Category Archives: Muslims

WHY DON’T THEY STOP FIGHTING?

BLOG 412 December 3, 2018December 3, 2018

WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST Each week Robert L. Wise, PhD, explores the Middle Eastern situation, ranging from Egypt through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the surrounding area. Wise first traveled to Israel and the neighboring countries in 1968. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon universities. Wise presents an objective view of the behind the scenes situation in these countries.

The recent outbreak of hostility from and toward Gaza raises a question that Westerners have a hard time understanding. After 70 years of off-and-on warfare, why can’t the Israelis and the Palestinians reach a peace settlement? Ending hostilities would be profitable for both sides. While the answer is actually obvious, it remains an enigma in the West.

American presidents come alone every so many years and think they can quickly bring an end to the struggle. Bill Clinton thought he had it in the bag and then Yasser Arafat walked out. The latest bravo came from Donald Trump who said it shouldn’t be difficult to settle. Was he ever diluted!

They all failed to recognize the obvious. Muslim and Arab countries don’t base their decision on democratic standards and ideals. There are no secular Arab states. The suggestion of a separation of church and state would be considered nonsense in their world. The one marginal Muslim state in Turkey has become “Islamized” during the last 20 years. Religious convictions govern what they all do.

The positions that these countries take is based on Islamic texts. At the heart of their religion is the belief that they must oppose Israel. Groups such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood base their hostile and deadly actions on their faith. Contrary to Western political pronouncements, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is not secularized. There political statements proclaim the same religious under-girding.

There are essentially three types of wars: political, just, and holy wars. The American Civil War was a political struggle between the North and the South. World War II has been considered a just war because the Axis operated with cruel, unjust, and inhuman intent. The most dangerous type of warfare is a holy war because at least one of the participants believes they are fighting for Divinity and God Almighty will give them the victory. An end to such a war cannot be negotiated.

Because one side believes God is their champion, they will fight to the death and never voluntarily give ground. The senior-most religious adviser to the PA recently said, “It is the duty of the leaders of the (Islamic) nation and its peoples to liberate Palestine and Jerusalem.” Suicide bombers who blow themselves up for the cause make the point.

That’s the bottom line!

Sorry. There’s no peaceful solution to such a conflict.

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GETTING CENTERED

BLOG 371 November 13, 2017

President George Bush made that banal statement that he looked into the soul of Vladimir Putin and saw hope. This past week, President Trump trumped him, saying he believed former KGB Colonel Putin when he said he didn’t meddle in the election and that former heads of American intelligence like the CIA and FBI were political hacks. A day later someone reminded him to say he still stood with the American intelligence community that unanimously documented Putin and agents meddled in the USA election. Highly contradictory at best. Not a good scenario!

The Middle-East doesn’t need anymore contradictions. With the continual deterioration of ISIS, time is getting shorter for creating stability. The liberation of Raqqa, ISIS’s final stronghold, the militant’s position as a military threat is disappearing in that region. However, ISIS appears to be shifting its strategy rather than falling apart.

At the same time, the Kurds are pressing for autonomy and have already proven to be the most able fighters in the region against ISIS. An overwhelming approval by Kurdish voters called for independence. Confrontation is highly possible.

At this point, Iran and Russia have expanded their influence throughout the region. These two powers have supplied the power and arms that have kept Assad in control.  In the midst of these conflicts, Iraq’s Shiite government has done virtually nothing to integrate the Sunnis. The festering problem of mistreatment of the Sunnis provided a fertile recruiting opportunity for ISIS. These factors amount to more dissatisfaction and another conflict waiting to erupt.

The New York Times recently said that the United States appears to have no clear plan to manage this instability or capitalize on military victory in defeating ISIS. The Times appears to be correct.

The recent Muslim militant attacks in Africa give the world a clue about what is coming next. ISIS fighters disappear and then surface again in villages where they continue terrorism and military attacks. The entire region of the Middle-East and Africa remain venerable to such infiltration.

This is not the time for anyone in the American government to suggest that Vladimir Putin is an “old buddy” with hurt feelings because the Congress placed heavy sanctions on Russia for hacking, buying false advertising, and supporting terrorism. Would Putin lie?

He has never stopped lying!

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UPDATING ARMENIAN GENOCIDE

BLOG 348 May 1, 2017

            Some years ago, I was researching my genealogical background and spent time in the Armenian Sector of the old city of Jerusalem where I became acquainted with a number of friends. April 24, (this past week) commemorated the day the Turks started rounding-up Armenian high ranking citizens living in Istanbul. The horror story grows from there.

This experience from the past is now on the big screen. THE PROMISE tells the story of the Ottoman Turks attempt to wipe out the Armenians, living in the easternmost part of present day Turkey. The movie is powerful, factual, and will touch your heart. The account is based on a true story.

I recommend the film because so few contemporaries understand what happened to 1.5 million Armenians who were systematically murdered by the collapsing Ottoman Turkish Empire as World War I began. The Turks claim they feared the Armenians would join the Russians and were traitors to Turkey. Though not true, the idea is still promoted in the Turkish school system. The Turkish government has denied their official role in murdering the Armenians and to this day refuse to admit what they did. Even two years ago, when Pope Frances called the killings genocide, the Turkish government screamed and said there was no such proof.

There is.

A Turkish historian at Clark University, Taner Akcam has recently found “the smoking gun.” Taner’s academic interest has been in genocide and how it was used in World War I. By rummaging through boxes of documents stored in the Armenian Library in Jerusalem, he found a 1915 telegram from an official in the Turkish city of Erzurum sent in a secret code asking for details on the killings of Armenians. The deciphered telegram helped convict an official. Akcam believes what he has found the path that will allow many other documents to be uncovered, further verifying the past. As Turkey prepared to size their country, in 1922, Armenian leadership shipped 24 boxes of court records to England to keep them from being confiscated. In turn, those documents were sent to the Armenian Library in Jerusalem where Akcam did research. History professor at the City College of New York and an expert on the Armenian genocide, Eric Weitz called Taner Akcam the “Sherlock Holmes of Armenian genocide.”

Many countries such as France, Germany, and Greece have acknowledged what Turkey did. Of course, the Turks scream each time their role in the killings is proclaimed. The United States has not officially recognized Turkey’s brutal acts. President Obama used the term genocide when he was a candidate, but not while in office. Dozens of congressional leaders signed a letter asking President Trump to publically recognize the systematic murders. They doubt if he will do so.

Akcam recognizes that the past is never pasted in the Middle East. Reports of diplomats, missionaries, and journalist who witnessed these events have long existed, but are ignored by Turkish officials. Will the government officials now change their minds? Akcam doesn’t expect that to happen, but he believes that human rights can only be established by acknowledging the path.

Let’s hope that just re-elected Turkish leader Erdogan will wake up. If not, the rest of the world is certainly coming out of the shadows and remembering the past for what it was.

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AN UNEXPECTED TURN IN THE MUSLIM STORY

BLOG 325 November 7, 2016

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            Forty-five-year old Samar Hijazi fled Syria with her family. For years she had known the abuse of a domineering and violent husband. Once in Lebanon, she found the strength to approach a judge of the Sunni sharia court that set her free. Samar’s story is not unique. Life in Syria has been bitter for countless numbers of wives.

But that’s not the story I want to tell you.

Freedom has come to multitudes in a widely unpublished form. David Garrison’s book A WIND IN THE HOUSE OF ISLAM relates the untold story of thousands of Muslims converting to Christianity. He is now saying that the pace of Muslim conversions has accelerated. The percent of Muslims converting since the inception of Islam has been slow but in the last two decades 84% of all conversions over the last 1,500 years has occurred.

Garrison recently reported that many Muslims have come to recognize that they did not find satisfaction in their faith. Although the civil war in Syria has torn the country apart and killed hundreds of thousands, silently in the shadows, the Holy Spirit has been bringing Muslims to new insights and spiritual discoveries.

For example, Iranian Javad (last name withheld for his protection) had never met a Christian or owned a Bible. Conversion in Iran could lead to death. However, in 2008, Javad immigrated to Athens, Greece, where he was invited to an Iranian Church. He had no idea such a thing existed and came out of curiosity. A new beginning started in his life. Today, he works at a refugee center providing practical aid. He discovered at the center that 2,000 Muslims had turned to Jesus over the last eight years. Javad had gone from total ignorance to becoming a missionary for the new found faith.

During the unparalleled migration of Muslims out of the Middle East, an informal network of new churches has sprung up in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and other countries. A church in Berlin reported 1,200 conversions during the last three years. In Hamburg, more than 600 Pakistanis and Afghans lined up with Iranians for baptism in one service.

Some will argue these shifts are caused by the need to amalgamate into societies that are hostile to Muslims. Certainly, this is a factor for some seeking better economic opportunity. However, the German magazine Stern reported a young woman saying, “I’ve been looking all my life for peace and happiness, but in Islam, I have not found them.” Another convert said, “In Islam, we always lived in fear. Fear God, fear of sin, fear of punishment. But Christ is a God of love.”

In the Old Testament, Joseph said that what was meant for evil, God used for good. Certainly, this appears to be the first sign of good coming out of the horrors of the Middle East upheaval.

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DEATH SPECIAL DELIVERY FROM THE MIDDLE EAST

BLOG 315 August 22, 2016

Father Jacques Hamel had spent a life time as a Roman Catholic priest in his parish in the Normandy region , France. The 85-year-old French priest had been conducting evening worship in his Saint Etienne du Rouvrat Church when two men rushed in from the back and grabbed him. Screaming in Arabic Allah Akbar, they bend the priest over the altar rail and virtually decapitated him.

The terrified tiny congregation of two parishioners and three nuns watched in disbelief and horror. Their small number to some extent reflects the condition of the Christian faith in Western Europe. The future might well rest with a combination of African immigrants and Latin-Mass traditionalists, but the small number attending in Normandy certainly reflects the current situation.

However, we see ever more clearly what the intentions of ISIS is for other religious groups. There is no surprise in the martyrdom of Father Hamel. The extreme Muslims have never made any secret of their desire to attack churches and synagogues. As they continue to fall behind in the Iraqi and Syrian battlefields, their attacks on Christians and Jews surge forward.

In April, 2015, one of the attackers Sid Ghlam had been arrested on suspicion of planning assaults with Father Hamel’s church on his “to do” list. He had already been in contact with an ISIS leader in Syria who instructed him to attack churches and ordered Saint Etienne du Rouvay as a primary target.

In one sense there is nothing new in this story. ISIS has been murdering Christians by the thousands in their controlled territories. The media has generally not heavily reported this history because it is too gruesome. In Mosel, the heads of Christian children are on poles in the park. ISIS now tells recruits not to come to Syria or Iraq but stay in their own lands and attack the infidels at home.

France, Belgium, and Germany tell the story. The only thing that has kept England and America from these Church assaults is extreme readiness. However, France and Belgium were not negligent in their defense against terrorist. But attacks in a Church? Christians shutter at such an idea, that it is now a fact.

The propaganda that ISIS uses to inspire such assaults often comes from Medieval times. The 14thcentury cleric Ibn Rajah wrote, “In charity it is permitted to kill people and animals in the easiest way … the easiest way is to strike off the neck with the sword of violence.” Sid Ghlam must have been reading Rajah.

By the way, there should be no surprises about the killing. ISIS attacks other Muslims who disagree with them. Their basic philosophy is agree 100% with us or you are dead.

I am sure much of what I have written will sound crazy (even with the craziness of the current American political campaign going full tilt) – because it is crazy. But crazy kills.

The world had best pay close attention.

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THE HIGH COST OF WAR

BLOG 312 July 25, 2016

The continuing hostilities in the Middle East are wracking up grief and suffering at an incalculable rate. Unbearable pain stretches from Israel to Saudi Arabia and back. Even people walking down the street or sleeping in their beds are not exempt. Take a look.

Clandestine strikes by Palestinians inside Israel include axe, knife, and vehicle assaults. Sometimes called the Third Intifada, these are individual assaults rather than an army marching. A recent picture in The International Jerusalem Post depicted Rena Ariel hovering over the shroud covered body of her daughter Hallel Yaffa Ariel.

The thirteen-year- old girl was sleeping in her bed when seventeen-year-old Muhammad Tarayrah crept into their house in Hebron and stabbed the sleeping girl to death. Hallel was a beautiful black haired, brown eyed girl loved by all who knew her. At the funeral Rena Ariel looked to the sky and cried out to God, “How do you eulogize a 13 ½-year-old girl? Tell me what words to use to eulogize a flower, a pure soul, who is courageous and beautiful. Your only sin was that you were almost perfect.”

During the funeral Rena Ariel cried out to the murderer’s mother, “I am standing here with a heart filled with pain and I am turning to you, the Arab mother, the Muslim who sent your son out to stab. I raised my daughter with love, but you and the Arab Muslim educators, you taught him to hate.”

The next day Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark was killed in a terrorist drive-by shooting near Hebron. As the shots were fired, his wife and several of his children stood by him. Rabbi Mark tried to shield his wife and children. President of Israel Reuven Rivlin said at the funeral, “The light of the way that Miki paved will not be extinguished. May his memory be blessed.”

Nothing can justify the loss of an innocent child and a devoted scholar, both bent on filling the world with love and making life better for everyone. Their loss is of no small value in calculating the cost of ongoing war in the Middle East.

In the Jewish world, life is precious. Jews constantly salute L‘chaim, life, with a toast. Whether Jew, Muslim, Christian or whatever, all life is priceless. Tragically, war and murder reduces human existence to a mount of dirt in a windswept field.

During the past month, week after week, America has had people killed in the streets. In France from Paris to Nice, citizens lived with senseless killings. This weekend, a killer shot children and adults outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Munich. The police killings and shooting by police continue in the United States. Every 30 minutes to an hour, television gives us another programed version of murder, mayhem, and slaughter. We casually go out for another bowl of popcorn without even wondering if we might be desensitized by the endless carnage.

Well, are we?

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A CONTRAST IN VALUES

BLOG 310 July 11, 2016

A poignant example of one of the vast difference in values between the East and West emerged this past week. On one hand, an article appeared in the New York Times, July 3, 2016, describing how ISIS planned violence and killing. With recent terrorist incidences in Paris, Canada, Bangladesh, Turkey, etc., we need to be aware. In contrast, the world mourned the passing of Elie Wiesel, one of the towering figures of the 20th century and a survivor of the Holocaust who passed away at the age of 88. The difference between Elie Wiesel and ISIS is a contrast in life and death.

A Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, and Nobel Laureate, Wiesel was the author of 57 books, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Wiesel was a professor of humanities at Boston University, and helped establish the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. He campaigned for victims of oppression in places like South Africa and Nicaragua and genocide in Sudan. He publicly condemned the 1915 Armenian genocide and remained a strong defender of human rights. He will always be remembered as person who stood for the sacredness of life and that all living persons of every race are to be valued.

I met Elie Wiesel a number of years ago in Oklahoma City when my friend Rabbi David Packman brought him to the city. A tall, thin man, I remember he had large hands and long fingers. In a quiet voice, he described the importance of human dignity. On several other occasions, we talked by phone about issues that affected people in the Middle East.

Elie Wiesel valued all humanity. ISIS values none.

The New York Times article described the radical Islamist agenda for taking life. ISIS has advised its operatives to kill “anyone and everyone” particularly in countries that oppose their operations in Syria and Iraq, women and children included. They single out religious groups. Suicide bombers are sent into Shiite mosques. Converts to Christianity are their favorite targets. In both Syria and Iraq, they have carried out a campaign of wholesale slaughter conducted in front of cameras.

Many in the Muslim community are quick to point out that the ISIS radicals violate the true principals of Islam and are heretical. However, ISIS justifies every act by verses in the Koran. The situation continues to be a violation of all human rights.

Can anyone escape a comparison of what Elie Wiesel barely survived in Auschwitz and Buchenwald? The radical Muslim terrorists are the 21st century’s version of Nazi intentions. As I prepared this blog, the media blasted the week’s stories of police killings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Falcon Heights, Minnesota, and Dallas, Texas. When will we ever learn Elie Wiesel’s lesson about the value of all humanity?

The world can not write ISIS off as only a military presence. They are the epitome of evil in our time. Elie Wiesel exposed the meaning of these extremists. In contrast, we must continue to toast and salute “the L’ chaim,” to life, and not allow its precious value to be diminished!

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THE FEAR FACTOR

BLOG 308 June 27, 2016

Probably the largest migration in human history has been pouring across Asia and Europe as millions flee the wars in Syria and Iraq as well as other parts of the Middle East facing terrorist’s strikes. What sends them running? The fear factor.
After months of the immigration to countries like Hungry, German, France, etc., many European countries are closing their borders and pushing back. The numbers flooding into Europe have filled villages with a completely different population. Muslims are often known not to assimilate  and remain permanent outsiders. Of course, this tendency becomes threatening to locals whose ancestors have lived in these areas for millenniums. What’s the motivation behind the resistance to poor people in desperate need? The fear factor.
The most recent example of the problem was the affirmative vote in the UK to withdraw from the European Union. The impact of this decision sent ripples (more like tidal waves) across stock markets all over the world. In the United States, the Dow Jones average had just reached 18,000. After the UK vote, the market sank 600 points to a low of 17,400. The British pound dropped from around 1.75 to the dollar to a low of  130 pounds. In addition, the Brits discovered that Scotland was not going to pull out of the EU which split the unity of the United Kingdom . Multitudes immediately started petitions to rescind the vote. They had obviously miscalculated.
What was going on? Fundamentally, the immigration issue had pushed the envelope way too far. Extreme Muslim attacks in France and Belgium had greatly increased anxiety in the UK. The motivating force behind the vote?  The fear factor.
Folks who don’t think that wars and chaos on the other side of the globe have any affect on them had better take a second look. Fear doesn’t recognize border lines or passport numbers.  Recently, EJA (European Jewish Association) head Rabbi Menachem Margolin noted that 40% of European Jews choose to hide their identity.The level of anti-Semitism has grown that significantly in recent years. EJA is the largest Jewish Federation in Europe and knows the terrain well. Even during the high holidays on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur when all Jews gather, 80% now stay away from synagogues. The reason?  The fear factor!
The EJA continues to believe that Jews have an integral place in Europe and must not retreat. The fight against racism and xenophobia as well as all forms of discrimination begins at an early age They are not retreating even though their constituency has worries. I believe their example points the way through these perfidious times. While there are reasons to be fearful, it is not time to retreat. The day has come to be persistent in our bravery – wherever persistence is needed. We must reject the fear factor.

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SYRIA: STRUGGLING WITH DECISIONS

BLOG 307 June 20, 2016

Every now and then, it’s nice to have significant people agree with you. For some time, I have been protesting President Obama’ s lack of leadership in the Syrian debacle. Now more than ever, that charge has been backed up by the State Department. Fifty-one diplomats made a public statement opposing the reticence exhibited by President Obama in his approach to the civil war raging in Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared fundamentally to agree with the diplomats.

During the past several years, I have repeatedly suggested that President Obama has made a serious mistake by backing away from the Syrian situation. Vladimir Putin’s aggression in the Crimea and the Ukraine followed Obama’s retreat when Assad repeatedly used chemical weapons after Obama had warned Syria not to do so. Putin concluded Obama was a paper tiger.

Let’s keep the record straight. Obama is an Evangelical Christian. I heard him profess his personal faith at a Presidential Prayer Breakfast. However, his failure to confront radical Muslim aggression has been so significant that many concluded he was actually a Muslim. The truth is that his father was the Muslim.

President Obama has made no secret of the fact that he had a fractured relationship with Barack Obama, Sr.. In 1982, at age 46, his father died in a car wreck after years of total neglect of his son. President Obama knew virtually nothing about what shaped his father’s ideals and ambitions beyond his growing up in Kenya. Whether founded or not, many have charged President Obama’s reluctance to confront radical extremists militarily has some relationship to this problem. His personal struggle is certainly difficult to define.

In September, 2014, Obama declared ISIS was not Islamic because they killed innocent children and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslims. Of course, this would be a surprise to ISIS since it justifies every single one of its atrocities with verses from the Koran. Many leaders within the Muslim community condemn ISIL’s action but can’t escape their claim to be Muslims. At best, President Obama sounds defensive when he makes such statements. Moreover, he appears to back away from tough decisions.

Interestingly enough, President Obama and Prime Minister “Bibi” Netanyahu are unexpectedly similar in this regard. Many within Israel charge Netanyahu with a flawed assessment of reality and that he constantly avoids momentous decisions. He has been described as trapping himself in a paralysis of indecision. President Obama appears to have traveled down the same path on the Middle East. He has certainly avoided the necessary big decisions about Syria and Iraq.

One the persistent problems this hesitation has created for America is that any significant US leadership role has been eroded in the entire Middle East. Currently, a majority of Israeli’s can only hope that Obama’s tenure will quickly pass and new leadership will prove to be more aggressive in the wars occurring in Syria and Iraq.

There seems to be little hope that Obama will change. Indecision will be part of his legacy. Unfortunate. Syria, ISIS, and the rest are simply not from a different perspective. They are evil – and you can’t play games with evil without losing every time.

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MIDDLE EAST SHIFTS WITH CONSEQUENCES

BLOG 294 March 14, 2016

A number of important events have transpired across the Middle East that have not been particularly well-reported in the United State. All the headlines go to the political candidates calling each other every name in the book. Sorry. There’s more important matters afoot. For example—

In Iran, moderates have won a majority of seats in the Assembly of Experts. This group is responsible for choosing the supreme leader of the country. They have the ability to question and dismiss the supreme leader. Every eight years, the 88 member Assembly is elected. Consequently, the new group could play an extremely important role in the future of the country. The Assembly was previously dominated by hard-liners who deferred to the decisions of the head of the country.

In the past, the moderates only held 25 percent of the seats. Today, they have won 60 percent. The staunch hard-line head of the previous assembly as well as the spiritual mentor of hard-liners were not re-elected. Moderates recognize the importance of improving relations with the international community and are far more open than the hard-liners. Probably, the next supreme leader they choose will be in favor of further expansion of democratic freedoms and greater openness to the West. Another difference is that moderates believe that government should reflect the will of the people expressed through elections. Hard-liners want to strict interpretations of Islam law regardless of what the people think or vote for.

Undoubtedly, the successful negotiations of a halt to nuclear weapon production and the lifting of sanctions have given many Iranians an improved view of the West. Regardless of the fierce objections of Israel’s Netanyahu, these negotiations may have opened an important door for better relations.

In Palestine, talk is growing of who will replace Mahmoud Abbas at the head of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Arabs have almost universally concluded Abbas is ineffective. Palestinian institutions and finances continue to deteriorate. The current budget deficit is $700 million in a small territory with few resources. At this time, Abbas’s Fatah party controls the West Bank and Hamas controls Gaza. Certainly, there is no unity in sight in that division of authority.

While Abbas probably intends to die in office, candidates are already lining up to take his place. They may overtake him before the undertaker arrives. One possibility is the emergence of a collective leadership. Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of Yasir Arafat, might lead such a collision. The removal of Abbas from power could have a dramatic impact on renewed negotiations with Israel.

Hopefully, these shifts will bring a better and more peaceful day.

 

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