Former members of a church in Palmerston, New Zealand, say they were suicidal, depressed and in need of counselling after leaving the “cult-like” church and being shunned by their friends and family.
Nearly a dozen people with connections to the Palmerston North Victory Christian Church have come forward following a series of stories in the Manawatu Standard highlighting concerns about the parish’s practices, including manipulating marriage pairings, financial coercion, alienating people from parents, public shaming of members and excessive control over the congregation’s strong student membership.
Palmerston North Victory Christian Church is affiliated with Faith Christian Church, in Tucson, Arizona. That church is also described as a cult by former members and staffers.
Each of the churches targets students at nearby universities.
Last Monday, Massey University issued trespass notices to nine church leaders from its campuses in Palmerston North, Wellington and Auckland.
Yesterday UCOL, a polytechnic with campuses in Palmerston North, Whanganui and Masterton, also filed trespass orders against the leaders fof Palmerston North Victory Christian Church.
Groups that have succeeded the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult were still under the strong influence of Aum guru Shoko Asahara, who is now on death row, a report by Japan’s Public Security Intelligence Agency says.
Last March 20 saw the 20th anniversary of Aum Shinrikyo’s Sarin nerve gas attack on the Tokyo Subway. The terrorist attack killed 13 people and injured more than 6,000. The cult also committed other deadly crimes.
Last January Japan’s Public Security Examination Commission announced that surveillance of the cult has been extended for three more years. The extension is the fifth since surveillance began in January 2000 and will apply to both Aleph and Hikarinowa.
In 2012, cult experts expressed the hope that the trial of Katsuya Takahashi, who was the cult’s last fugitive, would raise awareness of the potential dangers of joining Takahashi’s trial is currently underway.
In her book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now” outspoken Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali — herself a former Muslim — argues for a complete reformation of Islam, akin to the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.
The assumption is that, in Islam, there are a few rotten apples, not the entire basket. I’m saying it’s the entire basket.
– Activist and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali
According to Hirsi there are three kinds of Muslims: the violent, the reformers, and what she believes is the largest group — those who want to practice as they see fit and live peaceably but do not challenge the Quran, the Muslim world’s treatment of women and the LGBT community, or terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam.
She does not label those who belong to the latter group as ‘moderates,’ because she believes they have done nothing to deserve it.
Ali argues for five amendments to the faith. “Only when these five things are recognized as inherently harmful and when they are repudiated and nullified,” she writes, “will a true Muslim reformation have been achieved.”
Those five notions are:
- The infallibility of the Prophet Muhammad and the literal interpretation of the Qur
- The idea that life after death is more important than life on Earth
- Sharia law
- Allowing any Muslim to enforce ideas of right and wrong on another
- Jihad, or holy war
Rejecting these ideas, some of which date to the 7th century, is a shocking proposition to the faithful.
“The biggest obstacle to change within the Muslim world,” Ali writes, “is precisely its suppression of the sort of critical thinking I am attempting here.”
– Source: ‘In Islam, they are all rotten apples’: Ex-Muslim’s call for religion’s reboot, New York Post, March 22, 2015
In an article published by the Wall Street Journal, Ali provides some details regarding her suggested amendments:
- 1. Muhammad’s semi-divine status, along with the literalist reading of the Quran.
Muhammad should not be seen as infallible, let alone as a source of divine writ. He should be seen as a historical figure who united the Arab tribes in a premodern context that cannot be replicated in the 21st century. And although Islam maintains that the Quran is the literal word of Allah, it is, in historical reality, a book that was shaped by human hands. Large parts of the Quran simply reflect the tribal values of the 7th-century Arabian context from which it emerged. The Quran’s eternal spiritual values must be separated from the cultural accidents of the place and time of its birth.
- 2. The supremacy of life after death.
The appeal of martyrdom will fade only when Muslims assign a greater value to the rewards of this life than to those promised in the hereafter.
- 3. Shariah, the vast body of religious legislation.
Muslims should learn to put the dynamic, evolving laws made by human beings above those aspects of Shariah that are violent, intolerant or anachronistic.
- 4. The right of individual Muslims to enforce Islamic law.
There is no room in the modern world for religious police, vigilantes and politically empowered clerics.
- 5. The imperative to wage jihad, or holy war.
Islam must become a true religion of peace, which means rejecting the imposition of religion by the sword.
– Source: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Why Islam Needs a Reformation, Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2015
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