Sunday, September 29, 2013

My predictions on the Arab Spring, from January 2012

Hi All,

I was recently going over this interview I did with Don Warrington at Positive Infinity for another interview I'm doing right now, and I was struck by how I nailed the Arab Spring all the way back in January of 2012. Check this out:

6) Where do you see MENA going, especially in view of events such as the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the Arab Spring?

This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? First, the people who protested didn’t take political control, so as much as they wanted freedom and democracy, they just won’t get it, I’m sorry to say. The Egyptian elections were demonstrably corrupt, though the international press has not said so—I have no idea why. The Islamists will take power and they will not let it go. And why is this surprising? That is precisely what Muhammad did—engaged in diplomacy and compromise and so on, but once he had power he was ruthless. In the end, an Islamic society cannot be a free society. Islam and freedom are mutually exclusive.

The question I have is this: will it be like Iran? After the revolution in `79 Islam had a chance to prove itself in the political arena, and Islam, unlike Christianity, makes substantial guarantees in this area. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have concluded that Islam failed—it did not deliver politically so it must be false in terms of its religious and spiritual claims too. They have turned to Christianity some of them, and some to secular humanism or atheism. Will this happen in these newly Islamist states? Perhaps. I pray it will. Islam’s love of political power may well be its Achilles’ heel. Meanwhile, that means the native Christians need to stay as long as they can, and foreign missionaries like me need to stay no matter what. I will do it. Maybe the kids and wife need to go back to the US, I will do everything I can to stay here even if all hell breaks loose.
Anyway, if you didn't read the interview when it came out, I think it contains a good summary of my own philosophy of mission and opinions regarding the Arab world today: here are Part 1 and Part 2.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Did Saints Peter and Paul believe in insider movements?

I answer that the Biblical witness clearly leads to the answer no:
Further, the mixed churches in cities like Rome and [the region of] Galatia were likewise errors. These believers, both Jews and non-Jews, had mistakenly supposed that they in some way had come into a new oikos and a new identity, and Paul, lacking wisdom as usual, taught them these things. Indeed, a triumph of IM hermeneutics and practice would have meant that Peter should have been victorious when Paul confronted him. Indeed, Paul, in violating kashrut was stepping needlessly outside of his oikos, while Peter himself was honoring his God-given identity as a Galilean Jew. 

In the end though, it was the faith—the apostolic faith—that was victorious. A faith which understood that in Jesus a new community had come into being demanded allegiance above and beyond one’s own community of birth. Or as one African pastor put it in those early centuries: you cannot have God for your Father without having the Church for your mother.
From my recent article on insider movements.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Insider Movements, Jeff Morton, Kevin Higgins, Dave Bogs and Rebecca Lewis

Insider Movements, Jeff Morton, Kevin Higgins, Dave Bogs and Rebecca Lewis
by Abu Daoud

As a contributing editor of St Francis Magazine I have the privilege (and duty) to write at least one substantial article per year. All my previous SFM articles can be found in the menu to the right of the main blog text. My recent article started as a mere book review of Jeff Morton's recent book Insider Movements: Biblically Incredible or Incredibly Brilliant?

The material in this book unfolded itself into an article-length article (which is also a review) concerned with 'insider movements'. In his book, Morton particularly takes on two of the main proponents of IM: Rebecca Lewis and Kevin Higgins--hence the full title (and biblio):
Abu Daoud. 2013. "Rebecca Lewis and Kevin Higgins against the Ropes: sounding the death nell of the insider movements and the victory of Apostolic faith" in St Francis Magazine 9(4), August, pp 1-7.
(Yes, that is "Abu Daoud" and not "Daoud, Abu.")

The article also takes on Dave Bogs, who is the gatekeeper of the 'Insider Movement' entry at Wikipedia, which is well-curated and totally inaccurate. It is a good reminder as to why Wikipedia is not allowed to be used in academic papers!

Here is an excerpt:
If you journey over to Wikipedia and check out the Insider Movement entry, you will enter the personal fiefdom of one Dave Bogs. If you click on the ‘view history’ tab you will find that anything he does not like is deleted (by him). His justification for this is invariably that a significant number of people have said that the article is balanced. If you click on the ‘Talk’ tab (next to the ‘Article’ tab) you will find that a bunch of people went to Wikipedia between March13th and 17th of 2012 and left positive comments on the article. Is it possible that Dave or someone else was teaching a class on IM, and that the students were told to log in to Wikipedia and endorse the article as ‘excellent, concise’ and so on? (p. 4)
Dear Dave Bogs, please leave a remark here and clarify the situation. I won't delete your material like you do with the poor souls who try to fix the IM article at Wikipedia. As Christians, dialogue is a fine way to work this out, but your control of the Wikipedia site makes this impossible.

Anyway, check out the entire article here, and let me know what you think. If Kevin Higgins or Rebecca Lewis or Dave Bogs would like to leave any comments, they are most welcome.

Find it a Scribd or download the PDF from St Francis Magazine.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Message from a Christian of Syrian Ancestry to the Americans

Message from a Christian of Syrian Ancestry to the Americans

by Abu Daoud (8/2013) 

Today I was running errands and I happened by my local pharmacy to pick up some stuff for the family. The man there is a Greek Catholic Christian of Syrian ancestry and he told me about how his ancestors had migrated from Syria to where I am, back in the days of Ottoman Empire. 

We got to talking and, as often happens with this sort of thing, he became rather impassioned and started to tell me his thoughts in detail about what was going on in Syria. He told me, You are American, you voted for this guy (President Obama)!  I promised him I would relay his message to people in the USA as best I could. So here I am, trying to do that. I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, of course. But I did think that people in the USA (and elsewhere, too) would be interested to hear the unvarnished thoughts of an Arab Christian whose ancestral home is Syria, in Wadi al-Nasara (it’s on Wikipedia). 

His main source of frustration was that, in his mind, the Obama administration was actively funding the genocide of Middle Eastern Christians. He felt that the USA and the UK were arming terrorists (Jabhat al Nusra, which is a branch of the Syrian rebels, and is affiliated with Al Qaeda) who were killing Christians. He said that these people were beasts and monsters, and that he hoped that Al Assad would kill them all. Not just beat them or chase them out. But kill them. He believes that the Obama administration is lying then they say that they think they are supporting Syrians fighting against Al Assad, because in fact they know that these people are foreigners (from Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Gulf, the USA, Europe) and not Syrians. He mentioned the famous video clip of one such fighter cutting open a man’s chest and then taking out his heart and eating it, which, yes, really exists. He said, when I’m hunting and I see a wounded animal, I kill it. I don’t feel good about it, but I do. The implication is that these Al Qaeda people are wounded beyond recovery—their humanity irrevocably damaged.

He says that before the revolution he didn’t much like Al Assad, but now he likes him. This is because Syrian regime left the people alone, and didn’t enforce religion on anyone. 

I explain that the Obama administration says they only want to support the liberal, secular democratic rebels, not the terrorists who are bent on destroying Christianity in Syria (though they are working together). The logic behind this explanation seems so entirely incoherent to him that he concludes it is a lie: the Obama administration (and John McCain as well, it appears) is merely saying this to cover their tracks. The logistics of giving weapons to one portion of an army while keeping them from another portion of the same army (and a more powerful and larger portion, at that) is ridiculous, and no one would ever think that is a realistic goal, he said.

Based on this evidence—the Obama administration’s clear and unequivocal support (in his mind) for a branch of Al Qaeda bent on eliminating Christianity from the region, he concludes that Obama must be a Muslim—there is no other logical way of explaining it all. He concludes that he hates Obama. He says his wife’s parents are in Canada and he could have easily emigrated, but he loves this land and will not leave. He wants American Christians to know about his point of view.

I told him I would tell you, and I have. I will leave the evaluation of his opinions to you. As for me, he told me to pass this on, so please link to this or copy and paste. The material is not my own.

--Abu Daoud

Friday, May 31, 2013

Missionary Secrets 5: How to fruitfully insult the Prophet

Missionary Secrets 5: How to fruitfully insult the Prophet
by Abu Daoud

It has become accepted in many missionary circles (among Muslims, at least, an that's me folks) that one should never, ever insult the Prophet. If you do it, then as Mazhar Mallouhi, evangelical turned Jesusy-Muslim, said, it is like telling someone their mother is ugly (that is from St Francis Magazine). Actually, normally he is right. Normally you touch Muhammad and that is the end of the conversation. So I appreciate his insight.

Here is a missionary secret which took me like eight years to learn: there are ways to do this fruitfully and to God's glory and to the good of the person you are speaking with. It is not an easy procedure though.

First, you need to earn the right to be heard. Say you're in Cairo, for instance. Demonstrate a knowledge of the history of the place. Show that you know a lot about Egypt and the people there. And this is the hard part: you actually need to really know this stuff. You really need to know about Chalcedon and arrival of Arab Imperialism (ie, Islam) and the Fatimids an Mamlukes an so on. You need to show that you know about the contemporary challenges faced by Cairenes: that Egypt imports more than 50% of its wheat, that the currency has become very weak, and so on. You also need to show that you know more about the Qur'an and Islam than your hearer. Not in a pompous, bossy way of course. Finally, you need to be able to do all of this by mostly asking questions and (really) listening to their answers (and really caring about what they say--there is no substitute for sincerity).

Once you have done all of this, you probably have earned the right to fruitfully insult the Prophet. This happened to me today where I'm staying, over a lengthy conversation. The speaker was emphasizing how Christians and Muslims get along well, and the proof was that Muhammad took Christian wives an the shari'a allows this. I told him, "With all respect and sincerity [that doesn't sound so corny in Arabic], the Prophet's Shari'a is precisely the reason I could never become a Muslim. That a Muslim man can take a Christian wife, but a Christian man cannot take a Muslima wife is injustice in my view. The Shari'a is not stable--sometimes it is generous and sometimes harsh. Sometimes it is peaceful but other times violent. The path that our master the Messiah [I don't even say Jesus because then I have to choose this or that] taught is one of love and perfect peace. The Prophet's Shariah is the reason I could never be a Muslim."

Was he mad? Of course not. He knows well that what I said was true. I left the guy with a Bible in Arabic and the location of a decent local church. Hopefully he will read and/or visit.

And here is the clincher--always end up with Jesus (sayyidna al masii7). Emphasize his love and the closeness of his God. Don't say something stupid like Islam is a violent religion, or Muhammad was "a violent man." Sure he was, but at times he was generous and kind.  The beauty of Messiah's way is that we was consistent. Muhammad (and hence his Shariah) were not. Muhammad (and Islam) are unstable and can't be depended on. In other words, they are not worthy of one's faith.

So there you go. You can fruitfully insult the Prophet. Just make sure you know what the heck you're talking about (history, contemporary politics) before you do, and make sure to earn a hearing, and make sure to bring it back to Jesus.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Debunking Edward Said

Readers of this blog know I despise Said's Orientalism... But here is more:
Nadim al-Bitar, a Lebanese Muslim, finds Said‘s generalizations about all Orientalists hard to accept, and is very skeptical about Said having read more than a handful of Orientalist works. Al-Bitar also accuses Said of essentialism, "[Said] does to [Western] Orientalism what he accuses the latter of doing to the Orient. He dichotomizes it and essentializes it. East is East and West is West and each has its own intrinsic and permanent nature…." 
The most pernicious legacy of Said’s Orientalism is its support for religious fundamentalism, and on its insistence that "all the ills [of the Arab world] emanate from Orientalism and have nothing to do with the socio-economic, political and ideological makeup of the Arab lands or with the cultural historical backwardness which stands behind it".
Debunking Edward Said

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Demography in England and Wales, and the end of British culture

Demography in England and Wales, and the end of British culture
by Abu Daoud

I have pointed out from time to time where I see things going in Europe. I don't necessarily think that it will be majority Muslim in the near future, but I do see the proliferation of de facto Islamic area-states, which you already see all over the place in France, Sweden, the UK and Germany (among others). Indigenous European populations (English, Irish, French, etc) are stagnating or (as is becoming more and more the case) actually in decline for a number of complex reasons which touch on de-Christianization, the proliferation of artificial birth control, the sexual revolution, and, recently, the economic downturn and emigration.

I also have opined that current figures of ethnic Europeans mask the true dimensions of this loss of European identities and the concurrent Islamization of portions of Europe. (Of course, I know that not all immigration to Europe is Islamic, but even if it Indian Hindu or African Christian, that does indicate a weakening of the strength of an given culture to perpetuate itself and influence others.) I say this because the ethnic Europeans are, for the most part, disproportionately old and will start dying off quickly in the coming years.

What matters is not so much the percentage of the population you have, but the percentage of the young population you have.

And with that in mind, here are some interesting figures on England and Wales, from here. These are from 2002 through 2009, and I suspect that birth rates from white people have gone down with the economic downturn. That may well be the case for minorities as well, but anyway, I don't have that information. What we do have says,

The White (British) population stagnated at 45.7 million, while the Irish population declined. 'Other' white population (I'm guessing a lot of Poles) did grow at 4.3% per year. I think that Poles are done coming in though, and the ones who wanted to come have come.

While the (white) British and Irish populations stagnated and declined, respectively, note the rapid yearly increase, through fertility and immigration, for the following groups:

Black African 6.2%
Asian Pakistani 4.1%
Asian Indian 3.9%
Asian Bangladeshi 4.0%
Other Asian (presumable includes people from most of the Middle East): 5.7%
Chinese 8.6%

What does this tell us? I think that with the soon-to-be-obvious dying off of more white folks, and the rapid increase of non-indigenous (and mostly non-Christian) population in the UK, I think we can look forward to a day when a common culture in the UK does not exist (already common in large portions of London and Manchester and so on). Being British will mean nothing more than carrying a British passport, and historically British institutions will continue to become increasingly irrelevant (Church of England, anyone?). The West Midlands, for instance, already has an Asian plurality (40%) and a white minority (32%).

Am I being racist? I'm not really evaluating these changes as positive or negative. I'm just predicting that British culture, which historically is indeed to specific ethnic groups who followed Christianity to some extent,  will soon (40 years?) become a strange and quaint thing, like an Assyrian village in Iraq, an Egyptian Jew, or a Huguenot town in France.

Let us wait and see.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Missionary Secrets 3: we don’t have answers

Missionary Secrets 3: we don’t have answers
by Abu Daoud (5/2013)

I sat around smoking water pipe with a guy considering a long-term career in the mission field today. He is a friend of mine, a bit younger than me, but not much. But I have been out here for going on a decade, and he and his young family are only here short term.

He asked me questions. We were there to talk about life and pray together. (Yes, at a hookah bar—I’m all about religion in the public square…maybe I’ve been too influenced by Islam? Who knows, and who cares?)

How do you handle the stress? Me: Go on vacations outside of dar al islam?

What if the local churches don’t build you up? Me: You find fellowship in…your family? Old friends? The liturgy at my church sustains me, but you don’t go to a liturgical church, so…not sure…

Who are the mature Christians who can build you up? Me: here? Not many…there are older people but they are just passing through and don’t really grasp the local context. Maybe some European monk over at that church? Maybe your missions agency will be of help. In the end, you are alone.

I would never answer questions like this to a sponsoring church. I mean, I would not hide it, but this is not the stuff of Sunday School or sermons, is it? But here we are, serving, still.
May God give us many more years in the Middle East.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Christoph Bilek responds to Magdi Cristiano Allam leaving the Catholic Church

Magdi Cristiano Allam, an Egyptian in Rome, was famoulsy baptized by Pope Benedict XVI some years ago in St Peter's Basilica on Easter Eve. Such a public and clear affirmation of religious conversion from Islam to Catholic Christianity at the time was celebrated by some, and criticized by others (including by some Christians, who felt it was provocative and disrespectful). I saw it as positive and said so on this blog.

Brother Allam, however, recently announced he is leaving the Catholic Church, seeing quite rightly that most of the time, even in Europe, Catholic clergy have no interest in welcoming or baptizing seekers from a Muslim background. This is a shame to the Catholic Church, and caused me to write an open Letter to Pope Benedict XVI on Catholic Witness to Muslims, which I'm guessing has been read by all of ten people.

Recently, however, another important Catholic ex-Muslim, Mohammed-Christophe Bilek, native of Algeria an founder of the Fellowship of our Lady of Kabyle, has written a letter to Magdi begging him to reconsider his position, while acknowledging that his complaints about the Catholic Church are largely accurate.

The entire letter is in French, but you can read a Google translation (which is not too bad) if you don't read French. There is a lot of detail in the letter but here are some parts that I found of special interest:

The complaint of Magdi is here:
But I understand the meaning of the message: you need to create an institution that encourages Muslims to overcome fear, to be baptized publicly and to openly live out their new faith. We are both aware that the real problem is the native [European, Catholic] Christians, because they are the first to be afraid. There are many complaints from Muslims who wished to be baptized, but are faced with the refusal of Catholic priests because they do not want to violate the laws of Islamic countries that prohibit and punish by imprisonment, sometimes death, the work of evangelism or the one who commits the "crime" of apostasy [2] .
And part of Bilek's response is here:
Yes, it is now time to ask the question: do we [converts from Islam] have our place in the Church, as well as Europeans, or are we [ex-Muslim] Christians second class citizens to be concealed? [...] 
Does our baptism, freeing us from the darkness of sin, not also granted us the freedom of the children of God and quality of being brothers of Christ? Would we still amenable to Sharia? 
These questions need clear answers, and must be given, so that there is no ambiguity, the pontiff himself. 
Of all religions it is Christianity that is the most attacked, of all Christian denominations it is the Catholic Church that is most mistreated. 
Dear Magdi Cristiano Allam, you are aware that within the same [Church] there rise opponents who seek to undermine it. Do we not have a responsibility to alert and avoid fatal excesses in the area we know? 
Who can argue that he loves Muslims brothers more than we do? First because we have the same origin, but also because we want them to become like us, children of God through Jesus Christ? 
I think it is our duty to speak publicly with and to see the Holy Father, that we conversing on these critical issues for the salvation of men. [...] Our demand to meet publicly with the Holy Father is legitimate.
In other words, he wants a public and clear statement from the Roman Bishop on the reception of Muslims into the Catholic Church. God bless these brave men! And may Magdi Cristiano Allam return to Rome and not give up on her. When she does awake to the glory of the mission to Islam, she will become a great and positive force in this important ministry.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gay Marriage, Love and Taxes

Gay Marriage, Love and Taxes
by Abu Daoud

I suppose I should have learned to expect this from America, a nation of takers and whiners. (Ok, mostly, not entirely.)

The argument goes like this, it is not fair to same-sex couples that they not be able to get married because they cannot enjoy the same tax breaks that traditional couples enjoy.

Yes, and this is fine. Traditional couples can (and usually do) produce offspring who will become the tax-payers of tomorrow. It is entirely logical for a country to privilege such couples with tax benefits because it is in the interest of the state for population to stay steady or increase. SS couples may adopt or do IVF or whatever, but their relationship cannot be fruitful. When traditional couples don't have kids it is the exception and it is because they stop them from being conceived, kill them before they are born (abortion), or because their bodies do not function correctly (sad to say).

All of this comes back to the fundamental error in American thinking: that marriage is somehow fundamentally about love and feelings. Sorry people, but a country that is convinced of such a silly and ridiculous idea deserves to decline into decrepitude and senility. From the point o fthe view of the State, marriage is beneficial because it provides a future generation for a given society who will be well-rounded and well-adjusted. If mom and dad love each other, very nice. If they don't, but they treat their marriage covenant with respect, then that can be happy and good and blessed as well.

Sorry I'm frustrated people, but I am. It is sad to see one's own country become such a bastion for foolishness under the guise of a love for freedom and 'equality'.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Arabs and Jews? Israel and Palestine?

A younger Christian and friend of mine recently posed this question to me:
I know a lot of Messianic Jews and gentiles who pray for Israel, as we should but they DAMN the ARABS. When I say 'For God so loved the World...' and to pray for the innocent Arabs, I'm told that Satan is using me to spread lies... your opinions sir?
And this was my response:
There is a whole movement undermining Christian Zionism today. Check out the material by Stephen Sizer, for instance. It is very good. Also, remind people that in 1 Peter it is Christians who are 'a chosen people' and that Paul said, 'For neither circumcision nor non-circumcision matter--what matters is a new Creation!'
The history of Israel is much darker than most Americans know. Ultimately only the Christian faith has the power to overcome the animosity between Jews and Arabs. Neither Islam nor Judaism have the radical command to love the enemy. There is no political solution.
What do you think? Anyone living in the Middle East (it matters not which country) has to tackle these questions sooner or later.

Monday, February 11, 2013

On the Retirement of Pope Benedict XVI

The bishop of Rome and successor of Peter has, for all his conservatism, has broken new ground once again.

The first time was with his ability and willingness to confront Islam at Regensburg, as I wrote in Islam, the Pope, and History.

The second time was when he allowed for the establishment of ordinariates for marginalized and abused anglo-catholics in the Anglican Communion.

This third time is in resigning his episcopate, as most bishops do sooner or later. But he has done it with class, after much prayer I'm sure, and according to the laws of his Church.

I have said before, and will say again, that in my opinion Pope Benedict XVI was the only European leader head of state or head of church who actually understood Islam and had the balls to confront it.

My only beef with him is that he never responded to my open letter to him regarding Catholic witness to Muslims. But then again, he is and was a busy guy...

May God bless him and keep him, and provide another excellent pastor for the Church of Rome.