Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Further Attacks Against Christians in Mosul

Second attack in three days against a Chaldean church

Mosul (AsiaNews) – Second attack in three days against a Chaldean church in Mosul. Once again the Church of the Holy Spirit is the target. This morning a group of men fired rockets against the building, whilst an explosive devise was detonated outside a usually unused entrance door, this according to local sources who also told AsiaNews that no one was killed or hurt in the incident. They also suggested that the attackers might be the same people who on Sunday fired some 80 shots against the church breaking some windows and causing minor damage.

For months, tensions have been rising in Mosul, a Sunni stronghold...It is likely that in this as in previous cases, religion is being used for political purposes. In fact Iraqi Muslim leaders, including grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, have expressed solidarity and understanding towards the Vatican. A representative of al-Sistani, who is Shia Islam’s highest authority in Iraq, has said that he wants to visit the Pope.

In August 2004, the Church of the Holy Spirit was the target of another attack that injured the younger sister of its young parish priest, Fr Ragheed Gani. (source)

It is tough trying to live out one's faith in these conditions. But Christians in many Islamic lands face things like this more often than one here in the West, where our religious commitment is often soft and comfortable, would imagine. It takes determination to remain Christian in places like this - but in many of these areas, they have been Christian since the earliest days of the Church...which is a testimony of the strength of the Gospel message.

Freedom of Expression or Dhimmitude Rules?

In Germany today they are learning something: When you don't make Islamic groups live by the same rules as the rest of society, when they are not integrated into the culture, but allowed to form subcultures within the larger, then the rest of society will be effected by the special treatment.

In the West, religion has long been fair game for negative artistic expression. But, as we saw with the death of Theo Van Gogh, and again with the Danish cartoons about Muhammed, when local authorities don't forcefully come out to protect freedom of expression, and back down, it becomes a door opened a crack to let more happen. Thus the pope merely quoting an obscure medieval source, triggered a world-wide outcry, with far too few Western voices coming to his defence.

And now in Germany, an opera was closed, lest radical Islamic sensibilities would lead to violence "Berlin's Deutsche Oper said on Monday because of police warnings that it could cause "incalculable security risks."

It is actually pretty typical antireligious Western art, intended to attack all religious beliefs:

In the opera house's production of the Mozart work that was first shown in 1871, the Cretan King, Idomeneo holds up the severed heads of the Greek mythological figure Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed and places them on four chairs.
The production, by the director Hans Neuenfels, deals with man's reluctance to make sacrifices to the gods.
When his interpretation was first shown in 2003, it caused uproar among opera goers attending the performance.
Several religious groups said they were offended.
Critics described the work as a radical condemnation of religion and religious wars. (source)

But this time, the response has lead to a loud outcry in German political circles. German Chancellor Merkel said:
"We must take care that we do not retreat out of a fear of potentially violent radicals," in Hanover's Neue Presse newspaper. "Self-censorship out of fear is not tolerable."

The German government's Integration Commisioner Maria Boehmer said "We must together stand up against intolerance and violence."

Bernd Neumann, the government's culture minister: "If fears about possible protests result in self-censorship, then the democratic principles of free speech are in danger."

The outcry about the opera comes on the wake of the controversy about the Pope's quote, and as a conference to open dialogue with the country's 3.2 million Muslims, mostly of Turkish background begins today.

The meeting aims to tackle issues such as equal rights, the building of mosques, Islam lessons and imam training.

Integration has become a priority for the government as concern grows about the emergence of an underclass of disillusioned young Muslims, mainly Turks, in Germany and about fears of Islamic radicalization across Europe.

A recent outbreak of violence at a Berlin school where the bulk of pupils are immigrant children and last year's "honor killing" of a Turkish woman have highlighted the challenges faced by the government and Muslim communities. (source)

But reacting to the news about the opera being pulled from the performance schedule, Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German Interior Minister who has invited Muslim leaders to attend the conference in Berlin said "This is mad. Taking such measures is ridiculous and totally unacceptable."

Perhaps, then, Germany is ready to see if Western political rights will trump the increasingly strident calls for everybody, West and East, to live by the Islamic rules of how to refer to Muhammed. Will the free speech tradition in the West be forced into dhimmitude, or will we bow, from threat and intimidation, into something less for sake of expediency? There's a lot hanging on the outcome of such actions.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Faq on Women in Afghanistan

This set of facts was compiled from information from AIHRC, UNICEF, HRW


* 50 per cent of Afghan women say they have been beaten, while 200 women in Kandahar ran away from domestic violence this year.

* In the past year, 150 cases of women resorting to self-immolation have been reported in western Afghanistan, 34 cases in the south-east.

* 197 women in Herat were reported to have attempted suicide last year, 69 successfully.

* 57 per cent of girls are married before the legal age of 16.


* 85 per cent of women in Afghanistan are illiterate.

* The number of girls going to school in Afghanistan is half that of boys.

* 300 schools were set on fire across the country this year.


* 70 per cent of tuberculosis deaths are among women.

* Death rate of mothers in labour is 60 in 1000 - (60 per cent higher than developed world).

* Only 5-7 per cent of women in Zabul and Helmand province have access to health care.


* 41 per cent of the 10.5 million registered voters are women. Women's registration rates in southern provinces were much lower than the national average: Zabul (9 per cent), Uruzgan (10 per cent) Helmand (16 per cent), and Kandahar (27 per cent)

In areas where the Taliban have been active, many schools for girls have been burned down and women leaders have been killed. Entire provinces have no schools for girls. Women's suicide rates are going up.

But like the fate of women in Darfur, their lot has been underreported and mostly goes unheralded. Before we listen to anybody tell us how Islamic rules about women are designed to protect them, we also need to see how those rules are used, and make our decisions after weighing all the facts.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Price of Being Christian in an Islamic Nation

It can be hard being a Christian in this day and age in an Islamic dominant country:

Yesterday morning at 11.15am local time, armed men attacked the Chaldean Church of the Holy Spirit in Mosul, firing at least 80 shots on the building. “Thank God there was no Mass at the time,” one member of the community told AsiaNews, “so no one was killed or injured, there was just some damage done to the eastern part of the building and a few broken windows.”

The atmosphere in the city is very tense. Recently, Muslim militias threatened the Catholic bishop and priests that unless they publicly condemned the address of the pope at the University of Regensburg within 72 hours, Christians would be killed and churches burned down. In recent years, some churches, shrines and even the bishop’s house were the target of terrorist attacks. For fear of further attacks, the bishop had posters put up to say that “neither Iraqi Christians nor the pope want to destroy ties with Muslims”.

Defying the prevailing atmosphere of terror, last night, Chaldean Catholics left their homes to participate in Vespers Mass in the very church that had been attacked. “Our faith is a challenge to violence. The militias fear us because our faith is stronger than their bullets,” a Christian told AsiaNews.

Yesterday morning in Baghdad, two bombs went off outside the Assyrian Orthodox Church of St Mary in the central neighbourhood of Karrada. The attackers put a bomb under the parish priest’s car. The blast, that took place at 9.30am, drew many people, including some from the parish. Immediately afterwards another bomb went off close by, injuring many people and killing a watchman of the church.

Some think these bombs targeted Christians in the wake of the controversy surrounding the pope’s speech in Regensburg. But in recent days, Orthodox communities distanced themselves from the words of the pope, putting up posters outside their churches expressing their disagreement with him. Some Catholic figures said the attack on St Mary’s Church was much more likely a vendetta based on ethnic-religious motives: the Assyrian Orthodox Patriarch recently visited communities in Kurdistan and probably the bombs were meant to be a threat by Sunni or Shiite militias against such ties with Kurds. (source)

Feministic Ironies

Some of the more disturbing stories coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan have dealt with the treatment of women in these countries, particularly in their treatment in judicial situations.

This is a land, where it is said, fathers don't always bother to learn the names of their daughters, and yet, behind the headcoverings and burkas, a heavy burden is laid on women in that they are the living symbol of their fathers' and brothers' honor.

At times, horrendous things can happen to them because of that value. Stories of honor killings filter through the news with a dismal regularity lately, but one of the nastiest tendencies in that part of the world is the use of judicial rape. Yet another case of this has surfaced lately:

A YOUNG Pakistani woman has been kidnapped, raped and beaten by a gang of high-caste villagers because her uncle eloped with one of their relatives. She was chosen for punishment because she had recently gained a degree and was the pride of her low-caste family.

Ghazala Shaheen, 24, and her mother Mumtaz were abducted last month by men dressed in police uniforms from their home near Multan in southern Punjab.

Her shocking ordeal mirrors that of Mukhtaran Mai, 29, who became a symbol in the campaign for women’s rights in Pakistan after she was gang-raped because her 12-year-old brother had been seen with a higher-caste woman. Six men were found guilty but five later had their convictions overturned.

That case provoked an international outcry and led to moves to reform Pakistan’s Islamic rape and adultery laws which effectively criminalise rape victims.

Last week human rights campaigners said Shaheen was unlikely to see her attackers brought to justice because President Pervez Musharraf had failed in an attempt to repeal the Hudood Ordinance, which requires four male Muslim witnesses to support a rape charge. If the accused is acquitted, the victim becomes liable to prosecution for adultery. (s0urce)

The old expectation was for women so abused was that they should commit suicide, and thus remove the stigma from their family, but in this day and age, some women are refusing to to this, and attention has been drawn to their plight.

There have been other incidents, such as the threatening of aid agencies who wanted to hire local women to work for them, or threatening the women who were hired with death.

Abuse of women was a trademark of the Taliban, and there were many horror stories that seeped out of Afghanistan, including the forbidding of women to receive an education, and women who were beaten because the religious police thought they walked too loudly And women were also stoned.

The desire to keep women in their place is still a factor. A recent murder of a woman in Afghanistan is a case in point:

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Gunmen riding motorcycles shot dead the head of a women's department in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar on Monday, a security official and a relative said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the shooting of Safia Ama January Taliban insurgents have killed numerous government officials as part of their war against the government and foreign forces supporting it.

Ama Jan was on her way to work, getting into a car outside her house, when the gunmen struck, said her nephew, who identified himself as just Farhad.

"She died on the spot," he told reporters.

Farhad declined to speculate on the identity or motive of the gunmen, except to say: "We had no personal enmity with anyone."

Ama Jan had served as the head of the province's women's affairs department since shortly after U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

A security official said no arrests had been made and an investigation had been launched.

The United Nations condemned the killing.

"UNAMA is appalled by this senseless murder of a woman who was simply working to ensure that all Afghan women play a full and equal part in the future of Afghanistan," said U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan spokesman Aleem Siddique. (source)

Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan and Somalia are all places where women's activities, rights, and protections under the law are all highly restricted, yet surprisingly there is little outcry about this in the West. It is one of the mysteries how on one hand feminists can seek out people like the president of Iran to come and give political talks, and on the other hand, not rally at the plight of the women under his rule, when they bristle at the very suggestion that men might be more gifted in certain endeavors here in this country, to the point of forcing people out of jobs for dare speaking it.

Some ironies are bitter, like the taste of blood in the mouth.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Nothing Isn't Something to Die for....

Thomas More, not long before he was executed for refusing to approve King Henry's divorce and remarriage, said in a letter to his daughter, “My case was such in this matter through the clearness of my own conscience that thought I might have pain I could not have harm, for a man may in such a case lose his head and not have harm.”

He had something he was willing to die for, that made his life worth living. To be willing to take a stand, one must have something worth dying for. If it's not worth dying for, it's not really worth living for, or striving for or making a stand over.

Today in the West finding that something can be difficult.

The trouble, of course, is that the comrades, long since disillusioned with Lenin, have adopted Lennon instead. Whereas the old Marxists believed in something, albeit something absurd and dangerous, New Labour believes in nothing; “nothing” as defined by John Lennon in his sentimentally pernicious imagination: “No heaven … no hell … no countries … nothing to kill or die for and no religion too.” This is the new hedonism with which the secularists want to unite British society; the new uniculturalism to replace the old multiculturalism. It is perhaps not surprising that many Muslims are unconvinced by this self-centered hedonism in which, to return to Lennon, “all the people” are “living for today.” If this is all we have to offer, to hell with it.

Joseph Pierce

One of the things, of course, that have attracted young persons to the Salafi viewpoint, even Americans of non-Islamic backgrounds, is it gives them something to fulfill that need to have something worth dying for. If there is nothing more than hedonism, egoism, and relativism offered, young idealistic people will find something else, somewhere.

Something to think about. What do we have to offer that is worth dying for? (A lot, I believe, but this is a question everyone must answer for themselves. Without it, why bother?)

Something to Contemplate: Hate and its costs

Hate is too great a burden to bear. It injures the hater more than it injures the hated.” Coretta Scott King

It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve; and bad things are very easy to get." Rene Descartes

“...Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.” Stephen King

Love blinds us to faults, hatred to virtues.

A recent Fox News poll gets at the disturbing truth: A majority of Democrats say they want to see the president fail. Such deep hatred is bad news for the country at a time when America needs to bridge the partisan divide. It's also bad news for the Democrats, who risk repeating the Republicans' mistakes of a decade ago, driving away the centrists they need to regain power or going too far if they do manage to win.

Fox's question was revealing: "Regardless of how you voted in the presidential election, would you say you want President Bush to succeed or not?" Democrats said "not," 51 percent to 40 percent - where the public at large wanted success by almost two to one.

In other words, the rage extends way beyond the lip-pierced Deaniacs, aging hippies and other fringes of the Democratic Party. Lots of otherwise sensible people - suburban moms, hospital orderlies, schoolteachers, big-hatted church ladies - detest George W. Bush.

When these Democrats say they want Bush to fail, might this mean that they simply reject what they see as his far-right religious and corporate agenda? If so, it's hard to see why independents - hardly right-wing zealots - hope he succeeds by 63 percent to 34 percent. Sadly, much of the Democratic Party wants to see this president crash and burn.

In fact, the fury against to Bush has reached unprecedented levels, even compared to the animosity among Republicans to his predecessor. Not long ago, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that "strong disapproval" of Bush was 10 points higher than that recorded for Bill Clinton at any point during his presidency, including his impeachment. (That wasn't during a war, either.)

Of course, Bush and the Republicans have helped stoke the anger with their own hardball partisanship under Clinton and during this presidency. And there is plenty in Bush's record that a loyal opposition can legitimately criticize.

Yet if Bush does fail - for instance, if Iraq spirals into civil war or the economy slides into recession - then America is in trouble. Making progress on these key issues, like others facing the country, will require bipartisan solutions, not political finger-pointing. (source) Craig Charney

It is possible that between the hate outside focused in on us, and the hate inside focused at our national heart, we will fall. And that, from my POV, will be a sad day, for it means a great experiment that tried to balance the forces will pull groups apart with that which pull groups together failed. And in its failure, much hope about how humans can live together in freedom will go down the drain.

Adding Fat to the Fire

I do point out a lot in this blog what is really being talked about in circles of those who do not wish the West well, and point out how those with the Salafi Jihadiya viewpoint manipulate their own fellow believers, and that there are serious problems between the two cultures that have to be bridged, otherwise we are fooling ourselves. I do not stand with those who want to condemn either Israel for existing or Islam for existing. Peace comes from not deluding oneself to what is actually happening, finding commonality to truly resolve problems, and creating win-win situations for all parties involved - anything else is just a temporary pause in an ongoing struggle that creates more real problems.

This story I found below, I believe, is NOT a way to respond:

...Keith Dennis of Dennis Mitsubishi talks about "launching a jihad on the automotive market."

Sales representatives "will be wearing burqas all weekend long," the ad says. One of the vehicles on sale "can comfortably seat up to 12 jihadists in the back."

"Our prices are lower than the evildoers’ every day. Just ask the pope! " the ad says. "Friday is fatwa Friday, with free rubber swords for the kiddies." (source)

The spokesperson from CAIR notes:

"Using that as a promotional pitch when so many are dying from the criminal activity of suicide bombers, that’s not funny," Mobin-Uddin said. "I don’t think it’s appropriate when it causes real pain. It exploits or promotes misunderstanding in terms already misunderstood or misused. That type of ad does nothing but promote discord in a very difficult time.

This is one time I do agree.