A Muslim landowner in the Philippines took in Christians to protect them from Islamist extremists

la-1502932681-rdvb95bmr2-snap-imageWhen the first artillery fire rang out one afternoon in May, Norodin Lucman thought of the four workers repairing a cellphone tower on his sprawling property. He sent one of his daughters to tell the men to come in.

Plumes of smoke spiraled up from the city below. But Marawi, home to 200,000 people, had survived armed conflict before, and Lucman assumed this one would end in a few days and his guests would go home.

Soon, though, more people began arriving at his door. Militants were torching homes and schools, freeing prisoners, taking hostages and waving Islamic State flags.

The militants had stopped another group of cell tower workers and demanded that they recite the Shahada, a Muslim proclamation of faith. Marawi is predominantly Muslim. But the men were Christians from nearby cities. They failed the test.

When one tried to escape on his motorbike, the militants shot him dead. Amid the chaos, the nine others managed to flee to Lucman’s house.

The Philippine government sent helicopter gunships and tanks to root out the insurgents, who were being funded by Islamic State and soon saw their ranks swell as fighters arrived from Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Chechnya.

The fighting, which continues today, has reduced the city to its foundations, evoking Iraq’s Mosul or Syria’s Aleppo.

But Lucman didn’t know any of that was coming as his house became a refuge.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE LA TIMES 

 

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Election in Indonesia’s Capital Could Test Ethnic and Religious Tolerance

14indonesia1-master768JAKARTA, Indonesia — In one of the most contentious campaigns in the history of Indonesia’s young democracy, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta, is battling on two fronts: in the court of public opinion and in the court of law.

Mr. Basuki, an ethnic Chinese Christian who leads the capital of the world’s most populous predominantly Muslim country, is not only campaigning in the election on Wednesday but also defending himself against criminal charges of blasphemy against Islam.

He and his chief political ally, President Joko Widodo, have labeled his court case a conspiracy by “political actors” who aim to quash his re-election bid for one of the country’s most powerful offices. Some political analysts also called the court case, which they say violates a decades-old ban on using ethnicity and religion as a political weapon, a move by opponents of Mr. Joko to weaken the president in the prelude to his 2019 re-election bid.

A series of rallies in Jakarta late last year that drew hundreds of thousands of hard-line Islamists, including one in November that turned violent and left one dead and hundreds injured, have eroded Mr. Basuki’s once double-digit lead.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

A Medieval Antidote to ISIS

21akyol-master768ISTANBUL — THE recent massacres in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., demonstrated, once again, the so-called Islamic State’s ability to win over disaffected Muslims. Using a mixture of textual literalism and self-righteous certainty, the extremist group is able to persuade young men and women from Pakistan to Belgium to pledge allegiance to it and commit violence in its name.

This is why the Islamic State’s religious ideology needs to be taken seriously. While it’s wrong to claim that the group’s thinking represents mainstream Islam, as Islamophobes so often do, it’s also wrong to pretend that the Islamic State has “nothing to do with Islam,” as many Islamophobia-wary Muslims like to say. Indeed, jihadist leaders are steeped in Islamic thought and teachings, even if they use their knowledge to perverse and brutal ends.

A good place to start understanding the Islamic State’s doctrine is by reading Dabiq, the digital English-language magazine that the group puts out every month. One of the most striking pieces I have seen in it was an 18-page article in March titled “Irja’: The Most Dangerous Bid’ah,” or heresy.

Unless you have some knowledge of medieval Islamic theology you probably have no idea what irja means. The word translates literally as “postponing.” It was a theological principle put forward by some Muslim scholars during the very first century of Islam. At the time, the Muslim world was going through a major civil war, as proto-Sunnis and proto-Shiites fought for power, and a third group called Khawarij (dissenters) were excommunicating and slaughtering both sides. In the face of this bloody chaos, the proponents of irja said that the burning question of who is a true Muslim should be “postponed” until the afterlife. Even a Muslim who abandoned all religious practice and committed many sins, they reasoned, could not be denounced as an “apostate.” Faith was a matter of the heart, something only God — not other human beings — could evaluate.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

ISIS and the Lonely Young American

10-recruitement-f-ss-slide-GKL6-master1050Alex, a 23-year-old Sunday school teacher and babysitter, was trembling with excitement the day she told her Twitter followers that she had converted to Islam.

For months, she had been growing closer to a new group of friends online — the most attentive she had ever had — who were teaching her what it meant to be a Muslim. Increasingly, they were telling her about the Islamic State and how the group was building a homeland in Syria and Iraq where the holy could live according to God’s law.

One in particular, Faisal, had become her nearly constant companion, spending hours each day with her on Twitter, Skype and email, painstakingly guiding her through the fundamentals of the faith.

But when she excitedly told him that she had found a mosque just five miles from the home she shared with her grandparents in rural Washington State, he suddenly became cold.

The only Muslims she knew were those she had met online, and he encouraged her to keep it that way, arguing that Muslims are persecuted in the United States. She could be labeled a terrorist, he warned, and for now it was best for her to keep her conversion secret, even from her family.

So on his guidance, Alex began leading a double life. She kept teaching at her church, but her truck’s radio was no longer tuned to the Christian hits on K-LOVE. Instead, she hummed along with the ISIS anthems blasting out of her turquoise iPhone, and began daydreaming about what life with the militants might be like.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

Is Islam to Blame for the Shooting at Charlie Hebdo in Paris?

abc_paris_gunmen_lf_150107_16x9_992The French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo skewers people of all faiths and backgrounds. One cartoon showed rolls of toilet paper marked “Bible,” “Torah” and “Quran,” and the explanation: “In the toilet, all religions.”

Yet when masked gunmen stormed Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris on Wednesday with AK-47s, murdering 12 people in the worst terror attack on French soil in decades, many of us assumed immediately that the perpetrators weren’t Christian or Jewish fanatics but more likely Islamic extremists.

Outraged Christians, Jews or atheists might vent frustrations on Facebook or Twitter. Yet, while we don’t know exactly who is responsible, the presumption is that Islamic extremists once again have expressed their displeasure with bullets.

Many ask, Is there something about Islam that leads inexorably to violence, terrorism and subjugation of women?

Nigeria: 200 young Muslims protect Christians from attack

nigeria-churchMore than 200 Muslim youths were among those who protected Christians from attacks in the Nigerian city of Kaduna over Christmas, a local church official has confirmed.

According to Pastor Yohanna Buru of the Christ Evangelical Church in Kaduna, the interfaith initiative was the first of its kind in the city. He said that Muslims volunteered to protect his church in response to a series of suicide bombings and attacks on Christian places of worship by Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

 “I really appreciate their love and care,” he said of the young Muslims, adding that it showed the possibility of lasting peace and harmony between those of different faiths.
Situated in the centre of the country, Kaduna State has been the site of increasing inter-religious tension in recent months. On Saturday, gunmen attacked and killed 10 residents who were having a post-Christmas celebration in Tattaura Village, Kaduna State Police Commissioner, Umar Shehu, has confirmed.

Buru also expressed a hope that the initiative would be taken up in other areas of Nigeria.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY

Gunmen Fire at Church in Egypt; At Least 3 Die

An Egyptian Christian woman grieves for a relative killed during Saturday's bomb attack at the Coptic Orthodox church in AlexandriaCAIRO — Gunmen on a motorcycle sprayed bullets at a church in a Cairo suburb late Sunday, killing at least three people. The attack appeared to be one of the deadliest in months against Egypt’s Christian minority, security officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which was apparently aimed at guests attending a wedding, the officials said. At least 12 people were injured in the shooting, the officials said.

The killings signaled a broadening of the violence that has gripped Egypt since early July, when the military ousted President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist and the country’s first elected leader, after widespread protests against his rule.

More than 1,000 of Mr. Morsi’s supporters have been killed during a campaign by the government that appears aimed at eradicating the former president’s Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

More than 1,000 of Mr. Morsi’s supporters have been killed during a campaign by the government that appears aimed at eradicating the former president’s Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some of Mr. Morsi’s sympathizers have singled out Egypt’s Coptic Christians as scapegoats for retaliation, saying they supported the military takeover, and have burned churches as well as houses, businesses and schools belonging to Christians. The authorities have done little to deter the attacks, or to identify those responsible.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES