Fatal Rationale

Masses of people are fleeing the onslaught of the Islamic State. The news in Europe and North America reverberate with the plight of these hordes. People (who believe they are better Muslims than any other group) harass, attack, and murder (often in grizzly ways) people the Islamic State leaders view as unworthy.

In essence, the Islamic State is simply repeating the actions of the Ottoman Empire of a century ago.

As I continue to turn over numerous pebbles on the beach of history, I run across historical records that astound me with their similarity with current events. Mankind seems to learn little as the decades and centuries pass.

In a book I discovered last summer, I ran across the English translation of the “1915 Ottoman Fatwa” or Muslim cleric’s edict issued in early 1915. This Fatwa used the word “war” thirty-five times and  some version of “massacre/kill/slay/exterminate” twelve times. Followers of Islam were told to kill ‘unbelievers’ (anyone not Muslim).

What interested me most was the reason for doing so. “The slaying of one unbeliever [non-Muslim]…in public or private shall be called an additional life for Islamism, and will be well recompensed by God. Let every Mussulman know that his reward for so doing shall be doubled by our God who created heaven and earth. It will be accounted him as a great precept, and his recompense will be greater than fasting on ‘Ramadan’.” (p. 221, The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic holy war and the fate of non-Muslims.)

Hmm. The cleric appears to be promising one sinner (a Muslim), God’s forgiveness for sin if that sinner kills another sinner (a non-Muslim). How is that even logical? God is righteous and His heaven has no room for sin. This cleric’s promise sounds more like a rationale for war and plunder.

More to the point, the 1915 Ottoman Fatwa urged the Turks to conduct an all-out war against their Christian population, the Armenians. Armed Turks and Kurds descended on their unarmed neighbors the spring and summer of 1915, killing 1.5 million of them.

Since Muslim clerics have and still do demand the extermination of non-Muslims, how in the world can Muslims call their religion peaceful?

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Ripple Effects and Rumelians

When a rounded stone (such as those displayed in this blog’s photo) plunges through the surface of a lake, is that the end of its action? Hardly. Ripples spread out in all directions from the stone’s entry point in the water. Some time later, a section of the ripples reaches a distant shore.

With the New Year of 2015 arriving shortly, it seems natural to take stock of the year 2014. But what I wonder is how the decisions and events of 2012 and 2013 contributed to what is today. Ripples effect lives, not just lakes.

The same was true in the days of the Ottoman Empire. In 1912-1913, European armies killed and pushed Muslim populations out of the Balkans and Thrace, forcing the displaced across the Bosporus (1989. A Peace to End All Peace). This flood of refugees included groups of Rumelians who resettled on the Anatolian Plain of central Ottoman Turkey.

Among the men of that defeated section of the Ottoman army was one, Mehmet Talaat. On January 4, 1914, Talaat and two of his cohorts took over the government of the Ottoman Empire. Talaat set himself up as the Minister of the Interior, giving him unlimited power to seek revenge for what the armies of Europe had done to him and the Rumelians when the European armies intervened on behalf of the Christian minorities in the Balkans and Thrace.

On October 15, 1914, the government in Constantinople issued telegrams across the Ottoman Empire for the recruitment of the Rumelian refugee men for military training. These were armed and formed into militias (p. 136. 2006. A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility).

The Rumelian militias were only one kind of group that Talaat used against a Christian population. But, instead of going after the armies that had tried to protect Christian minorities in Europe, Talaat aimed these revenging Rumelian militias at Christians who had nothing to do with the Balkan and Thrace defeats, the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. The ripples from the 1912-1913 events hit the Anatolian Plain in 1915.

Now I ask, does punishing one group for what another did make any sense to you?

Cross-Purposes for Jihad

Recent incidents in the midwestern part of the U.S. have prompted discussions about a home owner’s right to self-defence. If two teenagers break into an elderly man’s home with the intention of stealing, does the home owner have the right to shoot and kill the would-be robbers? What does the law say? Under what circumstances should a self-defence law be applied?

Then, there are many North Americans who view war as a necessary activity against aggression. The main idea behind participation in a fight is self-defence or in the defence of allies. The Western nations who joined the fight during Word War II provide a case in point. Young men in the U.S. willingly answered the governmental call to join the military in order to defend U.S. territory that had been attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor in 1941. Canadians had signed up even earlier to defend their ally England because its cities were being bombed by German planes.

In North American eyes, war is about the defence of one’s home or one’s friends. To most North Americans, jihad makes no sense. It isn’t war for the purposes of self-defence nor is it war for the purpose of defending a friend. It is blatant aggression against fellow citizens because that group of people has chosen a different religious belief and doesn’t wish to change. Yet Muslims call jihad a holy war. Most North Americans think of war as anything but holy. It appears to be more like hell. What makes jihad holy? Jihad is dubbed a war against infidels. Who is an infidel? According one of the definitions in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, an infidel is “one who acknowledges no religious belief.” Jews and Christians do not match that description. Yet most Muslims view anyone who is NOT a Muslim as an infidel.

That was certainly the definition that the government maintained in Ottoman Turkey.

On 4th January 1914, when the Young Turks took over the Ottoman government, Enver Pasha set himself up as Minister of War and Mehmet Talaat as Minister of the Interior (1989, A Peace to End All Peace). As the Young Turks rose to power, they promised equal rights for all. In reality, this group held a super nationalistic view–Turkey would only be for Turks, no one else.

  That was a non-reality in 1914. The Ottoman Empire at the time had a population from a variety of ethnicities, languages, and religions–Rumelians who had been expelled from Thrace and resettled in Anatolia; Greeks who had lived within the borders of the Empire for centuries; Armenians whose land the Turks had invaded and now administered; and Kurds who inhabited portions of the eastern provinces of Ottoman Turkey, just to name a few.

To accomplish their super nationalistic ends, the Minister of War Enver and the Minister of the Interior Talaat had several threads of recent history they could pull. Mob violence against the largest non-Turkish population, the Armenians, had already occurred in 1894, 1895, 1896, and 1909 (A Peace to End All Peace). Enver and Talaat were well-aware of the disdain with which most Turks regarded their Armenian neighbors.

Plus Enver and Talaat could easily beat the religious drum of jihad to rouse the Turkish population into cooperating with Talaat’s telegraphed orders to the provincial governors.

But Enver and Talaat didn’t just rely on the undercurrent of Turkish attitudes or use the Koranic encouragement toward jihad to foment hatred and justify mass murder.To accomplish “Turkey is only for Turks,” the two men spent an entire year drawing a variety of Muslim populations in Ottoman Turkey into well-armed and trained militias to wage the 1915 jihad against a group of Ottoman Empire citizens, the Armenians (A Peace to End All Peace; 1998, Lords of the Horizons; 2006, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility).

Civil Rights?

North Americans often assume that people will or at least should function as if their behavior is governed by Judeo/Christian-based laws or ethics. A teacher colleague of mine discovered to her shock that isn’t always the case.

Even here in the north central part of North America, many immigrants from Africa and the Middle East are our neighbors these days. Just because these newcomers have come to the “land of the free” doesn’t mean they have shed any of their assumptions, prejudices, or culturally engrained ways of handling relationships. When my colleague objected to the way a neighbor had treated her, the neighbor replied, “You’re an infidel (not a Muslim). So I can treat you any way I like.” Remember now, this incident occurred in North America in the twenty-first century!

Evidently, a Muslim’s understanding of Sharia (Islam-governed law) holds that Muslim accountable for how he or she treats another Muslim. (And punishments for disobedience can be quite severe.) Apparently, any activity or attitude of a Muslim is permissible toward a non-Muslim.

That expectation evidently hasn’t changed since twelve hundred A.D. after the Seljuk Turks took over Armenian territory to establish the Ottoman Empire. By 1915, the Empire’s Armenian population had already endured centuries of subjugation as second class citizens (See “Segregation Device: Shoes by Firman,” December 7, 2012 posting). Whenever an Ottoman Turk had a mind to harass, beat up, steal from, rape, or even kill an Armenian, the Turk could do it with impunity. The Armenian had no recourse. Any attempt at a protest usually resulted in more mistreatment.

Justice and civil rights existed only for Muslim Turks in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. 

 

Is Wealth Made or Stolen?

“Wealth is made.” This Western cultural belief follows on the heels of another belief that is dear to the heart of every North American. If a man or woman works hard at obtaining an education and is diligent in business or at a job, he or she can and will make personal wealth. So wealth is not evil. It is a just reward for great effort.

In most developing countries, however, no such assumption exists. Peoples of third world cultures assume that there is only so much material on earth. They firmly believe that the world has limited goods (1976, Cultural Anthropology, p. 265). Therefore, if a neighboring farmer succeeds in growing a dozen more yams than the farmer with fewer yams, the poorer farmer assumes it is because the richer farmer has somehow cleverly stolen the ‘extra’ yams from the poorer farmer’s field. Wealth is viewed as theft. Third world people assume any evidence of personal wealth is a sign of evil, proof of intelligence used to rob everyone around the wealthy one.

“Wealth is stolen” was an assumption alive and well during the days of the Ottoman Empire. Turks acted as if the prosperity and success of the Armenians in Turkey were  signs of evil intent.

Functioning on Christian principles, the Armenians of Turkey embraced any opportunity for an education that became available, especially for their young men. The Armenians also acted on the teaching from the Bible that God expected every follower of Christ to work hard and to do his or her best everyday and in every way.

Their Turkish neighbors and overlords, however, viewed the prosperity of the Armenians with jealous eyes. One rumor Ottoman Turks evidently believed was that Armenians had gold buried in the walls of their homes. Once the Armenians had been forced out in 1915, there were instances where Turkish neighbors pulled apart Armenian houses looking for the gold. Of course, the looters found nothing.

If you or I had been living in Ottoman Turkey in 1915, would we have believed prosperity to be a sign of God’s blessing, e.g., His reward for diligence, or assumed wealth to be a sign of thievery? Are commonly held assumptions mirrors of a group’s religious foundations, or are assumptions the reflections of the weaknesses of human hearts and minds?

Two Views of the End of Jesus’ Life

The week preceding Easter is the most important period in the calendar for all Christians, including those in the Armenian Church. Christians around the world decorate their homes and places of worship with lilies, intricately colored eggs, and wooden crosses draped with a single white or purple cloth. Christians present special concerts and pageants and participate in solemn services on Thursday in remembrance of Jesus’ last supper with His twelve closest followers, and on Friday in remembrance of His death on a Roman cross. Over two thousand years ago on a hill named Golgotha outside the city of Jerusalem, Jesus died.

The mood of the celebrants is decidedly different on Easter Sunday. The worshippers put off their solemn rituals and faces. Wearing new, or at least their best clothes, people greet each other with “He is risen” and “He is risen indeed.” Church bells peal joyous sounds. In remembrance of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the celebrants and their spiritual leaders, priests, vicars, and pastors are joyful. In their teachings that day, they proclaim that since Jesus died for the people’s sins and rose again to give believers new and eternal life, the believers have every reason to rejoice.

In the world of Islam, however, none of the above occurs. My Muslim students not only emphatically told me that Jesus is not God’s son, they also told me that Jesus didn’t die. According to them, Jesus was a prophet whom God took to heaven because he was a good man. There was no death and no resurrection. So the Muslims I have talked to are in complete denial of Christendom’s Holy Week.

Hmmm. … They evidently know nothing of world history or are trying their best to rewrite it. And they definitely haven’t read the Injil, the four Gospels in God’s Word. It says: “And he [Jesus] bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of the skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha; where they [the Roman soldiers] crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst” (Gospel of John 19: 17 & 18). “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished; and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19: 30). “Then took they [Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus] the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury…. There [in a new sepulchre] laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews’ preparation; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand” (John 19: 40 & 42).

“In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. … And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Gospel of Matthew 28: 1,2,5, & 6).

“Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene out of whom he had cast seven devils” (Gospel of Mark 16:9). “And as they [Cleopas and his friend] thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them [Jesus’ eleven closest followers] and saith unto them, Peace be unto to you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Gospel of Luke 24: 36-39).

See? Even Jesus’ closest followers were dumbfounded by His death and resurrection. When they recovered from their shock, they rejoiced and, with great excitement, told everybody about it.

So, along with other Christians, Armenians rejoice on Easter Sunday because Jesus Christ’s death provides salvation from their sins and His resurrection gives hope for eternal life with God in heaven to both men and women.

From the beginning of His life to His death and resurrection, Jesus was living proof that there is a God and He loves each and every person. Jesus is God’s love letter to you and me.

The Muslim Turks of the Ottoman Empire couldn’t have been more wrong in their decisions in 1915. They chose to slaughter their Armenian neighbors, a people who could have shown the ultimate hope for both life on this earth and eternal life with God. Why kill hope, I ask you? How does killing Christian believers save a nation, let alone an individual? Has the nation of Turkey (that evolved out of the Ottoman Empire) benefited from the extermination of its Christian population? Perhaps modern-day Turkey is more like the cows in an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh’s dream. “And the lean and ugly cows ate up the first seven fat cows. Yet when they had devoured them, it could not be detected that they had devoured them; for they were just as ugly as before” (Genesis 41: 20 & 21). The Ottoman Turks planned and carried out the elimination of Turkey’s Armenian population, took over their lands and businesses, and stole all their property. Yet the greedy swallowing of so much left Turkey no better off after World War I than it was before.

So where is hope today – for Armenian Christians, North American Christians, the people of the world in general, even Muslim Turks? Denial of Jesus’ death and resurrection might delay a clear view of our Heaven Father’s expression of love for all people. But rewriting history doesn’t change HIS story.The risen Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross still stands as the greatest hope for the present and the future.