Bible Lesson

Clicking on this page from the official site of the US Marines brings up the message “General Error”. But until very recently it apparently carried this picture from Iraq:


(Tipped from God and Consequences via AMERICAblog and AlterNet Peek)

God Drives a Flying Saucer?

(updated several times over)


Certain segments of the internet are abuzz following the apparently successful effort by the leader of a New Religious Movement at summoning a UFO for the benefit of KNTV (Las Vegas) News reporter Mike Dello Stritto, at a daytime location of Stritto’s choosing. Video footage shows a distant disk appearing in the sky for a short time after African-American “Prophet Yahweh” offered up prayers (see here) He warns that spaceships are going to manifest clearly over Las Vegas between 1 June and 15 July. Prophet Yahweh claims to have been in contact with the UFOs since the late 1970s, and has a collection of home videos of previous sightings. These can be accessed from his website for a small fee; however, he considers them to be public domain, and this site has reposted them.

So who is Prophet Yahweh? WND identifies him as Ramon Watkins, but offers no biographical background. His website gives some rather unusual religious beliefs:

BE ADVISED! YAHWEH and His Angels are superhuman beings, on other planets who fly in spaceships!

However, this website has recently been revamped; the archived version at Wayback has more details about his religion:

All the gods, of the earth, are idols that damns the souls of all who worship them.
And, all religions, on earth, are nothing but lies used by the devil to deceive souls.

All people who die, as worshippers of the gods, will be resurrected on “Judgement Day,”
tried, sentenced to eternal death, and cast alive into the lake of fire, where they will suffer forever!

This will happen to them because they worshipped the gods and not YAHWEH.

Within our life time, the most holy and wonderful YAHWEH
will send His Messiah, with His Angels, to destroy all the gods on earth.

After all the gods and all their religions have been destroyed,
our Messiah is going to re-establish the pure worship of YAHWEH, forever, on earth!

Elsewhere on the old site:

Before we can attempt to understand if Prophet Yahweh is a true prophet of YAHWEH, who was foretold of by the prophets of Israel, we must, first, understand what Yahwean Prophethood is and how it differs from prophethood in Christianity, Islam, and other religions…Prophet Yahweh, fits within the definition of prophethood as revealed by the sacred “Y” document Hebrew writings of our nation.

A defunct “Table of Contents” tantalises with the following (sic for dodgy spelling):

YAHWEH’S UFOs And Spaceships In The Bible
YAHWEH Bible Study Lessons
The Luciferian Conspiracy Against YAHWEH
YAHWEH Verses The Gods El And Adon In Judaism
YAHWEH Verses The God Jesus In Christianity
YAHWEH Verses The God Allah In Islam

A document discovered by someone at a discussion forum at New Age site Godlike Productions (and reposted there) gives his religion as “Black Jew Hebrew Israelite”. The document claims that after 70 C.E. the Jews fled to Africa, where they were sold into slavery by the Africans. Hence the African-Americans are the real Jews:

The great secret about the slave trade is that it was not based on Africans capturing other Africans and selling them into slavery. But, rather, it was all African nations that were capturing another Black race who had come down into African but was not from Africa.

He goes on to warn:

YAHWEH is going to make know [sic] His demands to the world, through the prophets He sent to the earth. The main demand they will make will be that the modern day White so-called Jews, the Arab so-called Palestinians, and all other nationalities in the land of Israel, be immediately evacuated into neighboring countries.

Prophet Yahweh also has a different website where he discusses these things further, and a third where an Angela Yahweh (“Angel of Yahweh”), discusses the need for polygamy (thanks to commentator AC for that link). The file name for Angela’s pic is “pywife”, suggesting that she is also Mrs Yahweh (spotted by commentator Ed).

Prophet Yahweh’s group (which is probably very small) must be an off-shoot of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement. Like Hebrew Israelite leader “Yahweh ben Yahweh“, Prophet Yahweh sometimes sports a turban with a badge on the front. I can’t read Yahweh ben Yahweh’s badge, but Watkins’s bears the Hebrew letter Yod, I suppose referring to the mysterious “Y” document. Possibly by the “Y document” Wakins means that part of the Torah designated by Biblical scholars as the “J” document, where God is referred to as “Yahweh” (this word used to be transliterated as “Jehovah”, hence “J”).

His beliefs are not, however, completely coherent: on the one hand we are supposed to worship Yahweh, but on the other he warns the media that the aliens plan to invade:

Watkins says the aliens won’t attack us the way they do in the movies, but he says their intentions are anything but friendly. “And they’re here, to take over, it’s just that simple.”

Back on the revamped 2005 site, Watkins tells us a bit about he got the Prophet job:

…the appearance of sightings, on my signal, started by accident. At that time [1979], I was having a study with some of my bible students concerning spaceships and UFOs in the bible. As I was about to end the class, I felt compelled to go outside, with my students, and ask YAHWEH, in the exact same manner prophets in the bible summoned sightings, to send a UFO for us to see.

To our amazement, as soon as I finished praying for the sighting, a glowing UFO appeared before us and flew from one end of the sky to the other. We were were stunned at the miracle we saw and were left speechless!

…After I continued calling down sightings, like the prophets of the bible, and UFOs started appearing, almost without fail, I prayed to the magnificent YAHWEH and told Him that if He would use me to signal His spaceships and UFOs before the eyes of the world, I would live a life of poverty and be totally dedicated to Him.

The discussion forum at Godlike Productions has produced some other interesting links. For example, despite the existence of Angela “pywife” Yahweh, Prophet Yahweh has a personal ad on Yahoo:

Where is My African-American Queen?

I’m a brother who is loyal and devoted to the African-American woman. I love her, need her, and can’t do without her!…She deserves a man (like me) who: believes in the Creator, prays daily, studies wisdom, seeks out understanding, and loves acquiring knowledge.

A version of the ad with different pictures can be seen here; he appears to have been in the navy in his youth. He’s listed as divorced with adult children…and with an income of “More than $150,000” (from “Entertainment / Media”), which seems not to tie-in with the “life of poverty”. Prophet Yahweh also owns a television production company (albeit with a website that doesn’t work properly) called Shiloh Broadcasting. And in a letter dated from 1997 to a UFO researcher he stresses the profit motive:

Because of how these UFO’s and spaceships are appearing before me and allowing me to film them, I’m destined to be a wealthy man in the very near future. Maybe we can make money together on my research.

In a second letter posted on the same site, he adds that the aliens had told him to head for Pershing Square in Los Angeles:

At that time, I’m to have as many people as possible there to verify if UFOs appear on my prayer or not.

That was also in 1997.

So what about the sighting that so impressed Stritto? Contributors to the discussion thread have a variety of suggestions: it’s all true; demons; government manipulation; Prophet Yahweh has stumbled onto some sort of alien technology he doesn’t understand. Sceptics have suggested model aircraft; a balloon; lasers; a special kind of concentrated light as used in German fun parks in the 1970s (see this page, scroll down to “Sean”); and pointed out that the footage was taken close to Nellis Air Force Base. The author of this site claims to have found a picture of Watkins taken in 1997 with some weather balloons; readers can judge for themselves.

An unsuccessful attempt by Prophet Yahweh to summon a UFO can be seen here. He also failed to come up with goods promised for October 2000.

(Fried Green al-Qaedas is now following new developments on a special sub-blog)

Anti-Gay Nun Grounded on Shetland

Update (2016): Sister Ruth Augustus has sent me, via a representative, a copy of an Apostolic Blessing Card, which states that “His Holiness Pope John Paul II cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing to Ruth Augustus FIU”. A letter with this informs me that FIU stands for “Fratres in Unum”, and that these initials “signify our client’s commitment to the Catholic faith as a nun”. Further, it is stated that “Sister Ruth August professed her perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at the Our Lady of Dolours Roman Catholic Church”.


Staying with the BBC, news from Scotland of a religious eccentric:

A woman claiming to be a Franciscan nun has twice been barred from boarding a flight from Shetland to Aberdeen.

Sister Ruth Augustus said that British Airways would not allow her to fly because she was carrying a two foot statue of the Virgin Mary.

BA states that the nun was abusive, but Sister Ruth rejects that accusation:

“When they said I couldn’t take the statue on the plane I said I’m reporting you and it’s disgraceful behaviour.

“I don’t call that rude, I call it self-defence against a tremendous, unjust and cruel treatment which is disgraceful.”

Sister Ruth is on a mission to spread Christianity around the world; she claims to have visited 200 countries in the last 15 years with her statue (sometimes described as being three foot tall), which was given to her by Christians in Hong Kong in return for a taller one. provides some more background in this 2002 report:

Sister Ruth Augustus, an anti-gay nun who claims to be a Catholic missionary has been preaching gloom and doom around Scotland.

The Catholic Church has warned the public to steer clear of the mystery, homophobic Sister Ruth who claims nuclear war is imminent and the next Pope will be a Satanist. The Church said she is not from any recognised order, but there is little they can do about her calling herself a nun.

Portuguese Sister Ruth travels with her trademark three- foot statue of the Virgin Mary under her arm, in which she collects donations.

In July Sister Ruth was arrested as a suspected ringleader in violent anti-gay protest in Croatia. Homosexuals were pelted with eggs and bottles in the capital Zagreb, reported the Daily Record.

This was a counter-protest to a gay pride parade. Time magazine has more:

Ruth Augustus, a 61-year-old nun from London, stood waiting in Zrinjevac Park with a statuette of the Virgin Mary and a list of insults before the parade was set to begin. With a tight grip on the Virgin, Augustus shouted at the parade as it passed by: “You’re dirty pigs,” “stupid faggots,” “carriers of AIDS infected seed,” and on and on until the police suggested she spend the afternoon in the jailhouse instead.

(A Croatian account mentioning Sister Ruth can be seen here, but I can’t read it)

However, although still a Fred Phelps-style homophobe, since then Sister Ruth has revised her “next Pope will be a Satanist” position, as shown when she pondered the installation of Pope Benedict XVI with the AFP:

Pilgrims and members of religious communities had been making their way to the Vatican since before dawn.

“He’s very holy, he won’t listen to any nonsense about gay marriage,” said Sister Ruth Augustus, a Franciscan missionary from London, referring to a Spanish bill passed this week to authorize same-sex couples to marry and adopt children.

“And he wants to kick out the priests who have sex with children,” said Augustus, carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.

Sister Ruth has been wandering the UK since 2002, dispensing quotes to local hacks, who have been competing for the most obvious punning headline based on the word “nun” (“nun’s the wiser” etc). An early sighting was in Blackpool; soon afterwards, she was in Edmonton. In early 2003, a report from Waltham Forest, East London gave a fuller profile:

Her job description is simply walking around the streets of her chosen town asking people to join her in prayer, all the while holding the fibre glass statue of the Virgin Mary which has been known to ‘cry.’

The Birmingham-born nun [actually, she was born in Burma – see below] says her statue has been known to shed tears when faced with hostility from non-believers during her mammoth world tour.

…She has recently been to fire stations praying for the firemen and the state of Britain as it stood on red alert for strikes, and while she was in Amsterdam she visited the notorious red-light district where she prayed with prostitutes.

(according to a report from Hertfordshire the right hand of the statue fell off while she was doing this)

Talking about why she is back in Britain she said: “I went to the University of Brunel in the 60s and studied English literature and history. I got my education free and I still get my health care for free so I want to give something back to the country and I’m going to cover all of London and the UK.

…Her most hostile receptions came in Belfast and Bosnia.

“The men would come out of cafes and scream abuse at me in Bosnia,” she said.

…Sister Ruth will be taking full advantage of her public profile and the media to spread the word through presenting a television show on cable channel Revelation TV called Sister Ruth Presents, starting on February 14.

This TV programme seems not to have materialised. Later, she discussed her motivation with local media in Reading:

I started as a missionary and no-one would talk to me so I got a statue of the Virgin Mary and carried that around with me.

“People trust her and so they trust me. I am approached by all kinds of people – Christians, Muslims, Jews and even atheists.

“Some people may say I am just another crackpot but I don’t do this for the fun of it, and most of the time I am terrified.

“All I want to do is give people hope and comfort.”

In Oxford she teamed up with a pair of mysterious German missionaries, named as Manfred Mieruch and Gerhardt Kownatski; in Greenwich, south London, she discussed Halloween, Muslims and the end of the world:

She said: “Stationery shops sell devil’s masks. They’re not selling angels. Hallowe’en has been made a devil-worshipping weekend and is ruining our children.

“It makes them very cruel, very selfish and very greedy. When they play trick or treat, they throw broken eggs all over your doorstep if you don’t give them something.” Sister Ruth, who was born in Burma and brought up in Birmingham, says response from people in Lewisham and Greenwich is generally good.

“…Greenwich people are very friendly. But Muslim fanatics swear at me and I tell them to go and live in a Muslim country rather than live on benefits.”

…She began her journey after reading about the Apocalypse in the Book of Revelations, an event she believes will take place as the result of a nuclear war in 2006.

She said: “Chapter 18 describes the attack on the World Trade Center thousands of years before it happened.

Time is very short. We’re living in the dawn of the Apocalypse.”

Those wishing to survive should head off to Cornwall, apparently:

 Cornwall is safe from the forces of darkness and evil – according to Sister Ruth Augustus.

The English/Portuguese nun travels the world with her 3ft statue of the Virgin Mary ridding the world of devil worship and Satanism.

She claims that Cornwall is protected by its saints and is far safer than London.

However, she also claims that a nuclear war is coming in 2006; but not to Cornwall.

In 2004 she led prayers at a church in Kingston-on-Thames; her campaign also turned to football. Over to the Daily Record:

A GLOBE-TROTTING nun yesterday launched a one-woman protest to get England coach Sven Goran Eriksson the sack.

Sister Ruth Augustus stood outside the Football Association HQ in London yesterday, demanding his dismissal.

She was furious about the Swede’s affair with FA secretary Faria Alam, 38.

Sister Augustus, 64, who wore an England top over her traditional habit, carried a three-foot statue of the Virgin Mary with her.

Later that year she made a detour to Belize:

Sister Ruth Augustus, who has already toured 219 countries, came to Belize to bring her message of peace and hope to Belizeans. She participated in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Rally called March For Jesus which took place this last Sunday through the streets of downtown Belize City.

…Sister Ruth said, “So far I have had a nice response in Belize and I really enjoy the local beer, Belikin”. She also observed that, “Belize is one of the most religious countries I’ve visited.”

…When queried about who is financing her holy trek, she informed that monies from her family’s estate are sponsoring her travels.

She said, “People come up to me, tell me about their terrible problems, and I pray with them.” Sister Ruth worked for children’s charities in London before setting off on her marathon pilgrimage.

She has been mobbed giving away holy medals in the former Communist countries of Eastern Europe, threatened in some Islamic states, and rebuked in England’s capital city for her beliefs.

Those of us of a romantic disposition might like to see Sister Ruth paired off with Cornelius Horan.

UPDATE: Sister Ruth is now back in London. Shetland Today has more details, as well as a link to her website. There, she denies the claim that she collects money in the statue, or that she incited violence in Croatia. She also warns:

The Virgin Mary prophecies a comet will hit the Atlantic Ocean causing world wide flooding. The earth will go off its axis, causing three days of darkness. Every house should have a wax candle blessed by a priest. It will be the only source of light.

The last Pope, John Paul 1 was poisoned in the Vatican by Masonic Cardinals. They will murder this Pope and place a false, Masonic Pope in the Vatican. He will help the Anti-Christ, probably an Islamic Leader, put the Devil’s number 666 on many things, including credit cards and with laser beam implants, microchips, on people’s foreheads and wrists.

(Tipped from ASSIST Ministries)

The Adel Smith Institute

The BBC reports that Oriana Fallaci is to face trial in Italy. Fallaci is a World War II resistance hero who became notorious in 2001 for a lurid book about Muslims and Islam; her sequel appears to be in the same vein:

Controversial Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci is to face trial for allegedly insulting the Muslim faith in her latest book, a court in Italy says.

Ms Fallaci is being sued by the head of the Muslim Union of Italy, who says The Force of Reason is defamatory.

…The Force of Reason is said to have gone to print about 24 hours after the 11 March 2004 train bombings in Spain.

In it, Ms Fallaci argues that Europe is turning into “an Islamic province, an Islamic colony” and that “to believe that a good Islam and a bad Islam exist goes against all reason”.

Italian preliminary investigative judge Armando Grasso ordered the formulation of charges against the author, saying the book had expressions which were “unequivocally offensive to Islam”.

Adel Smith, president of the Muslim Union of Italy, sued the writer on 8 April 2004. He says Ms Fallaci has been advocating and spreading hate against Islam and Muslims, sometimes by allegedly distorting real historical facts and inventing others.

Fallaci’s accusations against Islam led to heated debate in 2001 and 2002. A court case followed in France, and she herself sued for slander against another journalist. Adel Smith meanwhile produced a book entitled Islam Chastises Oriana Fallaci, after which she accused him of threatening violence. Fallaci made an official complaint; blogger Dagger in Hand notes some of the passages she objected to:

Woman, you shouldn’t have told lies!…You’ll get the lesson you deserve. A powerful slap. But not a slap of the kind that you really deserve, so much as a moral slap that will, maybe, make you go back to your crying.

…Prepare yourself for a strong and just punishment: to be stripped nude. Denuded. Undressed. Not of your clothing as, perhaps, you might have desired […] But denuded of your strength–of that tenuous strength that you draw from your despicable lies.

…Woman! Ugly or beautiful as you are, prepare yourself for the chastisement of man; the divine one, much more abundant and painful, you’ll have later, in good time. That’s a promise. “Those who injure Allah and His Messenger, Allah has condemned whether in this life or the next and has prepared for them humiliating torment.”

…The choice then is yours: either do as we Muslims do and stop drinking alcoholic beverages or continue to die; to die together with Fallaci.

So, this new trial is just the latest round in a protracted argument. But who is Adel Smith? According to an Italian Cesnur profile, Smith (an Italian with a Scottish father) is not just the president of the Muslim Union of Italy – he’s more or less 50% of the membership, along with a certain Abdul Haqq Massimo Zucchi (with support from a few Albanians, if I’ve read the Italian via Babelfish correctly). He first emerged into the public eye in 2001, when he demanded the destruction of a fifteenth-century fresco that shows Muhammad in Hell. This was not successful, but he went on to have one legal victory: in 2003 he complained against the display of crucifixes in his children’s school, and a judge ordered their removal (later overruled). Earlier that year he was assaulted by members of the Italian far-right on live television.

And as it happens, while Falluci is to face trial for offending Muslims, Smith has himself recently faced trial for offending Catholics. From ADNKronos in April:

Rome, 29 April (AKI) – People who slander the Catholic faith cannot face harsher punishment than those who insult other recognised religions, Italy’s constitutional court ruled on Friday. The court’s decision was made in connection with the trial of a Muslim man who on television branded the Catholic Church “a criminal organisation.” Italian Muslim activist, Adel Smith, on trial in the northeastern city of Verona for allegedly “offending the Catholic religion, through the use of scorn,” faced up to three years in jail, if convicted.

However, the Verona court suspended the proceedings against Smith and requested the constitutional court’s interpretation of two articles in Italy’s penal code. Article 403, specifies stiffer penalties for slander against Catholicism, while article 406 prescribes more lenient punishment for insults against other religions.

There’s lots more out there for those who can read Italian…

UPDATE: Dagger in Hand is back on the case, starting from here and entries following. Lots of information.


Vendyl Jones on the Verge Again

From the BBC News, July 1998 (link added):

An American archaeologist says he is close to unearthing the lost Ark of the Covenant, the ancient casket believed to contain the Ten Commandments.

Vendyl Jones a Texan archaeologist who believes he may have been the inspiration for the film character Indiana Jones – says he has located where it is buried.

The Jordan Valley near Qumran is the lowest place on earth – a desolate wilderness, baking under the summer sun. But it is here that Vendyl Jones says he is on the verge of making one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

On the verge, no less! Jones claimed that the Copper Scroll, a unique document from among the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains coded directions for digging up the lost treasure from Solomon’s Temple. So, what happened? Let’s catch up with Jones a mere seven years later, courtesy of a recent Arutz Sheva article:

An unnamed Kabbalist has granted blessing to famed archeologist Dr. Vendyl Jones to uncover the Holy Ark of the Covenant. Jones plans to excavate the Lost Ark by the Tisha B’Av Fast this summer.

…The Talmud says the Ark is hidden in a secret passage under the Temple Mount. Jones says that the tunnel actually continues 18 miles southward, and that the Ark was brought through the tunnel to its current resting place in the Judean Desert.

Tisha B’Av is August 14, the traditional date for the destruction of the First and Second Temples, as well as other significant Jewish disasters. So, Jones is again “on the verge”:

As recently as last month, the rabbi, who only communicates via messenger, told Jones that the time was not yet right to discover the Temple vessels.

Last Thursday, however, Dr. Jones received a communication from the rabbi reading, “The time is right.”

Arutz Sheva is a rag for the Israeli far-right, so there’s not going to be much criticism of Jones, who is a leader within the Noahide Movement (also known as The Sons of Noah). This is a curious new religious movement made up primarily of ex-Christian fundamentalists, and can be summed up as “Gentiles for Judaism”. Members believe that Christianity misunderstood Jesus’ teachings and that anti-Judaism in the Gospels can be rejected as late interpolations. In fact, God wants Jews to continue to keep the Mosaic Law, while Gentiles should keep the seven moral laws of Noah.

However, a 2000 profile in the Dallas Observer reveals Jones to be the Kent Hovind of archaeology: a man whose methods and claims cannot be taken seriously. Here’s a taste:

In three decades of digging in caves in Qumran, a region near the border of Israel and Jordan, Jones has made several discoveries–some of them dubious–that he links to the temple built by King Solomon, where the Ark was once supposedly kept.

These are: a jar of anointing oil, and the supposed discovery of sacred spices (He’s still looking for ashes from the Red Heifer, which will be needed to purify the priests for the next temple). But:

In academic papers published a few years [after the discovery of the oil], however, two Haifa university professors stated that the oil found inside resembled what is extracted in modern times from date stones. “No such oil was known in antiquity,” the professors wrote.

Four years later, Jones, who was spending his summer in Israel and winters in Texas, made another discovery. He held a news conference in the Qumran desert to announce he had excavated 900 pounds of red dirt. Standing beside Jones, a chemical analyst who produced a paper on the stationery of Israel’s famed Weitzmann Institute of Science, identified the compound as very likely having eight of the 11 spices that supposedly constituted the holy incense used in Solomon’s Temple to purify worshipers.

When reporters later called the Weitzmann Institute, however, they were told that Jones’ effort had no connection to the school. The scientist who had stood by his side at the news conference was merely a consultant, the Weitzmann officials said.

As the BBC noted, Jones has also made the claim that his story inspired Indiana Jones, “Vendyl” becoming “Endy” – the Observer reports that this has been denied by Spielberg. Other critiques of Jones are enumerated here; there is also an article by Daniel C Browning called “The Strange Search for the Ashes of the Red Heifer”, which appeared in Biblical Archaeology in Spring 1996, but which I have not been able to see.

Also worth noting: perhaps because he was talking to a right-wing Israeli newspaper rather than US or UK media, Jones felt able to express his extreme racist views as he explains the importance of the August deadline:

“At Kadesh Barnea, [the Jewish Nation] sent in those [twelve] spies who gave the evil report, and because they believed the evil report, they were sentenced to wander for 38 years before they could come into Gilgal” – an ancient city near Jericho.

The “evil report” was the spies’ opinion that the Canaanites were too strong to be defeated, as recounted in Numbers 13. Jones believes that the narrative of the Hebrew Bible reveals certain divine laws of history:

“1967 was a repetition of Kadesh Barnea,” Jones says. “If Israel had come in and taken this place [the Temple Mount], the Arabs would have fled like they did in 1948. But no, because of the evil report of Golda Meir and Motta Gur and Moshe Dayan, who said ‘We cannot do that, world opinion will be against us.’ So Israel was sentenced to 38 years more – and June the 7th [2005], Jerusalem Day, will be the 38th year.

Yes, “the Arabs would have fled like they did in 1948”. That’s when 85% of the Palestinian population of Israel proper were forced to leave their homes and become refugees – a tragedy insignificant for the likes of Jones because merely human. Clearly, and unsurprisingly, Jones supports the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the name of Greater Israel and Jewish theocracy (like Hal Lindsey, he’s also a fan of the Kahanist “Sanhedrin”).

UPDATE: Apparently the 14 August deadline was a “misquote”. Now it’s on for September, if “funding” permits. See my entry here for further details.

Jihadists, Israeli Far-Right United in Hatred of Greek Idea

Statement by the Ansar al-Sunnah Army and two other jihadist groups in Iraq (January 2005):

Democracy is a Greek word meaning the rule of the people, which means that the people do what they see fit…This concept is considered apostasy and defies the belief in one God — Muslims’ doctrine.

This sentiment was echoed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi around the same time:

We have declared a bitter war against democracy and all those who seek to enact it…Democracy is also based on the right to choose your religion…against the rule of God.

So, let’s compare that with an article from the website of the Israeli organisation The author is complaining about the Yesha Council, which is opposed to Israeli disengagement from Gaza. The author is also opposed, but he objects to the Yesha Council’s methods:

The Yesha Council and other lovers of democracy and western culture have promised to respect the will of the people and if they G-d forbid lose the referendum they will accept the results and no longer fight the Disengagement plan. G-d help a religious Jew who allows the “will of the people” to usurp the Torah and Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael. The Yesha council does NOT represent me and I will not respect any “democratic decision” that is contrary to Halacha and Judaism no matter what the self imposed Judenrat leaders proclaim in my name.

I believe in G-d and the Torah and THEY decide what I will support or oppose, not a majority of the Hellenist secular government or the corrupt Yesha Council who have always been little more than lackeys to the current regime.

Revava, of course, gets a great deal of benign publicity in the USA from WorldNetDaily’s Jerusalem correspondent Aaron Klein. Many of Klein’s reports are just cordial conversations with David Ha’ivri, Revava’s leader, and the organisation is continually described as merely “a Jewish Temple Mount activist group”. I’ve noted Klein’s failures before; the latest example of Klein’s feeble “reporting” has just appeared.

What Klein and Joseph Farah do not want their readers to know is that Ha’ivri is a hard-core Kahanist. Revava hates democracy as much as the Ansar al-Sunnah Army does, and for exactly the same theocratic reason (“Hellenist”, of course, has a particular resonance for the Jewish right, recalling struggle of the Maccabees). Ha’ivri is also a racist who makes bizarre accusations such as this:

Danger! Assimilation in Israel

…While statistics are obscured as to how many Jewish girls are being held in Arab villages, the estimation is that the number is in the tens of thousands. As part of the over-all war against the Jewish state, they systematically dispatch young Arab men to charm Jewish girls and take them back to their villages. These Arab men freely enter Jewish towns and cities where they entice Jewish girls.  Often, they pretend to be Sephardic Jews…In time, they literally become slaves, abused by the Arab husbands and families.

Any chance of some references? Nope. And just earlier this month, Ha’ivri was convicted for “incitement to racism” in an Israeli court after distributing a t-shirt with the slogan: “No Arabs, no terrorism”.

But of course, there’s no way that Klein will ever give a full account of what Revava and Ha’ivri really believe (or of their marginal status within Israel). The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is purely about Jewish democrats pitted against Muslim fundamentalists. Given how ill-informed Farah’s target audience is, any information that might undermine that narrative (moderate Palestinians, the Israeli peace movement, the racist and theocratic nature of the Israeli far-right) can just be safely ignored.

Palestinian Christians Dislike Occupation Shock

Haaretz carries an opinion piece on the current dispute within the Greek Orthodox church by Moshe Elad (“reserve colonel and Orientalist who studies Palestinian society” according to his profile – the paper does not tell us that he is also a former military governor of Jenin and Bethlehem) entitled “The Palestinization of the church”:

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Irineos, “suspected” by the Palestinian Authority of leasing church lands to Israelis in the Jaffa Gate area, is going to be deposed through a religious putsch initiated by a group of priests led by Atallah Hanna, a Palestinian.

I’ve discussed this already here and here – and I’m no fan of Hanna, a man cited more than once in Arab sources as defending suicide bombings.

Irineos did what was done by his predecessors – Deodorus, Benedictus and Timotheus. The Greek Orthodox Church, the largest and richest of the Christian churches in our region, owning properties valued in the tens of millions of dollars, has leased and sold quite a bit of property to Israelis since 1948. Among those properties are valuable real estate like Saint Simon in Jerusalem, a large part of the Katamonim, Liberty Bell Park and the apartment houses and hotels around it, parts of Mishkenot Yamin Moshe, land in Caesarea, land around St. George’s Church in Lod, land in Nazareth, Haifa and along the banks of the Kinneret. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis live on these properties, which were leased for 99 years.

This is where Elad starts distorting the truth. All of those locations are in Israel proper. The land currently under dispute is in an Arab part of Jerusalem captured in 1967, and was bought by a shadowy group at a highly uncompetitive price. As Danny Rubenstein has argued in the same paper, the purchase appears to have been part of a (most likely government-funded) strategy to isolate Palestinian Jerusalem for the benefit of the Occupation. That’s why this purchase is so controversial, and why Irenios is so adamant he had nothing to do with it (although, bizarrely, Hanna has recently taken the line that the sale itself was not the problem, only the way it was handled).

Elad then goes on to mutter darkly about PA designs on the church:

…And since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority a decade ago, the PA has made efforts to penetrate the ranks of the church in order to prevent the transfer of property to Israeli hands.

What, the PA is not in favour of the church selling land to support the Occupation? How unsporting!

The Irineos case is evidence of the PLO’s success at enlisting even Palestinian churches in the cause of the PLO’s nationalist goals. Thanks to this “theological Tanzim,” the Christian churches in our region are going through a process of Arabization, localization and Palestinianization. Through “reeducation,” they are changing from churches with a universal character to churches with a local Arab character, meaning from religious institutions that are supposed to preach reconciliation and peace to institutions that have nationalist, pro-Palestinian positions. Under pressure from the PLO, the PA and certainly Hamas, Palestinian nationalism is being turned into the common denominator between Christian and non-Christian Palestinians.

“Theological Tanzim”? “reeducation”? Nice sinister terms, but what exactly do they signify? And why should we not take the view that “reconciliation and peace” go together with Palestinian national aspirations, rather than being opposed? You don’t usually see “reconciliation and peace” without justice, a term Elad prefers not to consider. I wonder if Elad has a similar dislike of Israel’s Jewish religious establishment making “pro-Israeli positions” rather than sticking to fluffy platitudes? And the Greek Orthodox church does not have a “universal character”: it has a Greek character, just as the Church of England has an English character.

Elad then turns to the history of the movement to give Palestinians a greater control over the local Orthodox church:

…What began in 1908 as a struggle to improve the socioeconomic standing of the Christian Orthodox in the Land of Israel, under the leadership of the Palestinian author Khalil El Sakakini, will have been turned in 2005 into a struggle by Mahmoud Abbas and the PA, via a “Christian theological Tanzim,” to end Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel.

By “Land of Israel” rather than just “Israel”, Elad means the West Bank and Gaza. So while the Orthodox church should preach “reconcilation and peace”, his own gospel is the aggressive territorial expansionism of “Greater Israel”.

This is obnoxious. Of course Palestinian Orthodox Christians object to living under Occupation, and they dislike the idea of their church hierarchy colluding in it. This has been the case for a long time; if Elad thinks it is due only to “reeducation” by the PA, then he’s a deluded fool as well as a hypocrite.

Shekarau’s Legacy

The BBC reports on polio in Yemen:

Health authorities in Yemen say 83 children have been diagnosed with polio, nearly double the figure reported just over a week ago.

…Sixteen previously polio-free countries have reported new cases since 2003, when a polio vaccine boycott in Nigeria was blamed for spreading the disease.

…Experts suspect the strain could have been carried from Nigeria to other countries by migrant workers or pilgrims visiting Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia.

Hardline Islamic clerics claimed the polio vaccination was part of a plot by the US to make people infertile or give them HIV-Aids.

More details about the other countries affected can be seen at this AP report from earlier this month; the data appears to de derived from this study produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I wrote about the vaccine boycott back in the very early days of this blog. Lest we forget, two figures bear most responsibility for the tragedy: Ibrahim Shekarau, the governor of Kano state in Northern Nigeria; and Hussain Abdulkareem, a professor at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital.

Briefly: early last year, the Nigerian federal government sent Muslim scientists to India and South Africa to allay the fears generated by Islamist conspiracy-mongers concerning the vaccine. Their report was that the vaccine was quite safe: there was a minute amount of the female hormone estriadiol in the polio vaccines, but less than can be found in Western drinking water. Shekarau ignored the committee’s conclusion, and announced that it had in fact found contamination. He also made the bizarre and irrelevant objection that the committee was not valid because although it contained representatives of a Muslim group, it did not also feature a Christian group.

The wretched Abdulkareem then chimed in with further nonsense: the polio vaccine causes AIDS, as well as cancer. Like Shekarau, he also distorted the committee’s findings to claim that it had declared the vaccines to be “contaminated” with estriadoil, and gave a lurid account of how estriadoil can lead to genital deformation in males – omitting that this would only occur at a much higher dosage. After publishing this opinion, he then wrote a second article in which he quoted his first piece, but put his conclusions in the mouths of the committee. Clearly, as a professor in a hospital Abdulkareem’s culpability is greater than that of the Imams who spread the hysteria.

Kano resumed its vaccination programme in July, after arranging to purchase supplies from Indonesia – Abdulkareem’s response to that development is unknown to me. But this is not just a tale of religious radicalism: at the time of the boycott, President Obasanjo made the accusation that

one of the Muslim leaders opposing the immunisation programme had unsuccessfully sought a government contract to import new vaccines.

It would be interesting to know who that person was, and who exactly has profited from the supplier switch in Kano.

(My original entries on the subject can be seen here and here. Most of the links are now dead.)

Up From Death

For several weeks now WorldNetDaily has been advertising Megashift, a book on church growth by James Rutz (as others have already noted). Now Rutz has his very own WND column; but first, Joseph Farah’s intro:

Rutz is the leading U.S. spokesman for a movement known as “Open Christianity,” a startling innovation on the traditional church that is laying a whole new basis for civilization. Additionally, he is chairman of Open Church Ministries and has been a full-time writer for 31 years.

According to Rutz, Open Christianity solves the three biggest problems of the church: “We’ve gotten rid of all the expensive buildings and paid pastors. Plus, you never have to listen to another sermon. This is the next step up from Protestantism.” Rutz says he and his “house-church friends are seeing lives getting straightened out, long-standing problems getting solved, wimps turning into world-changers, and everyone experiencing the strong presence of God.”

Rutz claims that the world is rapidly converting to Christianity, due to miracles. Most dramatically:

Rutz’s research has found 51 countries where God has raised people from the dead, mostly in the last 15 years (all footnoted, some with photos).

WND gives no further details, but a guest profile on CBN fills in some of the gaps:

At a Reinhard Bonnke meeting in Nigeria, Daniel Ekechukwu, dead for two days, was brought to the lower level of the meeting in his casket. He’d already been injected with preservatives when his wife brought him there. Cameras were rolling when life came back into his body, and he rose up.

…In Duad-India, Manu and other church members of the Indian Pentecostal Church in Dunger, Northern India, simply prayed in Jesus’ name and placed their Bibles on the body of a six-year-old boy who was near to being buried — whereupon he opened his eyes.

One missionary in Guatemala read all of Isaiah 53 over and over to a circle of Indians silently mourning the death of a boy until he came back.

Arjun Dass of Delhi, India, was electrocuted in April 2001. A team of five led by Savitri prayed for him, and God resurrected him 10 hours after his death.

…Chinese church leader Wang Xin Cai[‘s]…three-year-old daughter fell three stories and cracked her skull. He picked up her remains and laid her on the couch…He returned home the first day and her skull was back together; the second day she was breathing; the third day…he arrived home to a healthy, bubbling baby girl.

The first story is quite well-known, although the details are less than clear. Leo Igwe of the Nigerian Humanist Movement (that must be uphill work in the world’s most religious country) undertook his own investigation, which can be seen here, and found numerous discrepancies. I couldn’t find any commentary for the other cases. In his column, Rutz goes on to argue that because the number of Christians in the world has increased massively in the last hundred years or so,

A billion people are going to switch their loyalties to Jesus in the next 11 or 12 years and that may be just the beginning.

Rutz is of course right to note the growth of Christianity in Africa and China (although that’s hardly news), but actually this all sounds wearily familiar. New churches meeting in houses. Miracles galore, but all just out of reach of proper medical investigation. A massive religious revival around the corner. If anyone’s been raised from the grave here, it’s John Wimber. Back in the 1980s Wimber argued that “Power Evangelism” based on miracles and charismatic leadership would convert the world. Next we had the Toronto Blessing; then it was Tommy Tenney asking us to imagine shopping malls full of people suddenly weeping at the realisation of God’s presence. Rutz bolsters this charismatic message with some global church growth statistics, from which he extrapolates wildly, but it’s really the same old stuff.

Megashift is published by Empowerment Press of Colorado (not related to Empowerment Press of Texas).

UK Religious Incitement Law Back

The Guardian notes that tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech to Parliament, in which the monarch runs through proposed new legislation, will include the issue of incitement to religious hatred (this detail is tucked away in an article on ID Cards):

Peers have rejected this proposal twice in the last four years on grounds of “free speech”, but ministers have told Muslim groups that as it was a manifesto commitment they would now be justified in invoking the Parliament Act to override opposition.

Unfortunately, the Guardian‘s journos go on to botch their wording a bit:

…The legislation on incitement to religious hatred would introduce a new criminal offence with a maximum penalty of seven years in prison, to close a loophole that allows criminal behaviour motivated by religious hatred.

I don’t think that’s quite the case at the moment. What they mean, of course, is that incitement to religious hatred is not currently covered by the law, while incitement to racial hatred is.

But this new development is a bit of a surprise – just before the election ASSIST Ministries reported that:

The British government has dropped plans to introduce laws banning Incitement to Religious Hatred before the election after coming under intense pressure from both opposition parties and a coalition of groups coordinated by Barnabas Fund who oppose the laws on free speech grounds.

According to the Barnabas Fund, the leader of the House of Commons Peter Hain announced April 5 that the government was dropping laws banning Incitement to Religious Hatred from its Serious Organized Crime and Police (SOCP) Bill in order to get the rest of the Bill through before parliament rises for the general election.

Many groups and individuals have problems with the legislation, which they fear will be used to stifle criticism of religion. That impression was strengthened when MP Khalid Mahmood suggested that such a law could have been used to “edit” Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. I covered the debate here.