Update! Before We Go All Twittery Over the Muslim Denunciations of ISIS, a Couple of Questions

I published a post yesterday listing various denunciations of ISIS barbarity from Muslim political leaders.

As I was assembling that list, I noticed that the denouncers were Shia. Based on what I’ve read, I believe that ISIS is Sunni.

I don’t have much knowledge of Shia vs Sunni, but I think, from what I’ve read, that this is a blood feud that is largely tribal and historic.

After I published that post, I could almost hear the massive sigh from readers. At last, a few of them said, the Muslims are joining us in combating the genocide.

I don’t want to put a pin in that balloon. Not yet. Because I’m not sure of anything.

But I do have these niggling questions that I think we need to consider before we go all twittery and weak-headed. It is critical to not allow ourselves to believe what we want to believe because we want to believe it. Let’s think a bit and chew on it a while first.

Here are the questions:

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1. How did ISIS get all that American heavy armor from the Iraqi army? Press reports have said variously that they “took it in battle,” or that it was “abandoned.” That is too simplistic and too facile to mean anything.

What an Okie would say, is “that don’t add up.” And this Okie agrees.

I find it a little hard to believe that those pristine armored vehicles were “lost in battle.” I also find it hard to believe that a military with those armaments would be so easily overpowered. Frankly, that equipment would give the Iraqi army quite an edge in a battle.

As for those things being “abandoned,” give me a break. I think that Sunni members of the Iraqi army gave that American armament to ISIS. I may be wrong. But that’s what I think.

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2. Are we being played by the Shias to use us against the Sunnis? If the only Muslims speaking out against the genocide are Shias, and ISIS is Sunni, and these people are at war with one another, well then, that sounds like politics to me.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing for any Muslims to speak out against the genocide, for whatever motivations. I’m also not saying that we should not welcome their help. The point here is to stop the barbarity. I sincerely welcome anyone whose actions add to that fight.

But that doesn’t mean I trust them like they were blood kin and just blindly assume that their motivations are the same as mine and that their future actions will be what I would do.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. In this case the outraged American public is the unwitting enemy of the Sunnis, simply because the Sunnis are slaughtering innocents. That makes us the (temporary) friends of the Shias.

There’s a saying in Okieland — I don’t have a dog in that fight. We don’t have a dog in the Sunni-Shia fight. Our objective is to end the genocide.

Let’s remember that and not go all politically-correct gaga and attribute our motives to other people we know very little about.

These are my questions. These ideas of mine are conjecture. What do you think?

The videos below are a couple of months old. I don’t agree with everything said in either analysis, but they highlight a bit of how this situation developed and give us information about American arms falling in ISIS’ hands.

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UPDATE: Hind Makki, of the Patheos Muslim Channel shared this information with me.  I am very glad to hear that both Sunnis and Shias have denounced the barbarity in Iraq.

Dear Rebecca Hamilton, the denunciations against ISIS have been given by 
both Sunni and Shia leadership and lay people. Looking at piece you 
wrote yesterday, I would like to share some information with you. I hope
you will update your piece reflecting this information: Ayatollah 
Sistani – Shia. Indonesian Ulema Council – comprises all Muslim groups 
in Indonesia, Sunni, Shia and everything else. Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam -
Sunni. Lebanese Muslim Association – Sunni. International Union of 
Muslim Scholars – comprises all Muslim groups in the world and one of 
it’s missions is to counter sectarianism. Yusuf Qaradawi – Sunni. 
Organization of Islamic Cooperation – non-religious political group of 
all countries with large Muslim populations. Iyad Ameen Madani – Sunni. 
Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate – Sunni. Where did you get the 
information that they are all Shia?

 

Updated: Muslim Leaders Join in Condemnation of ISIS

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On August 8, the Oriental Bishops called on Islamic leaders to issue Fatwas against the genocide committed against Christians and Yazidis in Iraq by the group that calls itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

So far as I know, there has been no Fatwa against genocide. I found one Fatwa issued against ISIS by Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is said to be Iraq’s most influential religious leader. Ayatollah Sistani called for a Fatwa urging Iraqis to fight against ISIS. However, I believe that this particular FATWA was aimed at defending Shia Muslims against Sunni Muslims. I do not think it addressed the slaughter of Christians and Yazidis.

I don’t know anything about either Fatwas or the arguments between various branches of Islam. I am only quoting what I have read. So this could be wrong. ISIS itself issued a charming Fatwa in favor of rape, but nothing else from religious leaders.

On August 8, the Indonesia Ulem Council Issued a Fatwa against ISIS. Again, it was not against the genocide or the barbaric actions of ISIS. The Fatwa seemed to be based on the potential ISIS has to harm Islam.

The Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, who is said to be Egypt’s top religious authority condemned ISIS yesterday. Once again, his basis for doing so was that ISIS is damaging to Islam. The article I read did not contain a condemnation of the genocide.

If Public Catholic leaders know of Fatwas issued by Islamic religious leaders against the genocide in Iraq and Syria, please share the information and I will publish it.

At the same time that Islamic religious leaders are mostly silent on the genocide, Islamic political leaders have spoken out. The Arab League accused ISIS of crimes against humanity as regards the Yazidi. In another article, they were said to have called for the formation of a “national unity government” in Iraq. I have no idea what a “national unity government” might be, but I view it with suspicion. The article I read said nothing about the crimes against Christians. It may simply be an incomplete article.

In Australia, Samier Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, called the man whose little boy was photographed holding the head of a victim of ISIS, “a lunatic.”

The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) issued a condemnation of the forced expulsion of Iraqi Christians. Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, who is said to be an influential Muslim religious leader, posted this condemnation on his website. “These are acts that violate Islamic laws, Islamic conscience and leave but a negative image of Islam and Muslims,” the statement said. “The Christians are native sons of Iraq and not intruders.”

Iyad Ameen Madani, Secretary General for the Organization of Islamic Cooperaton, which represents 57 countries and 1.4 billion Muslims, officially denounced “the forced deportation under the threat of execution” of Christians, calling it a “crime that cannot be tolerated.” He said that ISIS has “nothing to do with Islam and its principles that call for justice, kindness, fairness, freedom of faith and coexistence.”

Mehmet Gormez, head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the highest religious authority in Turkey, said that Muslims should not be hostile towards “people with different views, values and beliefs, and regard them as enemies.” This doesn’t sound like a Fatwa, but it is at least an Islamic religious leader, speaking on the general subject.

And finally, Indonesia has declared ISIS illegal. 

This response from Islamic leaders around the world is heartening. Decent people everywhere need to unite against these crimes against humanity, whoever does them, wherever they happen.

This roundup is informal in the extreme. I hope that Public Catholic readers will add information to it if they have it.

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UPDATE: For a survey of reaction against the Iraqi genocide in the Muslim press, go here.

Vatican Unambiguously Denounces and Condemns Unspeakable Jihadist Acts

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Public Catholic reader Ken brought this to my attention.

The Vatican has released a statement condemning the crimes against humanity that are occurring in the Middle East. The statement lists what it calls “unspeakable criminal acts … which bring shame on humanity,” including beheading, crucifying, abduction of women and girls as spoils of war, the barbaric practice of infibulation and forced conversions.

From the Vatican Website:

The whole world has witnessed with incredulity what is now called the “Restoration of the Caliphate,” which had been abolished on October 29,1923 by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Opposition to this “restoration” by the majority of religious institutions and Muslim politicians has not prevented the “Islamic State” jihadists from committing and continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts.

This Pontifical Council, together with all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, followers of all religions, and all men and women of good will, can only unambiguously denounce and condemn these practices which bring shame on humanity:

-the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation;

-the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places;

-the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile;

-the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick;

-the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya);

-the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;

-the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places;

-the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;

-the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other

religious communities;

-the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage;

-indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee.

No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity. This constitutes an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often reminded us. We cannot forget, however, that Christians and Muslims have lived together – it is true with ups and downs – over the centuries, building a culture of peaceful coexistence and civilization of which they are proud. Moreover, it is on this basis that, in recent years, dialogue between Christians and Muslims has continued and intensified.

The dramatic plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious communities and ethnic minorities in Iraq requires a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, as well as those engaged in interreligious dialogue and all people of good will. All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility can the interreligious dialogue that we have patiently pursued over recent years have?

Religious leaders are also called to exercise their influence with the authorities to end these crimes, to punish those who commit them and to reestablish the rule of law throughout the land, ensuring the return home of those who have been displaced. While recalling the need for an ethical management of human societies, these same religious leaders must not fail to stress that the support, funding and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.

That said, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is grateful to all those who have already raised their voices to denounce terrorism, especially that which uses religion to justify it.

Let us therefore unite our voices with that of Pope Francis: “May the God of peace stir up in each one of us a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace. “

[01287-02.01] [Original text: French - working translation]

Free Speech is a Civil Right: IRS and the Freedom from Religion Foundation Disagree

Free speech is a civil right bumper sticker

So … we’ve got an organization whose sole purpose is to drive religious expression from the public sphere by the use of threats of legal action and harassment.

This organization files a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and demands that the IRS join them in their harassment of religious people by “monitoring” churches for possible violations of IRS rules. In this instance, what they were suing about was the so-called “Johnson Amendment” to the IRS code.

The Johnson Amendment is the basis for the IRS rule that preachers may not endorse candidates from the pulpit if they are to receive tax-free status. The IRS rule itself is quite specific and narrow. Neither it nor the Johnson Amendment were intended to become the dreadnought by which churches are harassed and bullied in order to keep them from speaking out on moral issues. But that is exactly what has happened.

Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation routinely conflate the Johnson Amendment with a limitation on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion, including freedom of speech in religion. They harass, bully and intimidate Christians all over the country with threats of lawsuits.  I say Christians because I am not aware of them doing this to other faiths.

It seems obvious to me that they are using the Johnson Amendment as a lever to try to destroy the moral and prophetic voice of Christianity, not only in the public sphere, but from the pulpit, as well.

The Internal Revenue Service of the United States government settled this latest lawsuit by agreeing to become the FFRF’s hammer to beat down on free speech in the pulpit. They didn’t say this in so many words. What they agreed to do was to single out groups based on whether or not they are faith (read that Christian) organizations and “monitor” what their pastors preach for possible violations of the IRS code. If that is not a deliberately chilling government surveillance for the purpose of limiting free speech, what is?

It is particularly salient that the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not just trying to stop churches from endorsing candidates for political office; it is also claiming that they violate the Johnson Amendment when they discuss legislation or political issues. Abortion is a political issue. Gay marriage is a political issue. The genocide in the Middle East is a political issue. Corporatism, the environment, divorce, pornography, sex trafficking, prostitution, taxes, jobs and most everything else in America is a political issue.

We are Americans, which means that we are political people. We have what is purported to be a government of, by and for the people, which means at its root that governmental matters belong to us to cuss, discuss, slice and dice however we choose. That should include every segment of our society, including the pulpit.

If we are also Christians, then our faith guides us in everything we do. Jesus Christ is the Lord of our lives. We try to follow the Gospels in everything. Our faith leaders have not just a right, they have a responsibility to lead us in the Gospel paths of living.

There is no line for Americans between themselves and their politics for the simple reason that our politics, and our government, are us. Our beliefs are legitimately pertinent to political debate because we are the government.

What this lawsuit by the FFRF — and other actions to censor and stifle religious discussion, opinions and activism —  amount to is an attempt to censor and silence a whole set of ideas. This lawsuit is a blatant push to silence people that the FFRF disagrees with by the use of government surveillance of selected groups, coupled with the threat of government action against those groups, and the government is going along with it. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is using the IRS to censor speech in the pulpit. This is not an attempt to drive Christianity from the pubic square through bullying. It is a direct mis-use of government power to silence free speech among a whole class of citizens because another group of citizens does not like what they are saying.

The IRS is going to “monitor” churches to see if the clergy talks about anything more pertinent to our daily lives than, say, Isaac blessing Jacob instead of Esau, for the purpose of hauling them up before the Man. It is as simple as that.

From New American:

The Internal Revenue Service continues to extend its already vast overreach, this time by agreeing to monitor church sermons as part of an agreement the government made on July 17 with the aggressively atheistic Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Freedom Outpost reported, “The Internal Revenue Service settled a lawsuit brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The 2012 lawsuit was settled after the IRS agreed to monitor what is said in houses of worship, something that is a clear violation of the First Amendment, since no law can be written by Congress to this effect.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Wisconsin, brought the suit against the IRS, asserting that the group had been ignoring complaints that churches were violating their tax-exempt statuses. According to the group’s suit, churches promote political issues, legislation, and candidates from the pulpit.

FFRF asserted, “Pulpit Freedom Sunday … has become an annual occasion for churches to violate the law with impunity. The IRS, meanwhile, admittedly was not enforcing the restrictions against churches.”

FFRF claims that the churches are acting in violation of the 1954 Johnson Amendment, which states that non-profits cannot endorse candidates.

A 2009 court ruling determined that the IRS must staff someone to monitor church politicking, but the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims that the IRS has not been adhering to the ruling.

Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom and head of the Pulpit Initiative, told LifeSiteNews that “the IRS has no business censoring what a pastor preaches from the pulpit.” Stanley states that his organization is currently “attempting to bring the era of IRS censorship and intimidation to an end by challenging the Johnson Amendment, which imposes unconstitutional restrictions on clergy speech.”

He contends that churches should not have to choose between tax-exempt status and freedom of speech. “No one would suggest a pastor give up his church’s tax-exempt status if he wants to keep his constitutional protection against illegal search and seizure or cruel and unusual punishment,” he said.

Stanley insists that not only would it be unfair for churches to have to choose between one or the other, but that “churches are automatically tax exempt out of recognition that the surest way to destroy the free exercise of religion is to begin taxing it.” “Churches are constitutionally entitled to a tax exemption and that exemption cannot be conditioned on the surrender of constitutional rights.”

In celebration of its victory with the IRS, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a press release wherein it outlined its win:

The IRS has now resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations. The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations. While the IRS retains “prosecutorial” discretion with regard to any individual case, the IRS no longer has a blanket policy or practice of non-enforcement of political activity restrictions as to churches.

The press release also acknowledges, however, that the judge in the case could not order immediate action since a moratorium has been placed on the investigations by the IRS of tax exempt groups after the 2013 scandal in which the IRS was found to have been targeting Christian and conservative groups.

Governor Mary Fallin Condemns Black Mass

Governor Mary Fallin

Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin condemned black mass that is scheduled for Oklahoma City next month.

From the Governor’s website:

Gov. Fallin Condemns Black Mass Scheduled for Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today condemned a scheduled performance of a satanic black mass next month in Oklahoma City.

“This ‘Black Mass’ is a disgusting mockery of the Catholic faith, and it should be equally repellent to Catholics and non-Catholics alike,” said Fallin. “It may be protected by the First Amendment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t condemn it in the strongest terms possible for the moral outrage which it is. It is shocking and disgusting that a group of New York City ‘satanists’ would travel all the way to Oklahoma to peddle their filth here. I pray they realize how hurtful their actions are and cancel this event.”

Fallin joins Oklahoma City Archbishop Paul Coakley in criticizing the event, scheduled for Sept. 21 at the Oklahoma City Civic Center. The archbishop said the black mass “is a satanic inversion and distortion of the most sacred beliefs not only of Catholics, but of all Christians.”

Oklahoma City officials have said the Civic Center is a public building and the city must abide by the First Amendment and allow it to be leased to any group that agrees to abide by all laws and city ordinances.

The black mass in Oklahoma City reportedly is being organized by the Satanic Temple of New York City, which last year submitted plans for a public monument of a seated Satan on the state Capitol grounds to counter a monument of the Ten Commandments.

Video from Inside ISIS: What They Think of Themselves.

305087-e9a729cc-20f4-11e4-a212-44a8a3dd312bThey call themselves the Islamic State. This video from inside ISIS shows how they appear to themselves.

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If you want to see what they actually are, go here. But be warned, these are horrific photos of satanic depravity. If you would like to see the story behind the photo at the top, go here.

To put this in perspective, read Elizabeth Scalia’s post on how our lack of faith cripples the West. 

Defend us in battle

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ISIS, Genocide and Us. Whither are we Tending?

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Isis leader Bashu Bakr al-Baghadi

These videos are hard to watch. But we need to know.

We also need to think.

If you are like me, watching these will enrage you. That’s an ok place to start. But we need to get past that and think.

America is part of this, has been part of it ever since 9/11.

We need to get real about what’s happening. The American people are so misinformed and propagandized these days that they have trouble assessing things.

I deal with the public a lot and have for many years. I have witnessed an appalling loss of thinking ability in the public at large. People talk in circles, recite slogans as if they were facts, and follow this or that demagogue with a blind allegiance that is scary to behold.

We need to think, and by that, I mean think for ourselves with all our rational wits.

But first, we need to know. These videos are not thoughtful, exhaustive or balanced. But they portray a hard reality that we’ve got to know.

Only after we know will we be able to begin the process of working out whither we are tending.

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Jihadist Flag in East London, Anti-Semitism in Europe ‘Worst Since the Nazis.”

Peter paul rubens the raising of the cross

I am overwhelmed by the news. So, I’m not going to comment on these stories. Read and discuss. Let’s see what shakes out. 

Anti-Semitism on Rise Across Europe in ‘Worst Times Since the Nazis.’

Jihadist Flag Flown in East London

ISIS is Systematically Beheading Children in Christian Genocide

Ukraine: Russian military intervention risk has risen, says Polish PM

US Warplanes Strike Militants in Iraq

WHO Declares Ebola an International Health Emergency

China: The Beginning of a Foreclosure Crisis

Bishops Move to Counter Black Mass in Oklahoma City

 

And finally, my Catholic Patheosi colleague Tom McDonald says it all with We Broke the World 

St Michael the Archangel, Defend Us in Battle

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