From jihadist prince to Israeli spy to Christian convert

You have got to read the story of Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of the founder of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, who became an Israeli spy and then a convert to Christianity.  How did that latter part happen?  It was very simple:

During those quiet years he met a British cabbie in Jerusalem who gave him an English-Arabic copy of the New Testament and invited him to attend a bible study session at their hotel. “I found that I was really drawn to the grace, love and humility that Jesus talked about,” he says in “Son of Hamas.” . . .

“I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love. I didn’t leave [the Islamic] religion to put myself in another box of religion. At the same time it’s a beautiful thing to see my God exist in my life and see the change in my life. I see that when he does exist in other Middle Easterners there will be a change.

“I’m not trying to convert the entire nation of Israel and the entire nation of Palestine to Christianity. But at least if you can educate them about the ideology of love, the ideology of forgiveness, the ideology of grace. Those principles are great regardless, but we can’t deny they came from Christianity as well.”

Mr. Yousef says he felt burned out and decided to stop working for the Shin Bet in 2006, against their wishes. He made his way to friends in southern California whom he’d met through bible study.

As the son of a Muslim cleric, he says he had reached the conclusion that terrorism can’t be defeated without a new understanding of Islam. Here he echoes other defectors from Islam such as the former Dutch parliamentarian and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Do you consider your father a fanatic? “He’s not a fanatic,” says Mr. Yousef. “He’s a very moderate, logical person. What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he’s doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn’t matter if he’s a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God. I know this is harsh to say. Most governments avoid this subject. They don’t want to admit this is an ideological war.

“The problem is not in Muslims,” he continues. “The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to.”

via Weekend Interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef: ‘They Need to Be Liberated From Their God’ – WSJ.com.

Over 500 Christians slaughtered in Nigeria

Muslims in Nigeria have massacred over 500 Christians in a horrific outbreak of violence:

UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Washington led calls for restraint on Monday after the slaughter of more than 500 Christians in Nigeria, as survivors told how the killers chopped down their victims.Funerals took place for victims of the three-hour orgy of violence on Sunday in three Christian villages close to the northern city of Jos, blamed on members of the mainly Muslim Fulani ethnic group.

While troops were deployed to the villages to prevent new attacks, security forces detained 95 suspects but faced bitter criticism over how the killers were able to go on the rampage at a time when a curfew was meant to be in force.Media reported that Muslim residents of the villages in Plateau state had been warned by phone text message, two days prior to the attack, so they could make good their escape before the exit points were sealed off.

Survivors said the attackers were able to separate the Fulanis from members of the rival Berom group by chanting “nagge”, the Fulani word for cattle. Those who failed to respond in the same language were hacked to death.

One local paper said the gangs shouted Allah Akhbar God is Great before breaking into homes and setting them alight in the early hours of Sunday. Churches were among the buildings that were burned down.

via AFP: Appeals for calm after Nigerian sectarian slaughter.

Legalism vs. morality; laws vs. ethics

Raymond Ibrahim takes up the question of why so many  jihadists, for all of their alleged Islamic piety, often are so sexually immoral, to the point of going to strip clubs before their suicide bombing runs.  After a fascinating tour of this phenomenon in Islamic history and the rationalizations of such behavior in Islamic theology, Mr. Ibrahim notes a fundamental difference in the way Muslims and Christians approach morality:

Deceit, rationalizations, and a paradise that forgives the would-be martyr’s every sin — indeed, that satiates his hedonistic urges with 72 voluptuous women (which may only be raisins) — all help demonstrate how Muslims can be observant and simultaneously frequent strip clubs.

Yet there is one final explanation that requires an epistemic shift to appreciate fully: in Islam, legalism trumps morality, resulting in what Westerners may deem irreconcilable behavior among Muslims, that is, “hypocrisy.” As Daniel Pipes observed some three decades ago in his In the Path of God:

[There is] a basic contrast between the Christian and Islamic religions: the stress on ethics versus the stress on laws. Controls on sexual activity directly reflect this difference. The West restricts sex primarily by imbuing men and women with standards of morality. … Muslims, in contrast, depend on “external precautionary safeguards” [e.g., segregation, veiling] to restrain the sexes. … Rather than instill internalized ethical principles, Islam establishes physical boundaries to keep the sexes apart.

In this context, the problem is not Muslims frequenting strip clubs, but misplaced Western projections that assume religious piety is always synonymous with personal morality — a notion especially alien to legalistic Islamists whose entire epistemology begins and ends with the literal words of seventh-century Muhammad and his Koran.

And it is this slavishness that best explains Islamist behavior. For the same blind devotion to the literal mandates of Islam which encourages Islamists to lead lives of deceit also explains why Islamists are callous to human suffering, why they are desensitized to notions of human dignity and the cries of their raped victims, and, yes, why they cheerily forfeit their lives in exchange for a fleshy paradise. In all cases, Muhammad and his Allah said so — and that’s all that matters.

via Pajamas Media » How the Islamist Mindset Rationalizes — and Promotes — ‘Sex Sins’.

I have, however, noted this same dichotomy of legalism vs. morality, laws vs. ethics, in some Christians. Of course, Christianity in its essence is about none of these but about forgiveness for transgressing them. That is, it is about the Gospel of Christ on the Cross who atoned for our iniquities. I wonder, though, if confusion about whether the Law has to do with external controls vs. inner motivations may also relate to confusions about the Gospel. (for example, the problem of anti-nomianism?)

The God gap in U.S. foreign policy

According to a new report received by the White House, American foreign policy is hindered by its secularism and needs to factor religious issues into its dealings with other countries:

American foreign policy is handicapped by a narrow, ill-informed and “uncompromising Western secularism” that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures and fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights, according to a two-year study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The council’s 32-member task force, which included former government officials and scholars representing all major faiths, delivered its report to the White House on Tuesday. The report warns of a serious “capabilities gap” and recommends that President Obama make religion “an integral part of our foreign policy.”. . .

American foreign policy’s “God gap” has been noted in recent years by others, including former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright.

“It’s a hot topic,” said Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement in Arlington County and a Council on Foreign Relations member. “It’s the elephant in the room. You’re taught not to talk about religion and politics, but the bummer is that it’s at the nexus of national security. The truth is the academy has been run by secular fundamentalists for a long time, people who believe religion is not a legitimate component of realpolitik.”

The Chicago Council’s task force was led by R. Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame and Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. “Religion,” the task force says, “is pivotal to the fate” of such nations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and Yemen, all vital to U.S. national and global security.

“Despite a world abuzz with religious fervor,” the task force says, “the U.S. government has been slow to respond effectively to situations where religion plays a global role.” Those include the growing influence of Pentecostalism in Latin America, evangelical Christianity in Africa and religious minorities in the Far East.

U.S. officials have made efforts to address the God gap, especially in dealings with Islamic nations and groups. The CIA established an office of political Islam in the mid-1980s. Congress passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 to make religious freedom a U.S. foreign policy priority. During the second Bush administration, the Defense Department rewrote the Army’s counterinsurgency manual to take account of cultural factors, including religion. . . .

To end the “episodic and uncoordinated nature of U.S. engagement of religion in the world,” the task force recommended:

— Adding religion to the training and continuing education of all foreign service officers, diplomats and other key diplomatic, military and economic officials. That includes using the skills and expertise of military veterans and civilians returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

— Empowering government departments and agencies to engage local and regional religious communities where they are central players in the promotion of human rights and peace, as well as the delivery of health care and other forms of assistance.

— Address and clarify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy. Cizik said some parts of the world — the Middle East, China, Russia and India, for example — are particularly sensitive to the U.S. government’s emphasis on religious freedom and see it as a form of imperialism.

via ‘God gap’ impedes U.S. foreign policy, task force says – washingtonpost.com.

But how would this work? I just read a report about a high-level dialogue between representatives of the West and moderate Muslims. They established the common ground of a desire for freedom of religion. To the Westerners, that means the freedom of individuals to hold any religion they want. But to the Muslims, freedom of religion means the freedom of Muslims to establish an Islamic state.

Any push for freedom of religion in our sense will have to involve supporting Christians against those who suppress them. Christians, you will notice, tend to allow freedom of other religions. Other religions, when they are in control, are not so generous.

Will our government want to come across as advancing the interests of Christianity?

Major battle in Afghanistan

If you haven’t heard, U.S., allied, and Afghan national troops are engaged in a major, large-scale operation in Afghanistan, attacking the region in which the  Taliban are at their greatest strength.

U.S. launches major surge against Taliban in Afghanistan – washingtonpost.com.

Iran’s surprise?

Well, February 11 came and went, and I’m still waiting to be “stunned” by Iran’s announced surprise to the West. The nation was busy: Banning Google mail. Upgrading some uranium. Suppressing mass demonstrations. Is that the one-two-three punch? That’s not very impressive for the descendants of Cyrus and Xerxes, formidable emperors who ruled much of Asia and threatened to overrun Europe, before being stopped by little Greece in its prime. What these things do show is the tyranny and the nuclear ambitions of Iran. But we already knew that. Maybe we are missing something.