochester in England, Pakistani-born Dr. Nazir-Ali, says that the Muslim scholars’ letter “seems to verge” on dictating “the terms on which the dialogue must be conducted.” Again, that manipulative, one-way street approach. 

Before any “peace talks” are held, it would be wise—and fair - for the Muslim scholars to prove their sincerity in desiring real peace and tolerance between the two religions. They must unequivocally condemn the terrorism committed in the name of Islam; they must renounce violent jihad and dhimmitude as obstacles to peace; they must renounce the more offensive parts of Sharia law, such as slavery and discriminatory laws against women and non-Muslims; and they must call for the end of all restrictions on minority religions in Islamic countries. If these Muslim scholars signed a letter supporting the building of Christian churches, even just one, in places such as Saudi Arabia, then one could believe their desire for peace was genuine. 

But if these things are not done, then the peace “letter” of the Muslim scholars can be seen to be what it really is: a passive-aggressive, disingenuous, Soviet-style tactic to psychologically disarm the enemy in a larger war that these learned Muslims admit their religion is already waging.


Stephen Brown is a columnist for Frontpagemag.com. Jamie Glazov is the managing editor of Frontpagemag.com.
Posted in Articles

A New Minority in North Africa

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

The Maghrebi Christians under the Rule of Islamists

By Jacob Thomas

On 14 April, 2007, FFI posted my article where I commented on a paper that was read at the “Conference on the Plight of Minorities and Women in the Middle East and North Africa.” The conference was held in Zurich, Switzerland, between 24 and 26 March, 2007. The paper’s title was: “Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun: (The Muslim Brotherhood) Source of the Persecution of the Minorities and Women.”

Another subject that came up at the Zurich Conference was the status of Maghrebi* Christians, a topic that is seldom mentioned, or discussed in Arab publications. The title of the paper was: “Masihiyyou al-Maghreb fi Hukm al-Islamiyyin.” (The Maghrebi Christians under the Rule of Islamists.) It was posted on the online daily, Elaph, on 10 April, 2007. The following is a translation of the text, followed by my analysis and comments.

“The region known nowadays as the Arab Maghreb (North Africa) was, up to the 7th Century, inhabited by Jewish and Christian people. Later on, they converted to Islam. During the 19th Century, they stood firm against all attempts of Christian evangelism. However, a new phenomenon has surfaced during the last few decades, namely the embracing of the Christian faith by North Africans. This fact raises several questions as to the importance of these conversions, their causes, and the dangers that threaten this minority of “New Christians.”

First, we deal with the New Christians’ phenomenon throughout the Arab Maghreb

  1. The Rise of this Phenomenon

“In a sense, this phenomenon is not restricted to the Arab Maghreb, as there are indications that a number of Muslims are embracing Christianity throughout all the continents, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia. As to the Arab Maghreb, this phenomenon has drawn the attention of the media. For example, the weekly journal, Jeune Afrique, devoted three reports on this subject with respect to Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria. In March 2005, the French daily Le Monde, devoted a complete report about this topic. And Al-‘Arabiyya TV channel telecast two reports on the subject that were recorded in the Kabyle region of Algeria.

“Jeune Afrique estimates the number of people who have embraced Christianity in Tunisia to be around 500, belonging to three churches. A report on the website of “Al-Islam al-Yawm” prepared by Lidriss el-Kenbouri, dated 23 April 2005, estimated the number of European evangelists in Morocco, around 800. Quite often, their evangelistic efforts are successful. The report further added that about 1,000 Moroccans have left Islam during 2004. The magazine “Al-Majalla” in its No. 1394 issue, claimed that the number of New Christians in Morocco is around 7,000; perhaps the exact number may be as high as 30,000.

“The report in the French daily Le Monde claimed that during 1992, between 4,000 and 6,000 Algerians embraced Christianity in the Kabyle region. By now, their numbers may be in the tens of thousands. However, the authorities are mum about this subject; as an Algerian government official put it, the number of those who have embraced Christianity is a state secret.

  1. The Most Important Factors for Conversions to Christianity

“First factor: The violence of the fundamentalist Islamist movements.

“In a statement by a former member of the Algerian Nahda Movement ** made to Jeune Afrique: ‘I observed that during my imprisonment, there was no difference between the police’s treatment and that of the Nahda.’ This factor played a greater role in Algeria in the aftermath of the terrible massacres that began in 1992. A Christian evangelist working in Algeria said: ‘These terrible events shocked people greatly. It proved that Islam was capable of unleashing all that terror, and all those massacres! Even children were not spared during the uprising of the Islamists! Women were raped! Many people began to ask: ‘Where is Allah?’ Some Algerians committed suicide! Others lost their minds; others became atheists, and still others chose the Messiah!’

“Second Factor: The failure of the political regimes.

“According to Sebastian Fateh, of the National Center for Scientific Research in France, the Maghrebi states tried to apply, during the last four decades, various political regimes, such as nationalistic, Islamists, and dictatorial types. Thus, the embracing of Christianity by people of the region represents another attempt to discover the proper regime; since all the previous ones had failed.

“Third Factor: The religious training within the family.

“The report of “Al-Majalla” mentioned above, included the testimony of a young Moroccan woman who embraced Christianity: ‘Our father used to order us to pray and read the Qur’an; when we disobeyed that command, he punished us with beatings. He told us that if we refused to wear the hijab, we would suffer in hell.’

“According to her testimony, this young woman’s relation with Allah was devoid of love. A Christian Moroccan aged 30, involved in spreading his faith declared: ‘Many of us regard Islam as a social fetter, a shackle, or a handicap.’

“Undoubtedly, the religious education offered in Muslim countries depicts a sadistic and fearful view of Allah, whose punishments are severe. He must not be questioned about what He does; only his followers are questioned about their acts. No doubt that the horrific massacres perpetrated by the Islamists in Algeria, did contribute to the success of the evangelistic work both in Algeria, and in the surrounding countries. But why are people choosing specifically Christianity?

“Fourth Factor: The geographical and linguistic factors have played an important role in the conversion of Maghrebi people to Christianity.

“This is especially the case with France which has welcomed many Maghrebi immigrants. We should not forget the existence of Christian churches in some of the big cities of North Africa, nor the impact of five Christian satellite TV stations that telecast their programs in Arabic. The young Moroccan evangelist estimates that personal contacts are responsible for 60% of conversions; while the role of the Internet is around 30%, while those who embraced Christianity through the work of foreign missionaries tends to be around 10%

“Quite often, the “New Christians” testify to the fact that what they discovered in their new faith is love; it was the major factor in their conversion. These are some of their words:

‘We found out that in Christianity, God is love,’ ‘God loves all people;’ ‘What attracted us to Christianity is the teaching that God is love.’

“Second, what is of concern for us at the Zurich ‘Conference for the Defense of Minorities’ in our part of the world, is the danger surrounding these New Christians, a danger that will increase should the Islamists assume power in North Africa.

           3. The Present Danger:

“Even though the various constitutions of the Maghrebi states guarantee religious freedom and the fact that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Section 18) supports freedom of belief; New Christians do face serious dangers due to the fatwas prescribing severe punishments for the sin of “radda” (apostasy). Actually such fatwas are being issued by the Islamists. Here we may refer to the Algerian Front Islamique du Salut FIS, and the Moroccan Justice and Development Party, as well as the Justice and Benevolence Movement, all clamoring for the application of the Medieval Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) with respect to the sin of apostasy. Their pronouncements may lead some crazy person to take it upon himself to punish apostates with the ultimate penalty, namely the shedding of their blood. In this respect, we should not forget the law passed by the Algerian Parliament on 20 March 2006 requiring the punishment of any person ‘who makes, holds, or distributes any pamphlets, audio or video cassettes, or any other method that aims at shaking people’s faith in Islam.’

            4. The Future Danger when Islamists assume power in North Africa.

“The greatest danger will be faced should the Islamists take over governments. This danger already exists in Morocco, where opinion polls indicate that the Justice and Development Party is expected to win the elections planned for the latter part of this year. In that case, it would not be beyond the realm of the possible that terrible massacres will take place when thousands of those who had voluntarily converted to Christianity, would lose their lives, notwithstanding the existence of  Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that guarantees freedom of belief. A former Algerian government official warned that the future wars in the Arab Maghreb will be “Huroub al-Radda”*** (Wars against the Apostates), i.e. wars between Islamists and those Maghrebi Muslims who had left Islam.

“Taking the above into consideration, I believe that it is of utmost importance that the ‘Organization for the Defense of Minorities’ that would come out of the Zurich Conference, should adopt the cause of our brothers in humanity. It is necessary that we invite representatives from these groups in North Africa to join our new-born organization. We should cooperate with Arab and international organizations dedicated to the defense of human rights, and lend our support for this North African religious minority. These new Christians are facing dangers coming from those fundamentalist North African movements whose actions have taught us that they do not hesitate at committing the ugliest crimes. We should never forget that FIS

(Islamic Salvation Front) filled the streets, valleys, and mountains of Algeria during the 1990s, with blood and corpses. In the same way, Moroccan Islamists are following the footsteps of the Algerian radicals, committing crimes against the security forces, tourists, members of the Jewish community, and students. This is why we must remain on our guard!”

Analysis

The purpose of the paper was to draw the attention of the conferees to the existence of a new minority in North Africa that deserves recognition and protection. While the Islamic Shari’a allows for the existence of Jews and Christians within Daru’l Islam by granting them the dhimmi status, the same law prohibits radda (apostasy), and punishes a murtad (apostate) with death.

Comments

This paper about Maghrebi converts to Christianity is of great significance. Muslims never cease to boast about converts to Islam from other world faiths, but they are loathe to acknowledge that some of their own faith do leave it, either to embrace a no-faith worldview, or to become members of another religion. The tradition that began immediately after Muhammad’s death in 632, and which forced Arab tribes who had gone back on Islam to return to Islam, is still in force fourteen centuries later.

The deep reason for forbidding radda is to maintain the very raison d’etre of Islam. Muhammad declared himself to be the last prophet of Allah. Therefore, there could be no new prophet to supersede him; nor could the previous revelations given to the prophets that preceded him be considered as authentic; since as Muslims contend, they have all been corrupted. Islam remains the only true religion, and Muslims must never consider leaving their faith, for the sin of apostasy is just as serious as the sin of shirk (belief in many gods.)

However strict the laws of apostasy may be, the fact is that some Muslims are converting to Christianity. This is not propaganda emanating from the Christian side. The paper I quoted above made it clear that these conversions are taking place, and gave anecdotal accounts about the reality of these conversions, based on Arab and non-Christian sources.

Most of the testimonies of the converts pointed to the fact that what attracted them to the Christian faith was something that was totally lacking in their own tradition. Allah seemed to be unconcerned about his creatures; all he demanded was blind obedience. They craved for love, and they discovered that message in the Christian faith. That’s the summary reason for their conversion.

In reflecting on the report given at the Zurich Conference, I could not help noticing this total lack of quid pro quo that exists between Islam and the rest of the world. Muslims living within traditionally non-Muslim lands, enjoy total freedoms of worship and proselytizing. They build mosques everywhere, and engage in aggressive da’wa (calling people to Islamize.) And when non-Muslims embrace al-Sirat al-Mustaqeem (the Right Path=Islam), they broadcast that on all types of media. On the other hand, dhimmis in the lands of their ancestors, are not allowed to build new churches, and are forbidden to propagate their faith outside their own people! And woe unto any Muslim who considers embracing a religion other than Islam. After all, the Holy Book declares: “Inna’l Deena ‘inda’l Allahi al-Islam.”  “Certainly the only acceptable religion with Allah is Islam.” [3:19]

The relation between Islam and the rest of the world is marked by asymmetry. Muslims may and do enjoy all kinds of freedoms and privileges in the lands of the Kuffar; however non-Muslims are not granted the same rights and privileges when they live in Daru’l Islam. Western politicians don’t seem to notice this anomaly; while most Western academicians don’t appear concerned about this lack of quid pro quo in the Islamic world. In our globalized world, this state of affairs should not continue. The existence of these New Christians of North Africa must be acknowledged; they need our love and our concern. We should not allow them to be eliminated, if the Islamists succeed in taking over the governments in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. 

*Maghreb: Derived from the Arabic noun that denotes the Western regions of the Arab world, in contrast with Mashreq, or Eastern regions of the Arab world. In contemporary Arabic, Maghreb signifies North Africa, while Mashreq has been replaced by the term Al-Sharq al-Awsat (Middle East) Maghrebi: the Arabic adjective that refers to North Africans in general, and specifically to Moroccans.

** Nahda: Arabic for Awakening; in Algeria, it is the name of an Islamist group.

***Huroub al-Radda: This is a reference to the wars against those Arab tribes who defected from Islam, after the death of Muhammad in 632 A.D. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr launched several campaigns against them, and forced them to return to Islam. Huroub is the plural of Harb (war); Radda is the Arabic term for going back (on Islam) i.e. committing the sin of apostasy. The word for apostate is murtad.

Posted in Articles

Why Don't The Christians Learn from the Jewish Experience?

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

“Limadha la Yastafid al-Masihiyyun min Tajribat al-Yahud ?”

 

Author: Jacob Thomas on Friday, November 02, 2007

Lately, several articles have appeared in the online Arabic daily Elaph, dealing with the plight of the Christians living in the Arab world. Western media don’t focus their attention on this topic when they report on the Middle East, since they are preoccupied with the war in Iraq, and Iran’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons. Without minimizing the importance of these subjects, the status of Middle East Christians deserves the attention of the world. So, I was very pleased with the fact that some Arab writers have turned their attention to the worsening conditions of Mideastern Christians who are the remnants of the original inhabitants of the area.

On Friday, 26 October, 2007, I noticed an article in Elaph, with this intriguing title, “Why Don’t Christians Learn from the Jewish Experience?” Let me share with you excerpts from the article, followed by my analysis and comments.

The author began with these introductory remarks:

“In a previous article, I discussed the difficulties facing the life of Christians in the Arab world. I suggested that a realistic solution to their problem would require a mass migration of these Christians to Western countries. Several Christians objected to my proposal, but offered no realistic alternative toward the solution of the problem. They expressed the hope that somehow, coexistence between Muslims and Christian in the Arab world, would someday materialize.

“In this article, I would like to pose this question: ‘Why don’t Christians learn from the experience of the Jews who lived in the Arab world?’ They patiently endured religious persecution and racial discrimination; without expecting a change in their political situation, or the rise of a spirit of tolerance and coexistence. The Jews paid a heavy price for their patience: they were persecuted, oppressed, lost their properties and their citizenship in the Arab countries.

“When we consider the prevailing social, political, and religious conditions in the Arab world, how can Christians expect, in the near future, a complete change in their situation? Do they really look forward to the time when some of them would get nominated for high office in the Arab world, or be elected to such positions as prime minister, or president of the republic, with Muslim citizens voting for them?!

“Do Christians expect Shi’ites and Sunnis to be reconciled; thus reflecting the emergence of a new spirit of inter-communal tolerance?! Do they anticipate a change in the Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) which is the source of the doctrinal and psychological barriers between Muslims and followers of other religions?!

“Unfortunately, there are no indications of the possibility of liberating Arab societies from their inherited backwardness. Discrimination exists even within members of the same family; fanaticism and intolerance begin at the tribal level, and then proceed to the ethnic, regional, and confessional levels. Religious extremism and fanaticism result from these perverted societal and psychological structures that have produced an irrational religious mind, marked by a lack of openness to the “Other.”

“How unfortunate then that many Christians, when they attack Irhab (terrorism) and fanaticism, attack at the same time, the very source of Islamic doctrines by denying their divine origin, considering them merely the human thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad. They fall into the same trap of fanaticism by assailing the beliefs of others.”

Analysis

The author described the difficulties that attend the lives of Christians in the Arab world, and proceeded to ask, “Why Don’t Christians Learn from the Jewish Experience?” This experience has been marked by religious persecution, ending with the Jews losing their properties, and their citizenship. He refrained from telling the whole story that after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, almost the entire Jewish population in the Middle East had to leave their ancestral homes, and find refuge in Israel, Europe, and the Americas.

Comments

At first, I was very intrigued by the title of the article. I thought the author must have had in mind a worthwhile lesson that Christians living in the Arab world would learn from the experience of the Jewish people. So, what was that lesson that Christians should learn? Is it that the Jews of the Arab world had suffered a great deal since the rise of Islam? But so did the Christians. Both were labeled as “dhimmis” by the Islamic conquerors; they were tolerated within the Islamic Umma as long as they behaved properly, and paid the Jizya tax according to the Qur’anic prescription, ‘an yaden wahum saghirun.*

Actually, the lesson our author wanted Christians to learn was to pick up and leave their homelands or convert to Islam. It’s a recipe for a voluntary ethnic and religious cleansing. Why this drastic solution? Well, Arab Christians should not be naïve and expect Muslims to change their minds, and accept them as equals in rights and responsibilities. As he put it, a realistic solution to their problem would require a mass migration of these Christians to Western countries.” What a solution! To uproot around 15 million people whose roots in Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt, go back to more than three millennia?  While I appreciate the author’s honest description of the awful plight of the Christians in the Arab world, I am terribly shocked by his surrealistic proposal!

Another disappointing part of the article was the last paragraph, where the author blamed some Christians for their intolerance. “How unfortunate it is that many Christians, who attack Irhab and fanaticism, attack at the same time the very source of Islamic doctrines by denying their divine origin, and consider them as merely the human thoughts of the Prophet Muhammad. Thus, they fall in the same trap of fanaticism by assailing the beliefs of others.” 

I am not aware that Christians living in the Arab world openly engage in polemics against Islam. They know better than to do that. On the other hand, does he expect these Christian communities, after enduring 1400 years of marginalization and persecution, to forsake their allegiance to their Christian faith? To accede to his advice and accept the “sources of Islamic doctrine” as being of “divine origin,” would amount to becoming Muslims?! All that remains for them to formalize their conversion would be to utter the “Shahada.”

As a Levantine Christian, I have always keenly felt that what bothers our fellow Arabic-speaking Muslims is the fact that, even after fourteen centuries, we still cling tenaciously to our faith. It’s hard for them to comprehend that while our ancestors finally Arabized, nevertheless, we did not Islamize. Arabic-speaking Christians must be terribly stubborn, unwilling to accept Islam as God’s last message to mankind! It is too bad that Muslims cannot understand the reason for our “stubbornness!”

So, my response to the advice of the author of the article is: “No thanks, we will stay in our homelands; and while some of our people have reluctantly settled in the West, we will never contemplate a mass exodus from the lands of our fathers.”

* In Surah 9:29 of the Qur’an, we read the following about the Jizya tax:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor the Last Day, nor hold forbidden that 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 Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued”

The Arabic original of “with willing submission and feel themselves subdued” is: ‘an yaden wahum saghirun.’ “saghirun” literally means “diminishing themselves” or “acting with utter submissiveness” vis-à-vis their Muslim masters!

Posted in Articles

Saying No To Moral Equivalence

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

Notwithstanding the mounting evidence regarding the aggressive nature of Islam, some Western writers claim that not only Islam, but Judaism and Christianity as well, have violent elements in their respective traditions, and have engaged in violence throughout their history. This position, derived from the prevailing climate of political correctness, became evident recently in an Interview aired by Cable TV station, C-Span2, on Sunday, September 16,  2007.

Raymond Ibrahim, editor and translator of “The Al Qaeda Reader” was interviewed by Lawrence Wright, a staff writer at the New Yorker, and author of “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11.”

As I watched the interview, Raymond Ibrahim appeared as a budding scholar and an expert on Islam, its history, and its sacred texts. He spoke with an authority that comes from one who has done his homework in the most exacting way. Furthermore, he demonstrated a good knowledge of the Christian faith, its history and theology. Here are some points of the interview based on the notes I took while watching the telecast.

Lawrence Wright began by asking him about his interest in the subject. He responded that while he was studying at California State University, his research dealt with the battle of Yarmouk which took place in southern Syria in 636 A.D., four years after the death of Muhammad. That battle was the first major encounter between Islam and Christianity, and resulted in the loss of the Syrian province of the Byzantine Empire. It became a “role model” for the Islamic futuhat (conquests) and an integral part of its theology throughout history.

The interview then turned to al-Qaeda’s ideology. When it first surfaced, this organization had a list of grievances, such as the presence of U.S. forces on Saudi soil during the early 1990s in preparation for the liberation of Kuwait, Western humiliation of the Muslim world, and the creation of State of Israel.

Raymond Ibrahim remarked that when Osama Ben Laden and Ayman Zawahiri address the West, they use a different set of arguments and pronouncements than when they write for a specifically Muslim audience in Saudi Arabia. For example, when a number of Saudi religious scholars wrote a document addressed to the West entitled “How We Can Co-exist” they were severely criticized by Ben Laden, and charged as having “prostrated to the West.”

Then Wright turned to the subject of Israel. Mr. Ibrahim stated that even if Israel ceased to exist, Islamic antagonism towards Christians and Jews would not stop. He referred to the early history of Islam where the Jews stood condemned. He quoted Chapter 9:29 from the Qur’an as a proof that Jews, as dhimmis, must submit to Islamic authority. “Fight against those who (1) believe not in Allâh, (2) nor in the Last Day, (3) nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allâh and His Messenger (4) and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islâm) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”  Ibrahim concluded his comment on this text by saying that the teaching of this verse “has been codified in the Islamic Shariah Law.”

At this point Lawrence Wright commented: “All religions have their fundamentalists and tend to have radicals who interpret the sacred texts in a literalistic way, thus giving rise to violence. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all have had their share of violence.”

Raymond Ibrahim disagreed. He said that we must differentiate between the teachings of these religions, and the actions of their followers. Islam has its violent sacred texts enshrined in the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Sunna. When the doctrine of abrogation is applied in the exegesis of the Qur’an, the violent texts of the Medinan Surahs that ‘descended’ between 622 and 632 abrogate the more peaceful texts of the Meccan Surahs that date from 610 to 622.

Mr. Ibrahim added that while Christians have been involved in violence across the centuries, it does not follow that their sacred texts can be charged with aggressive teachings. He said that the Christian sacred texts “advocate passivity and are metaphysical.”  I presume he meant by “metaphysical” the eschatological elements of the Christian religion. And while the Old Testament records some violent acts such as in the conquest of the Land of Promise, that was only for a specific period in Old Testament history. Raymond asserted that Judaism did not codify violence in its laws, and does not have a worldview that advocates the conquest of whole world.

It was very perceptive of Raymond Ibrahim to respond to the attempts of Mr. Wright who sought to paint Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with the same brush. He insisted that violence is part and parcel of the official and unchanging teachings of the Qur’an. He quoted this well-known verse (among Muslims) from Chapter 9, verse 111, of the Qur’an:

“Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur’an.”

Lawrence Wright persisted in his claim that violence and extremism are universal, as in the activities of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and in the behavior of the Japanese pilots during WWII. Raymond disagreed; he explained that the Japanese were following an ideology which has been discredited after the war. As for the Tamil Tigers, their motivation was not religious. He pointed to a very important distinction that must be made between ideologies and theologies. Ideologies are man-made and their life-span can be relatively short; whereas theologies are based on authoritative sacred texts, and possess a long life. According to Islamic theology, the Qur’an is held to be God’s very word, is immutable, and valid in all time and space. Even moderate Muslims, who don’t engage in violence, agree with the worldview of the radicals as to the continuing validity of Jihad.

Mr. Wright continued his argument which tended to further confuse the issue, by saying that “every religion has contradictions.” Some literalist Jews, he said, would like to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Fundamentalist Christians, he claimed, would like to bring about the Apocalypse. But as Raymond retorted, there is no New Testament teaching about the rebuilding of the Temple. He also insisted that we must always distinguish between what Christians say and do, and what their sacred text teaches. It is the Islamic authoritative texts that advocate violence. Not only so, but in Islam, the consensus of the ‘Ulema, or religious scholars, constitutes another source of teaching for the Umma. It is this belief that gave birth to the Islamic worldview which divides the world into two distinct realms: Daru’l Islam and Daru’l Harb (Household of Islam and Household of War.)

The above belief, whether articulated or not, was behind all the Islamic violence and futuhat, beginning with the 7th century and down to the 17th century. All these conquests were done as a Jihad fi Sabeel Allah, i.e. War in the Pathway of Allah. Raymond Ibrahim referred to the little known Houroob al-Radda, i.e. the Wars of Apostasy. They took place soon after the death of the Prophet in 632, when many Arabian tribes left Islam, and returned to their former faiths. Abu Bakr, the first caliph, waged war against them, and violently forced them to return to Islam.

Lawrence Wright continued to paint an attractive portrait of Islamic history by referring to the “beauty and tolerance” of Islam in Al-Andalus (Spain.) He followed that by referring to the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain in1492. But Raymond Ibrahim reminded him that it was the Muslims who first invaded the Iberian Peninsula back in the 8th century. The same thing pertains to the criticisms of the Crusades. Yes, many violent acts took place in the Holy Land from the 11th to the 13th centuries; but why forget that it was the Islamic armies that had first conquered Palestine in the early years of the 7th century? The Crusader Wars were a belated reaction to the prior conquest of the Holy Land by the Islam.

At this point I would like to reiterate that while Raymond Ibrahim did an accurate and objective exposition of the true nature of Islam, Lawrence Wright manifested a weakness that bedevils several Western writers on Islam as they tend to downplay the aggressive nature of this faith. They accomplish that by lumping Islam with Judaism and Christianity, and claiming that all theistic religions have violent teachings and histories.

Mr. Ibrahim, more than once during the interview, challenged this point of view in Mr. Wright’s statements. While it would not be proper for me to put Lawrence Wright in the same category as some well-known Western apologists for Islam, I was saddened when he tried to downplay the violent teachings and actions of Islam. Having done his research for writing “The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” one would have expected that he had gained a better knowledge of Islam than he actually exhibited during the Interview.

To give a good idea of the scholarship of Raymond Ibrahim, I would like to quote from an article he published on National Review Online on May 10, 1007, “Karen Armstrong's Islamic Apologetics.” This British writer has distinguished herself as one of the most ardent defenders of Islam in the Western world.

“Islamic apologist extraordinaire Karen Armstrong is at it again. In an article entitled "Balancing the Prophet" published by the Financial Times, the self-proclaimed "freelance monotheist" engages in what can only be considered second-rate sophistry.

“The false statements begin in her opening paragraph:

“Ever since the Crusades, people in the west have seen the prophet Muhammad as a sinister figure.… The scholar monks of Europe stigmatized Muhammad as a cruel warlord who established the false religion of Islam by the sword. They also, with ill-concealed envy, berated him as a lecher and sexual pervert at a time when the popes were attempting to impose celibacy on the reluctant clergy.”

“This is just an obvious error of fact. Armstrong and others try as a routine to tie European sentiments toward Islam to the Crusades, but in fact, "people in the west" had something of a "dim" view of Mohammed half a millennium before the Crusades. As early as the 8th century -- just a few generations after Mohammed -- Byzantine chronicler Theophanes wrote in his Chronographia:

“He [Mohammed] taught those who gave ear to him that the one slaying the enemy -- or being slain by the enemy -- entered into paradise [e.g., Koran 9:111]. And he said paradise was carnal and sensual -- orgies of eating, drinking, and women. Also, there was a river of wine … and the woman were of another sort, and the duration of sex greatly prolonged and its pleasure long-enduring [e.g., 56: 7-40, 78:31, 55:70-77]. And all sorts of other nonsense.”

Raymond Ibrahim continued:

“It wasn't only during the Crusades -- when, as Armstrong would have it, popes desperately needed to demonize Mohammed and Islam in order to rally support for the Crusades -- that Westerners began to see him as a "sinister figure." Many in the West have seen him as that from the very start. So, claims of Mohammed being a "lecherous pervert" were not due to any "ill-conceived envy" on the part of 12th-century popes trying to "impose celibacy on the reluctant clergy." (Indeed, this last notion posited by Armstrong -- an ex-nun -- appears to be more telling of her own "ill-conceived envy" against the Church.) Despite the oft-repeated mantra that the West is "ignorant" of Islam -- dear to apologists like Armstrong -- this [8th century] passage reveals that, from the start, Westerners were in fact aware of some aspects of the Koran.

“Having distorted history, she next goes on to distort Islamic theology:

“Until the 1950s, no major Muslim thinker had made holy war a central pillar of Islam. The Muslim ideologues Abu ala Mawdudi (1903-79) and Sayyid Qutb (1906-66), among the first to do so, knew they were proposing a controversial innovation. They believed it was justified by the current political emergency.”

Raymond Ibrahim corrects Ms. Armstrong:

“Even better than a "major Muslim thinker," Allah himself proclaims: "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger [i.e., uphold sharia], nor embrace the true faith, [even if they are] from among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay tribute with willing submission, and feel themselves utterly subdued" (Koran 9:29). Mohammed confirms: "I have been commanded [by Allah] to fight against mankind until they testify that none but Allah is to be worshipped and that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger” (Bukhari B2N24; next to the Koran, the second most authoritative text in Islam).

“Armstrong then spends an inordinate amount of time criticizing author Robert Spencer and his new book The Truth about Muhammad:

“The traditions of any religion are multifarious. It is easy, therefore, to quote so selectively that the main thrust of the faith is distorted. But Spencer is not interested in balance. He picks out only those aspects of Islamic tradition that support his thesis. For example, he cites only passages from the Koran that are hostile to Jews and Christians and does not mention the numerous verses that insist on the continuity of Islam with the People of the Book: 'Say to them: We believe what you believe; your God and our God is one [29:46]'.”

“But is Armstrong not herself being a bit disingenuous by assuring the people of the West -- primarily Christian -- that the Koran's notion of God "insists on continuity" with theirs? What about the other Koranic verses: "Infidels are those who say Allah is one of three… [i.e., the Christian Trinity;]" (5:73). "Infidels are those who say Allah is the Christ [Jesus], son of Mary" (5:17). The divinity of Christ -- anathema to Islam -- is fundamental to the Christian view of God. Surely Armstrong has not forgotten this from her days at the convent.

“Armstrong's lament that "there is widespread ignorance of Islam in the west," and that we should rectify this by developing a more "balanced" and "nuanced" understanding of the Koran is as ridiculous as asking Muslims living in Palestine and Iraq to overlook the "Crusader" presence there and instead consult the Bible itself to see how many portions of it accord with peace and justice. (Indeed, such a proposition is worse than ridiculous, since the Bible comes nowhere near to theologically justifying violence against the "Other" in perpetuity as found in the Koran.)

“In the final analysis, Armstrong's historical and theological "discrepancies" (to be polite) are baffling -- particularly her many oneline sentences that simply defy historical fact: "Muhammad was not a belligerent warrior." "The idea that Islam should conquer the world was alien to the Koran…" "Muhammad did not shun non-Muslims as 'unbelievers' but from the beginning co-operated with them in the pursuit of the common good." "Islam was not a closed system at variance with other traditions. Muhammad insisted that relations between the different groups must be egalitarian."

“Still, in the end one can sympathize with Armstrong's closing sentence: "Until we all learn to approach one another with generosity and respect, we cannot hope for peace." But we should also hasten to add the more important virtues of honesty, sincerity, and truthfulness.”

Thus far, my quotations from Raymond Ibrahim’s article in NRO. For those of you, who would like to read more of Mr. Ibrahim’s writings on Islam, please drop me an email, and I would be glad to send you some of his articles in attachment form.

I hope that my review and comments on the Interview have made it clear that Christians have the responsibility to witness boldly against all theories of “Moral Equivalence” that obliterate the radical difference between Islam and Christianity. Raymond Ibrahim, a young scholar working at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., has done an excellent job in defending the integrity of the Christian faith. It is up to each one of us to do the same.

Posted in Articles

Does 'Blaming the Other' Fix Our Problems

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany
“Lawm al-Akhar’, Hal Yusleh Awda’ana?”
By Jacob Thomas
 
Early during the Six Day War of June, 1967, President Nasser realized that the war was lost. His entire Air Force was destroyed by the Israelis before any Egyptian plane could take to the skies and face the incoming Israeli Air Force. Rather than acknowledging his defeat, and taking full responsibility for starting the war with Israel, Nasser telephoned King Hussein of Jordan; and together they concocted the story that US and British war planes had joined in the Israeli attack on the Egyptian airfields! Nasser resorted to an age-long habit among Arabs and Muslims, that of blaming others for their own mistakes and misadventures. In fact, this is a trait of the Arab mind that is illustrated in Raphael Patai’s “The Arab Mind,” Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, (1973,) and David Pryce-Jones’ “The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs,” HarperPerennial, New York, (1991.)
 
Early in 2007, an Arab writer dealt with this subject in an article under the title, “Lawm al-Akhar, Hal Yusleh Awda’ana?”(Does ‘Blaming the ‘Other’ Fix our Problems?) It was posted on the liberal online site, www.kwtanweer.com on 4 March 2007. When I saw it on 22 August, 239 people had already read it during the previous six months. Here are excerpts from the article, followed by my analysis and comments.
 
“Why does the treason-discourse seem to rule the Arab scene? It is a discourse which labels ‘others’ as kafirs. Why do the Arab masses accept a confrontational discourse, rather than the one that advocates enlightened points of view? Why does the conspiratorial mind dominate the collective Arab mind? Why do preachers of hate have more followers than preachers of tolerance? And finally, why do the religious pulpits keep on cursing the “Others,” and calling for divine retributions to fall upon them?
 
There can be only one reason for that, namely the belief of both the elites and the masses that the “Other” must always be blamed; and that he deserves our hatred and enmity. Actually, it is this culture of ‘blaming the Other” that relieves a person of his responsibility to deal with his own situation, and makes him blame the ‘Other.’
 
“Recently, Sunni and Shi’ite religious leaders met in Dohahoping to achieve a rapprochement between the two religious groups, and to prevent war between their followers. After some deliberations, they concluded that Israel, the United States, and the West were to blame for the problems that hound the Middle East!
 
The ‘Other’ must always be blamed, as far as the Arab Mind is concerned. He is the cause for our suffering, and the failures of our development projects. The ‘Other’ is responsible for the collapse of our democratic experiments, and for the rise of religious factionalism among us. And yes, it is the ‘Other’ that brought Irhab(terrorism)into our lands!
 
“The culture of ‘blaming the Other’ is a doctrine believed by some Arab elites and by the Arab masses who remain transfixed by the ‘Other.’ This frame of mind is not of recent origin, it has been with us across our entire Islamic history, going back all the way to the Great Schism. Rather than try to understand the human nature of the Sahaba*, and admit their role in the troubles that irrupted after 632 A.D., Arab historians searched for an imaginary ‘enemy.’ They invented a mythical Jewish figure, Abdullah bin Saba, and made him the villain responsible for the Schism of 656 A. D.
 
“If we glance at the contemporary Islamic text- books, we discover that ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ are taught as authentic Jewish documents, and are claimed to be responsible for the present-day divisions in Islam. They also claim that the Jews were behind the fall of the Caliphate through the instrumentality of Ataturk**
 
“Many Arabs exhibit the same logic by attributing to the Mosad*** a principal role in the plot of 11 September 2001. The Mosad must take the blame for the bombings in London, Taba, and Sharm el-Sheikh; and in the assassination of Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq. And let’s not forget, the Mosad was behind the plots to assassinate Arab leaders beginning with Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Yasser Arafat, and Rafik al-Hariri, the Prime Minister of Lebanon.
 
“It’s high time we cease blaming the ‘Other’ and begin engaging in self-criticism. We gain nothing by blaming the ‘Other,’ and by clinging to the conspiracy theories. We don’t help ourselves by talking about cultural imperialism, or by regarding globalization as an evil thing. Let’s learn from those nations which transcended their defeats after WWII. For example, Germany worked on the eradication of Nazi ideology; and Japan jettisoned its Imperial dreams of superiority. Both Germans and Japanese engaged in self-criticism, corrected their mistakes, and rose again on the world scene. As for us Arabs, we go on cursing the Satans of darkness, without ever lighting one candle to expel the darkness surrounding us.”
                                                           
Analysis
 
It is refreshing to read such words that describe a regrettable trait of the Arab-Muslim mind. After some tragic events have taken place, rather than admit their true nature, and the causes that led to them, Arabs resort to blaming the “Other.” There is a total absence of self-criticism that would seek the causes that led to a national or communal tragedy. The author ended his article by pointing to the great benefits that accrued to both Germany and Japan, when they exercised self-criticism after their defeat in WWII, and the Arabs’ reluctance to do anything to change their habit of blaming the “Other,” by engaging in self-criticism!
 
Comments
 
The early history of Islam manifested tremendous successes, especially in the speed of their futuhat (conquests) in the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. After the collapse of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 13th century, the newly converted Turks continued the Islamic conquests in the Balkans, and in parts of Central Europe. The Ottoman Turkish Caliphate, having joined Germany and Austria in WWI, lost its colonial territories. The last Islamic Caliphate was abolished in 1924, by Ataturk, the father of the Turkish Republic.
 
Ever since then, Muslims have not stopped asking, “What Went Wrong?” Rather than approaching their problems by engaging in an objective analysis of the causes for their decline, Muslims play the blame game, and point to the “Other” (al-Akhar) as the source of their failures.
 
Now what is rather helpful about the article is that it brought to light certain forgotten details of Arab history, as it pointed out that the habit of blaming “Others” is ingrained in the Arab-Muslim mind. It referred to a Jewish person, Abdullah Bin Saba, and his involvement in the Schism of 656 A.D.  This tragic event in the early history of the Islamic Umma was an internal affair that surfaced after the assassination of Caliph Uthman. When Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, succeeded Uthman in 656, Mu’awiya, the governor of Damascus, claimed that Ali was involved in the murder of his relative, Uthman. He refused to acknowledge Ali’s caliphate, and rebelled against him. He was joined by Aisha, the youngest wife of Muhammad. The civil war lasted five years, and ended with the murder of Ali, and resulted in the Great Schism in Islam, pitting the followers of Mu’awiya (to be known as Sunni) against the followers of Ali (to be known as Shi’at Ali, or simply, as Shi’ite.)
 
Not wanting to tell the whole truth about the abrupt collapse of the unity of Islam, some close friends of the Prophet known as the Sahaba, invented the myth of a Jewish role in the Great Schism. This shows that even those venerated Sahaba were ordinary humans afflicted with worldly desires and ambitions. They could not admit that such a terrible thing could have happened, and began the tradition of blaming “Others” i.e., non-Muslims, for the division of Islam into two rival groups!
 
Blaming others, or “Lawm al-Akhar,” has been joined by a Conspiracy Theory of History. For the “Akhar” to be successful in his plots against the Islamic Umma, he must acquire the cooperation of anti-Islamic circles. So this theory has gained acceptance among Arabs, and is invoked whenever a crisis occurs in an Arab or Islamic country. So why not blame the United States, and Western Europe, for all the failures and debacles that have bedeviled the lands of Islam?! And then there is the arch-enemy of Islam, Israel and its Mosad which is ubiquitous. It must have been behind 11 September, 2001, and all the lesser attacks in Europe and the Middle East. As to ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.’  it was actually a Russian secret police forgery aimed at justifying the persecution of the Jews. But it has now been taken over by the Arabs and declared to be an authentic Jewish treatise that has a blue-print for Zionist world domination!
 
The ingrained habit of blaming the “Other” for the woes of the Islamic Umma deepens their intensity. It is high time that, having taken note of the futility of blaming others, Arabs engage in self-criticism. This painful exercise would begin a process that will allow them see that most of their problems are self-inflicted. Unless they swallow their pride, and acknowledge that blaming the “Other” has gotten them nowhere, they will continue to sink deeper and deeper in the quick sands of their own making!
 
*Sahaba: The Companions of the Prophet Muhammad who came with him to Medina in 622 A.D. They constituted an “inner circle” among the larger group of Muhajiroun (Immigrants).
 
**Ataturk: The Turkish general, Mustapha Kemal led the remnants of the Ottoman Army after the defeat of Turkey in WWI. He succeeded in pushing back the Allied armies that threatened the integrity of the Turkish heartland. He founded the Turkish Republic, and abolished the Caliphate in 1924. He was responsible for the founding of a secular tradition in Turkey that sought to keep Islam out of politics. He was honored by receiving the title of Ataturk, the Father of the Turks.                                                                                                                                              
His legacy received a severe blow on 28 August, 2007, when an Islamic politician, Abdullah Gul, was elected President of the Turkish Republic.
 
***Mosad: The Israeli intelligence agency that operates outside Israel.
Posted in Articles

The Myth of Islamophobia

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany
“Khurafat al-Islamophobia”
 
Author: Jacob Thomas on Friday, August 03, 200711:24 PM
 
 
During the lifetime of the USSR, it was customary for the Russian Communists and their fellow-travelers, to attempt to silence anyone who disagreed with their Marxist ideology. So they resorted to vilifying their adversaries by painting them as “bourgeois reactionaries” and “enemies of the toiling masses.” They acted according to the age long principle that attack was the best defence.
 
Nowadays, we find a similar strategy being used by Islamists and some “moderate” Muslims. They work hard to silence anyone who unveils the belligerent components of Islam. One of their tactics is to brand critics of Islam as manifesting “Islamophobia.”
 
On 23 July, 2007, I noticed an article on www.kwtanweer.com with this title: “Khurafat al-Islamophobia?” (Khurafat is the Arabic for myth.) Do we dismiss the author as someone trying to endear himself to the West? That would constitute an unwarranted conclusion. In fact it would amount to a condescending attitude towards any Arab intellectual who spoke boldly about a serious blind spot in the Arab-Muslim mind.
 
So, let me share with you excerpts from this article, and follow that by my analysis and comments. The author began with these introductory words:
 
“We have heard and read a great deal about “Islamophobia,” i.e. the fear of Islam. It is claimed that Western Intelligence Services have invented this term to generate fear of Islam among their peoples. This was necessary, we are told, after the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the Socialist camp in Eastern Europe. This theory claims that the West has always needed a common enemy to maintain its cohesion and its alliances. The Communist threat served that purpose for around half a century, and now it is Islam’s role to do the same.
 
“Let’s be realistic: how did the term “Islamophobia” originate? And, who benefits from it? Who is threatening whom? Is it true that the West is afraid of Islam? If there is a fear of Islam in the West, which Islam is the West afraid of? Is it Islam as a religion, or is it rather political Islam, that has produced Irhab,* and continues to commit its ugly crimes against humanity in the name of Islam? Which side suffers the most from these crimes, is it the West, or the Islamic peoples?
 
Who is behind “Islamophobia?”
“Now, if the West is truly afraid of Islam, who caused the rise of this phobia? Aren’t Muslims themselves responsible for that? Arabs suffer from an incurable disease known as the Conspiracy Theory of History. They know they are terribly underdeveloped, but at the same time, they resist joining modern civilization. They have nothing to offer save oil, Irhab, and destruction. And notwithstanding their backwardness, as their illiteracy (reading ability) stands around 60%, while their cultural illiteracy is around 90%; Arabs believe they are the best people on earth! They regard the West, with all its sciences, technology, modernity, philosophy, democracy, and human rights; as living in the days of Jahilyya,** according to the theory of Sayyed Qutb.*** 
 
“So, if you tell Muslims they are underdeveloped, they will respond loudly and tell you that Western imperialism, Zionism, and Crusaderism are responsible for their underdevelopment. They add that the West wants nothing less than the destruction of Islam and to appropriate the Muslims’ possessions! This theory has contributed to filling the minds of Muslim youth with hatred and enmity for the West, and has encouraged them to join the ranks of Irhabis.
 
“Unfortunately, such theories do not emanate only from the propagandists of political Islam, but equally from some liberal-minded writers. For example, the columnist Ouled Abahu contributed an article to the online daily, Al Sharq al-Awsat on 20 July 2007, in which he blamed the rise of Islamophobia on the West. He wrote: ‘It is clear that this negative picture [of Islam] has been fashioned by the Neo-Conservative Movement in the United States, the new British Literary Movement, and the French Conservative-Leftist intellectuals who supported the new Rightist French President Sarkozy.’
 
This writer went on blaming these groups for “regarding Islam as the greatest threat facing Western civilization.’ To prove his point, he referred to two recently-published novels that dealt with Islamic subjects. The one was Salman Rushdie’s ‘Shalimar.’ ‘Its Muslim hero had only one goal: forcing people to build mosques, and hiding women under chadors. The second novel, ‘The Last Days of Muhammad Atta’ depictsAtta as a woman-hater who acquired this attitude from the Qur’an and the Sirat [Life] of the Prophet of Islam’
 
“The question remains: Do these quotations from the aforesaid novels accurately describe the actions of Muslims, or were they false accusations of Islam? Aren’t Muslims those who require women to wear the hijab? Don’t they also claim that women are mentally and religiously deficient, and are therefore inferior to men? Don’t Muslims quote various Hadiths attributed to the Prophet Muhammad as having said, ‘No man should embark on a project without seeking another man’s advice; but if he fails to find a man, let him ask a woman’s advice, and then do exactly the very opposite of what she had advised?’ Another Hadith shows the low esteem for women in Islam: ‘When you obey women, you’ll soon regret it!’ Another similar Hadith: ‘Men have perished when they obeyed women!’
 
“As for Muslims’ attitude toward non-Muslims, the fuqaha of Irhab love to quote this Hadith: ‘I have been commanded to fight people until they say La Ilaha illa’l Allah; when they utter these words, they have my promise that I would not shed their blood, or acquire their possessions.’ Isn’t it political Islam that urges young men to kill innocent non-Muslims, as well as Muslims who don’t agree with them? Aren’t Muslim religious leaders who use texts from the Qur’an and Hadith, to blame for transforming Muslim doctors living in the West, into Irhabis? If all that I have detailed is true, why then blame Westerners for the invention of the term, “Islamophobia?”
 
Is it true that the West is afraid of Islam?
“Had the West been really afraid of Islam as a religion, Western governments would not have allowed Muslim communities to settle in their countries, or offered financial aid in building their mosques, or allowed them to bring Imams from Muslim lands. If the West was truly afraid of Islam, why were some propagandists of political Islam allowed to settle in Western countries? Millions of Muslims come to the ‘Infidel West’ and live in it, in peace and tranquility. In fact the proportional number of mosques in the West is greater than in Islamic lands. For example there are more than one thousand mosques in Britain, while the number of Muslims living there is around two million! At the same time, Copts in Egypt are not allowed to build new churches unless they get permission from the President; and obtaining the needed permit for that is almost impossible. Furthermore, when a Christian comes to Saudi Arabia, he is not allowed to bring his Bible with him; if he has one, it is confiscated at the airport!
 
“Muslims enjoy complete freedom of worship in the West; in fact they have more freedom in Western lands than in Islamic countries. Actually, religious freedom for Muslims is granted only and uniquely to the type of Islam that is sanctioned by the state. Thus, Shi’ites living in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia don’t enjoy the freedom to express their own type of Islam. As for Iran, the case is reversed, since Shi’ism is the official religion of the state, Sunni Muslims do not enjoy complete freedom. It is a fact that no mosque has been bombed in any Western country, whereas attacks on mosques, [both Sunni and Shi’ite mosques] often happen in Islamic countries.
 
Who Benefits from the “Islamophobia” Lie?
“It was the followers of political Islam who invented the term “Islamophobia” and they are the ones who benefit from it. Their goal is to place the Muslim communities in the West in a state of confrontation with the host nations; pushing them to adopt a radical form of Islam, and thus, inflaming the struggle with the West. They have succeeded, up to a point, to gain the sympathy of some moderate Muslims who criticize the West, and rail against its “Islamophobia.”
 
“For example, after the failed terrorist attacks in London and Glasgow, an Arab organization in Britain issued a statement criticizing the terrorist attack, while at the same time it blamed Britain’s foreign policy as a possible reason for that attack. But such a claim is nothing but a pack of lies! There can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terror. Let’s never forget that those who were involved in the terrorist attack were medical doctors who betrayed the honor of the medical profession. It was a religious ideology that changed Muslim doctors into Irhabis. Now, aren’t Westerners justified if they fear people like them? After all, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second in command in al-Qaida, is a doctor and the son of a doctor!
 
To sum up.
“Yes, political Islam is a threat to the world. The majority of terrorists are Muslim, who have been brainwashed and made to hate the West and its civilizational values. Those who encourage this attitude rely on religious texts to convince would-be terrorists to commit their terrible crimes. Thus, it is the duty of reasonable Muslims to save Islam from those who have high jacked it and use it to reach their goal, namely to recreate the Islamic Caliphate. But such a dream can only be realized within their sick minds. What is needed is to bring certain Islamic texts, the Ayat al-Sayf wal-Qital (The Qur’anic Sword Texts) in line with the conditions of the present time. Unless peaceful coexistence with the rest of mankind is advocated, Islam and Muslims would find themselves in a perpetual confrontation with the rest of the civilized world. The results would be catastrophic for Muslims themselves. Actually, in the West, there is no fear of Islam as a religion; but there is fear of political Islam, the source of Islamic Irhab, whose danger is greater for Muslims than for the West.”
 
Analysis
The writer is at pains to explain that the West did not invent “Islamophobia” as a means to combat Islam and Muslim nations in this new century. It is radical Muslims and their fellow-travelers who use this term, in order to silence any honest and needed critique of certain aspects of Islam. He points to the fact that many Muslims have settled in the Western world, where they enjoy freedom of worship, and an opportunity to earn a decent livelihood. If there is a fear of Islam, it is of “Political Islam.” He holds it responsible for the spread of fear of Islam, in other words, “Islamophobia.” He insists that radical Islam, and not the West, is responsible for the rise and spread of this term.
 
Comments
It is indeed refreshing to read such an article on a widely-visited website. The author is very frank and extremely bold in telling a truth that is seldom heard from the side of Arab and Muslim writers.
 
My problem with the article is that the distinction the author makes between Islam as religion, and political Islam, can be sustained only on a theoretical level. In reality, however, it is Islam as religion that eventually gave birth to Islam as a state with its political ideology. This is the verdict of the history of the last 1400 years.
 
Islam began in 610 A.D. as a religious movement. Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, claimed that Allah was giving him a definitive word for mankind. The revelations that “descended” on Muhammad in Mecca (610-622) dealt with purely religious themes: the unity of God, the vanity of idols, and the necessity to submit to Allah according to His holy shari’a or law. As one begins to read the Qur’an in Arabic, he will notice at the head of every chapter a superscription that gives its name, and the place of its “descent.” For example, Surat al-Fatiha (Chapter One) is “Makkiya wa-Ayatuha Sab’a” (It is Meccan, and has Seven Verses); while Surat al-Baqarat (Chapter Two) has 281 verses, and was the first to “descend” in Medina.
 
It was during his sojourn in Medina (622-632) that Muhammad became both Prophet and Statesman.  The revelations “descending” upon him in this new place dealt with both religious and political issues. When he died in 632, his successors, the Caliphs, began their futuhat or conquests of the world. They built within one hundred years, a huge empire stretching from Spain in the West to India in the East. It is very doubtful that Islam, as a religion (or the Islam of the Meccan chapters of the Qur’an) would have spread as it actually did, without the aid of the political-military complex it had become.
 
Not long ago, an Islamic Caliphate or Empire still existed. I have in mind the Ottoman Empire that had once succeeded in finishing off the Byzantine Empire in 1453. It controlled the Middle East, the Balkans, several parts of Central Europe, and twice reached the gates of Vienna (1529 and 1683.) But since the abolishing of the Caliphate in 1924, by Mustapha Kemal Ataturk, a powerful malaise has set in within Daru’l Islam. Muslim intellectuals kept asking, “What Went Wrong?” The dream of resurrecting the old glory of the Caliphate has never died. Soon after the end of Western colonialism and the various nationalistic-socialist experiments in the Arab world proved their utter bankruptcy, attempts to revive Islam as a political power have gained momentum. It is at this point that Islamic triumphalist ideologies gained popularity among Arab and Muslim young men. Thus, what is now called political Islam, or Islamism, was born. It is not, however, entirely unconnected with Islam per se. For this faith, unlike all other major world religions, has never been simply and purely a religion in the accepted meaning of the word.
 
It is next to impossible to bring in line or modify the warlike Qur’anic texts, known as Ayat al-Sayf, wal-Qital, and adapt them according to the demands of a globalized world, where various worldviews may peacefully coexist. Such a project requires the “re-opening of the door of Ijtihad **** and the rise of a new hermeneutic that would consider as non-normative, many parts of the Medinan Chapters of the Qur’an.
 
I don’t want to be pessimistic, but the forecast for the future remains rather disturbing. As long as Islamic Terrorism continues to threaten the world, non-Muslims are justified in being afraid of Islam. On the other hand, no one should charge the West for inventing “Islamophobia” as a means to subjugate the Islamic world. It’s high time to bury this dangerous myth that plays into the hands of the Irhabis.
 
*Irhab: terrorism
**Jahilyya: In Islamic historiography, the period in Arab history that preceded the rise of Islam is regarded as the Days of Ignorance. It is a term used by Islamists to denigrate and vilify their opponents.
*** Sayyid Qutb: A prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Because of his opposition to President Nasser, he was tried and executed, by hanging, on 29 August, 1966. He is considered as the intellectual “father” of radical Islam.
**** Ijtihad an Arabic word that designates a theological activity, especially in interpreting the sacred texts of Islam. It is generally agreed that the early activities or endeavors in theology (Kalam) and jurisprudence (fiqh) came to an end with the death of Imam al-Ghazzali around 1111 A.D. He played a major role in the “Closing of the Door of Ijtihad.”
Posted in Articles

Why Do The Copts of Egypt Fear Friday

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany
Author: Jacob Thomas on Jun 03, 2007
 
On 17 May, 2007, while glancing at the website of the online daily, Elaph, I noticed a very intriguing title of an article on the plight of the Christian community in Egypt: “Why Do the Copts of Egypt Fear Fridays?” The writer, himself an Egyptian now living in France, gave a realistic explanation that should stir our thoughts, and make us fully aware of the suffering of this brave minority. I share with the readers of FFI excerpts from the article, and follow with my analysis and comments.
 
“Islamists have taken upon themselves the responsibility to stoke the fires of religious discord and civil strife whenever they had been extinguished. The result is that Egypt becomes the victim, and both Muslims and Christians end up being the losers. It is quite evident that Islamists don’t want the attacks against the Copts to stop.
 
“The last attack on the Copts took place on Friday, 11 April, 2007, in the village of Behma, of the El-‘Ayat Township, in El-Giza Province. Rumors had spread that Christians were about to make an addition to their church building. Five hundred Islamists gathered, and attacked Christians in their homes and places of business. They shouted Allahu Akbar, as they embarked on their new ghazwa (conquest), resulting in the torching of 27 homes and places of business. They proceeded to loot the contents of the shops, taking all they could find of precious metals and jewelry. After all, why not engage in the plunder, having been assured by the Islamists’ fatwas that the Christians’ possessions were legitimate war booty?! Thankfully, they stopped at that point, and did not take Christian women captives as a prize of their ugly ghazwa; however, many Christians in that village were injured.
 
Why Afraid of Fridays?
 
“When I was in Zurich, Switzerland, attending the “Conference on the Plight of Women and Minorities in the Middle East and North Africa,”* an Egyptian Coptic correspondent told me, ‘We Copts, worry about our own safety and possessions on Fridays, can you tell me why?’ I answered her, ‘Certainly, you must know that the Islamist virus has been spreading in Egypt, in our media, in our educational institutions, and in the Friday sermons at the mosques. Islamists have altered the very nature of the Friday sermons, changing them from messages on religious and moral issues that are meant to ennoble human beings by elevating their souls toward their Creator, and enabling them to become tolerant in their relations with their fellow human beings. On the contrary, the Friday sermons have become lessons in hatred and envy of the ‘Other’ declaring him to be a Kafir, and calling for war against the ‘children of apes and pigs,’ i.e. Christians and Jews. Thus when a Muslim leaves the mosque he has become like a time-bomb, ready to explode on any Christian he encounters on his way. This is why the Friday sermon has become a very dangerous matter.
 
“I don’t know why we have never seen a Christian, who leaves his church on Sundays, goes ahead and sets fire to a Muslim house, or assaults a Muslim and kills him! I cannot understand why anyone who kills a Copt and burns his possessions nowadays is regarded as mentally ill! Actually, Islamists have succeeded in employing religion for their political goals. In my discussion with a historian of contemporary Egyptian history, he told me, ‘The Muslim Brothers (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) regard Copts as an easy prey; so whenever the government arrests one of their members, they attack a church, or the Christian population. These acts come to the attention of the world public opinion, causing the Egyptian government to stop persecuting the Ikhwan. In other words, Islamists use the Copts as a means to get their members released from prison!’
 
“Whenever attacks on Christians take place, the Egyptian police seem to be absent! And when they finally appear at the scene, it is too late. By then the Islamists would have attacked Christians, beaten them, and robbed them of their goods. I remember when I was in Muharram Beik, Alexandria, a Muslim told me, not realizing that I was a writer, that a policeman who guarded a church building told the attackers, ‘go ahead and attack the church, but only from its back door; then, I won’t interfere with your act!’
 
“The Islamist International**, under the leadership of Yousef al-Qaradawi, Rashed
Al-Ghanoushi, and Fahmi Houweidi, issued fatwas allowing for the murder of women, children, and the unborn, in Israel. But they have been silent about the killing of civilian Muslims in Morocco and Algeria, and equally silent about attacks on our Coptic brothers. These attacks receive the silent assent of the Islamist fuqaha who approve the killing of innocent Muslims and peaceful Christians, as long as the murderers are Islamists like themselves!”
 
Analysis
 
The writer of the article draws the attention of the wide readership of Elaph to this unbelievable state of affairs in Egypt, where Copts fear the advent of every Friday. This sixth day of the week has become the occasion for attacks on their persons, homes and property; almost immediately after the worshippers leave the mosques!
 
Comments
 
Many readers may find it difficult to see a connection between worship at a mosque and the destructive acts that follow. Actually, this has become a regular experience of many Christians in Egypt. This is why Copts have come to dread Fridays.
 
I must confess that I was rather surprised to read these words from the article: “Islamists have altered the very nature of the Friday sermons, changing them from messages on religious and moral issues that are meant to ennoble human beings by elevating their souls toward their Creator, and enabling them to become tolerant in their relations with their fellow human beings.”
 
The writer manifests an extremely idealistic picture of what a Friday khutba (sermon) should be. I have listened to many sermons broadcast over the airways from Cairo, Riyadh, Rabat, and Damascus. The moral and spiritual elements within a typical Friday khutba are quite often, minimal. Rather, what the khateeb (preacher) proclaims is a list of the past glories of Islam, the ills that have befallen the Islamic world since the beginning of the 20th century, and a call for rallying the forces of Islam to regain their glorious past. Added to that, are the usual imprecations that are hurled against the enemies of Islam with a ferocious intensity!
 
Should we then be surprised that Muslim worshippers, whether in Cairo, Alexandria, or Karachi, after having listened to a fiery preacher denounce the enemies of Islam, ‘leave the mosque as a time-bomb, ready to explode on any Christian they may encounter on the road?’
 
*For information about some of the lectures delivered at the Zurich Conference, please consult the following articles posted on the FFI site: “Leaving the Muslim Brotherhood” posted on 14 April, 2007; and “A New Minority in North Africa” posted on 18 May, 2007.
 
**The Islamist International is a new term, reminiscent of a by-gone organization, “The Comintern,” i.e. (The Third International that was formed in Moscow in 1919); which sought to spread Communism all over the globe. Events in the Islamic world, point to the rise of an Islamist International, grouping jihadist organizations, working together for a global jihad, and the resumption of the futuhat of early Islam.
 
Posted in Articles

Leaving the Muslim Brotherhood

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Author: Jacob Thomas on Apr 14, 2007 - 05:18 PM 
http://www.news.faithfreedom.org/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1196

Late in March 2007, I read in Elaph, the daily Arabic online newspaper, a report about the “Conference on the Plight of Minorities and Women in the Middle East and North Africa,” that was held in Zurich, Switzerland, between 24 and 26 March. All the lectures were delivered in Arabic, and are appearing gradually on Elaph’s website. By early April, I had downloaded several conference papers that dealt with this issue. I hope to work on their translation, and ultimately, to share some of their contents with the readers of FFI.

The opening lecture was delivered by a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood; its title was: “Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun: (The Muslim Brotherhood), Source of the Persecution of the Minorities and Women” Here are excerpts from the lecture; followed by my analysis and comments.

“As we consider the status of minorities and women in the Arab and Muslim world, we become very disturbed about their condition. At the same time, we notice that minorities living in the civilized world enjoy their complete rights. It is a well-known fact that Muslims consider both women and minorities as inferior. A non-Muslim is not equal with a Muslim on account of his religion; whereas a woman is worth half a man, because of her gender.

“Now I would like to offer myself as an example for the possibility of bringing about a change in the Arab and Muslim world. Up till 1990, I was a disciple of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, having adopted their thoughts, and being willing to defend them till death. Why not, does not our faith possess absolutely the whole truth, for all time and place; and is not our holy book perfect? But after coming to France, I discovered a new world; a world that has no place for hat red, resentment, selfishness, or a sickly religious narcissism. It is a world where one’s ability enables him or her to get a job, regardless of color, religion, or race. I found myself, an Egyptian Muslim immigrant, enjoying all the rights that French citizens have, except the right to vote in their elections.

“So I asked myself, how could France’s motto, “justice, equality, and fraternity” (1) be considered as “kufr,” (2) while our minorities and women are discriminated against daily in the name of Islam? I came to the conclusion that al-Ikhwan al-Muta’aslimeen (3) are the main cause for this tyranny, and for the persecution of minorities and women. They managed to accomplish their designs by taking control of the fields of education, information, religious discourse, and al-Azhar University. They filled the textbooks with passages that encourage hatred for the “Other,” calling him a “kafir” (2). The teachers who follow the Ikhwan’s ideology explain verse 7 of the Fatiha, (the first chapter of the Qur’an) “The path of those whom Thou hast favoured; not the (path) of those who earn Thine anger nor of those who go astray” as follows: “those who earn Thine anger” are the Jews; and “those who go astray,” are the Christians.

“They choose Hadiths that demean women forcing them to wear the hijab, making it a required Islamic practice. I read in the 10 March 2007 issue of the magazine Rose el-Youssef, that a government school in Upper Egypt forces Christian girls to wear the hijab.

“The Islamist ideology is basically exclusivist, and advocates the doctrine that Islam is the only true faith. They base their claim on Surah 3 and Aya 85 of the Qur’an: “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to God), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).” (Translation of Yusuf Ali) I used to look at this text as propounding an absolute and permanent truth, not open to any discussion or interpretation, teaching all Muslims that there was no other true religion on earth except Islam.

“The Ikhwan taught me that a woman was similar to Satan since she is a tempter of man. After all it was Eve who tempted Adam, and caused him to leave the Garden where he had enjoyed an eternal bliss! Furthermore, these Islamists did not stop with the various Hadiths that denounced women, but they advocated the necessity of depriving women of enjoying their sexual life by advocating their circumcision. They ignored the fact that this custom dates back to the time of the Pharos of Egypt; and that neither the Prophet nor his associates ever practiced the circumcision of their daughters. The degradation of women and the minorities in the teaching of the Ikhwan could be also seen in their forbidding women and non-Muslims, from holding any important positions in government.

“I turned against the Ikhwan when I discovered that they were the source of our misfortunes in our Arab and Islamic Umma. It was in France that I learned that the ‘Other’ was not my enemy, but my friend and comrade. Getting to know the ‘Other’ and understanding him, freed me from the lies of the Ikhwan. I remember that after coming to France, a young beautiful lady worked in the same department with me. At first, I was rather attracted to her. But when I discovered she was Jewish, I distanced myself from her. I became afraid of her; I convinced myself that she was ugly! I could no longer be friendly with her, since that would have compromised my faithfulness to my religion and country. In fact, I began to work on a novel that portrayed Jews plotting against Egypt! That was the extent of my fear of the ‘Other!’

“When I was in Egypt during the period of my attraction to Islamist ideology, I had a Christian friend who was very dear to me. One day, I told him, ‘I want you to embrace Islam.’ He asked, ‘Why?’ I answered, ‘Since you are dear to me, I don’t want you to go to hell.’ He laughed, and said, ‘But why should I go to hell?’ I replied, “Over heaven’s gate stand these words: “La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammad Rasul Allah.” (4) So, no one enters heaven but a Muslim. These words summarize the Ikhwani mentality.

“There is no way for minorities and women to get their civil and human rights but through the spread of a culture of tolerance. It is necessary to use our minds as we read our sacred texts, and to oppose the role the Islamist teachers are playing in our schools. They fill the minds of students with the hatred of the ‘Other’ and of women. From their earliest days, students should become acquainted with other faiths; and that their religion is not the only true faith, but one among other faiths.

“I remember when I was a teacher in Upper Egypt back in 1987 there was only one Christian girl in the public school Once she told me that on her way home after school, there were students who used to throw stones at her. Her only crime was that she was a Christian! That was the impact of the Islamist mentality at work in Egypt, thanks to the teachings of the Ikhwan!

“The solution for the plight of minorities and women is to be found in two words: citizenship and ‘Ilmaniyya (6). All religions should be practiced in freedom. ‘Ilmaniyya is not against religion, but in the service of religion. The state would become a nation for all its citizens, with no discrimination on account of religious faith or gender. The Ikhwan reject the concept of separation of religion and the state, and prefer to have a religiously-based state, with the imposition of the Jizya tax on non-Muslims. Oh, how I thank God for delivering me from their ideology; otherwise I would still be feeding on their lies and fantasies.”

Analysis

The thesis of the opening lecture at the Zurich Conference reveals the destructive and discriminatory nature of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. No one but a former member of the movement could have described it in such a clear and objective way!

Comments

The meeting and the papers that were read at the Zurich conference constitute a landmark in the

history of the modern Arab world. Those who met there represented a cross-section of Mideastern and North African intellectuals. There were Arab Christians and Muslims, men and women, Kurds and other ethnic minorities. They pointed to a deep-seated problem that has plagued the region since the early years of the 20th century.

It’s over two weeks since the Zurich conference has met, and I have yet to see one report about it in the Western press. Unfortunately, neither mainline Western media, nor agencies of Western governments, seem to have been interested to learn the facts about the true nature and source of the problems of the Middle East and North Africa. Not only that, but soon after the conference was held in Switzerland, a troubling piece of news appeared on the website of Fox News, on Saturday, 7 April, 2007

“Hoyer Meets Official From Egypt's Banned Muslim Brotherhood”

“House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer met with the Muslim Brotherhood's parliament leader, Mohammed Saad el-Katatni, twice on Thursday — once at the parliament building and then at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, said Brotherhood spokesman Hamdi Hassan.”

It is beyond belief that a U.S. House Majority leader should consider meeting in Egypt with a member of an organization that has been the source for the resurgence of Islamic radicalism since the early 1920s?! How much Middle East history does Mr. Hoyer know? Did he realize, for example, when dialoguing with Saad el-Katatni, that on 6 October 1981, President Anwar Sadat was assassinated by members of Al-Jihad movement, an off-shoot of Al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun?

What a pity that some U.S. members of Congress, knowing next to nothing about the history of the Middle East, imagine that by visiting the area, and holding talks with dictators and members of terrorist organizations, they are working for the welfare of the region! Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer should have gone to Zurich, rather than to Damascus and Cairo. Their real education in the affairs of the Middle East would have taken place in Switzerland, while listening to the impassioned papers that were delivered at the Conference of the Plight of Minorities and Women in the Middle East and North Africa.

Notes

(1) Actually, it is: “Liberté, égalité, et fraternité” that translates, “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.”

(2) Al-Ikhwan al-Muta’aslimeen is a new construct which implies that this group is not truly Muslim, but claiming Islam. Another way of denying them legitimacy.

(3) Kufr: Unbelief; Kafir: Unbeliever.

(4) The Islamic creed: There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.

(5) ‘Ilmaniyya: This Arabic word does not carry the same connotation as the English word, “secularism.” It is closer to the French word, ‘Laic’ implying separation of religion from the state.

Posted in Articles

Islam: Empire of Faith (A Review)

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

As Seen on Public Television, WTTW Channel 11, Chicago 
on 8 May 2001, 8-10:30 P.M.

Reviewed by: Bassam M. Madany


In his Foreword to Bat Ye'or's book, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: from Jihad to Dhimmitude, Jacques Ellul, the late Protestant scholar, was concerned about what he called the "Dhimmitude of the West." He was referring to those Western writers and intellectuals who would adopt self-censorship when dealing with Islam. Such behavior is similar to that of the Jews and Christians who came under Islam. The conquering Arab Muslims called them, "Dhimmis." This status conferred upon them the freedom to practice their religion on the condition that they refrain from any criticism of Islam. Furthermore, they were not to propagate their faith. Once a Dhimmi embraced Islam, he or she, could no longer go back to his former faith. Apostasy was punishable by death.

I could not help thinking of his words when viewing a Public Television production, Islam: Empire of Faith. In Chicago, it was aired on May 8, 2001, from 8-10:30 p.m. The majority of the speakers and commentators are Western, and are associated with such institutions as the University of Saint Louis, Columbia University, Boston College, and Edinburgh University. At several intermissions during the two and half hour show, we heard the usual refrain that the documentary was being made available "through viewers like you."

At this point, someone may question whether I am eligible to undertake a review of "Islam: Empire of Faith." After all, I am an Eastern Christian. How could I be free from the prejudices that my people have harbored regarding Islam, ever since the conquest of their homeland in the early seventh century? I admit that I am not entirely free from some bias. But it is an attitude that has a legitimate and reasonable foundation. Furthermore, I do have the credentials to make an assessment of this documentary. I have lived a good deal of my life in the Middle East. I experienced some of the great upheavals that took place in that area in the aftermath of World War II. Even after moving to North America, I have kept up my studies of the history of the Arabs and of Islam, both in Arabic and in English. My credentials are just as valid as those of the speakers who voiced their comments on "Islam: Empire of Faith."

As the documentary proceeded, I felt I was watching a thoroughly revisionist history of the Middle East since the rise of Islam. I have read Arabic books written by Muslim scholars and intellectuals that were far more objective than what I was watching. Western scholars seldom show such a sympathetic attitude toward Christianity, as these "experts" showed towards Islam.

The airing of "Islam: Empire of Faith" had hardly begun before we were told that one fourth of mankind were followers of Islam. This is a preposterous claim. The world population today is around six billion. The Muslim world has, at the most, one billion adherents. That inflated ratio alerted me right away that I was watching a piece of propaganda.

When dealing with the experience of Muhammad in a cave near Mecca, the commentator made no qualification when saying the Prophet's "mission was given by Divine revelation." While it is accurate to report that in 622, Muhammad and some of his followers moved to Medina on account of the hostility of the leaders of Mecca, it is not accurate to state, "Hostility always began from Meccan side." Muslim historians extol the ability of the Prophet to organize attacks against the Meccan caravans that were on their way to Syria. Details in the life of the Prophet that may offend Western viewers were totally left out. Indeed, it was a truly sanitized biography!

As to the early years of Islam, the age of the caliphate and the conquests, the impression was given that the spread of this theistic religion was primarily due to the power of the faith. But this is not the whole story. Certainly, the early Muslims were fired with a tremendous zeal as they burst out of Arabia and entered the territories of the Byzantine and Persian Empires. But the rapid success of their conquests was not exclusively due to the "power of the faith."

The two super powers of the time, Persia and the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) had been in violent conflict for several decades. They had exhausted their resources and emptied their treasuries in that rivalry. So, they were no longer able to subsidize the Arabized kingdoms on the borders of the Arabian Peninsula that had kept the Bedouin tribes in their homeland. Thus, when the Arab horsemen came from the south, Persia crumbled like a house of cards, while Byzantium lost its hold on Egypt and Syria.

Muslims revere the early "golden" era of their history. It lasted a little over 25 years and was called the age of the "Rightly Guided Caliphs." The conquest of the Middle East had begun, and soon North Africa was to come within the Empire. At the same time, the golden age was not so golden! Of the four Caliphs that succeeded Muhammad after 632, three were assassinated. Ali, the fourth Caliph, who was a cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad, was murdered by some of his disgruntled followers. After his death, the Caliphate became dynastic. The capital of the growing empire was moved from Medina to Damascus, Syria. The Caliphs of this era, now belonging to the Sunni division of Islam, bore a fierce hostility to the family of Ali and to their Shi'ite followers. One of their Caliphs ordered the massacre of Husein, Ali's son and his entire family. Eventually, in 750 this Damascus-based Caliphate came to an abrupt end in a horrible blood bath. The leader of the revolt, Abul 'Abbas is known in Arab history as As-Saffah (the blood letter). He became the first caliph in the new dynasty, which ruled the Islamic world from Baghdad for almost 500 years. There was no mention of this tragic part of their history in "Empire of Faith."

Meanwhile the brutality of the Crusaders was described in great detail. No Christian scholar would defend that tragic episode in the history of Western Christianity. To the Western Christians at the time, the Crusades were a type of Reconquista. Eventually they failed. Centuries later, the Spanish did mount their own Reconquista, and in 1492, they were successful in driving out all the Muslims and regaining their homeland. To this very day, in the eyes of Muslims, their conquests were divinely mandated. Thus, no criticism may be leveled against them. But non-Muslims may not and should not claim any right to re-conquer what once was their own homeland!

In commenting on this documentary in the Winter 2002 issue of Middle East Quarterly, its editor, Martin Kramer wrote: "The depiction of the Islamic empire as an 'empire of faith' is already a limiting one, since Islam was spread by fear as well as faith, by conquest as well as commerce. Anyone who has taken an elementary course in Islamic history will know this. Anyone who has only watched this film will not." (Page 73)

I don't have time to go over all the other details that were thrust at the viewers by those scholarly men and women, who kept on extolling the greatness of Islam. But the apex of my horror was reached when the Ottoman period of Islamic history was being recounted. The Ottoman Turks had come from Central Asia, and served the Caliphs as mercenaries. Eventually, they adopted Islam. They became the defenders and spreaders of their new faith. They pushed the boundaries of the Islamic Empire into Eastern and Central Europe. They devised a military system known as the "Devshirme." This involved the seizure of Christian boys from their families in the conquered parts of Europe, and forcing them to Islamize. After rigid training they were formed into an elite army corps that would go on to expand the boundaries of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. This army was known as the Jannisary.

How did the commentator describe this barbaric act that deprived Christian families of some of their male offspring? With a tone of full approval she said that the Ottomans "recruited Christian children" as if it were a privilege. Is "recruited" the proper word to use here? What a blatant camouflage of an evil system that lasted so long in Eastern Europe that it left scars on its inhabitants to this very day!

In referring to the deliberate omission of the dark side of the history of Islam, Martin Kramer wrote:

"The imbalance caused by this omission is particularly unfortunate now that Islam: Empire of Faith has been trotted out to do service as an antidote to September 11. Gardner [reference is to the producer for PBS] made a deliberate and legitimate choice not to bring the film up to the present. But the decision by PBS to rebroadcast it after the attacks effectively revokes the choice. It the film has some relevant message, it is the one made by a raft of "experts" who claim that violence is not a part of Islam and that jihad was never anything more than peaceful persuasion. But it's not true. Wars of conquest expanded Islam's frontiers and every one of them was conducted under the banner of jihad. And if anyone doubts the Islamic legitimacy of slaughtering innocents in the assault on an enemy city, they have only to look to the fall of Constantinople. They just won't be able to find it in this film." (Page 76)

It is not my intention to sound very critical of the history of Islam. My point is that the documentary that cost PBS $1.54 million should have included an objective and balanced view of this history. The PBS documentary did not accomplish that. And there was too much deference shown to the Muslim organizations in the USA which played quite a role in deciding what might and might not be included in the film. More than that, this whole production would not help us in our relationship with the Islamic world. One of the most urgent needs for its leadership is to realize that we are living in a new era of global history. No past empire can be resurrected. We all live in an age of interdependence. We need one another. We have global problems that require global solutions.

In summary, it is very difficult for Muslims, whose religion has always had a political component, to relinquish the dream of founding another great Islamic empire. In the past, they conquered vast areas of Europe, Africa and Asia. So it is not easy to expect them to jettison every notion of resurrecting their past glory. But they must. The task before Western leaders today is to speak honestly and openly with their Muslim counterparts. Their people face some gigantic challenges, such as population explosion, the lack of water resources, and too much dependence on one major source of income, such as oil. The Islamists ignore these facts and repeat the mantra, "Islam is the solution." They can and do resort to awful measures of destruction. Unlike the Marxists of the 20th century whose dream was to establish an earthly paradise, the Muslim worldview contains a supernatural element. This belief in an after-death paradise of bliss and unending pleasure, allows the radicals to contemplate unimaginable acts of violence.


The following books are relevant to this topic and offer us a more balanced view.

The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, by Bat Ye’or. Associated University Presses, Cranbury, NJ  08512, 1996

Any of Prof. Bernard Lewis’s books.  He taught at the University of London, and during the 1990s, he moved to the USA, and taught at Princeton University. His books are available at major bookstores.  The Arabs in History and The Middle East and the West, Harper & Row, New York 1960’s.  The Political Language of Islam, University of Chicago Press 1988 and Race and Slavery in the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 1990.

What You Need to Know About Islam & Muslims, by George W. Braswell Jr. Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN, 2000

Faith & Power: The Politics of Islam, by Edward Mortimer. Random House, New York, 1982

In the Path of God: Islam And Political Power, by Daniel Pipes, Basic Books, Inc. New York, 1983

Among the Believers: An Islamic Journey, by V. S. Naipaul, Vintage Books, Random House, New York, 1981

Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted People, by V. S. Naipaul, Random House, New York, 1998

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, by Samuel P. Huntington, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996

Posted in Articles

The Early Church: Western and Eastern

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

The Christianity that is most familiar to us in North America is Western Christianity. By this term I mean that the vast majority of Christians in this continent, can trace their background to either the? Roman Catholic Church, or to the various Protestant Churches that came out of Rome early in the 16th Century.

In 312 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced the Christian religion. In 313, he published the Edict of Milan, that ended the persecution of Christians in the Empire. He chose Byzantium as his capital in 323, and renamed it, Constantinople (the city of Constantine.)

In 325, he called the Great Council of Nicea which defined the orthodox faith of the Church in a document known as the Nicene Creed.

Eventually, the Roman Empire was divided between the Western Empire, with Rome as its capital, and the Eastern Empire, with Constantinople as its capital. The language used in the Eastern Empire (known also as the Byzantine Empire) was Greek, while the language of the Western Empire continued to be Latin.

In the fifth century AD, the barbarians sacked Rome. That event marked the beginning of the end of the Western Roman Empire. However, the Western Church survived. It was this Church that experienced the event known as the Reformation (1517.) Thus, both Roman Catholics and Protestants trace their history back to the Western Church. But this is not the whole story about the Universal Christian Church.

The Easter Roman Empire lasted another one thousand years after the fall of Rome. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople, and renamed it, Istanbul. It remained the capital of the Ottoman Empire until the 1920s.

The story of the Church in the East is quite complicated. During the First Century AD, it was understood among Christians that the rank or position of an apostle was unique, and that it ceased to exist after the death of the apostle John. Most of the apostles were not only leaders of the church, but served as channels of God?s revelation. Their writings are preserved in the New Testament.

Quite early in the subsequent centuries, the First Century form of church government composed of Elders and Deacons (with some Elders serving as teaching or preaching Elders) gradually gave way to episcopalianism. The Greek word episcopus literally means, supervisor, and is transliterated, bishop. It was practically synonymous with the Hebrew word, elder. Christian church leaders in large metropolitan centers, began to assume the title of Patriarch or Archbishop. There were five important centers in the early church: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Constantinople. The bishops in these cities were known as Patriarchs, and their specific ecclesiastical territory, as a patriarchate.

Eventually, the attempt of one patriarch (the Bishop of Rome) to assume the position of Head (or Pope) of the Universal Church, gave rise to the great division or schism of the Church. The Western Church recognized the sole leadership of the Pope in Rome; the Eastern Churches continued to recognize the historic leadership of their particular patriarchs in the East. This schism became final very early in the Second Millennium (1054).

The story of the Church in the East is even more complicated!

Let us go back to the Council of Nicea (325 AD). The great controversy that occasioned the convening of the first General or Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church was centered around the true doctrine of the Person of Jesus Christ. Arius, a presbyter in the church at Alexandria, propounded the theory that our Lord was a created being. He denied the clear teachings of the Bible such as in Psalm 2, Psalm 110, John 1, Hebrews 1, Ephesians 1, Colossians 1, and Revelation 1. Another Alexandrian presbyter, Athanasius (293-373,)defended the Biblical teaching about the Messiah, by stressing both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ. His position was accepted by the Council, and the Creed that was issued at Nicea, is known as the Nicene Creed. Since that time, it became the standard of Orthodoxy in Christianity. The teachings of Arius became known as Arianism, and his followers were called, Arians. They were considered as heretics. Arianism spread among the Barbarians who later on invaded Rome, Spain, and North Africa.

It must be noted that delegates from of both the Western and Eastern parts of the Universal Church were at Nicea. The Council of Nicea dealt primarily with the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The discussions within the Church relevant to the relationship between the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ, led to further divisions. These occurred within the Byzantine Empire and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Several Ecumenical Councils took place after Nicea, Council of Constantinople (381,) Council of Ephesus (431,) and Council of Chalcedon (451.) At this meeting, Christian Orthodoxy was further defined as to declare that, since his incarnation, the Lord Jesus Christ possessed two natures, divine and human. That also meant that our Lord had two wills, divine and human, but he remained one Person. Later on, this belief was set forth in a creed known as the Athanasian Creed. This creedal document is recognized only in the West, and is also known by its Latin name, Symbol Quicunque; (its opening words are: " Whosoever will be saved."

Rather than consolidating the unity of the Church, Chalcedon became the occasion for new divisions. Some church leaders, while strongly adhering to the deity of Jesus Christ, nevertheless defended the thesis that he possessed only a divine nature. They were known as the Monophysites. They were very prominent in Egypt and in Syria. Other church leaders, endeavoring to take full account of the Biblical teachings about Jesus Christ, went to the other extreme. They so described the two natures and wills of the Messiah as to make him almost two persons. They were called the Nestorians, i.e., followers of Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople, who was the champion of this teaching.

The Monophysite and Nestorian Churches were declared heretical by the Eastern Orthodox Churches. It is very unfortunate that the Orthodox party used also the arm of the Byzantine Empire to persecute those Christians who had not accepted the Chalcedonian formulation of the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Eastern Churches fall into two major categories:

  • The Chalcedonian Branch. It comprises the Orthodox Church, which was the State Church of the Byzantine Empire. Its territory included many parts of the Middle East, the Balkans, and Russia.
  • The Non-Chalcedonian Churches, have the following distinctive names within?well-recognized geographical regions of Africa and Asia:
    • The Coptic Church: Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
    • The Jacobite Church: Syria.
    • The Nestorian Church: Mesopotamia (Iraq).
    • The Armenian Church: Armenia, Middle East, and the Diaspora.
    • The Saint Thomas Church: India.
    • The Maronite Church: Lebanon.
Posted in Articles

The Middle East After the Islamic Conquest

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

In our previous lecture, we noted that the Arabs allowed the Christians of Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia, to continue in their governmental work, and the use of the local languages. While Islamization of the conquered areas slowed down, Arabization of the national cultures proceeded without delay. Before long, Arabic became the national language of the Middle Eastern peoples.

Having covered the historical background of Eastern Christianity, and the impact of the Islamic conquests, we shall now proceed to the study of the decline of Eastern Christianity in the Middle East. Our primary source is, The Decline of Eastern Christianity, From Jihad to Dhimmitude, by Bat Ye'or, published in 1996 by Associated University Presses, in Cranbury, NJ, 08512? The author was born in Egypt, and was member of a sizable Jewish community that had lived in that country for centuries before Christ. The Jewish population of Egypt dwindled rapidly after the birth of Israel in 1948. Bat Ye'or (a Hebrew name that means, Daughter of the Nile), migrated to France and contributed several works on the topic of Dhimmis (Jews and Christian) under Islam. In 1991, this book was first published in French, and five years later, the English translation appeared.

Most of what follows are quotations that illustrate the plight of Eastern Christianity since the Islamic conquests of the Eastern and Southern parts of the Mediterranean world. Professor Jacques Ellul, a well-known French Protestant scholar of the University of Bordeaux, wrote the? Foreword to the book. Ellul reminds us that an intrinsic part of the Islamic faith is jihad. While modern Islamic scholars have endeavored to re-define jihad, claiming that it is primarily a struggle with self, Jacques Ellul points out that history proves otherwise.

"But a major, twofold fact transforms the jihad into something quite different from traditional wars, waged for ambition and self-interest, with limited objectives, where the normal situation is peace between peoples; war in itself, constitutes a dramatic event which must end in a return to peace. The twofold factor is first the religious nature, then the fact that war has become an institution (and no longer an event). Jihad is generally translated as holy war (this term is not satisfactory): this suggests both that this war is provoked by strong religious feeling, and then that its first object is not so much to conquer land as to Islamize the populations. This war is a religious duty." P. 18

"In Islam, however, jihad is a religious obligation. It forms part of the duties that the believer must fulfill. It is Islam?s normal path to expansion." P. 18,19

"Hence, the second important specific characteristic is that the jihad is an institution, and not an event, that is to say it is part of the normal functioning of the Muslim world. The conquered populations change status (they become dhimmis), and the shari'a tends to be put into effect integrally, overthrowing the former law of the country. The conquered territories do not simply change owners. Rather they are brought into a binding collective (religious) ideology --- with the exception of the dhimmi condition --- and are controlled by a highly perfected administrative machinery." P. 19

Coming now to our author's text, we are impressed by the thorough research and analysis of the sources that prove the thesis of Bat Ye'or, namely that the Islamic conquests had given birth for all time (within the Muslim world) of an institution that places the native populations into a permanently handicapped status.? Writing about The Origin of Jihad, Bat Ye'or put it in these words:

"The Jihad 'linked the mores of great warlike nomadism with the conditions of existence of Muhammad in' Medina where he emigrated in 622, fleeing the persecutions of the pagans of Mecca. Lacking means of subsistence, the small emigrant Muslim community lived at the expense of the new converts in Medina. As this situation could not last, the Prophet organized armed incursions to intercept the caravans which traded with Mecca. Interpreter of the will of Allah, Muhammad combined the political power of a military leader, the religious power and the functions of a judge: Whosoever obeys the Messenger, thereby obeys God (Koran 4:82)" P. 37

"In 640 the second caliph, Umar Ibn.al-Khattab, drove the Jewish and Christian tributaries out of Hijaz  [he] invoked the desire expressed by the Prophet on his deathbed: ?Two religions should not co-exist within the Arabian peninsula." P. 39

To go over the details that Bat Ye?or mentions in her book may sound totally out of tune with the spirit of our times when a globalized and shrinking world requires all of us to live in harmony and in peace and to forget the past. But what if in the past some civilizations were based on continual warfare, and if their histories have become normative for the present And what if, as we notice today, Islamic radicalism is impacting our world from Indonesia, passing through Pakistan, and into the Middle East Are we supposed to engage in self-censorship and suppress facts that are based on ancient dogmas and which still impact the present?

I have really been puzzled by the little reference made to this great work of historical research. It has been accomplished meticulously by an immigrant author who found in France a welcoming home and a proper atmosphere for the publication of her works on the plight of the Dhimmis across fourteen hundred years.

Here are a few more quotes.

"The religious obligation to fight the Christians required a permanent state of war which justified the organization of seasonal raids (ghazwa)'They sometimes consisted of short pillaging incursions  to collect booty, steal livestock, and enslave the villagers. Other campaigns, led by the caliph in person, called for considerable military preparations. Provinces were ravaged and burned down, towns pillaged and destroyed, inhabitants massacred or deported." P. 48

"For centuries after its conquest in 712, Spain became the terrain par excellence for the jihad in the West of the dar el-Islam." P. 49

"Under the Umayyads, the Peoples of the Book, particularly the Christians, represented the large majority of the Islamic states' subjects and ---with the Zoroastrians --- its principal taxpayers. This economic strength also constituted a political power that had to be controlled, since revolts would have paralyzed the Arab army, which was accumulating booty and slaves for the caliph in the dar al-harb." P. 69

"The two pillars of the nascent Islamic state in the conquered lands were the army --- formed by Arab tribes and the slaves taken as spoils of war --- and the conquered masses: tributaries, slaves, freed men, and converts, a workforce which fed the economic sector. The third pillar --- juridical power --- was being elaborated. It would undertake to balance and rectify the enormous demographic disparity between the conquered Peoples of the Book and the Muslims. - the legal institution would formulate a collection of laws which gradually whittled down the rights of the dhimmis and confined them to a cramped condition, by transferring to the umma all the key positions that the dhimmis had formerly held." Pp. 69,70

"From the beginning of the conquests --- in Syria and Spain, as well as in other conquered provinces --- the Christians had ceded to the Muslims half of their churches which became mosques as a result of the Muslim influx." Pp. 83,84

"In the Maghreb, where endemic anarchy prevailed, sources mention the massacre in 1033 of five to six thousand Jews in Fez. The Almohad persecutions in the Maghreb and Muslim Spain (1130-1212) eliminated Christianity there." P. 89

Chapter 10 is titled: Conclusion. Bat Ye'or endeavors to bring together for the contemporary reader, a meaningful result of her research. Her goal is not merely to supply us with facts relating to the past fourteen centuries, but to enable us to understand the challenges that we faced at the end of the twentieth century, and that continue to be with us throughout the twenty-first century.

"Does the expression 'protected religious minorities' or 'tolerated religious minorities' adequately describe the dhimmi peoples?

"In the lands conquered by jihad  the Peoples of the Book formed majorities, among whom the Arabs of the first wave of Islamization and the Turks of the second wave were in the minority. Presumably the complex and little-known processes that transformed those majorities into minorities covered some three or four centuries for each wave of Islamization. By contracting it, the expression 'religious minorities' reverses a chronological process that had spread over centuries, whose result --- the minority condition --- is taken as its starting point."

"This interpretation, which omits the essential phase when irreversible changes occurred, conceals the political aspect of dhimmitude and reduces it exclusively to a religious minority status. In addition, the formula becomes inadequate for certain regions, such as the Balkans, where non-Muslims were in the majority until the nineteenth century" P. 243

"Today, it would seem absurd to describe the Rumanian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek and Israeli nations as former 'tolerated religious minorities.' Similarly, the common cliche second-class citizens has no meaning, because the dhimmis were not citizens and the term 'second-class' is devoid of the dhimma's historical and juridical substrata." Pp. 243,244

"dhimmitude reveals another reality. Here are peoples who,  spread the Judeo-Christian civilization as far as Europe and Russia. Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, conquered by nomadic bands, taught their oppressors, with the patience of centuries, the subtle skills of governing empires, the need for law and order, the management of finances, the administration of town and countryside, the rules of taxation rather those of pillage, the sciences, philosophy, literature, and the arts, the organization and transmission of knowledge --- in short, the rudiments and foundations of civilization." P. 264

"Decimated by razzias in the countryside, they sought refuge in the towns which they developed and embellished. Branded with opprobrium, the conquerors still chose to drag them from region to region in order to revive ravaged lands and restore ruined towns. Once again, they built, again they worked. Once again they were driven out, again pillaged and ransomed. And as they dwindled, drained of their blood and spirit, civilization itself disappeared, decadence stagnated, barbarism reigned over lands which, previously, when they were theirs, were lands of civilization, of crops and of plenty." P. 265

"The elites who fled to Europe took their cultural baggage with them, their scholarship, and their knowledge of the classics of antiquity. Therefore, in the Christian lands of refuge --- Spain, Provence, Sicily, Italy --- cultural centers developed where Christians and Jews from Islamized lands taught to the young Europe the knowledge of the old pre-Islamic Orient, formerly translated into Arabic by their ancestors." P. 265

"And so this study would prefer to end with the a tribute. Indeed, as the centuries shed their leaves, these rejects of history disclose the infinite variety of the human character. Servile, corrupt, cowardly, pusillanimous, and presumptuous, but also learned, industrious, and heroic; all aspects blended and intermingled; faces of blood and tears, faces of wisdom and enquiry, molded in a thousand-year-old human magma which the historian only approaches with respect and without judgment." P. 265

Posted in Articles

The Western Church and Its Response Settings Last Published Version Back

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Having covered briefly the history of Eastern Christianity before and since the rise of Islam, we face an important question. What is our responsibility, as Christians of the Western tradition, to our brothers and sisters still living under Islam? I trust that our survey, in the last three lectures, was not a purely academic exercise. Our concern was not prompted simply by a desire to learn more about the history of the early Church. After all, don't we confess in the words of the Apostles' Creed that we believe in one holy universal church? And how often have we sung the hymn, 'The Church's One Foundation Is Jesus Christ Her Lord,' where we also affirm the oneness of all believers?

Our study of The Plight of Eastern Christianity Under Islam should lead us to some serious reflection regarding our response. What are certain concrete things we must do so that our concern may prove genuine? I would like to make the following suggestions:

  • First, Western Christians need to develop a keen interest in the history of Eastern Christianity. Many of our fellow-Christians in North America have roots in the various Eastern Christian communions of the Old World. Unfortunately, most of the churches in the West are not equipped to adequately inform their people about the plight of Eastern Christianity under Islam. I may sound rather critical of our theological institutions, but I personally experienced this deficiency in my training at two different theological seminaries. I don't mean to imply that we did not cover the doctrinal differences between East and West, or the deeper controversies that raged within the Eastern Churches leading to serious divisions. But all these matters were dealt with in a purely formal manner, i.e., within the study of specific doctrinal subjects such as the natures and wills of Christ, and the unity of the human and divine in his person. What was lacking was the story of our brothers and sisters in the East who succumbed to an invader that gradually destroyed their vibrant Christian lives, reducing them to a despised dhimmi status.
  • Second, Western Christians must translate their knowledge of Eastern Christianity into a ministry of intercession. Many Eastern Christians still live under Islam, especially in the Middle East. They are facing tremendous difficulties due to the rise of radical Islam, and the continual conflicts that have beset the area since 1948. Our kinsmen in the East are greatly strengthened in their faith when they realize that their Western brothers and sisters have not forgotten them, but intercede for them in their homes and their churches.
  • Third, Western Christians must act. What do I mean by this call to action? We are accustomed to all kinds of advocacy groups that seek to enlighten the public about various causes that need help or redress. So, why not speak out on behalf of suffering Christians under Islam? Did we not work hard to bring to the world attention the cause of Christians suffering under various Marxist regimes? Is it wrong to call attention to a situation that has lasted more than 70 years, yes to fourteen hundred years? Does the duration of this intolerable situation make it normal, or has it acquired a finality of an irreversible condition?

This call to action is not easy for several reasons. Most Western institutions, whether governmental, business, or educational, are not concerned about suffering Christians under Islam. As the West becomes more secularized, it manifests hardly any allegiance to a specific faith tradition. Our leaders are primarily concerned about national interest, which is nothing more than a euphemistic word for our continued economic well-being. Specifically, since Muslim nations control most of the oil reserves of the world, we are very careful not to offend them by mentioning anything about dhimmis and dhimmitude. Here are some anecdotal instances that illustrate my point.

In February 2001, the news media reported that Turkey had canceled a hefty military hardware contract from France as a protest for the French Parliament declaring that genocide did occur in Turkey against the Armenians during World War I. This sad event in the twentieth century that took the lives of over one million Eastern Christians, both Armenian and Assyrian, has never been acknowledged by successive Turkish governments which are heir to the old Ottoman Turkish Empire. Even though France is far more secularized than the United States, it had the courage to adopt an official statement about this genocide. On the other hand, various attempts by the U. S. Congress to adopt similar statements have been discouraged by the Executive branch! What a sad commentary on our genuine interest in the plight of persecuted and martyred communities. For more than half a century we regarded Turkish sensitivities of paramount importance since they provided an Eastern bulwark against the Soviet Union. And nowadays, Turkey still supplies us with air bases that come in handy in our flights over the no-fly zone in northern Iraq!

Regardless of the callous attitude of our various cultural institutions vis-?-vis Eastern Christianity, we members of the Universal Church of our Lord should not hesitate but bear witness, individually, and corporately, to the continual plight of Eastern Christians under Islam.

Throughout my study of this subject, I have been rather puzzled, chagrined, and grateful at the same time. Puzzled and grateful because it took members of the Jewish faith to champion the plight of Eastern Christians by making a thorough study of the history of dhimmitude over fourteen hundred years of Islamic domination. It was not so much Christian scholarship that has brought this almost irreversible consequence of Islamic conquests to the world's attention. Furthermore, I have been saddened, because on the same topic, it was another Jewish scholar, the Britisher, Bernard Lewis, of the University of London, and later on, of Princeton University, who contributed numerous books on this subject. Likewise, V. S. Naipaul, also a British scholar of Indian Hindu background, undertook the task of describing the impact of Islam on other cultures! What a challenge to Christians of the new Millennium to take up the cause of their brothers and sisters who still live in Islamic countries and who have suffered silently for so many, many years!

Posted in Articles

The Plight of Eastern Christians Revisited

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany
Rev. Bassam M. Madany


These days, the media are preoccupied with the US presidential campaign. As for the overseas news, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq remains in center stage, with endless speculations about the resurgence of al-Qaida, and its plans to attack Western targets throughout the world. Hardly, any attention is given to the ongoing tragedy of the Christian minorities living within the vast Islamic world. Their ill-treatment is not episodic, but is based on the Islamic Shari'a Law, which has enshrined their inferior status in the law of Dhimmitude.* Contrast that with the status of the Muslim residents in the West who enjoy all the privileges of the citizens of the host countries!  

This lack of a just and equitable treatment of the Christian minorities in Islam was featured in the Arabic-language online daily, www.Elaph.com on 4 August, 2007. The author, a Syrian living in Paris, France, described himself as a "human-rights activist." Here are quotations from his article: 

"Eastern Christians have encountered great challenges as they sought to achieve their goal of becoming full members of a modern secular state, while enjoying full citizenship and political equality with Muslims. It is well known that the Arab Awakening** that spread democratic and liberal ideas in Syria and Egypt at the end of the 19th Century, was spearheaded by Christian intellectuals who were open to European culture. This movement led to the rise of political parties that sought independence from the Ottoman Empire.  

"Having achieved independence, the Christian elites realized the importance of the modern secular government as a guarantee to achieve a better status for Eastern Christians, who are the original inhabitants of the area.  However, the project for the establishment of a modern secular government encountered several challenges; the most powerful one came from Traditional Islam. It rejects modernity and secularism, and any separation of religion from the state. This conservative Islam insists on regarding the Shari'a Law as the basic source of legislation, thus constituting a distinction among the citizens, based on religion and ethnicity. Practically, a Muslim enjoys more privileges than a non-Muslim, especially in the area of government, where the ruler must always be of the Muslim faith.  

"More than a century has passed since the rise of the Arab Awakening, and now the peoples of the Middle East are facing concerted efforts for the establishment of an Islamic State. It is being offered by political Islam under the slogan of, "Al-Islam hua'l Hall," (Islam is the Solution.) It is being offered as a substitute for the crisis-ridden National State that has been controlled for a long time, by corrupt and oppressive regimes. 

"Due to Lebanon's special background, and the historical psychology of the Maronites, it refused to accept the Arab-Islamic recipe in the writing of its Constitution. Its political system was crafted in an agreement known as the 1943 National Pact, [where the President is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister, is a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Parliament, is a Shi'ite Muslim.] This modus operandi continued until the Civil War of 1975. The Taif Charter of 1989, that brought to an end the war, diminished at the same time, the political influence of the Maronites, giving more power to the Islamic communities, by shrinking the powers of the president of the Lebanese Republic. 

"A new era in the history of the Middle East in general, and of the Christian minorities in particular, was ushered in with the beginning of the American campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The plight of the Christians has worsened, as a result of these military campaigns. They fanned the flames of the historic enmity that remains latent in the Islamic Arab world vis-à-vis the United States and the West. A struggle is going on between the United States and its European allies on the one hand, and the radical Islamic organizations such as al-Qaida, as a defender of Islam, on the other hand. As a result, it is the Eastern Christians who pay dearly, not because they have done anything wrong themselves, but simply and uniquely because they happen to be Christian!  

For example, in the backlash from the Danish Cartoons, and the recent lecture of Pope Benedict XVI, several terrorist attacks have taken place on the lives and belongings of Middle East Christians. A priest in Turkey, a nun in Somalia, and several priests in Iraq, have been assassinated. Church buildings and monasteries have been burned by radical Islamic groups in more than one Arab and Islamic capital. 

"Should we forget Hrant Dink, the Turkish journalist of Armenian background, who was assassinated by a young Muslim Turk on 19 January, 2007?  This event cannot be isolated from the terror that is being directed against Eastern Christians by radical Islamic organizations. It is no exaggeration to say that this crime points to the condition not only of the small Christian minority that is left in Turkey, but to the plight of the entire Eastern Christian minorities that remain in the Islamic Arab world. 

"Going back to Hrant Dink, it is important to remember that in spite of his great love for Turkey as his country, and his unending call to both Turks and Armenians to be reconciled, and to transcend the historic enmity between them; he was once convicted of defaming the Turkish identity according to Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code. In his last article, he wrote: 'I shall keep on fighting [for reconciliation] regardless of the threats.'  This article appeared in the Lebanese newspaper, Al-Nahar. Several Turkish newspapers began a campaign of vilification claiming that he manifested enmity towards the Turks. In this article, he had expressed his doubts about the integrity of the Turkish judicial system, as he referred to several cases of Islamist Turkish writers who had been charged with the same offense, but whose cases were dismissed! What is rather disturbing in Dink's case is that his assassin's picture surfaced in a video showing him draped with the Turkish flag. He was treated by the Turkish policemen as a national hero. It is reported that his mother said, ‘My son did his duty, he is a hero like Ali Aca,'*** the one who attempted to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981.  

"The governments of the Arab and Islamic states have not been supportive of their religious minorities. Otherwise how can we explain that they marshal all their forces to combat radical Islamists when they attack governmental agencies, but they act slowly and hesitantly against these terrorists when they murder innocent Christian citizens in their homes or their churches? Furthermore, the government-controlled media often deceive the public by offering lame excuses for attacks on Christians, claiming that these Irhabis were mentally deranged, or had some previous unresolved issues with the murdered Christians! These discriminatory policies spread despair and anxiety among the Christian minorities. So, instead of the governments doing their utmost to strengthen the minorities' national loyalties by treating them on par with the majority population, they spread doubts about the minority's national loyalty, thus justifying their marginalization."  

The above words, taken from an August 2007 article on the challenges facing the Christian minorities within the Household of Islam remind me of a book that was published in 1963, under the title of, "A LONELY MINORITY: THE MODERN STORY OF EGYPT'S COPTS." The author of the work was Edward Wakin, an American journalist. Even though more than four decades have passed, its findings describe the plight of the Christian minorities today, not only in Egypt, but throughout the entire Muslim world. Here are some quotations that should make you deeply concerned about the treatment of the original inhabitants of the lands of the Middle East. 

"Viewed today from the West, the Copts are a major test of modern coexistence between a large Christian minority and a Moslem majority. In the Middle East, the Copts constitute the largest body of Christians in that part of the world where Christianity was born. For Egypt which is trying to mobilize all its human resources into a modern state, the test may be decisive. For a mosaic of minorities in the Middle Eastern countries of Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Turkey, the Coptic story can be read as handwriting on the wall. For the Christians of Lebanon, who are maintaining an uneasy dominance in a country evenly divided between Christians and Moslems, their prospects in Moslem Arab hegemony can be deciphered from the Coptic situation in Egypt. It is a problem echoed nearby in the tenuous Greek-Turkish partnership of Christian and Moslem in the island republic of Cyprus." P. 4 [These words were written before the brutal Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974.] 

"The cross suits this cruel culture of poverty and persecution, both as identification and an outlet for the Copts. It is their brand and their balm; it gives a meaning to life when there are only blind nature and inexplicable misfortune. If Western Christianity gives prime glory to Easter, the day of Resurrection, deliverance and confirmation of Christ's divinity --- Good Friday is more appropriate psychologically to the Copts. On this day when the cross was born as a universal Christian symbol, modern Copts say ‘Kyrie eleison' (Lord, have mercy upon us) 400 times at home, 100 times in each direction, and flock to their churches. P. 136 

"At the end of this intimate rendezvous with the Copts, a concluding moral note is unavoidable. The obligation to oppose tyranny wherever it stands, even when the tyranny is elusive and unannounced, even unintended. It begins with labeling injustice long before shop windows are smashed, icons broken, and families torn apart. This labeling is an antidote to the danger of dulled sensibilities in our time and while the Copts can be accused of hypersensitivity, their problem is by no means imaginary. They are feeling pressures that inflict suffering without mutilating, that intimidate relentlessly without exploding sporadically that wound without bloodshed.  [Emphasis mine] 

"The Copts are numbed and helpless as well as anxious as their historic cycles of acceptance and rejection, their recurring stages of toleration, discrimination, and persecution move inexorably in the direction of rejection. Persecution is still the nightmare, discrimination the reality in the latest chapter of a long story of a people. They are there in Egypt and there they remain, the ‘true Egyptians,' the 'original Christians,' the four million Copts of the Nile Valley, that troubled, enduring, lonely minority. Pp. 175 and 176 

By quoting from portions of an article on the sufferings of Eastern Christians during the early years of the Third Millennium, and going back half a century to quote from a scholarly research on the plight of Egypt's Copts, I don't mean to simply add to your knowledge of their fourteen-century old sufferings. I want you to consider your responsibility as Christians vis-à-vis this intolerable position of a dwindling Christian minority that suffers silently, with hardly any attention given to it by the conventional media. We are exhorted in the closing chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews to "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated, as if you yourselves were suffering." (13:3) In other words, let us put into practice the Kononia of the Saints which we confess in the Apostles' Creed. This is accomplished in our daily prayers on behalf of our brothers and sisters in the Household of Islam, and making their plight known by all the means available to us. 

Millions of Muslims have come to reside permanently among us in the West. They enjoy freedoms not even accorded to them in their homelands. We should remind our political leaders, who quite often manifest an abysmal ignorance of Islam that it is their duty to speak out about the tragic plight of all minorities in the Muslim World. The civilized and tolerant culture that grants Muslims the rights that are enjoyed by other citizens in the West, has never been reciprocated in a quid pro quo treatment of the Christian minorities in Islam. What a shocking commentary on a culture that parades under the banner of the Religion of Peace! 

*Dhimmitude: The status of being a Dhimmi, an Arabic term that refers to Jews and Christians who live under Islamic rule, subject to strict laws defining their limited rights. 

**The Arab Awakening: The cultural renaissance that began in Egypt and the Levant in the aftermath of Napoleon's brief military campaign in the closing years of the 18th Century. It introduced Arabic-speaking intellectuals (both Muslim and Eastern Christian) to the European civilization, and its accomplishments in the arts and sciences. 

***Aca: The name of the man who attempted the murder of Pope John Paul II. In the Turkish Latinized alphabet, the letter "C" is pronounced as "J"; so Aca is pronounced Aja.

Posted in Articles

Islam: Past, Present, and Future - Part Two

May 05, 2023
By Bassam M. Madany

Bassam Michael Madany

28 December 2022

On 15 December 2022, I posted Part One of “Islam: Past, Present, and Future.” I covered the early history of Islam, ending this paragraph:

“A century after the founding of the Abbasid Caliphate, the distant parts of the Empire began to secede. A cataclysmic event occurred in the middle of the 13th century when the Mongolians invaded the eastern parts of the Caliphate and destroyed Baghdad.”

What of the present and Future of Islam? 

In Bernard Lewis’ “What Went Wrong?” he attempted to explain the malaise that affects Islam nowadays: “Muslims from Indonesia to Morocco. Put it simply, the first 1000 years in the history of Islam, the Muslim world was a center of power, culture, and enlightenment. At least this is what Muslim historiographers say, and what most Muslims believe. Allah was on their side for a millennium. Is He no longer with them today?”

After achieving their independence in the middle of the 20th century, several countries in the Middle East espoused Socialism as the way to catch up with the rest of the world. It didn’t take long to find that Socialism was the wrong choice.

A major challenge faced them with the birth of Israel in 1948. How could immigrants from Europe, resist and then overcome five Arab armies in the summer of 1948? And then, after a couple of decades, came the unbelievable Arab Hazima (defeat) of the Six Day War in June 1967. Was that terrible event a sign that God had forsaken them?

The preoccupation with the Palestinian problem and the militarization of many Arab states during the second half of the 20th century diverted Muslims from realistically facing the challenges of modernity. While the nations of the Pacific Rim joined the ranks of the First World Club, Muslim states stagnated, their desperate societies became prey to such radical movements as FIS (Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front) the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas, Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Two major subjects best describe the plight of the Muslim nations today: Geography, and Demography.

Except for Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangla Dash, most Muslim lands lack adequate water resources. While Turkey, Syria, and Iraq share the waters of the Tigris and the Euphrates, the growing demand for more irrigation points to some serious problems soon. The same situation faces the countries that share the Nile River, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt.

The second topic that receives scant attention comes under the rubric of demography. According to the Population Reference Bureau of Washington, D.C., most of the populations in the Muslim world double ever twenty years!  Such statistics are very hard to grasp. For example, most of the citizens of Iran were born after the revolution of 1979; and around 40% of the Saudis are below 45 years old!

Besides the problems of geography and demography, most countries of the Muslim world suffer from the hegemony of authoritarian and oppressive regimes. Syria was brutalized by Hafez al-Assad between 1970 and 2000. His son Bashar has continued the oppressive regime to this very day, causing millions of Syrians to seek refuge in nearby countries and in Europe. The uprising of the Iranian masses against a regime claiming divine authority to persecute and execute anyone opposing them is part of the daily news!

Earlier in my article, I had quoted from Bernard Lewis’ “What Went Wrong?” I would like to end the article with a quotation from his last work,  

“The End of Modern History in the Middle East”[i]

‘With the ending of global strategic confrontation between superpowers, those in the Middle East must adjust to a new reality: to accept final responsibility for their own affairs, to make and recognize their mistakes, and to accept the consequences. In The End of Modern History in the Middle East, Bernard Lewis discusses the future of the region in this new, postimperialist era. For each country and for the region as a whole, he explains, there is a range of alternative futures: at one end, cooperation, and progress; at the other, a vicious circle of poverty and ignorance “

--------------------------

[i] The End of Modern History in the Middle East (Hoover Institution Press Publication) (Volume 604) Hardcover – May 1, 2011

Posted in Articles

Islam: Past, Present, and Future - Part One

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Bassam Michael Madany

15 December 2022

It’s mid-December 2022, one week before Christmas; these are the headlines that caught my attention today:

Iranian Regime's Slow-Motion Genocide of The Balochi People  Erdoğan Places Bounties on Critics Abroad

Iran's General Strike: Can the Regime Survive?

Gravitas Plus: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Who are the Kurds and why don't they have their own country?

German politicians raise awareness of plight of Iranian protestors

To understand why these headlines, dominate our attention, I would like to refer to the work of the Lebanese American Philip Hitti who started the Near Eastern Studies Department at Princeton University, around 85 years ago. In his book “Islam: A Way of Life” dealt with Islam as Religion, Islam as State, and Islam as Culture. So, Islam is much more than a religion.

Another scholar who wrote on Islam was Bernard Lewis who came to Princeton, after teaching at his alma mater, the University of London, England. Professor Lewis was a prolific author and a frequent speaker on radio and television, especially after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

In his book, “Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry,” he explained the several meanings of the word ‘Islam.’

“There is a distinction that it is important to make in any discussion of Islam. The word ‘Islam’ is used with at least three different meanings, and much misunderstanding can arise from the failure to distinguish between them.      In the first place, Islam means the religion taught by the Prophet Muhammad and embodied in the Muslim revelation known as the Qur'an. In the second place, Islam is the subsequent development of this religion through tradition and through the work of the great Muslim jurists and theologians. In this sense, it includes the mighty structure of the Sahri’a, the holy law of Islam, and the great corpus of Islamic dogmatic theology. In the third meaning, Islam is the counterpart not of Christianity but rather of Christendom. In this sense Islam means not what Muslims believed or were expected to believe but what they actually did, in other words, Islamic civilization as known to us in history.” (P. 20)

         

Muhammad died in 632 A.D leaving no instructions for his succession.

The first four caliphs are called the “Rightly Guided Caliphs.” This designation implied that the years that stretched from 632 to 661, constituted the Golden Age of Islam. The conquests of the world began almost immediately after the death of the Prophet. The Arab armies burst out of Arabia and conquered the Persian Empire, and two provinces of the Byzantine Empire, Syria, and Egypt.

The three decades of the Rightly Guided Caliphs were turbulent. The first caliph died in 634. The two that followed him, were assassinated. The fourth Caliph Ali ruled for five years and was assassinated in 661. The unity of Islam ended. The followers of Ali came to be known as the Shi’ites. They became the opposition party within Islam. Muslims who sided with the opponents of Ali, were called Sunnis; and belonged to the Umayyads, a wealthy Meccan clan. They moved the capital of the Islamic empire from Medina to Damascus, Syria.

The Umayyads continued the Islamic conquests. By 710, their armies had crossed the strait of Gibraltar and occupied Spain (Al Andalus) until 1492! At one time, the Muslim armies crossed the Pyrenees, invaded France, but were defeated by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in October 732.

The Umayyad dynasty ended in 750. It was replaced by the Abbasid Caliphate that moved the capital from Damascus to Baghdad, Iraq. The

Abbasids encouraged the flowering of a great culture in Baghdad. The House of Wisdom was a cultural center where scholars undertook the translation of great works from Greek, Aramaic and Indian. Great advances were made in mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, and medicine.

During this period Muslims developed the Four Orthodox Schools for the interpretation of the Shari’a. Most of the theological discussions centered on the doctrine of the uncreatedness of the Qur’an, and Predestination and human responsibility.

A century after the founding of the Abbasid Caliphate, the distant parts of the Empire began to secede. A cataclysmic event occurred in the middle of the 13th century when the Mongolians invaded the eastern parts of the Caliphate and destroyed Baghdad.

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A Reaffirmation of Historic Christian Missions

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

A Reaffirmation of Historic Christian Missions

Bassam Michael Madany

13 December 2022

Nowadays, we face major departures from Historic Christian Missions. I would like to address this subject, by quoting and commenting on a document posted on the website of the German organization, Institut Diakrisis. http://www.institut-diakrisis.de/  

The subject of the document was: “Transformation” as the New Topic of Evangelical Mission Theology. The following comments of the document, explain how this change had taken place:

“The concept of ‘Transformation’ is dangerously loaded. The reason why the Neo-Evangelicals found the concept of a societal transformation useful is because, since the last quarter of the 20th century, ‘Kingdom Theology’ had asserted itself in major parts of the American mission movement, while the Missions theology which focused on personal conversion and the planting of churches was pushed aside. 

“One facet of this ‘Kingdom of God Theology’ arose from the older tradition of Post-Millennialism, i.e., the conviction that Jesus would return after the Messianic Kingdom of peace had been established on earth. In their publications, Transformation theologians consider that next to the proclamation of the Gospel, social and possibly political action is presented as an equally important – if not even preferred – expression of the Gospel and the kingly rule of God. Through this widening of the concept of mission, the soteriological, i.e., the dimension of the Gospel, which is focused on eternal life, namely the salvation brought by Jesus through His atoning death, does not remain unaffected. On the contrary: in theory as well as in missionary practice, the salvation of the soul takes second place to the creation of better social and economic conditions.”

It is evident that Transformation Theology contradicts the teaching of Romans 8, that the full benefits of the Gospel, await the return of Christ at the end of time.

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father.’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope, we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 8: 14-39 (ESV)

Transformation Theology offers a different teaching on the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the areas of Christology and Soteriology.

“Contextual Bible interpretation has major consequences for Christology, i.e., the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus the Christ ... It is true that, at times, authors of the Transformation Theology are expressing Christological viewpoints. But what interests them most, is the humanness of Jesus and His devoted service in the social needs of this world. At the same time His divinity, as emphasized particularly in the Gospel of John (John 1:1-14; 2:28) and formulated by the early church in its basic Creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon (325 and 451 AD, respectively), is largely obliterated. 

According to these Ecumenical Creeds, the Son of God is of one nature with God the Father, and in His Person both natures, the divine and the human, are inseparably united. Now the miracle of the Incarnation of God is called ‘incarnatory’ and plays an important role in the contemporary understanding of the Neo-Evangelical movement. However, what is meant is not so much the singular miracle of the Incarnation of the eternal Logos in the Person of the Christ. Rather, in what could be called an ‘Example Christology,’ it is emphasized that the Incarnate Jesus Christ has made Himself a servant and led a life of service in the needs of mankind. 

“The ‘view of the end’ (Eschatology) which used to guide the Protestant mission movement in the past, has been allowed to be forgotten. For the strength of the salvation-oriented understanding of missions proves itself in that it takes up the Bible's own understanding of God, the world, and time. It centers in the saving work of God in Jesus Christ, and accordingly puts the Old and New Testaments into the right relationship to one another, making the necessary distinctions. Herein originates the tension between the ‘already now’ and the ‘only then’. 

“In closing, we want to stress that our criticism of Transformation Theology is not aimed at a single false doctrine, and not at individual theologians representing it. Rather, we retain with them the brotherhood in Christ, although, unfortunately, they have been enticed by an erroneous trend. Therefore, we want to struggle for an abiding in the Biblical truth jointly with them. In this, we are also conscious of the fact that we ourselves are in constant need of correction and deepening through the Word of God and are ready, therefore, for Biblical correction on our part. At the same time, we address our urgent warning to the entire Christian Mission Movement. May it beware of succumbing to a historical theology which is becoming an ideology! For this, as we can see, replaces eternal salvation with temporal social well-being and forgets that the Kingly rule of Christ is not of this world (John 18:36). In His end-times address on the Mount of Olives, Jesus warned his disciples of false prophets and false Christs who would come in the last days and lead many astray (Matthew 24:11). As the Ascended One (Revelation 3:10) He warns of the ‘hour of temptation’ which will come upon the whole world (Greek: oikouméne!)  3:11 But the ascended Christ promised the church of Philadelphia to keep them from the hour of temptation because they had kept His word steadfastly. 

“We, too, may likewise firmly trust that He, the Good Shepherd, will even today help His faithful flock through all external and internal temptations. He will do this through the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit whom He has given to His own as a pledge of the completed salvation in His Kingdom (2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:14).” 

I am grateful to our Sovereign God who has guided the Institute to state the Biblical principles of Christian Missions, at a time when young men and women from non-Christian faiths are attracted to the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
 

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Needed: Global Solidarity with the Iranian People

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Needed:  Global Solidarity with the Iranian People

Bassam Michael Madany
12 December 2022

My concern for the brave people of Iran took me to several sources where I learned about the ferocity that the Regime is using to end the unstoppable Intifada of the Iranian people. 

On Thursday, 8 December, the Iranian authorities carried out their first execution of a protester, who was convicted of injuring a member of the security forces. Mohsen Shekari, a 23-year-old student was hanged in Tehran after a sham trial. 

His uncle living in Germany commented, that having listened to the proceedings of the trial that were telecast, he was convinced that his nephew’s confession was forced. Mohsen’s voice never sounded like that! Most likely, more executions would follow, as the Regime’s only measure that might frighten the masses and end the revolution.

Having watched the news first on the German DW website, I turned to AL-HADATH, an Arabic-language channel. I listened to a heart-rending Interview with an Iranian human rights activist from London. With tears coming down her eyes, she described the situation in her homeland that reached the point of no return.

“For the last forty-three years, Iranians have been living in fear. Fear that someone is listening to your phone conversation. When the doorbell rings, you wonder whether the police has come to arrest a member of the family! If one leaves home to buy food, would he come back without delay?”  She went on, “the Iranian Islamic regime is not going to surrender; for them it’s an existential matter. The young generation isn’t stopping their revolution either, they’ve had enough humiliation and depravation! No one knows how long this stalemate is going to last!”   

On Monday, the 12th of December, a second protester was executed by the regime. Majid Reza Rahnavard who was detained during anti-government protests, was convicted for allegedly stabbing two security officers to death during demonstrations. Human rights activists say nearly 500 people have been killed, in the nationwide protests that began in mid-September 2022. 

The wording of the charge against the protesters caught my attention: they are classified as "moharebeh" — i.e., waging "war against God," a crime that carries the death penalty under Iran's Islamic law. Now that the issue has been raised to a Supernatural level, there is no need for discussion; either submission, or execution! 

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“Saint Augustine As Told to My Daughter”

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

“Saint Augustine As Told to My Daughter”

Bassam Michael Madany
29 November 2022

In November 2018, I came across a work in French, by Mohamed-Christophe Bilek, an Algerian Christian. He was born in Algeria in 1950; was converted to the Christian faith at the age of 20 and was baptized by an Evangelical pastor in 1970.

He serves as a Catholic Priest, carrying on a missionary service to Muslims.

In 1999, he wrote a book addressed to his daughter, drawing a comparison between his conversion and that of another North African, Saint Augustine.

The following is a translated summary of the book, which is available in French only!

Saint Augustin raconté à ma fille

Saint Augustine As Told to My Daughter, By Moh-Christophe BILEK

“Like Saint Augustine, Moh-Christophe BILEK did not accept, without question, the Muslim heritage transmitted by his family. In fact, he did not refuse to assume himself as “A not very Catholic Algerian” the testimonial book published in 1999 (editions du Cerf).

This particularism aroused in him the desire to delve into the history of his ancestors who confessed, depending on the era, several religions. He discovered with them - and Augustine is the best example - that faith must remain a free consent given to God.”

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Islam's Reconciliation with Modernity A Dream or a Possibility?

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Islam's Reconciliation with Modernity
A Dream or a Possibility?

Bassam Michael Madany
21 Novmber 2022


In his Program No. 162, Brother Rachid welcomed Hamed Abdel-Samad, the German-Egyptian writer to discuss ISLAM’S FIVE ILLUSIONS.

Superiority
Infallibility
Universality [Valid in all Time & Place]
Suspicion of Others [Conspiracy Theory]
Uniqueness [Allah’s Revelation in Arabic]

These “Illusions” may be considered as The Basic Motifs of Traditional Islam.

While discussing this subject, Abdel-Samad referred to his recently published book on the history of Islam from Muhammad’s days to the present, referring to facts that remain unknown to the rank-and-file Muslims.

As the dialogue progressed, Brother Rachid asked Abdel-Samad: “If these Illusions still dominate the Muslims’ outlook, what hope can there be for the future?”

Abdel-Samad responded: “I remain hopeful. The young generation’s outlook [reference here is to the Arab youth] is changing, thanks to the Internet and the social media. I hear from many young men and woman who appreciate my programs. They long for the liberation of the Arab mind from the fetters of the past and yearn for Islam’s reconciliation with Modernity.”

Nowadays, when lectures are proceeding on a website, the audience can post their comments. Which enables the speaker to gauge the impact of his/her message on the listeners. Thus, when Abdel-Samad expressed his hope for the future, he based it on the comments and responses he had received from his audience.

I listened to Brother Rachid’s Interview and read comments that appeared on the screen. Most were in Arabic, a few were in English or French. 

Here are samples of translated comments.

“This isn’t an ordinary program. It consists of a realistic analysis of our 1500-hundred-year cultural catastrophe. Thanks very much” 

“Thanks, Brother Rachid, for inviting Professor Hamed Abdel-Samad to enlighten us with this lecture.”

“Merci pour votre contribution pour éclairer les personnes envoûtée par cette doctrine néfaste à l'humanité entière. Encore, merci pour votre éclairage. Continuez à éveiller les esprits”

“Oh my God! Been waiting for this episode many years ago, it’s a while your two legends haven’t been together can’t wait to watch” [Original words]

“An excellent program with two famous intellectuals participating in this lecture! Please more programs of this type!” 

“Wow! Fantastic discussion done in an excellent manner with Brother Rachid asking questions. Excellent dialogue. Hamed Abdel-Samad explains the topic simply and adequately.”

“Utterly exhilarating! The greatest enlightenment pioneers to gather! Just LOVE this "Duetto" [Original words]

“Brother Rachid, and Professor Hamed, you’ve done a marvelous job. You diagnosed the various ills of Islam. Hoping that would enlighten the Muslims. Thanks, may the Lord bless and protect you!”

“The best two people ever! I cannot wait to see and listen to the subject.” [Original words] 

“Both of you are blessed and great, I like your cogent analytical illustration. Please continue with your long way of pursuing the freedom for the lost, deceived, and muted by Sabre rattling.” [Original words]

“Merci, je vous souhaite une très bonne continuation Salutation de la Kabyle”

“Bravo J'ai beaucoup appris merci encore une fois pour vous deux l'islam son temps est terminé Salutation de la Kabylie.”

“I can’t express adequately my joy when I listen to Professor Hamed Abdel-Samad expressing his realistic, logical, and enlightening thoughts!”              
“The best two people ever; I cannot wait to see and listen to the subject.” [Original words]

“As you listen to Rachid and Hamed, you can say surely there’s hope for change in our world”

“Le vidéo pouvait être traduit en français et en anglais, un bienfaiteur de l’humanité pouvait se proposer de payer le prix de la traduction et de la diffusion.” 

“You both are great and gifted men. we do admire and respect both of you very much!” [Original words]

“C'est un entretien en profondeur pour aller plus loin avec un témoin de notre temps ! ... Merci à vous. “

To watch the Interview with Hamed Abdel-Samad, use the following link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfiGW6nCL9g&t=48s

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Reflection on The Iranian Uprising Facing an Inflexible Regime

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Reflection on The Iranian Uprising
Facing an Inflexible Regime

By Bassam Michael Madany
7 November 2022

 

The upheavals in Iran have been going on for several weeks, with a growing number of Iranians calling for an end to the theocratic regime. The Government remains inflexible in its position claiming that the demonstrations have been instigated by foreign governments. A brief account of the history of Islam might be helpful to clarify the situation.

The main Shiʿah branch in Islam is known as the Twelvers. They claim that upon the death of Muhammad in 632 A.D, the Muslim Community was to have been governed by Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet.

Muhammad died in 632 A.D, without leaving instructions for an orderly Succession (Caliphate).  Abu Bakr and Omar, both Companions of Muhammad, excluded the Prophet’s family from the deliberations about the Succession and hastened to announce Abu Bakr as a caliph in 632, Thus, it became inevitable that trouble would eventually ensue. None of the first three caliphs, Abu Bakr, Omar, and Uthman were from the Hashemite clan of Muhammad. When Ali assumed the caliphate in 656, his opponents were mainly from the Umayyad clan that had bitterly opposed Muhammad in Mecca and caused him to migrate to Medina in 622.

Finally, when Ali took office in 659, he faced opposition that led to his  assassination in 661 and the rise of the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750.) 

Ali’s elder son Hassan, showed no interest in leading the Shia, his younger son, Husain became the legitimate Imam (Leader) of the Shia.  In 680, Husain was killed a in a battle at Kerbala, Iraq, while attempting to regain the Caliphate. The event cemented Schism in Islam, where around 90% of world Muslims are Sunnis and 10% Shias. Thus, within three decades after the passing of the Prophet, the Islamic Umma became divided between Sunnis (followers of the Umayyad dynasty) and Shi’ah (Partisan) of Ali.

After the Arab/Islamic forces had occupied and settled in Persia, some Persians migrated to India, to escape persecution by Muslims and preserve their Zoroastrian identity. They are known as the Parsees. The majority of Persians became followers of Sunni Islam for centuries. In the 16th century, when the Safavids rulers converted to Shia, they initiated a process of forced conversion. Thus, Persia (Iran) that had been a Sunni majority population, became a stronghold of Shia Islam, specifically of the Twelvers Shia.

In the early 1920s, the Qajar Dynasty that had been ruling Persia since 1794, was replaced by the Pahlavi Dynasty that ruled for 54 years (1925-1979) Reza Pahlavi became the new Shah of Iran on 12 December 1925. He had planned to declare the country a republic as his contemporary Kemal Atatürk had done in Turkey; but abandoned the idea due to the clerical opposition. The official name of the country became “The Imperial State of Iran.”

During the Cold War, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi became firmly aligned with the Western Powers acting as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. While the country experienced success in the increase of literacy, health, and the standard of living, the Shah faced a growing opposition in 1978. That led to his eventual departure from Tehran, the return of Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in Paris, France, and the founding of the Islamic Republic of Iran in February 1979.

The system has one legislative Parliament with several oversight groups dominated by the clergy. The President is both Head of State and the Government, but the ultimate authority rests with the Supreme Ayatollah. This position has been held by Ayatollah Khamenei since 1989. At present, Ebrahim Raisi is the President of Iran.

I trust that this brief Reflection has been helpful towards understanding Iran’s politics today. It’s clear that when authorities base their legitimacy on a supernatural source, it becomes impossible to engage in genuine negotiations, or find ways for a peaceful compromise!
 

 

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ON THE IMPACT OF THE DESERT ENVIRONMENT ON ISLAM

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

ON THE IMPACT OF THE DESERT ENVIRONMENT ON ISLAM

Bassam Michael Madany

26 October 2022

On Program 186 of Hamed Abdel-Samad, he dealt with “The Impact of the Desert Milieu on the Rise of Islam.” He added that the Arabian tribal tradition of raids on other tribes, became the Operas Operandi of the Islamic Futuhat (Imperialist Expansions) throughout the world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HM17KyUqV0k&t=555s

As the German-Egyptian writer expounds his thesis via a journey within the History of Islam on YouTube, several of the viewers/ listeners start sending their comments.

“I’m extremely excited about this series! Keep up the great work, sir”

“Dear Professor, you enlighten us with your rational, logical, and deep thoughts!”

“What a joy to listen to you! It’s become one of my best life experiences. I can hardly find words to describe the internal peace I receive from your guiding light.”

“Glad to have you back, dear Professor Hamed! Your friendliness touches me as well as many Moroccans I know. You have won our hearts. May God protect you!"  

“You are always radiant and convincing. I'm learning a great deal from you. A big thank you!”

“Every Monday, I wait eagerly for the lectures of Dr. Hamed to acquire an accurate information about subjects that were not properly treated at our schools. Ever since I discovered your lectures, I haven’t missed any session.” 

“Greetings Professor Hamed, thank you for the subject you expounded today. As you mentioned, the Arabs are beneficiaries of the world’s cultural treasures, but not its producers. And that has been going on from the very beginnings of Islam.”

Comment

Hamed Abdel-Samad[i] is a well-known German-Egyptian writer who grew up in Egypt. His father, the Imam of the village mosque, saw to it that his son memorized the Qur’an from his earliest days, with the hope that one day, Hamed would take his place.

Hamed went to Cairo and received a regular education. For some time, he became a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. His love for learning took him to Germany where he studied and changed his views about Islam.

Having mastered the German language, Hamed Abdel-Samad taught at German Universities.  He published several books in German, Arabic, English, and other languages.

His interviews in Germany appear on Deutsche Welle (International German public radio and television channel) In the eyes of Muslims, both in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world, he is regarded as a heretic. He lives under the protection of the Federal German Police.

Thanks to the YouTube technology, Hamed Abdel-Samad is heard world-wide. Those watching him send their comments that appear instantly on the screen. Thus, Hamed is in personal contact with an audience consisting mostly of the young generation.

We are witnessing a new phenomenon in the Muslim world. The young Arab generation is being impacted by one whose worldview is diametrically opposed to Islam. Can we expect the Muslim world to be seriously impacted by an “enlightenment” that thousands are receiving from Hamed Abdel-Samad and his colleagues?   

________________________________________________

https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Hamed-Abdel-Samad

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Islam's New Challenge Coping with the Proliferation of Unbelief Among the Rising Generation

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Islam's New Challenge Coping with the Proliferation of Unbelief Among the Rising Generation

Bassam Michael Madany

20 September 2022

The twenty-first century witnessed great advances in the field of communications. The Internet facilitated the dissemination of knowledge without any hindrance. Its impact on the Arab/Muslim world has been far reaching. One byproduct was the appearance in June 2022, of Qanat Al-Mulhid “The Unbeliever’s Channel,” where subjects that had been taboo, would henceforth be discussed openly and without restraint. 

Qanat Al-Mulhid (https://youtu.be/m_9egvnKA8Y,) has attracted an army of young Arab men and women who watch the famous Stars of the Arab media and add their enthusiastic approving comments.

Having read a number of these comments, I would like to classify them under two categories: the Ethical and the Scientific. Furthermore, a speaker on the Qanat is called a Shahed. He, or she gives the reason for becoming an unbeliever. As an example, this is a Shahadah (testimony) of a Saudi Mulhid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py_Nwcud9CI

The Ethical category refers to accounts or anecdotes taken from the Islamic tradition, that may scandalize the young generation as   incompatible with the ethics of modernity.

The Scientific category refers to accounts of supernatural events in Islamic history, now deemed contrary to science. In Islamic theology, the term for Supernatural is Ghaibi, i.e., hidden.  

To deal with the faith problems of young Muslims, certain reformist Arab authors, have called for the development of a modern Hermeneutics of the Qur’an. On 31 May 2009, this essay was posted on a Kuwaiti website,

So That Islam Might Not Die” حتى لا يموت الإسلام Hatta la Yamutul’-Islam.

“We must acknowledge that traditional Islam is standing in the way of progress. A reformation can only take place by adopting a distinction between Allah and Muhammad; Allah is an absolute and unchanging Being, while the Prophet is not. Doubtless, Muhammad was the founder of the Islamic Umma; but as a human being, he acted within the cultural contexts of his days. Thus, the texts which the Prophet brought forth, including the Qur’an, are purely historical texts.”

Not long after the posting of this essay, www.kwtnweer.com stopped functioning. One may speculate that the authorities decided that this website should not go on spreading such critiques of Islam.

Another reformist online Journal http://www.alawan.org representing a forum for a secular, rational, and enlightened culture, stopped its activities without explanation. Previously, it had published on 12 September 2010, 

What Is the Qur’an? ما هو القرآن؟  Ma Huwa al-Qur'an

The author, Sa’eed Nasheed is a prolific Moroccan writer who had contributed more than 20 articles and book reviews to Al-Awan.

Here are excerpts from the article:

“One day, I thought of organizing a virtual forum where readers of Al-Awan might dialogue on the subject of “What Is the Qur’an?”

So, I began to read from Surah (Chapter) Al-Nisa’ (Women):

And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess. 4:24

“Actually, my right hand has never owned anyone” Thus, this Ayah (verse) doesn’t concern me.

In the same Surah, Ayah 34, I read:

“So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them.”

“Now let’s suppose I began to beat my wife; that would be a criminal act; it would upset my children and the neighbors. Therefore, this Ayah is irrelevant!

“As a Muslim. I must make up my mind about Islam’s sacred texts, which are loaded with burdensome injunctions. My apprehension is shared by millions of Muslims who hesitate to express themselves about these topics.

“I do consider myself as a Muslim, both emotionally and culturally. What appeals to me in Islam, is the possibility of a direct communion with Allah, who is the exalted Supreme Being, and Who doesn’t dwell in any sanctuary, nor within any sacred text, nor in any specific religion.”

The authors of “That Islam Might Not Die” and of “What Is the Qur’an?” are two examples of reformist Muslims doing their utmost to reconcile contemporaneous Islam with Modernity.

Could it be that, since their voices have been stopped; now the young Arab generation having lost all hope for reform, have opted for the extreme positions of Qanat Al-Mulhid and the latest, Qanat of Al-Murtadi?!  

_____________________________________________________________________

i Al-Murtad (Apostate) is derived from Radda an Arabic term for Apostasy

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On The Passing of Queen Elizabeth II

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Bassam Michael Madany

9 September 2022

Queen Elizabeth II passed away on the Eighth of September 2022. The official notification of her death was made after the Prime Minister was informed by the Queen’s private secretary, the cabinet secretary, and the Privy Council.

The event reminded me of the passing of her grandfather, King George V on 20 January 1936. I was eight years old, living in Alexandretta, Syria. Our neighbors invited the family to listen to the funeral service being broadcast on the BBC. I was very touched by the singing of the hymn ABIDE WITH ME, FAST FALLS THE EVENTIDE. It was decades later that I learned about the British composer of the Hymn, the Rev. Henry Francis Lyte.

“Henry Francis Lyte, an Anglican minister was born in 1793. He pastored a seashore church in England, among the rough sailors and uncultured villagers. They loved him and he loved the work. However, health finally left him, and the doctor advised him to retreat to sunny southern France. The last Sunday before leaving, although he had no strength to stand up and preach, yet he forced himself and preached among his weeping congregation. That evening, by the light of the evening sun, he composed this memorable hymn: “Abide with me, Fast falls the Eventide.”

Henry F. Lyte settled in Nice, France, where he died on 20 November 1847. The British came to this city on the Mediterranean to spend their winters. It was recommended as an ideal location for people suffering from respiratory illnesses. The French called the boulevard where the British lived, Promenade des Anglais. The name is used at present, as I noticed in 1975, when visiting Nice. The hymn was sung for the very first time at his funeral. The tune is "Eventide" by William Henry Monk. (1823 – 1889)

Abide with me, Fast falls the Eventide

Abide with me- fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens- Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine thru the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Posted in Articles

Abdallah Al-Quseimi: From Wahabism to Ilhad An Example of a Radical Metanoia

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

<h1 style="text-align: center;">An Example of a Radical Metanoia</h1>

<p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Bassam Michael Madany</strong></p>

<p style="text-align: center;"><strong>15 July 2022</strong></p>

<p style="text-align: center;">INTRODUCTION </p>

<p>Throughout history, there were a number of radical changes in certain persons’ beliefs.  This phenomenon is called <strong>Metanoia</strong>.  “The term suggests repudiation, change of mind.” (Oxford) - Also, “a <a href="https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/fundamental">fundamental</a> change in character or <a href="https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/outlook">outlook</a>,(Collins)” </p>

<p>An early example of a person undergoing a <strong>Metanoia</strong>, would be <strong>Saint Paul</strong>. The account of his conversion to the Christian faith is recorded in the Book of Acts, Chapter 9. His missionary activities in the Mediterranean world occupy the rest of Acts (13-28)  </p>

<p>Another example of one who experienced <strong>Metanoia</strong> is <strong>Saint Augustine </strong>(354-430) ”In his youth he was drawn to the eclectic <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manichaeism">Manichaean faith</a>, and later to  <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoplatonism">Neoplatonism</a>. After his conversion to Christianity and baptism in 386, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and perspectives.[3”                                      </p>

<p>Coming closer to our times, <strong>Martin Luther </strong>(1483-1546) is an example of <strong>Metanoia</strong>. He is  considered  as a “theologian and religious reformer who was the <a href="https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/catalyst">catalyst </a>of the 16th-century <a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/Reformation">Protestant Reformation</a>.” The conversions of Paul, Augustine, and Luther determined the nature of Christianity, as a faith that revealed God’s redeeming love of humanity.                                                            </p>

<p>The <strong>Metanoias </strong>that occurred in the 20th century, were in the cultural and political fields. Mostly, they related to Western men whose concern for “<strong>the Crisis of our Time</strong>” led them first to Marxism, as exemplified in the USSR, under the leadership of Lenin and Stalin. Eventually, having understood the true nature of its ideology and learned of its horrific crimes, they came out to witness against it. Their testimony was published in “<strong>The God That Failed.</strong>”  </p>

<p>It was a classic work and a crucial document of the <strong>Cold War</strong> that brought “together essays by six of the most important writers of the twentieth century on their conversion to and subsequent disillusionment with communism.” <strong>André Gide (France), Richard Wright (the United States), Ignazio Silone (Italy), Stephen Spender (England), Arthur Koestler (Germany), and Louis Fischer, an American foreign correspondent</strong>, all told how their search for the betterment of humanity led them to communism, and the personal agony and revulsion which then caused them to reject it <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_that_Failed">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_that_Failed </a></p>

<div>“A most dramatic <strong>Metanoia</strong> of the twentieth century was that of Whittaker Chambers. He was the veteran Soviet spy who became, in William F. Buckley Jr.’s words, ‘the most important American defector from Communism’ when he testified against members of his underground Communist cell in the 1930s. Yet Chambers did more than reject Communism: He revealed a key problem with modern liberalism. In his now-classic autobiography Witness, he argued that Communism ought to be rejected in the name of something other than 20th-century modern liberalism by showing how the two grew out of a common ideology that places unbounded confidence in state power. As he remarked, New Deal acolytes had no principled reason for opposing unlimited state intrusion into the social, economic, and political realms. Herein lies the source of Chambers’ ongoing relevance: While Communism stands discredited, many still accept its fundamental conceit that man makes his own reality, and that the government is the solution to all our ills.”                                   </div>

<div><a href="http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/03/still-witnessing-the-enduring-relevance-of-whittaker-chambers ">http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/03/still-witnessing-the-enduring-relevance-of-whittaker-chambers </a></div>

<p>Thus far, we’ve been citing examples of <strong>Metanoias</strong> that took place in the West. Now, we turn to the<strong> Arab/Muslim</strong> world where a major case of<strong> Metanoia </strong>happened in the life of a prominent Saudi scholar, <strong>Abdallah Al-Quseimi.</strong>  </p>

<p>The Algerian scholar, <strong>Hamid Zanaz </strong>contributed an article about <strong>Al-Quseimi’s Metanoia</strong>, that was published on the online <strong>Arabic Journal, Al-Awan, on 28 April 2011. </strong></p>

<p><strong> عبد الله القصيمي، من الوهابية إلى الإلحاد  Abdallah al-Quseimi: from Wahhabism to Ilhad </strong><a href="http://www.alawan.org/article9698.html ">http://www.alawan.org/article9698.html </a></p>

<p>Lately,<strong> Al-Awan’s</strong> website has not been functioning. Since I had already downloaded the article, I was able to translate excerpts from the article. </p>

<p>“<strong>Al-Quseimi</strong> didn’t simply critique the Islamic religious tradition, he called for its destruction. He continued his call for the Arabs to radically liberate themselves from everything Islamic. The important fact is that he came from within a religious system where he had occupied a prominent place and having authored several works in defence of <strong>Wahhabism</strong>. </p>

<p>“Like all genuine intellectuals, he did not hesitate to follow the guidance of his mind. His courage led to the rejection of everything that he had previously believed. He considered everything in the Islamic tradition as a roadblock to any progress among the Arabs. The apathy and passivity of the Arab mind contributed to its acceptance of the shallow opinions of the <strong>Fuqaha</strong> (legal authorities,) past and present.  </p>

<p>“Unlike the hesitant advocates of modernity, <strong>Al-Quseimi </strong>expounded his radical unbelief in several of his works and remained steadfast in his rational views, to the very end of his life. </p>

<p>“Notwithstanding the attempts of some Islamic circles to claim that <strong>Al-Quseimi </strong>repented and returned to <strong>Al-Sirat Al-Mustaqeem</strong> (the Right Path,) such efforts are fruitless. No one can “assassinate” his books; in fact, they are being reprinted, and some are available on the <strong>Internet</strong>. The titles of his book include <strong>“How Muslims Lost Their Way – 1940” “These Are The Shackles – 1946” “A Limitless Sahara – 1967” “The Arabs Are An Oral Phenomenon.”</strong>   </p>

<p>“While one may understand the attitude of the Islamists vis-à-vis <strong>Al-Quseimi</strong>, the silence of most of Arab intellectuals is puzzling, as they neither praised nor critiqued him, but treated him as if he had never existed!   </p>

<p>“<strong>Al-Quseimi’s </strong>books remain his most important legacy. As to those who claimed that he suffered from mental illness, that points to their desperate attempt to disparage his radical<strong> Metanoia</strong>.” </p>

<p><strong>Postscript </strong></p>

<p><strong>Links to some articles of Hamid Zanaz  </strong></p>

<p>The West’s Predicament: Unable to Heed Warning Signs - Middle East Resources (<a href="http://www.unashamedofthegospel.org">www.unashamedofthegospel.org</a>) </p>

<p>Islamism as Told (Explained) to My Daughter - Middle East Resources (<a href="http://www.unashamedofthegospel.org">www.unashamedofthegospel.org</a>) </p>

<p>“Boulevard of Islamism: An Example of How Islam Is Spreading and Impacting Europe” (<a href="http://answering-islam.org">answering-islam.org</a>) </p>

<div>
<p> </p>
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Posted in Articles

A New Voice In the Arab world QANAT AL-MULHID, (THE UNBELIEVER’S CHANNEL)

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

 (THE UNBELIEVER’S CHANNEL)

Bassam Michael Madany

11 July 2022

The 20th century witnessed great advances in the recording of music and of speech, beginning with 78 RPM, to 33.3 RPM records, and transitioning to tape-recordings of 15 IPS, 7.5 IPS, followed by CDs that were safer and durable. 

The advances in the same fields during the 21st century came at the speed of light! The Internet coupled with the galloping advances in computer manufacturing, allow the dissemination of knowledge, orally and textually, without hindrance. This phenomenon has ushered in the Era of the Acceleration of Time! The implication of this fact plays a special role in the Arab/Muslim world at the beginning of the third decade of the twenty-first century. 

Two decades ago, the situation was entirely different as explained in the following quotation: 

“At the turn of the 21st century, the Arab creative writer operated at a local level within a social environment that, more often than not, constrained freedom of expression and indeed subjected literature to strict forms of censorship. Many prominent Arab authors spent large segments of their life in exile from their homelands for political reasons. More broadly, the confrontation between secularism and popular religious movements, which might in the best of circumstances provide for a fruitful interaction of opinions, instead—because of local, regional, and global factors—created an atmosphere of tension and repression that was often not conducive to creative thought. This confrontation also prompted Arab litterateurs to view the global environment with considerable circumspection.” https://www.britannica.com/art/bestiary-medieval-literary-genre

Thus, the appearance in June 2022 of “Qanat Al-Mulhid” an Arabic-language channel for reformist Arabs to express their views, was a significant phenomenon.  They plan to counter the Islamists’ campaign of imposing their beliefs on Arab societies, a campaign that has been going on for the past fifty years.

To begin with, It’s important to recognize that the Arab world had been in the process of modernization since the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was prompted by Napoleon’s expedition in Egypt, an event that had far reaching consequences, not only for Egypt, but the entire Arab world.

Egypt was part of the Ottoman Empire. Following Napoleon’s retreat, Muhammad Ali Pasha was appointed in 1805 by the Ottoman Sultan, as ruler of Egypt, He is considered as the founder of modern Egypt. His dynasty ruled for almost 150 years. It ended in July 1952, when Gamal Abdel-Nasser, staged a coup d’état, and dethroned King Farouk, the last Egyptian monarch.
 
Egypt became a republic under a leadership that promoted a Pan-Arab ideology. In 1958, President Nasser entered into a union with Syria, creating the UAR (United Arab Republic.) The union was short-lived and ended in 1961. Nasser’s adventurism led to Egypt’s involvement in Yemen’s Civil war, “which Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser later referred to as ‘my Vietnam.’
  
The Hazima (Defeat) of Egypt, in the Six Day War of June 1967 gave rise to a Sahwah Islamiyah (an Islamic Réveille) whose leaders claimed that the defeat was occasioned by Nasser’s Pan-Arab ideology.

After President Nasser’s passing in September 1970, President Anwar Sadat reversed his predecessor’s policies, allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to resume its campaign of Islamizing Egyptian society. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur war with Israel, Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel, allowing Egypt to regain the Sinai Peninsula that it had lost in 1967. In October 1981, Sadat was assassinated by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, during the Armed Forces Day military parade commemorating Egypt’s victory in the October 1973 war.

Hosni Mubarak became the third president of Egypt from October 1981 until February 2011 when he was forced to resign during the turbulent demonstrations in Cairo, triggered by the Arab Spring.
 
The by-products of the Arab Spring throughout the Arab world were varied. Some regimes became democratic, allowing for the proliferation of social media channels, who began to challenge the dominant Islamist ideology.

One YouTube Channel began in June 2022, with a very bold title, “Qanat Al-Mulhid,” The term “Mulhid” is derived from “Ilhad” i.e., “Unbelief, or Atheism.” The name indicated a break with the past, and the birth of a secularized Arab civilization. Subjects that had been taboo, would henceforth be discussed openly and without restraint. 

For example, on 5 July 2022, Sa’eed Shoaib, an Egyptian reformist intellectual dealt candidly with some very delicate topics, such as: “Why do some Muslims regard the Caliphate sacred and part and parcel of the Islamic faith?”

“Why do Muslims consider their Futuhat (Conquests) as divinely sanctioned; rather than admit they were imperialistic invasions, no different from those of the Tatars and Mongolians?” 

“What’s the difference between the Ottoman Empire and the British or French Empires?”

On 5 July 2022, Sa’eed Shoaib, interviewed Dr. Zainab Al-Tijani, a Tunisian scholar, about the topic of Islamic Imperialism.  The Interview was very lively and informative. 

Professor Zainab didn’t mince words. “Yes, Islamic conquests were driven by imperialistic motifs, and meant for the enrichment of the Arab conquerors.” 

As usual, people watching the Interview on YouTube, began texting their comments. Here are samples translated from the original Arabic text:

“Thanks so much for this program and your exceptional guest. You are liberating us from the slavery that had been our lot. Now, we may work on building a homeland that respects our minds. I wish that those who praise the Ottoman Caliphate would be listening to this session!” 

“Thank you for your program, it’s indeed a useful one. I appreciated Dr. Zainab’s interpretation of history and benefited greatly.”

“This is to express our deep thanks for this enlightening session; now we’ve become acquainted with a new Tunisian intellectual. Most of the enlightening programs seem to invite Tunisian guests!”
                                                                                                           
“As I was listening to your session that dealt with the dream of reviving the Islamic Caliphate, I couldn’t stop reflecting on the poor conditions of the 53 Islamic states that have missed development. That didn’t happen by chance. Muslims had remained static and attached to the Qur’an, clinging to the motto that “Islam is the solution to all problems (هو الحل) and is valid for all time and in all places.  مكان يصلح لكل زمان

The most radical voice was that of a Saudi Mulhid who critiqued the Islamic Boycott Campaign Against India, occasioned by two Indian politicians’ views of Muhammad’s marriage to young Aisha.

Listening to his voice on YouTube one got the impression that he had thoroughly rejected Islam.

It’s equally surprising to read the text messages his speech had elicited!

“You are a genuine thinker, your words gave peace to my mind, may Allah enlighten your way!”

“I’ve been following your channel for some time, your words spring from your heart.”

“Thank you, brother, you are speaking the truth!”

“Dear Brother, thank you for your efforts to spread the truth among the public. May Allah bless you; we need more people like you.”

The rise of Qanat Al-Mulhid was indeed a unique and surprising phenomenon. I don’t imply that Ilhad is new in the history of Arab/Islamic civilization. There were some prominent Unbelievers in the past, such as Al-Rawandi (827-911), Al-Ma’arri (973-1057.)

The most celebrated Mulhid in our days was Sadiq Jalal al-Azm (1934-2016) who authored in 1969 “Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini” (“Critique of Religious Thought”)

The book is available in Arabic only! The following is an apt description of the book. “Nothing better describes the goal of the “Critique of Religious Thought” than the publisher’s statement on the back cover of the book:
                                               
“Rarely does modern Arab thought attempt to openly challenge the intellectual structures and the dominant metaphysical ideology of our society, because penetrating this realm touches its most sensitive area, which is the religious question.  But the contemporary Arab revolution cannot endlessly avoid addressing vital questions that are connected with metaphysical religious ideology and its relationship with the revolution itself – including all the problems that arise from reactionary Arab forces using religion as a major ‘theoretical’ weapon to mislead the masses. Thus, this series of critical studies of religious thought form a daring and necessary attempt by Sadiq Jalal al-Azm to destroy the dominant mythological mentality and substitute it with contemporary revolutionary and scientific ideas.”                                                                 
Forty-Year-Old Classic Remains Influential:                                                                                            
Sadiq Jalal al-Azm’s ‘The Critique of Religious Thought’ https://www.aljadid.com/node/2039
 

[1] On July 1, 1798, Napoleon landed in Egypt with 400 ships and 54,000 men and proceeded to invade the country, as he had recently invaded Italy. But this Egyptian invasion was to be different. For, in addition to soldiers and sailors, Napoleon brought along 150 savants — scientists, engineers and scholars whose responsibility was to capture, not Egyptian soil, but Egyptian culture and history. And while the military invasion was an ultimate failure, the scholarly one was successful beyond anyone’s expectations. https://napoleon.lindahall.org/learn.shtml 

Ii Viewing the Six Day War as an unintended consequence of the Saudi-Egyptian struggle over Yemen, Ferris demonstrates that the most important Cold War conflict in the Middle East was not the clash between Israel and its neighbors. It was the inter-Arab struggle between monarchies and republics over power and legitimacy. Egypt’s defeat in the “Arab Cold War” set the stage for the rise of Saudi Arabia and political Islam. 

https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691155142/nassers-gambl 

[1] https://www.britannica.com/event/Arab-Spring  

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Imt6JtYlS7o.                                                                          

V (282) ملحد سعودي يرد على حملة المسلمون المسعورة ضد الهند | قناة الملحد - YouTube 

 

Posted in Articles

Murder of Women University Students In Egypt & Jordan

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Murder of Women University Students
In Egypt & Jordan

Bassam Michael Madany

27 June 2022

While the Arab world struggles with current issues in Iraq, the Gulf, Syria, and the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian relations; the recent murders of an Egyptian University student and of a Jordanian University student, illustrate what Arab women still face in society.

On Monday, 20 June 2022, the Cairo Ahram Online published news about “the murder of a female student at Mansoura University, north of Cairo,  who had her throat slit with a knife by a male colleague.” It continued with these gruesome details:

“The prosecution examined the victim’s body and found injuries on her neck, chest, and other areas. A video of the incident has been widely circulated on social media, showing a man cutting a woman’s throat on a busy street before he was restrained by bystanders.”

One Arab website reported the following: “Around twenty witnesses were interviewed including the victim’s parents and sister. They explained that the assailant had hoped to marry their daughter who showed no interest in his proposal. When he persisted in his efforts, they reported him to the authorities and got a written promise to cease and desist in his efforts to get a positive response.” The murderer did not keep his promise and committed his heinous crime! 

While the following Arabic links were meant for an Arab audience, please watch them to fathom the depth of the sorrow of the speakers.

The first link is about the murder of the Egyptian university student.
(265) مقتل طالبة جامعية يحيي الجدل حول العنف ضد المرأة في مصر - YouTube                        

This link has the comment of an Egyptian human-rights activist:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ra6-u9Hjnng

In this link, there is an editorial by an Egyptian journalist about the shocking discrimination against women in Arab/Muslim societies, fostered by religious leaders. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq7BlbbLRKs&t=898s

Soon after the murder of Nera Ashraf, the Egyptian student, a similar crime took place in Amman, Jordan, at a university campus. “The Jordan Times carried a report on the murder.

“Police on Thursday, 23 June, who were searching for a suspect who shot and killed a university nursing student earlier in the day. The victim, Iman Ersheid, a student at the Applied Science Private University, was gunned down by an unidentified assailant who was wearing a cap.

“The victim’s brothers posted several statements on their Facebook page, expressing shock and outrage over the murder of their sibling. The victim’s father told media outlets that he dropped his daughter at the university to sit for an exam. Almost two hours later, the father received a call from police that his daughter was being treated at a hospital. When he arrived at the hospital, he was told that his daughter was shot to death by an unidentified man. 

“The university dean Zakaria Mubashir told a local media outlet, the security personnel at the university first thought the gunshots were firecrackers but later realised that a student was shot,’ When they attempted to stop the suspect, he managed to escape. The victim was rushed to a nearby hospital where she eventually died.” 

On Monday, 27 June, “Jordanian police said a man suspected of shooting dead a female student at a university in Amman died in hospital on Monday after shooting himself. The murder’s name, Oday Hassan, was in his late 30s.”  

It is my fervent hope and prayer, that such barbaric murders would never happen again.
 

 

Posted in Articles

How Books Can Influence One’s Life

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

How Books Can Influence One’s Life

Introduction

Bassam Michael Madany

1 June 2022

My late wife Shirley Winnifred Madany (née Dann) passed away in August 2008. I would like to post as a Memorial, a “Talk” she made at the Public Library in South Holland, Illinois, on April 29, 1970. Before we were married in1953, Shirley was secretary to the editor of The Winnipeg Free Press. Working on the five weekly editorials was her main assignment. She did some book reviews as well. 

This isn’t a “book review” in the traditional sense.  I would like to tell you about one particular writer and his family (which included an author sister) and how they influenced my life.  Then, with that as an example, I would touch briefly on the challenge we have as Christians, to be selective in our reading.

I venture the thought that books read in the teenage years, can set the pace of one’s reading for life.  And also, that these same books do have a definite influence on the life of the reader – even without them being aware of it.  It is only now in retrospect, that I can sit with these Buchan books and see where they fit into my life.

When I was 16, I picked up and read my first autobiography. Memory Hold the Door, written by John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, the recent Governor General of Canada.  I can remember to this day the excitement that I experienced as I read this book.  It opened up a new world to me and I liked to refer to John Buchan as a “kindred spirit.”

John Buchan was a very popular Governor General.  You may wonder what that term means.  Although Canada was completely self-governing, the office of Governor General was established as a link with Britain and the throne.  He represented the King or Queen as the case might be.  Throughout his term in Canada, John Buchan was working quietly on his autobiography which he intended to publish on his retirement.  The manuscript reached the publishers only two weeks before his death.  Because of the small population of Canada such a public figure was very well known. When you read a person’s last book and are attracted to his style of writing, you immediately search for his earlier writings.

Perhaps I should fill in a bit on my background for those of you who don’t know anything about me.  My hometown – Portage la Prairie, Manitoba – was the fourth largest in that vast prairie province – and yet it only had 8000 of a population!  I wish you could picture our library facilities.  Two rooms in the downstairs of a gloomy-looking brown frame house.  The walls lined with books to the ceiling, so that you had to use a stepladder.

Book dividers down the center of the room as well.  New publications were kept out of reach behind the librarian’s desk and only handed out on request.  Children were simply not catered to, and the junior section was very, very small.  The books in the second room seemed all to have been printed in the 1800’s.  

Soon after reading Memory Hold the Door, I discovered most of John Buchan’s adventure series and eagerly read them.  He actually had specialized in biography himself – writing about Cromwell and Montrose – but I have never been able to get hold of these books, and his adventures were written more for his own relaxation, and as an outcome of the research which one has to do to write a good biography.

Let me read part of a paragraph close to the beginning of the book; perhaps you will realize what was so special about his family.

“Our household was ruled by the old Calvinistic discipline. That discipline can have had none of the harshness against which so many have revolted, for it did not dim the beauty and interest of the earth.  My father was a man of wide culture, to whom, in the words of the Psalms, all things were full of the goodness of the Lord.  But the regime made a solemn background to a child’s life.  He was conscious of living in a world ruled by unalterable law under the direct eye of the Almighty.  He was a miserable atom, as compared with Omnipotence, but an atom, nevertheless, in which Omnipotence took an acute interest.  The words of the Bible, from daily family prayers and long Sabbath sessions, were as familiar to him as the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.  A child has a natural love of rhetoric, and the noble scriptural cadences had their own meaning for me, quite apart from their proper interpretation.  The consequence was that I built up a Bible world of my own and placed it in the woods.”

There was another series of books by a writer called O. Douglas and these became my special favorites – O. Douglas turned out to be none other than Anna Buchan – and her stories were unlike her brother’s because she based her stories on the events of their family life.

The Buchan’s home was a parsonage.  They weren’t rich but they had a wonderful father and mother who provided them with a fine Christian upbringing and a tremendous love of mankind.  To me they are the personification of that command which we hear every Sunday in our churches – “To love God with all our hearts and our neighbor as ourselves”. When John Buchan went to Oxford to study, he found that he had already done all his required reading from his father’s extensive library.  And Anna Buchan adopted a style of writing in her novels in which each chapter began with some quotation from a favorite author. 

This thread of Calvinistic-Presbyterian upbringing had its influence on me.  I am confident of that because I admired this family so much that I know I deliberately set out to learn from them – if they admired a book – then I tried to get hold of it and read it too.  I too was brought up in a Christian home, but our small prairie town did not offer much in the way of books.  Being an avid reader, I was forced to re-read old favorites, and I don’t suppose I could count how many times I read every Buchan book.

Five years after Memory Hold the Door, Anna Buchan wrote a biography of her brother entitled Unforgettable, Unforgotten.  A beautiful title.  This homey book gave one a chance to become closely acquainted with the whole Buchan family.  To quote the preface:  

 To my gentle readers.  You who read so faithfully my books may, perhaps, be interested in this family chronicle.  It was written in an effort to lighten dark days by remembering happier ones.  My brother John used to say that when he wrote stories he invented, but that I in my books, was always remembering.  Here in this chronicle is the fount of all my memories.”

In 1948 I set out for the British Isles to realize a dream that I had saved for since I was a little girl.  I wanted to meet my cousins and to see my parent’s homeland.  After visiting with relatives in southern England, I traveled north to friends in Edinburgh.  My heart seemed to be a Scottish as it was English.  I fell in love with the Scottish countryside and the friendliness of its people.  

One day we visited Peebles, a small village in the border land between Scotland and England.  This was the part of the country where the Buchan children spent every summer vacation at their grandparents.  Many of the O. Douglas books were written about this locality.  I wondered if I would recognize anything.  Can you imagine how excited I was to find that I did recognize a certain house from its descriptions in a book called Jane’s Parlor, and then I purchased the town’s guidebook (every town has a guidebook) and found I was correct.  One other day, we went across the Firth of Forth to the county of Fife, and I found myself at the very spot which gave John Buchan the idea for the title of his first book The Thirty-nine Steps.

Within the pages of both these sets of books, lived very real people who loved God, loved life, respected the elderly, saw something important in everyone (even the social climber, or the unlovely) people who were content with their hum-drum lives, and people who loved to read.  It was like having a private tutor.  I tried to absorb it as much as possible.

To get back to John Buchan.  Several years later there was another volume entitled, John Buchan, by His Wife and Friends.  No one wanted to forget John Buchan. I should mention here that in his own autobiography, you were most struck with the fact that it really was more about his own friends than himself.  John Buchan enjoyed some tremendous friendships and so many of his age were killed in the First World War.  Now it was the turn of other friends to write what they remembered.  One of them, G. Trevelyan, said this:

“Whenever I saw John Buchan, even in later years when illness did what illness could to clog his activity, I always felt ashamed in his presence that I was not more active, that I did not make more of the wonderful and variegated world of nature and of man, of past and of present, that was our common heritage.  One’s own little fire was feeble beside his sun like warmth, but it was part of the world which meant so much to him, and his interest in one seemed to add to one’s value.  How many men and women of all sorts and conditions have come away from seeing John Buchan, feeling just like that, going back the stronger to meet the world and wave of men.”  (Trevelyan was a famous British historian and writer!)

“When he had been repeatedly ill, baffling physicians and surgeons, John Buchan was persuaded to visit a world-famous Continental psychiatrist, a man noted for tracing such physical ailments as duodenal ulcers to psychic disorders in the patient.  He submitted himself to examination and was long closeted with the specialist.  The verdict: ‘Never in my experience have I met anybody less frustrated or less crippled by inhibitions.  He is free from neuroses.  His trouble must be wholly of physical origin.’  

 “Out of my own later and different knowledge of him, I believe this to be true.  In John Buchan’s lifelong, dual activity (as an author and as a public servant) there was no confusion, no impoverishing conflict, but rather a recreative interplay between realism and romance, between fact and fancy, between the business and the dream. But there was more to it than that. He recognized the essential strangeness, the tragedy, the pathos in things. But he submitted all ultimate questions to the ruling of the Christian faith, which he accepted absolutely. It was no more than the truth that was spoken of him by Kenneth de Courcy when he said, ‘He was a supremely honest Christian gentleman, whose faith was simple, unshakable, and inspired.’”  G. Trevelyan, Pp.164-165

How different from some of our present-day public servants. This meant a great deal to me.  I have always been convinced that Christians can seek the highest offices and still be known as Christians.

I considered myself early to belong to the great circle of Buchan friends.  It was as if they invited this feeling.  To illustrate this, I would like to read part of a chapter now from his sister’s book in which she remarks on this very fact.

“Mr. Ferris Greenslet, writing of his old friend in his book says, ‘He made quite literally a million friends.  When I went to Ottawa, the week of his death, porters, conductors, small shopkeepers, men in the street, spoke of him with broken voices.’ “That is what strikes one most in all that was said and written of him, the note of personal affection and loss.

“To take two instances:

“’It is the simple unadorned truth to say that we loved this man.  There was that about him which made a universal appeal.  We saw in him an emergence of that quality of life which in our own best moments we all long to possess.’”

“A leader in The Ottawa Journal begins:

‘This extraordinary grief for Lord Tweedsmuir, bowing alike the heads of the great and humble, coming from all races and classes and creeds, what does it tell?  Surely that life today, plagued though it be by demagogues and dictators, afflicted by strife and hate, and cursed by false philosophies and ideologies, still gives its heart in affection and homage to the best in man.’

“Many beautiful things were said to us in the thousands of letters that came from all over the world, and they helped, for lovely words have a healing quality, but nothing touched me more than the simple sentence of a girl in a Princes Street shop.  [Princes Street is the Michigan Avenue of Edinburgh] I had been sending some cake and sweets to my nephews and she asked me to put my name and address on the back of the order.  I scribbled ‘Buchan, Peebles,’ and she said: 
‘Are you John Buchan’s sister?’

“The tears that sprang to my eyes at the unexpected question answered her, and for a moment in that crowded shop we looked at each other sorrowfully, as she said, ‘He must be an awful miss.’” And I still don’t read those words without tears coming to my eyes too.

But to come back to Memory Hold the Door – and my own introduction to serious writing.  I hope you will suffer me to read one more quotation – and I would ask you to think what an influence such writing could have on a teenager.  I am still looking for more positive writing to come out of our circles.  Original and wholesome – writing which is a kind of sharing of all the blessings which we enjoy.

John Buchan said: (p. 306-307)

“Today the quality of our religion is being put to the test.  The conflict is not only between the graces of civilization and the rawness of barbarism.  More is being challenged than the system of ethics which we believe to be the basis of our laws and liberties.  I am of Blake’s view: ‘Man must and will have some religion; if he has not the religion of Jesus, he will have the religion of Satan and will erect a synagogue of Satan.’  There have been high civilizations in the past which have not been Christian, but in the world as we know it, I believe that civilization must have a Christian basis, and must ultimately rest on the Christian Church.  

Today the Faith is being attacked, and the attack is succeeding.  Thirty years ago, Europe was nominally a Christian continent. It is no longer so.  In Europe, as in the era before Constantine, Christianity is in a minority.  What Gladstone wrote seventy years ago, in a moment of depression, has become a shattering truth: ‘I am convinced that the welfare of mankind does not now depend on the State and the world of politics; the real battle is being fought in the world of thought, where a deadly attack is made with great tenacity of purpose and over a wide field upon the greatest treasure of mankind, the belief in God and the Gospel of Christ.’”

Now I think you will be surprised to find that I am not recommending that you yourselves should try to read all the Buchan books.  I really doubt that you would like them.  They belong to a different age, and certainly to a different environment.  They are so British that they might be rather annoying. But there is a command in the New Testament which many of us think relates to our choice of reading matter.  It is the passage from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians 4:8 

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

There are some authors popular today which I can imagine having a very deep influence on those who read them.  In the children’s section there is a very homespun goldmine in the rather recent Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  Here is a delightful series of very true stories which actually portray a definite time period in American history.  I was fortunate enough to discover them early and spend many Sunday afternoons reading them aloud to our children.

Another author who has earned a very excellent reputation for her Christian novels is Grace Irwin. Now Miss Irwin has not written a biography but one of her novels entitled In Little Place, seems to be very much the story of her own life.  It is always exciting to find out more about a favorite author and understand better how they get to write as they do.  

She has written a trilogy in a different kind of way.  Least of All Saints appeared in 1952 – then some years later there was a follow-up to that book with one called Andrew Connington.  And in about 1969 she wrote a third book with a strange title, Contend With Horses.  The time lapse in the writing of these books makes them seem more like true stories because there is that kind of a time lapse in the books.  They are all about a minister and the last one is of the minister after his family has grown up – and you get to see his growth in grace – his strength of faith – and a very beautiful portrayal of lasting love for his wife.  Books you can build on.

Perhaps the most rewarding author to get to know for this day and age is C. S. Lewis. If you were to start with his spiritual autobiography Surprised by Joy – then you would appreciate all the more the series of children’s stories that he wrote – the famous Narnia books.  This brilliant author has given us so many books which can strengthen one’s faith.  Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters etc.  His adult science fiction isn’t for everyone as not all of us can take that much imagination.  But there is much non-fiction which is very, very clear and easy to read.

We are all aware of the hazard of recommending books.  Sometimes that which touches us the most will not appeal to our friends.  But I would like to return to the original theme of this talk – that books, can have a real influence on one’s life. I am fond of quoting verses from Ulysses, a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson, which I had to memorize in school, and which I must have taken very much to heart:

I am a part of all that I have met,
Yet all experience is an arch where thro
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end
To rush unburnished, not to shine in use!
                                                                                                                                                                               

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History: Fact of Fiction An Essay on Why the West is Wrong about Islam

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

History: Fact of Fiction
An Essay on Why the West is Wrong about Islam

Bassam Michael Madany

20 May 2022

Early in May 2022, I received a summary of “The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam,” that had appeared on the book and on all advertisements of the work.i The following is the summary’s text:

“As the Cold War faded into history, it appeared to have been replaced by a new conflict - between Islam and the West. Or so we are told. After the events of 9/11 and the advent of the 'war on terror', this narrative seemed prophetic. But, as Peter Oborne reveals in this masterful new analysis, the concept of an existential clash between the two is a dangerous and destructive fantasy.

“Based on rigorous historical research and forensic contemporary journalism that leads him frequently into war-torn states and bloody conflict zones, Oborne explains the myths, fabrications and downright lies that have contributed to this pernicious state of affairs. He shows how various falsehoods run deep, reaching back as far as the birth of Islam, and have then been repurposed for the modern day. Many in senior positions in governments across the West have suggested that Islam is trying to overturn our liberal values and even that certain Muslims are conspiring to take over the state, while Douglas Murray claims in his new book that we face a 'War on the West'. But in reality, these fears merely echo past debates, as we continue to repeat the pattern of seemingly willful ignorance.

“With murderous attacks on Muslims taking place from Bosnia in 1995 to China today, Oborne dismantles the falsehoods that lie behind them, and he opens the way to a clearer and more truthful mutual understanding that will benefit us all in the long run.”ii 

I was stunned by the first paragraph. Peter Oborne has concluded that after the end of the Cold War, the West had to find a replacement for the USSR, It’s Islam!  In fact, not one reputable source supports Mr. Oborne’s thesis!

This is not to deny the terrible events that took place in Bosnia after the dissolution of the Yugoslavian Federation.iii

The plight of the 12 million Uyghurs, mostly Muslim, living in Xinjiang, is well-known, even though Muslim countries are not doing much to help them.          

One would have expected Iran to have championed their cause, but “Iran's economy is particularly vulnerable to supply chain problems because of its reliance on China.”   (ME Quarterly 17 May 2022)
                                                                                                                                         
Several serious works have been published since the early 1990s about the post-USSR world; none would substantiate Oborne’s claims. Here are examples:

Francis Fukuyama’s “THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN  describes his vision of the world following the end of the USSR.

“As the tumultuous twentieth century shudders toward its close — with the collapse of communism leading to a transformation of world politics — Francis Fukuyama asks us to return with him to a question that has been asked by the great philosophers of centuries past: is there a direction to the history of mankind? And if it is directional, to what end is it moving? And where are we now in relation to that "end of history"? It is Fukuyama's brilliantly argued theme that, over time, the economic logic of modern science together with the "struggle for recognition" lead to the eventual collapse of tyrannies, as we have witnessed on both the left and right. These forces drive even culturally disparate societies toward establishing capitalist liberal democracies as the end state of the historical process.” 

Not a word about the problems facing the West and Islam. Perhaps Mr. Fukuyama had not specialized in Middle East studies, and thus did not reflect on the impact of the Islamic Revolution in Iran on the region and beyond.

However, the late Samuel P. Huntington did refer to Islam in his book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order” Here is a relevant passage:

“In all these places, [reference is to Middle East and Africa] the relations between Muslims and peoples of other civilizations --- Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Hindu, Chinese, Buddhist, Jewish --- have been generally antagonistic; most of these relations have been violent at some point in the past; many have been violent in the 1990s. Wherever one looks at the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors. The questions naturally rises as to whether this pattern of late- twentieth-century conflict between Muslim and non-Muslim groups is equally true of relations between groups from other civilizations. In fact, it is not. Muslims make up about one-fifth of the world’s population but in the 1990s they have been far more involved in intergroup violence than the people of any other civilization. The evidence is overwhelming.” Chapter 10: From Transition Wars to Fault Line Wars, P. 256

His book was well-documented; in fact, one Arab writer agreed with his analysis and contributed an article to a daily online newspaper with this title: “Was Huntington Wrong in his Clash of Civilizations?vi  

At this junction in history, it’s important to rely on the expertise of Arab scholars who have written on the history of the Arab/Islamic civilization as they reflect on subjects from within an Arab/Muslim milieu and having studied in their homelands and at western universities. 

Here are three writers that I am well-acquainted with their contributions.

Ahmed Saad Zayed, is an Egyptian scholar who champions rational objective thought. His writings include a critique of traditional Islamic worldview. Dr. Zayed is the founder of the “Salon al-Insaniyya (Humanity)” and lectures on the urgent need for the modernization and reform of Arab/Islamic civilization. vii

Hamed Abdel-Samad is a German-Egyptian scholar whose contributions are numerous and available in Arabic, German, English, and several other languages. viii  

Héla Ouardi, a Tunisian Professor of French Literature and Civilization at the University of Tunis, and Associate Researcher at the CNRS Laboratory for Monographic Studies. ix

Had these three scholars noticed anything akin to the thesis of “The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam,” they would have denounced it as arising from a Conspiracy Theory of History.

______________________________________________________________________

i https://www.simonandschuster.co.uk/books/The-Fate-of-Abraham/Peter-Oborne/9781398501027

ii Peter Oborne is an award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster who has worked for various newspapers, including the Spectator, the Daily Mail, and the Daily Telegraph, where he was the chief political commentator until his resignation from the paper in 2015. He now writes for Middle East Eye. He is the author of numerous books, including The Rise of Political Lying (2005), Wounded Tiger (2014) and the Sunday Times bestseller The Assault on Truth (2021)

iii https://clinton.presidentiallibraries.us/yugoslavia-dissolution

iv http://aps-ua.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/The-End-of-History-and-the-Last-Man-Francis-Fukuyama-1992.pdf

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order
Samuel P. Huntington, Published in 1996 by Simon & Schuster, New York, NY 10020
 

vi Was Huntington Wrong in his ‘Clash of Civilizations?’

vii الحضارة العربية الاسلامية - تأويلات النص - الذروة والمآل- أ. احمد سعد زايد - YouTube
Ahmed Zayed - YouTube 
 

viii Hamed Abdel-Samad - YouTube

Hamed Abdel-Samad: Enlightenment Requires Clash With Heritage | MEMRI

Hamed Abdelsamad - Violence in Surat Al-Tawbah - YouTube

For more information click on the following: Videos of Hamed Abdel Samad On YouTube

ix Hela Ouardi - Quatre siècles de lecture : Les Orientalistes et le Coran. Essai de périodisation. - YouTube
Séance inaugurale - Conférence "Islam au XXIe siècle" du 26 février 2019 à l'UNESCO - YouTube
Réécrire l'histoire de l'islam | Hela Ouardi | TEDx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYfvUR-554ACarthage - YouTube
 


 

 


 

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THE OTTOMANS’ CONQUESTS IN EUROPE AND THEIR LASTING IMPACTS ON ITS SOCIETIES

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

THE OTTOMANS’ CONQUESTS IN EUROPE

AND THEIR LASTING IMPACTS ON ITS SOCIETIES

Bassam Michael Madany

13 May 2022

I have been interested in the history of the Ottomans since my early days. My father served in the Ottoman Army during the Great War (WWI). I’m thankful that he was stationed in Cilicia, Asia Minor and spared the fate of most Syrian conscripts who were posted on the east bank of the Suez Canal facing the British forces on its western side, The poor living conditions, and the excessive heat of the Sinai Peninsula, caused the death of hundreds of Syrian soldiers, including my uncle John.

Who were the Ottomans and how did they achieve such a prominence for several centuries in many parts of the world? At this point, a brief history of Islam is needed.

The Prophet Muhammad died at Medina in 632 A.D., without instructions about the leadership of the nascent Islamic Umma (Nation.) A number of his prominent followers devised the institution of the Caliphate, i.e., the Succession; that meant exclusively for Governance, since Muhammad was considered as the Last and Seal of Allah’s Messengers. The first four Caliphs were not related, they ruled from 632 to 661. Serious disputes took place among the Muslims in Medina, resulting in the assassination of three Caliphs.

A new phase of the Caliphate began with the Umayyad dynasty in 661, that moved the Capital from Medina to Damascus, Syria. The Umayyads began the Futuhat, as the Islamic conquests were called. Between 632 and 732, the Islamic Empire had spread eastward as far as India, and westward to Egypt, North Africa, and Spain.

The Umayyads employed Arabs in their army. Their rule was contested by Muslim factions who questioned the legitimacy of their Caliphate. In 750, they were defeated by the Abbasids who were descendants of Abbas, an uncle of Muhammad. The Abbasids built their capital Baghdad, on the shores of the Tigris River in Iraq. Gradually, they lost power; rival Caliphates sprung up in Andalusia (Spain) and in Cairo, Egypt. Eventually, the converted Turks of Central Asia, founded the Ottoman Empire, adding new territories to Islam, in eastern and central Europe. They conquered Constantinople in 1453 and expanded deep into the Middle East and North Africa. The Ottoman Sultan Selim I following the defeat of the Mamluks rulers of Egypt, assumed the position of Caliph of the Muslim world in 1517.

The Ottomans in Europe

From the late Middle Ages up to the early years of the twentieth century, the Ottomans sought to expand their domains in Europe. After they occupied Constantinople in 1453, their campaigns centered on Central Europe. The Battle of Mohacs in 1526, gave them control over the southwestern part of Hungary. The Ottomans mounted their first attack on Vienna in 1529. They tried again in 1683 with a force of 140,000 men. To stop this invasion, a Holy League was formed of Austria and Poland. Vienna was besieged for two months, however, the Ottomans failed in their attempt, thanks to the help Austria received from the Polish-Lithuanian League. That was a turning point in history, after which the Ottomans ceased to be a serious threat to Europe.

During the 19th century, the Ottomans were preoccupied with wars against Russia, which enabled the Serbs to free themselves from Ottoman rule (1804-1817). Greece achieved its emancipation from the Ottomans in the war of (1821-1832). The Ottomans lost all their lands in the Middle East in the aftermath of the 1914-1918 War.

This much, the history of the Ottoman Empire told according to conventional historiography. Unfortunately, this approach leaves unmentioned the lasting impact of those conquests on the lives of the conquered societies. To give a balanced account requires a Social History of the Ottoman’s European Conquests is required. When this pathway is followed, It reveals the existence of a little-known feature of Ottoman Imperialism: “The Institution of the Devshirme.”

The Devshirme is a Turkish term that describes the Ottoman practice of taking away   young Christian boys from their families in the Balkans. Ottoman soldiers would enter a town and head to the Orthodox Church. They compelled the Parish Priest to procure the Baptismal Record revealing the names and ages of the boys born in the parish.

“With that list on hand, the five-year old boys and older, were taken away from their parents and sent to Istanbul where they were Islamized and trained for various positions in the empire. They were given a formal education, and trained in science, warfare, and bureaucratic administration, and became advisers to the sultan, elite infantry, generals in the army, admirals in the navy, and bureaucrats working on finance in the Ottoman Empire. They were separated according to ability and could rise in rank based on merit. The most talented, were trained for the highest positions in the empire. Sometimes, the devshirme recruits were castrated and became eunuchs to serve at the haremi.  Others joined the military, including the famed the corps of the Janissariesii.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devshirme

The Ottoman’s Devshirme robbed families of their sons in Serbia, Croatia, Greece, Armenia, and other parts of eastern and central Europe. The pain inflicted on families who lost their sons, is beyond measure. It became an unforgettable part of the collective memory of Eastern Christians who lived under the Ottoman rule. The Institution’s legacy must not be forgotten as other historical events have been, such as the Genocide of East African Slaves, related by Tidiane N’Diaye, in his book, “The Veiled Genocide: A Forgotten Historic Tragedy.iii The book is available in a French edition only. While it was published in France in 2008, no English edition has appeared fourteen years later!

Publishing this article on The Ottomans’ Conquests In Europe must not be construed as an attempt to cover up the sins of European Imperialism. The difference is that the former have not been confessed, while the latter were acknowledged by Western nations.

For example, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan of Great Britain, made it clear in his “The Winds of Change” speech at Cape Town in South Africa, on 3 February 1960.                        

“We have tried to learn and apply the lesson of our judgement of right and wrong. Our justice is rooted in the same soil as yours - in Christianity and in the rule of law as the basis of a free society. This experience of our own explains why it has been our aim in the countries for which we have borne responsibility, not only to raise the material standards of living, but also to create a society which respects the rights of individuals, a society in which men are given the opportunity to grow to their full stature - and that must in our view, include the opportunity to have an increasing share in political power and responsibility, a society in which individual merit and individual merit alone, is the criterion for a man's advancement, whether political or economic.”iv

While British, French, and Dutch decolonization took place without much struggle, it was not the case with the Belgian and Portuguese decolonization process, which was slow and violent. On the other hand, we should not forget a great cultural legacy of the European colonialists: the Latin script for the alphabetization of the African and Asiatic languages, which contributed to the spread of literacy among the various strands of society. A key role was played by Christian missionaries laboring in the field of translating the Bible into national languages. The French helped Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, by giving them a Latin-based alphabet, thus liberating them from the Chinese Ideographic symbols they had previously used.

In our globalized world where the Internet and the Social Media have broken down the walls of secrecy and isolation, it’s become extremely necessary to give revised and accurate versions of history. In fact, there are hopeful signs on the horizon as Arab Reformist scholars are calling for a revised version of Early Islamic History.

The Tunisian scholar Héla Ouardi published a book in French “The Last Days of the Prophet” where she dealt with the confusion that surrounded the passing of Muhammad. Three years later, she published, “The Cursed Califs”, a reference to the early disputes in Islam resulting in the rise of Sunni and Shi’ite Islam.  To appreciate the changing cultural scene in some parts of the Arab world, watch this Interview of Professor Ouardi done in French:

« Ouardi, chercheuse au CNRS est spécialiste de l’islam et de littérature française Trois ans après « Les Derniers Jours de Muhammad », dans lequel elle revenait sur la mort de Mahomet, elle publie « Les Califes maudits. La Déchirure » (Éditions Albin Michel). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrUczoKUxow

___________________________________________________________

i The Imperial Harem was the Ottoman sultan's harem – composed of the wives, servants (both female slaves and eunuchs), female relatives and the sultan's concubines – occupying a secluded portion (seraglio) of the Ottoman imperial household.[1] This institution played an important social function within the Ottoman court, and wielded considerable political authority in Ottoman affairs, especially during the long period known as the Sultanate of Women (approximately 1533 to 1656).

Ottoman Imperial Harem - Wikipedia

iiJanissaries began as elite corps made up through the Devshirme system by which AlbaniansArmeniansBulgariansCroatsGreeks, and Serbs were taken, levied, subjected to circumcision and conversion to Islam, and incorporated into the Ottoman army. They became famed for internal cohesion cemented by strict discipline and order. Unlike typical slaves, they were paid regular salaries. Forbidden to marry before the age of 40 or engage in trade, their complete loyalty to the Sultan was expected. By the seventeenth century, due to a dramatic increase in the size of the Ottoman standing army, the corps' initially strict recruitment policy was relaxed. Civilians bought their way into it in order to benefit from the improved socioeconomic status it conferred upon them. Consequently, the corps gradually lost its military character, undergoing a process that has been described as "civilianization".

The Janissaries were a formidable military unit in the early years, but as Western Europe modernized its military organization technology, the Janissaries became a reactionary force that resisted all change. Steadily the Ottoman military power became outdated, but when the Janissaries felt their privileges were being threatened, or outsiders wanted to modernize them, or they might be superseded by the cavalrymen, they rose in rebellion. By the time the Janissaries were suppressed, it was too late for Ottoman military power to catch up with the West.  The corps was abolished by Sultan Mahmud II in 1826 in the Auspicious Incident, in which 6,000 or more were executed.  Janissary - Wikipedia                     

iii In 2008, Editions Gallimard published Le Génocide Voilé. The author, Tidiane N’Diaye, is a Senegalese anthropologist and economist, living in Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

iv Harold Macmillan: The Wind of Change Speech, 3 Feb. 1960 Address by Harold Macmillan to Members of Houses of the Parliament of the Union Of South Africa, Cape Town, 3 February 1960   https://web-archives.univ-pau.fr/english/TD2doc1.pdf                     

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Hasan al-Banna & Gamal al-Banna Two Bothers Whose Expositions Of Islam Were Poles Apart

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Hasan al-Banna & Gamal al-Banna

Two Bothers Whose Expositions Of Islam Were Poles Apart

Bassam Michael Madany

10 May 2022

In late April 2022, I watched a YouTube program about the life of the Egyptian scholar, Gamal al-Banna. Right away I wondered, could he be related to Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood? In fact, Gamal and Hasan were brothers!

First, an Introduction  

Islam spread through conquests led by Muhammad and his successors the Caliphs. Following the assassination of Ali in 661, Islam became divided between his followers known as the Shi’ites, and the Umayyads their opponents known as Sunnis. Ali’s son Hussein was assassinated in 680 in his attempt to regain the Caliphate, an event that intensified and perpetuated the animosity and rivalry between the two camps.

In 750, the Umayyad Caliphate ended in a bloodbath. It was replaced by the Abbasid Caliphate, that moved the center of Islam from Damascus to Baghdad. The Four Schools for the interpretation of Shariah law were founded during their reign. Theological disputes arose regarding the nature of the Qur’an, and Predestination & Free Will.

Gradually, the Abbasids lost power, rival Caliphates sprung up in Andalusia (Spain) and in Cairo, Egypt. Eventually, the converted Turks of Central Asia, founded the Ottoman Caliphate, adding new territories to Islam in eastern and central Europe. After their failure at the Second Siege of Vienna in 1683, they began to decline. At the end of WWI, the Ottomans lost all their former colonies. The founder of Modern Turkey, Mustapha Kemal Ataturk (father of the Turks,) abolished the Caliphate in 1924 and secularized the institutions of Turkey.

The abolishment of the Caliphate caused an ideological tremor among Muslims in Egypt and in India.  Two Egyptians ideologues, Hasan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb, called for the re-establishment of the Caliphate. In India, Abul Ala Mawdudi entertained the same hope. Hasan al-Banna organized the Society of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928. In January 1949, a member of the Brotherhood assassinated the Prime Minister of Egypt; the Egyptian secret police retaliated by assassinating Hassan al-Banna a month later.

Gamal Abdel-Nasser’s coup of July 1952 ended the Egyptian monarchy and brought in an Arab nationalist ideology that clashed with the Brotherhood’s worldview. An attempted assassination of President Nasser at Alexandria in 1954 by a member of the Brotherhood, led eventually to the trial of Sayyid Qutb, who was found guilty of conspiracy against the regime, and executed on 29 August 1966.

Following the death of President Nasser in 1970, he was succeeded by Anwar Sadat. His surprise attack on the Israeli forces on the east side of the Suez Canal in 1973, paved the way for peace with Israel. That cost him his life on the 6th of October 1981 when he was assassinated by an Islamist officer during a parade commemorating the Egyptian victory of October1973!

Thus far the legacy of Hassan al-Banna and the impact of the Brotherhood in Egypt, and elsewhere.

Gamal al-Banna began as an Islamist like his brother; however, he underwent a metanoia (radical change of mind,) and became a reformist Muslim intellectual.

Here are excerpts from “The Forgotten Archives of Gamal al-Banna” by Ian Hamel, a specialist in the history of The Muslim Brotherhood.i

“About fifteen years ago, I had the privilege of entering Gamal al-Banna’s lair, the youngest brother of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. In a small apartment in a working-class district of Cairo, he had collected more than 30,000 books, hundreds of unpublished documents, such as handwritten notes on the secret links between the Brotherhood and the Free Officers Movement, the military organization founded by Gamal Abdel Nasser.  Gamal al-Banna who died in January 2013, had once edited the Brotherhood’s newspaper, ‘Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen.’ He was arrested in Deccember 1948, along with many Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and released in 1950. 

“But very quickly, he had moved away from this Islamic organization to devote himself to the workers’ cause. and became head of the General Union of Textile Industry Workers. He published ‘La liberté de croyance en Islam’, (The Freedom of Belief in Islam,) ‘L’Islam et le rationalisme,’ (Islam and Rationalism) and ‘L’échec de l’État islamique à l’époque moderne.’ (The Failure of the Islamic State In Our Time)”

Analysis and Comment 

What drives Muslims in their persistence to bring about such a utopian dream as The Islamic Caliphate? It’s the conviction that the Islamic State, founded by Muhammad at Medina in 622, must expand until the entire world had become part and parcel of the global Islamic Umma. This notion doesn’t come from the Qur’an which is silent about the Caliphate. We are indebted to the work of the Tunisian scholar Dr. Héla Ouardi, who authored in 2017, Les Derniers Jours de Muhammad. (The Last Days of Muhammad.)ii  

Here are excerpts from her book:

“While investigating the circumstances of Muhammad’s passing, Héla Ouardi found an important matter, ‘namely that the climate among the Prophet’s family during his last days was a climate of great political tension, an atmosphere of a dénouement of an established order.’ As to whether Muhammad left a will regarding his successor is not very clear. Both Sunni and Shi’ite sources relate that on the Thursday before his death, the Prophet expressed the wish to dictate a will. He asked for a tablet and an inkwell and said, ‘I will write a document that will protect you from bewilderment for eternity.’ But Omariii, who was present, opposed it and said: ‘The Prophet is confused; we already have the Qur’an, and that’s enough for us.’   Since the Qur’an is silent about a successor to the Prophet, how did the idea of Khalifa come about? In fact, the Caliphate was an ad hoc institution invented by the Companions of the Prophet when were suddenly confronted by the absence of a power center.  By preventing the Prophet’s family from assuming the role of the Caliphate, the history of Islam has been punctuated by violent conflicts. Thus, in Islam violence has become sacred, allowing some Muslims to perform horrific acts to bring them closer to God. 

“Muslims generally think they are superior to others, since they follow of the last revealed religion, and their Prophet is the last or ‘seal’ of the prophets. Muslims are incapable of self-criticism. This feeling of ‘sufficiency’ has produced an immobility in many Muslim societies, especially in Arab-Muslim societies, clinging to the utopia that carries dreams of glory, constantly shattered by several stinging failures.” 

Here is the assessment of another North African scholar, the Algerian Boualem Sansal. He commented in the French journal L’Express on the “Consequences of this Never-Dying Dream,” in these words:

"Where Islam takes hold, it is forever. Islamism is based on Islam, which no one has the right to criticize. Since democracy recognizes all opinions, from the far right to the far left, it is obliged to recognize Islam as well. All those who do not commit attacks or violent acts, are protected by law. Islamism finds itself in a conquered terrain. So, it’s   necessary to fight Islamism from the beginning. Because it is like humidity in a house. Initially the threat is invisible, it penetrates the walls which, little by little, crumble. When you realize it, it’s too late. You have to destroy everything to clean up. It becomes a mission impossible. France is at the stage where it has just discovered that Islam is eroding her home." 

Boualem Sansal : "La France vient de découvrir que l'islamisme ronge la maison" - L'Express (lexpress.

Hassan al-Banna’s death took place in 1949; his brother Gamal al-Banna died sixty-four years later.  Hassan’s legacy lives on in the Brotherhood and in the many Islamist organizations it had inspired.

Gamal’s legacy continues in the life of other reformists like Farag Foda who paid with his life for preaching a modernized Islam.iv Another reformist Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni who passed away on 6 February 2022. was an indefatigable advocate for the updating and reforming the hermeneutics of the Qur’an and Hadith.

Farag Foda was a prominent Egyptian professor, writer, columnist, and human rights activist. He was assassinated on 8 June 1992 by members of the Islamist group El Gama'a El Islamia, after being accused of blasphemy by a committee of scholars at al-Azhar University Mosque.

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i https://global-watch-analysis.com/freres-musulmans-les-archives-oubliees-de-gamal-al-banna/?lang=en

iiHéla Ouardi is a Tunisian scholar who in 2017 published in Paris, France, Les Derniers Jours de Muhammad. (The Last Days of Muhammad.) She is Professor of French Literature and Civilization at the University of Tunis, and Associate Researcher at the CNRS Laboratory for Monographic Studies. She is general Manager of the Book at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Tunisia from September 2016 to January 2018.

iiiOmar played a vital role in the founding of the Caliphate. He may be regarded as the effective founder of the Institution, even though Abu Bakr (Father of Aisha) held that position from 632-634. Omar was the second Caliph, from 634-644, followed by Uthman from 644-656, followed by Ali from 656-661. His death marked the end of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. These dynastic caliphates followed: The Umayyad Dynasty from 661-750, the Abbasid Dynasty from 750-1258, when destroyed by the Mongolian invasion. The major Caliphate that followed was the Ottoman Caliphate that governed parts of the Balkans, the former Byzantine Empire, the Middle East, and most of North Africa, until it ended in 1924.

ivFarag Foda was a prominent Egyptian professor, writer, columnist, and human rights activist. He was assassinated on 8 June 1992 by members of the Islamist group El Gama'a El Islamia, after being accused of blasphemy by a committee of scholars at al-Azhar University Mosque.

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Creeds, Confessions, and Missions in the Twenty-First Century

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Creeds, Confessions, and Missions in the Twenty-First Century  

Bassam Michael Madany  

Nowadays, the Church is found throughout the entire oecumene (world), and its membership includes people from every race and culture. Early in the twentieth century, a great controversy arose between Modernism and Fundamentalism. Modernists, in their attempt at “Rethinking Missions” ended up with another gospel. Fundamentalists reacted by emphasizing certain basic truths of the Christian faith, without manifesting a proper concern for the heritage of the Church as summarized in the Ecumenical Creeds and the Confessions and Catechisms of the Reformation. 

This lack of interest in the historical documents may be attributed to the rise and spread of Dispensational hermeneutics. Back in the early fifties, Dispensationalism had become the semi-official dogma of several Evangelicals. I came to the United States in 1950 and studied at the Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the seminary library, I read an article in the “Sunday School Times” by a British author who claimed that the birth of the State of Israel in May 1948, was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. 

In 1952, a fellow seminarian informed me of a course on Dispensationalism offered at the Pittsburgh-Xenia Theological Seminary, by Dr. John Gerstner. I attended the lectures and was fascinated by Dr. Gerstner’s teaching and thankful for his lucid manner of expounding the subject. Years later, I had the privilege of visiting him at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, where he was teaching a summer course. By then, Dr, Gerstner had published his book, “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth” 

Recently, I read a book review of the book by Dr. Stanford E. Murrell, Pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, 705 Frederick Court Apollo, Pa 15613. The following are pertinent excerpts:

“After fifty plus years of learning and teaching about the Christian faith, Dr. Gerstner came to believe it was time for him to formally challenge the errors of Dispensationalism in a detailed manner. “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth” is an endeavor to examine the main points of the departure of Dispensationalism from historic Christianity. In his work, Dr. Gerstner does not engage in personal attacks, but reveals the theological areas of concern while offering correction and instruction in righteousness. The tone of the work is vigorous but gracious
Premillennialism was never any part of the creeds of the universal church. It did not find a place in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. The Council of Constantinople, when speaking of Christ’s kingdom affirmed that ‘of whose kingdom there shall be no end.’ The Athanasian Creed states: ‘at whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works, and they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire’ (Philip Schaff, ed., The Creeds of Christendom) 
Dr. Gerstner’s approached the subject from a Historical Theological point of view. 
http://www.sounddoctrine.net/stanford/Wrongly%20Dividing.pdf

To study the subject from a hermeneutical point of view, I visited Dr. Oswald T. Allis at his home in Wayne, Pennsylvania, in 1952. He had written a book on this subject, “Prophecy and the Church.” The following paragraph summaries its main points:    
 
“Should the interpretation of the Prophetical Books of the Old Testament in accordance with the time-tested belief of the Church, that the kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament Church have their fulfillment in large measure in the New Testament Church? Or should one follow the relatively new and decidedly revolutionary teaching of Dispensationalism and declare that these prophecies ‘skip over’ the Church age and will be literally fulfilled in a Jewish kingdom age which will follow it? These were the alternatives between which the author found himself obliged to choose. His decision and the reason for it are set forth in Prophecy and the Church.

To summarize:                                                                                                                     

If the Church is to maintain its spiritual vitality in our time, she must reclaim its heritage beginning with the Apostolic age. The Second Century yielded the New Testament canon, which together with the Old Testament, became the authoritative standard of the Church. The Post-Apostolic era was the age of the Church Fathers who confronted their pagan environment with the claims of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When doctrinal disputes arose about the fundamentals of the faith, Church Councils met at Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and Chalcedon (451), and issued the Ecumenical Creeds that defined orthodox Christianity for all time.

 

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Samuel M. Zwemer: Defender of Apostolic Missions

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Samuel M. Zwemer: Defender of Apostolic Missions

Bassam Michael Madany

4 April 2022

During Dr. Samuel M. Zwemer’s extensive career both as missionary in the Muslim World, and as professor of missions at Princeton Seminary, he authored around fifty books, and was the founder and editor of the quarterly journal “The Muslim World." He knew Arabic very well and was patient and understanding when Muslim inquirers came to discuss the claims of the Christian faith.

Dr. Zwemer combined his great interest in winning Muslims to Christ, with a solid commitment to the Apostolic Tradition, or the Historic Christian faith. In his late years, he took a clear stand against theological liberalism and syncretism.

During his early days as missionary in the Middle East, a general consensus prevailed among missionary agencies and missionaries concerning the cardinal doctrines of Christianity. They held to the supreme and final authority of the Bible; the uniqueness, finality, and superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ; the primacy of the proclamation of the Gospel; and the necessity of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as a condition of salvation.

Following the First World War, these historic beliefs were questioned by members of certain Protestant denominations. In 1932 the publication of Re-Thinking Missions: A Layman’s Inquiry After One Hundred Years” caused a great stir in missionary circles. The authors of the report advocated a radical change in the purpose and goal of missions. Dr. Zwemer addressed these departures from historic Christianity in his book, Thinking Missions With Christ. Here are excerpts from this valuable book:

“In the recent volume entitled “Re-thinking Missions,” the old Biblical Christocentric basis for missions is discarded and we read: ‘At the center of the religious mission, though it takes the special form of promoting one’s own type of thought and practice, there is an always valid impulse of love to men; one offers one’s own faith because that is the best one has to offer” (p. 19).

This line of thought is not different from the pluralist theologies that have invaded some Western theological thinking in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Dr. Zwemer minced no words in denouncing the above-quoted line of reasoning as non-Christian. Actually, he was dealing with the nature and future of missions in “Re-Thinking Missions.” He went on to explain the crucial importance of orthodox beliefs in Christian Missions, especially among Muslims.

“For us who work among Muslims, their denial of Jesus Christ’s mission, His Incarnation, His Atonement, His Deity, are the very issues of the conflict. Almost spontaneously, therefore, what might have been mere theological dogma in the mind of the missionary turns into a deep spiritual conviction, a logical necessity, and a great passion. Face to face with those who deny our Saviour and practically deify Muhammad, one is compelled to think in black and white. The challenge of the muezzin, so romantic to the tourist, is a cry of pain to the missionary; it hurts. In the silence of the night one cannot help thinking, that it pleased the Father that in Jesus Christ should all fullness dwell, not in Muhammad. Face to face with Islam, one cannot help asking what the final outcome of Christian Unitarianism will be. In the history of Islam its bald monotheism has always degenerated into some form of pantheism or deism.   (Pp. 20, 21).

The last chapter in “Thinking Missions With Christ,” has a very stirring challenge to remain faithful to the Apostolic Faith. Dr. Zwemer had played a key role in the organization and the proceedings of the First World Missionary Council that was held at Edinburgh, Scotland in 1910. He was also present at the Second Missionary Council that met in Jerusalem in 1928. As mentioned above, the theological climate had changed among several Protestant denominations. Some warning calls were issued against the secularization of the mission of the church. The following are some pertinent excerpts from the last chapter of this book, “The Otherworldliness of the Missionary Enterprise.” 

“It was pointed out at the Jerusalem Council Meeting in 1928, that the present-day terminology of the Church and of missions lays such great emphasis on social service and the present life, that we are in grave danger of losing the sense of the eternal. Our own worldliness blinds us to the other worldliness of those whom we call heathen. Our vocabulary is too secular. Our horizon is too earthly. Our outlook is too much in the realm of time. Secular movements rivet our attention.” (p. 129).

As always, Samuel Zwemer turns to the Scriptures. It is in them that he hears the voice of his Lord and Saviour, and the testimony of the apostles. Paul’s missionary message and passion were due to this vision of the eternal. “We look not at the things which are seen.” “Knowing the terror of the Lord we persuade men.” “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” “If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men most miserable.” Not only at Damascus, but through all Paul’s life, he could not see (earthly things) for the " glory of that light” --- which shone from the heavenly world. “Our citizenship,” he said, “is in heaven.” Here we are only pilgrims and sojourners to dwell in tents. We must not be entangled with the things of this world if we would be Christ’s ambassadors. (p. 133).

To read the works of Samuel M. Zwemer and reflect on them, is like sitting at the feet of the greatest missionary-theologian of modern times. 

A Short Bibliography of Dr. Samuel M. Zwemer 

Islam and the Cross: Selections from ‘The Apostle to Islam’ Samuel M. Zwemer, edited by Roger S. Greenway. Phillipsburg, NJ 08865-0817: P&R Publishing, 2002. Pp. xviii +165. 

A Call to Prayer. Samuel M. Zwemer. London: Marshall Brothers, 1923. 

Thinking Missions with Christ: Some Basic Aspects of World- Evangelism, Our Message, Our Motive and Our Goal. Samuel M. Zwemer. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI:  1934. 

The Cross Above the Crescent: The Validity, Necessity, and Urgency of Missions to Moslems. Samuel Marinus Zwemer, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1941

_______________________________________________________________

Re-Thinking Missions: A Layman’s Inquiry After One Hundred years. William Ernest Hocking. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1932.


 

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The Cross in Zwemer’s Writings

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Cross in Zwemer’s Writings

Bassam Michael Madany

Lately, books on Islam have been appearing rather frequently. Most of them deal with geo-political subjects such as “Islam and Political Poweri and “After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy.ii”  This is why “Islam and the Crossiii is a very welcome book as it reminds Christians, that the challenge of Missions to Muslims is greater than ever.  

Millions of Muslims have settled in Western Europe and North America. While some new works on missions to Muslims have been published, there is hardly anything that approaches the books of Samuel M. Zwemer. They breathe with Christian fervor coupled with solid scholarship. This fact earned him the title “Apostle to Islam.”

During his lengthy career both as missionary in the Muslim world, and Professor of Missions at Princeton Seminary, Dr. Zwemer authored more that fifty books, and was the founder and editor of the quarterly journal “The Muslim World.” He knew Arabic very well and was patient and understanding when Muslim inquirers came to see him and discuss the claims of the Christian faith. 

After reading his book, The Cross above the Crescent” back in 1950 while I was a theological student in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I wrote Dr. Zwemer expressing my deep appreciation for the contents of his book. I was delighted to receive a very warm response from him. He encouraged me to persevere in my interest in missions to Muslims and made a few suggestions that I have always cherished. Not long after that letter, “The Apostle to Islam” passed away on April 2, 1952. By the end of that year, J. Christy Wilson published, “Apostle to Islam: A Biography of Samuel M. Zwemeriv"

We are indebted to the labors of the editor, Dr. Roger S. Greenway, in providing us with these important selections from the writings of this great missionary in “Islam and the Cross: Selections from ‘The Apostle to Islam’ Samuel M. Zwemer

Part I, deals with the topic of Islam and Christianity with excerpts from “The Muslim Christ,” “Mohammed and Christ,” “Islam and the Holy Spirit,” “Christianity’s Stumbling Block,” and “The Way to the Muslim Heart.”

Part II treats the general subject of “Islam and Animism.”  The concluding chapter, “A Call to Prayer,” was published in 1923 in London.

Early in the 21st century, we witnessed the revival of Islam and of radical Islamist organizations that seek world domination. To balance that, ex-Muslims like Brother Rachid have appeared on the scene. His weekly TV and YouTube programs present the claim of the Christian faith to the Arabic-speaking Muslim world from Morocco to Iraq.v

Another phenomenon that is impacting the Muslim world, is the passionate work of ex-Muslims like the Egyptian-German scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad; his books and lectures on YouTube and TV, offer a scholarly critique of Islam.vi

It is my fervent hope that more of Dr. Zwemer’s books would become available to a new generation of Christians who need to hear the call of Missions to Islam, through his inimitable style, and his contagious zeal.

_______________________________________________________________

i https://www.e-ir.info/2011/10/25/islam-and-political-power/

ii https://wcfia.harvard.edu/publications/after-jihad-america-and-struggle-islamic-democracy

iii Islam and the Cross: Selections from ‘The Apostle to Islam’ Samuel M. Zwemer, edited by Roger S. Greenway. Phillipsburg, NJ 08865-0817: P&R Publishing, 2002.

iv https://www.abebooks.com/first-edition/APOSTLE-ISLAM-Biography-Samuel-M-Zwemer/22468345592/bd

v https://youtu.be/tWJp_kRe7VM

vi Hamed Abdel Samad,‏ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HdE--WnypE

 

 

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A Major Feature of Islamic Imperialism

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

A Major Feature of Islamic Imperialism 

A Permanent Colonialism, Sanctioned by Divine Authority

15 March 2022

Bassam Michael Madany


European Colonialism reached its peak early in the 20th century. Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal had established their dominion over several areas in Africa and Asia during the 19th century.

Having lived under French rule in the Levant (Syria and Lebanon) during my formative years, I attended French schools and studied textbooks used in France and its possessions overseas. The géographie book was LA FRANCE ET SES COLONIES, with sections about L’Afrique Occidentale Française, L’Indochine, and Nouvelle Calédonie. The History textbook was HISTOIRE DE FRANCE. I still remember a picture from the textbook, showing the assassination of King Henri IV, while he was in his Chaise enroute to a destination in Paris! 

I have no idea whether the British followed the same policy in their vast Empire. However, the fact that English is now spoken in places like Kenya and Ghana, and used in the Indian Parliament during its deliberations, point to the lasting impact of British Colonialism. I am keenly aware of the global spread of English. Several readers of the articles on my two websites, come from countries that were not colonized by the UK.

Basically, European Colonialism lasted for 150 years. It had to come to its end, as Prime Minister Harold Macmillan made it clear in his “The Winds of Change” speech to Members of both Houses of the Parliament of the Union of South Africa, Cape Town, on the third of February 1960i The following is an excerpt from this historic document:

“We have tried to learn and apply the lesson of our judgement of right and wrong. Our justice is rooted in the same soil as yours - in Christianity and in the rule of law as the basis of a free society. This experience of our own explains why it has been our aim in the countries for which we have borne responsibility, not only to raise the material standards of living, but also to create a society which respects the rights of individuals, a society in which men are given the opportunity to grow to their full stature - and that must in our view, include the opportunity to have an increasing share in political power and responsibility, a society in which individual merit and individual merit alone, is the criterion for a man's advancement, whether political or economic.”

While Great Britain managed the process of decolonization peacefully, France failed to keep its colonies, leaving her Indochinese and African colonies. Indonesia won its independence from The Netherlands without struggle.

In contrast with European Imperialisms, Islamic Imperialism has been, with a few exceptions, permanent and final. This is explained in the book, “Islamic Imperialism: A History,”ii  by Efraim Karsh, Professor Emeritus of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London, UK. 

“The worlds of Christianity and Islam, however, have developed differently in one fundamental respect. The Christian faith won over an existing empire in an extremely slow and painful process and its universalism was originally conceived in spiritual terms that made a clear distinction between God and Caesar. By the time it was embraced by the Byzantine emperors as a tool for buttressing their imperial claims, three centuries after its foundation, Christianity had in place a countervailing ecclesiastical institution with an abiding authority over the wills and actions of all believers.

“The birth of Islam, by contrast, was inextricably linked with the creation of a world empire and its universalism was inherently imperialist. It did not distinguish between temporal and religious powers, which were combined in the person of Muhammad, who derived his authority directly from Allah and acted at one and the same time as head of the state and head of the church. This allowed the prophet to cloak his political ambitions with a religious aura and to channel Islam’s energies into instruments of aggressive expansion, there [being] no internal organism of equal force to counterbalance it.’” (P. 5)

Another basic feature of Islamic Imperialism was the manner of its extension. In contrast with European Imperialism that was “overseas,” Islam spread contiguously and by land routes. From Arabia, eastward to Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, India; and westward to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco; and northward to Spain! The only sea they crossed was the narrow strait known ever since as Jabal Tariq, Gibraltar!

Professor Karsh described that aspect of Islamic Imperialism as follows:

“The empires of the European powers of old were by and large overseas entities that drew a clear dividing line between master and subject. The Islamic empires, by contrast, were land-based systems in which the distinction between the ruling and the ruled classes became increasingly blurred through extensive colonization and assimilation. With the demise of the European empires, there was a clear break with the past. Formerly subject peoples developed their distinct brands of state nationalism, whether Indian, Pakistani, Nigerian, and so on. Conversely, the Arabic-speaking populations of the Middle East were indoctrinated for most of the twentieth century to consider themselves members of “One Arab Nation”iii or a universal “Islamic ummaiv rather than patriots of their specific nation-states.”                     (Page 7)

Dr. Karsh’s statement ‘With the demise of the European empires, there was a clear break with the past,’ must not be understood as a total break, especially with respect to the former French colonies in Africa and Asia.

France has retained a close relationship with her former colonies via “Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, an international organization representing countries and regions where French is a lingua franca or customary language, where a considerable proportion of the population are francophones, or where there is a notable affiliation with French culture.”

Furthermore, we should not forget a great cultural legacy by the European colonialists: the Latin script for the alphabetization of the African and Asiatic languages, which contribute to the spread of literacy among the various strands of society. A key role was played as well by Christian missionaries laboring in the field of translating the Bible into national languages. The French helped Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, by giving them a Latin-based Alphabet, thus liberating them from the Chinese Ideographic symbols they had previously used.

That was in contrast with Islamic Imperialism which brought the Arabic Alphabet into countries like Persia and Turkey, whose languages were non-semitic, thus requiring several additional signs and strokes to be added to the Arabic letters. It was the genius of Kemal Ataturk, the Father of modern Turkey, who while making a clean break with the Ottoman past, introduced a Latin-based Alphabet that increased literacy among the Turkish masses.

I find no better way of summing up the Impact of Islamic Imperialism on conquered people, than these words from the Prologue of V. S. Naipaul’s “Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among Converted People” published by Vintage Books in 1998.

“Islam is in its origins an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s worldview alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert must turn away from everything that is his. The disturbance for societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain unresolved; the turning away must be done again and again. People develop fantasies about who and what they are; and in the Islam of the converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism. These countries can be easily set on the boil.” P. xi  

 

__________________________________________________________________

iHarold Macmillan: The Wind of Change Speech, 3 Feb. 1960 Address by Harold Macmillan to Members of Houses of the Parliament of the Union Of South Africa, Cape Town, 3 February 1960
https://web-archives.univ-pau.fr/english/TD2doc1.pdf

ii https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300198171/islamic-imperialism

iii One Arab Nation, Umma ‘Arabiyya Wahida, is the Motto of the Baath Party in Syria and Iraq

iv Islamic Umma, is the Motto of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928, after Ataturk’s abolishing of the Islamic Caliphate in 1924.

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The Story of the Smith-Van Dyck Translation of the Bible into Arabic 1865

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Story of the Smith-Van Dyck Translation
of the Bible into Arabic
1865

 

Bassam Michael Madany

28 February 2022
 

During 2022, I posted articles on “The Bible & the Church” and “The Translation of the Bible Into Arabic.” In this article, we get the story of the “Smith-Van Dyck Translation of the Bible into Arabic.” Thanks to the American missionary, Dr. Henry Jessup who reported on this historic event in his memoir, “Fifty-Three Years in Syria” This two-volume book has been reprinted; also, a digitized copy of the book is available at

https://www.arabicbible.com/for-christians/the-bible/148-fifty-three-years-in-syria.html 

Prior to the Great War (WWI), Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, and Tyre, were parts of Syria that had been ruled by the Ottoman Turks. While “Jebel Lubnan” i.e., Mount Lebanon, was a semi-autonomous district inhabited by Maronite Christians and an Islamic sect, the Druze. Henry Jessup lived in Beirut, which explains the term “Syria” in the title of his book. Most American missionaries labored in Mount Lebanon in the 19th century.   

Here are excerpts from “Fifty-Three Years in Syria,” interspersed with my comments.

Referring to the challenges of Bible translations, Dr. Jessup wrote:

“If it was difficult for Luther to translate from the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures into German, how much more to translate [into Arabic] 960 pages from the Hebrew of the Old Testament, and 270 pages from the Greek of the New Testament!”

The American missionaries arrived in the Levant during the early years of the 19th century. Their goal was to revive the Eastern Churches that had been under Islamic rule for twelve centuries. To accomplish this goal, required the availability of the Christian Scriptures in Arabic.

“The translation project began in 1848, with Dr. Eli Smith. On 9 April 1848, Dr. Smith submitted a copy of the new translation of the Book of Genesis.

Four years later, most of the Pentateuch had been translated and approved. Dr. Smith worked on the translation of the New Testament that was completed in 1855.”

“At the time of his death in 1856, Eli Smith had devoted nine years to this work. The mission appointed Dr. Cornelius Van Dyck who continued with the translation work in November 1857, until it was accomplished in 1865.

“Cornelius Van Alan Van Dyck, M.D., came to Syria, April 2, 1840, aged twenty-one years and four months, the youngest American ever sent to Syria. He came as a medical missionary, had never studied theology, but in seventeen years in Syria he had mastered the Arabic language, the Syrian, Hebrew, Greek, French, Italian and German. He was of Dutch origin, born at Kinderhook in 1818. He had a genius for languages, a phenomenal memory, a clear intellect, and excelled in medicine, astronomy, the higher mathematics, and linguistic science. His knowledge of Arabic, both classical and vulgar, was a wonder to both natives and foreigners, as will be seen in the chapter on his life and work. He had been ordained January 14, 1846, and afterwards received the degrees of D.D. and LL.D., and later that of L.H.D. from Edinburgh.”

“The following is a partial list of the "helps" that were available for use by the men involved in the translation:

“Of Hebrew Grammars, Gesenius' Lehrgebaude (1817), a smaller grammar edited by Rodiger (1851), a gift from the editor; Ewald's Lehrbuch (1844) and Nordheimer's Grammar. Of Lexicons: Gesenius' Hebrew Thesaurus, and Robinson's Gesenius, also Furst's Concordance and his School Dictionary, also Noldin’s Concordance.

“Of Commentaries: Rosenmuller on the Pentateuch, and Tuch and Delitzch and Knobel on Genesis. The London Polyglot with Buxtorf's Chaldee, and Castel's Syriac Lexicon, and Schleusner's Greek Lexicon of the Septuagint. Also, Tischendorf's Septuagint, and for a general Greek lexicon, Liddell, and Scott.

Dr. Cornelius Van Dyck continued with the translation work assisted by the Lebanese scholars Nasif El Yazigy, and Butrus El Bistany. He consulted with Arabic scholars in Germany, viz: Professor Fleischer of Leipsic, Professor Rodiger of Halle, Professor Flugel of Dresden, and Dr. Haranguer, librarian of the Imperial Library, Vienna.”

The Arabic Language of the translation

“The style of Arabic adopted was to be the same as had been adopted by Dr. Smith after long and frequent consultations with the mission and with native scholars. Some would have preferred the style “Qur’anic” i.e., Islamic, adopting idioms and expressions peculiar to Muslims. All native Christian scholars decidedly objected to this. It was agreed to adopt a simple but pure Arabic, free from foreign idioms, but never to sacrifice the sense to a grammatical quick or a rhetorical quibble, or a fanciful tinkling of words. As a matter of fact, it will be seen that in the historical and didactic parts, the style is pure and simple, but in the poetical parts, the style necessarily takes on the higher standard of the original, e.g., Job, Psalms, and parts of the prophets. 

“The work of the translation of the New Testament was finished on March 9, 1860. Dr. Van Dyck was assisted by a Muslim scholar of high repute, Sheikh Yusef El Asir, a graduate of Al-Azhar University of Cairo, whose purely Arabic tastes and training fitted him to pronounce on all questions of grammar, rhetoric and vowelling, subject to the revision and final judgement of Dr. Van Dyck.

“Dr. Van Dyck reported the completion of the translation of the Old Testament. Friday, March 10, 1865, a celebration took place at the American Press, in honor of the printing of the Old Testament, thus completing the new Arabic translation of the Bible.”

Celebration and Praise

Dr. Henry Jessup continued: “In the upper room, where Dr. Smith had labored on the translation eight years, and Dr. Van Dyck eight years more, the assembled missionaries gave thanks to God for the completion of this arduous work.” 

“Just then, the sound of many voices arose from below, and on throwing open the door, we heard a large company of young men, laborers at the press and members of the Protestant community, singing to the tune of Hebron a “new song.” “Even praise to our God,” composed for the occasion by Mr. Ibrahim Sarkis, chief compositor, in the Arabic language. Surely not for centuries have the angels in heaven heard a sweeter sound arising from Syria [Beirut, Lebanon] than the voices of this band of pious young men, singing a hymn composed by one of themselves, ascribing glory and praise to God that now for the first time, the Word of God is given to their nation in its purity.

“The hymn was translated this hymn into English, and on Sunday evening, March 12th 1865, a public meeting was held in the old church in commemoration of this great event, and addresses were made by Rev. James Robertson, Scotch Chaplain, Mr. Butrus Bistany and Rev. D. Stuart Dodge. The hymn was sung in Arabic and English.”

The English translation follows:

Hail day, thrice blessed of our God. Rejoice, let all men bear a part. Complete at length Thy printed word; Lord, print its truths on every heart.

To Him who gave His gracious word, Arise, and with glad praises sing; Exalt and magnify our Lord Our Maker and our glorious King.

Lord, spare Thy servant through whose toil, Thou gav'st us this of books the best, Bless all who shared the arduous task From Eastern land or distant West.

Amen! Amen! lift up the voice, Praise God whose mercy's e'er the same, His goodness all our song employs, Thanksgiving then to His Great Name.

“On the 3rd of June 1865, Dr. Van Dyck proceeded to New York, in accordance with arrangements made with the American Bible Society and superintended the making of a set of electrotype plates of the entire Arabic Bible in large type 8 volumes, and of the voweled New Testament. Two years later he returned to Beirut with Mr. Samuel Hallock, an electrotyper, and superintended electrotyping the voweled Old Testament 8vo, and editions of the entire Bible and of the New Testament. The American Bible Society furnished the British and Foreign Bible Society with a duplicate set of plates of the Bible and New Testament made in New York and also of the vowelled Old Testament made in Beirut.”

_____________________________________________________________

i https://www.logos.com/product/28109/fifty-three-years-in-syria-vols-1-2

https://www.vitalsource.com/products/fifty-three-years-in-syria-volume-ii-henry-harris-jessup-v9781528760058?duration=perpetual 

https://www.garnetpublishing.co.uk/product/fifty-three-years-in-syria-v-2-folios-archive-library/

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The Translation of the Bible Into Arabic

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Translation of the Bible Into Arabic

Bassam Michael Madany

21 February 2022

Introduction

Throughout my ministerial career that began in Syria in 1953, and that is still continuing by the grace of God to the early decades of the Twenty-First Century, I have studied the Holy Scriptures in several languages. 

 I have been reading the Bible in Arabic since my early days. As Syria was under French control during my formative years, I learned French as well. Eventually, I learned English that supplanted French after Syria’s independence in 1946.

My call to the ministry brought me to the USA. I spent three academic years at the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, by 1958, and after one year of theological studies at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I embarked on my life work. It consisted of the preparation and recording of messages on the Bible in Arabic. They were broadcast over international radio stations in the direction of North Africa and the Middle East.

While I continued to reside in the United States, I kept my Arabic up-to date through listening to short-wave stations, reading daily and weekly papers from the Middle East. I visited North Africa and the Middle East frequently. During such visits, I purchased Arabic books that gave me information about the evolving Arab culture, and the growing Arabic vocabulary.

The radio and literature ministry became a two-way traffic: the broadcasts brought responses from Eastern Christian and Muslim listeners. I responded via air mail letters and printed follow-up materials.

In my work I used the Smith-Van Dyke translation of the Bible. It was published in1865 and became the most widely used version of the Bible in Arabic. A moving account of this venture was related by Dr. Henry Jessup In his book, “Fifty-Three Years in Syria.” (First Volume, Chapter 4, Pp. 66-78, published by Fleming H. Revell Company, New York, 1910)

The preparation of messages was done with the audience in mind. The exposition of the Word of God was done with full awareness of the prejudices and misunderstandings of the Bible that are part and parcel of the Islamic tradition. My messages were not polemical, and did not refer to the Qur’an, the Hadith, or Muhammad.

Besides my education in the Middle East, I also taught in Arabic, at Roman Catholic and Protestant mission schools for six years. That enabled me to become fluent in the use of Standard/ Classical Arabic.

The Bible in Missions to Muslims

While proclaiming the Gospel to Muslims, one must not ignore the Islamic baggage regarding the Bible. For them, the Qur’an is Allah’s final revelation; it abrogates all previous revelations. Muslims claim that the Bible was corrupted prior to the rise of Islam. Thus, to publish a revised version of the Smith/Van Dyke of the Bible, may allow Muslims to point to the Christians’ propensity to keep amending their Holy Book. 

Arabic is a living and changing language. I have compiled a list of the new Arabic vocabulary that I had not known prior to 1950.Every time I read Asharq al-Awsat or Assafir Newspapers, or the digital program of BBC Arabic, I discovered a new Arabic word. But this does not mean that ‘older’ Arabic terms cannot be understood by contemporary Arabs. Why? Because the Arabic language is based on the Qur’an, a document that had its text finalized during the life of Caliph Uthman (644- 656.) This document plays a significant role in the life of Arabic speaking people, regardless of their religious affiliation. Arabic is tied to the Qur’an much more than English is related to the Authorized Version of the Bible or, to Shakespeare.

Before too long, the Smith-Van Dyck Arabic Bible will be two-hundred years old. It has become the Bible for most of Arabic speaking Eastern Christians of the Middle East. It’s loved, cherished, and memorized by the new Christians of North Africa who have crossed over from Islam to freedom in Christ.  

The pioneer missionaries who sponsored and worked on the translation of the Bible in Beirut, were churchmen and operated within confessional contexts. They adhered to the early Ecumenical Creeds, and to the Reformed Catechisms and Confessions of Faith. They were not innovators, but reformers. Part of being Confessionally Protestant (whether Lutheran, Reformed, or Anglican) is to believe that the primary means of grace is the preaching of the Word of God. 

While emphasizing the importance of the written text of the Bible, the missionaries realized that converts needed more than a Bible translation. A.A. Hodge’s book on Systematic Theology was translated, and commentaries on the Old and New Testaments were provided in Arabic. The Psalter was translated, and we sang it in a beautiful Arabic poetic style. Also, Arabic hymns were composed by Evangelical (Presbyterian) converts. One American missionary, the Rev. George Ford had the gift of composing Arabic hymns, a talent that I had coveted but never obtained!ii

The mission of the Church requires the proclamation of the Gospel, in Arabic it is known as al-Injeel, derived from the Greek Evangelium. When a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is grafted into a communion of believers whose faith is anchored in a tradition that stretches back for centuries. Twenty-first century Christians cannot approach the Bible de nuovo, they must read it in the light of a living heritage that goes back to the Apostolic Age.

Saint Paul expected all believers, whether Jewish or Gentile, to appropriate the sacred history of the Old Testament. In First Corinthians 10:1, he included all members of the church (both Jews and Gentiles) in the statement:

1فَإِنِّي لَسْتُ أُرِيدُ أَيُّهَا الإِخْوَةُ أَنْ تَجْهَلُوا أَنَّ آبَاءَنَا جَمِيعَهُمْ كَانُوا تَحْتَ السَّحَابَةِ، وَجَمِيعَهُمُ اجْتَازُوا فِي

الْبَحْرِ، 2وَجَمِيعَهُمُ اعْتَمَدُوا لِمُوسَى فِي السَّحَابَةِ وَفِي الْبَحْرِ،

“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;”

Paul informed the non-Jewish background-believers that the Israelites of the Old Testament, who went through the Red Sea, were their fathers. Non-Jewish people upon conversion to Christ had appropriated the Old Testament translation into Greek, known as the Septuagint. That was the only Scriptures they had, as the New Testament was still in the process of being recorded. The British scholar Michael Green in his book, “Evangelism in the Early Church,” referred to the Jewish Diaspora and the Septuagint as playing a key role in the spread of the Christian faith.”  iii

The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:21 “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching (Kerugmatos) to save them that believe.”

In his Letter to the Church in Rome (10:17), Paul explained how people are saved.

“So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” AV

“So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” ESV                          

In F. F. Bruce’s “Tradition, Old & New,” Published by the Paternoster Press in 1970, he stressed the role of the Christian Tradition in the interpretation of the Bible.

“Hold fast to the traditions,’ wrote Paul to the Christians in Corinth. Yet one would regard freedom from any kind of tradition as the sign of spiritual maturity and emancipation. That is because of the mistaken idea that tradition is always bad. Yet the living tradition, the community of Christian life, is indispensable. Without it, Scripture would have had no context. If we would suppose that the church had been wiped out in the Diocletian persecution and the church’s scripture lost, to be rediscovered in our own day like the Dead Sea Scrolls, would the rediscovered scriptures once more have the effect which we know them to have in experience, or would they, like the Scrolls, be an archeological curiosity and a subject of historical debate?

“On the other hand, the living tradition without the constant corrective of Scripture, (or, in more modern language, without the possibility of ‘reformation according to the Word of God’), might have developed out of all recognition if it had not indeed slowly faded and died.”  Page 128 

“And, for the Christian, history is the arena of the witness of the Spirit, by whose vital presence the once-for-all act of God which launched the Christian era and is documented in the New Testament retains its dynamism from generation to generation and is effective in human life today. The history of Christian beginnings inevitably takes on fresh significance as it is reapplied and reinterpreted in the experience of successive generations that receive it as their heritage. Thus, it remains potent and relevant. But it is necessary that the history as received should be checked from time to time against the history ‘as it actually occurred’, lest the two should part company irretrievably.”     Pages 172,173

The importance of sound hermeneutics for the proper understanding of the Bible, is masterfully expounded by Dr. Gerald Bray in his article: 

“Two Testaments, But One Bible”iv

The Old Testament worldview is taken for granted by the New Testament writers. The doctrine of creation is an obvious case in point. The belief that there is an intimate correlation between doctrine and ethics is another Old Testament principle which the New Testament writers took for granted.

The message of redemption cannot be separated from the doctrine of creation. The New Testament teaches us that all things were made in and through Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. A gospel which does not affect the material order is no gospel at all, and Evangelical Christians have historically been in the forefront of those who insist that God changes things - not just in the sky when we die, but here and now, on this earth. As human beings, we have not chosen to be made in God’s image, nor can we abdicate this status. We can rebel against God’s covenant, of course, but if we do so we will be punished for trying to escape from our God-given responsibilities. 

It is in this context that we read the Bible and interpret what the different dispensations have to say to us today. We do not have the freedom to disregard its teaching on the ground that it is now outdated, because the underlying principles remain the same. At the current time we have to face the issue of homosexuality. We all agree that the Levitical prescription of stoning is no longer applicable, but we should not conclude from that, that the prohibition of homosexual behaviour has been lifted as well. 

When we read the Bible, we are called to read it spiritually - looking for the underlying principle, and then trying to work out how those principles should be applied in practice. If the principles are kept in view, the range of possible applications will be coherent. To interpret the Bible correctly therefore is to learn how to discern its spiritual principles and then seek ways in which those principles can and should be applied in a given context. Armed with such resources, it is then the privilege of the pastor and preacher to bring God’s Word to his people and show them that it is indeed a living power, just as vital and effective today as it was when it was first written and proclaimed.

http://www.theologian.org.uk/bible/2testaments1bible.html

 

_________________________________________________________________

i A Lexicon of Contemporary Arabic Vocabulary & Phrases

ii George Edward Ford, son of an American Missionary, was born in Aleppo, Syria, and lived in Sidon. There he founded the National Evangelical Institute for Girls & boys, along with Rev. William King Eddy, on the 1st of Dec. 1881 He died in 1928. Rev. Ford translated two hymns and composed nine hymns in Arabic.

iii https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/review-of-evangelism-in-the-early-church

ivDr. Gerald Bray is professor at Beeson Divinity School – Samford University Birmingham, Alabama

 

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THE PASSING OF SAYYID AL-QIMNI

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

THE PASSING OF SAYYID AL-QIMNI

Bassam Michael Madany

14 February 2022

On Sunday the 6th of February 2022, Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni, an Egyptian author and human rights activist passed away at his home in Cairo.

On 8 February 2022, the Arabic section of BBC News gave a brief report on the event.  The following is the translated text:

“The Egyptian intellectual Sayyid Al-Qimni passed away on Sunday at the age of 75. In his writings and speeches, Al-Qimni advocated the updating and reforming of the hermeneutics of the Qur’an and Hadith. Some critics charged that his proposal was inspired by a Marxist ideology. Others claimed that Al-Qimni should have refrained from dealing with sacred subjects that must be shielded from any critique.”

Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni founded the Egyptian Secular Party. He lectured at the meetings of the Party that have been archived on YouTube.

I had expected that by mid-week, some online Arabic newspapers and magazines would have commented on the passing of Sayyid Al-Qimni. Perhaps editors of the Arabic media are hesitant to comment on the work of a controversial scholar whose critique of Islam was considered harsh and quite shocking. A week later, the event is still ignored by most of the Arab media. At the same time, a lively debate is going on in Egypt where friends and foes of the late Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni offer their positive or negative views of him. Reports indicate that he was refused the normal funeral service at the Mosque. Family members and friends are active defending his contributions to the cultural and political life of Egyptians.

A major Cairo daily Al-Ahram published the news of Al-Qimni’s passing, in its Arabic and English editions. The following are excerpts from the English Al-Ahram of Thursday, 10 February 2022.

Sayyid El-Qimni, the Religious Critic Who Met Fire with More Firei

“Controversial Egyptian secular thinker and researcher in the history of religions, Sayyid El-Qimni, who rattled Islamists and gained both criticism and praise from academic scholars, died on Sunday at the age of 74. The late author stirred up controversy over his views on the Quran and his battles with Al-Azhar accusing the latter of sponsoring terrorism. El-Qimni, who was born in 1947, focused mainly on the Islamic tradition and the history of monotheistic religions. He offered what he labelled a socio-political reading of the life of Prophet Muhammad and the beginnings of Islam, in a series starting with Al-Hizb Al- Hashimi (The Hashimite Party), Huroob Dawlat Al-Rasoul (The Wars of the Prophet’s State), and Naskh in Al-Wahy (The Abrogation in the Revelation).

“His problems with Al-Azhar and the Islamic Research Academy came in 1996 after he published his book Rab Haza Azzaman (The God of This Age), which the academy demanded be confiscated.  In 2005, he received death threats on the internet from Al-Qaeda, which prompted him to stop his writing in the media. In 2009, El-Qimni was awarded the state’s appreciation award for his body of work.

“El-Qimni’s thesis that treats the Quran as a historical text that can be examined in a critical fashion, brought the wrath of scholars and Islamists who asserted that the Quran is the word of God, and not an earthly text. His critical approach to Islam brought accusations of apostasy and blasphemy on him.”

I am disappointed but not surprised that some major Arabic online dailies and journals have ignored the event. At the same time, a lively debate is going on in Egypt where friends and foes of the late Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni offer their positive or negative views of him.

To get an idea of the encyclopedic learning of this Egyptian scholar, here is a list of some  of the speeches and lectures he gave, both at home and abroad.

On 31 May 2013, Al Qimni described “The conditions and future of the minorities according to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Jurisprudence.”

On 7 and 8 December 2014, Sayyid Al-Qimni lectured on a Cairo TV Station on “The Right of a Secular Egyptian to Life and Freedom.” 

On 7 June 2016, Al-Qimni spoke at conference in Brussels, Belgium, on “The Roots of Violence in Islam.”

On 13 August 2015 and 22 August 2016, Dr. Sayyid Al-Qimni lectured at Egypt Secular Party’s Headquarters in Cairo.ii 

While the lecture was delivered in Arabic, those who don’t know Arabic, by listening to it, may experience the passion of a pioneering scholar who attempted to reconcile Islam with modernity! 

 

__________________________________________________________

i Sayyid El-Qimni, the religions critic who met fire with more fire - News - Books - Ahram Online

ii المحاضرة الكاملة للدكتور سيد القمني في الحزب العلماني المصري - برنامج البط الأسود ٢٢٠ ( حلقة خاصة ) - YouTube

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The Bible and The Church

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Bible and The Church

Bassam Michael Madany

January 2022

Over the years, I dealt with several translations of the Scriptures. My mother tongue is Arabic, my father, Michael Nicholas Madany, served as pastor of the Evangelical Church in Seleucia, and Alexandretta, Syria. I have been reading the Bible in Arabic since my early days. I learned French at school quite early, and it became my second language. 

My call to the ministry brought me to the USA. I spent three academic years at the Reformed Presbyterian Seminary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I improved my English, and learned New Testament Greek and Hebrew. 

In 1958, after one more year of theological studies at Calvin Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I embarked on my life work: the preparation and recording of messages based on the Arabic Bible, to be broadcast to the Arab world in the Middle East and North Africa.

While I continued to reside in the US, I kept my Arabic up to date, by listening to short-wave radio stations, reading daily and weekly papers from the Middle East, and occasionally visiting Arab countries. During these visits, I purchased Arabic books that gave me the latest information about the evolving Arab culture, and the growing Arabic vocabulary. Once in Beirut, Lebanon, I purchased “Ilah al-Ilhad al-Mu’aser: Marx & Sartre” (The God of Contemporary Unbelief: Communism & Existentialism.) I learned that some people in the Arab world were concerned about the inroads of Marxism and the atheistic Existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre.

The radio and literature ministry became a two-way traffic: the broadcasts brought responses from Eastern Christians and Muslims; I responded via air mail letters and follow-up materials that went by surface mail.

My work required a careful preparation and writing of the broadcast materials. I read from the Bible using the Smith/Van Dyck version of 1865. My exposition of the Word of God was done with full awareness of the prejudices and misunderstandings of the Bible in the Islamic tradition. I was not polemical, and made no reference to the Qur’an, or the Hadith.

My early formal education had taken place in the Middle East at British, French schools.  Beginning in 1946 (the year of Syria’s independence) I taught at Catholic and Protestant mission schools for six years, using Standard (Classical) Arabic.

The pioneer missionaries were churchmen and operated within confessional contexts. They adhered to the Ecumenical Creeds. They had not rejected the Apostolic Tradition. They were not innovators, but reformers. Part of being Confessionally Protestant (whether Anglican, Lutheran or Reformed) was the importance of proclaiming the Word of God. (Romans 10 and I Corinthians 1 & 2). While emphasizing the importance of the written text of the Bible, the missionaries translated theological works and Bible commentaries. 

In his First Letter to the Church at Corinth, Paul dealt with the Jewish and Gentile objections to the Cross, in chapters One & Two. In chapter 10:1, he wrote: 
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; etc.” 
Paul informed those non-Jewish background-believers that the Israelites of the Old Testament, who went through the Red Sea, were their fathers. Of course, he did not mean physically but spiritually. When non-Jewish people joined the Church, they became heirs of the Old Testament, which meant appropriating the message, the language and phraseology of the Septuagint.

As absolutely necessary the Bible is for missions, no Bible translation by itself can and would accomplish the missionary task of the Church. The Bible must be expounded and proclaimed. As Paul put it in I Corinthians 1:21

“For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching (Kerugmatos) to save them that believe.” 
επειδη γαρ εν τη σοφια του θεου ουκ εγνω ο κοσμος δια της σοφιας τον θεον ευδοκησεν ο θεος δια της μωριας του κηρυγματος σωσαι τους πιστευοντας.

Paul emphasized the fundamental role of hearing the Gospel. “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” (ara e pistis ex akoes, e de akoe dia ‘rematos Xristou.” (Romans 10:17)

To make my point clear, I end with an excerpt from F. F. Bruce’s book “Tradition, Old & New,” Published by the Paternoster Press in 1970.i

 “Hold fast to the traditions,’ wrote Paul to the Christians in Corinth. Yet one would regard freedom from any kind of tradition as the sign of spiritual maturity and emancipation. That is because of the mistaken idea that tradition is always bad. Yet the living tradition, the community of Christian life, is indispensable. Without it, Scripture would have had no context. If we would suppose that the church had been wiped out in the Diocletian persecution and the church’s scripture lost, to be rediscovered in our own day like the Dead Sea Scrolls, would the rediscovered scriptures once more have the effect which we know them to have in experience, or would they, like the Scrolls, be an archeological curiosity and a subject of historical debate?” 

“On the other hand, the living tradition without the constant corrective of Scripture, (or, in more modern language, without the possibility of ‘reformation according to the Word of God’), might have developed out of all recognition if it had not indeed slowly faded and died.” Page 128

“And, for the Christian, history is the arena of the witness of the Spirit, by whose vital presence the once-for-all act of God which launched the Christian era and is documented in the New Testament retains its dynamism from generation to generation and is effective in human life today. The history of Christian beginnings inevitably takes on fresh significance as it is reapplied and reinterpreted in the experience of successive generations that receive it as their heritage. Thus, it remains potent and relevant. But it is necessary that the history as received should be checked from time to time against the history ‘as it actually occurred’, lest the two should part company irretrievably.” Pages 172,173

The Bible and the Church belong together and are intimately connected. Throughout the past 2000 years, the Bible formed the textbook of the Church. When it departed from its teachings, it faltered and lost its way. And as it returned to the supreme and final authority of the Word of God, the Church revived to proclaim her message:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”      

______________________________________________________________
 

https://www.amazon.com/Tradition-Old-New-F-Bruce/dp/1597529885




 

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Muhammad Ali Pasha: A Pioneer Orientalist

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Muhammad Ali Pasha: A Pioneer Orientalist

Bassam Michael Madany

7 January 2022

Near the end of the 18th century, France was at war with Great Britain. In order to disrupt its trade routes with India, Napoleon invaded Egypt in 1798. In September 1801, the French forces left Egypt due to disturbances in the country coupled with British attacks on their forces.

With the European powers out of the eastern Mediterranean, the Ottoman forces returned to Egypt under the command of Muhammad Ali Pasha. Before long he became the autonomous ruler of Egypt. His family dynasty ruled Egypt until July 1952, when his great-great grandson King Farouk was ousted in a coup headed by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser and his Free Army Officers. 

Muhammad Ali was possessed with unique qualities that enhanced his ability to rule Egypt. His life and rule was the subject covered in an Interview Ahmed Saad Zayed had with Dr. Hela Ghonim, a professor at Philipps University of Marburg where she held a prominent position in the Department of Islamics.i Her special interest was the importance of the Arts in the Diplomacy of Muhammad Ali, both internal and external. In the Interviewii as she began explaining her findings, she made it clear that her views of Western scholars were antithetical to Edward Said in his book “Orientalism.”  Said was a highly influential scholar whose ideas dominated the discourse about Middle Eastern peoples.  While some anti-Western scholars have entertained negative views about Orientalism, there are experts in the field who have faulted Edward Said’s thesis. For instance, the late president of the American University of Beirut, Dr. Malcom Kerr, himself an accomplished Orientalist. Here is an excerpt from his review of Said’s book:

“The book contains many excellent sections and scores many telling points, but it is spoiled by overzealous prosecutorial argument in which Professor Said, in his eagerness to spin too large a web, leaps at conclusions and tries to throw everything but the kitchen sink into a preconceived frame of analysis. In charging the entire tradition of European and American Oriental studies with the sins of reductionism and caricature, he commits precisely the same error.” http://www.geocities.com/orientalismorg/Kerr.htm

The Anglican bishop Kenneth Cragg’s View of Edward Said is well-expressed in his book, “The Arab Christian: A History in the Middle East.” Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991

“The most erudite and forthright example is Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House,1978)."There is, it would seem, a degree of Palestinian nationalism in Edward Said's approach. He insists that all knowledge turns on power and there is no western orientalism not funded by political, commercial, or imperialist interests. It would seem, on this count, that only insiders to it can know a culture, seeing that all outsiders bring unsurmountable prejudice. The dishonesty lies in propounding this view from within an eastern insidership, which has so eminently demonstrated a capacity to know the West and its ethos and literature on the part of one, by origin an outsider. It would have been generous to acknowledge similar capacities in reverse on the part of those orientalists, e.g., Hamilton Gibb, whom he mostly castigates." P. 302

Dr. Hela Ghonim went on to explain that Muhammad Ali did not hesitate to use European artists to provide him with portraits of Mid-Eastern people. He participated in the final results of the portraits by offering his comments and suggestions. He, as a well-informed leader who had studied the lives of European monarchs like Louis XIV of France, planned to use the portraits of Egyptians as visual lessons in governance. Unlike Said, neither Ahmad Saad Zayed nor Hela Ghonim entertained a suspicious attitude vis-à-vis Westerner scholars writing about Eastern (Oriental) people. Muhammad Ali Pasha used the talents of the British artist, Sir David Willkie for some of his portraits.iii

Dr. Ghonim was quite enthusiastic in her description of Muhammad Ali Pasha’s efforts to invigorate Egyptian society through his reforms.  His recruitment of European artists to reach his goal, may qualify him as an early Orientalist, who would never regard European Orientalists as facilitators of Western Imperialism, as Edward Said would charge 150 years later. 

I’ve always been puzzled by Edward Said, a Levantine Christian whose fame is associated with his critique of Western Imperialism. This was a relatively brief episode in history. In reality the Arab/Islamic colonialism has been total and irreversible. The British author V. S. Naipaul described it succinctly:

“Islam is in its origins an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a matter of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s worldview alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert must turn away from everything that is his. The disturbance for societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain unresolved; the turning away must be done again and again. People develop fantasies about who and what they are; and in the Islam of the converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism. These countries can be easily set on the boil.” P. xi
“Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions among Converted People,” Vintage Books in 1998.

_______________________________________________________________

i Philipps-University is a public university in Marburg, Germany.
The Philipps University of Marburg was founded in 1527 by Philip I, Landgrave of Hesse, which makes it one of Germany's oldest universities and the oldest still operating Protestant university in the world. It is now a public university of the state of Hesse, without religious affiliation. 

ii A Dialogue by Ahmed Saad Zayed with Dr. Hela Ghonim https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlrRixTgQ2o

iiiDavid Willkie — THE SULTAN GALLERY
Sir David Wilkie | Artist | Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

 

Posted in Articles

The West Ignores History to its Own Peril

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The West Ignores History to its Own Peril

21 December 2021

By Bassam Michael Madany

Two articles published on 13 December 2021, dealt with the growing advance of Islam throughout the Western world. One by Daniel Pipes, “Migration, Islam, and Western Atonement.”i  The other article was entitled “A Permissive Pope Only Encourages Lack of Freedom,” ii was contributed by Father James G. Grant, and posted on the online Crisis Magazine. Here are relevant quotes from the thesis of Father Grant.  

“The papacy of Pope Francis has been widely portrayed in social media as a radical break with Vatican and papal attitudes of the past. In 2014, Francis offered his central tip for a happy life to be ‘live and let live.’ In addition to this philosophy surrounding personal freedom and morality, Francis has false views about Islam, which he has been quick to bolster and defend. To the dismay of Catholics and other Christians living under intense Islamic persecution, the pope repeatedly calls Islam “A religion of peace, that is opposed to every form of violence” (Evangelii Gaudium).”

“In 2016 an interview for the French newspaper La Croix, the pope noted, “It is true the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest” (Matthew 28).”

It’s beyond belief that Pope Francis would point to any similarity between the spread of Christianity and Islam. Has he read The Acts of the Apostles’ account of the martyrdom of Stephen, and James, the brother of John? The early Church met with severe persecution during the first three centuries, as the Roman authorities attempted to stamp it out. Its historical development was the very opposite of how Islam became a worldwide imperialistic system under successive Caliphates from 632 to 1924.

As the historian Efraim Karsh explained in his book, “Islamic Imperialism: A History” iii

“The worlds of Christianity and Islam, however, have developed differently in one fundamental respect. The Christian faith won over an existing empire in an extremely slow and painful process and its universalism was originally conceived in spiritual terms that made a clear distinction between God and Caesar. By the time it was embraced by the Byzantine emperors as a tool for buttressing their imperial claims, three centuries after its foundation, Christianity had in place a countervailing ecclesiastical institution with an abiding authority over the wills and actions of all believers. The birth of Islam, by contrast, was inextricably linked with the creation of a world empire and its universalism was inherently imperialist. It did not distinguish between temporal and religious powers, which were combined in the person of Muhammad, who derived his authority directly from Allah and acted at one and the same time as head of the state and head of the church. This allowed the prophet to cloak his political ambitions with a religious aura and to channel Islam’s energies into ‘its instruments of aggressive expansion, there [being] no internal organism of equal force to counterbalance it.’” (P. 5)

Bernard Lewis referred to the Christian teaching about the distinction between church and state in “The Roots of Muslim Rage” iv in the September 1990 issue of The Atlantic Monthly:

“If the idea that religion and politics should be separated is relatively new, dating back a mere three hundred years, the idea that they are distinct dates back almost to the beginnings of Christianity. Christians are enjoined in their Scriptures to 'render . . . unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things which are God's.' While opinions have differed as to the real meaning of this phrase, it has generally been interpreted as legitimizing a situation in which two institutions exist side by side, each with its own laws and chain of authority-one concerned with religion, called the Church, the other concerned with politics, called the State. And since they are two, they may be joined or separated, subordinate or independent, and conflicts may arise between them over questions of demarcation and jurisdiction.”

Father James Grant was puzzled by the silence of Pope Francis towards the growing persecution of Christians living in Islamic lands.

“The indifference of Pope Francis to Christians suffering under Islamic Sharia Law has become shameful in the eyes of an increasing number of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. After the Islamic terrorist attack on the offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the pope chose not to defend the victims, free speech, or Western civilization. Rather, he defended Islamic terrorism when he noted, “You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.” People should expect a punch, he said, if they offend others. 

“In July of 2016, again in France, an Islamic Jihadist cut off the head of a Catholic priest within his own church. The pope refused to attribute these actions to Islamic violence but rather noted, ‘the true terrorism is found in Capitalism. As long as the god of money is at the center of the global economy and not the human person, this is the first terrorism.’ The reality on the ground for Christians in Islamic states is that appeasement of Islam has not made Christians safer but more persecuted than they have been for centuries. The Vatican and the papacy must more vigorously support democratic regimes throughout the world and help democracies everywhere throw off dictatorial, communist, or rabidly Islamic regimes. The appalling behavior of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza strip are fundamental challenges to all freedom-loving people in the world. The Vatican’s failure to call out the atrocities of such regimes to their own people, to Christians and their neighbors, is quickly suggesting a Vatican and papacy that aids evil through silence and indifference.”  

I am grateful for the passionate words of Father James Grant reminding us to show genuine solidarity with all people everywhere who are persecuted for their beliefs!

__________________________________________________________

“Migration, Islam, and Western Atonement,” #1737
December 13, 2021
https://www.danielpipes.org/20883/the-west-tries-to-atone-for-its-great-sins

iiA Permissive Pope Only Encourages Lack of Freedom (crisismagazine.com)

iii  https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300198171/islamic-imperialism

iv http://www.cis.org.au/Policy/summer01-02/PolicySummer01_3.html

Posted in Articles

Crossing Over from Darkness into Light Maryam al-Uteybi’s Conversion

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Crossing Over from Darkness into Light

Maryam al-Uteybi’s Conversion

30 November 2021

Bassam Michael Madany

In the 1960s, the British colonial presence ended in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. The countries of Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, got their independence; the smaller Gulf principalities formed the United Arab Emirates (UAE.) While the British colonial presence was still active in these areas, they needed people to administer the smooth running of the government. The British brought in various groups from India and other parts of the Middle East, and they settled in the various locales in the Gulf. Having come from various religious backgrounds, they were allowed to practice their faiths in churches or temples. However, that concession did not apply to Kuwaitis who were predominantly Sunni Muslims.

A person who changes his faith in Kuwait, as in most Muslim countries, is liable to be punished for the sin of Radda, i.e., going back on Islam. It’s even a greater sin if a Kuwaiti woman becomes a Christian. 

The following vignette honors one Maryam al-‘Uteybi, a Kuwaiti lady who converted from Islam to the Christian faith. She belonged to a family and extensive tribe which was spread all around the Arabian Peninsula, including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

At school in Kuwait City, Maryam had a variety of studies, including Islamic Law. A teacher introduced her to 19th century Russian literature! At the secondary school, she continued her religious subjects.

While researching Islamic History, she was shocked by the sectarian divisions between Sunnis and Shiites. She discovered that there were Mulhideens (Atheists) of Muslim background! When she sought to have her many questions answered about the Muslim faith and practice from the Ulema (Islamic religious teachers,) she was rebuffed and warned not to ask such questions. That afront prompted her to begin a serious reading of the Qur’an. Her research and reading caused her to cast doubts on the Muslim belief system. For one year she lived in Ilhad (Atheism,) then she became a Deist, and a Human Rights activist. At the University Library, she discovered that in the past, some Muslim philosophers, in particular Ibn Sina, and Ibn Hazm, were open-minded and tolerant.

One day, Maryam met Carlos who gave her a copy of the Injeel (New Testament.) She was struck by the Ayat (Verse) in the Injeel that proclaimed “The Lord is Love.) She decided to go to a church in Kuwait City, where almost immediately she felt at peace. To facilitate making her Kuwaiti identity unnoticed, she spoke with the Syrian dialect. She was able to receive Christian books from outside the country. She met many people who had crossed over from Islam to the Christian faith and she was warmly welcomed into their circles. Eventually, Maryam was able to migrate to the United Kingdom where she now fellowships with people who have crossed over from the darkness of Islam to the light and freedom found in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Universal Community (The Church)

Maryam al-Uteybi’s conversion to the Christian faith reminds me of these wonderful words from God which Felix Mendelssohn put to music in his Oratorio, Elijah: 
“If with all your hearts ye truly seek me, Ye shall ever surely find me, Thus saith our God.”
 

Posted in Articles

The Bible Needs No Defence

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Bible Needs No Defence

Bassam Michael Madany

November 2021

Muslims throughout the last 1400 years have claimed that Christians altered their Scriptures to suppress a “prediction” about the coming of a final prophet of Allah.

Two passages from the Qur’an advocate the charge.

2. O Muslims, do you then expect that these people will accept your invitation and become believers? whereas there have always been among them some who have been hearing the Word of God, understanding it well and then perverting and tampering with it knowingly. Baqra:75 

5. And there is a party among them who twist their tongues while reciting the Book to make you think that it is part of the Book when in fact it is not. They say: 'It is from Allah', when in fact it is not from Allah. They falsely fix a lie upon Allah and do so wittingly. Aale Imraan:78

These polemics ignore the fact that the Canon of the New Testament was settled early in the second century A. D.

The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work of literature, with over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts catalogued, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic, and Armenian.
 

Posted in Articles

The Great Gift to the World: Christian Choral Heritage

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Great Gift to the World: Christian Choral Heritage

Bassam Michael Madany

November 2021

It’s rather unusual to say the least, for a Levantine whose area of scholarship is in History and Theology, would venture to write on the Western Christian Choral Heritage.

The year was 1936, I was 8 years old. Living in a Levantine town where several European institutions operated schools where French, English, and Italian were taught, as the population was ethnically diverse. Our neighbors owned a radio set with access to Long, Medium, and Short-Wave frequencies.

King George V of Great Britain died on the 20th of January 1936 at Sandringham, Norfolk. His funeral took place on 28th January 1936 at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle following the Lying-in-State in London. Our neighbors invited us to listen to the funeral service. I heard the Hymn, ABIDE WITH ME FAST FALLS THE EVENTIDE, sung by the royal choir. I was gripped by the tune, and caught most of the words, as at that time, I was studying at a British run School.

When WWII began, we were blessed with a radio that broadcast news about the war in Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. On Fridays, I listened to a BBC program, “THINK ON THESE THINGS,” with hymns from the Book of Common Prayer.

Early in 1950, I heard an excellent recording of Felix Mendelssohn’s Oratorio Elijah, recorded on the new 33.3 RPM disk. During the 1960s, FM stations competed with AM stations, with certain FM stations broadcasting Classical Music, including the great Masterpieces of European composers, Bach, Beethoven, Handle, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mozart, and others. The Internet and YouTube made Western Sacred Music available to a global audience.

All that couldn’t have happened without the work of the Martin Luther who translated the Bible into German, thus giving rise to a new German language that went beyond the provincial German dialects. Luther’s hymns became “engraved” in the memory of worshippers as they sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” “The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us with us sideth; Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; The body they may kill God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.” Nowadays, this treasure is available to the world via the Internet and YouTube.

It is possible to listen to Bach’s Cantatas on the Bach Hour of WGBH, of Boston, MA
https://www.classicalwcrb.org/the-bach-hour

Also, to the Choir of the Swiss J.S. Bach Foundation
J.S. Bach-Stiftung Channel on YouTube

 

Posted in Articles

A Warning of Two Reformist Algerians: “Le Grand Replacement” (The Great Replacement)

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

A Warning of Two Reformist Algerians:
“Le Grand Replacement” (The Great Replacement)

Bassam Michael Madany

28 October 2021

The following article deals with the Impact of the presence in Europe of unassimilable people, resulting in the “Replacement,” of the local culture, by a radically different one.

The beginning of a mass movement of peoples from the former European colonies to Europe, began in the aftermath of WWII.  Helped by the United States Marshall Plan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and other Western countries, for lack of a local labor force, invited labor from the former colonies to do the work. First, only men were admitted as “guest-workers.”. Eventually, their families joined them. The Governments failed to consider the demographic and political baggage that accompanied the settlers from Islamic lands.

I dealt with this subject in the past in an article entitled, The West’s Predicament: Unable to Heed Warning Signs. i 

Here is a link to book on this topic: The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent ii   

In October 2021, two North African intellectuals wrote about “Le Grand Replacement” (The Great Replacement) 

“An Interview was conducted by the French BFM TV with Fawzi Benhabib, a resident of Saint-Denis, who said ‘that since his arrival from Algeria 25 years ago, he found in France the ideology from which he was fleeing in his former country, adding that For the Islamists, it is a question of Islamizing modernity, not of modernizing Islam.’ 

The second interviewee was an Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal, who expressed his concern about the level of Islamization in the French journal,  L'Express

“Where Islam takes hold, it is forever. Islamism is based on Islam, which no one has the right to criticize. But in your countries, it also plays a role in democracy and in the rule of law. Islamism exploits these values. Since democracy recognizes all opinions, from the far right to the far left, it is obliged to recognize Islam as well. All those who do not commit attacks or violent acts are, in principle, protected in a state of law. Islamism thus immediately finds itself in a conquered terrain. It is necessary to fight Islamism from the beginning. Because it is like humidity in a house. Initially the threat is invisible, it penetrates the walls which, little by little, crumble. When you realize the extent of the damage, it’s too late! You must destroy everything to clean up. It becomes a mission impossible. France is at stage where it has just discovered that Islam is eroding her home".

To consider my writing on this subject as motivated by Islamophobia, cannot be sustained. This topic was first discussed by Algerian nationals of Muslim countries. Like other Reformist Muslims, they long to the see the day when Islam would have joined the global community of nations grappling together to find concrete solutions for several  existential problems! 

_________________________________________________________________

The West’s Predicament: Unable to Heed Warning Signs - Middle East Resources (www.unashamedofthegospel.org)

ii The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent By Peter Gatrell
Reviewed by Andrew Moravcsik November/December 2019 

This important book puts today’s levels of migration to Europe in historical perspective. Far from being unprecedented, large population movements have been the norm since World War II, after which over 12 million people fled Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. From the 1950s on, Eastern Europeans steadily left the Soviet bloc. In the 1960s, decolonization led millions to head for metropoles in the West, and guest workers came northward to Germany from countries such as Turkey (although the vast majority of these Gastarbeiter returned home). The end of the century saw further displacement caused by wars in the former Yugoslavia and waves of economic immigration. The author, a demographic historian, concludes with a dose of idealism: Europe should embrace immigration and diversity, which have made the continent what it is. Yet this seems to ignore political reality. Recent migration rates are the highest Europe has seen since the postwar movement of Germans. The percentage of foreign-born people in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom is substantially higher than it was decades ago. In a period of low economic growth, European societies are grappling with tricky questions of cultural integration and difference. This book does surprisingly little to illuminate how many governments today face the political pressure to restrict immigration.

Posted in Articles

The Impact and Consequences of a Never-Dying Dream: “The Islamic Caliphate”

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Impact and Consequences of a Never-Dying Dream:

“The Islamic Caliphate”

Bassam Michael Madany

October 2021

 

Ever since Mustapha Kemal Ataturk abolished the Islamic Caliphate in 1924, there have been various attempts to revive a system that had been in existence since 632 A.D.

During the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (The ISIS-K) carried out an attack at Kabul international airport, killing 13 US service members and dozens of Afghans. The IS-K is the most extreme and violent of all the jihadist militant groups in Afghanistan. It was set up in January 2015 at the height of IS's power in Iraq and Syria before its self-declared Caliphate was defeated and dismantled by a US-led coalition.

What drives Muslims in their persistence to bring about such a utopian dream? It’s the belief that the Islamic State, founded by Muhammad at Medina in 622, must expand until the entire world had become part and parcel of the global Islamic Umma. This notion doesn’t come from the Qur’an which is silent about the Caliphate. We are indebted to the work of the Tunisian scholar Héla Ouardi, who wrote in 2017, Les Derniers Jours de Muhammad. (The Last Days of Muhammad.) i

In an interview with the Algerian French-language daily El Watan, dated October 31, 2018, professor Ouardi dealt with several issues discovered during her research, that I have translated and summarized in the following paragraphs:  

“A mystery surrounds the death of Muhammad at the age of 63. Tradition provides contradictory answers, Hadith compilers like Tabari or Bukhārī, say that he died poisoned by a Jew from Khaybar; but sometimes they claim he died of pleurisy. The fact is that all sources indicate that in his last days, the Prophet was in a state of psychological depression. His gloomy predictions about the future of Islam, whose history is marked by civil wars, have indeed come true!

While investigating the circumstances of Muhammad’s passing, Héla Ouardi found an important matter, “namely that the climate among the Prophet’s family during his last days was a climate of great political tension, an atmosphere of a dénouement of an established order. There are two reasons to explain the three-days wait before Muhammad was buried. At the time, many Muslims believed that the Prophet would be resurrected after three days. Another reason was some Muslims were in a state of denial; while others believed that the death of the Prophet was a sign that the end of the world was imminent.

“As to whether Muhammad left a will regarding his successor is not very clear. Both Sunni and Shi’ite sources relate that on the Thursday before his death, the Prophet expressed the wish to dictate a will. He asked for a tablet and an inkwell and said, I will write a document that will protect you from bewilderment for eternity” But Omarii, who was present, opposed it and said: The Prophet is confused; we already have the Qur’an, and that’s enough for us.  

“Since the Qur’an is silent about a successor to the Prophet, how did the idea of ​​Khalifa come about? Actually, the institution of the Caliphate has no religious foundation, neither in the Qur'an, nor in the Hadiths. The Prophet himself did not clearly designate a successor. The Shi’ites claim that the Prophet transmitted the torch to Ali; however, they refer to him as an Imam, who is more a spiritual guide than a political leader. The Caliphate was an ad hoc institution invented by the Companions of the Prophet when suddenly confronted by the absence of a power center. 

“The Sunni-Shi’ite divide began with the assassination of Ali in 661; and it solidified around twenty years later, when his son Hussein was assassinated with his entourage, in Karbala, Iraq. The event had deep roots going all the way back to the days of Abu Bakr, in 632. While the family of the Prophet, Ali and Fatima were busy with the funeral arrangements, the followers of Abu Bakr and Omar announced the choice of Abu Bakr as Caliph. It was a fait accompli!

“By preventing the Prophet’s family from assuming the role of the Caliphate, the history of Islam has been punctuated by violent conflicts all committed in the name of religion. Thus, in Islam violence has become sacred, allowing some Muslims to perform horrific acts to bring them closer to God.

“Muslims generally think they are superior to others, since they follow of the last revealed religion, and their Prophet is the last or ‘seal’ of the prophets. God addresses them in the Qur’an, "You are the best of the nations of humanity. 3:110. This creates in them a sense of superiority that makes them hostile to any form of criticism and incapable of self-criticism. This feeling of ‘sufficiency’ has produced an immobility in many Muslim societies, especially in Arab-Muslim societies, clinging to the utopia that carries dreams of glory, constantly shattered by several stinging failures.”

Professor Ouardi summed up her analysis with these trenchant words: “In any case, I remain convinced that without a work of self-criticism, most Muslim societies will be unable to fully integrate within the modern world.”

I have quoted from a Muslim scholar who had risked her life for publishing this shocking verdict, so that as I continue this discussion, I may not be labeled as an Islamophobe or an overly-alarmist writer.

Thus far, I have relied on research published in 2018. Now, we are more than a decade later, and we continue to face the Consequences of this Never-Dying Dream. In mid-October 2021, I read two reports about this subject. One was an Interview conducted by the French BFM TViii, with Fawzi Benhabib, a resident of Saint-Denis, who said “that since his arrival from Algeria 25 years ago, he found in France the ideology from which he was fleeing in his former country, adding that For the Islamists, it is a question of Islamizing modernity, not of modernizing Islam.”

Another Algerian, Boualem Sansal, commented on the Consequences of this Never-Dying Dream, in the weekly French journal, Express.

"Where Islam takes hold, it is forever. Islamism is based on Islam, which no one has the right to criticize. But in your countries, it also plays a role in democracy and in the rule of law. Islamism exploits these values. Since democracy recognizes all opinions, from the far right to the far left, it is obliged to recognize Islam as well. All those who do not commit attacks or violent acts are, in principle, protected in a state of law. Islamism thus immediately finds itself in a conquered terrain.

“It is necessary to fight Islamism from the beginning. Because it is like humidity in a house. Initially the threat is invisible, it penetrates the walls which, little by little, crumble. When you realize it is too late, you have to destroy everything to clean up. It becomes a mission impossible. France is at the stage where it has just discovered that Islam is eroding her home."

Boualem Sansal : "La France vient de découvrir que l'islamisme ronge la maison" - L'Express (lexpress.fr)

__________________________________________________________________

i Héla Ouardi is a Tunisian scholar who in 2017 published in Paris, France, Les Derniers Jours de Muhammad. (The Last Days of Muhammad.) She is Professor of French Literature and Civilization at the University of Tunis, and Associate Researcher at the CNRS Laboratory for Monographic Studies. She was General Manager of the Book at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of Tunisia from September 2016 to January 2018.

ii Omar played a vital role in the founding of the Caliphate. He may be regarded as the effective founder of the Institution, even though Abu Bakr (Father of Aisha) held that position from 632-634. Omar was the second Caliph, from 634-644, followed by Uthman from 644-656, followed by Ali from 656-661. His death marked the end of the Rightly Guided Caliphs. These dynastic caliphates followed: The Umayyad Dynasty from 661-750, the Abbasid Dynasty from 750-1258, when destroyed by the Mongolian invasion. The major Caliphate that followed was the Ottoman Caliphate that governed parts of the Balkans, the former Byzantine Empire, the Middle East and most of North Africa, until it ended in 1924.

iii i BFM TV is a 24-hour rolling news and weather channel based in France and available globally via digital, cable and satellite television. As the country's most-watched news channel with 10 million daily viewers.

 

Posted in Articles

The Role of the English Language in the Global Spread of Information

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

The Role of the English Language in the Global Spread of Information

Bassam Michael Madany

October 2021

Throughout history, certain languages played a key role in the spread of knowledge and information. For example, Greek was predominant from 300 B.C. to around 400 A.D. It was displaced by Latin, due to Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin, known as the VULGATE.

Latin became the language of communication for a millennium. Early in the 16th century, Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, initiated the rise of national languages, such as English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

European colonialism brought these languages into Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Following the end of colonialism in the aftermath of WWII, English and French became the major means of communication among the newly independent countries in Asia and Africa.

Late in the 20th century, the advent of the Internet and the Social Media caused English to become the major means of communication. This did not imply that the other major languages could not be digitized for use in emails and websites. Rather, the global prominence of English, spontaneously made it the convenient tool for the spread of information.

To illustrate this phenomenon, I looked at the articles I had posted on my website, from January to October 2021 (1) Bassam Michael Madany - Academia.edu

Indonesians, Indians, Malaysians, Thais, Canadians, Nigerians, Chinese, Turks, Pakistanis, Brazilians, Armenians, and Vietnamese; had accessed one of the following articles translated from Arabic or French. That was possible for them, since they knew English.

A list of the articles that were read:

A Revised Version of Early Islamic History, Islam’s Problematic with Time, The Tragedy of Post-Colonial Middle East, The Inter-Testamental Period, Arab Reformists Warnings to the West, The Suez Canal: Its History and Importance, Review of the Arabic text of MT. SINAI CODEX 151, A Revised Version of Early Islamic History, The Arab Spring of 2019, The Islamic Caliphate: An Impossible Dream, Reactions to a Revised Version of Early Islamic History Hong, A Revised Version of Early Islamic History,  Islam & Modernity, Islamic Imperialism: A Neglected Topic, The Decline of Western Civilization.

Posted in Articles

Afghanistan: Past, Present & Future

May 05, 2023
By Bassam Michael Madany

Afghanistan:  Past, Present & Future

8 September 2021

Bassam Michael Madany

Commenting on the disastrous and humiliating exit of the United States from Afghanistan, Gerald Baker, Editor-at-large of The Wall Street Journal, described the event with these memorable words:

“If you wanted to capture the geopolitical history of the 21st century so far in a single paragraph, you couldn’t do much better than this:

‘Twenty years ago, America fought a brief and successful military campaign to oust from power the people who had enabled a terrorist organization to kill as many American citizens as have ever died at the hands of a foreign power in a single day in the nation’s history. A month shy of two decades later, the U.S. pleaded with that same power not to harm its soldiers, its citizens, and their allies as it scrambled to complete a chaotic and humiliating retreat that left that former enemy—and American adversaries everywhere—immeasurably stronger.’”  30 August 2021

Twenty years ago, most people in the Western world knew very little about Afghanistan. The 9/11 attack on the United States brought that country to their attention. It was the base from which Osama Bin Laden, planned and launched his war against America and the West.

In response, the United States went into Afghanistan to stop any further attacks. It isn’t likely that the US administration had taken adequate notice of the long history of Afghanistan, and the experience of the world powers that had invaded it.

Following the end of the First World War, Afghanistan became an independent nation. Concerned that it had fallen behind the rest of the world, the ruler of Afghanistan Amir Amanullah Khan began a campaign of socioeconomic reforms. In 1926, he declared Afghanistan a monarchy, proclaimed himself king and sought to limit the power of the National Council. His critics rose up against him forcing him to abdicate in 1929.

In 1934, Muhammad Zaher Shah ruled Afghanistan for the next 40 years. In 1973, the pro-Soviet General Muhammad Daoud Khan, became prime minister and sought economic and military assistance from the USSR. Three years later, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to help Afghanistan, and the two countries became close allies.                                                                                         

In 1976 General, Muhammad Daoud Khan staged a military coup overthrowing King Muhammad Zaher Shah and became president of The Republic of Afghanistan. He embarked on a campaign of modernization. However, opposition came from conservative Islamic and ethnic leaders who objected to social changes introduced by Khan. A guerrilla movement Mujahadeen was created to battle the Soviet-backed government.

The USSR invaded Afghanistan on 24 December 1979, to bolster the faltering communist regime. Early 1980, the Mujahadeen united against Soviet invaders and the USSR-backed Afghan Army, and began receiving arms from the United States, Britain, and China. September 1980 marks the date when Osama bin Laden and 15 other Islamists formed al-Qaida, the Arabic term for “The Base” or “The HQ,” to continue their Jihad against the Soviets.

Following Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Mujahadeen continued their resistance against the Soviet-backed regime of communist president Muhammad Najibullah, who had been elected president of the puppet Soviet state in 1986. The Mujahadeen stormed Kabul, and ousted Najibullah from power in 1992. Three years later, an Islamist militia the Taliban came on the scene and publicly executed former President Najibullah.

After al-Qaida’s bombings of two American embassies in Africa, President Clinton ordered cruise missile attacks against al-Qaida’s training camps in Afghanistan where bin Laden was hiding. On 11 September 2001, Islamist hijackers commandeered four commercial airplanes and crashed them into the World Trade Center Towers in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania field, killing thousands of Americans and people of other nationalities.

On 7 October 2001, the United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan.  Hamid Karzai was sworn in as the leader of the interim government in Afghanistan on 22 December 2001. In January 2004, the National Assembly adopted a new constitution, Presidential elections were held. Hamid Karzai was elected, and the nation held its first parliamentary elections in more than 30 years.

Amid continuing fighting between Taliban and al-Qaida fighters and the Afghan government forces, NATO expanded its peacekeeping operation to the southern portion of the country in 2006. The international community pledged $15 billion in aid to Afghanistan in 2008, while Afghan President Hamid Karzai promised to fight corruption in the government.

President Barack Obama announced the dispatch of military and civilian trainers to the country, in addition to the 17,000 more combat troops he had previously ordered.

A victory for the U.S. was accomplished by its Special Forces who overtook a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on the 2nd of May 2011. 

NATO officially ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014. U.S.-led NATO troops remained to train and advise Afghan forces. President Obama maintained 5,500 troops in Afghanistan when he left office in 2017. President Trump decided to continue military involvement on 21 August 2017. In 2019 U.S. and Taliban signed an agreement for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan by May 2021.

A few days before President Biden was inaugurated, the U.S. announced its plans to cut U.S. troop size down