alleged today that Christian organizations are carrying out covert missions to convert poverty-stricken Muslims by offering them cash, free food and housing in a follow-up to a controversial church raid this week. “Sogok wang gadai akidah” [“Cash bribes faith pawned”], Berita Harian reported that certain organizations were hiding behind the guise of welfare aid and offering all manner of monthly cash allowances of at least RM1,000 to hard-hit Muslims and their families in an attempt to turn them into Christians.
The pro-Barisan Nasional newspaper did not name any of the organizations but posted a pixelised photo of a woman on its cover, which it captioned as “Jasmine admits receiving aid from a community church in Damansara Utama, Petaling Jaya”.
Last Wednesday, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) partnered the police and burst in on a multiracial dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) in Petaling Jaya based on a report that the Christian majority crowd was allegedly proselytizing to Muslim guests, triggering a nationwide uproar.
The religious enforcement force, which answers directly to the Sultan of Selangor as head of Islam in the frontline state, has been slammed for purportedly violating the rights of the minority non-Muslim community.
Selangor executive councillor in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Hasan Ali broke ranks with the state Pakatan Rakyat (PR) administration when he rose to defend Jais’ act, which he said was based on a complaint that the Christians had used the words “Quran” and “pray” in front of Muslims which he noted was a breach of Islamic law.
While not referring to any specific church, the national Malay daily said, “Each participant is promised a ‘new life’ by the organisation’s leader who portrayed himself as a ‘saviour’ if he follows the arranged programme, including changing his religion.”
It cited interviews with two former participants whom it named only as “Adazhan” and “Jasmine” who “admitted” to having received such aide and taken part in the programmes out of desperation.
Adazhan, said to be in his 30s, claimed he had been trained to become a “priest” for 10 years and convert his Muslim family.
“Before, I was given RM500 a month. For those with wives, they get an extra RM300 and RM 100 for each child… Now, the amount of financial aid has increased and it is understood some get more than RM1,000 a month,” Berita Harian quoted him as saying.
“I believe many have been duped after swallowing the persuasion and feel obligated with the aide received. Only, they fear to change their religious status in their MyKad,” Adazhana told Berita Harian yesterday.
Jasmine, whom the paper said was detained last Wednesday during the Jais church raid, revealed that Muslim participants were “forbidden to believe in Prophet Muhamad [pbuh], but was asked to follow the teachings of ‘Nabi Isa’ [Prophet Jesus] through talks and songs during the entire function”.
“They promised to settle all problems before the target is brought to attend the get-to-know you sessions and secretive talks. Usually, interest to join the organization arises after listening to speeches from religious leaders from Sabah, Sarawak and Indonesia,” reported Berita Harian quoting the woman as saying, adding she joined the church organization two years ago.
It alleged that Christian evangelists were using the “soft approach” to persuade Malays to convert from Islam to Christianity.
“The evangelists or pastor never forced me to enter their religion but persisted using the soft approach through persuasion apart from helping me until the end until I felt I owed them and complied with following their religious programme which normally happens twice a week,” it quoted an unnamed woman detained during the DUMC raid as saying.
“We were given a Malay version of the bible and supplied with a tape recording containing religious songs to memorise before being exposed to talks that rejected Islam and Prophet Muhammad [pbuh],” she said.
Both newspapers are published by The New Straits Times Press Bhd, a unit of the Umno-linked media giant Media Prima Bhd.
All people dream. We all have visions, but we are not prophets. Prophets are especially tuned in to their powers of observation and association. Most people think that the prophets in the Bible saw visions that predicted the future. Not so. A prophet is a statesman; he merely relays what he sees or hears in his dreams.
Go back to Genesis. The last three dreams are those of Pharaoh, his chief butler and his chief baker. The trouble is that neither they nor the royal astrologers could correctly interpret them. Joseph, the Hebrew slave, had to be brought forth from the dungeon to explain the hidden meaning. “Do not all interpretations belong to God?” (Genesis 40:8).
A few persons may be psychically gifted. Jeanne Dixon “witnessed” the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. She did not “see” when, how or why. Nostradamus reportedly warned of Hitler in his quatrains (or was it the Hister River?). A thousand years after Moses, Ezekiel proclaimed the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones: “Hear the voice of the Lord … the knee bone connected to the ankle bone…”
During my year’s study in Israel, I was positive that I knew what the prophet had seen. “From the four corners of the earth, breathe upon these dry bones that they may live.” From all four corners of the earth, Jews were returning to their homeland: from Ethiopia to the South, from the USA and Canada to the West, from India and Russia to the North, from Thailand to the East. A nation was being reborn; a new spirit was infused into the people, the long night of exile was ended. That sentiment was merely my observation and association based on my understanding of the 37th chapter of Ezekiel.
This was no different from my “prophecy” in the presence of 750 congregants several weeks before the 1992 presidential elections. Being left-handed myself, I stated unequivocally in that Sabbath morning sermon that the next president of the USA would be left-handed. “How did you know?” some congregants inquired. Simple, I responded. Before it was published and was widely known, I had observed from watching them write on television that William Jefferson Clinton, George H. W. Bush and H. Ross Perot are all left-handed.
Similarly, I also wrote in my column that the world would end in the year 5845 (We are currently in the Jewish year 5771). Did I make an eschatological study a la Harold Camping? No; I took the total number of verses in The Five Books of Moses. That number corresponds to the Hebrew word hachamah, which means “the sun.” The Talmud offers the opinion that this universe is one of many worlds that God has created. The duration of our life on earth is equivalent to the length of our sun supplying us with the perfect amount of light and warmth for approximately 6,000 counted years.
The primary problem with prophecy today is that we do not receive the news accurately; it is always slanted left or right. The leftist media adheres to the mantra “We distort, We decide,” according to conservative columnist Cal Thomas. Right-leaning news outlets, trumpeted as “fair and balanced,” appear “fair” only in the sense that they are not good or bad, but only fair. Sometimes, a few of their more radical commentators can come across not as balanced, but as mentally unbalanced, like the Norwegian Christian fundamentalist Anders Behring Breivik who massacred scores of innocent youth. His vision was as skewed in his manifesto as the vision of those extremist pro-lifers who kill abortion clinic doctors and nurses in the name of saving lives of the unborn.
When Moses was alerted by his disciple Joshua that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp, he calmly responded, “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:25). Every human being has the capability of dreaming about the future. Each of us can make those visions come true. It all depends on the proper interpretation.
If God Had A Blog, What Would be his comments be? Malaysia’s Christianphobia “Eurabia” Islamophobic
Growing up in the diverse black communities of Brooklyn, NY, being Muslim was not really a strange thing. And to a certain extent the same could be said for the rest of the city. For example, a few years ago I attended abombazo
in the South Bronx and while there, I needed to make one of the five daily prayers. In addition to an inconspicuous place to make salat
, I needed to figure out the direction of Mecca, northeast. All I asked one of the event organizers, who was not a Muslim, was: “Do you know which way is east?” To which she immediately responded, “Oh, you need to pray?” and then led me to a quiet and clean place where I could do just that. This familiarity with Islam comes from the role that various everyday and prominent Muslims, like Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, have played in shaping black identity and fighting against racial inequality. And when hip hop took up Black Nationalism in the 80s and 90s, being Muslim was not only familiar but also cool. Even Ramadan
, which incidentally began this week, had a cameo, albeit irreverent, in the hip hop track “Kick in the Door” where Biggie Smalls rhymes “quick fast, like Ramadan.”
This is why I remain perplexed at the ascendance of African Americans who spew the rhetoric of anti-Muslim bias. Last year, there was Juan Williams’ inextricable fear ofMuslim garb
(whatever that is). Then there was the surprising discovery that black residents
are participating in the campaign against the expansion of a local mosque in Murfreesboro, TN. And then there were the most recent and egregious comments of Herman Cain, for which, to be fair, he later apologized
Now even in my nostalgia about the Brooklyn of my youth, I can recall some hostility toward Islam and Muslims. This came from some black Christians — for perhaps obvious theological reasons–and from certain Afrocentrists who espouse what University of Michigan Professor Sherman Jackson
has termed “Black Orientalism,” the reductive ideological position in which Islam is a synonym for Arab and therefore culpable in the East African slave trade and any and all forms of Arab “imperialism.” Yet the anti-Muslim bias found in the statements of Williams and Cain is starkly different from these older hostilities. This is because today’s anti-Muslim bias has its roots in America’s history of white supremacy.
Like the anti-black racism that underpins white supremacy, anti-Muslim bias is a practice of discrimination, individual and systemic, that is fueled by a perceived threat. Black people threaten the [white] nation through their violent behavior, pathologies, and overall “bad” culture. Muslim people threaten the [yes, still white] nation through their violent behavior, pathologies, and overall “bad” culture. These similarities can be found in the private sphere: “Whites Only” signs in the Jim and Jane Crow south and “No Muslims Inside
” signs in 21st century Alabama, as well as mid-century housing covenants to prevent black home ownership and current attempts to manipulate zoning ordinances to prevent the construction of mosques.
Critically, the similarities also extend in to the public sphere: practices of racial profiling that lead to parallel phenomenon of Driving While Black and Flying While Muslim (imagine if you are black and Muslim!) and the return of COINTELPRO-like tactics of surveillance and infiltration in today’s Muslim communities.
In light of these and other parallels, how do some African-Americans come to jump on the anti-Muslim bias bandwagon? There are likely many answers to that question. One that I would like to suggest is that the bandwagon can be alluring to a community that is usually made to walk. Meaning that, some black people, consciously or subconsciously, take on anti-Muslim attitudes as a means to an end — to access the privileges of being a full-fledged American that have been so long denied blacks in this country. Of course, this route toward full citizenship is peculiar when juxtaposed against reports like the recent one on the widening of the racial wealth
gap; reports, which remind us that, on the whole, whites, and non-whites are living in very different Americas. And unfortunately, black American Islamophobes, blaming it on the Muslims — who are also black — won’t change that. What the black American Islamophobe needs to realize is that the anti-Muslim bias is not a means to full citizenship. Rather, the “Muslim peril” is just the newest boogey man deployed to uphold the status quo and thereby distract our attention from demanding and making meaningful and equitable change for all Americans.
In justification of his attacks in Norway, killing more than seventy civilians, mostly teenagers, Anders Breivik issued a manifesto: 2083 A European Declaration of Independence. It has been widely reported that he cited a long list of Islamophobic and “counterjihad” writers such as the Americans Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, Pamela Geller and Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy – and the Egyptian-born, Swiss-based Bat Ye’or who has popularised the concept of “Eurabia” – the supposedly secret conspiracy for the Islamic takeover of Europe. Less prominent, but also cited, was a UK think-tank that is close to the UK government and credited with influencing UK anti-terrorist policy. Policy Exchange is one of two conservative think-tanks we examine in our new Spinwatch report [PDF], that attempts to understand the current climate of fear being whipped up against Muslims in Britain – and indeed across Europe and the US.
The citation of Policy Exchange seems innocent enough, as Breivik simply cites public opinion data published by the think-tank. However, as it happens, this precise data is highlighted in our report as an indication of the potential for bias and ideology in the way think-tanks such as Policy Exchange operate. Our report also examines another key conservative think-tank that has been prominent in arguing for a counter-subversion approach to Islam, the Centre for Social Cohesion.
The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) was founded in 2007 as a project of the conservative think-tank Civitas. Its emphasis was in line with Civitas‘ previous work on the subject. A key example was The “West”, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy? – a 2003 pamphlet [PDF] whose authors Caroline Cox and John Marks would later become directors of the CSC. They argued that “Islamist terrorism” was only part of a broader ideological challenge comparable to communist propaganda efforts during the Cold War. This vision was reflected in the appointment of Douglas Murray as the centre’s director; the author of Neoconservatism: Why We Need It. By the time he joined the CSC, Murray had already established a reputation as a critic of Islam, most notably in a 2006 speech in which he argued that “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board”.
The CSC’s first full length report was Hate on the State: How British Libraries Encourage Extremism [PDF]. It criticised the London Borough of Tower Hamlets for stocking “several hundred books and audio tapes by radical Islamists” in its libraries and criticised the failure to include Stephen Schwartz and Ibn Warraq, two writers associated with the counterjihad perspective.
Downplaying the rise of the right
The CSC has not focused solely on Islam and has produced two reports on the British far-right: The BNP and the Online Fascist Network (2009) and Blood & Honour: Britain’s Far-Right Militants (2010). The British National Party (BNP) report underplays the extent to which the BNP has been influenced by other Islamophobic currents. The BNP’s alliance with the counterjihad movement and the subsequent emergence of the English Defence League were among the most significant developments on the British far right in recent years. Yet neither of the CSC’s reports on the far right addressed them. This is perhaps not surprising in the light of the CSC’s own contacts with the counterjihad movement.
In August 2009, CSC’s director Douglas Murray met with leading counterjihad activist Robert Spencer, and Martin Mawyer of the US Christian Action Network. The event would later spark controversy because of the attendance of three members of the far-right English Defence League. In marked contrast to the CSC’s analysis of other forms of political extremism, Douglas Murray has characterised the EDL as a predictable response to political failure and recently commended the EDL as “a grassroots response from non-Muslims to Islamism”. This must raise fundamental doubts about the CSC’s ability to fulfil its self-proclaimed mandate. Can it really offer a serious analysis of threats to social cohesion in Britain, when one of the biggest emerging threats has its roots in a counterjihad ideology that the CSC shares to a significant extent?
Policy Exchange has a much broader remit than CSC and publishes research on a range of political issues. It was established in 2002 by a group of Conservative MPs who called for the Tories to position themselves to the right of New Labour not by focusing on divisive issues like immigration or the EU but by developing a critique of the state.
Policy Exchange’s first chairman was Michael Gove – now Britain’s secretary of state for education. In July 2006, the same month Policy Exchange published its first report on Islamism, it hosted a book launch for Gove’s neoconservative polemic Celsius 7/7. In the book, Gove argued that what he called “fundamentalist terror” had been facilitated by the “sapping of confidence in Western values, encouraged by the radical Left since 1968”. He thanked a number of people for helping to shape his thinking, amongst whom were Douglas Murray of the Centre for Social Cohesion and Dean Godson, who that year was appointed head of Policy Exchange’s Foreign Policy & Security Unit. Godson comes from a family with a history of involvement in propaganda and covert action. Under his leadership,Policy Exchange’s major preoccupation has been with a perceived need to reassert “western values” against “extremism” and the liberal political climate in which it is thought to thrive.
Godson’s unit published a number of reports calling on the government to sever its links with particular individuals or groups and to expand its surveillance of Muslim communities. The most notorious of these reports was published in October 2007 and entitled The Hijacking of British Islam. The report was written by Denis MacEoin – an author of crime thrillers and ghost stories. It claimed to “demonstrate unequivocally that separatist and hate literature, written and disseminated in the name of Islam, is widely available in the UK”, and called for mosques to be made to “clean up their act”. It was subsequently removed from Policy Exchange’s website after the BBC discovered evidence suggesting that its findings had been fabricated.
Leftists and immigrants to blame
An earlier report entitled Living Apart Together, blamed multiculturalism for a rise in “anti-Western ideas” among Muslims and non-Muslims. It sought to downplay experiences of Islamophobia and discrimination faced by Muslims in Britain, which are described as “myths” and attributed to a “victim mentality”. The idea that Islam presents a political or cultural threat has been most explicitly developed in Policy Exchange’s 2009 pamphlet Choosing Our Friends Wisely. The authors criticised the Labour government for “stress[ing] law enforcement and strict security concerns over and above everything else”, and argued that government policy should expand its focus from “preventing violent extremism” to countering what it calls “non-violent radicals”, who it is claimed are “indoctrinating young people with an ideology of hostility to western values”. The report explicitly calls for the British state to engage in large-scale political counter-subversion.
We wrote to Policy Exchange and the CSC requesting, in the interests of transparency, that they disclose its sources of funding. The CSC stated in its response only that it was funded by private donations and has “neither sought nor received public funds”. Policy Exchange failed to respond. Nevertheless, our report reveals for the first time the network of individuals and foundations that are bankrolling both think-tanks. Donors identified in the report include the neoconservative Rosenkranz Foundation in the United States, and hardline Zionists such as Stanley Kalms and the late Cyril Stein in the UK. It reveals that both think-tanks share major donors with a number of controversial organisations – including the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers, the Israel-Diaspora Trust (an organisation founded by the late Rabbi Sidney Brichto, a passionate supporter of Israel and scourge of its critics inside and outside the UK Jewish community) and the Anglo-Israel Association, founded in 1949 by the Christian Zionist Sir Wyndham Deedes. His nephew William Deedes became an editor of the Daily Telegraph and, in 2006,wrote an opinion piece entitled: “Muslims can never conform to our ways“.
The policies advocated by the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange, and apparently endorsed by Britain’s coalition government, will have grave consequences for British politics if they are not challenged. Such an approach will inevitably mean the curtailment of civil liberties and the narrowing of political debate. For British Muslims, the consequences may be even more serious. Furthermore, the Islamophobic undercurrent of such policies simultaneously risks further fuelling the racist violence against Muslims perpetrated by groups such as the British National Party and the English Defence League – ironically the very extremism that organisations like the Centre for Social Cohesion and Policy Exchange claim to oppose.
By Richard Khavkine Religion News Service
LIVINGSTON, N.J. (RNS) It started as a simple gesture.
But it could have implications far beyond the quiet New Jersey street where Patrick Racaniello affixed a wooden cross on a tree in his front yard.
Livingston Township officials say Racaniello’s display, which he intended as a celebration of Lent, violated an ordinance that generally prohibits postings on a structure, including a tree, “calculated to attract the attention of the public.”
Advised of the ordinance, Racaniello removed the cross. But he then built a second, much larger cross that he planted on his property just within the township’s 10-foot right of way. Racaniello, again facing fines, took down that cross, too.
He also contacted the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund
, a coalition of conservative Christian lawyers. The alliance told the township it may take the matter to court if officials don’t allow Racaniello to put the cross wherever he wants on his property.
“We believe this is private property, and therefore he has a right to engage in this expression,” Jonathan Scruggs, a lawyer for the alliance, said in an interview. “We believe that either cross is protected by the First Amendment.”
The judicial outcome of this conflict between an Essex County town and an Arizona legal group, scholars say, could go a long way to determine the reach of a 2000 federal land-use law intended to protect religious expression.
Racaniello, whom neighbors described as an entrepreneur, declined to answer questions, and referred all inquiries to ADF.
Scruggs said he would wait for the township’s written response before the alliance decides whether to proceed with litigation.
Township attorney Sharon L. Weiner said the town is enforcing its right of way for the public good.
“It is a distraction to the traveling public,” she said of the cross and other postings in the 10-foot buffer.
The town will yield one point to Racaniello. She said the town council will tweak its code to allow residents to fasten a cross on a tree on property not within the right of way.
Weiner emphasized the township was not singling out Racaniello or his display.
“We’re very sensitive to his First Amendment rights,” she said.
Charles C. Haynes, a First Amendment scholar, said a federal law enacted by Congress a decade ago could trump the township’s regulations. In part, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000
says government entities cannot impose a land-use regulation that burdens a person’s free exercise of religion unless there is “a compelling governmental interest.” That regulation must also be the least restrictive to religious practice, the act says.
The burden of proof, in other words, could fall on Livingston, said Haynes, a senior scholar at the nonpartisan First Amendment Center
“Under current law, I think this guy has a pretty strong case,” said Haynes, also the director of the Religious Freedom Education Project at the Washington, D.C.-based Newseum. “I’m not sure what the township thinks is a problem. … It might mean that the town has a problem.”
Because the tree is on Racaniello’s property, the town’s interest could be particularly difficult to establish, Haynes said.
Should the matter go to court, Haynes said, a ruling would help determine the federal law’s reach.
A New York-based constitutional lawyer, Akiva Shapiro, said a court case would likely focus on the township’s application of its ordinances apart from this instance.
“At first blush, if somebody had a decorative lawn ornament in their front yard, and those were not targeted, that might suggest some discriminatory application,” said Shapiro, who has argued a number of religious freedom cases.
Shapiro, though, said any litigation could also hinge on the First Amendment. “Putting up the cross is an expressive activity,” he said, that often finds favor with the courts.
The law passed in 2000, Shapiro said, was meant to ensure those activities were given added protection, which could work in Racaniello’s favor. The religious land use act “was passed because Congress wished to give a cushion beyond the First Amendment to religious activity,” he said.
But Weiner, a former town council member and a land-use attorney in her private practice, said the township reviewed case law tied to the act, and was skeptical it could be applied successfully in this case.
“That deals with land-use regulations,” Weiner said of the act. It would not apply in this instance since the township is not keeping organized religious activity, such as the construction of a church, from taking place, she said.
Weiner, who is preparing a written response to Scruggs’ letter, said township officials were disturbed and frustrated at the alliance’s apparent effort to make the issue a test case. In doing so, alliance attorneys are unjustly painting the township as intolerant, she said.
“They’re making it out that, because it’s a cross, we’re not allowing it. That’s not so. It’s a content-neutral regulation,” Weiner said. “I’m afraid they’re going to make this a cause celebre.”
Christian groups are calling for evidence behind two Malay dailies’ allegations that they are trying to convert Muslims through welfare aid.
Berita Harian and Harian Metro reported today that certain Christian organisations were hiding behind the guise of welfare aid by offering monthly cash allowances of at least RM1,000 to hard-hit Muslims and their families in an attempt to turn them into Christians.
The pro-Barisan Nasional newspapers’ allegations came after the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) and the police raided a multiracial dinner at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church in Petaling Jaya last Wednesday night, based on a report that the Christian-majority crowd was allegedly proselytising to Muslim guests.
“If you’re saying that Christians give RM5,000, now you convert, show the proof,” Council of Churches of Malaysia general secretary Rev Dr Hermen Shastri (picture)
told The Malaysian Insider
“By making this statement, they’re trying to disrupt the good relations between the religious communities in the country by taking on the Christians,” he said.
Umno-owned newspaper Utusan Malaysia recently accused Christians of plotting to take over the government and claimed that the July 9 Bersih rally was funded by Christian organisations.
The controversial Jais raid has increased religious tension in the country, where churches were fire-bombed last year and Christians were barred from referring to their god as “Allah”.
Shastri pointed out that Muslims also did welfare work.
“As a result, some are being converted to Islam because they see the good work of the Muslims,” he said.
“If a person gives RM10,000 and you convert, that’s wrong. But if person is often in a home, then leaves the home, is impressed by Catholic sisters and becomes Catholic, what’s wrong with that?” asked the pastor.
National Evangelical Christian Fellowship chairman Rev Dr Eu Hong Seng stressed that Christians gave aid regardless of race or religion.
“We will help anybody and everybody and we don’t expect anything in return. Just because I help you doesn’t mean I want you to convert,” he said.
The pastor pointed out that he has yet to see someone converting to Christianity after receiving welfare aid from Christian organisations.
Berita Harian quoted a woman — who was detained during the Jais raid — as saying that Muslim participants were forbidden to believe in Prophet Muhammad, but were asked to follow Jesus’ teachings through talks and songs during the dinner.
“The church has got weddings, funerals. You mean, in my funeral songs, because a Muslim comes to pay respects to his friend who died, I must stop singing hymns? You come to my place of worship, that is what we do lah,” said Eu in response.