Light for the Last Days

Islam and prophecy – News items from 2016.

Here is a selection of news items of interest on the subject of Islam and prophecy.

The Sunni Shiite conflict in the Middle East.

Here is an interesting analysis of what is happening in the Middle East by Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior lecturer in the Department of Arabic at Bar-Ilan University, Israel:

The Shiites are watching their dreams come true, as the Sunnis find themselves caught in a nightmare. This, dear readers, is the way of the Middle East.

The struggle for succession began in the year 632 CE, from the minute the Prophet Mohammed closed his eyes for eternity.  His cousin Ali ibn Abi Talib, who became Mohammed’s son in law when he married the prophet’s daughter Fatimah, claimed that he deserved to inherit the leadership of Islam since Mohammed had promised it to him.  His rivals pushed him to the sidelines, brushing off his story, so that it took 24 years of bitter struggles for Ali to be crowned the fourth Caliph and even then he had no time for resting on his laurels, because the governor of Damascus, Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufian, rebelled against him forthwith. In 661, six years after becoming Caliph, Ali was murdered and Muawiyah became the fifth Caliph. Ali’s sons continued to fight, but the new Caliph showed them no mercy: Hussein ibn Ali was beheaded in 680 and his head displayed in Damascus.

Muslims who supported Ali and his claims to the throne are known as Shiites, while those supporting his foes and who eliminated his heirs are the Sunnis.  This 1384-year-old struggle permeates the history, philosophic thought and political aspirations of the Nation of Mohammed. It is waged on different levels, from holy writings to the wording of prayers, from the system of laws all the way to people’s names, but its main arena is the battlefield, one on which millions of Muslims have met their deaths and where massacres have been perpetrated by both sides with depressing frequency.

The 1980-1988 war between Sunni Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Shiite Khomeini’s Iran took the lives of over a million people, left millions more wounded and is still going on with full force in several arenas: Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and more. Saudi Arabia leads the Sunni struggle today, while Iran represents the Shiites.

About 85% of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, while the remaining 15% are Shiite. This normally gives the Sunnis an advantage, allowing for victory and control on their part, leaving the defeated Shiites to hope and pray for the situation to change.  The sad state of the Shiites led them to call themselves by the Quranic euphemism ‘Almustdaafin’ – the downtrodden of the earth. They continued to hope and pray for the day they would find themselves on the top of the heap with the Sunnis trampled underneath them – and it looks as though their wishes have come true over the past few years, especially since the Iranian revolution led by Khomeini in 1979. The rebellion gave the Shiite clerics a wealthy, large and powerful country, a centre from which they could export their revolution to the rest of the world.

The goal of ‘exporting the revolution’ was realised by sending Iranian propagandists, educators, funding and books to every country that has a Shiite population, so as to awaken and revive their anti-Sunni feelings, this to be followed once the time is ripe, by weapons, arms and training with the objective of bringing the Shiites to a position of power in each country.

In front of the world’s open and unblinking eyes, Iran developed rockets, tanks, artillery and planes, as well as biological, chemical and even atomic weapons.
 The world, despite realising what Iran is doing and what its intentions are, generally ignored the Ayatollahs’ hegemonic ambitions, because Iran’s gas and petroleum exports were seen as above any other consideration, including national stability and world peace. In front of the world’s open and unblinking eyes, Iran developed rockets, tanks, artillery and planes, as well as biological, chemical and even atomic weapons.  There were attempts to stop Iran’s rapid empowerment, but thanks to Russia and China, Iran’s friends on the Security Council, the Ayatollahs were allowed to progress unimpeded towards their planned takeover of the Islamic world.

The United States toppled the most dangerous and powerful enemy of the Shiites, Saddam Hussein, in 2003. The Ayatollahs saw this as a sign from heaven that they are headed in the right direction. After all, Allah had granted them the helping hand of two global powers, Russia in the Security Council and the United States in Iraq. The Ayatollahs continued their nuclear programme and suffered the resulting sanctions, but their steadfastness in the face of American weakness led to the agreement they signed in 2015. The billions of dollars given to the Ayatollahs as a result of that agreement and invested in the killing fields of the Middle East today, proved to the Shiites that the road to the pinnacle of world power stretches open before them.

Thanks to the West’s war with Saddam Hussein, the Shiites managed to rescue Iraq from the Sunni claws, and today, thanks to the Russians they will succeed in extricating Syria from its Sunni majority population. The Shiites, as we have seen over the last few months in Falluja, Ramadi, Aleppo, and Yemen, have been mercilessly butchering the Sunni civilian population and are now approaching Mosul, the economic capital of Iraq.

The battles of Mosul in Iraq and Aleppo in Syria could see an expansion of the area controlled by allies of Iran. Israeli military officials are concerned that the advance of Shia militias, led by Iranian Revolutionary Guard officers – involved in both battles – could be part of the realisation of a long-held plan to create a ‘Shia Crescent’ stretching from Iran’s borders to Hizbollah’s strongholds in Lebanon.  While the battle being waged by an international coalition against Daesh around Mosul and the bloody siege of Aleppo are far from over, the involvement of Iranian-controlled militias in both campaigns is causing concern within Israel’s security establishment.  An overland corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean not only bolsters Iran’s influence in the region, but will serve as a route to send arms to its proxies, chief among them Hizbollah.

It is terribly sad to see how the dispute over Mohammed’s inheritance almost 1400 years ago, is still an open wound in this part of the world. The struggle is horrifying, because it has no geographic or moral restraints and everything is quite predictable.  The behavioural code of the Middle East is that only the strong survive. The weakling? – too bad for him. Here conflicts are not resolved, they are won, and they go on until one side does not exist anymore. Disputes are solved when one side gives in, surrenders or is eliminated.

Hostility at the Hajj.

The annual hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia reached its climax on September 11th with 1.5 million Muslims gathering at Mount Arafat to offer day-long prayers and recitations from the Koran.  The pilgrims congregated from sunrise at the site and the vast plain which surrounds it, about 15km from Mecca.  

After the stampede that killed around 2300 people last year at the hajj, new security measures have been added.  Electronic bracelets have been supplied to the pilgrims in order to identify them quickly.  So modern high tech ID systems are being added to this ancient ceremony!  

Absent from the pilgrimage have been tens of thousands of Shia Iranians because of a long-running tensions with Saudi Arabia. Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia were already at rock bottom before the regional rivals started trading barbs ahead of the start of the annual hajj pilgrimage.  Iranians have been blocked from joining the hajj for the first time in almost 30 years after talks on security and logistics fell apart in May.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on the Muslim world to unite and punish the Saudi government for its handling of the hajj pilgrimage and wider actions in the region.  ‘Regional countries and the world of Islam should take coordinated actions to resolve problems and punish the Saudi government,’ he told a cabinet meeting, according to the IRNA state news agency.  ‘Unfortunately, this government by committing crimes in the region and supporting terrorism in fact shed the blood of Muslims in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.’   Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia of ‘murder’ over the deaths of nearly 2,300 pilgrims, including hundreds of Iranians, in a stampede during last year’s pilgrimage.  

In response Mecca province governor Prince Khaled al-Faisal, has accused Iran of ‘lies and slanders made against the kingdom.’  His message to the Iranian leadership was ‘I pray to Allah Almighty to guide them and to deter them from their transgression and their wrong attitudes toward their fellow Muslim among the Arabs in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and around the world. But if they are preparing an army to invade us, we are not easily taken by someone who would make war on us.’  Saudi Arabia’s most senior cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, added to the war of words saying that Shiite Iranians were ‘not Muslims, as they are the descendents of the Magus, and their animosity towards Muslims – especially the Sunnis – is very ancient.’   

The hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran is fuelled by the hatred between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, another factor complicating the fractured Middle East.  Sadly Islam is much better at causing people to hate one another than to love one another.  Another reason why the Muslims need the Lord Jesus Christ.

Turkey coup unleashes crackdown.

Since the failed coup against Turkey’s President Erdogan, around 6000 military officials and judges have been arrested.  He said the coup was ‘a gift from God’ because it would allow him now to ‘cleanse the army’.  The purge has now extended to education with about 15,200 teachers and university professors being sacked for alleged involvement with a group the government claims is responsible for the coup.

Erdoğan has been criticised for eroding the secular nature of the Turkish state, and undermining Turkish democracy. Most analysts agree that the failed coup has given him the public support he needs to push for a change to the political system. Erdoğan wants to formally centralise power around himself as president, rather than the parliament – continuing an autocratic trend that he has led in recent years.

Erdogan has blamed Fethullah Gulen, who was a former key ally his and is now living in exile in the USA of orchestrating the coup, using his contacts to develop a ‘parallel structure’ to overthrow the state.  Gulen in turn has accused Erdogan of staging the coup in order to crack down on his enemies and give himself absolute power.  The EU commissioner dealing with Turkey’s long-stalled bid for membership of the bloc said it appeared that the Turkish government had already prepared before the coup a list of people to be rounded up, which also raises the possibility of some kind of government conspiracy.

Turkey is a NATO member and has become a key player in the EU’s attempt to cut down the number of migrants coming into Europe from the Middle East.  It remains a candidate for EU accession.  Turkey’s secular constitution has been backed by the army, but Erdogan has been gradually replacing this with an Islamist agenda along the lines of the Muslim Brotherhood.  Turkey is a strategic bridge between Europe and the Middle East.  Geographically it is situated in the eastern leg of the Roman Empire (Daniel 2.33), which once had its capital in Constantinople (modern Istanbul).  The Byzantine Empire which succeeded the Roman Empire also had its capital in Constantinople / Byzantium from where it ruled over much of the Middle East until its fall to the invading Muslim Turks in 1453.  The Muslim Ottoman Empire then ruled over much of the Middle East, including Palestine until Jerusalem fell to the British in 1917.  Pergamum ‘where Satan’s throne is’ (Revelation 3.13) is also in modern Turkey.  Togarmah, one of the countries in the Gog and Magog alliance coming against Israel in the latter days (Ezekiel 38.6) is also associated with Turkey by most scholars.  

Some have claimed Erdogan is behaving like an Ottoman sultan.  He has made statements which appear to say that he is seeking the reestablishment of the Ottoman Empire and the expansion of Islam back to the borders reached by the Muslim invasion of Europe. There cannot be any doubt that Turkish admission to the EU would open the borders to Europe to the millions of Turks who still fanatically believe in the reconquest of the former lands of the Ottoman Empire—and the Islamification of Europe.  Watch this space.

Turkey and Russia.

In the post above, I mentioned that the ancient name for the geographical area of modern Turkey is Togarmah.  This is one of the countries in the Gog and Magog alliance coming against Israel in the latter days (Ezekiel 38.6).  This alliance is led by the power to the uttermost north (Russia) in alliance with a number of countries including Persia (Iran).  

In recent times Turkey has found itself on the opposite side to Russia and Iran over Syria, where Turkey wishes to see the overthrow of Assad’s regime, while Russia and Iran have intervened to keep Assad in power.  Turkey is Sunni Muslim while Iran is Shiite Muslim, another major cause of division between these powers.  However this report from the Gatestone Institute makes interesting reading and suggests things may be changing.

‘The deepening diplomatic pact between Turkey and Russia represents yet another damning indictment of the Obama Administration’s ability to maintain relations with Washington’s traditional allies in the Middle East.  Western diplomats regard the decision by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to restore relations with Moscow last month as part of a carefully-coordinated attempt by Ankara to build a new power base in the region.  For decades Turkey, a key NATO member, has said that it wants to forge closer ties with the West, to the extent that Turkish diplomats insist that Ankara is still serious about joining the European Union

But the increasingly hard-line Islamist approach taken by Mr Erdogan in the wake of the failed military coup, which has seen tens of thousands of judges, academics and journalists forced from their jobs, has caused the Turkish government to realise the prospects of maintaining relations with its Western allies are remote so long as it continues with the current crack-down.  Turkey is angry with the US for allowing the one Erdogan holds responsible for the coup, Fetullah Gulen to have sanctuary in the US

This had led Mr Erdogan to embark on a campaign to reach out to countries such as Russia, which he regards as a viable alternative to the U.S. in protecting Turkey’s interests in the region.  The big stumbling block preventing Turkey from having better relations with Russia was that Moscow was helping to keep the Assad regime in power through the military intervention by Russian forces that began last year.  But in recent months the Kremlin has hinted that keeping Assad in power is not its primary concern. Rather its main objective in Syria is to protect its strategically-important military bases in the country.

This has led to suggestions that, in return for building closer relations with Turkey, Moscow might be prepared to do a deal whereby Assad is removed from power and Russia’s military interests in the country are safeguarded.  And if that outcome could be achieved, then Turkey and Russia would be able to forge a powerful partnership, one that would pose a serious threat to Western interests in the Middle East and beyond.’

Russian Ground Force Participating in War on Terrorism in Syria

Media sources released that Russian Army soldiers have been engaged in several anti-terrorism operations across Syria.  The Arabic language al-Hadath news website reported that the Russian ground troops are present in the centres of several cities in Homs, Aleppo and Damascus province in addition to the missions they are doing in the military bases of Lattakia and Tartous.  The website added that the Russian soldiers have been deployed in several important airports, including T4 airbase in Eastern Homs, Aleppo airport and Damascus airport, while the Russian forces have serious presence in al-Zabadani and Palmyra (Tadmur) regions.  Al-Hadath underlined that the Russian Special Forces have carried out several outside battlefield operations. “Thousands of Russian forces and experts are in Syria,” the website added.

Fall of Dabiq a blow to ISIS.

The small dusty town of Dabiq, close to the Syrian border with Turkey, is not of great strategic value in the war with ISIS.  However it is of great symbolic significance because ISIS believes that this is the site of a Muslim prophecy for the coming of the Mahdi and the end of days.  Dr Timothy Furnish, an international commentator on radical Islam explained:  ‘ISIS believes quite strongly that the primary eschatological battle between the Muslims and the Christian forces will be fought there.’  This will make way for the appearance of the Mahdi, their end time saviour who will present the infidels with the choice between conversion to Islam or death and lead the way to the worldwide triumph of Islam.  

In the event ISIS lost control of Dabiq as it fell to Syrian opposition fighters with help from Turkey.   So the combatants on both sides were Muslims, making the so-called prophecy which has motivated ISIS null and void.  This could lead to disillusion amongst the Islamic State fighters.  Others say it could be a catalyst setting off intensified ISIS terror attacks around the world in an attempt to fulfil the prophecy.

At the same time the big battle for Mosul gets underway, as a combination of Iraqi and Kurdish forces gather to drive Islamic State out of its biggest prize, Iraq’s second city.  Since ISIS leader Abu Bark al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of a caliphate from the city in June 2014, Mosul has been central to the group’s ambitions to spread its ruthless interpretation of Islamic law throughout the Arab world and beyond.  

Mosul dam engineers warn it could fail at any time, killing 1m people.

Iraqi engineers involved in building the Mosul dam 30 years ago have warned that the risk of its imminent collapse and the consequent death toll could be even worse than reported.  They pointed out that pressure on the dam’s compromised structure was building up rapidly as winter snows melted and more water flowed into the reservoir, bringing it up to its maximum capacity, while the sluice gates normally used to relieve that pressure were jammed shut.

The Iraqi engineers also said the failure to replace machinery or assemble a full workforce more than a year after Islamic State temporarily held the dam means that the chasms in the porous rock under the dam were getting bigger and more dangerous every day.

On February 24th the Iraqi government announced it had signed a €273m (£210m) contract with an Italian contractor to reinforce and maintain the Mosul dam for 18 months, following talks in New York between the Italian foreign minister, Paolo Gentiloni, and US and Iraqi officials. Italy has said it plans to send 450 troops to protect the dam site, but it is unclear how long it will take to replace damaged machinery and reassemble the required workforce.

The engineers warned that potential loss of life from a sudden catastrophic collapse of the Mosul dam could be even greater than the 500,000 officially estimated, as they said many people could die in the resulting mass panic, with a 20-metre-high flood wave hitting the city of Mosul and then rolling on down the Tigris valley through Tikrit and Samarra to Baghdad.

Nasrat Adamo, the dam’s former chief engineer who spent most of his professional career shoring it up in the face of fundamental flaws in its construction, said that the structure would only survive with round-the-clock work with teams filling in holes in the porous bedrock under the structure, a process known as grouting. But that level of maintenance, dating back to just after the dam’s construction in 1984, evaporated after the Isis occupation.

‘We used to have 300 people working 24 hours in three shifts but very few of these workers have come back. There are perhaps 30 people there now,’ Adamo said in a telephone interview from Sweden, where he works as a consultant.  ‘The machines for grouting have been looted. There is no cement supply. They can do nothing. It is going from bad to worse, and it is urgent. All we can do is hold our hearts.’

Interestingly the Book of Nahum has a prophecy of Nineveh being destroyed as ‘the gates of the rivers are opened’ (Nahum 2.7).  Mosul is built on the site of ancient Nineveh.

Boko Haram creates famine conditions in northern Nigeria.

The United Nations has warned that northern Nigeria faces the ‘largest crisis in Africa’ as a result of the war with Boko Haram which now affects three neighbouring countries – Chad, Cameroon and Niger.  The UN estimates that 14 million people will need outside help in 2017, particularly in Borno State, after seven years of conflict that has killed at least 20,000 people and left 2.6 million homeless.

There are predictions of a major famine, due to the insecurity brought about by Boko Haram which claims to have established a caliphate in West Africa.  Its wickedness defies belief as it has terrorised people with suicide bombings, kidnappings, rape, murder and merciless assaults on entire villages.  It kidnaps young boys to fight in its army and young girls for sex slaves.  It is motivated by a demonic form of radical Islam similar to ISIS with whom it is in alliance.  

Boko Haram has prevented farmers and herders in the area from working the land. The governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima, said “Most of our communities have not been able to till their soils for the past four years.  80% of the people in Borno were denied access to their farms by Boko Haram.”  Their removal from the economy is one of the reasons for the acuteness of the malnutrition crisis. With no livestock or crops there is nothing to eat.  Villagers under siege are typically forced to abandon their crops, devastating local food supplies.

‘Right now the hunger crisis in north-east Nigeria needs to be right at the top of the world’s list of humanitarian crises,’ Save the Children humanitarian manager Dan Stewart said.  It is forecast that to keep everyone alive throughout all of 2017 will cost about $1.5 billion.  

Ivory Coast on the brink as Islamisation looms.

One hundred years ago, the Ivory Coast was in the midst of a Christian revival. Today, Christians face the prospect of a Muslim takeover, aided and abetted by the government. At a recent conference organised by Barnabas Fund to address persecution, Christian leaders from French-speaking West Africa shared their concerns about the future of the Ivory Coast.

Mass Muslim migration from nearby countries over several decades has brought the country to a tipping point. It is now estimated that only around one-third of the total population of the Ivory Coast are of Ivorian origin. Our partner writes: “This Muslim population has been given access to Ivorian citizenship and are able to interfere in the country policy making through their vote.”

Following a controversial and violent election in 2011, the Ivory Coast is now headed by President Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim who has campaigned for the naturalisation of all immigrants, a move which would give the Ivory Coast an instant Muslim majority, as at least 70% of the more than 2 million foreign migrant workers in the country are Muslims. There appears to have been a concerted effort to systematically destroy the historical records of the non-Muslim population; record offices have been deliberately torched across the country and, in 2013, the government passed legislation making it easier for foreign nationals to claim citizenship, giving them the right to vote in elections. In 2015, Ouattara secured a second presidential term with an apparent 84% of the vote.

The swift expansion of the Muslim population in the Ivory Coast is a clear example of Islamisation “from below”, encouraged and facilitated by government, in line with dawa (Islamic mission), which aims to convert entire societies. The rapid assault of Islam on Ivorian identity has wider implications in the region; Islam is now the fastest growing religion on the planet and by 2050 there are expected to be 670 million Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa, up from around 250 million in 2011. The Ivory Coast is now at a turning point, as Christians face the prospect of becoming a minority in a country where Christianity flourished less than a century ago; a stark warning to the region.

Terror attacks in Ramadan.

As the Muslim month of Ramadan began we witnessed unspeakable acts of brutality perpetrated by Muslims against non-Muslim nationals, principally American, French, Canadian and Israeli. At the same time horrible acts of murder, rape and oppression continue to be committed by Islamic terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, etc. 

On 11th May two Palestinian Muslim gunmen drew automatic weapons in a Tel Aviv café and began shooting everyone in sight. Four Israeli civilians, including two women, were murdered in that attack.  The news was greeted by revolting cheers from Muslims in Gaza and the West Bank.  That bestial incident was followed by the largest act of mass murder ever committed by a lone gunman in the U.S. The attack by an ISIS inspired gunman at an Orlando night club claimed the lives of at least 49, with the death toll likely to climb as several of the wounded remain in critical condition. Barely a day later, a Muslim terrorist stabbed a French police chief to death in the town of Magnanville while chanting Allahu akbar. He then proceeded to torture to death the man’s wife in front of their toddler son. And then in the Philippines, Muslims belonging to the Islamist Abu Sayyaf terrorist group beheaded a Canadian national after their ransom demands for his release were not met.

But the victims of Islamist terror and barbarism have not been limited to Westerners or those whose values are otherwise rooted in the Judeo-Christian faith. Hindus too have recently come under attack in the Indian subcontinent.  In Bangladesh, Muslims, who constitute 90% of the population, have carried out a series of deadly attacks targeting Hindus, Christians, human rights activists and secularists. The most recent victim, named Nitya Ranjan Pandey, was an elderly Hindu monastery worker who was hacked to death. His decapitated body was found in a rice field. A few days prior to that gruesome discovery, another Hindu, a 69-year old priest, was found hacked to death.  Since February 2015, at least 30 people, mostly Hindus, have been murdered in sectarian violence committed by Muslims, with many of the victims butchered with machetes.

Our leaders tell us that none of this is the fault of Islam, which is a religion of peace.  They ignore many verses to the contrary to be found in the Koran and the Hadith, for example: ‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth’ (i.e. Islam).  Koran Sura 9:29.   ‘When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them.’ Sura 9:5.

Muslim mayor for London.

Labour Party politician Sadiq Khan has been sworn in as mayor of London. He is the first Muslim to lead a major European capital.  Khan, 45, is the London-born son of Pakistani immigrants. His father was a bus driver and he grew up with seven siblings in a council flat.  He studied law, became a university professor and served as chairman of the civil liberties pressure group Liberty. He was elected to Parliament in 2005. Khan’s supporters say he is the epitome the Muslim immigrant success story.  

Khan has promised ‘to represent every single community and every single part of our city as a mayor for Londoners’ and to be ‘the British Muslim who takes the fight to the extremists.’  During the election campaign, Khan faced a steady stream of allegations about his past dealings with Muslim extremists and anti-Semites.  His opponent, Zac Goldsmith, drew attention to Khan’s past career as a human rights lawyer that included repeated public appearances alongside radical Muslims, including Azzam Tamimi, who said he wants Israel destroyed and replaced with an Islamic state.

In an election debate aired by the BBC on April 18, Khan said he had ‘never hidden’ the fact that he had represented ‘some pretty unsavoury characters.’ When asked if he regretted sharing a platform with extremists, he said: ‘I regret giving the impression I subscribed to their views and I’ve been quite clear I find their views abhorrent.

Criticism of Sadiq Khan has been dismissed as Islamophobia by his supporters and his election hailed as a victory for multi-cultural tolerance in Britain today.  In his victory speech Mr Khan said that London had chosen ‘unity over division’ and ‘hope over fear’.  He was inaugurated in as mayor at a multi-faith service in Southwark Cathedral, being sworn in using a copy of the Koran rather than a Bible.

Given the fact that the native English are now a dwindling demographic minority in London, whilst Muslims are rapidly expanding in population, it is not so surprising that our capital city has elected a Muslim mayor.  How long before we have a Muslim Prime Minister?

Britain’s largest Islamic charity says it wants to ‘break down barriers’ and portray Islam positively by launching a new advertising campaign, which will put the phrase ‘glory to Allah’ on the side of London buses.  The new campaign by Islamic Relief is, ostensibly, targeted at raising donations for their Ramadan aid to Syria, but is attracting attention for the ‘hundreds’ of buses, which will be decorated with the phrase ‘Subhan’Allah’, or ‘Glory to Allah’.  Similar campaigns are to take place in Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham, and Bradford – all UK locations with high and growing Muslim populations.

The announcement of the new campaign came the day after London crowned its first Muslim leader, Mayor Sadiq Khan.  Islamic Relief called it a ‘nice irony’ that the two events coincided.  Imran Madden, a British convert to Islam and director of Islamic Relief’s United Kingdom Branch said: ‘The bus campaign is about breaking down barriers and challenging misconceptions’.  He hoped the posters would help start a ‘conversation’ in Britain.  However the phrase ‘Subhan’Allah’ / ‘Glory to Allah’ really proclaims Muslim supremacy over Christianity and other religions in the same way that ‘Allah hu Akbar’ really means ‘[Our] God (Allah) is greater [than yours]’, rather than ‘God is great’.  

Persecution and growth of Christians in Iran.

Christians are still being driven to worship in secret house churches, despite risking arrest. This is well exemplified in Iran, where Iran’s secret Christian movement is said to be growing rapidly with help from abroad.  A recent account by Fox News and other news outlets confirmed these developments. The number of Muslim converts who are risking prison or death by secretly worshiping as Christians in Iran’s house church movement has grown to as many as 1 million people, according to watchdog groups.

The persecution of Christians has persisted in Iran since the 1979 rise of the country’s theocratic Shiite Muslim government – with Christians facing the threat of lashing, torture and death. About 100 Christians currently remain imprisoned under Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s rule. In 2010, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the country’s underground house churches ‘threaten the Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims.’

While Iran has released high-profile Christian pastors from captivity – most notably Iranian-American Saeed Abedini – other Christian ministers still languish in the country’s prisons. One example is Pastor Farshid Fathi who has been locked up in Iran’s notorious Evin prison since December 2010 for what the American Centre for Law and Justice describes as practising his Christian faith.

Should Christians evangelise Muslim migrants?

The Evangelical Church of the Rhineland (ECR) has claimed in a position paper that trying to evangelise refugees is un-Christian:  ‘A strategic mission to Islam or meeting Muslims to convert them threatens social peace and contradicts the spirit and mandate of Jesus Christ and is therefore to be firmly rejected,’ said the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland in a paper entitled ‘Pilgrim Fellowship and Witness in Dialogue with Muslims’.   The Evangelical Church of the Rhineland (ECR) is one of twenty Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant groups that make up the Evangelical Church (Evangelische Kirche) in Germany (EKD).   According to the most recent figures, 23 million Germans are part of EKD, whose numbers have consistently declined in recent years.  (Note: the word ‘evangelisch’ in German signifies Protestant as opposed to Roman Catholic and does not necessarily mean that the church has an evangelical theology as we understand it in English).

The German Evangelical Alliance secretary general Hartmut Steeb made a firm and sharp rejoinder to the ECR statement, insisting instead that evangelism would remain an essential part of the response to refugees. ‘We declare firmly that the fundamental missionary task of Christians, namely to preach the Gospel of Jesus to others and invite them to follow it and cannot be given up.’

There are challenges for those who would wish to evangelise Muslim refugees. One thing that complicates the issue is that Muslim refugees have a political incentive to convert.  In at least two countries the asylum seekers are fleeing – Iran and Afghanistan – converting to Christianity from Islam is punishable by death. Refugees may wager that they’re less likely to be sent back to their birth countries should they convert.   That may well leave some churches inundated with false converts.

Nevertheless many see the refugee crisis as an amazing opportunity which has ‘brought the Muslim world to our doorstep.’  The Consortium of Evangelical Missions told its members, ‘We have today the unique opportunity to introduce Jesus to countless people right here who have not yet heard the Good News.

Hazel Torres for Christian Today gave the example of Silas, a 25-year-old Iranian man who was reported by Charisma News to be one of these converts. When asked what really prompted him to change religion, Silas said his spiritual transformation came after he read the Bible that a friend lent to him.   ‘When I started to read the Bible, it changed me.  At first, I didn’t want to be a Christian, I just wanted to understand it. But the more answers I got, the more I realised I was finding God,’ he said. He said even if he were to be deported back to Iran, he would never give up his faith in Christ. Jesus changed his life, and he will pay any price to serve Him now, he vowed.

Gottfried Martens, a pastor in Berlin, said as a result of the conversions, churches all over Germany that used to suffer from declining membership are now seeing remarkable growth.  In his own congregation alone, Martens said he used to minister to just 150 members. But now he said the church already has more than 600 parishioners and more new converts are joining the congregation. Martens described the number of conversions as nothing short of a ‘miracle.’

The Haus Gotteshilfe Lutheran church in Berlin has become one such hive of activity catering to Afghans, Kurds, and Iranians wanting to learn the Bible.  Haus Gotteshilfe now runs Bible classes and baptism preparation attended by some 60 refugees, and Sunday services have grown so crowded that the congregation has decided to add a Persian-language service.  Rosemarie Götz of the church reflected: ‘I would never have thought that I’d be teaching the Bible to Persians.’

Similar things are happening in some churches in Sweden.  At St. Clara’s church in central Stockholm, Sunday services are now translated into Farsi. The refugees, in turn, boost service attendance.  Reverend Dan Sarkar, the local vicar there, warns every new participant: ‘Being here won’t improve your chances of getting asylum. On the contrary, if you convert and are rejected for asylum you will face extreme problems when you leave Sweden.  Anybody who doesn’t agree with the conditions should leave the class,’ Sarkar tells his pupils. So far, only one has. 

It is clear that such refugees are now free to exercise a choice that could cost them their lives back where they came from, and that the door is wide open for them to be converted with much less risk for those evangelising them.   The refugee crisis is neither good for the refugees or the strain it puts on Europe.  However, the opportunity to share with tens of thousands of Muslims who would otherwise probably never hear the Gospel reminds us of the importance of this verse from Romans: ‘And we know that for those who love God, that is, for those who are called according to his purpose, all things are working together for good.’ (Romans 8:28).

Mosques asked to turn down the noise.

The nightly cacophony of the muezzin calls to prayer at the top pitch of loudspeakers has for years blasted across Jerusalem, disturbing the sleep of people living near and far from Palestinian neighborhoods. For years, appeals to local Muslim authorities to tone down the decibels and limit them to their own villages landed on deaf or deafened ears. No Israeli government had for years dared intervene to stop the nightly racket. Finally, on Sunday, the Ministerial Legislative Committee approved the Muezzin Law for limiting the sound level of the muezzins’ call. The bill is still to be enacted by the Knesset.

However, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas instantly threatened the measure would ‘drag the region into a disaster’ and vowed to bring it before the UN Security Council.  ‘We the Palestinians will not give you, the Jews, a moment’s peaceful sleep!’ he said, followed by the Palestinian chairman of religious institutions, who threatened to ignite a region-wide religious war.  Incidentally, the mosque loudspeakers are often used to call Palestinians out for anti-Israel riots. 

An investigation by the bill’s authors of how this nuisance is handled in other parts of the world found restrictions on the use of loudspeakers by muezzin were imposed in Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France, the UK, Austria, Norway and Belgium, as well as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.  People in Cairo, including devout Muslims, were up in arms over the noise contests between the town’s 4,000 mosques.  The Moroccan government is studying complaints of noise pollution, after Muslim scholars determined that Mohammed never mandated loudspeakers for the call to prayer.

Tony Pearce

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