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Controversy over Coptic Priest and Muslims in Michigan Sparks Freedom of Speech Issues
By Amer Hedow :: Friday, August 22, 2008 :: 81499 Views :: Article Rating :: Government & Society, World News & Odds 'N' Ends

Michigan, USA - Refusing to submit, Egyptian Coptic Father Zakaria Botros tells listeners he will,” stop revealing the truth about Islam when my ten demands are met.”  The Coptic Priest is named Islam’s “Public Enemy #1” by the Arabic newspaper, al-Insan al-Jadid.  He has famously made of Islam “ten demands” whose radical nature he uses to highlight Islam’s own radical demands on non-Muslims.

The internationally renowned Coptic priest along with Muslim converts minces no words when addressing controversial topics of theological significance and touches on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition.  With rewards for his murder the priest fearlessly continues.  He has become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East and now in the United States. 

Tensions in Dearborn, Michigan rise as Fr. Botros continues to challenge Islamic teachings.  Dearborn’s Arab American newspaper reports that local Imams have been fuming over the Coptic priest’s ongoing revelations of Islam. Fearing anger will turn to violence; Deaborn’s Imams have called on Birach Broadcast owner demanding changes be made.  The Imams have also appealed to Chaldean and other Middle Eastern Christian leaders requesting interfaith efforts to create the change they seek. 

“It will not help their cause to convince the world that Islam is a peaceful and open religion.  Censorship raises suspicion,” says Julie Meram, broadcasting major from Windsor, Canada.  “Trying to have Botros forced off the air, silenced, or controlled is not the right way to go.  They should see this as an opportunity to debate Botros’ Islamic claims with what they feel Islam actually teaches.” 

Botros appears frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (Life TV).  His popularity is unquestionable and the result has been mass conversions to Christianity.  Islamic cleric Ahmad al-Qatani stated on al-Jazeera TV that some six million Muslims convert to Christianity annually, many of them persuaded by Botros’s public ministry.  Al-Jazeera noted Life TV’s “unprecedented evangelical raid” on the Muslim world.

Birach Broadcast has not yet decided on a course of action. 

Why Is Botros Successful?

“Besides his mastery of theology and life-long devotion to Christianity amidst a Muslim world, Botros is a brilliant researcher, presenter, and debater,” says Issam Mansour, a Chaldean fan of Botros.  “He is very smart.  He teaches you what your faith is about.”

Raymond Ibrahim of National Review online reveals Botros phenomenon seems to capitalize on a number of factors: The New Media, Arabic and Islamic Knowledge and Fluency, Presentation Style and Technique, and Air-tight Indisputable Arguments. 

In Ibrahim’s own words, First, the new media of satellite TV and the Internet make it possible for questions about Islam to be made public without fear of reprisal.  Fr. Botros himself has a website, which receives millions of visits. 

Secondly, Botros’s speaks, writes, and broadcasts in Arabic.  This allows him to reach a broader and more targeted audience.  He is able to address the nuances of the language, literature, culture, and history in context of theology and philosophy.    He persuasively speaks to the average Muslim on the discrepancies and affronts to moral common sense found within this vast corpus.

A third reason for Botros’s success is that his indisputable technique and delivery. Each episodes has a theme often expressed as a question.  For example, “Is jihad an obligation for all Muslims?”; “Are women inferior to men in Islam?”; “Did Mohammed say that adulterous female monkeys should be stoned?” “Is drinking the urine of prophets salutary according to sharia?.

To answer the question, Botros meticulously quotes and carefully gives sources and reference numbers from authoritative Islamic texts on the subject, starting from the Koran; then from the canonical sayings of the prophet — the Hadith; and finally from the words of prominent Muslim theologians past and present referred to as the Ulema.

Botros’s presentation of the Islamic material is detailed that the controversial topic is shown to be an airtight aspect of Islam. No matter how convincing his proofs, Botros never concludes basic tenets of Islam. He treats the question as still open — and humbly invites the Ulema, the revered articulators of sharia law, to respond and show the error in his methodology. He does demand, however, that their response be based on “al-dalil we al-burhan,” — “evidence and proof,” one of his frequent refrains that there be no shout-downs or sophistry.

More often than not, the response from the Ulema is deafening silence.  Which has only made Botros and Life TV more enticing to Muslim and Middle Eastern viewers. The Ulema who have publicly addressed Botros’s conclusions often find themselves forced to agree with him — which has led to some amusing (and embarrassing) moments on live Arabic TV.