Ave Maria

The music is by Franz Schubert, sung by Dolores O’Riordan, while the images are from the film The Passion of the Christ.

Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Maria, gratia plena
Maria, gratia plena
Ave Ave Dominus
Dominus tecum,
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus
et benedictus fructus ventris
ventris tui, Iesus.
Ave Maria.
Ave Maria, full of thanksgiving
Maria, full of thanksgiving
Maria, full of thanksgiving
Ave Ave God
Your God
Be blessed among the women
And blessed
And blessed be the product of your womb
Your womb, Jesus.
Ave Maria.

The Passion of the Christ came out in 2004 and was immediately labeled as “anti-Semitic” by its detractors. Though it never won an Academy Award, it holds the all time box office record for an R-rated film, having grossed $370,782,930 in the US and a whopping $611,899,420 worldwide. To the surprise of many, it became a major hit among audiences in the Arab world:

Mel Gibson’s controversial movie “The Passion of the Christ,” is breaking box office records across the Middle East. With the approach of Easter, Arab Christians identify primarily with the religious message. But it’s the film’s popularity among Muslims – even though it flouts Islamic taboos – that’s turning it into a phenomenon.

Islam forbids the depiction of a prophet, and Koranic verses deny the crucifixion ever occurred. For those reasons, the film is banned in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain. It’s also banned in Israel – but for other reasons.

“Banned in Israel–but for other reasons.” The above is from an article about The Passion that was published in the Christian Science Monitor on April 9, 2004. You’ll notice that the countries which banned the film–Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain–are today all allied with each other in the support of terrorists in Syria…where the film was not banned.

But to get back to the Christian Science Monitor piece. The article includes a quote from an Israeli Jew, who damns the film as anti-Semitic “both in intent and effect.”

“I have no doubt that the film is anti-Semitic both in intent and effect, but I’m very wary of some Jewish organizations’ reactions to it,” said Yossi Klein Halevi, who is identified as being affiliated with the Shalem Center in Jerusalem.

“It needs to be more nuanced,” Halevi complained. “When an evangelical in Colorado Springs sees it, he doesn’t see anti-Semitism. But when Yasser Arafat sees it and calls it an important historic event, he’s responding to that anti-Semitism. And the fact that it’s becoming a major hit in the Arab world, that has consequences… ‘The Passion’ is where Mel Gibson and Yasser Arafat meet, and it isn’t bound by a love of Jesus.”

As alluded to in Halevi’s quote, The Passion was commented upon by former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who is said to have attended a screening of the film along with Christian leaders. After the screening, an aide to Arafat remarked, “The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion.”

Here again, the passage of history is deeply significant. In October of 2004, Arafat came down with a severe illness, and on November 11 he died at a hospital in Paris. There was suspicion the death was not due to natural causes, but it wasn’t until 2013 that a team of Swiss scientists released the results of a months-long investigation showing Arafat most likely had died of polonium poisoning. Many today speculate that Israel was behind the assassination.

Ariel Sharon, who himself came to a bad end, was the leader of Israel at the time Arafat was poisoned. The former Israeli prime minister suffered from obesity and weighed 254 pounds, and on January 4, 2006, he was overcome by a hemorrhagic stroke. The last eight years of his life were spent in a coma.

“The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion.” When we recall what the people of Gaza in particularly have endured over the years, the analogy has validity. While I am not comparing Yasser Arafat to Jesus, the latter’s words from the Gospel of John, chapter 15, are worth recalling:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.  You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Jesus was sent by God to teach humanity how to live in peace. He was born among the Jews not because Jews are “chosen” by God, but because Jews especially were in need of hearing this message. Jesus was the long-awaited Jewish messiah, but because he preached a message of peace rather than war and conquest, the Jews rejected him. Here are the words of Mary in the first chapter of Luke–a passage that is often referred to as the “song of Mary.”

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

Ave Maria, gratia. And if you think about it, you’ll notice another deeply significant sequence of events. Mary’s words that God “helped his servant Israel,” is of course an allusion to the Old Testament narrative. But then came the birth of Jesus; his rejection and the calls for his crucifixion in 30 A.D.; followed by a stupendously stunning Jewish downfall just 40 years later–in 70 A.D.–when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. One wonders if a somewhat similar type downfall may await the modern Jewish state.

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Here is another rendition of Ave Maria sung by Dolores O’Riordan, this time accompanied by Luciano Pavarotti:

Ave Maria, gratia. Gratia.

An Islamic Response To The French Presidential Elections by Sheikh Imran Hosein

May 03, 2017

Imran Hosein: Meeting with the Saker in beautiful Tobago by Imran N. Hosein

Meeting with the Saker in beautiful Tobago

by Imran N. Hosein

www.imranhosein.org
inhosein@hotmail.com

I have just spent 10 exciting days with my Russian friend, ‘The Saker’, in the enchantingly beautiful Caribbean island of Tobago. I was born in the island of Trinidad where I now live, and Tobago is located just next to Trinidad in the South Caribbean Sea close to Venezuela:

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/map/central_america_map2.htm

This was the first time that I ever met with ‘Saker’, and I am happy to report that I succeeded in persuading him to come out in the open with his true identity, while putting his trust in the One God. As a consequence, his identity is now public. He is Andrei Raevsky, but he will continue to use his nom de plume of Saker. If you visit his website: http://thesaker.is/sakers-open-letter-to-the-saker-community/you will even see his photograph. Those who are not familiar with him will get to know him if they visit his website.

I also got him to agree to record a joint video with me in which I interviewed him for half of an hour, so viewers will soon be able to see us together in that interview in Tobago. It will be placed on my website at www.imranhosein.org as well as my You-tube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/SheikhImranHosein

We were joined in Tobago by my Serbian friend, the US-trained Attorney, Stefan Karganovic, and by his friend, a Serbian Neurosurgeon. I got to know Stefan a few years ago through the Saker, and we corresponded with each other by email before I travelled to Belgrade in 2015 to meet with him and so many others in what must be recorded as a blessed visit to that historic city. It was a dream come true for me to welcome my friend Stefan to beautiful Tobago.

Stefan has just completed the Serbian/Bosnian translation of my book on ‘Methodology for Study of the Qur’an’, and Prof Branko Rakic of the Faculty of Law of the University of Belgrade has written a long Foreword for the book. It will soon be published in a new edition with Prof Branko Rakic’s Foreword Insha Allah.

Both Saker’s wife, Ana, and my wife, Aisha, were also with us in Tobago.

I took them for an all-day tour all around the island of Tobago – driving from one end of the island to the other, while passing through Roxborough and Speyside where we stopped for lunch at a beachside restaurant with an absolutely stunning view of the Speyside Bay, until we reached the town of Charlottesville located at the other end of the island. Here are some pictures of Speyside Bay and Charlotteville:

https://www.google.tt/search?q=parlatuvier+bay+pictures+tobago&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwji4_zCgozTAhUESiYKHSBTDQgQ7AkIJA&biw=1163&bih=545&dpr=1.65#tbm=isch&q=speyside++bay+pictures+tobago&*

https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotos-g1463485-Charlotteville_Tobago_Trinidad_and_Tobago.html

We then drove through the rain-forest from the eastern side of the island across to the western side, got stuck in soft mud at the side of the road, and eventually found a rest-shed where we could enjoy our desert – which, inevitably, was pineapple.

Perhaps the most beautiful sight of all was when we looked down at the Parlatuvier Bay (otherwise known as Englishman’s Bay) from high up a hill. My guests were all absolutely amazed by the stunning natural beauty of Parlatuvier Bay. Here are some pictures of the Bay

We also made the trip by boat to Tobago’s Nylon Pool as well as to the archipelago known as No Man’s Land.

https://www.google.tt/search?q=tobagos+nylon+pool+pics&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjBwfW0hozTAhUGKCYKHYMbCd4Q7AkINA&biw=1163&bih=545

https://www.google.tt/search?q=tobago+no+man%27s+land+archipelago+pics&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjA96HehozTAhXqr1QKHXd9B3EQ7AkIMg&biw=1163&bih=545

Captain Phillips, who piloted our boat, assured my guests that whoever took a bath in the Nylon Pool would emerge looking ten years younger. Not only did they all look ten years younger at the end of their visit to Tobago, but Stefan eventually looked quite red. He spent endless hours enjoying himself swimming in the blue/green Caribbean Sea. I do not know why the native people who lived in what is now known as America, were called ‘Red’ Indians, but I am satisfied that Stefan should enter history as the first ever ‘Red’ Serbian who was authentically ‘red’.

Since it was the Christian time of Lent, when Christians have certain dietary restrictions, we bought lots of fresh fish at the Lambeau Fish Market, and took turns in cooking. I had my turn twice, and I was fortunate to escape, despite my somewhat unconventional menus, without any culinary disaster. I took lots of pineapples and two large watermelons to Tobago from Trinidad, and was very relieved when they turned out to be quite sweet. Indeed we ate pineapples so often that some of my guests may even have had dreams of sweet pineapples. I also took a local Indian bread called Dhalpouri Roti. It is soft, round in shape, and large enough for two people to eat one of them. The flour is mixed with yellow lentil called Dhall, which makes it very delicious indeed. My guests loved it.

Despite the time spent in cooking, touring, and bathing in the blue/green Caribbean Sea, we still found time for all four of my Orthodox Christian guests to visit Tobago’s Masjid al-Taubah to attend the congregational prayers known as Salaat al-Jumu’ah.

The Imam invited me to deliver the Khutbah (i.e., sermon) and to lead the prayer, and I delivered a Khutbah on Christian-Muslim relations which was based on verses of the Qur’an. 

Saker responded to the sermon with a declaration that he wanted all of Russia to be able to hear it, and Stefan had the same wish for all of the Balkans.

My sermon was based on verses of the Qur’an which explicitly affirmed faith in some Christians:

كُنتُمْ خَيْرَ أُمَّةٍ أُخْرِجَتْ لِلنَّاسِ تَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَتَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَتُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللّهِ وَلَوْ آمَنَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُم مِّنْهُمُ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَأَكْثَرُهُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

“You (Muslims) are an excellent community evolved (by divine wisdom) for the sake of mankind, (provided that you) enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong, and you have faith in Allah. If only the People of the Book (i.e., Jews and Christians) had faith (in Muhammad as a Prophet of the One God and in the latest Book, i.e., the Qur’ān, as His revealed Word), it would have been beneficial for them: amongst them there are those who have faith, but most of (the rest of them) are perverted transgressors.”

(Qur’ān, Ale ‘Imran, 3:110)

In consequence of the above unambiguous declaration by Allah Most High in which He affirmed that amongst the Christians and Jews (i.e., the People who have the Book of Allah as we, Muslims, also have the Book of Allah) there are those who have ‘faith’, while most of them are sinful in conduct, it became necessary for Muslims to make an effort to identify and demarcate the two groupsi.e., those Christians and Jews who act in a manner consistent with a people who have ‘faith’, and those whose conduct is manifestly sinful. A people who have ‘faith’ would not harbor feelings of hatred in their hearts for the believers in Allah Most High. Nor would a people who have ‘faith’ become friends and allies of those whose hearts are filled with hatred for Muslims.

I quoted the verse of the Qur’ān which explicitly identified Jews to be a people whose hearts will display great hatred for Islam and Muslims. While some Jews did not act in this way towards Muslims, most Jews did so. This was manifest in the life-time of Nabī Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم), and has once again manifested itself in the modern age in the conduct of Zionist Jews:

لَتَجِدَنَّ أَشَدَّ النَّاسِ عَدَاوَةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ الْيَهُودَ وَالَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُواْ وَلَتَجِدَنَّ أَقْرَبَهُمْ مَّوَدَّةً لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ الَّذِينَ قَالُوَاْ إِنَّا نَصَارَى ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّ مِنْهُمْ قِسِّيسِينَ وَرُهْبَانًا وَأَنَّهُمْ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ

“Strongest among men in enmity to the believers will you find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who (openly and publicly) declare, “We are Christians”: because amongst them are priests (who devote their lives to teaching and administering religious rites) and men who have embraced monasticism (and have hence renounced the world), and they are not arrogant.”

(Qur’ān, al-Māidah, 5:82)

Not only did the Qur’ān identify in the above verse the community of Jews as the People of the Book who are without faith, but it also went on to identify those (amongst the People of the Book) who display love and affection for Muslims – and hence display an important sign of faith. They are a people who declare of themselves that: “We are Christians”.

Christians who displayed love and affection for Islam and for Muslims, did appear in early Islam when the Negus of Abyssinia (i.e., modern-day Ethiopia) rejected the request of Makkah to repatriate the Muslims (who were slaves or semi-slaves) who had fled from persecution and oppression in Makkah, and had sought asylum in Abyssinia. Indeed, when the Negus died, and the news of his death reached Nabī Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) in Madīna, he performed the funeral prayer for him, thus recognizing him as a Christian who had faith in Allah Most High despite some of his Christian beliefs with which the Qur’an had taken issue.

There is absolutely no evidence that the Negus had renounced his belief in Jesus as the son of God, or that he had ceased to worship Jesus as God, prior to his death; nor do we have any such evidence from the community of Christians of whom he was the leader. When there is no such evidence from these two primary sources, dubious evidence from self-serving secondary sources is of no scholarly value. Yet the Prophet offered the funeral prayer for the Negus who was a Christian.

I argued in my sermon that such Christians who will be closest in love and affection for Islam and Muslims will once again emerge in the historical process in a time-frame that will match the contemporary emergence of Zionist Jews who have displayed unprecedented hatred for Islam and Muslims. That hatred is most visible in their barbarous oppression of the innocent people of Gaza in the Holy Land.

The verse of the Qur’ān provided important signs by which such Christians who would be closest in love and affection for Muslims, would be identified:

  1. They would be a Christian people who preserve the institution of priesthood and whose priests, from their Patriarch down to the lowest Priest, will demonstrate genuine love and affection for Islam and Muslims. This most certainly excludes the Vatican and the Roman Catholic faith, the Anglican Church (of England), and all other Christian churches in western Christianity.
  2. They would be a Christian people who preserve the institution of monasticism, and whose monks would display love and affection for Islam and Muslims. This most certainly excludes western Christianity which has almost totally abandoned monasticism and the monastic way of life. Monasteries in the West have almost all been sold, and have now become McDonalds Hamburgers etc.
  3. They would be a Christian people in whose conduct there is no arrogance. This again excludes those Christians who brought modern western civilization into being with an unprecedentedly arrogant agenda of imposing its unjust and oppressive rule over all of mankind at the point of a naked blood-stained sword.
  4. They would be a Christian people who would publicly and proudly identify themselves as ‘Christians’. This would exclude the secularized Christians of modern western civilization whose primary identity is with their nation or State, rather than with their religion.
  5. They cannot be a handful of scattered Christians who worship Allah as prescribed in the Qur’ān, and hence do not worship Nabī ‘Īsa (Jesus (عليه السلام as a third person in a trinity; and do not declare that Allah Most High had a son etc. Rather, they would have to be a community of Christians complete with their priests and monks, and hence can easily be identified. One would not have to search for them in some nook or cranny with a fine-teeth comb!

My sermon identified those Christians, referred to in the Qur’an, with the world of Orthodox Christianity.

When the prayer was over, the entire congregation of Muslims turned around and reached out to the Orthodox Christians sitting on chairs at the back of the prayer hall and greeted them with love and with affection. This first-ever visit to a Masjid was a very moving experience which Saker and his wife, Stefan and the Neurosurgeon, are unlikely to ever forget. No one turned away from them. No one rejected them. No one displayed any negative behavior towards them. I felt confident that they would have received the same welcome in all the Masajid (plural of Masjid) in the neighboring island of Trinidad. The only ones who would have displayed hostility towards them would have been those who took state-of-the-art weapons and heaps of US dollars from Santa Claus to fight their bogus ISIS Jihad in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

Unfortunately the sermon was not recorded, so we do not have a video of it which can be viewed.

In the ten days which we spent together in Tobago we had adequate time to engage in religious dialogue, and the remarkable thing about our dialogue was that it was always conducted with profound respect for each other, and for each other’s religion. At no time did our discussions reach a state in which either side was subjected to any deliberate discomfort. There was no hint of rivalry, and no debate, in which one side sought to defeat the other side, and yet, we never compromised in stating the viewpoint of our respective religions. In fact, what we did was to set an example for those who come after us, in engaging in Muslim – Orthodox Christian dialogue in a form and manner which was free from rancor and bigotry. In doing so, we conformed to Allah’s command in the Qur’ān in which He ordered as follows:

وَلَا تُجَادِلُوا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ إِلَّا بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا مِنْهُمْ وَقُولُوا آمَنَّا بِالَّذِي أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَأُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُمْ وَإِلَهُنَا وَإِلَهُكُمْ وَاحِدٌ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ

And do not argue or dispute with the Ahl al-Kitab (i.e., People of the Book, or followers of earlier revelation who are like us since we also have a Book) otherwise than in a most kindly manner, (or except with means better than mere disputation), – unless it be such of them as are bent on evildoing, (or who inflict wrong or injury) and say: “We believe in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us, as well as that which has been bestowed upon you: our God and your God is One, and it is unto Him that We [all] surrender ourselves.”

(Qur’an, al-Ankabūt, 29:46)

The above verse of the Qur’an has therefore prohibited Muslims from engaging in religious discussions with those who received the Torah, Psalms and Gospel, except in the best way possible. This prohibition did not apply, however, with such Christians and Jews who committed acts of Dhulm, i.e., injustice, oppression, wickedness.

The verse also went on to establish the very foundation of any engagement in religious discussions with Christians and Jews in the declaration that: “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us (i.e., the Qur’an) and in that which came down to you (i.e., the Torah, Psalms, Gospel); Our Ilah (i.e., God), and your Ilah (i.e., God), is One; and to Him we bow (in submission)”.

It is not my intention to write a comprehensive report of all subjects of our dialogue since Saker and I have decided to jointly write a book which will present both Islamic and Orthodox Christian Eschatology while examining the subject of Islam and Russia. Rather I choose to focus on only one subject of our dialogue and, in doing so, offer our readers a glimpse of what is to come when the book is written Insha Allah (God Willing).

Saker already knew that the Arabic word ‘Allah’ was a combination of the definite article (‘the’) and the Arabic word for God (‘ILAH’). Hence the word ‘Allah’ meant ‘The God’ i.e., The One God. Even though the Christian worshiped Jesus as God, he was still insistent that he worshiped One God since the Bible was unequivocal in its declaration: Know Oh Israel that the Lord, Your God, is One! Hence when I repeated to Saker on several occasions that his God and my God were One God, it built between us a solid common foundation for positive dialogue.

There might, unfortunately, be some Muslims who will be uneasy with the above verse of the Qur’an in which Allah Most High ordered Muslims to declare to Christians and to Jews that: Our Ilah (i.e., God) and your Ilah (i.e., God) is One. Their uneasiness would be in consequence of their knowledge that Christians worship Jesus as God. Allah Most High has already responded to such uneasiness by asking them whether they wish to teach religion to the Lord-God (Allah):

قُلْ أَتُعَلِّمُونَ اللَّهَ بِدِينِكُمْ . . . .

Say: “Do you want to teach your religion to Allah? . . . .

(Qur’ān, al-Hujurāt, 49:16)

It is remarkable that we conducted our religious discussions in exactly the opposite way from the boxing matches staged by the late Ahmad Deedat of South Africa which sought to expose several things in the Bible, belligerently so, as false and rancid. Many Christians were enraged by those boxing matches, and those who were not enraged were secretly smiling with Deedat’s Saudi sponsors since they shared a covert agenda of driving such a thick wedge between the two faiths as would preclude any possibility of friendship and alliance ever emerging between Muslims and Christians. I believe that Saker and I were more faithful to the Qur’an than Deedat and his acolytes ever were, and we set the right example of mutual respect and proper decorum for those who will now follow us Insha Allah, in Orthodox Christian-Muslim dialogue.

I asked Saker what were his expectations for the future of Muslim – Orthodox Christian dialogue, and he was very clear and precise in his response in directing attention, first of all, to those matters wherein we differed, and which appeared to him to be beyond resolve. Saker was forthright in his declaration that Orthodox Christianity does not recognize Muhammad as a Prophet of the One God, like unto Abraham and Moses (Allah’s blessings be upon them all), and does not recognize the Qur’ān as a divinely-revealed Word of the One God. However he did go on to explain that Orthodox Christianity does not have a book comparable in absolute authority to the Qur’an. Rather, Orthodox Christianity is dependent on both the Bible as well as the Church, and the collective wisdom of its luminaries through the ages, for an authoritative declaration of what constitute Truth and Faith. And so, it appeared to me that Orthodox Christians have a possible future in which the Church and its luminaries can modify Christian views through new interpretations of Christian religious symbolism and through divine visions etc. I therefore did not close the chapter between us pertaining to the status of the Qur’an and of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah Most High ever be with him).

I was familiar, of course with our own Islamic view that while whatever is clearly and explicitly stated in the Qur’an is eternally binding on all Muslims, there are other verses in the Qur’an which have to be interpreted, and hence that new knowledge would constantly keep on flowing from the Qur’an.

I did address the matter of Christian worship of Jesus as God, and as Son of God, and put the matter to rest between us when I quoted a passage of the Qur’an in which Allah Most High addressed Jesus on the subject:

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَـهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللّهِ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أَقُولَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِحَقٍّ إِن كُنتُ قُلْتُهُ فَقَدْ عَلِمْتَهُ تَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِي وَلاَ أَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِكَ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلاَّمُ الْغُيُوبِ

AND LO! Allah said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you say unto men, `Worship me and my mother as deities beside Allah?” [Jesus] answered: “Limitless art Thou in Thy glory! It would not have been possible for me to say what I had no right to [say]! Had I said this, You would indeed have known it! You know all that is within myself, whereas I know not what is in Yourself. Verily, it is You alone who fully knows all the things that are beyond the reach of a created being’s perception.

مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلاَّ مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُواْ اللّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ وَكُنتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَّا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنتَ أَنتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَنتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ

Nothing did I tell them beyond what You did bid me [to say]: `Worship Allah, [who is] my Lord-God as well as your Lord-God.’ And I bore witness to what they did as long as I dwelt in their midst; but when you took me (i.e., took my soul and hence made it appear that I was dead, and then returned my soul and raised me into the Samawat or parallel universes), You alone has been their keeper: for You are witness unto everything.

إِن تُعَذِّبْهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ عِبَادُكَ وَإِن تَغْفِرْ لَهُمْ فَإِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ

If You punish them – verily, they are Your servants; and if You forgive them – verily, You are Almighty (and) Wise!”

(Qur’an, al-Maidah, 5:116-118)

I argued that this response implied that the matter of the worship of Jesus as God, and as the Son of God, should not become a subject of dispute and debate between Muslims and Christians. The Qur’an has advised the Muslim to let the matter rest until Allah Most High deals with it Himself on Judgment Day. This Divine wisdom seems to have escaped the attention of those misguided Muslims who ignore the Qur’an whenever they take up their boxing gloves to do religious battle with Christians and with the Bible.

This brief report does not record all the matters discussed between us, since there is a book coming, Insha Allah, which Saker and I will jointly write. He and I will endeavor to set the example, as well as the stage, for future such dialogue between Muslims and Orthodox Christians so that we can advance the cause of friendship and alliance between our two persecuted peoples.

Saker has already set the example of faithfulness to his Orthodox Christian creed, and I too will endeavor to ensure in my dialogue with Saker that I remain faithful to the Qur’an and faithful Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him) who personally received in Madina a delegation of about 60 Byzantine Christians (including many religious scholars) who travelled from their native Najran in Yemen to meet with him. He not only welcomed them warmly and kindly, but offered them the Masjid itself as their place of residence and rest, as well as a place for them to pray, during their stay of approximately 3 days in Madina. The inter-religious dialogue did not yield any break-through regarding the central issues which divided the Christians and the Qur’an, but also did not result in bitter and acrimonious exchanges. Before saying good-bye and returning to Najran in Yemen, the delegation of Christians even requested of the Prophet that a learned and trustworthy Muslim be sent to them in Najran so that, among other things, the lines of communication for continuing dialogue could remain open. Despite all that has since occurred between our two peoples, and which unfriendly critics will now rush to relate, Saker and I are doing precisely that – we are continuing that Orthodox Christian – Muslim dialogue that was initiated in Madina in the presence of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and upon all the messengers of Allah Most High).

——-

Small post-scriptum by The Saker: with all due respect and love for the Sheikh, I don’t believe that he is correct when he writes that “it appeared to me that Orthodox Christians have a possible future in which the Church and its luminaries can modify Christian views through new interpretations of Christian religious symbolism and through divine visions etc.“.  The problem here is that for a teaching to be considered “Orthodox” it has to meet two criteria:

  1. It has to be the expression of the consensus patrum, the agreement of all the Church Fathers, and thus is cannot contradict the past position of the Church.  Saint Vincent of Lérins (5th century) expressed it in the following words when he said that is true that “which has been believed everywhere, always and by all” .  Thus, it cannot be the opinion of only some, contemporary, Church Fathers.
  2. It has to be “upward compatible” with what has been taught in the past.  Saint Athanasios (4th century) expressed this idea in the following words that the Orthodox faith is the faith “which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers. On this was the Church founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is nor any longer ought to be called a Christian“.  Thus no new teaching can be accepted if it contradicts what was taught in the past.

The Church having refused to recognize Muhammad as a prophet of God and having refused to accept the Quran as a divine book, She cannot under any circumstances change Her point of view.  On issues of faith and dogmatics the Church, being the Theandric Body of God filled with the Holy Spirit, She is infallible.

However, and as long as their is no compulsion in religion and as long as everybody recognizes the absolute right of each human being to follow his/her conscience, I totally agree with the Sheikh when he writes “the matter of the worship of Jesus as God, and as the Son of God, should not become a subject of dispute and debate between Muslims and Christians. The Qur’an has advised the Muslim to let the matter rest until Allah Most High deals with it Himself on Judgment Day“.

As long as our differences are not obfuscated or otherwise minimized, I do believe that it makes little sense to engage in disputes about them. What we all have to do is the explain our beliefs and make sure that the other is not mislead/misinformed about them.  But once that “informational” phase is over, there is simply no point in engaging in disputes.  Finally, we all have to recognize that the other is following his/her conscience with as much honesty, zeal and purity of faith as we do.  While we do not have to agree with the other, we do have to respect this quest for the truth in by the other.

These are my humble comments to the wise and kind words of the Sheikh.

The Saker

Sayyed Nasrallah: Aleppo Battle A Major Victory, Daesh Distorted Image of Islam

Zeinab Essa

Hizbullah Secretary General, His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, delivered a speech on Friday in which he tackled various regional and internal issues.

Hizbullah Secretary General Hus Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah


Daesh and Ditortion of Islam

Addressing thousands of Hizbullah university students, Sayyed Nasrallah congratulated the Muslims, Christians and all Lebanese over the blessed birth of the Noble Prophet and his grandson Imam Sadiq [PBUH] and the birth of Jesus Christ.

In parallel, His Eminence extended gratitude to the Resistance fighters on the frontlines in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Gaza and other areas south of the Bekaa.
On another level, he viewed that “Islam has not been subjected to media distortion as has happened in the past few years because of the abuses that are broadcasted to every house within minutes.”

“No distortion has happened over the decades as what has happened by the armed groups, especially ‘Daesh’ [the Arabic Acronym for the terrorist “ISIS”/ “ISIL” group] that raises flags that are sealed with the slogan Messenger of Allah,” Sayyed Nasrallah added.

He also mentioned that the terrorist groups, mainly Daesh, have committed massacres at different levels, displaying hideous means to carry out their crimes. “He who is silent over this abuse is a partner in the distortion of Allah’s religion and His Messenger.”

“Wahhabism does not recognize the birth of Prophet Mohammad. Their scholars went to the extent that they reject and consider all those who celebrate it as atheists,” he said, noting that “this holiday is known for all Muslims, Sunnis and Shiites.”

According to the Hizbullah Secretary General, “Our religion and our prophet Mohammad [PBUH] have been greatly abused in recent years. Takfiris are those who have been abusing our religion and our prophet, because they are committing their crimes in the name of this religion and this prophet. Takfiris’ atrocities are real massacres on the humanitarian and cultural level.”

The Resistance leader also recalled how the Wahhabis bombed celebrations for the Prophet Mohammad and sought to impose their ideology by force of arms. “Those who reject the celebrations of the Holy Prophet will definitely refuse the Christmas celebrations.”

As His Eminence urged all sides to condemn such acts, he emphasized that denouncing these acts should be a daily responsibility for us and we must raise our voices.

“Their crimes, killings, slaughter, burning in cages…and destruction of Islamic, Christian and other religious sites and everything linked to history. It’s a comprehensive massacre,” he cautioned.

In response, Sayyed Nasrallah confirmed that we have a moral, religious and historic responsibility to say a word, write a sentence, express opinions that reject and condemn such crimes. “Those who remain mum are partners in the crimes against this religion [Islam],” he added.”

In a similar context, Sayyed Nasrallah stated that there is a terminology that is much spread in the Western and Arab media i.e. the talk of “Islamic” terrorism, “radical” Islam and “Islamic” terrorist groups. This comes as the media insists on using the “Islamic state” and not Daesh. This has an impact on media and psychological warfare.”

Daesh Criminalities

Meanwhile, His Eminence firmly denounced the heinous act of sending a female child to commit suicide in Syria.

“It is unacceptable to take advantage of little children in suicidal attacks or to carry out killings similar to the burning of the two Turkish soldiers today. The criminals are harming the image of Islam,” he said.

In addition, Sayyed Nasrallah underscored that “that monster appeared after that to say that he had sent his scared little child to God.”

“Everyone and every Muslim in the world should condemn the criminal and barbaric monster who sent a child to carry out a suicide bombing at a police station in Damascus.”

Commenting on Daesh’s attack against the Jordanian police in al-Kark, he wondered if the latest incident does not urge the Jordanian government to be warned and take a firm position in stopping support for terrorists and armed groups who carry the same ideology.

His Eminence also denounced the heinous crime that Daesh recently committed by burning two Turkish soldiers alive. He recalled that the whole wide world knows that Turkey has provided support for Daesh more than any other country in the world.

“Turkish people are invited to take a decisive position regarding Daesh,” he highlighted, pointing out that “the Turkish government does not want its people to acknowledge how it supported Daesh through oil, arms and money and all what Erdogan has offered for terrorists.”

Sayyed Nasrallah went on to say: “Islam doesn’t direct us to do such acts. We should raise [our] voices [against these acts], whether those harmed are our allies or not.”

Aleepo Victory Major Achievement

Regarding the recent victory scored by the Syrian army and its allies in Aleppo, His Eminence highlighted that “what happened in Aleppo in recent months is one of the most brutal battles in Syria for years. The battles in the west of Aleppo included tens of thousands of militants from different parts of the world. It was a daily continuous battle with the aim of overthrowing Aleppo.”

He also described the battles in Syria’s second city as one of the harshest battles the region has seen in years.

“Aleppo’s battle is one of the major defeats of the other camp and it is a victory for the anti-terrorism front and an important military development for our camp. But this does not mean the end of the conflict but rather that the scheme that was seeking to oust the regime has ended,” Sayyed Nasrallah added.

As he unveiled that the support and mobilization provided for the battles in Aleppo cost billions of dollars at the financial and logistical levels, Sayyed Nasrallah said this astonishing support in terms of facilities and capabilities support has surpassed the amount provided by the whole Arab world for the Palestinian people over a period of 60 years.

Meanwhile, His Eminence assured that the Syrian government’s victory in Aleppo could pave the way for a political settlement to the conflict, saying that “We should fortify our success in the field and politically.” He emphasized that this could lead to the end of the conflict in Syria through political means.

He also lashed out at deceptive media reports that he said launched false campaigns about the battle in Aleppo. “Pictures of children and devastation from the July war in Lebanon and “Israeli” aggression against Gaza were claimed to be of children of Aleppo. They further brought pictures from starving children in Yemen claiming that they are in Aleppo.”

In parallel, Sayyed Nasrallah stated that none of the children in Aleppo have died of starvation while thousands of children in Yemen are dying of starvation as the result of the Saudi blockade.

He continued, “all over the last week, civilians went out of the east of Aleppo, as militants fled the city.”

He asked, “Is there a city that either Daesh or al-Nusra Front had entered and emerged victorious, in which they have allowed the civilians or fighters to get out or flee?”

Refuting all claims that the Syrian army or its allies seek to establish demographic changes, His Eminence elaborated that armed groups were behind the demographic changes that happened. “There are no people of other faiths or other political affiliations in the areas that they control.”

He also assured that residents of Aleppo will return as those of Daraya.
He also reminded that both Saudi Arabia and the US sought to block any political solution. Thus, according to His Eminence, what had been scored in Aleppo is a major achievement for the Syrian army and its allies.

“The credit goes to the Syrian leadership, army and people, who took the decision to fight. Syria’s allies offered help but the Syrians are the ones who are creating the future of their country and the entire region,” the Resistance Leader underscored.

Hailing the fact that some countries have become realistic in dealing with the Syrian file, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that the next stage will be focused on consolidating the victory in the city of Aleppo and its suburbs because the armed groups will seek to target the city and its suburbs.

Proportionality and Open for Dialogue

Moving to the Lebanese internal political front, the Hizbullah Secretary General assured that there exist no hurdles in the way of the Lebanese cabinet’s policy statement.

However, he urged the government not to consider itself as a merely ‘elections government. “The government must shoulder its full responsibilities towards the people at all levels, he said, noting that “it must not use the excuse of being an ‘elections government’ to justify any impotence or negligence.”

Sayyed Nasrallah also refused allegations that this government is controlled by Hizbullah. The Resistance movement only wants to ensure that the new Lebanese government represents people from all walks of life.”

“Some like to claim that this is “Hizbullah’s government” and that Hizbullah wants to seize control of the country and the institutions. These are false claims that some impotent and weak parties hide behind. We do not want to seize control of the country even if all political forces and parties ask us to do so…No one can accept to shoulder the responsibility of a country facing this amount of difficulties,” he said.

Regarding the electoral law, Sayyed Nasrallah reiterated that Hizbullah supports an electoral law based on proportionality.

However, he said that his party is open to dialogue as it understands the concerns of some parties which must be taken into consideration. “We do not back a return to the 1960 electoral law.”

“Our country is entering a state of stability [on the] political and security (levels). We’re awaiting the next parliamentary elections and we must remain alert at the security and political level because the terrorist groups are angry over their defeat. The country’s future hinges on everyone’s cooperation and understanding.”

Sayyed Nasrallah also denounced the stupid and dangerous attempt of the Bahraini regime and its supporters to storm the house of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassem with what it carries from devastating repercussions.

Source: al-Ahed news

23-12-2016 | 17:47

 

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Syrian Mufti Gives Stunning Talk on Visit to Ireland – updated

Syrian Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun is part of a delegation of Syrians currently visiting Ireland. The delegation consists of medical professionals as well as religious leaders. The above video shows Mufti Hassoun giving a talk before the Irish Parliament on December 1, comments in which he discusses the toll the war has exacted upon the Syrian people as a whole as well as a personal tragedy in his own family, with the death of his son.

The delegation’s visit reportedly also included a visit to Trinity College Dublin, and the visit has been reported on by a Catholic website (see article below).

Back in August I put up a post on a visit to Syria by a US delegation of peace activists, who had a chance to meet with Mufti Hassoun while they were in the country. Upon returning to the US, the delegation gave a presentation at the UN. You can find more on that here.

***

In Ireland, Doctors, Church Leaders Tell Horrors of Life in Syria

By Sarah Mac Donald

DUBLIN (CNS) — Fifty percent of Syria’s hospitals and medical centers have been destroyed or looted and their staff kidnapped, tortured or slaughtered, a leading Syrian surgeon told members of the Irish Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Dr. Bashir Mohammad, a cardiologist, was part of a delegation of high-profile Syrian medical and religious leaders who appealed Dec. 1 for an end to punitive European Union sanctions against his country.

Mohammad was accompanied by Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II; Syria’s grand mufti, Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun; and Dr. Ahmad al Khaddour, a cardiothoracic surgeon.

Khaddour, a professor of medicine at Damascus University, explained that the group had come to Ireland “to pass the message that Syria needs help.”

“The European sanctions have affected our medical system very badly. We have a shortage of medical supplies on a daily basis. We have children dying because there is no medicine and children suffering because there is no fuel for heating.”

He highlighted how the sanctions had depleted Syria’s “capacity and capability in a very devastating way to manufacture medicines and to treat our patients.”

“The sanctions have killed more people than ISIS,” he said, referring to the Islamic State.

Prior to 2011, when the conflict in Syria erupted, hospitals had always been a safe place, but they became a “soft target,” and the country’s pharmaceutical industry was now no longer able to meet Syria’s medical needs, Mohammad explained.

He contrasted this to the situation five years ago when the country was able to meet up to 95 percent of its own medical needs and was exporting its products to more than 54 countries.

Syria is now “reliant on medication from the black market and, with the weak purchase power of our currency, we are unable to buy medication,” he said.

He told Catholic News Service: “We have lost half of our hospitals and three-quarters of our factories for medication — lift the sanctions please. We are friends to America and to the West.”

Patriarch Laham described the delegation as “ambassadors for peace.” He also asked, “as patriarch, that the bishops’ conferences of Europe gather together to raise their voice for peace.”

Speaking to CNS, the 83-year-old indicated his own personal exhaustion with the conflict. “It is war, war, war. Enough war!”

Referring to the 1,435 years in which Christians and Muslims co-existed together in Syria, Patriarch Laham stressed that faith is “part of the solution” to Syria’s war.

“Faith can really help us to make peace in the world. My slogan is ‘We should stay together to build a new world; we can stay together to build the world; we want to stay together to build a new world,” he told the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Patriarch Ignatius told the committee, “We feel sometimes we are abandoned by the international community because all they talk about are the rebels and what the rebels are suffering. But nobody is talking about the real Syrian people who are under government-controlled areas and what they are suffering.”

“Suffering has gone beyond all bounds,” Patriarch Ignatius said.

The Orthodox patriarch, who escaped a suicide bomb attack last June, spoke about the difficulty of trying to live life in such a dangerous context.

“I live in Old Damascus, not far from the street where St. Paul was led to be baptized. Occasionally we get bombs thrown on us by rebels who live about 2 kilometers away. There is no safe place left in Syria for anyone, and all Syrians need peace.

“We want a new Syria — for all Syrians — that respects diversity and gives a chance to every Syrian to serve Syria. I don’t think that having an opposition that is armed will help Syria; no country in the world would accept that, be it a moderate or unmoderate opposition. Obama and the U.S. government trained thousands of people and spent $500 million on the so-called moderate opposition, but they all joined Daesh (Islamic State) or al Nusra — except for maybe four or five groups.”

As to the situation of Christians in Syria, he confirmed that, along with other people of faith, Christians were being targeted because they were not willing to take sides.

“Our archbishops have been kidnapped and we don’t know anything about them; there are many priests who have been killed and many churches have been destroyed and Islamic scholars are also being killed. All people of faith are being targeted because Daesh and others act in the name of Islam, but they do not represent the real Islam,” he said.

Hassoun, the grand mufti, recalled how when the conflict erupted in 2011, he was told to leave but refused because he wanted to be a “bridge of peace between the opposition and the regime.”

His refusal to leave resulted in his son’s assassination outside his university. Later, his son’s remains were dug out of his grave by the rebels and have never been recovered.

“This is the revolution in Syria — if it were a revolution to reform the regime I would have been with them, but it is a revolution to kill men,” he said, urging legislators to go to Syria and see for themselves “what they have done to us.”

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Published on Dec 2, 2016

The goals of the visit are to firstly send a fact-finding medical, religious, political and humanitarian mission to the Syrian Arab Republic from Ireland, as well as from other independent-minded countries; to encourage Irish charity and NGO groups to send aid to Damascus via Trócaire/Caritas and other transparent and credible conduits Syria’s venerable religious leaders recommend and to lay the foundations for a major international fact-finding and medical delegation to visit Damascus and environs on March 17th 2017, St Patrick’s Day.
The situation in Syria, as East Aleppo’s human shields show, remains very grave for all Syrians. Although this visit is strictly non-political it must be clearly stated that EU sanctions, in which Ireland is fully complicit, are responsible for more deaths than even ISIS. The bulk of the Irish people do not accept that rampant collusion or that of our media, which is a crimson blight on our neutrality.

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Why Turkey’s secular opposition now references Prophet Muhammad

Why Turkey’s secular opposition now references Prophet Muhammad

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 15.09.2016

Why Turkey’s secular opposition now references Prophet Muhammad

Mustafa Akyol is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse, a columnist for the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News, and a monthly contributing opinion writer for The International New York Times. His articles have also appeared in Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. He is the author of Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty
Since its founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923, the People’s Republican Party (CHP) has been the staunch defender of Turkey’s French-style secularism. It always opposed using religious references in politics, arguing that it would amount to the “exploitation” of religion for political ends. It also opposed, for decades, “religious symbols in the public space,” such as the Islamic headscarf…

 

Yet the CHP has been changing lately, especially since Kemal Kilicdaroglu became its leader in 2010. First the CHP abandoned its intolerance for the headscarf, accepting hijab-wearing women’s right to go to college or get public jobs. Then it welcomed some conservative politicians with Islamic credentials to its ranks, such as Mehmet Bekaroglu. Moreover, Kilicdaroglu began to allude to Islamic values to support his arguments.

One notable example of the latter trend came last weekend, when Kilicdaroglu gave a press conference criticizing the mass purges and arrests the government initiated after the failed coup attempt of July 15. One of the violations he criticized was the arrest or suspension of the family members of some of those who are accused of the coup plot. For example, when the police could not find Adil Oksuz, a suspected civilian mastermind of the coup who is on the run, the man’s mother-in-law, father-in-law and sisters-in-law were detained. Against such persecution, Kilicdaroglu said:

“There is a principle called individual criminal responsibility. They [the government], however, created a notion of collective crime… Let me refer to the farewell sermon of our beloved prophet, which is accepted as one of the most important human rights declarations in history. Here our beloved prophet said, ‘Everybody is responsible for his crime; a person’s crime can never be associated with his mother, father or child.’ This, in fact, is a universal rule. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares the same norm.”

The farewell sermon Kilicdaroglu referred to was delivered by the Prophet Muhammad to his followers near Mecca in 632, soon before his death. It has been one of the key documents in Islamic history, with important moral injunctions on various matters including, indeed, human rights. “O people! Your Lord is one and your father is one,” it reads, for example. It continues, “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab, nor of a white over a black, nor a black over a white.”

There are various versions of the text, and not all of them have the line that Kilicdaroglu referred to. But it does exist in the version presented by Turkey’s Encyclopedia of Islam, which has the following clause: “Everybody is responsible for his own crime. The father cannot be held responsible for the son’s crime, nor can the son be held responsible for the father’s.”

What is more important for Turkish politics today, of course, is not the content of the farewell sermon, but how it has become a reference for human rights — and in the hands of the all-secular CHP, among all parties. This, I believe, underlines two important facts.

The first is that the CHP is now finally “getting religion.” It is, in other words, understanding that religion, in particular Islam, is deeply rooted in Turkish society, and a political party that does not comprehend this fact is doomed to be marginalized. One could argue that this change was forced on the CHP by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The latter not only ended the secularist hegemony in the state, but also spearheaded the rise of a more religious rhetoric in society. But then the CHP is only wise to adapt this transformation, as its old, rigid secularism was already out of fashion.

The second important fact is that in the past few years, the CHP gradually established itself as the party that defends human rights, civil liberties and rule of law against an authoritarian state. That, too, is a novelty in Turkish political history. Because, with the exception of its short-lived flirtation of “social democracy,” the CHP has traditionally been the party that defended the state against those who defended human rights, civil liberties and rule of law. This was true even in the first decade of this century, when the AKP controlled the government and the CHP was in the opposition. As paradoxical as it may sound, the AKP was the defender of liberal values in those years, whereas the CHP still identified with the draconian state, which was then still under the control of the secularist military and judiciary. With the AKP’s full dominance of the state, however, that anomaly ended. The CHP is now a real opposition party that opposes a growing authoritarian state.

What does this all mean? It all means that those who hope for a more liberal and democratic Turkey, including religious conservatives who are disillusioned with the AKP, should give the CHP a chance. Yes, the party’s 20th-century heritage includes many unpleasant episodes of authoritarianism. Yet there is a increasingly “New CHP” that Kilicdaroglu has promised to mold. The very fact that the party now defends human rights with references to “our beloved prophet” is a remarkable indication of that new reality in Turkish politics.

al-monitor.com

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