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Religious Intolerance in the Gulf States

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Christians in the countries of the GCC are virtually “servants, abominably treated. Their religion must be practiced in secret, with converts threatened with death.”

Interest in the state of Middle East Christians has largely focused on the quality of their lives in the Levant, Egypt, and Southern Sudan, predominantly Christian areas before the rise of Islam that still contain sizeable Christian minorities. By contrast, little attention has been paid to Christians in the Arabian Peninsula, which had no indigenous Christian presence in Islamic times.

However, the oil boom of the 1970s created a tremendous demand for foreign labor in the Persian Gulf rentier states. Unsurprisingly, the number of workers needed to drive the emerging economies of the Gulf states was bound to include significant numbers of Christians. There are now more than three and a half million expatriate Christians working in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, mostly Catholics from the Philippines, India, and Pakistan. As their numbers increased, the question of how—or whether—to allow them to openly practice their faith became a significant issue.

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The Logic of Islamic Intolerance

Saudi Sheikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid

Saudi Sheikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid

A sermon delivered by popular Saudi Sheikh Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid clearly demonstrates why Western secular relativists and multiculturalists — who currently dominate media, academia, and politics — are incapable of understanding, much less responding to, the logic of Islamic intolerance.

During his sermon, al-Munajjid said that “some [Muslim] hypocrites” wonder why it is that “we [Muslims] don’t permit them [Western people] to build churches, even though they allow mosques to be built.”

The Saudi sheikh responded by saying that any Muslim who thinks this way is “ignorant” and  wants to equate between right and wrong, between Islam and kufr [non-Islam], monotheism and shirk [polytheism], and gives to each side equal weight, and wants to compare this with that, and he asks: “Why don’t we build them churches like they build us mosques? So we allow them this in return for that?”  Do you want another other than Allah to be worshiped?  Do you equate between right and wrong? Are Zoroastrian fire temples, Jewish temples, Christian churches, monks’ monasteries, and Buddhist and Hindu temples, equal to you with the houses of Allah and mosques? So you compare this with that? And you equate this with that?  Oh! Unbelievable, for he who equates between Islam and kufr[non-Islam], and Allah said: “Whoever desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers” (Koran 3:85).  And Prophet Muhamad said: “By Him in whose hand is the life of Muhamad (By Allah) he who amongst the Jews or Christians hears about me, but does not affirm his belief in that which I have been sent, and dies in his state (of disbelief), he shall be of the residents of Hellfire.”

What’s interesting about the sheikh’s zealous diatribe is that, although “intolerant” from a Western perspective, it is, in fact, quite logically consistent and reveals the wide gap between Islamic rationalism and Western fantasy (despite how oxymoronic this dichotomy might sound).

If, as Munajjid points out, a Muslim truly believes that Islam is the only true religion, and that Muhammad is its prophet, why would he allow that which is false (and thus corrupt, cancerous, misleading, etc.) to exist alongside it?  Such gestures of “tolerance” would be tantamount to a Muslim who “wants to equate between right and wrong,” as the sheikh correctly deplores.

Indeed, not only does Islam, like traditional Christianity, assert that all other religions are wrong, but under Islamic law, Hindus and Buddhists are so misguided that they must be warred against until they either accept the “truth,” that is, converting to Islam, or else being executed (Koran 9:5). As for the so-called “people of the book” — Jews and Christians — they may practice their religions, but only after being subdued (Koran 9:29) and barred from building or renovating churches and synagogues and a host of other debilitations that keep their (false) religious practices and symbols (Bibles, crosses, etc.) suppressed and out of sight.

From an Islamic paradigm — where Allah is the true god and Muhammad his final messenger — “intolerance” for other religions is logical and difficult to condemn.

The “altruistic” aspect of Islamic “intolerance” is especially important.  If you truly believe that there is only one religion that leads to paradise and averts damnation, is it not altruistic to share it with humanity, rather than hypocritically maintaining that all religions lead to God and truth?

After blasting the concept of interfaith dialogue as beyond futile, since “what is false is false — even if a billion individuals agree to it; and truth is truth — even if only one who has submitted [a Muslim] holds on to it,” the late Osama bin Laden once wrote that “Battle, animosity, and hatred — directed from the Muslim to the infidel — is the foundation of our religion. And we consider this a justice and kindness to them” (The Al Qaeda Reader, pgs. 42-43).

Note the altruistic justification: It is a “justice and kindness” to wage jihad on non-Muslims in the hopes that they convert to Islam.  According to this logic, jihadis will always be as the “good guys” — meaning that terrorism, extortion, sex-jihad, etc., will continue to be rationalized away as ugly but necessary means to altruistic ends: the empowerment of, and eventual world conversion to, Islam.

All of this logic is alien to postmodern Western epistemology, which takes for granted that a) there are no objective “truths,” certainly not in the field of theology, and that b) religion’s ultimate purpose is to make this life as peaceful and pleasant as possible (hence why “interfaith dialogue” in the West is not about determining the truth — which doesn’t exist anyway — but finding and highlighting otherwise superficial commonalities between different religions so they can all peacefully coexist in the now).

The net result of all this? On the one hand, Muslims, who believe in truth — that is, in the teachings of Islam — will continue attacking the “false,” that is, everything and everyone un-Islamic.  And no matter how violent, Islamic jihadis — terrorists and murderers — must always be seen as the “good guys,” supported by millions of Muslim sympathizers.  On the other hand, Western secularists and multiculturalists, who believe in nothing and deem all cultures and religions equal, will continue to respect Islam and empower Muslims, convinced that terrorism is an un-Islamic aberration that has no support in the Muslim world and is destined to go away — that is, they will continue disbelieving their own eyes.  Such is the offspring of that unholy union between Islamic logic and Western fallacy.

Raymond Ibrahim

Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi Family ‘living in fear’ – Blasphemy law injustice

The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil has been speaking to the family of Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi

 

Withhold aid from regimes that persecute Christians, argues senior Conservative

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Britain should withhold aid to countries that persecute Christians, a senior Conservative has said.

Liam Fox, former Defence Secretary, said that it was “unacceptable” for taxpayers’ money to go to regimes that do not “represent our values” and refused to tolerate other religions.

“A lot of people find it increasingly unacceptable as we look round the world and we see persecution of Christians, for example, or persecution of other religious minorities. They say, ‘Why should our money be given to regimes and governments who are extremely intolerant when it comes to other people’s religions?’”

The Times reported that he singled out Pakistan and Somalia as countries that fell short of British “ethical values”.

A number of MPs have spoken out for Christians in the Middle East after Prince Charles last month warned of a “crisis” of organised persecution in the region.

The Prince of Wales said at a reception for Middle Eastern Christian leaders at Clarence House that “Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants.”

Days later the shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, in an article in the Sunday Telegraph, accused British politicians of having “forsaken” the cause of Christians in the Middle East.

He praised the Conservative Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Warsi, and the DUP MP Jim Shannon, for speaking out in Parliament and elsewhere for the rights of Christian minorities.

by Liz Dodd  for The Tablet

Different faiths distributed Red Roses and Christmas Cards at the Churches of Rawalpindi and Islamabad city

Different faiths distributed Red Roses and Christmas Cards at the Churches of Rawalpindi and Islamabad city  photo-Christians in Pakistan

Different faiths distributed Red Roses and Christmas Cards at the Churches of Rawalpindi and Islamabad city
photo-Christians in Pakistan

Keeping in view the importance of Religious tolerance and interfaith harmony volunteers belonging to different faiths in Pakistan distributed red roses and Christmas cards at the Kahtoon-e-Fatima Church Islamabad and Philadelphia Pentecostal Church Rawalpindi.

The volunteers were the students from different universities of Pakistan. In the Early morning the volunteers reached at the Churches and at the end of Christmas services, they greeted the Christians Nationals of Pakistan on this very special day and presented red roses to them.

The volunteers said that the people belonging to different faiths and sects are integral part of the society where we are living today. The constitution of Pakistan protects freedom of all faiths existing in the country. We cannot make our society peaceful until we will not accept the differences among us and tolerate each other’s opinion.

The students were wearing T-Shirts with “I respect all the religions”. When the whole country is facing the wave of religious intolerance and extremism, Church administration and fellow Christians appreciated this gesture of love from these young students and served Christmas Cakes to them.

The volunteers also distributed flowers and cards at Nawaz-Shareef Park in Rawalpindi where Christian families were enjoying their day. On the question of media reporter from a private TV channel the volunteers said that we want to distribute the message of peace and diversity among the different segments of our society.

By arranging such events at public places we can create awareness in the public that together we are strong and diversity is the actual beauty of our society.

by Syed Haider Abbas  for Christians in Pakistan 

Franklin Graham Statement on Saeed Abedini, Imprisoned Because of His Faith

Frankilin Graham-abedini

BOONE, N.C. — Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse issued the following statement:

“Religious intolerance continues to threaten the lives of Christians in Iran—even when those Christians are Americans. For more than 300 days now, Pastor Saeed Abedini has been in prison. But not just any prison; Pastor Saeed was sentenced to eight years in Iran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison. The Iranian government claims he was convicted of endangering national security. But Pastor Saeed’s family and attorneys say that in reality, he was sent to prison for one simple reason—because he is a Christian.

I recently spoke with Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh. She shared how frightening it is to hear reports from family in Iran that her husband is being beaten and tortured. Naghmeh worries that she and her two young children may never see Saeed again. She’s also discouraged by the fact that our own government seems to have abandoned them. President Obama has been silent on the issue as an American Christian endures the horrors of Evin Prison.

I’m thankful that Secretary of State John Kerry finally called for Pastor Saeed’s release six months after his arrest. Sadly, since then our government appears to have done little to pressure Iran to release a fellow American citizen.

Pastor Saeed was in Iran trying to help children. With the permission of Iran’s government, he was working to build an orphanage. But his humanitarian mission led to an arrest on bogus charges and nearly a year of inhumane treatment simply because he loves Jesus Christ.

Many in the international community are expressing outrage over this blatant example of religious intolerance. I ask that our government do the same and demand that Pastor Saeed Abedini be released and allowed to return home to his wife and family in the United States.

Sept. 26 marks the one-year anniversary of Pastor Saeed’s imprisonment. Please join me in praying for Pastor Saeed and his family. I also encourage churches and people everywhere to join the hundreds of thousands of others who are showing solidarity with this courageous man of faith at SaveSaeed.org.”

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Christianity in Peril in Turkish Cyprus

Global Persecution

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Violence  against Christians has become all too frequent in recent years, with attacks on them in a wide variety of countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Repression and intolerance have been displayed against the Christian community in Nigeria; against the Coptic Christians in Alexandria, Egypt ; by bombing in a chapel in Sulu, Philippines; by bomb arracks against Assyrian Christians in Iraq; by discrimination against them in the Islamic Republic of Iraq; by prosecution under the blasphemy laws in Pakistan and elsewhere.

It  was the interruption and disruption by force of the celebration of Christian Mass in the villages of Rizokarpaso and Ayia Triada in northern Cyprus that led  the European Parliament in a resolution on January 19, 2011 to comment on the situation of Christians in the context of freedom of religion. Since the  “Arab Spring,” thousands of Christians have fled the countries of the Middle East except Israel.  Christian communities have existed for two thousand years in the Middle East, though they are now declining as a result of low birth rates and emigration caused by discrimination and persecution in most of the  Arab and Muslim countries in the area. The case of northern Cyprus is a recent example of that discrimination and intolerance towards a Christian  community.

The  disruption of the Christian liturgy in the two villages was, as admitted by the World Council of Churches at the time, a flagrant violation of fundamental freedoms and human rights, the freedom of religion and belief, as guaranteed in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in other international declarations, including the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of all Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination based on Religion and Belief.

The  area of Cyprus had been ruled administratively as a protectorate by Britain from 1878 until August 1960, when it become an independent country. An  international treaty guaranteed the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Cyprus. But political crises and violence between the Greek and Turkish  communities continued. As a result, the U.N. Security Council set up in March 1964 the U.N. Peacekeeping Force (UNFICYP), originally to prevent further  fighting between the two communities. In the absence of a political  solution of the Cyprus problem, the force, now consisting of 925 uniformed personnel, and 140 international and local staff, has remained in existence to supervise ceasefire lines, maintain a buffer zone between the two sides, and undertake humanitarian activities.

Despite  the presence of UNFICYP in 1974, the Turkish army invaded the island, ostensibly to restore “constitutional order,” after the Greek military had attempted a coup to unite Cyprus with Greece. Though there was a de facto ceasefire in August 1974, the Turkish aggression remained. The Turks never withdrew and occupied about a third of the island. In November 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was established under the leadership of Rauf  Denktash, who remained president until 2005. It had a population of 180,000, of whom about 100,000 came as colonialists from Anatolia, the Turkish mainland. The U.N. condemned the Republic as “legally invalid” and called  on states not to recognize it. None has done so except Turkey. The  town of Nicosia is still divided, with a “Green Line,” into two parts, each being the capital of one of the two regimes. It is the only divided capital in the world.

With  the establishment of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the 200,000 Greek Christian Cypriots in the north escaped or were deported to the south. The village of Rizokarpaso, where the Christian Mass was prevented, once had a population of 3,000; now it has few Christians. The Turkish Republic has epitomized qualities of ethnic cleansing, disproportionate use of force, vandalism, religious intolerance, repression, and persecution. The  Christian community in the north has dwindled to about 450.

Restrictions have been put on Christian practices, as has access to religious sites and places of worship. In spite of international calls for the Turks to stop  desecrating and destroying Christian properties, demolitions of churches have occurred, including in May 2011 the 200-year-old one in the village of Vokolida. In all, at least 530 churches have been damaged, vandalized, or destroyed. Some have been converted to military storage facilities, stables, casinos, or nightclubs; 78 have been transformed into mosques.

The  Orthodox Church has been refused permission to restore Christian monuments. One calculation estimates that 60,000 relics, icons, and mosaics from  ancient Byzantine have been stolen. Some were found in the Getty Museum in Malibu before a U.S. court ruled that they belonged to the Christian Church. Only since 2003 have the Greek Christians been allowed to cross the border into the north and see the destruction of their heritage.

crowdOne wonders if Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan and the leaders of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus by their intolerant persecution of the Greek Christians are pursuing a policy of revenge. After all, it was from the town of Seleucia, on the Tigris, later burned by the Roman military, that Paul sailed to Cyprus on his first journey to convert the population to Christianity  (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 13), and it was from Cyprus that the early Christians set out to proselytize the Greeks of Antioch.

 

Punjab hub of violence against Christians

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The Constitution of Pakistan does not provide for any punishment for those who misuse the Blasphemy law. In view of the fact that, since 1990’s there has been a dramatic rise in Blasphemy accusations where as some of these have been dealt with extra-Judicially.

The roots of the Blasphemy laws of Pakistan Penal Code can be traced deep into Indian Penal Code of 1860. The Blasphemy Laws were pioneer by dint of Sections 295-B and 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code at some point in the authoritarian rule of General Zia-ul-Haq.

In the context of a well established Blasphemy law in the country Punjab– the bulkiest province of Pakistan has become home to majority of usage of these laws at the same time as  Punjab is dwelling of almost 81 percent Christians. A bit further than half of Pakistani Christians reside in six districts of Central PunjabLahore, Faislabad, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Salikot. In keeping with the 1998 Census, a greater part of Christians in the Punjab live in rural areas. What is more, as many as 40 percent of all Christians in Pakistan inhabit Lahore, Karachi and Faisalabad districts; with a momentous mass in urban dwellings.

In line with 1998 Census, the population of religious minorities, in Pakistan, was more or less six Million or 3.7 percent of the overall populace. The Hindus and Christians make up 83 percent of the religious minorities in Pakistan, whilst Hindus outnumbered Christians by a minute edge. 

The seven districts that have put in most to the blasphemy cases are Lahore,  Faisalabad, Sialkot, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujranwala and Toba Tek Singh. The entire  population of these districts is 25 Million, out of which five percent are Christians; 50 percent of total Christian population in Pakistan- roughly 2 Million keep their heads above water in these seven districts. But the fact that all of these districts are in Punjab, is an eyebrow raising affair.

A breakdown of 361 cases of blasphemy offences registered by the police between 1986 and 2007 shows that as many as 49 percent cases were registered against non-Muslims.  An aggregation of 21 percent cases was against Christians- and these are those which were judicially tried while at most of times the offender is tried extra-judicially. Out of 361 total cases, in excess of two-thirds cases were found to be originated in the Punjab, The figure of cases and indicted 77 and 69 percent respectively is strangely elevated in the Punjab.  With reference to the 35 districts in the Punjab, police in seven above mentioned districts of central Punjab – had filed 10 or more cases during 1986 and 2007. Thus the districts of Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Kasur, Sheikhupura, Gujrunwala and Toba Tek Singh contributed most to the controversial list of the Blasphemy accused. 

Forty one percent of all cases registered in terms of Religion embrace 65 percent of suits cataloged against Christians.

Withal, incidents like Shanti Nagar, Gojra, Badami Bagh and Essa Pur Chak 31-10/R flames of anti-Christian riots in Punjab razed properties, houses Churches, Bibles and many lives. This embossed religious intolerance is now beginning to sting the National integration causing fear and disillusion of alienation among the Christians in Pakistan. Majority of them more or less 90% give their consent to abandon Pakistan over the issues of religious intolerance, blasphemy laws and intensifying antagonism in Pakistani society.

by Madeeha S Bakhsh

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