Tag Archives: Islam

Of Islam, Confederate Monuments, and Roy Moore

As the controversy over Confederate monuments played out this year, I came to believe that Muslims had it right: don’t render an artistic likeness of anyone, least of all our heroes, lest we slip into idolatry.


If we had followed that principle, we would still have the dispute over whether General Lee was a good man, but there would be more room to be honest because all sides could admit that he was good in some respects but flawed in others. A statue makes the issue more black-and-white: either we pull the statue down, or we leave it up. Nobody wants half a statue. And the statue itself is only going to portray the general in a one-sided manner, most likely in a noble pose on a stallion.

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Zubeidat Tsarnaev and the Black Hole of Reality

Like many of you, I’ve been spellbound as the drama of the Boston Marathon bombings has unfolded. Since it took place just a few miles from my home, I have felt that I should blog something about it, but I’ve hung back until more of the facts were known.

Unfortunately, the more that has become known, the less unusual the story has become. We’ve seen so much of it before: A young man that everyone had voted least-likely-to-become-a-terrorist falls under the spell of hateful religious extremism, probably conveyed by his own brother. He blows the leg off a seven-year-old girl who had loved dancing — which somehow seems even worse than killing her eight-year-old brother along with at least two other people. While scoring in the 99th percentile for cold-blooded wickedness, he and his brother score in the 1st percentile for competence as criminals and are soon caught. All that is nothing new.

What is new, and what I’d like to muse on for a moment, is the brothers’ mother’s slow orbit around the black hole of reality — that place where all man-made falsehoods are first ripped to shreds and then compressed to a singularity of truth, whether we wish it or not. It has been both maddening and heartbreaking to watch.

Zubeidat Tsarnaev

Zubeidat Tsarnaev

Zubeidat Tsarnaev kept her distance from reality long before the Boston Marathon bombings. According to one of her spa customers, she believed that “9-11 was purposefully created by the American government to make America hate Muslims.”

After her sons were involved in a shootout with police, she told CNN correspondent Nick Walsh that her sons “were being killed because they were Muslims. Nothing else.”

Days later, according to CNN, she was still maintaining that the bombing was staged and the supposed blood was actually paint. Tellingly, she based this opinion on a video she had seen, but she had not seen any video of the actual bombing. It seems that she was staying as far from the black hole of reality as possible.

But then, in the same interview, she said of the bombing’s victims, “I really feel sorry for all of them” and repeated, “Really feel sorry for all of them.” Her voice was cracking, and so was the wall she had constructed to keep herself from reality.

Why would she feel sorry for the victims of a staged bombing, who were splattered only with paint? I think part of her knows the truth. Or as she put it, “There is something wrong.”

Is she still orbiting the black hole of reality at such a distance that it will not pull her in, or has her descent already begun? It’s too early to tell, but I suspect she has slowed below escape velocity and the black hole will soon rip her apart.

I hope it does, but not because I bear her any ill will. Quite the opposite.

(Now comes a Beagle’s Bark.)

I identify with Zubeidat Tsarnaev. She reminds me of myself during my evangelical days.

Just as she swallowed an unlikely theory from an off-the-wall video, but did not think it necessary to watch a video of the actual events, so I took the word of my fellow evangelicals on all manner of topics and did not conscientiously seek out the unfiltered opinions of my so-called opponents.

She projected her own us-versus-them mentality on the police, which caused her to misread their motives in the shootout. I, too, was prone to misread the motives of honest non-believers, chalking up their conclusions to atheistic assumptions and invoking conspiracy theories.

In fact, her claim that blood was actually paint reminds me of the claim, which I entertained but never felt comfortable with, that God created the Earth with only an appearance of great age.

And finally, her uneasy confession that “there is something wrong” is not unlike my own realization that something was amiss in evangelical Christianity, even as I struggled against the pull of godless reality.

I think Zubeidat Tsarnaev will fall into reality eventually. We don’t hear her saying things like, “My sons did not do this thing, but if they had I would be proud of them for killing infidels.” Her moral sense is not completely gone. If she were an evangelical and were confronted with Jehovah’s commands to enslave whole cities and his permission to force the most beautiful of their women into sham rape-marriages, it seems she might not be one of those who would say, “It must have been God’s righteous judgment.” I have hope for her.

Perhaps, when she discovers that the people to whom she has given her ear have been lying to her, it will be the same wake-up call for her that it was for me and she will no longer resist the gravitational pull of reality.

The process of leaving my faith did feel like being ripped apart by a black hole. But ultimately, I found I was happier as part of the singularity of reality than struggling against it.

I wish her a similar happiness.

Crucifixions in Egypt

The headline read:

Egypt’s Christians in Grave Danger as Muslim Brotherhood Crucifies Opponents.

It appeared on the Website of the American Center for Law and Justice, a watchdog organization “committed to ensuring the ongoing viability of freedom and liberty in the United States and around the world.” They describe themselves as “a non-profit organization … dependent upon God and the resources He provides through the time, talent, and gifts of people who share our concerns and desire to protect our religious and constitutional freedoms.”

As high-minded as that sounds, their article was a textbook example of the cynical manipulation of a donor base. Whatever your political persuasion, see if you recognize their tactics in the organizations that solicit your money.

It begins sensationally:

Numerous reports have emerged this week that the radical Islamic Muslim Brotherhood, that now controls the government of Egypt, has begun crucifying Christians in that country.

Middle East news media have reported that the Muslim Brotherhood has “crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.” Those opposing the new radical Islamic regime include Christians, and experts have suggested that “extra brutality is reserved for Christians.”

Now that you are all spun up, they say what they have done on your behalf.

The ACLJ just sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her to take action to stop this atrocity.

A copy of their letter is here, signed by two of the ACLJ’s top lawyers.

Crucifixions??? I decided to fact-check. Within 2 minutes, I had located an excellent article that not only debunked the whole crucifixion rumor, but chronicled how it got started.

The remarkable thing is how obvious the debunking was. It makes you say, “Of course!” For example:

…the story doesn’t just allege that a crucifixion has taken place somewhere in Egypt: It alleges that multiple crucifixions have taken place in front of the presidential palace. That would be the equivalent of, say, mass lynchings taking place in front of the White House, or a giant gang rape taking place in front of Ottawa’s Centennial Flame fountain.
 “If that happened, wouldn’t someone, you know, take a picture?” I asked one of the friends who emailed me the WorldNetDaily link [a source of the rumor]. Maybe just a few shots with a cell phone camera from one of the tens of thousands of people who no doubt would have witnessed this Biblical horror in one of the most densely trafficked patches of real estate in the entire Arab world?
And yet, not one of the stories I saw had a photo — or even names or descriptions of any of the supposed crucifixion victims.

If that’s not convincing enough, we have this:

Here’s how one [Coptic Christian] put it in an email to WorldNetDaily: “I am an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox, i.e. Egyptian Christian, my mother and members of my family live within a stone throw from the presidential palace. I talk to my mother every other day. If something like what you mentioned in your article took place, she [would] be the first one to know.”

An ordinary reporter was able to uncover those obvious reasons to doubt the crucifixion rumors. The first reason required no research whatsoever, just common sense. The second only required talking to someone near the scene.

So how come the high-powered lawyers for the ACLJ didn’t exercise that minimal due diligence before wasting the time of our Secretary of State? Are they that gullible and/or stupid?

I don’t think so. They knew no crucifixions were taking place, but saw the rumor as an opportunity to get their donors all fired up. It was all a cynical ploy.

Look at their article and their letter closely. They never actually state that crucifixions have happened, only that “numerous reports have emerged” to that effect. (The one exception is the headline to draw you in. And as many of the contracts I’ve signed have stated, headings don’t count in court.)

Yet a reader — especially one whose mind is already biased toward the ACLJ — will come away with the impression that the crucifixions are a fact so well-established that they merit a letter to the United States Secretary of State.

The American Center for Law and Justice is certainly aware of the American judicial concept of due process. So why didn’t they follow due process in checking out this rumor? It can only be because their real purpose was not to spread truth, but to motivate donors.

Sometimes I wonder if organizations like the ACLJ even believe in their own cause. If they’re for “justice” why don’t they follow basic judicial principles like due process in all they do? Maybe they’re only in it for the money.

On the other hand, maybe they do believe in their cause, and believe so passionately that the ends come to justify the means.

I don’t know what to think. What do you think?

And do you see the ACLJ’s brand of cynical manipulation in the fund-raising appeals from left-leaning organizations as well? From organizations that you support? How does it make you feel? It sure discourages me. I hate supporting the least-evil rather than the good. *Sigh*