Let Light Shine into the Darkness

Nine days ago (Feb. 12) the Gulzar e Madina mosque, located in a suburb of Baltimore less than 50 miles from downtown Washington, D.C., held a special celebration which it had advertised nationally to Urdu (Pakistani) readers. The celebration, known as an Urs, is a Sufi-based anniversary celebration of the death of someone who has attained saintly status. mumtaz_qadr_baltimore_mosque-1024x535

In this case, the party was being thrown in memory of a Pakistani Muslim named Mumtaz Qadri, who died Feb. 29th, 2016. More precisely, Qadri was executed by Pakistani authorities that day by hanging for the crime of murdering the governor of the Punjab province, Salman Taseer, also a Muslim, by pumping twenty-seven bullets into his back as he was walking back to his car after a lunch meeting. To add insult to injury, Qadri was a member of Pakistan’s Special Forces, assigned to Gov. Taseer’s protection detail. (For more details on this, see my blog here.)

What led to Qadri’s murderous behavior? He was upset that the governor was working to try to free a Christian woman, Aasiya Bibi, who had been falsely convicted of breaking Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws and was facing execution. In Qadri’s mind, Taseer was guilty of demeaning the prophet of Islam (whom the blasphemy laws are designed to protect), and so should die. He was judge, jury and executioner, and carried out his plans with no hesitation. In fact, two days after the assassination, he turned himself in to authorities with a smile. mumtaz-qadri

Governor Taseer’s funeral the next day attracted a few thousand people, in spite of the fact that some 500 religious leaders declared Qadri to be a hero and warned people that to honor Taseer would be to dishonor the prophet of Islam. Five years later, the day after the cowardly murderer was executed, more than 100,000 Pakistanis took to the streets to honor him as a hero and martyr for Islam. qadri funeral

So here in America, near the anniversary of this killer’s death, Mumtaz Qadri is being celebrated as a saint in this Pakistani community mosque. Honored speakers included Muhammad Ali Soharwardi, a famous Muslim singer presently on a US tour from Pakistan, Syed Saad Ali, an Islamic scholar from New Jersey, and Ijaz Hussain, an imam from Baltimore. (For a foreign news report on this, see here.)

One speaker, to justify Qadri’s act, declared:

“Whoever disrespects the Holy Prophet Muhammad is worthy of death, and even if [he] disrespects indirectly he is still worthy of death. Even if someone asks for forgiveness it is not acceptable.”

The Islamic scholar, Syed Saad Ali, was particularly motivational as he inspired guilt in his listeners:

“Warrior Mumtaz Qadri kissed the noose in love for Prophet Muhammad. When Qadri was in jail for 5 years what did we do? What effort did we make (for his release)? Why did we not go where he was being held? Qadri did everything for us, and for the love of Islam and we could not even stand by him. People say Islam teaches peace…..I say Islam teaches us Ghairat (Honor) Who will now stand up?”syed-ali

Presumably, Muslims are to rise up and kill any and all blasphemers, according to Ali. Fortunately, most Muslims in this country pay little heed to Islamic scholars like this man, though his beliefs mirror the teachings and actions of Muhammad and his early followers.

Ali made reference to another “hero,” Tanveer Ahmed, a Sunni believer presently in prison in Scotland for the murder of Asad Shah, an Ahmadi Muslim (Sunni Muslims consider the Ahmadis to be heretics). Tanveer traveled almost 250 miles from his home in Bradford, England, to confront Asad, a shopkeeper in Glasgow, Scotland. Enraged over an allegation that Asad had called himself a prophet (thus demeaning Muhammad’s status as the final prophet of Allah), Tanveer confronted Asad in his store, began to stab him repeatedly with a knife as others tried vainly to stop the attack, then dragged Asad’s inert body outside the store, “…stabbing, punching and stamping on him, shattering bones in his face.” Islamic scholar Ali was fulsome in his praise of this murderer as well:

“Our warrior Tanveer who is sitting in a jail in Scotland, I don’t know if someone knows or not, when that Mirzai [i.e., the Ahmadi Asad Shah] spoke his ‘sacrilegious rubbish’ he went there and stabbed him 27 times and the police arrested him and right now he is in a jail in Scotland. So if we just take a step forward, angels will automatically come for our help. But what Mumtaz Qadri has done is something amazing, he has surpassed all these warriors.”

So the message from Syed Saad Ali is that Tanveer Ahmed is a hero of Islam, but that Mumtaz Qadri is a lion of the faith for taking down a major target. And now, if only those listening to him will step forth after the example of these two, the angels of Allah will immediately fly to their aid in killing blasphemers!

Not to be left out, Imam Ijaz Hussain from Baltimore chimed in his professional opinion:

“Mumtaz Qadri was not a terrorist, and whoever says ‘We are with you, O Prophet’ cannot be a terrorist.” ijaz_hussain_baltimore-295x300

How reassuring, from the leader of one of America’s Sufi Muslim communities.

I got to thinking about what might be a parallel situation here in the United States among Christian groups, and came up with this hypothetical scenario:

Suppose a white supremacist “Christian” group, who hated everything Martin Luther King, Jr., stood for, decided to hold a celebration on April 23rd this year to mark the 19th year anniversary of the death of James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of America’s great civil rights leader of the 1960s. They publicize the event widely across the country using white supremacist media outlets, and on the day of the event they celebrate James Earl Ray as an American hero, even more as a sainted man who carried out God’s will at the end of a rifle. Would we not rightly be repulsed, horrified, angered by such a travesty? Would we not be motivated to do something about such blindness and celebration of evil? Would we not want our fellow citizens to know of such a cancer in our midst? I would hope so.

To my knowledge, no such event has ever taken place, nor by God’s justice, will one ever happen. But, the February 12th Urs honoring Mumtaz Qadri actually did take place, less than 50 miles from the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court, and our leaders remain ignorant, our mainstream media apparently couldn’t be bothered to research and report on this, and the American Muslim community sits silent — where is the condemnation of CAIR, ISNA, ICNA, IIIT, and the Fiqh Council of North America? Where is the Southern Poverty Law Center, so committed as they are to the extermination of hate and the teaching of tolerance — or does that only apply to conservative Americans?

It’s well past time to shine the light of clarity into the dark corners of Islamic teaching and behavior that condones the hatred and intolerance of non-Muslims simply because they reject the claim of Muhammad as a true prophet and will not bow down before Islam’s supremacist claims. The celebration of vigilante killers, and the exhortation to imitate them, should have no place in America, or anyplace else for that matter. But let us tend to our own house, and pray that the rest of the world will do likewise.

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The Muslim Immigration Conundrum

In the Fall of 1982, people started dying in Illinois after consuming Tylenol capsules which had been poisoned with cyanide. Panic quickly ensued as no one was certain whether their pain-reliever was safe. Within one week of the first death, Johnson & Johnson (the makers of Tylenol products) had suspended advertising and production and had issued a nationwide recall of all Tylenol products. After discovering that the perpetrator had tampered with bottles taken from stores and later replaced, Johnson & Johnson resumed production, developing in time the use of solid caplets rather than capsules. The criminal was never caught.Foil Safety Seal on Tylenol Bottle

One result of this act of pharmaceutical terrorism was that the food, drug and consumer product industries began to devise the tamper-proof seals and packaging we are so familiar with today, and the problem of “product terrorism” has receded from consumer consciousness.

The analogies between the “Tylenol scare” and terrorism through immigration are not difficult to discern. Our present problem in America pits the call to compassion against the need for security. We want to assist refugees in resettling here in the land of opportunity and freedom, but we don’t want to allow in those who, under the guise of refugee status, wish to do us harm. How do we solve this conundrum?

First, some definitions: An immigrant is one who seeks to leave his homeland (for any of a number of reasons) and resettle in the USA (whether legally or illegally); a refugee is one displaced from his country of origin who fears persecution due to “… race, religion, nationality, and/or membership in a particular social group or political opinion.” One seeking asylum faces the same legitimate fears but has already made it to US shores (whether legally or not) and applies for legal status so as not to be deported back into harm’s way.

The number of legal immigrants obtaining permanent resident status in the USA has averaged roughly one million per year since 2003. In 2015, it was 1,051,031. Again, since 2003 the number of refugees resettled here yearly has averaged roughly 58,000 from all over the world (the actual ceiling is determined annually by the President). In 2015, the actual number was 69,933 (with a ceiling of 70,000; for 2016, President Trump has set the ceiling at 50,000). The total number of those granted asylum has averaged about 25,000 per year since 2003. In 2015, the total was 26,124. Of these, roughly one-fourth were from China.2015-immigration-stats

As anyone can see, we are not working with astronomical numbers. Less than 100,000 people enter the USA as refugees and asylees annually. That seems reasonable. On the other hand, if only one tenth of one percent of that number had terrorist intentions (100 or less) and they coordinated their efforts successfully, this nation would be paralyzed.

Why should we be concerned about terrorists entering through the refugee population? Primarily because ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Muslim terrorist groups have publicly declared their intention to infect the teeming refugee populations from the Muslim world with their sleeper agents, and have succeeded at this already in Europe. The ten terrorists who carried out the Paris Bataclan and Brussels attacks in the last 16 months, killing 215 people and wounding many more, had entered Europe legally as “refugees” through the Balkans. Since then, there have been numerous attacks and attempts in other parts of Europe by so-called refugees. Are we confident enough to believe that the USA is immune because of our “careful” vetting process?

Our intelligence agencies’ leaders have already declared their considered opinion that there is no way to guarantee that potential terrorists do not slip through the vetting process. tashfeenTashfeen Malik, the Pakistani-born San Bernardino co-terrorist who along with her husband murdered fourteen people at a Christmas party, had been vetted and passed by five different US intelligence agencies. According to a report issued in June 2016 by the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest, 580 individuals have been convicted in the US of terror-related crimes since 9/11. Of those, 380 are foreign-born nationals. Interestingly, 72 of that number hail from the seven countries listed on the “Trump ban” executive order of January 27th. There is no question that the large majority of those convicted link themselves to Islam.

So, in terms of immigration concerns, it seems that a greater threat is posed to America from Muslim immigration than from non-Muslim immigration. Yet on the other hand, only a tiny percentage of Muslim immigrants are involved in terror-related activities. On top of that, our laws and values prohibit our government from using a “religious test” on those seeking to immigrate here.

President Trump is seeking a way around this by arguing that his administration is seeking to halt immigration from countries that have been hotbeds of terrorism and that lack the normal infrastructure needed for accurate vetting (due in large measure to civil wars or other internal strife). trump-eo“It has nothing to do with religion. There is no ban on Muslims.” Supporters of this note that the total populations affected comprise maybe 15% of all Muslims, meaning that 85% of the Muslim world is welcome to apply for immigration. You see, obviously there is no religious test going on.

But this is a smokescreen. There is a religious test, and it involves believers in Islam, not members of any other religious group. Why? Because Islam is not like any other religious group. It contains not only personal rules of piety, but also a totalitarian political agenda which must be obeyed. Its intention, going back to Muhammad and his earliest followers, is not only to make individuals submit their lives to Allah but all nations as well. The world one day must live willingly or by force under the rule of Shari’a – Allah’s perfect law for humanity. Every Muslim is to yearn for and work for this ultimate goal – otherwise, he/she is not a good Muslim by orthodox standards.

When our founding fathers made the freedom of religion one of this nation’s key rights, they had no notion that the religio-political animal we know as Islam would ever wish to become a claimant. What would they say of a totalitarian religion which says, “We not only want the right to practice our religion freely in your country, but to work secretly or openly for the overthrow of your Constitution so as to make Islam the religion of America and Shari’a Law its unalterable, new constitution.” Never before has America faced a totalitarian ideology clothed in religious garb. This is what makes vetting potential Muslim immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers so difficult.

The problem is this: if every Muslim believed wholeheartedly in the totalitarian agenda of Islam, then it would be prudent for the USA to ban all Muslims from living in this country; but most Muslims coming to the West want little or nothing to do with jihadism, which is the primary way to spread the hegemony of Islamic rule. How then do we vet Muslims accurately so as to know where they stand?

There is no question the United States of America has every right to accept or reject any applicant for immigration, as do all other countries. No non-citizen of the USA has the right to demand entrance to this country. As a nation, our federal government is tasked with protecting the welfare of its citizens and defending its existence against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Immigration is a matter of grace, not of rights, and so when our officials determine that a particular individual or group pose a potential threat, they are right to impose a temporary moratorium or a permanent ban unless and until the threat disappears.

In the last century, our way of life faced two threats from totalitarian movements. How we responded was instructive. The first was the Nazi-Japanese threat of WWII. After being attacked at Pearl Harbor, we were thrust into a war we had tried to avoid. As we battled in the Pacific and in Europe, at home we faced the question as to what to do with immigration from the lands of the enemies. The flow of people from Germany and Japan slowed to a standstill, and rightly so. Fear and suspicion even led to the creation of internment camps for those of Japanese descent (whether American citizens or not) both to prevent them from possibly aiding and abetting the enemy, and to protect them from self-styled vigilantes in our midst. After the defeat of the Nazis and the Japanese Empire, with the schemes of these totalitarian movements lying in ashes, our country began to lift its immigration restrictions and accept Japanese and German applicants free from these defunct dreams.

The second, of course, was communism. As a philosophy and form of government it was antithetical to our American system and values. When it came to the question of allowing self-declared communists to immigrate to this country, the answer was clearly no. Could a Russian, Chinese or Cuban person settle in America? Certainly, but only as a refugee fleeing the Communist regimes, or by proving that he/she rejected communism and embraced our democracy.

Nazism and communism are by and large now discredited movements found principally in history books. But another totalitarianism has been regaining strength after lying dormant since the rise of the Enlightenment and Industrialist West. totalitarian-flagsIt is the movement of core Islam – the 5 religious pillars of personal piety wedded together with the sixth pillar, that of jihad. Its goal is to regain its past glory as a continent-spanning Caliphate, and to springboard to the ideological and political/military conquest of the rest of the world. This is not the self-styled dream of some group of wild-eyed radical fanatics, but rather the vision which springs from the pages of the Qur’an, the Hadith traditions and the earliest Sira (Islamic biographies) of the life of Muhammad. This world view is hardwired into the authoritative, religious texts of Islam. Whether a given Muslim accepts these supremacist teachings or not is a different matter altogether, but there is no question that these imperatives are an inherent part of the religion as a matter of record.

So when it comes to vetting members of a totalitarian religious ideology, how should our government proceed, given that we wish to protect the right of religious freedom? I believe that like Nazism and communism, the ideology of Islam in its aspirations of conquest is a danger to the ongoing existence of the United States. If there were a precise way to separate the private religious practices of Islam from its totalitarian political agenda, and we could clearly discern those who are Muslims in religious practice only from those who embrace the conquest agenda of core Islam, then it would be easy to vet Muslim immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. But such is not the case.

The waters are muddied even further by the teaching attributed to Muhammad which permits a Muslim to mislead non-Muslims as to his identity when the truth would put his life and/or the cause of Islam in danger (for more on five types of deception allowed by Muslim law, see here).

So in the midst of an immigration interview, a jihadi Muslim can with good conscience provide false documentation and deny any jihadi leanings in response to questions. It is up to the interviewer and the immigration system to catch him in his lies. As we have seen, our bureaucracy is not too skilled in this department.

Hence we are left with bumbling attempts to safeguard our nation from the latest and most insidious form of totalitarianism, one which unlike Nazism and communism wraps itself in the protected garb of religion. President Trump’s executive order really is a covert attempt to ban Islam (“all Muslims”) from our shores, but he can’t do that openly for it would scream of “unacceptable (to the ignorant)” religious discrimination. wheelSo his administration crafts a relatively limited moratorium on immigration of any kind from seven Muslim nations which are singled out not for being Muslim (though that’s the real reason) but for being “terror-prone.” Interestingly, the order requires the Directors of Homeland Security and State to submit a list of other countries recommended for inclusion with the seven “banned nations,” and allows additions by the President to this list at any time in the future. One wonders what will be the common factor linking the future list-members….

Though this executive order has been “stayed” by the courts, the administration is working on a “new and improved version” to be unveiled sometime this week. It will meet the same strong headwinds from the liberal establishment and from First Amendment supporters who believe that Islam is “just like any other religion.” Until our vetting process is able to distinguish between “peaceful Muslims who renounce jihad” and “peaceful-appearing Muslims who embrace jihad” (which may in the end be a fool’s errand), we will continue to fight amongst ourselves as to the right approach to Muslim immigration. Perhaps the only thing to settle the debate will be when one or more vetted Muslim immigrants succeeds in another 9/11-scale terror attack. I hope this does not happen. But if ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other core Muslim groups have their way, it will. It is only a matter of time and opportunity.

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Religious Savagery Must Not Go Unchecked!

News of the recent heinous attack on a Muslim house of worship in Quebec City, Canada, was reported around the world. The perpetrator has been arrested and charged with five counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder. As yet, nothing about Alexandre Bissonnette’s motives has been released to the public. It’s a bit surprising that he has not  been charged with any terrorism-related crimes at this point, but there is much to which the public is not privy for now. What we do know is that hundreds of lives are now shrouded with grief and anger over this hateful attack. Our prayers are important — may God grant the families and friends of the victims comfort and peace.

Unfortunately, this attack is not the only violence against worshipers in the month of January. About two weeks ago, in a largely Muslim community, another house of worship was attacked during evening prayers, this time by a mob of about 90. They broke into the building, cornered roughly half the worshipers who had not been able to escape and locked them in the hall. After beating them with clubs and sticks, they separated the men and the women, tying up the men and raping fifteen women. Some of the assailants stayed outside to catch any escapees, so as to beat the males and rape the females. After sating their hatred toward the worshipers, the mob capped off the evening by destroying much of the property inside the house of prayer.

The prayer leader was a particular target of the mob, but he escaped with eight others and hasn’t been heard from since. That silence suggests that he was later tracked down by the attackers and either kidnapped or executed.

What motivated this mob to cause so much pain and destruction to the lives of innocent people?  We have a pretty good idea since they were “breathing threats and murder” against the objects of their terror.

In case you don’t already know, this attack occurred in Eastern Uganda. The mob was composed of Muslim men, the house of worship was the Katira Church in Budaka District, and the victims were members of that church gathered in prayer around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 15th. The attackers apparently wanted revenge, believing that the pastor was behind the conversion of a number of Muslims to the Christian faith. Some were shouting, “Away with the pastor!” “Away with the pastor who is converting our Muslims to Christianity!” They also wanted to humiliate their enemies, engaging in the rape of helpless women while the bound and beaten men looked on, powerless to rescue them. The attackers finally fled when police arrived two hours after the violence began. A few days later, leaflets surfaced with further accusations against the pastor linked to warnings of future reprisals. There is no indication to date that any arrests have been made by the authorities.uganda-pastor

The next day, members of the church gathered and planned to destroy the village mosque in retaliation, and to show that “they were not cowards.” But another local pastor convinced them that Christ called them to adopt an attitude of forgiveness, and so they relented.

If you hadn’t heard this story in the news, I’m not surprised. The media don’t seem particularly interested in accounts of Muslim attacks on Christians, perhaps because there are so many of them and it has come to be expected. On the other hand, if a Muslim is attacked by a Westerner (whether Christian or secular) or a mosque is assaulted in some way, that garners major media attention. Recently in Victoria, TX, a small mosque burned down, and news of the tragedy spread widely. Authorities are investigating, and rightly so, whether this was an accident or an act of arson. In the meantime, a GoFundMe page created to help rebuild this mosque has raised $1,085,357 in five days. What a wonderful sign of generosity! But did you know that in the last 13 years over 900 churches in Nigeria have been destroyed by Boko Haram and other Muslim extremists? News hasn’t spread much about this, and no GoFundMe pages have raised any money.

You may remember that Boko Haram did make the news back in 2014 when they kidnapped some 276 girls from a predominantly Christian school and planned to use them for ransom, for marriage or for sex slavery. The fact that these girls were primarily Christian and were being forced to convert to Islam was not all that important in the eyes of the American media. But what got our attention was that they were helpless pawns in the hands of barbaric killers. Many of our politicians and actors show their support for a short time for the release of these girls. You may remember the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. michelle-obama-bring-back-our-girls-jpgellen-deThat was about 1000 days ago. Presently, 219 of the original 276 are still unaccounted for, and our political and Hollywood promises have faded into the woodwork. We Americans have such short attention spans. When a cause is no longer popular, we kick it to the curb unceremoniously so we can march at the forefront of the next cresting crusade.

Your may recall (if you read the media fine print) that in the week after the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations were put down on Aug. 14, 2013, forty-two churches were destroyed or attacked throughout the country. Many more have been destroyed since (most recently St. Peter’s Cathedral in Cairo was decimated by a bomb attack, killing 25 and injuring another 49).Facts such as these barely scratch the surface of what is happening around the world concerning religious savagery.

It should come as no surprise that followers of Jesus Christ are by far the largest target worldwide for violent persecution. One of the major sources for that is the Muslim community. Hiding from or ignoring that fact will not make it go away. If the leaders of the Muslim world are not willing to confront this ugly truth in their own religion, then the rest of the world will need to so as to protect itself.coptic-nun

The end of 2016 saw the attainment of a dubious milestone in world affairs: since the 9/11 al-Qaeda strike on America, there have been over 30,000 documented deadly Muslim terrorist attacks around the world (as of today that number stands at 30,227). A liberal estimate of terrorist attacks committed in the name of all the other major religions combined over the same period might approach 100. What is it about the religion of Islam that leads so many of its adherents (comparatively speaking) to believe that violence in the cause of Allah is mandated against all infidels? Unfortunately, jihadi teaching is firmly rooted in the Qur’an, in the Hadith traditions and in the Sira (biography) of Muhammad, who is the model par excellence for how all observant Muslims are supposed to live. It is not radical, or extremist, or twisted Islam which calls for violence against those who will not lie down like sheep before its supremacist claims — it is orthodox Islam that prescribes violence, even terror, as weapons to advance the cause of Islam until it controls the world.

We in the secular West must work hard to police ourselves so as to rein in the hatred and desire for retaliation against Muslims that many feel upon seeing or experiencing jihadi terror unleashed in our midst. Attacks on Muslims and mosques should never happen in a society which believes in the freedom of religion and the vision of our society as a true melting pot. Even more for Christians, we must demonstrate proactive love and the capacity to think the best of others, as well as to forgive when wronged. But we must not be under any illusion as to what the religion of Islam stands for, whether the Muslims we know embrace it fully or not, and we must prepare accordingly. Muhammad’s Islam, enshrined in Shari’a, is no friend of Western democracy.

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****Update on Update****

“But of course I am speculating and could be completely wrong!

Again, time will tell.”

So I ended my update on the mosque shooting in Quebec City yesterday. And time has revealed more facts. And indeed, my closing speculation proved wrong! I am sorry.quebec-city

We now know that there was only one shooter, not two. The Moroccan who was named by authorities as a perpetrator turned out to be a witness not a terrorist. The shooter is the young Quebec man, Alexandre Bissonnette. As of yet, nothing has been released as to his motives or state of mind, but it is looking more likely that he was driven by right-wing, anti-Muslim sentiments.

Whatever the final disposition of this investigation, we must all condemn the use of violence as a means to express one’s views or to change the world to better fit our personal beliefs. Particularly egregious in this instance is that innocent worshipers were gunned down unexpectedly while offering prayers to their God. The horror of this attack will be seared into the memories of all those affected, and cannot be erased. May the actions of this misguided individual not bring even greater division between Muslim and non-Muslim communities here in North America.


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****Update on Quebec City Attack****

The Montreal Gazette reports today that according to Radio Canada and LCN (French language news service) the mosque attackers are Alexandre Bissonnette and Mohamed Khadir. It has not yet been revealed whether they claim to be Muslims or not, but this is looking more likely.

While I cannot tell what brand of mosque the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec contains, its website mentions that the lead imam was trained at the University of al-Madinat al Munawarah in Medina, Saudi Arabia, which is known as a bastion of Salafi ideology (known for their ties to early Islamic, hence extremist beliefs). That may or may not prove to be significant with reference to the motives of the attackers.

What the names of the attackers seems to rule out (especially that of the Moroccan killer) is that this was the work of a Western right-wing conspiracy group. More likely is that Mr. Bissonnette is a convert to Islam and that he was perhaps following the lead of his Moroccan partner. News reports indicate that one of the terrorists (who fled the scene) called police to turn himself in, saying he felt remorse over what he had done. So it sounds like one of the two was the instigator and the other a semi-willing accomplice. But of course I am speculating and could be completely wrong!

Again, time will tell.


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Terror in Quebec City — Unanswered Questions

News broke last night of a deadly attack on a mosque in Quebec City, Canada, by two masked perpetrators, leading to six Muslim worshipers being murdered and eight more injured. Facts are still somewhat sketchy, but unlike here in the USA under the Obama administration, Canadian politicians were not slow to label this a terrorist attack.quebec-city

Mainstream media outlets quickly tied this violence to President Trump’s just-issued moratorium on refugee and immigrant entrance to the US from certain Muslim countries that have been sponsors of terrorism. Time will tell.

Both perpetrators have been arrested, though no information on them or their motivations has been released to date. Initial news reports, quite naturally, contain conflicting “facts.” An eyewitness claimed that the assailants were shouting “Allahu akbar” in a Quebecois accent as they fired their weapons, leading to speculation that they are locals. They are either Muslims (using “Allahu akbar” in earnest), or they are non-Muslims using the term in a mocking way or in an attempt to throw investigators off-track.

Rumors are swirling about the identity of the attackers. Both are said to be in their 20s, one a native Quebecer, and the other of Moroccan descent. Another unsubstantiated report claims that information over a police scanner gave the names (both Arabic) of the two under arrest and identified them as recent Syrian refugees. (This seems highly doubtful to me, but again, time will tell).

It is certainly possible that this will turn out to be have been inspired by xenophobic, anti-Muslim bigotry, triggered by right-wing extremists acting out their malice on innocent Muslims. Sadly, hatred seems to be grabbing more and more hearts as indiscriminate violence on “one side” begets the same on the other. Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword will also die by the sword.” He didn’t mention the heartbreaking truth that oftentimes many innocents are caught up in the mayhem as “collateral damage.”

It is also possible that this is not a right-wing hate crime, but an intra-Islamic one. Far too much evidence around the world demonstrates Muslim on Muslim murders as sectarians label believers of other sects “infidels” or apostates and so execute them according to Sharia’ law as they understand it. Sunni vs. Shia’, Deobandi vs. Ahmadi, Muslim Brotherhood vs. moderates, Salafi vs. non-Salafi, and so on. We may discover that the perpetrators in this atrocious attack were motivated by a Muslim, sectarian agenda.

Still another possibility is retribution against the mosque or some prominent members due to a perceived slight or actual trespass against one or both of the perpetrators. Add to this the likelihood of mental illness often tied to such heinous acts and you have a recipe for carnage.

As I mentioned, time will tell, as facts replace rumor, and as new organizations rein in their wild speculations and focus on the actual evidence. In the meantime, we should withhold our judgments and castigations, and remember above all that even after all the facts have come out we are powerless to restore the lives of those unjustly murdered, and to erase the grief of those bereft of their loved ones. May the God of all comfort break through their sadness and lead them to hope in the One who holds the keys to Death and Hades.


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Progressive Denominations Racing toward Servitude

The Presbyterian Church USA and the Anglican Communion in Great Britain seem locked in a neck and neck race to see which denomination can best debase the gospel message by bowing in submission before Islam.

You may recall that at the opening worship service of the most recent General Assembly meeting of the PCUSA (June 2016, in Portland, OR), that denomination’s top leaders decided to invite a local Muslim to help lead in worship. Prior to his scripted prayer (which drew from verses in the Qur’an), Mr. Wajdi Said began by chanting in Arabic (for which no translation was given): “I seek refuge with Allah from Satan the accursed.” He followed this with a recitation of the Fatiha, the opening Sura of the Qur’an, which contains a prayer asking Allah to guide those praying to the “straight path” (i.e., Islam), not the path of those who have incurred Allah’s wrath (i.e., the Jews), nor the path of those who have gone astray (i.e, the Christians). After this unscripted beginning, Mr. Said turned to his assigned liturgy. The Presbyterian leadership saw nothing wrong with this travesty, believing apparently that they were contributing to “interfaith dialogue” (although they labeled it “ecumenical dialogue at the time). Of course, there is nothing wrong with true interfaith dialogue, but to make it part and parcel of a service purporting to worship the Trinitarian God of the Bible is at the very least dimwitted and at worst blasphemous. (For detailed analysis of this event, check out “Wide Is the [Straight] Path…”.) Only when subsequent objections became too loud and numerous did then Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons issue a weak and whispered apology to any who “might have been offended” (See Gradye Parsons and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Apology.) Apparently the message of the gospel, which Christians down through the ages have suffered martyrdom for (not least at the hands of Muslims), can be swept aside in order to bow and scrape before the world of Islam.

Earlier this month, the Anglican Church mounted its own double-barreled offensive to outdo the PCUSA. The first occurred during a worship service at St. Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway for the Scottish Episcopal Church.


On Jan. 6th, the Feast of Epiphany, the church held a worship service in celebration of that holy day. “Epiphany” comes from a Greek word meaning “manifestation,” and its aim is to celebrate the manifestation of “…the majesty and divinity of the newborn Savior,” Jesus Christ. So it would make perfect sense, wouldn’t it, in the midst of Christian worship celebrating the majesty and divinity of the newborn Savior of the world, that the Cathedral officials would invite a Muslim to chant a passage from the Qur’an which intentionally denies this conviction?

The text in question is from Sura Mariam (19), verses 16-36, the majority of which presents a fanciful narrative (inspired in large measure by the apocryphal Syriac Infancy Gospel dated to the 5th-6th C. AD) of the young virgin Mary’s experience from annunciation to the birth of Jesus and his infant proclamation to the crowd that he indeed is the servant of Allah and a true prophet, thereby exonerating his mother of even the hint of sin. sura-mariamHowever, it is the punchline of this text that flies in the face of the core Christian teaching that Jesus is the divine Son of God. Here is the English translation of Sura 19:35-36 (Hilali-Khan trans., parenthetical comments are those of the translators):

 It befits not (the Majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son [this refers to the slander of Christians against Allah, by saying that ‘Iesa (Jesus) is the son of Allah]. Glorified (and Exalted be He above all that they associate with Him). When He decrees a thing, He only says to it, “Be!” and it is. [‘Iesa (Jesus) said]: “And verily Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him (Alone). That is the Straight Path. (Allah’s Religion of Islamic Monotheism which He did ordain for all of His Prophets).”

The Cathedral provided an English translation of the Qur’anic recitation up through verse 33, either unwittingly or intentionally omitting these offensive teachings from view for all except those who know Arabic. Nonetheless, they were proclaimed in a cathedral in the midst of worship directed ostensibly to the Triune God. The message they enshrine is that Jesus is not the Son of God, that he is not divine (only Allah is worthy of majesty), and that Jesus himself claimed he was on the same level as all other human beings when it came to relationship with God. This is the “straight path,” according to the Qur’an. Obviously, that means the gospel is a crooked path, and will lead one to hell.

As you can see in the video above, the Muslim woman is reciting behind a podium known as the Eagle Lectern. Fairly common in Anglican church furniture, the Eagle Lectern is meant to hold the Bible as it is read to the people. The eagle itself symbolizes the uplifting and spreading of the Word of God to all the world. How wonderful that now it serves equally to broadcast the anti-gospel word of Islam to any listeners….

The provost of St. Mary’s, Kelvin Holdsworth, kelvin-holdsworthwho is responsible for this disgrace, defended his decision in the face of a subsequent storm of protest. His rationale was three-fold: 1) everything else in the service upheld the traditional beliefs of the Christian faith; 2) we’ve had Muslim recitations in the past with no fallout; 3) our goal is hospitality, not syncretism.

Apparently it’s okay to eat a meal with a pinch of deadly poison on your plate, as long as everything else is safe and edible. It must be okay because we’ve done it before and haven’t noticed very many ill effects. And after all, we want to have good relations with those who peddle poison, not scare them away, so we will smile and swallow what they eagerly give us.

To show you how far out of touch Mr. Holdsworth is from a biblical worldview, his analysis of why there has been such a hostile reaction to this event from Christians boils down to homophobia or misogyny. In his own blog posting, he confesses that prior to the uproar he had thought that he might have generated controversy over his choice of tune to go with the hymn Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning, “…which may have taken some people by surprise.” In light of the over 10,000 mostly negative responses the Cathedral received, Mr. Holdsworth concluded they were generated certainly by ignorant Islamophobia, but exacerbated by hatred for homosexuals and women (which, interestingly, are hallmarks of Islamic practice, though the provost didn’t mention that…). So, he mused,

This same Qur’anic reading has been given before in services and no outcry has happened. Is it because this is in a cathedral run by a gay man? Is it because the recitation was given by a young woman?

Well, of course! Who in their right mind would be offended that a foreign religion’s slur upon the God of Christianity and the Savior of the world would be tolerated, not to say, celebrated in a sanctuary dedicated to the gospel? What could generate such passion? Oh, yes. Homophobia! Misogyny! That explains it.

Holdsworth doubled down on his defense. The problem church leadership in the Anglican Communion faces is not bowing down before the demands of Islamic supremacists, but rather being cowed by Islamophobic activists. We must open the doors to the anti-Christian views of Islam, and shut our ears to the complaints of those who want the Church to stand tall for the gospel over against Islam.

In this midst of all this mess, the primus (head bishop) of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Chillingworth, took a tiny step in the right direction with his official statement:

The decisions which have led to the situation in St. Mary’s Cathedral are a matter for the provost and the cathedral community but the Scottish Episcopal Church is deeply distressed at the widespread offense which has been caused.  We also deeply regret the widespread abuse which has been received by the cathedral community.

Notice, however, in this carefully crafted statement there is no acknowledgement of the wrongfulness of what had been done, but only deep distress that widespread offense had been caused. And, of course, focus of culpability is equally directed toward those who abusively called out the cathedral staff for their unfaithful acts.

As of yet, there has been no mea culpa from Holdsworth and his staff, only defensiveness and counter-attack.

Not to be outdone, the nabobs of Gloucester Cathedral in England launched a multi-cultural Faith Exhibition before a thousand attendees on January 14th. It kicked off with an Islamic call to prayer led by one Imam Hassan of a local mosque.


But Gloucester Cathedral’s leadership is much more visionary and inclusive than the rubes of Glasgow. According to the Cathedral website, the launch entertainment also included:gloucester-cathedral

  • Buddhist chanting
  • Rasta drumming
  • Hindu dancing
  • Rasta story telling
  • Salvation Army brass band
  • Jewish Klezmer band
  • Gospel choir
  • Pagan rock band
  • A Fire eating vicar
  • Face painting
  • Much more

For six weeks, 37 portraits on display will highlight unique elements of “…Zoroastrians, Druids, Witches, Pagans and Baha’i as well as all the other more well-known religions.” It may be that Christianity will be included in all this, too. Who knows?

I’d say that for now the Anglican Communion has jumped out into the lead over the Presbyterian Church USA in the race over which denomination can most quickly cross the finish line into oblivion. Sadly, many other liberal denominations are laboring to catch up and pass the front-runners.

Is there any good news in all this? Certainly! God has promised that He will always keep a remnant of His people secure from compromise. Jesus declared that the gates of hell would never be able to withstand the march of his Church. The Kingdom of God will prevail in the end. On this we stake our hopes. (Incidentally, both offending videos embedded in this blog have been removed for their respective cathedrals’ official websites.)

And for the denomination which wins the race to Islamic subjugation and oblivion, what will be its prize? I don’t claim to know. But perhaps the Islamic prayers for the dead will be chanted over it, and over each denomination that follows in its footsteps. That’s the least the Muslim world can do.

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