In fear of her life, ex-Muslim teen seeks protection in Florida

Executive Editor
Published August 28, 2009

ORLANDO (FBW) – Is it really possible the life of a teen-ager in America could be at risk because she rejected her parent’s Islamic faith to become a Christian?

That’s the fear of Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old from Columbus, Ohio, who ran away from home earlier this month to Florida. At least for now, the State of Florida believes there’s enough evidence of possible danger that the Department of Children and Families (DCF) has taken emergency protective custody of the girl.

“What’s at stake in this case is Rifqa Bary’s life and the lives of thousands of other people like her,” attorney John Stemberger told Florida Baptist Witness.

Bary’s fear of death for converting to Christianity is an all-too common reality for ex-Muslims across the world, according to a former Muslim who grew up in the Columbus mosque closely connected with the Bary family’s mosque.

“I’m Rifqa Bary and I’ve been a Christian for four years. I just want to say that I love my parents. … Yet I’m so in fear for my life because of the past abuse that I’ve encountered,” said the Ohio teen Aug. 21 at a juvenile court hearing in Orlando to consider her request for emergency protective custody.

Bary’s parents have disputed Rifqa’s abuse claims, including her fear that her life is at risk for converting to Christianity.

Her father, Mohamed Bary, a jeweler, asserts his daughter was brainwashed by the Orlando pastor to whom Rifqa fled.

Bary told Orlando’s WESH 2 News, “This is cult group who kidnapped my daughter and took her away,” according to World Net Daily.

In an Aug. 18 petition, Stemberger – the Orlando attorney and well-know pro-family activist who is representing Rifqa – asserted the girl has been beaten by her father and brother and sexually assaulted by an uncle in Sri Lanka.

“The child is in imminent threat of harm not only from her parents but also from the extreme radical Muslim community in her hometown of Columbus, Ohio” because of her Christian conversion, the petition argues.

The petition contends Rifqa’s father threatened to strike her with her laptop computer and said, “If you have this Jesus in your heart, you’re dead to me. You are not my daughter. I will kill you.”

Stemberger said in the petition the Bary family’s mosque – Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Columbus – was home to Salah Sultan as “resident scholar” before being banned from the U.S. and “is known as a global terrorist who publicly advocates the killing of Americans and Jews.”

The petition also claims Columbus is under investigation for U.S. operations of Al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.

On the basis of these concerns, the petition asserted, “It is best to place the child with a licensed foster care home rather than place the child at risk of harm from the parents or from the perils of running away.”

Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson granted the request for emergency protective custody on Aug. 21 and set a Sept. 3 hearing to further consider Bary’s custody status.

In an Aug. 27 interview with Florida Baptist Witness, Stemberger said although he repeatedly has told Rifqa this case is about her best interests, the teen responds, “This case is about everybody else out there like me and that’s why I want to tell my story.”

Stemberger declined a request to make Rifqa available for an interview, citing privacy and safety concerns.

With regard to the alleged threat facing Rifqa in Columbus, Stemberger told the Witness, “The documentation shows that this is a mosque that has ties to extreme Muslim groups and terrorist activity. The CEO and spiritual leader is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood … a group that is actually banned in most Muslim countries because of how extreme it is.

Although president of Florida Family Policy Council, Stemberger is representing Rifqa through his private law practice.

While the pro-family activist would typically argue for parental rights, Stemberger noted “no right is absolute and all rights give way to certain other compelling interests,” including the “right to life.”

Citing his experience as a guardian ad litem in which he has seen the results of terrible child abuse, Stemberger said, “The state has an interest in the protection of its citizens, particularly the protection of vulnerable citizens.”

Stemberger told the Witness Rifqa became acquainted with Blake and Beverly Lorenz through a prayer group on Facebook, the online social networking Web site. After arriving in Orlando, Rifqa made contact with the Lorenzes, who gave her temporary shelter before she was taken into the custody of DCF. The Lorenzes co-pastor Global Revolution Church. According to Stemberger Blake Lorenz pastored a United Methodist church in Orlando for 25 years before starting his current congregation.

While expressing appreciation for Gov. Charlie Crist’s support for Rifqa, Stemberger said the “real hero” has been Attorney General Bill McCollum, whose office “took this matter very seriously” and provided valuable research assistance “giving credibility to the claim that this is a serious matter.”

Both Crist and former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio, opponents for the Republican nomination for next year’s U.S. Senate election, issued Aug. 21 statements expressing their concern for Rifqa. McCollum is running for governor in 2010.

According to Ergun Mehmet Caner, the threat to Rifqa for her rejection of Islam and conversion to Christianity is real. “There’s no question,” Caner said in an Aug. 27 interview with the Witness.

Caner, who converted to Christianity as a 16-year-old in Columbus, Ohio, grew-up in the mosque, the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio, out of which the Bary family mosque, Noor Islamic Cultural Center, was started and remains connected.

Now a Baptist minister and president of Liberty Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va., Caner is a well-known apologist for the Christian faith – activity for which a fatwa, an Islamic religious ruling calling for his death, was issued last year “that put us on the road for a while.”

Because of his outspoken repudiation of Islam and defense of Christianity, Caner said he has to take special security precautions.

Caner and his two brothers, who became Christians within 14 months of his conversion, were disowned by their father, who was the architect of their Columbus mosque.

Rather than sending his sons back to their home country of Turkey, the decision of the eldest Caner to disown his children “was an act of mercy,” Caner told the Witness. Caner said his father died in 1999 as a Muslim, while his mother is now a Christian.

“When someone says, ‘Oh, it’s horrible what happened to you.’ No, what my father did was merciful,” Caner explained, noting his fate could have been much worse.

The risk of an “honor killing” – an obligation under Islamic law for those who reject Islam – is routine in Muslim nations.

…“The United Nations tabulates about 5,000 such ‘honor killings’ annually around the world, and they have been documented even in the United States.”

“This happens every single day,” Caner said, pointing to organizations like Voice of the Martyrs and International Christian Concern that report on Christian persecution.

“How tragic is it that the murder of someone solely for their conversion would be considered routine? But this is 1,300 years of Islamic history,” Caner said.

Caner said the conversion of a female – especially a minor – is particularly offensive under Islam because the “daughter carries the honor in the family.”

He noted under Sharia law, four witnesses are required to validate a rape claim. “Otherwise, she is put to death because she brought dishonor to the family.”

Caner compared the fate of returning Rifqa to her Columbus home to that of Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of an international controversy in 2000 who was ultimately returned to his home country after a failed attempt to seek asylum in the U.S. on his behalf by Miami relatives.

“Take Elian Gonzalez and make the consequences exponentially worse. This isn’t a girl going back into Communism. This is sending a girl back to her death,” Caner said.

Stemberger told the Witness the “palpable bias” by the news media in coverage of Rifqa’s case is “stunning to me.”

He said the media’s bias is apparent in the fact that many news organizations – including CNN and MSNBC – have ignored the case completely. The bias is also clear in coverage that has “demonized the pastor” who helped Rifqa.

“Instead of trying to go after or target, if you will, the religious men that would try to hurt her, they’re go after the religious man that’s tried to help her,” he said.

“The bias of trying to protect Islam and trying to destroy Christianity is rather stark,” Stemberger said.

While Stemberger was careful to note that most Muslims are “law-abiding, tax-paying” citizens, “there are a significant, growing number of extreme members of Islam that take the Quran literally and engage in things like honor killings. And they just can’t be tolerated in a civilized society.”

Eurabian Safari

The Brussels Journal 28 August 2009
By Thomas Landen

It is hot in Brussels. Ramadan has begun. The faithful in the predominantly Muslim borough of Molenbeek are not allowed to eat or drink from sunrise until sunset. Non-Muslim policemen, patrolling the streets of Molenbeek in their sweltering cars, are not allowed to eat or drink either.

As every year during Ramadan, they have been told by their superior, Philippe Moureaux, the Socialist mayor of Molenbeek, that they have to respect Muslim sensitivities and not to “provoke” Muslims by violating Islamic Ramadan restrictions in public. In effect, Islamic or Sharia law is already applied – for everyone – in the Muslim areas of Brussels.

Some friends in Brussels organize one-hour trips through Molenbeek. They go in an inconspicuous car, driven by a local who knows the escape routes, and with a bodyguard. Otherwise the risk would be too great. These trips are called “safaris.” Similar “Eurabia safaris” are organized in other European cities. One of the highlights – though absolutely not the most dangerous one – of the safari in Rosengaard, the Muslim section of the Swedish city of Malmö, is a short stop, to give the visitor the opportunity to take a quick snapshot, in front of Malmö’s “Jihadskörkortsteori” (Jihad Driving School).

Körskola Malmö Jihad

The Sharia areas of Europe are expanding rapidly across Western Europe. While currently still restricted to what the French officially call the ZUS (zones urbaines sensibles – sensitive urban areas) these areas are growing fast. Even today, eight million of the sixty million inhabitants of France already live in one of the country’s 751 ZUS.

The month of Ramadan is traditionally the most dangerous time of the year in Europe’s sensitive areas. After sunset, the Ramadan ban on eating, drinking and engaging in sexual activities expires until the following sunrise. Ramadan is a period of nightly feasts for Muslims. Young Muslims are extremely touchy. These feasts easily spill over into nightly spasms of mayhem, vandalism, and violence. Europe’s Ramadan riots often go on for days or weeks, during which hundreds of cars, shops and public buildings are set on fire.

In Muslim countries, such as Indonesia, the police steps up patrols during Ramadan in order to crack down on illegal nightly activities. In Europe, however, the police has been given orders to adopt an extra low profile so as not to “provoke” Muslim populations. In countries such as Britain, police officers have had to attend “Ramadan awareness” courses. They have even been ordered, “for reasons of religious sensitivity,” to avoid the execution of arrest warrants on Muslims during the month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Europe is a tinder box.

The most widely reported Ramadan riots so far, which were even covered by the American press, took place in France in 2005. Since the 2005 riots, the French authorities have asked the media not to report about waves of violent unrest in the ZUS – a request which the media seem to have followed. During the 2005 Ramadan riots, several sociologists suggested that polygamy was one of the reasons for the large-scale rioting in Muslim communities among youths who lack a father figure. This theory seemed to have impressed France’s political leaders. Gérard Larcher, then France’s employment minister and currently the president of the French Senate, explained to the Financial Times (Nov. 15, 2005) that multiple marriages among immigrants lead to anti-social behavior, such as criminal activity. Bernard Accoyer, a leading parliamentarian of France’s governing UMP and currently the president of the French National Assembly (France’s Congress), said that children from large polygamous families have problems integrating into mainstream society.

As the Financial Times warned, however, at the time, “Mr Larcher’s comments could further fuel the debate and are likely to outrage Muslim and anti-racism groups.” Apparently, the French government was of the same opinion; it did not follow-up the words of Messrs. Larcher and Accoyer with a clampdown on polygamy. Having multiple wives is illegal under French law, but is allowed under Islamic Sharia law. It is estimated that 30,000 French Muslims have more than one wife and that more than 250,000 people live in polygamous families.

Polygamous immigrants abuse the social security system by collecting state benefits for several wives. In France, residence is only granted to polygamous families if the two wives do not live at the same address, which means that these families claim double social housing, family allowances and other social benefits.

The recognition of polygamous marriages of Muslim men indicates that Sharia law is already accepted in many European countries, where polygamy used to be illegal – and still is illegal for non-Muslims. They have implicitly accepted a system of “legal apartheid” with different legal systems for Muslims and non-Muslims. The decision to avoid arresting Muslims during Ramadan “for reasons of religious sensitivity,” thereby treating Muslims and non-Muslims differently, confirms this existence of a dual legal system. It is difficult to see how such a dual legal system can continue to exist on the same territory. Ultimately, one of the legal systems will have to prevail. The decision of the Molenbeek mayor that non-Muslim police officers have to respect the Ramadan prescriptions indicates what the next step will be if Europe’s authorities fail to impose the existing laws of the land on Islamic immigrants: the imposition of Sharia law on everyone, non-Muslims as well as Muslims. While Europe’s Muslims hold their Ramadan, this is something worth pondering for Europe’s non-Muslims.

Read it all

Okanogan teen’s faith-healing death under review

The Associated Press

The Okanogan County prosecutor is waiting for the sheriff to complete the investigation into the death of a 17-year-old boy who died at home of a burst appendix.

Zachery “Zakk” Swezey had no medical care during a three-day illness in March because his family, members of the Church of the First Born, believe in faith healing.

Prosecutor Karl Sloan says he’ll decide if charges are warranted.

Sheriff’s reports about the case were obtained Friday by The Wenatchee World in a public records request opposed by the family.

In a story published Thursday the documents say the parents, Greg and JaLea Swezey, gave their son the choice of calling an ambulance and seeing a doctor.

“We don’t force our kids, our kids have a choice. At no time did Zachery ask to go to the doctor,” Greg Swezey told investigators. The parents also said their oldest son once broke his leg, and they gave him a choice of going to the doctor, but his son chose not to.

Swezey put a cast on his leg, and later they saw a physical therapist who confirmed his son had broken his leg.

Swezey told deputies his children knew they had a choice to see a doctor and that last year Zakk, a Pateros High School student, had a sports physical.

Swan, in Sioux City, Iowa, was aware of Swezey’s death when contacted Tuesday by The Wenatchee World and said four other children in three states other than Washington have died so far this year in what she calls faith-deaths.

“There are many small Pentecostal groups that want Jesus to be their doctor, and that consider illness a tempt of faith,” she said.

Swan said what struck her most about Swezey’s death is the agony he must have endured. “The pain that comes with a ruptured appendix is just excruciating. It’s something the boy should not have had to suffer,” she said.

The recent case in Oregon City, Ore., of a faith-healing couple charged with negligent homicide in the death of their 15-month-old daughter could weigh in the prosecutor’s considerations. Ava Worthington died of pneumonia in March 2008, and her parents belong to Followers of Christ Church.

Remembering the Hebron Massacre

Heretics crusade celebrates May 14 Israeli Independence Day

Heretics crusade celebrates May 14 Israeli Independence Day

Here is a tribute to the Hebron Massacre in Israel.

Yet another wrenching exile and return, now rarely remembered, occurred 80 years ago this week. On Aug. 23-24, 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was exiled following a horrific pogrom. The tragedy is known as Tarpat, an acronym for its date in the Hebrew calendar.

Until 1929, Jews had lived in Hebron for three millennia. There, according to Jewish tradition, Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah to bury Sarah. It was the first parcel of land owned by the Jewish people in their promised land. Ever since, religious Jews revered Hebron as the burial site of their matriarchs and patriarchs. Conquered, massacred and expelled over the centuries, Jews always returned to this sacred place.

In August 1929, that community was suddenly and brutally attacked. Incited by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem—who claimed that Jews were endangering Muslim holy sites on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem—Arab rioters swept through Palestine. In Hebron, the carnage was horrendous.

It began on Friday afternoon when Arabs attacked Jews with clubs and murdered a yeshiva student. The next morning, joined by local villagers, Arabs swarmed through Hebron screaming “Kill the Jews.” They broke into the home of Eliezer Dan Slonim, where many Jews had gathered for safety. There they wielded knives and axes to murder 22 innocents. In the Anglo-Palestine Bank, where 23 corpses were discovered, blood covered the tile floor. That day, three children under the age of five were murdered. Teenage girls, their mothers and grandmothers were raped and killed. Rabbis and their students were castrated before they were slain. A surviving yeshiva student recounted that he “had seen greater horrors than Dante in hell.”

When the slaughter finally subsided, 67 Jews had been murdered. Three days later, British soldiers evacuated 484 survivors, including 153 children, to Jerusalem. The butchery in Hebron, Zionist and religious officials alleged, was “without equal in the history of the country since the destruction of the Temple.” Sir Walter Shaw, chairman of an exhaustive British royal investigation, concluded that “unspeakable atrocities” had occurred.

Tarpat extinguished the most ancient Jewish community in Palestine. With synagogues destroyed, Jewish property converted into storerooms and barns for livestock, and the ancient cemetery desecrated, few signs remained that there had ever been a Jewish presence in Hebron.

But nearly 40 years later, after the Six-Day War of 1967, a small group of religious Zionists returned to Hebron to rebuild the destroyed community. “What was in the past in Hebron,” declared their matriarch Miriam Levinger, “is what will happen in the future. Always!” So it would be.

The Jewish community of Hebron—some 700 people—recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of their return. This month they commemorate the 80th anniversary of Tarpat. All the other ancient peoples mentioned in the Bible have vanished. But Jews, a community of memory, still live in Hebron.

Hebron Jews are relentlessly vilified as fanatics who illegally occupy someone else’s land. As religious Zionists, they are the militant Jewish settlers whom legions of Jewish and non-Jewish critics love to hate. It is seldom noticed that their most serious transgression—settlement in the biblical land of Israel—is the definition of Zionism: the return of Jews to their historic homeland.

Mr. Auerbach, a professor of history at Wellesley College, is the author of “Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel,” published in July by Roman & Littlefield.

Twice Branded: Western Women in Muslim Lands

Judy Bachrach

Every time I despair of the way women are treated in Muslim countries—and the few syllables Western leaders and op-ed columnists expend on their humiliations, mutilations, harassments, and, yes, murders—I turn to the Web site of Mona Eltahawy. Eltahawy spent her formative years in Egypt and Saudi Arabia:

A couple of years after I stopped visiting, a horrific fire broke out in a school in Mecca, home to the Muslim world’s holiest site. Fifteen girls burned to death because morality police standing outside the school wouldn’t let them out of the burning building. Why? Because they weren’t wearing headscarves and abayas, the black cloaks that girls and women must wear in public in Saudi Arabia.

And here is Eltahawy on a girl’s lot in Egypt:

When I was only four years old and still living in Cairo, a man exposed himself to me as I stood on a balcony at my family’s, and gestured for me to come down. At 15, I was groped as I was performing the rites of the hajj pilgrimage at Mecca, the holiest site for Muslims. Every part of my body was covered except for my face and hands. I’d never been groped before and burst into tears, but I was too ashamed to explain to my family what had happened.

To anyone who, like me, has lived in a Muslim nation, none of this behavior is either singular or surprising. It is the way men in most Islamic nations prefer things to be. We can talk forever about the nature of culture versus faith: how ancient rites and practices like the circumcision of girls (85 percent of all Egyptian girls have endured this procedure), or the tradition of keeping women ignorant and housebound, can corrupt a religion that never intended for these things to happen.

But it is no coincidence that women who must submit to Sharia law find themselves in a very bad place, wherever those women and those places happen to be.

Bet let’s start with Islam as it affects women in their home countries. Last year, in a poll of 2,000 Egyptian men, 62 percent admitted harassing women: an activity most of those interviewed insisted was not really their fault as their advances, however intemperate and offensive to their victims, had after all been provoked by the women themselves.

Nor is this sort of harassment confined to Islamic women in Islamic nations. Western women who find themselves in the Middle East come in for their own fair share of daily insults, owing to their double deficit as women and foreigners. Every step outside the home or hotel is an invitation to a carefully directed barrage of verbal assaults, their components familiar and unvarying: vulgar and offensive remarks, leers and snickers, the occasional shove, all accompanied by grins of triumph.

Thus it was that my Egyptian experience marked the only time in my life when the acquisition of the rudiments of a foreign language, far from making life more comfortable, actually ignited rage. The more Arabic we learned, the more xenophobic and sexually explicit trash talk we understood. There was a lot of it around (except, significantly, when we were escorted by our husbands).

The U.S. embassy had determined …that whatever harassment we “dependents” (as they liked to call us) encountered was entirely our fault. Wearing jeans, …we were told by our countrymen, nothing less than a provocative act. (I don’t mean to imply that a callous indifference to the barrage of insults that daily came our way was universal. When a group of us begged an Arabic teacher for help in parrying those taunts, he was quite sympathetic. From him we learned a string of useful remarks to fling at our tormentors, all of which involved, inevitably, abusing the reputations of their mothers.)

That’s the way it was in Cairo—and still is. Local women are of such negligible importance that they can be viewed as prey. On the other hand, foreign women are in a wholly different category: wild and yet easy, so menacing and just plain available they are invariably treated as prey. The foreigner without a murderous uncle by her side or a veil over her face is a communal dish.

…Uxorious duties evidently served as a shield, gave me a role (that of servitude) that set me apart from another howaga, the Arabic word for “foreigner.” It was only on the way back from the cleaners, when I was empty-handed—free and unburdened—that perfect strangers considered me a target. In other words—and here is a telling paradox of life in much of the Islamic world—whatever devout Muslims are religiously prohibited from doing to women (and there are plenty of strictures listed in the Koran: a man must lower his gaze in the presence of a woman, for instance, and also guard her chastity) is in practice resolutely ignored, all the more so when it comes to foreigners.

Why bother to observe prohibitions on a group so manifestly inferior? Eltahawy complains bitterly that the donning of the hijab, which she as an observant Muslim used to do, actually procures no real measure of safety for the wearer. “I was groped so many times that whenever I passed a group of men, I’d place my bag between me and them,” she writes. But not wearing the hijab or a veil in Egypt is the sure sign of a foreigner—a word that has become synonymous with “slut.” “I was at a conference just recently which was attended by both Egyptians and Americans,” Eltahawy recalls. “One researcher showed us clips from an Egyptian documentary in which men were interviewed: and it was always the same reaction from the men. ‘The Western woman is always easy prey. . . . All they want is sex . . .’”

Why such emphasis on how foreign women are treated in Islamic nations? After all, most of us, on finding ourselves in a hostile environment, are merely inconvenienced. We can do what I and so many others did. We leave. But there are the other Western women who cannot.

You don’t have to watch a rerun of Not Without My Daughter, the harrowing story of Betty Mahmoody, who accompanied her Iranian-born husband back to his native country for what she was assured would be a two-week visit, to understand the possible consequences of such a venture. Mahmoody’s eighteen months of virtual house arrest under the vigilant gaze of her doctor husband and his relatives, her escape with her daughter on foot and on horseback are known to us only because her flight was successful. Had it not been, her account would have likely been buried with the rest of her.

Consider the case of Monica Stowers, an American who married a young Saudi she met at the University of Dallas, and with whom she had two children in Texas. In 1983, the young family packed up and moved to Riyadh. There Stowers discovered her husband had another wife he had forgotten to mention. After announcing her decision to return to the U.S. with her small children, she came in for another surprise: Saudi courts gave custody of the children to the father (Stowers was Christian). She went home alone.

Undeterred, in 1990 she returned to Saudi Arabia, gathered her children, and brought them to the U.S. Embassy. At which point, as The Wall Street Journal reported well over a decade later, embassy Marines were summoned to expel the family from the premises. The Saudi authorities had an even more effective solution: they arrested Stowers. She left the country. But at 12 years old, her daughter was still languishing in Saudi Arabia, married off to a cousin.

Why would a Western woman forgo the security and freedom of her home country and relocate with a Muslim husband to an Islamic nation? For an answer, I phoned the feminist author Phyllis Chesler, who has written on the subject. …

Chesler speaks from authority. Forty-five years ago, she married her college boyfriend, a Muslim from Afghanistan, and followed him home to Kabul. …

Here is what happened to her in Kabul—and it’s essential to remember this occurred decades before the Taliban made life for women completely intolerable. Chesler’s American passport was confiscated at the airport: she never saw it again. Her young “bohemian” husband became, as she notes, “another person”: cold and distant, a sometime defender of polygamy (his father, to Chesler’s surprise, had three wives) and champion of the veil. Chesler quickly discovered that “Afghans mistrusted foreign wives”—… When she fled to the American embassy, “the Marines would bring me back home every time,” she recalls. “I was the wife of a foreign national. I had lost my citizenship.”

Her in-laws were deeply unhappy with their son’s decision to bring home an American bride. She lived in perpetual fear that she might become, as her husband intended her to be, pregnant. That would have been the end of the narrative, for, as Chesler points out: “You’re then going to be trapped in the country you’re in forever because you’re carrying Muslim property. The child.”

When her mother-in-law quietly stopped boiling her drinking water, Chesler developed hepatitis. She weighed 90 pounds on her arrival back in New York City. Her father-in-law, delighted to be rid of her, paid for her ticket home. …

It is, of course, the women who don’t get to fly home to New York—or indeed leave any airport without their husbands’ consent—who truly deserve international attention. And yet these are the very women our Western politicians, media outlets, and academicians barely acknowledge because, as I was constantly advised by European and American diplomats in both Egypt and also the Sudan when I visited, “We have no right to pass judgment on the customs and mores of other countries.”

Here are just a few of those customs and mores: in Turkey, a nation often cited as “moderate,” wife beating is so common that 69 percent of all female health workers polled (and almost 85 percent of all male health workers) said that violence against women was in certain instances excusable. In April, a new epidemiological study in the European Journal of Public Health revealed that one out of every five homicides in Pakistan is the result of a so-called honor killing. …

It was only when our steadfast ally Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed legislation legalizing the rape of his country’s wives by their husbands that a powerful Western leader actually expressed a view on the subject. “I think this law is abhorrent,” President Barack Obama acknowledged when queried at a press conference in Strasbourg, France. Yet, our president had to be asked about the rape-facilitation law before daring to venture an opinion. Nor is he alone in his bashfulness. All over the world, Western leaders have proven uncommonly demure on the subject of women in Islamic countries. …

Accounting for exactly why it is that Islamic countries (or even countries like India, with large Islamic populations) are those that demonstrate the most antipathy toward their female citizens is no straightforward task. On the one hand, Bernard Lewis is correct when he writes that “Islam as a religion and as a culture should not be blamed for the tribal customs of some of the peoples who adopted it.” On the other, the Koran is fairly specific about the value of a woman. An Islamic man may accumulate up to four of her kind in marriage—and may divorce any or all of these wives swiftly and without offering a syllable of justification. In court a woman’s testimony is worth exactly half of that of a man. In matters of inheritance among siblings, the Koran insists that “the male [must get] twice the share of the female.” And finally—although of all the passages this is the one that provokes the most controversy—there are many Muslims who conclude that the Koran permits a man to beat his wife.

“Well, that’s Verse 4:34, and it can be interpreted different ways,” Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion and political Islam at Hofstra University, demurs. .. This judicious interpretation of the most incendiary Koranic passage provokes laughter when I repeat it to the Somali-born firebrand Ayaan Hirsi Ali. … In fact, Hirsi Ali continues, “that the husband has the right to beat his wife is in the Koran. That a woman has to dress a certain way is in the Koran, that she must stay in the house is also there. And on it goes.”

And everywhere it goes. Sharia travels without a wrinkle on its burqa. It is no small irony these days that those fortunate countries where women have fought, passionately and at great cost, for equal rights—Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, for instance—have become home to certain Muslim immigrants who continue to violate the rights of women, abetted frequently by both the silence of the authorities and an abashed press. Why this silence? One of the least savory consequences of a colonial past is guilt: an insidious remorse that transmutes itself into a persistent reluctance to criticize publicly those who have now themselves taken on the role of oppressor—even against those who happen to oppress, openly and without shame, within the borders of liberal nations. “You hear people talking about the need to ‘respect’ other cultures. You want me to respect this awful behavior?” Eltahawy says.

These impassioned protests generally elicit a well-rehearsed litany. That you can’t lump all Muslim males together. Or blame an entire religion for the excesses of certain of its practitioners (as the scholarly Hussein Rashid tells me: “Islam doesn’t speak. Muslims do”). That in certain parts of the world, a few lucky women from prosperous families do manage to achieve exalted positions. Some are even permitted by indulgent fathers to go to college or pursue certain approved careers.

Such a charmed place, I was assured a few years ago as I made preparations to travel on assignment, was Bahrain, a small island kingdom in the Persian Gulf. …
Around the time of my visit, Bahrain even ratified something called the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women—a law, it would turn out, every bit as awkward and unpromising as its name. Nonetheless, I was assured by friends that once there, my movements would be as unfettered as they might be in, say, Paris or Sydney.

So it was with honest amazement that my first night there I found myself accosted in the lobby of my Bahrain hotel by a formidable hotel guard. “You were looking for?” he asked. A restaurant, I replied. I glanced around and sure enough, there it was, on my right, a brightly lit hotel restaurant, packed with men. I thought maybe what the request needed was some innocent embellishment: A hamburger, I added. And a Coca-Cola.

“You would be very much more comfortable ordering that meal from your room,” he replied, blocking my path.

Some days later, I found myself, with considerable relief, at Bahrain International Airport, directed after a serious and hostile frisking, to a waiting lounge. It was really a pleasant place: soft couches for the men, and in the middle, reserved exclusively for women, as a large sign proclaimed in two languages, by far the most comfortable area: a luxurious enclosure piled high with beautiful silk cushions. These were placed close to each other so the women could chat quietly. It was kind of a gallant form of Sharia, I decided: yes, you are secluded from the gaze of famished men, the enclosure seemed to suggest, but in a sumptuous environment reserved especially for you. Edging the enclosure were silk drapes, intended to be drawn to protect the modesty of the occupants.

Except that the drapes were thrown wide open. No need for modesty or seclusion, not on that day. On the plump silk cushions intended exclusively for female travelers, only men were sitting and chatting, drinking tea and eating cucumber sandwiches. No man looked up. No one thought to move: to gesture me into the haven intended for modest women. In fact, aside from me, exiled by these invaders from the only place in the airport lounge that the Kingdom of Bahrain thought I should sit, there were, as far as the eye could see, no women hoping to travel anywhere.

(HH here) Now here is where she missed her chance to get a bit even. She should have walked right into the secluded area and sat down with her eyes lowered. And all the men would have to scramble to get the hell out before a guard saw them in there with a woman.

Judy Bachrach is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair.

Child bride turned over to 80-year-old husband

AL-LAITH: A 10-year-old bride was returned last Sunday to her 80-year-old husband by her father who discovered her at the home of her aunt with whom she has been hiding for around 10 days.

A local newspaper said the husband, who denies he is 80 in spite of claims by the girl’s family, accused the aunt of meddling in his affairs. “My marriage is not against Shariah. It included the elements of acceptance and response by the father of the bride,” he said.

He added that he had been engaged to his wife’s elder sister and that this broke off as she wanted to continue with her education. “In light of this, her father offered his younger daughter. I was allowed to have a look at her according to Shariah and found her acceptable,” he said.

Maatouq Al-Abdullah, a member of the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR), said there is no system in place regulating the marriage of young girls, something that he said results in adverse psychological, health and social effects.

“Such marriages are considered a gross violation of charters on the rights of children, which the Kingdom has signed and which set the age of adulthood at 18,” he added.

Senior Iranian cleric calls system a dictatorship

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s most senior dissident cleric on Wednesday criticized the ruling system under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a dictatorship in the name of Islam, the most serious attack on the country’s top official following the disputed presidential election.

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said the ruling system showed its true nature with the violent crackdown against the hundreds of thousands who protested President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election and the torture of detainees that led to at least three deaths.

“The biggest oppression … is despotic treatment of the people in the name of Islam,” Montazeri said in a written response to some 300 activists that was posted on his Web site. “I hope the responsible authorities give up the deviant path they are pursuing and restore the trampled rights of the people.”

Montazeri’s comments are significant because although criticism of ruling figures has increased following the June election, which the opposition claims was stolen through vote fraud, public attacks against Khamenei are rare.

Montazeri’s opinion carries weight because the 87-year-old cleric was once tapped to succeed the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran’s supreme leader. He was denied the post in the late 1980s because of his criticism of the excesses of the ruling system and his differences with Khomeini.

The turmoil following the presidential election has presented the current supreme leader, Khamenei, with the most serious challenge to the country’s cleric-led system since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Khamenei and other hard-liners have attempted to paint the post-election turmoil as a plot by Iran’s foreign enemies to overthrow the country’s Islamic system through a “velvet revolution.” The government is holding a mass trial of more than 100 political activists and protesters who it claims provoked the mass demonstrations.

The opposition has called the trial a “sham,” and Montazeri said it has “ridiculed Islamic justice.”

“I hope authorities … have the courage to announce that this ruling system is neither a republic nor Islamic and that nobody has the right to express opinion or criticism,” said Montazeri.

The government has confirmed that at least 30 people were killed in the post-election crackdown, but the opposition says at least 69 died and many more were tortured in prison. The abuse of detainees has also prompted criticism from conservatives, complicating Khamenei’s efforts to end the turmoil.

Montazeri has called for curtailing the powers of Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters and is considered by hard-liners to be answerable only to God.

The dissident cleric spent five years under house arrest after saying in 1997 that Khamenei wasn’t qualified to rule. The punishment has not silenced Montazeri, who has repeatedly said that the freedom that was promised after the Islamic revolution never materialized.

Montazeri is one of just a few grand ayatollahs, the most senior theologians of the Shiite Muslim faith.

But after he was placed under house arrest, state-run media stopped referring to Montazeri by his religious title, describing him instead as a “simple-minded” cleric.

Enough with Intellectuals, Time for Thinkers

By: Larrey Anderson
American Thinker | Thursday, August 20, 2009

Helen [Mom]: “Everyone’s special, Dash.”

Dash [Son]: [muttering] “Which is another way of saying no one is.”
– from the Pixar movie, The Incredibles
One of the tragedies, and paradoxes, of our post modernist age is the dominance of the sympathetic “intellectual” as opposed to the hardheaded “thinker” in Western culture. Everyone is a kindly intellectual and almost no one is an objective thinker. (I will explain the difference between the two in a moment.)

Our present situation is not good for the Republic. By selling feel good snake oil intellectualism, we have polarized America into unwavering ideological camps, each camp filled with phony sophisticates. How we got ourselves into this pickle is an interesting story.

Friedrich Nietzsche saw this situation coming to the West over a hundred years ago:
No Shepherd and one herd! Everybody wants the same, everybody is the same: whoever feels differently goes voluntarily to the mad house….

All are clever and know everything that has ever happened: so there is no end of derision. All still quarrel, but are soon reconciled – else it might spoil the digestion….

“We have invented happiness,” say the last men, and they blink.[i]
For at least 50 years we have been taught by our society that all values, cultures, and ideas are relative. Different people have different belief systems and we must respect those differences. (I have written extensively about this issue in American Thinker here and here, so I will not go into detail about the problem. I urge the reader to revisit those articles for a more complete explanation.)

This relativism is a cultural, not an ideological, problem. Relativism affects the entire society. For example, I attended a baseball (t-ball) game for very young children a few weeks ago. Some local Christian churches in southern Idaho sponsor the league. America doesn’t get much more conservative than Christian churches in southern Idaho.

I was shocked to find that the league did not keep score. There were no winners and losers in the games. I was told that the idea was to teach the kids basic baseball skills and “self-esteem.”

With utmost brevity, here is what happens to a culture that declares all values are relative:

First, everyone becomes a moral expert or moral intellectual. In fact, everyone is forced to become an intellectual. If only I know what is right and wrong for me, and if only you know what is right and wrong for you, then we are each the only agents qualified to make judgments on our individual actions. We are each our unique moral envoy.

This purported ability of each of us to create our own values not only makes us each our own intellectual guru. It is also supposed to bring about an era of peace and happiness where no one judges anyone else.

And then … and then … and then … human nature kicks in. Sometimes (in reality many times) my values might be in conflict with your values.

Take, as a most amusing example, Obamacare. Now if our society really believed that I created my values and you created your values, then insurance companies and drug companies would go about creating their values and selling their products because … well, those are their values.

But Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid drop the whole pretense of relativism when it comes to drug and insurance companies. The people who run those businesses are evil. When someone disagrees with Nancy and Harry, relativism is suddenly irrelevant.

What this conflict of real values indicates is that the intellectual (as opposed to the thinker) is actually close-minded. The intellectual believes you have a right to your opinion — as long as it agrees with his opinion. The intellectual is not a thinker. Here is why:

I discovered the difference between the intellectual and the thinker during college. I kept hearing the buzz around campus about a philosopher named John Rawls and a book called A Theory of Justice. I found John Rawls and sat in on his lectures.

Rawls was the prototypical intellectual. He knew everything. He had figured out what no philosopher — since at least Socrates — had been able to figure out: Rawls grasped the meaning of justice! “Justice is equality,” he proclaimed and sold hundred of thousands of books. (That was easy. Damn, how I wish I had been intellectual enough to figure out that justice is equality.)

Rawls knew how to end poverty — and not just his poverty by selling a lot of books. Rawls knew how to end all poverty. (Think Obamacare and those who claim they can provide universal medical coverage and not raise taxes.) If memory serves, Rawls called his solution “the difference principle.” It went something like this: the just regime owed its greatest benefits to the poorest in society. Such a simple plan. Take from the rich and give to the poor. Rawls’ disquisitions sounded like Robin Hood, or Bob Dylan … or Jesus. (Again, think Obamacare.)

I sat through his classes. I read A Theory of Justice. I was unimpressed. Rawls’ discourses and his book could best be described as “Karl Marx lite.” Rawls told his students, and his readers, exactly what they wanted to hear: if everyone was nice and everyone “shared” (this “sharing” would be enforced by the central government — which would be run by the intellectuals from Harvard who had read and understood John Rawls) we would all live in peace and harmony. (Obamacare, anyone?)

At about the same time I was studying Rawls, I stumbled on to a real live thinker: the philosopher Robert Nozick. I have written about my relationship with Professor Nozick elsewhere and I will not revisit that topic here. The point for our current discussion is that it took a man like Robert Nozick, rather than John Rawls, to teach me the difference between being a real thinker and a faux-naïf intellectual with a high IQ.

In the preface to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, (written, partially, as a response to Rawls’ A Theory of Justice) Nozick explained the need to stop intellectualizing, once in a while, and to actually start thinking:
Works of philosophy [and science, religion, and politics, I would add] are written as though their authors believe them to be the absolutely final word on their subject. But it’s not, surely, that each philosopher [or scientist, theologian, or politician] thinks that he finally, thank God, has found the truth and built an impregnable fortress around it.

I like to think that intellectual honesty demands that, at least occasionally, we go out of our way to confront strong arguments opposed to our views. How else are we to protect ourselves from continuing error?
Carefully consider that last paragraph. How can we protect ourselves from becoming spellbound ideologues — trapped in a continuing error — unless we openly and honestly consider powerful alternative viewpoints from time to time?

Notice that this is not a question of ideology. (Ideologies can be right or wrong.) This is a question of intellectual integrity, or “honesty” as Nozick puts it.

This is a question that too many intellectuals on the left and on the right are loath to contemplate. They already have the truth because they have their ideology. Their truth is their ideology. (Justice is equality and Bush is Hitler. Or the truth is in the Bible and Obama is Hitler. Left and right. Class dismissed. We can stop thinking now. We have the answers. We are all intellectuals.)

Intellectuals are marked by two distinct characteristics:
1) They believe in a vague ideological position that, they contend, solves numerous specific political and social problems.
2) Intellectuals tend to project their own immediate difficulties and needs into the abstract venue of their ideology. (They confuse saving the world with saving themselves.)

As I have indicated, intellectualism is not a prerogative of the left or the right. Since the left dominates the academic setting in the US (and in most of the free world for that matter), it is much easier to understand the abject failure of intellectualism by examining the thinking of contemporary “progressive” intellectuals. Everyone on the left is an intellect (though few are thinkers). The left’s head over heels love affair with Friedrich Nietzsche provides a perfect example of the shallowness of intellectualism.

Create your own rules! (The liberal intellectual actually believes that this is what Nietzsche has told him.) Every one is an Übermensch! Do you own thing! Be an intellectual! Buy my book!

From Friedrich Nietzsche to John Rawls the cunning con continues. The intellectual, smug in the superiority of someone else’s ideas, thinks he is smarter than the rest of us. It is enough to make a rational person stop … and think.
“I learned early in life that a man not fiercely committed to a single point of view is as apt a philosopher as anybody else.”
– John Gardner, The King’s Indian

Larrey Anderson is a philosopher and writer living in Idaho. He can be reached at

Arabs face stubborn obstacles to social change

Ghassan Rubeiz
* Published in Lebanon’s THE DAILY STAR on August 17.

Arabs face stubborn obstacles to social change. They recognize their problems but do not settle on alternatives; and they are worried about replacing their autocratic political regimes. Change, they fear, may lead to even worse circumstances. Responding to the challenge, Arab scholars have collaborated over the past seven years in examining the causes of societal underachievement. They have studied a range of issues: governance, the economy, gender, poverty, education, environment, health, and conflict. Their conclusions, published starting in 2002 in successive UN Human Development Reports, under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program, have been seminal but also short on effective action for reform.

The UNDP reports have forecast continued deterioration in the wellbeing of the Arab community. The major findings of the 2009 report were released on July 21. The document revolves around the concept of personal insecurity. Its underlying thesis is that citizens facing intense personal stress can not change their circumstances for the better.

The findings of the 2009 report spell danger and call for intervention. Arab regimes are in constant search for legitimacy and do not receive much support from their peoples in this regard. Arab countries score low on political freedoms and high on corruption. Regimes threaten the security of their citizens. The legal environment for non-governmental organizations is too restrictive. In six countries political parties are utterly forbidden. Emergency law is declared to justify police-state activities. Elections are predictable and manipulated. Rulers stay in office for long periods.

The fertility rate in the Arab world has dropped in recent years, but it is still too high. Rapid population growth in the region is straining the provision of basic services. Today’s Arab population is 330 million, with 60 percent under the age of 25. In six years 400 million people will be sharing dwindling water and food resources. Desertification is eroding cultivable land. The desert has already “swallowed two thirds of the land.”

Women deserve a better position both at home, in the work place, and in political circles. The law discriminates against them. Societal norms are gender prohibitive and economic and political opportunities are limited for females. Domestic violence goes unnoticed, while reporting abuse is discouraged. In low-income Arab societies, one of two adult women does not read or write. Children and other minority groups are poorly protected.

The economies of the region are not diversified: oil represents 70 percent of exports, while GDP per capita grew by a negligible 0.5 percent between 1980 and 2004. Two out of five Arabs live in poverty, a trend on the increase despite vast oil wealth. Three trillion dollars have been invested in ways that have not created jobs and brought adequate returns. By the year 2020, 51 million new jobs will be required. Every other young man wants to leave for a better life abroad. Current unemployment is about 15 percent.

Oil, Israel, sectarian upbringing and competing loyalty to tribe and family make this region prone to political conflict and war. The Middle East suffers from several local and international conflicts. It has the largest volume of refugees and displaced people in the world, at 17 million. There is occupation in Palestine, foreign intervention in Iraq, and civil war in Sudan, Yemen and Somalia. Too many regimes depend on outside allies for security. Arab armies are mobilized to protect rulers rather than the ruled. Spending on defense is disproportionate.

When it comes to solutions the latest human development report is timid. It calls on politicians and societies to respect rule of law, protect the environment, and diversify the economy. The report also calls for equal rights for women, and transformative education and health care as a right for all citizens. Finally, it calls for the use of effective ways to liberate the region from occupations and the enhancement of security for all citizens.

The diagnosis of underdevelopment does not lead to strategic solutions. The four reports which preceded the latest one also lacked a pragmatic blueprint for action. For effective reform to occur two basic questions come to mind. The first is, where does reform start? Heads of Arab governments are not getting the message from these reports. It is true that all areas of reform are important and the approach must be comprehensive. But it is also true that governance impacts on all aspects of reform. Good government is a requirement for a multi-faceted program of social and political change. The report must give Arabs practical hints on how regimes can change.

The second question is of a different order. Why is the role of religion in politics a relatively minor aspect of all five reports? Among the many causes freezing social and political reform in the Arab world is the dominance of religious authorities. Such authorities – through their pervasive institutions of socialization and their control over personal-status issues – strongly influence political identity, support tribal authority, define strict limits for women, and restrict intellectual inquiry. The UNDP reports should tackle the religious factor with more courage. Reducing the hold of organized religion on politics and social change – and I do not mean inhibiting faith or spirituality – will have a multiplier effect on reform.

Arab societies that give strong leadership roles to religious authorities face more difficulties in state-building than those societies that limit clerical power to spiritual matters. If this generalization is empirically substantiated it should lead us to forceful conclusions for reform.

Might the next annual report focus on ways to effectively approach regime-change and liberation of political systems from religious authority? In the Arab world the ruler is the pilot and the cleric is the co-pilot.

Palestinian prof: No Jewish ties to Western Wall

Latest Islamic figure to deny documented archeological history

By Aaron Klein
© 2009 WorldNetDaily

JERUSALEM – The Jews have no historical connection to Jerusalem or the Western Wall, declared a Palestinian Authority lecturer on official PA television.

“[The Jews have] no historical roots. This is political terminology to win the hearts and the support of the Zionists in Europe, so they would emigrate and come to Palestine. Nothing more!” stated Shamekh Alawneh, a lecturer in modern history at Al-Quds Open University.

“The [Jews’] goal in giving the name ‘Wailing Wall’ to this [Western] Wall is political,” continued Alawneh, speaking on a PA television program called “Jerusalem – History and Culture.”

“The Jewish Zionists had no choice but to invent an excuse [about Jerusalem] to spread among the Zionists or the Jews in Europe, to connect to something concrete from the past about Jerusalem. They made false claims and called the ‘Al-Burak Wall’ the ‘Wailing Wall,” Alawneh said.

His remarks were translated from Arabic by Palestinian Media Watch.

Alawneh was the latest PA-connected official to deny the Jewish historical connection to Jerusalem and the Western Wall, which are intimately tied to Judaism. Islam largely did not consider the area holy or important until the late 19th century.

Mainstream Palestinian leaders claim the Temple Mount and Western Wall are Muslim in spite of overwhelming archaeological evidence documenting the First and Second Jewish Temples.

Last June, WND quoted the chief of staff (link:) of PA President Mahmoud Abbas claiming Jerusalem and the Temple Mount belong to the Muslims. He warned any Israeli action that “offends” the Mount will be answered by 1.5 billion Muslims.

“Jerusalem is Muslim. The blessed Al Aqsa mosque and Harem Al Sharif (Temple Mount) is 100 percent Muslim. The Israelis are playing with fire when they threaten Al Aqsa with digging that is taking place,” said Abbas’ chief of staff Rafiq Al Husseini.

In a WND exclusive interview in March 2007, Taysir Tamimi, chief Palestinian justice and one of the most influential Muslim leaders in Israel, argued the Jewish Temples never existed, the Western Wall really was a tying post for Muhammad’s horse, the Al Aqsa Mosque was built by angels, and Abraham, Moses and Jesus were prophets for Islam.

Tamimi is considered the second most important Palestinian cleric after Muhammad Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

“Israel started since 1967 making archeological digs to show Jewish signs to prove the relationship between Judaism and the city, and they found nothing. There is no Jewish connection to Israel before the Jews invaded in the 1880s,” said Tamimi.

“About these so-called two temples, they never existed, certainly not at the [Temple Mount],” Tamimi said during a sit-down interview in his eastern Jerusalem office.

The Palestinian cleric denied the validity of dozens of digs verified by experts worldwide revealing Jewish artifacts from the First and Second Temples throughout Jerusalem, including on the Temple Mount itself; excavations revealing Jewish homes and a synagogue in a site in Jerusalem called the City of David; or even the recent discovery of a Second Temple Jewish city in the vicinity of Jerusalem.

Tamimi said descriptions of the Jewish Temples in the Hebrew Tanach, in the Talmud and in Byzantine and Roman writings from the Temple periods were forged, and that the Torah was falsified to claim biblical patriarchs and matriarchs were Jewish when they were prophets for Islam.

“All this is not real. We don’t believe in all your versions. Your Torah was falsified. The text as given to the Muslim prophet Moses never mentions Jerusalem. Maybe Jerusalem was mentioned in the rest of the Torah, which was falsified by the Jews,” said Tamimi.

He said Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus were “prophets for the Israelites sent by Allah as to usher in Islam.”

Asked about the Western Wall, Tamimi said the structure was a tying post for Muhammad’s horse and that it is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque, even though the Wall predates the mosque by more than 1,000 years.

“The Western Wall is the western wall of the Al Aqsa Mosque. It’s where Prophet Muhammad tied his animal which took him from Mecca to Jerusalem to receive the revelations of Allah.”

The Kotel, or Western Wall, is an outer retaining wall of the Temple Mount that survived the destruction of the Second Temple and still stands today in Jerusalem.

Tamimi went on to claim to WND the Al Aqsa Mosque , which has sprung multiple leaks and has had to be repainted several times, was built by angels.

“Al Aqsa was built by the angels 40 years after the building of Al-Haram in Mecca. This we have no doubt is true,” he said.

The First Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century B.C. It was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. The Second Temple was rebuilt in 515 B.C. after Jerusalem was freed from Babylonian captivity. That temple was destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. Each temple stood for a period of about four centuries.

The Temple was the center of religious worship for ancient Israelites. It housed the Holy of Holies, which contained the Ark of the Covenant and was said to be the area upon which God’s presence dwelt. All biblical holidays centered on worship at the Temple. The Temples served as the primary location for the offering of sacrifices and were the main gathering place for Israelites.

According to the Talmud, the world was created from the foundation stone of the Temple Mount. It’s believed to be the biblical Mount Moriah, the location where Abraham fulfilled God’s test to see if he would be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac.

The Temple Mount has remained a focal point for Jewish services for thousands of years. Prayers for a return to Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the Temple have been uttered by Jews since the Second Temple was destroyed, according to Jewish tradition.

The Al Aqsa Mosque was constructed in about A.D. 709 to serve as a shrine near another shrine, the Dome of the Rock, which was built by an Islamic caliph. Al Aqsa was meant to mark what Muslims came to believe was the place at which Muhammad, the founder of Islam, ascended to heaven to receive revelations from Allah.

Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Quran. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible 656 times.

Islamic tradition states Muhammad took a journey in a single night on a horse from “a sacred mosque” – believed to be in Mecca in southern Saudi Arabia – to “the farthest mosque” and from a rock there ascended to heaven. The farthest mosque became associated with Jerusalem about 120 years ago.

According to research by Israeli Author Shmuel Berkovits, Islam historically disregarded Jerusalem. Berkovits points out in his new book, “How dreadful is this place!” that Muhammad was said to loathe Jerusalem and what it stood for. He wrote Muhammad made a point of eliminating pagan sites of worship and sanctifying only one place – the Kaaba in Mecca – to signify the unity of God.

As late as the 14th century, Islamic scholar Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya, whose writings influenced the Wahhabi movement in Arabia, ruled that sacred Islamic sites are to be found only in the Arabian Peninsula and that “in Jerusalem, there is not a place one calls sacred, and the same holds true for the tombs of Hebron.”

It wasn’t until the late 19th century – incidentally when Jews started immigrating to Palestine – that some Muslim scholars began claiming Muhammad tied his horse to the Western Wall and associated Muhammad’s purported night journey with the Temple Mount

A guide to the Temple Mount by the Supreme Muslim Council in Jerusalem published in 1925 listed the Mount as Jewish and as the site of Solomon’s Temple. The Temple Institute acquired a copy of the official 1925 “Guide Book to Al-Haram Al-Sharif,” which states on page 4, “Its identity with the site of Solomon’s Temple is beyond dispute. This, too, is the spot, according to universal belief, on which ‘David built there an altar unto the Lord.'”