December 30, 2006
Boxer punches CAIR
posted at 11:03 am on December 30, 2006 by Bryan
Dec. 29, 2006 - In a highly unusual move, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California has rescinded an award to an Islamic activist in her home state because of the man’s connections to a major American Muslim organization that recently has been courted by leading political figures and even the FBI.
Boxer’s office confirmed to NEWSWEEK that she has withdrawn a “certificate of accomplishment” to Sacramento activist Basim Elkarra after learning that he serves as an official with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). After directing her staff to look into CAIR, Boxer “expressed concern” about some past statements and actions by the group, as well as assertions by some law enforcement officials that it “gives aid to international terrorist groups,” according to Natalie Ravitz, the senator’s press spokeswoman.
Read the rest of the article. Sen. Boxer comes off as both knowledgeable and reasonable and open to changing her mind as facts warrant. CAIR, as is its wont, blamed Boxer’s move on the Joooos. Or, a Jewish blogger. The “Islamophobia” word makes an appearance too. So does “McCarthy.” They know which buttons to push.
For more on CAIR’s past statements, associations and assorted sins, head on over to Anti-CAIR. Several CAIR officials have been convicted on charges of aiding terrorist groups. Here’s a sample:
Senior CAIR employee Randall Todd Royer, a/k/a “Ismail” Royer, pled guilty and was sentenced to twenty years in prison for participating in a network of militant jihadists centered in Northern Virginia. He admitted to aiding and abetting three persons who sought training in a terrorist camp in Pakistan for the purpose of waging jihad against American troops in Afghanistan. Royer’s illegal actions occurred while he was employed with CAIR
CAIR’s Director of Community Relations, Bassem Khafagi , was arrested by the United States due to his ties with a terror-financing front group. Khafagi pled guilty to charges of visa and bank fraud, and agreed to be deported to Egypt. Khafagi’s illegal actions occurred while he was employed by CAIR.
On December 18, 2002, Ghassan Elashi, founding board member of CAIR-Texas, a founder of the Holy Land Foundation, and a brother-in-law of Musa Abu Marzook , was arrested by the United States and charged with, among other things, making false statements on export declarations, dealing in the property of a designated terrorist organization, conspiracy and money laundering. Ghassan Elashi committed his crimes while working at CAIR, and was found Guilty.
CAIR Board Member Imam Siraj Wahaj, an un-indicted co-conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing, has called for replacing the American government with an Islamic caliphate, and warned that America will crumble unless it accepts Islam.
Now, if we could only get the Bush administration to be as tough on CAIR as Sen. Boxer is:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 … The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today welcomed an announcement by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that it has provided special training about Islamic traditions related to the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, to some 45,000 airport security officers. The TSA cultural sensitivity training includes details about the timing of Hajj travel, about items pilgrims may be carrying and about Islamic prayers that may be observed by security personnel….
Foxes and henhouses, or something along those lines. It was, of course, several CAIR-connected imams who instigated the “flying imams” fiasco, which appeared to be none other than a test of vigilance and a way to mau mau the airlines and airline passengers. CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper, who often appears on cable news channels as the face of moderate Islam, has been found in the company of radicals himself.
This is the CAIR that Boxer rejects, and the Bush administration puts in charge of sensitivity training.
Good for Boxer. Bad for the administration. CAIR should be ostracized.
December 28, 2006
Charges for Quoting Koran Overturned - Same Law Proposed in U.S.
FAITH UNDER FIRE
Pastors' convictions for quoting Quran overturned Case was brought under version of 'hate crimes' legislation
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- © 2006 WorldNetDaily.com
Two Australian pastors who were convicted of "vilifying" Muslims when they quoted from the Quran during a seminar on jihad have had their appeals upheld by the Victorian Supreme Court.
And while that means they will return to a lower court for another trial, that actually is a good result, according to a new report from Voice of the Martyrs.
"In a sense we are happy with this decision… It means this case will be kept alive in the public consciousness," Pastor Danny Nalliah said in a VOM report. "There's a need to keep these vilification laws in sharp focus to reveal the problems this law is creating."
The Australian law was imposed in order to prevent the denigration of people based on their race or religion, and similar laws also have been approved in Canada, where critics of the law say they include sexual orientation and forbid pastors from condemning homosexuality as a sin.
Many of the "hate crimes" proposals in the United States are based on a similar concept: designating as "crimes" the statements people make about their own beliefs or convictions.
In a statement released through Catch the Fire Ministries, where Nalliah serves as president, he thanked his friends for their moral, prayer and financial support during the trial and appeal process to date.
"The battle for Freedom to express Truth is far from over, as a retrial at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (with a different Judge) is expected sometime next year… I believe the Lord will continue to use this case to further awaken His Church, our nation of Australia, the nations of the world, and to discredit the vilification laws in Victoria," he wrote.
Nalliah and Pastor Daniel Scot were charged following a complaint filed by The Islamic Council of Victoria, and were the first people found guilty of religious vilification under the Victorian Religious and Racial Tolerance Act of 2002. They were accused of vilifying Muslims at a seminar on jihad on March 9, 2002.
VOM said the two were lecturing on the differences between Christianity and Islam, and quoted directly from the Quran.
After his conviction, Nalliah had refused to apologize.
"Right from the inception, we have said that this law is a foul law, this law is not a law that brings unity. It causes disunity and as far as we are concerned right from the beginning we have stated that we will not apologize. We will go to prison for standing for the truth and not sacrifice our freedom and freedom to speak," he told VOM.
In a commentary in the Herald Sun, Andrew Bolt noted the travesty of the case, and that besides the death threats to the pastors and their families, they still must pay an estimated $150,000 for the court proceedings against them.
"Some victory. Some justice. These exhausted pastors have been harassed, threatened, denounced as bigots and flayed in the papers and on the ABC, and are now deep in debt. And why? Because they quoted the Quran to their congregation. Because in that congregation were Muslim activists, sent by a discrimination commissar hired from a Muslim lobby group," Bolt wrote.
He wrote that much of the evidence against the pastors was that they, in fact, quoted the Quran accurately. "Yes, the Quran did tell men they could beat their wives. Yes, it did have verses calling on Muslims to fight infidels until they submitted."
"The pastors were found guilty of vilifying Muslims even though the judge identified only one thing Scot had said that was factually wrong: he'd given the wrong birthrate for Muslims here. And, the judge, added, he'd failed to quote a verse that showed Allah was merciful," Bolt wrote.
VOM is a non-profit, interdenominational ministry working worldwide to help Christians who are persecuted for their faith, and to educate the world about that persecution. Its headquarters are in Bartlesville, Okla., and it has 30 affiliated international offices.
It was launched by the late Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, who started smuggling Russian Gospels into Russia in 1947, just months before Richard was abducted and imprisoned in Romania where he was tortured for his refusal to recant Christianity.
He eventually was released in 1964 and the next year he testified about the persecution of Christians before the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show the deep torture wound scars on his body.
The group that later was renamed The Voice of the Martyrs was organized in 1967, when his book, "Tortured for Christ," was released.
December 24, 2006
The Silent Exodus
Vanishing Christians of the Mideast
Steve Campbell : Chronicle
Brahim Barakat, a gas station owner, said the 34-day conflict convinced him and the town's other Christians that they have no future in Lebanon, where policy is increasingly set by the militant Islamic group Hezbollah, which is trying to destabilize the elected national government. They are ready to abandon their fig trees and move out.
"Our church is older than Hezbollah," said Barakat, sounding beaten down at 56. "Our history is here. Jesus Christ walked here. But we are caught between Hezbollah and Israel. We are lost here. If 80 percent of the Christians in Lebanon are trying to leave, here the figure is 100 percent because of the war."
The vicious battle between Hezbollah and Israel this summer has joined the long list of religion-based conflicts and feuds ripping the peoples of the Middle East apart. Most of the Christians who lived in Ain Ebel already have gone, scattered like seeds tossed by a tempest.
Some have resettled in other parts of Lebanon, trying to eke out a living, but many have abandoned their country altogether, adding to the huge number of Lebanese Christians who have gone to the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries for a fresh start.
The flight of Lebanese Christians is one symptom of a larger malady: the wholesale departure of Christians from the Middle East.
This silent exodus is reshaping the region's cultural mosaic, eating away at its diversity by slowly removing Christians from the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Their voice is being muted as Islam becomes more strident.
The Islamic holy book, the Quran, preaches respect for other religions, but the growing popularity of radical Islam, which casts Christians and Jews as infidels, has convinced many Christians they will soon be unwelcome, said Anthony O'Mahony, a London professor who has written several books on Christianity in the Middle East.
"We may be seeing the end of a historic Christian presence," he said. "Islam has profoundly displaced the indigenous religions, Christianity and Judaism. We're seeing another stage of the Islamicization of the region. You start to see the Middle East purely in Muslim terms, dominating the whole region."
Precise figures are elusive, in part because governments in the region do not carry out sensitive surveys listing religious affiliation, but historians believe that at least 2 million of the region's Christians have left the Middle East in the past 30 years. Sharp declines have been observed in Lebanon and the West Bank over the past three decades.
In Lebanon, the civil war that started in 1975 spurred hundreds of thousands of Christians to seek safety abroad. Christians are now a minority in a country where they used to be the largest religious group.
A measure of stability returned to Lebanon when fighting ended in 1990, but that was shattered this summer. The conflict with Israel killed more than 1,000 people and caused an estimated $4 billion in damage to the country's infrastructure.
Hezbollah, a private Islamic militia funded primarily by Iran, started the fighting when its forces crossed into Israel to ambush Israeli troops. The militia's leading cleric, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, launched the attack without any input from Lebanon's elected coalition government, which includes many Christians, including the president, Emile Lahoud. The conflict stoked fears among Christians and some Muslims that the militant movement spreading throughout the region may transform Lebanon into an Iranian-style Islamic republic.
"This last war made the Christians lose hope," said Guita Hourani, a Lebanese Christian who is associate director of the Lebanese Emigration Research Center.
"Hezbollah refuses to disarm, and they have a political plan and an ideology that does not fit with what Christians and most Lebanese want, which is a functioning democracy that is pluralistic and open. Space for freedom of expression and freedom of faith is being closed off."
Lebanese Christians were able to talk about their concerns before the war, but now they are afraid to speak freely, she said.
"People are fearing for the future and trying to get out," she said. "This war is going to impact the emigration of Christians more than anything we have seen. If other countries open their doors, there will be an exodus."
Civil war looming?
The November assassination of Christian leader Pierre Gemayel and the push by Hezbollah to oust the government aggravated the situation, raising the specter of renewed civil war between the country's Muslim and Christian populations.
These problems are reflected throughout the Middle East. Circumstances differ in each country the Christians are quitting, but the results are the same. Christians are voting with their feet, leaving the lands where Jesus once walked.
'A savage polarization'
The latest catastrophe for Middle Eastern Christians is in Iraq. One of the region's oldest Christian communities is under fire as sectarian fighting increases and the country's new political leaders veer toward a religious-based Islamic government.
"The Iraqi Christians are increasingly targeted, and many churches have been threatened, so they are joining the larger exodus from Egypt, from Palestine, from Lebanon," said Fawaz Gerges, author of Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy and director of the Middle Eastern studies program at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.
"This means disaster for the Middle East. Christians serve as a bridge between the Muslim world and the Judeo-Christian world, and if you rid the Middle East of its bridge you are punching a big hole in the idea of coexistence."
The rise in fundamentalist Islam is one of many factors causing Christians to leave. They also are departing in search of educational and employment opportunities and, in the case of Palestinian Christians, because of conflicts with Israel.
In the region where the three great world religions began, Jews, Christians and Muslims are living more separately than ever. Their religious doctrines call for tolerance, but in practice they are drawing apart.
"There has been a savage polarization," said William Dalrymple, author of From the Holy Mountain and other works about Christians in the Middle East.
"In this pulling-apart of a very rich tapestry, the Christians have by and large left the Middle East to places less heavy with history, places like Australia, Sweden and Detroit."
Middle Eastern Christians who stay are often caught in the middle. Many Muslims assume Christians are pro-Western because they share a Christian bond with the West. At the same time, many Westerners are suspicious of them because of their Arab roots.
Christians also leave because they have a better chance to advance in more peaceful and affluent countries. Some can emigrate relatively easily because of family ties in the West. Many already speak English, making it easier to get jobs or places in good schools.
The emigration has changed the makeup of Lebanon, where Christians were in the majority when the country achieved independence in 1943. Now they are a shrinking minority.
In the highland villages of the Mount Lebanon range, where Christians have lived in the bracing mountain air for centuries, most young adults already have departed. The majority of the residents are either older than 60 or younger than 18, said Filamina Farhat, a weary resident of Kfar Sghab (pronounced Far-Zab) who has seen the community dwindle in her 66 years.
Her village, surrounded by fertile land that produces delicious cherries and pears, is in the Christian heartland of Lebanon. The mountains are dotted with shrines to the saints, but the town¹s roads are named after the cities in Australia where most of the former residents now reside.
It is jarring to see a "Perth Road" in the middle of Lebanon, but it reflects that more of the town's residents live overseas than in the town.
"We have more than 17,000 people from this village living in Australia, and 3,000 in America, and only about 700 people living here," Farhat said. "The young people became educated and left. What choice do they have? They can't make a living here.
"I'm sad because we work very, very hard to work the land and educate them, and then they leave."
Hermits continue tradition
Her part of the country holds special significance for Lebanon's Maronite Christians, who make up the largest denomination in the country. It was in the misty, craggy, inaccessible mountains that the Maronites first sought refuge when they were persecuted in neighboring Syria 13 centuries ago.
The Maronite Patriarch keeps his summer headquarters nearby, on the cliff high above the Valley of the Saints, where a few religious hermits continue a Maronite tradition by living in caves.
Still, this rich heritage is not enough to keep young people here, said George Tannous, a student.
"We are four brothers, and the whole family is trying to leave — my parents, too," said Tannous, a 17-year-old with burning brown eyes who is determined to study engineering and architecture abroad.
The family's hopes are riding on an uncle in Australia who is trying to arrange a visa that would allow them to settle there.
"Here there is nothing, no jobs, no money, no chances," he said. "You can't get a car or get married. Ninety-nine percent of my friends want to leave. I would go anywhere. You can't stay here or your life stops."
The only time the depopulated mountain villages of Lebanon fill up is in summer, when many prodigal sons return from abroad to pay their respects to their parents. They usually bring their own children with hopes that family bonds will deepen.
The émigrés often carry money to help with village projects and to keep their parents in good financial shape through the wet, cold winter.
Many Christian villages are in relatively good shape, with new stone houses and lovingly renovated older ones, even though most of the young people have departed.
Émigrés are paying for this work and providing money for church projects, schools, health clinics and other facilities that raise the quality of life.
The financial figures are astounding. Lebanese expatriates send back an estimated $3.4 billion each year, more than is brought in by foreign investment in Lebanon or by tourism. They are contributing even more this year to help rebuild areas destroyed during the fighting.
Monsignor Francis Baissari, the Maronite bishop for Kfar Sghab and 29 other villages, said church officials turn to the expatriate community whenever they want funding for something new.
"If we want to build a new church or a new school, we start with the idea, and we ask the expatriates for help," he said. "We have about 1 million Maronites here but about 15 million around the world. What can we do? We are exporting people because they need to work."
In some families, the desire of the younger generation to leave Lebanon behind has led to clashes with parents and grandparents who traditionally decide family affairs even when their unmarried children are in their 20s and 30s.
At the height of the fighting this summer, the Mandalian family was divided over whether to move to Canada, where they have cousins. They live in Bourj Hammoud, an Armenian enclave on the outskirts of Beirut, but they moved into the mountains to get away from the bombing.
Still, Jack Mandalian's two daughters — Talar, 26, and Lucy, 24 — were terrified. Talar decided she should move to Montreal, where she could put her university degree in graphic design to good use, and Lucy said she would follow when she had finished her university courses next year.
The young women were determined to join the flight of Armenian Christians that has shrunk their numbers from about 225,000 two decades ago to roughly 65,000 today.
Their plan was that the whole family would move to Canada over time. But then their father put his foot down.
His ancestors had fled the Armenian genocide in eastern Turkey, and he was not going to flee again. And there was no question of his daughters leaving on their own. The family had to stick together. Anything else was unthinkable.
"They wouldn't give me their blessing, so I have no choice," said Talar Mandalian. "I'm staying here in Lebanon."
It is easy to understand why they decided to stay. Few places are as beautiful as Lebanon, a small country blessed with a Mediterranean climate and rugged, snowcapped mountains. The red wine is delicious, the skiing a joy. But the country¹s people bear deep psychological scars.
'We cannot forget'
Christians are not blameless. In the pleasant village of Kfar Matta, with scented mountain air and green shade trees, residents say they will not let the Christians move back in because Christian militia forces led a massacre against townspeople in 1983.
The fighting was part of "The War of the Mountain," which pitted Christian forces against the Druze, an independent religious group that shares some of its core beliefs with Islam.
"As long as we are alive, we cannot forget," said Hani Al Gharib, a Druze resident who insists the Christians must stay out. "They came in and killed my father; they shot him in the mouth. They killed my cousins, they killed our young people. We lost 109 people. The only way there can be reconciliation is if we kill 109 of their people."
Christian militia fighters also have been blamed for the notorious 1982 massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps on the outskirts of Beirut.
Christians and Druze lived in harmony for centuries, but Kfar Matta, like many communities in the Middle East, has become a place where only one religious group dwells. There was an impressive stone church, but it was dynamited and lies in ruins.
At the same time, some towns that were once exclusively Christian are changing as Muslims buy property put on the market by Christian families who are emigrating. This has caused some friction as Christians find their sphere of influence shrinking.
In the prosperous village of Bishmizzine, Christians initially banded together to buy all the properties put up for sale to prevent Muslims from moving in. The strategy worked at first, but it became too expensive over time. Now Muslims have bought up about 15 percent of the village, town officials say.
Fawzi Moufarij, mayor of Bishmizzine, said he is trying to maintain friendly relations between the town's Christians and Muslims now that the effort to keep Muslims out has failed.
"We wish we could have bought all the properties," he said. "The original people of this village are being replaced by Muslims. They want to be a major power here, and there have been some incidents, some fights. Mostly we are getting along. But Christians are deeply concerned about the future. We don't know where we are heading."
The mayor has grown accustomed to seeing people he has known all his life pick up stakes and disappear, sometimes forever.
"It's very sad," he said. "It's a village of ghosts."
December 21, 2006
Half of Iraq's Christians Have Fled, Says Prelate
Church Aiding 35,000 Refugees in Syria
BAGHDAD, Iraq, - The violence in Iraq has prompted half of the country's Christians to emigrate, says an official of the Chaldean patriarchate of Baghdad.
Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna explained to the international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) the work that ecclesial leaders are carrying out to shelter the more than 35,000 Christians who have sought refuge in Syria.
The Church is helping to provide shelter, food and medical support for these and other refugees. Benedict XVI appealed for aid for these refugees last Sunday.
ACN has offered emergency aid to Christians desperate to flee the religious conflict and the dire poverty engulfing Iraq.
The charity is working closely with Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, who launched a humanitarian aid program for refugees, especially in the capital, Damascus. The project includes food parcels and funding for emergency hospital operations.
Bishop Abouna said: "There is a big need to help the people and we are doing whatever we can. We are very grateful to Aid to the Church in Need for all its help."
The 63-year-old bishop underlined the increasing dangers for Christians still in Iraq. He said the refugees in Syria had reported how Christians and others had received death threats and how women, including girls, were being forced to wear the veil in keeping with Islamic law.
Up to a dozen churches, monasteries and other church buildings in the Al Dora district of Baghdad have been forced to close, Bishop Abouna said.
Islamists bent on ethnic cleansing have flushed Christians out of Al Dora, formerly known as "the Vatican of Iraq," he reported.
"Of course the people are frightened," the prelate added. "But there is something stronger than the fear -- it is their faith."
December 8, 2006
Visions of Jesus Stir Muslim Hearts
By Chris Mitchell
CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM - The Muslim call to prayer resounds through a large part of the Earth, where more than one billion people call themselves Muslims.
Throughout the Islamic world, many Muslims from Gaza to London are also responding to the call to global jihad, where the goal is to take over the world for Islam. It's a clash of civilizations with the Christian faith in the middle.
Throughout the nearly 1,400 year history of Islam, Muslims have resisted the Christian Gospel. Many Christians tried to reach them with the good news, but with little success.
But according to many reports from the Middle East and around the world, that history is changing.
"I see many, many Arabic-speaking people turning to Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Savior,” said Nizar Shaheen, host of Light for the Nations, a Christian program seen throughout the Muslim world. "It's happening all over the Arab world. It's happening in North Africa. It's happening in the Middle East. It's happening in the Gulf countries. It's happening in Europe and Canada and the United States-in the Arabic-speaking world. Everywhere, people are accepting Jesus."
"What's happening nowadays in the Muslim world has
never happened before," said Father Zakaria Henein, an Egyptian Coptic priest
who is one of the foremost evangelists to the Muslim world. He says a
cross-section of Muslims are accepting Jesus Christ. "Young and old, educated
and not educated, males and females, even those who are
"I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ, Jesus forgave me for my sins,” he said. “He gave me eternal life and peace. And the second thing, I really suffered in my daily life, but I had peace, I had joy because Jesus entered my heart."
Muhammed is just one of many who are coming to Jesus. Heidi Baker of Iris Ministries sees thousands of African Muslims receiving Jesus and getting baptized.
"It's probably the only place in the world where they are coming so quickly,” she said. “Many people are having dreams. They see Jesus appear to them. Probably half our pastors were leaders, imams in Moslem mosques. They were leaders in these mosques, now they're pastors."
Another significant evangelistic movement among Muslims links China and Jerusalem. Chinese house churches plan to send at least 100,000 evangelists from China through many predominantly Muslim nations all the back here to Jerusalem.
This quiet but powerful movement of itinerant evangelists is bringing the story of Jesus Christ into the heart of the Muslim world. Technologies like satellite television and the Internet also penetrate the world of Islam.
But beyond technology, many say a supernatural dimension is at work throughout the Islamic world.
"There is an end-time phenomenon that is happening through dreams and visions," said Christine Darg, author of The Jesus Visions: Signs and Wonders in the Muslim World. “He is going into the Muslim world and revealing, particularly, the last 24 hours of His life - how He died on the cross, which Islam does not teach - how He was raised from the dead, which Islam also does not teach – and how He is the Son of God, risen in power."
"We receive lots of letters about people who have had dreams about the Lord, visions, even miracles,” Shaheen said. “When they watch the program, they say yes, we had a dream or a vision, and they accept Jesus as Lord."
But Muslims who accept Jesus face persecution, discrimination or even death. Despite the dangers, many continue to live out their faith and lead others to Jesus Christ.
"Jesus loves all people, Jesus changes all people and Jesus is the One who places love and peace,” Shaheen said. “I was not like this but Jesus changed my life and I am not scared to talk about Jesus because praise is unto Him."
Some believe the Church's response to jihad must be a fearless proclamation of the Gospel to Muslims. Through prayer and evangelism, many see an unparalleled opportunity for the Gospel.
"I anticipate that very soon – perhaps within two or three years-we are going to see the greatest harvest in history," Shaheen said
December 1, 2006
Muslim Congressman Won't Use Koran When Taking Oath of Office
By Randy Hall
(CNSNews.com) - When he is sworn in as a member of the 110th U.S. Congress on Jan. 4, 2007, Congressman-elect Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) will not take the oath of office with his hand on a copy of the Koran - or any other book, according to a spokesman for Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to the House of Representatives.
Ellison will not use any book during the ceremony, Dave Colling, who served as the Minnesota Democrat's campaign manager, told Cybercast News Service. "Neither will any other member of the House," Colling added, since "no one has ever taken the oath of office in Congress with a Bible, a Koran, a Torah or anything else."
Instead, the members of the chamber are sworn into office as a group, Colling noted. "They all raise their right hands and repeat the oath that's prescribed in the Constitution."
Drew Hammill, spokesman for Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), confirmed Colling's description of the swearing-in ceremony.
"You're actually sworn in on the floor of the House," Hammill told Cybercast News Service. "There are no books present."
After Pelosi becomes the new speaker, she will lead the other members of the House in reciting their oath of office:
"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."
The remarks by Colling and Hammill came in response to a controversy sparked on Nov. 9, when the New York Times ran an article on Arab reaction to Ellison's victory in the U.S. mid-term election two days earlier.
"Arab news reports highlighted the fact that Mr. Ellison would probably take the oath of office on the Koran, something which also upset Muslim-bashers in the blogosphere," the article noted. "Some suggested it meant he would pledge allegiance to Islamic law rather than to upholding the Constitution."
On Nov. 11, ABC News reported that Ellison "will be sworn into the House of Representatives with his hand on a Koran."
More than two weeks later, radio talk show host and columnist Dennis Prager wrote in a Nov. 28 commentary that the Minnesota Democrat "has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran."
"He should not be allowed to do so - not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization," Prager argued. "Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible.
"If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress," he wrote.
Prager's column generated a number of responses, including a reply from Stephen Bainbridge, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, who called the columnist's arguments "fundamentally misguided."
"I don't share Prager's notion that it's necessary for politicians and government officials to 'take their oaths of office with their hands on the very same book' in order to 'affirm that some unifying value system underlies American civilization,'" Bainbridge said.
Eugene Volokh, another professor at the UCLA School of Law, also disagreed with Prager by noting that the oath of office "is a religious ritual, both in its origins and its use by the devout today. The oath invokes God as a witness to one's promise as a means of making the promise more weighty on the oathtaker's conscience."
Volokh also pointed to Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which states that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
"Requiring the performance of a religious act using the holy book of a particular religion is a religious test," Volokh noted.
The dispute has generated "tons and tons of email" to Ellison's office, "none of it in a good way," said Colling.
After the House swearing-in ritual is completed, brief sessions are held so individual members of the chamber can be photographed with the speaker. Most participants at this point reportedly choose to adopt the traditional pose of placing their hand on a Bible.
"That's a mock ceremony, so it's not official," Hammill told Cybercast News Service. "Members can bring in the local press, or they can do a photo op with their family, but that's not their actual swearing in."
November 22, 2006
Egypt students protest minister's anti-veil remarks
MINYA, Egypt (AFP) - Around 800 students have rallied at Minya University in southern Egypt to protest Culture Minister Faruq Hosni's comments that wearing the veil was regressive.
The students, mostly veiled women and supporters of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood,
chanted slogans against Hosni and demanded the minister's immediate sacking.
"There was an age when our mothers went to university and worked without the veil. It is in that spirit that we grew up. So why this regression?" he said Wednesday.
The comments provoked a storm of protest, not only among the Islamist opposition but also within the ruling National Democratic Party, to which Hosni belongs.
Members of the NDP made up the majority of the 25 MPs who spoke out against the minister in parliament on Saturday.
Hosni has repeatedly insisted that the statements were his personal opinion and did not reflect the view of the government.
A protest was also held at Cairo's Al-Azhar University on Tuesday and further demonstrations are planned across the country in the coming days.
November 18, 2006
Farewell Father Antonious Henein
Our beloved Father Antonious Henein, after 33 years of faithful service to
the Lord and his people the Copts of Los Angeles, went to be with the Lord on
Thursday November 16, 2006
November 17, 2006
Dutch to ban wearing of Muslim burqa in public
By Alexandra Hudson
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government agreed on Friday a total
Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk will now draw up legislation which
"The cabinet finds it undesirable that garments covering the face --
The debate on face veils and whether they stymie Muslim integration
Existing legislation already limits the wearing of burqas and other
The Muslim community estimates that only about 50 women in the
Job Cohen, the Labour mayor of Amsterdam, said he opposed burqas in
Since the murder of anti-immigration maverick Pim Fortuyn in 2002,
November 13, 2006
German pastor's suicide seen as 'cry against Islam'
ERFURT, Germany -- The 73-year-old pastor's last sermon focused on his fear that Christian Europe would be overwhelmed by Islam. A few weeks later, at one of the most important Lutheran landmarks, the Rev. Roland Weisselberg soaked himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze. He died the following day. He left no suicide note. But in a time when Christians and Muslims in Europe lurch from one crisis to the next, the poetry-quoting, retired Lutheran minister is being proclaimed a self-martyr -- the latest victim in a growing conflict between the cross and the crescent. In his last sermon in late September -- called from retirement to fill in for an absent minister -- Weisselberg said Christians in Europe must unite or risk being overrun by Islam in generations to come. His widow -- who has refused to speak publicly -- told a church official that her husband left behind a letter describing his angst over Islam's rising power in Europe.
November 10, 2006
Court in Canada refuses to hear whether religion can be a murder defence
Janice Tibbetts, CanWest News Service
OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada declined an invitation on Thursday to consider whether Muslim cultural and religious beliefs in ''family honour'' should be taken into account as justification for receiving a lighter sentence for killing an unfaithful wife.
The court refused to hear the appeal of Adi Abdul Humaid, a devout Muslim from the United Arab Emirates, who admitted to stabbing Aysar Abbas to death with a steak knife on a visit to Ottawa in 1999.
In an application filed in the Supreme Court, Humaid's lawyer, Richard Bosada, argued Humaid was provoked by his wife's claim she cheated on him, an insult so severe in the Muslim faith it deprived him of self-control.
The concept of ''family honour'' in the Muslim culture means a man is disgraced if his wife has an affair, said the application.
Humaid was convicted of first-degree murder and lost his appeal at the Ontario Court of Appeal, which concluded his defence lacked an ''air of reality.''
The Supreme Court, by convention, did not give reasons for refusing to consider the case, but it normally only takes on appeals it considers to be of national importance.
Under Canadian law, a rarely used, controversial defence called provocation can allow intentional killings to be reduced to the lesser crime of manslaughter if the accused proves the crime was committed in the heat of passion arising from a ''wrongful act or insult'' that would cause an ordinary person to lose control.
Bosada said the high court should take on the case to provide guidance to lower courts ''in this multi-cultural Canadian society.''
Humaid contends his Muslim beliefs should be a factor because he killed his wife after she hinted she was having an affair with a business associate.
Abbas was 46 years old when she died of 23 stab wounds to the throat in the fall of 1999, while she and her husband were visiting their son at the University of Ottawa.
Humaid testified at his trial he blacked out after hearing his wife's confession and he lost all self-control.
The Ontario Crown, in a Supreme Court court submission, maintains the murder was pre-meditated and Humaid, who had an affair with the family maid, wanted out of his marriage. Humaid also stood to gain financially from the death of his wife, a successful engineer who controlled most of the family wealth.
After having an affair himself, Humaid's argument that he deserves a lighter sentence because he was provoked by his wife's insult ''is irreconcilable with the principal of gender equality'' enshrined in the Charter of Rights, says the Crown's submission.
An American scholar, Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, testified at Humaid's trial that many Islamic societies permit men to punish wives suspected of adultery and sometimes even kill them. Under Islamic law, punishment for adultery is usually flogging or stoning, Ayoub said. In some Muslim cultures and rural areas, unfaithful women can be killed.
But Ayoub acknowledged under cross-examination that Muslims in Canada should not be able to take the law into their own hands when they suspect their wives of infidelity.
Humaid and Abbas were Canadian citizens who lived in Dubai in 1999.
His lawyer could not be reached for comment.
CanWest News Service
© CanWest News Service 2006
November 9, 2006
First Muslim Elected to the U.S. Congress
Keith Ellison easily defeats rivals for Minnesota seat
|Keith Ellison won the Minnesota congressional race Nov. 7, making him the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Congress. (© AP Image)|
Washington – Democrat Keith Ellison won a closely watched Minnesota congressional race November 7, making him the first Muslim to be elected to the U.S. Congress.
Ellison also is the first black congressman elected from Minnesota. He will fill the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Representative Martin Sabo.
“I think the most important thing about this race is we tried to pull people together on things we all share, things that are important to everyone,” he said in his victory speech. “We were able to bring in Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists.”
Ellison, a two-term state legislator before his run for Congress, has opposed the war in Iraq, and has advocated universal health care for Americans.
Even though he is an observant Muslim, Ellison has not made religion a feature of his campaign.
“People draw strength and moral courage from a variety of religious traditions. Mine have come from both Catholicism and Islam. I was raised Catholic and later became a Muslim while attending Wayne State University. I am inspired by the Quran’s message of an encompassing divine love, and a deep faith guides my life everyday,” he wrote in an article for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
“I think it’s time for the United States to see a moderate Muslim voice, to see a face of Islam that is just like everybody else’s face,” he said recently.
Born in Detroit, Ellison received his law degree at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he practices law and where he has lived for the past 17 years. He converted to Islam at the age of 19, saying that as a young man he was outraged by racism and injustice.
Ellison described himself at that age as an angry young social activist, but “I eventually realized that it is easy to be a critic pointing out problems and failings, but it is a far more difficult thing to be part of creating the solution.” He credits his family for steering him onto the right path.
“I began to help create a world where everybody counts and where there are no throwaway people,” he said.
He has a reputation as a bridge-builder, reaching across partisan divides to achieve results. He champions liberal causes, supports raising the minimum wage, environmental protection, abortion rights and increased funding for education.
“Ellison’s election is a good sign for America,” University of Minnesota professor and analyst Lawrence Jacobs told the Washington File. “Muslims who may have been feeling persecuted or locked out of American society will feel a more hopeful side of American society.”
He said it is encouraging for Muslims abroad, also, because it signals willingness to entertain other views. “American diversity works to our advantage with Muslims in positions of political power,” he said.
Although the Midwest often is seen as a conservative bastion, Jacobs said, “Openness is a historical legacy and tradition in the Midwest.” Important civil rights leaders emerged from Minnesota, he added. “Everyone gets a chance on their own record, without regard to race and creed,” he said. “It is a tolerant society.”
American Muslims welcomed Ellison's victory. Corey Saylor, director of the Council on Islamic Relations, said in a November 8 statement, "The election of an American Muslim candidate to national office and the rejection of those who promoted societal division and mistrust send a clear message that the United States is a nation that embraces people of all faiths."
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- It has happened to 130 million women and girls around the world, the State Department has estimated, but Wednesday may have been the first time a U.S. court was called on to exact justice for one of them.
The victim, now 7, was just 2 when her genitals were cut, but she remembered the horrific act well enough to testify at her father's trial. He "cut me on my private part," she said, clutching a teddy bear in her videotaped testimony.
Khalid Adem was convicted Wednesday of aggravated battery and cruelty to children, though he had insisted he was innocent and denounced female genital mutilation, which is common in his homeland of Ethiopia.
His attorney, Mark Hill, asked that his client's culture be taken into account. "We don't quite understand it here, but in Ethiopia, it used to be the normal thing."
Superior Court Judge Richard Winegarden rejected that argument, sentencing Adem to 10 years in prison and describing his crime as "unimaginable."
"This child has suffered, will suffer, the rest of her life," he told Adem.
Prosecutors said Adem, 30, used scissors to remove his daughter's clitoris in his family's Atlanta-area apartment in 2001. The child's mother, Fortunate Adem, said she did not discover it until more than a year later.
Adem, who had no criminal record, could have been sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. He held his face in his hands and wept loudly after the jury's verdict was read.
Federal law specifically bans the practice of genital mutilation, but many states do not have a law addressing it. Georgia lawmakers, with the support of the girl's mother, passed an anti-mutilation law last year. But Adem was not tried under that law since it did not exist when his daughter was cut.
The trial is believed to be the first criminal case in the United States involving female genital multilation.
"We think the international community will look at this case very carefully," said Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of the New York-based international human rights group Equality Now. "We hope that this case is really a call to action."
Bien-Aime said female circumcision is most widely practiced in a 28-country swath of Africa, and that more than 90 percent of women in Ethiopia are believed to have been subjected to the practice.
During the trial, Adem testified he never circumcised his daughter or asked anyone else to do so. He said he grew up in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, and considers the practice more prevalent in rural areas.
Adem's attorney acknowledged that the girl had been cut, but implied that the family of the girl's mother, who immigrated from South Africa, may have been responsible. The Adems divorced three years ago, and Hill suggested that the couple's daughter was coached to testify against her father by her mother, who has full custody of the child.
Adem, who cried throughout the trial and during his testimony, was asked what he thought of someone who believes in the practice. He replied: "The word I can say is 'mind in the gutter.' He is a moron."
The practice crosses ethnic and cultural lines and is not tied to a particular religion. Activists say it is intended to deny women sexual pleasure. In its most extreme form, the clitoris and parts of the labia are removed and the labia that remain are stitched together.
Knives, razors or even sharp stones are usually used, according to a 2001 department report. The tools are frequently not sterilized, and often, many girls are circumcised at the same ceremony, leading to infection.
It is unknown how many girls have died from the procedure, either during the cutting or from infections, or years later in childbirth. Nightmares, depression, shock and feelings of betrayal are common psychological side effects, according to a 2001 federal report.
The Washington Times
Pakistani helicopter gunships struck the remote village of Chingai, two miles from the Afghan border, destroying a religious school that the military said was a front for an al Qaeda camp. (AP)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani helicopter gunships yesterday destroyed a
religious school that the military said was fronting as an al Qaeda training camp,
killing 80 persons in the country's deadliest military operation targeting terrorism
Islamic leaders and al Qaeda-linked militants blamed the United States for the air strike and called for nationwide demonstrations to condemn the attack that flattened the school -- known as a madrassa -- and ripped apart those inside. Furious villagers and religious leaders said the pre-dawn missile barrage killed innocent students and teachers.
U.S. and Pakistani military officials denied American involvement.
Among those killed in the attack in the remote northwestern village of Chingai, two miles from the Afghan border, was a cleric who had sheltered militants and was thought to be associated with al Qaeda's deputy leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.
The raid threatens efforts by President Pervez Musharraf to persuade deeply conservative tribesmen to back his government over pro-Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, who have strong support in many semiautonomous regions in northern Pakistan. The planned signing of a peace deal between tribal leaders and the military was canceled yesterday in response to the air strike.
Gen. Musharraf has been under intense pressure, particularly from the United States and Afghanistan, to rein in militant groups, particularly along the porous Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahri are thought to be hiding. The Pakistani leader, as well as Afghan President Hamid Karzai, met with President Bush in Washington last month to address the issue.
Protests were held from the northwestern city of Peshawar to the southern city of Karachi, the largest occurring in Chingai and the Bajur district's main town of Khar, where 2,000 tribesmen and shopkeepers chanted, "Death to Musharraf. Death to Bush."
Fearing unrest, Britain's Prince Charles, who arrived in Pakistan on Sunday for a five-day stay, canceled a visit planned for today to Peshawar.
The raid was launched after the madrassa's leaders, headed by cleric Liaquat Hussain, rejected government warnings to stop using the school as a training camp for terrorists, said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan.
"These militants were involved in actions inside Pakistan and probably in Afghanistan," Gen. Sultan told the Associated Press.
Militant groups in Bajur are thought to ferry fighters, weapons and supplies to Afghanistan to target U.S. forces there and Pakistani soldiers on this side of the ethnic Pashtun majority tribal belt.
Gen. Sultan said 80 persons were killed in the building, which was 100 yards from the nearest house. Local political officials and Islamic leaders corroborated the death toll.
Gen. Sultan denied reports that al-Zawahri was in the area at the time of
the attack. "It is all wrong, speculative, and we launched this operation
on our own to target a training facility," he said. A Bajur-area intelligence
official said word was spreading among residents that al-Zawahri may have been
expected at the madrassa, but he said the reports were wrong.
Hussain, the cleric thought to have been a deputy of al-Zawahri, was among those killed, the intelligence official and residents said.
Another al-Zawahri lieutenant, Faqir Mohammed, apparently left the madrassa 30 minutes before the strike, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Hours later, Mr. Mohammed addressed 10,000 mourners at a funeral for some of the victims.
"We were peaceful, but the government attacked and killed our innocent people on orders from America," said Mr. Mohammed, who was surrounded by dozens of militants brandishing semiautomatic weapons. "It is an open aggression."
Three funerals were held one after the other in a field near the madrassa, where the remains of at least 50 persons were laid on wooden beds placed side by side in rows and covered with colored blankets.
Villagers walked among the beds and offered prayers. Militants, their faces covered with brown and red scarves, patrolled the crowd.
On Saturday, Mr. Mohammed led a rally of 5,000 Taliban and al Qaeda supporters nearby, during which he denounced the Pakistani and U.S. governments and praised bin Laden.
It’s always hard to pinpoint when a historic shift takes place. It is rarely as easy as Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 thesis that launched the Reformation and loosed the grip of the Catholic Church on the governance of Europe or when Henry VIII pushed Rome out of England to create the Anglican Church.
When, however, did the tiny Muslim community in America, estimated to be between two and three million—by contrast there are some six million Jews in America—begin to assert its takeover? I am going to mark it from October 19, 2006 when the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest circulation daily, ran an article, “She’s got it covered: Designer seeks to dress the style-conscious Muslim woman” in its feature news section.
“Many Muslim women wear hijab as an expression of the Islamic tradition of modesty,” noted the article about a 27-year old American Muslim fashion designer. Born to a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, she had converted to Islam as a student at New York University after she married her husband, a Muslim.
When the media begin to find ways to offer up a positive image of Islam, you know they have probably decided that the game is over and we in the West have lost. The American media is expert at showing the white flag of surrender. They have been trumpeting the end of the world for decades now.
Wrong about the Soviet Union right up to the day it imploded. Wrong about the predictions that the Earth could not sustain six billion people. Wrong about the availability of mineral and energy resources. Wrong about global warming. Wrong about cutting taxes. Wrong about the current excellent state of the U.S. economy.
And now the surrender-addicts are ready, like our European cousins, to concede that Western civilization should just roll over and give up in the face of the worldwide Islamic jihad.
Europeans stopped attending Europe’s churches and stopped having enough babies to replace themselves in favor of creating totally unsustainable welfare states. Instead, they imported millions Muslims to do the work they became too old or too lazy to do themselves.
The United States, too, has created a cradle-to-grave socialist system that is going broke at an alarming rate even while the economy is thriving. The Bush administration is conspiring with Canada and Mexico to erase our national borders in order to create a North American Union that will throw our national sovereignty down the rat-hole of a vast bureaucracy that will not have to be responsive to those awful American voters.
As Mark Steyn says in his brilliant new book, America Alone, “We are living through a rare moment: the self-extinction of the civilization which, for good or ill, shaped the age we live in.”
The British, part of the European Union, should have paid heed in 1990 when
“The Muslim Manifesto: A Strategy for Survival” was promulgated to
create the Council of British Muslims to act as “a Muslim parliament”
in a nation that gave us the Magna Carta, detailing the rules of property rights
and individual freedoms. These days, the nations with the least amount of freedom
are predominately Muslim.
Britain’s Muslim Manifesto made it clear that “Political and cultural subservience goes against their grain” because “at its inception Islam created a political platform from which Muslims were to launch themselves on a global role as founders of great states, empires and a world civilization and culture.”
Why should an article in a leading U.S. newspaper mark the beginning of the end? According to the UK’s Muslim Manifesto, “The fact is that a Muslim woman cannot be a western woman.” The problem for Muslims in Great Britain was that “There are laws on the British Statute Book that are in direct conflict with the laws of Allah.”
“We are Muslims first and last.”
“Jihad is a basic requirement of Islam and living in Britain or having British nationality by birth or naturalization does not absolve the Muslim from his or her duty to participate in jihad: this participation can be active service in armed struggle abroad and/or the provision of material and moral support to those engaged in such struggle anywhere in the world.”
“Islam is our guide in all situations.”
Ultimately this became clear to the non-Muslim citizens of England when on July 7, 2005, born-and-bred Muslim British citizens killed some of them in London’s subways and buses. This year in August it scared a lot of people to learn that British Muslims were planning to destroy ten commercial airliners and kill thousands of travelers.
Assimilation, according to the Manifesto, wasn’t even an option. Why need it be? By the early 1990s, there were already about 1,000 mosques in Great Britain, many of them former Anglican churches that had been abandoned and sold to Muslims.
As is the case of France today, the Manifesto recommended that “The Muslim community may have to define ‘no go’ areas where the exercise of ‘freedom of speech’ against Islam will not be tolerated.”
In the now famous words of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and they are us.” If America, the lone superpower, does not hold out against the march of Islam, it will fall into the Dark Ages of Muslim control, a place where born-and-bred Americans like the fashion designer will determine what American women will wear and other Muslims will impose the Sharia law of Islam upon all of us.
The next time you want to mock the “fundamentalist” Christians, famed for their patriotism, think again.
The next time you shrug when you hear your local school system has banned the playing or singing of Christmas carols, think again.
The next time you are inclined to say or think unkind things about American or Israeli Jews, think again.
The next time your neighborhood, community or city yields to some new Islamic demand to conform to their “religious” rules, think again.
The next time you read demands that something not be published or aired in America because it offends Muslim sensibilities, think again.
The next time anyone tells you that Islam preaches tolerance or peace, think again.
This is how nations and ultimately western civilization will slip-slide into a world no American would ever want for their children and grandchildren.
|Veiled criticism: Archbishop Rowan Williams say he opposes government intervention over the wearing of veils or crosses|
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said on Friday he opposed any government interference in a Muslim woman's right to wear a veil or a Christian's right to wear a cross.
Senior British government minister Jack Straw sparked heated debate earlier this month by saying Muslim women who wore full veils made community relations harder. Prime Minister Tony Blair later called the veil "a mark of separation".
"The ideal of a society where no visible public signs of religion would be seen - no crosses around necks, no sidelocks, turbans or veils - is a politically dangerous one," said Williams, head of the world's 77 million Anglicans.
"It assumes that what comes first in society is the central political 'licensing authority', which has all the resource it needs to create a workable public morality," he wrote in an article in the Times newspaper.
Blair and other European leaders have said the wearing of full veils presents difficulties for their nations with Muslim communities and immigrants needing to integrate into Western societies.
The question of whether Europe is doing enough to integrate Muslims has been urgently addressed by governments since British-born Muslim suicide bombers killed 52 people in attacks on London's transport system in July 2005.
But some Muslims say there is increasing "Islamophobia".
"The proverbial visitor from Mars might have imagined that the greatest immediate threat to British society was religious war, fomented by 'faith schools', cheered on by thousands of veiled women and the Bishops' benches in the House of Lords," said Williams.
Last week, a British employment tribunal ruled a Muslim teaching assistant had not been discriminated against when the school where she worked asked her to remove her veil.
Earlier, a British Airways worker said she was sent home for refusing to conceal a small Christian cross while on duty.
|The cleric says his comments were taken out of context|
Australia's most senior Muslim cleric has prompted an uproar by saying that
some women are attracting sexual assault by the way they dress.
Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali said women who did not wear a hijab (head dress) were like "uncovered meat".
But he has now apologised for any offence caused by his comments, The Australian newspaper reports.
Leading Muslim women condemned the comments and PM John Howard said the remarks were "appalling".
"The idea that women are to blame for rapes is preposterous," Mr Howard told reporters.
In a statement released on Thursday, Sheikh Hilali said he had been quoting another, unnamed, source and did not mean his words to condone rape.
"I unreservedly apologise to any woman who is offended by my comments. I had only intended to protect women's honour," the statement published in The Australian said.
"Women in our Australian society have the freedom and the right to dress as they choose.
"Whether a man endorses or not a particular form of dress, any form of harassment of women is unacceptable."
A spokesman for Sheikh Hilali earlier said the quote had been taken out of context and referred not to sexual assault, but to sexual infidelity.
The sermon was targeted against men and women who engaged in extra-marital sex and did so through alluring types of clothes, he said.
The leader of Australia's largest Islamic organisation has threatened to ban the cleric from teaching at Lakemba Mosque in Western Sydney.
Tom Zreika, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, which owns the mosque, said he condemned Sheikh Hilali's words.
"The board [of the LMA] has unlimited powers in respect of his teachings in the mosque. We can do anything that's required to prevent him from teaching in our mosque. If you haven't got the backing of Australia's largest and most established Islamic organisation then you are out on a limb," he is quoted as saying in The Australian.
But Mr Zreika said the LMA had yet to fully review the contents of the sermon and Sheik Hilali should be offered the benefit of the doubt until any offence had been proved.
A copy of the cleric's comments delivered in a sermon to some 500 worshippers in Sydney last month during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan was initially published in The Australian.
"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside... and the cats come and eat it... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat?" he asked.
The uncovered meat is the problem, he went on to say.
"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred," he added.
Sheikh Hilali also condemned women who swayed suggestively and wore make-up, implying they attracted sexual assault.
"Then you get a judge without mercy... and gives you 65 years," he added.
Sheikh Hilali's critics have previously accused him of praising suicide bombers and claiming the attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001 were "God's work against oppressors".
The BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney says the cleric's latest comments are seen as particularly insensitive because Sydney was the scene six years ago of a series of gang rapes committed by a group of Lebanese Australians, who received long prison sentences.
Finance Minister Peter Costello called on Muslims to condemn the speech.
"If you have a significant religious leader like this preaching to a flock in a situation where we've had gang rapes, in a way that seems to make it justifiable, then people that listen to that kind of comment can get the wrong idea," he said.
"They can actually think that it's not as bad as it is."
A number of leading Muslim women have already spoken out against the sermon, describing it as repulsive and offensive.
Federal Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward said the comments could be an incitement to crime.
"Young Muslim men who now rape women can cite this in court, can quote this man... their leader in court," she told Australian media.
She added that the cleric should be deported for inciting rape.
The Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University has been renamed after Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal donated $20 million to its projects. And while that may be just the tail, the dog appears to be moving away from its historic Catholic and Jesuit teaching philosophy too.
The Center's leaders say it now will be used to put on workshops regarding Islam, fostering exchanges with the Muslim world, addressing U.S. policy towards the Muslim world, working on the relationship of Islam and Arab culture, addressing Muslim citizenship and civil liberties, and developing exchange programs for students from the Muslim world.
The "Christian" part of the center's projects at the university that has a history of 200 years of higher education following its Christian founding, is conspicuous by its absence in its website plans for its 10-year future.
But that won't be a surprise to leaders of a number of Christian evangelical groups whose leaders recently were told to leave the campus and not list Georgetown University as a site for operations in the future.
That story, reported by WND earlier, still has folks wondering what happened to cause Georgetown officials to ban InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and others. InterVarsity spokesman Gordon Govier said the organization still doesn't know why the move was announced by university officials, who did not return WND messages left inquiring about the situation.
"We still are a little bit confused about what happened," he told WND. "We haven't been able to identify clearly what happened."
He said Christians in the InterVarsity organization still are meeting at Georgetown, but they have no official sanction and are meeting without recognition, much as many Christian churches in nations where religion is regulated meet.
He said there is a committee meeting that is supposed to hear concerns from Christians, and InterVarsity is hopeful there will be a positive outcome, but there's no time frame set.
But the time frame for other interests that have become relevant to Georgetown are a little more apparent. The school's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding confirmed several months ago that the $20 million donation was made by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and a short time later the Center was given the added moniker as Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
The organization now features a number of pro-Muslim statements and articles, with little reference to any Christian statements or understandings. It even has co-sponsored events with CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a "front group" for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Several CAIR leaders have been convicted on terrorism-related charges.
The center's chief, John L. Esposito, summarizes the goals of the organization clearly: "The Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding is concerned with Islam and the West and Islam in the West. The Center, since its creation in 1993, has built bridges of understanding between the Muslim world and the West, addressing stereotypes of Islam and Muslims and issues and questions such as the clash of civilizations, and the compatibility of Islam and modern life – from democratization and pluralism to the status of women, minorities and human rights – and American foreign policy in the Muslim world."
The Center says it recognizes the increasing demands because of the world's "critical turning point in the history of Muslim-Christian relations" so it will expand its expertise base and operations, "as well as strengthen the website as a source of critical information about Islam and the Muslim world."
The Center's assistant director, Huma Malik, told WND that the $20 million came from the prince because the center is working on projects that interest him, but she could not comment on the influence of the donation or why the evangelical Christians were barred from campus.
The center was founded in 1993 in cooperation with the Fondation pour L'Entante entre Chretians at Musulmans in Geneva "to build strong bridge of understanding between the Muslim world and the West as well as between Islam and Christianity."
The message of acting as an information source for Islam was reinforced in the fact that while the Center's website includes a link for Islamic Resources, there is none for Christian resources.
It also takes a distinct policy stance, with Esposito noting in a recent posting that "despite 'HAMAS' victory in free and democratic elections, the United States and Europe failed to give the party full recognition and support," he wrote.
That type of behavior, he said, provides reasons for "many Muslim autocratic rulers' to retreat from democratization, and he cited a Gallup World Study that says it is the policies of the U.S. that generate hurt in the Muslim world.
"One billion Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia … tell us that U.S. policies, not values, are behind the ire of the Arab/ Muslim world," he wrote.
Those voices, he wrote, say that while America and the United Kingdom are disliked, other Western nations such as France and Germany are not. He also wrote that the U.S. is suspected because of its relationship to Israel.
"The United States failed to support UN mediation in the face of clear violations of international law, refused to heed calls for a ceasefire and UN intervention, and continued to provide military assistance to Israel," he said of the recent conflict, triggered by a military attack on Israeli soldiers.
"America’s unconditional support of Israel cast it in the eyes of many as a partner, not simply in military action against HAMAS or Hizbollah militants, but in a war against the democratically elected Palestinian government in Gaza and the government of Lebanon, a long-time US ally," he said.
"The primary victims in Gaza and Lebanon were hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, not terrorists. In Lebanon, more than 500 were killed, 2,000 wounded, and 800,000 displaced. Israeli’s military destroyed the civilian infrastructures of both Gaza and Lebanon."
He said "HAMAS and Hizbollah" both are elected political parties, even though the U.S. and others have labeled them "terrorist organizations."
The Center, on a daily news clip posting, highlighted stories quoting a Mecca Imam saying non-Muslims are attacking Muslims out of fear of being over-run by Muslims and the London mayor noting that Muslims in Britain are being "demonized," comparing their recent treatment in London to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Faculty members also are being interviewed by al-Jazeera, a network with sources in many terrorist camps.
The prince, who controls tens of billions of dollars in investments in Morgan Stanley, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Deutsche Bank, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, The Walt Disney company and ebay, works through the Kingdom Holdings company.
He also had given a similar $20 million gift to Harvard, which sponsors a Harvard Law School Islamic Legal Studies Program, and the Islamic Finance Project, which looks at the legal and sharia points of view of situations, officials said.
The Alliance Defense Fund earlier wrote a letter to Georgetown asking for reconsideration of its ban on several Christian groups. Officials said no response was received.
Those in a position to know have reported that the Christian groups were booted from campus for being too evangelical, because student clubs promoting Muslim and Jewish beliefs were allowed to continue existing with the formal campus structure.
The Christian groups' brush-off letter from the university starts: "Blessings and may God's peace be upon you!" but deteriorates shortly later to: "Protestant Ministry has decided to move in another direction."
As a result, Georgetown said, "Your ministries will no longer be allowed to hold any activity or presence (i.e. bible (sic) studies, retreats with Georgetown students, Mid-week (sic) worship services, fellowship events, move-in assistance, SAC Fair, etc.) on campus."
Further, the school told the ministry organizations, "All websites linking your ministries to a presence at Georgetown University will need to be modified to reflect the terminated relationship. Your ministries are not to publicize in any literature, media, advertisement, etc. that Georgetown University is or will be an active ministry site for your ministry/church/denomination."
Kevin Offer, who worked with the InterVarsity program at Georgetown, said something had been developing, because the university also recently had started requiring student ministry leaders to meet for formal meetings with the school.
"School officials asked questions about what they 'tell students behind closed doors,'" he said.
Bob Unruh is a news editor for WorldNetDaily.com.
|A group called Operation Bless Our Enemies gathered outside the MTS Centre to counter Graham's views.
Controversy over past comments about Islam followed U.S. evangelist Franklin Graham to Winnipeg, where he wrapped up a three-day Christian festival on Sunday.
Graham has been quoted calling on the U.S. "to use weapons of mass destruction if need be" and referring to Islam as "a very evil and a very wicked religion."
Outside the MTS Centre, other Christians have been trying to remind people they don't share Graham's message.
"We're handing out leaflets to passersby to encourage them to embrace the gospel of full love for all people, which includes praying, but also not dropping bombs or saying hateful things," said Mennonite protester Aiden Enns on Friday.
Festival organizer Dan Klug said people of all faiths were welcome to attend the events and that the son of evangelist Billy Graham did not come to Winnipeg to cause controversy.
"I know Franklin has said statements critical of Islam — the teachings
of Islam — but he has an affinity and deep heart for the Muslim people,"
In an interview with CBC News, Graham said he "hasn't seen anything" to change his mind about Islam, but he doesn't harbour the same negative assessment of the people who follow that religion.
"There are millions and millions of Muslims in the world. I certainly respect and admire their sincerity, but I feel sorry for them," he said.
Winnipeg is the only Canadian stop on the 2006 Franklin Graham Tour.
|Classroom assistant Aishah Azmi
The Muslim teacher suspended for refusing to work without her veil is connected to a hardline mosque where the ringleader of the July 7 bombers worshipped, it has emerged.
The family of classroom assistant Aishah Azmi, 24, plays a key role at the fundamentalist Markazi mosque in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire - which was attended by suicide bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan.
Until recently, Miss Azmi's father was joint headmaster of the secondary school attached to the building.
The family are known to worship there and may have encountered Khan before his terrorist act.
However, there is no suggestion that Miss Azmi or anyone in her family have any connection with terrorism.
Tube bomber Khan and co-conspirator Shehzad Tanweer are said to have attended prayers at the mosque.
Khan, 30, who worked as a teaching assistant in nearby Leeds, lived in the town with his Indian wife Hasima Patel before killing himself and six others in the Edgware Road blast last year.
The mosque is run by Tablighi Jamaat, a radical Islamic movement believed by intelligence agencies to be a fertile source for recruiting young extremists.
Two months ago, Tablighi emerged as a link between several of the men arrested over the plot to use liquid bombs to blow up transatlantic airliners.
Richard Reid, the jailed shoebomber who tried to blow up a flight to America, also attended mosques run by the group.
As a woman, Miss Azmi is more likely to pray at home than attend the mosque, although it does have a room reserved for females.
But her father, Dr Mohammed Mulk, is understood to be a regular, and is named as a joint headmaster of the mosque's school, Jaamia Talimul Islam.
The grand 3,000-capacity building towers over the redbrick terraced streets of Saviletown, a Muslim enclave of Dewsbury.
The school was criticised by Government inspectors for being less of a classroom and more of a madrassah - an Islamic teaching house where pupils learn the Koran by rote.
Ofsted slated the school's 'over-emphasis' on religion, concluding in a report: 'Teachers showed limited understanding of pupils aptitudes, needs and prior attainments.'
The inspectors, who visited in March last year, said the over-emphasis on religion meant secular studies were neglected.
Miss Azmi's father responded at the time by telling the Times Educational Supplement: 'Parents send their children here for an Islamic education. They don't want their sons to take exams.'
A spokesman for the mosque said yesterday: 'He is not the headmaster any more. I cannot pass on his details to you. The spokesman insisted the mosque had no links to Islamic extremism, adding: 'We do not create those sorts of people.
'We are an organisation that offers information to Muslims on how to reform themselves.'
Yesterday a Muslim Labour MP urged Miss Azmi to drop the appeal she is planning after losing her legal battle to wear a face veil in class.
Shahid Malik, who represents Dewsbury, said there was 'no sense' in continuing her fight. It has emerged she is seeking tens of thousands of pounds in legal aid to fund her case.
Tory leader David Cameron backed Headfield Church of England Junior School in Dewsbury which suspended her.
On Thursday the tribunal found the school had been within its rights to stop her employment if it feared the veil was affecting the children's education.
Leader of the Commons Jack Straw triggered the debate when he said he asks constituents to remove their veils during consultations. Tony Blair described the veil as a 'mark of separation'.
Mrs Azmi was not at home last night and calls to spokesman Nick Whittingham were not returned.
Dr Helmy Guirguis
President, UK Coptic Association
Several horrific attacks on Christians in the last three weeks have increased the fear amongst the Christian community. This appears to be a response to a call by militants for increased violence during the Islamic fasting month, Ramadan (which this year is 24th September – 23rd October). On Wednesday October 4th an explosion was detonated in the mainly Christian district of Camp Sara, Baghdad. As people gathered round to help the wounded a second, larger explosion occurred. Nine Christians were killed in the attack, one of the largest deathtolls for a single attack. Observers say that the timing of the two consecutive bombs was similar to that of the attack on a church in Baghdad on 24th September.
On Tuesday 10th October Paulos Iskander, an Iraqi church minister, was abducted in Mosul. Iskander’s eldest son received a phone call from the kidnappers demanding a ransom of $250,000; the family, unable to raise this money, were able to negotiate for a ransom of $40,000, but the kidnappers also demanded that Iskander’s church publicly repudiate the remarks about Islam quoted by Pope Benedict XVI last month. When Iskander’s family asked for proof that he was still alive the kidnappers held up the phone so that the sounds of crying and screaming could be heard. The family began to raise the ransom by asking churches and Christians in the area to help, and arranging several loans. Iskander’s church as well as several other churches placed 30 large posters around the city to distance themselves from the Pope’s words. However, before the ransom could be paid Iskander’s decapitated body was discovered on 12th October, dumped in an outlying suburb of Mosul. His body showed signs of torture, with cigarette burns, bullet holes and wounds from beatings. His hands and legs had been severed, and arranged around his head which was placed on his chest. Iskander’s family later received a phone call from the kidnappers, who taunted them that Iskander “had a lot of blood in him”.
In Baquba, 65km north-east of Baghdad, a Christian doctor was abducted and killed on his way to work in Baquba hospital. There has also been an unconfirmed report that a 14-year-old Christian boy was crucified in Basra.
Amidst the surge in hostility towards Christians in recent weeks, Christian girls have increasingly become the target in a spate of kidnappings and rapes. The girls are taken from their families at gunpoint, from their homes or snatched off streets into waiting cars. They are frequently raped and abused while in captivity, only released if their families are able to find the large ransoms demanded. The shame of their ordeal, which is felt far more in such a culture than in the West, can make the victims suicidal. In one case a girl killed herself after being abducted and gang raped by nine men. When the abductors allowed her to call her family she asked them not to pay the ransom. The family did pay and she was returned to them, but she was found dead the following morning; she had taken an overdose of sleeping pills. In another case five Christian girls were kidnapped in front of policemen as they tried to obtain passports from a travel and citizenship department in Baghdad. The police did nothing to try to stop the kidnappers. Indeed police forces in Iraq generally seem either unable or unwilling to do anything to protect Christians, and it is reported that some are even participating in these brutal crimes against Christian women and children.
As Christians leave their homes out of fear of the violence around them, some have been specifically threatened to force them to leave. Thirty families in Mosul received messages on their mobile phones on 30th September telling them to leave within 72 hours or they would be killed. The continued exodus of Christians from Iraq and persecution of those who remain leads some to predict that there may soon be an end to the ancient Christian presence in this country.
Please pray for shocked and grieving Christians coming to terms with the horrific
deaths of their loved ones. Pray that they will have peace in their hearts, and
feel themselves comforted and protected, held in God’s everlasting arms.
Pray for peace in Iraq, and in particular that the violence against Christians will come to an end. Pray that police and security forces in Iraq will protect all citizens irrespective of their faith.
Barnabas Fund ...hope and aid for the persecuted church. Visit our website: www.barnabasfund.org
(AgapePress) - A spokesman for a Michigan-based law center that defends and promotes the religious freedom of Christians says a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to hear an Islamic indoctrination case indicates that Islam is "in" and Christianity is "out."
The Thomas More Law Center represented the parents of the California seventh-graders who were subjected to an intensive, three-week indoctrination in Islam at school. The students were forced to become Muslims, in effect, and were not allowed to say anything critical about the religion.
The original trial court and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the indoctrination as constitutional. And now that the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal, the Ninth Circuit's ruling will stand.
Edward L. White III, trial counsel for the Thomas More Law Center, says the Byron Union School District in Contra Costa County, California, simply went too far with this school assignment. "The parents in this case objected to it," he explains, "not because Islam was being taught in the school, but because the school had crossed the line and started to teach the religion."
In other words, the school, "instead of teaching about the religion, started teaching the children to become Muslims," White says. "And the parents had never been told beforehand what was going to go on." But the problem of insufficient parental notification is only one of a number of issues of concern.
The pro-family attorney has serious questions about why the court would allow a school to compel students to become followers of Islam as a school exercise. That is particularly problematic, he suggests, when the court would almost certainly have rejected a similar exercise involving other religious faiths as obviously impermissible.
"Everyone knows if Christianity, for example, had been taught the same way as Islam had been taught in this class, that the ACLU would have been in federal court within minutes," White asserts, "and the same judge who ruled against us would have ruled in favor of the ACLU and not allowed a class on Catholicism."
The Thomas More Law Center spokesman doubts such a class would make it out of court -- if it even managed to get a hearing. "Even if you wanted to call it cultural education or just fun, it would never happen," the lawyer asserts. "So if we know it's not going to happen with Christianity or with Judaism, for example, it shouldn't happen with Islam," he says.
"If you're going to uphold the Establishment Clause, then the Establishment Clause has to be applied equally," White adds. But apparently, he observes, while the Ninth Circuit is perfectly willing to rule "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional, Muslim indoctrination is perfectly okay with the court.
Chad Groening, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.
Nadia Eweida: BA said she had failed to comply with their 'uniform regulations'
A committed Christian said today she planned to take legal action against her
employers British Airways after the airline ruled that displaying her crucifix
breached uniform rules
Heathrow check-in worker Nadia Eweida was sent home after refusing to remove the crucifix which breached BA's dress code.
Her treatment by BA - which styles itself as the "world's favourite airline" - brought condemnation both from Christian groups and members of other faiths last night.
BA's chief executive Willie Walsh has upheld the action against Miss Eweida for failing to comply with "uniform regulations" despite himself coming under fire recently for failing to wear a tie.
Miss Eweida, who has an unblemished record during seven years at BA, is suing her employer for religious discrimination after being suspended from work without pay for two weeks.
She said her treatment was all the more extraordinary as she and fellow employees had just undergone "diversity training" - including receiving advice from pressure group Stonewall on how to treat gays and lesbians in the workplace.
The airline's uniform code states that staff must not wear visible jewellery or other 'adornments' while on duty without permission from management.
It makes exceptions for Muslim and Sikh minorities by allowing them to wear hijabs and turbans.
Under rules drawn up by BA's 'diversity team' and 'uniform committee', Sikh employees can even wear the traditional iron bangle - even though this would usually be classed as jewellery - while Muslim workers are also allowed prayer breaks during work time.
But Miss Eweida, 55, from Twickenham, insisted her cross, which is smaller than a ten pence piece, was not jewellery but an expression of her deep Christian faith.
She questioned why she was being forced to hide her religion when BA's Muslim and Sikh workers could express theirs.
Miss Eweida said last night: "I will not hide my belief in the Lord Jesus. British Airways permits Muslims to wear a headscarf, Sikhs to wear a turban and other faiths religious apparel.
"Only Christians are forbidden to express their faith. I am a loyal and conscientious employee of British Airways, but I stand up for the rights of all citizens."
Her case comes at a time of intense debate over the rights of individuals to express their belief - following Jack Straw's call for Muslim women to remove their veils.
Earlier this month it emerged BBC governors had agonised over whether newsreader Fiona Bruce should wear a small cross on a chain around her neck while on air in case it might cause offence by suggesting a religious affiliation.
Miss Eweida, a Coptic Christian whose father is Egyptian and mother English, was ordered to remove her cross or hide it beneath a company cravat by a duty manager at Heathrow's Terminal 4 last month.
She then sought permission from management to wear the chain - but was turned down.
When Miss Eweida, who is unmarried, refused to remove the necklace she was offered the choice of suspension with pay or unpaid leave, pending a disciplinary hearing.
Following a meeting with her managers on 22 September 2006, Customer Service Manager Caroline Girling told Miss Eweida in a letter: "You have been sent home because you have failed to comply with a reasonable request.
"You were asked to cover up or remove your cross and chain which you refused to do.
"British Airways uniform standards stipulate that adornments of any kind are not to be worn with the uniform."
In a letter to Miss Eweida's MP, Vince Cable, last week, BA chief executive Willie Walsh insisted his employee had not yet been disciplined but said she was off work for failing to comply with "uniform regulations".
He added: "We have previously made changes to our uniform policy to accommodate requests, after a detailed evaluation process including Health and Safety assessment to incorporate the wearing of Sikh bangles."
But Miss Eweida said: "BA refuses to recognise the wearing of a cross as a manifestation of the Christian faith, but rather defines it as a piece of decorative jewellery.
"I would like to say how disappointed I am in this decision and the lack of respect shown by BA towards the Christian faith.
"I have been badly treated. I am a loyal and hardworking employee and for seeking similar rights to other employees, I have been treated harshly by British Airways management.
"British Airway can be great again, but it needs to treat Chrstians fairly. I am not ashamed of my faith."
Miss Eweida is suing BA under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.
Her case is being supported by her union, the TGWU, and she has hired Paul Diamond, a barrister specialising in religious affairs and an adviser for the Keep Sunday Special campaign, to represent her at her employment tribunal.
And a petition of support has been signed by more than 200 fellow workers.
BA is already at the centre of a criminal investigation into alleged price-fixing - which has led to the resignations of two executives.
The airline has come under fire in the past for its adherence to political correctness.
A decade ago it attempted to ditch its traditional Union Flag tailfin in favour of an ethnic design - which provoked the anger of Baroness Thatcher.
Mr Cable, MP for Twickenham and Liberal Democrat deputy leader said: "It is absolutely mind boggling that Britain's flag-carrying airline could treat its employees in such a disgraceful and petty manner.
"Nadia is a devout Christian who was displaying her faith, but in a modest and totally unprovocative manner.
"It is absolutely right that other religious minorities be allowed exemption from the dress code, but why can't a Christian be treated in the same way?"
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of the Christian charity the Barnabas Fund, said: "Discrimination against Christians is commonplace in Muslim-majority contexts, such as Egypt where Nadia's family roots are. "Now we see the same thing increasingly happening within the UK.
"Her Sikh and Muslim colleagues at BA can show their faith publicly in what they wear, but Nadia and other Christians cannot. All we are asking for is a level playing field for all faiths."
Andrea Williams of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship said: "The forces of political correctness are such that an individual needs to be very determined to protect their rights."
Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to
get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off
potential terror attacks. A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged
loyalty to Australia and her Queen at a special meeting with Prime Minister John
Howard, he and his Ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown.
Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept thatAustralia was a secular state, and its laws were made by parliament. "If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you", he said on National Television.
"I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing
people in Australia: one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that
is false. If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy,
and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country,
which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a better option", Costello said.
Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, He said those
with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to the other country.
Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off. Basically people who don't want to be Australians, and who don't want, to live by Australian values and understand them, well then, they can basically clear off", he said. Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques Quote: "IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians."
"However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the 'politically
correct' crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was
offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against
anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia." "However,
there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently
some born here, need to understand." "This idea of Australia being a
multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national
identity. And as Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own
language and our own lifestyle."
"This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom" "We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society .. Learn the language!" "Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as Your new home, because God is part of our culture." "We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us." "If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don't like "A Fair Go", then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep your culture, but do not force it on others.
"This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will
Allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian Beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'."
"If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted."
Mosul, Iraq (AINA) -- On Monday, October 9, a prominent Assyrian (also known as Chaldean and Syriac) priest, Fr. Paulos Iskander (Paul Alexander), was kidnapped by an unknown Islamic group. His ransom was posted at either $250,000 or $350,000. This group had demanded that signs be posted once again on his church apologizing for the Pope's remarks as a condition for negotiations to begin.
Father Alexander was beheaded on Wednesday.
An email from a priest in Sweden, Adris Hanna, describes the Muslim terror campaign against the Christians in Iraq:
The Syriac-Orhtodox priest Paulos Iskandar was kidnapped this Monday, October 9, and beheaded today Wednesday October 11.
The Bishop in Mosul wrote me an email tonight and told me that the funeral will be held in Mosul tomorrow.
Christians are living a terrified life in Mosul and Baghdad. Several priests have been kidnapped, girls are being raped and murdered and a couple of days ago a fourteen year old boy was crucified in the Christian neighborhood Albasra.
I have also spoken to a group of nuns that were robbed and treated brutally on their way between Baghdad to Amman in Jordan.
The murder of father Paulus is the final blow for Christians, and now only hell is expected for the Christians of Iraq.
We the oriental Christians in Sweden and the rest of the Western world must protest against the genocide. We must do what we can to stop the rape, threats, hatred, robberies, murders… We must do something.
Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law were told on Wednesday to get out of Australia, as the government targeted radicals in a bid to head off potential terror attacks. A day after a group of mainstream Muslim leaders pledged loyalty to Australia and her Queen at a special meeting with Prime Minister John Howard, he and his Ministers made it clear that extremists would face a crackdown. Treasurer Peter Costello, seen as heir apparent to Howard, hinted that some radical clerics could be asked to leave the country if they did not accept thatAustralia was a secular state, and its laws were made by parliament. "If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Sharia law or a theocratic state, then Australia is not for you", he said on National Television.
"I'd be saying to clerics who are teaching that there are two laws governing people in Australia: one the Australian law and another the Islamic law, that is false. If you can't agree with parliamentary law, independent courts, democracy, and would prefer Sharia law and have the opportunity to go to another country, which practices it, perhaps, then, that's a better option", Costello said. Asked whether he meant radical clerics would be forced to leave, He said those with dual citizenship could possibly be asked to move to the other country. Education Minister Brendan Nelson later told reporters that Muslims who did not want to accept local values should "clear off. Basically people who don't want to be Australians, and who don't want, to live by Australian values and understand them, well then, they can basically clear off", he said. Separately, Howard angered some Australian Muslims on Wednesday by saying he supported spy agencies monitoring the nation's mosques Quote: "IMMIGRANTS, NOT AUSTRALIANS, MUST ADAPT. Take It Or Leave It. I am tired of this nation worrying about whether we are offending some individual or their culture. Since the terrorist attacks on Bali, we have experienced a surge in patriotism by the majority of Australians."
"However, the dust from the attacks had barely settled when the 'politically
correct' crowd began complaining about the possibility that our patriotism was
offending others. I am not against immigration, nor do I hold a grudge against
anyone who is seeking a better life by coming to Australia." "However,
there are a few things that those who have recently come to our country, and apparently
some born here, need to understand." "This idea of Australia being a
multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national
identity. And as Australians, we have our own culture, our own society, our own
language and our own lifestyle."
"This culture has been developed over two centuries of struggles, trials and victories by millions of men and women who have sought freedom" "We speak mainly ENGLISH, not Spanish, Lebanese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, or any other language. Therefore, if you wish to become part of our society .. Learn the language!" "Most Australians believe in God. This is not some Christian, right wing, political push, but a fact, because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you consider another part of the world as
Your new home, because God is part of our culture." "We will accept your beliefs, and will not question why. All we ask is that you accept ours, and live in harmony and peaceful enjoyment with us." "If the Southern Cross offends you, or you don't like "A Fair Go", then you should seriously consider a move to another part of this planet. We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. By all means, keep your culture, but do not force it on others.
"This is OUR COUNTRY, OUR LAND, and OUR LIFESTYLE, and we will
Allow you every opportunity to enjoy all this. But once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about Our Flag, Our Pledge, Our Christian Beliefs, or Our Way of Life, I highly encourage you take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, 'THE RIGHT TO LEAVE'."
"If you aren't happy here then LEAVE. We didn't force you to come here. You asked to be here. So accept the country YOU accepted."
A TEENAGE girl's decision to tell her father she was converting from Islam
to Christianity sparked a stabbing frenzy that left her mother dead and her father
Neighbour Caitlin Dalton, 20, heard 17-year-old Kaihana Hussain screaming from the three-bedroom apartment on Queensland's Gold Coast just before 7pm on Monday night.
Ms Dalton claimed the girl, who spoke with an accent and did not wear a hijab, later said her father went berserk when she told him she was rejecting Islam.
"She just looked like she wanted to be a normal, outgoing girl," Ms Dalton said. "She was saying her parents were really strict on her and really strict Muslims. She was telling her father she was converting from Islam to Christianity. That's when it all started."
An autopsy on the teenager's mother, 41-year-old Yasmin Hussain, found she died from a single stab wound to her chest.
Her husband, Muhammad Hussain, 49, was in a critical condition at the Gold Coast hospital in an induced coma after suffering a stab wound to his chest.
Police have not yet laid any charges in relation to the killing on Monday night, nor have they been able to interview Dr Hussain, a general practitioner who moved to the Gold Coast suburb of Southport from Adelaide less than two weeks ago.
In Adelaide, the family's former neighbours and workmates described a quiet and strict father and a devout and forceful mother.
The parents appeared to control almost every minute of Kaihana's life, and had decided what religion and career she would follow. "I only saw the girl a couple of times - her mother took her to school and picked her up," said a neighbour.
"She had to be a doctor - that was the way it was," said another neighbour who talked regularly with Dr Hussain.
Yasmin Hussain's former boss at a local Indian restaurant - where she was renowned for her Islamic sweets, work ethic and passion for cooking - said the parents "sheltered" Kaihana.
The restaurant owner said Kaihana was required to come to the restaurant on holidays and when the rest of her class at local Pembroke School was on camp.
The choice of Pembroke School was curious for devout Muslim parents, as Pembroke is a liberal, co-educational, non-denominational Christian school with a good scholastic and sports record. It is a short walk from the family's modest single-storey townhouse on a back street in affluent Kensington, in Adelaide's eastern suburbs.
Kaihana was in Year 10 last year and won an academic award.
Gold Coast Muslims yesterday lashed out against claims the murder was a Koran-sanctioned ritual killing to punish the rejection of Islam.
"There is no ritual killing in Islam," Gold Coast imam Imraan Husain said at his mosque yesterday. "In certain Third World countries they have honour killings, but it has nothing to do with Islam. If a girl chooses to become a Christian, that is her choice and there are no sharia killings in this country."
One Koran passage quotes Mohammed as saying "whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him". However, Mr Husain said this was not meant to be read literally.
"If you only look at the surface reading, you can find contradictions in any book," he said.
"If (Dr Hussain) did kill his wife then that is absolutely un-Islamic and he is regarded as a murderer in Islam."
RALEIGH, North Carolina
The Rev. Franklin Graham, a Christian evangelist whose criticism of Islam has
frequently outraged Muslims, said Islam teaches its followers to "persecute"
others until they convert, with the aim being "total domination."
Graham's comments, reported in The News & Observer, came as the evangelist said he plans to rebuild hundreds of churches that have been destroyed by the Sudanese government and its allied militias.
"There's a war taking place against the church of Jesus Christ in Africa," Graham said, arguing that the battle pits Muslims against Christians in countries such as Ethiopia and Sudan, where fighting in the Darfur region has left 200,000 people killed and 2.5 million other homeless.
In the wake of the 2001 attacks on the United States, Graham outraged Muslims in 2001 when he said that Islam "is a very evil and wicked religion." In an interview last March, he told ABC News' "Nightline" that he had not changed his mind about the faith.
In his latest salvo, Graham told The News & Observer: "It's the teaching of Islam that is not tolerant of any other faith."
"It's world domination. When they dominate an area, they'll let other belief systems exist, but they'll persecute them so that (people) convert to Islam and there's total domination. Once you're in Islam you can't get out of it. If you leave Islam you have to be killed," said Graham, who is scheduled to speak Tuesday at a fundraiser for the work in Sudan by his international Christian relief group, Samaritan's Purse.
Graham and other evangelicals say they are particularly opposed to what they say is a lack of religious liberty in countries like Saudi Arabia, which do not allow churches or the preaching of relgions other than Islam.
He met with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir three years ago and said he pleaded with him to give Christians full freedom.
Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, said he has identified 226 churches destroyed or burned in Sudan and that his group has completed or is building 34. In Sudan, his group has a staff of 21 as well as 100 Sudanese assistants. The project is estimated to cost about $5 million (€4 million) and includes bringing in Christian pastors from Arabic-speaking countries for one-month stays, he said.
The Winston Joseph Foundation, a Raleigh-based organization that has supported economic development projects in Africa, is helping.
The evangelist's comments drew a quick reply from Islamic scholars. Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of Islamic Studies at Duke University, said the problems to which Graham referred were not as simple as Muslims against Christians and that such a characterization only stokes more problems.
"There are intractable political problems in which religion becomes a language to express political grievances," Moosa said. "It's an abuse of religion."
Graham, however, said he bears no ill will to Muslims.
"As a minister," said Graham, "I love the Muslim people. I see what's done in the name of Islam and think it's my responsibility to speak out. I think God loves them as equally as he loves me. I think he wants them to know the truth."
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday by evangelical Christian students and their parents who said a Contra Costa County school district engaged in unconstitutional religious indoctrination when it taught students about Islam by having them recite language from prayers.
The court, without comment, left intact a ruling by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last November in favor of the Byron Union School District in eastern Contra Costa.
The suit challenged the content of a seventh-grade history course at Excelsior Middle School in Byron in the fall of 2001. The teacher, using an instructional guide, told students they would adopt roles as Muslims for three weeks to help them learn what Muslims believe.
She encouraged them to use Muslim names, recited prayers in class, had them memorize and recite a passage from the Quran and made them give up something for a day, such as television or candy, to simulate fasting during the month of Ramadan. The final exam asked students for a critique of elements of Muslim culture.
The students and parents who sued argued that the class activities had crossed the line from education into an official endorsement of a religious practice. A federal judge and the appeals court disagreed, saying the class had an instructional purpose and the students had engaged in no actual religious exercises.
Linda Lye, a lawyer for the school district, said the same instructional material remains available for classes, though it is not required.
"I'm delighted that the Byron Union School District can put this case finally behind it and get on with educating children and exposing them to the world's great cultures and religions in an appropriate way,'' Lye said.
Edward White of the Thomas More Law Center, an attorney who represented the plaintiffs, said the Supreme Court's rejection surprised him. The case "presents significant issues of national importance with regard to public school education and religious indoctrination of children,'' he said.
The case is Eklund vs. Byron Union School District, 05-1539.
E-mail Bob Egelko at email@example.com.
Jose Maria Azner
Bush and his war on terror, said the West is under attack from radical Islam and must defend itself. “It is them or it is us,” Aznar said. “There is no middle ground.”
Muslims should apologize for occupying Spain for 800 years and a U.N.-backed program to encourage dialogue between them and West is stupid, former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar has said. Aznar made his comments Friday night in a speech at the Hudson Institute, a thinktank in Washington, D.C., as he discussed Pope Benedict XVI's recent remarks on Islam and violence. Aznar, a firm ally of U.S. President George W.
Bush and his war on terror, said the West is under attack from radical Islam and must defend itself. “It is them or it is us,” Aznar said. “There is no middle ground.” He did not elaborate. Aznar said he found it surprising that Muslims have demanded an apology from the pope over his Sept. 12 remarks.
Aznar noted the nearly 800-year Moorish occupation of Spain that began in the year 711 with an invasion from North Africa. He said Muslims had never apologized for this but still demand apologies whenever they feel offended by remarks by non-Muslims. “It's absurd,” Aznar said.
He also criticized an initiative launched last year by his Socialist successor, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, to encourage dialogue between the West and Muslim countries.
Basque News and Information Channel
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Two gunmen killed an Italian nun and her bodyguard at a hospital Sunday, and a security official for an Islamic militia controlling the capital speculated the attack was linked to worldwide Muslim anger over a speech by Pope Benedict XVI.
The nun, whose identify was not released, was shot in the back four times at the entrance to the Austrian-run S.O.S. Hospital in northern Mogadishu, said Dr. Mohamed Yusuf, a physician at the facility, which serves mothers and children.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came hours after a leading Somali cleric condemned remarks by the pope that quoted a Byzantine emperor who characterized some of the teachings of Islam’s founder as “evil and inhuman.”
The head of security for the Islamic militia, Yusuf Mohamed Siad, said one
man had been arrested and a second was being hunted. He said the killing might
have stemmed from the uproar over the pope but stressed he didn’t know for
‘A horrible episode’
“They could be people annoyed by the pope’s speech, which angered all Muslims in the world, or they could have been having something to do with S.O.S,” he said. “We will have to clarify this through our investigation.”
A Vatican spokesman called the nun’s slaying “a horrible episode,” the Italian news agency ANSA said.
“Let’s hope that it will be an isolated fact,” the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. He expressed hope Muslim anger would ease after Benedict apologized Sunday for the angry reaction to his remarks, which he said came from a text that didn’t reflect his personal opinion.
The nun, who spoke fluent Somali, was believed to be around 60 and had been working at the hospital since 2002, people at the hospital said, insisting on anonymity for fear of reprisals. She taught at the hospital and also looked after children, said one doctor.
Her body was being flown to Nairobi, Kenya, before being returned to Italy, he added.
Like many foreigners, she traveled with a bodyguard in Somalia, which sank into anarchy after warlords overthrew the country’s longtime dictator in 1991.
Foreigners are frequent targets
But attacks on foreigners have continued. In June an award-winning Swedish journalist, Martin Adler, was fatally shot while covering a demonstration in Mogadishu. Veteran Italian aid worker Annalena Tonelli was shot dead in 2003 in the breakaway republic of Somaliland in the north.
Islamic fundamentalists have stepped into the political and security vacuum, seizing control of Mogadishu and much of Somalia’s south, imposing strict religious rule.
A U.N.-backed acting government was established two years ago, but it has failed to assert any power outside its base in Baidoa, 150 miles from Mogadishu.
The Islamic militia’s courts are credited with bringing a semblance of order, but the West fears the emergence of a Taliban-style regime.
On Sunday, a Somali cleric strongly criticized Benedict’s speech. “The pope’s statement at this time was not only wrong but irresponsible as well,” said Sheik Nor Barud, deputy leader of the Somali Muslim Scholars Association.
“Both the Pope and the Byzantine emperor he quoted are ignorant of Islam and its noble prophet,” he told journalists at a news conference.
© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
The event, which also goes by the name "Muslim Youth Day," is being sponsored by the New Jersey chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), a militant organization tethered to the Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan, Jamaat-e-Islami. "Muslim Youth Day" has been celebrated since September of 2000, when the first one took place. At the time, it was heralded a huge success. As one paper put it, “More than 8,000 Muslims, both orthodox and non-practicing, jammed into the amusement park…”
Speaking at the 2000 event were officials from numerous radical Islamist organizations. This included Yusuf Islahi, a high-ranking Jamaat-e-Islami leader. During his speech, he stated to the crowd, “The owner of the Six Flags Great Adventure never imagined even in his wildest dreams that a mere recreation area of this kind would be filled with Allah's praise; that speeches on the subject of Islam would be delivered; Dawah towards Islam be given; Allah would be remembered; the cries of Allahu Akbar would be heard everywhere.”
The next "Muslim Youth Day," held on September 8, 2001, faired even better than the first, with 10,000 people attending. The momentum was soon to stop, though, as the organizer for the events, Tariq Amanullah, perished only three days later during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. This was ironic, because just prior to the assault, he had been working on an ICNA website that was soliciting its viewers to give “material support” to Al-Qaeda, through one of the terror group’s main financing and recruiting sites, Jihad in Chechnya (www.qoqaz.net).
Another "Muslim Youth Day" wasn’t to occur until three years later, in September of 2004. The flyer put out by ICNA for this event caused a lot of controversy. The upper right-hand corner read, “ENTIRE PARK ALL DAY, FOR MUSLIMS ONLY!” Another part of the flyer stated, “All rides FREE! NO long lines! 100’s of rides & shows! Muslims only!!” And sandwiched between the two statements was the Six Flags logo. It seemed to many that Great Adventure had become a bigoted park. People were outraged. And to make matters worse, the organization it was allowing into its gates was tied to radical activity overseas.
Appearing on Fox News’ ‘Heartland with John Kasich’ was the Investigative Project’s Lorenzo Vidino. When asked about the 2004 event, Vidino stated the following: “The Islamic Circle is related to a radical Islamic party out of Pakistan that wants to overthrow the Musharraf government and [bring about] the creation of an Islamic state in Pakistan with Islamic law, and basically a radical Islamic theocracy. Members and leaders of ICNA have endorsed suicide bombings in Israel. They have said that the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was a Zionist conspiracy and that Muslims were not behind it. They have endorsed jihad in Chechnya, even though they claim the word jihad might have a double meaning. They clearly say they want jihad (holy war) in Chechnya and Palestine and claim that suicide bombers in Israel and Palestine are not murderers.”
Speaking at ‘Muslim Youth Day’ 2004 was Imam Zaid Shakir, a teacher at the Zaytuna Institute located in Hayward, California. At a speech Shakir had given at Northwestern University in Chicago, entitled ‘Jihad: A Just Struggle or Unjust Violence,’ he stated, “We’re not a people who believe in perpetual revolution. We’re a people who believe in perpetual peace, if that’s possible… But if that isn’t possible, then there are circumstances where we are justified to fight.” Also speaking at the event was Ingrid Mattson, the President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). In September of 2002, in an article about the effect of 9/11 on Muslims, Mattson is quoted as saying that it was “logical,” albeit wrong, for terrorists to attack the World Trade Center, since “Israel has attacked and oppressed Palestinians for decades, and Israel gets $3 billion a year in military assistance from the U.S. government.”
Today’s event will be no different. The park will be implementing the same exclusionary policy as before. This was confirmed by “Park Information” at Great Adventure. When asked if non-Muslims were allowed to attend, a park representative stated, “The public will be prohibited from entering.” The rep said it was “a special day.”
The park will also be offering the same type of radical lecturers. Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, an instructor at Al-Maghrib Institute, is the featured speaker today. In a talk he gave in 2001 about how to deal with Jews, Qadhi stated that the Holocaust was a hoax and that “Hitler never intended to mass destroy the Jews.” He said that the vast majority of the world’s Jews are not really Jews. He stated, “As for 80 to 90 percent of the Jews in our times, they are Ashkenazi, i.e. Khazars, i.e. Russians, Turko-Russians. Look at them – white, crooked nose, blonde hairs – This is not the descendants of Yakub (Jacob)! These are not a Semitic people. Look at them! They don’t look like Semites, and they are not Semites.” He said that information concerning this conspiracy was being hidden from the world by Jews (“Yahud”) and Christians. One has to wonder if he will be mentioning any of this at the park.
The latest roller coasters, a drive-thru Wild Safari, tiger and dolphin shows, Bugs Bunny, fireworks – Six Flags’ Great Adventure contains everything to make a child’s day a day to remember. But when one is dealing with the Islamic Circle of North America, a militant Islamist organization connected to radicals overseas who wish the world would convert to their beliefs, one can expect something else as well – something sinister. And no one else will be there to see, because they’re not being let in.
According to ICNA, today, Great Adventure will be “transformed” into the Great Muslim Adventure Day. 15,000 people are expected to attend. The question is: Is ICNA using Six Flags’ facilities or is it the other way around? Or is that the near future? Why are we allowing this to happen?
If you have any questions, please contact the park.
Beila Rabinowitz, Director of Militant Islam Monitor, contributed to this report.
APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI TO MÜNCHEN, ALTÖTTING AND REGENSBURG (SEPTEMBER 9-14, 2006)
MEETING WITH THE REPRESENTATIVES OF SCIENCE
LECTURE OF THE HOLY FATHER
Aula Magna of the University of Regensburg Tuesday, 12 September 2006
Faith, Reason and the University
Memories and Reflections
Your Eminences, Your Magnificences, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a moving experience for me to be back again in the university and to be able once again to give a lecture at this podium. I think back to those years when, after a pleasant period at the Freisinger Hochschule, I began teaching at the University of Bonn. That was in 1959, in the days of the old university made up of ordinary professors. The various chairs had neither assistants nor secretaries, but in recompense there was much direct contact with students and in particular among the professors themselves. We would meet before and after lessons in the rooms of the teaching staff. There was a lively exchange with historians, philosophers, philologists and, naturally, between the two theological faculties. Once a semester there was a dies academicus, when professors from every faculty appeared before the students of the entire university, making possible a genuine experience of universitas - something that you too, Magnificent Rector, just mentioned - the experience, in other words, of the fact that despite our specializations which at times make it difficult to communicate with each other, we made up a whole, working in everything on the basis of a single rationality with its various aspects and sharing responsibility for the right use of reason - this reality became a lived experience. The university was also very proud of its two theological faculties. It was clear that, by inquiring about the reasonableness of faith, they too carried out a work which is necessarily part of the "whole" of the universitas scientiarum, even if not everyone could share the faith which theologians seek to correlate with reason as a whole. This profound sense of coherence within the universe of reason was not troubled, even when it was once reported that a colleague had said there was something odd about our university: it had two faculties devoted to something that did not exist: God. That even in the face of such radical scepticism it is still necessary and reasonable to raise the question of God through the use of reason, and to do so in the context of the tradition of the Christian faith: this, within the university as a whole, was accepted without question.
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on - perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara - by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. It was presumably the emperor himself who set down this dialogue, during the siege of Constantinople between 1394 and 1402; and this would explain why his arguments are given in greater detail than those of his Persian interlocutor. The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur'an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between - as they were called - three "Laws" or "rules of life": the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur'an. It is not my intention to discuss this question in the present lecture; here I would like to discuss only one point - itself rather marginal to the dialogue as a whole - which, in the context of the issue of "faith and reason", I found interesting and which can serve as the starting-point for my reflections on this issue.
In the seventh conversation (*4V8,>4H - controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: "There is no compulsion in religion". According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur'an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the "Book" and the "infidels", he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: "Show me just what Mohammed 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 emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. "God", he says, "is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably (F×< 8`(T) is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death...".
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.
At this point, as far as understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God's nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: "In the beginning was the 8`(@H". This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, F×< 8`(T, with logos. Logos means both reason and word - a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: "Come over to Macedonia and help us!" (cf. Acts 16:6-10) - this vision can be interpreted as a "distillation" of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.
In point of fact, this rapprochement had been going on for some time. The mysterious name of God, revealed from the burning bush, a name which separates this God from all other divinities with their many names and simply declares "I am", already presents a challenge to the notion of myth, to which Socrates' attempt to vanquish and transcend myth stands in close analogy. Within the Old Testament, the process which started at the burning bush came to new maturity at the time of the Exile, when the God of Israel, an Israel now deprived of its land and worship, was proclaimed as the God of heaven and earth and described in a simple formula which echoes the words uttered at the burning bush: "I am". This new understanding of God is accompanied by a kind of enlightenment, which finds stark expression in the mockery of gods who are merely the work of human hands (cf. Ps 115). Thus, despite the bitter conflict with those Hellenistic rulers who sought to accommodate it forcibly to the customs and idolatrous cult of the Greeks, biblical faith, in the Hellenistic period, encountered the best of Greek thought at a deep level, resulting in a mutual enrichment evident especially in the later wisdom literature. Today we know that the Greek translation of the Old Testament produced at Alexandria - the Septuagint - is more than a simple (and in that sense really less than satisfactory) translation of the Hebrew text: it is an independent textual witness and a distinct and important step in the history of revelation, one which brought about this encounter in a way that was decisive for the birth and spread of Christianity. A profound encounter of faith and reason is taking place here, an encounter between genuine enlightenment and religion. From the very heart of Christian faith and, at the same time, the heart of Greek thought now joined to faith, Manuel II was able to say: Not to act "with logos" is contrary to God's nature.
In all honesty, one must observe that in the late Middle Ages we find trends in theology which would sunder this synthesis between the Greek spirit and the Christian spirit. In contrast with the so-called intellectualism of Augustine and Thomas, there arose with Duns Scotus a voluntarism which, in its later developments, led to the claim that we can only know God's voluntas ordinata. Beyond this is the realm of God's freedom, in virtue of which he could have done the opposite of everything he has actually done. This gives rise to positions which clearly approach those of Ibn Hazn and might even lead to the image of a capricious God, who is not even bound to truth and goodness. God's transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which - as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated - unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos. Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul - "8@(46¬ 8"JD,\"", worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).
This inner rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek philosophical inquiry was an event of decisive importance not only from the standpoint of the history of religions, but also from that of world history - it is an event which concerns us even today. Given this convergence, it is not surprising that Christianity, despite its origins and some significant developments in the East, finally took on its historically decisive character in Europe. We can also express this the other way around: this convergence, with the subsequent addition of the Roman heritage, created Europe and remains the foundation of what can rightly be called Europe.
The thesis that the critically purified Greek heritage forms an integral part of Christian faith has been countered by the call for a dehellenization of Christianity - a call which has more and more dominated theological discussions since the beginning of the modern age. Viewed more closely, three stages can be observed in the programme of dehellenization: although interconnected, they are clearly distinct from one another in their motivations and objectives.
Dehellenization first emerges in connection with the postulates of the Reformation in the sixteenth century. Looking at the tradition of scholastic theology, the Reformers thought they were confronted with a faith system totally conditioned by philosophy, that is to say an articulation of the faith based on an alien system of thought. As a result, faith no longer appeared as a living historical Word but as one element of an overarching philosophical system. The principle of sola scriptura, on the other hand, sought faith in its pure, primordial form, as originally found in the biblical Word. Metaphysics appeared as a premise derived from another source, from which faith had to be liberated in order to become once more fully itself. When Kant stated that he needed to set thinking aside in order to make room for faith, he carried this programme forward with a radicalism that the Reformers could never have foreseen. He thus anchored faith exclusively in practical reason, denying it access to reality as a whole.
The liberal theology of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ushered in a second stage in the process of dehellenization, with Adolf von Harnack as its outstanding representative. When I was a student, and in the early years of my teaching, this programme was highly influential in Catholic theology too. It took as its point of departure Pascal's distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In my inaugural lecture at Bonn in 1959, I tried to address the issue, and I do not intend to repeat here what I said on that occasion, but I would like to describe at least briefly what was new about this second stage of dehellenization. Harnack's central idea was to return simply to the man Jesus and to his simple message, underneath the accretions of theology and indeed of hellenization: this simple message was seen as the culmination of the religious development of humanity. Jesus was said to have put an end to worship in favour of morality. In the end he was presented as the father of a humanitarian moral message. Fundamentally, Harnack's goal was to bring Christianity back into harmony with modern reason, liberating it, that is to say, from seemingly philosophical and theological elements, such as faith in Christ's divinity and the triune God. In this sense, historical-critical exegesis of the New Testament, as he saw it, restored to theology its place within the university: theology, for Harnack, is something essentially historical and therefore strictly scientific. What it is able to say critically about Jesus is, so to speak, an expression of practical reason and consequently it can take its rightful place within the university. Behind this thinking lies the modern self-limitation of reason, classically expressed in Kant's "Critiques", but in the meantime further radicalized by the impact of the natural sciences. This modern concept of reason is based, to put it briefly, on a synthesis between Platonism (Cartesianism) and empiricism, a synthesis confirmed by the success of technology. On the one hand it presupposes the mathematical structure of matter, its intrinsic rationality, which makes it possible to understand how matter works and use it efficiently: this basic premise is, so to speak, the Platonic element in the modern understanding of nature. On the other hand, there is nature's capacity to be exploited for our purposes, and here only the possibility of verification or falsification through experimentation can yield ultimate certainty. The weight between the two poles can, depending on the circumstances, shift from one side to the other. As strongly positivistic a thinker as J. Monod has declared himself a convinced Platonist/Cartesian.
This gives rise to two principles which are crucial for the issue we have raised. First, only the kind of certainty resulting from the interplay of mathematical and empirical elements can be considered scientific. Anything that would claim to be science must be measured against this criterion. Hence the human sciences, such as history, psychology, sociology and philosophy, attempt to conform themselves to this canon of scientificity. A second point, which is important for our reflections, is that by its very nature this method excludes the question of God, making it appear an unscientific or pre-scientific question. Consequently, we are faced with a reduction of the radius of science and reason, one which needs to be questioned.
I will return to this problem later. In the meantime, it must be observed that from this standpoint any attempt to maintain theology's claim to be "scientific" would end up reducing Christianity to a mere fragment of its former self. But we must say more: if science as a whole is this and this alone, then it is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science", so understood, and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.
Before I draw the conclusions to which all this has been leading, I must briefly refer to the third stage of dehellenization, which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.
And so I come to my conclusion. This attempt, painted with broad strokes, at a critique of modern reason from within has nothing to do with putting the clock back to the time before the Enlightenment and rejecting the insights of the modern age. The positive aspects of modernity are to be acknowledged unreservedly: we are all grateful for the marvellous possibilities that it has opened up for mankind and for the progress in humanity that has been granted to us. The scientific ethos, moreover, is - as you yourself mentioned, Magnificent Rector - the will to be obedient to the truth, and, as such, it embodies an attitude which belongs to the essential decisions of the Christian spirit. The intention here is not one of retrenchment or negative criticism, but of broadening our concept of reason and its application. While we rejoice in the new possibilities open to humanity, we also see the dangers arising from these possibilities and we must ask ourselves how we can overcome them. We will succeed in doing so only if reason and faith come together in a new way, if we overcome the self-imposed limitation of reason to the empirically verifiable, and if we once more disclose its vast horizons. In this sense theology rightly belongs in the university and within the wide-ranging dialogue of sciences, not merely as a historical discipline and one of the human sciences, but precisely as theology, as inquiry into the rationality of faith.
Only thus do we become capable of that genuine dialogue of cultures and religions so urgently needed today. In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures. At the same time, as I have attempted to show, modern scientific reason with its intrinsically Platonic element bears within itself a question which points beyond itself and beyond the possibilities of its methodology. Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought - to philosophy and theology. For philosophy and, albeit in a different way, for theology, listening to the great experiences and insights of the religious traditions of humanity, and those of the Christian faith in particular, is a source of knowledge, and to ignore it would be an unacceptable restriction of our listening and responding. Here I am reminded of something Socrates said to Phaedo. In their earlier conversations, many false philosophical opinions had been raised, and so Socrates says: "It would be easily understandable if someone became so annoyed at all these false notions that for the rest of his life he despised and mocked all talk about being - but in this way he would be deprived of the truth of existence and would suffer a great loss". The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby. The courage to engage the whole breadth of reason, and not the denial of its grandeur - this is the programme with which a theology grounded in Biblical faith enters into the debates of our time. "Not to act reasonably, not to act with logos, is contrary to the nature of God", said Manuel II, according to his Christian understanding of God, in response to his Persian interlocutor. It is to this great logos, to this breadth of reason, that we invite our partners in the dialogue of cultures. To rediscover it constantly is the great task of the university.
The Holy Father intends to supply a subsequent version of this text, complete with footnotes. The present text must therefore be considered provisional.
Dr Helmy Guirguis
President, UK COPTIC Association
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Canada 's Prime Minister Greets Egypt's Copts for Neyrouz Celebration
OTTAWA Copts United — In an historic letter, Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, extended warm greetings to the Canadian Coptic community as they celebrate the Coptic New Year. The letter makes Canada the first country to acknowledge the sacrifices of the Coptic Martyrs. "This is a time when, .., you honour those traditions with which the Coptic Orthodox Church has enriched this great country we call home ", says the Prime Minster.
Coptic Christians are the descendants of the Ancient Egyptians and make up 10% of the Egyptian population. There are 15 million Copts worldwide, including Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. They have been victims of religious persecution by almost every ruler of Egypt beginning with the Roman Empire and sustained for 1400 years under the Islamic rulers who invaded Egypt in the sixth century. Until recently, the blood of Coptic martyrs continues to be shed as in the massacres of Assiut in 1992, Al-Kosheh in 2000 and in the latest attacks on the churches of Alexandria during the Holy week this year which ended on Easter Sunday. A Russian bishop has recently put the number of Coptic Martyrs as one per day.
Copts take pride in the persecution they have sustained as early as May 8, 68 A.D., when their Patron Saint Mark, the Gospel writer, was slain after being dragged from his feet by Roman soldiers all over Alexandria's streets and alleys.
To emphasize their pride, Copts adopted a calendar, called the Calendar of the Martyrs that is identified by the abbreviation AM (for Anno Martyrum or "Year of the Martyrs".) The calendar begins its era on August 29, 284 A.D., in commemoration of those who died for their faith during the rule of Diocletian the Roman Emperor who was enthroned on that day.
The Prime Minster's letter, which was sent to the Coptic community today, was dated "Tout 1, 1723" in reference to the Coptic month "Tout" and the current year of the Martyrs 1723.
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