Monday, January 29, 2007

A Sermon: on Religion vs. Repentance

INTRODUCTION: When [our] Pastor . . . asked me to prepare to speak this morning, she pointed out that our focus is on Christian character. Now, such topics and the texts are very challenging, especially given the warning in James 3:1 that we should think twice before presuming to teach the scriptures, as teachers “will be judged more strictly.” I therefore confess right away that if this message could walk up here and deliver itself, I would be happy to let it do so. But, alas, it cannot. So, it is I who must speak what I believe the Lord is showing us out of the scriptures today, trembling as I remember all the while that I too am under the force of the Word of God – not just the Amen parts, but the Ouch ones too! So, let us now focus on . . .

1] Focus text:

2 Chron 7:12 – 14, when the Lord appeared to Solomon after he built the Temple:

12 the LORD appeared to him at night and said: "I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.

2CH 7:13 "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land . . . .

2CH 7:17 "As for you, if you walk before me as David your father did, and do all I command, and observe my decrees and laws, 18 I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father when I said, `You shall never fail to have a man to rule over Israel.'

Right away, we see the gap between religion and repentance. Religion builds wonderful temples or churches – just as we have all across the lovely islands of the Caribbean -- and has beautiful rituals. And yet, with the temple in the midst, the covenants, the scriptures and the history of what God had done for Israel, it was possible for God to have to in his mercy judge Israel in order to draw their attention to the urgent need to turn back to him. And, this is what repentance is all about: humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God's face and -- by his grace -- turning from our “wicked ways.”

Yes, this speaks to us too – OUCH. For, we can name God's name, have lovely churches and rituals and the scriptures and so on, and still be living in wicked ways and holding wicked attitudes, so that God shuts up his ears to our prayers and shuts up his umbrella of protection over us. For:

ISA 59:1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,

nor his ear too dull to hear.

ISA 59:2 But your iniquities have separated

you from your God;

your sins have hidden his face from you,

so that he will not hear.

2] Acts 27 – A case study:

In modern education, we hear a lot about case studies, which lay out a real [or sometimes made up] example, so that we can learn some lessons from it – those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. So, I was happy last week to see that we took a look at just this text, which is so illuminating on how we often live and govern ourselves in a democracy – and how that can lead to judgement and God's gracious intervention for the sake of his remnant.

As we will remember, Paul had been put on trial in Israel, and when he saw that his opponents were hell-bent on injustice, he had to appeal to Caesar. So, late in 59 AD, he was on ship board on the way to Rome on a ship in the service of the Roman Government's Wheat Trade Department. (Yes, to give the dangerous mob in Rome their free bread for the “bread and circuses” they demanded, there was a whole Government Department for importing Wheat into Rome!]

Now, the ship had had a hard time in the face of opposing winds, and was in Fair Havens, Crete at the time when sailing was dangerous due to impending Winter storms out of the Northeast. But, the harbour was open mouthed so the ship's owner was concerned to save his investment. The Pilot [not quite Captain as we have it] of course went along as technical adviser. The argument was that they could quickly slip down the coast just a bit to a safer, more comfortable port, Phoenix. Paul, of course, bravely prophetically warned them that this was dangerous, not only to the ship but to their lives.

But, such voices are seldom popular, and “the majority” had their way under the influence of the voice of wealth and the advice of “the experts.” So the Centurion went along with the majority, not the prophet. (In short, we see here a character test: who will dare to be an unpopular Daniel, in the face of the voices of wealth, the experts and the majority, with the power of Government lurking in the background . . .)

Then they got that sweet little south wind, and thought they had what they wanted. They slipped out of the harbour and glided down the coast. Then – BAM! -- a wicked Nor'easter caught them and blew them about for two weeks, so that it was only by God's mercy that their lives were saved, and the ship and cargo were of course lost. (Notice how we never hear form the Owner and the Pilot in the storm – except for the crew's secret plot to abandon the passengers and make an escape for themselves. What a revelation about character – err, the want of it -- under fire!)

Key lesson: King Jehoshaphat after seeking God at the Temple in the time of distress when the nations were invading Israel to wipe it out:

2CH 20:20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the LORD your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful."

We can easily enough see that if our own democracies in our region are to prosper under God, we must seek and heed the voice of God through his spokesmen, not that of those who tickle our ears with what they think we want to hear. Second, we must dare to be Daniels, willing to stand up with the voice of God – tempered by tactful good manners as he was famous for! -- despite what people and rulers may want us to tickle their ears with. So, as we too, seek God to heal our own hurting lands here in the Caribbean [and in the world beyond], let us humble ourselves, pray, seek God's face and turn from our own wicked ways.

3] Digging deeper – Rom 2:

Just his past week, a Rastaman in (if memory serves) a Haile Selassie T-shirt asked me at the gas pump, what I think about the church of Rasta. I answered, that I think about it in light of Rom 2:5 – 11. He was not at all pleased that I answered in that way, but I think that this text is a key as we try to live and share the gospel and its blessings as Christians in a region that is more and more diverse and confrontational on issues of God, godliness and doing the right thing – whether over “stigma” and AIDS (even as we hear mention of of eighteen new cases here over the past couple of years), or what to do about our secondary school, or what to do about evacuation to save lives and prevent people from being impoverished (as our CM almost in passing says that our mountain has now reached 250 million cu m), or whatever the headlined issue of the day is. Let's look:

RO 2:5 . . .because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil . . . 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good . . . 11 For God does not show favoritism.

In short, attitude – thus, character -- counts for more with God than doctrine. But equally, a sinful, rebellious attitude leads us to seek our own – not the right – way, which makes us reject the truth when we hear it, and then we follow what we SHOULD know is evil. Such an attitude and behaviour in the teeth of what verse 4 calls “God's kindness” that “leads [us] toward repentance” plainly merits God's wrath.

CONCLUSION: So, now, are we willing to listen to that “still, small voice” that calls us to the truth and the right that are in Jesus – him who died for our sins, was buried, rose as Lord and Saviour, and is shortly to come ad Judge -- even if it is unpopular? Will we heed him and turn from our wicked ways? Are we willing to seek God's grace and anointing to live by the truth and the right in the power of his Spirit?

So, now, let us humble ourselves and seek his face in prayer . . . END

Thursday, January 25, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 25: Richard Landis of Boston University on restoring balance on opinions

Over the past few days as have I attempted to jury rig a substitute PC, and as I did a spot of troubleshooting* -- I went blog visiting.

*Troubleshooting update: looks like a dead motherboard [more precisely, maybe one dead component that is holding the system in a perpetual reset state -- nope not the power supply, which has a valid Power_Good signal, 4.18 Volts (Thanks, Scott Mueller!), or the front panel switches, and so far as I can see the CMOS backup battery is okayish at 3.2 Volts] . . . stay tuned . . .

For instance, I found some fascinating back-forth on the Design theory issue, here and here, at the ID in the UK blog. As usual, any open-access for comments ID supportive blog attracts a circle of spin-meisters who labour hard to discredit its major claims; too often using specious or even outright deceptive arguments. In this case, one argument was based on misrepresenting Professor Walter Bradley's expertise by suppressing the relevant part of his biography. The second case tip-toes around the core issues and contentions raised by the Design Theorists, starting with the proper definition of ID and the central empirical test issues it raises. I of course added a balancing comment or two. (Of course, if the blogger then moderates comments, the cry "censorship" soon will be heard. Heads I win, tails you lose, in short. No, a nuh so it go!)

Along the way, I also ran across this fascinating perspective on writing philosophy papers, by Bruce Hauptli of FIU, which will well repay the investment of time to read and heed it. It takes my remarks here on countering media spin, to the next level. (This, DV, joins my list of links today!)

That bridges us to the main focus for today, Professor Landis' presentation to the 7th Annual Herzlia Conference in Israel, and his remarks on the agit-prop and naive or quisling media of the West. (CV, Dr Landis' fascinating blog also joins my list of links today.) Excerpting a few key points from his paper:

First of all, as a historian of civil society, of the millennium-long struggle in the West to achieve this extraordinary marvel of the modern world, this experiment in human freedom, I want to say: European democratic civilization can fall before the Islamic challenge. Something similar happened before, in the 5th century, when a culturally superior Roman civilization fell to a primitive tribal Germanic culture. And if Europe continues on its current path, that will happen sooner rather than later.

Second, this is going to get worse before it gets better. Starting in October 2000, the most terrible form of apocalyptic movement, active cataclysmic – we are the agents in the vast destruction that precedes our millennial victory – entered the public sphere of world culture and rather than being beaten back, took hold and grew stronger. Once these movements, which in the past have killed 10s of millions, “take,” they are like forest fires. They cannot be stopped, at best they can be channeled. We are in for a long and unpleasant conflict that will demand a great deal from us.

Third, modern media play a critical role in Global Jihad’s success. Not just the use Jihadis make of modern technology to spread their message, but the role our modern MSM play in both disguising and encouraging the phenomenon. And the core of the problem, the ground upon which this dysfunctional relationship between Jihad and MSM first emerged, but also the most dramatic on which it plays out, is the MSM’s treatment of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

There has been much discussion of whether or not the MSM has been unfair to Israel, including formal investigations into particularly obnoxious organizations like the BBC, and, by and large the answer is, “well, maybe… but it’s not so bad.” And Israelis, like the protagonist in Richard Farina’s novel, have been down so long it looks like up to them. “It could be worse… it has been worse… it’s getting better.”

But all of this is not nearly good enough. The MSM are the eyes and ears of modern civil societies. Without them we cannot know what is going on outside of our personal sphere, with them we can make our democratic choices in elections, assess foreign policy, intervene humanely in the suffering around the globe. But as any paleontologist will tell you, any creature whose eyes and ears misinform it about the environment, will not long survive. So it is with our civic experiment: especially in this period, where predators grow increasingly bold: a MSM that misinforms us, betrays the very people it is supposed to serve.

Let me cut to the chase. If this wondrous experiment in human freedom that was launched on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 18th century survives to the middle of the 21st century, historians will look back on the performance of the MSM in the first decade of that century, in particular its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and give the journalists’ “first draft of history” an F . . . .

- An F for failing to source-check – any impartial study will show that journalists systematically and incorrectly favored Palestinian over Israelis sources of information during the Intifada
- An F for failing to correct their errors — leaving Israel between libel and silence.
- An F for obsessively reporting the Arab Israeli conflict while people suffered from genocidal campaigns in other parts of the world
- An F for giving into intimidation and practicing access journalism without informing their public
- An F for scarcely mentioning the tidal wave of paranoia and hatred that currently dominates the Muslim media
- An F for echoing and amplifying the demonizing narratives told about Israel which they treat with unqualified credulity
- And F for allowing our media to be exploited by totalitarian forces as a theater of war rather than protecting that civic public trust from such vicious propaganda. . . . .
Unfortunately, whether they mean it or not, the MSM today has fallen into so many bad habits, so many pervasive compromises, that like the Augean Stables of old, they have encrusted layers of manure that resist any effort to clean. And unlike the old Augean Stables, which stank up the only the Peloponnesus, thanks to new technology, the MSMs failures stink the world over.

Which brings me to the basic problem Israel and the Jews face in this young and so-far deeply disturbing 21st century. They have been the major target of the Jihadi assault, and the main victims of the MSM’s failures. And so far, the response has been to take the same stance of concession and placation, to the Western media that the Western media take towards the Muslims: don’t criticize, don’t challenge, placate, mollify. Whatever you do, don’t attack.

“We don’t dare start a war with the media,” said one MFA official, “we can only lose.” . . . . The Jewish leaders in the diaspora, playing by the positive-sum rules of the late 20th century, responded painfully slowly to the sudden zero-sum turn of direction at the end of 2000. Indeed, like the Israeli government, they discouraged those – leaders or rank and file – who started to fight back.

I understand the arguments, the concerns, the kinds of damage that can come if the media turns on us. But that’s beginning to sound more and more like the joke about the two Jews in line for the showers at Auschwitz. One sneezes and the other whispers sharply, “Hush, Yankl, you’ll make it worse for us” . . .

All in all, a devastating, sadly well-warranted indictment of a civilisation that in turning its back on God who blessed it beyond all other cultures in history to date, has lost the will to face terrible truths and fright for its survival in the face of a rising tide from the East. Indeed, as Mark Steyn has aptly pointed out, it no longer even manages to reproduce itself, apart from the accelerating numbers of Islamic immigrants. Thus, Bat Ye'or's warning of the possible end-state: Eurabia under Islamic domination, is well worth pondering.

But, Landis's argument has a twist, based on the now proverbial point that the Chinese character for "crisis" has two components: danger plus opportunity. So, he further argues:

The worse things get, the more people wake up, the more they are willing to reconsider their paradigms and policies, the more they are willing to make sacrifices necessary to survive. And this is true across the boards: When did Pharaoh listen? When it hurt. When did his heart harden? When things got better. So not only are Europeans beginning to awaken to the nightmare they have inherited from their irresponsible leadership, but also to the role of their MSM in blinding them to its onset. Similarly, Jews and Israelis are beginning to realize that we must fight back. Even the MSM may begin to realize that, whatever excuses they come up with for their performance, they cannot, we cannot afford it any longer. And, as Bernard Lewis commented yesterday, maybe even the Muslims, realizing the power of the Jinn they have released from the bottle, and the unhappy fact that they will be the first consumed by its murderous zeal, will also reconsider who the enemy is . . . .

there are people waiting to hear from you, waiting for Israel to confront the suffocating dysfunction of paranoid Muslim defamation and MSM complicity, people waiting to hear Israel fight for its honor and dignity. Indeed they’ll be better equipped to defend themselves with Israel’s example.

Third, the blogosphere, and more broadly, cyberspace offer a means to reach the public without pleading for better MSM coverage. In the blogosphere there are legions of sharp analysts who do not answer to the siren call of political correctness and the pack mentality that has so many journalists cramming every incident into the storyline of the Israeli Goliath and the Palestinian or Lebanese David. Internet sites permit vast amounts of information, including systematic critiques of the media’s performance to reach increasing numbers. Every paper, radio program and TV news station should have a blog that monitors it, critiques it, contradicts it where appropriate. In the end, a responsible MSM will thank the blogosphere for the criticism.

A review of the recent articles in this blog will underscore the force of this point.

We can also make a very similar case for publicly standing up and defending Bible-believing Evangelical Christian faith from the equally pernicious slanders that it is an enemy of scientific progress, of just and sustainable socio-economic development and of liberty. Of course, those who pursue a secularist agenda -- just like the Mahdist-Jihadist advocates and their fellow-travellers -- will continue to abuse their institutional power and the naive trust of the public at large. But in the end, I am highly confident that the tide will turn as the public wakes up to the threat they face at the hands of those who have so cleverly misled and beguiled over these many years now.

So, DV, let us now turn our focus on 1 Chron 12:32 to how we can best act in our troubled and turbulent times. END

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 24: A wave of spiritual hunger in the Islamic world -- and beyond

Jim Rutz can be counted on to give an upbeat view of the state of the church's gospel-bearing mission to the nations. So, it is in one sense no surprise to see in his latest column, the following excerpts, both from Joel Rosenberg:

First, on Narnia and Passion in the Middle East:
Last week I took my wife and kids to see the Egyptian premiere of "Narnia" in Cairo. The film was as wonderful as we had hoped. But I must confess that far more interesting to me than watching digital lions and beavers come to life was being in a theater jam-packed with Muslims mesmerized by a thinly-veiled parable of Jesus Christ, penned by one of the 20th century's greatest Christian writers [i.e. C S Lewis]. Every seat was taken, and when we left, the theater's lobby could not contain all those hoping to get into the 10 o'clock show.

The same was true in the spring of 2003 when ... Muslims packed movie theaters throughout the Middle East to see Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." They were watching Jesus teach. They were watching Him suffer and die and rise again. They were crying – sobbing, in many cases – as they continued to flood the theaters night after night.

Second, on some interesting reports on conversions to Christ in the troubled Middle East:

More Muslims converted to faith in Jesus Christ over the past decade than at any other time in human history. A spiritual revolution is under way throughout North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia:

Iraq: More than 5,000 new Muslim converts to Christianity have been identified since the end of major combat operations. ... Also, more than 1 million Bibles [were] shipped into the country since 2003, and pastors report Iraqis are snatching them up so fast they constantly need more Bibles.

Afghanistan: only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000.

Kazakstan: only three known Christians in 1990, but now more than 15,000.

Uzbekistan: no known Christians in 1990, but now more than 30,000.

Iran: In 1979, there were only 500 known Muslim converts to Christianity, but today Iranian pastors and evangelical leaders tell me there are more than 1 million Iranian believers in Jesus Christ, most of whom meet in underground house churches.

Sudan: More than 1 million Sudanese have converted to Christianity just since 2000, and some 5 million have become Christians since the early 1990s, despite a radical Islamic regime and an ongoing genocide. ... Why such a dramatic spiritual awakening? "People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead," one Sudanese evangelical leader told me . . . .

Egypt: Some reports say 1 million Egyptians have trusted Christ over the past decade or so. The Egyptian Bible Society told me they used to sell about 3,000 copies of the JESUS film a year in the early 1990s. But last year they sold 600,000 copies, plus 750,000 copies of the Bible on tape.
Rutz is especially upbeat on that statistic from Egypt: "The shocker is that 600,000 figure. Each circulating copy of JESUS in the Mideast will, on average, draw about 4.1 Muslims into a saving relationship with Christ. Do the math!"

What are we to make of this?

First, has long documented a clear pattern in which - often in response to a revelatory dream from Jesus -- many Muslims are indeed turning to Christ across the Middle East and beyond. At the same time, we see also a surge in religiously motivated militant Mahdism and Jihadism, and of the Dawah Islamic missionary campaign. That this is a dangerously volatile mix of trends is obvious, but it is equally telling that in the aftermath of the surge in Islamist militancy over the past generation, as that Sudanese Christian leader observed: "People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead."

That brings out the common factor, a surging hunger for spiritual reality across the Muslim world, which echoes the same surge in the wider world ever since the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the ending of the Cold War. A similar story underlies the surge in the Christian faith in China, and across much of the South. Even the increasingly obviously shrill desperation of the militant secularists and atheists and their fellow travellers in the West that we often see in even our own media underscores the force of the trend of spiritual hunger -- a hunger that can only truly be satisfied in Christ. Unfortunately, too often Christians have not been well-posed to make the most of such opportunities, and we have seen a surge in all sorts of strange new religions and even experimentation with old fashioned paganism and witchcraft. But, the wave of spiritual hunger is plainly global.

Thus, we have now come full circle in our threads of reflection over the past few months: right back to the challenge to the Caribbean church, to rise again through repentance, renewal, revival and reformation to further fulfill the mission of the church in, and from the Caribbean, especially across the lands of the 10/40 window, from which so many of our ancestors have come.

Thus, the remarks of October 30 last, as just linked, are again appropriate :

. . . I invite us to explore together:

1] The re-visioning of the Caribbean Church's Mandate

2] The creation of a mutually supportive, collaborative regional network of grassroots-level, community initiated Missionary Vision and Action Teams [MVATs]

3] Through these MVATs, tackling of innovative local and regional evangelism, discipleship and community reformation projects under the enduring mission of the church in the Caribbean

4] Preparation for sustained initiatives under the mission of the church from the Caribbean, in collaboration with the church across the world, and targetting especially the 10/40 Window but also the lands of the North that have now so sadly largely walked away from their rich gospel heritage

5] Under this, the formation and development of a network based initiative and Institute . . . as an umbrella organisation for developing and carrying forward the vision. This should have a capacity-building focus, and thus a financial and technical project support arm, but also an emphasis on action-oriented research and the intellectual and practical engaging of critical issues, including apologetics and ethics. For instance, we must tackle the wave of apostasy and moral disintegration bearing down on the region from the North, and the Islamist agenda from the East too. [I note that once we successfully engage this pattern here, it equips us to face the same pattern overseas too!] Eventually it should be integrated with the emerging regional Christian University system.

6] I think that the widespread regional emergence of low-cost broadband Internet capacity, web site creation, blogging and podcasting technologies plus affordable teleconferencing technologies allows us to network a cluster of local micro-campus cybercentres that with local mentoring and community support can become nodes in the . . . system. Imagine a network of community centres hosted in churches, schools, cyber cafes etc, with clusters of say 8 - 15 or 20 PCs and able to host classes with local mentorship and courses delivered by leading Christians from across the region and beyond. Imagine online textbooks, like this in introductory philosophy, this in basic apologetics and this in discipleship and reformation, or this in first-stage follow-up for new converts or even this and this in evangelism [personal and meetings respectively], or this in small/cell group leadership [PDF!], or this in basic counselling, or this in Bible Study, or this in prayer; multiplied a thousandfold and available as well in print or thought CDs distributed at low cost.]

7] Over the next decade, through these and related developments, setting the target that we will not only carry out a steady, sustainable stream of initiatives in our region but will use them as a launch-pad and seed-plot for cooperative, sustained global initiatives under the church's Great Commission of evangelism discipleship and reformation.

Again, have we come to our estate for such a time as this? END

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 report, 23: Towards a more balanced understanding of the Situation in Iraq and the wider Middle East

First, a bit of an apology: Over the past few days, PC difficulties have seriously hampered me.

But, thanks to a note from a correspondent, let us survey the above captioned, courtesy an opinion piece by a retired Foreign Minister of Barbados, in the Barbados Nation, a leading Caribbean paper.

Now, I know that at least some readers will find the original I am replying to point by point, a painful article indeed to read -- for, that is why it was shared with me. So, first let me note that I find it particularly sad that a piece in this unfortunate, disrespectfully dismissive and even arguably bigoted tone was given an evident pass for publication in a major, reputable regional newspaper – and that in a regional country that prides itself on its intellectual prowess and balance. For, plainly, neither Mr Bush nor Israel deserve to be derided, bashed and then dismissed as Mr Laurie has done. No editorial board in our region should have let such a one-sided hit piece pass without a serious re-write on tone and substance, with lack of balance and lack of basic charitableness as key issues for correction. But, that is not what happened. Therefore, the fact that such a piece was allowed to pass is itself a serious, saddening and sobering commentary on the state of perceptions, opinions, manners and thought in our region today. Thus, the call to better understand our times to know what we should do.

So also, please bear with me as I -- with much pain and regret to havre to do such a thing -- go through Mr Laurie's "On The Other Hand – Bloody folly" [even that title is itself in at least quite poor taste] point by point:

1] IS PRESIDENT BUSH (a) a moron, (b) a madman or (c) the most dangerous man on the planet? Take your pick. You can't lose.

That is how the article begins!

This is itself telling; and, not to the credit of either Mr Laurie or The Nation Newspaper.

In fact, Mr Bush, first, is a trained Fighter Pilot [cf. also here for a colleague's testimony, and here for his instructor's testimony] who holds an earned Harvard MBA, went on to eventually succeed in private business and to thereafter become a two successive term successful governor of Texas [the first ever to do that, evidently] and a two-term President of the USA. Morons simply do not earn such qualifications or attain such track records.

Nor is there credible evidence of insanity -- just, his view of the world is plainly different from Mr Laurie's, who evidently has not troubled to consider that perhaps his own views do not entirely accord with the full range of accurate facts and the implications of realistic options and alternatives in a world that occasionally sees aggressive totalitarian ideologies that make a grab for power.

2] Indeed, he's the centre of an "axis of stupidity" in world affairs. His two partners in reckless folly are Holocaust-denying President Ahmadinejad of Iran and the Castro wannabe clown President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The first dreams of a nuclear Iran dominating the Middle East; the second is a megalomaniac who fantasises about Venezuela being the powerhouse of Latin America. All three want to lead their countries back to the dark ages and they feed off each other like symbiotic parasites.

Observe carefully: first, Mr Laurie is by his own confession an experienced, informed diplomat. So he knows that "axis" historically denotes alliances among aggressive totalitarians making a grab for power.

Such was the case with Hitler, Mussolini and the Japanese in the 1930's to 40's [with Stalin being a temporary partner in 1939 - 40 before the falling-out of 1941]. Similarly, in recent years, with the help of Dr Khan of Pakistan, Iraq, Iran and North Korea [with a subsequently discovered "offshore" Iraqi programme in Libya] were credibly embarked on a common quest to acquire nuclear weapons, delivery systems and similar massively destructive technologies.

So, we "should" therefore expect to see from Mr Laurie's words that Mr Bush is in an alliance with Mr Ahmadinejad and Mr Chavez. Instead, he is their chief opponent and obstacle in their joint -- there IS an Iran-Venezuela axis! -- campaign to exploit the lack of will and clarity on the international stage to advance dubious power agendas. So, we have here cynical rhetoric, not factually anchored analysis.

A further, all-too-telling insight can be deduced from Mr Laurie's comment that "All three want to lead their countries back to the dark ages."

Q: What lurks there? First, to Mr Laurie's credit, we see a hint of acknowledging the unacceptability of antisemitic Mahdism in his comment, but there is a conspicuous silence on neomarxist third world socialist agendas in the second. Most of all, though, in the case of Mr Bush, just what hinted-at “dark” vision lurks there?

ANS: Mr Bush is an acknowledged Bible-believing Christian, which in part shapes his approach to government. (We will shortly address the "Neo-Con," i.e. conservative Jewish thought, part soon enough, in its proper context of anti-Israeli bias.) Now of course, it is now as common to confuse the opposition of such Christians to libertinism, licence and amorality with alleged enmity to liberty, as it is to dismiss the costly and vital contribution such Christians made to the rise of modern liberty and to the liberation of the Caribbean. (But, we are in the Caribbean, where being explicit along these lines would at once expose one's own anti-Christian agenda, utterly discrediting oneself . . .)
So – ever so sadly -- we see here a very plausible reason for the sudden switch from bold dismissals of Mr Bush as a dangerous, mad moron to dark hints on his alleged pushing of his country back into the Dark Ages rather than specific, explicit claims. A reason that would do Mr Laurie no credit. Unfortunately, as we will now see, the rest of the article does nothing to relieve such a concern.

3] . . . why is Bush so foolish? Because, despite . . . the Iraq Study Group showing him how [to withdraw from Iraq], Bush has decided to – guess what? – send 21 500 more troops to Iraq. It doesn't take a genius to know there's no military solution to the disaster of Iraq . . . . There is a political solution, but it must come from within Iraq, its neighbours and the region as a whole, with the support but without the direct involvement of the United Nations Security Council Permanent Five . . . .

Now, in fact, if Mr Bush – or the Israelis – were as ruthless as Mr Laurie imagines, a military solution could be imposed in about half and hour: bombing Iraq circa 2003 or Iran currently or in a few years “back into the stone age.” Sadly, if either Mr Hussein had acquired nuclear weapons, or if Mr Ahmadinejad succeeds in his current quest, that would likely lead to such a situation. [And, no Mr Laurie, it is not “paranoia” to credibly have the capacity to reply to a threatened or attempted nuclear holocaust at the hands of those who would use such weapons for annihilation, terrorism or to back up aggression. That is, in part, what won the Cold War.]

So, the real issue is: is there a military solution short of nuclear war?

To that, the history of the past 100 years, from facing down the Kaiser's ambitions, to underestimating the threat posed by Hitler and his axis of fascists, to the resulting challenge of defeating Nazism on the battle fields of Europe and Africa and the oceans, and on to the issue of slowly containing then turning back Communism tells us that totalitarians can be contained or defeated, if we are willing to act with strength in good time to avert catastrophe, or if we are determined to stay the course to the end once it has reached the battle field. One thing does not work: cultivating irresponsible defeatism or naive pacifism in the face of growing threats, or believing that the likes of a Hitler will be impressed by mere words, and then abandoning allies to those who would prey upon them – whether in the case of Czechoslovakia in 1938 - 39 or South Vietnam in 1975 – 76.

In the case of Iraq, in effect handing the moderate Shias, the Moderate Sunnis and the Kurds over to the tender mercies of the Iran-backed radical Shias will only precipitate a real civil war, which will then give to Iran a priceless platform for further aggression in the Middle East and beyond, one that will have to be eventually taken back at horrific cost.

While an American surge in response to the Iranian- and Al Qaeda-backed surges may not work [few things are fully predictable in war!], it has a much better chance of succeeding than handing over the moderate Iraqis to the tender mercies of their extremist neighbours. In short, here, Mr Laurie indulges in an irresponsible turnabout accusation: the one thing seriously proposed that might just avert the cascade he fears, is blamed as likely to lead to it, and in the solution proffered instead is: let's trigger the catastrophe for sure!

4] . . . if things get really out of hand, the paranoid Israelis will be tempted to bomb everyone into nuclear oblivion. . . . . the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be brought to an end. This means the United States must lean heavily on the Israelis to negotiate in good faith

First, given that no less than three attempts have been made by its neigbours to wipe Israel out by invasion: 1948, 1967, 1973, and that these have been accompanied by eighty years of terrorism, the Israelis are NOT paranoid to see that they have determined enemies who, given a chance, would seek to massacre them.

Second, the best way to get a nuclear war in the Middle East is to allow Iran's Mahdist-Jihadist regime to get away with its ambitions in Iraq and in its nuclear facilities; given, that they already have the missiles and suicide bombers to deliver such weapons, in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Third, there is little or no real link between the Iran-Iraq situation and the Arab-Israeli dispute, but if you allow a diplomatic tactic that "links" the solution to a solvable situation to one that has defied solution for the better part of a century, then you doom us all to disaster in the Middle East.

Fourth, eighty years of “land for peace” in the Arab-Israeli dispute have shown that this bargain only works when the Israelis have the military might to make the deal stick. In the 1920's the British gave 3/4ths of Mandate Palestine to the Arabs, only to have a surge of terrorism to take the rest. In the 1930's and 40's land for peace deals or attempted deals led to terrorism and a war of intended massacre. In 1967, the Golan Heights [handed over to French Mandate Syria by the British in the 1920s], and the Sinai were used as platforms for preparing war against Israel, only the Israelis struck first since they could not tolerate slow strangulation by cutting their oil jugular vein through the Straights of Tiran. Then in 1973, the war was renewed. Each and every time, the hostilities were initiated or triggered by the Arab side – for, a dhimmi-ruled state in the Middle East is utterly unacceptable to them once they imagine they have the power to eliminate it.

Further to this, let us observe Mr Laurie's inference that the Israelis have been acting in bad faith hiterto.

But surely, as Dr Martin Luther King pointed out so memorably, the spirit of the League of Nations Mandate of the 1920s is legitimate: that the Jews have a basic right to their homeland, and should so manage their resettlement that they do not prejudice the existing population. In pursuit of that, they have been willing to go along with the out-of-the-starting gates handing over of the Eastern ¾ of the Mandate territories to an Arab state. Then, they were willing to partition the remaining ¼, only to be met with wars of intended annihilation. Subsequently, they were willing to settle refugee issues on reasonable terms.

The intransigence has historically and currently consistently been on the other side, so the assumption that the problem is “bad faith” on the part of the Israelis, is improper and seriously questionable in so informed a person.

5] George W. Bush, egged on by his hardcore neoconservative supporters, who would also like him to take out Iran and Syria, is intent on achieving a military victory on his own terms . . .

Now, “Neo-Con” is in fact in the main a short title for a cluster of formerly radical socialist American Jews who became more or less economically, politically and sometimes socially conservative in their thinking over the decades. Mr Laurie doubtless knows that, so – sadly -- the juxtaposing of his one-sided remarks, and his arrogantly dismissive tone on neo-cons, Israel, and Evangelicals, is a less than happy pattern of presentation. Surely a rethink by Mr Laurie, in light of balancing facts, is in order here?

On substance, we have already seen that there is no effective substitute for victory in a military situation such as we have between Mesopotamia and the Hindu Kush passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, if one is arguing that the Americans have been defeated and should withdraw (despite winning EVERY military engagement of consequence and putting such pressure on the Baathist holdouts, Sunni and Shia insurgents and Islamist invaders that their only hope was a propaganda victory tied to fomenting a real or perceived civil war – that is what the USB memory stick recovered from Mr Zarqawi's body revealed) then one should honestly face the likely consequences of such a withdrawal and defend it as the most credible alternative now faced by the Americans and by us watching in the wider world.

That Mr Laurie resorts to further finger-pointing dismissals of people instead of addressing the issue on the merits is again inadvertently revealing as to the true balance of the matter on those merits.

6] this whole bloody bit of folly was about controlling a stable supply of oil.

Nothing like a big slanderous lie insistently repeated to create a false perception of a “truth” and to cast a pall of suspicion over the attacked party so that we do not listen to the other side of the story!

First, the specific reason for the First Gulf campaign was the invasion of Kuwait and the implied threat of further aggression. Mr Hussein was defeated in Kuwait, and was to have met several major armistice terms, which he repeatedly and defiantly breached for twelve years. Indeed, the evidence that Mr Hussein had subverted the Oil for Food programme into a global bribery and influence-buying scheme in pursuit of his goals – not least in the UN itself, is not irrelevant to understanding the forces at work in the situation.

As a diplomat and a person well aware of events, Mr Laurie knows that: [1] an armistice is NOT a peace treaty, i.e. the state of war continues, [2] low level hostilities provoked by Mr Hussein in fact continued across twelve years, [3] the cause for renewal of major hostilities was that these widespread material breaches were coming to a head. A defeated party to a war which acts as Mr Hussein acted has only itself to blame for the consequences – especially in a situation where there was serious reason to believe that the state in question was not merely a local or regional threat, by virtue of credibly having or pursuing weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them.. It was not just just the conservative Americans, the British and Israelis or Australians, but also the Germans, French, Russians and Chinese who believed based on the evidence in hand, that this was the situation the world faced. The issue was to find a solution, and Mr Hussein step by step eliminated the non-military options.

So, the critical issue is not “oil,” but regional and global stability and freedom from aggression.


We could go on, but I have no heart for that. I think enough on the other side of the story has already been put on the table for us as intelligent Caribbean people to want to look for ourselves at both sides of the situation, to see what is the realistic alternative in light of credible implications of different proposed policies and/or “solutions.” And that is one way we can better understand our times, to know what we should do. END

UPDATE: Some minor adjustments and a few links, now that my substitute PC has settled down a bit.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Update: Nazanin aquitted of murder, demanded to pay blood money

This from LGF:

Nazanin Fatehi, the teenage Iranian girl on trial for her life (for the crime of defending herself and a niece from gang rape), has been acquitted of the murder charge—but the Islamic court ruled that she must now pay “blood money” to the family of the would-be rapist. (Hat tip: Gateway Pundit.) . . .

Thank God for the first step of vindication.

Now, for the second -- for it is far from plain that she used disproportionate force in self-defense, given that showing a knife, and cutting an attacker in the arm did not dissuade the would-be gang rapists.


UPDATE 2, Jan 18: Two inappropriate comments deleted, one for bad language from the same noted yesterday [whom I will follow up on with his ISP, DV]. The second, for labelling itself as from "God" and for inappropriate length joined to utter irrelevance. For, this is an update on a young woman just rescued from judicial murder at the hands of the Iranian legal system; ignoring that to fulminate on whatever one wishes is utterly out of order. [The commenter claiming to be what he plainly is not should therefore pause and think about just what he is ignoring to spout off his feelings. Then, it would be wise for him to first settle the context by going back several posts to address the context of the history of modern Israel, especially the events of 1919 surrounding Chaim Weizmann and Feisal Hussein. When he can discuss that with balance and on an informed basis, then he will be able to address current matters, including what nations are forced to do as reasonable steps to defend themselves from persistent wars of aggression and intended annihilation and associated murderous terrorism. Otherwise, he simpy joins the other commenter as an abusive, ignorant and ill-bred person.]

UPDATE, Jan 17:
Overnight, I have received a sadly personally abusive comment on this post, from a poster tracing to the blog, now off-line for "maintenance." (Judging by complaints of "censorship" after just one week on-line, and the sort of points and vocabulary that come up in the links on a quick web search, that may well reflect disciplinary action taken by responsible hosting services.)

I will respond to it in some details, as this will help make plain my policy on comments in this blog.

The comment was bylined "Abraham," and the blog in question is evidently registered to a Mr Abraham Sa[mir?]; who seems to be a twenty-something Islamist (or, at least, Anti-Israel, i.e.
borderline antisemitic) advocate with left-liberal-leaning politics, based in the USA.

Now, I will speak directly:



POLICY: I am perfectly willing to engage with commenters on matters of fact and reasoning, but simply will not tolerate personal abuse, or bad language. [Cf my links section - this is a Christian blog FYI.]

ACTION: If you are able to correct the points of fact and reasoning in my series of posts now engaging Islamism as the second tidal wave bearing down on the Caribbean, welcome. But, if you resort to further abuse or to vulgarity, I will take the necessary steps to report you to your hosting ISP as an abuser of the Internet. That can cost you emailing, blogging and Internet access privileges; just read the fine print on your contract. Depending on your jurisdiction, that may also be at least a misdemeanor.

BACKGROUND: For your information as well,
LGF [a blog that played a key role in exposing the Fauxtography and Rathergate scandals] are not "losers."

By linking Charles Johnson's update above, I have simply acknowledged my source of credible information on on the latest development [who BTW credits and cites in extenso a further source], and have given my Caribbean audience -- who by and large do not read American blogs -- a follow-up on a story where I asked them to
join with me in signing the now plainly successful petition to save this girl from unjust execution.

Further, this blog -- as it plainly states in its headlined statement of purpose -- is not for entertainment but actionable, serious-level information; so "boredom" of the plainly childish and ill-mannered is irrelevant. (Besides, methinks he doth protest too much is plainly relevant.)

ISSUE: Moreover, if you cannot but respond to a matter of long delayed partial correction of a serious injustice by a leading Islamic power's legal system, by making spoiled-brat accusations of homosexual child abuse against people you do not know, that is telling on your want of simple broughtupcy -- a wonderful Caribbean word that says it all -- much less, intellectual and ethical horsepower. (So is the frequent resort to vulgarity and personal abuse in your blog, as a Yahoo search demonstrates.) It also is sadly telling on the underlying nature of the ideological and spiritual agendas being discussed in this blog.

SPIRITUAL ROOTS: Now, finally, on root issues. Kindly, read Rom 2:4 - 11, which -- sadly -- you show is tellingly apt:

RO 2:4 . . . do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

RO 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.

May God in his grace help you to rethink your path. I invite you to look carefully at the truth concerning the once crucified "under Pontius Pilate," now risen, glorified Lord Jesus of Nazareth; here, here and here for starters. Please, your eternity is at stake; do not simply dismiss unwelcome truth.

Grace to you,

In His Service,


1 Chron 12:32 Report, 22: On the Afroz thesis and the Islamist claim to the Caribbean and Africa

First, a note: Over the past few days, I took occasion to visit with Mr Totten at his excellent blog, Middle East Journal, which regularly features first hand reporting from that troubled region. The exchange with Hezbollah Lover, apparently a troubled Lebanese teen, should be of interest in revealing the inner thought-life of many in that turbulent corner of the globe. Let us not forget to pray for him, and for many others like him. (NB: MEJ, for excellent reason, joins this blog's list of links today.)

Now, back on topic: understanding our times, to know how to act in good time with wisdom. For, we need to look at how the patterns of claims and agendas revealed on Friday last regarding Israel, and on Thursday last regarding the foundations of Islam, also extend to Africa and our region.

For that, a paper from the 2003 Conference on Islam, the Gospel and the Caribbean that critically analyses historian Dr Afroz's claims and revisionist history of Jamaica, and Professor Warner-Lewis' devastating Gleaner rebuttal, together, are an excellent place to begin.

In essence, Dr Afroz:

[I: Argues:] “Of the three Abrahamic religions, Islam was the faith of the Black African slaves brought to Jamaica and to the other West Indian Islands from West and Central Africa.” [1995, p. 30.]

[II: Thus also] . . . [she] claims[21] that the Spanish settlement from 1494 on was predominantly Moorish, and that “Moor”: (1) implies Islamic – true, and (2) includes Black African (misleading[22]).
[III. Further:] . . . the majority of Jamaicans are descended from Islamic Moors, who were brought here as slaves by the Spanish or the British, so that: “[c]ontemporaneous to the autonomous Muslim Maroon ummah, hundreds of thousands of Mu’minun (the Believers of the Islamic faith) of African descent worked as slaves on the plantations in Jamaica.”[23] Specifically, the Maroons are viewed as resisting the British invaders of 1655 by jihad, as Saladin resisted and finally defeated Richard the Lion Heart and the other Crusaders in the Middle East. Slave revolts, similarly, are reinterpreted by Dr. Afroz as jihads, especially the 1831/2 “Baptist War” rebellion:
Jihad became the religious and political ideology of these crypto-Muslims, who became members of the various denominational nonconformist churches since being sprinkled with the water by the rectors of the parishes.[24] Despite the experience of the most cruel servitude and the likelihood of a swift and ruthless suppression of the rebellion, the spiritually inspired Mu’minun collectively responded to the call for an island-wide jihad in 1832. Commonly known as the Baptist Rebellion, the Jihad of 1832 wrought havoc of irreparable dimension to the plantation system and hastened the Emancipation Act of 1833. [Afroz, p. 227. NB: This claim is most improbable .]
[IV: thus, Islamic advocates conclude:] . . . that the Caribbean’s ancestral and cultural roots are largely Islamic. Islam, then, seeks cultural legitimacy in the Caribbean as being linked to our predominantly African identity, which is specifically tied to an emphasis on jihad as military struggle. On this basis, Caribbean peoples are in effect invited to turn away from both secularism and the Christian religion of our oppressors, and “return” to Islam.

At first glance, this general claim of an Islamic past may seem very plausible [especially if one is ignorant of the copious evidence of a predominantly Animist past for the Caribbean's slaves], as Islam has been present in North Africa ever since the 600s, and spread south over the next several centuries. However, it is in fact fundamentally misleading. For, as Professor Warner-Lewis aptly concludes, with sadness but in light of abundant evidence:

. . . lack of proper supporting evidence undermines the validity of her discovery. In general, then, it is to be lamented that Afroz's effort to throw new light on Caribbean history and culture is discredited by constant slippage from probability to bolder and bolder assertions, by misapplication of terminology, and disconcerting manipulation of evidence.

Some explanation is in clearly order, and can be given not only through Professor Lewis' article [which should be carefully read!] but also in a list of points drawn from the above linked 2003 Conference paper:

It is evident that Dr Afroz has correctly highlighted definite evidence of Islamic presence among the slave populations in Pre-Emancipation Jamaica. However, it is also necessary to assess whether the evidence warrants the further claims that the Maroons constituted an ummah, and that the slave population contained hundreds of thousands of Muslims and Crypto-Muslims.

Of these wider claims, it is at once evident that there are substantial problems with the links between the evidence presented and the conclusions inferred, as well as some problems with some aspects of the evidence cited (and even more with what has NOT been cited but would be easily accessible to a Historian working in the History Department of UWI Mona Campus).

These concerns may be highlighted as a set of key unanswered questions:
a] The Oxford English Dictionary describes Moors as being of a mixed Arab and Berber stock, the latter being a Caucasian people native to North Africa. Further to this, the infusion of Negro stock reflects the trans-Sahara slave trade. Why then is there an equation: “a Moor being an African is a Negro or a black person.”?

b] Dr Afroz notes that: “Pork, which is restricted in Islam, seemed to have been a common protein for the slaves.” But, if the Spanish slaves brought to Jamaica were predominantly Muslim, so that the core of the original Maroon communities – identified as an autonomous ummah -- was Islamic, why then has the Windward Maroon culture been traditionally and closely identified with Jerked Pork, from Spanish and early English settlement times?

c] If “many Qur'anic terms . . . have become part of the vernacular in non-Arab Muslim countries, and in most cases the populace is often not aware that they are Arabic words having Islamic significance” then what is the evidentiary value of such linguistic survivals, beyond showing some contact with Arab culture?

d] Similarly, if West and Central African peoples becoming Islamised and thus part of dar al Islam includes that “in some cases the chiefs remained pagans but employed Muslims as officials, traders and advisors” or keeping a “cultural orientation which synthesised Islamic rituals and festivals with pagan customs and ceremonies” [1995] then in which sense could the Maroon communities and plantation slaves in Jamaica be meaningfully distinguished as Muslim rather than Animist?

e] If the black Baptist missionaries were actually Muslim teachers and were able to teach and practice Islam in their non-conformist chapels in the years leading up to Emancipation, why is it that a Muslim presence on the order of 3/5 or more of the slave population would vanish by the time of Emancipation? Especially, as both non-conformist Christian Faith and traditional religions thrived under the same circumstances, despite suspicion and persecution?

f] The set of identified Muslim slaves cited from their own writings or in the accounts of others follows a clear pattern: male, educated Mandinkas; often serving as domestic slaves. What basis is there for projecting such a pattern across the range of tribes and regions , and to the far more common field hands? What of the consistent reports that the vast majority of the slaves were adherents of Myal and/or Obeah?

g] Similarly, why is it more credible that Nanny/Sarah was a Sufi saint rather than (as the contemporaries & subsequent traditions describe) an Obeah adept, i.e. a practitioner of traditional African religion?

h] Further, from the 1810’s, the British Baptists sent out men such as Burchell, Knibb and Phillipo to further the Baptist work in Jamaica. If George Liele was in fact more Islamic than Christian in his beliefs and teachings, why did he appeal to the British Baptists for assistance with the Jamaica work? [Indeed, why did his Church Statement of Faith explicilty identify itself as [Ana]baptist, as is documented by Gayle's biography?]

i] Why did these men speak of facing a major theological challenge of syncretism with Myal and Obeah rather than Islam?

j] If baptisms were largely by force and under the control of the Anglican Colonial Church Union, why did the Baptists and other dissenters become the dominant Christian churches of the black population?

k] As Professor Warner-Lewis has pointed out, if Sharpe et al were Islamic leaders, why did they not use the occasion of their trials and executions to bear testimony to their true faith?
Thus, it is fair comment to conclude that although Islamic influence and presence are highlighted in the papers surveyed, the overall thesis that “Islam was the faith of the Black African slaves brought to Jamaica and to the other West Indian Islands from West and Central Africa” [1995] has not been demonstrated. Further to this, the force of several of the above questions is such as to make the thesis at least improbable.

But also, these are not just Seminar-Room debate points. For, as Nehls and Eric summarise, the claim to an Islamic past is subject to the assertion that where the Ummah was, the Ummah must be restored, by force if necessary.

In short, the Afroz thesis is an implicit territorial claim, essentially similar to the concept that once the Ummah has been imposed in the Land of Israel, it is to be restored at all costs. (Indeed, let us note: radical islamists have not surrendered their claims to Al Andaluz, i.e. Spain and Portugal!)

So, it is sobering to read Nehls and Eric's comments concerning Africa:

"Africa is to be the first Islamic continent" is a well-used Islamic slogan . . . . The ISLAM IN AFRICA ORGANISATION was founded by representatives of 24 African states at Abuja in Nigeria in November 1989. In its founding communiqué we are informed about its aims and purposes. It expresses very understandable and to them legitimate desires, such as the unification of all Muslims throughout Africa, the putting away of 'artificial boundaries', and re-instating a strong and united 'Umma' (= congregation of all Muslims) with the purpose of fulfilling the commands of Allah.
We will have to consider, however, the little syllable 're-'. It keeps on occurring in this document: 're-instate the Umma' in Africa, 're-store the use of Arabic script in the vernacular', 're-instate the application of the Shariah'. This means that what was there before, will have to be instated again, implying that there was an Umma in Africa, within which the local languages were written in Arabic lettering, and that Africans were under the Shariah law. All this is not true, excepting North Africa and some very isolated cases in which e.g. Ki-Swahili was written in Arabic script. Let us look at some of the statements:
'The Conference notes the yearning of Muslims everywhere on the continent who have been deprived of their rights to be governed by the Shariah and urges them to intensify efforts in the struggle to reinstate the application of the Shariah'.
The arising question certainly is, how any country can be administered when two sets of laws are applied to different people? The Muslims in Britain are pushing for the same. This can only lead to either confrontation or disintegration.
While we understand and have to accept the effort to establish Islamic Da'wa (mission) centers and to promote Da'wa work all over Africa, we find unacceptable the 'establishment and application of the Shariah to all Muslims', if this is done while Muslims are a minority, and if such action leads to Christians being disadvantaged, which will, no doubt, be the case.
Unacceptable also are the following objectives:
* 'To ensure the appointment of only Muslims into strategic national and international posts of member nations'.
* 'To eradicate in all its forms and ramifications all non-Muslim religions in member nations (such religions shall include Christianity, Ahmadiyya and other tribal modes of worship unacceptable to Muslims)'.
* 'To ensure that only Muslims are elected (!) to all political posts of member nations'.
* 'To ensure the ultimate replacement of all Western forms of legal and judicial systems with the Shariah in all member nations before the next Islam in Africa Conference'
Among the disclosed names of the member nations we find Nigeria and Tanzania which have no Muslim majority. A number of other nations have not been made known. These are likely to have an even lesser Muslim presence. It is indeed noticeable by now that these aims are being implemented and not only in Islamic states, but also in those with Muslim minorities . . . .
Again I like to persuade the reader not to blame this on the Muslims he comes in contact with. I compile this report not to blame any person, but to expose a religious system which is power-hungry, oppressive and deeply anti-Christian.

Thus, again, we see a clear, sobering pattern of intent to subjugate others, among a significant group of Muslims acting in the name of Islam -- and with significant precedent in Islamic founding teachings and examples. So, the points of concern and call to action laid out in the 2003 Conference Declaration are plainly very relevant to our day. Excerpting:

We express concern that certain Islamic scholars have distorted and consequently failed to provide a fair, objective and balanced presentation of Jamaican and indeed Caribbean history . . . . We express concern that Caribbean Governments are becoming susceptible to Islamic overtures without thoroughly examining the possible social, cultural, political and religious implications for the Caribbean’s peoples . . . . We express concern that Islam is subtly infiltrating the Caribbean culture by manipulating our core cultural issues . . . .

We call the leaders and members of the church to educate and equip themselves with the Word of God, return to Biblical values and be prepared to contend for the faith through the truth in love . . . . We call the church to research and thus to inform, educate and counsel the region about Islam: its history, claims, teaching and evident intent in the Caribbean . . . . We call the church to embrace the full implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that we can effectively relate the truth of the gospel to core cultural issues . . . . We call the church to identify, examine and embrace the core cultural issues facing their communities and so better meet the intellectual, social, cultural and spiritual needs of our peoples . . . . We call the church to better express love and concern for the Muslim people through appropriate ministries . . . . We call the church to discern and oppose potentially destructive agendas hidden beneath cultural, economic and political overtures . . . . We call the church to learn, pray and take appropriate action regarding international issues and especially issues concerning our suffering sisters and brothers in the global church . . . . We therefore, finally, call the church to be alert; to pray without ceasing; to try the spirits; and, most of all to in all things act by the truth in love.

So, now, have we come to the kingdom for such a time as this? END

Friday, January 12, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Report, 21: On Modern Israel

This morning, AP headlined a report that fourteen [of two hundred] Board Members for former US President Mr Jimmy Carter's Carter Center, have resigned in protest over his new book.

In their letter, they wrote to him that:

"You have clearly abandoned your historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side"

. . . evidently referring to his new book, which has been strongly rebuked as unfair to Israel and inaccurate or misleading on telling, central details. (Given the inaptness of its title, I must with sadness go further, and say as well: slanderous. Note that I refuse to cite it by name, for that reason.)

What a contrast is that book to the letter from another US holder of the Nobel Peace Prize (1964), Dr Martin Luther King, on the legitimacy of Zionism as the movement of Jewish nationalism, no more, no less, here!

For, we may read:

. . . Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land. The Jewish people, the Scriptures tell us, once enjoyed a flourishing Commonwealth in the Holy Land. From this they were expelled by the Roman tyrant, the same Romans who cruelly murdered Our Lord. Driven from their homeland, their nation in ashes, forced to wander the globe, the Jewish people time and again suffered the lash of whichever tyrant happened to rule over them.
"The Negro people, my friend, know what it is to suffer the torment of tyranny under rulers not of our choosing. Our brothers in Africa have begged, pleaded, requested--DEMANDED the recognition and realization of our inborn right to live in peace under our own sovereignty in our own country.
"How easy it should be, for anyone who holds dear this inalienable right of all mankind, to understand and support the right of the Jewish People to live in their ancient Land of Israel. All men of good will exult in the fulfilment of God's promise, that his People should return in joy to rebuild their plundered land.
This is Zionism, nothing more, nothing less . . .

Thus, it is now plainly appropriate -- if we are at all fair-minded -- to pause and reflect on the following excerpted summary on the modern history of Israel, which will serve to balance and give context to the usual line so unfortunately taken by reports in the local, regional and international media. For, Zionism is plainly not either imperialism, or racism or colonialism or -- heaven forbid -- "Apartheid" -- but instead, the very legitimate aspiration of the Jewish people to live in peace in their homeland, and at peace with their neighbours.

Since the just above -- and note, too, that I am not at all setting out to condone or excuse the sins of Israel or the West -- cuts clean across overwhelmingly common perceptions in our region, the above is bound to seem wrong, absurd or even irritating to a great many readers.

I therefore, invite such readers to read and answer a question -- my "test" for whether one knows enough to comment in an informed and balanced way on the Arab-Israeli situation:

What is the historical significance of: [1] the year 1919, and [2] the names [a] Chaim Weizmann, and [b] Feisal Hussein?

Kindly cf here for a brief discussion, and reflect on what the alternative history of the modern Middle East might have been, had the spirit shown there simply been followed.

So too, kindly pardon the corrective and balancing focus in the following:


By the late 1800’s, the geographic region of Western/Cis-Jordanian Palestine was largely ruinate land. From the 1893 Ottoman Census and Vital Cuinet’s independent 1896 Geographical work, Syrie, it also had a relatively light population: ~ 92,000 “Arabs” (including significant numbers of non-Arab Muslims and Christians[23]) in the ~ 8,000 sq. mi. areas that became modern Israel.[24] The rest of Cis-Jordanian Palestine had another 300 – 400,000 “Arabs.” At this time, there were also ~ 60,000 Jews in the area West of the Jordan[25]; who had their own established communities and had recovered Hebrew as their mother-tongue.

The resulting overall situation, circa 1902, has been summed up by Sir William Ramsay, a main founder of the disciplines of Biblical Archaeology and Geography:

The scenery, more especially in the central and southern regions, is . . . devoid of the rich beauty of high cultivation and productiveness. The hills as a rule are bald, bare and featureless. The terraces by which in happier times the soil was supported on the slopes have almost everywhere been destroyed, and the soil has been washed down into the hollows, where it impedes the outflow of the waters and produces marshes [NB: malarial]. Thus the land is desolate and unattractive. In general the slopes and hillsides are a wilderness of stones and rocks, where a few scanty shrubs can barely find a hold, and the glens a wilderness of marsh, with a scanty rim of cultivable land above the level of the bare rocks, just sufficient to grow food for the miserable and scanty population. [1981, p. 78. Explanatory note on Malaria and italics added.]

This sad spectacle had been created by centuries of misrule, debt- and disease- ridden tenant farming operated by absentee landowners, and a resulting largely landless and migrant peasantry preyed upon by their overlords and semi-nomadic bandits from the deserts to the East.

The transformation to the land we now see was in the main due to the Zionist resettlement from the 1870’s on, whereby Jews bought land that often had largely been dismissed as useless (at highly inflated prices) from the wealthy absentee Effendi landowners -- then restored it to agricultural production. In the process, they injected large quantities of capital and skill, thus creating employment opportunities that attracted waves of Jewish, Arab and other immigrants from the region and globally. This process was then accelerated by the post World War I collapse of the defeated Ottoman Empire; which led to the creation of the League of Nations Mandate Palestine[26] (i.e. the British Mandate), which was intended to promote Jewish immigration without prejudice to the existing Arab population. [Cf. Peters, 2002, pp. 137 – 359.]

Associated with this League Mandate[27], Dr Chaim Weizmann [later, first President of Israel] and Emir Feisal Hussein of the Hejaz (S.W. Arabia) had negotiated a Versailles Treaty side agreement[28] to promote mutually supportive Jewish and Arab nations that would help modernize and develop the region. However, in the Hejaz, the al Husseinis were defeated by the Saudi family; and in Palestine, the aggressive, violently anti-Jewish policy of the British-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem prevailed. So, by 1926 – 29, Abdullah Hussein had been settled as ruler of the eastern ¾’s of the Mandate in Transjordan (a 38,000 sq, mi. region; from which Jews were banned) and Feisal as King of Iraq. Sadly, violence also swept the land, leading to the massacres of the ancient Jewish populations of Jerusalem and Hebron.

Consequently, over the next twenty years, Jewish immigration was significantly hampered [in the teeth of the rising anti-Semitic tide of Hitler’s Germany] and unofficial Arab immigration was a strongly material demographic trend in the now truncated Mandate Palestine. [Cf. Peters, pp. 196 – 412.[29]] As one result, the Middle East was deprived of the talent and treasure of many of the Jews who subsequently perished in the Nazi death camps. Then also, when the British surrendered the Mandate in the late 1940’s, Transjordan became the nation of Jordan [briefly, “Palestine”] in 1946 and the UN in 1947 proposed a partition of the cis-Jordanian region into Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem and environs being an International city.

The Jews accepted, and the Arab League rejected the UN vote; declaring intent to annihilate the Jews. Thus, within 24 hours of Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948, the 600,000 Israeli Jews faced invasion from five Arab armies, some of them much better equipped than the Haganah, the Jewish part-time militia. However, contrary to expectations, Israel survived. As a result of the conflict, there was an exchange of refugee populations: 400 – 600,000 Arabs [under a unique criterion that 2 years of settlement in Palestine qualified one as a refugee], and 620,000 Jews from Arab lands who were resettled in Israel.[30] [An additional 200,000 oriental Jews settled elsewhere in the world.]

The Jewish refugees were welcomed and absorbed by Israel, becoming the largest single sector of the population today. However, the Arab refugees in the main were not similarly accepted by the Arab countries [with the major exception of Jordan], and provided the nucleus for today’s Palestinian refugee population.

Three major wars, terrorism and two uprisings in the West Bank and Gaza (and the two Gulf Wars) have dominated the subsequent history:

1] In 1956, Nasser closed the straights of Tiran to Israeli shipping, inducing Israel to make common cause with the British and French (who undertook a military response to the Egyptian leader’s seizure of the jointly owned Suez Canal). The Sinai was captured in a 4-day campaign, but was handed back under a US-led, UN–sponsored settlement.
2] In 1967, again after a buildup of tensions, and accompanied by declarations of intent to drive the Jews into the sea, the straights were again closed by Nasser, who also instructed the UN peacekeepers in the Sinai to leave. The Israelis undertook a pre-emptive air strike and ground campaign in June, that in six days retook the Sinai, captured the Golan heights [handed over to French Mandate Syria by the British in the 1920’s] plus Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza strip.
3] On October 6, 1973, Egypt and Syria attacked the Israeli positions, and made significant progress that threatened the survival of the Jewish state. Reportedly, Egypt had access to Soviet nuclear weapons, and the Israelis assembled several nuclear bombs; the Superpowers came to the brink of a global confrontation as well. However, Israel soon recovered the military initiative on the ground, in part due to the American decision to resupply them with key weapons.
4] Thereafter the uneasy situation was broken through when, after back-channel contacts, Egyptian President Sadat made a dramatic peace overture; and in 1979 the Camp David peace accord was reached between Egypt and Israel. For this, Sadat paid with his life, being assassinated while reviewing a military parade.
5] Then, in 1986, Israel and Jordan reportedly almost completed an agreement to jointly manage the West Bank towards an eventual settlement. However, a street uprising broke out in the disputed/occupied territories, the first Intifada.
6] In 1991, after the first Gulf War (during which Arafat backed Saddam Hussein), an opportunity for a settlement seemed to arise, and what became the Oslo peace process was initiated. However, in 1995, Yitzak Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist, and by 2000 the unprecedented deal put on the table by US President Clinton and agreed to by Barak of Israel, was rejected; a second Intifada followed. (At least one Palestinian leader has publicly stated that the Sharon visit to Temple Mount was the excuse, not the cause.)
7] Currently, in the aftermath of the second Gulf War, the Americans and the EU are sponsoring a Roadmap to Peace framework. It seems to be facing very similar roadblocks to those that have frustrated every other effort to date.

The timing of the two Intifadas is therefore highly suggestive: they have both happened when a compromise peace more or less along the lines of the 1947 UN partition has been on the table. That is, they are not simple “spontaneous uprisings” of an oppressed people; but rather reflect a shift in Arab strategy post-1973, to the fostering of a Palestinian national identity and state, towards fulfilling the policy intent that has dominated the Arab world since the 1920’s[31]: the unacceptability of a Jewish -- thus Dhimmi-ruled[32] -- state in the Middle East.[33]

Currently the United States has intervened strongly in the Middle East, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks by Arab Muslim extremists. The underlying policy appears to be that the US not only wishes to root out the bases for the terror networks that have attacked it[34] (similar to the Barbary Coast anti-piracy naval wars of the turn of C19), but also it aims:

1) To block the emergence of an Islamic Nuclear power (e.g. Iraq, Iran, possibly Syria), probably on the grounds that that would make a regional nuclear war all but inevitable; and
2) To foster democratization, economic development and liberalization across the region; in the hope that these globalization-linked forces would help to drain the pool of resentments that lie at the root of the region’s instability.

Such a goal will prove to be difficult to achieve at best, and may well prove unsustainable in the long run, as Islamists (and a great many more moderate Muslims) view all three policy aims as incredibly hostile to the global mission and dignity of Islam. But, the US is probably encouraged by the success of its similar interventions with Germany and Japan from the 1940’s on, and the outcome of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

However, in the background of the headline-grabbing diplomatic and military events, Israel has undergone a dramatic and exemplary economic transformation in the past 120 years that is an object lesson not only to the Middle East but also to the whole world.

For, the initial Kibbutzim[35] created an agricultural powerhouse out of what had been largely ruinate land, farmed under unsustainable systems of tenure. Then, with the traditional Jewish focus on education, from the 1930’s on a world-class university system has been created; which now serves to underpin one of the leading high-tech economies in the world. For, arising from the need to develop its own armaments industries the Israelis have spun out an impressive array of inventions and industries, ranging from drip irrigation to cutting-edge aerospace systems and a strong software sector.

The net result has been that in oil-rich Saudi Arabia, the per capita income in the early 2000’s was US$ 10,600. In Jordan, it was $ 4,200; in the West Bank, $ 1,000; in the Gaza, $ 625. And, in a resource-poor State of Israel that has had to devote a major part of its resources to the military, it was $ 20,000. [36]

In conclusion, it is evident that the underlying deep-rooted hatreds in the Middle East have frustrated every seemingly reasonable attempt to bring about a positive change and a betterment of the people of the region as a whole. This underscores the importance of the issues raised in the main body of this paper; for, unless reconciliation is found in the arms of the Prince of Peace, there will be no lasting positive settlement of the Middle East situation. (And that is exactly what many leading expositors infer from the relevant prophecies in the Bible.)

Let us pray for the peace of the hitherto ironically named City of Peace, Jerusalem.


For more details, and further correctives to a great many other misunderstandings and myths, the interested reader is invited to go here.

Finally, let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem. AMEN