A few of my thoughts about the terror attack in Christchurch New Zealand.
The question has been asked why NZ?
The fact that the alleged perpetrator was Australian and had far rightwing, racist allegiances is very relevant to that question.
Political rhetoric in Australia in recent years has developed an ugly racist element. The Guardian article linked below gives a lot of detail of that.
Also see the link to an earlier blog post of mine that refers to the foolish Christian involvement in support of that political direction.
Added to that atmosphere is the difference in gun laws between close neighbours Australia and New Zealand. Many years ago the Australian parliament passed laws that prohibited the kind of fire arm used in the Christchurch attack.
Those guns are legally available in New Zealand, making an attack like the one on Friday easier to carry out against Muslims in New Zealand than it would be in Australia, where the type of weapon used would not be easily obtained.
Combine the Australian political climate that has given traction to far right racist dogma together with the availability of semi-automatic weapons in nearby NZ and I can understand “why New Zealand”.
Yesterday I noticed that the Sunday Telegraph front page had a large photo of a small child, one of the victims of the shootings. The major headline read “Peace Be Upon You” – a common Muslim religious phrase that is used to greet or say farewell to others.
The Sunday Telegraph is one of the Murdoch papers referred to in the Guardian article. The Murdoch press has regularly given a platform for strong anti-Muslim rhetoric from commentators in their weekly columns and I believe that has been instrumental in fomenting a political climate that makes far right extremism more likely.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is the testimony of former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi.
I’d come across Qureshi several times over the past year or two, mainly seeing that he had some YouTube videos. For some reason I didn’t pay any attention to him or his videos when I was looking for testimonies of Muslims turning the Jesus.
The book is excellent. It covers his early life growing up as a Muslim, his attempts to prove the truth of Islam to a Christian friend, and then how his own studies led him to consider the truth of Jesus.
He faced a difficult struggle before he could finally turn away from his life-long religion to embrace and accept the gospel, but God was patient and revealed Himself to Qureshi, over time.
I don’t think I’ve come across anyone else’s testimony in which they spent years of diligently searching and studying everything they could to try to find the truth.
While he started out trying to prove the Islamic “truth” he’d been raised to believe, ultimately his desire for THE truth led him to recognise Jesus.
But there is so much more within the book than just one man’s experience.
While it may not have been intended, I found the book showed how many Christians aren’t very different to Muslims regarding the reason they believe.
It seems that Muslim belief tends to be passed on from authority figures instead of being gained from a personal interaction with their “scriptures”.
I’d suggest that most professing Christians do exactly the same thing – relying entirely on the teachings of others instead of seeking, finding and understanding the certainty of truth for themselves. If we follow that approach how can we be sure that our beliefs are any more valid than those of the Muslim, the Buddhist, the atheist or anyone else?
Qureshi’s early experiences of Christians tended to show that their knowledge of the basics of what they believed (and why) was mostly lacking, and thereby hindering their ability to communicate the gospel.
Sadly in September 2017 Qureshi died after a struggle with stomach cancer. The edition of his book that I’ve been reading has some additional chapters in which his wife and his friends remember his legacy.
One of those friends says this about Nabeel, something that addresses the issue of loving the truth enough to seek it (Him) out:
Proverbs 1:7 says “fools despise wisdom and instruction” but Nabeel loved both, even when they challenged his long-held beliefs. Like any of us, he didn’t enjoy finding out he was wrong, but he was not willing to blindly perpetuate hand-me-down ideas. He had to know that what he believed, what he built his life on, was based on reality, not speculation or tradition.
This book wasn’t exactly what I expected.
I thought it would be about Muslims who fled from ISIS controlled areas, and in the process of fleeing to safety, found faith in Jesus.
That in escaping extremist Islam, their experiences not only made them question their own Islamic faith, but through that experience they came to know the love of God through Christ.
At first I thought the title was misleading because it didn’t fulfil that expectation. However, about halfway through I recognised the title had a different kind of application. That recognition came when reading the story of a man, an Iraqi Christian from a Christian community. He tells of experiencing a change:
“…it was as if someone took away all my sadness and gave me another light shining on me. I started a new relationship with Jesus, and I felt like a new man, a new person. I found my hope in Christ. I began to see that in some ways I lost everything when ISIS came to Qaraqosh, but really I found Jesus.”
A related, significant reality I found expressed in this book, is the gaping disconnect between the lives Christians live in the west, and those lived by believers elsewhere.
The man mentioned above didn’t have anything like the prosperity that the west takes for granted, but when he lost what he had, he found something much more valuable; something he thought he already had – and then with the loss of everything else he recognised a sufficiency and wealth only available through closeness to Christ that he’d not experienced before.
There is a vital lesson to be learned by Christians in the west. A lesson that will challenge the seeming obsession with maintaining and protecting a perceived quality of life that is often attributed to God’s blessing. The price of protecting those “blessings” is often a denial of help to people in need, a failure to share those “blessings”.
The author writes of the generosity of the nation of Jordan, who welcomed so many refugees from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, that refugees now made up one in four of the population.
“If that were the United States, it would be like half of Mexico and all of Canada moving in”
Is it necessary to say anything else to address the difference in attitude displayed by western nations with an alleged strong Christian foundation?
The author continues, describing the hardships that have been created,
“…the influx of people looking for cheap accommodations had caused both rents and the prices of staple goods to rise sharply, making life even harder for Jordan’s population. And yet still they open their doors and invite refugees in.”
On questioning a local about the inconvenience of this, he received the reply “What else can we do? Wouldn’t you do the same?”
Sadly most in the west clearly wouldn’t. And neither would many western “Christians”.
I wonder what it will take for THEM to find Jesus.
It wasn’t what I expected.
The flood of Moslem refugees across Europe was constantly in the news two or three years ago, and most books I’ve recently seen about refugees have been about those escaping from Syria.
I thought this would be the same, but instead the story dates back to the late 1970s, early 80s and the Iranian Revolution.
Annahita Parsan’s abusive husband Asghar found himself on the wrong side of the new Islamic government in Iran after the Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the Shah of Iran. Together they escaped Iran via Turkey, where they were imprisoned and brutally treated. Eventually they were freed and allowed to move on to Denmark as refugees.
Despite the potential for a new life, Asghar’s violence against his wife increased in frequency and intensity and there seemed to be no escape for her.
But a seed was sown when visitors to her door gave Annahita a bible in Farsi.
Ever since I had been given the Farsi Bible, I had picked it up and prayed from time to time. The worse Asghar’s attacks had gotten, the more I had prayed. I found that it helped, much like drinking a glass of cool water took away the dryness in my mouth on a hot night.
She started to become aware of ideas about God that were different to what she had “learned in a mosque”.
There it was all about fear and rules and the difficulty of earning a route to paradise. I had never thought of God being interested in helping me, let alone being with me all the time. I liked the idea. It gave me courage.
In time that courage helped her to take steps towards freedom for herself and her children. Freedom from the violence of her husband and towards the freedom of a new life of faith.
Annahita Parsan now works within churches in Sweden, ministering to former Muslim refugees.
I’ve been reading Adnan’s Story by Rabia Chaudry. I found it after I’d discovered a true crime podcast SERIAL that looked at the conviction of Adnan Syed for the murder of his ex-girlfriend in Baltimore, Maryland.
The SERIAL podcast raised some interesting questions about the case, and while the presenter Sarah Koenig didn’t come to any conclusion about Syed’s guilt or innocence, she thought there was sufficient room for reasonable doubt that he should not have been found guilty based on the evidence presented in court.
After listening to SERIAL, I moved on to another podcast, one that takes a much more in depth look at the legalities of the case. Undisclosed is presented by Rabia Chaudry (author of Adnan’s Story) Susan Simpson and Colin Miller, attorneys who have studied Syed’s case in depth.
At the beginning of Undisclosed, Chaudry advises listeners to hear SERIAL before tackling her own podcast. Doing so gives the basic background to the case and introduces all of the main players, allowing the presenters of Undisclosed to tackle the case in more depth without having to cover introductory material already handled in the older podcast.
SERIAL left the story with a state of ambiguity. Did Adnan Syed kill Hae Min Lee or not? Maybe, maybe not!
Undisclosed has no time for ambiguity. It isn’t using the case as the basis for an entertaining listening experience. It digs deeply into the evidence and presents it in a very accessible way. It wants to find the truth and present it to a wider audience. The bonus for the listener is that it still manages to ‘entertain”.
Rabia Chaudry is a friend of Syed and his family, so its not surprising that she should take up his cause and try to present a case for his innocence, so I started my listening and reading journey into this murder case with a degree of caution. However, the people she gathered around her didn’t have that personal connection and their help was sought after they had already been investigating the case for themselves.
The further I got into the podcasts and the book, it became clear that any bias held by Chaudry was not only due to her family connection to Syed. There is more than enough evidence available to indicate that several very untoward things had happened leading to Syed’s conviction and imprisonment. From very dodgy policing through to the equally questionable tactics of the prosecution.
Here are two examples relating to the prosecution case.
- They used phone records to “prove” Syed was at the site where the body was found, around the time her burial allegedly took place. Apart from the circular argument that set the burial time according to the phone record, and then used that phone record to say Syed was there at the time of the burial, the phone documents themselves specifically stated that they should not be used to determine a phone’s (and by extension it’s owner’s) location. (1)
- The primary evidence against Syed was the testimony of Jay Wilds who claimed that Syed had killed Hae Min Lee and then recruited Wilds to help him bury the body. Apart from the fact that Wilds’ story changed significantly every time he told it, the following information came out a few years ago from the defence attorney representing Wilds in the plea deal he made to escape prosecution for his own alleged part as an accessory after the fact of the murder: “Urick [the prosecutor in Syed’s case] said that Jay had two choices: either accept a plea deal as accessory after the fact in exchange for testifying against Adnan, or Urick would charge him with the murder of Hae Min Lee and prosecute the case in Baltimore County, where a majority white jury would be much more likely to find a black man guilty, and he could end up facing the death penalty”.
Regarding the policing, evidence given suggests that witnesses were actually coached by police regarding the testimony they gave, and that witness evidence shifted and changed several times to make it fit a “flexible” timeline. That might seem like an extreme claim to make against hard working detectives, keen on seeing justice within their city (Baltimore, Maryland), however, the very same detectives have later had at least four of their cases overturned and the alleged perpetrators released due to questions raised about the cases they’d built against their suspects. Undisclosed provides information about the way the police used similar tactics to that attributed to Urick, the prosecutor, where vulnerable “witnesses” were scared into testifying on their behalf to avoid threatened charges against them, such as blaming them for the crime.
Susan Simpson, Chaudry’s fellow podcaster explains on her blog:
The murder of Hae Min Lee was investigated by Detectives William Ritz and Gregory MacGillivary. To date,
threefour* defendants who were convicted of murder pursuant to investigations by either Ritz or MacGillivary have been found to have been wrongfully convicted and released from prison. (see here)
This subject is discussed in depth in the Undisclosed podcast – episode 9 – “Charm City”
This was all compounded by a defence attorney’s weak performance. She not only overlooked the above mentioned statement regarding the phone records, she also avoided contacting an eye witness who could account for Syed’s actions elsewhere at the very time he was allegedly committing the murder. The defence even lied to her client, telling him the alibi witness wasn’t valid because she realised she’d remembered a different day. That was not the case. Not long after Syed’s trial, his defence attorney was disbarred.
I could write more an more about this case, but I’d only be retelling details that can already be found in the podcasts and the books. The podcasts are easily and freely available to anyone willing to take the time. It’s probably not the kind of thing that most people are interested enough to follow up. They might not be interested in the plight of one young man who has spent almost 20 years of his life (starting age 17) at a crime he most likely didn’t commit. But one thing seems clear to me – how safe can anyone be if the legal system that is supposed to protect them actually targets them for its own convenience? When achieving results (any result) is more important than achieving justice.
A few days ago Adnan Syed was granted a new trial, giving him the opportunity to have the case reheard, hopefully resulting in a verdict fitting to the facts, not manipulated and distorted to suit any agenda, but a verdict that serves justice.
Here are two YouTube videos addressing the science of the case.
Caution, some of the details spoken about in the following video can be disturbing.
Hawa* had travelled hours to meet us. She had grown up in a Muslim family. Her father was a Muslim leader who travelled to different Arab countries to teach about Islam. She felt loved by her family and was engaged to a Muslim man who lived in the US. Hawa’s future looked bright.
Everything changed when she contracted a serious lung disease. The doctors feared for her life and all her dreams and plans seemed to disappear. But Hawa was exactly where the Lord wanted her. “One night in hospital I had a dream.” Hawa said to me, “I saw a man who was smiling and crying at the same time. I somehow knew he was weeping for me. I bowed down before him and asked, ‘Please help me. Show me the way. How can I be free from this disease?’”
When Hawa woke up she told her family about the dream, but no one understood it. When she had recovered and returned home, she told the mosque leader about her vision. “What you saw was Jesus, the Messiah.” He said, “I can’t talk now. It is not safe. Come back another time.”
Weeks went by before Hawa had another opportunity to speak to the mosque leader. “The one who is weeping for sinners is the one and only Jesus.” He told her, then he handed her a Bible.
full article here:
Several believers involved in Christian witness paint Oman as a deeply religious country. There is a lot of spiritual conflict and oppression in this country. Believers experience many barriers when sharing the Gospel; “People are very friendly and seem to be open to the Gospel, willing to listen and exchange ideas. But to actually take the step to commit to Christ is very difficult for many of them,” one worker said.
However, in the midst of that darkness, God is doing amazing miracles, “Eighty percent of the Omani believers come to Christ in a supernatural way, through dreams and visions,” shared a Christian living in Oman.
full article here:
“There is hunger to come closer to God! There is hunger for the prayer meetings for example. Now the whole congregation comes to these meetings. The church is full of people praying.”
This hunger is not just from Christians.
“It happens more with the Muslims and the Druze. God is speaking the language of each group. Muslims meet Jesus in dreams. A woman saw a man in a dream, he was dressed in white and his face was shining. She woke up and went to church, she was very afraid of being rejected. She was accepted with love.”