The Pope, The Prophet and the Arabian Peninsula

5 February 2019 – Much is currently being made of Pope Francis’ visit to the United Arab Emirates. While this is an important step forward for religious freedom in the region it should be noted that it is taking place in the UAE. A place overwhelmingly occupied by foreigners. In fact, most of those attending mass during his visit will not be Arabs at all but expatriate Filippino workers.

The ‘big fish’ on the Arabian Peninsula, Saudi Arabia, is entirely unaffected by all of this. In fact, there is not a single legal church in the country (which is deeply ironic since Saudi Arabia sponsors the building of mosques all around the world). The shocking reality is that the Saudi authorities believe that their ban on non-Muslim places of worship follows the wishes of the ‘prophet’ Muhammad who is believed to have expelled all Christians and Jews from the peninsula just before his death.

Here is the relevant tradition (hadith): “Umar heard the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) say: I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims…” (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 4366)

One wonders whether Pope Francis will denounce this complete denial of the principle of freedom of religion during his visit.

Somehow I’m not holding my breath.

Apostasy: What are we Missing?

Rahaf Alqunun speaking after her arrival in Canada

Much was made in the media over recent weeks of the escape to the West of the escape from Saudi Arabia of a young lady named, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun. She evidently turned her back on Islam and believed that her life was in danger. Thankfully she was finally granted asylum in Canada (although even there it is not altogether clear that she is safe).

It is heartening to see that the media picked up this story as it forcefully shone a light on some of the challenges faced by women in Saudi Arabia. Still, to say that the reporting on this issue was selective would hardly begin to describe the true state of affairs. Media outlets around the world bent over backwards to state that Miss Alqunun was in danger from reprisals emanating from her family. The subtext here was that it, once again, ‘Has nothing to do with Islam!’

Not so fast however. Harsh treatment of apostates is part and parcel of Islamic teaching. In fact, the essential intolerance of Islam is nowhere more apparent than in the way that it treats those (apostates) who abandon it. Muhammad, according to Islamic tradition, could not be clearer on this subject: “Whoever discards his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Sahih Bukhari 4:52:260)

Don’t think that this is just an obscure statement that had no real impact. Far from it! Shari’a legal codes all maintain that apostates from Islam should be killed.

These facts are easily ascertainable. Yet it seems no ‘investigative’ reporter dared to go there. Thus, questions remain unanswered. For example, why is Canada clearing the decks for many more followers of the ‘prophet’ who counselled death to apostates to come and make their home there? The action of the Canadian government in granting sanctury to Miss Alqunun is commendable. Yet we have to wonder how long she will be safe, even there?

‘Beggars’, ‘Yellow Vests’ and The Politics of Contempt

Most people outside the Netherlands are probably only vaguely aware that it used be ruled by Spain. For Dutch people however this experience is seared into their collective memory. Especially since it took a war, lasting 80 years (1568-1648), to get rid of the Spanish yoke.

A key event in the run-up to this conflict took place in 1566 when a Dutch delegation came to see the Spanish Regent, Margaret of Parma (ruling on behalf of Phillip II) with a list of requests. One of her advisors would have been right at home in 21st century politics. He counselled the Duchess not to pay any attention to them since ‘they are only beggars’ (geuzen). This high-handed dismissal of the legitimate concerns of the Dutch people led directly to a war that Spain could ill afford, with massive loss of life on both sides.

Let’s fast forward to today. It seems our global elites are not keen students of history. The weapon of choice when it comes to the concerns of the ‘common person’ is still to sneer at them.

Keen to preserve a traditional lifestyle? – You’re nothing more than a ‘clinger to guns and religion’ (Barack Obama)
Thinking of voting for Donald Trump? – You clearly belong in a ‘basket of deplorables’ (Hillary Clinton)
Not everyone is onboard with your extreme globalist agenda? – Why they must be ‘slackers’ of course (Emmanuel Macron)
Voted for Brexit? – According to the British Establishment you had no idea what you were doing and you can’t wait to reverse your decision through a ‘second referendum’ (Democracy be damned)
Think that there are legitimate questions that should be asked about the relationship between Islamic teaching and violence? – What are you, some kind of bigot? (Just about every mainstream media commentator)

There is of course just one little problem with the tactic of trying to shame your opponents into silence. It may work for a while (in fact it can be argued that it worked out quite nicely for the left for decades). Still, it has a limited shelf-life.

People can be forced to abide with a system that is clearly not in their best interests for only so long. So, eventually, those on the receiving end of the insults cease to care. In fact they may even embrace such insults as a badge of honour (see, for example, Trump’s ‘Deplorables’).

If pushed still further they will react. When they do, this reaction will have moved beyond polite attempts for their concerns to be listened to.

The stark reality is that authorities who engage in the politics of contempt will have to deal with the concerns of the common people eventually. They can do it at the outset by engaging in respectful dialogue, which is after all what democratic governments are supposed to do. Or they can demonise and insult…and eventually reap the whirlwind. There are many explanations for the Yellow Vest phenomenon in France. Very near the top must be the simple fact that if you are not willing to listen to respectful appeals for debate across a table, you may sooner or later have to listen to calls for your downfall from across a barricade.

And the Dutch Beggars? Well, they came to glory in that name. It was especially their ‘maritime division’ (the so-called ‘Sea Beggars’) who struck decisive blows in helping to liberate their country through their decimation of Spanish shipping. Who cares what names you are called as long as you are in the forefront of a victorious fight for freedom?

Tone deaf 21st century politicians thumbing through their dictionaries for ever more creative ways to insult the common people will do well to take note.


Give the Gift of Understanding this Christmas!

When celebrating peace, love and friendship this Christmas we should not kid ourselves that these values are not under threat. Why not help your friends and family see this (as well as ways to respond) by adding some good books to their bookshelves?

If you order today you can still receive printed copies of my books before Christmas. Also, if you’re buying someone a Kindle or tablet why not add some books that will help them understand our world a bit better?

My books cover the following topics:

Questioning Islam – An investigation of the truth-claims of the Muslim religion. Particularly useful for someone in your life who may be considering conversion to Islam.

Nothing to do with Islam – A full length discussion of whether Islam is indeed a ‘Religion of Peace’?

The Mecca Mystery – For the historically minded. With this book I probe into the early history of Islam, showing how the standard story of Islamic origins is deeply suspect.

You can purchase them by clicking on the links above or by going through my Amazon Author Page.

My peace and joy indeed be yours as you prepare to celebrate with your loved ones.