Antichrist’s Men Martyred By ISIS (Rev 13:18)

Shia families told ‘don’t weep for our martyrs’ as fathers and sons die in holy war against Isis

Thousands rushed to fight jihadis in Mosul, but their friends and families are expected not to mourn
By  in Karbala
December 29, 2016 13:25 GMT

Iraqis mourn over a coffin
25 August 2016: Iraqis mourn over a coffin during the Najaf funeral of members of the Iraqi government forces and Shia fighters who were killed in the Khalidiyah area of Iraq’s Anbar provinceHaidar Hamdani/AFP
Just 15 minutes drive from the upscale homes and modern shopping centres of southern Iraqi city Karbala, Saif Saad’s streets are lined with houses built with breeze blocks and corrugated iron. One of the poorest neighbourhoods in Karbala, mounds of litter lie in heaps on the side of dusty dirt roads, some smouldering with acrid black smoke. Trucks and lorries, abandoned and rusting, dot the landscape.
Thirteen-year-old Obeida rides around Saif Saad on a sky-blue bicycle. On the bike, just a little too big for him, he passes a poultry shop and a tyre yard, where workers sit on seats salvaged from scrapped cars, as he returns home.
The house Obeida shares with his mother Raqwa and his four siblings stands apart from other nearby structures, and would be unremarkable were it not for the sign which dominates its front entrance.
It shows a serious-looking man holding a mounted automatic rifle. Above him flies the Iraqi national flag and below is depicted the Shia shrine of Imam Hussein and blossoming flowers. ‘The martyred hero Waleed Mohammed Hamed’, a red Arabic script reads next to the picture.
Obeida is the martyr’s son.
Raqwa remembers the night Waleed was killed with a sense of detachment, staring off into the middle distance as she retells the events. “At 1am they called me and they said he was wounded. They didn’t tell me that he was martyred then,” she says. “Then they called me again and asked to speak to his brother, and they told him about his martyrdom.”
Waleed suffered catastrophic injuries when, during the battle of Bayji in May 2015, he walked into a house rigged with an Islamic State (Isis) IED. He later died in hospital. He was a volunteer in the Shia Imam Ali Brigade and received no payment other than a one-off sum of 400,000 ID ($330).

Saif Saad
Obeida (centre), 13, stands with his younger brother and sister in their home in Saif SaadIBTimes UK

That is all that is to be said of Waleed Hamed’s death, as far as Raqwa is concerned, other than that he, like the hundreds of other Shia paramilitary fighters killed fighting Isis, died a hero in the eyes of his family and the community.
This is the first response of most from Iraq’s southern Shia heartlands when asked about paramilitary fighters killed by Isis.
Obeida remembers how his father, a labourer, would give him money to go to school. Otherwise, he says little more about him, apart from than that he is proud he died fighting Isis and defending Iraq. However, snippets of the hardship the family has endured since Hamed was killed is occasionally revealed.
“First we asked him to leave the Hashid Shabi [PMF] because he was a volunteer and we were unable to make ends meet on their own. I was forced to send my sons to sell gum on the road,” Raqwa says. “But he always said no.”
By the accounts of his family, Waleed was a deeply devout man, and apart from work his principal interest was in participating religious events regarding Karbala’s holy shrine to Imam Hussein, the Shia faith’s third Imam. He considered a pivotal fatwa called for by Iraq’s Shia religious leader Ayatollah Sistani in June 2014 to fight the Isis principal of faith. “He would say we should protect our families, we should liberate our cities and respond to the fatwa,” Raqwa says.
On the rough concrete wall of the family’s house adorned with decoration, Waleed’s photo hangs next to images of Shia devotion: pictures of Ayatollah Sistani, the religion’s highly revered imams and its holy places. Raqwa has to survive in the leaky house on her own, relying on religious charity to keep going.

Shia fighters sit in a
Shia fighters sit in a vehicle driving through a sandstorm near the village of Al-Boutha al-Sharqiyah, west of Mosul, on 2 December 2016, during the offensive to retake the city from Islamic StateAhmad al-Rubaye/AFP

“Many families have sent money to the brigade to support us,” she says. “The children go to schools related to the shrine. They get money from the Shia organisations and rely on their charity,” Raqwa adds.
On the walls of a room set aside in the Karbala headquarters of the Shia PMF, the Ali Akbar Brigade, pictures of martyrs stare down at visitors. The scores of killed, looking straight down the lens of the camera, died across Saladin province, Anbar and Nineveh. The battles and their names are written in white lettering on the black plastic posters.
The brigade’s base is in the former Ministry of Transport building and the fighting group’s flags fly alongside a fleet of government buses. Inside, base co-ordinator Naif Ahmed explains that in their most recent battles at Tal Afar, where the brigade was fighting to cut Isis supply lines, four men were killed by Isis. He says that Isis has inflicted most casualties through IEDs and suicide attacks, adding that these are the tactics of a fighting force in retreat.
Ahmed says martyrs are only to be celebrated, not mourned. If he is killed fighting – he expects to rejoin the battle against Isis in Mosul as he did in Saladin province (he has already arranged to have his son come and replace him) – he would consider it a blessing. An officer in the Iraqi army for two decades, his decision to join the PMU is a deeply religious one.
“I could have joined the Iraqi army and earned $2000 per month … but I decided to join the PMU because of its affiliation with my faith. [My faith] is much more important than my family because it is what keeps my family protected and secure,” he adds.

Members of Iraqi security forces
Members of Iraqi security forces and Shia militia fighters make their way in vehicles from Samarra to the outskirts of Tikrit on 28 February 2015Reuters

The Ali Akbar Brigade was formed immediately after the fatwa by Ayatollah Sistani and the first aspect of its fighters’ training is doctrinal. It is directly linked to the shrine in Karbala and it places the city’s religious authority above that of PMF command in Baghdad. Ahmed explains that, if called, to he would go to protect Shia shrines in Syria. Although all of Ali Akbar Brigade’s fighters remain in Iraq, Iraqi fighters have travelled to defend the shrine of Sayyidah Zaynab. Ahmed says he revers Zaynab as he does Hussein. “The only difference is Hussein is here close to us; she is far,” he explains.
The call to arms, for Ahmed, is far more important than the effect the war has had on his family, his absence and his reduced wages. “Right now I have two children in school and they are not doing very well because I am not teaching them,” he explains. “This is the priority. Even though they are not doing well in school, this is my priority. This much more important than my children’s education,” he says.
Outside the great mosque in Kufa, 80km south of Karbala, the tension between the loss of those killed fighting Isis and the political necessity of their heroism plays out once more. In one of the mosque’s central courtyards two young men are weeping over the coffin of their fallen friend, killed in the Mosul operation.
The wooden box is plastered with military adornments. The plastic coverings flash in the sun, yellow with the emblem of the PMF, red, white, green and black for the Iraqi flag and green and black for the Saraya al-Salam Brigade, Muqtada al-Sadr’s paramilitary organisation, the latest iteration of the Mahdi Army which fought the US invasion.
Approaching the two crying friends, their heads pressed on the coffin, an older man chastises them in front of a slowly forming group. “Why are you upset?” he asks. “You’ve had good news. Your friend is a martyr, he fought for this country.”

Kufa Mosque
Mourners gather around the coffin of a fighter killed in the Mosul offensive outside the Great Mosque of KufaIBTimes UK

Pakistan Continues To Martyr Christians (Daniel 8:8)

Pakistan Teen Killed In ‘Terror’ Campaign Against Christian Women, Girls_70988026_coffin-leadFebruary 19, 2016

By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos

LAHORE, PAKISTAN (BosNewsLife)– Rights activists say Christian women and girls in Pakistan are facing a wave of terror that has already claimed at least one life and injured two others this year alone.
The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) says the terror has included a January 13 deadly incident in the city of Lahore where three young Christian girls, identified as Kiran, 17, Shamroza, 18, and Sumble, 20, were approached at night while walking home by four allegedly drunk Muslim men in a car.
Because the girls refused their sexual advances the men became enraged to the point that the driver targeted them with the car, according to investigators. Kiran died after she landed on the hood of the car, which had increased in speed before coming to an abrupt halt. Christians said the teen was catapulted through the air before falling to the ground.
The two other women received severe injuries and broken bones, rights activists said.
Women have a low status in Pakistan, but none more so than Christian women who find themselves under the grip or terror, especially after this attack.” added Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the BPCA. “Evidence exists that some rogue imams declare that such acts of conversion through violence are rewarded in heaven, what a terrifying thought.”
This isn’t an isolated incident. Last year in November, American Center for Law and Justice affiliated group Organization for Legal Aid in Pakistan, reportedly prepared charges in the case of an 8-year-old Christian girl who was beaten and left naked on the streets by a Muslim family that wanted to punish her uncle for an interreligious relationship.
BPCA says it has started a petition for victims like Kiran, and set up a donations fund where people can financially contribute to the work that goes into helping Christian families.
“This act of violence should be met with the strong arm of the law. In any other nation the perpetrators would be arrested, convicted for murder and sentenced for a long term. In Pakistan, however, the poor go to prison and the wealthy commit whatever crime they wish with impunity. Violence against Christians is rarely investigated and highly unlikely to be met with justice,” Chowdhry complained.
Additionally the BCPA says it has written to the British Embassy and the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, both in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, urging them to give a persecuted Christian mother of three a humanitarian visa and “allow her safety in the West”.
Fouzia Sadiq, 30, was allegedly abducted by a Muslim man who forced her to marry him and “convert” to Islam following an impromptu request for cleaning services at his home on July 23 2015. “Two days ago Fouzia Sadiq with the help of her brother Paris, was able to escape the clutches of Muhammed Nazir, 60, who had tortured, raped and subjected her to a life of personal servitude.”
BosNewsLife published the names of the victim and suspect as they were already publicly identified.
At least 700 Christian women and girls in Pakistan are abducted, raped and forced into Islamic marriage every year – almost two a day, according to Christian rights groups.
Some of them have been accused of blasphemy against Islam, including Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five who has been on death row for nearly six years and faces execution by hanging under the country’s controversial blasphemy legislation.
Advocacy and aid group Open Doors says these and other incidents contributed to its decision to place the Asian nation number 8 on its annual World Watch List of 50 countries where it says Christians face severe persecution.

Iran Driven By Nuclear Martyrdom

How does religion really influence Iranian nuclear policy?


Ariane Tabatabai | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Ariane Tabatabai is an associate (and former Stanton nuclear security fellow) at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
One of the most enduring myths about post-revolutionary Iran is that the country’s policies, including those on nuclear matters, are shaped by its leadership’s obsession with martyrdom and Messianic ideals. Many observers, especially in the arms control community, base their analyses on this notion, and it leads to some harrowing conclusions. If, after all, a country’s stance is basically suicidal, there’s no telling what it would do with a nuclear weapon. A careful and more nuanced look at the role of religion in Iranian decision-making, though, debunks the idea that martyrdom rules in Tehran, and gives a much more realistic basis for understanding the regime’s behavior.

To be sure, there are reasons why some analysts see the Iranian government as driven by martyrdom. The idea originated with the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War, which helped shape the Iranian psyche and the image of the Islamic Republic in the world. During the war, Iran famously launched a series of “human wave attacks,” sending untrained and unprepared men (and occasionally boys) to the front, sometimes through minefields, to clear the way for the trained forces. This tactic went hand-in-hand with the notion of martyrdom, with members of this ill-equipped vanguard promised a place in paradise if they gave their lives for God and country. Mental images of young boys wearing plastic “keys to paradise” around their necks and running across minefields have haunted the war’s observers, and though whether such keys actually existed remains controversial, the picture lingers and contributes to perceptions of Iran.

Much later, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad probably encouraged the notion of martyrdom’s importance in politics with rhetoric deemed bizarre. For instance, in 2005 he said that some delegates at the United Nations General Assembly had seen a “halo” around his head. During his 2005-2013 presidency, Iranians joked that Ahmadinejad would always put out an extra plate at his table for the “Mahdi.”

Shia Muslims believe that the Mahdi, born in the ninth century and also known as the Hidden Imam or the Twelfth Imam, is the Prophet Mohammed’s last legitimate successor. They believe that he has gone into occultation—the state of being blocked from view—but will eventually return, much as Christians believe that Jesus Christ will return some day. According to Shia belief, the Hidden Imam will reappear along with Christ and together they will restore peace and justice, saving the world from the chaos into which it would otherwise descend.

The notions of martyrdom and “Mahdism” have led many to extrapolate that the Iranian leadership’s actions are governed by an inherent suicidal tendency and a willingness to cause chaos, even if it’s self-destructive, in order to facilitate the Mahdi’s return. But if one goes beyond the revolutionary rhetoric and examines the Islamic Republic’s actions, one realizes that more often than not, Tehran is driven by national or regime interests, rather than pure ideology and belief. In fact, Iran’s rulers often use ideology as a means, and do not see it as an end. It’s true that the regime sometimes makes decisions that seem irrational to outside observers. But this is not generally due to religious belief but rather to the fact that the regime’s interests and the national interest do not align—for example, Iran and Israel have many common strategic interests, yet Tehran has adopted anti-Israeli rhetoric and policies since the 1979 revolution. This stance may not serve national interests, but it certainly advances the Islamic Republic’s interest in a strong, external-enemy narrative.

The phantom fatwa. None of this is to say that Islam does not play any role in security decision-making in Iran. Most followers of the country’s nuclear affairs are aware of the famous fatwa reportedly issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei prohibiting nuclear weapons. But this fatwa, or religious edict, has become a puzzle.

In order to issue a fatwa, a religious figure must be deemed an authority in Islamic jurisprudence. (This is why to most Islamic scholars, fatwas issued by Al Qaeda leadership in support of the use of nuclear weapons are void of any legitimacy.) But a fatwa does not have to be written. It can be spoken if it meets certain requirements, such as having been witnessed. In this particular case, Khamenei does not appear to have written the fatwa, but it has been communicated to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and repeated a number of times by Khamenei himself, as well as by other government officials. It is unclear whether the fatwa covers only the “use” of these weapons, or their “production and stockpiling” too, as Khamenei has been quoted saying both.

Some scholars and policy makers believe the Khamenei nuclear-weapons fatwa to be bogus because it is not written, and therefore irrelevant. Others believe it to be all-important. Neither side has seen a fatwa, and it has not been published on Khamenei’s otherwise extremely comprehensive website.

Adding further ambiguity to the fatwa’s status is the fact that such rulings can be overturned, allowing the faith to change and adapt to the times. The founder of the Islamic Republic, the Ayatollah Khomeini, famously overturned a number of fatwas. Even this possibility of reversal, though, does not necessarily make pursuit of an Iranian Bomb more likely, because while there is no religious constraint on canceling a fatwa, the geopolitical cost of overriding this one would be high. Iran has promoted the fatwa in various forums for more than a decade and it is finally being recognized and referred to by world leaders. In a way, by leading a public relations campaign promoting the edict, Tehran has constrained its ability to overturn it.

Nuclear weapons in Shia jurisprudence. Virtually absent from the debate is the fact that Shia scholars who have spoken on nuclear weapons show consensus. Few Grand Ayatollahs have discussed the issue, but those who have present arguments similar to Khamenei’s, regardless of personal political stance. Hence, whether they support the Islamic Republic or oppose it, and whether or not they believe that politics and religion should be intertwined (many Iranian Shia clerics say they should not), they believe weapons of mass destruction to be against the faith. What is unclear, however, is the scope of this prohibition. Clerics tend to be generalists, trained to cover all possible matters from which foot to enter the bathroom with (left!) to the use of technology in warfare. This means that the legal debate is neither elaborate nor nuanced.

But the basic principles underlying the Supreme Leader and the other clerics’ rulings are very close to those in international law. In Shia jurisprudence, like in international humanitarian law, there must be a distinction between combatants and non-combatants. Non-combatants, typically defined as women, children, the elderly, and those mentally unfit to fight, are not to be targeted. Hence, using poison in bodies of water and burning trees is not allowed. The environment too must be protected. These are among the key notions shaping Shia thinking on indiscriminate warfare.

Does it matter what the faith says? A dissident Iranian Shia cleric, Mohsen Kadivar, points out that when Saddam Hussein’s missiles targeted Iranian cities during the Iran-Iraq war, officials asked Khomeini for permission to retaliate in kind. At first he refused, hewing to the Shia ban on indiscriminate warfare. Eventually, though, he allowed similar attacks to be carried out. There are similar examples in which Iran has acted rationally with little or no regard to religious doctrine or sectarianism. Consider Tehran’s relations with two neighbors to its northwest, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Armenia is a Christian country, with good ties to Tehran, while Azerbaijan, a Shia-majority state, has had complicated relations with Iran. In Iranians’ view, Azerbaijan tries to arouse their own Azeri population’s separatism and enables some Israeli actions that target Iran. Tehran’s policies are not driven by sectarianism and ideology here, but rather by national interests.

The role of religion in post-revolutionary Iranian politics is complex and often misunderstood in the West. It seems clear, though, that the regime follows its practical interests. When ideology serves these interests, it is put forward as a rationale; otherwise, it takes a backseat. Observers who continue to argue that the regime wishes to hasten the return of the Mahdi, and that Iran will therefore withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and develop nuclear weapons, are contradicted by the facts. In actuality, Tehran highlights that it is party to a number of international treaties, and that its program has been in strict compliance with its international obligations. Whether or not this is the case is a different story, but a suicidal regime wouldn’t bother preserving appearances. The regime has not reversed the fatwa or withdrawn from the NPT—precisely because those would be suicidal moves. It is to the government’s advantage to be seen as unlikely to pursue a nuclear weapon, so it cites Khamenei’s fatwa. But the regime puts forward no religious rationale for the fact that 35 years after the US embassy hostage crisis, with the backing of the Supreme Leader, it is negotiating with what the revolutionaries then called the “Great Satan.” It would not be doing so if it did not believe it was acting in its own real-world interest.