The "Joint Plan of Action" signed with Iran by the so-called P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.) on Nov. 24 in Geneva caused Shiite Arabs to celebrate, Sunni Arabs to worry, and Saudis to panic. The Saudi response will have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences.
As Iran's chief negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, brought home a deal worth about US $23 billion to Iran, Arab Shiites fell into step with Tehran. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq expressed his "full support for this step." President Bashar al-Assad of Syria welcomed the agreement as "the best path for securing peace and stability." Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri of Lebanon called it the "deal of the century." And Hezbollah considered the agreement a "great victory for Iran."
Among Sunni Arabic-speakers, in contrast, responses ranged from politely supportive to displeased to alarmed. Perhaps most enthusiastic was the Egyptian governmental newspaper Al-Ahram, which called the deal "historic." Most states stayed mum. Saudis expressed the most worry. Yes, the government cabinet officially stated that "If there is goodwill, then this agreement could be an initial step toward reaching a comprehensive solution to Iran's nuclear program," but note the skepticism conveyed in the first four words. more >>
Members of the government of the Republic of Turkey have expressed consideration in turning a notable landmark that was once a church into a mosque.
Hagia Sophia, originally built as a cathedral and presently a museum, may be turned into a mosque, recently commented Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.
Syrian rebels have reportedly re-entered the historic Christian town of Maaloula, north of the country's capital of Damascus, this week while battling forces loyal to the country's President Bashar al-Assad. The rebel forces have been occupying the small, predominately Christian town intermittently for the past several months as they battle in the surrounding Qalamoun region. Recent reports from witnesses in Maaloula indicate that the Islamic rebels have reportedly kidnapped a group of nuns from a local monastery in the city.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a local monitoring group, told The Daily Star on Sunday that the rebels are trying to regain control of the city as they clash with regime troops. The city sits in a mountain region and consists of tall look-out posts in the form of chapels and church spires that prove advantageous for camouflage and sniper nests.
"Fierce clashes are under way between rebel fighters, including the Al-Nusra Front, and regime troops in Maaloula, which the rebels have entered and are trying to gain control of," Abdel-Rahman said. more >>
Family Research Council President Tony Perkins led seven members of Congress known for their strong ties to evangelical Christians on a nine-day swing through Israel's Holy Land earlier this month, touring the country's most important religious sites and meeting with top-level Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The trip, sponsored by the U.S. Israel Education Association with grants from several Christian and Jewish organizations, included Congressmen Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Steve Scalise (R-La.).
The delegation spent the majority of their time behind what is known as the "green line," or the areas near Samaria that mark the line between Israel territories captured during the Six-Day War in 1967. While experiencing the Holy Sites helped the Congressmen gain an appreciation for Israel, Perkins noted the most important aspect of the trip was time spent with Netanyahu and other government officials and their concern for the recent agreement the Obama administration reached with Iran over the country's nuclear arsenal. more >>
Time and again, Muslims, especially those in Egypt, project Islamic thinking onto Christians: thus the Coptic church has been accused of smuggling and storing weapons in its churches to take over the nation (when in fact mosques are regularly exposed housing illegal weapons for the jihad); of kidnapping and torturing Coptic girls who convert to Islam (when in fact Muslim converts to Christianity-apostates-are regularly beat, imprisoned, and sometimes killed); and even of supporting suicide-attacks when the church speaks of Copts being martyred (because in Islam being "martyred" so often means actively sacrificing one's life in "holy war").
Now a well know cleric in Egypt-the same who insists that Muslim husbands must hate their non-Muslim wives-has just proclaimed that Jesus was against the idea of separation of church and state and that he supported the idea of jizya, the Koran-mandated tribute conquered non-Muslims, or dhimmis, are required to pay their overlords, "with willing submission," per Koran 9:29.
Sheikh Yusuf Burhami, the most visible leader of Egypt's Salafi movement-which, since the ousting of the Brotherhood, has become the primary Islamist party imposing Sharia in the new constitution-recently issued an Arabic-language fatwa arguing that the biblical statement attributed to Jesus-"Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.'" (Matt 22:21)-could not, as widely held by Christians, have meant that Jesus supported the separation of church and state, "because," in Burhami's words, "a separation between state and religion contradicts the texts of the Koran." more >>
Despite reports that the Angolan government had "banned Islam" earlier this month, the country released a statement on Tuesday refuting the allegations.
"There is no war in Angola against Islam or any other religion," said Manuel Fernando, director of the National Institute for Religious Affairs, part of the ministry of culture, told AFP news agency.
"There is no official position that targets the destruction or closure of places of worship, whichever they are," he added. more >>