Tuesday, May 29, 2007

EGYPT: keeping the Copts subjugated

Date: Tuesday 29 May 2007
Subj: Egypt: keeping the Copts subjugated
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


On 11 May, Muslims in the village of Bimha (or Bamha) in Ayat district (around 70 kilometres south Cairo) left their mosques after Friday prayers, armed and zealous for jihad against the indigenous Coptic Christian community and their solitary, partially built church.

The violent Muslim pogrom in Bimha bears the same features of other anti-Christian pogroms of the past decade. These familiar elements indicate that the security situation for Egypt's indigenous Copts (who are Christian) is growing increasingly tenuous. For every time violence is rewarded with impunity it is emboldened.

As with other Muslim pogroms over the past decade, the pogrom in Bimha was premeditated, organised, very violent and perpetrated not by members of militant organisations ("extremists" and "outsiders") but by local "ordinary" Muslims who had been incited in local mosques during Friday "prayers" to wage jihad and terror against their Christian neighbours in order to ensure their subjugation.

As with other pogroms over the past decade, Egyptian security forces were at best tardy, and at worst complicit and actively involved in the violence; and the imposed settlement was designed to appease Muslims, not secure justice or true and lasting peace. The "reconciliation" agreement of Bimha disregards the Christians' legal and human rights, advancing only their status as "dhimmis".

The tragedy in Bimha takes Egypt another step backwards into religious apartheid as it further reinforces Egypt's indigenous Christian Copts not as equal citizens, but as a subjugated people – dhimmis. It also presents Egyptians with yet another precedent which demonstrates that Copts (Egypt's remnant indigenous peoples, the descendants of the Pharaohs, Christians for nearly 2000 years) can be terrorised, robbed and killed with impunity.

MUSLIMS RAMPAGE AFTER FRIDAY PRAYERS

Despite the fact that the Christians of Bimha had been threatened on the Thursday and had alerted the police that an attack might be launched after Friday prayers, security was not tightened. Al-Ahram reports: "Observers have claimed that tardy responses are typical of the security forces' strategy, which seems to involve a wait and see approach to sectarian violence, after which they move in, but only after the violence has abated. Then, they begin to attempt to clean up the mess." (Link 1)

A report by "Free Copts" paints a more serious picture: "Bamha's Christians were shocked to discover that electricity, water supplies and phone lines were cut starting at 11:00 am [Friday morning], in spite of the police officials' knowledge of the expected riots. The police and security forces only acted after the burning and destruction of the Christians' properties ended. They
blocked the only bridge that leads to Bamha and established a cordon around the village, preventing journalists and correspondents from reaching it to cover the situation. While Muslims are free to dwell across the village, a curfew has been imposed on the Christians, who are either forced to stay inside their homes, or to remain on the streets in front of their destroyed houses." (Link 2: this report includes the names of those Copts hospitalised, and the names of those Muslims the Copts accuse of being the instigators and organisers of the violent rampage.)

Al-Ahram is unequivocal about this being a premeditated act: "The sectarian violence that erupted on Friday in the village of Bimha, in the Ayat district 70 kilometres south of Giza, seemed less a spontaneous outburst fuelled by wrangling among villagers than a premeditated act. Pamphlets had been distributed throughout the village before a mob, armed with everything from machetes to containers of kerosene, ran amok through the village. Within 40 minutes, 36 houses belonging to Christians had been burned and seven shops looted. Ten villagers were in hospital, two in a critical condition. At the time of going to press 35 alleged perpetrators were being questioned while another ten remain at large. A Christian man was subsequently detained,
charged with throwing a plastic bag filled with inflammable liquids into a Muslim prayer area on Sunday.

"Pamphlets distributed ahead of the violence called on Muslim villagers who wanted to 'protect' their religion to gather after Friday prayers, in order to stop the construction of a church in their village. The pamphlet included the rumoured location of the church and concluded by saying that the time to act had come: 'there must be no more laxity, no more laziness... it is necessary that every Muslim protects his religion otherwise all is lost.'"

Al-Ahram spoke with local Copt Raouf Abdallah, who was working in his fields when he heard women screaming in the village. He ran to his brother's house but was restrained by two Muslim men while his home was looted and then torched. "The mob, said Abdallah, comprised all age groups, from the very young, to elderly men. 'The ghafar [local guards] were also among rioters, they used their rifles to whip people,' he says. . .He also reports that in some incidents, Muslims tried to protect the property of their Christian neighbours."

Free Copts adds: "Copts accuse the village's mayor, as well as the member of the Egyptian parliament Ali el-Saudi, of promoting these attacks against Christians and by boasting about preventing Copts from extending and renovating their church.

"It is noteworthy that Ali el-Saudi was also accused by the Copts of the Wassef Ghali village to have encouraged the attacks that took place in their village a year and half ago, and which left many Christians injured."

THE CHURCH OF SAINT THEODORE

The Muslim violence against the Christians of Bimha was supposedly in defence of Islam, which was allegedly under immense and imminent threat on account of a church – the Church of St Theodore – Bimha's half-built solitary church in this village of 13 mosques.

Al-Ahram reports: "Bimha's Christian families had long gathered in the home of fellow congregation members Atif and Arian Youssef in order to worship. Following negotiations between the [Muslim] clergy and security forces, it was agreed that a place of worship could be built, though without any domes or crosses which might anger the local community. After the first floor of the building was completed in 2005, construction was halted by security officials
after complaints raised by local residents.

"Subsequently a compromise was reached, with Christians allowed to pray in their old place of worship, the home of Atif and Arian Youssef. To compensate the two congregation members, whose home would henceforth be a dedicated space for worship, Atif was to receive money and land, while Arian opted to finish the church's partially constructed building and make it his home."

According to Al-Ahram, during the Friday 11 May rampage some 2,000 people converged on the partially constructed building and attempted to demolish it.

According to Free Copts, the security forces have since circulated a fabricated story, claiming the Copts were attempting to enlarge the church complex over a disputed piece of land. "The Copts, however, reject this version of the story, insisting that the land is by no means disputed, and that it belongs to the church. Furthermore, the Copts of the village of Bamha accuse the Egyptian police of faking this story in order to cover up the human rights abuses that took place against the village's Christians."

"RECONCILIATION" ISLAMIC STYLE


The most soul-destroying aspect of this saga might be the subsequent "reconciliation" event held on Wednesday 16 May in the Ayat Sporting Club. Justice and rule of law were irrelevant and the Copts were pressured, under the shadow of terror, to submit to unreasonable and unjust terms.

Manar Ammar, writing in Cairo for All Headline News (AHN) reports: "Fifty Muslim sheikhs from the Ministry of Religious Affairs shook hands and smiled at 50 Coptic priests Wednesday in Ayat, about 30 minutes south of Cairo. . . Security forces were heavily present at the session." (Link 3)

AHN reports that a reconciliation committee ordered that the village's Muslim elders pay compensation to the church. However Coptic leaders, reluctant to accept any money from Muslims that could be used as leverage against them at a later date, declined to accept compensation.

Al-Ahram reports:"'Three people from each side sat together and calculated that the losses incurred by Christian villagers amounted to LE500,000. Then Father Hanna Makin, the parish priest, announced that the families concerned would waive their claims as a gesture of good will,' said Ali El-Soudi, Ayat's representative in the People's Assembly. The delegates also resolved that Bimha's Christian community should continue to worship in the homes of Atif and Arian Youssef as happened in the past." (Link 4)

According to Al-Ahram, "The majority of Bimha's Christians say they support the decision of the church leadership not to accept compensation. 'How can I accept money from someone who beat me and burned my house? It would be like being paid for the abuse. At the end of the day we all live together and we will continue to do so for generations to come.'" (Link 4)

The Copts also had to agree to not press charges against their attackers. Al-Ahram reports: "'Our Christian brethren have forfeited their complaints in the spirit of forgiveness, and we will take steps to release 20 detained Muslims'," said El-Soudi, who also gave assurances that all criminal charges would be dropped in order to pacify the village further.

As noted by Nabil Abdel-Fattah, deputy director of Al-Ahram's Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, this is no way to handle sectarian conflict. "'It [a local "reconciliation" effort whereby disputes are settled by elders and community leaders in a way that lacks due legal perspective and simply reflects the balance of power on the ground] effectively prevents the implementation of the rule of law." Abdel-Fattah insists wrong-doers must be held legally accountable if others are to be deterred from taking similar actions. (Link 4)

According to AHN, the Copts accepted the deal because, in the words of Annabious Jacoub, the high priest of Ayat's Church of the Virgin Mary, ". . they are afraid to be called the starters of sectarian tensions."

Photographs taken in the aftermath.

PERSISTENT PERSECUTION

The Catholic News Agency comments on research that clearly demonstrates how serious and persistent the persecution of Egypt's indigenous Coptic Christians has been over the last four decades. "The Ibn Khaldoun Research Center [which is headed by the human rights advocate Saad Eddin Ibrahim] has documented over 120 major attacks on the Copts during this period. Another study estimated that over 4,000 Copts were killed or injured in this period. They have also suffered material losses in the tens of millions of dollars." (Link 5)

The primary perpetrators of violence against Copts used to be militants from Islamic organisations seeking the establishments of an Islamic state. Their strategy was to use terrorism to extract political concessions from the government. During the last decade however, the trend has been for attacks to be incited in the mosques and perpetrated by "ordinary Muslims" who have become more and more intolerant and hostile as radicalistation and Islamic zeal have increased. Along with mosque sermons, media and the education curriculum are also sources of radicalisation and incitement.

"Researchers believe the violence takes place under the influence of hate propaganda emitted through the media, the education system and mosque preaching. They report that Egyptian authorities have yet to adequately punish a single Muslim perpetrator." (Link 5)

"'We ask all freedom-loving governments, Human Rights organizations and individuals of the world to intervene on behalf of the Coptic Christians of Egypt,' said the Coptic Christians press statement. 'The reprehensible failure of Egypt to guarantee religious freedom, justice and accountability towards the Copts simply amounts to an invitation to continue the same (violence) against them in the future.'" (Link 6)

And according to Free Copts, Muslims have warned Bimha's Christians that "what is to come will be much worse".

Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

Links

1) Fanning the flames
Al-Ahram. 17 - 23 May 2007. Issue No. 845
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/845/eg5.htm

2) Another episode of attacks against Copts in Egypt
Written by The Free Copts Saturday, 12 May 2007
http://freecopts.net/english/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=505&Itemid=9

3) Muslims, Copts Hold Reconciliation Session Over Sectarian Clashes
By Manar Ammar, Cairo, Egypt (AHN) 19 May 2007
http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7007393089

4) Damage limitation
Al-Ahram, 24 - 30 May 2007. Issue No. 846
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2007/846/eg11.htm

5) Egypt: Coptic Christians Call for End of Religious Persecution
Catholic Information Service for Africa. 25 May 2007. Cairo
http://allafrica.com/stories/200705250716.html

6) Protect Us, Say Egyptians Christians
http://www.aina.org/news/2007052394922.htm

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pakistan in crisis: situation critical

Date: Tuesday 22 May 2007
Subj: Pakistan in crisis: situation critical
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

In Pakistan sectarian tensions are soaring, persecution of Christians is intensifying, lawlessness is increasing, security and liberty are failing fast, Islamisation and Talibanisation are taking root in Islamabad, and in the midst of Musharraf's political crisis a stand-off at the Lal Masjid approaches boiling point.

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PAKISTAN IN CRISIS: SITUATION CRITICAL
- the inevitable consequence of systematic Islamisation.

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Pakistan's present state of crisis is not going to be a quick violent spasm because it is not an anomaly. Rather, it is the inevitable consequence of at least two and a half decades of systematic state and Saudi sponsored (Sunni) Islamisation which has continued post 9/11 despite all the rhetoric to the contrary.

Since 9/11 Pakistan's President Musharraf has persistently played two hands at once. Musharraf, a military general who seized power in a military coup, has allied Pakistan with the US in the War on Terror in exchange for military aid. Meanwhile he has allied himself to the pro-Sharia, pro-Taliban, Islamist Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA: an alliance of six Islamist parties) in exchange for votes in the National Assembly.

The MMA, an avowed enemy of secularisation, progress and "enlightened moderation", is a minor party that has become disproportionately powerful because it holds the balance of power in Pakistan's National Assembly. Yet this situation was engineered by Musharraf himself, for as was noted in the WEA RLC News & Analysis posting of 12 December 2006 entitled "Pakistan: Musharraf's Manoeuvring - could see persecution escalate through 2007", the elections were rigged specifically to ensure that Islamists would be present in force in the National Assembly for Musharraf's purposes. (Link 1)

As President Musharraf makes quid pro quo deals with the MMA to advance his agenda, which is to stay in power and in uniform, he empowers the MMA to advance its agenda, the Islamisation of Pakistan.

Further to this, President Musharraf has always relied on evidence of domestic Islamic fundamentalism, agitation and terrorism to legitimise his military dictatorship, especially in Western eyes. For five years Musharraf has preached "enlightened moderation" while at the same time he has abjectly failed to bring about madrassa reform, rein in sectarian violence (Sunni vs Shiite), or prevent Islamisation and Talibanisation from taking root in Islamabad.

The situation may well have passed the point of no return. Pakistani society is fracturing violently along political, sectarian and ethnic lines; even the military is showing signs of political and ethnic fracture. Islamists (Sunni) are exploiting the present lawlessness and political instability to advance their agenda. So we are seeing persecution escalate to the point that Christians are being driven from their homes and extreme Islamist legislation is progressing through the National Assembly without objection.

Whilst this might sound alarmist, it is highly probably that before this year is over Pakistan's Christians (comprising three percent of a population of 160 million) may well be facing catastrophe - just like their Iraqi brethren - as their liberty and security situation rapidly morphs from difficult but hopeful to catastrophic and out of control, thanks to lawlessness, sectarianism, Islamisation and political paralysis. The short and medium term future for the beleaguered Christian minority is looking very bleak indeed.

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SECURITY AND LIBERTY FAILING FAST
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SECURITY: LAWLESSNESS AND SECTARIANISM SOARING

As a member of a minority community, Pakistan's founding father Muhammed Ali Jinnah, a Shia, was keen to establish religious liberty as a core principle of Pakistan. Likewise the Bhuttos, as minority Shiites, have stood on a platform of religious liberty, equality and secularism.

However over the past two and a half decades Saudi Arabia and the USA have both pumped money into Pakistan to advance their own interests. The Saudis started investing massively in Sunni-majority Pakistan after Iran's 1979 Islamic (Shiite) Revolution to create a Sunni fundamentalist bulwark against Shiism on Iran's eastern border. The USA started investing in Pakistan in 1980, funding the mujahideen's jihad against the Communists.

The combined effect is that Pakistan has been turned into a veritable factory for Sunni fundamentalist Deobani and Wahhabi ideologues and mujahideen. But Pakistan is (like Iraq but to a lesser degree) a Sunni-Shia sectarian fault-line state. Pakistan has the world's second largest Shiite population after Iran. (Pakistan's Shiite population is estimated at up to 20 percent. Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia both have Shiite populations of around 15 percent). Deobandi and Wahhabi Sunni Islam condemns Shiites as apostates. So as Saudi-sponsored, vehemently anti-Shia, Sunni fundamentalism has taken root and grown in Pakistan since the 1980s, Sunni vs Shiite sectarian tension and violence escalated, with Saudi Arabia and Iran funding and training their proxies in the struggle for dominance in the Muslim world.

According to sources as many as 4,000 people are estimated to have died in Sunni vs Shiite sectarian fighting in Pakistan in the last two decades and the conflict is intensifying. Pakistani Shiites have historically been linked to Najaf (Iraq), not Iran. But the explosion of Sunni-sponsored, anti-Shiite Wahhabism led many Pakistani Shiites to seek training in Qom (Iran). Sectarian violence has further escalated since the war in Iraq took on sectarian tones. And as is common, when Sunni vs Shiite sectarian violence escalates, so does violence against Christians.

On Friday 6 April, Sunni militants shot at Shiites as they were gathered at their mosque in Parachinar, about 150 miles southwest of Peshawar, the capital of the highly Islamised and Talibanised North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Normally Pakistan's minority Shiite communities absorb the violence against them, which includes targeted killings and mosque bombings. But Parachinar is a majority Shiite town and this time the Shiites retaliated violently, burning down some 400 Sunni-owned shops and homes. At least 40 people were killed and more than 40 were wounded. (Link 2) (This may well have been a deliberate attempt to provoke a Shiite response that would elicit an even more violent and wider Sunni "response".)

Christians in Charsadda district on the north-eastern outskirts of Peshawar have since been threatened with severe consequences if they fail to either flee or convert to Islam. Over recent months local market stalls trading in the "un-Islamic" (such as music, videos, fashion, and haircuts) have been bombed and threatened. Likewise, girls in Charsadda and neighbouring Mardan districts have been threatened with "consequence" if they don't stop attending school. Girls Higher Secondary School at Gumbat, Mardan district, was bombed in the early morning of Friday 4 May. The region is being systematically cleansed, purged of all that is un-Islamic; Islamised by force and threat of death. The situation for Christians in Charsadda and throughout NWFP is intolerable. (Link 3)

But Islamisation and Talibanisation are no longer problems confined to NWFP or western Pakistan in general. Islamisation and Talibanisation are spreading eastwards across Pakistan like an air-borne virus. Pakistan's national capital and nerve-centre, Islamabad, and the National Assembly are both succumbing.

LIBERTY: APOSTASY ACT 2006

On 9 May, the MMA tabled its Apostasy Act 2006 in Pakistan's National Assembly. According to this Act, a male apostate (one who leaves Islam) would receive the death penalty and a female apostate would be imprisoned for life or until she 'repents'. Apostates would also forfeit their property and lose legal custody of their children. The testimony of just two adult witnesses would be sufficient grounds for conviction in apostasy cases.

Pakistan's Daily Times reports: "The government did not oppose the bill and sent it to the standing committee concerned. If passed, the bill will over-ride all other laws in force at present. The bills' section 4 states that apostasy can be proved if the accused confesses to the 'offence' in court or at least two adult witnesses appear in court against the accused.

"Section 5 states that the court should give a proven apostate at least three days or a month at the maximum to return to Islam. If he refuses, he should be awarded the death sentence.

"Section 6 states that a pardoned apostate can face rigorous or simple imprisonment, extendible to two years, if he commits the offence for the second or third time. In case of the fourth commission he will be liable to death sentence, it adds.

"Section 8 proposes suspending all rights of the accused over property. If the accused is awarded death, the part of the property, which he owned before committing the offence, will be transferred to his Muslim heirs. It states that the property rights of a female apostate will remain suspended till her death or penitence. In case of her penitence, the rights will be restored and after death, her property will be treated the same way as adopted for male apostates." (Link 4)

Shockingly, the National Assembly "did not oppose the bill". Furthermore during the same session the Assembly rejected a draft bill moved by NA minority member Mr BP Bhandara which sought to amend the existing blasphemy law.

-------------------------------------------------
ISLAMISATION AND TALIBANISATION OF ISLAMABAD
-------------------------------------------------

Government inaction (or complicity) has enabled Sunni fundamentalists to establish themselves in the heart of Islamabad. Only about a mile away from the Prime Minister's Secretariat, the Supreme Court and the Parliament is a mosque-madrassa complex run by two hard-line, Sunni fundamentalist brothers. The complex comprises the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) which is run by Maulana Abdul Aziz, and two madrassas: the Jamia Hafsa (for burqa-clad girls) and Jamia Faridia (for bearded male students), which are run by his brother Abdur Rashid Ghazi.

The madrassas, which are believed to be linked to domestic and international terrorism, have some 7,000 students. The brothers have established a Sharia Court, issued fatwas and launched a city-wide campaign against "vice".

According to Kanchan Lakshman, writing for Asia Times, Pakistan's Capital Development Authority has reportedly declared 87 mosques in Islamabad to be illegal, some of them built on public land. After the authorities demolished several illegally built mosques the warriors of the Lal Masjid complex (which was built illegally on public land) sprang into action.

After a brigade of armed Jamia Hafsa burqa-clad females kidnapped "prostitutes", held them hostage, forcibly and illegally occupied a children's library and threatened wide-scale suicide bombings and terror, the President of the ruling Muslim League (PML-Q), Chaudhry Shujat, entered into negotiations with Abdul Aziz and Ghazi Abdul Rasheed in search of a "peaceful settlement". (Link 5)

According to Pervez Hoodbhoy's comment in the Guardian, "Chaudhray described the burka brigade kidnappers as 'our daughters', with whom negotiations would continue and against whom 'no operation could be contemplated'.

"Clerics realise that the government wants to play ball. Their initial demand - the rebuilding of eight illegally constructed mosques that had been knocked down by Islamabad's civic administration - became a call for enforcement of Sharia law across Pakistan. In a radio broadcast on April 12, the clerics issued a threat: 'There will be suicide blasts in the nook and cranny of the country. We have weapons, grenades, and we are expert in manufacturing bombs. We are not afraid of death.' " (Link 6)

Kanchan Lakshman (Asia Times) reports the cleric's demands include, "the rebuilding of demolished mosques in Islamabad; immediate declaration of sharia (Islamic) law in Pakistan; immediate promulgation of the Koran and Sunnah in the courts of law; and 'immediate discontinuation to declaring jihad as terrorism by the government, as it is the great sacred religious duty of Muslims' ".

According to G Parthasarathy, a columnist with the Daily Pioneer, "The Government has agreed to reconstruct the seven illegal mosques it had pulled down. It has also agreed to act against alleged centres of prostitution. The clerics have refused to close down their shari'ah court and remain firm on their demands for the introduction of shari'ah." (Link 7)

Kanchan Lakshman (Asia Times) reports: "The Wafaq-ul-Madaris, Pakistan's main and influential confederacy of seminaries, which runs about 8,200 institutions, has supported the extremist program of the Lal Masjid brigade. The confederacy's secretary general, Qari Mohammad Hanif Jhalandari, announced on April 15: 'We are in complete support of their four demands - to enforce the sharia in Pakistan, have the government rebuild all the mosques it destroyed, close down all dens of vice across the country, and change the Women's Protection Act in line with the Koran and Sunnah.' "

The government is now in the process of providing land for the demolished mosques. As Parthasarathy notes (Daily Pioneer), Islamists around the nation will be watching and learning from the La Masjid and are likely to follow suit. "The process of Talibanisation moving eastwards from the NWFP appears to have commenced. In Lahore, the student wing of the Jamat-e-Islami, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, has beaten up 'un-Islamic' students and proclaimed 'Islamisation' of the campus."

And the stand-off with the Lal Masjid is far from over. In fact the situation is approaching boiling point. On 18 May students abducted four police officers (two have since been released). Students have barricaded the streets, declaring that if the authorities make any moves against the complex, then Islamabad will face jihad. According to the Pakistan Tribune the mosque's loudspeakers are playing jihadi songs, and pamphlets have been distributed claiming that some 500 members of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Jahngvi have entered Islamabad in preparation for jihad against the government forces who they falsely claim are largely Shiite. (Link 8)

Pervez Hoodbhoy (Guardian) writes, "In a sense, the inevitable is coming to pass. Until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city no different from any other in Pakistan. Still earlier, it was largely the abode of Pakistan's elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrasas, illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students with prayer caps dutifully chant the Qu'ran all day. In the evenings, they roam in packs through the city's streets and bazaars, gaping at store windows and lustfully ogling bare-faced women.

"The stage is being set for transforming Islamabad into a Taliban stronghold. When Musharraf exits - which may be sooner rather than later - he will leave a bitter legacy that will last for generations, all for a little more taste of power."

MUSHARRAF'S EXIT ?

Musharraf is facing a major political crisis caused by his 9 March suspension of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry. (Link 9)

This is not a trivial hiccup or passing spasm either. Stratfor Intelligence comments: ". . . with each passing day Musharraf appears to be losing his hold on power. Musharraf's own constituency, the military, is beginning to show signs of concern -- even his close generals are now privately admitting things have gotten out of hand." (Geopolitical Diary, 16 May)

Pakistan's descent into chaos is now virtually guaranteed, as Sunnis provoke and clash with Shiites, Islamists provoke and clash with "enlightened moderates" and secularists, and Islamisation and Talibanisation become entrenched in the very heart of the nation.

Once again, it looks like Pakistanis will be left in need of military "rescue". No doubt there will be plenty of sponsors keen to hand Musharraf (or whichever general is in charge) yet more financial aid for the sake of "stability". It is not surprising that some commentators are wondering if the entire Lal Masjid affair is "a government ruse". (Link 10)

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) "PAKISTAN: MUSHARRAF'S MANOEUVRING
- could see persecution escalate through 2007"

By Elizabeth Kendal, WEA RLC News & Analysis, 12 December 2006

2) 40 Killed in Pakistan in Sectarian Clashes. 7 April 2007
Gun battles flare between Sunni, Shiite Muslims, homes burned in Northwestern Pakistan. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/07/world/main2660296.shtml
ALSO
40 Killed, 70 Hurt in NWFP
Azhar Masood & Agencies
PESHAWAR, 8 April 2007
http://www.arabnews.com/?article=94689

3) Pakistan Christians demand help. BBC 16 May 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6663305.stm
ALSO
WEA Religious Liberty Prayer (RLP) 429, 16 May 2007
Pakistan: Christians Defying Purge in the NW Frontier Province
http://www.worldevangelicalalliance.com/news/view.htm?id=1113

4) — fails to oppose death for apostasy draft. 9 May 2007
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C05%5C09%5Cstory_9-5-2007_pg1_7
LAL MASJID and the ISLAMISATION OF ISLAMABAD

Profile: Islamabad's red madrassa
By Syed Shoaib Hasan. 28 March 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6503477.stm
Anti-madrassa protest in Pakistan. 5 April 2007
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6530935.stm
ALSO
'Their business is jihad' 20 March 2007
Declan Walsh visits Islamabad's Red Mosque, a hotbed of Islamic militancy at the heart of Pakistan's capital.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/pakistan/Story/0,,2038568,00.html

Three excellent pieces on the Islamisation and Talibanisation of Islamabad.

5) More muscle to Pakistan's madrassas
By Kanchan Lakshman 25 April 2007
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/ID25Df02.html
This report includes details of US financial aid to Pakistan, "US$4.75 billion to date".)

6) Islamabad succumbs
Pakistan's president is doing nothing to prevent the country's capital from becoming a Taliban stronghold. By Pervez Hoodbhoy. 17 May 2007
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/pervez_hoodbhoy/2007/05/islamabad_succumbs.html
7) Talibanisation of Islamabad. By G Parthasarathy
http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnist1.asp?main_variable=Columnist&file_name=parthasarathy%2Fparthasarathy137.txt&writer=parthasarathy
8) 500 members of banned outfit enter Federal Capital
20 May 2007. http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?178762
Lal Masjid students held positions at mosque, Jamia Hafsa
20 May 2007. http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?178763

POLITICAL CRISIS

9) Pakistan judge: Fight for rule of law. 5 May 2007
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/asiapcf/05/05/pakistan.judicial.ap/index.html ALSO
How Pakistan's Sacked Judge Became a National Hero
By Ghulam Hasnain in Karachi for TIME. 8 May 2007
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1618546,00.html

10) 'Lal Masjid standoff a government ruse'
By Khalid Hasan. 22 May 2007
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2007%5C05%5C22%5Cstory_22-5-2007_pg7_10

Thursday, May 10, 2007

SERBIA: Wahhabi activism in Sandzak

Date: Thursday 10 May 2007
Subj: Serbia: Wahhabi activism in Sandzak
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


Sandzak (Raska) region in southwestern Serbia is for Islamic imperialists and jihadists highly desirable and enormously strategic territory. Wahhabi infiltration, radicalisation and agitation have escalated over the past decade. On several occasions during 2006 Wahhabi activism and aggression targeting the region's local non-Wahhabi Muslims culminated in violent clashes. Newfound evidence that Wahhabi jihadists in Sandzak's capital, Novi Pazar, have been preparing for acts of terrorism, has raised tensions in Serbia and especially in Sandzak and Kosovo.

------------------------------

SERBIAN POLICE RAID WAHHABI JIHADISTS

On 17 March Serbian police raided an Islamic militant training camp 30km from Novi Pazar, Sandzak region, southwest Serbia. While one militant escaped, four were arrested and a huge cache of weapons uncovered.

According to ISSA (International Strategic Studies Association) Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis (3 April 2007) the weapons cache included: "plastic explosives equipped with trigger mechanisms, various caliber bullet rounds, protective masks, several kinds of military uniforms and hand grenades. . . printed terrorist propaganda, military survival manuals, medical supplies, a sabre, compasses, binoculars and maps."

ISSA also reported: "The four arrested by Serbian Police on March 17, 2007, were identified as Mirsad Prenti, Fuad Hodi, Vahid Vejselovi and Senad Vejselovi, all members of the Muslim Wahhabi movement from Novi Pazar. All but one of the arrested men were bearded in the fashion of jihadis, but all were white Europeans. Their campsite, with a Wahhabist flag (similar to a Saudi Arabian flag, only black), was jury-rigged [assembled in a makeshift manner] with plastic sheeting."

On 20 April, Serbian police clashed with Islamic militants in Novi Pazar, killing militant leader Ismail Prentic (picture: link 1), and arresting two others, Safet Becovic and Senad Ramovic.

As the Serbian police approached Prentic's safe-house, the militants inside the house released attack dogs, threw grenades, and eventually opened fire at the police. The police shot back, killing Prentic and injuring Ramovic. A Serbian police officer also was wounded.

Igor Jovanovic, reporting from Belgrade for Southeast European Times (SET), writes: "The Wahhabis began to emerge in Novi Pazar in 2006. In one widely reported incident, they broke up a concert by Balkanika, a popular ethno band, smashing instruments and accusing the musicians of 'Satan's work'. In November they tried to take over the Arab mosque in Novi Pazar, fighting with moderate Muslims. Three people were wounded." (Link 2)

Amela Bajrovic, reporting from Novi Pazar for Balkan Insight writes (22 March 2007): "This latest incident comes after years of simmering conflict between the majority of local Sunni Muslims represented by the Islamic Community and the new followers of the Wahhabi movement. The Islamic Community's clergy and faithful have repeatedly complained of
harassment by the increasing number of the Wahhabi followers, whom they say want to impose their belief as the only true one.

"Shortly after the arrests, Serbia's interior minister, Dragan Jocic, described the men as enemies of the official Islamic Community and said the police action demonstrated the government's determination to crush all forms of violence and terrorism.

"The justice minister, Zoran Stojkovic, sought to defuse potential religious tensions, saying the men were apprehended not 'because they belong to a religious group but because. . . they were involved in alleged terrorist activities'." (Link 3)

Serbian authorities believe the Wahhabis operating the jihadist camp were recruiting potential terrorists and planning attacks on members of the local Muslim community. According to a recent report by the US Department of State, Serbian authorities are also "significantly
concerned about the potential for an increase of Middle Eastern terrorist transit through Serbia". (Link 4)

LINKED TO JIHADISTS AND SEPARATISTS IN KOSOVO

The police raid in Novi Pazar was carried out in co-operation with Kosovo police, marking the first time the two law enforcement agencies have worked together officially since the UN and NATO took control of the province. According to Igor Jovanovic (SET), "Prentic had been under
an arrest warrant in Kosovo [for illegal firearms possession and trafficking weapons]. He and a number of followers are said to have infiltrated the northern, mainly Serb-populated part of the province, bringing weapons with them." (Link 2)

This claim, that jihadists in Novi Pazar have links with Islamic jihadists and Albanian separatists in Kosovo, has been confirmed by a Slovenian intelligence source which confirmed for Balkanalysis.com: "the Wahhabis arrested at a training camp broken up near Novi Pazar on St.
Patrick's Day had connections with Kosovo militants, the final status process there and potential violence against Serbs in the North Mitrovica enclaves." (Link 5)

According to Balkananalysis.com, "The arrests in Sandzak had the immediate result of increasing distrust and fear, particularly for the minority Christian Serbs. But the arrests also prompted Pristina's Wahhabis to lay low. According to one source near the [Kosovo] capital, 'on that day, the muj [mujahedin, ie, Wahhabis] vanished. You couldn't see one of them on the streets'.

"New information received by Balkanalysis.com from a Slovenian intelligence source confirms Serbian media allegations that at least some of the weaponry found in the Wahhabi training camp had arrived from Kosovo – and for a reason: according to our information, extremist
Albanians in Kosovo opposed to negotiation with Serbs are collaborating with the Wahhabis [in Sandzak]. . . in the case of new violence, the goal would be a show of force against Serbs from both sides.'

"Adding that both groups have different ideologies and purposes, both the ex-KLA militants and Islamic extremists have similar needs. 'Both use weapons, and both reply to varying extents on organised crime to fund their movements,' said the Slovenian source, adding that his country had recently taken a more active role in Kosovo/Serbia intelligence-gathering."

LINKED TO WAHHABIS IN BOSNIA

The ISSA Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis (3 April 2007) reported that the Sandzak militants are also linked to Bosnian jihadist groups. ISSA notes: "During and after the [17 March] police action, there were a numbers of Wahhabists in the location where the camp was discovered and in the larger region. Most of them escaped into nearby Bosnia, across the so-called 'Gorazde Corridor' [which cuts through Rep. Srpska]. The location of the camp was carefully selected to be near three borders (Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia)."

The ISSA Special Analysis listed several Bosnian Wahhabist groups that are known to be co-operating with militants in Sandzak. Many of the jihadists in these groups have degrees from Universities in Sarajevo or the Middle East (mostly Medina), and some have served time in jail for criminal activities. ISSA notes that much of the terrorist training in the region is "directly linked to funding by criminal activities, largely narco-trafficking".

SANDZAK: THE MISSING LINK

Sandzak (Raska) region straddles the Serbia Monetnegro border and stretches from Kosovo to Bosnia. During Ottoman times Sandzak formed part of the trade route that ran between the northern Balkans and the Adriatic Sea. The Ottomans Islamised Sandzak for trade security
purposes. Only Muslims were permitted to live in the towns and Christians, who where were relegated to dhimmi (second class) and serf status, farmed the countryside. Still today in Sandzak Muslims live almost exclusively in the towns.

According to an April 2005 report by International Crisis Group report http://www.crisisgroup.org, Sandzak is 60 percent Muslim. Most of eastern Sandzak is majority Muslim – the regional capital, Novi Pazar (Turkish for "new bazaar") is 78 percent Muslim – while most of northwestern Sandzak is majority Christian Serb.

According to the ICG report, "Serbia's Sandzak: Still Forgotten" of 8 April 2005, Wahhabis control several mosques in Sandzak over which the local mufti has little influence. ICG notes that over recent years Muslim men and women have both become increasingly observant of
conservative Islamic dress codes. According to ICG, some observers believe that, as in Bosnia, Wahhabis are actually paying local Muslims to dress Wahhabi-style. ICG also reports" Numerous interlocuters told Crisis Group that the Wahhabis receive funding from Sarajevo, which in turn appears to come from Saudi charities that operate out of Vienna."

For Islamic imperialists and jihadists, Sandzak is the vital missing link. It has enormous strategic potential as a land-bridge between Bosnia and Kosovo. As such, Sandzak is yet another place where Islamists are eager to support, partner with, or even drive a separatist movement. Such a movement would initially lobby for autonomy as a stepping-stone to independence.

Islamic imperialists and jihadists have long desired to bring Sandzak under Islamic control so that jihadists (particularly white European ones), weapons and narco-traffick would have safe passage from the Adriatic Sea to Bosnia, through Albania, Kosovo, Sandzak, and into Muslim Bosnia via the Gorazde Corridor, which, as part of the Dayton Accords, is part of the Muslim-Croat Federation. This enables safe passage through Rep. Srpksa from the Muslim-held town of Gorazde which is on the Drina River close to where the borders of Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro, i.e. Sandzak, converge.

Elizabeth Kendal
rl-research@crossnet.org.au

Links

1) Militant Wahhabi dead after attacking Serb police, 20 April 2007
http://www.serbianna.com/news/2007/01557.shtml

2) Wahhabi leader slain in gunfight; arrests made. 26 April 2007
http://www.setimes.com/cocoon/setimes/xhtml/en_GB/features/setimes/features/2007/04/26/feature-03

3) Raid on Wahhabi 'Camp' Raises Tensions in Sandzak
Most locals welcome police swoop on group seen as troublemakers.
By Amela Bajrovic in Novi Pazar (Balkan Insight, 22 March 2007)
http://www.birn.eu.com/en/75/10/2496/

4) Country Reports on Terrorism
Released by the Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
30 April 2007 http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2006/82732.htm

5) BALKAN ANALYSIS 19 April 2007
Slovenian Intelligence Confirms Kosovo Link to Sandzak Arrests
http://www.balkanalysis.com/2007/04/19/slovenian-intelligence-confirms-kosovo-link-to-sandzak-arrests/

Friday, May 4, 2007

India: How far is Jaipur from Malatya?

Date: Friday 4 May 2007
Subj: India: How far is Jaipur from Malatya?
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

INDIA: HOW FAR IS JAIPUR FROM MALATYA?

In modern, progressive, secular Turkey, anti-Christian hatred has been whipped up by Islamist and nationalist forces and cultivated and perpetuated in the media, often by men and women of influence seeking political mileage. Unfortunately the hate insurgency has not been neutralised by a truth counterinsurgency, and so hate - a highly destructive force - has been permitted to advance. And we have seen the consequences.

In Turkey expatriate Catholic, Turkish-Armenian Orthodox, and expatriate and Turkish Protestants have been victims of fatal hate crimes over the past 15 months. Christians and Christianity have been so thoroughly demonised that zealous, patriotic religious youths have been deluded into believing that if they do their country a favour and slay a Christian then they will be able to literally get away with murder.

The brutality of the 18 April torture and murder of three Christians in Malatya, Turkey (link 1) has left many Turks shocked and ashamed. Finally there is now some will for a decisive (albeit difficult and possibly costly) truth, tolerance, secularism and religious liberty counterinsurgency.

Modern, progressive, secular India, which is treading virtually the exact same path, is only a step away from having its own "Malatya" experience (that is: an act of hate-fueled anti-Christian violence so disgusting and horrific it sends shockwaves through the nation).

ANTI-CHRISTIAN HATE CAMPAIGN PERSISTS UNCHALLENGED
and JAIPUR PASTOR BASHED FOR THE TV CAMERAS


On 24 April, Compass Direct published a report by Vishal Arora, entitled "Hate Campaign Adds Fuel to Persecution in India". (Link 2)

This report details some of the anti-Christian hate that India is being submerged in as Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) forces continue to spew forth anti-Christian propaganda, lies, disinformation, incitement and hatred, all for political gain.

Arora mentions the CD produced by the organisers of the Shabri Kumbh Mela, held in Dangs, Gujarat, in February 2006. The CD titled "Shri Shabri Kumbh 2006: Spirituality along with the Wave of Patriotism" has been widely circulated, distributed and openly sold in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra and in the north-eastern states.

Anhad (link 3), a non-profit organisation that has admitted a petition to the Supreme Court of India seeking action against the Hindutva forces that distributed the CDs, claims: "In the CD, the narrator, while talking about Hindu tradition and culture, makes constant references to the evil forces and foreign powers that are out to destroy the Hindu religion whilst simultaneously flashing pictures of churches and Cross on the screen as if to insinuate that the Christian community is the evil force and the foreign power that the Hindu community has to reckon with."

Arora notes that on the CD cover there is a caricature of a headless Christian priest wearing a cassock and holding a cross. Anhad comments, "In place of the head is a question mark symbol. The caption on the top of this picture literally translates into 'Church: in the name of service.'" As Arora notes, the Hindutva slogan, 'Hindu Jago, Christi Bhagao' (Arise Hindus, throw out the Christians) represents the overall sentiment of the Hindutva anti-Christian hate campaign.

According to Arora, Hindutva hate material typically brands Christianity and Islam as alien religions and a threat to India. "It alleges that Indian Christians use foreign funds to convert Hindus by force and fraudulent means.

"The hate material casts doubts on the patriotism and loyalty of Christians to the country, questions the roots of Christianity, attacks the tenets of the faith and targets priests, nuns and Christian institutions and social work.

"Hindu extremists use many means to spread hate against Christians on a regular basis. Media used include hate speeches at rallies, distribution of pamphlets and CDs, publication of reports in local newspapers in vernacular languages, publication of books, e-mail campaigns using e-groups, uploading of videos on the Web, and websites.

"The RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] is said to spew hatred through its wide network of 'shakhas' or daily gatherings. According to the RSS, there were about 50,000 'shakhas' in 34,732 locations across the country as of March 2005.

"Additionally, the RSS has more than 17,500 'one-teacher schools' known as 'Ekal Vidyalayas', in 20 states. These schools allegedly teach hate against Christians in the guise of providing education and preventing 'conversion' of tribal people to Christianity. The children of these schools are exposed to Hindu symbols and deities, saints and patriots apart from the regular syllabus.

"The Hindu extremist 'Dharma Raksha Samiti' (Association for Protection of Religion) has posted an anti-conversion documentary in English on the Web.
An Invasion through Conversion Part 1
An Invasion through Conversion Part 2

"Another extremist group, the Kashmiri Hindu Liberation Army, says on its website http://www.hindurashtra.org that Hindus should 'militarize' and 'industrialize' themselves to 'survive'. 'Hinduize the politics and militarize the Hindus. . . Change of religion means change of nation,' the website states, advocating establishment of a single-party, militarized government based on the divine laws of Hindu Dharma(Religion), and Hindutva nationalist ideology." (Compass Direct, India archives: link 2)

JAIPUR PASTOR BASHED FOR TV CAMERAS

Violent persecution of Christians in India has been escalating in both frequency and intensity as the Hindutva forces claw back their lost political territory, as a read through the Compass Direct's India Archives will demonstrate.

On Sunday 29 April, a mob of some twenty militant Hindu youths (Bajrang dal activists) attacked Pastor Walter Masih (or Massey) in his home in Jaipur, Rajasthan, where he leads a small home fellowship. The attack took place in front of Pastor Masih's wife and child and what appears to be an invited television crew.

According to The Hindu, Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot described the incident as a "very serious matter" and demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits. "Vishwa Hindu Parishad workers have once again taken law into their own hands in the name of stopping religious conversions in the State and this is condemnable," he said. (Link 4)

The following news report from CNN-IBN contains a video of the IBN news broadcast which features excerpts of the filmed attack:
"Pastor attack: Media under scanner"
CNN-IBN, 30 April 2007

As noted in the above report, Indian authorities are looking into the role the media played in the attack. Christians in Rajasthan are calling for a full CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) investigation into the incident.

Another CNN-IBN report poses the question, "Indian media intolerant?" This news broadcast contains two videos from the CNN-IBN program, "India 360".
"Indian media intolerant?" 1 May 2007

Surely the question at the heart of this issue is: What is it that makes youths not only so hateful and violent, but so convinced that their violence is acceptable, justifiable and even heroic, that they would proudly and confidently commit their criminal assault upon a peaceful family before a TV crew for national broadcast?

How far is Jaipur from Malatya?

Not far at all.

Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Turkey: German Seminary investigates Malatya murders
by Elizabeth Kendal WEA RLC, 1 May 2007.

2) Compass Direct India archives

3) Anhad (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy)
http://www.anhadindia.org/

4) Christian preacher attacked in Jaipur
The Hindu. Monday 30 May 2007
http://www.hindu.com/2007/04/30/stories/2007043005341200.htm
See also: http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=9129&size=A

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Turkey: German Seminary investigates Malatya murders

Date: Tuesday 1 May 2007
Subj: Turkey: German Seminary investigates Malatya murders
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


The following report from Martin Bucer Seminary (MBS) Bonn, Germany, was compiled by Titus Vogt, MBS Dean of International Programs. The English translation was done by Thomas K. Johnson, Ph.D., MBS Professor of Apologetics and Ethics.

Elizabeth Kendal WEA RLC

-----------------------------------------------------

THE LAST HOURS OF THE THREE MARTYRS:
Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel, and Tilmann Geske


The assassins deceived the victims in order to gain their trust.

Martin Bucer Seminary (Bonn, Germany) reconstructs the last hours of its student, Necati Aydin.

Martin Bucer Seminary (MBS) Dean for International Programs, Titus Vogt, led an investigation into the tragic events of 18 April 2007 by means of putting together the statements from all the witnesses. MBS remains close to the victims, survivors, and witnesses to the brutal murder in Malatya through its Turkish branch, as one of the victims, Necati Aydin, was their student. Until now, MBS has hesitated to give all the details to the public, but MBS President Thomas Schirrmacher has concluded now that nothing stands in the way of a full public statement of all the details.

MURDERERS SPENT MONTHS SURREPTITIOUSLY GAINING THE TRUST OF THE VICTIMS

Some months ago the murderers gained the trust of their intended victims. To do this, the assassins indicated an interest in the Christian faith and said they wanted more information about the Bible and its contents. What deception could be more powerful to Bible publishers who were themselves adult converts from Islam to Christianity? Under this guise, they met repeatedly with their future victims. Clearly the attack was planned well in advance.

On the morning of 18 April, two of the murderers came to the office of Zirve Publishing House in Malatya, which is an extension of a Protestant publisher based in Istanbul, with distribution offices in various Turkish cities. Among other things, they discussed the Christian faith with Necati Aydin, as they had done frequently over the previous months. On this particular morning, in addition to Tilmann Geske, the bookkeeper, Emin M., was also in the office. Everything seemed to be completely normal. In the course of the morning, M. left the office, not suspecting that he would never see Aydin and Geske alive again.

Shortly thereafter the three other assassins arrived and tied up the first two victims, while they threatened them with pistols. Two days before, the assassins had been taken into custody because of wielding weapons in public, but they had been set free because they were only carrying warning pistols.

As soon as the victims were tied up, the murderers began stabbing them with knives all over their bodies. A short time later Ugur Yuksel came into the office; he was immediately grabbed by the murderers and tied up. Right after that Gokhan H., also a Christian, stopped by the Zirve office, but he could not open the door, because it was locked from inside and the lock was jammed. H. tried to call the office and finally reached Ugur on the telephone. Ugur said that the planned meeting was not going to be held in the Zirve office; it would instead be held in a particular hotel. H. had the impression that something was wrong, so he called a friend in the city. This friend advised him to call the police, which Gokham H. did.

When the police arrived a few minutes later, the victims were still alive. The police demanded that the criminals open the door, at which they slit the throats of the victims. When the police forced the door and stormed the office, they found Aydin and Geske already dead. Yuksel was still alive and was rushed to a local hospital. In spite of emergency surgery and 51 units of blood, he died of his numerous and massive knife wounds.

The autopsy reports lead to the following picture: The bodies were covered with about 156 knife wounds in the pelvis area, lower body, anus, abdomen, and back. Their fingertips had been sliced repeatedly; and they had massive slashes on their necks which severed the windpipe and oesophagus.

The distinctively ritual manner of the murder, particularly the slicing of fingertips, is convincing observers of the consciously religious motivation of the assassins. The perpetrators seem to have been following the instructions of Sure 8:12, from the Koran. There it says (in the Rudi Paret German translation of the Koran), "I will strike terror into the hearts of unbelievers. Flay their necks (with a sword) and strike every finger." The last half of the sentence is translated in even more striking terms in some versions. In the Rassoul and Zaidan translation it says, "chop off every finger;" the Azhar and Ahmadeyya translation says, "chop off every finger tip."

Three of the attackers were arrested directly in the office, where the attack was occurring; two tried to escape by climbing down an external downspout pipe. One more attacker was arrested in the second floor of the building, one floor below the crime scene. The final assassin, who is described by the others as the leader of the group, fell to the street from a significant height when the downspout pipe broke off from the wall of the building. He was brought to a hospital and spent some days in a coma, but he is now awake and is being questioned by police.

In the course of the next few days, some other suspects were taken into custody, including the son of a mayor (AKP party) from a town near to Malatya.

FIRST TURKISH MARTYRS SINCE 1923

At a press conference a day after the attack, Pastor Ihsan Ozbek (from Ankara), President of the Association of Protestant Churches in Turkey, said "Yesterday Turkey was buried in the darkness of the Middle East." He compared the common, country-wide, widely hawked conspiracy theories which accuse Christians of conspiring against Muslims with the medieval witch hunts in Europe. These conspiracy theories contain a deep phobia of foreign missionaries. In responding to an inquiry of why Geske, a foreign missionary, was in Malatya, Ozbek said this is already an unconscionable question, since in a truly democratic state one may not ask "why are you or they in Malatya?" The pastor used very pointed words to portray the background of the murders which led the Turkish media to entitle a report on the news conference, "A gruesome brutality, but no surprise." Ozbek said he was convinced that, "it is not the last martyrdom, though we hope from the bottom of our hearts that it could be the last martyrdom."

Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel are the first known Muslim converts to Christianity to be martyred, since the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923. Ugur Yuksel was buried according to Islamic/Alevitic rituals at the orders of his family which vehemently denies his Christian faith. The German victim was buried on 20 April in the Armenian cemetery in Malatya, following the wishes of his widow. This occurred after a bitter fight with the local authorities who unconditionally wanted to prevent Geske's burial in their city. Because of pressure applied by the German government, his burial was only delayed by three hours, from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Eye witnesses say that about 100 mourners from across Turkey came to his funeral. Necati Aydin, who was pastor of the local Protestant church in addition to his work in the Zirve Publishing House, was laid to rest on Saturday, 21 April, in his home town of Izmir. The roughly 500 mourners who attended his funeral were very deeply moved.

MEDIA STORM IN TURKEY


There has been an enormous media storm in Turkey following these events. Many Turks sent letters to the newspapers to express their deep disgust. The widow, Susanne Geske, earned tremendous admiration for her words in a TV interview the day after the massacre. She said she forgave the murderers of her husband, the way Christ forgave his murderers, citing Jesus' prayer, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." This is the reason why she wants to stay in Malatya with her children. Many letters to the newspapers are saying that now they really want to read the New Testament or even to describe themselves as Christians, since they no longer want to have anything to do with Islam.

This brutal attack is not really the act of a group of deluded youth, since the media has been provoking antagonism against Christians for a long time. One of the most harmless media lies is that Christian are paying Muslims to convert to Christianity; one of the more disturbing is that Christians offer prostitutes to Muslims, in order to entice them to become Christians. Two events related to the funeral of Necati Aydin serve to illustrate the deep ambivalence of Turkish society toward Christians. When his coffin was to be flown from Malatya to Izmir, it would not fit into the x-ray machine in airport security. The Turkish newspapers reported that the airport security staff simply broke the handles off the coffin, a sign of their feelings. And during his funeral, one of the police officers standing guard over the funeral called one of the mourners "a son of a whore."

Last Sunday (22 April 2007) the services of many Protestant churches took place under heavy police guard. In one small congregation in one of the parts of Istanbul, two top local police officials came to enquire about their security needs and to urgently suggest the installation of an alarm system and security cameras. And because of the continuing massive threats, many pastors are now accompanied by security guards. This causes great concern for believers in Turkey. In spite of truly positive developments in the realm of freedom of religion in recent years, they now see their freedom of religion as deeply threatened.

END