Monday, February 29, 2016

The religion of peace

Quran (2:191-193) – “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing… 
but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)” (Translation is from the Noble Quran) The verse prior to this (190) refers to “fighting for the cause of Allah those who fight you” leading some to believe that the entire passage refers to a defensive war in which Muslims are defending their homes and families. The historical context of this passage is not defensive warfare, however, since Muhammad and his Muslims had just relocated to Medina and were not under attack by their Meccan adversaries. In fact, the verses urge offensive warfare, in that Muslims are to drive Meccans out of their own city (which they later did). Verse 190 thus means to fight those who offer resistance to Allah’s rule (ie. Muslim conquest). The use of the word “persecution” by some Muslim translators is disingenuous (the actual Arabic words for persecution – “idtihad” – and oppression – a variation of “z-l-m” – do not appear in the verse). The word used instead, “fitna”, can mean disbelief, or the disorder that results from unbelief or temptation. This is certainly what is meant in this context since the violence is explicitly commissioned “until religion is for Allah” – ie. unbelievers desist in their unbelief.Quran (2:244) – “Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah Heareth and knoweth all things.”
Quran (2:216) – Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.” Not only does this verse establish that violence can be virtuous, but it also contradicts the myth that fighting is intended only in self-defense, since the audience was obviously not under attack at the time. From the Hadith, we know that this verse was narrated at a time that Muhammad was actually trying to motivate his people into raiding merchant caravans for loot.
Quran (3:56) – “As to those who reject faith, I will punish them with terrible agony in this world and in the Hereafter, nor will they have anyone to help.”
Quran (3:151) – “Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority”. This speaks directly of polytheists, yet it also includes Christians, since they believe in the Trinity (ie. what Muhammad incorrectly believed to be ‘joining companions to Allah’).
Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.” The martyrs of Islam are unlike the early Christians, who were led meekly to the slaughter. These Muslims are killed in battle as they attempt to inflict death and destruction for the cause of Allah. This is the theological basis for today’s suicide bombers.
Quran (4:76) – “Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…”
Quran (4:89) – “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.
Quran (4:95) – “Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home).Unto each, Allah has promised good (Paradise), but Allah has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward ” This passage criticizes “peaceful” Muslims who do not join in the violence, letting them know that they are less worthy in Allah’s eyes. It also demolishes the modern myth that “Jihad” doesn’t mean holy war in the Quran, but rather a spiritual struggle. Not only is this Arabic word (mujahiduna) used in this passage, but it is clearly not referring to anything spiritual, since the physically disabled are given exemption. (The Hadith reveals the context of the passage to be in response to a blind man’s protest that he is unable to engage in Jihad, which would not make sense if it meant an internal struggle).
Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…” Is pursuing an injured and retreating enemy really an act of self-defense?
Quran (5:33) – “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement”
Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” No reasonable person would interpret this to mean a spiritual struggle.
Quran (8:15) – “O ye who believe! When ye meet those who disbelieve in battle, turn not your backs to them. (16)Whoso on that day turneth his back to them, unless maneuvering for battle or intent to join a company, he truly hath incurred wrath from Allah, and his habitation will be hell, a hapless journey’s end.”
Quran (8:39) – “And fight with them until there is no more fitna (disorder, unbelief) and religion is all for Allah” Some translations interpret “fitna” as “persecution”, but the traditional understanding of this word is not supported by the historical context (See notes for 2:193). The Meccans were simply refusing Muhammad access to their city during Haj. Other Muslims were allowed to travel there – just not as an armed group, since Muhammad had declared war on Mecca prior to his eviction. The Meccans were also acting in defense of their religion, since it was Muhammad’s intention to destroy their idols and establish Islam by force (which he later did). Hence the critical part of this verse is to fight until “religion is only for Allah”, meaning that the true justification of violence was the unbelief of the opposition. According to the Sira (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 324) Muhammad further explains that “Allah must have no rivals.”
Quran (8:57) – “If thou comest on them in the war, deal with them so as to strike fear in those who are behind them, that haply they may remember.”
Quran (8:67) – “It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter in the land…
Quran (8:59-60) – “And let not those who disbelieve suppose that they can outstrip (Allah’s Purpose). Lo! they cannot escape. Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah and your enemy.”
Quran (8:65) – “O Prophet, exhort the believers to fight…”
Quran (9:5) – “So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captive and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.” According to this verse, the best way of staying safe from Muslim violence is to convert to Islam (prayer (salat) and the poor tax (zakat) are among the religion’s Five Pillars). This popular claim that the Quran only inspires violence within the context of self-defense is seriously challenged by this passage as well, since the Muslims to whom it was written were obviously not under attack. Had they been, then there would have been no waiting period (earlier verses make it a duty for Muslims to fight in self-defense, even during the sacred months). The historical context is Meccaafter the idolaters were subjugated by Muhammad and posed no threat. Once the Muslims had power, they violently evicted those unbelievers who would not convert.
Quran (9:14) – “Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of a believing people.” Humiliating and hurting non-believers not only has the blessing of Allah, but it is ordered as a means of carrying out his punishment and even “healing” the hearts of Muslims.
Quran (9:20) – “Those who believe, and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in Allah’s way are of much greater worth in Allah’s sight. These are they who are triumphant.” The Arabic word interpreted as “striving” in this verse is the same root as “Jihad”. The context is obviously holy war.
Quran (9:29) – “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” “People of the Book” refers to Christians and Jews. According to this verse, they are to be violently subjugated, with the sole justification being their religious status. Verse 9:33 tells Muslims that Allah has charted them to make Islam “superior over all religions.”This chapter was one of the final “revelations” from Allah and it set in motion the tenacious military expansion, in which Muhammad’s companions managed to conquer two-thirds of the Christian world in the next 100 years. Islam is intended to dominate all other people and faiths.
Quran (9:30) – “And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!” 
Quran (9:38-39) – “O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place.” This is a warning to those who refuse to fight, that they will be punished with Hell.
Quran (9:41) – “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew.” See also the verse that follows (9:42) – “If there had been immediate gain (in sight), and the journey easy, they would (all) without doubt have followed thee, but the distance was long, (and weighed) on them” This contradicts the myth that Muslims are to fight only in self-defense, since the wording implies that battle will be waged a long distance from home (in another country and on Christian soil, in this case, according to the historians).
Quran (9:73) – “O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.” Dehumanizing those who reject Islam, by reminding Muslims that unbelievers are merely firewood for Hell, makes it easier to justify slaughter. It also explains why today’s devout Muslims have little regard for those outside the faith.
Quran (9:88) – “But the Messenger, and those who believe with him, strive and fight with their wealth and their persons: for them are (all) good things: and it is they who will prosper.” 
Quran (9:111) – “Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Quran: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.” How does the Quran define a true believer?
Quran (9:123) – “O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”
Quran (17:16) – “And when We wish to destroy a town, We send Our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so We destroy it with utter destruction.” Note that the crime is moral transgression, and the punishment is “utter destruction.” (Before ordering the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden first issued Americans an invitation to Islam).
Quran (18:65-81) – This parable lays the theological groundwork for honor killings, in which a family member is murdered because they brought shame to the family, either through apostasy or perceived moral indiscretion. The story (which is not found in any Jewish or Christian source) tells of Moses encountering a man with “special knowledge” who does things which don’t seem to make sense on the surface, but are then justified according to later explanation. One such action is to murder a youth for no apparent reason (74). However, the wise man later explains that it was feared that the boy would “grieve” his parents by “disobedience and ingratitude.” He was killed so that Allah could provide them a ‘better’ son. (Note: This is one reason why honor killing is sanctioned by Sharia. Reliance of the Traveler (Umdat al-Saliq) says that punishment for murder is not applicable when a parent or grandparent kills their offspring (o.1.1-2).)
Quran (21:44) – “We gave the good things of this life to these men and their fathers until the period grew long for them; See they not that We gradually reduce the land (in their control) from its outlying borders? Is it then they who will win?” 
Quran (25:52) – “Therefore listen not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness…” “Strive against” is Jihad – obviously not in the personal context. It’s also significant to point out that this is a Meccan verse.
Quran (33:60-62) – “If the hypocrites, and those in whose hearts is a disease, and the alarmists in the city do not cease, We verily shall urge thee on against them, then they will be your neighbors in it but a little while. Accursed, they will be seized wherever found and slain with a (fierce) slaughter.” This passage sanctions the slaughter (rendered “merciless” and “horrible murder” in other translations) against three groups: Hypocrites (Muslims who refuse to “fight in the way of Allah” (3:167) and hence don’t act as Muslims should), those with “diseased hearts” (which include Jews and Christians 5:51-52), and “alarmists” or “agitators who include those who merely speak out against Islam, according to Muhammad’s biographers. It is worth noting that the victims are to be sought out by Muslims, which is what today’s terrorists do. If this passage is meant merely to apply to the city of Medina, then it is unclear why it is included in Allah’s eternal word to Muslim generations.
Quran (47:3-4) – “Those who disbelieve follow falsehood, while those who believe follow the truth from their Lord… So, when you meet (in fight Jihad in Allah’s Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives)… If it had been Allah’s Will, He Himself could certainly have punished them (without you). But (He lets you fight), in order to test you, some with others. But those who are killed in the Way of Allah, He will never let their deeds be lost.” Those who reject Allah are to be killed in Jihad. The wounded are to be held captive for ransom. The only reason Allah doesn’t do the dirty work himself is to to test the faithfulness of Muslims. Those who kill pass the test.
Quran (47:35) – “Be not weary and faint-hearted, crying for peace, when ye should be uppermost(Shakir: “have the upper hand”) for Allah is with you,” 
Quran (48:17) – “There is no blame for the blind, nor is there blame for the lame, nor is there blame for the sick (that they go not forth to war). And whoso obeyeth Allah and His messenger, He will make him enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow; and whoso turneth back, him will He punish with a painful doom.” Contemporary apologists sometimes claim that Jihad means ‘spiritual struggle.’ Is so, then why are the blind, lame and sick exempted? This verse also says that those who do not fight will suffer torment in hell.
Quran (48:29) – “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves” Islam is not about treating everyone equally. This verse tells Muslims that there are two very distinct standards that are applied based on religious status. Also the word used for ‘hard’ or ‘ruthless’ in this verse shares the same root as the word translated as ‘painful’ or severe’ to describe Hell in over 25 other verses including 65:1040:46 and 50:26..
Quran (61:4) – “Surely Allah loves those who fight in His cause” Religion of Peace, indeed!  The verse explicitly refers to “rows” or “battle array,” meaning that it is speaking of physical conflict. This is followed by (61:9), which defines the “cause”: “He it is who has sent His Messenger (Mohammed) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam) to make it victorious over all religions even though the infidels may resist.” (See next verse, below). Infidels who resist Islamic rule are to be fought.
Quran (61:10-12) – “O You who believe! Shall I guide you to a commerce that will save you from a painful torment. That you believe in Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), and that you strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives, that will be better for you, if you but know! (If you do so) He will forgive you your sins, and admit you into Gardens under which rivers flow, and pleasant dwelling in Gardens of’Adn- Eternity [‘Adn(Edn) Paradise], that is indeed the great success.” This verse refers to physical battle in order to make Islam victorious over other religions (see verse 9). It uses the Arabic root for the word Jihad.
Quran (66:9) – “O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern with them. Hell will be their home, a hapless journey’s end.” The root word of “Jihad” is used again here. The context is clearly holy war, and the scope of violence is broadened to include “hypocrites” – those who call themselves Muslims but do not act as such. Other verses calling Muslims to Jihad can be found here at AnsweringIslam.org
Hadith and Sira
Bukhari (52:177) – Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. “O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.” 
Bukhari (52:256) – The Prophet… was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, “They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans).” In this command, Muhammad establishes that it is permissible to kill non-combatants in the process of killing a perceived enemy. This provides justification for the many Islamic terror bombings.
Bukhari (52:65) – The Prophet said, ‘He who fights that Allah’s Word, Islam, should be superior, fights in Allah’s Cause. Muhammad’s words are the basis for offensive Jihad – spreading Islam by force. This is how it was understood by his companions, and by the terrorists of today.
Bukhari (52:220) – Allah’s Apostle said… ‘I have been made victorious with terror’
Abu Dawud (14:2526) – The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Three things are the roots of faith: to refrain from (killing) a person who utters, “There is no god but Allah” and not to declare him unbeliever whatever sin he commits, and not to excommunicate him from Islam for his any action; and jihad will be performed continuously since the day Allah sent me as a prophet until the day the last member of my community will fight with the Dajjal (Antichrist)
Abu Dawud (14:2527) – The Prophet said: Striving in the path of Allah (jihad) is incumbent on you along with every ruler, whether he is pious or impious
Muslim (1:33) – the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
( from Jihad Watch)

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Carolina Covenanters (1801)


Some have heard of the small American denomination known as the Reformed Presbyterian Church and how they took a early stand against the practice of slavery. But few have read any of the story of what was involved, what it cost to take that stand, and the blessings that followed from their Scriptural obedience. It would make an interesting study, to ask how it was that this Church saw such near-unanimous obedience in standing true to the Scriptures and against the prevailing culture. I would argue that what we read here is the proper exercise of that doctrine known as the Spirituality of the Church, in which the Church exercises its God-given authority and effectively disciplines sin where it finds it.
Our post today comes from the September 1875 issue of Our Banner, a publication of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America.
A Long Standing Testimony
OurBanner1875
Extracts of Minutes of the Committee of the Reformed Presbytery, on the Subject of Slavery.—Minutes of February 11, 1801.
“A petition came in requesting a reconsideration of the business respecting slaveholders, so far as this species of traffic might be supposed to affect Christian communion—and that such steps might be taken in the premises, as should place that whole affair on such a moral basis as the principles of our common profession, seem imperiously to demand.”  “It was agreed prior to the further consideration of this subject that all slave-holders in the communion of this church, should be warned to attend the next meeting of the Committee, and that there the merits of the petition aforementioned, shall be particularly attended to.”
Minutes of February 18, 1801.—“The consideration of the state of the enslaved Africans was introduced this day into the Committee.  The purport of the discussion was to ascertain whether those who concurred, more or less, in the enslavement of these miserable subjects, should be considered as entitled to communion in this church.  It was unanimously agreed that enslaving these, our African brethren, is an evil of enormous magnitude, and that none who continue in such a gross departure, from humanity and the dictates of our benevolent religion, can have any just title to communion in this church.”
To carry this resolution into effect, the following note was sent to every member of the congregation, not then present, involved in the evil, viz:  "Sir, you are hereby informed, that none can have communion in this church who hold slaves. You must therefore immediately have it registered, that your slaves are freed, before the sacrament. If any difficulty arises to you in the manner of doing it, then you are desired to apply to the Committee of Presbytery, who will give directions in any circumstances of a doubtful nature in which you may be involved, in carrying this injunction into execution."
At this time the Rev. Wm. Martin was deposed from the office of the ministry, having been found guilty of several heinous sins and scandals, among which the third in order belongs to the present subject, and illustrates the faithful application of discipline to remove slavery from the church.
"3d, That he sold some time since, a negro man then in his possession, thereby doing everything in his power, to prevent himself from ever having it in his power to liberate a poor wretched fellow mortal in any other period in his life, putting this price of blood among his substance, while he left his fellow-mortal to languish out the last moment of his life, under the galling chains of slavery without one scanty ray of hope of ever obtaining deliverance any other way but by the hand of death, and all this after the determination of the court and church to which he belonged had marked African enslavement with the strongest degree of abhorrence." The last words quoted undoubtedly point to Presbyterial action on the subject of slavery or at least to the action of a committee of Presbytery prior to the deed of selling the slave. This action was thereafter taken by the Scotch Presbytery itself or by its committee, as that was the court to which Mr. Martin belonged until he gave in his submission in 1801 to the committee of Reformed Presbyterians in the United States of America. Mr. Martin's want of proper feeling in reference to his sin, appears from the plea he made for himself. "Ye a' see I'm opposed to slavery for I ha'e sold mine."
As the communion season was near at hand, and they were not familiar with the legal formalities in the deed of emancipation it was found necessary to settle the matter in preparation for the sacrament by binding the parties under heavy penalties to carry out the liberation of their slaves "as soon as it could possibly be ascertained" how it could be legally done. " It was accordingly agreed that said bonds be in the meantime delivered into the hands of Rev. Thomas Donnelly, who is held responsible for the same; and that the said Rev. Thomas Donnelly, John M. Ninch, and Robert Hemphill be appointed a committee to inquire into the peculiar circumstances of each of the slaves to be liberated, as also into the true legal forms of emancipation; that the intentions of the Reformed Presbytery in purging out the accursed thing from among them, may be carried into the most speedy effect." This last language implies that the American Presbytery had also given orders on this matter. Indeed, it is well understood that the committee of Presbytery came to the South specially empowered by Presbytery to abolish slavery in the church. It was further ordered that Mr. Donnelly should make an early report to Presbytery in reference to this matter. It will thus be seen, that Covenanters always viewed with the utmost abhorrence the crime of slavery; and while they provided for the natural freedom of the enslaved, they enquired about their circumstances, it is presumable, in a spiritual as well as a temporal point of view. The records do not show that Mr. Donnelly ever reported the matter to Presbytery and therefore to bring it to a close, we must depend on tradition. It is said that of all those that gave bonds, only four persons failed to carry out their obligations.  One of these, James Kell, was afterwards taken in the act of adultery with his own slave—a second died a vile drunkard—and a third was reduced to abject poverty, and was caught stealing the nails to make his wife's coffin. Thus the brand of Cain was put on the sin of slavery and that in connection with the discipline of our church. The blessing of God followed those that turned from their sin, and some of their children and grand children became ministers and elders in the church.
Some of the slaves then freed also became members of the church.  Three children of Will and his wife, the former set free by James Hunter, and the latter by John McDill, are now members of Church Hill congregation in Illinois.
The ministers of the church all habitually denounced the judgments of God on the nation for the sin of slavery. If there was any difference in the degree of abhorrence felt against the inhuman and revolting traffic, it was on the part of the ministers and people of the South. They had seen the monster sin, not to pity and embrace; but to hate and abhor. The underground railroad found its most daring conductors and station agents among Carolina Covenanters. Having abolished slavery among themselves, they were not ashamed to be called abolitionists ; and they were not afraid to incur the wrath of citizens and civil officers by helping the fugitives. It was part of their religion.
Mr. Donnelly retained his fervid hatred of the system to the end.  His hearers say, that as he had always consistently opposed the iniquitous institution, his severe denunciations and arguments were overlooked, with some such remark as, " Oh, it is only old Donnelly, let it go ;" while if a Northern man had said the same thing it would have secured him a coat of tar and feathers. Nor was he at all a respecter of persons in reproving this sin. After his son became a Presbyterian and a slaveholder, they must needs discuss the irrepressible subject. The son claimed that there were Christian slaveholders. The father replied, " It may be so, but a slaveholder among Christians is like a black swan in the flock."  Slavery was certainly the principal cause of the exodus of Covenanters from the South.  Rev. James Faris used to say that he would have made the South his home, had it not been for the danger to his family through the temptations held out by the peculiar institution.

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Thursday, February 04, 2016

Books read in February 2016

1. Born Survivors by Wendy Holden

I give this book four stars for the subject matter is such that I cannot indicate I love it.  This is the story of three different Jewish young wives sent to Auschwicz while concealing their pregnancies. The narrative takes them from the death camp to save labour in an aircraft factory then an horrific train journey to Mauthausen, a death camp in Austria. Each woman gives birth on the way to Austria. Miraculously mothers and babies survive and are among those liberated by American troops. As in other accounts I have read I see the survival of some Jews, not as mere luck, but because of a determination to survive and their hope no matter the horrors they endured. We are told what happened after the war. No happy reunions with lost husbands. Part of the horror of the story is the way that German civilians who had contact with the prisoners did nothing to help either because they did not care or were too frightened. There was one glorious exception, a stationmaster in Bohemia who organised food, clothing and other help from his town when the train of prisoners was stopped there. One other man praised in the book is Bomber Harris. The man in charge of the RAF bombing is rarely praised but these women working as slave labour in a factory near Dresden, thought of him as a saint and believed Dresden a legitimate target for strategic reasons. So in conclusion this is a book to horrify one as to the depth of human depravity but also encourage one to see people can endure and triumph through appalling suffering.

2.Submission  by Michel Houellebecq 

Middle aged French academic loses his lectureship at the Sorbonne after a Muslim government comes to rule France. If you do not have a working knowledge of French writers and philosophers you will find this hard going. There is a typically French love of gastronomy and drink. However I found the explicit sexual detail to be pornographic. The author could have explored further the implications of Islamic rule beyond the borders of academe.

3. Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency by Virginia Comolli 

Published in 2015 this book deals with events until August 2014 only so there is nothing concerning the present situation after the 2015 election of Buhari as president. We are though given a comprehensive history of Islam in the north of Nigeria and the many factions after 1960 independence. Boko Haram is but the latest and most violent manifestation of salami/wahabi Islam. That Islam in the north has a long history of rejecting all things Western (except technology) is seen in the figures quoted for literacy, said to be the world's lowest. The author does not tells that Nigeria proclaimed universal primary education in the early nineteen seventies. BH is shown to continue and harden the anti-western line rejecting the institutions of the secular state, the Muslim establishment and Christians. Despite the northern states proclaiming shari'a law they are in the judgment of BH,not strict enough. Links are described with Islamist movements in other countries and the BH effect on neighbouring states. The response of the Nigerian government has not been effective. It has failed to crush BH or to protect the people from the insurgents. There have been extra-judicial killings so the people may fear the security forces as much as BH. The major omission from this account is that there is hardly anything on the Fulani insurgency in the Middle Belt. In states like Plateau, indigenous Christians now live in fear of raids by nomadic Muslim Fulani cattle herders and their supporters. Though not strictly BH this is also Islamist insurgency.

4. Margaret Thatcher by Jonathan Aitken 

In his introduction to his second volume of the authorised official biography of Margaret Thatcher, Charles Moore relates that at the many talks he gives on Lady Thatcher, the curiosity of audiences does not focus on the political events of his subject's life, but on her personality. What was she like? Jonathan Aitken knew her very well indeed.  He had sixteen years as a fellow member of parliament. He courted Carol Thatcher and remained a friend after his imprisonment until her death. So he is the one best qualified to write on her personality. He is also a skilled biographer. I have enjoyed him on Nixon, Colson and John Newton. If you wonder why Moore not Aitken was given the task of official biographer, Aitken tells us that Thatcher did not want her authorised account published while she was alive and Aitken was not too many years her younger. So much as I have enjoyed Moore's two completed volumes, Aitken is my favourite biographer of the Iron Lady. Moore is more detailed and academic. Aitken, even at 700 pages, is briefer and much more personal. Both authors are admirers, neither are hagiographers. I think Aitken is the more critical but I should cease comparisons as Moore's third volume is yet to be published and the trauma of her removal from Downing Street to be related. After each chapter Aitken reflects on the events and the behaviour of his subject. He is able to give us her great strengths and also her weaknesses.  No-one else could have given us victory in the Falklands. Her's was a critical role in ending the Cold War and the break up of the Soviet Empire. Her trades union reforms and subsequent victory in the miners strike changed the country but her intransigence over the Community Charge was a factor in her downfall.Other factors were her increasing stridency over the E.U. and her poor man management of cabinet colleagues, particularly Geoffrey Howe.So the chapters on her removal from office and life in retirement read like a real tragedy, all the more tragic knowing that with better management she could have gone on to win a fourth term.

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