Reformed Islam Finally A Reality! ISIS and “Islamists” Refuted Once and For All!

For over a decade now, the official Islamic affairs arm of the Turkish government, the Diyanet, has been examining “hadiths”—sayings of the Prophet Muhammad—in order to filter out the spurious and violent ones.  (A recent proposal to do the same in Saudi Arabia has never gotten off the ground.)  Thanks to massive funding by the ruling AK party, Turkish imams have been combing through these sayings, and back in 2013 published the first multi-volume set of these updated hadiths.  Among other modernizations, amputation of a thief’s hand was said to be only fit for 7th century AD Arabia, not the modern world.

But according to Dr. Abu Hamid Ghazzali, director of Diyanet, another program—which funding came directly from the office of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan—has also been running simultaneously alongside the hadith one.  Its existence was kept secret because of the much more sensitive nature of the project: to examine problematic verses of the Qur’an, and if need be to find a way to excise them from the Muslim holy book.

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This picture of Dr. Ghazzali, Dr. Kadizade and Dr. Sabbah was surreptitiously taken during a break in the committee’s long deliberations. 

Dr. Ghazzali, who holds a doctorate from al-Azhar in Cairo but is also a renowned Bektaşi Sufi, pointed out in an exclusive interview that the Sufis, or Islamic mystics, have long held that the Qur’an can be interpreted allegorically, not simply literally.  This perspective was brought to bear after long debate on the issue among Turkish scholars and vociferous opposition from the conservative imam Dr. Mehmet Kadizade.  Besides Sufism, Ghazzali pointed out that Isma’ili Shi`i scholar Hassan-i Sabah was brought in to advise and render opinions. And the reform committee even consulted the works of prominent Western scholar of Islam Christoph Luxenberg—a daring proposition, as Luxenberg’s works maintain that the Qur’an was originally written in Syriac, not Arabic, and that it is confusing and garbled due to bad translations into Arabic in the early days of Islam.

The major “exegetical paradigm” which this reform committee assumed was to question the centuries-old Islamic concept of naskh. This “abrogation” doctrine held that any of Muhammad’s revelations received later in his life trumped those from earlier; so since the ancient scholars had determined that, for example, Sura al-Tawbah was one of the last sent by Allah to Muhammad, its directive to attack non-Muslims (v. 5, in particular) overruled other, earlier-received passages promoting peace.

The Turkish reform committee approached the Qur’an differently, assuming that all sections are of equal divine authority.  Thus, Sura al-Baqarah:62, which states that Jews and Christians (and a more obscure sect, the Sabians) will be righteous before Allah and have no need to convert, is of equal weight with less tolerant verses.

It is clear why the committee had to meet in secret for years, as this sea change in the interpretation of the Qur’an will rock not just the casbah but the entire Islamic world.  Dr. Kadizade has already resigned his position and is rumored to have fled to an ISIS enclave in southern Libya, whence he has vowed to lead the world’s true Muslims against this Satanic heresy.  Dr. Ghazzali has sent a preliminary copy of the first volume—entitled The Prophet Motive: Islam for the Modern World—to Pope Francis I, in order to garner the pontiff’s approval and foster ecumenical dialog between the world’s two largest religions.  Ghazzali also said that he hopes for full reconciliation between Christianity and Islam to take place no later than 2076 AD/1500 AH, using this “reformed” Qur’an and a rumored new  holy book by the world’s largest Christian denomination, to be called the Orange Catholic Bible.

Goose-stepping Morons Banning Books

Yesterday TheStream published my first article: “Mohammed’s Koran: The Book Amazon Won’t Let You Buy” (a review thereof).  This site is conservative, both politically and theologically; and in terms of the latter, aims to run content that evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians can rally behind.  Look for more offerings over there from yours truly going forward.

Since I open the piece by mentioning Dr. Henry Jones, I’ll take the liberty of posting a pic of me from Halloween 2017 attired as the famous archaeologist’s father:

MeasHenryJonesnoumbrella

A Fab Forum on Hoda Muthana and Ilhan Omar

“Mean Hoda Muthana thought she was a woman/But she was an ISIS bride/All Yazidis around her said she’s got it coming/’Cuz shari`ah love she’ll hide.”

My apologies to the Beatles, but something about the greatest band in rock history compels me to use their songs to introduce two radio interviews I did this week:

one on the aforementioned Muthana, suing to get back into the US after consorting with various and sundry ISIS husbands;

and another discussing Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and her repeated slams of Israel and Jews.

Despite Nancy Pelosi repeatedly telling  Omar you can’t do that, the latter continues to act naturally as a Muslim, articulating ages-old Islamic biases against adherents of Judaism. Perhaps the voters of Minnesota’s 5th district, and the Democrat House leadership, should have known better before they, respectively, elected Omar and placed her on the Foreign Affairs Committee–but they didn’t, and so can be treated to several more years of she said, she said.  Will Pelosi and Schumer be consigned to fixing the hole created in their party by Omar’s constant appeals to revolution?  As long as she tells Jews “baby, you’re a rich man” and accuses them of never giving her their money, it’s doubtful that the party can come together.  But sometimes it’s hard to tell whether Omar wants to go back to the USSR–or to Mecca.

I will mercifully stop now….but only because it’s time to go to the range, and happiness is a warm gun.

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The Beatles from one of their little-known gigs in Istanbul: John, Paul, George, Ringo and Clarence-bey. (From Wiki, public domain, “Ottoman Classical Music.”

Where’s Your Muslim Messiah Now?

For the last several months I’ve been a thespian trapped in a man’s body–playing the rogue, Shakespeare-imitating highwayman named Robert Middleton in a local community theater production of  the Bard-era comedy Thee & Thou.   Now that that’s over, and I’m on spring break from university teaching this week, ’tis time to get back into the blogging saddle–with a devil’s brew of Islamic topics from the first quarter of 2019.

Back in January,  the Turkish government began cracking down on a man claiming to be the Mahdi: Iskender Evrenesoğlu. (But he got off easy, compared to the two other major self-styled Turkish messianic leaders: Fethullah Gülen, who long ago had to flee the country, and Adnan Oktar, who has recently been arrested.)

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Pictured: Not Evrenesoğlu but Sultan Suleyman I  (from Wiki’s open source entry on Ottoman sultans)–but he does sport a similar turban, almost as large as Uranus, which you can see here.  

As I observed on this site last year, President Recep Erdoğan–who is vying for the leadership of the entire Sunni world–loathes these pretenders to the throne of Islam; and well he should since, as one of Erdoğan’s staunchest defenders said just a few days ago, “Erdoğan has earned the title of Caliph.”

Where does this leave the only overt caliph in the world today–ISIS’ Ibrahim al-Baghdadi? Out in the cold–and not just as far as the Turks are concerned, either: last month reports surfaced of discontented jihadists trying to stage a coup against their self-styled leader.  Maybe President Trump’s tweets–but more likely his unleashing of the US military–had something to do with the decapitating caliph’s demise. So if al-Baghdadi is not dead yet…he soon will be.

Meanwhile, over in the fantasy land part of the Islamic world–the Islamic Republic of Iran–a senior ayatollah recently reminded us infidel Great Satanists that “until we turn the White House into a Hussainiya [Shi`ite Islamic center], we will continue to shout ‘Death to America’,” after which “the one global and just rule of the Mahdi will be established.” (And in case you’d forgotten: the 12th Imam al-Mahdi will arrive in a spaceship,  and institute sex romps in which his followers will be allowed to carouse with numerous infidel slave girls.  Who won’t want to party with the unHidden Imam?!)

This being Ash Wednesday, as a Christian I must state that my answer to Chief Wiggum’s question is: nowhere in Islam–but in the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ of the New Testament.

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The true Messiah: Christ from the upper level of Hagia Sophia Church (Haya Sofya Mosque), Constantinople (Istanbul)–from my 2008 trip there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ottomans and Albums and Trump–Oh My!

My plans on a grand, retrospective final 2018 blogpost having been shattered by Christmas trips and stage rehearsals (I play the Elizabethan highwayman and aspiring thespian Robert Middleton in a local production of Thee & Thou), I shall finish this year with a whimper, not a bang–by posting this hour-long interview of me discussing Ottoman counter-insurgency, Trump’s counter-terrorism strategy, classic rock albums, and my Middle-earth book(s).  I’ll be back with longer takes in early 2019!

And just for fun, here’s a pic of me as Dr. Henry Jones at Halloween (which allowed me to exclaim “JUN-yah!” more than once):

MeasHenryJonesnoumbrella

It’s Only Rock and Roll–But I Like (To Judge) It!

My friend Pete Turner hosts an Internet radio program, “The Break It Down Show.”  Pete did time in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and often opines about geopolitical and cultural matters. But he also regularly does a segment called “Album Fight,” in which Pete and a panel of “judges” weigh the respective merits of two recordings.  He’s asked me to participate four times–despite my thin qualifications, which consist primarily of lots of experience listening to rock, and being opinionated. But it’s been a helluva lot of fun, and I thank him for roping me in!

Here are those album fights:

Lennon v. McCartney, “Imagine”v. “Band on the Run

Aerosmith v. Boston (eponymous debut albums)

Led Zeppelin v. Led Zeppelin, “Houses of the Holy” v. “IV

U2 v. The Doors, “All That You Can’t Leave Behind” v. “The Doors” (debut album)

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U2 playing in Cleveland, OH, summer 2017, on “The Joshua Tree” tour. My wife and I were there. (Picture credit: me.)

 

 

 

 

“Radical” Islam: Livin’ on the Edge, or Stuck Squarely in the Middle, of the Religion?

My friends at Three Kraters Symposium asked me to write something for them–and I responded with this article which exposes the vacuity of the term “radical” Islam, as well as the fatuousness of the claim that anti-Jewish attitudes in Islam derive from the Nazis.

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There is absolutely NOTHING “radical” or “extremist” about this flag, even though ISIS and similar groups use it.  The flag says “there is no deity but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” That’s the credo of 1.6 billion Muslims. 

Gondolin After the Fall: History, Myth or Legend?

As some may know, I like writing about Middle-earth almost as much as the Middle East—more, in fact, since for all its horrors the former is fictional.

Or is it?

In 2016 Oloris published my High Towers and Strong Places: A Political History of Middle-earth.  (The companion volume, Bright Swords and Glorious Warriors: A Military History of Middle-earth, should be out next year—Eru willing.) I’ve also published several related articles: one on Tolkien’s Middle-earth story which discusses the Incarnation taking place there; and another on why he has Men (not Elves or Dwarves) killing dragons.

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Not Gondolin–but Osgiliath (Gondor’s capital before Minas Tirith). 

The underlying premise of both my Tolkien books is to treat the Secondary World of Middle-earth as realistic enough to merit Primary (Real) World treatment.  Tolkien himself made a number of statements justifying such an approach: “This history is supposed to take place in a period of the actual Old World of this planet” (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 220); also “Mine is not an ‘imaginary’ world, but an imaginary historical moment….” (Ibid., p. 244).

Most directly, in terms of embedding Middle-earth’s history into that of our world, he said the following:

[I]f it were ‘history,’ it would be difficult to fit the land and events (or ‘cultures’) into such evidence as we possess, archaeological or geological, concerning the nearer or remoter part of what is now called Europe; though the Shire, for instance, is stated to have been in this region. I could have fitted things in with greater verisimilitude, if the story had not become too far developed, before the question occurred to me. I doubt there would have been much gain; and I hope the, evidently long but undefined, gap in time between the Fall of Baradu-dûr and our Days is sufficient for literary credibility, even for readers acquainted with what is known or sumised of ‘pre-history.’ (Ibid., p. 283).

Tolkien goes on to elaborate, in a footnote on that same page, on the “gap” between the fall of Sauron’s fortress and the 20th century:

I imagine the gap to be about 6000 years: that is we are now at the end of the Fifth Age, if the Ages were of about the same length as S.A. [Second Age] and T.A. [Third Age—at the end of which, in the year 3019, the War of the Ring was fought.] But they have, I think, quickened; and I imagine we are actually at the end of the Sixth Age, or in the Seventh. 

I had thought I had read everything Tolkien had had to say on relating Real World history to that of Middle-earth (besides all of Tolkien’s writings, peruse the legions of others listed in the 11-page bibliography to High Towers).

But I was wrong. In the latest (and probably last) volume of his works, The Fall of Gondolin (2018), there is this striking passage:

Glory dwelt in that city of Gondolin…and its ruin was the most dread of all the sacks of cities upon the fact of Earth. Nor Bablon, nor Ninwi, nor the towers of Trui, nor all the many takings of Rum that is greatest among Men, saw such terror as fell that day…. (p. 111).

Gondolin was the grandest Elf city of the First Age, a hidden fortress armed against the might of Morgoth, the satanic and original Dark Lord of Middle-earth with whom the Elves were at war (and for whom Sauron, the scourge of the Second and Third Ages, was but an aide-de-camp).  Its location was betrayed by an Elf traitor and an enormous army of Orcs, Balrogs (one of which dragged Gandalf off the bridge in Moria) and dragons then destroyed it, along with most of its inhabitants.

It is fascinating that Tolkien’s narrator for this epic story—set some 6500 years before the events of The Lord of the Rings—refers to events from the Real World: the fall of Troy (Trui) to the combined Mycenean Greek forces, which took place about 1200 BC; the destruction of Nineveh (Ninwi), the capital of the Assyrian Empire, about 612 BC;  the conquest of Babylon (Bablon) by the expanding Persian Empire in 539 BC; and the capture and sack of Constantinople (Rûm) by the Crusaders in 1204 AD, and its final demise at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1453.  As far as I know, this is the only time in Tolkien’s writings he so straightforwardly connects the histories of Earth and Middle-earth.  Why would Tolkien write this (and his son and editor, Christopher, include it) except to imply that Gondolin was as real a place as Troy, Nineveh, Babylon or Constantinople?

“Rûm,” by the way, is the Arabic name for the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire–for Constantinople writ large, as it were.  Tolkien’s usage of the Muslim Arab, and later Ottoman, term for this city and empire is another fascinating aspect of this passage from The Fall of Gondolin.

As noted above, Tolkien dated the fall of Sauron in Third Age 3019 to about 4000 BC.  That would date the Fall of Gondolin to approximately 10,540 BC.  The Göbekli Tepe civilization of southern Anatolia is dated to around 9000 BC.   Perhaps the fathers of Men did have dealings with the exiles from Valinor.

Trump’s New Counter-terrorism Strategy: The One-Eyed Man is Still King

Last week the Trump Admnistration released its new “National Strategy for Counterterrorism,” [NSCT], a 25-page document outlining the President’s plan to “secure our Nation and prevail against terrorism.”

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In order to understand its content and significance, we need to know context—first and foremost the Obama’s Administration’s analogous agenda, disseminated in 2011 (which was, in its turn, a modification of the George W. Bush Administration one put out in 2006).  This 19-page text focused almost exclusively on “al-Qa`ida and its affiliates and adherents” (passim) with only a few one-off mentions of other groups (Lashkar-e Tayyiba, al-Shabab, Hizbullah, HAMAS and Colombia’s FARC).  The main methodology for defeating AQ was said to be via “broad international coalitions” (p. 4) focusing on Pakistan; in fact, it claimed that  “[w]e will defeat al-Qa`ida only through a sustained partnership with Pakistan” (p. 13).  Perhaps the most glaring flaw was the misplaced hope that AQ and its ideology had “met a devastating rebuke in the face of nonviolent mass movements” (p. 9) in the Middle East—the predicted once-and-future “Arab Spring.”  The most striking element of this Obama-Brennan concoction is that the word “Islam” is mentioned only once in the entire document—and that only to disparage AQ as “a distorted interpretation of Islam” (p. 3).

Although the Trump plan does share a few key points with Obama’s (protecting America and the homeland; stopping terrorists from acquiring weapons of mass destruction or WMDs; countering terrorist ideology), it differs significantly in several aspects—for which we should be thankful, because as Obama’s second term wound down even liberal foreign policy outlets could discern madness, and not much method, in his CT program.   In an implicit rebuke of Obama’s drone-them-all-and-let-Allah-sort-them-out approach, Trump’s states that “we must do more than merely kill or capture terrorists. We must dismantle…networks and sever the sources…that sustain them” (p. I).   The current administration also classifies the need to defeat “radical Islamist terrorism”  in the same category with our success over “oppression, fascism, and totalitarianism in previous wars” (p. II). And in fact this document mentions “radical Islamist terrorism” 16 times throughout—a welcome change from the Obama-Brennan pretense that Islam has nothing to do with the 76% (51/67) of terrorist groups waging jihad fi sabil Allah on the US State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.  But that phrase “radical Islamist terrorism” is problematic in its own right: it is not “radical” to fight and kill non-Muslims (as I explained at length in an explicatory blogpost earlier this year); and “Islamist” is a misleading and indeed redundant term, insofar as it commonly means “an advocate or supporter of Islamic militancy or fundamentalism”—since the literal meaning of Islamic texts across space and time, as well as the vast majority of Sunnis (Islam’s largest branch), support Islamic fundamentalism and, often, militancy. “Islamist” in this sense truly simply means “Islamic” or “Muslim”—but even this John Bolton-inspired CT agenda won’t say that.

In fact, Trump’s CT “strategery” too often echoes Obama’s dhimmi attitude.  Besides the plentiful parroting of “radical Islamist terrorism,” we read of such terrorists’ “depraved goals” (p. 1) and the vacuous “violent extremist ideologies” (passim), as well as, in the President’s introductory letter, “twisted ideologies that purport to justify the murder of innocent victims” —all phrases which should be cast back into the oblivious and mendacious chasm whence they came.  How on earth can “strategic communications” (p. 2) aimed at undermining terrorist “radicalization and recruitment” (p. 5) be successful when our leadership—even in a maverick, non-PC administration—cannot bring itself to actually name our enemy? Our enemy is not a distortion of Islam—it is literalist Islam itself, as spelled out in the Qur’an and Hadiths and used for centuries as the motivation to wage jihad and conquer Christians, Hindus and anyone else unwilling to convert.

The chart on p. 5, illustrating “strategic objectives,” “end states” and “lines of effort” is clear and useful.  And this NSCT is adamant that the primary goal of the Trump Administration is to protect the USA itself and her citizens, while not neglecting working with allies to help them protect themselves from the likes of ISIS, AQ and Iran, which “remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism” (p. 9).   Other groups also pose a threat, notably Boko Haram, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e Tayyiba—but, seemingly in an effort to include non-Muslim groups, the Nordic Resistance Movement, National Action Group (UK), and the Sikh Babbar Khalsa movement in India (p. 9).  It is worth noting that none of these three organizations appears on the State Department FTO list; and while Babbar Khalsa has enaged in violence, even killings, in the past neither the NRM nor NAG seems to have done so.  Perhaps these three groups are indeed CT problems; but there is scant data to suggest that any of them constitutes a threat even remotely approaching the aforementioned Islamic ones.

Trump’s NSCT also makes clear his intentions to keep Gitmo open as a terrorist detention facility (p. 14).  It also, logically, lays out the need to protect “critical infrastructure” from “cascading effects” across infrastructure types (p. 19).  The document’s penultimate section is on “Counter Terrorist Radicalization and Recruitment” (pp. 21-22), which states that the US will “seek to promote voices of pluralism and tolerance” (p. 21)—here, let me help you, Mr. President, with a plan for this I devised nine years ago—and “demonstrate that [radical Islamist terrorists’] claims are false….” (p. 21).  But, as I said earlier: when you can’t, or won’t, truly understand those claims or the context whence they arise—how can you possibly refute them?

In its “Conclusion,” Mr. Trump’s new CT agenda trumpets that “[t]his [document] marks a shift in America’s approach to countering and preventing terrorism” and that henceforth “[w]e will lead with our principles and a clear-eyed understanding of a constantly changing operating environment” (p. 25).  I have no doubt the folks in his administration will foreground American principles far more than the ones under Obama did. But this latest NSCT is far from clear-eyed—in fact, in its stubborn refusal to acknowledge the civilizational clash that Islam engenders with all the rest of the world, particularly the Christian parts, Trump is at best one-eyed.

But in a  world of blind leaders, the one-eyed man is still king. Hail to the King, baby!

 

Misunderestimating Mahdism in Malaysia

Six years ago I broke down the latest Pew study on the planet’s Muslims, pointing out that a large minority–as much as 42%–professed belief in the imminent coming of the eschatological Mahdi.  (This minority included Sunnis as well as Twelver Shi`is–contra conventional “wisdom” that only sects of Shi`ism adhere to Mahdism.)  My bottom-line take was this:

Several real-world policy ramifications for the U.S. State and Defense departments, as well as the IC (Intelligence Community), can be drawn from this Pew study. First, a civilization laden with eschatological expectations AND a historical track record of militant movements motivated by messianic leaders, infused with intolerance toward its own schismatics, convinced of ongoing problems with demonic entities and witches and in thrall to a literalist reading of a violent religious text might not be amenable to rational actor theory in international relations. Second, political consolidation and/or jihadist movements led by self-styled Mahdis should be considered as real possibilities in the twenty-first century, especially as we approach key dates such as the hundred year mark from the dissolution of the Ottoman caliphate (2024) or the year 1500 of the Muslim calendar (2076) — since Mahdism, historically, clusters around such important dates which spark attempts to create rival caliphates, often violently. 

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Iranian Muslims praying for the Mahdi to come (from my trip to Iran, 2008).

I could say I hate being right–but that would be a lie.  Earlier this month, according to “Channel News Asia,” Malaysian authorities arrested members of a group called “Asoib” (Arabic `asa’ib, “gangs, troops, bands”) who “planned to team up with another terror group in a Middle Eastern country to launch attacks….” Police Inspector-General Mohd Fuzi Harun “said that the Asoib group had misinterpreted the hadith…on Imam Mahdi, an Islamic redeemer who is believed to appear before the end of the world. ‘They…believe Imam Mahdi will appear in Mecca this year. This group will then team up with Imam Mahdi’s ‘army’ to fight secular countries and fight ‘the evil person,’ said Fuzi.” Another source said that “the men had planned to head to Yemen before proceeding to Saudi Arabia.”

Malaysia is 61% (Sunni) Muslim and has a reputation for being “moderate“–despite officially banning the practice of Shi`ism.  Yet even there, apocalyptic Islamic beliefs are clearly extant. And it’s amusing that that country’s top gumshoe takes it upon himself to explicate Islam–and in doing so gets things wildly wrong.  Having read all the relevant Arabic hadiths on the Mahdi, I can attest that his appearance in Mecca and subsequent formation of an army to battle secularism and a major “evil person”–by which was probabably meant the Dajjal, the “Deceiver” (Islam’s antichrist)–meshes almost exactly with “prophet” Muhammad’s sayings on the topic.  Asoib’s contention that the Mahdi will manifest this year is more edgy prognostication than a “misinterpretation,” for Islam’s “rightly-guided one” will come; it’s just the timetable that’s moot.

This Malaysian Mahdist movement may appear more of a nuisance than a real threat; but as I also pointed out a few years ago, it’s just a matter of time before the variegated strands of eschatological thought in the world’s second-largest religion come together to pose a definite danger to the rest of the world.

Addendum (9.29.18): Here’s a story entitled “Malaysian state to cane a third woman for infringing Islamic law,” which further undercuts the claim that Malaysia is somehow “moderate” in its Islam.