Sunday, January 22, 2012

Eliminating fitna in Indian-administered Kashmir

By Elizabeth Kendal

Fitna
can be defined as anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim. Islam regards fitna as persecution that must be eliminated. Indeed, the Qur'an states: "Fitna is worse than killing". In other words, according to Islam, it is better to kill Christians than to let their life, testimony and witness be a source of fitna. Futhermore, the Qur'an mandates that fighting/jihad continue "until there is no [more] fitna" in the land and all worship is acknowledged to be for Allah (Qur'an 2:190-193).

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Eliminating Fitna in Indian-administered Kashmir
By Elizabeth Kendal
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Responding to the recent baptism of seven Christian converts in Srinagar, Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam have committed themselves to eliminating fitna in Kashmir.

Their strategy of choice is the peddling of disinformation: i.e. false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth (Merriam-Webster dictionary ).

By peddling disinformation, Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam hope to achieve two ends:

1) Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam are hoping to incite Islamic indignation, zeal and rage amongst the Muslim majority, so that Kashmiri society becomes less tolerant of fitna; the lives of Christians are made so miserable that they are no longer a source of fitna; and churches are driven underground where they can no longer be a source of fitna. If they can eliminate fitna, then Kashmir's Islamists will have empowered themselves significantly.

2) By falsely accusing Christians of hurting religious sentiments, threatening social harmony and offering monetary inducements for conversion, Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam are deliberately avoiding the language of repressive Sharia (Islamic law) while deliberately exploiting the language of the Indian penal code, in particular Article 153A which criminalises "any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious groups"; UN reports that assert that "Christianophobia" is caused by the "aggressive proselytism of certain evangelical groups"; and even the WCC-PCID-WEA rules for Christian witness (released June 2011) which focuses on "inappropriate methods of exercising mission". By exploiting such nationally and internationally acceptable blame-the-victim, non-Islamic language, the Islamists hope to justify and legitimise their repression while avoiding sanction. If they find they can repress, persecute and Islamise with impunity, then Kashmir's Islamists will have empowered themselves significantly.

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Seven youths baptised in Srinagar

In August 2011, Pastor Khanna baptised seven young men -- all converts from Islam -- in his church, All Saints Church, Srinagar. The service was open and many people attended; some with cameras -- nothing was done in secret. And why should it? Religious freedom is the constitutional right of all Indian citizens.

Film of the baptisms made its way to Facebook and then to Youtube.
(NOTE: as the men are baptised the congregation sings: 'I have decided to follow Jesus' - lyrics. Many Westerners like myself will doubtless have learned this song in Sunday School. It takes on a whole new dimension when it is sung by vulnerable minority Christians and Muslim converts who know full well that the Sharia penalty for apostasy is death.)

After seeing the footage, Kashmir's highest official of Islamic Law, Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din Ahmad, accused Rev Khanna of "luring" Muslims to Christianity with the offer of money.

According to Pastor Khanna, the Muslim youths had been coming to the church on their own initiative. When they wanted to take part in Holy Communion he told them they had to follow a procedure. The seven young men subsequently expressed their desire to be baptised. Pastor Khanna denies that any incentive was ever offered. "I can't convert anyone," he said. "It is the work of the Holy Spirit."

Bishop PK Samantaroy, head of the Amritsar Diocese, confirmed that he has seen this particular group of young men attending the All Saints Church for over a year. "These converts had approached the pastor for baptism by their own freewill", he said. "In such cases, the Church cannot deny baptism."

Despite being arrested and beaten by Indian police, the seven youths have continued to insist they were never offered any material incentive. Despite this, some local newspapers have quoted anonymous police sources saying the converts were given money.

Pastor Khanna addresses Sharia Court

The head of the Kahsmir's Sharia Court, Mufti Mohd Bashiruddin, summonsed Pastor Khanna to explain himself in front of 15 other Ulemas (scholars of Islamic law). Despite the fact that the self-appointed Sharia Court has no jurisdiction, Rev Khanna consented and appeared before it on 17 Nov 2011 in the hope that by clarifying his position, he might be able to defuse tensions.

Rev Khanna shared his experience with AsiaNews: "I was alone, surrounded by 30 people. The tension was high and everybody was shouting insults and false accusations against me. The only confession that I made, was to admit the baptism. . ." However, the pastor was forced to sign a document in Urdu, which he did not understand. "I was terrified," he explains.

Pastor Khanna arrested


On Saturday 19 November 2011, police in Srinagar arrested Pastor Khanna on charges of creating enmity between religious communities and hurting religious sentiments. The next day, a court in Srinagar remanded Pastor Khanna to judicial custody for 15 days. Released on bail on 1 Dec 2011, Rev. Khanna has since left the Kashmir Valley.

Father Jim Borst charged

Then on 10 Dec 2011 the same Sharia Court laid charges against Father Jim Borst (79), a Dutch Catholic missionary of the Society of St. Joseph of Mill Hill, who has been working in Kashmir for almost 50 years.

AsiaNews reports: "For some, envy and jealousy of Muslim scholars are behind the charges of proselytising against Fr Borst. For years, the Mill Hill missionary, who has been the principal of the prestigious St Joseph's School, has been the target of Muslim scholars. [. . .] The schools the Dutch missionary set up, including St Joseph's in Baramulla and Burn Hall in Srinagar, are known for the quality of the education they dispense. What is more, their staff is 99 per cent Muslim. Many Muslim leaders have attended these schools . . ."

News report on Youtube: J&K: Row over forced conversions in Valley

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Protecting the faith (rather than human rights)

In November 2011, a group of Kashmir's leading Islamic clerics and scholars got together and established the Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Imaan (Council for Protection of Faith). The council will address issues such as Islamic religious education, Islamic banking, the problem of Christian missionaries, the use of media and Baitul Maal (fundraising) so that aid might be provided to the poor. Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Imaan's media committee has been tasked with raising awareness through pamphlets, facebook and a separate web portal.

On 26 December 2011, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, one of the Kashmir Valley's top Islamic clerics and separatist leaders, launched the Tahaffuz-e-Imaan website. Dedicated to the "protection of faith", it is specifically aimed at preventing apostasy, in particular conversions to Christianity.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the site was launched because there was a need to use technology and modern equipment for countering conversion attempts. "The site, he said, was aimed to protect and [imbue] Islamic values, besides checking the conversion of young boys and girls."

The Tahaffuz-e-Imaan website includes a section on "Knowledge" where visitors can freely download e-books with titles like:
The Choice Islam and Christianity
Combat Kit Against Bible Thumpers
What Bible Says About Muhummed (p.b.u.h)
Al-Quran - The Miracles of Miracles
Who Moved The Stone?
Muhummed Peace be upon him the Natural Successor to Christ (p.b.u.h)
Resurrection or Resuscitation?
Is the Bible God's Word?
Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?

The Majlis Tahaffuz-e-Imaan (Council for Protection of Faith) hopes the site will help "to thwart nefarious designs of pervasive forces and the deep rooted conspiracy of making youth apostate and defectors by giving them concessions and benefits secretly."

See: Kashmir's Top Clergyman Launches Islamist Website against Apostasy and Conversion of Muslims to Christianity . . . MEMRI 30 Dec 2011

Verdict: "GUILTY"

On Wednesday 11 January 2012, at a hearing in Srinagar's Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat led by Grand Mufti of Kashmir Bashid-ud-din Ahmad, it was allegedly "proved beyond doubt" that Pastor Khanna and Fr. Borst had been involved in religious conversions using "baits and inducements".

Penalty: "EXPULSION"

On 19 January 2012, Srinagar's self-appointed Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat -- a court with absolutely no legal jurisdiction -- issued a decree mandating the expulsion of Punjabi Protestant pastor Reverend M C Khanna of All Saints Church Srinagar, along with his wife, Kanta, and his associate Gayoor Masih; as well as Dutch Catholic missionary Father Jaap (Jim) Borst. The four were directed to leave the Kashmir Valley forthwith for their involvement in "unethical" conversions. A case against a fifth Christian, Parvez Sameul Koul, principal of Tyndale Biscoe School, is under investigation.

According to Deputy Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam, the decree is not against Christians per se, but only against the "crimes" of the "convicts". "The three priests had been attracting local youth to conversions through monetary allurement," he claimed. "The decree has been issued to preserve harmony between followers of different faiths in the Valley."

See: Shariat Court seeks expulsion of Pastor Khanna, accomplices
IMRAN MUZAFFAR, Greater Kashmir, 19 Jan 2012

Deputy Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam cautioned the heads of the missionary schools to refrain from any anti-Islamic activities in their schools. He told media on Thursday (19 Jan 2012), "We will not tolerate any anti-Islamic activity in Kashmir by conversing (sic) Muslims to Christianity. Government should issue an order to ensure that only Islamic Morning Prayer should be allowed because majority students in Valley's schools are Muslims."

According to DailyBhaskar: "The court also directed Jammu and Kashmir government to take over the management of the Christian missionary schools" and monitor all their activities in the future.

Meanwhile Deputy Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam urged Islamic non-governmental organizations (NGO's) to provide monetary support to the down-trodden so that they would not feel any need to turn to Christianity for aid or assistance. "There are some non-governmental organizations working in the Valley," he said, "which are luring people to apostasy in the garb of assistance. Such NGOs must be banned in the Valley."

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While Kashmir's apostaphobic dictators of Islam might have succeeded in eliminating, or at least hamstringing, some Christian ministry, NGOs, education, testimony and Gospel witness as sources of fitna, they might yet find that Islamic repression, deceit, manipulation, intolerance and legalistic totalitarianism are just effective in terms of being sources of fitna. This is something to be praying for.

For additional material including prayer points see:
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 142, 18 Jan 2012
India: tensions soaring as Christians charged in Kashmir

Monday, January 9, 2012

SYRIA: false narratives and propaganda

By Elizabeth Kendal

The battle presently taking place in Syria includes a battle by foreign powers for Syria -- a battle for the regional balance of power; a battle that pits the US-Saudi / Gulf Arab Sunni Axis against the Iran-Hezballah Shi'ite axis of which Arab, mostly Sunni Syria is integral.

See: SYRIA: CHRISTIANS FEAR FOR THEIR FUTURE
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 137 | Wed 07 Dec 2011

Aisling Byrne writes for Asia Times Online (5 Jan 2012), that the battle for Syria is essentially the first stage of a "war on Iran". Byrne quotes Saudi King Adbullah who observes: "Other than the collapse of the Islamic Republic itself, nothing would weaken Iran more than losing Syria." Likewise, notes Byrne, the US administration has also commented that regime change in Syria would constitute a massive blow to Iranian power in the region.

"What we are seeing in Syria," she concludes, "is a deliberate and calculated campaign to bring down the Assad government so as to replace it with a regime 'more compatible' with US interests in the region. [. . .] Not for the first time are we seeing a close alliance between US/British neo-cons with Islamists (including, reports show, some with links to al-Qaeda) working together to bring about regime change in an 'enemy' state."

See: A mistaken case for Syrian regime change
By Aisling Byrne, Asia Times Online, 5 Jan 2012

PROPAGANDA ESSENTIAL TO STRATEGY

Byrne's article is essential reading for anyone confused by the conflicting narratives coming out of Syria, for Byrne's main complaint is against the "deliberate construction of a largely false narrative that pits unarmed democracy demonstrators being killed in their hundreds and thousands as they protest peacefully against an oppressive, violent regime, a 'killing machine' led by the 'monster' Assad." (emphasis mine)

Most of the article's ten pages are devoted to exposing and analysing the propaganda that is pouring out of Syria and being disseminated by those with a strategic interest in regime change and others determined not to let truth get in the way of a sensational story.

Byrne notes: "Of the three main sources for all data on numbers of protesters killed and numbers of people attending demonstrations - the pillars of the narrative - all are part of the 'regime change' alliance".

In particular, the British-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights -- which is funded by US and Gulf Arab money -- "has been described as the 'front office' of a large media propaganda set-up run by the Syrian opposition and its backers." As Byrne comments, the Observatory has been pivotal in sustaining the narrative of "massacres" and more recently "genocide". Yet not only is the Observatory not legally registered as a company or charity, it has no office, no staff and yet is "reportedly awash with funds".

Byrne reports: ". . . a YouGov poll commissioned by the Qatar Foundation showed last week that 55% of Syrians do not want Assad to resign and 68% of Syrians disapprove of the Arab League sanctions imposed on their country. [. . .] Unsurprisingly, not a single mainstream major newspaper or news outlet reported the YouGov poll results - it doesn't fit their narrative."

HOW TO SECURE A "HUMANITARIAN INTERVENTION"
-- (or at least foreign backing)


As was the case in Libya, Syria's is an asymmetric conflict: the Syrian opposition cannot match the Syrian military. As Stratfor has noted, "Thus far al Assad has resisted his enemies. Though some mid-to-low-ranking Sunnis have defected, his military remains largely intact; this is because the Alawites control key units. Events in Libya drove home to an embattled Syrian leadership -- and even some of its adversaries within the military -- the consequences of losing. The military has held together, and an unarmed or poorly armed populace, no matter how large, cannot defeat an intact military force." (Stratfor: "Syria, Iran and the Balance of Power in the Middle East." By George Friedman, 22 Nov 2011.)

Consequently, the Syrian opposition knows that it needs external support, and to get it, it has to make a case for at best foreign intervention, and at least foreign backing.

Of course the West will never intervene on purely humanitarian grounds; it must have economic or geo-strategic interests. This is why multitudes of genuine humanitarian concerns are ignored or worse, treated as embarrassments and inconveniences to be covered up.

In order to launch a "humanitarian intervention", the Western governments concerned -- being democracies -- will first need to convince their constituents that a humanitarian catastrophe is indeed underway. Of course anyone can create a humanitarian catastrophe -- real or imagined. It has been done before by Islamist separatists in Bosnia, Yugoslavia; Albanian Islamist separatists in Kosovo, Serbia; Islamist imperialists in Ivory Coast and Islamist imperialists in Libya. It has also been attempted unsuccessfully by Islamist imperialists in the Palestinian Territories and in South Lebanon. Yes, false narratives have been created and propaganda used before to pave the way for US-NATO bombing campaigns against innocent civilians from Belgrade to Abidjan to Sirte, all so US-NATO states can advance their own economic and geo-strategic interests.

Byrne quotes American Conservative which notes that figures being cited by the UN are based on rebel sources and are uncorroborated. Likewise, reports of mass defections are a fabrication, with few defections actually being confirmed. Furthermore, American Conservative asserts that "Syrian government claims that it is being assaulted by rebels who are armed, trained and financed by foreign governments are more true than false".

See: NATO vs. Syria
By Philip Giraldi, American Conservative, 19 Dec 2011

Byrne's article in Asia Times Online includes many more such quotes and claims, including that the US has been pumping money into Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups specifically for the purpose of advancing regime change in Syria with the goal of hurting Iran.

As already noted, Byrne's article is essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of the situation in Syria.

SYRIA'S CHRISTIANS: ANOTHER INCONVENIENT PEOPLE

Like the Papuans of Eastern Indonesia and the Kachin of northern Burma, the threatened, imperiled, besieged Christians of Iraq and now Syria are just an inconvenience to Western powers that have economic and geo-strategic interests in their sights.

Western Christians need to accept the new reality: their governments do not inhabit a moral high ground. Rather, they are driven by economic and geo-strategic interests (money and power) and will not be hamstrung by inconvenient truths concerning the devastating consequences their actions will have on the liberties, lives and even future survival of local Christian communities.