Religious Freedom

According to Abrahamic scholars, “…when the Prophet Mohammad established Islam, he introduced a minimum of innovations. He employed the hallowed personages, historic legends and sacred sites of Judaism and Christianity, and even paganism, by Islamizing them.

Thus, according to Islam, Abraham was the first Muslim and Jesus and St. John were prophets and guardians of the second heaven. Many Biblical legends (“asatir al-awwalin“), which were familiar to the pagan Arabs before the dawn of Islam, underwent an Islamic conversion, and the Koran as well as the Hadith (the Islamic oral tradition), are replete with them.

Islamization was practiced on places as well as persons: Mecca and the holy stone – al-Ka’bah – were holy sites of the pre-Islamic pagan Arabs. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus and the Great Mosque of Istanbul (originally the Church of Santa Sophia – Divine Wisdom, and now a museum) were erected on the sites of Christian-Byzantine churches – two of the better known examples of how Islam treats sanctuaries of other faiths.

Jerusalem, too, underwent the process of Islamization: at first Muhammad attempted to convince the Jews near Medina to join his young community, and, by way of persuasion, established the direction of prayer (kiblah) to be to the north, towards Jerusalem, in keeping with Jewish practice; but after he failed in this attempt he turned against the Jews, killed many of them, and directed the kiblah southward, towards Mecca.

Muhammad’s abandonment of Jerusalem explains the fact that this city is not mentioned even once in the Koran. Muslim history in the Palestine region began in the 630s with the early Muslim conquests. The Roman region of Palestine was conquered by the Muslim armies of the Caliphate (Islamic Empire) under Caliph Umar. Its capital was Ramlah, 30 miles to the west of Jerusalem, signifying that Jerusalem [was unimportant] to them.

Islam rediscovered Jerusalem 50 years after Mohammad’s death. In 682 CE, ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr rebelled against the Islamic rulers in Damascus, conquered Mecca and prevented pilgrims from reaching Mecca for the Hajj. ‘Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad Caliph, needed an alternative site for the pilgrimage and [eventually] settled on Jerusalem which was then under his control.

In order to justify this choice, a verse from the Koran was chosen (17,1 = sura 17, verse 1) which states (trans. by Majid Fakhri): “Glory to Him who caused His servant to travel by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We have blessed, in order to show him some of Our Signs, He is indeed the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.”

The meaning ascribed to this verse is that “the furthest mosque” (al-masgid al-aqsa) is in Jerusalem and [according to Islamic legend] that Mohammad was conveyed there one night (although at that time the journey took three days by camel), on the back of al-Buraq, a magical horse with the head of a woman, wings of an eagle, the tail of a peacock, and hoofs reaching to the horizon. He tethered the horse to the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and from there ascended to the seventh heaven together with the angel Gabriel.

On his way, he met the prophets of other religions who are the guardians of heaven: Adam, Jesus, St. John, Joseph, Idris (=Seth?), Aaron, Moses and Abraham who accompanied him on his way to Allah and who accepted him as their master. Thus, Islam tried to gain legitimacy over other, older religions, by creating a scene in which the former prophets agree to Mohammad’s mastery, thus making him Khatam al-Anbiya’ (“the Seal of the Prophets”).

Not surprisingly, this unbelievable account contradicts a number of the tenets of Islam: How can a living man of flesh and blood ascend to heaven? How can a mythical creature carry a mortal to a real destination? Questions such as these have caused orthodox Muslim thinkers to conclude that the nocturnal journey was a dream of Mohammad’s. The journey and the ascent serves Islam to “go one better” than the Bible: Moses “only” went up to Mt. Sinai, in the middle of nowhere, and drew close to heaven, whereas Mohammad went all the way up to Allah, and from Jerusalem itself.

What are the difficulties with the belief that the al-Aqsa mosque described in Islamic tradition is located in Jerusalem? For one, the people of Mecca, who knew Muhammad well, did not believe this story. Only Abu Bakr, (later the first Caliph), believed him and thus was called al-Siddiq (“the believer”).

The second difficulty is that Islamic tradition tells us that al-Aqsa mosque is near Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula. This was unequivocally stated in “Kitab al-Maghazi” (Oxford UP, 1966, vol. 3, pp. 958-9), a book by the Muslim historian and geographer al-Waqidi. According to al-Waqidi, there were two “masjids” (places of prayer) in al-Gi’ranah, a village between Mecca and Ta’if; one was “the closer mosque” (al-masjid al-adana) and the other was “the further mosque” (al-masjid al-aqsa), and Muhammad would pray there when he went out of town.

This description by al-Waqidi, which is supported by a chain of authorities (isnad), was not “convenient” for the Islamic propaganda of the 7th century. In order to establish a basis for the awareness of the “holiness” of Jerusalem in Islam, the Caliphs of the Ummayad dynasty invented many “traditions” upholding the value of Jerusalem (known as “fadha’il bayt al-Maqdis“), which would justify pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the faithful Muslims.

Thus was al-Masjid al-Aqsa “transported” to Jerusalem. It should be noted that the great Muslim warrior Saladin also adopted the myth of al-Aqsa and those “traditions” in order to recruit and inflame the Muslim warriors against the Crusaders in the 12th century.

Another aim of the Islamization of Jerusalem was to undermine the legitimacy of the older religions, Judaism and Christianity, which consider Jerusalem to be a holy city. Islam is presented as the only legitimate religion, destined to replace the other two, because they had changed and distorted the Word of God, each in its turn. (ghyyarou wa-baddalou). On the alleged forgeries of the Holy Scriptures, made by Jews and Christians, see the third chapter of: M. J. Kister, “haddithu ‘an bani isra’il wa-la haraja“, IOS 2 (1972), pp. 215-239. Kister quotes dozens of Islamic sources).

Though Judaism and Christianity can exist side by side in Jerusalem, Islam regards both as betrayals of Allah and his teachings, and has always done, and will continue to do, all in its power to expel both of them from this city.

It is interesting to note that this expulsion is retroactive: The Islamic broadcasters of the Palestinian radio stations consistently make it a point to claim that the Jews never had a temple on the Temple Mount and certainly not two temples. (Where, then, according to them, did Jesus preach? And, what was the Western Wall (of the Temple) to which Mohammed tied his trusty steed?) [Truth is a pesky thing.]

No one knows how many imams, preaching in mosques in the U.S., publicly refer to non-Muslims as “subhuman infidels” – a documented quote from a mosque right here in Middle Tennessee – who have neither the right to own property nor the right to live. In the U.S., we all know about the frequent attacks on our citizens, especially our men and women in uniform, by radical Muslims.

This has been ongoing since 1977, when three buildings in Washington, D.C. were seized by 12 Muslim gunmen, led by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, who had broken from the Nation of Islam because he blamed them for murder. They took 149 hostages and killed a radio jornalist. After a 39-hour standoff, the gunmen surrendered and all remaining hostages were released from the District Building (the city hall; now called the John A. Wilson Building), B’nai B’rith headquarters, and the Islamic Center Washington.

“The one innocent who was killed was 24-year-old Maurice Williams, a radio reporter from WHUR-FM, who stepped off a fifth-floor elevator into the crisis (the fifth floor is where the mayor and City Council Chairman have their offices). The gunmen also shot D.C. Protective Service Division police officer Mack Cantrell, who died a few days later in the hospital of a heart attack. City Councilman Marion Barry walked into the hallway after hearing a commotion and was hit by a ricocheted shotgun pellet which lodged just above his heart. He was taken out through a window and rushed to a hospital.

The gunmen had several demands. They “wanted the government to hand over a group of men who had been convicted of killing seven relatives – mostly children – of takeover leader Hamaas Khaalis. They also demanded that the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God be destroyed because they considered it sacrilegious.”

Time Magazine noted: “That the toll was not higher was in part a tribute to the primary tactic U.S. law enforcement officials are now using to thwart terrorists—patience. But most of all, perhaps, it was due to the courageous intervention of three Muslim ambassadors, Egypt’s Ashraf Ghorbal, Pakistan’s Sahabzada Yaqub-Khan and Iran’s representative of the Shah, Ardeshir Zahedi.”

The leader of the attack was former national secretary of the Natrion of Islam, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis. Khaalis was born in Indiana in 1921 and named Ernest McGhee. Discharged from the U.S.Army on grounds of mental instability, he worked as a jazz drummer in New York City before converting to Islam and changing his name to Hamaas Khaalis. He became prominent in the ministries and school of the Nation of Islam and was appointed its national secretary in the early 1950s.

Khaalis split with the Nation of Islam in 1958 to found a rival Islamic organization, the “Hanafi Movement”. In 1968, he was arrested for attempted extortion but released on grounds of mental illness. In 1972, he published an open letter attacking the leadership and beliefs of the Nation of Islam. A year later five men broke into Khaalis’ Washington home and murdered five of his children, his nine-day-old grandson and another man. The murderers were arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. A grief-stricken Khaalis claimed the men were associated with the Nation of Islam, and that the judge in the cases had not pursued this link.

On March 9, 1977, seven members of Khaalis’ group burst into the headquarters of B’nai B’rith, a few miles south of Khaalis’ headquarters, and took over 100 hostages. Less than an hour later, three men entered the Islamic Center of Washington, and took eleven hostages. At 2:20 pm, two Hanafis entered the District Building, three blocks from the White House. They went to the fifth floor looking for important people to take hostage.

When an elevator opened the hostage-takers thought they were under assault and fired, killing Maurice Williams and injuring security guard Mack Cantrell. Then-councilman Marion Barrywas struck by a ricochet in the chest, and two others were wounded. “Throughout the siege Khaalis denounced the Jewish judge who had presided at the trial of his family’s killers. ‘The Jews control the courts and the press,'” he repeatedly charged. Khaalis and his followers wanted those convicted for the 1973 murders handed over to them, presumably for execution.

On the evening of the following day, following a number of phone calls, three Muslim-Arab ambassadors, along with a few DC officials (including police commander Joseph O’Brien, who had investigated the murder of Khaalis’ children and was trusted by Khaalis) met with the Hanafis. Finally, Khaalis, and the others involved in the hostage taking at the two sites where no one was killed, were allowed to be charged and then freed on their own recognizance. All were later tried and convicted, with Khaalis receiving a sentence of 21 to 120 years for his role.

Khaalis died in federal prison in North Carolina on November 13, 2003. Marion Barry recovered from his wounds and was later elected mayor of Washington, DC, was removed from office for dealing in crack cocaine in an FBI sting and was then elected (again) as a Washington, DC city councilman. In 2007, the fifth-floor press room at the Wilson Building was named for the slain reporter, Maurice Williams

This 1977 incident was not overlooked by the international radical Muslim movement when, in 1979, 52 Americans were seized in Iran and held for 444 days; since 1983, when 299 U.S. Marines were blown up in their barracks during a peace-keeping mission in Lebanon; since the World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993 with six deaths; since the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were bombed in 1996 with the loss of 19 Americans; since 9/11, when nearly 3000 innocents were massacred; since 13 were murdered at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009; since 5 were gunned down in Chattanooga, TN in 2015; and on and on.

We are at war with militant Islam, both here at home – for the first time against a foreign invader since 1814 – and abroad in a conflict for the survival of Western civilization and the Western Tradition that informed the Founders; we are in a war for the hearts and minds of a significant population within the United States – Muslim-Americans. As with all war, this is a political struggle – not a religious one – but the progressive/liberal/ Democrat cabal apparently wants nothing to do with it. They cannot even utter its name out of fear! 

But, most troubling of all is the attitude of the cabal, in general, toward religious faith – a cornerstone of our republic. According to Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate Dean of the celebrated Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, these were words uttered by Martin Castro, an Obama appointee and the chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who launched a broadside recently against religious faith, degrading the vision of the Founding Fathers that has made this country the envy of the world.

“’The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.’

Castro released a report on September 7, 2016 on protections against discrimination. His finding, in part, is that Americans need to be protected from Bible-thumpers, and anyone else whose beliefs run afoul of the [Obama} administration’s PC [Political Correctness] police. Religious folk need not apply.

In the report, Castro cited John Adams. ‘The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.’  But Adams did not write those words. The truth: they were part of a treaty to end the Barbary War. “Christian” ships and crew were fair game for Barbary pirates, Ambassador Abdrahaman of Tripoli told Thomas Jefferson that all Christians are sinners in the context of the Koran and that it was a Muslim’s ‘right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to enslave as many as they could take as prisoners.’

U.S. negotiators tried to downplay the clash of religions. The treaty therefore stressed that the U.S. was not an officially Christian nation, but a secular one, and therefore should never have been targeted. Adams signed the treaty, but it had nothing to do with his belief about the importance of Judeo-Christian religions to the stability of society. Truth is a tricky thing.

Here are the words that flowed from President Adams’ pen:

‘We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion . . . Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.’

George Washington expressed similar thoughts in his Farewell Address. ‘Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.’ Our Founding Fathers would have cautioned against attempts to ‘subvert these great pillars’ of religion and morality.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French historian and admirer of American democracy, introduced the Continent to the workings of the American upstarts. ‘The Americans combine the notions of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds that it is impossible to make them conceive of one without the other.’

Waves of immigrants after de Tocqueville were often far less lettered, but they did share his understanding, and dreamt of being part of it. Religious freedom, toleration and fairness were all intertwined in the unique American package that so many desperately [still] seek to be a part of.

Commissioner Castro has another vision. In the letter addressed to the president, the vice president, and the Speaker of the House, he wrote,

Religious exemptions to the protections of civil rights based upon classifications such as race, color, national origin, sex, disability status, sexual orientation, and gender identity, when they are permissible, significantly infringe upon these civil rights.’

What he is saying is that, in 2016, it’s Big Brother’s responsibility to curtail those exemptions.  If that isn’t to your liking, you can always move. Maybe to Tripoli.

Castro’s America would not be recognized by James Madison, who argued that religious conviction ought to be placed ahead of – not behind – the agenda of the State.  In his “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments of 1785,” the architect of our Constitution wrote:

‘It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to Him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.’

Not so long ago, America projected its global power to protect religious freedoms. Throughout the Cold War we strove to help brave believers behind the Iron Curtain to keep the embers of religion from being totally extinguished by atheistic Communist dictatorships.

We demanded of our chief international nemesis, the USSR, that any negotiations on nuclear arms reduction must be linked to human rights—including freedom of religion. Eventually, [Soviet leader Mikhail] Gorbachev relented, the Berlin Wall came down, and the war against religion came to an end.

Prior recent U.S. administrations were true to the legacy of our Founders by taking a leadership role in urging all governments to guarantee the religious rights of minorities who, when leaving their respective houses of worship on their holy days, could return to their homes unmolested. [Not in Obama’s world view!]

Today, hundreds of millions of minority Baha’i, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims – but chiefly Christians – have no confidence that American power or policy have their backs.

Respect for religion and religious values were at the core of our Founding Fathers’ vision and an inspiration to endangered religious people the world over. We can only hope that the next head of America’s Civil Rights Commission will protect – not slander – people who dare set their moral compass by the words of God.”

Next time: Capitalist or collectivist?


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