Dying For Religious Freedom: Yousef Nadarkhani

The Iranian government has not executed anyone on charges of apostasy since 1990, when Assemblies of God Pastor Hossein Soodmand was sentenced and then hanged by a Sharia court. Twenty-one years later, another Christian pastor may be the next victim of the courts. Western nations are beginning to take note, but the media is not—and, thanks in part to this ignorance, it may be too late to help the next victim of Iran’s continued flouting of international law.

Yousef Nadarkhani was arrested in 2009 when he publically opposed an illegal Iranian practice that required children of all faiths to receive Islamic instruction. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran signed in 1976, both supports Nadarkhani’s objections and forbids just the sort of persecution he has suffered.   Article 18 states,

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

Of course, Iran has a long history of similar international infractions, and Nadarkhani will hardly be the last man targeted. Many have noted a rise in persecution not only of Christians, but also of Iran’s Baha’i and Suffi communities. Some believe this may indicate a rift within Iran’s leadership:

Some sources told Compass the comments of Islamic leaders may indicate a power struggle between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This bodes ill for Christians and minorities in general, they said.

“When there is conflict in the government and division, then all the minorities will have a hard time,” said another Christian Iranian who requested anonymity.

Yousef Nadarkhani is still alive, but he may not be so for long; rumors last week of an annulment of his sentence have since been refuted by Iranian Christians on the ground.

Last week both Canada and the U.S. responded to Nadarkhani’s plight with a call for Iran to “uphold its international commitments” to its citizens. Some believe the dramatic uptick in public persecution may backfire on the Iranian leadership:

“The Iranian public basically doesn’t trust the government anymore,” Ghaffari said, “and they don’t trust the Muslim clergy anymore, because they have seen a lot of double standards and hypocrisy.”

Converts in smaller communities still risk persecution from their own families, but tolerance is growing in urban areas and among the younger generation. “In fact,” said Dibaj, “in places like Tehran and more educated communities, if you say, ‘I have become a Christian,’ they will respect you because of your courage and your independent thinking.”

If anything, government persecution has made Christianity much more attractive, said Yegh-nazar. “When government officials are on television telling people not to read the Scriptures, that generates more interest in the Scriptures.”

Let’s hope this is true. Martyrs are powerful figures, as the Arab Spring has so poignantly illustrated. If Yousef Nadarkhani is executed, a sufficiently outraged public might have a chance to spark such a “backfire” and help ensure that his martyrdom was not in vain.

Unfortunately, as Mollie Hemingway points out this morning at the Get Religion blog, the public has largely ignored this story, despite its having been addressed by the State Department:

The Christian and human rights press is all over it. But the only mainstream treatment I saw was from Agence France Press.

Here’s their headline:

Iran ‘annuls death term’ for Christian pastor

So if a court told someone who was facing certain death that he only faced certain death if he refused to recant his faith, would you say that’s an “annulment” of the death sentence? I wouldn’t.

Things don’t look good for Pastor Nadarkhani.

image via Anglicans Ablaze






Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak is gone: Long Live the Muslim Brotherhood?

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down this morning, and there’s no way to know what will happen next. While one should, on principle, welcome the departure of a tyrant, the fact is the Egyptian people might very well become less free now that Mubarak is gone.

That’s because—as anyone who has paid attention already knows—it’s likely that Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s best organized political force, will now take the reins. The Muslim Brotherhood ‘s supreme goal is the worldwide institution of Sharia law, and to say that they are dedicated to this goal is to insult them by understating their devotion.

Sharia is fundamentally anti-democratic. The Brotherhood has a history of manipulating democracy inorder to bring about its ultimate downfall, so don’t let the specter of free elections convince you of the group’s virtues. The Brotherhood might take leadership in Egypt violently, or they might do so democratically; either way, the danger to Egyptian freedom is very real.

And so is the danger to you. Because, despite what National Intelligence Director James Clapper would have you believe, the Muslim Brotherhood is no friend of the United States: it is one of the world’s most deadly radical terrorist groups. Consider, just for starters, their self-proclaimed motto:

Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.

The word jihad here does not refer to an internal struggle for holiness, and dying in the way of Allah has nothing to do with dying to self—at least, not for the Muslim Brotherhood. It surely does mean something like that to the millions of moderate Muslims who do not wish to see you dead, but there’s a reason those moderates are not part of the Brotherhood.

James Clapper told House Intelligence Committee members Thursday that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is “a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.” The claim is so baldly false as to be nearly humorous, as is Clapper’s insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood has “no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.” As John Podhoretz points out,

This is one of the most reckless and irresponsible statements ever made publicly by an American official at a critical and delicate moment. If one of the key figures in the making of the administration’s foreign policy is already making excuses for the Muslim Brotherhood, the president needs to signal immediately that the United States does not view this evil and destructive force with rose-colored glasses. Hard to say how Obama can do that in a way that will be meaningful and still allow Clapper to remain in his office.

Clapper’s office has since offered a clarification, stating that Clapper is aware the Brotherhood is not a secular organization, but not before U.S. academics had a chance to defend his claims—proving that, even in the United States, Brotherhood ideology has already taken root.

Who knows—perhaps Egypt will come out alright. Perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood will not take leadership. I pray so. But realize, as you cheer the fall of a tyrant, that your Egyptian friends are not the only ones in danger here.

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Egyptian Turmoil is Among the Least of Democracy’s Worries

The news from Egypt is different every hour, but right now it looks as if the Egyptian people may soon enjoy the democratic elections they have so firmly demanded. (Either that, or a messy military-led coup.)

But would elections do them any good?

It’s hard to know. Freedom and democracy are devoutly to be wished for, but the possibility of an ascendant Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is alarming at best, both for Egypt and for the rest of the world.

CNN recently revealed that the Brotherhood has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to candidates in Islamic democracies—candidates who are expected, upon taking office, to use their positions to further the Brotherhood’s goals.

In other words, the organization that now helps rally for reforms in Egypt has a history of using such reforms to further its own agenda. That agenda, the worldwide institution of Sharia law, is profoundly anti-democratic, and the Brotherhood will not hesitate to use democracy against itself. Unfortunately, both the Brotherhood and some of its most important leaders are popularly considered to be moderate voices—a fact that both endangers those who listen to them, and prevents real moderate Muslims from being heard.

The Muslim Brotherhood was formed in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, whose belief that jihad and death were intimately intertwined still motivates Brotherhood actions. A decade after its founding, the Muslim Brotherhood had over a million followers in Egypt alone.  Today its adherents are all over the globe, including in the United States, where advocates at Virginia’s International Institute of Islamic Thought coined the term Islamophobia in an effort to gain sympathy and “beat up their critics.”

The Brotherhood’s motto remains unambiguous: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”  Widely recognized as one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist entities, the Brotherhood has birthed groups like Hamas, whose tactics are neatly representative of the sort of radical Islamism the Brotherhood seeks to spread.

Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated protesters claim to be upset by the ruling party’s assault on democracy, but historically their own assault has been much worse.  Claire Berlinski writes,

I find it unfathomable, a true national security emergency, that the words “Muslim Brotherhood” mean so little to most Americans… The first thing you must grasp about the Brotherhood is its ideology: Its goal is the establishment everywhere of an Islamic state governed by Sharia law. In al Banna’s own words, it seeks “to impose its laws on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.”… The Brotherhood’s essence is immoderate: It is at its core unremittingly anti-secular, anti-Semitic, anti-democratic and anti-Western.

Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the Brotherhood’s de facto spiritual leader, and a key figure in its quest to set up global Sharia. He has spoken openly in favor of suicide bombing, wife beating, and female genital mutilation.  A fierce anti-Semite, Qaradawi has called the holocaust a “divine punishment” and praised Hitler because “he managed to put them [the Jews] in their place.”  And, lest you think such travesties don’t affect you, he has also forbidden the sale and advertising of American or Israeli goods, stating,

“America is a second Israel. It totally supports the Zionist entity. The usurper could not do this without the support of America. “Israel’s” unjustified destruction and vandalism of everything has been using American money… America has done this for decades without suffering the consequences of any punishment…”

Qaradawi has encouraged the killing of Israeli women and children, including pregnant women, on the grounds that babies might grow up to join the Israeli army. He teaches that Muslims have a duty to support Hezbollah.  And, though he has written in favor of democracy in the Muslim world, he admits that a Muslim democracy would be very different from those found in the West because “…in Islam there are some fixed principles that cannot be changed.”

The fact that the Brotherhood has joined the demands for democratic elections in Egypt ought to be overshadowed by the fact that the group subscribes to a philosophy that seeks to “destroy the Western civilization from within.” Yet, few realize that radical Islamism poses a danger even more insidious than outright violence.  Robert Spencer writes,

There is a new attempt to confuse the American people about the nature of the threat we face. It’s a large-scale mainstream media effort to deny both that there is any attempt to bring Sharia to the United States, and that Sharia is anything to be concerned about in the first place. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence of attempts to establish the primacy of Islamic law over American law, and much to indicate that Sharia is anything but benign.

Egyptian tyranny is tragic, and should be stopped. But tyranny, it seems,  is among the least of democracy’s worries.

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