For those of you who haven’t yet purchased the book, Joel’s limited time introductory offer is still in effect. Click here if you would like to order a copy for yourself, or for someone you know …
Mike Huckabee interviews Joel Richardson and Daniel Pipes:
By Mehdi Hasan, “Which country in the world currently imprisons more journalists than any other? The People’s Republic of China? Nope. Iran? Wrong again. The rather depressing answer is the Republic of Turkey, where nearly 100 journalists are behind bars, according to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Yes, that’s right: modern, secular, western-oriented Turkey, with its democratically elected government, has locked away more members of the press than China and Iran combined.
But this isn’t just about the press – students, academics, artists and opposition MPs have all recently been targeted for daring to speak out against the government of prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his mildly Islamist Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
There is a new climate of fear in Istanbul. When I visited the city last week to host a discussion show for al-Jazeera English, I found journalists speaking in hushed tones about the clampdown on free speech. Within 24 hours of our arrival, one of my al-Jazeera colleagues was detained by police officers, who went through his bag and rifled through one of my scripts. They loudly objected to a line referring to the country’s ‘increasingly authoritarian government’. Who says that Turks don’t do irony?
The stock response from members of the AKP government is to blame the imprisonment and intimidation on Turkey’s supposedly ‘independent’ judiciary. But this will not do. For a start, ministers haven’t been afraid of interfering in high-profile prosecutions. In a speech at – of all places – the Council of Europe in April 2011, a defiant Erdogan, commenting on the controversial detention of the investigative journalist Ahmet Sik, compared Sik’s then unpublished book to a bomb: ‘It is a crime to use a bomb, but it is also a crime to use materials from which a bomb is made.’
Then there is the behind-the-scenes pressure that is exerted by the government on media organisations. ‘People are afraid of criticising Erdogan openly,’ says Mehmet Karli, a lecturer at Galatasaray University in Istanbul and a campaigner for Kurdish rights. ‘They might not be arrested, but they will lose their jobs.’” Read more.
Tip of the hat to Kurt J. for the link above …
Flashback: Obama’s Favorite Foreign Leader – “… the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not quite the equivalent of Hamas or Hezbollah, but as Michael Rubin noted last week, it has became a major sponsor and enabler of terrorism… its leader has become one of the few foreign leaders with whom Barack Obama has a strong relationship. Obama has, according to the Post, spent more time speaking on the phone with Erdogan than any other ally. Indeed, in a cover story interview with Time Magazine, Obama told a fawning Fareed Zakaria that Erdoğan was someone with whom he had become friends and forged ‘bonds of trust.’ It speaks volumes about the deplorable state of American foreign policy that Erdogan is someone with whom Obama is most comfortable.” Read more.
Flashback: Turkey: Erdogan’s Reforms Mean Less Schooling, More Qur’an – “The goals of an education reform bill introduced by the Islamic party of Turkey’s Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan have been characterised by opposition parties as aiming to halve the length of compulsory schooling to promote more Koranic schools and veil wearing… Following its third electoral victory in succession, with nearly 50% of votes cast, Erdogan’s single-party pro-Islamic government has already abolished the minimum age requirement for attendance at such schools and this reform would encourage children to give up attending their secular secondary schools in favour of religious institutions…” Read more.
According to Compass Direct News, last year Indonesia had a total of 64 cases of violation on Christian freedoms. This year, Indonesia has reached nearly two-thirds of that number already with 40 Christian freedom violations in these first five months.
22 churches have been forced to close down by the Indonesian government this year. 18 of those occurred just within the last month in the Aceh Province after the election of a hard-line Islamic governor.
Direct violence has also increased. On May 17, 600 Islamists threw bags of urine and ditch water at 100 members of the Philadelphia Batak Christian Protestant Church in Eastern Indonesia. So far this year, the extremist group, Islamic Defenders Front, has carried out two attacks on the Gereja Pentakosta di Indonesia church.
If this trend of persecution continues through the year, marginalization of Indonesian Christians will have increased by 50%. This will be the third year in a row that persecution has gone up.
However, the trials Christians in Indonesia face don’t always make the news.
Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs, Canada says, ‘The persecution is not as violent [in Indonesia] as in places like Nigeria, which gets a lot of coverage, but it’s an ongoing situation there. Christians are marginalized, and with the rise of more of a militant Islam, there’s concern that it’s going to become even worse in Indonesia.’” Read more.
Flashback: Indonesia: Anti-Christian Incidents Nearly Double in 2011, Worst May Be Yet to Come – “Acts of violence and intolerance against Christians in Indonesia almost doubled in 2011, with an Islamist campaign to close down churches symbolizing the plight of the religious minority. The Indonesian Protestant Church Union, locally known as PGI, counted 54 acts of violence and other violations against Christians in 2011, up from 30 in 2010. The number of such incidents against religious minorities in general also grew, from 198 in 2010 to 276 in 2011, but the worst is perhaps yet to come if authorities continue to overlook the threat of extremism …”Read more.
Saudi Arabia Offers Conflicting Explanations As 35 Ethiopian Christians Continue To Languish In Prison
The Cypress Times – “Washington, DC – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that over the past month, Saudi officials have been making conflicting statements when asked why a group of 35 Ethiopian Christians were arrested at a prayer service in a private home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last December.
The statements were made over a period of several weeks after staff members from multiple Congressional offices began calling the Saudi embassy in Washington D.C. to inquire into the situation. The calls began soon after ICC held a series of meetings during the last week of April on Capitol Hill to raise awareness of the case and to ask for calls from Senators, Representatives, and their staff to the Saudi Embassy.
On Monday, May 7th, a Congressional office told ICC that a source close to the Saudi ambassador had indicated the Christians were arrested as part of an investigation into a large scale human smuggling ring. This explanation contradicted the original rationale published by Human Rights Watch in January that the group had been accused of the ‘illicit mingling of genders.’
Then, just three days later, Sarah Nezamuddin, a representative from the Embassy, told a separate Congressional office that the Christians had all been arrested for having issues with their work permits. ICC proceeded to provide a list of the prisoners with legal work permit numbers to the Congressional office, and after some follow up, Ms. Nezamuddin changed the explanation and said that the Christians were involved in both drug and human trafficking.
Finally, on May 21st, in a meeting with staff members from multiple Congressional offices, representatives from the Saudi government said that the 35 Christians had been arrested for visa issues, but that they were also involved in some form of smuggling ring. When pressed for specifics, the Saudi officials reportedly demurred and changed the topic. At least one Congressional staff member left the meeting with the impression that neither Saudi official actually knew why the Christians were arrested in the first place.” Read more.
Flashback: ‘Unprecedented’: Saudi Security Forces Raid Christian Prayer Meeting in Jeddah and Arrest 42 Christians, Many Beaten and Threatened with Death – “International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Saudi security forces arrested 42 Ethiopian Christians at a prayer gathering in Jeddah on Thursday … at the home of an Ethiopian Christian in the Al-Safa district of Jeddah. Those attending the service were reportedly beaten and threatened before being arrested. ‘Security officials broke [into] the house and captured… beat and threatened them for death… They divided the men and the women and they are torturing them [in prison],’ an Ethiopian and Eritrean Christian immigrant community living in Europe wrote in a desperate appeal for help to the ambassadors of European embassies in Riyadh on Friday.” Read more.
Compass Direct News – “Authorities in Iran this week ordered the closure of a church in the capital, Tehran, amid a government campaign to crack down on the few recognized churches offering Farsi-speaking services, according to a human rights group.
The order came from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s Intelligence branch on Tuesday (June 5). The Revolutionary Guard, also known as Sepah, is known for its military aggression.
‘Unfortunately, it is now official – the church in Janat-Abad [district] was ordered to shut down,’ said Monsour Borji, an Iranian Christian and advocacy officer for rights initiative Article 18. ‘If no reverse decision is made, this Sunday [June 10] no meeting will be held.’
Article 18 is a London-based initiative of the United Council of Iranian Churches (Hamgaam), which seeks to defend and promote religious freedoms in Iran. Hamgaam is composed of Iranian Christian churches in Europe.
The church in Tehran’s northwestern district of Janat-Abad belongs to the Assemblies of God (AOG) Church in Iran. Originally it was located in Karaj, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of Tehran, but authorities ordered it to shut down some years ago, Borji told Compass.” Read more.
Flashback: Fearing ‘The Growth of Christianity Like Never Before’ Iranian Authorities Escalate Crackdown on Christians in Ahwaz, Shiraz, Esfahan and Kermanshah – “The Islamic Republic of Iran has intensified its crackdown on Iranian Christians during recent weeks. This has resulted in the arrest of a number of Christians in Ahwaz, Shiraz, Esfahan and Kermanshah… ‘Today, the regime of Iran crackdowns on Christians, especially Christian converts, for it is observing the growth of Christianity like never before. This fact has made them concerned… What this religious regime tries to demonstrate is that there is only one legitimate religion and all other religions are illegitimate… During past years underground or house churches were the main targets of arrests and pressures. However, gradually the Islamic regime’s authorities also included evangelical churches among their targets.’” Read more.
AINA – “Clashes broke out Saturday between Muslim and Coptic students in the Assiut University women’s dorms after a Coptic student reportedly proselytized Christianity to Muslim students, leaving 12 students and supervisors injured.
A Coptic law student had distributed proselytizing leaflets and booklets in university dorms with her friend, an engineering student, a security source said.
The booklets they handed out were titled ‘The Lord invites you’ and ‘Salvation Ship.’ They also gave pictures of some Christian figures to Muslim students in their rooms and in the building’s study hall. The law student also encouraged them to convert to Christianity.
‘These actions raised the ire of Muslim students,’ the security source said.
The students and supervisors who were injured were trying to resolve the dispute, the source said. They sustained injuries to their heads and bodies.
Some Muslim students had said they reported the Coptic students’ actions to the building management, but that the management failed to stop them.
The two sides started fighting amid shouts of sectarian chants, and when the building supervisor tried to intervene, women from both sides started beating her.
Demonstrations by both sides started and lasted until 3 am Sunday.
University president Mostafa Kamel, Vice President of Student Affairs Adel Ryan, Assiut Governor Major General Al-Sayed al-Borai and security and military leaders visited the dorms.
Kamal and the security leaders met with both parties to calm the situation, and he threatened to expel the students involved in the clashes from both parties and cancel their exams if there any new riots.
Dozens of Christians and Muslims protested in the vicinity of the university dorms after Christian students called their relatives, who gathered outside, prompting Muslim students to do the same. The two groups chanted sectarian slogans.
Christians make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s mostly Muslim population. Several sectarian disputes have occurred since the uprising last year as a result of Muslim citizens converting to Christianity or vice versa, as well as disagreements over building churches.” Source – AINA.
Flashback: Egypt: Rising Islamic Leader Declares ‘We Will Launch a Campaign of Islamic Conquest Throughout the World’, ‘Exterminate’ Christians Who Get In the Way of Sharia - “A rising leader in the radical Islamic movement in Egypt that has become a major political player since the demise of Hosni Mubarak’s regime says Christian churches may need to be blown up and Christians exterminated to allow the advance of Islamic law, or Shariah. The comments come from Sheik ‘Adel Shehato, a senior leader with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad terrorist group… The sheik, a senior jihadist leader, responded to a question about using violence against Christians, who make up a substantial minority in Egypt.” Read more.
By Rachel Hirshfeld, INN – “The United States blocked Israel’s participation in the Global Counterterrorism Forum’s (GCTF) first meeting in Istanbul on Friday, despite Israel’s having one of the most extensive counterterrorism experiences in the world.
Israel was excluded from the meeting due to fierce objections by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a Washington-based source told Globes news.
According the State Department’s website, the GCTF, which was established in September 2011, aims at ‘strengthening the global counterterrorism (CT) architecture in a manner that complements and reinforces the CT work of existing multilateral bodies.’
Twenty-nine countries are participating in the GCTF, ten of which are Arab and/or Muslim countries.
‘The GCTF sought from the outset to bridge old and deep divides in the international community between Western donor nations and Muslim majority nations. And it has, I think, done that quite effectively,’ a top US official said at the press briefing prior to the opening session.
Republican politicians claim that since one third of the GCTF’s members are Muslim countries, the Obama administration is trying to deepen ties with the Muslim world at Israel’s expense, Globes noted.” Read more.
Flashback: Turkey: Israel No Longer A ‘Friend’, ‘It’s Time For Israel To Pay The Price’, Israeli Ambassador and Diplomats Expelled – “In a dramatic turn of events, Turkey announced that it was expelling Israeli Ambassador Gabby Levy from Ankara. Davutoglu said Turkey’s diplomatic representation in Israel would be further reduced to second-secretary level. In accordance, all lower Israeli diplomatic personnel above the second-secretary level have also been expelled. The announcement followed a press conference, in which Davutoglu said that some of the UN’s Palmer Report findings on the raid were ‘unacceptable,’ adding that it was ‘time for Israel to pay the price… The highest price it can pay is losing our friendship.’” Read more.
Flashback: Turkey Installing New Military Tech That Will Allow Warplanes and Ships to Target Israel as the Enemy – “In yet another sign of the deterioration in Israel-Turkish ties, Turkey’s Star Gazete reported Tuesday that the military is installing new technology that will allow warplanes and ships to target Israeli vessels. Previously, Turkish planes, ships and submarines used American technology, which automatically classified Israeli equipment as ‘friendly.’ The new system, developed in Turkey, will allow the Turkish military to decide which targets to label as friendly. The switch was pioneered by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime. The system was declared ready just days after Erdogan suspended defense trade with Israel and termed Israel a ‘spoiled child.’” Read more.
Flashback: Turkey to Double Size of Its Army – “With Prime Minister Erdogan’s Islamist AK party having seized its third landslide election victory in Turkey, many throughout the international community have been watching to see what will be next on the Turkish agenda. Now there are strong indicators in the Turkish media that Turkey is planning on literally doubling the size of its army – this coming from the nation that already has the largest army in Middle East and the second-largest army in NATO, second only to the United States.” Read more.