A Lingering September 2015: A Middle East View of Where the World is Headed


September 25, 2015

As the month of September drags on, people are still waiting for a number of apocalyptic episodes to take place. Personally, I’ve been waiting to see if I should pay my mortgage for October or not, while waiting for Palestine to become a state, looking  for blood moons to appear and watching for Jesus or the Mahadi to make a personal appearance. But while doing all of that, I decided to keep myself busy chasing global stories and investing in young leaders in the Middle East, specifically in Egypt and Iraq over the last two weeks.

While speaking at a conference this month in Cairo, Egypt, I decided to find out what my students really thought about some current global events. The group of students are predominantly university students and young business professionals. The majority of them are Muslim, with a small minority being Christian.  The goal was to find out what others, (these students) living in a vastly different part of the world (compared to the U.S.) thought about current world issues.  Here are some of their thoughts:

What was your reaction to the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, lined up in orange jumpsuits, by ISIS in Libya (February 2015). 

All respondents believed this episode was a horrible, unbelievable event. Some interjected a political aspect and propaganda into how ISIS orchestrated the event, and almost all stated that this act had nothing to do with the tenants of the Islamic faith.

  • Noha said, “I’m totally against what happened. It’s a shame that it’s under the name of Islam…”
  • Ahmed said, “It was a disaster. It was for media purposes to sell the world on the idea of ISIS.”
  • Nada said, “I think it is a very aggressive group and they deserve to be all killed because they sparked fear all over the world.”
  • Mohamed Islam believed, “I think it was an edited video that ISIS wanted to use to frighten people, but overall I was upset at their violence against people whatever their religious direction.”
  • Mohamad Mamdouh expressed that he wanted to take action against such a situation, but “like many others, I had nothing to do but watch and share my thoughts on Facebook.”
  • An unnamed respondent stated this, “It changed my idea about ISIS. Because for a while there I thought they would be something good. Then I see them killing people whether these people are wrong or right. They don’t have the right to decide to end their lives like that.” 

ISIS, or the Islamic State, is the first terrorists organization to control their own Caliphate since the Ottoman Empire. They are also infamous for their horrific acts of brutality towards some Muslim groups, Christians and other minorities. How would you describe ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) as an organization? 

  • 89% of those who responded viewed ISIS as simply not Islamic at all- that the behaviors and goals of ISIS have nothing to do with their own understanding of Islam and how it should be practiced.
  • About 10% believed that ISIS is in fact Islamic- but a radical form and radical interpretation of the religion.
  • Ahmed (whose view represented less than 1% of those surveyed) viewed the whole affair as a political form of Islam designed to serve the Super Powers in the Middle East.

Do you think the recent nuclear deal with Iran is a good thing for the world, and in particular, Egypt and the region?  Are you comfortable with Iran increasing their influence in the region? 

The overall feelings of the Egyptians we interviewed was that it was a bad idea for Iran to procure nuclear weapons. In fact 95% were clearly against it while 5% either didn’t feel they had enough information to comment or that there were some pros and cons to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

  • Passant Abd El Moniem refuses the idea of the “existence of nuclear weapons in the world.” 
  • Mohamed Islam echoed this concerns stating that eventually “nuclear weapons would destroy the world.” 
  • Basem Moataz believes that the Iran Deal will trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, and I don’t think we are ready for that.” 

End of the world: There is much talk lately about the imminent end of the world. How do you think the world is going to end?  Do you think it will happen in your lifetime? 

There has been so much talk recently, especially regarding the month of September 2015, that many signs, prophetic and otherwise, are lining up and indicating that the world is about to see its final days. We wanted to know if this group of Egyptians we were working with had the same sense that things were winding down. (After all, both Christianity and Islam have prophecies and views of the end of the world.)

Nearly all of the respondents believed that the world was going to end – that we were headed toward nuclear disaster, some cosmic disturbance or the destruction of our planet due to poor resource management. A few believe that prophetic signs pointed towards the near end of the world.

Overall, a little less than half of those surveyed thought that they might witness Earth’s last days. The slight majority either didn’t know, didn’t think think anyone could know, or they simply believed that while things were getting bad, the world would continue to turn and churn out iPhones and other essential gadgets. Here are some of the individual comments:

  • Saga said, “The selfishness is increasing, with everyone caring only about their own selves even at the expense of others…” 
  • Mostafa El-Tabey says, “I don’t know and I don’t expect anything. God only knows.” 
  • Mohab Farid says, “The world is going to end, due to the death of the planet, due to excessive use of its resources. It won’t happen in my lifetime, but in the next 100 to 200 years.”
  • Hadeer Hatem says, “I have no idea how it is going to end, but what’s scary is that it was stated in our religion that certain small and big signs would appear, then the day of justice would come and the world would come to an end. Most of the small signs have come true, so based on our religion, this means that the end of the world is getting closer…”

Currently, many refugees are flowing into Europe from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other places experiencing conflict.  Experts are saying this is the largest mass movement of refugees into Europe since World War II. Reports are saying that many are converting to Christianity as they enter these Western nations. What do you think of this? Are these real conversions? Are these “conversions” for political reasons? For some other reason? 

There are reports that many are converting from Islam to Christianity – and while some reports coming out of nations like Germany indicated that the conversions seem genuine, there is, of course the possibility that some are converting to increase their chances of gaining asylum in their new country. (No European country forces or encourages conversion, but someone who converts could say that as a new convert, he or she would face persecution or death if returned to their former Muslim country.)

I thought it would be interesting to ask these Egyptian students – most of whom are Muslims, what they thought about the conversions of these refugees – were they genuine or fake? Most of the responses indicated doubt that the conversations were real. Some felt that the refugees were confused, had shallow faith, or felt pressured to convert to have a better chance of gaining asylum. Unsurprisingly, there was not a lot of support for the ideas that the Holy Spirit was working in the hearts and lives of men and women who had been through horrific times and were embracing the grace, forgiveness and the love of Jesus.  Here is a sampling of their responses:

  • Pasant Abd El Moniem, “I think it is only conversion for political reasons.” 
  • Nada Hatem Shaheen, “I don’t think the conversions are real and if it happens, it will be public only, but for themselves, they will still remain in their former religion.”
  • Hammam, “I don’t think this is true, it may be fake conversions just to guarantee to stay safe in their new countries…” 
  • Maryam Ahmad, “I think this is sad. Even if people decided to convert to Christianity, finding a more embracing religion, this should not at all be connected to them being refugees. No one should be forced to changed his beliefs in order to survive.” 
  • Mohab Farid, “I am not sure it these are real conversions, but it might be a play from the refugees or the media to get the people’s sympathies.”
  • Hadeer Hatem, “I think theses conversions are for political reasons, so that they feel safer and more secure if they are not considered Muslims.”  
  • Rana Younes Badr, “Assuming that this is true, for a part, I can’t blame them because they really suffered and the people who did this to them are Muslims or maybe it’s more accurate to to say “fake Muslims.”  

Whether or not the world ends this month – as so many have predicted – and whether or not the Mahdi makes his appearance or Jesus returns or if World War IIII breaks out – one thing is for certain, the world continues to change, violence is increasing, desperation is growing and it appears deception (on a personal level and global level) is at an all-time high. There are always turning points in history – always moments that change the course of things and the nature of our world. And at difficult times like these, there are also people who step up to make a difference in this world. I hope you will be one of these people.

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