Posts Tagged ‘Koran’

Defender – Protester

September 15, 2012

I revel in my ability

To talk to anybody

Thinking I’d got lucky

Train caught, minute to spare,

Girls vacate the table chair

I sit and see, they did well

Opposite a guy from the EDL

With T-shirt, badges, can of K

On his way to MK

It’s half an hour to that stop

He helps me undo the knot

In the plastic of my lunch

I gulp the water, calm the burn

If I’d missed this train

I’ld have missed my turn,

Trains take every cause

Talk begins as it often does

Where in Scotland are you from

Are you Catholic or Protestant?

Comes slightly quicker

Than the average inquirer

Atheist is my religion

Catholic or Protestant atheism?

Everyone should have equality

EDL man agrees with me

He tells me proudly

He’s read and burnt the Koran.

Down in London at US Embassy

I’d heard about the killing

In reaction to an anti-Islam film

He says it like Life of Brian

Why is it ok to poke fun at the Christian?

But Monty Python were Oxbridge lads

This film was not made by Mohammads

But a Koran burning preacher

Make fun of your own culture

But not that of another

Freedom of speech is essential

But doing it with respect is fundamental

He cuts metal, for Formula one

He’s an ex football hooligan

He likes the buzz, the clam

Fighting the policeman

I know protesters who like the same

The cause, the lock on

The crowd, the direct action

The clash, the baton

The we’re right, you’re wrong

What made him join?

The daughter of his mate

Was a victim of rape

By a group of Muslims

There was no prosecutions

Then why not fight for rape convictions

Rapists aren’t just Muslims

They’re fathers, brothers, lovers,

The gang of Asian groomers,

Are the few and far betweeners.

He says he’s a feminist

And Islam disrespects women

He’s got a mate called Abdul

Another one called Singh

And now he wants my number

Yeah he’s a toker

And wants to hang in my squat

Sorry, not with that top

I wear my African print

He wears a fuck Islam badge

We’re both versed in the Haji

He’s got a Burka in his bag,

Now he’s moving to Birmingham

I’m thinking, God love them

We’re all on the tain to see out tribe

I’ve a gig in Bangor,

My next table companions

Are headed to races in Chester

We all want to get together

— Catherine Brogan

Poem about the EDL man Catherine Brogan met on the train. Video recorded in empty train on Crewe change over.

It is not the EDL man Catherine met on the train that breed intolerance (as no one takes them seriously), cause religious strife and hatred. It is Islamist extremists spewing hate.

When the Danish cartoons were published, there was no reaction, they were even published in an Egyptian newspaper. The hatred was stirred up many months later by Islamist extremists.

We are seeing exactly the same today with a video published on youtube, a reaction stirred up many months later.

In Pakistan, a girl who may or may not have burnt pages of the Koran, facing charges of blasphemy, at risk of being killed by mobs.

In the Middle East, Christians being slaughtered simply for being Christian.

Were the fundamentalists to read the Koran (assuming they can read), they would find they are acting contrary to the Koran.

What a Rabbi Learns from Muhammad

March 31, 2011
Muslim and Jew

Muslim and Jew

I first studied Islam when I was a student at UCLA almost 50 years ago, Then again while I was in Rabbinical school. Over the years I continued to read the Qur’an and other Islamic books. I read these books as the Prophet taught his followers in a Hadith “not as a believer, and not as a disbeliever”. What does that mean? The Qur’an, of course, is sacred scripture for Muslims. A disciple of Muhammad named Abu Huraira relates, “The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ” Following Muhammad’s teaching I too neither believe nor disbelieve in the Qur’an. If I believed in the Qur’an I would be a member of the Muslim Ummah (community). But I cannot disbelieve in the Qur’an because I believe that Muhammad is a prophet and I respect the Qur’an as a kindred revelation, to a kindred people, in a kindred language. In fact, the people, the language and the theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other on earth.

I would like to begin by sharing my understanding of several Ahadith that have taught me about my own religion. My understanding is reflected in my application (gloss) of each insight from my perspective as a Liberal/Reform Rabbi. They are all from Bukhari: Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself in his religion will not be able to continue in that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded. (Volume 1, Book 2, Number 38)

Gloss: The statement against becoming extremists needs to be taught in every house of prayer in the world. This applies of course, to political extremists as well as religious extremists who always prefer the stricter path to the more lenient way. For example, both Islam and Judaism teach the importance of sacred slaughter of meat, and the avoidance of certain animals for food. In Islam the rules are simpler and fewer than in Orthodox Judaism. Most Liberal/Reform Rabbis regard the increasingly restrictive developments in kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), especially for Passover, as a counterproductive, overburdening of the people. The expansion of restrictions on Shabbat activities over many centuries is also seen by most Liberal/Reform Rabbis as a counterproductive, overburdening of the joy of Shabbat. Muhammad wisely differentiates between extremism and striving to be near perfect (no one is perfect) which involves a rejection of extremism. Just trying hard to do well will be rewarded.

Narrated ‘Aisha and Ibn’ Abbas: On his deathbed Allah’s Apostle put a sheet over his-face and when he felt hot, he would remove it from his face. When in that state (of putting and removing the sheet) he said, “May Allah’s Curse be on Jews and Christians for they build places of worship at the graves of their prophets.” He intended to warn (Muslims) from what they (i.e. Jews and Christians) had done. (Volume 4, Book 56, Number 660)

Gloss: Allah’s apostle strongly opposed any diversion of reverence or worship to anyone other than God. Christians, and even Jews, had started worshiping at the graves of holy men, saints and prophets. Although they claimed to be only worshiping God, their feeling that prayer was better or more effective at such sites was cursed by Muhammad. In later centuries, Muslims also began worshiping at the tombs of holy men and building places of worship near their graves. Liberal/Reform Rabbis would agree that such activity at grave sites should be condemned and could be seen as a curse. Allah’s apostle must also have realized that even the Muslim community would also produce people whose piety would lead to such errors for a Hadith on the same page says,

Narrated Abu Said: The Prophet said: “You will follow the wrong ways of your predecessors so completely and literally that if they should go into the hole of an animal, you too will go there.” We said, “O Allah’s Apostle! Do you mean the Jews and the Christians?” He replied, “Who else?” (Volume 4, Book 56, # 662)

Gloss: Muhammad criticized the failings of many in the Jewish and Christian communities (as did the prophets of Israel) but he realized that people are human, and most do not seem to learn from the failings of others. He hoped that Muslims would retain their original purity, but he foresaw that with time and power; corruption, decay and falsification were inevitable. Allah’s apostle would certainly attack the false tradition of female genital mutilation in Africa today as sharply as he attacked female infanticide in Arabia in his day. It is a shame that many Muslim leaders in Africa today do not aggressively condemn it. But then, most Jewish leaders in the west do not aggressively condemn the Orthodox for not allowing Jewish woman to divorce their husbands. We all have to do a better job.

Abu Huraira related: Two men, a Muslim and a Jew, abused each other. The Muslim said , “By Him Who gave superiority to Muhammad over all the people.” At that, the Jew said, “By Him Who gave superiority to Moses over all the people.” The Muslim became furious at that and slapped the Jew in the face. The Jew went to Allah’s Apostle and informed him of what had happened between him and the Muslim. Allah’s Apostle said, “Don’t give me superiority over Moses, for people will fall unconscious on the Day of Resurrection and I will be the first to gain consciousness, and behold! Moses will be there holding the side of Allah’s Throne. I will not know whether Moses was among those people who became unconscious and then has regained consciousness before me, or was among those exempted by Allah from falling unconscious.” (Volume 8, Book 76, #524)

Gloss: Allah’s messenger is so well known for his sense of justice that a Jew can appeal to him even in a conflict with a Muslim who has attacked a Jew. It is only natural for Jews to think that Moses is the best, and for Muslims to think that Muhammad is the best. Muhammad rebukes the Muslim, telling him not to claim that Muhammad is superior to Moses because even on the day of Resurrection, Muhammad himself will not know their relative merit, for although Muhammad will be the first to be revived, Moses will already be standing there holding the side of God’s throne. Muhammad teaches us that comparisons of religious superiority are wrong, for no one in this world, and perhaps even in the world to come, will know who is the best.

Most Americans that I have spoken are amazed to hear such liberal and flexible statements coming from a religion that they think is ridged and fanatical. But the politicized Islam that has captured so much attention in the Muslim world today is the outgrowth of two recent factors. One is an anti-western reaction and scapegoating due to the great upheavals occurring in all modernizing societies in the 20th and 21th centuries. This reaction is inflamed as the result of several previous centuries of socio-economic decline that took place in the Middle East. Also Judaism and Christianity have already had reforming movements that took generations to bare fruit.. Islam is just starting the process of revival and reform. The Prophet had predicted that over the centuries Muslims would also become more rigid and orthodox, just as the Jews and Christian had. Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: You will tread the same path as was trodden by those before you, inch by inch and step by step, so much so that if they had entered into the hole of a lizard, you would follow them in this also. We said: Do you mean Jews and Christians? He said: Who else?” Muhammad was wise enough to realize that even his own ummah was subject to the circumstances of history.

Nevertheless as a Reform Rabbi, I realize that in many ways Muhammad showed seventh century Jews in Arabia how to reform Orthodox Judaism to bring it back to the simpler rules of the Torah..

Unlike Orthodox Rabbis, Liberal/Reform Rabbis accept the doctrine of nullification – which teaches that one verse in scripture can nullify another, and that rulings can be changed due to changed circumstances. Muhammad provides an excellent example of this principle in the following account. The Prophet originally told women not to visit graveyards, but toward the end of his life, he said to them: “I had told you not to visit graves; now I am telling you to visit them.” The reason was that Arabian women used to wail at graves. The Prophet wanted this practice to be stopped. Therefore, he banned women from visiting graves to start with. After sometime, when Muslim women were better aware of how Islam wants them to behave in different situations, he allowed them such visits. In fact, the Prophet encourages visiting graveyards because such a visit reminds the visitor of his or her own death and the fact that they would have to stand in front of God when their actions are reckoned to determine their reward or punishment. Scholars like Ibn Qudamah, of the Hanbali school of law, make it clear that since this is the purpose of visiting graveyards, both men and women need such visits.

Another important teaching of the Qur’an is that God chose not to create human beings as one nation or with only one religion so that each religion could compete with the others in order to see which religion produces the highest percentage of moral and loving people. As it is written in the Koran [5.48] “For every one of you did We appoint a law and a way. If Allah had pleased He would have made you one people, but (He didn’t) that He might test you in what He gave you. Therefore compete with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds; for all return to Allah, so He will let you know (after Judgement Day) that in which you differed.” This is a wonderful further development of the teaching of the Biblical prophet Micah (4:5) that in the end of days-the Messianic Age “All people will walk, each in the name of their own God, and we shall walk in the name of the Lord our God forever.”

There is no conflict, nor can there be any conflict, between Judaism and Islam. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a territorial dispute. There are people who would like to make this territorial dispute into a religious one in order to rally support for their side. We must resist this. I believe that the Koran itself predicts the return of the Jewish people to the Land God gave to the descendants of Abraham and his two sons. I believe the reference in the Koran to the land of Israel in Sura V, where God says to Moses and to the Jewish people: “O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has decreed for you”, Koran [5:21]. More important for us today is the statement “WE SAID TO THE ISRAELITES AFTER HIM “DWELL SECURELY IN THE LAND OF PROMISE (THE PROMISED LAND) BUT WHEN THE SECOND OF THE WARNINGS COME TO PASS WE GATHER YOU TOGETHER IN A MINGLED CROWD BANI ISRAIL, Koran [17:104]. This refers to the return of Jews to the Land of Israel that is part of the great upheavals that proceed the age of the final judgment. The age we live in. The mingled crowd refers to both the Palestinians and the Israelis who will share the Promised Land together.

Neither side can claim it has the only right to the land or that its view is the only true one for as we have learned from the Hadith narrated Abu Huraira:The Prophet himself taught that even in the world to come it will not be clear if Moses or Muhammad is the supreme Prophet. Each is supreme for his own faithful community. A Muslim is one who submits to the will of Allah and believes that Allah has sent many different prophets to the many peoples of the world. As a Liberal/ Reform Rabbi I believe that Muhammad was the Prophet sent to the Arab people. I believe that the Qur’an is as true for Muslims as the Torah is true for Jews. Indeed, I love the Hadith Narrated by Abu Huraira that says, “The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah, and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ” Following Muhammad’s teaching I repeat that I too neither believe nor disbelieve in the Koran. I do respect the Koran very much as a kindred revelation to a kindred people in a kindred language. In fact, the people, language and theology are closer to my own people, language and theology than that of any other on earth. The strong support that the Qur’an gives to religious pluralism is a lesson that is sorely needed by the religious fundamentalists of all religions in the world today. As a well known Hadith says, “Prophets are brothers, sons of one father by co-wives. Their mothers are different but their religion is one.” (Bukhari and Muslim).

— Rabbi Allen Maller

Originally posted on The Islam Awareness Blog.

Rabbi Allen Maller is now retired after serving for 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, California. The introduction to his website shows he is no ordinary rabbi.

We welcome both Jews and non-Jews to our website. People are interested in becoming Jewish for many reasons. Being saved by believing in Judaism as the only true religion is not one of them.

Please explore the various articles on our website and feel free to ask questions. Indeed, if you do not have a questioning spirit Judaism is not for you. Many people find blessings through becoming a part of God’s covenant with the Jewish people. Others find they are coming home. You may be attracted by your contact with a Jew or your study of Judaism. However you come to us we welcome you.

At his press conference to mark St Joseph Day, Paulo Coelho stated religions are not in conflict.

As Rabbi Allen Maller notes, the Koran recognises and preaches tolerance of other religions. Those who believed in the one God and did good had a special place, theirs was the path to salvation.

Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in the last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from the Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

It is only bigots and extremists who preach intolerance, who think theirs is the one true path.

The Quran places an obligation on learning. Women were granted rights.

The Golden Age of Islam saw a flourishing of the sciences, of the arts, of poetry. Those who made advances in these fields were also devout Muslims, they saw no conflict.

The Prophet was far-sighted and wise enough to see his reforms would become fossilized in dogma and warned against this happening.

Saudi Arabia denounces pro-democracy protests as ‘un-Islamic’
Women and Islam
Reconciliation
The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations

Saudi Arabia denounces pro-democracy protests as ‘un-Islamic’

March 31, 2011
Saudi police

Saudi police

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “For every day on which the sun rises, there is a (reward) for the one who establishes justice among people.” — Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Hadith 870

We explain the signs in detail for those who reflect. — Quran 10:24

Saudi Arabia has denounced pro-democracy protests as ‘un-Islamic’. This follows the sending in of tanks into Bahrain to quash peaceful pro-democracy protests.

Saudi Arabia’s top clerics have condemned calls for protests as un-Islamic. The Council of Senior Scholars said that “reform and advice do not take place by protests or methods that lead to sedition.” The Council of Senior Scholars was formed by a royal decree in 1971 to issue religious rulings. In other words a mouthpiece of the corrupt House of Saud.

At the request of Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al al-Sheikh who heads the clerics council, Saudi Arabia is now printing and distributing 1.5 million copies of the fatwa condeming protests as ‘un-Islamic’.

The Quran places an obligation on learning, on justice, it grants women rights.

In Reconcilliation, Benazir Bhutto argues a very strong case that Islam and Democracy are not incompatable.

Islam and democracy is not an oxymoron. Democracy, human rights, women’s rights, learning, knowledge, is not something alien imposed on the Musim world by the West, these are values that lie at the heart of the Quran.

The Quran says that Islamic society is contigent on ‘mutual advice through mutual discussion on an equal footing.’

An Islamic society, one based on the Quran, is a society that upholds the principles of shura consultation, ijma building or reaching consensus, finally leading to ijtihad independent judgement.

We see none of this in Saudi Arabia where women are treated as second class citizens, where the corrupt House of Saud rules the country.

There are those clerics who claim to speak for Islam, who denigrate democracy, who deny women rights, who deny women an education, who rail against science and learning, who endorse atrocities against other religious communities. Such clerics are a pervision of Islam.

The edict issued in Saudi Arabia is un-Islamic, it serves simply to keep the corrupt House of Saud in power.

Sheikh Gamal Qotb, former head of the Al-Azhar fatwa committee, has criticised the fatwa, saying peaceful protests help promote virtue and prevent evil. Sheikh Gamal Qotb has called the Saudi edict a big mistake, saying protesters warn officials of their mistakes before those mistakes grow larger. He said Muslim governments should allocate channels for citizens to express their opinions and give feedback to officials.

Al-Azhar is the highest religious institution in the Sunni Muslim world.

Pro-democracy forces are spreading in the Middle East. The sooner the corrupt House of Saud and the royal family in neighbouring Bahrain are toppled the better. The sooner the West kicks its addition to Midlde East oil the better.

The dicatators have fallen in Egypt and Tunisia. They are on their way out in Yemen and Libya. Next, the corrupt House of Saud, the Royal family in Bahrain?

Shura: A process of reaching a descision ie consensus involvolving all members of the community.

The 42nd Sura of Quran is named as Shura. The 38th verse of that Sura suggests that shura is praiseworthy but does not indicate whether or not it is mandatory, or who should be consulted:

Those who hearken to their Lord, and establish regular Prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance” [are praised]

The 159th verse of 3rd Sura orders Muhammad to consult with believers. The verse makes a direct reference to those (Muslims) who disobeyed Muhammad, indicating that ordinary, fallible Muslims should be consulted:

Thus it is due to mercy from God that you deal with them gently, and had you been rough, hard hearted, they would certainly have dispersed from around you; pardon them therefore and ask pardon from them, and take counsel with them in the affair; so when you have decided, then place your trust in God; surely God loves those who trust.

Ijmā: the reaching of consensus. The hadith of Muhammad which states that “My community will never agree upon an error”.

Ijtihad: The process of reacing a judicial desicion based upon the evidence, not on tradition or doctrine.

Saudis print fatwa against protests
Saudi prints 1.5 million copies of anti-demo edict
Al-Azhar scholar criticizes Saudi edict banning protests
Saudi insists protests not Islamic, Facebook group calls for demos
Saudi Arabia’s senior clerics denounce protests as un-Islamic
Saudi Arabia imposes ban on ‘un-Islamic’ protests
Saudi Arabia imposes ban on ‘Un-Islamic’ protests
The Saudi women taking small steps for change
Women and Islam
Reconciliation

An atom’s weight of good

March 31, 2011
atom

atom

(On the Day of Judgment) all humankind will issue forth in scattered groups to be shown their (past) deeds. Then whoever has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it, and whoever has done an atom’s weight of evil shall (also) see it. — The Holy Quran, 99:6-8

At his press conference to mark St Joseph’s Day and to explain why he was hosting a party with friends that evening, Paulo Coelho said the question God would ask would not be of our sin but of our love. He also quoted from the Quran.

A lack of grace

March 2, 2011

These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. — Jesus

What is it with Christian Evangelists, or maybe I should say some, for whom a more apt description would be Christian fundamentalists? They get up ones nose. I would not say I hate them, but they certainly disgust me.

Yesterday I was outside Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia en la Plaza de Iglesia en Puerto de la Cruz en Tenerife and overheard three people saying the church was closed. I politely interrupted them and said no it was not closed, it was open. What was apparently the mother and father walked off saying they would be back later leaving their son to look in the church.

He asked was I a Christian. I said it was not necessary to be a Christian to look in a church.

He must have thought this was a sign I needed ´saving´ as he reached in his bag to hand me some leaflets he thought or maybe insisted I should read and asked if I knew of Our Lord, that He had died on the cross to save sinners like me.

I beat him to it. I said I possibly knew more than he and showed him the first stanza of ´The Hound of Heaven´, and suggested that he read Why I Am a Christian by John Stott.

I told him God prodded and goaded.

This was a sign for him to offer to read to me from the Old Testament. He asked whether I knew a particular psalm, which I did, but I said I did not know the Old Testament well and preferred the New.

He told me both were the same God, to which I replied as was the Koran and cited the path to salvation was to believe in the one God and to do good.

This immediately put me beyond the pale. No it was nothing to do with doing good and Muslims were different and did not recognise Jesus.

I patiently explained this was not the case and was the ignorance of Christians who did not know the Koran. I explained the importance of Jesus in the Koran, and at the End of Days (in Mathew) Jesus would sit in Judgement, the sheep from the goats, ask why you did not give me a drink when I thirst, food when hungry, shelter when needed. But I did not see you my Lord. Was I not the beggar?

At this point I was not considered worthy of talking to and he walked off in a huff into the church.

In the meantime his parents had walked back and said they would see him at St Telmo.

I looked in the church a few minutes later, but he had gone.

I then found him looking out to sea looking very lost. I told him his parents had gone to St Telmo and I would take him there. I was probably the last person whose help he sought, but he had no choice. I could have just pointed it out, but I thought no, I would make the point of escorting him there.

I showed him a copy of The Big Question, but all I got was a gruff not interested.

We walked along in silence. It must have got to him as he asked me did I know Puerto de la Cruz and how long was I there? I told him yes, that I was there for three weeks, was then in England for a few days before going to Istanbul for a St Joseph´s Day party.

Istanbul?

He was now totally confused and perplexed.

I asked him did he know when this was?

No, he did not, so I told him 19 March. I then explained why I was there, as a guest of devout Catholic writer Paulo Coelho. Who of course he had never heard of.

I explained who Paulo Coelho was, that The Alchemist had sold over 40 million copies worldwide, but that Paulo Coelho was little known in England.

He then said I must be someone very important!

We by then had reached St Telmo.

I was tempted to hand him over to his parents with the comment, here is your ungracious son, but I resisted the temptation.

I did not tell him that in Istanbul we hope to attend Friday prayers!

Why do people behave like this? Do they not realise the damage they do? They are ego-tripping, believing they are doing good.

Archbishop William Temple spoke of the sin of self, self-centredness, that salvation was the freedom from self.

The favourite definition of a sinner of Martin Luther was homo in se incurvatus, ie man curved in on himself.

Jesus did not force people to adopt His faith. Indeed, He resisted the Temptation offered by the Devil.

Paulo Coelho in The Valkeryies and Philip Yancey in The Jesus I Never Knew, both tell the same story of a Grand Inquisitor telling Jesus they were having to undo the harm He had caused by giving people free will, they had to be forced to believe for their own salvation. [see The Grand Inquisitor]

Jesus did not demand, He did not pump out propaganda, He issued a humble invitation (Matthew 11:28):

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Why do people lack the grace of Coelho and Yancey?

But some good of this encounter. I had told this rather ungracious young man that I had never found St Telmo open. To my surprise I found it open.

Top story in El Religion Diario (Friday 4 March 2011).

Coptic Christians in Egypt

January 18, 2011
St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria

St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. — Martin Luther King Jr

When he [Joseph] arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod the Great, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt I called My Son. — Matthew 2:12-23

A butterfly flaps its wings …

Mohamed Bouazizi, an unemployed 26-year-old IT graduate tries to set up his fruit and vegetable stall in the small town of Sidi Bouzid, the only way he can earn a living, but is prevented from doing so … four weeks later the despotic president of Tunisia Zine el Abidine Ben Ali like a rat running up a drain pipe fled Tunisia after 23 years in power.

In the New Year a suicide bomber killed 23 people at a Coptic Church in Alexandria … two weeks later Abdu Abdel-Monaim Kama, 50-year-old restaurant owner and father of four from the city of Ismailia, east of the capital, set himself on fire outside the parliament building whilst shouting anti-government slogans ….

Coptic Christians are under siege.

The Coptic Church established in Egypt in 50AD is one of the oldest churches in the Middle East. The first churches and monasteries established themselves along the route Mary and Joseph took when they fled to Egypt as refugees. Coptic Christians still use Coptic in their liturgy. Saint Jerome records that the Christian School of Alexandria was founded by Saint Mark himself.

Today Christians make up 10% of Egypt’s 80 million population and they feel under threat.

Islam, now the dominant religion in Egypt, swept into a Egypt a few years after the death of the Prophet. One of the reasons why Islam was able to sweep out of Arabia and become the dominant religion in the Middle East was because different factions of Christianity were at war with each other and had been at bloody war for the first 500 years of Christendom in the Middle East. [see Jesus Wars]

Egypt, like Tunisia, is a country mired in poverty, corruption, presided over by a repressive and corrupt regime. With the failure of the state, the church and the mosque has become more than a place of worship, has started to replace the state, and as a result there has been increased sectarianism. The leaders of the Coptic Church are doing the Coptic Christians no favours by aligning themselves with the repressive regime.

If the Coptic Church fails to ally itself with the majority of the population against the repressive regime, then when the inevitable happens and the regime falls, the Coptic Church will find itself facing the wrath of that population.

Using a passage from the Koran, if a Muslim converts to Christianity, that convert is hunted down and killed. The Christian converts are often forced to move away from their home. By contrast, if a Christian converts to Islam, it leads to public celebration. Inflexible attitude to divorce within the Coptic Church is leading women to convert to Islam in order to obtain a divorce.

Some of the leading clerics have condemned the killings, saying punishment should not be death.

In Islam, if a Muslim man marries a Christian woman, she may keep her faith, but it is not applicable the other way around.

The flames of intolerance are being fanned by Muslim extremists who wish to see Christianity wiped out in the Middle East.

Ironic when as Benazir Bhutto shows in Reconciliation, democracy and Islam are not contrary or in opposition to each other. The Koran calls for tolerance, pluralism, listening to and heeding all opinion. The Koran calls for tolerance of other religions.

But we should not forget that everyone in Egypt, Copt, Shia and Sunni, is being repressed by the state.

The problem of persecution of Christians is not unique or restricted to Egypt. In Iraq, Christians are being targeted, Christmas was a muted, low key affair following the bombing of a Christian Church a few weeks before Christmas. Many Christians have fled Iraq. In occupied Palestine, the Zionist State of Israel prevented Christians, including priests, celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem. Bethlehem, encircled by the Apartheid Wall, is an open air prison. Under Roman occupation 2,000 years ago, Bethlehem today is under Israeli occupation.

What is depressing is the silence of the churches in the West, especially in England.

There are though little rays of hope emerging from the darkness.

Beyond Belief, a religious affairs programme on BBC Radio 4 had a discussion on the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt and the programme should be available as an mp3 podcast download. [1630 Monday 17 January 2011]

In Egypt, Muslims offered themselves as human shields to guard Coptic Churches.

In Baghdad, just before Christmas, a Shia cleric spoke at St George’s Church against the violence against Christians.

Last week, Canon Andrew White facilitated a meeting in Denmark of Iraqi religious leaders which resulted in fatwa being issued condemning the sectarian violence and killings.

Christians and Muslims have coexisted in the Middle East for 1,400 years. There is no reason why that coexistence cannot continue.

Also see

Growing fears of Egypt’s Copts in climate of violence

Egypt recalls Vatican ambassador over Pope’s remarks

Egypt’s Muslims support Coptic Christians on religious holiday

The Arab world must face its demons

Man sets himself on fire in Cairo protest

Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia

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Christmas in the Middle East

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The plight of Iraqi Christians

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More tragic news from Iraq

November 15, 2010

In the past hour the legs of our security chief have been blown off, Minister wijdan’s driver has been killed, her chief of staff has been blown up. Letters have been put through many Christians doors telling them to leave now because it is not their country and we thought things were better today. — Canon Andrew White

More tragic news of Iraq, sent to me today by Canon Andrew White (aka Vicar of Baghdad).

I ask myself why the deafening silence from the Church in England? What have those who attended the dinner a couple of weeks ago done with the knowledge of Iraq they learnt that night? The only reason Canon Andrew White delayed his return to Iraq following the massacre at the Catholic Church. He told me of the pain he felt when he saw the pictures of the body of his friend the priest lying in a pool of blood, his desire to return immediately to Iraq, but no, said his people in Iraq, talk to the people in Guildford first, tell them what is happening, then return the next day. [see Dinner with Canon Andrew White]

What of the Evangelists who were kind enough to host the dinner? Has it passed them by? Have they gone back to arguing fine details of doctrine, illustrating if nothing else the lack of understanding of the origin and history of their own faith, the medieval equivalence of arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

And speaking of angels, the armed guard that accompanies Canon Andrew White will not even set off until he has said a prayer and summoned a host of angels to protect them en route.

Christianity is not an alien religion imposed on the Middle East, despite the crude attempts of American Evangelists to convince otherwise, who think they earn a few brownie points converting a few Muslims, conveniently overlooking the fact that they all recognise the same God, a fact recognised in the Koran.

Christianity was established in the Middle East long before it was established in Europe, long before the Muslim hordes swept out of Arabia to become the dominant religion, aided and abetted by Christians who were busy slaughtering each other.

Muslims who wish to drive out Christians are bad Muslims as they are not acting in accordance with the Koran.

Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

The Koran specifically sanctifies those who believe in the one true God and lead a good and virtuous life, it does not though state Islam is the only one route to salvation. Islam believes in religious choice and freedom, practising Islam out of force not choice is unIslamic. The Koran clearly states: ‘There is no compulsion in religion.’ Pluralism and tolerance is encouraged. All God’s creatures are equal in the eyes of God.

If Allah had pleased He would have made you [all] a single people, but that He might try you in what He gave you, therefore strive with one another to hasten to virtuous deeds.

The Golden Age of Islam was 750-1100 AD. It was centred in Iraq. Scholars strived with one another to advance their knowledge, to do good deeds, they did so in the name of their faith. [see The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations]

One man of faith, Canon Andrew White, is striving with other men of faith, to bring peace and reconciliation to a country that has descended into Hell. He could do with a little help.

Religion can be a force for good or evil. When religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong.

Also see

Reconciliation

Iraq

Though the fig tree does not bud

The children of Iraq have names

Bethlehem Hidden from View

Overnight more Christians killed in Iraq

Tragic plight of Christians in Iraq

The plight of Iraqi Christians

End of Christianity in the Middle East?

Muslims converting to Christianity


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