Divine revelation means two different things for Muslims and Christians respectively. Christians believe the Bible to be principally divine self-revelation. That is, God is most interested in unveiling Himself to the human race, at first through His determined relationship with Israel through good times and bad, and then ultimately through Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God, who became flesh to draw near to us. The Mosaic Law and the prophetic writings are important, not simply because they elucidate laws that God intends human beings to obey, but also because they teach human beings about the nature and priorities of the One who established them from the beginning. The goal of biblical revelation is to draw lost human beings back into loving fellowship with the God who created them and from whom they have been separated by their sin.
Muslims, on the other hand, believe that though the Qur’an is indeed divine revelation, it is not divine self-revelation. God is unknowable in his essence, and even if he were knowable, he is not interested in sharing himself with humanity. The Qur’an does not offer humans the opportunity to draw near to God in tender fellowship. Allah’s reward to obedient followers is not the promise of unending love and intimacy with him but rather a membership card to a heavenly brothel and epicurean club. God himself is not to be found in this sensual paradise. His throne is far above even the highest (seventh) level of heaven with which he rewards his most favored followers.
The Bible for Christians is not the be-all and end-all in terms of revelation, primarily because it is a written source, and in itself cannot wholly convey the relational nature of the God who seeks to know and be known by His creation. As such, the Bible serves best as a rich resource pointing its readers to the One who reveals God most fully in ways we can understand Him most clearly, Jesus. It is Jesus, God the Son (second member of the Trinity) who becomes incarnate as a human being in order to draw us into relationship with God through the agency of the Holy Spirit (third member of the Trinity). This is why the Gospel of John refers to Jesus as the eternal Word (who was with God and was God from before creation) made flesh to dwell among us. It is the living. breathing Jesus who shows us what it means to say that “God loves us.” He is, as the apostle Paul says, “the image of the invisible God,” or in Jesus’ own words, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” He is the apex of God’s revelation to the world, which is why Jesus could make this astounding claim to the Pharisees: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).Or again, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46). Luke records in his Gospel that when Jesus first appears to a gathering of most of his disciples post-resurrection, and they respond with fear and disbelief, he gently scolds them for their slowness in understanding the Scriptures, declaring, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms about me.” The phrase “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” was a shorthand way in first Century Israel of summing up what we today would call the entire Old Testament.
So, Christians believe, the Word became flesh and fully incarnated truth and grace for us to experience. Muslims, on the other hand, believe that the Word became paper. That is, the eternal Word of God, which was inscribed from eternity on a tablet in heaven (the “mother of the book” according to Quran 13: 39 and 43:4, or a “well-guarded/preserved tablet” according to 85:22) and then “sent down” orally through the agency of the angel Jibril to Muhammad who repeated what he heard to his listeners. It was not until after Muhammad’s death that all this material, memorized or written in various formats, was gathered and put in codex (book) form. Muslims believe this process of transmission was flawless, and that the Qur’an they hold today is exactly as originally revealed. Since it was unveiled in Arabic, this divine book is only Allah’s true revelation in Arabic. Memorizations and recitations must be done in Arabic. To the objection that roughly three quarters of the Muslim world does not understand or speak Arabic, scholars reply that it is not necessary to understand the text. Divine blessing flows from simply memorizing and reciting the correct Arabic sounds, even if one remains oblivious of what he/she is saying. Of course, understanding what one reads or recites is even better, but it is not required. It is enough to possess the Qur’an, to revere it, to memorize and recite it, and to protect it from blasphemers.
The average Muslim is not expected to study the Qur’an and make up his/her own mind as to the meaning of the text, but rather to accept the interpretations of past scholars whose stature has been affirmed by the majority over the centuries. Novel interpretations (known as bid’a, or innovation) are at the very least frowned upon, at the worst they may lead to banishment or execution. Hence most Muslims see the Qur’an as a revelation to which they do not have direct access, but whose message must be mediated to them through learned scholars. It is a book of laws to obey and of dictums to recite. It points not to the possibility of an eternity of loving fellowship with God but rather of the reward of eternal fleshly hedonism or of the endless torments in the flames of hell.
Whereas the God of the Bible extends His welcoming hands in love to a lost and wayward humanity through the life, death and resurrection of the Word made flesh, the god of the Qur’an issues his guidance for humanity, and then watches to judge the actions of human beings as to the level of their obedience. Obedient slaves are likely rewarded (though Allah reserves the right to exercise his sovereignty in any way he chooses); disobedient slaves are undoubtedly destined for the flames.
For Christians, then, God’s revelation stems from His love for the human race, and His desire to redeem. For Muslims, the revelation of Allah stems from his role as Judge, and becomes the main yardstick by which he rewards or condemns his slaves. And since no Muslim, or any other human being, can perfectly live out the commands of Islam (or any other religion worth its salt), the result is guilt and fear. One must hope that Allah grades on the curve, and that one scores above the curve’s cutoff point. There is no certainty of salvation, or of mercy.
For the Christian, on the other hand, God’s love is seen most fully in His actions undertaken to win salvation for human beings. The atoning work of Jesus Christ assures his followers of their reconciliation with the Heavenly Father, removing the guilt and sentence of sin and promising a transformed life of holiness and glory. Instead of guilt and fear, the Christian lives with freedom and joy, resting on the assurance of God’s unassailable and unending love.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Muslims know nothing substantive about this God of love, for they are taught of a distant divine Judge who will one day pronounce his verdict on slaves who cannot know him and whom he does not deign to embrace. It is the calling of Christians to share the good news of God’s love with those who have little hope, especially those trapped in a system of beliefs fraught with despair.
More than ever, in this Easter season, when through the resurrection of Jesus God has revealed His victory for humanity over sin, death and the devil, we have the privilege of serving as heralds of joy, issuing the invitation for one and all to run into the outstretched arms of their Heavenly Father, made possible by the Word made flesh, the light of life for all humanity. Let’s spread the word.
Unity is an ideal worth striving for, in most cases. People generally value family harmony; companies cherish unity of vision and purpose among employees; nations thrive with a united populace. Where possible, unity is to be preferred over division and opposition.
But there are times when unity is not worth the cost it demands. This is particularly true when it comes to matters of truth. If ideological opponents sacrifice some fundamental truth in order to gain a tenuous, pragmatic alliance with each other, their efforts will ultimately collapse like a house of cards. Matters of ultimate truth allow for no compromise with opposite notions. One does not try to mix oil and water, good and evil, light and darkness, innocence and sin. In the world of religions, this applies particularly to those who seek to unify worldviews that fundamentally disagree. We call such mooncalves syncretists, who seek to find the lowest common denominators in separate religions and then highlight them as the most important teachings/beliefs of the religions in question. In reality, orthodox practitioners of each religion in question reject the efforts of syncretizers, objecting that by reducing their faith to the least common denominator with another belief system, the unique beliefs of each religion are ignored, if not obliterated. What remains is not either religion, but an artificial, bloodless, colorless collection of uninspiring, moralistic pablum.
Nevertheless, in every generation there are simpletons who seek to unite religions by brushing aside their central truth claims and focusing on superficialities. With regard to Christianity and Islam, a recent movement (beginning in the 1980s) known as Chrislam has gained some notoriety for its attempt to fuse the two religions into an insipid hybrid. It has been roundly pilloried for failing to be reflect either religion accurately.
One ersatz academic in recent years has been making a name for himself by claiming that Jesus and Muhammad are “kindred spirits and brothers”, that “the Qur’an and New Testament are strikingly similar in many ways,” and that as monotheists, Christians and Muslims “…have more in common than we have differences.”
These trite generalizations by Craig Considine are so outrageous that it is hard to believe they could come from a serious academic. One could just at frivolously say that the Gospels and Aesop’s Fables are strikingly similar in many ways, or that Jesus and Genghis Khan are kindred spirits and brothers, or that “as people who believe in government, communists and supporters of democracy have more in common than we have differences.”
Considine is a lecturer in sociology on the faculty of Rice University, so perhaps we should cut him some slack for venturing boldly outside his chosen discipline and making a fool of himself. Unfortunately, he touts himself as an expert in Christian-Islamic historical and theological matters, and thereby infects the minds of naive listeners with his aberrant views delivered with self-assurance. Considine’s efforts epitomize the pursuit of unity at the expense of truth.
Of particular concern to me are his claims that Jesus and Muhammad share the brotherhood of kindred spirits. Raised Roman Catholic, Considine has asserted in interviews that he considers himself a Christian, but “…less so for big theological claims and more so for the kind of [moral] model that Jesus left.” Equivocating further, he admitted to not being “…necessarily a conventional, mainstream Christian in a lot of ways.” What does this mean? Considine has described himself as an “à la carte Catholic in many ways,” even a “bad Catholic” who is “probably un-churched permanently” because he takes issue with some of the Church’s “rules.” He claims that one does not need to believe in the Trinity to be a Christian, and as a corollary to this that Jesus was not always “considered divine” for Christians. Likewise, Considine believes Muhammad to be a true prophet, despite the Qur’an’s denial of Jesus’ divinity, as well as his crucifixion, atonement and resurrection. Further, he accepts the Qur’an’s claim that Jesus prophesied the coming of Muhammad, equating the Arabian leader with the Paraclete about whom Jesus spoke to his disciples in his Farewell Discourse (John 14-16).
Yet for all his slavering over Muhammad’s deep affinities with Jesus, Considine is considered by most Muslim scholars to be a useful idiot whose words forward the convenient false narrative that Islam and Christianity are sister faiths, thus keeping unsuspecting Westerners in the dark concerning the true teachings and motives of Islam.
Considine routinely ignores the vast Scriptural literature in both traditions that paints highly contrasting portraits of Jesus and Muhammad. Over the coming weeks I will highlight some of these divergences, beginning today with a comparison between how Jesus and Muhammad each handled the call for judgment of an adulteress brought before them.
In the biblical account located in John 8:1-11, a woman caught in adultery is brought by Jewish leaders to Jesus, who hope to catch him on the horns of a dilemma by forcing him either to pronounce capital judgment in accordance with Mosaic Law (and therefore appear heartless) or to order her released (thereby setting himself against the Law of God and opening himself to the charge of being a libertine). Jesus avoids this binary choice by drawing attention to the moral vulnerability of all those seeking “mob justice.” “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” The text tells us that one by one, beginning with the eldest, they drop their stones and depart. Soon, only Jesus and the accused woman are left. He asks her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she replies. And he continues, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your sin behind.”
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had asserted his authority over the Law in his teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). “You have heard that it was said, …, but I say to you ….” In some of these instances, Jesus is challenging Jewish traditions, but in others he is addressing specific OT laws. The upshot of these teachings is that Jesus interprets the Law as though he is its author, rendering its true meaning over against the faulty interpretations of his day. Now in his encounter with the adulterous woman, Jesus demonstrates that divine mercy eclipses legal justice. This lines up perfectly with what the Gospel of John has already revealed: “For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).
In Islamic traditions, we find the story of a woman who comes to Muhammad and confesses her sin of adultery (Sahih Muslim 17:2406):
There came to him (Muhammad) a woman from Ghamid and said: “Allah’s Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me.” He turned her away. On the following day she said: Allah’s Messenger, “Why do you turn me away? Perhaps, you turn me away as you turned away Ma’iz”. By Allah, I have become pregnant.” He said: “Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child).” When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: “Here is the child whom I have given birth to.” He said: “Go away and suckle him until you wean him”. When she had weaned him, she came to him with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: “Allah’s Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food.” He entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her. Khalid bin Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her. Allah’s Apostle heard his (Khalid’s) curse that he had hurled upon her. Thereupon he said: “Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.” Then giving command regarding her, he prayed over her and she was buried.
Here Muhammad appears as a reluctant servant of the Law. It seems he seeks to avoid pronouncing judgment upon this self-confessed adulteress who apparently believes that the only way to atone for her sin is to be stoned to death by the men of the community. Yet every time he dismisses her with a task to accomplish, she returns after fulfilling it, ready for her death sentence. Finally, Muhammad has no further recourse, and he orders her stoning. Islam’s prophet is a slave to Allah’s law.
Khalid bin Walid, one of Muhammad’s most fierce generals (whom Muhammad had nicknamed the “Sword of Allah,” relishes his role in this stoning process. He draws close to the woman (probably buried up to her chest in the ground to prevent defense or escape) and with his large stone he targets her head — successfully. The blow is so savage that blood immediatley spurts from the wound and lands on his face, leading him to curse her loudly and vehemently. Muhammad, we are told, counsels Khalid to be gentle in his language (now that he has caved in the skull of the woman), because the woman’s death has paid the price for her sin. After her death is confirmed, Muhammad prays over her corpse and allows her to be buried.
Looking at these two accounts, would anyone think objectively that Jesus and Muhammad were “kindred spirits and brothers”? Could anyone not see the difference in authority between Jesus and Muhammad when it came to the law of stoning for the sin of adultery? Muhammad, the obedient slave of Allah, executes his inflexible death sentence. Jesus, who stands in authority over the written Law, demonstrates His Father’s heart of mercy, extending the second chance of grace, which is His divine prerogative.
This one simple comparison, capable of being multiplied a hundred times over with radical contrasts, shows that Jesus and Muhammad were not cut from the same cloth. They are not equals in terms of their teachings, their relationships, their activities, and their sacrifices. Their fruit, in terms of the disciples they produced, demonstrates the difference in their visions. Jesus’ followers conquer the Roman Empire peacefully, through their message of love and redemption. Muhammad’s armies overwhelm the world with the sword and the threat of death.
Please do not fall for charlatans who in the name of unity seek to mix oil and water, or better yet, light and darkness. As we will see in future posts, Jesus and Muhammad offer two decidedly different visions of God and His will for humanity. They are two very different individuals, whose claims clash inexorably with each other.
Around the word, most human beings are longing for the eradication of the coronavirus. Most, but not all. For nefarious reasons, certain groups see the pandemic as a means to further their goals. Prominent among them are radical Muslims. (Radical here defines Muslims who give their full allegiance to the Qur’an and authoritative traditions of Muhammad as distilled in Shari’a, the “divine” law of Allah.)
Jihadis in particular (those committed Muslims willing to engage in violence against all who stand in the way of Islam’s plans of world-dominance) see COVID-19 as a “tiny soldier of Allah” divinely sent to wreak havoc among the disbelievers. As Western governments shift resources and attention to battle the pandemic within their countries, ISIS and al-Qaeda and their many copycats use the internet and social media to encourage their followers to probe for fissures or cracks in national security caused by monetary cutbacks or healthcare crisis distractions in order to launch new terror attacks. Suggestions range from use of masks to shield identification of terrorist as they cross borders to intentional self-infection with the virus to become super-spreaders in as many public gatherings as possible to infecting/poisoning free masks before handing them out to the public to spreading conspiracy theories dissuading people from getting vaccines (e.g., their implementation is a deadly plot against Muslims to cull the world’s Islamic population).
While many Muslim leaders (e.g., Adbo al-Laqis, a Lebanese international affairs expert) see the virus as a concoction of Western governments (primarily the USA or Israel) as a biological weapon sent to China and the larger world designed to kill off those over 65 who are deemed unproductive or as an “ethnic weapon” targeting the genome of Iranians and Chinese (this according to “experts” on Ofogh TV (an Iranian network) or as an atheistic plot to move religious societies down the road to secularism by shutting down mosques and shrines (see Iranian “scholar” Abbas Mousavi Motlagh for more on that), a host of other Islamic professors and preachers guarantee that the coronavirus is the handiwork of Allah to humble and/or destroy his enemies. Which ones, you may ask? That depends on the preacher:
On March 20th, Hamas sheikh Jamil al-Mutawa in a Friday sermon televised by al-Aqsa TV gloated that Allah had sent just one soldier (coronavirus) to all 50 states (meaning the USA) and that it was wreaking divine vengeance. “An hour ago, they said on TV that in California… They said that they expect 58% of California to be infected within two months. They talk about 25 million infected people in just one of the 50 states. Allah be praised. Look how anyone who schemes against the Al-Aqsa Mosque is being shattered to smithereens by the soldiers of Allah.” He went on to make the risible claim that “The Muslims are the people who are least infected.”
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, declared in August that countries supporting Israel have been hardest hit, while not a single case has appeared in Gaza. COVID was divinely wrought to punish Israelophiles.
Much of Muslim social media agreed with Tunisian cleric Bashir bin Hassan that Allah targeted China with the virus because of the foul treatment of Uighur Muslims, confining over a million in “re-education camps” and forcing them to eat pork.
In Falls Church, Virginia, imam Shaker Elsayed of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque declared in a Friday sermon on April 3rd that COVID is a divine wake-up call punishing the West for usury, abortion and homosexuality. On the same day, Ibrahim al-Ubeidi, a Houthi scholar, resolutely announced that Allah brought the virus upon the West and China as punishment for legislation against the wearing of hijabs. Now, he noted sarcastically, Allah was forcing even non-Muslims to cover their faces with masks.
Jordanian professor of Islamic law, Ahmad Nofal, in a television interview on May 15th, mocked “modern people” (i.e., the West and those who emulate its self-advancement and autonomy), saying that Allah has sent “his tiniest creature” to inflict his wrath on those who “refused to subdue (sic) [submit] to the Lord of the universe.” Jeering at the non-Muslim West, he declared, “You may laugh a little, but you shall cry a great deal.”
In late January, Syrian cleric ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Mahdi responded publicly to this question from one of his followers — “Is it permissible that we express our joy for what China is experiencing – the coronavirus and the death of the Chinese people?” He replied, “Yes, yes we should express our joy and pray for their annihilation.” After all, their treatment of the Uighurs confirms that they are “enemies of Allah.” ISIS concurred with this assessment in the weekly magazine al-Naba. Using his televised Telegram channel Firebrand Jordanian cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi on March 31st pronounced, “There is nothing wrong with a Muslim praying for the deaths of infidels and wishing that they contract coronavirus or any similar fatal disease.”
There are, to be sure, voices among Muslims that offer some sanity amidst this conspiracy-laced, vindictive mindset. Notable is that of sheikh Hussein Halawa, Secretary-General of the European Council for Fatwa and Research. In an interview broadcast on Hiwar-TV (in the UK), he refused to endorse any global conspiracy regarding the coronavirus, noting that it infects Muslims and non-Muslims alike, spreads through all nations, not sparing Saudi Arabia or America or Russia….His final words were a breath of fresh air: “Allah has blessed me with senses and I must use them. I cannot let people drag me from truth to fantasy.”
Unfortunately, such voices are few and far between among Muslim thought-shapers. Instead we find influential leaders urging celebration over the virus’ horrible impact on the West, and imploring prayer for widespread deaths. Every time a Western leader is infected (e.g., Boris Johnson, Trump, Netanyahu), social media networks among Muslims are delirious with joy. Jihadis blindly declare that the virus is a blessing for Muslims, proving Islam’s superiority over the rest of the world, which should prompt Muslims to become more observant, including of course the call to jihad in order to exact Allah’s vengeance against the filthy unbelievers wherever they may be found.
Most non-Muslims in the West have a hard time processing such vitriol from the Muslim world. Why is there such hatred, such mocking, such a thirst for vengeance? Why wish evil on those who show no interest in Islam, who are glad to embrace a live and let live approach to Muslims? Why don’t “moderate Muslims” rise up en masse, if they really are the massive majority of the Muslim world, and put these “radicals” in their place? Why don’t they demonstrate from Islamic holy sources that these hateful voices coming from their own house are a perversion of Islam and are to be ignored, or better, to be extinguished?
The answer is simple, though difficult to swallow. These voices cannot be eradicated because they are inherent in the earliest Muslim sources. The Qur’an and Sunna (authoritative traditions concerning the life and teachings of their prophet Muhammad) inculcate a hatred for all those who refuse to submit to Islam. Muslims are taught from the Scripture to show harshness to unbelievers, to not befriend any but Muslims, to engage in warfare unto death against those who refuse to surrender to the advance of Islam, to believe that they are superior to people of all other belief systems.
If Muhammad’s earliest and most authoritative biography (Ibn Hisham’s recension of Ibn Ishaq’s Life of the Prophet) is to be believed, one would have to admit that were Muhammad alive today, he would be working to unite al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, the Islamic State and all other militant-terrorist groups motivated by the Qur’an and Sunna. He would be recognized as their rightful leader, and he would marshal them as his vanguard to continue his conquest of the non-Muslim world. Far from condemning them as un-Islamic for their bloodthirsty ways, he would praise them for their faithfulness to his teachings.
Why do Muslims today praise the coronavirus as a “soldier of Allah”? Because any force that weakens the “enemies of Allah/Islam” is an ally in their quest to conquer the world and impose Shari’a on the human race. If the virus destroys Islam’s biggest hindrance to global dominance, you will hear thunderous cries of “Allahu akbar!” (Allah is greater) and Hamdulillah! (Praise be to Allah) from the Muslim masses.
Those raised in the West, even if not Christian, still hear the echoes in their culture of Jesus’ teachings: the Golden Rule (“Do to others as you would wish them to do to you”); “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”; perhaps most astonishingly, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Even if they do not personally believe in God, they know the God that Jesus revealed is a God of love and grace. The god of Islam, by contrast is one of force. If he loves at all, it is only those who have proven their loyalty and obedience to him by executing his rage against those with the temerity to ignore or oppose him. It is hard for Westerners to accept that Qur’an-believing Muslims could actually maintain such a hateful worldview. But, such are the teachings in the “noble” Qur’an, and terrorists, jihadis and Muslim “scholars” such as those mentioned above are simply the foul fruit naturally produced by the poisoned tree of Islamic orthodoxy.
On July 20, 2020 the American Muslim advocacy organization Emgage through its political arm Emgage Action hosted a virtual Million Muslim Vote Summit. One of its prominent speakers was former VP Joe Biden, whom Emgage Action had endorsed for President in the coming election.
Khurrum Wahid, board chairman for Emgage Action, went on record as he introduced Biden to the Summit audience, saying to the candidate:
“We have a swing state strategy and we will deliver for you Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida. We will activate large groups of voters in Texas and Arizona. We will turn out one million votes nationally. We’re going to ask everyone we know to ‘vote Joe’ on November 3rd.”
Naturally, Biden wants to curry favor with this up and coming political voting block, and he wasted no time pandering for their votes in his 11 minute address (you can find this beginning at the 48.36 mark in the recording). Among the lists of things he promised American Muslims should he win the election are: repealing the “‘vile’ Muslim travel ban” on his first day in office; signing “hate crime” legislation, apparently making “Islamophobia” (or as he terms it, “Islamicphobia”) a crime punishable by law; appointing many Muslims to his administration; He said to his Muslim listeners, “I want to earn your vote….I want to work in partnership with you, make sure your voices are included in the decision-making process as we work to rebuild our nation….I’ll be a president who recognizes and honors your contributions….I’ll be a president who seeks out and listens to and incorporates the ideas and concerns of Muslim Americans on everyday issues that matter most to our communities.”
Likewise, on the topic of international relations Biden assured his Muslim audience that he would speak out against “targeting for violence and prosecution (sic) Muslim minorities around the world” and would work with “…our partners to meet the moral demands of the humanitarian crises in Syria, Yemen and Gaza.”
But, he warned them, these promises would not become realities unless he is elected, and to be elected he needs each and every Muslim to “mobilize and motivate,” not to sit on the sidelines. They need to actively spread the word in their mosques and community centers to make sure everyone votes for Joe Biden.
To impress upon them the importance of his election for the advancement of Islam, Biden proceeded to quote a hadith (authoritative Islamic tradition) purportedly from the lips of Muhammad — whom Biden referred to as the Prophet Muhammad [I wonder if Joe quoted from the Sermon on the Mount whether he would refer to Jesus as “the Lord Jesus”]:
“A hadith from the Prophet Muhammad instructs, ‘Whomever [sic] among you sees a wrong, let him change it with his hand. If he is not able, then with his tongue. If he is not able, then with his heart.’”
As many well-versed former Muslims have pointed out, this hadith undergirds the Islamic claim that Islamic Law, known as Shari’a, must be the standard by which all Muhammad’s followers conduct themselves. Shari’a is the universal divine law by which Muslims are to enforce virtue and punish vice. When Osama bin Laden wrote his “Letter to America” in November 2002 justifying the September 11th attacks some fourteen months prior, he used these words to describe Islam:
It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. It is the religion of Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme.
Notice the phrase “enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.” This is the purpose for which Allah gave Shari’a to Islam, by which to rule the world. Notice as well the triumvirate of “hand, tongue and heart.” This directly connects bin Laden’s understanding of Shari’a with of the hadith which Biden quoted to his Muslim audience.
Whether Joe Biden knew it or not, the message he was sending to his Muslim listeners was that active support of his campaign was in line with Shari’a; apathy toward his campaign, or even worse, support for Trump, would put a Muslim in opposition to Muhammad.
Did Biden know what he was doing? I doubt it. Despite his boast earlier in this address that one of his avocations is theology, the former VP knows very little about Islam. No doubt one of his handlers (or even worse, someone from Emgage) suggested the hadith in question as a great way to conclude his pitch, and the Democrat candidate nodded blithely as it was inserted into the teleprompter. Whatever it takes to win some votes.
Little did Joe know he was channeling Osama bin Laden and countless other jihadis motivated by their supremacist prophet and his religion of oppression. Little, apparently, does he care.
On April 19, 1995, terrorist Timothy McVeigh parked an explosives-laden rental truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, walked away to his getaway car and then remotely detonated the bomb, destroying the building and surrounding area and killing 168 innocent people. The principal component of his bomb was ammonium nitrate, roughly two tons of it. When I served as a pastor in the northeastern suburb of Edmond twelve years later, many church members shared with me where they were when the bomb went off. Many felt its impact in their homes or offices some 13 miles from the blast. It was a terrible day, and indeed it left a lasting scar physically and emotionally on Oklahoma.
Yesterday, August 4th at just after 6 pm local time, Beirut, Lebanon was rocked by an explosion of epic proportions. Preceded by a small explosion and fire at a nearby warehouse allegedly containing fireworks, the massive blast occurred as fire and heat ignited the contents of an adjacent warehouse containing many tons of ammonium nitrate – 2,750 tonnes, to be exact (a tonne equals 2000 kilograms, so registers as 2204 pounds). This amounts to roughly 1,500 times the quantity of explosives employed by McVeigh.
One might rightly wonder what so much highly explosive material was doing being stored in a warehouse in proximity to the downtown area of Beirut, and how it got there in the first place. The storyline so far is that back in early 2014, a cargo ship put into port temporarily, and for some reason was impounded. Its cargo (the ammonium nitrate in question) was off-loaded for safe-keeping (apparently the ship was not seaworthy), and it has remained in the same warehouse for six years, with no one knowing or apparently caring about what to do with it. It was widely known how dangerous this material could be, but for whatever reason authorities allowed to remain indefinitely.
Another more nefarious scenario plays on the fact that the port environs are under the de facto control of the terrorist organization Hezbollah, whose leadership was not willing to release something which could prove so valuable in their plans for Israel’s annihilation. Whether there is any truth to this speculation, we most likely will never know.
The Lebanese government is vowing that those responsible for this horrific tragedy will be identified and prosecuted. Let us hope so. To date, the death toll is around 150 and expected to rise significantly. Over 5,000 are injured, and some 300,000 estimated to be homeless due to shock waves from the blast impacting roughly half the city. Hospitals which were not destroyed have been inundated with those injured, but they were already overloaded with COVID-19 patients. The primary granaries of the country, able to hold 85% of the yearly supply of wheat for all the nation, were situated in the port area and completely demolished. The grain they held is useless, having been contaminated by the chemical explosion.
Lebanon as a country is reeling. Prior to this colossal tragedy, with its economy in freefall and its political environment fractured by manifold religious and ideological hatreds, the people of Lebanon already faced Brobdingnagian challenges. Those living within its borders number under 7 million, and estimates are that roughly 1.5 million of these are Syrian refugees who by and large cannot support themselves. Almost half the nation’s population lives below the poverty line, and unemployment today stands at 35%. The vast majority already live day-to-day existences, scrapping for enough food and resources to keep going until the sun rises again. And now, this cataclysmic tragedy in the heart of Beirut, Lebanon’s capital and largest city.
Fortunately, many countries already have pledged immediate emergency assistance to help this poor, beleaguered nation, and perhaps that will be enough to heal the wounds of this most recent disaster. But Lebanon faces structural fault lines and societal malignancies that money cannot cure. Upright leadership and a clear-eyed unity among the citizenry are the elements most deeply needed by the Lebanese, but over the last 40 years these have been in short supply. Perhaps, in the spirit of the phrase inspired by Plato, “Necessity will be the cause of invention” in this time of need. We can pray to that end.
I confess to having a soft spot in my heart for Lebanon, and specifically, Beirut. When I was young, from ages 9-15, our family used to take part of our summer vacation yearly in Beirut. We lived in Saudi Arabia, and Beirut truly was the Arab jewel of the Mediterranean. When my father became successful enough, we relished times at the Phoenicia, a regal and posh hotel overlooking the sea. It still stands today in the same location, less than 3 miles from the crater which once was Beirut’s thriving port. My heart aches for Lebanon and its people, once so happy and prosperous back in the 60s and 70s until the bloody claws of civil war gripped the nation for 15 violent years. Post-war Lebanon still faced tumultuous times with rival factions battling politically for power and influence, resorting to bribery, assassinations, and brute force on occasion to improve their leverage. Likewise, neighboring nations, eager for a piece of the delectable pie that is Lebanon, insinuated themselves inconspicuously or sent troops in to tip the scales in favor of factions advancing their interests.
Until the recent economic crisis, many Lebanese held out hope that the country might return to its halcyon years, and reclaim its nickname as “The Paris of the East.” But many signs of impending disaster continued to smolder, and with yesterday’s catastrophic disaster, they seem now to have gone up in smoke for decades to come.
I do pray that one day, before God calls me home, the opportunity to set foot on the soil of Lebanon will again come my way, and the experiences I enjoy then will rival those of my youth in warmth and joy. Until then, may God rest His hand of healing and restoration on the Land of the Cedars!
The message in the photo above is commendable, but does it reflect the Black Lives Matter movement in its present form? Do all black lives matter to the BLM leadership, from what an outside observer can tell? Clearly not. Only black lives lost in confrontations with law enforcement officers seem to count, because BLM can manipulate those deaths as a tool to seek the destruction of America’s present system of law and order in favor of some new system they haven’t yet unveiled. Given the fact that BLM’s founders have made no secret of their Marxist leanings, the USA they envision bears little resemblance to that of our Founding Fathers.
The fiction that black lives matter to the BLM movement is belied by the silence coming from its leaders regarding the deaths of blacks in any other context than police encounters. For example, did BLM bemoan the murder of retired police captain David Dorn on June 2nd in St. Louis by rioters? No. Did it condemn the black-on-black gun violence in Chicago over Fathers’ Day weekend culminating in 15 deaths and 105 injuries, or that occurring last weekend where 18 were killed (including three children) and 47 injured? No. Sadly, this epidemic of black-on-black violence has a stubborn history in our nation’s recent past, and is being replicated in many cities across this country. But BLM is not interested in these deaths, for they carry little political potency for radical change of our republic.
My point in all this is not to minimize the evil of true cases of police brutality against blacks by pointing to the much larger reality of black deaths at the hands of black perpetrators (or murderers of any color, for that matter). I firmly believe that officers committing homicide must be investigated fully and fairly, and if found guilty of unjustified homicide should face the appropriate judgment for their crime. The issue at hand, however, is the hypocrisy of Black Lives Matter, claiming to fight for justice on behalf of all black victims but in reality ignoring most black deaths. And of course, BLM limits its scope to a small segment of black victims only in the United States, as if the black race ends at our national borders. If all black lives truly matter, one would expect BLM to be grieved and angered by the wholesale slaughter of blacks taking place elsewhere, particularly on the African continent, perpetrated primarily by Muslim protagonists.
For example, in just the last month, 17 villagers were slaughtered in Macomia, Mozambique (5/30) when jihadis stormed their town. That same day in Burkina Faso, Muslims attacked two villages, Barsalogho and Loroum, killing 13 and 15 noncombatants respectively. The next day, at a livestock market in Kompienbiga (also Burkina Faso), Muslim militants fired into the crowd, killing 30 innocents. That same day (5/31) in Itakpa, Nigeria, jihadis with machetes hacked 13 locals to death in their homes. On June 3rd in Kujuru, Nigeria, Fulani mercenaries dismembered 9 women and children attempting to flee their attackers. Three days later in Auno, Muslim insurgents overran a military base and killed six local soldiers. On June 9th, also in Nigeria, 81 villagers are gathered from the nomadic village of Faduma Kolomdi by Muslim radicals and executed. On June 11th in Cabor, Mozambique, 10 members of a family are beheaded by jihadis. Also on that day, in the border post town of Kafolo, Ivory Coast, a Muslim militant attack takes the lives of 13 guards. On June 13th in the two towns of Nganzai and Monguno, Nigeria, the Islamic State of West Africa massacred 61 locals for the crime of interacting with Westerners. The next day, in Bouka Were, Mali, two dozen local security guards were killed by Islamic State affiliates. Over the weekend of June 20-21, the Islamic State affiliated group ADF in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed “at least twenty civilians) in separate attacks on two villages. And this last Saturday, in Damboa, Nigeria, the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram ambushed and killed 11 local security guards.
These represent the attacks with larger casualty rates in Africa over the past month, but many more lethal attacks on smaller numbers over the same period could be listed, all carried out by Muslim militants. Did BLM take notice of any of them, expressing grief or anger over the senseless killing of more black lives? Hardly. Apparently these black African individuals are of equally little value to BLM leadership as the multitudes of black Americans killed at the hands of anyone other than law enforcement.
We’ve been told that it is impolitic to say “All lives matter” in response to the race-specific claim that “black lives matter.” I disagree. In point of fact, it is a racist statement to imply that black lives matter more than those of any other race. From a Christian vantage point, all lives matter equally before God regardless of the color of one’s skin, and all are to be treated equally and provided the same opportunities in life, as much as is possible in any imperfect society. Where that doesn’t happen, we must work to rectify it both in our hearts and in our institutions.
But even for those committed to the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter!”, I’d be more inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt and listen compassionately to their arguments if they really believed and acted as though all black lives really did matter. Unless and until that happens, all this protest noise, attended by violence and mindless destruction, is simply adolescent political theater. I pray it either matures into something substantive and positive for human society, or dissolves into the fog of oblivion where all juvenile dreams find their ultimate end.
One of the many problems with theocratic rule is that the top dog has the authority to make decisions for the whole state based on personal beliefs as long as those beliefs do not constitute heresy. In Islam, that allows for a wide latitude of dangerous rulings.
The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, is a case in point. Recently, in his nationally televised Nowruz speech marking the start of the Persian New Year, Khamenei explained to listeners why he and his government adamantly refused to accept medical aid from the United States as the coronavirus runs unchecked throughout Iran.
(By the way, the Islamic regime also rejected help from Médecins Sans Frontières [Doctors Without Borders], ejecting a team that had already landed in Isfahan to set up a fifty bed field hospital with the excuse that they were not needed since the epidemic was “well under control.” ) Khamenei went on to say that the US government could not be trusted. He gave credence to the outlandish conspiracy theory that the US military had cooked up the coronavirus specifically to target the Iranian people’s genome, and that to let them into Iran now would be like letting the fox into the henhouse. How much more damage might Iran’s greatest enemy do to Iran (i.e., to the governmental regime) should they have hands-on access to millions of vulnerable people?
As he waxed eloquent about the US administrative, military and intelligence services pouring all their energies into destroying the Islamic Republic, Khamenei revealed a bit of his Muslim perspective on international relations. Iran, he conceded, had many human enemies (all of the infidel countries who are part of the sanctions coalition). But, he also added, the country also faced many demonic enemies — in Islam, these are known as jinn — and worst of all, the jinn and infidel human governments are working in partnership with each other:
“…There are enemies who are demons and there are enemies who are humans, and they help one another. The intelligence services of many countries cooperate with one another against us… Today, our most evil enemy – the enemy of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] – is America.”
When official Iranian news agencies first reported on the Ayatollah’s speech, they left out his comments on the jinn and their partnership with America, Israel and other infidel nations against Iran.
But the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Cyber Division posted that same day the full video of Khamenei’s speech along with two video clips from “respected theologians” to support the Supreme Leader’s claims concerning the demons and humans conspiring together. Entitled “The Supreme Leader’s Important Hint Regarding The Western-Hebrew Spy Apparatuses’ Use Of Infidel Demons To Strike Iran,” the post quoted Shi’ite seminary lecturers, Ali Akbar Raefi-Pour and Hojatoleslam Valiollah Naghi-Pour are using demons in order to steal classified documents from the Iranian Defense Ministry, in separate video clips.
Rafei-Pour declares in his teaching that “The Israeli Mossad is officially and insistently using demons to read the other side’s military thinking, to read the enemy chief of staff’s plans, and to carry out intelligence operations.” As proof that what this theologian says is true, not only of Israel but also of the United States, the IRGC Cyber Division points to the 2016 Hollywood film Suicide Squad to demonstrate that the Pentagon and associated intelligence agencies “…are using demons in order to steal classified documents from the Iranian Defense Ministry.” In the film, a top-secret US agency coerces the Enchantress, an otherworldly witch (= jinni) to dematerialize, travel instantly to Iran’s most heavily guarded “weapons ministry vault” in Tehran, steal its military’s top secret plans, and return to the Pentagon, plopping them on the desk in front of America’s top general. Hollywood, apparently unwittingly, let slip the secret that the USA is indeed employing demons to debilitate and ultimately incapacitate the Islamic Republic of Iran. You can see the proof for yourself in the clip below:
Meanwhile, in the Cyber Division’s second posted clip, also undated, Naghi-Pour asserted confidently, “Israel wanted to use demonic force to infiltrate the intelligence systems of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. They did not succeed, and they [the Israelis] are still wondering why not, because it is well known that the Jews are experts in sorcery and in creating relationships with demons.”
Those evil, satanically-inspired Jews! Does not the Qur’an say that Allah has cursed them for their unbelief (2:88; 4:46) and made their hearts hard so that in the vast majority you will always find treachery (5:13)? Are not the Jews recipients of Allah’s retribution, some having been turned into apes and pigs due to their slavery to demons (5:60)? Are they not strongest in hatred against the Muslims (5:82). Allah declares that they are of insolent character (17:4) and have forged lies against Allah in order to turn away from Islam (61:7). For this reason, they have turned to the dark side, becoming experts in sorcery and demonology so that they may continue to rule the world by the power of the devil.
Such is the mindset that infects hundreds of millions of Muslims. Anti-Semitism is not a mere transient bigotry which happens to inflame a portion of the Muslim world today. It is woven extensively throughout the fabric of the Qur’an and Sunna. To remove it from Islam would be to unravel the religion itself. This hatred of the Jews, and its sister hatred of all other infidels, stems from the deep-seated doctrine of al wala’ w’al bara’, “loyalty and repudiation,” which demands of every Muslim that he shows himself unswervingly loyal to all that Allah deems good and that he earnestly repudiates all that Allah deems evil. And what can be more evil than those who partner with demons to fight against Allah and his religion?
Regardless of whether Khamenei and his henchmen actually believe that Western and Israeli leaders are working hand in glove with the jinn to plot against Iran, they are not above using this theological conspiracy to paint themselves as beleaguered saints fighting against overwhelming evil forces to protect the poor masses of the Islamic Republic. In this way, they hope to distract their people from the reality of their own callous, incompetent leadership and greedy plunder of the country’s limited resources to line their own pockets.
Khamenei wants his people to believe that he is doing the best he can on their behalf, but that the Great Satan (America) and the Little Satan (Israel), supernaturally aided by hordes of jinn, are such formidable enemies that he can barely hold them off, unless Allah intervenes or sends the invincible Mahdi to scatter Islam’s enemies once and for all. The Persian people should not criticize or rise up against the Supreme Leader, for he is acting valiantly to protect them. Instead, they should laud and honor him, and continue to support him with peaceful obedience. To side with the enemies of the regime is to approve of the work of the jinn, which no good Muslim can countenance.
Hence, the final manipulation of the theocrat is to promise damnation to all who oppose his rule. To topple Khamenei and his regime is to give free rein to the forces of evil, both human and supernatural, that wish to unseat Allah and eradicate Islam. Allah will punish all who do not support the Supreme Leader. That threat is the same one Muhammad used regularly against those who assailed his authoritarian leadership. The prophet was able to get away with such manipulation. But Khamenei is no Muhammad, and in his thirty-two years of incompetent rule, the people have now seen through his disguise as a holy man, and found instead an old, self-serving, cold-hearted hypocrite. If the coronavirus does not do him in soon, a civil rebellion surely will. Or maybe America will take pity on the Persian people and send the Enchantress to his private chambers.
It’s kind of a cute reminder through music in these days of sanitizing and social distancing, and will serve to memorialize the impact of the coronavirus pandemic for future generations.
There’s another song that came to my mind after hearing complaints from millennials and Gen Zers flooding the beaches in Florida and Texas despite warnings and pleas from governmental and medical sources that they should change their plans and go home, both to avoid getting infected themselves and potentially infecting others. I listened to some being interviewed and heard rationales such as:
I’ve been looking forward to spring break for months, and I’m going to enjoy it to the fullest;
This is my 21st birthday present to myself, and no one’s going to stop me;
We’re here to hit the bars and the beaches – this is a time to embrace the good life.
None were worried about COvid-19, thinking themselves immune, or maybe not thinking at all. Que sera, sera. If they happen to catch the virus, well, it won’t really slow them down while on spring break, and they can deal with any symptoms after they get back home. In their lust to party and hook up, the thought that they might become carriers of the virus and bring home sickness and devastation to family and friends never entered their minds.
So here’s the song – it’s also from the 60’s. Debuting in 1963, it became Lesley Gore’s first hit: It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want to. You probably remember the simple refrain:
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to. You would cry too if it happened to you…
In honor of the spring break revelers and others who have shown equally callous disregard for society at large during the coronavirus epidemic, I have adjusted the chorus to capture their mindset:
It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to, take others with me, die if I want to. You would die too if it happened to you…
The self-centered spirit of this age is perfectly captured in the behavior of those who throw all caution to the wind in favor of pure hedonism, who care nothing for how their reckless behavior might endanger countless others in the midst of a pandemic.
Some people say, “Hey, these are just kids doing what kids do – seeking to have fun. Their brains aren’t yet mature enough to think responsibly about others.” But that’s just not true. In previous ages, people eighteen and older were making plans to take the gospel to unreached nations; they were training as nurses and doctors to set up field hospitals in disease-wracked countries; they were volunteering to fight against totalitarian regimes threatening the free world. The difference between then and now hinges on how parents and American society have shaped children as they have grown. In prior ages, children were instilled with concern for others, mostly borne out of a Christian worldview. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” was often quoted to them. “Greater love has no one than he who lays down his life for his friends,” was another famous quote from Jesus. Likewise, “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
But our recent generations have not been raised on such teachings. Instead, they have been told that life revolves around them, that their feelings are sacrosanct and must be protected, that they can be and do whatever they wish, choose their gender, their pronouns, thumb their noses at whatever authority seeks to hold them accountable for their behaviors. Their mottos could easily be: “You shall love yourself and forget your neighbor;” “Greater happiness has no one than he who sacrifices his friend for his own enjoyment; “Whoever want to become great among you must use others to get ahead, and whoever wants to be first must make slaves of all others.” Perhaps these are overstatements. I hope so. But you get the point.
Though these young revelers bear responsibility for their selfish actions, even more are their parents and past generations to blame, for we have allowed our society to become a breeding ground for narcissism and self-absorption. We have failed to reach for the vision of our higher calling in Christ, and have allowed our animal instincts to win the day. We have bought the lie that what we are by nature cannot be changed, and there is no use trying. So the Christian life becomes a museum relic to observe with curiosity, without ever a thought that perhaps we could be transformed into the likeness of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit if we became serious about offering our lives up to God in obedience to His living Voice.
Paul the apostle once said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Does anyone still believe that? Who is experiencing this spiritual revolution? Who is modeling and teaching this to our younger generations? This must become our prayer: “Come, Holy Spirit, and renovate our hearts!”
For when the Spirit has finished his work in our hearts, then we will sing a new song, a song worthy of the Age to Come:
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad, and give all the glory to Him.” (Rev. 19.6-7)
“Truth will out.” So said Shylock’s servant, Lancelot Gobbo, in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. This is salutary to keep in mind when dealing with the lies and obfuscations of totalitarian regimes like China and Iran. The truth will come out, particularly concerning their incompetence in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus.
The mullahs seem much more inept than the Chinese Communist Party at maintaining their webs of deception. The facts of the ravaging impact of COvid-19 on the Persian people are now coming to light — even state-controlled media and regime officials are beginning to concede the truth. Despite wildly understated figures still being reported by official releases (just under 1,700 deaths, which even Dr. Richard Brennan, a director for the World Health Organization who just returned from an investigatory visit to Iran proposed was off by a factor of five), the full extent of the regime’s lies is now beginning to surface. For example:
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that the first his government became aware the virus had appeared in the country was on Feb. 19th, when officials in Qom announced that two persons had died of the COvid-19. Evidence has recently surfaced that the leadership was informed of the appearance of the virus in Iran at least by the end of January, and perhaps even two weeks before that.
As rumors spread among Iranians concerning the virus, the regime leadership continued to lie to the people in spite of the imminent danger of contagion, because of two national events (the 41st anniversary celebration of the founding of the Islamic Republic, and the national parliamentary elections) for which the mullahs wanted maximum public participation in order to continue the pretense of their legitimacy before the eyes of the world. In both cases, the people widely boycotted these events, primarily to express their disgust over the regime’s evil and ineptitude.
Even after Khamenei admitted the obvious, that the coronavirus was spreading across the country, he downplayed its seriousness, saying on March 3rd that it was “not that big a deal,” “not something extraordinary,” and “an issue that will pass.” He also tweeted that day, “Our officials have reported with sincerity and transparency since day one,” a statement worthy of ten Pinocchios, were anyone outside Iran listening to him. It has since come to light that he had already ordered the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the regime’s equivalent of Hitler’s SS troops, to hospitals and morgues so as to ensure that infection rates and death tolls be reported only to the regime since this was “a matter of national security.” Any unauthorized reporting would result in public lashings and one to three years of imprisonment.
At a briefing on Feb. 26th, Health Minister Saeed Namaki predicted, “The main peak of the coronavirus will be in next week and coming days.” President Hassan Rouhani reframed that timeline a few days ago, apparently saying as of March 16th that, “Based on the figures, we are past the peak of the disease….” The Health Minister since has said this is not the case and the peak may not be reached until April 8th at the earliest. Many health experts in Iran, however, are claiming that the epidemic is still spreading rapidly and it is still too early to make any accurate predictions, especially with people oblivious to warnings about social gatherings and ongoing travel. Some doctors in Tehran are predicting that by the first week of April up to forty percent of Tehran (up to five million people!) might be infected. Yesterday marked the traditional Persian New Year, Nowruz, and even though Khamenei issued a fatwa forbidding travel due to fears of contagion, Iranians are effectively ignoring him, preferring to get away from death and despondency to celebrate with family and friends at the beach or in the mountains.
Though evidence pointed clearly to the pilgrimage city of Qom as the epicenter of the virus and the government was advised to close down the religious shrines by medical experts, the mullahs refused this advice and continued to welcome Iranian and international pilgrims. Some, such as Khamenei’s personal representative and head of the Fatima Masoumeh shrine in Qom, announced that this shrine was a place of healing and protection from all illness, including the coronavirus, and as a result, many visitors continued kissing and licking shrine premises as an expression of their faith. Finally, in recent days, the shrines around the country were officially closed, but riots by religious crowds resulted in some of them, including Masoumeh, to be reopened by force. As a result, due to governmental negligence the infectin was able to spread quickly through returning pilgrims to every province of Iran and to many Shi’ite communities in other countries. Now that the regime has changed its story and is telling citizens they need to avoid contact with crowds due to the coronavirus, people in Iran are irate as they see that their country is now in the grip of a contagion which will not soon end.
With the start of the new year, Iran’s national budget for 2020 must be approved. Many are calling it an “imaginary” budget because it assumes income figures that have no basis in reality. The bulk of the government’s income results from the sale of oil internationally, but due to sanctions imposed by the USA and allies the government is able to sell only 200-300,000 barrels of oil daily. The budget relies on a figure ten times that amount. Additionally, it assumes a selling price of over $50 a barrel while the international market prices have plummeted to about half of that due to a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia as well as coronavirus shutdowns which have depressed demand. Though Iran has been secretive about its solvency at 2019-20 year-end, it looks likely that its $5 billion mid-year deficit has only increased — out of a total budget of some $37 billion to run the country for the year. The 2020-21 budget presents the same level of figures, even though the government has long since squandered its last reserves and has little trickling in to its empty coffers. The Parliament was supposed to pass the “imaginary budget” sent to it by Khamenei’s office, but even these sycophants couldn’t stomach the deception and balked at voting for it. Khamenei then pulled it from parliamentary consideration and sent it directly to his hand-picked Guardian Council, who rubber-stamped it as the official budget moving forward. While poverty grips the country (over forty percent of Iranians live below the poverty line), President Rouhani recently boasted that the people of Iran have everything they need; there are no shortages of food and goods, and hospitals and citizens have complete access to medical necessities: gloves, masks, gowns, hand sanitizers, etc., while in reality doctors, nurses and other medical workers have been working unprotected for the last month in hospitals to save as many COvid-19 patients as they can. The fact that the regime has asked the International Monetary Fund for an emergency grant of $5 billion (over 13% of its entire annual budget!) “to fight the coronavirus” speaks volumes. The difference between government propaganda and the reality on the streets is so stark as to be laughable, if it weren’t so deadly. Any laughter is laced with bitterness.
As of Sunday, March 22nd, the Johns Hopkins global coronavirus tracking website reported total deaths to date worldwide from the virus as 14,386. Of those, Iran’s official total stands at 1,685, meaning outside of Iran 12,701 have perished in this pandemic. However, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) with its extensive grassroots network in all 31 provinces of Iran gives a tally of over 9,600 deaths across 210 cities as of Sunday. If accurate, this would mean that Iran alone has lost 75% as many people as the rest of the world combined to the coronavirus. And the epidemic continues unchecked within the regime due to the mullahs’ incompetence and indifference. The story in Iran dwarfs that of Italy, China or any other country, yet because of tyrannical control of state media within Iran and of Western media torpor, little attention has been drawn to it. As infection rates and death totals there continue to soar, however, the criminality of the theocratic regime will finally become all to apparent. The truth will out.
Lastly, to deflect from their deadly culpability, Khamenei, Rouhani and their henchmen have tried unsuccessfully to blame others, principally the United States. With absolutely no evidence, they have floated the lie that the coronavirus outbreak was the result of a covert U.S. bioterrorist attack. It originated in the holy city of Qom because the USA has always feared Shi’ite Islam and was attempting to destroy it from within. But, of course, Allah will protect his people and they will be victorious over the Great Satan. By mounting this specious defense, the regime hopes to rally its people against a common enemy and so turn attention away from its own cyclopean guilt. But the Persian people have seen iterations of this tactic so often that they are no longer fooled. The truth will out.
Although the rest of the world has yet to wise up concerning the malevolent criminality of Iran’s theocratic leaders, the Persian masses know that the mullahs can no longer be trusted, if they ever could. The light of truth shines not from the official news organizations of the state but from independent social media outlets. The regime seeks to throw its Stygian cloak over its malign behaviors and the consequent suffering of its unwitting victims, but the truth will out. It cannot be stopped. And when the truth is fully in the light, the regime will be toppled. It cannot come quickly enough.
The theocratic regime of Iran is imploding. After forty-one years of iron-fisted arrogance, breath-taking deceit and stupefying incompetence, the rule of the mullahs has so impoverished and infuriated the long-suffering Persian population that the masses are poised to rise up and topple their unwelcome government.
In the last four months, natural, political and economic events have brought Iran to the tipping point. November 15th, 2019 marked the onset of popular protests against the regime, sparked by the announcement of an immediate tripling of the price of gasoline across the country. Under crippling economic sanctions by the USA and its trading partners, the Iranian government was facing shortages of cash and supplies, and skyrocketing inflation.
In the attempt to bring in more money to its coffers, the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his cronies, decided to ease the regime’s burdens by sucking more of the dwindling resources of its citizens. The people responded with massive demonstrations that spread swiftly across the country. At first, the focus was on the unconscionable price-hike of such a necessary commodity for everyday life. Quickly, though, the protests turned into a no-confidence vote against the regime and its hypocritical leaders. (Everyone knows, for example, that the Supreme Leader sits on a private fortune accrued while in office of some 95 billion dollars while the average Iranian scrambles to keep his family from starving.)
As protests continued, the regime responded with violence to dissuade further anti-government activity. It didn’t work. For over six weeks people continued to march in the streets, burn gas stations, police buildings, government centers and seminaries, occupy universities to make their demands known.
They chanted, “Death to Khamenei;” “No money to Hezbollah, Hamas, Houthis or Syria; Give Our Money to Iran;” “Mullahs, Get Out.” The government in turn descended into Gestapo-like tactics, beating people mercilessly, firing rubber bullets at first into crowds, then turning to real bullets, employing military sharpshooters on city rooftops with orders to take headshots so as to kill targets immediately and terrorize protesters around them. When all was said and done, the regime had killed over 1500 of its own citizens, wounded three times that number, and arrested over 10,000 others. To this day, the government has refused to release an “official” tally of the dead. When asked, senior officials simply say, “The coroners have those numbers.” The morgues, on the other hand, say, “We have sent our figures to the senior officials.” So the bob and weave of deception continues, to the disgust of the citizenry.
Shortly after the protests began to dissipate, news broke that on January 8th Ukraine Air flight 752, bound from Tehran to Kiev, had crashed shortly after take-off a few hours after Iran had launched missiles at an Iraqi-American airbase in retaliation for the killing of Qassem Suleimani. The Iranian regime quickly reported that the plane suffered mechanical difficulties. Soon after, they blamed the disaster on pilot error. When supposition arose that the jet might have been shot down accidentally by missiles, senior Iranian leaders decried this notion as “psychological warfare” and “an American lie.”
Finally, on January 11th, after incontrovertible satellite and video evidence proved the plane had been struck by two surface to air missiles, the regime reluctantly admitted what it had known from the beginning, that the operator of one of its military missile batteries had mistakenly concluded the airliner was a “hostile target,” and ordered missiles, three minutes apart, to shoot down the passenger jet.
When this news hit the airwaves, people once again poured into the streets, erupting with anger over their “divinely-guided” government’s duplicity. Popular chants once again pointed to the odium they bore their Shi’ite overlords: “They are lying that our enemy is America; our enemy is right here!” In disgust, many made known their intention to disavow the government however they could.
At the same time, in mid-January, torrential flooding affected four provinces in the south of Iran: Sistan and Baluchestan, Hormozgan and Kerman. Due to the economic and political paralysis of the central government, little to no aid was available to help overwhelmed residents. Roughly six weeks later, heavy storms in northern Iran caused massive flooding and destruction to hundreds of villages and roadways over fourteen provinces, stranding thousands of people.
Again, no help was available from the government. The locals erupted with anger at officials who had promised after similar flooding in 2019 that they would dredge rivers and improve dams to prevent future floods. That had not happened. Resources were not available for such work due to corruption, incompetence and insouciance.
Shortly before the worst of the flooding in the north, two powerful earthquakes struck northwestern Iran on Sunday, Feb. 23rd. The first registered 5.7 on the Richter scale, and hit in the early morning hours. The second, an aftershock, registered 5.9 and occurred later in the day. Lives were lost as many buildings toppled to the ground. Two days later (2/25), a 4.9 temblor struck south-central Iran. While earthquakes are not uncommon in this region of the world, what is stirring the rage of the people is the lack of rapid and effective response by their government. In fact, there is little to no response at all, for the bottom of the government’s barrel has already been scraped clean by self-serving mullahs, their obsequious mandarins, and the armed forces they pay handsomely to keep the riff-raff at bay.
As if all this were not enough, southwestern Iran faced a record-breaking locust invasion beginning in mid-February. A year ago, the area faced a similar invasion. Officials described that plague as “consisting of millions.” This year’s infestation, they say, numbers in the billions.
One observer estimated over 500 million locusts per square kilometer. As they march from west to east across Iran, they are eating every plant in sight. How has the government responded to this disaster? With dissimulation, negligence, incompetence and mismanagement. The inaction of the government prior to spawning season, when insecticide spraying should have been done, has led to this mammoth horde now eating its way across Iran’s agricultural heartland.
And then we come to the novel Corona virus and its attendant disease, COvid-19. There are indications that this virus first entered Iran in early February and that the highest echelons of the regime knew of its presence. The religious city of Qom, home to some of Shi’ism’s holiest shrines and beloved by most of Iran’s mullahs, is where the Corona virus broke out. Even though the governmental clerics knew of the outbreak, they cloaked the truth from their people and the world for as long as possible until the first two victims died in Qom.
Why? Because they needed to protect their delusional image of a government favored by Allah and beloved of its people, as the “Islamic Revolution” which continues to prosper and bless its Muslim citizens. Two critical events were to occur in February, and it was necessary for their fantasy that the world see huge public turnouts of support from the population. If news about the contagion broke out too soon, people would likely stay home, and their propaganda would be imperiled. So they quashed unofficial reports and jailed journalists who wouldn’t toe the party line. The first big event was the celebration of the 41st anniversary of the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran, on Feb. 11th. Festivities were planned across the country, but especially in the capital city of Tehran, where massive crowds were expected. However, when the day came, empty streets and deserted squares were the stark reality. By refusing to show up, people pronounced their loathing of the government. “Our vote is for regime change.” So said the graffiti.
The Supreme Leader, Khamenei, and President Rouhani, tried to put their best spin on this humiliation by the masses, and set their sights on a better outcome at the second critical event – the Parliamentary elections to be held on Feb. 21st. Since candidates for every slot had to be “vetted and approved” by the Supreme Leader and his sycophantic, hardline Guardian Council, any” so-called “moderate” candidate was disqualified, and only those loyal to Khamenei were allowed to run. Many noted that Feb. 21st would not mark a day of election but one of selection – selecting those whom the Supreme Leader had pre-ordained. As the day approached, opposition leaders pled with fellow citizens to boycott the elections in order to send a strong message that the regime had lost its legitimacy. The people responded, in spite of appeals and threats by Khamenei, Rouhani and others, by staying home. The regime reported the next day a highly-inflated figure, saying that over 41% of eligible voters had participated, but even so had to admit that even this artificial number marked the lowest voter turnout since the Revolution of 1979.
Only after this debacle did the mullahs begin to talk more openly of the coronavirus, which now became a convenient excuse for the low turnout at both national events. “People stayed home,” they said, “out of fear. Foreign governments (read: USA and Israel) whipped up fabricated stories of fatalities and epidemics in order to keep people away from our national celebration and elections.” As usual in the Islamic world (whether Shi’ite or Sunni), when bad things happen the blame is not to be found with Muslim beliefs, practices or institutions, but with non-Muslims who are always conspiring to destroy Islam.
When not casting blame, Muslim leaders seem to love the art of subterfuge. So even after acknowledging the presence of the coronavirus in the country, the Iranian leadership intentionally misled its own populace as well as the larger world by grossly underreporting the rapid spread and number of deaths caused by COvid-19. Khamenei and his underlings downplayed its seriousness (“a passing issue;” “nothing exceptional”) and refused to take decisive actions (except to arrest those who exposed the truth). The clerics in Qom refused the recommendation that they should close down the pilgrimage centers, particularly the Masoumeh Shrine.
The same was true in Mashhad, Iran’s other “holy city.” Some mullahs even encouraged more pilgrims, assuring them that by attending the shrines they would be immunized from the coronavirus.
As news of the rapid spread of the virus in Iran reached the public, once again people expressed fury toward their leaders for their lies, inaction, incompetence and callousness. Officials rejected the use of quarantines, arguing such practices were ineffective and “belong to the Stone Age.” As hospital beds filled up across the country, it became clear that the healthcare infrastructure nationwide was woefully inadequate. Medicines were in short supply, masks and gloves were unavailable even to doctors and nurses, disinfectants were a distant pipedream. As people began probing, it turned out that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – the military arm of government responsible to protect and advance “the revolution” within the country and to export it to the outside world – had gathered as many of these materials as possible and was hoarding them for two purposes: first, to dispense them as needed to the upper echelons of government and the elite citizenry; and second, to sell them on the local black market or to desperate nations (such as China) at highly inflated prices so as to line their own pockets. To mollify the angry crowds, they took cans of air freshener, relabeled them as disinfectant spray, and sold them to the unsuspecting public.
This callousness of the Shi’ite authorities has been revealed also in how Sunni villages and towns are completely ignored as the coronavirus spreads in their midst. Likewise, those incarcerated within Iran’s prison system receive little to no medical assistance. Overcrowding and lack of basic hygiene make for the perfect breeding ground for the virus. Sensing a disaster in the making, officials are floating the idea of releasing some 70,000 inmates back into society so as to obscure the regime’s incompetence in protecting its prison population. The fact that such a release would further endanger the public makes little difference to regime leaders.
The question of how the coronavirus first entered Iran led to a focus on the holy city of Qom, where the outbreak was first reported. In recent months over seven hundred Chinese Muslims have been welcomed for study at the al-Mustafa International University, a seminary in Qom dedicated to international students.
While other countries suspended flights to and from China after reports of the Wuhan virus outbreak, Iran refused to halt its air services. More and more Chinese Muslim students and businessmen poured into Iran principally through Mahan Air, a “private” air carrier owned by the IRGC. For the sake of profit in an economically-strapped regime, the IRGC has continued to fly both passenger and cargo jets to and from four cities in China (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou [Canton] and Shenzhen) in complete disdain for the health and safety of Iran’s citizens. Not surprisingly, Qom became the first internal epicenter of Iran’s Coronavirus epidemic. And because it is one of the most famous pilgrimage cities in Iran, it served as the infection center for all Iran (and many other countries with Shi’ite populations) as pilgrims returned home from visiting Qom’s religious shrines. Iran is fast becoming the Typhoid Mary of nations as to date at least fifteen nearby countries have traced the Coronavirus infection to travelers arriving from Iran.
Only recently have the mullahs suspended Friday mosque prayers and encouraged citizens to stay home if possible. They continue to lie about the extent of the crisis, forbidding any reports of actual numbers of deaths from morgues and city officials under the justification of “national security.” Sadly, the Supreme Leader and his loyal bureaucrats show greater anxiety over the spread of the truth than they do over the spread of the virus. The government continues to release official virus-related death tolls, but nobody takes them seriously. As of today, March 12th, the number stands at 429. But the main opposition party, the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) or the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI), cites figures gathered from on-the-ground reporting in each of Iran’s thirty-one provinces. Their assessment is that as of today, virus-related deaths tallied from 160 cities/towns stands at over 3650. Given that the total global death toll (including Iran’s bogus official figures) is estimated at around 4200, this would mean that if the MEK’s figures are accurate, almost as many people have died in Iran to date as in the rest of the world. Even scarier, best estimates are that the epidemic in Iran won’t peak for at least two more weeks. Some medical experts are predicting that the city of Tehran with a population of around ten million will experience an infection rate of 40%. It’s not hard to understand the outrage building in the hearts of the Persian people toward their culpable and appalling political/religious leaders. Graffiti popping up on walls in the capital city sum this up well: “Khamenei, the sinister mullah, you are the coronavirus!”
Finally, Iran’s already-reeling economy has been dealt what may be a death blow. Earlier this week, as Russia and Saudi Arabia failed to reach an agreement on oil production limits, the Saudis vowed to increase production imminently. That led oil market prices to plummet immediately by 30%. Iran’s economy, even under strict international sanctions, relies heavily on oil sales. Such a huge drop in its oil income can only make a dire situation worse.
No one can predict with certainty when the Iranian theocracy will fall, but there is no question that the Persian people are seething like magma under intense pressure, gathering strength for an impending eruption. The mullahs are using everything at their disposal to stifle this unrest, but their resources are trifling in the face of scores of millions of insurgents. The fall of the mullahs is inevitable. The only question is: How soon?