Whitman College is no longer the home of the “Fighting Missionaries.” Whitman is dropping the name, which refers to missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman (whose work as missionaries was, at best, complicated). Christianity Today reported that the college is keeping the name Whitman College, but it is letting go of the nickname because it does not […]

The post What’s in a nickname? 6 college teams with unexpected religious roots appeared first on Corner of Church and State.

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Source: Religious News Service (RNS): Tobin Grant

0_948b9_48a75301_LTND Guest Contributor:  Wayne Madsen

Saudi Arabia, which has fueled Islamist jihadism through its total support for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, while in league with its allies Turkey and Israel, has also threatened the stability of a country far to its east.

Saudi Arabia, which exports its radical Wahhabist form of Islam around the world, has set its sights on Malaysia, which it would like to see become a sharia law Islamist state in the mold of the neighboring Sultanate of Brunei. The Saudi government is ruled by one of the most radical Wahhabist leaders it has experienced in several decades, King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud. However, it is widely known that the elderly Salman suffers from dementia and that the government is actually firmly in the hands of the king’s nephew, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef al Saud. The Crown Prince, who is also Interior Minister and directs the Saudi intelligence service, plays a key role in providing money, jihadist recruits, and weapons to the Islamic State and its affiliate terrorist groups in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.

Recently, it was announced by Malaysia’s Attorney General that the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, received $680 million from the coffers of the Saudi royal family. The Attorney General, Mohamed Apandi Ali, a Muslim like Razak, claimed that the prime minister did nothing wrong in accepting what amounted to a Saudi bribe. Razak’s totally-corrupt government is attempting to shut down probes into its finances by the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). Since independence, Malaysia has been governed by the Muslim-dominated United Malays National Organization (UMNO). However, unlike past UMNO governments, the Razak administration has altered the policy of fostering interfaith harmony between Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus in the Malaysian federation.

 

For the Saudis to have paid Razak over a two-third billion-dollar bribe, they expected something in return from the prime minister. But the Saudis never expected their bribe to become public. Thanks to crusading Malaysian journalists and keen prosecutors, it was discovered that the Saudis laundered their payola to Razak via a British Virgin Islands «brass plate» company and then through the Singapore branch of a private Swiss bank. The Saudis are notorious for ensuring that their financing of Islamist extremism around the world is accomplished through a myriad of private banks and front companies. And under the direction of John Brennan, a Wahhabist-supporter, the US Central Intelligence Agency has turned a blind eye to Saudi financing of jihadist terrorists from Bosnia-Herzegovina to the southern Philippines.

What Razak is doing for his Saudi pay-off is turning Malaysia into a Wahhabist-influenced theocratic state like Saudi Arabia.

The first victims of Razak’s policy have been the country’s Christian minority. The Malaysian government is permitting Saudi-financed Wahhabist missionaries to travel throughout peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sarawak and Sabah on Borneo offering cash payments to Christians to convert to Islam. Christian pastor Esther Goling, the head of the Sabahan Christian group «Perpaduan Anak Negeri Sabah» (PAN) recently told the Malaysian Insider that «creeping Islamization from the peninsula into Sabah is as clear as day». Goling revealed that the Razak government in Putrajaya is permitting public schools in Sabah to be staffed by Islamist teachers who set about to convert non-Muslim students to Islam. A number of the indigenous and Chinese citizens of Sabah and Sarawak are Christians and the Wahhabist-led effort to convert these groups has been aided and abetted by Malaysian government officials in both states.

In Kelantan state, which is governed by the opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), the state government pays $2345 to any Muslim cleric who marries a non-Muslim indigenous person and converts him or her to Islam. Muslim clerics are also given a free four-wheel drive vehicle, free housing, and a monthly stipend, all courtesy of the PAS government of Kelantan.

The leader of PAS, Abdul Hadi Awang, recently attacked Christian missionaries in Malaysia, and pointed out the interiors of Sabah and Sarawak as areas where Christian missionaries should not be welcomed. Hadi Awang also said that Christianity, as a religion, had failed in the Western countries and should not be allowed to extend into the remote areas of Sabah and Sarawak. Following the lead of his Saudi Wahhabist masters, Hadi Awang would actually prefer to ban Christian missionaries so that his Wahhabist colleagues can have a monopoly on conversions in the remote jungle areas of eastern Malaysia.

Hadi Awang’s threatening comments, which followed Putrajaya’s attempt to infiltrate public schools with Islamist teachers, also created a firestorm in Sarawak. Sarawak United People’s Party leader Datuk Sebastian Ting declared that the Hadi Awang should be barred from entering Sarawak, a proposal also championed by other Christian, native Dayak, and ethnic Chinese leaders in Sarawak. Ting told the Borneo Post that «The PAS president (Hadi Awang) might have malicious and ill intentions against Christians and against the people of Sarawak and Sabah. Hadi is thus a threat to the harmony and peace of the people of Sarawak and he should not be allowed to enter this state unless and until he publicly retracts his allegations against Christians.»

There is but one solution to protect the Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and animist populations of Sabah and Sarawak from dangerous Wahhabist clerics, activists, jihadists, and other ne’er-do-wells falsely representing Islam. Sabah and Sarawak, which should have a large degree of autonomy from the Muslim-dominated peninsular Malaysia, should become independent of Malaysia and the vestiges of Wahhabism and bought-and-paid for Saudi agents-of-influence like Razak and his ministers in Putrajaya. If Kosovo can be independent because of a faux Serbian Orthodox «threat» against mainly Muslim Kosovars, such should be the case with embattled Christians in Sabah and Sarawak. «Freedom for Sabah and Sarawak» should be the rallying cry of Christians around the world, from Germany and Austria, where Saudi-funded jihadist men pose a rape threat to women on sidewalks, to Syria and Iraq, where Christians are being butchered by the forces of Wahhabist/Salafist jihadism directed by Riyadh and Ankara.

It is not only the Christians and other non-Muslims of eastern Malaysia who are feeling the threat of Wahhabism. The small state of Penang in northwestern peninsular Malaysia is also feeling the brunt of Wahhabist extremism. The government of Penang is a coalition dominated by the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a social democratic and secular party that leads among the ethnic Chinese. Penang, where a majority of the people are non-Muslim, was subjected to recent criticism by Wahhabist-influenced muftis and imams. Penangite Muslims were chastised for being too influenced by «infidels» in the state. In the eyes of these Muslim clerics, «infidels» are the Buddhists (36 percent), Hindus (about 9 percent), Christians (about 5 percent), and Taoists (some 5 percent).

There is but one solution for Penang. It should separate itself from the torment of Wahhabism. In the same manner that Singapore broke from the Malay federation in 1965, Penang should go its own way. In fact, Penang’s dominant party, the DAP, is the same party from which independent Singapore’s first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, originated. Lee feared domination of majority Chinese Singapore by proselyting Muslim Malay clerics and opted for independence. What was good for Singapore in 1965 is good for Penang today.

Maps of southeast Asia should be redrawn to show independent Sabah, Sarawak, and Penang. They should serve as a line of demarcation against any further Saudi Wahhabist penetration of Asia.

The Wahhabists and their co-ideologues want to challenge Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Shia’s, Ismailis, Ahmadiyyas, Ibadis, Yazidis, Alawites, Zaidis, Zoroastrians, Taoists, Alevis, and moderate Sunnis for control of large regions of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Europe. It is beyond time for non-Wahhabists to stand up to these religious brigands and reject their 13th century beliefs.

# # # #

About Wayne Madsen:

Investigative journalist, author and syndicated columnist. Has some twenty years experience in security issues. As a U.S. Naval Officer, he managed one of the first computer security programs for the U.S. Navy. He has been a frequent political and national security commentator on Fox News and has also appeared on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, and MS-NBC. He has been invited to testify as a witness before the US House of Representatives, the UN Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and an terrorism investigation panel of the French government. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the National Press Club. Lives in Washington, D.C.

This article was published at the Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal www.strategic-culture.org and is reprinted with permission.

TND Podcast Spotlight:  Jay Taylor’s Turning Hard Times Into Good Times |religious wars

Richard Maybury and Daniel McAdams return to reflect on the past and project into the future how U.S. foreign policy will likely lead ever more rapidly to the destruction of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness at home and abroad. Daniel will update us on the direction of foreign policy into 2016 in troubled places like the Middle East, Ukraine and China given the thirst for war by the U.S. neocons? Richard will reflect on the history of the conflict between Christians and Muslims, what kind of environment has enabled Christians, Jews and Muslims to live in peace in the past. He will also talk about how starting with FDR, the IRS has been used to coerce mainstream media opinion in the U.S. in favor of the ruling elite and its military industrial complex killing machine. Given a dire economic future, Richard will talk about the investments he recommends for protection and prosperity in the future through difficult times that lie ahead.

Stream each segment via YouTube below. Alternatively, to download a single mp3 file with all show segments or to access the show via iTunes, click here.

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Daniel McAdams

Daniel McAdams is Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He served as foreign affairs advisor to US Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) from 2001 until Dr. Paul’s retirement at the end of 2012. In the 1990s he worked as a journalist based in Budapest, Hungary, including as editorial page editor of the Budapest Sun. He also served as special rapporteur for the British Helsinki Human Rights Group while based in Europe, monitoring human rights and elections on the ground in various contentious states, including Albania during the 1996-1998 civil unrest, Montenegro, Georgia, Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, and Slovakia. He was a Phillips Foundation Journalism Fellow (1998-2000) and an American Swiss Foundation “Young Leader” (2006). He holds a BA in English from the University of California at Berkeley and completed coursework for a Master’s in international relations.

Richard J. Maybury

Richard J. Maybury is the publisher of U.S. & World Early Warning Report for Investors. He has written several entry-level, common sense books on United States economics, law, and history. His writing style is mostly in an epistolary form, usually as an uncle writing to his nephew, answering questions. Maybury had taught economics in high school. Failing to find a book with a clear explanation of economics, he wrote one himself. Some of his books include Uncle Eric Talks About Personal, Career & Financial Security—a book that is basically the foundation for his other books about the model perspective; Higher Law, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?—a book that explains the history of the United States economic model and how it was based on free-market Austrian economics; and Whatever Happened to Justice?—about his naturalist philosophical viewpoints regarding the foundations of America’s legal system, British Common Law, the law of the Franks, and early Christian Ireland.

# # # #

About Jay Taylor:

headshot-jayMr. Taylor is editor of J Taylor’s Gold & Technology Stocks newsletter (click here to learn more) and host for the popular radio show, Turning Hard Times into Good Times on the Voice America network.  His interest in the role gold has played in U.S. monetary history led him to research gold and into analyzing and investing in junior gold shares. In 1981 he began publishing North American Gold Mining Stocks, which preceded his current newsletter. His continuing interest in gold mining prompted him to study geology at Hunter College in New York City, supplementing his MBA in Finance & Investments from Baruch College, NYC. Throughout his career Mr. Taylor worked as a commercial, then as an investment banker. Most recently, he worked in the mining and metals group of ING Barings in New York. Prior to that he was involved in the first gold loan made in modern times in the U.S. to Amax Minerals, a 250,000 oz. loan facility led by Citicorp. In 1997 he resigned from ING Barings to devote himself full time to researching mining & technology stocks, writing his newsletter and assisting companies in raising venture capital. Along with the publishing of his newsletter he currently also hosts the web-based radio show “Turning Hard Times Into Good Times.”

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TND Guest Contributor:  Nauman Sadiq | TheSaker.is

If we look at the evolution of Islamic religion and culture throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, it hasn’t been natural. Some deleterious mutations have occurred somewhere which have negatively impacted the Islamic societies all over the world. Social selection (or social conditioning) plays the same role in the social sciences which the natural selection plays in the biological sciences: that is, it selects the traits, norms and values which are most beneficial to the host culture. Seen from this angle, social diversity is a desirable quality for social progress; because when diverse customs and value-systems compete with each other, the culture retains the beneficial customs and values and discards the deleterious traditions and habits.

A decentralized and unorganized religion, like Sufi Islam, engenders diverse strains of beliefs and thoughts which compete with one another for gaining social acceptance and currency. A highly centralized and tightly organized religion, on the other hand, depends more on authority and dogma rather than value and utility. A centralized religion is also more ossified and less adaptive to change compared to a decentralized religion.

When we look at the phenomena of religious extremism and the consequent militancy and terrorism in the Af-Pak region in particular and the Islamic world in general, it is not a natural evolution of religion, some deleterious mutations have occurred somewhere which have negatively affected the whole of Islamic world. Most Pakistani political commentators blame the Pakistani security establishment for deliberate promotion of religious extremism and militancy throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s in order to create a Jihadi narrative which suited the institutional interests and strategic objectives of the Pakistani military.

There is no denying of this evident fact that the Pakistani security establishment had wantonly nurtured Islamic radicalism and militancy in the Af-Pak region but the Pakistani military’s support for Islamic jihadism during the Cold War is only one factor in an array of factors in order to reach a comprehensive understanding of the phenomena of Islamic radicalism and the agents that are responsible for it; because the phenomena of Islamic extremism is not limited to the Af-Pak region, the whole of Islamic world from Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria to Indonesia, Malaysia and even the Muslim minorities of Thailand, China and Philippines have also become the victims of this phenomena and obviously the region-specific security establishments do not have any influence over all the geographically separate and remote regions of the Islamic world.

In my opinion, the real culprit behind the rise of Islamic extremism and jihadism in the Islamic world is Saudi Arabia. The “Aal-e-Saud” (the descendants of Saud) have no hereditary claim to “the Throne of Mecca” since they are not the descendants of the prophet, nor even from the tribe of Quresh (there is a throne of Mecca which I will explain later.) They were the most primitive and marauding nomadic tribesmen of Najd who defeated the Sharifs of Mecca violently after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. Their title to the throne of Saudi Arabia is only de facto and not de jure, since neither do they have a hereditary claim to the Saudi monarchy nor do they hold elections to ascertain the will of the Saudi people. Thus, they are the illegitimate rulers of Saudi Arabia and they feel insecure because of their illegitimacy, a fact which explains their heavy-handed and brutal tactics in dealing with any kind of dissent, opposition or movement for reform in Saudi Arabia.

The phenomena of religious extremism and jihadism all over the Islamic world is directly linked to the Wahhabi-Salafi madrassahs which are generously funded by the Saudi and Gulf’s petro-dollars. These madrassahs attract children from the most impoverished backgrounds in the Third World Islamic countries because they offer the kind of incentives and facilities which even the government-sponsored public schools cannot provide: such as, free boarding and lodging, no tuition fee at all, and free of cost books and stationery.

Apart from madrassahs, another factor that promotes the Wahhabi-Salafi ideology in the Islamic world is the ritual of Hajj and Umrah (the pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina.) Every year millions of Muslim men and women travel from all over the Islamic world to perform the pilgrimage in order to wash their sins. When they return home to their native countries after spending a month or two in Saudi Arabia, along with clean hearts and souls, dates and “zamzam,” they also bring along the tales of Saudi hospitality and their “true” and puritanical version of Islam, which some Muslims, especially the rural-tribal folk, find attractive and worth-emulating.

Authority plays an important role in any thought system; the educated people accept the authority of the specialists in their respective field of specialty; similarly, the lay folk accept the authority of the theologians and clerics in the interpretation of religion and scriptures. Aside from authority, certain other factors also play a part in an individuals’ psychology: like, purity or the concept of sacred, and originality and authenticity, as in the concept of being closely corresponding to an ideal or authentic model. Just like the modern naturalists who prefer organic food and natural habits and lifestyles, because of their supposed belief in “the essential goodness of nature” (naturalistic fallacy,) or due to their disillusionment from the man-made fiascoes, the religious folks also prefer a true version of Islam which is closer to the putative authentic Islam as practiced in Mecca and Medina: “the Gold Standard of Petro-Islam.”

Yet another factor which contributes to the rise of Wahhabi-Salafi ideology throughout the Islamic world is the immigrant factor. Millions of Muslim men, women and families from all over the Third World Islamic countries live and work in the energy-rich Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Kuwait and Oman. Some of them permanently reside there but mostly they work on temporary work permits. Just like the pilgrims, when they come back to their native villages and towns, they also bring along the tales of Arab hospitality and their version of “authentic Islam.” Spending time in Arab countries entitles one to pass authoritative judgments on religious matters, and having a cursory understanding of Arabic, the language of Quran, makes one equivalent of a Qazi (a learned jurist) among the illiterate village folk; and they simply reproduce the customs and attitudes of the Arabs as an authentic version of Islam to their communities.

The Shi’a Muslims have their Imams and Marjahs (religious authorities) but it is generally assumed about Sunni Islam that it discourages the authority of the clergy. In this sense, Sunni Islam is closer to Protestantism, at least theoretically, because it prefers an individual and personal interpretation of scriptures and religion. It might be true for the educated Sunni Muslims but on a popular level of the masses of the Third World Islamic countries “the House of Saud” plays the same role in Sunni Islam that the Pope plays in Catholicism. By virtue of their physical possession of the holy places of Islam – Mecca and Medina – they are the ex officio “Caliphs of Islam.” The title of the Saudi King: “Khadim-ul-Haramain-al-Shareefain” (Servant of the House of God), makes him a vice-regent of God on Earth; and the title of “the Caliph of Islam” is not limited to a single nation state, he wields enormous influence throughout “the Commonwealth of Islam: the Muslim Ummah.”

Now, when we hear slogans like “no democracy, just Islam” on the streets of the Third World Islamic countries, one wonders that what kind of an imbecile would forgo his right to choose one’s government through a democratic and electoral process? This confusion about democracy is partly due to the fact that the masses often conflate democracy with liberalism without realizing that democracy is only a political process of choosing one’s representatives and legislators through an electoral process, while liberalism is a cultural mindset which may or may not be suitable for a backward Third World society depending on its existing level of social evolution. From an evolutionary perspective a bottom-up, gradual and incremental social change is more conducive and easily adoptable compared to a top-down, sudden and radical approach.

One feels dumbfounded, however, when even some educated Muslims argue that democracy is un-Islamic and that an ideal Islamic system of governance is Caliphate. Such an ideal Caliphate could be some Umayyad or Abbasid model that they conjure up in their minds, but in practice the only beneficiaries of such an anti-democratic approach are the illegitimate tyrants of the Arab World who claim to be the Caliphs of Islam albeit indirectly and in a nuanced manner: that is, the Servants of the House of God and the Keepers of the Holy places of Islam.

The illegitimate, and hence insecure, tyrants adopt different strategies to maintain and prolong their hold on power. They readily adopt the pragmatic advice of Machiavelli to his patrons: “Invent enemies and then slay them in order to control your subjects.” The virulently anti-Shi’a rhetoric of the Gulf-based Wahhabi-Salafi preachers, who are on the payroll of the Gulf’s petro-monarchies, appears to be a cunning divide-and-rule strategy on the lines of Machiavelli. The Arab petro-sheikhs cannot construct a positive narrative that can delineate their achievements, that’s why they espouse a negative narrative that casts the “evil Other” in a bad light.

The Sunni-Shi’a conflict is essentially a political and economic conflict which is presented to the lay Muslims in a veneer of religiosity. Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest “proven” petroleum reserves, 265 billion barrels, and its daily crude oil production is 10 million barrels (equivalent to 15% of the global crude oil production.) However, 90 % of the Saudi petroleum reserves and infrastructure is situated along the Persian Gulf, but this sparsely populated region comprises the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia which has a significant and politically active Shi’a minority. Any separatist tendency in this Achilles heel of Saudi Arabia is met with sternest possible reaction. Saudi Arabia sent thousands of its own troops to help the Bahraini regime quell the Shi’a rebellion in the wake of “the Arab Spring” uprisings in the Shi’a-majority Bahrain, which is also geographically very close to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qaeda inspired terrorism is a threat to the Western countries but the Islamic countries are encountering a much bigger threat of inter-sectarian conflict. For centuries the Sunni and Shi’a Muslims have coexisted in relative peace throughout the Islamic World but now certain vested interests are deliberately stoking the fire of inter-sectarian strife to distract attention away from the Home Front: that is, the popular movements for democracy and enfranchisement in the Arab World.

Islam is regarded as the fastest growing religion of the 20th and 21st centuries. There are two factors that are primarily responsible for this atavistic phenomena of Islamic resurgence: firstly, unlike Christianity which is more idealistic, Islam is a more practical religion, it does not demands from its followers to give up worldly pleasures but only aims to regulate them; and secondly, Islam as a religion and political ideology has the world’s richest financiers. After the 1973 collective Arab oil embargo against the West in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war, the price of oil quadrupled; the Arab petro-sheikhs now have so much money that they don’t know where to spend it? This is the reason why we are witnessing an exponential growth of Islamic charities and madrassas all over the world and especially in the Islamic World.

Although the Arab sheikhs of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and some emirates of UAE, excluding the comparatively liberal Dubai, generally sponsor the Wahhabi-Salafi brand of Islam but the differences between numerous sects of Sunni Islam are more nominal than substantive. The Islamic charities and madrassas belonging to all the Sunni denominations get generous funding from the Gulf Arab states as well as private donors. Therefore, the genie of petro-Islamic extremism cannot be contained until and unless that financial pipeline is cut off. And to do that we need to promote the moderate democratic forces in the Arab world even if they are moderately Islamic.

The moderate and democratic Islamism is different from the monarcho-theocratic Islamism of the Gulf variety, because the latter is an illegitimate and hence an insecure regime; to maintain its hold on power it needs subterfuges and external rivals to keep the oppositional internal threats to its survival under check. Takfirism (labelling others as infidels) and jihadism are a manifestation of this Machiavellian trend. In the nutshell, Islam is only a religion, just like any other cosmopolitan religion, be it Christianity, Hinduism or Buddhism; we don’t have to find any ‘exceptionalist’ justifications to explain the phenomena of Islamic resurgence; it’s the petro-Islamic extremism and the consequent phenomena of Takfirism and jihadism, which is like a collision of the continental tectonic plates that has engulfed the whole of Islamic world from the Middle East and North Africa region to Af-Pak and Southeast Asia.

Some people are under the impression that democracy and Islam are inconsistent. But I don’t see any contradiction between democracy and Islam, as such. Though, I admit that there is some friction between Islam and liberalism. When we say that there is a contradiction between Islam and democracy, we make “a category mistake” which is a very serious logical fallacy. There is a big difference between democracy and liberalism. Democracy falls under the category of politics while liberalism falls in the category of culture. We must be precise about the definitions of the terms that we employ.

Democracy is simply a representative political system that ensures representation, accountability, the right of the electorate to vote governments in and to vote governments out. In this sense when we use the term democracy we simply mean a multi-party representative political system that confers legitimacy upon a government which comes to power through an election process which is a contest between more than one political parties in order to ensure that it is voluntary. Thus democracy is nothing more than a multi-party representative political system.

Democracy is not the best of systems because it is the most efficient political system. Top-down authoritarian dictatorships are more efficient than democracies. But democracy is a representative political system that brings about grass roots social change. Enfranchisement, representation, transparency, accountability, checks and balances, rule of law and the consequent institution-building, nation-building and consistent long-term policies are the hallmarks of a representative and democratic political system.

Immanuel Kant had famously said that moral autonomy produces moral responsibility and maturity. In my opinion this axiom also applies to politics and governance. Political autonomy, democracy and self-governance leads to political responsibility and social maturity. A top-down political system is dependent on the artificial, external force that keeps it going. The moment you remove that force, the society reverts back to its old state and the system collapses. But a grass roots, bottom-up political system evolves naturally and intrinsically. We must not expect from the movements for democracy and enfranchisement in the Arab World to produce results immediately. The evolution of the Western culture took place over a course of many centuries; the movements for political reform in the Arab World are only the beginning of a long and arduous journey.

In order to explain this phenomena by way of an allegory, democracy is like a school and people are like children. We only have two choices: one, to keep the people under paternalistic dictatorships; two, to enroll them in the school of representative democracy and let them experience democracy as a lived reality rather than some stale and sterile theory. The first option will only produce half-witted retards, but the second option will give birth to an educated human resource that doesn’t just consume resources but also creates new resources. We are on a historic juncture in the Arab World in particular and the Islamic World in general. This is the beginning of a new era; this is the beginning of the Islamic Renaissance and Enlightenment.

About the author:

Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, blogger and geopolitical analyst who has a particular interest in the politics of Af-Pak and MENA regions, energy wars and Petro-imperialism

This work was published at TheSaker.is and is licensed by Saker Analytics, LLC under the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0 International license (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0).

isis executionTND Guest Contributor Tony Cartalucci |

ISIS’ ideological source code can be found among America’s allies in Riyadh.  A recent confab of so-called “Syrian rebels” took place recently in Saudi Arabia. Those attending included a collection of dysfunctional expatriate “opposition” leaders as well as commanders from various militant groups operating in Syria including Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam – both affiliates of Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front – a US State Department designated foreign terrorist organization since 2012.

The BBC in its article, “Syria conflict: Divided opposition begins unity talks in Riyadh,” would report:

More than 100 Syrian rebels and opposition politicians are meeting in Riyadh in an attempt to come up with a united front for possible peace talks. 

As the conference in the Saudi capital began, one of the most powerful rebel groups struck an uncompromising tone. 

Ahrar al-Sham insisted President Bashar al-Assad would have to face justice. 

It also criticised the presence of Syria-based opposition figures tolerated by Mr Assad and the absence of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in the country.

In other words, Ahrar al-Sham openly wanted Al Qaeda’s Al Nusra Front in Riyadh as well – and along with Jaysh al-Islam, the only other militant group mentioned by name by the BBC as attending the confab – reveals that the entire so-called “opposition” are all direct affiliates of Al Qaeda – fighting alongside Al Qaeda on the battlefield and supporting them politically off of it.

Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam are part of the US and Saudi Arabia’s wider shell game in which they train, fund, arm, and back Al Qaeda terrorists under a myriad of varying and constantly shifting aliases and front groups. The result has been Al Qaeda and ISIS’ otherwise inexplicable rise upon and domination of the battlefield, not to mention a large and steady stream of US-provided weaponry and vehicles “falling into” Al Qaeda’s hands.

Al Qaeda’s Rise in Syria was the Plan All Along 

Al Qaeda’s original inception itself was a joint product of US-Saudi geopolitical ambitions. The Muslim Brotherhood, destroyed and scattered in Syria by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s father, President Hafez Al Assad, was reorganized and sent to Afghanistan by the US and Saudi Arabia to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Since then, the group has serendipitously found itself engaged on every battlefield and in every region the US has sought to influence, whether it was in the Balkans and Chechnya, across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), or even as far flung as Southeast Asia.

During the US occupation of Iraq, Al Qaeda would find itself playing a pivotal role dividing Iraqis against one another and confounding what was at first a unified Shia’a-Sunni front against the occupation. Terrorists were funded by Saudi Arabia and brought in from across the MENA region, including from the now infamous terror capital of Benghazi Libya, through NATO-member Turkey, and with the help of Syria’s future opposition, through Syrian territory and finally into Iraq.

In 2007, it would be revealed that the US and Saudi Arabia were openly conspiring to use these terrorists again, this time to overthrow the governments of Syria and Iran. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh in his 2007, 9 page report, “The Redirection,” would spell out in great detail not only how this was being planned, but the sectarian bloodbath it would almost certainly precipitate.

Come 2011, when the first shots were fired in the Syrian conflict, those who have been paying close attention to Al Qaeda knew that from the very beginning, Hersh’s prophetic report was finally being fulfilled. The sectarian bloodbath he predicted in 2007, became a horrific reality from 2011 onward, and there was no question that after the West’s intentionally deceptive spin regarding just who the opposition was faded, it would emerge that it was Al Qaeda all along.

In fact, the US State Department’s own statement designating Al Nusra as a foreign terrorist organization admits that even from the beginning, it was conducting nationwide operations.

The statement would claim:

Since November 2011, al-Nusrah Front has claimed nearly 600 attacks – ranging from more than 40 suicide attacks to small arms and improvised explosive device operations – in major city centers including Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr. During these attacks numerous innocent Syrians have been killed. Through these attacks, al-Nusrah has sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition while it is, in fact, an attempt by AQI to hijack the struggles of the Syrian people for its own malign purposes.

The last point is particularly interesting, since not only did the US State Department claim Al Nusra sought to portray itself as part of the legitimate Syrian opposition, groups the US claims are the legitimate opposition have also attempted to portray Al Nusra as such.

Al Nusra and ISIS’ rise to prominence was not the result of US foreign policy backfiring in Syria, it was the result of US foreign policy working precisely as planned.

Hersh’s article would claim that US and and Saudi efforts to create an armed opposition with which to overthrow the Syrian government would have the predictable consequence of “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

And that is precisely what happened.

ISIS is a Wahhabi Colony 

Having failed to overwhelm Syria in the opening phases of the proxy war in 2011, “deconstructing Syria” is the secondary objective. Carving out a region influenced by Washington’s principle Kurdish proxy, Masoud Barzani, and a Saudi-Qatari-Turkish sphere of influence dominated by Al Qaeda appear to be the current focus of Western ambitions in the region. A divided, weakened Syria still serves the purpose of further isolating and weakening Iran in the region.

Saudi Arabia has proved over the decades to be an extremely pliable client state. Attempts to replicate this, even on a smaller scale in Syria and Iraq would be ideal. Having a Saudi-Qatari-Turkish arc of influence from the Black Sea to the Persian Gulf would be as ideal for Washington as a Shia’a arc of influence would be to Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia.

ISIS then, serves as a means to “colonize” parts of Iraq and Syria with the very same toxic ideology that has prevailed for so long in Riyadh – Wahhabism – an extreme perversion of Islam created to serve the House of Saud’s own interests as far back as the 1700s.

Wahhabism was a means to indoctrinate and differentiate followers from mainstream Islam. This was necessary because its primary sponsors, the House of Saud, sought to use it as a means of achieving regional conquests and long-term regional domination. It green-lighted forms of barbarism, violence, and war strictly prohibited under Islam and relatively absent among the Saudis’ neighbors.

It has been used ever since as a means of filling the House of Saud’s rank and file with obedient, eager extremists ready to fight unquestionably for Saudi Arabia’s self-serving interests, and constitutes the cornerstone upon which the Saudis and their sponsors on Wall Street and in Washington maintain their grip on power within their borders, and influence the world beyond them. ISIS then, represents the export of this toxic ideology, not in the form of a shadowy terrorist group, but as a full-fledged army and “state.” The similarities between ISIS and the House of Saud, even superficially, are difficult to ignore.

Saudi Arabia beheads offenders of all kinds, ISIS beheads offenders of all kinds. Saudi Arabia does not tolerate opposition of any kind, ISIS doesn’t tolerate opposition of any kind. Women, minorities, and political enemies are stripped of anything resembling human rights in Saudi Arabia, and likewise by ISIS. In fact, besides geographical location, it is difficult to make and distinction at all between the two. That the two are inexorably linked politically, financially, ideologically, and strategically makes the case that the so-called “Islamic State” is actually nothing more than a Wahhabi colony, all the more compelling.

What is perhaps more damning than this superficial examination, or even deductions made regarding ISIS’ obvious logistical lines leading to NATO-member Turkey and Saudi Arabia itself, is the fact  that official documents from the US Department of Intelligence Agency (DIA), drafted in 2012 (.pdf) quite literally admitted:

If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).

To clarify just who these “supporting powers” were that sought the creation of a “Salafist principality,” the DIA report explains:

The West, Gulf countries, and Turkey support the opposition; while Russia, China, and Iran support the regime.

It is clear that – just as was planned since 2007 regarding the rise of Al Qaeda in Syria – the rise of a “Salafist” (Islamic) “principality” (State) was planned and pursued by the United States and its allies, including, and specifically Turkey and Saudi Arabia – with Turkey supplying logistical support, and Saudi Arabia supplying the ideological source code.

For those wondering why the United States has spent over a year bombing Syria allegedly to “fight ISIS” but has yet to make any progress, the fact that the US intentionally created the organization to gut Syria and would like to delay the liquidation of the terrorist army as long as possible until that occurs may provide a viable explanation.

For those wondering why Russia and the regime in Ankara are on the brink of war just as ISIS’ supply lines near the Turkish border with Syria are threatened, the fact that Turkey created and has gone through extraordinary measures to ensure those lines are maintained may also be a viable explanation.

And for those wondering why Saudi Arabia is inviting obvious accomplices of Al Qaeda to its capital, Riyadh, for a confab about Syria’s future, it is precisely because Saudi Arabia played a leading role in creating Al Qaeda as a means of influencing Syria’s future to begin with – a conspiracy it is still very much, clearly involved in and a conspiracy the United States doesn’t seem troubled leading along.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazineNew Eastern Outlook”.  

This work was published at the New Eastern Outlook and is reprinted with permission.

Syrian Christian father and daughter visit bombed residence they previously were forced to abandon. Photo credit: RIA Novosti

Syrian Christian father and daughter visit bombed residence they previously were forced to abandon. Photo credit: RIA Novosti

TND Guest Contributor:  Iben Thranholm
At no time in history has the persecution of Christians been as intense and widespread as it is at the moment. There is a global war on Christians, which has escalated in scale and intensity since the US invasion of Iraq.

After the deliberate destruction of nation states and government structures all over the Middle East, Islamist groups have seized the opportunity to wage war on and persecute Christians.

American journalist and poet Eliza has written extensively in the New Times about how the US invasion has caused hundreds of thousands to flee in Iraq. “Since 2003, we’ve lost priests, bishops and more than 60 churches were bombed,” Bashar Warda, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Erbil said.

With the fall of Saddam Hussein, Christians began to leave Iraq in large numbers, and the population shrank to less than 500,000 today from as many as 1.5 million in 2003.

With the Arab Spring things only went from bad to worse. ISIS’ success in Iraq has inspired similar groups in other continents, most notably Africa, where the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood commit numerous atrocities against Christians, as do Boko Haram in Nigeria and Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Not only has the USA, supposedly ‘God’s Own Country’, created hell on earth for Christians all over the Middle East and then turned a blind eye to beheadings, rape of children and unspeakable atrocities. America appears to be deaf, dumb and blind to the problem, and that is obviously bad enough. But in addition to this, Western foreign policy has failed miserably. It has failed by underestimating the significance of religious faith in the countries subjected to Western intervention. The West’s most egregious foreign policy error is the assumption that the Western secular model, which demands clear separation between organized religion and politics, may be imposed on the rest of the world, irrespective of cultural or religious background.

The unmitigated disaster of Western Middle East policy testifies to the profound error of this presumption. Religious conviction is one of the main reasons for the rejection of Western democracy and the repeated Western foreign and interior policy failures of the past two decades. Western rejection of religion as a valid factor of reality may turn the political agenda upside down, and this offers opportunities and advantages for Russia.

  To many nations and peoples outside the West, modernity means a return to their religious roots. The 21st Century therefore does not permit a separation of geopolitics from religion. Vladimir Putin understands this. In February 2012, he made a solemn vow to the Russian Orthodox Church that protection of persecuted Christians all over the world would be a key issue of his foreign policy.

Even though the immediate cause of Russian intervention in Syria is the fight against terrorism, the protection of Christian minorities and the defense of the Christian heritage in Syria play a crucial role. The most revered Christian Orthodox saints were Syrians, including Ephrem the Syriac, Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom.

The head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations, Archbishop Vsevovlod Chaplin, made the following statement in connection with Russia’s decision to accept Syria’s request for military intervention in the form of air strikes against ISIS in Syria: “Any fight against terrorism is moral; we can even call it a holy fight.”

Chaplin does not refer to a new war of religions, but instead – quite the contrary – to the moral obligation to fight evil. However, to do so requires more than military hardware and strategy. It requires spiritual strength. Russia derives its spiritual strength after the Cold War from a mighty revival of the Orthodox Christian faith while the West is abandoning its Christian identity. The East and the West have switched roles as Christian superpower and defender of the Christian faith.

Christian countries can oppose pseudo-Islamic extremism only by basing themselves on traditional religious values,” Chaplin believes.

Secularism will never be able to cope with the challenge of religious fanaticism and extremism coming to Europe today. Secularism will always lose to religious or pseudo-religious extremism. Even if secularism successfully beats off religious and public radicalism with the help of power and money for some time, it won’t last long, only for 20-30 years,” the priest said at the conference Cults, Neo-paganism, Secularism: Danger of Christian Ethos’ Decay in Slovenia. In other words: something will win over nothing every time.

Due to its secularist ideology, the West is no longer in any position to protect Christian interests in the world as it did for centuries in the past. It now creates terrorism and religious fanaticism fuelling blood-curdling horrors. Russia is the only major power in the world today that accepts the responsibility of protecting persecuted Christians.

The fact that Putin is now the best friend and the greatest hope of persecuted Christians will have an impact on strategy that reaches far beyond the Middle East. This spiritual dimension of Russian foreign policy has been completely ignored by the Western media.

The world’s Christians number 2,300 million. Two thirds of them live outside the Western world and are exposed to persecution everywhere. According to Open Doors, 322 Christians are murdered for their faith every month, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed and 772 incidents involving various forms of violence are committed against Christians.

At least 15,000 Christians were fleeing last week as Islamic State militants threatened to storm Sadad, an ancient Christian community north of Damascus where people still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus.

Also a great number of Christian churches and shrines have been blown up and destroyed by ISIS among these the burial shrine of the Old Testament prophet Jonah in Mosul.

These persecuted Christians are in dire need of a champion, a great power able and willing to defend them. They obviously accept such help as is offered. Syrian Christians have expressed great elation and gratitude that the Russians have taken decisive steps to put an end to the slaughter of Christians that has been going on for more than four years.

To many Christians around the world, Putin may become the 21st Century Constantine, the Roman emperor who helped the Christians of his day by putting an end to the persecutions endured under the Roman Empire. Constantine also conferred privileges on the Christian church that allowed it to become strong enough to have a positive impact on society. Putin may turn out to play the same role in the history of our day and recreate the Christian superpower that used to be the role played by the West, but which the West has abandoned.

When Western media mention Putin’s declaration of protection for persecuted Christians, they consistently analyze it in terms of a mere tool of geopolitical expansion and imply that this is not rooted in genuine Christian faith. Western pundits portray Putin’s faith as a cynical ploy to promote his political interests. However, this puts on display the abysmal Western ignorance of the spiritual development that has taken place in Russia since the demise of Communism and the Cold War.

In his autobiography “First Person”, published in 2000, Putin states that the first line in any Russian law code should be moral values and that Russia must pay complete attention to its spiritual position, in the same way as Russia is concerned with its political and geographical position.

This indicates that President Putin has real understanding of the fact that in this world, the spiritual foundations of political reality have a profound effect on the way a culture develops. A viable culture needs a moral compass that goes deeper than passing political expediency and the secularistic tenet “do what you will”.

The many Christians betrayed by the West now look to Russia for hope and protection, and this can open a new avenue of global influence for Russia.

Russia’s declared determination to protect persecuted Christians has rapidly growing significance for millions of Christians all over the world. Accepting this role is a game changer for Christianity and simultaneously holds the potential for changing Russia’s role in the world.

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5627a44fc46188bd1c8b457d (1)Iben Thranholm examines political and social events with focus on their religious aspects, significance and moral implications. She is one of Denmark’s most widely read columnists on such matters. Thranholm is a former editor and radio host at the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR), at which she created a religious news program that set a new standard for religious analysis in the newsroom. She has traveled extensively in the Middle East, Italy, the United States and Russia to carry out research and interviews. She has been awarded for her investigative research into Danish media coverage of religious issues.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.  This work was published at RT and is reprinted with permission.

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JAMESBURG – The newly appointed pastor at St. James Catholic Church on Monday was at a loss to explain why a person would fire a shotgun at the house of worship, blasting holes through its heavy oak doors in the middle of the night. “This is a very accepting community. It’s a very peaceful community,” said…

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TND Lecture Spotlight: “Faith and Doubt”

This lecture is part of the Boston University Institute for Philosophy & Religion 2015-2016 lecture series, “Faith and Doubt.” This event is supported by the Boston University Center for the Humanities.  Professor Dale Wright is the David B. and Mary H. Gamble Professor in Religion, Occidental College.  He spoke on Oct. 14, 2015.

Source:  Boston University World of Ideas