Stranger No More by Annahita Parsan

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.

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Something is rotten in the state of Maryland

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.

  1. 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)
  2. 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, three four* 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.

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(1)

 

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.

God Reaching Those Cut Off From the Gospel

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:

https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/blog/vision-of-christ/

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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:

https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/blog/christ-in-the-heart-of-islam/

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“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.”

full article here:
https://www.opendoors.org.au/persecuted-christians/blog/syria-pastor-alim-on-the-frontline/

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Rainbow Connection 2: Don’t dare speak out!

At a time when homosexual campaigners are decrying anti-homosexual hate-speech…

 

Petition calls for doctor in ‘no’ campaign same-sex marriage ad to be deregistered

A woman that appeared in [an] advertisement for the ‘no’ camp in the same-sex marriage debate is now at the centre of an online campaign to have her medical licence stripped.

The online petition has just over 6,000 signatures and calls for a “review of the registration of Dr Pansy Lai”.

Dr Lai, a GP in northern Sydney, appeared as one of three mothers in the Marriage Coalition advertisement that first aired at the end of last month.

She told The Australian she has been inundated with phone and social media threats since the ad was released and said she had reported one threat to police that she would be shot “this week”.

https://au.news.yahoo.com/a/36946222/online-petition-wants-dr-pansy-lai-from-sydney-deregistered/

 

And another article:

Same-sex marriage debate: conservative Muslims steer clear for fear of backlash

Muslim Australians who oppose same-sex marriage are afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled extremists, including by Christian conservatives who themselves oppose it, a Muslim community leader has said.

Ali Kadri, a spokesman for the Islamic Council of Queensland, told Guardian Australia that imams and community leaders “who represent the vast majority of the Muslim community” were staying out of the postal survey debate for fear of backlash.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/04/same-sex-marriage-debate-conservative-muslims-steer-clear-for-fear-of-backlash

 

There are questions I’d like to raise regarding the second article:

Why would the Muslim spokesman think and suggest that conservative Christians would label Muslims as extremists for sharing their views on same sex marriage, when the conservative Christian and Muslim views would be the same?

Is that suggestion an attempt by the Muslim to politically distance himself and his community from conservative Christians – who have so far been the main target of hate-speech from supporters of SSM?

Is it a suspicion that conservative Christians will be antagonistic towards the Muslim community even in cases when their views are the same?

Maybe it’s a Muslim attempt to maintain division and distrust between two religious communities – mirroring the anti-Muslim rhetoric of some Christians who have regularly resorted to fear-mongering with regard to the presence of Muslims in the community?

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And a related article (don’t dare reflect a “traditional” view of fatherhood on father’s day):

Dads4Kids ad is ‘dodgy campaign tactic’ in marriage debate, says LGBTI activist

A fathers group that claimed its political ad was blocked from television is engaged in a “dodgy campaign tactic” to claim victimhood in the same-sex marriage debate, according to a senior LGBTI advocate.

Just Equal spokesman, Ivan Hinton-Teoh, has hit back at Dads4Kids, labelling them an anti-LGBTI, anti-marriage equality activist group who had attempted to politicise father’s day.

Ben Pratt, the spokesman for Dads4Kids, said it was “extraordinary” that Australians could “no longer celebrate fathers’ day without being forced to look at it through the lens of the same-sex marriage debate”.

“It’s a tragedy that a political motive is now implied in any mention of fatherhood. Not everything is about same-sex marriage,” he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/sep/03/dads4kids-ad-is-dodgy-campaign-tactic-in-marriage-debate-says-lgbti-activist

ISIS – Pushing Muslims Toward Christ

This is from the Voice of the Martyrs site, describing something that I’ve now heard about from many sources.

While many in the west, including Christians, grow fearful and suspicious of Muslims in their communities and want to resist the flow of Muslim refugees from war zones like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan;  God is doing among Muslims  despite those Christian attitudes..

Islamic State (ISIS) is now believed to have fully operational branches in 18 countries across the world, not only persecuting Christians, but also pushing Muslims toward Christ.

Its efforts to create a ‘pure’ Islamic nation are causing a growing number of Muslims to examine their faith more closely and more critically. “There are a lot of people turning from Islam”, said Ibrahim Al-Jamil, a pastor in northern Iraq. “Jesus has a big net and ISIS is pushing people toward this net. What we are seeing now is like the tip of the iceberg”.

complete article here: ISIS – Pushing Muslims Toward Christ

 

While Christian fear is a disappointing response, even worse is outright Christian hostility towards Muslims, particularly those who are refugees after being driven from their homelands. I’ve written about this before. (Will hating Muslims lead them to Jesus?)

 

Such fear and hostility is working against what God is doing. Do we want to be on the wrong side of His purposes?

Fearless for Christ

Four masked gunmen charged into Mohammad Yousuf Bhat’s home on the evening of 1 July 2016, pushed his wife aside and demanded to talk to him. After he stepped forward, the gunmen escorted the 43-year-old father of three outside his home in the Kashmir Valley, India and shot him seven times, killing him. Those who worked with Yousuf describe him as being a fearless, bold and passionate believer who “would not be quiet about Christ”.

Complete article here: Fearless for Christ

Pathetic Godless Cowards

Two terror attacks this week carried out by pathetic, Godless cowards.

CHARLOTTESVILLE

BARCELONA

One was quickly and strongly condemned by the US President, the other was reluctantly and half-heartedly “condemned”.
One was Islamist inspired. The other was home-grown, white supremacist inspired.

 

The following bible quote reveals the inspiration behind their cowardly acts (as well as the source of so much of Trump’s rhetoric).

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it

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Trump Swiftly Condemns Barcelona Terror Attack. Charlottesville? Not So Much.

He then promoted a fake story about mass murdering Muslims.

 (Article from Mother Jones)

With pertinent details still unfolding, President Donald Trump took to Twitter Thursday afternoon to condemn a terrorist attack in Barcelona, where a white van plowed through the popular tourist street of Las Ramblas, killing at least 13 people and injuring more than 50 people.

The president’s response to the Barcelona attack was far swifter than his delayed response to the white supremacist clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday and his initial failure to flatly denounce white nationalists. Instead, Trump blamed “many sides” for the violence.

Trump later followed up his condemnation Thursday with a second tweet that perhaps explains why the president was so quick to react to Barcelona and not Charlottesville. It should be noted that the story he cites below is fake.

Complete article here.