They know of no God, they have none… That was the outcry of a Muslim resident of the Kurdish town of Kobani in Syria, driven out of his place by ISIS militants as it was recorded in the Netherlands TV journal of Friday September 19. This outcry from a Muslim man, robbed out of everything by ISIS, is the lead motto for our present lecture. This man, filmed as he was praying and evoking Allah could only express his bewilderment on the merciless attitude of DAISH (Arab abbreviation for: Islamic State of Syria and Iraq).
All of us face the threat of ISIS who have unleashed a war of merciless grim against everyone considered an obstacle to its purpose, the establishment of an Islamic state in Syria and Iraq – we seem to be dealing with a “liberation theology” modelled after Islam.
This Islamic theology of liberation differs markedly from its Christian counterpart, which originated during the 2nd half of the 20th century. The liberation theology deployed by ISIS is marked by tribal headhunting and by forced, sword-driven conversion.
This calls for a search to the source this violence stems from… Who are these “Muslims”? Who are these “liberators and conquerors”?
Five centuries after the Turks stood before the gates to Vienna in 1529, after they invaded Europe and conquered Hungary, we face a war of frightening dimensions, its atrocity at least similar to as during the time when Desiderius Erasmus wrote his “Turkish war” (Consultatio de Bello Turcis Inferendo), recently re-published in Rotterdam 2005, (ISBN 978 90 6100 580 3 NUR 323) a 95-page booklet dealing with the burning issue of the time: was it advisable to wage war on the Turks – the oppressors of that age who had recently unchained a dreadful war in the Middle East and in Europe: was there sound reason in fighting them or was there not?
First of all, Erasmus raised the question on the origin of the Turks, labelling them “a rabble of Barbarous invaders of loathsome origin” referring to his-age Turkey (p 27). He warned for the danger of bellicose warmongering (p 37)
“The ignorant populace flames up in uncontrolled rage when it hears the word ‘Turks’ and it bloodthirstily flings slogans and insults such as ‘dogs’ or ‘enemies and adversaries of all Christians’; but it does not take into consideration that the Turkish first of all are fellow humans, apart from being half-Christians besides. It does not question if any such war would be appropriate and lawful, whether there is any usefulness in grabbing the weapons, challenging an adversary that will more vehemently reciprocate. It silently forgets the fact that the worst enemies of the Church are its criminal administrators (especially those who occupy high positions in the very Church) and, lastly, is unable to consider the thought that the Lord, who grieves over our trespasses, might be using the cruelty of those Barbarians as a instrument of scourge to purify us.
In the meantime they dwell at length on samples of Turkish barbarism. But such actually should inspire us into reluctance, bearing in mind how reserved one ought to be with starting war to anyone at all. What we witness here is simple usage and custom of any war…I wanted to tell this merely for the sake if those whose zeal in crying “war against Turkey” is exemplary.”
After briefly sketching as to where the Turks came from and how they invaded and conquered parts of Europe – a history of savagery and conquering – Erasmus admonishes:
“I would want to add the following: if our mistakes are so annoying in Gods eyes that he unleashes these barbarians against us, then waging any war against them is doomed to fail and ever will, unless we better our life. This is precisely what we have not seen happening as yet and I dread that future may bring worse, lest we convert to the Lord with all our heart and sacrifice that to Him, what the Psalm incites us to do” (p 42).
And on p 47 he states:
“We are in this situation even though we know as to what the aggression of the Turks calls us to do (improve our lives and living in harmony) yet persist in our wickedness. (….) For this reason, the Christian administrators would be given an advice of immeasurable value, which is first and foremost wipe out the source of annoyance due to which the Turks continue to assault us, and only then and afterwards take up the weapons against them” (p 47).
And on p. 48 he explains more about the situation that prevails in the West:
“Unimaginable how much ambition and avarice have wasted. For years we witnessed grim foreign warlords fighting a battle for life and death (…) and as I want to avoid to lose myself in details: can you give me one area (i.e. within Europe) were man is not strangled by stringency and poverty brought on by the burden of expense?
Where are remnants of sincere faith, Christian charity, and peace-loving solidarity? I challenge you to show me an age in which scoundrels, brutes, arrogant poachers, robbers and frauds have not been given a more free hand to rule? Yet we continue to despise the Turks, pure Christians as we are. If we want to shake them off forever we first must track down the direst sort of Turks: greed, avarice, abuse, overestimation, paganism, luxury, debauchery, fraudulence, rancour and envy, and drive them out of our minds… Only after having done with these with the sword our mind provides to us and only after having conquered that essence of Christian spirit we will be ready to, should the need arise for it, unite under Christ’s banner to throw out the Turks and fight battle with Him as our forerunner (nay, for Christ indeed no better triumph were made than if we did not seek to destroy them but rather placate and embrace them in the spirit of fraternity our religion provides us with (…)”
“If we fail to do so, what but a sacrifice to Orcus (Hades, Pluto, the god of the underworld) would signify casting down any Turk? If we conquer what the Turks now have, if we rule that what they now posses, we will duly perhaps become more proud or greedy, but surely no more happy. Even before we bring them under in Christ’s manger we ourselves will have become Turks like them. This is a danger not to be underestimated. Look at Syria and Palestine, at the multitude of Greek princely chiefdoms, at the Asian provinces; where the Apostles once preached the Gospel, deserts have sprung up instead, enslaved by Barbarians…at their sight one cannot but grieve and hope that Christ’s name, now in whole discredit, will once again receive worldwide acknowledgment, reverence and worshipping. … Saint Paul expresses his hope that the stubborn Jews one day be assembled in our very herd and praise and look to Jesus as their sole and one Saviour – so how the more can we hope that same allegiance from the Turks and other nations of Barbary. All the more now that they, as we learn, do not worship idols but appear to be a kind of half-Christians themselves.” (p. 50)
After this Erasmus raises the question as to whether warfare is a reasonable means leading to a rational purpose or whether it would lead us into more misery still. Warmongering leads to evil, but doing nothing is not an option, though:
“Screaming and shouting about the evil Turkish beasts will not help us. On the contrary, we need to think clearly of a way in which we will be able to successfully fight them, should need for it arise” (p. 55, 56)
And he is willing to leave fighting to military men, if war would be inevitable:
“In the end, war has its own ways, testifying rather to opportunism than decency. Practically, it is better fought by such people who have not acquired a reputation for their evangelical peacefulness.”
About this, he informs us:
“We have never read that Christ waged war… He brought celestial wisdom upon us and showed the way to immortality, instructed the erroneous, contested the unfaithful, comforted the unbelievers, succoured the meek of heart, lifted the weak, healed the sick, tried to gather multitudes for the Father, showed grace to even the most unworthy… “(p. 61)
The chief argument for Erasmus, to resist and fight war against the oppressors, is the threat to Western civilisation they pose, its subsequent decline. He refers to the anti-Catholicism of his time, in which there were people using the slogan “Rather Turkish than Papist”. About this he remarks (p. 67)
“Sometimes we hear the loathsome view expressed that it were more bearable to be a Christian under the Turks than under Christian rulers, the very Pope. Whoever thinks this does not have the least notion of what it means to live under Turkish authority or is a Turk at heart himself, secretly sorry to be a Christian….”
“If Scythes and Ichthyophagi could not bear Roman authority would we then willingly put our head on the Turkish scaffold? If Roman rulers were rigid, heartless and avaricious, what are they compared to the cruelty of the Turks? Don’t they shrink to the size of schoolboys? Who would not, if he had saved an inch of pride, rather perish on the battlefield instead of having to sigh lifelong under the barbarous axe of slavery? Jews with us are better off than Christians with them! Such are not treated as humans but as cattle. Children and old-aged are killed, teenagers – fit for work or sexual pleasures – abducted; the girls are “brought in custody” somewhere and if one of them flourishes and is able to save, her money is seized from her by some Turk. And boys are scattered, any resistance stifled by torture and a gruesome death. If you want to prosper you need to defy Christ. Whoever is willing to embrace such loathsome oppression, must necessarily have gathered a thick layer of callosity on his soul, like most abject slaves have..”
“Look at the institutions of their state: where is their rule of law? It is the will of the tyrant. They have no deputies of any kind. What is philosophy to them? Do they have universities and theologians? Holy Mass? What is their pureness of belief: a cooked up mixture of Jewry, Christianism, paganism and Arianism. They do not recognise Christ but merely as one of the many prophets. Jews do the same, however Muslims claim Him to be a normal human, an opinion which is even more despicable than Arianism (…) Mahomet, a depraved and criminal individual and moreover a mere human being ranks with them above Christ, on the hearing of Whose name every knee bends in Heaven, on Earth, and in Limbo. Who would not prefer to spend his life in a remote corner of the desert in the company of wildcats, wolfs, leopards and snakes instead of among people daily insulting the name of the Lord? Consent embodies pure godliness, silence torture worse than death, but protest a certain death, preceded by torture. The very thought is shunned by everyone loving Christ. And if someone, in spite of all this, is struck by the harsh fate as to bear the burden of Turkish barbarism, then may his utmost limit of patience serve the barbarians, yet his mind keep the Lord inviolate?”
Erasmus warns us for the illusion that war against the so-called Muslims might be just a short and speedy one, he explains:
“Their way of fighting is not like how Christians fight nor very complicated: they murder, sack and burn everything they see and then are off quick. This allows a small band of desperate to create immeasurable damage. You cannot fight a war like this in a couple of battles; it may drag on and on for years. Even if fortune would prevail us, our means will get exhausted and the hearts of our bravest commanders perish. If victory is so costly in terms of orphans, widows and mourners, what toll will defeat bring then? ” (p. 69)
His conclusion shows but one solution, extinguishing Muslim belief:
“It should be desirable first of all; if the countries under Turkish authority were subjected with the tools the Apostles gave us. They brought all the people on Earth under Christ, the Almighty ruler. Also, these countries would not need to mind defeat that much, given the way this war is conducted. This is at arm’s length, if they discover that Christianity is not just mere words, but rooted in a strong evangelical approach and vision. So we would need really to show this (..) Lastly, those who would not be willing to convert, should be left alone and provided the opportunity to live according to their own laws; they will gradually become one with us.. Isn’t this the same way in which the Christian Emperors were able to gradually extinguish paganism? First they allowed Pagans the same rights as us and nobody harasses the other. Then they strip the privileges extant till that point, from the temples of idolatry. After some time they banned them for public sacrifices and a short while after the whole machinery of paganism was abandoned. This is how, while the torch of paganism was slowly extinguished, Christianity grew and Christ ruled the entire world.”
No fight against ISIS can lead to anything unless we bring to mind what Erasmus says.
Erasmus evokes the question of the law under the self-styled Islamic oppressors however he does not enter on their theology.
I shall come back to this in section 2. Next, in section 3, I will deal with how individual Muslims experience their faith and are looking back on what Islam has meant for them and how it has shaped them.
Then, in section 4, there is some attention put to Iran’s role and the lack of moral authority pervading among Islamic leaders, making them unable to turn themselves against DAISH, as their ideology, Islamic thought, bars them from resisting ISIS. As the Islamic perception is not susceptible of change (if there would be, the Quran would be abolished), killing, even the requirement to kill nonbelievers and renegades remains one of the Quran’s cornerstones, as the inequality and discriminatory thinking is as well: the all-invading fear of being different.
2.DA’AT ELOHIM, in Hebrew: knowledge of God
Anyone speaking on Islam from a Christian viewpoint will be unable to disregard the Old Testament and the Ten Commandments. The first five commandments address man in his relation to God:
“Love God and love Him with all your heart, soul and mind and serve him with all energy you have”
Is a way to summarize them.
And the next five commandments see to the relation among human beings themselves:
“Love your neighbour, comfort your fellow humans wherever they are, look after each other like you would want people to take care of you”
is a way to sum up the last five. The first five commandments cannot be detached from the second five. The love for God can only be reflected through the mutual relationship between people. If you really care for God you will have to come up for people and not let them be enslaved.
Anyone who holds the view that you can torture, kill and exploit other human beings does not know God and has none.
Considering the place of the Ten Commandments in Islam, Muslims will answer you that they have no place within it. The revelation of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament sealing God’s league with the Jewish people and overall mankind beyond it is an element that fails Islam. The Ten Commandments do not have a central position. Although the Bible is perceived as a holy book, any intrinsic demand to stand up for your neighbour, regardless of how different he/she may be from you, is not found in that way within Islam. Muslims should only stand up for fellow Muslims. Their perception is just not focused on countering worldwide injustice. That Jewish tradition which is in turn hence fully incorporated in Christianity, fails in Islam. When Isaiah 1:17 exhorts:
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow (Holy Bible, Oxford University Press)
Prof. Dr. Abraham Joshua Heshel (Being aware of injustice, in: The OT Prophets, Skandalon 2013, ISBN 978-94-90708-74-0, NUR 716, page 271) puts it brilliantly in the following way (speaking of the OT prophets):
We find that the notions of law and justice wholly take up the old Prophets and this roots in a firm awareness of injustice prevailing. It is generally accepted that law is something good, a noble cause even an august ideal, but there is no sufficient awareness of how monstrous injustice is. Moralists of every age are eloquent in praising virtue; what sets the prophets apart is their way of relentlessly tackling injustice and oppression by focusing on social, political and religious vices. They have no interest for defining law; they deal rather with how it is attacked, with the fact how those called to uphold it, offend against it. Law could adequately be defined as “what we do to repair or prevent things which may give rise to the perception of injustice”.
So the spirit of the OT prophets is marked not by “an ideal relationship or a static situation of a whole of understandable norms” but rather by “signalling the fact that there is oppression and corruption”.
If you now look at Islamic practice you see:
Every attempt, launched for the Islamic world itself, to fight injustice inside the own circle and inside one’s own government, is met by terrorism. Where on earth does one find Islamic human rights organizations, which – unhampered by their own governments – are able to voice criticism on their very governments?
If you want to understand Islam and DAISH (or whatever way you name it) you must do so against the background of the Judeo-Christian belief on the DA’AT ELOHIM (“a command to us: know thy God and wholly unite with him”). God needs people and people need God. One should always near in mind however, that any religion is a human construction that, if it is good, serves men and does not oppress them.
Now compare this notion with the rise of the prophet Mohammad and Islam. A mere look at Wikipedia and keyword: Islam is enough to see how blood-drenched Islam is, how it is imbedded in one sea of blood. Mohammed himself conducted some 80 wars during the 23 years he spent as a prophet and indeed even in his married life committed everything God had forbidden. Just look at the publication of the Iranian thinker/writer Ali Dashti “23 years” a book only published in Persian and available only in Iran clandestinely. It is banned there. This book deals with the 23 years the prophet Mohammad ruled and the 80 wars he fought. Within Islam no separation of powers exists, politics and religion are not separated. His successors killed, and were killed by each other; ensuing from that circumstance is the schism between Shia and Sunni Muslims. The Shia is the faction of Ali, Mohammad’s son-in-law, who became the fourth Caliph of Islam and first Imam to the Shia. Prior to Ali, the first two successors to the first (hence Sunni) caliph Abu Bakr had already got killed. The same faith awaited Ali (the fourth Sunni caliph and the First Shia imam that is) as well as his sons Hassan and Hussein, the latter dying in the battle of Karbala of 680 fighting the Sunni. So Shia and Sunni have been in the clinch from the very beginning. Shia hold the death of Hussein as one of the core issues of their cult (state religion in the Islamic republic of Iran), and are focused on continuous mourning about Hussein ‘s death and frenzied ecstasy. Their’s is a God of fear and terror, far removed from a God of love. Even Shia themselves suffer under it. And what about Sunni in the meantime? They detest Shia, for the sole reason that the Shia worship their imams like if they were sacred beings and commit idolatry in Sunni eyes in maintaining the tombs and holy places of their worshipped imams. Sunni do not need any imams (they have caliphs instead) and determine themselves how their “faith” will look like. That is very much valid for ISIS, DAISH, and a brooding nest of self-styled, so-called different Sunni who shun no mean of cleansing away anyone who takes a different view.
If one asks about Islam’s theological foundations and the Islamic view on human rights including the right of freedom of religion and/or political conviction (enshrined in the UN’ s international Covenant on Civil and Political Rights section 18) A famous Netherlands-born philosopher on Islam and Sunni, who has been my partner in a lengthy telephone discussion on 15 September 2014 told me the following:
“99% of all Muslims I know, regardless whether they are academics or simple peasants from the Moroccan Rif Mountains or the Anatolian highlands, or hold a liberal or conservative outlook, have big trouble in coming to terms with people who are different worldwide. They can not imagine that there are people who are looking at the world in a different way, express, behave and think differently – that any such people exist.”
My partner in that phone conversation has repeatedly suggested that Islam set up a similar institution as the World Council of Churches, “to curb any such fools as the ISIS are” but all to no avail. He has now turned his back on that viper’s nest. Muslims in Europe pretend as if there is no problem, like if the western world knows exactly how Islam is in all its facets. They don’t feel they should express their view and a great silence reigns. Muslims say: “they know who we are, don’t they?“
He warns us not to look at each other from the trench-like positions of Christianity and Islam, as if Muslims would be able to fully understand how Christianity in all its facets works – and the other way round, as if Christian intellectuals know exactly about how Islam functions in all it’s different aspects. We know nothing about each other. He has recommended us to read the Quran (in the English translation of Mas Adbel Haleem, Oxford University Press) and issued the following message after our phone call:
“There are of course a number of exceptions, on the difficult way how people with other views (both if they have a different outlook on life including sexuality) are met by Islam, groups who deliver a (sometimes dramatic) battle for social justice and human rights. And a Council able to call to accounting religious zealots and fools would be sort of similar to an Islamic Vatican – and one could question whether it is too simple to lay that model over Islam?
A large group like ISIS withdraws itself from any central authority merely by issuing its own fatwas. All definitions that ISIS uses are derived from Islamic humanities and the Sharia. And you can clearly see how every idea “Caliphate/Islamic State/Sunni” is deformed and violated. They were wrong in the amount of time required and they resort to establishing an authority based on terror, cruelty and fear. This was my prayer of beseech that I held at the end of Ramadan (www.nieuwemoskee.nl/2014/07/smeekgebed-voor-de-ied-al-fitr/)”
Central in Islamic view is the fear for the other person, the fear of being different. This is enshrined in Islam, in the very Quran: the implacable attitude adopted in relation to other beliefs, the right and the duty of the righteous believers to kill renegades, the intrinsic inequality between woman and men. A woman is regarded as merely representing half of a man’s value, she is bequeathed only half of what a man gets with an inheritance and her testimony is worth only half of that of a man’s.
This attitude is so baked-in within Islam that one can never expect that it will ever be able to change. Any different theology is impossible, as it would involve denial and negligence of the Quran (= God’s own word). If you combine this element with the idea that an Islamic believer can define the contents of his own belief, with even the lack of any God-instituted duty to be good towards one’s fellow human beings (to consider your fellow as your first commandment in line with your love of God) you will make Islam into an instrument of arbitrary power. It is impossible to put Islam in the same level of thought as Hebrew or Christian thinking, the Judeo-Christian tradition. Islam can only be curbed in strength and source of fear if reasonability and independent thinking get the upper hand (as reason within Christian and western thinking serves man’s survival, Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651, ed. Boom 2010). We need to express great solidarity to people and groups within Islam who stand up for a different way of thinking, in spite of all the limitations they face. But it is an illusion to think that you can disregard and think away Islam. The very fact of terror’s resurrection – 5 centuries after Erasmus wrote these lines – proves it…
This however does not mean that there is no countermove stream in Islam. So from a newspaper article by Jaap Kraan, from 15 September 2014, we take:
“It is said so often and so easily: Muslims do not take part in any dialogue. They leave the Christians to get the glowing coals out of the ashes. They will not comment nor condemn violence if the Taliban or suicide bombers do their thing. The let revenge killings happen and take female circumcision for granted, and so on and so forth. Is this correct; does this match with the facts as we see them? I don’t think so. The thing is, good news make no news items. And the media seem to have very little or no interest in correcting ideas rooted in prejudice. And the last thing is that all the good news in scientific journals or good-quality newspapers is left unread. Usually, sources are not known. Just how do Muslims counter react?
And he says:
“And the best thing is: remind yourself of the millions of Muslims worldwide who seek the contact with people of other beliefs and are trying hard to keep the world a place of dignity.”
In this respect, pay some attention to the advertisement published by the Turkish intellectual and Islam scientist Fethullah Gülen in the Dutch national newspapers of Monday 22 September 2014:
“IS cruelties call for stringent condemnation
As the practicing Muslim I am, one influenced by Islam’s teachings, I must at the utmost and strongly condemn the loathsome cruelties committed by the terrorist group IS. IS actions put to shame the religion they the group alleges to propagate and must be branded as actions against humanity. Religion offers the base for peace, human rights, freedom and justice. Any interpretation offering the contrary to that, including abuse of religion to enhance conflict, is wrong and deceitful.
IS are not the first group using religious rhetoric to mask their cruelty – Al Qaida has done so 13 years ago and, more recently, Boko Haram tries it again. They all have in common a mentality of totalitarianism denying human dignity.
Any violence committed against innocent civilians and any persecution of minorities is against the principles of the Quran and the teachings of the prophet Mohammad, peace and blessing are with him. IS members are either completely ignorant of the principles of the belief they propagate or their action are set up with a view to serve their personal interests of those of their political leaders. It is unimpeded, however, that the actions they undertake serve terrorist purposes. They need to be borough to justice to account themselves for their horrific crimes.
I express my deepest sympathy to the families of the people deceased in Syria and Iraq and to the families of James Foley, Steven Scotloff and David Haines. I pray that God give them strength, patience and perseverance and ease their suffering. I pray for the immediate release of all hostages and beseech God the Merciful to lead us all to mutual respect and peace. I invite everybody to join my prayers.” (cf. also www.platformINS.nl)
However, people who hold powerful positions within the Islamic world (think of the Turkish president Erdogan – an adversary to Gülen, P.B. – or Iran’s supreme spiritual and political leader Ali Khamenei) refuse to pronounce any condemnation of IS whatsoever. And they cannot be expected to do so, since they fully identify to what Islam, in its pretension to be the truth, wants: the intrinsic duty to persecute people of different beliefs or worse. This is the embedded practice in daily Islam (see the last and fourth chapter).
3.How do Islamic believers experience their belief, what does it do to them? How can their belief create inner revulsion and why do they abandon it?
Being a biologist and having worked as a lawyer for some 28 years now, I find myself writing biographies to perceive how the relationship between individuals and the power of the authorities above them, develops, to get the answer to the question how they became enemies in the eyes of the government persecuting them, regardless whether the story is set in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Sudan, or countries from different continents. I write analyses of the story of people’s life and the circumstances of them fleeing their country and I interview them systematically and for hours to understand exactly how their life became that what it became from day to day and how they came to the conclusion that they were in danger of losing their life should they fail to flee. And as an example of the many, one of the persons I interviewed is Mr X. He was born in a Shia family uninterested in politics. He got traumatized in Iran because he was prevented from his ardent wish to become a professional sportsman. And with that, life became useless. He became depressed and got addicted to medicines. Thanks to getting in touch with Erfan Bateni (a teaching of inner mystic) he knew how to kick the habit. The teaching calmed him and gave him hope of leading a normal life. But Iranian authorities intervened, their group of mystics was disbanded and his guru ordered X. to run from his hometown. He fled to the Netherlands and discovered Christianity – he was already interested in it because of its common aspects with Zoroastrian belief and Mithraism. The kindness so akin to Christian believers led him into expressing his wishes to be baptized. His present life as an illegal resident makes it impossible to attend church from the place where he lives. But X. is in no position to show any reluctance as far as professing his faith in Christ is concerned.
The belief he encountered is under strong pressure in his home country Iran. And X. told me:
I myself call it a school of thinking, but in any case not a religious belief. You need to abandon religion. This doctrine saved me. To me it was different from the limitations that religion imposes. It was not like the prophet Mohammed. This doctrine does not impose limitations. Nothing was coerced; it was not so dry as religion can be. It did not focus on prescripts on how to act or what rules to obey. It felt like encountering humanity. It was a doctrine that helps you to know you better. It started with self-knowledge. You must first of all ask to yourself the question: “what has Islam done to me?”
I think Islam caused my depression. Whoever I asked: “what is Islam or where?” was unable to answer me. Back there in Iran, everything people did was done under cover-up from Islam and the Quran. People always said: Islam ordains this; this is what the Quran says. In other words, they looked upon themselves are sheer gods. They spoke of the supremacy of the spiritual leader. He is God himself. They all did so. I read quite some books. I found many contradicting things, in the Quran and in what they said. What they said was different from what they did. There was a book called Tawallodi Digar (“a rebirth”) written by Shoja’oddin Shafa, a professor. The book is banned in Iran. It deals with contradictions in all religious beliefs. I’ve read this book three times while in the Netherlands. While in Iran I had already read other forbidden books, amongst them a book titled “Contradicting statements in the Quran”, I do not remember the name of its author. That was during the Erfan Bateni time. I wanted to read that book in order to learn more about Islam. Erfan Bateni made my mind have more peace. I was freed from the depressions, also physically. I took up sports again, body building. It had all positive effects, apart from the end, when those problems came about.”
Then X. goes on about how he developed on towards Christianity:
“By the time I had to run things became a nightmare, the escape itself was. I don’t like to remind myself about it. Once in the Netherlands, a whole new life opened up. I went from an Islamic society into a Christian one, from a closed circuit into an open society, so to say. I arrived in the Netherlands in 2010 (…,) during that one week I spent in Ter Apel I came across Christians, very kind people. Then I was transferred somewhere else. Also there, in the place I went, I was there for some three weeks I encountered Christians. These people were very kind as well (….) it takes a very long time before I trust someone. I have gone through too many things, and have accumulated bitter experiences (…) in Erfan Bateni’s group they told us that Jesus Christ had a mystic strain of thinking. That’s why it was important to me to get to learn what Jesus told, how he lived, to retrieve His words and Actions so to say. There was a meaningful purpose for me to get to know it, and there was also another reason why I wanted this.
In Iran I read about Zarathustra as a prophet. I read that Zarathustra and Jesus had much in common, and some people believed that Jesus Christ and Zarathustra were one and the same. So, for instance their dates of birth and mottoes coincide. Once in Bellingwolde, I read about Mithraism. Zoroastrianism and Mithraism co-exist, they have similarities. I read a lot of books during that time. Mithras was born on December 25; this is the same date as Jesus. In Mithraism people drink wine, a symbol for blood. And bread is perceived as His body. Mithras gave her life to save humanity. She was born from a mother who was a virgin.
I wanted to learn more on everything I had read about the things Zoroaster and Jesus Christ had in common. Such as e.g. both of them spoke on good thoughts, good words and good actions. I had several reasons why I wanted this. To the Iranian friends I acquainted in the Netherlands, Christians they are, I have not told but very few things about how I developed in Iran. I did not speak about Erfan Bateni, only about mysticism. All they knew was that my asylum application was based on mysticism. I felt at ease with B., and C. (These are two Iranian friends in the Netherlands). I told them that I wanted to come with them to their church just to deepen my understanding, not in order to convert. There was no problem (…) in Ter Apel, at the “into His light” church Christ His story was told with poetry and music. This made it very special. But by the meantime I had acquired so much more I knew about the Christian religion that I had become able to enjoy things….”
In the meantime X. saw his procedure had finished. Then, he says:
“After I suffered a threatening back lapse into depression like I had witnessed before in Iran and before I came to Emmen, the Bible had become a book very dear to me. I chiefly read the New Testament. I focus on it, that book attracts me. I have always loved humanity. Through everything that Jesus says and does I see how a human being can become complete. I have acquired Christian thought by reading intensely.”
And then when I, his solicitor, interviewed him and asked the question: “what does Christianity do with you, with your heart, soul and mind?” his answer was the following:
“To me it is a support. It gives me spiritual peace and quiet. It is a pillar to me, supporting me, something to cling to, in the literal sense of the word. It backs my life up (….) when I was illegal I only focused on reading the Holy Book in the reader I brought here. One of my friends presented the reader to me. He gave me the folder and said: Now that you shall be unable to attend church I give you this reader, in order to deepen your faith here in this country, since sometimes you would be unable to understand the text of the Holy Book and these texts offer a further explanation.”
And on his conversion and subsequent baptism he told:
“I was asked many questions in the church in Ter Apel, why I wanted to become a Christian and what my drive was. They wanted to probe my mind. Neither did they walk on thin ice when it came to me being baptized. I was interviewed about what I knew from the Bible.”
This is merely an example of somebody’s life situation. It shows the importance of religion and how it can acquire a deep place in somebody’s heart, both in a negative sense (like in Iran) as well as positive – given T. ‘s example. His life is saved in the double meaning of the word.
4. The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran and other Islamic superpowers
In preparing this lecture, I had to address the Islamic republic of Iran again to seek the answer on the question, which protests Iranian government, if any, issued on DAISH (see NRC of Tuesday 16 September 2014):
“Khamenei: coalition against IS “big farce”, Iranian leader ‘thoroughly amused’ about US plans on attacking IS”
While ISIS, a Sunni movement regards Shia as enemies and does not shun from killing them by the hundreds (the same as they do with Christians, Islamic Kurds, Yezidis (another religious group with no Holy Book, like Erfan Bateni, rooting deeply in the pre-Islamic era of Zoroastrianism) like they do to anyone considered an obstacle: by simply decapitating them.
Not a word of protest is heard on this neither from the Islamic Republic nor from other Islamic states, regardless whether they have Sunni or Shia governments. Every person striving to unite with God is perceived as enemy, by governments within the Islamic world, or by their fellow citizens. Aspiring to unite with God is not allowed and a personal interpretation of the Quran considered evil.
As the US and other countries try to ally themselves to the Free Syrian Army (arisen from former allies to Bashir al Assad, president of Syria and a Shia (up to now backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran) Iran is now involved to the neck in the murderous policy towards “Mortad” (renegades), also labelled “Mohareb” (fighters against God), “Khaen” (traitors), “Na-Mosalman” (nun-Muslims), against those considered “Mahdour Ol’Dam” (outlaws) who do not belong to the Omat-e-Mosalman (followers of the Prophet) and are denied their Iranian citizenship: they are not humans but outlawed non-humans and may be freely annihilated. Iran, which installed the death penalty in official penal legislation under the Ali Khamenei regime, is in no way expected to speak out against DAISH/ISIS.
ISIS, the Islamic republic and other rabiate “Islamic” leaders share the same view on man: every non-Muslim and certainly every renegade Muslim needs to be killed or at least be “silenced”. Nobody should harbour any illusions about the capacity for murder under current Islamic leaders.
I hope that many people will start to look closer to the sources and foundations of their own beliefs (for Christians, the Bible) but also to Islam, to gain a better understanding how it works. As Erasmus put it:
“Screaming and shouting about the evil Turkish beasts will not help us. On the contrary, we need to think clearly of a way in which we will be able to successfully fight them, should need for it arise. We will have to bring about a change within our mentality. Any war is doomed to fail if our drive to fight is, is embodied by hunger for power, ambition, personal frustration or the desire for revenge. In this case it is greed and theft we speak about, not war.”
Now – five centuries later on and directed against DAISH/ISIS – the same advice should be put at the forefront, should be applied to all persons and groups whether they style themselves Al Qaida, Al Nusra, Boko Haram or whatsoever…
He warned us not to believe in miracles – “something for which you wait to no avail” (p. 41).
It is to be hoped but must surely be doubted, that the coalition between the US and the Islamic states withstand this test.
Utrecht, Friday September 26, 2014.
P. B. Ph. M. Bogaers, ML and MSc in The Netherlands
Translation from Dutch: Dr Aristides Stamatiou