And offers 60 million for his head. More onÂ Islam’s Public Enemy #1. “Exclusive: Al Qaeda targets leading Arab evangelist operating in the U.S. for preaching the Gospel to Muslims,” by Joel C. Rosenberg forÂ Flashtraffic, September 9 (thanks to JW):
You have probably never heard of Father Zakaria Botros. But you need to know his story. He is far and away the most-watched and most-effective Arab-American evangelist focused on reaching the Muslim world, and by far the most controversial. The Rush Limbaugh of the Revivalists, he is funny, feisty, brilliant, opinionated, and provocative. But rather than preaching the gospel of conservatism, he is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. And his enemies do not simply want to silence him. They want to assassinate him.
Last week, I had the honor of interviewing Botros by phone from a secure, undisclosed location in the United States, where he now resides. He told me that he had just learned that an al Qaeda website had posted his photograph and named himÂ one of the “most wanted” infidels in the world. The Radicals have even put a bounty on his head. The Christian Broadcasting Network reported the figure was as high asÂ $60 million. Botros does not know for certain. But just to put that in context, the U.S. bounty on Osama bin Laden’s head is “only” $25 million.
Why are the Radicals so enraged by an elderly Coptic priest from Egypt who is in his 70s? Because Botros is waging an air war against them, and he is winning.
Using state-of-the art satellite technology to bypass the efforts of Islamic governments to keep the gospel out of their countries, Botros is directly challenging the claims of Muhammad to be a prophet, and the claims of the Qu’ran to be God’s word. He systematically deconstructs Muhammad’s life, story by story, pointing out character flaws and sinful behavior. He carefully deconstructs the Qu’ran, verse by verse, citing contradictions and inconsistencies. And not only does he explain without apology what he believes is wrong with Islam, he goes on to teach Muslims from the Bible why Jesus loves them and why is so ready to forgive them and adopt them into His family, no matter who they are or what they have done.
If Botros was doing this in a corner, or on some cable access channel where no one saw him or cared, that would be one thing. ButÂ his ninety-minute program – a combination of preaching, teaching and answering questions from (often irate) callers all over the world – has become “must see TV” throughout the Muslim world. It is replayed four times a week in Arabic, his native language, on a satellite television network called Al Hayat (“Life TV.”) It can be seen in every country in North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, as well as all throughout North America,Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. And not only can it be seen in so many places,Â it is seen – by an estimated fifty million Muslims a day.
At the same time, Botros is getting millions of hits on his multiple web sites in multiple languages. There, Muslims can read his sermons and study through an archive of answers to frequently asked questions. They can also enter a live chat room called “Pal Chat” where they are not only permitted but encouraged to ask their toughest questions to trained on-line counselors, many of whom are Muslim converts to Christianity who understand exactly where the questioners are coming from and the struggles they are having.
As a result, Botros – on the air only since 2003 – has practically become a household word in the Muslim world. An Arabic newspaper has named him Islam’s “Public Enemy #1.” Millions hate him, to be sure, but they are watching. They are listening. They are processing what he is saying and they are talking about him with their friends and family. When Botros challenges Radical clerics to answer his many refutations of Islam and defend the Qu’ran, millions wait to see how the fundamentalists will respond. But they rarely do. They prefer to attack Botros than answer him.Â Yet, the more the Radicals attack him, the more well-known he becomes. The more well-known he becomes, the more Muslims feel compelled to tune in. And as more Muslims tune in, more are coming to the conclusion that Botros is right and in turn are choosing to become followers of Jesus Christ. Botros estimates at least 1,000 Muslims a month pray to receive Christ with his telephone counselors. Some of them pray to receive Christ live on their air with Botros. And this surely is only the tip of the iceberg, as it represents only those who are able to get through on the jammed phone lines. There simply are not currently enough trained counselors to handle each call.
[…]He does not believe all Muslims are Radicals, but he does believe all Muslims are spiritually lost, and he wants desperately to help them find their way to forgiveness and reconciliation with the God who made them and loves them.
“I believe this is the hand of God,” Botros told me. “He is directing me. He shows me what to say. He shows me what to write on…the web sites. He is showing me more and more how to use the technology to reach people with his message of redemption.”
“As I love Muslims, I hate Islam,” says 2008 Daniel award recipient Fr Zakaria Botros
“My dictionary does not contain the word ‘fear'”
Father Zakaria Botros has just been namedÂ World Magazine’sÂ 2008 “Daniel of the Year,” something of a Christian equivalent toÂ Time Magazine’sÂ “Man of the Year.” I first wrote about the elusive Fr ZakariaÂ here. The uneditedÂ World MagazineÂ article is long but well worth the read, as it has many details — such as the fact that each of Botros’ weekly episodes are watched by nearly 60 million Arabic-speakers, the vast majority of which are Muslim.
“2008 Daniel of the Year Award,” by Mindy Belz forÂ World Magazine, December 13:
Botros has been hosting Truth Talk since 2003. The weekly show grew out of an internet chat room attended by thousands where the Coptic priest engaged Muslims on the inherent contradictions of their own religion and found that he was leading many to faith in Jesus Christ. As the geographic scope of the show has grown, so has its reach into the lives of Muslims. It is broadcast in Arabic, and this year began also to be translated for Turkish audiences and into Farsi to be aired in Iran.Â
Father Zakaria, as he is known to millions, has won his enormous following not by borrowing from the toolbox of the televangelist. For someone whose ecclesiastical tradition began in a.d. 100, his tools are decidedly 21st century: satellite uplinks, Wi-Fi connectivity, a late-edition Vaio laptop that is with him at all times, and a trusted reference tool he refers to as “St. Google.” He can spend 14-hour days on research for each show, and for this episode emailed the final script to producers at 4:30 a.m.
The result is less a preaching ministry and more like battlefield strategy. It’s the late-in-life culmination of a conscious decision, Botros says, to move away from apologetics and toward what he calls polemics: “My program is to attack Islam, not to attack Muslims but to save them because they are deceived. As I love Muslims, I hate Islam.”
Such conviction earns Botros a heady followingâ€”and serious enemies. Jihadist groups have reportedly posted a death threat worth $60 million against him. This year his name and photo appeared on an al-Qaeda website, seeking retribution for his teachings, which often depict Muhammad as less of a prophet and more of a womanizer.Â For his fearless determination in the face of his enemies, for his willingness to label Islam a false religion in a year when many Christian leaders have overreached in their quest for common ground with its worshippers, Zakaria Botros is WORLD’s 2008 Daniel of the Year.[…]
One recent episode of Truth Talk, aired Nov. 21, cut to 20 separate clips, most of Cairo’s respected Al-Azhar University Sheikh Khaled El-Gendy, to debate the age of Aisha when she became Muhammad’s second wife…
In one clip El-Gendy argues that “the Quran is enough” and the hadiths on Aisha aren’t needed. Another scholar cites a recent magazine article claiming she was a teenage wife. As Islamic authorities shout at one another onscreen, Botros calmly asks, “Are these holy books or not?” “If you are explaining her age based on a magazine article, what’s your reference?”
On the set Botros alternates between a jovial Captain Kangaroo persona and a finger-pointing, cloaked authority figure who sets his face toward the camera and declares, “Everyone should question all these discrepancies.” But Botros says he’s not looking to leave Muslim viewers with only questions: He begins and ends each episode with prayer, he sometimes reads from the Bible, and he almost always brings on a guest who is introduced as a Muslim convert to Christianity.
In another recent episode titled “Was Muhammad a messenger from God or Satan?” Botros recites the characteristics of a false prophet by Sunni scholar Ibn Taymiyya, then lays down his book, looks into the screen, and says each of the characteristics cited by Taymiyya apply to Muhammad. He quotes Matthew 7 and asks viewers, “Does this sound like a real prophet to you? Remember: ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits.'”
Botros told me in our first interview, “When I started to preach this way many or most Christians refused the style. They were afraid. For 14 centuries we [as Middle East Christians] are under the threat of the sword of Islam. So they were afraid and told me, ‘They will kill us! They will destroy our houses!’ But after I preached the gospel and spoke in this manner for years now, many of them now say, ‘We are no longer ashamed of our religion when Muslims attack us.'”[…]
At the same time, emphasis on Muslim-Christian interfaith dialogue has grown. Last month King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia hosted a UN interfaith dialogue in New York, which was preceded by similar meetings in Madrid and at Yale, as well as a dialogue that included discussion of theological distinctives at the Vatican.
Botros believes such rapprochement can succeed only for a short time. But he says his methods won’t work unless the motive is “nothing else but love.” Despite his confrontational style, he says: “I am not against Muslims although I am against Islam as a false religion.Â I don’t want to disgrace Muslims but to expose Islam. My ultimate intention is to glorify God and to save people, especially Muslims. Muslims are victims. Muhammad deceived them as he himself was deceived by Satan. Muslims believe that Muhammad is the best prophet, that the Quran is the only proper book from God, and Islam is the only religion from God. Muslims are in bad need to be saved from these false beliefs.”
Botros is fairly sure he’d be dead by now if it weren’t for the virtual universe in which he operates. Were he to make these kinds of statements on a street in almost any Islamic-dominated country, he would be hauled into court on charges of insulting Islam, where a guilty verdict could lead to his being killed. His broadcasts are aired from an undisclosed studio and he is strict about keeping his whereabouts out of public light. More positively, he discovered as he neared his 70s that with some tech-savvy, he could reach Muslims with Christian teaching in a way not possible in nearly 50 previous years as an active priest.[…]
Is your heart always in the Middle East?” I ask. “Yes,” Botros replies, “in the Muslim world always.” Botros grew up in a Christian family in Alexandria. Muslim attackers killed his older brother when he was a young teenager. “Instead of anger against Muslims, the Lord saved me from that. I had pity on them.” In his last year of high school he had a Muslim teacher who regularly challenged him for worshipping “a dead God.” Botros said he realized, “If I answered him from the Bible it would be no good. I had to read the Muslim books and the Quran itself.” Throughout his university years, he said, he read all the teachings of Muhammad as a way to answer Muslim questions about Christianity.
“This is a problem for every Christian in Egypt: He faces a fight for his faith in the schools. So I started to write what I had learned about Islam and how to answer questions about Christianity. I wrote them in books and started to publish them, small books. These were apologetics, defending our faith,” he said…
Twice authorities jailed him for preaching the gospel to Muslims, once in 1981 for one year, and again in 1989. A judge sentenced him to life in prison but ordered him released on the condition of forced exile: He had to leave Egypt and never return. By that time he had ministered in Cairo for over 30 years but moved to England with his wife, where he ministered in a Coptic church for 11 years before he said he “retired” to begin the television and internet ministry.
“What do you fear?” I ask.
“Fear? I fear nothing,” says Botros. “My dictionary does not contain the word fear. I believe in God and I believe that the epistle of Ephesians says we are created in Jesus Christ for a plan, which was engaged from the early beginning. No one can cut it, and when it is completed no one can continue it.”
The ongoing exploits of Fr. Zakaria Botros: “Peace and blessings upon him”?
Recently Father Zakaria Botrosâ€”also named World Magazine’s “Daniel of the Year”â€”briefly examined the oft-repeated phrase uttered by Muslims every single time Muhammad’s name is evoked, and which is often relayed in English as “blessings and peace upon him” (also seen as the acronym PBUHâ€”“peace be upon him”).
The original Arabic phrase uttered after Muhammad’s name isÂ Sala Allah ‘aliyhi we sallam, which literally translates into “Allah pray on him and peace.” This is founded onÂ Koran 33:56, where it says that “Allah and his angels pray (yi-sal-un) on the prophet…”
At one point or another, every Arabic speaker who reflects on this phrase asks, “Whyâ€”and howâ€”does Allah go about praying on Muhammad?”
The standard response from the ulema has been that, in this context,Â SalaÂ does not mean “pray” but rather “bless.” This is why the phrase states “on him” (‘aliyhi) not “to him” (iliyhi): only the latter would clearly mean that Allah praysÂ toMuhammadâ€”which is beyond haram, of course.
As Father Botros points out, however, there are some problems with this explanation. First of all, rare are the Arabic dictionaries indicating that the wordÂ SalaÂ means “to bless”; indeed, the only timeÂ SalaÂ means “to bless” is based entirely on the phraseÂ Sala Allah ‘aliyhi we sallamâ€”as there are no other instances where Muslims need a reason to believeÂ Saladoes not mean what it always does: Prayer.
Botros than read aloud one of the standard recitations Muslims say at specific events fromÂ Al-Majmu’ Al-Nawwawi, vol.8, p.202: “AllahÂ SalaÂ on Muhammad and his family, as you did with Ibrahim and his family.” After a few more recitations, the prayer goes back and says, “AllahÂ blessÂ Muhammad and his family, as you did with Ibrahim and his family…”
Botros’ pertinent question: IfÂ SalaÂ means to “bless,” why then does the recitation go on to use the proper Arabic word for “bless” (Baraka/barik) in the same exact context? If both mean “bless,” why the redundancy? Surely, then,Â SulaÂ doesÂ notmean bless; does it mean “pray”?
He then read from a very telling hadith recorded inÂ Kitab Al SunnaÂ by Abdullah bin Ahmad, vol.1, p.272: Apparently, when Muhammad reached the 7th heaven during the Isra and Mi’raj, he encounter Gabriel, who immediately said “Shh! Wait, for Allah is praying (Sala).” Muhammad asked: “Does Allah pray?” to which Gabriel said, “Yes, he prays.” Muhammad then asked, “What does he pray?” and Gabriel said “Praise! Praise the Lord!”
Father Botros, now visibly irritated, put the book down, looked in the camera, and asked: “How can Allah pray, and to whom?! Who does Allah magnify?!”
It was not clear what his rhetorical questions meant. On the surface, it sounded as if he was just annoyed at the notion that Muslims say that Allah “prays” (to which he called themÂ kafirs, infidels, for doing so). More closely, however, it almost seemed that heÂ wasÂ agreeing that “Allah”Â doesÂ pray and magnify “Another.”
In fact, it seems he may have been subtly implying that Allah is but another creating being — like the Jinn and Iblis — who worships and prays to the “real” God.
Just one more reason to make Muslims try toÂ eliminate BotrosÂ — even while other, more sober, Muslims reconsider what they have long assumed to be “gospel” (or, in this case, “koran”).