Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

The ideology behind Lee Rigby’s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack

June 3, 2013

There is only one view of the murder of Lee Rigby: horrific. But there are two views of its significance.

One is that it is the act of crazy people, motivated in this case by a perverted idea about Islam, but of no broader significance.

Crazy people do crazy things. So don’t overreact.

The other view is that this act was indeed horrible; and that the ideology which inspired it is profound and dangerous.

I am of this latter view.

So of course we shouldn’t overreact. We didn’t after July 7, 2005. But we did act. And we were right to. The actions by our security services will undoubtedly have prevented other serious attacks.

The ‘Prevent’ programme in local communities was sensible. The new measures of the Government seem reasonable and proportionate.

However, we are deluding ourselves if we believe that we can protect this country simply by what we do here. The ideology is out there. It isn’t diminishing.

Consider the Middle East. As of now, Syria is in a state of accelerating disintegration. President Assad is brutally pulverising communities hostile to his regime. At least 80,000 have died. The refugees now total more than one million. The internally displaced are more than four million.

Many in the region believe that the Assad intention is to ethnically cleanse the Sunni from the areas dominated by his regime and then form a separate state around Lebanon. There would then be a de facto Sunni state in the rest of Syria, cut off from the wealth of the country or the sea.

The Syrian opposition is made up of many groups. The fighters are increasingly the Al Qaeda- affiliated group Jabhat al-Nusra. They are winning support, and arms and money from outside the country.

So I understand the desire to look at this world and explain it by reference to local grievances, economic alienation and of course ‘crazy people’. But are we really going to examine it and find no common thread, nothing that joins these dots, no sense of an ideology driving or at least exacerbating it all?

There is not a problem with Islam. For those of us who have studied it, there is no doubt about its true and peaceful nature. There is not a problem with Muslims in general. Most in Britain will be horrified at Lee Rigby’s murder.

But there is a problem within Islam – from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.

Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.

At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it. This has two effects. First, those with that view think we are weak and that gives them strength.

Second, those within Islam – and the good news is there are many – who actually know this problem exists and want to do something about it, lose heart. All over the Middle East and beyond there is a struggle being played out.

On the one side, there are Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view. They are a significant minority, loud and well organised. On the other are the modern-minded, those who hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators and who hate the new oppression by religious fanatics. They are potentially the majority, but unfortunately they are badly organised.

The seeds of future fanaticism and terror, possibly even major conflict, are being sown. We have to help sow seeds of reconciliation and peace. But clearing the ground for peace is not always peaceful.

The long and hard conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have made us wary of any interventions abroad. But we should never forget why they were long and hard. We allowed failed states to come into being.

Saddam was responsible for two major wars, in which hundreds of thousands died, many by chemical weapons. He killed similar numbers of his own people.

The Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror. Once these regimes were removed, both countries have struggled against the same forces promoting violence and terror in the name of religion everywhere.

Not every engagement need be military; or where military, involve troops. But disengaging from this struggle won’t bring us peace.

Neither will security alone. We resisted revolutionary communism by being resolute on security; but we defeated it by a better idea: Freedom. We can do the same with this.

The better idea is a modern view of religion and its place in society and politics. There has to be respect and equality between people of different faiths. Religion must have a voice in the political system but not govern it.

We have to start with how to educate children about faith, here and abroad. That is why I started a foundation whose specific purpose is to educate children of different faiths across the world to learn about each other and live with each other.

We are now in 20 countries and the programmes work. But it is a drop in the ocean compared with the flood of intolerance taught to so many. Now, more than ever, we have to be strong and we have to be strategic.

– Tony Blair

This self-justifying stomach churning garbage from war criminal Tony Blair was originally published in The Mail on Sunday. From the comments on-line, it was more than even Mail readers could stomach.

The Woolich killings can be see in two different lights. Either a senseless killing on the streets, no different apart from its brutality to other street killings, or an act of terrorism.

It was treated as the latter by David Cameron, which has the downside of elevating the killers to martyrs. Though if David Cameron had not reacted as he did, and it was the start of a wave of killings, he would have been rightly criticised.

How does a war criminal become a Middle East Envoy? One only has to look at Iraq today, to see the legacy of Tony Blair.

The Blair article is riddled with errors.

Do many in the Middle East believe the aim of Butcher Assad is to cleanse the region of Sunni Muslims? Yes, it has descended into sectarian violence, as has Iraq (the Blair legacy), but that is not how it started. It started with Assad gunning down peaceful protesters. Only later did the opponents of this repressive regime take up arms to defend themselves. And shame on Putin for supporting Assad.

Blair claims Assad has used chemical weapons. What is his evidence? The UN says there is suspicion, but have not been allowed in to collect evidence.

Blair claims he sees at first hand what is happening in the Middle East, and specifically Israeli occupied Palestine. He sees, does he, Israeli settlers destroying olive trees, of occupying land that is not theirs?

Blair claims the ‘Taliban grew out of the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and made the country into a training ground for terror’. This is to completely rewrite history. The Americans provoked the then USSR to invade Afghanistan to create their own Vietnam. It was the CIA and MI6 and Pakistani ISI, with the help of Saudi money that created the Mujahideen to fight the Soviets, that morphed into the Taliban. Bin-Laden was our creation. The extreme form of Islam in Afghanistan was exported from Saudi Arabia, but still we arm the Saudis.

Blair claims Afghanistan was a terrorist training ground. It was not, but it is now, as is Iraq and many other parts of the world. The Taliban were willing to hand over Bin Laden, were they given the evidence to justify doing so. Afghanistan is now a major poppy producer, bogged down in corruption, women have no rights.

Blair mentions Pakistan, but does not mention the drone strikes by the Americans, and now the British, and the impact that is having. He does not mention the rampant corruption and cronyism in Pakistan.

There is a problem with Muslim extremism, that is not rooted in the Koran, with ignorant preachers of hate who should be kicked out of the country.

Young men are being fed poison in the Mosques, but what is then ignored by both the media and the mainstream political class, not just Blair, is self-brainwashing. Young men are fed poison in the Mosques, but they do not then have to watch videos on the net (though there are many to watch), they simply watch the mainstream news. They see the drone strikes in Pakistan, they see the ethnic cleansing and genocide committed by Israel against Palestinians, a few like the Glasgow car bombing, the 7/7 London Bombings, the brutal killing on the streets of Woolwich, are spurred to act, to attack what they see as the enemy slaughtering fellow innocent Muslims.

For nearly a decade, the British security services have been warning governments about the growth of terrorism as a result of disaffection in relation to the Afghan and Iraq wars. Former head of MI5 Dame Eliza Manningham Buller told the Chilcot inquiry that she had given such a warning to Tony Blair’s government over Iraq. We have evidence from these latest attackers and from those previously charged with terrorist offences that the wars are one of their major grievances.

Our wars, have destabilised large parts of the world, turning them into terrorist training grounds, into which head brainwashed angry young men, who came back primed and loaded as killing machines.

A day at the gun market

May 2, 2013
The Arabist

The Arabist

Lately, I have been taking a lot of taxis. Naturally, that means hearing unsolicited political opinions, life lessons, and impromptu stories about women who match my exact physical description and share my sense of style (and, sometimes, my name) getting mugged, raped or murdered, in the hope of scaring me into begging them to my full-time driver and shield of protection.

Last week, one managed to convince me. Instead of suggesting I promptly take his phone number and call him whenever I need to venture out into the jungle that is Cairo, Reda, my new driver, casually offered me a shotgun for a reasonable LE600.

Being the picky shopper that I am, I refused to simply buy the first gun I hear of and asked for options. Obligingly, Reda decided to call a guy, who knows a guy, to get me a beginner’s collection. “Something small for a small lady,” he told him.

I had two options, Reda told me: *Fard Kartoush* (a birdshot gun) for LE700, plus an additional LE70 for 10 bullets, or a 9mm for LE2000 (the gun is actually worth LE15,000, but since it stolen from a police department during the revolution, Awad, Reda’s friend and dealer, is not too keen on keeping it) or settle for the lowly sound-gun-turned-real-gun for LE1000.

The latter is known for breaking itself after the third shot, because its transformation into a killing machine was conducted by a underemployed carpenter, looking to make a quick LE200 by changing the gun’s barrel.

My second option was to go to Suk al-Salaah (the weapons market), which is part of Suk al-Imam al-Shafa’i in Sayeda Ayesha.

I was given simple directions: “Go to the stolen bedrooms market and ask them to point you to the weapons market.”
Realizing that I don’t know where the stolen bedrooms market (which, as the name suggests, is a market where stolen bedrooms are sold for prices so low, they are technically being stolen all over again — although some of the beds and dressers were just the natural result of divorce), so I asked Reda to tag along with me, partly out of self-preservation.

Since it was a Tuesday, and the market is officially held on Fridays, not many people were there, quite unlike Fridays, when the market is so full of people no car, no matter how small, can get in.

There was a group of idle shoppers chatting rather than discussing prices with dealers selling all kinds of things from old Nokia phones to curtains. There was an argument about an overpriced *matwa mafaragha*, a Swiss knife whose blade is serated and pointy, literally giving it an edge over all other *matwas*. The young man, who didn’t want to pay LE20 for it, was quickly pulled back by another buyer.

Reda said that the oddly peaceful end of the heated argument was very normal in the market, where quarrels are uncommon.

“Both the buyer and the seller come here knowing it’s against the law, no point in hassling over prices and making a fuss,” Reda explained. “Not that we are scared of the police, they know where we are and what we do, and they do nothing… the point is everyone here is armed (or in the process of getting armed), if someone is provoked enough to shoot; everyone will start shooting,” he continued.

However, the buyers are not just shady young men; they are shop owners, worried fathers, car owners, etc. Just people who have lost all faith in law enforcement and don’t want to be the defenseless victims of thugs, particularly now that weapons are readily available courtesy of Libyan and Sinai smugglers, and more importantly, the famous January 28 2011 police station raids.

Ironically enough, many of those much-feared thugs also shop in Suk al-Salaah too. So the future victim and criminal rub shoulders while calmly arming themselves against each other.

“Is your girl buying or not?” an exasperated Awad asked Reda, purposefully ignoring my presence and interrupting our conversation. “I am not his girl,” I corrected him. Awad already knew that, but was presumably trying to get to buy something, anything.

Having had no real intentions of buying weapons, I simply pretended to be unimpressed by all of them. At one point, I half-jokingly complained about the lack of color variety.

I felt somewhat safe in doing so, because both my gender and looking the way I do (i.e. not looking poor), gave the few people I spoke to, the impression that I am easily fooled bag of money that would cough up double the desired amount. So long as I paid Reda his promised LE200 for his time and implied that I was going to be back later to buy; I was safe.

Meanwhile, the gun market for the upper class is booming too. The only difference is that the gun you would get for LE3000 in Suk al-Salaah is sold for continously-increasing prices, which can easily reach up to LE20,000, in an air-conditioned store in Heliopolis or in the vaulted corner of a fancy gas station, like the one in the beginning of the Ismailia road. Also, they have color variety.

Other than getting a chic shade of gold, the only advantage to buying these guns is that one would be forced to first get a license. However, Reda argues, that the ubiquity of weapons and indifference/incompetence of the police force makes getting a license, which is a hassle in and of itself that drives many to Suk al-Salaah, is hardly a necessity, yet alone an advantage.

While knowledge of the growing illegal, and legal, markets of weapons is as common as the weapons themselves, the market continues to fly under the radar of both the police and the media.

That being said, here is one of the few reports about illegal weapons. It’s an interview with a smuggler and a weapons dealer, who is preparing for his Masters in International Law, and sometimes buys weapons by entering the name of the gun he wants into Google to look for someone who has it. Once found, he would add that person on Facebook to discuss the details of their transactions (those who send late replies or ask for too money are mercilessly poked to deactivation, I imagine). He likes to have a three-year-old kid fire the guns.

– Nour Youssef

Published in The Arabist.

Pink Floyd: Song for Palestine

November 17, 2012

We shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Deep in my heart, I do believe
That we shall overcome someday
And we’ll walk hand in hand, we’ll walk hand in hand
We’ll walk hand in hand one day
Deep in my heart, I do believe
That we’ll walk hand in hand one day
And we’ll break down the prison walls, we will tear down those prison walls
Together we will tear it down, the prison walls, on that day
Deep in my heart, I do believe
Yeah we will tear down all those prison walls on that day
Deep in my heart, I do believe
We will tear down all those prison walls on that day
And the truth will set us free, the truth will set us free
The truth will set us all free on that day
And deep in my heart, I do believe
That the truth will set us all free on that day
And we shall overcome on that day

Costa Salafists

November 12, 2012
Salafyo Costa

Salafyo Costa

People didn’t accept the idea that Salafi guys could sit and drink in Costa Coffee. Everybody was unfriendly. It’s because they have a perception that Salafis don’t go for coffee in such places. — Mohamed Tolba, co-founder of Salafyo Costa

Through our Facebook page and our videos we are trying to tell them: Hear from us rather not about us. — Ahmed Samir, co-founder of the Facebook group

Do you guys sit in Costa? People would look at us in bafflement because they had a perception that Salafis don’t drink coffee in such places. It’s what I call visual abuse. It’s sad but funny. — Mohamed Tolba, co-founder of Salafyo Costa

Costa Salafists are quite literally, Salafists who meet in Costa coffee shops.

The Arab Spring kicked off in Tunisia, then spread to Egypt.

If you watched closely, as I did, you would have seen people on the streets, in Tahrir Square, many ages, but many young people, many young females, young females who were treated as equals, small groups forming, engaging in articulate, animated, but above all informed discussion and debate.

Move forward, the toppling of dictators, then elections.

All then seemed to have been lost, in Tunisia what could be called a soft Muslim party took power, in Egypt a harder Muslim Party the Muslim Brotherhood took power and behind them the hard line Salafists.

It seemed as though all had been lost, lives sacrificed for nothing. But all may not be as it seems from a superficial glance.

To topple a dictator is to question power. Power is usually toppled at the top, to be replaced by the same for example as we see in Animal Farm.

Tahrir Square was grass roots, question from the bottom. Once that genie is out of the bottle it is impossible to squeeze back in. Something Putin need to understand with his imprisonment of Pussy Riot and clampdown on opposition.

Girls who were not allowed out of the house, took to the streets. They now question. They are no longer prisoners in their own house.

Students question their teachers. Bribes are no longer paid to policemen.

We take reading for granted. If you cannot tread, how can you travel around, how do you know which street to find, how can you catch a bus if you cannot read the number?

The Taliban tried to silence Malawa, they failed.

The first word of the Koran is read.

Costa Salafists are so named because they quite literally meet in Costa coffee shops. A pity they cannot find local indie coffee shops in which to meet.

Costa Salafists would appear to be an oxymoron. Are Salafists not hard line intolerant bigots and Islamic fundamentalists, is not Costa a Western imposed coffee chain, the last place Salafists would meet? It is exactly because of that perception why they meet in Costa coffee shops. They even count Coptic Christians among their core supporters.

Nada Zohdy:

When I met Mohammed Tolba, the founder of this initiative, many of my own assumptions of Salafis were fundamentally challenged; to be frank, I didn’t realize Salafis could be so light-hearted and tolerant. Mohammed emphasised some basic struggles that the group faces: reminding themselves and other Salafis that they do not have an absolute monopoly on religious truth, and encouraging Salafis to have regular and meaningful interactions with other Egyptians rather than isolating themselves as they have for many years (which in part was a result of the discrimination they faced under former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak).

They believe in the authority of the Koran, but in a living interpretation of the Koran, an interpretation that your heart tells you is correct.

The Prophet warned, only heed a fatwa if your heart tells you it is correct.

The Old Testament was never meant to be written down as to do so would be to set it in stone. It was a living document that was interpreted to suit the present day. Later prophets constantly reinterpreted that which went before.

During Occupy St Paul’s, there often seemed as many clergy as there were occupiers at St Paul’s in-the-Camp. They were going back to original teachings of Jesus.

A cultural shift is taking part. At Occupy it was to question what was happening, the way our economy and financial systems function. In Greece and Spain that shift is of necessity as there are no jobs or at least no jobs in the formal economy.

When Super Storm Sandy struck New York, Mitt Romney saw it as a photo opportunity. Occupy New York got their hands dirty, Occupy Sandy was born, they were out helping people, feeding people.

People who were in Tahrir Square took their inspiration from Occupy, Occupy took their inspiration from Tahrir Square. Cross fertilisation.

The cultural shift that is taking place is being networked.

The Arab Spring was organised through social media. The Costa Salafists are no exception, making extensive use of Facebook.

Stop the suppliers of death in Syria

June 10, 2012
Syrian tanks in Homs

Syrian tanks in Homs

When a regime murders its own citizens in cold blood, that regime has no right to exist.

How many more children will we see massacred, how many innocents slaughtered by Assad and his murderous thugs before the world acts on Syria?

Each day the world sits idly by, more people are killed in Syria. The world has blood on it hands.

The Russians are propping up Assad, although even they have recognised the inevitable and said they are willing to let Assad fall. And yet still the Russians veto the UN Security Council.

If the world fails to act, Syrians will turn to Muslim fundamentalists, as they are already beginning to do.

Last week 27 children were massacred.

The Syrian currency is facing total collapse as sanctions begin to bite. Syrian banks are being propped up by Russian banks.

Military intervention is looking the least worst option.

Russia has an estimated annual arms sales worth £320 million to Syria. Russia is still supplying weapons to the murderous Assad regime.

We must stop the flow of weapons to the murderous Assad regime.

India and the US are key clients to Syria’s main weapons supplier — the state-owned Russian company Rosoboronexport. If we can get the two countries to threaten to halt all deals unless the Russians stop supporting Syria’s murder machine, the arms dealers could be forced to stop their Syria sales. Both the US and India want to stop the violence in Syria, but diplomacy is failing. This is their best chance — let’s give them a massive mandate to act.

The US has already persuaded the company to stop light weapons sales to Syria. Now if we can build up the pressure on India and get both countries to speak out, Rosoboronexport could be forced to cut Syria’s arms supply completely.

Please sign the urgent petition to stop dealing death to Syria and tell everyone — our call will be delivered to both countries and Rosoboronexport at a massive arms fair in Paris in two days:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/us_and_india_stop_syrias_merchants_of_death/?vl

International political solutions are failing to stop the bloodshed in Syria — a couple of weeks ago the world was stunned by the brutal al Houla massacre where 49 children were executed, and last week there was another mass killing. Why? Assad is protected by his old friend Russia, which has blocked international action while profiting in arms sales — Rosoboronexport is Russia’s biggest arms dealer, bringing the government billions in revenue per year. President Assad is only clinging to power through military might and sowing fear. If we can convince Russia that supporting the Syrian regime is not worth it, and end arms sales to Assad, his killing arsenal will wane and his command will slip away.

India and the US make up over 50% of Russia’s arms sales, and they both want strong action on Syria. The US has led efforts to stop the violence, and a group of US Senators is right now calling on the Pentagon to cancel a massive helicopter contract with Rosoboronexport. India already voted to stop the violence in Syria at the UN Security Council. Now, experts say if there’s even a hint that the Indian government might reconsider its patronage of Rosoboronexport because of Syria, sales to the regime could end, and the Russians could ditch their support for Assad.

Rosoboronexport could be held legally responsible for war crimes for sending weapons to the Syrian regime, but due to huge profits and a sense of impunity, they continue their bloody business as usual. Diplomatic pressure is mounting on Russia right now, but it is this financial threat that could be the deciding card. We have to act now and make sure hundreds of thousands of us speak out before Rosoboronexport arrives in Paris next week. Click to call on the US and India to stop Russia’s deadly deals now and forward to everyone:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/us_and_india_stop_syrias_merchants_of_death/?vl

Over the past year, Avaaz members have supported the Syrian spring and an end to the violence — we have broken the blackout, exposed hidden atrocities and provided critical lifelines to Syrians under siege.

Now Avaaz are delivering our petition to the UN to call for more monitors. Now, let’s do all we can to cut off the weapons at the source that are killing the Syrian people.

Next month the Farnborough Airshow, the world’s biggest arms fair, takes place. It is being promoted as a day out for the family, kids go free.

Tahrir Square: Revolution one year on

January 25, 2012
Tahrir Square 10am this morning

Tahrir Square 10am this morning

Aerial shot of Tahrir Square

Aerial shot of Tahrir Square

Imbaba echoing with calls of bread, freedom, social justice!

Imbaba echoing with calls of bread, freedom, social justice!

Some saying this is the biggest protest in Cairo since the revolution began. Certainly possible, the numbers are staggering. — Sharif Kouddous

One year ago we saw the start of the Egyptian revolution when Egyptians took to Tahrir Square. No matter what was thrown at them they refused to move. They toppled a US-backed dictator.

Where now, one year on? Were the lives lost, lost for nothing?

A military regime has taken control and shows no sign of relinquishing power.

Thousands have been arrested, tortured, tried before secret military courts.

Many have been killed and maimed by the military.

Emergency Powers have been relaxed but not removed. Action can be taken for ‘thuggery’ whatever that means.

The military is demanding power of veto over the new constitution, a secret military budget.

The players have changed, the regime is still firmly in control.

Elections have taken place. Muslim Brotherhood has taken nearly half the seats. A fundamentalist Islamic party calling for introduction of Sharia Law, public beheading, controls a further quarter of the seats.

Women were at the forefront of the revolution. They account for 2% of the seats in Parliament.

Yes there is an elected parliament. A parliament that hides behind walled off street, the people one side, parliament the other.

- Egypt: Four walls divide the ruled from the rulers

Muslim Brotherhood take to the streets when it benefits the Muslim Brotherhood. They have not called for the overthrow of the military junta controlling Egypt, have not called for those who committed crimes against the people, those who ordered the crimes, to be arrested and prosecuted.

Today Tahrir Square celebrates, but also calls for the second phase of the revolution, the removal of the military junta.

For brothers and sisters in Syria, the revolution has only just started. They can take heart when they see the numbers in Tahrir Square. The fate of Assad is sealed, either a bullet in the head or a criminal trial.

Iraq faces a descent into hell, until the people come to their senses, Iran and Saudi Arabia stop meddling.

Across the world the Arab Spring has helped to inspire the Occupy movement.

You cannot kill an idea.

- The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell
- Egypt’s revolution: One year on
- Egypt: Sharif Abdel Kouddous Reports from Cairo as Crowds Mark 1 Year of Revolution in Tahrir Square
- “In Tahrir Square”: HBO Doc on Egypt’s Revolution Through Eyes of Democracy Now!’s Sharif Kouddous

Publication in Iran of I Hate Paulo Coelho

January 15, 2012
Aleph in Farsi

Aleph in Farsi

Haters are confused admirers waiting for an excuse to say “I love you”. — Paulo Coelho

We hate that which we often fear. — William Shakespeare

It is becoming ludicrous the attacks on Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho by the evil Ayatollahs and Mullahs in Iran.

First they banned his books, then an attack by the Iran Book News Agency, now the promotion of a book, if not actually commissioned, I Hate Paulo Coelho.

A novel in Persian (Farsi): I Hate Paulo Coelho by Hamdreza Omidi Sarvi published by Amout Publications.

IBNA: “I Hate Paulo Coelho” relates a love story in social context. The main character of the novel named Reza is a pessimist writer with a number of failures. Reza-in-love encounters new people and situations that moves the story to new spaces.

The novel is written in a simple and colloquial language mostly related in internal monologues. The writer in this book tries to probe into the minds and lives of different social classes through a romance – social classes that each demand different things and have different dreams.

The story goes as “Qazal had read the ‘Alchemist’ and was influenced by it so much that she believed the book had saved her life in a period of mental crisis. At that moment it had not crossed my mind that ‘You Fool! When someone asks your opinion on something in the very first date, it means that she really cares for that and your opinion does matter….”

“I Hate Paulo Coelho” is published in 400 pages and 1650 copies by Amout Publications.

Hamidreza Omidi Sarvar is a mechanical engineering graduate with publications on film criticism.

It is easy to see why Paulo Coelho is hated by the regime, his books banned. He writes on mysticism, he encourages people to think, he stands up for the rights of women, all of which must be an anathema to the evil regime in Iran. He is also a very strong critic of religious fundamentalism.

The attacks on Paulo Coelho should also been seen within the context of the whipping up of anti-Western hate and hysteria in Iran and the development of nuclear weapons with which to attack the West and Israel and threats to close international shipping lanes through which a large amount of the world’s oil passes.

Paulo Coelho is very popular in Iran, which must upset the corrupt Ayatollahs and Mullahs, religious extremists who bastardise the people of Iran, especially the women. A pity the revolution of a few years ago failed to overthrow them.

The Zahir was first published in Iran. Copies to then be promptly seized by the Thought Police.

It was Paulo Coelho who brought to world attention the brutal killing of Neda, the face of the revolution, during the failed revolution.

Paulo Coelho has made his books available for free download in Farsi. Spread the word to all your Iranian friends.

Less we forget, the Mullahs and Ayatollahs not only shed blood in Iran, they are one of the principle agents of the sectarian violence and shedding of blood in Iraq.

- Coelho’s thought rhyming with false mysticism
- Aleph in Farsi
- Iran denies banning Paulo Coelho’s books
- The persecution of Hoder
- Change in Iran
- Arash Hejazi Interview for BBC
- The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell

Canon Andrew White awarded First Freedom Award

January 14, 2012
Canon Andrew White and Fulla Elia at First Freedom Award ceremony

Canon Andrew White and Fulla Elia at First Freedom Award ceremony

Fulla, Andrew and Julie Futch

Fulla, Andrew and Julie Futch

Andrew, Fulla and others

Andrew, Fulla and others

Andrew group photo

Andrew group photo

First Freedom Award - Andrew White 2012

First Freedom Award - Andrew White 2012

First Freedom Award reverse

First Freedom Award reverse

The prize giving event yesterday was a wonderful event. Hundreds of people at the prize giving dinner and even lots of friends I did not even know were coming. Amb. Bell the foundation president told me that it by far the best prize giving event in his memory. It was such an honour and some of the pictures are below. — Canon Andrew White

Canon Andrew White, aka Vicar of Baghdad, has been awarded the First Freedom Prize for his outstanding work on Middle East peace initiatives and extremely rare to be awarded to a non-Head of State.

The citation reads:

2012 INTERNATIONAL RECIPIENT
Canon Andrew White

Dubbed the “Vicar of Baghdad,” The Reverend Canon Andrew White is Vicar of St. George’s Church, the only Anglican Church in Iraq. White is also President of the Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

Canon Andrew White has built an extraordinary ministry of reconciliation and conflict mediation in the Middle East. In 1998, he was installed as the Director of International Ministry for the Diocese and Cathedral of Coventry. Soon after, White became the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, a very dangerous position in which White’s predecessor, Terry Waite, was kidnapped by Hizbullah and held hostage for over four years.

White was actively involved in the Middle East helping to lead the negotiations during the Siege of the Church of the Nativity in 2002 and helping draft the First Alexandria Declaration of the Religious Leaders of the Holy Land, and the Baghdad Religious Accord, both of which were instrumental in bringing together key religious leaders of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths. Since 2005, White has worked almost exclusively as the pastor of St. George’s Church in Iraq, and continues his pioneering reconciliation efforts through The Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East.

In Iraq, Canon White joins his responsibilities of pastoral care with an aggressive interfaith mission to reduce conflict in an insecure environment. The clinic that White’s church sponsors has medical staff from all sects in Iraq and delivers humanitarian relief without regard for the religious or ethnic backgrounds of patients.

White’s standing and reputation with the most senior religious leaders in Iraq has helped him reduce not only violence against Iraq’s increasingly small Christian community, but reduce violence against all Iraqis as well. White uses interfaith dialogue as part of a conflict arbitration strategy in Iraq, trying to gain the trust of key Sunni and Shi’ite Muslim religious leaders as grounds for mediating and re-establishing political dialogue. Through creating relationships of trust and confidence, White has brought together the leaders of the opposing sectarian factions, and his foundation has sponsored a number of high-level peace talks between them. Meetings chaired by White produced the first ever joint Sunni and Shi’ite religious opinion against violence in Iraq, which was read out in at least 80% of the mosques in Iraq.

Too often International Awards and Honours go to unworthy recipients. The Nobel Peace Prize to Obama was a sick joke.

The First Freedom Award to Canon Andrew White was a just recognition of his work in the Middle East!

Andrew White was accompanied to the Award Ceremony by the lovely Fulla Elia who was looking absolutely stunning!

Previous recipients of this prestigious award include former Czech President Václav Havel for his role in Charter 77 and the Velvet Revolution; as well as three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee Father Elias Chacour, founder of Israel’s Mar Elias Educational Institutions.

First Freedom Center is an American institute that seeks to advance the fundamental human rights of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

Photos courtesy of Fulla Elia.

Faith Under Fire by Andrew White has been shortlisted as the Christian Book of 2012. It is open to vote on-line for your favourite book, but somewhat dumb you have to vote for a childrens book too even though you may have no views. Also badly designed website, link does not go direct to voting form.

- Canon Andrew White awarded International First Freedom Award
- Andrew White wins International First Freedom Award
- Anglican Priest Given Prestigious Religious Freedom Award

Faith Under Fire

January 7, 2012
Faith Under Fire

Faith Under Fire

Don’t take care, take risks. — Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Donald Coggan

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28

There cannot be any such word as ‘can’t’ here in Iraq. We have to persevere, and we do. And in everything we see the glory of God. — Canon Andrew White

When religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong. — Archbishop William Temple

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. — 1 John 4:18

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:17

Anaesthetist, curate, parish priest, head of peace and reconciliation unit at Coventry Cathedral, Middle East peace negotiator, Vicar of Baghdad, not bad for a CV.

Some people are lucky, or so those who consider themselves unlucky bemoan, but it is not that, it is taking risks, drawing upon what life gives us.

If we look at the Life of Charles Darwin, Origin of Species did not just happen, nor was it because he happened to be at the right place at the right time (though that helped). It was because he took what life offered, he drew upon the experience gained in his earlier life.

The same is true of Canon Andrew White, he takes risks where others would hesitate, he draws upon the experience life has given him, all done with a love of God and love for those who he serves, underwritten in the faith in the One God, or G-d as he would write.

Much of my work in religious sectarianism is simply about showing love to the unlovely.

Those who commit the worst atrocities are usually those with nothing to lose.

It is easy to talk to the good guys, not so easy the bad guys, those whose hands drip with the blood of the innocents. But to make progress we have to talk to everyone.

The founder and leader of Hamas was beyond the pale. He changed from a man of violence to an advocate of peace. When he died, even Members of the Knesset attended his funeral.

At the age of ten Andrew White knew what he wanted, knew where he was heading. He wanted to be both an anaesthetist and a priest.

You cannot be both, he was told, and in any case, with your background, Pentecostal and Baptist, you cannot be a priest as they do not have them.

Needs will or looked at another way, God provides. He became both, first an anaesthetist, then an Anglican priest. Part of his theological studies were spent in Jerusalem studying Judaism. All of which has prepared him well for the work in the Middle East.

The world I occupied then is vastly different to the one I occupy now, but nevertheless I learnt some important lessons – not least the ability to react quickly in situations. When a patient goes into cardiac arrest you have to react immediately. When someone points a gun at you, you must also react immediately. If you have to think about dodging a bullet, it has already hit you. On the streets of Baghdad, my medical training has probably been of more use to me than my theological training at Cambridge.

Christianity in Iraq has a long and proud history. It is not an alien religion brought in or imposed by the West. Christian Fundamentalists who rode in on the coattails of the Americans like modern day carpet baggers did a huge amount of damage. It made Christians seem tools of the West. The Crusades are still in common memory. Conversely Iraqis were surprised to find American soldiers were Christians with crosses around their necks as they thought Christianity a Middle Eastern if not Iraqi religion.

- House of Lords debates the plight of Christians in the Middle East
- Crass stupidity by Christian fundamentalists leads to persecution and massacre of Christians in the Middle East
- Christianity A History: The Crusades

St George’s in Baghdad was built by and for the Brits. It now serves Iraqis, all are welcome.

Those who can, have long fled Iraq. Those left are the poor and dispossessed. When all is lost, faith is all that is left.

Lord Hylton on a visit to Baghdad described St George’s as a church of the future. A church that welcomes everyone and everyone is made welcome, be they Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, be they Christian or Muslim, where everyone is loved and shares their love. A place where angels appear. A place of peace and tranquillity in a war-torn country.

Angels? The angels first appeared in 2007, and have remained since.

Another of our ‘gains’ has been the visible presence of angels. I had read of angels in the Bible, of course, and I, and others, had regularly prayed for their protection in Iraq. But until three years ago I had never actually seen one. Towards the end of 2007, quite suddenly, we started to see angelic forms. They look very much like we’d expect angels to look – like males with wings – but they are strange figures, large and translucent. We take them very seriously.

Occasionally strange objects like wheels within wheels are seen. They only appear within St George’s, at some other churches in Iraq and at Ezekiel Tomb.

- Wheels within wheels

It is not known what they are, they are very prolific. In photos they appear as blobs.

Ezekiel saw something similar (Ezekiel 1:15-21):

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose.

Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

St George’s used to cost $600 a year to run, it now costs $175,000 a month to run. It is not only the running cost of the church, there is an associated clinic, education, food and welfare. All of which has to be raised through fund raising and donations.

Why do people suffer, why is Iraq descending into Hell, why is Canon Andrew White afflicted with multiple sclerosis?

- Sorry Sir my dear Jesus , we came to you with, black gown
- The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell

God moves in mysterious ways.

I am aware that God trains and prepares us through all of life’s experiences. Sometimes He sees fit to impose on us things we do not see as ‘the best’ for our lives, but He sees the greater purpose and allows such things as so that we will do what He wants us to do oe go where He wants us to go.

It is often those who face the greatest adversity who share the greatest love. Canon Andrew White in Iraq is a good example of this.

St Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn from his side, God responded (1 Corinthians 12:19):

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

God speaks in quiet whispers, we have to listen with care.

I often recommend to people three books, well I actually recommend far more than three books, but these three books are special because they compliment and support each other – Love Wins, The Shack, Aleph – to which I now add a fourth, Faith Under Fire, as what we read in the first three and at times seems mystical, not real, far-fetched, is an everyday occurrence in Iraq.

Aleph is a strange mystical book, it cannot be for real, we think, and yet Canon Andrew White recounts far stranger mystical happenings.

Love Wins tells of the love God has for each and everyone one of us. Canon Andrew White tells of the love in Baghdad.

In The Shack we see the mystery of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness. We see this happening in Iraq.

Faith Under Fire has been shortlisted as the Christian Book of 2012. It is open to vote on-line for your favourite book, but somewhat dumb you have to vote for a childrens book too even though you may have no views. Also badly designed website, link does not go direct to voting form.

Canon Andrew White is the vicar of St Geoge’s Church in Baghdad and President of FRRME.

- Iraq
- The Vicar of Baghdad
- Suffer the Children

Coelho’s thought rhyming with false mysticism

January 7, 2012
Neda - Latuff

Neda - Latuff

Praying doesn’t make you a saint any more than standing in an airport makes you an airplane. — Paulo Coelho

Here they come again. — Paulo Coelho

The following garbage has been posted by Iran Book News Agency:

Hojatoleslam Mazaheri Seif, writer of “The Spiritual World of Paulo Coelho” believes that Coelho follows the trend of false mysticism.

IBNA: According to Hamidreza Mazaheri Seif, a thematic study of Paulo Coelho’s works shows that his writings have the main features of false mysticism and heretic religions.

He continued: “Moreover, last year a book was published containing the names of 100 spiritual leaders of the world. The ideologies of these figures names are in line with that of the publisher and Coelho’s name is mentioned among the first top 20 leaders of the world showing that he has been globally acknowledged as a spiritual master. Many individuals insist that Coelho is their master in spiritual journeys and he was even welcomed by many Iranians during his travel to Iran. Given this situation we conclude that Coelho has consciously stepped into the realm of spirituality. However, whether he is qualified to be called a master should be assessed.”

“If you make a survey of all contemporary quasi-spiritual movements, you will realize that all leaders of them are instructing similar values to the human society. The backbone of Coelho’s thought is in line with all other false theosophical religions such as ‘Fallun Dafa’, ‘Halgheh’ InterUniversal Mysticism (in Iran), or Dialogue with God (in the US). The question that now rises here is that how all these leaders that have emerged in different locations say one word? If we trace them we come up with a single point, and that is Modern Kabbalah (a Jewish mysticism),” he added.

“Isn’t it true that Coelho’s writings are just symbolic manifestation of a universal trend of 290 years old that attempts to come up with a global religion caused by capitalism – that is, a religion concordant with liberal capitalism? The so-called religion is cultivated by spiritual leaders of the world including Paulo Coelho as the most outstanding one since he is more direct in addressing these values so much so that even Shimon Peres appreciated him.”

Mazaheri Seif then stated that in The Alchemist, Coelho has rewritten a tale from Rumi’s Masnavi’s sixth volume. Coelho is basically a master of plagiarism and this has been led to a number of oppositions. His story for Fathers, Sons and Grandsons is a rehabilitation of Golistan and Boustan, but the main problem of these adaptations is altering the plots in order to come up with his intended endings – that is the promotion of Modern Kaballah.

Mazaheri Seif added that banning one or two books would not help spreading these mysticisms as we actually face an ideology that reproduces itself in thousands of publications in millions of copies and this should not be neglected.

According to him, the best way to oppose the movement is to promote right spiritual instruction by the same means of books, fiction, novel and media in simple language.

The mysticism and spiritual insights of Paulo Coelho is a little too much for the evil Ayatollahs and Mullahs of Iran to stomach.

Compared with the vicious personal attacks in the West masquerading as book reviews this garbage published by the Iran Book News Agency is actually quite mild.

Paulo Coelho is very popular in Iran, which must upset the corrupt Ayatollahs and Mullahs, religious extremists who bastardise the people of Iran, especially the women. A pity the revolution of a few years ago failed to overthrow them.

The Zahir was first published in Iran. Copies to then be promptly seized by the Thought Police.

It was Paulo Coelho who brought to world attention the brutal killing of Neda, the face of the revolution, during the failed revolution.

Paulo Coelho is banned in Iran, it would not do for Iranians to be encouraged to think.

Paulo Coelho has made his books available for free download in Farsi. Spread the word to all your Iranian friends.

Less we forget, the Mullahs and Ayatollahs not only shed blood in Iran, they are one of the principle agents of the sectarian violence and shedding of blood in Iraq.

- Aleph in Farsi
- Iran denies banning Paulo Coelho’s books
- The persecution of Hoder
- Change in Iran
- Arash Hejazi Interview for BBC
- The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell


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