Posts Tagged ‘Sharia’

Sunday’s Anti-Sharia March in Bristol – A Liberal Façade Hiding Real Fascism

September 12, 2017

Last Sunday afternoon, 10th September 2017, there was a demonstration against sharia law in Bristol by the groups Gays Against Sharia and British and Immigrants Against Terrorism. RT posted up a video about it yesterday, and it was also covered by ITN News, but not the Beeb. They were met by a counterdemonstration, Bristol Against Fascism.

http://www.itv.com/news/westcountry/update/2017-09-10/gays-against-sharia-march-starts-in-bristol/

If you look at some of the videos that have been posted, this could seem to many like a liberal demonstration against radical Islam. There is a section of the Muslim community, which would like sharia law incorporated into British law. And the preachers of hate, who have stood in front of their congregations to whip up hatred against Jews and Christians have also violently denounced gays. One picture of the march shows a White man and Black gent in African dress, supposedly united in the opposition to Islamic law and bigotry.

There’s also a video on YouTube by one of the march’s supporters, Greek Anne UK Lover, who is at pains to argue that these are nice liberal people, and it wasn’t an EDL march.

Well, it may not have been, but many of the same people were involved. At one point she shows a poster of the various people, who were expected to speak. And they include the usual Islamaphobes and Nazis. One of them was Paul Weston, of Liberty GB. Liberty GB is, or was, an anti-Islam political party, and Weston is part of the ‘counterjihad’ movement. I think Liberty GB could be fairly described as the political wing of the EDL. It was certainly allied to it, and Weston is associated with the members and leaders of the far right counterjihad movement, including Pamela Geller of the Atlas Shrugs website, Robert Spencer and so on.

One of the other speakers, or at least among those listed on her wall, was Jack Buckby. Buckby’s the founder of the ‘National Culturalists’, another far right organization, who were thrown off campus by the students’ guild at Liverpool uni as Fascists. He’s also one of the two extreme rightists photographed sitting bang right next to Jacob Rees-Mogg at the annual dinner of the Traditional Britain Group. This is another far right, anti-immigrant group, various of whose members are also fascinated with Nazis and quite like the idea of the return of feudalism. Mogg, of course, tried to distance himself from them as soon as the Independent published the story. He claimed that he didn’t know who they were when he accepted their dinner invitation. Which sounds highly unlikely to me.

As for Buckby himself, there’s absolutely no doubt that he is a Fascist. He used to be a member of the BNP, and Hope Not Hate has piccies of him proudly shaking the hand of Nick Griffin.

The march’s liberalism is therefore something of a façade. Behind it are the usual bigots and Nazis, who are deeply opposed to Islam as a whole, and not simply sharia law and Muslim terrorism.

But this again follows the standard policy of EDL. In many of their demonstrations, they tried to present themselves as multicultural liberals, among whose banners were Jews and Sikhs. But a Channel 4 documentary screened a few years ago also showed that, despite their liberal protestations, their members were by and large the same racists and White supremacists as those in the BNP and NF.

I am also at a loss why they should be marching in Bristol. I’ve no doubt that a few members of the Muslim community down here might be supporters of Islamist terrorism. But I’ve heard of no major scandals. To my knowledge, there haven’t been Muslim hate preachers standing on street corner spouting their bigoted bilge.

But there have been various Islamophobic attacks in the city, including one on a local mosque, and the EDL did hold a demonstration here a year or so ago. One of the other news reports stated that none of the marchers came from Bristol. It doesn’t look like a response to a local issue. Just the usual islamophobes trying to stir up more hatred.

Don’t be deceived by the appearance of liberalism and multiculturalism. Behind it were genuine racists and Nazis. Sharia law and Islamist terrorism should be opposed, but these aren’t the real issues here. This is all about drumming up hatred against Muslims. And once they’ve done that, the Nazis would come out of the woodwork and start preaching hate against the other groups Blacks, Asians, Jews, and the gays they claim to want to protect.

The march’s supporters have made videos denouncing Antifa and the other counterprotesters as intolerant fascists, but actually, Antifa and the other anti-racists were quite right.

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Newt Gingrich Wants to Introduce Thought Crime for Muslims

July 17, 2016

Here’s another video from The Young Turks, discussing another step in the downward path of American politics towards authoritarianism and repression. After the horrific terror attack in Nice on Friday, Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representative under George Bush senior and Clinton, and Trump’s possible Vice President, has finally decided that the First Amendment shouldn’t apply to Muslims. He made a speech declaring that Muslims, who believe in sharia law should not be allowed into the country. Those who do, madrassas that teach it, and Muslims, who look up jihadist websites, should be expelled.

John Iadarola, Bill Mankiewicz and Jimmy Dore talk about how undemocratic this is. They point out that this is thought-crime, like the absolute control by the state of people’s opinions and ideas in Orwell’s 1984. Gingrich also stated that this should apply not only to Muslims, but to people with Muslim backgrounds. They also point out he want to criminalise people, who go to hardline Islamic websites no matter how much time they spend there. Cenk Uygur, one of the other anchors, is from a Turkish Muslim background, and they have all looked at hardline Islamist websites while doing research for news stories. Therefore, Cenk and they would be expelled under Gingrich’s legislation. They also point out that America is should be in no danger of having a theocratic government, as the Constitution stipulates that America is a secular state. Furthermore, that looseness with which that part of the legislation is framed would permit anyone, to have someone they disliked deported simply by hacking into their computer or sending them a link on their email. If someone wanted to get rid of a noisy neighbour, they could rickroll them with a link to an Islamist website, and whoa! The next thing that person’s on the plane.

Muslims themselves constitute less than three per cent of the American population. They also point out that if you ask immigrating Muslims if they believe in sharia government, they will deny it simply to get in, even if they do believe it. Furthermore, he points out that many American Christians also want a Christian theocratic government. They also state that a Muslim spokesman for one of the American thinktanks has stated that there are too many people, who know nothing about Islam, telling Muslims what their faith should be. Dore compares the Islamic sharia to Roman Catholic canon law, the body of religious law that governs the Roman Catholic church and its believers faith and practice. He claims that canon law in effect sanctions the abuse of children, because the church claimed that all the priests guilty of the crime would be punished according to canon law, when they were let off. Dore also wonders how many Muslims know about sharia law, considering very few Roman Catholics in practice know about canon law. The Turks also cite an unnamed atheist, who said that he considered American Muslims westernised, and so not the threat that the Right believes they are.

After coming out with this very hardline attack on American Muslims’ civil rights, Gingrich gave another interview backtracking somewhat, and claiming that he had a been misrepresented in the media storm that followed. He then claimed that devout Muslims, who were loyal to America, should have their rights absolutely protected, along with those of their children and other relatives.

Here’s the video.

In fairness to those, who do fear the imposition of sharia law, there have been instances in recent American history where a cult has tried to take over a community and turn it into a theocracy. The last time this occurred was in the 70’s and 80s, when one of the Indian gurus tried to take over a town in Oregon and turn it into a theocracy, ruled by his cult and followers. It failed, because the traditional townspeople resisted and invoked the Constitution. This was, however, one of the New Religious Movements based on Hinduism, rather than Islam, and I haven’t heard of Muslims, or mainstream Hindus either, for that matter, trying to anything like that.

The German counter-terrorism legislation did provide for the immigration authorities to question Muslim migrants if they believed in theocratic government. This is because the German system has government as the Basic Law as its fundamental article of state. This was introduced as part of the denazification programme after the War, and bans any party or organisation that does not recognise democracy. It was invoked in the 1970s to ban the National Democrats, a Neo-Nazi outfit, and then in the 1990s to ban an Anarchist review and a range of Anarchist organisations. However, a few years ago, the Week reported that the Germans were considering removing questions about support for sharia government from the immigration forms, because Muslim immigrants would lie about their support. Quite simply, it didn’t stop terrorists entering the country. I also think they were going to drop it because the question was itself anti-democratic, and they were afraid that heavy-handed policing tactics like this were alienating German Muslims, and driving them towards the Islamists.

As for the question of Roman Catholic canon law and Islamic sharia law, this has been an issue in parts of Canada. I think there was a movement up there in certain provinces, which recognised Roman Catholic canon law and Jewish Beth Din courts as legally recognised authorities governing the faith and practice of those religious communities. This became intensely controversial when a Canadian Muslim wanted sharia law and courts also recognised. He was challenged by a number of organisations, including associations of female former Muslims, who were deeply concerned about the treatment of women under Islamic religious law. I don’t know, but I think the situation may have ended with the Canadian government repealing the legislation granting secular legal authority to all religious courts, regardless of which religion, they belonged to.

I have to say that Gingrich’s comments simply look to me like another embittered, racist Republican trying to compete with Trump, whom The Turks point out is the master of stupid racism. They point out that the Republicans now appear to be a stupid, cartoonish party, and that the only thing they have going for them is that they are competing against Shrillary. All this is true, but displays of prejudice like Gingrich’s and Trump’s are serving to chip away further at the American traditions of free speech and tolerance. They are acting as an endorsement to the increasing racism, and there is a real danger that such intolerance will turn more Muslims towards militant, intolerant forms of Islam as a response to the hostility shown to them by mainstream society.

Secular Talk on Saudi Arabia’s Use of the Death Penalty, even against the Children and the Disabled

January 16, 2016

Okay, this is another piece I thought should be put up in response to Mike’s post, over on Vox Political, about the Saudis’ complaint about the world’s reaction to their mass execution of 47 people last week. Their foreign minister, al-Jubair, complained that they have a bad image because of it. They’re right, but that’s only one reason. Other reasons include the almost complete lack of rights for women, freedom of belief and conscience, and other barbaric parts of their legal code, such as whipping and amputation. Oh yes, and their enslavement of foreign workers, although it is never called that.

But to go on, al-Jubair also complains that the world should respect the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, ‘because it’s the law’. They maintain that they don’t look down on Britain, because we don’t have the death penalty.

I don’t think that’s quite the whole reason, why they’re offended because we don’t respect them for their use of the death penalty. Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state with shari’a law. My guess is that what really offends them is that the rest of the world hasn’t given their legal system the automatic respect they feel it deserves due to its religious basis. In Saudi Arabia, other religions apart from Wahhabism, even other forms of Islam, such as Shi’ism, are banned. Used to the automatic enforcement of respect for their religion in their home country, they’re annoyed and upset when the rest of the world doesn’t similarly acquiesce, and respect their legal code.

In this piece from the atheist news programme, Secular Talk from 2015, Kyle Kulinski discusses how the Saudis executed 102 people just that half year alone. This is up from the 127 people they executed in 2014. Those executed include children under 18 and the disabled. The crimes for which these people were killed included acts, which are not crimes in the West. Like adultery, apostasy, witchcraft and atheism. They also execute for crimes that aren’t considered so serious that they require the death penalty in the west, such as marijuana possession or smuggling.

Kulinski goes off at the end on a rant about how nonsensical Islam, and by implication, all religion is. I don’t share his atheism or secularism, and so don’t support his views in this part of the show. But apart from this, it makes excellent points about the injustice and brutality of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. Kulinski, however, is not a hypocrite and makes it clear that he is opposed to the death penalty everywhere, including America. He states very clearly that Saudi Arabia should suffer the same kind of punishments that have been inflicted on other oppressive regimes, such as sanctions and the divestment of commercial interests.

The Origins of Saudi Arabia and Modern Islamo-Nazism

January 10, 2016

I’ve posted several pieces discussing the role of the Saudis and their form of Islam, Wahhabism, in promoting the terrorism and vicious religious intolerance and warfare that has now overwhelmed the Middle East. Many of these pieces come from Michelle Thomasson, one of the commenters on this blog, who had done extensive research on these issues. Here’s another piece she posted in response to my previous article on modern terrorism and the role of covert American espionage actions in destabilising Assad’s Syria.

I am also very cautious when posting information and prefer to rely on original data / sources, so when reading up on Zionism I tried to scan a variety of referenced sources (second hand bookshops are a treasure trove for old document finds). Here is a précis of my notes on Wahhabism which leads into the quote:

Roots of ISIS fundamentalism

Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab (born 1702/3) in Nejd, central Arabia founded Wahhabism. He was a zealous reformer; he looked at the intentions behind actions and advocated the most scrupulous, most inflexible interpretation of Islam, he also called for believers to engage with the Quran directly.

Muslims who did not share his strict interpretations, including his application of Sharia law were to be gently persuaded; if this did not succeed then arms were called against them to bring them back in to the fold (trying not to kill them). This tactic was also applied to Shi’ites. Adult males who fought against Islam and who were polytheists, that refused to convert were executed.

The Al Saud family backed by zealous Wahhabi’s (who considered it their task to purify Islam) have dominated central Arabia since the mid eighteenth century. Endorsement by leading Wahhabi scholars, legitimised the Saudi monarchy.

Rasid Rida (1865 – 1935, Syria) was a pupil of the great Egyptian reformer Muhammad Abdul; he urged Muslims to find unity and focus in Islam with a dynamism in their own traditions as an essence of Jihad. As Rida grew older he condemned the abolition of strict Sharia practices such as cutting off the hand, but he also began to praise Wahhabism and was a passionate supporter of the new Saudi kingdom. Rida’s endorsement enabled the spread of Wahhabism beyond the kingdom’s borders.

Conflicts increase – until 1914 Rida advocated coming to a mutual arrangement with Zionism, then after WW1 the Arabs wanted to collaborate with Israel directly, however, Zionist leaders such as Chaim Weizmann decided it best to cooperate with Imperial Britain instead. “For Rida, this put them on the other side of the great divide, and like many other Arabs he came to see Zionism as a British tool to split and dominate the Arab world. From the late 1920s onwards, he mined the most hostile traditions to Jews in Islam and combined such material with the conspiracy theories of European anti-Semitism to attack the Zionist project and Jews in general.

Thus, he focused on the hadith (italicised) ‘The Jews will fight you and you will be led to dominate them until the rock cries out; “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, kill him!”’ He claimed that the Torah exhorted Jews to exterminate people that they conquered, and that the Jews rebelled against God by killing the prophets he sent after Moses. They invented Freemasonry and the Western banking system, and in recent years had created capitalism in Western Europe and Communism in Eastern Europe with which to plot against the European nations. He also saw Jewry as contributing to Germany’s defeat in First World War in exchange for Britain’s promise to grant them Palestine.

From this final period in his life, we can see the origins of the anti-Semitism which has infected some parts of the Arab and Muslim struggle against Zionism and is now reflected, for instance, in the Hamas charter and the propagation of Holocaust denial in sections of the Arabic media.” (A Concise History of the Arabs, 2014, page 163, by John McHugo.)

I chose a Hugo quote because it is a summation of the information I found and his writing is not the stuff of alternative media fright nights, quite the opposite! He is ‘an Arabist, an international lawyer and former academic researcher. His writing has been published on the BBC, History Today and Chatham House’s The World Today.. He is the director of the Council for Arab British Understanding and of the British Egyptian Society.” (From the introduction page to the above quoted book.)

Please note tribal rivalry and local conflicts continued during the nineteenth century in Saudi, the charismatic Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud disposed of most local rivals in the first 2 decades and he conquered the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, as well as Hejaz in 1924/5. The new Saudi Arabia was eventually proclaimed as such in 1932. The British then supported the Saudi’s because they saw them as a counterforce to the Ottoman Empire i.e. divide and conquer.

Re the role of academic legitimisation in the last decade, there have been calls for an Islamic front by Sheikh Essa an Egyptian ideologue who wanted to forge an Islamic front from 2003 and also Dr. Israr Ahmed an academic who called for the revival of the Islamic Caliphate.

Unless one has been made a target by groups that operate clandestinely, it is difficult to believe, but here is an academic unafraid to point out one of the elephants in the room, I posted this last year: https://theconversation.com/europes-elites-are-more-like-berlusconi-than-you-think-25769

Interestingly, the link to Berlusconi’s masonic lodge in above link has ‘disappeared’ since the article was published!

This is very much what I’ve found out, simply through looking through standard reference works like Carl Brockmann’s History of the Islamic Peoples and the Oxford Encyclopaedia of World Religions, as well as Alfred Kopel’s study of the modern religious revival, The Revenge of God. Berman, in his book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, also puts the origin of the vicious anti-Semitism now poisoning the Islamic world to the influence of Nazi propaganda following the establishment of Israel. The Nazis were hoping to manipulate Muslim public opinion to mobilise them against their British overlords in support of Nazi Germany. Before then he notes that there was little anti-Semitism in Islam, and that 19th century Jewish scholars generally saw Islam as being far more hospitable and welcoming towards Jews than the Christian West.

I’ve also found second-hand bookshops to be invaluable treasure troves for good books. I did see in one of them in Cheltenham a few months ago a documentary history of Israel and the Arabs, so books on this complicated and highly emotive subject are about.

As for the Masonic lodge, Propaganda Due, or P2, their role in modern Italian politics is extremely murky. There are articles in Lobster linking them to some of the Fascist antics in Italy in the 1970s, such as the Bologna railway bombings, where the Neo-Fascists blew up a train station killing and injuring something like 127 people. They also seem to have some involvement in the death of ‘God’s Banker’, Roberto Calvi, who was found hanging under London Bridge, between the low tide and high water mark, with his pockets full of stones. This is supposedly one of the punishments in the Masonic oath that’s meted out to people who betray the brotherhood’s secrets. Calvi was also a senior figure in the Vatican bank, the Banco Ambrosiano, which was then in the middle of a corruption scandal.

Forget stupid, murderous lies like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Conspiracies really do exist, and real politics is riddle with them. Fox Mulder didn’t know the half of it.

Channel 4 broadcast a programme about a decade ago now also examining the roots of modern Islamic terrorism. This also showed pupils in Saudis schools dutifully learning that hadith, and being explicitly taught that it was their religious duty as Muslims to fight and kill Jews. The allies might be our allies in the War and Terror, but they’re extremely untrustworthy. It’s been partly through Saudi influence that the ideology behind modern Islamic terrorism has been spread, and terror groups funded.

Young Turks: Terrorists More Motivated by Politics than Religion, Study Finds

December 15, 2015

This is another video from The Young Turks, which is extremely relevant as it takes apart the view that terrorists and suicide bombers are motivated solely or mainly by religion. Robert Pape, a professor at the University of Chicago, and the founder of that university’s Centre for Security and Faith, studied the motives of suicide bombers and other terrorists going back to 1980. He found that in 95 per cent of cases they were far more motivated by politics, and particularly the desire to retaliation after a military intervention, often a military occupation. The attacks were an attempt to take or retake territory that was important to the terrorist. This was the dominant motivation for terror attacks, including the recent massacres in Paris.

Uygur and Iadarola point out that suicide bombing are the tactics adopted by the losing sides. America doesn’t use suicide bombers, because it has the advantage of drones, tanks and aircraft. The Japanese also turned to using suicide tactics in World War II – the Kamikaze pilots – when they were losing, not when they thought they were winning, as at Pearl Harbour. The same is true of other organisations using suicide bombers, like the Tamil Tigers.

They also make the case that while religion is part of it, like Christian fundamentalists, who hate gay people, this is more of a case of someone looking for and adopting a worldview, that confirms their existing beliefs. They also cite Lydia Wilson, a journalist for The Nation, who also interviewed ISIS terrorists. She found that they had a ‘woeful knowledge’ of even the basic tenets of Islam, and had difficulty answering questions about sharia law, jihad, or even the caliphate. But such knowledge wasn’t necessary to support the ideal of fighting for the caliphate. As could be seen from the actions of one British ISIS fighter, who ordered ‘Islam for Dummies’ on Amazon.

The Turks compare their ignorance of Islam with that of Dear, the right-wing fundamentalist Christian, who shot staff and patients in an attack on Planned Parenthood. They also point out that terrorist attacks and suicide bombings have been carried out by secular organisations and individuals. The Turks also point out that military intervention is not necessarily a bad thing. The Korean War succeeded in keeping South Korea free of Stalinism, and World War II was, obviously, a military intervention, that was exactly the right thing to do. Suicide and terrorist attacks do not necessarily make the original military action wrong. They’re just something to be expected as a consequence.

This report sounds pretty much spot on, from what I understand about terrorism. Bassam Tibi, the German-Egyptian writer on Islam and the problems it is experiencing through modernisation, states in his book Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change states that the Egyptian Islamist terrorist he personally interviewed in Egypt had only a superficial understanding of Islam. A few years ago, the anthropologist Scott Atran also pointed out that violence and terrorism were not solely the product of religion. He pointed out that the organisation that had made the most use of suicide bombings was the Tamil Tigers, who were secular organisation. Atran himself is an atheist, and he made this point as a rebuttal to the claims that religion was mainly responsible for such violence by members of the New Atheism, like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins.

A~s for reading one’s own political views into a particular religion or holy book, that’s always been a problem. It’s called ‘elective affinity’, and sociologists of religion have acknowledged and studied its importance. One example I was taught at College was the declaration by a 19th century British Tory that ‘the Bible is Conservative through and through’. It’s a classic example of the way a person with strong political opinions believed he had found them in his holy book through projecting his own prejudices and opinions onto the text.

As for the political motivations of many terrorists, there’s an interesting review of a book on the Lobster site by Carol Shaye, one of the officials involved in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Shaye has since become extremely cynical about the whole process because of the massive corruption at all levels of Hamid Karzai’s regime. She found that the Taliban fighters she interviewed almost exclusively joined because they felt it was a solution to this problem.
Of course, the Taliban isn’t. It is, however, a brutal and murderous collection of genocidal maniacs and mass-murderers. But the point remains.

Commemorating Christian Martyrdom: The Armenian Genocide

April 24, 2015

Armenian Gospels

Armenian Gospel Book from the Monastery of Gladjor, c. 1321

Today is the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. This was a series of massacres carried out by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people. The Armenians had risen up, like the other, majority Christians subject nations in the Balkans across the Black Sea to gain their freedom from the decaying Turkish empire. To counter this, the last Turkish sultan, Talat Pasha issued a firman ordering that the Armenians should be rounded up and slaughtered. 1.5 million Armenians, men, women and children were butchered.

The Pope caused controversy earlier this week when he marked the massacres, calling it the first genocide of the 20th century. I’m not sure if this is quite true, as I think about ten years or so previously the German colonial authorities in East Africa had also organised a genocide of the indigenous Herrero people. The occasion has a wider, European significance than just its attempt to exterminate the Armenians. Hitler noted the way the other European powers remained silent and did not act to stop it. This convinced him that they also wouldn’t act to save the Jews when the Nazi state began to persecute and murder them in turn. As he said ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’

Denial of Genocide by Turkish Authorities

Unfortunately, the genocide is still controversial. Robert Fisk in his article in Monday’s Independent discussed the Turkish government’s refusal to recognise the massacres as a genocide. Pope Francis’ comments sparked outrage amongst the Turkish authorities, and the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned to meet the prime minister. Fisk himself recalled the abuse he had received from Turks outraged by his discussion of the genocide. He stated he began receiving mail about the issue when he personally dug the bones of some of the Armenians out of the sands of the Syrian desert in 1992. He stated that some of the letters were supportive. Most were, in his words, ‘little short of pernicious’.

In Turkey any discussion or depiction of the Armenian genocide as genocide was brutally suppressed. A few years ago, the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was killed for writing about them. Liberal Turks, who wish their nation face up to this dark episode of their history, have been imprisoned. The great Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, was sent to jail a few years ago. His writing on the genocide was judged to be ‘insulting to Turkish nationhood’, a criminal offence.

Fatih Arkin, Turkish Director, on Movie about Genocide

Dink’s assassination has, however, acted to promote a greater discussion and awareness of the genocide, and a large number of both Armenians and Turks are now pressing for the Turkish government to recognise it as such. Indeed, the Turkish-German film director, Fatih Arkin, made a film about the genocide, The Cut which premiered in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, in January.

In the interview below, Mr Arkin talks about he was moved to make the film following Dink’s assassination, and the number of Turks, who also join with the Armenians in demanding their government officially recognise the atrocity. Among those is the grandson of one of the leading perpetrators. What is interesting is that the film received a wide release in Turkey with no opposition or move to ban it.

Fisk on Turks Who Saved Armenians

This seems to show a new openness amongst the Turkish people as a whole about the genocide. And Fisk in his article notes that there many courageous and humane Turks, who refused to comply with Sultan’s orders, and saved Armenians. He stated in his article that these included at least one provincial governor, as well as lesser Turkish soldiers and policemen. Fisk felt that the Armenians should compile a list of these heroes, not least because it would make it harder for politicians like Erdogan, the country’s prime minister, not to sign a book of condolences, which included their names.

And these men were courageous: they risked their lives to save others from the carnage. There is absolutely no reason why they should not also be commemorated. In Judaism, I understand that righteous gentiles, who save Jews from persecution, are commemorated and believed to have a part in the olam ha-ba, the world to come. There is a section of the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, which displays the names of such righteous gentiles, who saved Jews during the Third Reich.

Syriac Evangelistary

The Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda, from a Syriac Evangelistary

Massacre of Syriac Christians as Part of Wider Pattern of Massacres

The massacre of the Empire’s Christian minorities was not confined to the Armenians, although they are the best known victims. Other Christian peoples, including the Syriac-speaking churches in what is now Iraq and Syria, were also attacked and massacred, in what has become known as ‘the Day of the Sword’. The massacres also spread into Iran, where the Christian communities there also suffered massacres. They too deserve commemoration.

Peaceful Relations between Christians and Muslims Normal in Ottoman Empire

Historians of the Turkish Empire have pointed out that the Armenian genocide, and similar massacres committed by the Ottoman forces in the Balkans during the nationalist wars of the 19th century, were largely the exception. For most of the time Christian and Muslim lived peacefully side by side. Quite often Muslims and Christians shared the same cemeteries. And in one part of Bosnia, at least, the local Roman Catholic church stood bang right next to the local mosque. There were even a small group of worshippers, who seem not to have differentiated between Christianity and Islam.

There’s a story that one orthodox priest, while officiating mass at his church, noticed a group of people at the back wearing Muslim dress. He went and asked them why they were attending a Christian church, if they were Muslims. The people replied that they didn’t really make much difference between the two faiths. On Friday, they prayed at the mosque, and on Sunday they went to church.

Historical Bias and Nationalist Violence by Christians in 19th century Balkans

Historians of the Balkans have also pointed out the dangers of religious bias when discussing the various nationalist wars in the 19th century. In the 1870s the Ottoman Turks committed a series of atrocities suppressing a nationalist uprising in Bulgaria. This outraged public opinion in England, and provoked the Liberal prime minister, Gladstone, to demand that the Turks be ‘thrown out of Europe, bag and baggage’. Other British and American observers noted that atrocities were hardly one sided. Christians also committed them, but these were ignored by the West. One author of a book on the Balkans I read back in the 1990s argued that the various atrocities committed in this period were caused not so much by religious differences, but from nationalism, and so were no different from other atrocities committed by other countries across the world, and in western Europe today as part of ethnic and nationalist conflicts, such as Northern Ireland.

British Empire and Atrocities in Kenya

Other decaying empires have also committed horrific atrocities, and attempted to cover them up. It was only after a very long legal campaign, for example, that the British government admitted the existence and complicity in the regimes of mass murder, torture, mutilation and internment in Kenya to suppress the Mao Mao rebellion. See the book, Africa’s Secret Gulags, for a complete history of this.

ISIS and the Massacre of Christians

The commemoration of the genocide of the Armenians, and by extension the other Christian subject peoples of the Ottoman and Persian Empires at the time, has become pressing relevant because the persecution today of Christians in the region by the resurgent Islamist movements, like ISIS, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Yet these groups differ in their attitude to the massacre of non-Muslim civilians from that of the Turkish government. The official Turkish attitude has been silence and an attempt to suppress or rebut the genocide’s existence. This points to an attitude of shame towards them. ISIS, which last Monday murdered 30 Ethiopian Coptic Christians, shows absolutely no shame whatsoever. Far from it: they actually boast about their murder and enslavement of innocent civilians.

Conversion of Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians by Force, and Murder of Civilians Contrary to Muslim Law

I was taught at College that their actions contravene sharia law. Islamic law also has a set of regulations for the conduct of warfare, which rule out the conversion of the ‘Peoples of the Book’ – Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians – by force. Nor may women, children and non-combatants be harmed. And this has been invoked by the ulema in the past to protect Christian and other minorities in the Ottoman Empire. In the 17th century one of the Turkish sultans decided he was going to use military force to make the Christians in the Balkans convert to Islam. He sought approval for his course of action from the majlis, the governing assembly of leading Muslim clerics, who issued legal opinions on questions of Muslim law and practice. They refused, on the grounds that it was un-Islamic. The sultan backed down, and his planned campaigns against his Christian subjects were abandoned.

ISIS Also Butcher Muslims and Yezidis

Nor do ISIS, and similar Islamist movements limit themselves to attacking Christians. We’ve also seen them butcher and enslave the Yezidis, as well as other Muslims, simply for being the ‘wrong’ type of Muslim. For ISIS, they, and only they, represent true Islam. The rest are part of the ‘juhailiyya’, the world of darkness and ignorance, who must be fought and conquered.

Need to Commemorate All Victims of Atrocities

The Armenian genocide and its victims should rightly be remembered, as should so many other holocausts since then. Not only is this owed to the victims and history itself, but also to stop similar massacres occurring. And we need to remember that the capacity for such evil is not confined to particular nations, but can be found throughout history and humanity.