Prominent American Imam Promotes Jihad Openly

Omar Suleiman, a Texas Imam who gave the opening prayer for a session of the House of Representatives in 2019, is encouraging his followers to donate to an organization that advocates for convicted terrorists, calling them “political prisoners.”

Suleiman is no small-town imam, but a prominent figure in the U.S. His rise to prominence began as a result of his interfaith activism while working for the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) in New Orleans in the early 2000s.

After receiving an award from the New Orleans mayor and city council in 2010 for his role in helping the city recover from 2005 Hurricane Katrina, Suleiman moved to Texas where he founded the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research in 2016 and served as an adjunct professor at Southern Methodist University. In 2014, Suleiman spoke at a memorial for two Dallas Police officers who had been murdered in an ambush. One image of the event shows the imam sitting behind Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama and their respective first ladies.

By 2018, Suleiman became the go-to imam for politicians and journalists looking to burnish their reputation as sympathetic to Muslim concerns. For example, CNN published an article by Suleiman condemning the President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from countries that presented terrorism and espionage threats to the U.S, with the imam falsely calling it a “Muslim ban.”

Later in 2018, CNN listed Suleiman as one of the country’s 25 most influential Muslims and in May 2019, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX) invited him to give the opening prayer as guest chaplain at the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi gave him a fawning introduction, drawing the ire of Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who highlighted the imam’s Islamist tendencies, including his support for the Muslim Brotherhood and his cheerleading for Hamas.

Suleiman’s prominence has extended beyond U.S. borders. In March, he participated in a high-profile panel discussion about women’s rights in Afghanistan at the Doha Forum in Qatar.

On April 19, 2022, Suleiman posted a link to an online fundraising campaign held by the Coalition for Civil Freedoms (CCF). CCF is a charity run by Leena Al-Arian, the daughter of Sami Al-Arian, who was deported to Turkey in 2015, nine years after he pleaded guilty to providing assistance to a designated terrorist organization, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Sami Al-Arian co-founded the charity while in prison. In 2018, Al-Arian gave a speech in Turkey in which he called the United States “our enemy.”

With his recent post promoting CCF, Suleiman is now cheerleading for an organization described in 2019 by MEF researcher Benjamin Baird as functioning as a “de facto ‘martyrs fund’ for American jihadists and their families. Would-be suicide bombers, terrorism financiers, and jihadist recruiters can rest easy knowing that CCF will pay their prison commissary and provide for their families should they end up on the wrong side of the law.”

In 2019, the organization hosted an event that featured the appearance of Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who was convicted in Chicago on federal charges of obstruction of justice and criminal contempt for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating Hamas.

In early 2021, CCF hosted a webinar featuring Yassin Aref, who spent 15 years in jail after he was convicted of money laundering and terrorism offenses in 2006. The charges stem from his efforts to help a cooperating witness facilitate the sale of a surface-to-air missile to a jihadi organization in New York City. In 2018, he was deported to Iraq.

Suleiman’s support for CCF dovetails with his other support for convicted terrorists. In September 2021, Suleiman spoke at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, calling for the release of Aafia Siddique who was convicted in 2010 for the  attempted murder and assault of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

During his speech, Suleiman also called for the release of Jamil Abdullah al-Amin, AKA, H. Rap Brown, a black separatist serving life in prison for the 1999 murder of a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia; and for the release and five leaders of the Holy Land Foundation who, in 2008, were convicted of providing material support to Hamas, an organization designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 1995.

Neither Suleiman nor the Yaqeen Research Institute where he teaches in Irving, Texas, responded to requests for comment about his support for CCF.

The Rock Explains the Papacy

Professional wrestling can illuminate why St. Matthew uses two different words for “rock” to establish Peter as the rock of the Church.

How the Papacy Originated in Rome

When I was a Protestant, I was startled to learn that the consensus of New Testament scholars accept the Catholic view of Matthew 16:18: the person of Peter is the rock. The fact that mainstream Protestants aren’t aware of this also startled me (and still does).

There are, of course, attempts to dispute the consensus. Here’s one: if Peter (Petros) is the rock (petra) of Matthew 16:18, then why doesn’t Matthew use Petros twice? The assumption is that it makes more sense for petra to refer to something else, like Christ himself.

The verse reads like so: “And I tell you, you are Peter [Petros], and on this rock [petra] I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” If Matthew intends petra to refer back to Peter, it appears as if his switch from Petros to petra is unnecessary. Is Matthew an incompetent writer?

Let’s begin with some basic facts about the verse. Baptist scholar Craig S. Keener notes that “by Jesus’ day the Greek terms Petros (Peter) and petra (rock) were interchangeable, and the original Aramaic form of Peter’s nickname that Jesus probably used (kēphas) means simply ‘rock.’” Jesus would have vocalized the Aramaic word kēphas twice for both “Peter” and “rock,” revealing his intention to use a pun. Michael J. Wilkins and Leander E. Keck therefore stress that to our English eyes, the saying should read, “You are Rock, and on this rock I will build my Church.”

But doesn’t the Aramaic make it all the more perplexing that Petros isn’t repeated here in order to reflect the repetition of kēphas?

I think the answer is remarkably simple: Matthew is trying to preserve Christ’s Aramaic pun in his written Greek Gospel. To clarify this point, consider an analogy from World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and one of its best known stars: Dwayne Johnson, also known as “The Rock”:

  1. The Rock is The Rock of the WWE.
  2. The Rock is the rock of the WWE.

If Matthew used Petros twice, it would look like the first sentence above. To Greek-speaking Christians, it might read: “You are Peter, and on this Peter I will build my Church.” Think about how we know that “The Rock” is named after “rocks” (object), but when we see “The Rock,” we naturally picture the person as opposed to the object. Having “The Rock” twice makes sentence one a redundant identity statement and not a pun. To have the Greek form of Peter’s name, Petros, also repeated might appear similarly strange in the reader’s understanding.

Pope will create 14 new cardinals in June - Catholic Philly

However, the second sentence lends us a different reading. The second “rock” does not repeat the name “The Rock,” but allows us to see an aspect of The Rock highlighted: he’s of foundational importance to the WWE. It therefore makes perfect sense that the word “rock” would be used both times here but with different nuances. It makes the pun more obvious.

Protestant New Testament scholars W.D. Davies and Dale Allison write, “Why two different Greek words, one masculine, one feminine? An explanation probably lies in this, that kephā’, the Aramaic presumably behind both Πέτρος and πέτρᾳ, ‘was used with different nuances. When translated into Greek, the masculine form petros would lend itself as a more likely designation of a person (Simon), and a literary variant, the feminine petra, for an aspect of him that was to be played upon.’”

Evangelical Bible scholar D.A. Carson likewise states, “The Greek makes the distinction between Petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name.”

We also shouldn’t forget that although Jesus would have used kēphas both times, he did not write this saying down. He spoke the Aramaic, and so the nuance would have been apparent to the listeners. You can, for example, say aloud sentence one and two of “the Rock” example and find that they both sound exactly the same (“the Rock” sounds the same as “the rock” just as Jesus would have said kēphas twice), but sentence two’s written form better conveys the speaker’s intention of there being a pun.

Regardless, the nuance between Petros and petra is not enough to separate Peter from the rock of Matthew 16:18. In fact, Carson notes that “had Matthew wanted to say no more than that Peter was a stone in contrast with Jesus the Rock, the more common word would have been lithos (‘stone’ of almost any size). Then there would have been no pun—and that is just the point!”

Think about it. If Matthew had wanted to make a sharp distinction between Peter and the rock of Matthew 16:18, then it would be mind-boggling for him to use two interchangeable words (Petros-petra) when lithos was available to him. In fact, I think the objection can be reversed: he’d have to be an incompetent writer to build a stark separation upon two virtually identical words. The Catholic interpretation, however, is the simplest and most natural explanation of Matthew’s use of Petros and petra.

Marvin R. Vincent explains that “the reference of ‘petra’ to Christ is forced and unnatural. The obvious reference of the word [petra] is to Peter. The emphatic this [upon this rock] naturally refers to the nearest antecedent [Peter]; and besides, the metaphor is thus weakened, since Christ appears here, not as the foundation, but as the architect: ‘on this rock will I build.’”

The Catholic position shows that Matthew is a competent writer. He is preserving Christ’s Aramaic pun in its Greek written form. This position has widespread support from the scholarly community, is the simplest explanation, and is closer to Christ’s original discernible intent.

We may therefore still conclude with the eminent Lutheran scholar Oscar Cullmann that “it is thus evident that Jesus is referring to Peter, to whom he has given the name Rock. He appoints Peter, the impulsive, enthusiastic, but not persevering man in the circle, to be the foundation of his ecclesia. To this extent Roman Catholic exegesis is correct and all Protestant attempts to evade this interpretation are to be rejected.”

Work on the wild side

Chadden Hunter

Known for his work on nature documentaries alongside Sir David Attenborough, Dr Chadden Hunter has had a truly wild career and it all began with studying at Liverpool

What’s the best job in the world? Of course, everyone will have a different answer. But travelling the world, coming face to face with wild animals and sharing the wonders of nature with millions of people must be a strong contender.

That’s what Liverpool alumnus Chadden Hunter (PhD Biological Sciences 2002) calls his living. A director and producer, Chadden is best known for his work on documentaries such as Planet Earth II, Frozen Planet and Seven Worlds, One Planet. He has worked alongside Sir David Attenborough (Hon DSc 1974) with the BBC for over 20 years, on projects that between them have won 12 Emmy Awards and eight BAFTAs.

Hailing from Queensland, Australia, Chadden made the move to Liverpool in his early twenties to work on his PhD under Professor Robin Dunbar – a legend in his field. “I didn’t know much at all about the city before moving there,” recalls Chadden. “Coming from sunny Queensland, the grey skies and drizzly days were a bit of a shock to the system! But I quickly found Liverpool to be one of the friendliest places I have ever been. The city has a real heart and soul to it. I met the most amazing friends and fell in love with Liverpool FC, having
never been to a football match before in my life!”

Chadden’s research was focused on the gelada baboons, which are found only in the highlands of Ethiopia. During his time on the field site, he was visited by National Geographic, followed by more and more film crews. Eventually, Sir David Attenborough made an appearance. “It was phenomenal for me as a young biologist to meet a childhood hero and tell him about my PhD,” says Chadden. “His show Life on Earth in 1979 was one of my inspirations to become a biologist.”

It was through this experience that Chadden found his love of nature filmmaking. After completing his PhD, he began freelancing for the BBC, working on the original Planet Earth series. “For me, it was the realisation that while only a handful of people would read my PhD, the TV documentary about the baboons reached 40 million. I saw filmmaking as such a powerful way to get important messages across.

“When I started out in the industry, conservation was a dirty word and producers were afraid it would put viewers off. It’s refreshing to realise how much has changed. Our biggest task now is to weave vital environmental messages into these beautiful nature shows,” says Chadden. “We want to do that, whilst still appreciating that people watch these shows for escapism and entertainment. We don’t want to paralyse viewers with despair, because fear is not a great motivator. As modern filmmakers, we have to find the balance between showing them the beauty and magic of the natural world whilst also saying what needs to be said.”

Chadden has filmed everything from tribal ceremonies in Africa to snow leopards in Pakistan. But the best experience of his career? “That would have to be when I was scuba diving underneath the Antarctic sea ice,” Chadden says after some thought. “With a white ceiling above my head and hundreds of metres of crystal clear water below, it felt like floating in space. Suddenly, hundreds of emperor penguins rose up from the depths and started circling us underwater. It was like being in a snow dome someone had shaken up; I was
completely mesmerised and enchanted.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself that this isreally my job,” says Chadden. “It is incredibly rewarding and I’m extremely grateful that I’ve been able to do it. It’s been an incredible adventure – and it all started with my PhD at Liverpool!” ●