The Other al-Baghdadi — and the Christians Fighting for Freedom in Syria

by ANDREW DORAN October 10, 2017 4:00 AM

syriacThey are a moderating force in the region, like the Jews before them and the secular Muslims who fear they might be next. Raqqa, Syria — The soldiers of the Syriac Military Council sit on a rug in an abandoned home in the urban wreckage of the caliphate’s capital, perhaps 200 yards from ISIS, drinking tea and chain-smoking. The predominantly Christian unit is a small but symbolically important part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have encircled ISIS and are slowly closing in.

The Syriac officers point out that those who’ve joined their ranks — including Muslims, both Arabs and Kurds, foreigners, and other Christians — are a symbol of the Syria for which they are fighting: a federated Syria, an alternative to Baathism and Islamism. “For the first time in our history, we are fighting for each other,” says one Syriac commander. A few moments later, a Muslim soldier in the Syriac unit enters the room, unfurls a prayer rug, kneels toward Mecca in the south, and prays. He then rises and sits beside the interpreter, and a lengthy debate about the interpreter’s unruly hair ensues. Their tension-relieving banter doesn’t even pause for the small-arms fire and artillery outside; they take no notice.

The Syriac officer points to the interpreter, Ibrahim, as another example of their diversity. Ibrahim, like the late caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is originally from Iraq. Ibrahim is a convert to Christianity, but he was born into one of the last Jewish families of Baghdad — a community that numbered well over 100,000 in 1948. His ancestors arrived in Mesopotamia 26 centuries ago, when thousands of Jerusalem’s citizens were taken into captivity in Babylon, modern-day Iraq. The Psalms recall the heartbreak of that exile: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL REVIEW 

 

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All the Ways Trump Defies the Law and the Constitution by Targeting Muslims

trump-immigration-ban-illegal-25228cb2-8bc9-4f60-97c7-3d8ca1d98367Hameed Darweesh aided U.S. armed forces in Iraq as a translator and electrical engineer for over a decade. For obvious reasons, that put his life at risk. After his home was raided by Baghdad police and two of his colleagues were murdered at work, he and his family fled to another part of Iraq, according to court documents. Darweesh and his family then had to flee their new town when a shopkeeper informed him men driving around in a BMW were asking for him and wanted to know where he lived.

Darweesh is one of thousands of Iraqis who have risked their lives by cooperating with or working for the U.S. government. Congress created the Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program to get people like him who have “provided faithful and valuable service to the United States Government” out of harm’s way. But the process is painfully slow, and the number of people who actually receive visas after receiving promises of protection from the U.S. is shameful.

After over three years of applications, background checks, medical exams and other processing, the Darweesh family finally received their visa last week. They got on a plane immediately. While they were in the air, thinking they were finally on their way to the land of the free, President Trump signed a cruel and illegal executive order on immigration.

The order bans nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days; the White House initially said this should be interpreted to include even those who are lawful permanent residents of the U.S. who had been out of the country temporarily. The order also halts all refugee admissions from anywhere in the world for 120 days, and all refugee admissions from Syria – where one of the greatest humanitarian crises since the Holocaust is underway – indefinitely.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE 

Which Christians Are Telling Donald Trump to Keep Out Refugees?

lead_960President Trump has signed an executive order that temporarily suspends the U.S. refugee program and bars Syrian refugees. It will likely suspend immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries and bars the admission of anyone who engages in “acts of bigotry or hatred,” including “the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own.” It also allows the the secretaries of State and Homeland Security to jointly admit individuals on a case-by-case basis, “including when the person is a religious minority … facing religious persecution.”

In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Friday, Trump clarified what this means: Christians refugees will be given priority status. “They’ve been horribly treated,” the president said. “Do you know if you were a Christian in Syria it was impossible, at least very tough, to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible.” People overseas “were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians,” he added, “so we are going to help them.”

The announcement was met with immediate backlash from leaders of nearly every Christian denomination, along with those of other faiths. They argue that Trump’s actions do not reflect the teachings of the Bible, nor the traditions of the United States, and they have urged the president to let them get back to work—many of the country’s most prominent refugee resettlement organizations are faith-based.

If so many prominent Christian leaders reject the notion that their fellow Christians should get preferential treatment, why has this become Trump’s policy? One possible answer is that these leaders don’t necessarily reflect what their flocks believe. Even if they think an open refugee policy is in line with the teachings of Christianity, lay Americans don’t necessarily feel the same way.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY

North Dakota Mosque a Symbol of Muslims’ Long Ties in America

28religion-web1-master768ROSS, N.D. — Richard Omar drove his pickup truck through the cemetery gate and pulled to a stop in sight of the scattered headstones. As he walked toward a low granite monument, his running shoes crunched the dry prairie grass and he tilted forward into an unrelenting west wind.

“These are my parents,” he said beside a carved granite marker. Then he fixed bouquets of fabric flowers into place with metal stakes, hoping they would last until next spring.

Mr. Omar, a retired electrician, was engaged in an act of filial obligation and something larger, as well: the consecration of a piece of American religious history. This cemetery, with the star-crescent symbol on its gate and on many of its gravestones, held the remains of a Muslim community that dated back nearly 120 years. Up a slight hill stood the oldest mosque in the United States.

The original mosque, erected by pioneers from what are now Syria and Lebanon, had been built in 1929. After it fell into disuse and ruin, the descendants of its founders and the Christian friends they had made over the generations raised money to put up a replacement in 2005.

It is a modest square of cinder blocks, perhaps 15 feet on each side, topped with an aluminum dome and minarets. Several hundred yards off the main highway, on the outskirts of a town with barely 200 residents about 60 miles west of Minot, the mosque and cemetery exist much as they always have, surrounded by fields of wheat and corn and grazing lands. In this spot, all the industrial clamor of North Dakota’s fracking boom feels immeasurably distant.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES

Don’t ‘scapegoat’ Syrian refugees, Catholic bishops and evangelicals say

refugees(CNN)Two of the country’s largest and most influential religious groups, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Association of Evangelicals, are urging the United States not to halt the resettlement of Syrian refugees after the deadly terrorist attack in Paris last Friday.

“Of course we want to keep terrorists out of our country, but let’s not punish the victims of ISIS for the sins of ISIS,” Leith Anderson, NAE president, said on Tuesday.

House Speaker Paul Ryan has called for a “pause” in the U.S. program accepting Syrian refugees and 27 governors have said they will not welcome them, though they have little legal authority to bar the federal government from settling refugees in their states.

Meanwhile, almost every GOP presidential candidate has said the United States should stop admitting Syrian refugees. Ted Cruz told CNN that the country should deny entry to Muslim refugeesfrom Syria, but leave the door open to fleeing Christians. Jeb Bush said that refugee resettlement should “focus” on Christians.

Tuesday’s announcements from the Catholic bishops and evangelical association, which represents some 45,000 churches, put several candidates squarely at odds with their religious leaders. Sen. Marco Rubio, Bush and Chris Christie are Catholic. Cruz and Mike Huckabee are evangelicals.

“I am disturbed … by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States,” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the Catholic bishops’ committee on migration, said on Tuesday.

“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves — violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”

Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011, but the Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed entry next year.

At least one of the suspects believed to be involved in the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 129 entered Europe among the current wave of Syrian refugees. He had falsely identified himself as a Syrian named Ahmad al Muhammad and was allowed to enter Greece in early October.

But the United States has a “strong track record” for screening refugee applicants, Anderson said.

“It is more thorough and careful than the screening for tourist and student visas to the United States. A tourist with a French passport does not need screening or a visa; a refugee from Syria must pass multiple careful tests for eligibility.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNN 

Terrorism is a new ideological trend, has nothing to do with Islam – Grand Mufti of Syria

2. Ökumenischer Kirchentag am Samstag (15.05.2010) in München (Oberbayern): Der syrische Großmufti Sheik Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun nimmt an einer Podiumsdiskussion mit dem Titel

The Middle East conflict – war in Syria and Iraq – has already spilled over. No one is safe from the terrorist attacks, neither East, nor West. Islamic State claims it is still strong, and its ideas are attracting new recruits to replace those killed on the field. Islamic State says the horrors it perpetrates are done in the name Allah – spurring resentment against Muslims all across the globe. Today, we speak to an Islamic scholar, a Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, to see how the jihadists have twisted the idea of Islam. And does their agenda have anything to do with Islam at all?

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Sophie Shevardnadze:Thank you very much for being with us today. This is a great honor. We are delighted to have you, because there are so many things we want to discuss. You said that there is no such thing as a religious war, there are only political interests. But ISIL fighters want to conquer the whole world, they use Islam as their banner and call this fight a religious war. Are they guided by political interests?

Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun: First of all, I want to express my gratitude to the Russian Federation, because it sided with the truth. It did not separate Syrians by their Shia or Sunni background. It decided to support the Syrian people as a whole.

Syria is a secular, democratic society where different religious groups coexist – Christians, the Druze, Sunni and Shia Muslims. Those who call their wars religious, do so in order to provoke radicalism among Muslims. This of course goes against the true Islamic culture, because a person with values will never commit the atrocities ISIL is known for. They use religion as a pretext for conflict and bloodshed. I think there are two kinds of Islamic State fighters – those who know nothing about true Islam and those who have some religious background, but they use religion to promote their own agenda and kill others.

SS: How are ISIL leaders able to make so many young people follow them? They make them participate in violent acts, in combat – how do they do it?

ABH: What ISIL is doing is not new. This organization has existed before – under different names. They convince their followers that they are guided by religious convictions, spread their ideology, spending a lot of money on that work. We must remember it.

SS: Right! But they don’t buy these young people – they come from Europe, Russia, the U.S. young people from good families for some reason go to Syria and begin to fight for ISIL. How do Islamic State leaders achieve that? It does not matter how they name themselves. How do they do this? What goes on in people’s heads?

ABH: We met with some guys who came from the UK, France. Many of them were Syrians. They come here to build some sort of Islamic caliphate. They think that they will promote Islam and spread it to the whole world.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RT

Even Christian Groups Disagree With Republicans’ Plan To Prioritize Religious Minorities In Refugee Crisis

Syrian refugeesWASHINGTON — Christian groups that work with refugees are strongly opposed to a proposal that would in effect put Iraqi and Syrian Christians ahead of Muslims for resettlement in the U.S., even if they are also victims of persecution.

Ten House Republicans have signed on to a bill introduced this month by House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that, among other things, instructs the government to prioritize religious minorities from Syria and Iraq for refugee status. The Obama administration plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees in the 2016 fiscal year, which begins on Thursday.

As western countries determine how many people to take in from the Middle East amid an ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, the religious provision in McCaul’s proposal points to a key point of tension: the fact that most Syrians are Muslim.

This has been specifically highlighted by some leaders, such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who said admitting more refugees could take away Europe’s Christian identity.

U.S. politicians who oppose accepting more Syrian refugees have been less explicitly focused on religion, but contend that it would harm national security because some of those acceptedcould be potential terrorists. In announcing the legislation, the congressman did not mention any religion specifically, but instead focused on the “threat posed by inadequate security screening procedures for refugees seeking entry into the United States,” including members of the Islamic State. 

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST