The “Guardian” fake news problem!

For days now, the Guardian Online has railed (quite rightly) against the impact of “fake news” in spreading misinformation, legitimising racism or anti-Semitism and, generally, polluting the Internet.  Commentators propose (again, correctly, I believe) that Facebook should rank the veracity of news, or always provide a clear counter-link giving the opposite side of debate in a contentious issue, whilst Google must sort out its algorithms, so typing “are Jews…” doesn’t auto-suggest numerous websites with despicable views.

Then, after watching an episode of “Big Bang Theory”, when Sheldon Cooper claims that references in the Bible to camels belonging to Abraham must be made-up, I came across this article through Google in the Guardian.  In his blog, Andrew Brown asserts that “the Old Testament camels” are “made up” without any caveats. This should be a trusted source but it’s completely wrong.

Ironically, one of the best rebuttals is by a commentator on the article called “hybridartifacts”, but tragically his response is buried within 15 pages of other comment, presented in very small, difficult to read text.   The basic message is that copious evidence exists of domesticated camels in Mesopotamia and Egypt before and during Abraham’s lifetime.  He points out that camels would not COMMONLY have been used in the territory that is now Israel c. 2000BC but Abraham, as someone who travelled from Ur and diverted to Egypt could very probably have been expected to own 10 camels (and more – read the Bible for the full story!).  He was an exceptional figure.

The evidence deserves to be quoted more fully and properly appreciated:

“A Sumerian text from the Old Babylonian period, ca. 1950 – 1530 B.C
found at Nippur describes the use of camels milk, and they are listed along with domesticated animals in a text from Ugarit in a Sumerian text from 1950 – 1600 BC. (Archer, Gleason, 1970, “ Old Testament History and Recent Archeology from Abraham to Moses” and Davis, John J., 1986 “The Camel in Biblical Narratives,” in A Tribute to Gleason Archer: Essays on the Old Testament)

There is a rock carving near Aswan and Gezireh showing a man leading a camel by a rope dated to the 6th Dynasty of Egypt, ca. 2345 – 2181 B.C by the patina, an inscription with it and the style of the petroglyph suggesting the camel may have been domesticated in Egypt as early ca. 2200 B.C (Michael Ripinsky, 1985, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 71) – but there is also evidence for an earlier date – the 1st Dynasty (ca. 3100 –  2890 BC). A ointment vessel in the form of a recumbent camel was found in a tomb of that period and Frederick Zeuner (a key figure in early research into animal domestication) thought it was carrying a load. (F.E.Zeuner, A History of Domesticated Animals, New York, 1963)
There are also Some Early Bronze Age finds of clay camels attached to miniature clay carts suggesting they were domesticated in Southern Turkmenistan by the early 3rd millennium BC.

There is the Black obelisk of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824), which shows a man leading camel, but this is much later than the evidence mentioned previously. There is also a stone panel in the British Museum from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal showing camels used as steeds by Assyrian troops but that is from around 645 BC…

The references to Camels in Genesis may be anachronistic not because they were not domesticated by then in the area, but because they were not commonly used in the area at the time or because their use was sporadic or short lived – there is a strong suggestion that later on they were not used at all (especially as they came to be seen as unclean). There is a difference between sporadic and limited use and widespread and frequent use and surely that would affect any archaeological finds?

It is quite possible (even probable) that the investigation of camel bones described in the article shows they were not in common use in the area as beats of burden – but that does not necessarily mean they were never used as such. Zooarchaeological evidence does seem to be at odds with some other archaeological evidence, and I suspect there may be a bit of specialisation blindness at work here – its very easy for specialists to see only the evidence from their own field as being truly significant and to overlook other evidence or see it as less relevant, and coupled with that everyone wants their work to be really significant in itself and this can lead to overstating it.”

So, don’t worry about camels – there is no reason to suspect that the references were made-up.  In fact, they lend credibility – you don’t include difficult-to-believe details if you’re trying to pull the wool over someone’s eyes.  There are so much more evidence to support the historical details provided by the Bible – please do take a look.  However, we must beware those that rush to twist facts to make it appear that God’s word cannot be trusted.  Whilst aspects may be difficult to understand, again and again the Bible prove its doubters wrong, and declare the LORD Almighty is faithful – He never lies.

What do British Muslims actually believe?

A report by Policy Exchange notes that the majority of British Muslims (55%) prefer not to use sharia banking.  Only 4% actually use this alternative finance model, which is considered “a striking statistic, given how much emphasis elements of the banking sector have placed on the provision of Sharia banking facilities. It is surely worth considering whether the huge investment of resources diverted to this sector is entirely warranted.”

Note how certain aspects of Christian faith have been de-prioritised (i.e. keeping Sunday special) and not protected by law, unlike Sharia finance..  The argument for refusing to protect those individuals who refused to work on the “Sabbath” was to recast this as a preference, not actually mandated by any major Christian denomination, or with a widespread following.  I’m sure, however, more than 4% of Christians refuse to work in commercial settings on Sundays and certainly almost all of us would prefer that the whole day was considered to be a protected “rest day”.

I’m unfortunately forced to conclude that successive governments pick and choose what they would like people to believe, and this selection of “kosher” religious practices is ruled by business interests.

Then, there’s the publication of Dame Louise Casey‘s year-long review into integration, which cites claims that some sharia councils have supported the values of extremists, condoning wife-beating, ignoring marital rape and allowing forced marriages.   Of crucial importance is that the facts demonstrate communities becoming more divided and segregated, despite the passage of time.  Casey joins many others in warning society that we must be able to discuss these issues without fear of being labelled “racist” or “Islamophobic”.

An example of how this debate is being shut-down is found in the fascinating account of an anonymous someone who flirted with “alt-right” viewpoints online.  He describes being initially convinced by the videos and articles he discovers online, despite having deeply ingrained liberal or left-leaning tendencies.  Clearly, to disturb this viewpoint, the arguments that certain interpretations of Islam were a “threat to western civilisation” must have been persuasive.  What turned him away from what he describes as “indoctrination” was a reference to being “red-pilled” and suddenly thinking that this all sounded too much like a “cult”.

Whilst so much of what the “alt-right” says is abhorrent and panders to our worst tendencies, are we in danger of failing to engage with this discussion because we’re worried about being “politically correct”?  Mr Anonymous gave no indication that he was rationally persuaded that Islam was harmless and I’ve never seen any evidence of this much-repeated assertion.

In fact, there is much evidence to the contrary:

– wherever Sharia law is embraced by an Islamic nation, oppression of women, religious minorities and ex-Muslims follows.  For example, principles derived from the Koran were used to justify repeated violence against Nissar Hussain in Bradford.

violent Jihad is unique to Islam: whilst only practised by a small minority of Muslims, the devastation they have caused is truly shocking. Their ferocity, ruthlessness and inhumanity is unparalleled – just look at the aftermath of terror attacks in Paris 2015 or IS in Syria-Iraq.

– the prophet Mohammed, revered by millions of Muslims around the world, is the only founder of a major religion to also be a warrior and military leader.  Islamic biographers describe how he fought with neighbouring tribes, killed PoWs, exploited women and children, blessed violent, religious Jihad and made people slaves.

What is shocking about liberal Western attitudes to Islam is the complacent lack of scrutiny.  So few people understand the actual origins of the world’s second largest religion. This ignorance allows extremists to spread their messages of hate and entice individuals, like Rasheed Benyahia, into committing terrorist outrages.

We must hope and pray that everyone learns the truth about Islam and recognises the superiority of Christ Jesus who came not to be served and to slaughter, but to serve and be sacrificed for our sins.