May 19/14


Bible Quotation for today/I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’
Luke 22,28-34/‘You are those who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer on you, just as my Father has conferred on me, a kingdom, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. ‘Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’And he said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!’Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.’


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources For May 19/14

Of thuggish journalists and their masters/By: Hisham Melhem/AlArabiya/May 19/14

Boko Haram and the Dynamics of Denial/by Mark Durie/Frontpage Magazine/May 19/14
Palestinian Magical Thinking/by Jonathan Spyer/PJ Media/May 19/14

A third Maliki premiership would be disastrous for Iraq/By: Samir Shakir Sumaydee/Asharq Alawsat/May 19/14


Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources For May 19/14

Lebanese Related News

Geagea Meets Hariri in Paris as Jumblat Flies to French Capital

Raad Rules Out Election of President who is Not 'Keen on Resistance'

Suleiman's Message to Parliament to Rebuke MPs for Failing to Elect New President

Sleiman urges Hezbollah once again to depart Syria

Sleiman keen on ‘defense strategy’

Al-Rahi Says Electing President to End Local Crises, Criticizes Possible Vacuum

Higher Defense Council Discusses Security Plan, Suleiman Calls for Adoption of Defense Strategy
Rival Parties Discussing Four Names to Presidency, Qahwaji a Key Candidate

March 14 working on compromise, consensus deal

Jumblatt, Abu Faour leave for Paris

Salam still hopeful on electing president

Military to handle security in case of vacuum

Rocket from Syria hits Bekaa Valley town

Two Rockets from Eastern Mountain Belt Hit Hermel

Berri Expresses Hope Last-Minute Solution to Presidential Deadlock

Asiri Describes Salam's Visit to Saudi Arabia as 'Important'
Miscellaneous Reports And News
Question: "What is the greatest commandment?"

Iran nuclear talks to resume in June

Iran defiant on Arak facility, right to enrich uranium as nuclear talks appear to falte

US accepts Shahab-3s in Iran’s missile arsenal, but not long-range ICBMs. Deep resentment in Jerusalem

Israeli PM: Livni-Abbas meeting not approved by gov't

Israel finds key partner in new Indian PM

Netanyahu: Palestinian Authority incitement makes West Bank world's most anti-Semitic region

Street by street, Assad extends grip in central Syria

Geagea Meets Hariri in Paris as Jumblat Flies to French Capital
Naharnet/Lebanese Forces leader and presidential candidate Samir Geagea held talks Sunday with al-Mustaqbal movement chief MP Saad Hariri in the French capital Paris, amid a flurry of political talks over the stalled presidential vote. “Ex-PM Hariri is currently meeting Geagea over a lunch banquet in Paris,” Hariri's mouthpiece Future TV announced in the afternoon.
Later on Sunday, Hariri's press office said head of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Saniora attended the talks, which continued into the evening. “The meeting tackled the general situations in the country, especially the pressing issue of the presidential election,” a statement issued by Hariri's office said. “The viewpoints were identical regarding the need to hold the presidential vote within the constitutional deadline, to reject vacuum and to make all possible and needed efforts and contacts to prevent it,” it added. The two leaders also stressed the need that “all MPs take part in electoral sessions.”Meanwhile, LBCI television said the meeting became tense “when Geagea proposed holding the election with a one-half plus one quorum, the thing that was rejected by Hariri.” “They agreed to hold another meeting,” LBCI added. It said political talks will continue in Paris “beyond the May 22 electoral session, although Hariri will travel tomorrow to Riyadh to take part in a dinner banquet in honor of (Prime Minister Tammam) Salam.”On Saturday, An Nahar newspaper said Geagea had met Hariri on Friday as al-Akhbar daily quoted informed sources as saying that Geagea's trip to Paris took place at France's behest in order to discuss the elections and his position on several political and economic affairs, most notably Lebanon's oil wealth. Two other presidential candidates, who were not named, had also visited France prior to Geagea, the sources revealed. Geagea embarked on an Arab and European tour on Friday that will reportedly include Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat and his aide Health Minister Wael Abou Faour traveled to Paris on Sunday, according to state-run National News Agency. According to Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3), Jumblat is expected to meet with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal in the French capital. Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. Most of the March 8 camp's MPs have boycotted four rounds of elections over their call for an agreement on a consensual president and their rejection of the candidacy of Geagea, whose nomination was officially endorsed by the March 14 camp. A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of President Michel Suleiman's six-year tenure, amid fears that the continued deadlock will plunge the country into a state of total political vacuum.


Raad Rules Out Election of President who is Not 'Keen on Resistance'
by Naharnet/Head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad stressed Sunday that the country's next president must be “keen on the resistance” and on the so-called army-people-resistance equation. “Only a candidate who is keen on the resistance ... and who really wants to build a state of law and institutions can reach the presidential seat,” Raad said during a Hizbullah ceremony in the southern town of al-Kfour. He said the coming president must not “discriminate” between a citizen and another. “We want a president who would cling to the equation that achieved victory for our people, and who would not give it up when offered temptations,” Raad added. He blamed the procrastination in electing a new head of state on “some parties that are holding onto the candidacy of a nominee who is seeking a civil war among the Lebanese and who wants to waste the achievements of the resistance.” “This candidate will not make it to the helm of the country, regardless of the forces that might support him,” Raad said, in an apparent reference to Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. Commenting on the tenure of President Michel Suleiman, the Hizbullah lawmaker added: “We are bidding farewell to a presidential term but we won't be hasty in announcing our final verdict on it, despite the fact that we were dismayed by the performance, at least in the last phase of this term.”
“We won't allow anyone inside or outside to manipulate the situation in Lebanon according to the approach and policies of the forces that are hostile to Lebanon and its people,” Raad underlined.
Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. Most of the March 8 camp's MPs have boycotted four rounds of elections over their call for an agreement on a consensual president and their rejection of the candidacy of Geagea. A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of Suleiman's six-year tenure.


Asiri Describes Salam's Visit to Saudi Arabia as 'Important'
Naharnet/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri stressed the importance of Prime Minister Tammam Salam's expected visit to the kingdom, expressing hope that the presidential election would consolidate ties among the Lebanese. “There a Lebanese unanimity on the importance and necessity of Salam's visit to Saudi Arabia,” Asiri said in comments published on Sunday. He considered the PM's visit as an “opportunity to enhance ties between the two countries and discuss stance concerning the developments in the region.” Salam is expected to travel to the Saudi Arabia on Monday where he will meet with senior officials. Asiri hailed the premier's cabinet, expressing relief over its accomplishments. He hoped that the Lebanese consensus would further continue to include the presidential elections.
“We are looking forward to fortify the ties between the two countries,” Asiri added. On Wednesday, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Asiri and Tourism Minister Michel Pharaon announced that the kingdom lifted a travel ban to Lebanon after the security situation improved in the country. Salam had announced that he will tour Gulf countries after his visit to Saudi Arabia on Monday in order to fortify cooperation with them.

Military to handle security in case of vacuum
May 18, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Army is set to handle the security situation in the country in case of a vacuum in the presidency, political sources told The Daily Star, adding that differences surfaced between political officials on the Military Council appointments. The sources said that if a new head of state wasn't elected before May 25, the end of President Michel Sleiman's term, a Cabinet session would be called to task the Army with maintaining security and law and order across the country. The sources added that there was an agreement between Sleiman and Prime Minister Tammam Salam to hand over the security file to the military in the event of a vacuum. Meanwhile, the sources said that the main reason behind holding Friday's Cabinet session earlier last week in the Grand Serail rather than Baabda Palace was the dispute between Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun and Sleiman, who was supported by the March 14 ministers, concerning appointing members of the Military Council.
The Military Council controls all the financial and logistical decision-making within the Army. The council shares authority with the Army commander. The sources said that Aoun sought the appointment of his son-in-law Maj. Gen. Shamel Roukoz, head of the Army's elite unit, as the new Army chief. However, other candidates for the post hold higher ranks than Roukoz, making the officer ineligible for the military’s leading post. According to the rules of the military, the Army commander cannot have a lower rank than the members of the Military Council.

Suleiman's Message to Parliament to Rebuke MPs for Failing to Elect New President
Naharnet/The March 14 alliance considered on Sunday that outgoing President Michel Suleiman scolded lawmakers in his message to the parliament for failing to carry out their constitutional duties.
Sources close to the March 14 coalition told the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa newspaper that Suleiman in his messages was seeking to rebuke the parliament for failing to elect a new head of state as his tenure end next week. Suleiman had continue sly reiterated that he will be at his home on May 25, as his term ends on May 24 when he is scheduled to deliver a farewell speech. There are fears that the vacuum in the country's top Christian post would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.
On Friday, Suleiman urged the parliament to act in accordance with the Constitution to avert the dangers that could arise from the failure to elect a new head of state by May 25.
The president's message has only a moral value and doesn't oblige the speaker or lawmakers with anything but to be read at the parliament in accordance with the authorities given to the head of state by clause 10 of article 53 of the Constitution. Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. Most of the March 8 camp's MPs have boycotted four rounds of elections over their call for an agreement on a consensual president and their rejection of the candidacy of their foe Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea.
A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of Suleiman's six-year tenure. The message is the third of-its-kind handed over to the parliament since the adoption of the Taif accord. Lebanon's First Post-War President Elias Hrawi had urged the parliament in his message to approve civil marriage in the country and to establish the “National Authority for the abolition of political sectarianism,” and former President Emile Lahoud dispatched a message regarding the electoral law.

Al-Rahi Says Electing President to End Local Crises, Criticizes Possible Vacuum
Naharnet /Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi stressed on Sunday the need to elect a new president, considering it a window of opportunity to end all crises in the country. “Lawmakers should carry out their national task and elect a new head of state,” al-Rahi said during his sermon. The Patriarch reject vacuum at any cost “even for one day as it violates the national pact and the constitution.”
“Those who are seeking vacuum will be held responsible for its consequences.” Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances.
Most of the March 8 camp's MPs have boycotted four rounds of elections over their call for an agreement on a consensual president and their rejection of the candidacy of their foe Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea. A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of Suleiman's six-year tenure. Al-Rahi lashed out at reports saying that the premiership could replace the vacuum at the presidential post. “No one could replace the president,” he said, adding that all “personal and factional accounts are rejected.” There are fears that the vacuum in the country's top Christian post would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite. Outgoing President Michel Suleiman had continue sly reiterated that he will be at his home on May 25, as his term ends on May 24 when he is scheduled to deliver a farewell speech.

Two Rockets from Eastern Mountain Belt Hit Hermel
Naharnet/Two rockets fired fired on Sunday from the Eastern Mountain Range (on the Lebanese-Syrian border) landed on the outskirts of the Bekaa Valley towns of Hawr Taala. According to a communique issued by the army command, no casualties were reported. The statement said that an army unit headed to the targeted area and a military expert arrived at the scene to inspect the two rockets.
Media reports had earlier said that one rocket had targeted the heights of the Bekaa town of Brital. media reports said. LBCI said that the rocket was fired from Syrian territories. On saturday night several rockets hit on the Bekaa towns of Hermel and Arsal, without causing any fatalities. Since Hizbullah's intervention in the fighting in Syria, rockets from the Syrian side of the border have frequently landed mainly in Hermel and in Britel. Earlier in May, two rockets launched from the Eastern Mountain Range landed in the outskirts of the Baalbek town of Britel without causing any injuries. The assaults are usually claimed by Al-Nusra Front in Lebanon and the Islamic State in Iraq of Iraq and the Levant.

Higher Defense Council Discusses Security Plan, Suleiman Calls for Adoption of Defense Strategy
Naharnet/Outgoing President Michel Suleiman chaired a meeting on Sunday for the Higher Defense Council at the Baabda Palace. Suleiman called for safeguarding security agencies and providing the army with the necessary needs, the state-run National News Agency reported. He also urged officials to adopt the country's defense strategy. Higher Defense Council chief General Mohammed Kheir, who read the statement, said that high-ranking security officials briefed gatherers on the implemented security measures and the course of a security plan implemented in the northern city of Tripoli and the northern Bekaa valley. Kheir said that Prime Minister Tammam Salam also discussed the local political situation and the stability of institutions. Salam also called on politicians to further support the security plan.
The security plan was first implemented in Tripoli in an attempt to put an end to the clashes that frequently erupt between the city's rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.
It was then implemented in the Bekaa region, with the security forces cracking down on gunmen, car theft gangs, and other outlaws.

Rival Parties Discussing Four Names to Presidency, Qahwaji a Key Candidate
Naharnet/Political arch-foes limited discussions over the presidential candidates to four names, a list which doesn't include any prominent Christian leader, An Nahar newspaper reported on Sunday.
According to the daily, Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji is a key candidate on the four-name list. Sources told the newspaper that Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun have been seeking to eliminate any chance that Qahwaji has to be elected at the helm of the country's most important Christian post by pressing the appointment of the Military Council as a whole package.
However, outgoing President Michel Suleiman blocked Aoun's attempt by preventing the cabinet session, which was held on Friday, from meeting at the Baabda Palace to avoid discussing the appointments of the Military Council. The current council is comprised of Qahwaji, Chief of Staff Walid Salman, and General Secretary of the Higher Defense Council Major General Mohammed Kheir.
The vacancies in the Military Council have existed for over a year following the retirement of Michel Mnayyar, Nicolas Mezher, and Abdul Rahman al-Shehaitli. However, the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa said that Aoun expressed readiness to swap the presidential post for the Army command.  The newspaper said that Aoun is negotiating the extension the term of Suleiman by one year in return to the appointment of his son-in-law General Shamel Roukoz and the head of the Army Commando Unit as the army chief. Suleiman had continue sly reiterated that he will be at his home on May 25, as his term ends on May 24 when he is scheduled to deliver a farewell speech. Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. Most of the March 8 camp's MPs have boycotted four rounds of elections over their call for an agreement on a consensual president and their rejection of the candidacy of their foe Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea. A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of Suleiman's six-year tenure. There are fears that the vacuum in the country's top Christian post would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.

Berri Expresses Hope Last-Minute Solution to Presidential Deadlock

Naharnet/Speaker Nabih Berri said that electing a new president might be at the last-minute ahead of the end of outgoing President Michel Suleiman's term next week. The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, published on Sunday, quoted Berri's visitors as saying: “The only window of opportunity remaining is reaching consensus over a candidate ahead of May 25.”“We might witness the election of a new president,” the speaker pointed out. He stressed that “he didn't hesitate in calling (on the political arch-foes) to secure the necessary quorum for all the parliamentary sessions set to elect a new president.” According to the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa newspaper, Berri decided to call on the parliament for two consecutive sessions next week if lawmakers failed to elect a new head of state on May 22. The two sessions will be held on Friday and Saturday. A fifth round of polls is scheduled to be held next Thursday, two days before the expiry of Suleiman's six-year tenure. Suleiman had continue sly reiterated that he will be at his home on May 25, as his term ends on May 24 when he is scheduled to deliver a farewell speech. Parliament has so far failed to elect a new president over differences between the March 8 and 14 alliances. Most of the March 8 camp's MPs have boycotted four rounds of elections over their call for an agreement on a consensual president and their rejection of the candidacy of their foe Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea. There are fears that the vacuum in the country's top Christian post would affect Lebanon's power-sharing agreement under which the president should be a Maronite, the premier a Sunni and the speaker a Shiite.

Salam still hopeful on electing president

May 18, 2014/The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Tammam Salam said in remarks published Sunday that he remained hopeful for the election of a new president within the constitutional deadline and urged rival groups to exert the necessary efforts to do so. “I still haven’t reached the hopelessness stage, [I still believe] that the consensus which led to forming my Cabinet will also lead to electing a new president before May 25,” Salam told pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily. “If the March 14 and the March 8 coalitions do what is necessary, there should be no problem in electing president." The prime minister also said that there would be no vacuum if the election for President Michel Sleiman’s successor was not achieved on time.  “There would be no power vacuum if no president was elected; if we apply Article 62 of the Constitution, the Cabinet can assume the president’s powers,” he said. Salam warned Maronite leaders against opposing the Cabinet exercising that power during any void in the presidency, saying such rejection “would affect the situation in general and the legislative power too.” Lebanon has only a week left to elect a new president after five attempts to vote on a new head of state have failed.
The prime minister, due to visit Riyadh early this week, said there was no delay in the implementation of last year’s Saudi grant to Lebanon Army. “The agreement on the types of weapons has come a long way and there are no obstacles along its track,” he said. Salam stressed that the $3 billion Saudi grant was “unprecedented and the duty in thanking the Saudi Kingdom for its generous gesture toward Lebanon comes before anything else.” As for the impact of the Saudi-Iranian dialogue on Lebanon, Salam said that “it is not necessary that the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would reflect on the details of Lebanese affairs.”“However, it is only natural [for Lebanon] to make good use of such collaboration in various ways,” he said. Salam is set to meet with Saudi King Abdullah and top Saudi officials during his visit to the kingdom. Media reports said he would also meet former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

Jumblatt, Abu Faour leave for Paris
May 18, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt and Health Minister Wael Abu Faour left Sunday for Paris, the National News Agency reported.Media reports said earlier that Jumblatt was set to meet with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, who is currently in the French capital.

March 14 working on compromise, consensus deal

May 18, 2014/The Daily Star /BEIRUT: March 14 leaders are working down to the wire to break the stalemate over the next president, with efforts underway to convince Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to withdraw from the race in favor of a consensus candidate. Political sources told The Daily Star that in light of the impossibility of intra-Christian accord, various political groups had come to realize that a consensus candidate was the best way to avert vacuum.  The sources said that the main point being discussed within the March 14 coalition was abiding by Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai's demand to hold elections before the constitutional deadline of May 25. The sources said that as a first step toward that goal, the March 14 leaders were seriously discussing how to convince Geagea to withdraw from the race and back a consensus candidate that all groups across the political divide could accept. The sources said that such an agreement with Geagea would pave the way for former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to discuss the idea of a consensus candidate with Aoun. As the March 14 coalition worked on a possible compromise, Speaker Nabih Berri held out hope for a last-minute breakthrough in the election, visitors quoted him as saying in a report published Sunday.
“The opportunity to elect a new president can occur at the last minute ahead of May 25,” the speaker’s visitors said in the report published by pan-Arab Al-Hayat daily.
“We just need to reach a consensus ... and we can still achieve the election of a president,” he was quoted as saying.
Berri has called another session on May 22 to vote for the new president, after Parliament failed in its fifth attempt to choose a successor to President Michel Sleiman.
A possible vacuum in the presidential post is likely unless an overnight settlement between rival political forces is achieved.
Al-Hayat said officials were intensifying contacts to avoid a vacuum and said Berri would call for more sessions before the May 25 end of Sleiman’s term.
Berri will call for Parliament sessions on May 23 and May 24 if Parliament fails to elect a new head of state on May 22, the daily said.
According to Al-Hayat’s report, Geagea met with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal over the weekend in Paris, while holding a separate meeting with former Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Faisal, who is currently in the French capital, is set to hold a meeting with Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt later Sunday.
Geagea was the first to announce his presidential candidacy. However, the March 14 candidate has been rejected by the March 8 forces and centrists, particularly Jumblatt.
Another Christian leader, Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun, is seeking to emerge as a “consensus” president while adopting a policy of openness to rival political parties, mainly the Future Movement. The Al-Jarida Kuwaiti daily said that the chances of Aoun to become president had gone “very high” in the wake of the recent Saudi-Iranian rapprochement.
Hariri held five-hour talks on the presidential bid earlier this month with Aoun’s son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil. Aoun has not announced his official candidacy.


Question: "What is the greatest commandment?"

Answer: Jesus was asked this very question by a Pharisee who was considered to be “an expert in the law” (Matthew 22:34–36). Jesus answered by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37–40).
Jesus gives us two commandments that summarize all the laws and commands in Scripture. The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 deal with our relationship with God and then our relationship with other people. One naturally flows out of the other. Without a right relationship with God, our relationships with others will not be right, either. The cause of the world’s problems is that man needs to be reconciled to God. We will never love our neighbor as ourselves if we do not first love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. All of man’s best efforts toward world peace will fail as long as men are living in rebellion against God.
When asked by another Pharisee how one could “inherit eternal life,” Jesus answered that it is by keeping these two commandments (Luke 10:25–37). Only two commandments to obey, yet how often do we, like this Pharisee, try to “justify” ourselves because saying we obey these commandments is much easier than really living according to them.
When carefully considered, Jesus’ answer was really a perfect response not only to the Pharisee of His day, but also to all modern-day “Pharisees” who try measure a person’s righteousness by how well he conforms outwardly to a series of laws or commandments. Both the Pharisees of Christ’s day and today’s many versions create a whole system of rules and regulations for people to live by and yet are guilty of breaking the most important commandments of all because they “cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but not the inside” (Matthew 23:25–26).
When we prayerfully consider Jesus’ words and the fact that all the laws and commands in Scripture can really be summarized by these two commandments, we understand just how impossible it is for us to keep God’s commandments and how often we fail to do so and can therefore never be righteous before God on our own accord. That only leaves us with one hope, and that is that God “justifies the ungodly” (Romans 4:5). God’s law and our failure to keep it “brings about wrath” (Romans 4:15), but “God demonstrates His own love toward us that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
While we will never keep God’s commandments or be righteous before Him by our own efforts, Christ did. It is His sacrificial death on the cross that causes our sins to be imputed to Him and His righteousness imputed to us (Romans 4—5). That is why “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9–10). After all, the gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,” for “the just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:16–17).
Because Jesus answered this very question and His answer is recorded in Scripture, we don’t have to wonder or search for the answer ourselves. The only question left for us to answer is do we live according to these commandments? Do we truly love God with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds, and do we really love our neighbor as ourselves? If we are truthful with ourselves, we know that we do not, but the good news is that the law and commandments were given as “a tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). Only as we realize our sinfulness and hopelessness will we turn to Christ alone as the only hope of salvation.
As Christians, we strive to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and as our hearts and minds are transformed by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit we are able to begin to love others as ourselves. Yet we still fail to do so, which again drives us back to the cross of Christ and the hope of salvation that stems from the imputed righteousness of Christ and not from any merit of our own.
Recommended Resources: Words From the Fire: Hearing the Voice of God in the 10 Commandments by R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Logos Bible Software.


Of thuggish journalists and their masters
Saturday, 17 May 2014
Hisham Melhem/AlArabiya

The coordinated media campaign against Hanin Ghaddar was crude and malicious. The objective was to intimidate her into silence, and barring that to raise the specter of violence against her because she dared to criticize Hezbollah’s disastrous military intervention in Syria, and had the temerity to call out Iran’s malevolent role in Syria and Lebanon, during a conference in Washington last week. Ghaddar, the managing editor of NOW English, a successful website based in Beirut, is an accomplished journalist known for her sharp and courageous criticism of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, the so-called Axis of rejection and resistance.
Like the hyenas on the Serengeti Plain in Africa which hunt in packs by circling their victim from different directions then attack relentlessly, the Hezbollah media mouthpieces, who were on the prowl for Ghaddar for some time, launched their attack before her return to Beirut hoping to score a quick kill. The intimidation was intense to the point that some distant members of her family allegedly issued a statement ‘disowning’ Hanin, a shameful tactic that has been used in the past by Hezbollah against its Shiite critics by terrorizing their families and distant relatives, to shun, ostracize and isolate the offender.
Thought control and mythmaking
The attack on Hanin Ghaddar, was waged by members of the thuggish journalist militia that serves Hezbollah and its masters in Iran as the premier thought control and mythmaking instrument in Lebanon. These journalists, along with an assortment of intellectuals and political hacks have managed to exploit Hezbollah’s battlefield tactical successes against the Israeli army (before and after its withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000) to weave a complex web of myths around Hezbollah’s supposed invincibility, and deterrence. They created a new parlance designed to make Hezbollah untouchable and above criticism, elevating it into a status equal, if not more important than the Lebanese state. Hezbollah has become, in the collective memory of many Lebanese at one time, synonymous with “resistance”. Hezbollah needed this new mythical status to justify maintaining its arsenal and its military structure after the withdrawal of Israel from Southern Lebanon. The mythmaking included deceptive assurances from Hezbollah and its legions of propagandists that it will never turn its guns on fellow Lebanese, and that its mighty sword will be sharpened exclusively for use against the Israelis. In this manufactured political environment, criticizing the “resistance’ is tantamount to treason.
The people, the army and the resistance
Hezbollah’s mythmaking and thought control was so successful in the past to the point that they controlled and influenced almost the whole political class in the country. Even after they turned their guns on fellow Lebanese in 2008, briefly occupying West Beirut and unleashing their thugs to burn their rival’s television station and newspaper and laying siege to the Prime Minister’s office, they managed to forced their opponents to recognize their status as a non-state actor equal to the Lebanese state. They cowed their weak and fractured opponents in the March 14 movement to include in each ministerial document after the formation of a new cabinet a reference to the so-called “tripartite formula of the people, army and the resistance”. In 2008 Hezbollah brought the whole political class in Lebanon to the airport to give a hero’s welcome to a Lebanese prisoner released by Israel after many years of incarceration following his conviction of shooting in cold blood a 28 year old Israeli civilian and smashing the head of his 4 year old daughter with the butt of his rifle.
The baseless case against Hanin Ghaddar
On May 12, Al-Akhbar newspaper, an influential daily that supports the tripartite alliance of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran published an unsigned editorial titled “ A Lebanese journalist competes with (Ehud) Barak” the former Israeli Prime Minister. Ghaddar was invited by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy to participate in a panel discussion of “Syria and Its Repercussions” along with Monzer Akbik representing the Syrian Opposition Coalition, and moderated by the Institute’s Syria expert Andrew Tabler. Al-Akhbar, and the other Hezbollah mouthpieces, created the erroneous impression that Ghaddar was on the same panel with Ehud Barak, who was one of many speakers invited to the Institute’s annual conference. After criticizing the Institute’s well known support for Israel, the editorial claimed that Ghaddar instead of discussing the war in Syria she focused on what the audience wanted to hear, that is Iran’s plan for “regional dominance” and the role of Hezbollah “Iran’s regional militia” and how Hezbollah’s role in Syria is stoking the Sunni-Shiite war. The editorial was indignant that Ghaddar referred to Hezbollah’s “resistance brigades” a reference to their enforcers in Lebanon as “thugs”.
Rarely a week passes by without a journalist, or a blogger or a commentator is harassed, jailed unfairly, beaten or assassinated
On the same day, Hezbollah’s television Al-Manar joined the fray, perpetuating the lie that Ghaddar spoke in the presence of Ehud Barak ( a violation of Lebanese Law) and accused her of “going beyond “ Barak in attacking “the resistance” and the Lebanese army. The television station interviewed someone representing something called “the campaign to boycott Israel’s supporters” who accused Ghaddar of committing “serious” violations of Lebanese laws, such as inciting against Lebanese institutions, primarily the army and calling on the authorities to interrogate her. Other media, including the Free Patriotic Movement’s followed suit.
Context and pretext
The attack on Hanin Ghaddar comes in the context of a renewed campaign by Hezbollah’s media machine against the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, STL investigating the Assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri and others, which accused Al-Akhbar's editor-in-chief Ibrahim Al-Amin of contempt for his refusal to appear at a hearing at The Hague. Al-Akhbar and Al-Jadeed TV, another supporter of the Axis of Resistance were charged with “knowingly and willfully interfering with the administration of justice by broadcasting and/or publishing information on purported confidential witnesses”. The publication of a confidential list of witnesses was seen as an egregious violation of the law covering the working of the STL, and an outright intimidation of the witnesses, if not an incitement to commit violence against them.
Hezbollah’s media machine succeeded in framing the controversy over the SPL charges, as an assault by the SPL against “Lebanon, and against freedoms in Lebanon” according to Al-Amin who claims that SPL is an “enemy” of Lebanon and is devoid of any moral legitimacy. On Al-Manar television, broadcasters and commentators accuse the SPL of committing terror against Lebanon, and its traditions of free expression. Mr. Al-Amin who defended Hezbollah’s attacks in 2008 against the media outlets of its political opponents, is claiming now that he is hounded by the SPL because he is a fighter in the cause of press freedom. In recent weeks, many Lebanese journalists held sit-ins and solidarity meetings at the Press Syndicate headquarters in Beirut to show support for Al-Amin, and the other broadcasters at Al-Jadeed TV. Few voices dared to expose this collective hypocrisy and denial on the part of journalists in Lebanon, a country that once had the most diverse, thriving and freewheeling media in the Middle East. What was scandalous about this shameful display of cowardice and deceit is the fact that while the SPL is tasked primarily with prosecuting those responsible for the assassination of PM Hariri and 21 others, its mandate also covers “connected cases”, a reference to a series of assassinations that followed the killing of PM Hariri, including prominent Journalists such as Samir Qasir and Gebran Tueni of Annahar newspaper, who were known for their courageous criticism of Syria’s domination of Lebanon and Hezbollah’s complicity in Syria’s crimes in Lebanon. Mr. Al-Amin, the fake defender of press freedom in Lebanon has no compunction whatsoever in demonizing the critics of Hezbollah and inciting against them. In one of his television appearances he intoned that anyone who calls for disarming “the resistance” is an “Israeli agent” and such Lebanese should “prove to us” repeatedly that they are “good Lebanese”. This is the man that many Lebanese journalists are defending.
Before Ghaddar’s return to Beirut, many Lebanese took to social media to defend her right to express herself freely, and a campaign was launched in solidarity with her. The organization Media Against Violence, condemned as “cheap and malicious” the thuggish Hezbollah media smear campaign against Ghaddar. The NGO correctly charged that the campaign against Ghaddar “legitimizes the shedding of her blood by accusing her of participating in a conference in Washington [along with] former Israeli PM Ehud Barak”. The statement added “ Ghaddar was the mouthpiece of every Lebanese who adheres to their sovereignty, independence and free choice, whereas the real traitors are those who are trying to put an end to the STL with iron and fire through their cheap fabrications, and through keeping Lebanon under the yoke of the Iranian guardianship”.
Ghaddar, published on her website a poignant rebuttal of the core campaign against her, demonstrating first that she did not violate Lebanese laws, and telling her detractors “my patriotism is not defined according to the political allegiance of the aforementioned media outlets, which need to have their patriotism tested due to the threats and accusation of treason in some of their writings against me and other colleagues”. Finally, Ghaddar reminded her critics that everything she said in Washington she has written and published in Beirut. Unfortunately, very few voices were raised to defend Ghaddar’s rights in the mainstream media in Lebanon, and so far the very well-known columnists are not defending her, and defending themselves since they too could potentially be victimized by the same thuggish journalist militia.
Once upon a time
The relative silence of the media in Lebanon in this case, is a reflection of Lebanon’s diminishing traditions of free media and unhindered intellectual debates. There was a time when an attempt to ban a book would spark a storm among intellectuals and journalists. In 1969, the gifted progressive Syrian intellectual Sadiq Jalal Al-Azm published a collection of essays on religion titled “Naqd al-Fikr al-Dini”, Critique of Religious Thought, in which he exposed how Arab governments and the intellectuals and religious institutions that support them exploit the religious beliefs of their people to cover-up for their abject failure in governance.
He was charged with sedition and was imprisoned briefly. His trial in Beirut became a cause célèbre, and he received a wide support from other intellectuals, journalists and civil society in general. I met Sadiq, during his trial, when a group of us (mostly late teens and early twenties) made a point of going to court to show our solidarity with him. The charges were dropped later and the book, which created an impressive debate, became a best seller. Years later, following the infamous Fatwa against Salman Rushdi, Al-Azm published another collection of essays on the controversy, but this time book stores in Beirut would not display the book in the open, and a limited number of copies were sold clandestinely. As Bob Dylan would say “The Times They Are a-Changin.”
They shoot journalists, don’t they?
Journalists like Al-Amin do exist and serve obediently the powers that be in most Arab states. But there are many reporters, editors and columnists, who practice the craft honorably and professionally, and in most cases do so against tremendous challenges and threats of physical elimination.
Rarely a week passes by without a journalist, or a blogger or a commentator is harassed, jailed unfairly, beaten or assassinated. And when it comes to journalists, sometimes the opposition groups, particularly the armed ones, have proven to be as lethal as the structures of repression at the disposal of Arab governments. According to The Committee to Protect Journalists’ report on journalists killed in 2013, the three deadliest countries are Arab states: Syria: 28, Iraq: 10, Egypt: 6. In the Arab world they shoot journalists, don’t they?

US accepts Shahab-3s in Iran’s missile arsenal, but not long-range ICBMs. Deep resentment in Jerusalem
DEBKAfile Special Report May 18, 2014/Two high-ranking US visitors to Israel, National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, publicly assured Israel this month that the Obama administration “would do what it must” to prevent Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. Yet at the same time, the same administration informed Tehran that the demand to restrict Iran’s missile arsenal did not apply to the Shahab-3 ballistic missile, whose range of 2,100km covers any point in the Middle East, including Israel. This missile carries warheads weighing 760 kg, to 1.1 tons, which may also be nuclear.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon challenged both Rice and Hagel on this omission. It came to light from Washington’s demand, in its direct dialogue with Tehran outside the framework of the six-power talks in Vienna, to place restrictions on Iran’s arsenal of ICBMs whose 4,000 km range places Europe and the United States at risk.
The Obama administration said it was not demanding restrictions on the medium-range missiles capable “only” of striking Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. But the comprehensive nuclear accord when it is finally negotiated must apply restrictions on the Sajjil1, Safir, Simorg (satellite launcher), Ashura1 and Ashura2 (other versions of the Sajjil class).
But this US “concession” did not placate Tehran. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei burst out on May 11: “They expect us to limit our missile program while they constantly threaten Iran with military action. So this is a stupid idiotic expectation.” He thereupon ordered missile plants to shift to mass production.
Hagel was not just queried in Israel on this point, but also by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council, when he attended their defense ministers’ meeting in Jeddah Wednesday, May 14. Saudi Crown Prince Salman was in the chair.
When Hagel assured those present that their countries had nothing to fear from the rapprochement between Washington and Tehran, he was asked to fully explain President Obama’s policy on Iran’s missile arsenal. He replied that the plan was to establish a common anti-missile defense network for the region.
In Jerusalem, the defense secretary assured Netanyahu and Ya’alon that the close US-Israeli collaboration in maintaining one of the most sophisticated anti-missile shields in the world was sufficient security against Iranian Shahab-3 ballistic missiles.
A joint US-Israeli exercise against missile attack, Cobra Juniper, which takes place every two years, began Sunday, May 18, with the participation of 1,000 US servicemen.
However, neither Jerusalem nor the Gulf leaders accepted Washington’s explanations. Their disquiet was further exacerbated by the failure of latest round of nuclear negotiations with the six powers, which took place in Vienna Thursday, May 15, to bridge gaps between the sides and so prevented a start on the drafting of a final accord.
These widening gaps reflect the growing controversy over nuclear diplomacy in Tehran.
Saturday night, May 17, President Hassan Rouhani speaking to associates at a private meeting voiced his frustration with Khamenei: “That person thinks he knows everything and lays down policy without considering all the facts,” he complained.
Rouhani understands that tactical compromises will not bring about substantial relief from economic sanctions that at preying on his country. He is urging substantial concessions of Iran’s nuclear aspirations, enough to convince the world that his country is not after a nuclear weapon.
Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards have rejected this approach. They are not open to real concessions either on their nuclear program or missile arsenal. This intransigence shows no sign of softening under the Obama administration’s willingness for compromise at the expense of Iran’s potential targets.


Boko Haram and the Dynamics of Denial

by Mark Durie/Frontpage Magazine
May 15, 2014

It is a common refrain of pious Muslims in the face of atrocities done by other Muslims in the name of Islam that Islam must not be shamed. Whenever an Islamic atrocity potentially dishonors Islam, non-Muslims are asked to agree that 'This is not Islamic' so that the honor of Islam can be kept pristine. The real issue, however, is not what would be good or bad for Islam's reputation; Islam is not the victim here. The pressing issue is not to get people to think well of Islam, but how, for instance, in the case of Boko Haram's kidnapping of the Nigerian schoolgirls, the girls can be rescued and, above all, how Boko Haram's murderous rampage can be halted.
Qasim Rashid, an American Muslim, recently published on a heart-felt expression of deep distress at the kidnapping of Nigerian girls by Boko Haram ('What would Muhammad say to Boko Haram'). He declared that Muhammad himself would not recognize this group as acting in line with his teachings:
"Boko Haram's claim that Islam motivates their kidnappings is no different than Adolf Hitler's claim that Christianity motivated his genocide. This terrorist organization acts in direct violation of every Islamic teaching regarding women."
Qasim Rashid is not the only Muslim who has been speaking out in support of the kidnapped girls, while denying that their plight has anything to do with Islam (see here).
Qasim Rashid is a member of the Ahmaddiyah community, which is regarded as unorthodox by most Muslims. Indeed Ahmaddiyahs are often severely persecuted for their beliefs in Islamic nations. Although Qasim Rashid does not speak for mainstream Islam, he is nevertheless to be commended for speaking up against Boko Haram's repugnant acts.
But does the claim that Boko Haram is not Islamic hold up to scrutiny?
What counts as a valid manifestation of Islam? Ahmaddiyah beliefs can be considered Islamic, for those who hold them do so on the basis of a reasoned interpretation of Islamic canonical sources, even if the majority of Muslims reject them as Muslims. By the same token, the beliefs of Boko Haram must also be considered a form of Islam, for they too are held on the basis of a reasoned interpretation of Islamic canonical sources.
It needs to be acknowledged that Boko Haram has not arisen in a vacuum. As Andrew Bostom has pointed out, violent opposition to non-Islamic culture has been a feature of Nigerian Islam for centuries. Today this hatred is being directed against Western education and secular government, but in the past it was indigenous Africa cultures which were targeted for brutal treatment, including enslavement and slaughter. The modern revival of absolutist Sharia-compliant Islam in the north of Nigeria is a process which has deep roots in history. It has also been in progress for decades. Khalid Yasin, an African American convert to Islam and globe-trotting preacher, waxed lyrical about the advance of Sharia law in Nigeria on Australian national radio in 2003:
"If we look at the evolution of the Sharia experiment in Nigeria for instance. It's just a wonderful, phenomenal experience. It has brought about some sweeping changes, balances, within the society, regulations in terms of moral practices and so many things. …What did the Sharia provide? Always dignity, protection, and the religious rights?"
But let us consider the evidence Qasim Rashid gives for his view that Muhammad would disown Boko Haram. His arguments can be summarized as follows:
•'Boko Haram violates the Koran 24:34 [i.e. Sura 24:33] which commands, "and force not your women to unchaste life," i.e. [this is] a condemnation of Boko Haram's intention to sell these girls into prostitution.'
•'They violate Koran 4:20 [i.e. Sura 4:19] which declares, "it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will; nor should you detain them," i.e. a specific repudiation of Boko Haram's kidnapping and detention.'
•'Prophet Muhammad's dying words embodied these commandments. He implored, "Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers."'
•The seeking of knowledge is an obligation on all Muslims, including 'secular knowledge'.
•'Islam … commands female education.'
Although Qasim Rashid's views are sincerely held, his reasoning is weak. Let us consider his points in order.
Compel not your slave-girls — Sura 24:33
Contra Qasim Rashid, Sura 24:33 does not say 'force not your women' but:
"… compel not your slave-girls to prostitution when they desire to keep chaste, in order to seek the frail goods of this world's life. And whoever compels them, then surely after their compulsion Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." (The Quran translation used here is cited from a translation by Ahmaddiya scholar Muhammad Maulana Ali)."
The word translated 'slave-girl' here can also mean a young woman, but in this passage it clearly refers to female slaves. A standard interpretation of this verse by Sunni commentators – such as Ibn Kathir – is that if someone owns a slave girl, he should not prostitute her, but if he does, Allah will forgive her.
Strictly speaking, this verse does not appear to apply to the situation of the Nigerian girls taken by Boko Haram. The outrage is that they were taken captive and enslaved in the first place, becoming what the Koran refers to as 'those whom your right hand possesses'. That they may have been raped by their captors seems highly likely, but this is not the same thing as being prostituted to produce income for their owners. Islam permits men to have sexual intercourse with their slave women, and also to sell them into the service of another, but it frowns on hiring them out for prostitution.
In Sura 33:50 of the Koran it is stated that it was permissible for Muhammad to have sex with his female slaves:
"O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowries, and those whom thy right hand possesses, out of those whom Allah has given thee as prisoners of war"
In verse 23:6, this prerogative is extended to Muslim believers:
"Successful indeed are the believers … who restrain their sexual passions except in the presence of their mates [their wives], of those whom their right hands possess."
The actions and teaching of Muhammad also support the practice of sexual slavery for women taken captive in jihad. Chapter 547 of the Sahih Muslim, a revered collection of sayings of Muhammad considered reliable by most Muslims, is entitled 'It is permissible to have sexual intercourse with a captive woman…'. Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, the translator and editor of the Sahih Muslim, added the following footnote to this chapter:
"As for the expression malakat aymanukum (those whom your right hands possess) [it] denotes slave-girls, i.e. women who were captured in the Holy War … sexual intercourse with these women is lawful with certain conditions."
Boko Haram is reported to be intending to sell the girls at a slave market. This is no doubt based upon the precedent of Muhammad's own practice. There are many examples from Muhammad's actions and those of his companions which could be cited. For example, after putting the men of the Jewish Quraiza tribe in Medina to the sword, Muhammad's biographer Ibn Isaq reports that he sold some of the Jewish women and used the money to buy horses and weapon:
"Then the apostle divided the property, wives, and children of B. Qurayza among the Muslims, and he made known on that day the shares of horse and men, and took out the fifth. … Then the apostle sent Sa'd b. Zayd al-Ansari brother of b. 'Abdu'l-Ashhal with some of the captive women of B. Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons." (Sirat Rasul Allah, by Ibn Ishaq)
The rest of the Jewish slaves were divided among the Muslims. Muhammad himself took one of the leading Jewish women, Rayhana, for his concubine, but she refused to marry him:
The apostle had chosen one of their women for himself, Rayhana d. 'Amr b. Khunafa, one of the women of B. 'Amr b. Qurayza, and she remained with him until she died, in his power. The apostle had proposed to marry her and put the veil on her, but she said: 'Nay, leave me in your power, for that will be easier for me and for you.'" (Sirat Rasul Allah, by Ibn Ishaq).
Rayhana, who became Muhammad's concubine by capture in warfare, is revered to this day as one of the 'wives' of the prophet of Islam.
In addition to the support for this practice found in the Islamic canon, historical sources give ample evidence that enslavement of women as captives of war and resulting sexual servitude has been a persistent feature of Islamic warfare conducted by pious Muslims. Consider for example the report of Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani, Saladin's chronicler, of the fate of 8,000 Christian women in Jerusalem who were unable to pay a ransom for their release after the conquest of that city by Saladin:
"Women and children together came to 8,000 and were quickly divided up among us, brining a smile to Muslim faces at their lamentations. How many well-guarded women were profaned, how many queens were ruled and nubile girls married, and noble women given away, and miserly women forced to yield themselves, and women who had been kept hidden stripped of their modesty, and serious women made ridiculous, and women kept in private now set in public, and free women occupied, and precious ones used for hard work, and pretty things put to the test, and virgins dishonoured and proud women deflowered, and lovely women's red lips kissed, and dark women prostrated, and untamed ones tamed, and happy ones made to weep!" (Arab Historians of the Crusades, ed. by Francesco Gabrieli, pp. 96-97).
It is has been widely accepted by Islamic jurists down the ages that Islam permits Muslim men to have sex with women who have come into their possession through being taken captive in war, either because they personally captured them, or because they acquired them by purchase or gift from another. Indeed this was the legal basis in Islam for the harem system: the women of the harem were mainly sourced from jihad campaigns waged against non-Muslim communities.
It is simply incredible that Qasim Rashid would quote a verse which prohibits Muslim men from hiring out their concubines for sex as evidence that Islam is against the use of sexual violence against captive women. If we are supposed to deny the label 'Islamic' to Boko Haram, are we also to conclude that Saladin and even Muhammad himself cannot be called Muslims?
Inheriting and troubling wives — Sura 4:19
Sura 4:19 is another passage cited by Qasim Rashid. Maulana Muhammad Ali's translation throws a different light on this passage:
"O you who believe, it is not lawful for you to take women as heritage [i.e. to inherit them] against their will. Nor should you straiten them by taking part of what you have given them …".
The standard explanation of this verse is that it prohibited two practices: a man 'inheriting' the wife of his male relative, which had apparently been a pagan Arab custom before Islam; and oppressing one's wife in order to make her seek a divorce, so that she will pay back the bride-price. This latter practice had been occurring in Muhammad's time, because if a Muslim man divorced a wife, he was not entitled to any financial compensation, but if a woman initiated divorce proceedings, she had to compensate him for her bride-price. (See Ibn Kathir and also Muhammad Ali's explanation in footnotes which both concur with the explanation given here.)
Sura 4:19 is thus not a prohibition against detaining women: it has absolutely nothing to do with the situation of the captured Nigerian girls.
Treating Your Women Well:
With regard to Muhammad's command to Muslims to treat their wives well, these words could apply as an instruction for the men who have married the captured girls, taking them as their wives. It says nothing, however, about the issue of their capture, enslavement or sale.
On Seeking Secular Knowledge:
With regard to Qasim Rashid's next point, most pious Muslims would agree that seeking knowledge, including Western scientific knowledge, is an obligation for Muslims. Most Muslims do not agree with Boko Haram's desire to banish all learning apart from Islamic instruction. However antipathy to non-Islamic education and knowledge has had a long history in Islamic thought. This is not a new idea, nor even a particularly aberrant one, but is part of the broad range of Islamic theological perspectives.
Learned Muslim Women in the Past:
With regard to Qasim Rashid's fifth argument, it is of course possible to find examples in history of capable Muslim women who were well-educated. On the other hand there are traditions of Muhammad which denigrate the intellectual capacity of women, such as the following:
Once Allah's Apostle went out to [to pray] … Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle ?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you …" The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion." (Sahih Bukhari, Book 6, Hadith 301)
In any case, asking what Muhammad would say on the subject of educating women is irrelevant to what Boko Haram has done. It did not attack the girls' school because Boko Haram believes women should not be educated. They did it because they are opposed to secular, non-Islamic education per se, and they believe they have the right to kill, enslave and plunder people who they count as their enemies. They also wish to terrorize their enemies by stirring up as much fear and emotional trauma to them as possible.
Islam Is Not The Victim Here:
Qasim Rashid writes: "Do not give the terrorists known as Boko Haram the dignity of attributing any religion to their name." This is a common refrain of pious Muslims in the face of atrocities done by other Muslims in the name of Islam: whenever an atrocity dishonors Islam, non-Muslims are asked to agree that 'This is not Islamic' so that the honor of Islam can be kept pristine.
However the real issue is not what might be good or bad for Islam's reputation. The sight of Boko Haram's leader saying on video that 'by Allah' he will go to market and sell the captive girls, because his religion permits him to do so, has already dishonored Islam. Muhammad and Saladin, by their actions, could equally be considered to have dishonored Islam, but this is beside the point. The real challenge here is not preserving the honor of Islam, but what can be done to counter Boko Haram.
What is crystal clear is that nothing can be gained by denial of the truth about the jihadis' religious ideology. Other Muslims may — and do! — disagree with Boko Haram's beliefs. That is a not a bad thing. But what will not help anyone – least of all the victims of this outrage – is putting forward weak arguments that no-one should judge Islam on the basis of Boko Haram's actions. That line of thought is completely irrelevant to addressing the problem.
Islam is not the victim here. The pressing issue here is not to get people to think well of Islam, but how these girls can be rescued, and above all how Boko Haram's murderous rampage can be halted.
To achieve progress with this second goal it is necessary first and foremost to acknowledge the theological character of the challenge. In historical contexts, such as colonial India and the Dutch East Indies, colonial governments were able to turn the tide on long-running and costly Islamic insurgencies by acknowledging the religious character of the challenge they were facing – that they were up against a jihad. This enabled them to pursue appropriate strategies, such as:
•Getting leading mainstream Muslim scholars to issue credible rulings (fatwas) which declared the specific jihad insurgency to be sinful and forbidden by Islam. (Such fatwas continue to be used by Islamic regimes today to counter their home-grown insurgents.)
•Making it a primary military objective to pursue and take out the ideologues – Islamic clerics – who were driving the insurgency through recruitment and religious formation of the jihadi combatants. It is essential to cut off the flow of ideology. US Navy Seals may be able to go in and rescue the kidnapped girls, but many more girls will continue to be kidnapped until the transmission of the ideology is disrupted.
Attempting to persuade non-Muslim Westerners that Islam is not the problem actually makes it much harder to formulate an effective strategy for countering jihadi insurgencies. The aversion of the US State Department to acknowledge that Boko Haram was an Islamic religious movement – they only classified it as a banned terrorist organization in late 2013 – has had a crippling effect on America's ability to make a difference in Nigeria (see Nina Shea's analysis).
Boko Haram will not be contained by sending in hostage negotiation experts, or making public statements about poverty, disadvantage and 'poor government service delivery'. These are not the cause of all this hatred. Acknowledging the potent religious roots of the insurgency movement is the basic first step in shaping a credible response. To accept this is not the same as saying that Boko Haram's interpretation of Islam is correct. One can be completely agnostic about what is or is not true Islam but yet grasp that Boko Haram is an interpretation of Islam, which at least for its followers has become the most compelling interpretation around. Finding a solution to the challenge of Boko Haram can only start from this premise.
**Mark Durie is a theologian, human rights activist, pastor of an Anglican church, and an Associate Fellow at the Middle Eastern Forum. He has published many articles and books on the language and culture of the Acehnese, Christian-Muslim relations and religious freedom. A graduate of the Australian National University and the Australian College of Theology, he has held visiting appointments at the University of Leiden, MIT, UCLA and Stanford, and was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1992.

Palestinian Magical Thinking
by Jonathan Spyer/PJ Media
So April 29th has passed, and the nine-month period allotted by the current U.S. administration for its effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has come and gone. Entirely predictably, it has failed, in its entirety.
What can be learned from the failure? And what may be expected to happen now?
The failure of the talks was predictable first and foremost because of the irreconcilable positions of the sides. This is not a matter of small details, as is sometimes maintained. It isn't that the Palestinians want 99% of the West Bank while Israel will offer only 98%.
Palestinian nationalism in both its Fatah and Hamas variants rejects the possibility of accepting the permanence of Jewish statehood in any part of the area west of the Jordan River.
For the Palestinian Authority, the nine-month period of negotiations came as an unwelcome interruption to a very different strategy to which it will now return. This strategy consists of an attempt to place pressure on Israel through action in international forums to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state. Presumably the intended result of this is to induce Israel eventually to make concessions in return for nothing. The struggle would then continue for further concessions.
This strategy is unlikely to bear fruit, but its adoption follows a notable pattern in Palestinian politics – namely, the constant attempt to find an alternative to a negotiated peace based on compromise.
At the root of Palestinian perceptions is a very notable strategic optimism.
The Palestinians see themselves as part of the local majority Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslim culture. From this point of view, the establishment of a non-Muslim sovereignty in Israel was not only an injustice, it was also an anomaly. Israel, being an anomaly, is therefore bound eventually to be defeated and disappear. So there is no need to reconcile to it, with all the humiliation therein.
This core perception leads to the momentary embrace of all kinds of unlikely strategies, which are invested with tremendous hopes.
This pattern has been around for a while.
In the 1970s, in their first incarnation as an independent national movement, Palestinians believed that the long war strategy of the Palestinian terror organizations would serve to hollow out and destroy the hated Zionist entity, on the model of the FLN in Algeria.
In 1990/91, almost forgotten now, Palestinians en masse embraced the empty promises of Saddam Hussein to "burn half of Israel." Arafat went to Baghdad to embrace the Iraqi dictator.
In 2000, after the short Oslo period, Palestinians looked to Hizballah and its ideology of resistance as the model for what they hoped would be a successful military and terror campaign against Israel.
All these strategies failed. All turned out to be based on illusion.
In the meantime, the Jewish state went from strength to strength – absorbing millions of new immigrants, leaping ahead economically, diplomatically and militarily.
lace pressure on Israel through activism on the international stage is the latest example of this Palestinian magical thinking. It is likely to share the fate of its predecessors. The noisy BDS movement notwithstanding, Israel's position on the global stage remains strong.
Its alliance with the U.S., despite the utter lack of warmth from the current administration, remains strong at its core, reflected in cooperation on myriad levels, both military and economic.
Israel is forging ahead in constructing positive relationships with the emergent powers of India and China. It maintains very close and warm relations with Canada, Australia, Germany and other important western players. None of this is under threat from the automatic majority the Palestinians enjoy at the UN because of the Arab and Muslim blocs of states.
So Palestinian optimism regarding the model for defeating Israel is hard to understand. But then the faith placed in the previous approaches noted above also made little apparent sense.
What we are in for now is a period in which the current chimera will need to be played out. On the bright side, this means that a return to large-scale political violence is unlikely. The Palestinians were defeated heavily in the 2000-4 period, and there is little energy for a return to war.
The Palestinian elite and their children live comfortable and privileged lives in Ramallah and elsewhere in the region and beyond it. Combining this with diplomatic and political activity can be pleasant and rewarding. Combining it with military activity, by contrast, could be harmful and has already been proven not to work.
So expect more furious and pathos-filled denunciations of Israeli crimes from various UN committees largely staffed by the representatives of sundry dictatorships.
Expect Saeb Erekat and the others to come up with yet more inventive reasons as to why Islam and Arabic are "indigenous" to Jerusalem while Judaism and Hebrew represent foreign implants. And so on, and so forth.
And at the end of all this, expect more failure, more bewilderment and a pause until the next alternative to a negotiated peace is stumbled upon. This is the nature of the magical thinking that lies at the core of Palestinian Arab politics.
This politics, in its various manifestations, exists to reverse the verdict of the war of 1948. It has no other purpose.
Its credo was perfectly rendered in the words of the Moroccan scholar Abdallah Laroui, as quoted by Fouad Ajami: "On a certain day everything would be obliterated and instantaneously reconstructed and the new inhabitants would leave, as if by magic, the land they had despoiled; in this way will justice be dispensed to the victims, on that day when the presence of God shall again make itself felt.'
The language is elegant. The message is one of politicide and destruction. For as long as this credo remains at the root of Palestinian politics, peace between Israelis and Palestinians will remain unachievable. All else is mere detail.
**Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

 A third Maliki premiership would be disastrous for Iraq

By: Samir Shakir Sumaydee/Asharq Alawsat
Sunday, 18 May, 2014
Iraq is a devastated country whose people are exhausted. The country was destroyed by its leader, Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, who is ignorant and backwards. He tightened his grip on the country and made a mockery of everything in order to maintain his stranglehold. The people are worn down by the horrors that brought him to power. They were born and raised, for the most part, under a corrupt one-party system in a culture that venerated brute force with an absence of civil society institutions, which led to the mass emigration of elites and intellectuals. Iraqi society is in crisis, divided and rife with social and political ills, sectarianism, extremism, corruption and political violence.
This picture is grim but honest. However, it is not complete. The Iraqi people still mostly enjoy a rich social and cultural heritage that has been cultivated by suffering. They are dedicated, creative, and able to adapt and endure. They are often heroic and frequently make sacrifices. Iraq also has an abundant supply of oil that, if properly managed, could cover the cost of development in the country. But if this wealth is mismanaged, it could easily disappear. Bearing all that in mind, Iraq is in dire need of leadership that invests in its strengths, limits the impact of its weaknesses, and is keen to make the best use of its resources for the benefit of the public. Unfortunately, what has happened and continues to happen is the complete opposite of this.
With the arrival of the Americans and the end of Saddam’s dictatorship, there was hope the country would recover and rebuild. Many Iraqi specialists and professionals who had emigrated abroad returned to their homeland to participate in public service and reconstruction. An atmosphere of optimism prevailed, as confirmed by some of the studies and polls carried out at the time, and the possibility of a renaissance emerged.
But the Americans did not do any better in managing the country, for reasons that cannot be addressed here, and committed serious errors that allowed Islamists to call the shots in a democracy they do not even believe in. Political Islam is sectarian by nature; it relies on fuelling sectarianism and denuding the country’s fragile new democratic institutions—the very institutions that were established for the political Islamists themselves. With their new leader, Nuri Al-Maliki, at the helm charge, they were in no mood to loosen their grip on power.
In any case, when Maliki became prime minister for the first time, there was a majority in the country willing to back him. But it soon became apparent that he was hungry for power. Although he was forced to involve others as ministers or heads of institutions, he stacked the ministries’ senior management positions in favor of his supporters in order to control the ministries from the inside, so that ministers who were against him effectively became powerless. This is what made winning a second term so difficult for him—and why it was only achieved after 10 months, after he made guarantees and promises to actually share power with others. However, once he took office his breaches of the constitution skyrocketed as he raced against time to centralize most state powers into his own hands. He denied his opponents any authority and accused them of being terrorists, instead of attempting reconciliation and reunification in order to confront terrorism, which is everyone’s common enemy.
During these eight years, and through the tragedies we have seen, Maliki exploited the judiciary for his own ends. He placed the judiciary and state institutions under the control of the executive branch. He also brought the defense, interior and national security ministries under his control. We have also seen how he condones the actions of those involved in the embezzlement of astronomical amounts of state funds. In his second term, he exacerbated the resounding failures and scandals in his government in the fields of security, service and management, to the point that Iraq has become a failed state. Even worse than that, he has created crises and fuelled sectarian hatred as a way to maintain his own grip on power.
If we count the failures of Maliki’s government, even his supporters would demand that he step down.
This does not mean that the government has not done anything at all, or that it is entirely corrupt or incompetent. It also does not mean that all of Maliki’s projects and positions are wrong, or that his enemies and opponents are without blame. But if we look at the big picture here—the massive failures, the limited successes and the consequences of back-to-back Maliki premierships—we will see the full extent to which this government has failed.
In stable democracies, reluctance to innovate or reform is failure enough. But Maliki seeks to sabotage the very foundation upon which the democratic system is built in order to maintain a rule rooted firmly in authoritarianism, corruption and sectarianism—the results of which we see in the division and fragmentation in Iraq today. Corruption and sectarianism thrive on terrorism, using it as a justification to maintain power. Thus, to Maliki “reconstruction” means dedication to this devastating duo of corruption and sectarianism. The inevitable result has been and will continue to be the further deterioration and fragmentation of the country in an increasingly severe and bloody conflict.
As for the excuses offered in defense of a third term for Maliki, they are weak and do not match the grave risks of electing him again. We are tired of being repeatedly told that his failure was not for lack of action but because the man’s opponents obstructed his “achievements,” that corruption is not his fault but a social disease beyond his control. All of these justifications are easily refuted. Don’t be fooled.