Tag Archives: islam

Of Islam and the WBC

If you’re on Twitter, chances are this nugget of wisdom has popped up in your feed at one time or another:

What bugs me about this statement – besides the fact that, as of now, it’s been retweeted over 8,000 times – is that it sounds wonderfully coherent without really being so. It’s predicated on the assumption that Islamic terrorism and the WBC both share the distinction of being fringe movements. Which is false. And here’s why.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church are, indeed, on the fringe. (Actually, they fell off the fringe a long time ago.) The “gospel” they espouse is no gospel at all, and their “Christianity” is a Christ-less one. When the WBC preaches its hate-filled messages and engages in its hate-filled demonstrations, we can point out, with complete honesty, that such behavior is inconsistent with – indeed, diametrically opposed to – the teachings of Scripture. It shows nothing of the “family resemblance” of the family of Christ.

But what about Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, currently suspected of perpetrating the Boston Marathon bombings? Can we really and truly say that their actions were “inconsistent” with the teachings of the Qur’an? What about Mohammed Bouyeri, who shot Theo van Gogh eight times, cut his throat, stabbed him in the chest, and left two knives embedded in his corpse with a note attached? Can we really and truly say that this assassination was “diametrically opposed” to the core tenets of Bouyeri’s faith?

No. No we cannot. Not when a basic understanding of Islamic history and the Qur’an tell us otherwise.

Are all Muslims bloodthirsty killers eager to strap on C4 and hijack an aircraft? Of course not. I have no doubt that there are many Muslims who decry acts of terrorism with as much vigor as the rest of us. But let us not confuse the individual with the ideology. Moderate Muslims do exist, but moderate Islam? the so-called “Religion of Peace”? It exists only in fairyland.

In conclusion, therefore, my point is simply this:

The behavior of the Westboro Baptist Church is inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible. The behavior of Mohammed Bouyeri (and Tamarlan Tsarnaev, and any other Islamic terrorist) is perfectly consistent with the teachings of the Qur’an.

Sorry, @Yasirajaan, but that analogy is a no-go.

Book Review: Barbarossa

Several weeks ago, I exchanged e-mails with a fairly new author by the name of Charles Faddis, who asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing his novels Codename Aphrodite and Barbarossa. I said yes for two reasons: first, because the espionage genre has always interested me, and second, because both books are based on the author’s real life experiences as a former CIA Ops officer. He spent twenty years in the Near East, South Asia and Europe running operations against terrorist groups, rogue states and WMD smuggling networks.

Faddis sent me copies of his work, and I eagerly began reading. It was disappointing, then, to finish Codename Aphrodite and come to the conclusion that it wasn’t something I could – in good conscience and good taste – recommend.

The story was interesting, to be sure; but that’s about the only positive thing I can say about it. The characters were poorly developed, the dialogue was mediocre, the plotting less-than-stellar. As if that weren’t enough, excessive amounts of strong language and crudely explicit sexual material (90% of which had nothing to do with the story) were thrown into the mix. All in all, it was neither a fun nor edifying reading experience.

Considering this, you’ll understand my trepidation as I started the second book, Barbarossa. Sequels are notorious for being worse than their predecessors. What reason had I to think this one would be any different? None.

Imagine my surprise when Barbarossa proved to be an exception.

The story follows ex-CIA operative Bill Boyle, who accepts the challenge of traveling deep into the mountains of Kurdistan in pursuit of a nuclear weapon that has fallen into the hands of Al Qaeda terrorists. Rallying a small cadre of friends, Boyle sets out to complete his mission as swiftly and securely as possible – easy isn’t part of the equation.

For starters, the quality of the writing in Barbarossa is much better than in Codename Aphrodite. There are still some rough spots (especially toward the beginning), but overall, Faddis’ prose is cleaner, leaner, and better polished; less like an amateur in search of footing and more like a writer who’s serious about his work.

The story is also superior, in my opinion, and much more engaging. It’s brisk, without feeling rushed or skimpy, and kept my attention for the duration of the book’s four hundred and fifty plus pages. Simple, but not simplistic; entertaining, but not unintelligent. And of course, Faddis’ first-hand experience in the very field he’s writing about adds a welcome sense of realism to the yarn.

Certain characters introduced in Codename Aphrodite are better developed here and allowed to take on more than one dimension. Boyle, for instance, is more likable and easy to sympathize with: previously his most notable “qualities” were drunkenness and a generally bitter demeanor. In Barbarossa, he’s sobered up, and the more applaudable aspects of his person, such as courage, perseverance, and selflessness, are easier to see.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for every character; particularly Aphrodite, Boyle’s love interest and wife-to-be. She still comes across as underwhelming, with little to set her apart from the humdrum crowd of today’s heroines. (Modern fiction’s obsession with “beautiful but deadly” women is becoming rather tiresome, don’t you think?)

Gritty is probably the best way to describe this book’s content. Violence is rough and often bloody, with numerous people meeting their end via bullet, blade, or explosive. Thankfully, the amount of strong language is significantly lower than in Codename Aphrodite; it’s still present, but nowhere near as pervasive. Sexual content is restricted to  some crude references.

So do I recommend Barbarossa? Yes. It’s not perfect, but the positives outweigh the negatives, making it a fun, fast-paced, decently-plotted spy thriller for older readers. I’ll be on the look out Faddis’ next work – he may be one of those authors who gets better with each book.

(I received this book free from the author in exchange for a review.
I was not required to write a positive review.)

Coexist? Seriously?

Whenever I see a “COEXIST” sticker (like the one above) on the back bumper of a car, I can’t help but laugh. I realize that many people slap it on their vehicles under the naive assumption that they’re saying something profound in an incredibly clever way. Then again…

When you stop and think about it; when you consider the implications of that word in that context… is it really such a clever slogan after all? Is it even intelligent? I would say not. Granted, it looks cool and it sounds cooler; but if you throw away the rose-colored “let’s all just get along and have world-peace” glasses, it’s quite plain that the “COEXIST” sticker is nothing more than godless asininity dressed up in a fancy ball gown.

But wait, you say: wouldn’t it be good thing if everyone could just put aside their differences? Wouldn’t it be great if we could just be nice to one another? Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could all just hug, hold hands, and be friends?

Sure, I reply. That’d be dandy! Smashing! Positively phenomenal!

Unfortunately, in a world desiccated and corrupted by sin, it’s impossible. Nice thought, yeah – but totally out of touch with reality. No can do, crackerjack. Sinners can’t just “be nice” and “coexist” together as one big happy family. Sinners lie. Sinners hate. Sinners kill. Sinners SIN. There can be no “peace” in sin.

But there’s another reason the sticker is false…

Behind it lies religious pluralism: the fundamentally-flawed belief that all religions are true and valid. That very idea alone worthy of head-scratching in a “what the heck?” sort of way.

Let’s see. What have we here?

  • C – the crescent moon and star of the religion of Islam
  • O – the peace symbol, or Pagan pentacle
  • E – the symbol for male and female, a Scientific equation
  • X – the star of David, standing in for Judaism
  • I – the wand and pentagram of Wiccan
  • S – the symbol for Chinese Yin-Yang
  • T – the cross of Christ, representing Christianity

Each of these religions claim something different as truth. That’s all good and well, but they cannot all be correct. If I say the sky is blue and you say it’s purple with pink polka dots, we’ve just made two contradicting statements. Either one of us is right and the other is wrong, or both of us are both wrong. Point is: we cannot both be right.

Just consider the Christian religion. It’s very foundation rests on the claim that Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is Lord and Savior; the one and only Lord and Savior. Christ says it Himself in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

That’s a pretty strong statement. He doesn’t say, “I am one of many ways, one of many truths, one of many sources of life.” His claim is exclusive: you come to God by Me and by Me alone. In modern speak, that adds up to, “My way. No highway option.”

Obviously, Jesus is no pluralist. Either He’s right and all other religions are wrong; or else He’s wrong and some other view is right. In no case, however, can all religions be true and valid.

That’s about as black and white as you get.

Clearly, I believe Jesus is right. Of all the so-called “truths” – He’s the only one. And because I believe and rest my soul on that, I should live like I really do believe and rest my soul on that.

That means I’ll take my faith and it’s implications seriously. That means I’ll not be content to keep my religion to myself, to simply “be nice” and “avoid stepping on toes” while the world goes to hell in a hand-basket. That means I’ll act upon the biblical injunction to shine the light of the Gospel of Christ wherever I go. That means I’ll recognize the notion of “coexistence” for the fallacy that it is.

In the words of Charles Spurgeon,

If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.