ISIS IS THE TRUE FACE OF ISLAM

Job cartoonGraeme Wood graduated from Harvard University in 2001 and speaks fluent Russian and some Arabic.   He is a Canadian journalist.

Mr. Wood has written an in-depth, thought-provoking article in the March issue of The Atlantic, on “What ISIS really wants.”

It’s likely to be the most discussed article on the subject for some time.

The article stands in complete contrast to statements made by western leaders, who claim that ISIS does not represent Islam and that terrorism is not Islamic.

Mr. Wood delves deep into Islamic history and shows that, in fact, the opposite is the case, that ISIS is the real face of Islam and represents the true face of the religion.   He makes such a convincing case to support his argument that I doubt anybody will sit down and argue with him.   The facts fit.   The question is:   what are we going to do about it?

Today, the BBC World Service revealed that the number of Christians abducted by ISIS fighters on Monday from villages in North-East Syria is between 370 – 500, not the 70 originally thought to have been kidnapped.   To say that fears are growing for their safety is an understatement.   They may be used as hostages and traded for ISIS fighters taken as prisoners.   According to Mr. Wood:   “Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government.   Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation.   The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.”

It has also been confirmed that three teenage girls who left England last week for Turkey crossed the border into Syria to join ISIS.   The fact that they all went to an exclusive private school is further proof that joblessness and poverty do not cause terrorism, as the US Administration claims.

Earlier today, three Americans were charged with trying to leave the country to join ISIS.   One of them even promised to kill the President of the United States if asked to do so.

Others, in both countries, have already gone to Syria to join the organization.   ISIS is said to be attracting hundreds of new fighters each day.

“Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State.   Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places.   Many have come to fight, and many intend to die.”   (Wood, What ISIS Really Wants)

Meanwhile, as the threat from ISIS increases, the US and UK are continuing to reduce the size of their militaries, according to reports on today’s Fox News website and in last week’s Economist.   The report on Fox News was based on the Heritage Foundation’s “2015 Index of US Military Strength,” which concluded that, for the first time in decades, the US can no longer fight and win two wars at the same time.   During the last decade, the country and its allies fought two simultaneous wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguably losing both wars.   There is a very real possibility that wars against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram may have to be fought in three different regions while, at the same time, there is also a very real prospect of a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine or maybe even the Baltic states.

A few days ago, I posted an article to my blog, titled “What If The President Is Wrong?”   This was just after his claim that terrorism is caused by joblessness.

A few days later, I read Mr. Wood’s article in The Atlantic.   Joblessness is not the problem.   Rather, we have here a fundamentalist movement that is returning Islam to its 1400-year-old roots and copying Muhammed in the way he dealt with infidels and those in conquered lands.

Monday’s Chicago Tribune put it well:   “What motivates these people?   Why do so many of them, Westerners included, eagerly come to the desert to fight and die?

“The best examination we’ve seen appears in the current issue of the The Atlantic.   “What ISIS Really Wants,” by Graeme Wood, argues that Islamic State is not a death cult that distorts Islam in a bid to gain political power.   Rather, it is a fanatically rigid religious movement based on specific teachings and traditions of seventh century Islam, which it implements to a dangerously literal        degree . . .”

“In the view of Islamic State leaders, there is only one extremely narrow belief path to follow – its own puritanical Salafist branch of Sunni Islam.   The rest of us, even practicing Muslims, are infidels to be subjugated or killed . . . ”  (Knowing Islamic State and Its Vision)

What is particularly interesting in Graeme Wood’s article is the conviction that ISIS has, that they are to play a significant role in world history leading up to the apocalypse.   Christians will see in part a distortion of their own beliefs regarding end-time events.

“These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.”

This paragraph alone should tell us one thing – that ISIS is here to stay and will remain with us until the end-time events that Christians believe will see the return of Jesus Christ.

“What ISIS Really Wants” gives us a clear understanding of the beliefs and goals of ISIS.   The question now is how is the West going to react?

 

JESUS, JAMES AND JOSEPH: Book Review

Prepare to change your thinking!

Many Christians understand that the Church of Rome was very different from the apostolic church.   The early church was headquartered at Jerusalem, described by ancient sources as the most beautiful city in the world, far surpassing Rome.   The most beautiful building in that city was the Temple.   This was all to change when the Jewish Revolt led to the Roman destruction of the city and temple in 70 A.D.

Popular history has it that the Apostle Peter was the first pope and that he lived in Rome.   The Bible shows this to be untrue. Even the title of pope is unbiblical.

Most people are aware that the Roman Emperor Constantine played a pivotal role in giving the Roman church the pre-eminence in Christendom in 325 A.D.   However, this did not end the controversies and divisions, which continued. In the late fourth century, Pope Damasus commissioned Jerome, considered at the time the greatest scholar in the “Christian” world to produce an authoritative Latin translation of the scriptures, which would put an end to the various Latin manuscripts that were circulating.   Jerome’s Latin Vulgate was finished in 405 A.D.

Note the following:

“The corrupt Roman church first re-arranged the entire NT to emphasize a gentile or pagan message. In his Latin Vulgate Jerome removed the epistle of James the Just from its prominent position after the book of Acts – where it appears in nearly all the Greek manuscripts. He placed it near the end of the NT, after the epistles of Paul.

“This move was designed to belittle James. It also gave higher ratings to the epistle to the Romans, and other scriptures written to the gentiles. The first book after Acts would now be Romans.   For the ignorant, Rome became the focus, not Jerusalem. Gentile myth substituted the Davidic, Jerusalem and Temple tradition.   James was out.”

“If Rome upheld James as the bishop of bishops, Jerusalem would retain religious power above Constantinople or Rome. They would lose money and prestige.   Hence the Peter fable. The Temple was expunged.”

The three paragraphs I have quoted can be found in the book “Jesus, James, Joseph and the past and future Temple” (pages 320 & 659).   The book is available through Amazon and a number of other, sometimes cheaper, online retailers.   Shop around.

The book is written and compiled by the Nazarene Project (editor David Price) and published by Bron Communications.   The project derives its name from the early disciples, who were known as the Nazarenes, before they were first called Christians in Acts 11:26. The book covers a very wide spectrum of early church history, showing how the early church was hijacked and transformed into what today is the biggest church on the planet.

Jerome was just one figure who was instrumental in this transformation.   Even down to the smallest detail.   Jerome, for example, “invented a complex and flawed theory that James and the other children were not children of Mary but rather the nephews of Jesus, a theory that had no historical or patristic basis” (p. 321).   Yet this seemingly minor change led to profound doctrinal changes, including the much later doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, under Pope Pius IX, in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The central focus of the book is, as the title suggests, the roles that Jesus, James and Joseph held in the Temple at Jerusalem.   All three played important roles in the most important building on earth.   The Temple was described by the secular Roman historian Tacitus as “the most beautiful structure ever built by the hands of man.”

After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the church was headquartered at Jerusalem, under the leadership of James, Christ’s brother.   Early historical documents show that James had a throne in the Temple.   His epistle shows that he was both a servant of his brother, Jesus, and leader of the twelve tribes scattered abroad.   A contemporary record says that James “prayed inside the Holy Place every day for the repentance of Israel,” and that “Peter and the others called him Lord.”   Clearly, he was a powerful and influential man, at a time when most people believe that Peter was pope.   But Jerusalem, not Rome, was then the focus of peoples’ loyalties.

At almost 700 pages of text, the book is a really good read and will be a useful tool to your daily Bible Study.   It will also inspire many sermons for those of you who have the opportunity to speak.

 

GERMANY OVERHAULING DEFENSE STRATEGY TO COUNTER RUSSIAN THREATS

GDM von der Leyen

The Ukrainian situation is having a profound effect on Europe.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen is promising to overhaul defense strategy in response to Russian aggression against the government and people of Ukraine.   The Russians have been using “power politics and military force,” to get their own way.

The latest deal, Minsk 2, brokered by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the aid of French President Francois Hollande, failed to end the fighting.   It’s clear who is the major problem – yesterday, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, was warning Ukraine to pull its forces out of yet another of the country’s cities, so that Russian rebels can take over.   There’s ample proof these rebels include Russian professional soldiers.   This is a blatant attack by Russia on the sovereignty of one of its neighbors.

Not content with being the biggest country in the world, the Russians clearly want more territory.   It may even be that Moscow is intent on taking back all the territories of the former Soviet Union. The fall of the USSR in 1991 was once described by Mr. Putin as the greatest disaster of the twentieth century.

It’s less than seven years since Russian troops invaded Georgia in support of ethnic Russians living there.   Less than a year ago, the Crimea was annexed.   Now eastern Ukraine is seriously threatened. Other countries on Russia’s borders now face the same prospect, as the western alliance is proven impotent in the face of Moscow’s aggression.

Watch for dramatic changes ahead in Europe.   As the US shuts down military bases in Europe to focus on needs elsewhere in the world, only one western European country has the capacity to fill America’s shoes.   That country is Germany.   The German Defense Minister sees clearly the need for Germany to reassert itself in the face of Russian threats from the east.

 

 

WHAT IF THE PRESIDENT IS WRONG?

Obama Islam not the enemy

US President Barack Obama says the US is “not at war with Islam – we are at war with the people who have perverted Islam.”   (BBC website, February 18th)

The President continued to explain that socio-economic factors are behind extremist terrorism.   If more could be done to help young people in the Mideast find jobs, it would lessen the terror threat.   However, this conveniently overlooks the fact that major terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by affluent jihadists.   The idea that it’s all due to poverty and unemployment is a throwback to sixties liberalism.   Unfortunately, millions of people still think that way, endangering the rest of us.

This comes at a time when ISIS is wiping out Christians across the Middle East, determined to establish “Christian free zones.”

For an alternative view, let’s do something few politicians ever seem to do – look at history.

Muhammed died in 632 AD.   At the time of his death, the new religion he started was confined to the Arabian Peninsula.   By the end of the seventh century it had conquered the whole of North Africa and a great deal of the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Damascus and Antioch, pushing back the Byzantine and Persian empires.   Of course, it’s always possible that the young soldiers of Allah went far afield simply looking for jobs, but that’s not a conclusion you will find in the history books.

Once they had conquered North Africa, they crossed over into Europe, taking over the Iberian Peninsula and remaining there for a few hundred years, ruling what are now Spain and Portugal.   In 732 they reached the gates of Paris but were halted in their tracks by a military force led by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne.   If this decisive victory had not taken place, there would be no problem between the West and Islam today, as we would all be Muslims!

Move forward 350 years.   By the end of the eleventh century, the Turks were a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire.   In 1065, the Turks took control of Jerusalem and massacred 3,000 Christians. Prior to the Turkish invasion, the Saracens controlled the area.   They had allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy Land.   But the Turks made it impossible.   In 1095, Pope Urban II called on the countries of Catholic Europe to launch a Crusade against the Muslim Turks.   A series of crusades followed until 1291, when the Christians gave up on the idea of ruling the region.   It wasn’t until 1917 that a Christian power, Great Britain, would once again dominate the Middle East.

Islam continued its expansionist course, gradually taking more and more territory from what was left of the Eastern Roman Empire.   In 1453, its capital, Constantinople, fell to the Muslim Turks.   They have controlled it since.

Having conquered the Balkans, the Ottoman Turks twice reached the gates of Vienna at the very center of Europe.   Central European nations and the Catholic

Church defeated the Muslims, saving Europe from Islam.

This is not to say there has been peace between the West and Islam ever since.   During the period of global British domination, the British fought Islamic extremists in the Sudan in the 1880’s and 90’s, culminating in the battle of Omdurman in September, 1898.

For much of the twentieth century, Islam was kept at bay.  Until World War II, most Islamic territory was under European colonial rule.   By 1960 this had come to an end.   Iran, modern Persia, was the first country to see its government overthrown by radical Islam, in 1979.   From that date until the present, the West has been under constant threat from Islam, both Shia Islam (Iran) and Sunni Islam (al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram to name just three).

With such a long history of Islamic imperialism, how can the president claim that the religion has been perverted by violent extremists?   Islam has been a constant threat to the West since its birth in the early part of the seventh century.  If anything, the first part of the twentieth century was an aberration, a brief interlude during which Islam was not pushing against the West.

“The rise and expansion of Islam was one of the most significant and far-reaching events in modern history and its impact continues to reverberate in our own times.”  (“The spread of Islam from 632,” Collins Atlas of World History, 2003)

Echoing down the centuries, the following statement remains true today.  “This expansion owed much to the enthusiasm and religious conviction of the conquerors but it was also facilitated by the war-weariness of the empires of Persia and Byzantium.”  (“The Spread of Islam”)   Today’s zealots are equally motivated, while the nations of the West, after more than a decade of wars in Islamic lands, are war-weary and clearly in denial about the serious threat to western civilization.

When you look back at history, the threat is clear.   In fact, it’s a greater threat now than it’s ever been, simply because there are so many millions of Muslims in our midst already.   Which brings us back to our politicians.   President Obama is not the only western leader saying that Islam has been perverted by extremists. Following the attacks in Denmark last weekend, the Danish prime minister said much the same thing.   The British, German and French leaders have expressed similar sentiments.

Because there are so many Muslims living amongst us today, politicians dare not risk upsetting them.   They need their votes.   A significant number of constituencies in the United Kingdom, for example, have very large Muslim populations, which could determine the outcome of the election scheduled in May.

The threat should be clear to anyone.   Western nations are asleep. But sleep does not last forever.   Eventually, it will be time to wake up.

Islam has been pushing against the West for centuries.   In modern times, the push of radical Islam has been going on since the fall of the Shah in 1979, half a lifetime ago.   When will the “King of the North” arise to fight back?

21 CHRISTIANS BEHEADED IN LIBYA

21 beheaded

Islamic terrorism continues to frighten and horrify the world.

On Saturday, two terrorist attacks in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, reminded the world that Islamic militants don’t like free speech or Jews.

At the same time, video of the beheadings of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya was posted to the ISIS website, emphasizing that the terror group does not like Christians, either.   An accompanying message warned that ISIS will soon conquer Rome.

The video production was titled: “A message signed with blood to the nation of the cross.”

Pope Francis responded with the following words:  “The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians!”

Francis added: “The martyrs belong to all Christians.”

Almost one thousand years after the Crusades, militant Islam seems set on another major clash with the “Christian” world.   In 1095, following the massacre of 3,000 Christians by Turks in the Holy Land, Pope Urban II rallied western countries to launch a “Crusade” against Islam, to ensure continued access by Christians to the holy sites in and around Jerusalem. The Crusades lasted almost two hundred years, finally ending in 1291.

What is happening now is a build-up to a major clash of civilizations, similar to the Crusades of a millennium ago.

Italy should feel particularly threatened.   The country is only 450 miles from Libya, across the Mediterranean Sea.   It is a gateway into Europe.

The southernmost point of Italy is the island of Lampedusa, which has been in the news a lot recently. Tens of thousands of migrants from North Africa and further south have landed on the island in search of asylum.   From there, they seek admission into other EU countries.   It is quite likely that, hidden amongst genuine refugees, are ISIS terrorists planning on further terror attacks in Europe.

The Director of the FBI warned at the weekend that terrorists could enter the US this way, pretending to be refugees. The same can happen in Europe.

The headline in Monday’s Independent newspaper (UK) sums up the situation:   “The mass beheading of 21 hostages on a Libya beach sees the West’s worst fear made reality: Isis on the doorstep of Europe.”

The beheadings in Libya and the terror attacks in Copenhagen, which seemed to copy those in Paris last month, are a reminder that this is the “new normal.”

They come at a time when the West has no effective strategy to deal with radical Islam and when western civilization is effectively leaderless.

DOWNTON ABBEY AND THE CLASS SYSTEM

Downton Abbey

The latest series of Downton Abbey is currently showing on PBS in the United States.   The hit series is set in an English stately home. It started four years ago with the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.   We have gone through World War One with the Grantham family and are now witnessing events in 1924, when the first Labour government came to power.   Hopefully, the series can get us through to World War Two and its aftermath, before falling ratings finish it off.

As I come from England, I’m often asked if the class system so accurately portrayed on the program still exists.

The answer to that can be found at Highclere Castle, which is the real name of the fictional Downton Abbey.

Whereas Downton is supposed to be in the county of Yorkshire in the North of England, it is actually filmed at Highclere Castle, which is west of London.   It is the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

A documentary on Highclere Castle was shown some time ago on PBS.  It showed the Earl and his wife are very normal people who are dedicated to preserving their ancestral home and its estate.   High taxes were a major factor in the decline of the aristocracy, starting with the 1906 Liberal government.   After World War II taxes on inherited wealth were so high that many aristocrats were forced to abandon their homes and property.  The Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, owners of Blenheim Palace, Churchill’s birthplace, now live in the Caribbean; visitors can tour their home, ensuring its financial upkeep and giving the Marlboroughs enough to live on.

What about all those servants?   Downton’s plot lines involve those employed downstairs as much as Lord Grantham and his family.   Sadly, all those butlers, footmen, ladies’ maids and cleaning staff are no longer likely to be there. Some may see this as progress. However, before World War One there were three million domestic servants in Britain – not so long ago, that number was down to 68,000, with three million unemployed!

The documentary on the real Downton Abbey showed the present-day residents have just one butler, a really old gentleman who probably can’t handle all the hard physical work some of the younger staff did decades ago.   What was apparent is that the three of them, both aristocrats and their servant, work together as a team to preserve the historic house and ensure its continuity for members of the public who wish to visit it.   And for any television company that wants to hire it.

So, does England still have a class system?   Great Britain still has titles, but a title does not equate to wealth.   That was true in the latter half of the nineteenth century when Britain was the wealthiest country in the world.  Due to rapid industrialization and cheap food imports from its colonies, many aristocrats fell on hard times.   At the same time, the US had created many multi-millionaires in the aftermath of the Civil War.   Those millionaires often sent their daughters to England to find a titled aristocrat to marry.   The American heiress gained a title and the English husband was solvent again!   Winston Churchill was the product of the most famous marriage between a wealthy American and an aristocratic Englishman.

The question asked – if England still has a class system – belies a simple reality.   That reality is that all nations have an aristocracy. The difference in Great Britain is that British aristocrats tend to have titles. Not all do.   The wealthiest people in Britain today are not likely to be aristocrats, so much as oil sheikhs from the Middle East, Russian businessmen hiding from Vladimir Putin, rock stars, football players and, leading them all, J.K. Rowling, the wealthiest woman in the country, once a struggling single mother who could not buy more than one coffee at the local equivalent of Starbucks, until, that is, Harry Potter came along.   For years, Madonna came in at number two.   The Queen is not even in the top 500 wealthiest people in the country.

Today’s aristocracy is just as likely to be found in the United States as in Britain.

The Economist cover story on January 24th highlighted “America’s new aristocracy.”   An accompanying article showed that education is behind today’s inheritance of privilege.   Educated couples typically earn the most.   They then ensure their children get the best education so they, in turn, are at the top of society.   So an inherited, but untitled, aristocracy continues from generation to generation.   They may not have all the servants the Granthams had in Downton Abbey, but then nobody does today.

Although I’m sure there are good servants still around, I doubt there are many left like Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes and even the old gentleman at Highclere Castle.   Being “in service” is no longer considered a calling – the great-grandchildren of the Granthams’ servants are far more likely to be enjoying life on the dole!

Progress indeed!

GERMANY’S GROWING DIPLOMATIC CLOUT

Merkel Putin Hollande

Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is in Washington today to discuss the Ukrainian situation with President Obama.   Just three days ago, she was in Moscow with French President Francois Hollande to put forward suggestions for peace with Russian President Vladimir Putin.   The previous day the two leaders were in Kiev for discussions with the Ukrainian president.

The American Administration and members of Congress have been talking about sending more arms to the Ukrainian government to help it defeat Russian-speaking rebels in the east of the country. Although Russia denies it, it’s fairly certain that Russian troops are actively helping the rebels.   Germany and France are concerned to avoid an escalation of the conflict.   The French president warned of the prospect of “total war.”

Interestingly, the US was not present at the meetings in Kiev and Moscow.   Now, Mrs. Merkel is visiting Washington to update the US president on the discussions, which have been described as the last hope for a peaceful resolution of the situation.   It is clear that there are differences between the US and Europe on this issue.   How great a rift remains to be seen.

President Putin has until Wednesday to decide on the proposed peace deal.

Meanwhile, discussions continue between Germany and Greece following the Greek election.   The new, governing, Syriza party is not only refusing to repay loans made to the country, it is even undoing what the previous government tried to do to restore the country’s economic health.   The new prime minister is promising to restore thousands of jobs to civil servants who were previously laid off in order to balance the budget.   With Greece pursuing a reckless course, it’s difficult to see how the country can remain within the eurozone.

The prime minister seems set on a deliberate confrontational course, even demanding German reparations for invading Greece in World War II.   On a visit to Germany, he even threatened the country with the specter of a revival of Nazism in Greece if the country is pushed too far, reminding the Germans that they know all about that.

So, at a time when European unity is threatened, total war is also a serious possibility.   Germany is clearly in the driving seat at a challenging time for the continent of Europe.

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill

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