Showing posts with label Ramadan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ramadan. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

ALGERIA: arrest warrant issued amidst escalating repression

A judge in the Algerian coastal city of Tizi-Ouzou has issued an arrest warrant for Ali Arhab, the Algerian-born director of the France-based Christian satellite ministry Channel North Africa.

What initially appeared to be a simple case of mistaken identity has developed into something decidedly more sinister. The concern is that the Algerian government might be wielding a false criminal charge against Mr Arhab as part of its anti-missionary, anti-fitna, Islamist-appeasement campaign, the effect being that Mr Arhab will be unable to return to Algeria without risking imprisonment.

Religious Liberty in Algeria

According to The Constitution of the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria (approved by Referendum on 28 November 1996) Algerian citizens are free to observe their own religion.

"Freedom of creed and opinion is inviolable" (Article 36).
"The right to create associations is guaranteed" (Article 43).

However, unlike Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 36 of the Algerian Constitution does not make any reference to an individual's right to change their religion. Furthermore, Article 2 states "Islam is the religion of the state", and Article 9 prohibits "practices that are contrary to the Islamic ethics and to the values of the November Revolution". Together these render religious liberty illusory. (NOTE: the "November Revolution" marked the beginning of Algeria's war of independence, the goal of which, according to the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), was the establishment of Algeria as an independent sovereign state "within the framework of the principles of Islam" (Front de Libération Nationale, 1 Nov 1954).

Moustafa Bouchachi, President of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights, recently protested the criminalisation of eating during Ramadan on the grounds that "The Algerian constitution prescribes freedom of religion. . ." Yet clearly the reality is more complicated.

See: Algerian men put to justice for breaking the Ramadan fast
By David E. Miller / The Media Line, Jerusalem Post, 7 Sept 2010

As David Miller of the Jerusalem Post reports, police in the Algerian province of Bejaya, in the Kabylie region east of the capital Algiers, recently arrested ten young men as they sat in a closed restaurant, charging them with eating in public in violation of the sanctity of Ramadan. The police were allegedly responding to complaints from locals who, they claim, had reported the "public desecration".

The men faced court in the town of Akbou on Monday 6 September but the verdict will not be known until early November. If convicted, the offenders face up to 2 years in jail.

As Miller notes, the incident reflects the growing trend amongst Muslim governments to cater to devout public sentiment in the Muslim world. (See here for a report on Morocco's persecution of fast-breakers.)

Protesting the charges against the alleged fast-breakers, Moustafa Bouchachi, President of the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights noted: "There is no law in Algeria prohibiting eating on Ramadan, only one banning 'mocking Ramadan'. We believe that this lawsuit is unfounded. The Algerian constitution prescribes freedom of religion, so we think this is an affront to people's basic right, which we condemn."

Mouloud Benkadoum, a lawyer representing the owner of the restaurant, claims his client is being unjustly discriminated against. "The large hotels serve alcohol and meals in broad daylight during Ramadan," he told reporters.

According to Sallah A-Din Belabes, executive editor of Al-Watan, the arrests are simply a means by which the Algerian government can display some Islamic zeal and score points with Islamic fundamentalists. He believes that the fact that the arrests took place in the region of Kabylie, which he describes as "less religious than other parts of Algeria" (i.e. less Islamic fundamentalist), is significant. Doubtless the men were arrested to make a point locally -- that Islam will be observed in the Kabylie region "willingly or unwillingly" (Qur'an Sura 13:15) -- while scoring points with Muslim fundamentalists everywhere.

UPDATE: (22 Sept 2010)

Two Christian construction workers appeared in the provincial court in Ain El Hammam (50 km south of Tizi Ouzou) on Tuesday 21 Sept, charged with in eating during the daylight hours of Ramadan.

Hocine Hocini and Fellak Salem, both in their 40s, had been working on a private construction site when they ate their "illegal" lunch on 13 August.

"I am optimistic... I have no regrets, I am a Christian" Hocine Hocini, told AFP. "We are innocent, we have not hurt anyone. We are Christians and we did not eat in a public place."

Meanwhile, lawyers defending the two men have demanded their acquittal. They argue that existing Algerian laws do not prohibit citizens from breaking the Ramadan fast.

The police however, argued in favor of legal provisions that protect religious precepts from being disobeyed.

Algeria: A disturbing trial of Christians over Islamic Ramadan fast
Afrik-News, Wednesday 22 Sept 2010,

Christians and liberal Muslims repressed to appease Islamists

Appeasement of Islamists was doubtless the primary motive behind the draconian March 2006 religion law that imposes severe restrictions on non-Muslim worship and has seen several Algerian Christians dragged before the courts for praying together or possessing Christian literature.

Algeria's March 2006 religion law was adopted as a presidential order (without debate) less than six months after some 10,000 condemned Islamists were amnestied. Most probably the amnesty involved some quid pro quo wherein the government agreed to repress Christianity and advance Islamisation in exchange for "peace". If there was no quid pro quo, then the March 2006 religion law might simply have been the government's attempt at pre-emptive appeasement through the removal of a "provocation". Whatever is the case, it does appear that religious freedom may have been the price the government paid for peace with fundamentalist and militant Islamists.

See Algeria: severe new penalties for 'proselytising'
WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal, 24 March 2006

Algeria: Christians and the extremist threat.
WEA Religious Liberty News & Analysis by Elizabeth Kendal, June 2007

And Christians in Algeria – witnessing in difficult times
Aid to the Church in Need, 27 Aug 2010

When the 300-member "Tafat" ("Light" in Kabyle) Fellowship in Tizi-Ouzou (100km east of Algiers) came under attack in December 2009, the Algerian government blamed the victim. Maintaining that Islam is inherently tolerant and peaceful, the authorities insisted that the violence must be due to factors other than Islam: such as non-compliance with the law, political opponents out to discredit or destabilise the government, foreign conspiracies, or provocative Christian evangelism.

See: Nous ne sommes pas contre la construction des églises
El Watan 29 Dec 2009. Translation (google)


In March 2010, Ali Arhab received a phone call in France from his parents in Algeria, alerting him to the fact that a judge in his home city of Tizi-Ouzou had issued an arrest warrant for "ALI ARAB" on charges of "fraud" (swindling). The warrant would have been of no concern to Ali Arhab if it had not been for the fact that his parents were named on the warrant.

After some investigation, a lawyer hired by Mr Arhab's parents determined that the warrant was doubtless intended for a building contractor by the name of Ali Arab who, it appears, has several complaints of swindling registered against his name. With this established, the lawyer pressed to have the case cleared only to be shocked when the authorities chose instead to amend the nationwide arrest warrant to read "ALI ARHAB".

The lawyer is concerned that the judge and the public prosecutor might be acting on behalf of higher authorities who might be plotting against Mr Arhab on account of his Christian activities in serving Algerian churches. Mr Arhab has reason to believe that he has been under surveillance ever since the Religion Law was passed in March 2006.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010



Laylat al-Qadr (lit. Night of Destiny) is the anniversary of the night Muslims believe the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad. While the Quran does not provide a specific date, Laylat al-Qadr is traditionally believed to be found in the last 10 nights of Ramadan. Most Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr or 'Night of Power' on the 27th night of Ramadan. The Quran describes Laylat al-Qadr as, 'better than a thousand months', for on that night the angels and the Spirit have God's permission to come down in answer prayer (Sura 97). This year, the Night of Power falls on or around the night of 5/6 Sept.

Throughout Ramadan, Muslims are not permitted to eat, drink, smoke or have sexual relations between sun-up and sun-down. The rigors of Ramadan elevate stress, frustration and Islamic zeal. In lands with pre-existing religious tensions, the last days of Ramadan can be days of extreme tension.

In pre-Islamic times, Ramadan was officially a month of peace when caravans could travel unarmed. With the Muslims in decline, Muhammad decided to reverse his flagging fortunes by attacking an unarmed caravan during Ramadan. When the Arabs protested, saying that warfare in the sacred month was a 'great transgression', Mohammad had a 'revelation' and declared that fitna (anything that could shake the faith of a Muslim) was worse than bloodshed (2:216-217). According to Muhammad biographer Husein Haykal, 'This revelation brought the Muslims relief, and the Prophet accepted his share of the booty' (Haykal p 210). Henceforth, Islamic fundamentalists from Egypt to Pakistan to Indonesia; and jihadists from Algeria to Kashmir to Thailand, routinely emulate Muhammad by escalating their jihad during Ramadan.

  • our LORD Jesus Christ will surprise many Muslims this Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) by revealing himself as the Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6)

  • our Sovereign God and Father will watch over and protect his children during these tense days, and 'frustrate the ways of the wicked' (Psalm 146:9 NIV).

This year, just as Ramadan reaches its conclusion, a church in USA, plans to hold an 'International Burn a Qur'an Day'. The day chosen for this event is 11 September, in commemoration of the thousands murdered by Islamic terrorists on 11 Sept 2001.

The church, Dove World Outreach in Gainesville, Florida, claims to be making a statement against Islam which it denounces as false religion, unable to save. While the statement is fine, the means is provocative in the extreme and not in the spirit of Christian grace. It is one thing for a Muslim convert to Christianity to burn his/her Quran as a sign of liberation. It is quite another thing for Christians to burn something precious and sacred to Muslims in the full knowledge that it will cause hurt and outrage. Muslims who have been spiritually searching will doubtless be repelled. Meanwhile, Muslims looking for a reason to kill Christians will be presented one on a platter.

There is already an enormous amount of momentum building for a violent response. Muslims have posted threats to jihadist websites expressing their intention to martyr themselves as bombers in the church. Members of the Al-Falluja jihadist forum (Iraq) have threatened to 'spill rivers of your (American) blood' and 'a war the likes of which you have never seen before'. In Indonesia, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) has vowed to retaliate if the event goes ahead. On Friday 27 Aug, Muslims holding banners reading 'Destroy burners of the Quran' and 'Answer the Quran burning with Jihad', protested outside the US embassy in Jakarta. According to Roni Ruslan of Indonesia's Hizbut Tahrir, 'No one will be able to control this reaction.'

International Protests Begin Ahead of Sept. 11 Koran Burning Event in Florida, 27 August 2010

Florida church plans to burn Quran on 9/11 anniversary
AFP, 1 Aug 2010,

FPI vows to retaliate over Koran burning
Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Fri, 27 Aug 2010

Planned holy Quran burning protested by Indonesian Muslims
Ahlul Bayt News Agency, 29 Aug 2010

Also -- 2 appeals from INDIA:
"The MBMC, FMSA and AMU community strongly condemns the call given by the Dove World Outreach Centre, Florida which may throw the world into turmoil."
Two Christian human rights activists in India, J. G. Anthony and RL Francis, have appealed to United States ambassador to India in New Delhi, urging that President Obama intervene to halt the Qur'an burning event, which they believe could trigger religious conflict around the world., the website of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), reports that Dr. Diaa Rashwan, the MB's expert at Egypt's Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, describes the Qur'an-burning event as "exceedingly dangerous", adding that "a serious crisis will arise and extremism will be initiated in the Muslim world. . ."

See: Burning of Quran evident aggression against Muslims
IkhwanWeb, The Muslim Brotherhood's Official English web site, 4 Aug 2010

Of course Dr. Rashwan's assertion that the event would be a violation the rights of Muslims is rubbish. There is no such right as the right not to be offended. The Qur'an-burning event will be wrong not because it violates Muslims' rights, but because it violates Christ's law of love.

Jesus said: "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12).
when Lawyer asked Jesus, "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' . . . [Jesus] said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'" (Matthew 22:36-40)


* Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach, might be sensitive to the Spirit's call for means consistent with the gospel of grace -- for the sake of witness, and so that others might not have to suffer the consequences of his deliberately provocative action.

"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:14)

(Bible texts from English Standard Version)

By the way:

The guys from Acts 17 Apologetics have released a brilliant YouTube film entitled, The Original Burn the Quran Day which recounts the unconvential manner in which the modern Qur'an was compiled. Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Morocco: up to 70 foreign Christians expelled.

As Reuters reports: "Morocco has expelled up to 70 Christian foreign aid workers since the start of this month, saying they were abusing its tradition of religious tolerance to try to convert local Muslims."

According to Compass Direct News, "A Moroccan pastor, his wife and a relative were arrested on Wednesday [March 10] and released on the next day, raising fears among local Christians that the wave of intolerance may spread to the country’s small but growing church of nearly 1,000 believers.

"An expert on religious freedom in the Middle East who requested anonymity said that attacks on the church are inevitable even in a Western-looking, modern country like Morocco, as the church grows and becomes more visible.

"'Because conversion is a taboo, if the government looks like it is doing nothing in regard to all the foreign missionaries that are coming and "corrupting" the country and its "national soul," it gives credit to Islamists who could challenge the "Islam-ness" of the Royal Family and the government, and that’s just what Morocco can't afford,' said the expert.

"The clampdown on foreign workers could signal government malaise toward the growing church. 'The more they grow, the more visible they become, the more they'll attract this reaction,' said the expert. 'And that's why they've been so quiet with house groups. It's just a matter of time.'"

Commenting on the deportations in relation to the closure of a Dutch-run orphanage, Morocco Board News Service writes: "It is puzzling what the Moroccan authorities are trying to achieve by this latest wave of deportations from the country. In addition to giving the country a bad image, it also negates a long cherished claim by Moroccan authorities that the country is a bastion of religious freedom."
See: Morocco: Orphanage shut down and Missionaries Expelled. 9 March 2010
Deportations by Morocco Causes Outcry in Holland. 10 March 2010

See also: Morocco clamps down on foreign Christians
Mission Network News. 10 March 2010
Morocco defends expulsion of Christian workers
BBC 12 March 2010
Morocco warns of tough line after missionaries expelled
AFP 13 March 2010
(This AFP article includes strong condemnations of "proselytism" from Morocco's Communications Minister Khalid Naciri , as well as leading Catholic and Jewish dhimmi voices.)

While the mass expulsion of foreign Christians does indicate a dramatic shift in policy, it should not come as a total surprise.

In September last year, the government moved against a new local civil liberties group known as the Alternative Movement for the Defense of Individual Liberties (MALI) when they attempted to stage an act of civil disobedience in protest of Article 222 of the Moroccan Penal Code which criminalises public eating during the fasting hours of Ramadan.

MALI's founder, Ms Zineb El-Rhazoui (a young female journalist and dual Moroccan-French citizen) has stated that MALI's objective is to defend 'all freedoms. Including freedom of worship'.

In September 2009, Zineb El-Rhazoui appealed through the group's Facebook site for supporters to join her on 13 September 2009 for a fast-breaking public picnic in the woods outside the town of Mohammedia.

However, when MALI supporters arrived at Mohammedia railway station they were met by a large contingent of some 100 police, who recorded the names and details of the religious dissidents.

Outraged Islamic clerics responded angrily, labelling MALI as "agitators" and demanding punishment. Subsequently MALI's leaders began receiving death threats.

(See: Mohammedia: An Abortive Attempt to a Public Breakfast in Ramadan. 16 Sept 2009
Public fast Breaking Protest during Ramadan in Morocco. 17 Sept 2009
Death Threats and Arrests for Facebook Ramadan Fast Break Protesters. 17 Sept 2009)

According to Human Rights Watch, MALI explained its objectives in a statement issued on 17 September 2009:
"MALI is not a group that is against Islam. We are for freedom of religion: In calling for the abrogation of a repressive article of the penal code (article 222), we also support Tunisian women who are attacked for wearing the headscarf. ... MALI is not an organization that seeks to provoke any community. Our goal is to draw attention to contradictions between international law, Morocco's constitution, and the country's laws, contradictions that are costly to Morocco's citizens and that undermine collective and individual freedoms."

The Moroccan Association of Human Rights is very concerned about Ms Zineb El-Rhazoui, who has been 'disappeared' since 17 September 2009.
Public fast breaking Protest leader Disappeared. 27 Sept 2009

The persecution of MALI indicates that the issue goes deeper than state anxiety over conversions and church growth. It is quite common to find governments seeking to contain Islamists, appeasing Islamists. It is like a barter system: if you do this for us, then we'll do that for you. In fact this system of costly containment is utilized widely from London to Riyadh, Amsterdam to Algiers, Brussels to Jakarta etc etc etc. So quite possibly, this is what is happening in Morocco.

ANALYSIS-Moroccan political elite moves to thwart Islamists
By Lamine Ghanmi
RABAT, 5 March 2010 (Reuters)

Morocco's Gentle War On Terror
TIME magazine
By Tim McGirk / Wednesday, Aug. 06, 2008