five Christian youths to hang for death of one Fulani herder show about the farmer–herdsmen conflict in N. Nigeria?

Five Christian youths were recently sentenced to death by hanging for killing a Fulani herder, himself alleged to have killed 48 people. The five are from Adamawa state in north-east Nigeria, one of the three states most severely hit by the Boko Haram insurgency. Many fled Boko Haram, only to be targeted again, this time by mainly Muslim Fulani herders, responsible for more violence than Boko Haram over the past three years. Dr. Atta Barkindo*, who has researched the area widely, analyses some of the root causes behind the inter-ethnic, inter-religious conflict.

1) Breakdown of rule of law and order

At first sight, the failure of the Nigerian security services has left families and communities vulnerable to herdsmen’s attacks. This has then created a culture of impunity, completely eroding any trust communities have for their government and security services. If anything, the government and security services are seen as complicit in crimes against mainly Christian communities.

So, for example, when Fulani herdsmen attacked Dong, Adamawa (in December 2017), a Nigerian Air Force helicopter belatedly bombed the entire village. Locals said 86 people were killed during the attack, and those involved in burying the victims said that 51 had gunshot or machete wounds. Definite figures are hard to give, as many villagers fled into the bush.

Young people in that area realised that the government, far from defending them, could even exacerbate the situation. As a result, they realised they would have to defend themselves and their communities. The five men convicted are seen as belonging to one of these militia groups.

2) Lack of trust in security services leads to emergence of ‘defence’ militias

The failure of the rule of law, and lack of trust in the security services (police and military), has led to the emergence of ethnic militia groups keen to defend their families and communities. That verdict shows that the government is keen to demonstrate that people are being held accountable for crimes committed. It is also intended to ensure that this verdict will deter future perpetrators, and, above all, show that the government is not willing to allow ethnic militia groups to undermine the role of the security services, whose constitutional responsibility it is to protect lives and properties.

Historical context for violence

The historical context of the farmer–herders conflict is marked by political domination of members of one religious group over the others. Following the establishment of the Sokoto caliphate in 1804 and the consolidation of Islamic rule in Adamawa province, Numan Federation (about 30 miles from the state capital Yola) has remained the only territory that is not completely under Islamic rule. Its population remains predominantly Christian, but over the years there has been massive internal migration and the settlement of Hausa-Fulani Muslims in Numan; the migrants increasingly appear to dominate the political and economic sectors of the area. Now there are agitations for the creation of an Islamic emirate out of the territory, presided over by Hama Bachama (the current chief of Numan).

Recent killings, and the sentencing of these five young men, is an effort to intimidate a predominantly Christian population into submission. Again, the verdict should also be interpreted beyond the classic conflict between farmers and herdsmen over access to natural resources. This is because some regions, particularly the Local Government Areas of Ganye, Toungo and the border areas that stretch into Cameroon, have a vast spread of environmental resources that could feed millions of cattle.

Yet, the Fulani herders have mostly refused to move to those areas, although some have.

Why is Numan of paramount interest to the mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani?

Numan is the major area of Christianity in Adamawa state, and the major voice of opposition – politically and religiously – against predominantly Muslim Hausa-Fulani domination in the state. Lawyers from Numan, for instance, are the leading voices against keeping the state’s name Adamawa (“sons and daughters of Adamawa” – a Fulani ruler who conquered and ruled over the indigenous tribes). They have called for a return to the name Gongola state (named after Gongola River). Consequently, the threats, the intimidation and the drive to marginalise Numan is an agenda to silence the only voice of opposition in the state.

Additionally, the verdict against the five men should be understood in the context of the wider persecution of Christians in the Middle Belt region and beyond; it says a lot about the justice system in Nigeria. It is dominated by a particular religious group – non-Christians who are already tilted towards the support and implementation of a particular religious agenda. The system is designed to punish, exclude and marginalise Christians into submission.

Again, the traditional, military and security hierarchies are controlled by non-Christians. In Adamawa state, for instance, all traditional institutions (except places such as the Numan Federation) are controlled by Muslims, and there is an unwritten rule (which does not exist in the Nigerian constitution) that traditional chiefs in some areas must be Muslims.

This conflict is further exacerbated by the continuous migration and settlement of Hausa-Fulani Muslims within the Numan Federation and other territories. The uncontrolled migration, political domination and suppression exhibited by the Hausa-Fulani against indigenous tribes that are predominantly Christian has increased the level of tension and conflict.

The intention of the elite is to send a strong message to other communities that Islam appears to be here to stay, and there is little point in resistance.

Nothing new

The efforts of the Muslim elite to use political power to dominate, control and suppress Christian-majority territories is not new in northern Nigeria. For instance, in the central state of Benue, before the implementation of the anti-grazing law in November 2017, there was an announcement in newspapers, on TV, and across other media outlets asking people to attend the public hearing of the bill. Fulani representatives, however, refused participate in it. But when the bill was passed, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) publicly declared that the state would remain ungovernable if the law was implemented.

Pattern of takeover

The strategy of the mainly Muslim Hausa-Fulani always appears to follow the same pattern: migration, settlement, occupation and control through forceful conversion, abduction, deception and early marriage and then the demand for an independent chiefdom.

Recently, Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state announced that three chiefdoms in a predominantly Christian area of southern Kaduna – Kauru, Kagarko, Kajuru and Lere Chiefdoms – will all be renamed emirates, bringing them under an Islamic principal. This was staunchly rejected by the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union (SOKAPU).

The demand for a separate chiefdom is also seen in Jos, Plateau state, where this week almost 100 people died in ethnic and religious violence. Even some southern Nigerian states such as Ekiti, Ondo and Enugu have already faced the herdsmen’s attacks.

As the country moves towards elections in 2019, there are fears that President Muhammadu Buhari may use the ongoing violence as an excuse to cancel the process and remain in power.

UK Mayor Resigns After Being Harassed Over Facebook Posts About Homosexuality, Gender Dysphoria

FERRYHILL, U.K. — The mayor of a town in the United Kingdom has resigned after being harassed with threatening and profane comments over his Facebook posts on the issues of homosexuality and transgenderism.

Richard Smith was elected in May to serve as the mayor of Ferryhill in Northeast England. He has served as pastor of Immanuel Christian Fellowship since 2003, a church that regularly hosts a free food distribution for those in need. Smith was also active in the military for eight years.

However, a local “drag queen” recently became upset about some of Smith’s Facebook posts that mentioned homosexuality and transgenderism. For one of the posts, Smith shared an article on homosexuality from the website Desiring God, and wrote above the link, “Read it all before you judge my stance on not just this sin, but all sin. God said ALL have sinned and fallen s

According to the BBC, another post opined that transgenderism has produced “large scale child abuse,” and a third lamented that “people aren’t allowed to speak the truth anymore” when it comes to gender dysphoria. Smith also shared his views about Islam.

“Everybody’s entitled to their own views and beliefs. However, sharing things in a public domain in a position of power—it’s not acceptable,” Tickle told the BBC.

The religious liberties group Christian Concern shared one of the many remarks directed at Smith: “This day (and) age. [Expletive]’s sake! Tie the twat up in a rainbow flag, strip the nob head naked and leave him there to be laughed at. This [expletive]’s getting boring! His breed are getting fewer though, you just do have the odd few still breathing. X”

Members of the Ferrytown Town Council also planned to cast a “no confidence” vote, which would essentially force Smith to resign. However, before they did so, Smith submitted his resignation as mayor.

“Over recent weeks I have been subjected to unprecedented levels of adverse publicity, publicity that has been orchestrated for political advantage, and has threatened both my Church, family, and colleagues alike,” the letter read. “Whilst the instigators are very much in the minority, as evidenced by the widespread messages of support I have received, I realise that my ability to serve the people of Ferryhill in the manner I would have wished will always be subject to disruption and intimidation.”

“The latest incidents being the mob getting my son involved who is an Afghanistan War Veteran who suffers severe PTSD with severe flashbacks. I had to refrain from attending the flag raising event where I was to give a speech for those of our serving military men and women; this was due to the threats of disruption to that and any event I would have been involved in as town mayor. It has got so bad I now have involved the police,” Smith outlined.

He lamented that he felt he had to resign, and said that his words had been “twisted,” noting that he has has always offered help to anyone who needed it, regardless of their lifestyle.

“People who really know me and Lauraine and the church can truly comment on how hard we have lovingly worked to help and provide for those in need, this has now been decimated by the minority mob along with those wishing to score political points and who have a God-phobia,” Smith stated.

He ended his letter with a quote from Acts 25, in which after Peter and the apostles declared the gospel, those hearing their words “were enraged and wanted to kill them.”

“I guess nothing much has changed. I get called a bigot and intolerant?” Smith asked.

He will remain a councillor, and will continue to also serve the community as a pastor.

Lawsuit filed to end ‘intrusive government interference’

church in America

A Nebraska village is being challenged for interfering with a local church’s operation.

Light of the World Gospel Ministries in Walthill, Nebraska has outgrown its current building on Main Street and purchased a property across the street to refurbish, meet its needs, and help revitalize the area. Attorney Roger Byron of First Liberty Institutesays the village at first approved the church’s building permit “but then revoked it with no valid reason.”

“The village has also denied multiple permits from the church to demolish and clean up dangerous structures on the church’s property, again doing so for no valid reason,” Byron continues. “It’s also denied other permits the church submitted to use its property in order to worship and minister.”

The attorney says the church has cooperated fully with the government, which is consistently trying to prevent the multi-ethnic congregation from investing in its community.

“This has been going on for years now,” he reports. “The First Amendment and federal law protect the right of churches to operate free from unreasonable and intrusive government interference.”

So because Walthill is violating the U.S. Constitution, as well as federal and state laws, First Liberty has filed suit in federal court.

Turkey Keeps American Pastor Behind Bars—At Least for Three More Months

Turkey Keeps American Pastor Behind Bars—At Least for Three More Months

After nearly two years in a Turkish prison, hopes for the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson have been deferred. A Turkish court ordered 50-year-old pastor to remain bars until at least his next hearing on October 12.

On Wednesday, the court heard testimony from members of Brunson’s church who made “vague, unsubstantiated accusations” against Brunson, reported World Watch Monitor. When the judge asked how Brunson would respond to the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses, he said, “My faith teaches me to forgive, so I forgive those who testified against me.”

Bill Campbell, a North Carolina pastor whose church belongs to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the same denomination as Brunson’s church, was among several supporters of the pastor who attended the trial.

“As usual, there was much spurious testimony against Andrew,” Campbell told EPConnectionafter the trial. “Andrew’s testimony was absolutely powerful. He presented the gospel with confidence and defended himself with boldness.”

Notably, the court heard a defense witness for the first time, although the witness Brunson initially requested to testify was not permitted to do so.

Many of Brunson’s supporters had been cautiously optimistic about his release—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Donald Trump had been photographed smiling and fist-bumping each other at last week’s NATO summit in Brussels. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had also met with Erdoğan in Ankara the last week of June, though the focus of the meeting was to discuss US sanctions.

On Twitter, Freedom House’s Nate Schenkkan called the Turkish court’s decision a “cruel, political decision, just like his imprisonment.”

“Case study in the absurdity of the present Turkish justice system,” tweeted the author of several books about freedom in Turkey. “Brunson is charged with being part of a conspiracy of evangelicals, Mormons, & Jehovah’s Witnesses embedded among American service personnel in Turkey who conspired to divide the Turkish state on behalf of the PKK and Gulen movement. It would be a farce if it weren’t so serious.”

“Keeping him in prison is a political decision,” he continued. “… Letting him out would have been a simple, cost-free way for the Turkish government to show it was concerned about the relationship with the United States. Holding him for at least 3 more months is a new low.”

Brunson’s imprisonment has attracted worldwide attention and prompted a massive advocacy campaign, state visits, and hundreds of thousands of petition signatures.

A Presbyterian preacher from North Carolina, Brunson ministered in the Muslim-majority nation straddling the border of Europe and the Middle East for more than 20 years. Then in October 2016, shortly after a failed coup in Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey’s capital, he was detained during a wave of imprisonments and dismissals purging approximately 150,000 officials, judges, teachers, and military personnel.

Held without charges and without bail for months, Brunson was eventually accused of abetting the Gülen movement—under the leadership of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar and cleric in exile in the United States. Erdoğan has long opposed Gülen and blamed his followers for the overthrow attempt.

Brunson, pastor of Izmir Resurrection Church on Turkey’s west coast and founder of several other churches in the area, refuted the dubious charge. In a letter from March of this year, he wrote: “Let it be clear. I am in prison not for anything I have done wrong but because of who I am—a Christian pastor.

“I desperately miss my wife and children,” he continued. “Yet I believe this to be true: it is an honor to suffer for Jesus Christ, as many have before me. My deepest thanks for all those around the world who are standing with and praying for me.”

Brunson’s wife, Norine, who was initially detained with her husband but quickly released, has remained in Turkey to support him. But the circumstances of the case and the tight hold of the Erdoğan regime have made visits and outside contact difficult for all but a few chosen family members, US consular staff, and Brunson’s lawyer.

It was mere weeks before the start of his trial that an official indictment, based largely on the “secret testimony” of unnamed witnesses, formally charged Brunson with membership in Gülen’s Islamic movement, support of Kurdish independence, and “Christianization”—all disparate and somewhat clashing accusations.

After 18 months in prison conditions that his daughter, Jacqueline Furnari, says tested his psychological endurance and caused him to lose 50 pounds, the father of three had his first hearing on April 16. A second hearing occurred in May. A lack of resolution at the end of this latest hearing has discouraged many in Brunson’s community.

“I am deeply saddened by this morning’s ruling,” Jeff Jeremiah, EPC stated clerk, told EPConnection. “Thankfully, our Lord was not surprised and continues to be in control of the situation. Our disappointment today is matched by our resolve to continue to pray and advocate for Andrew and Norine.”

During the months of his detainment—trading spaces between overcrowded cells and solitary confinement—awareness and support built around calls for Brunson’s freedom.

Last February, 78 members of Congress sent a letter to Erdoğan seeking Brunson’s release. Earlier this month, 98 European parliamentarians sent a letter to Istanbul condemning Brunson’s “wrongful imprisonment” and calling for him to be allowed to return home.

He received a visit from his state senator, Thom Tillis; representatives of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom; and, in February, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Vice President Mike Pence and ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom Sam Brownback have also been vocal advocates for Brunson and have spoken out in support of his family.

Among those present at the case included US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Vice Chair Kristina Arriaga. The commission has previously condemned the charges against Brunson and called for his release.

On the one-year anniversary of his detainment, October 7, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church issued a call for a weekend of prayer and fasting on behalf of Brunson, a member of the denomination. And in the last three months, a petition from the American Center for Law and Justice—the organization helming the campaign for Brunson’s release—urging UN intervention gained more than 580,000 signatures.

The European Center for Law and Justice (ECLJ) has fought for Brunson in front of the United Nations Human Rights Council, condemning the evidence against him as based on “hearsay and conjecture.”

“Turkey has made it clear that this is a sham trial, and, as indicated by President Erdoğan’s multiple demands to swap Pastor Brunson for Fethullah Gülen, Pastor Brunson is undoubtedly a political prisoner being held as a bargaining chip for Turkey,” ECLJ stated.

Indeed, the Turkish president openly called for a swap with the United States. “You have one pastor [of ours] as well,” Erdoğan said last year. “The pastor we have [Brunson] is on trial. [Gülen] is not—he is living in Pennsylvania. Give him to us. You can easily give him to us. You can give him right away. Then we will try [Brunson] and give him to you.”

The bargaining and statecraft has hurt the United States’ relationship with Turkey, a NATO ally. Brunson’s story plays out at a time of increasing nationalism and persecution in Turkey.

Authorities in Algeria Seal Shut Another Church Building

Members of church in Riki, Algeria worship outside building. (Morning Star News)

TIZI-OUZOUAlgeria (Morning Star News) – Church leaders didn’t get an explanation for why the seventh worship building to be closed in Algeria since November was sealed last week, but they suspect lack of registration was the pretext.

It is virtually impossible to register a church in Algeria under current restrictions. Although three of the six churches previously closed were allowed to reopen last month, the shuttering on Wednesday (July 11) of the church building in the northeastern town of Riki was taken as a sign that harassment of Christian institutions that began in November is not over.

The church of about 60 people, which began meeting at its building in Riki, near Akbou in Bejaia Province, on Aug. 11, 2017, had not been able to affiliate with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) because the Ministry of Interior recently ordered the once-legally recognized association to freeze all new applications for membership, said Esaid Benamara, pastor of the Riki church.

After the church finished worship on July 7, a Saturday, the congregation was surprised when policemen in two vehicles arrived and asked Pastor Benamara to come to their office. They agreed to his offer to come the next day, and the pastor and his brother went to the office.

“Once there, they let us know that they had been ordered to close the premises of our church and the sealing of the entrance doors,” Pastor Benamara told Morning Star News. “We then asked that they give us the order in question, or at least a copy. ‘We’ll give it to you later,’ one of them told us.”

On July 10, the pastor received a phone call from the police (gendarmerie) asking him to go to their brigade post as soon as possible, and again he went with his brother. They waited there until 7 p.m., when the brigade chief showed up and asked them to leave and return with the building owner because the closure notification was sent to him, the pastor said.

They returned with the building owner the next day.

“They presented a statement to Mahdi Amara [the building owner], asking him to sign it, because the closing order was addressed to him in person,”Pastor Benamara said. “Then they told us that they would go later in the day to execute the order received from the wali [Bejaia provincial chief].”

Near noon on July 11, two vans from the gendarmerie brigade parked at the door of the church, he said.

“Three of the gendarmes entered the church and executed their order. They put the curtain and the front door under seal, which strictly forbids us to open the doors of the church once closed,” Pastor Benamara told Morning Star News. “After execution of the order of the wali of Bejaia to close the premises, the gendarmes left.”

The policemen told them they had sent a notification of closure to the building owner dated Feb. 24, “something we have never received,” the pastor said.

“That’s where we are,” he said. “Thus our church is closed, and our faithful can no longer meet.”

A 2007 executive decree requires all non-Muslim places of worship in Algeria to register with the state, according to the U.S. State Department. Pastor Benamara said the government freeze on new EPA members has kept it from registering.

Laws passed in 2012 required the EPA, which the government had given legal recognition to in 1974, to re-register, but officials have yet to give a response since the EPA applied for re-registration in 2013, leaving the umbrella association itself in legal limbo.

Christian leaders note that the Algerian constitution’s Article 42 guarantees freedom of belief, opinion and worship.

“This is injustice,” Pastor Benamara said. “The authorities who are supposed to respect and enforce the laws of the republic themselves do not respect them. Is it not true that Algerian law and international laws respect and demand respect for all religions as much as Islam? And also their practice? Why are they flouting these laws of the republic?”

On May 26 authorities ordered the closure of a church building in Ait-Mellikeche, also in Bejaia Province, and another church building in Maatkas, in Tizi-Ouzou Province. A church in a village in Azagher, like Riki near Akbou, was closed in March.

At the same time, all churches affiliated with the EPA have been visited by investigators and ordered to comply with requirements for non-Muslim places of worship or face closure.

Church buildings previously closed in Oran city, Ain Turk and El Ayaida, all in Oran Province about 250 miles west of Algiers, were allowed to reopen last month.

Christian Acquitted

Also last week, a court on July 8 dropped charges against a Christian fined 20,000 Algerian dinars (US$172) plus customs expenses for carrying Christian literature and some crucifix-shaped keychains into the country.

Idir Hamdad, a 29-year-old convert from Islam, had been sentenced by a judge at a court in Dar el Beida, on the outskirts of Algiers, who ruled he was guilty of importing unauthorized items without a license.

Notice of a six-month prison sentence and fine had been delivered to his home on March 4 stating that he had been convicted and sentenced en absentia on Sept. 28, 2017, but the prison sentence was withdrawn on May 3.

Algeria ranked 42nd on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.

Iran Suing US in Hague Court of Justice

The International Court of Justice in the Hague has registered Iran’s complaint against the US arguing that its decision last May to renew sanctions on Tehran after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal violated a 1955 treaty between the US and Iran, IRNA reported Tuesday.

The complaint argues that the US’ May 8 decision to withdraw from JCPOA runs counter to its international commitments, and says the US is obliged to stop this offense and compensate Iran for damages.

In the complaint, Iran claims the US’ decision violated the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Relations, signed by the US and Iran in 1955, decades before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In that context it could also be argued that occupying the US embassy in Tehran and taking hundreds of US citizens hostage also violated the same treaty a little bit.

“The US shall fully compensate Iran for the violation of its international legal obligations in an amount to be determined by the Court at a subsequent stage of the proceedings,” Iran’s complaint reads, according to a statement from the court. “Iran reserves the right to submit and present to the Court in due course with a precise evaluation of the compensation owed by the US.”

The court confirmed on Tuesday it had accepted the complaint filed by Iran against the US. The same complaint also called for an immediate halt of the sanctions against Iran declared on May 8 by President Donald Trump, and the US should stop threatening to impose further sanctions.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on Monday that “Iran is committed to the rule of law in the face of US contempt for diplomacy and legal obligations.”

The court is expected to schedule a hearing in which the US will probably contest the legitimacy of Iran’s claim. According to Reuters, hearings on requests for provisional rulings are usually heard within several weeks, followed a few months later by a decision. ICJ decisions are binding, but the court does not have the power to enforce them.

Al Quds: Hamas to Gradually Reduce Incendiary Attacks Fearing Massive Retaliation

Hamas is moving towards a gradual reduction of incendiary attacks from the Gaza Strip towards neighboring Israeli towns, Al Quds reportedWednesday, citing Palestinian Authority sources.

The sources told Al Quds that the Hamas leadership has met a few hours ago in Gaza and decided to curb the arson attacks in order to prevent a massive war in the Gaza Strip at the present time, in consideration of the difficult conditions experienced by the population there.

According to the same sources, the terror group examined this option after several parties, including Egypt, pointed out the need to stop these attacks to prevent Israel from justifying the launch of a major military attack.

The sources suggested the firebomb kites and balloons may be stopped as soon as next week.

After close to 100 days of the firebomb kite and balloon terror attacks in the south, the economic damage to agriculture has produced about 120 claims to the Tax Authority for deductions. The claims have been filed for about 1,500 acres of agricultural land that were burned, and the Tax Authority’s estimates of the damage are around $3.3 million.

In comparison, the 2014 Gaza war yielded about 25,000 claims for damages.

FLORIDA UPCIFL CAMP MEETING REPORT

Great Camp Meeting last week in Ocala Florida.

I would like to thank the UPCIFL District Supt. Pat Williams for the kindness shown to me as a former Missionary to the British Isles for allowing me to have a stall to sell my books. Also I would like to thank Brother Wells for his help and  all of you that have purchased them. It appears that “Just a Missionary” is setting record sales with my “Winds of Megiddo” doing well also. You can go to Amazon.com and type in books by George C Duke to bring up all of my published books and to purchase them.

I would like to thank the British Isles District for alos allowing me to sell my books at the Llandudno Wales UPCIGB conferance. I will be there July 31-Aug 2nd. My thanks to Robert Kelley, Mark Gadd, and others for all your help. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO VISIT MY BOOK STALL THERE.

 

 

ARE YOU VOTING FOR SHARIA LAW?

iF YOU ARE A TRUMP HATER YOU MIGHT BE?
Muslim candidates running in record numbers face backlash
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (July 16, 2018) — A liberal woman of color with zero name recognition and little funding takes down a powerful, long serving congressman from her own political party.

When Tahirah Amatul-Wadud heard about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset over U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley in New York’s Democratic primary last month, the first-time candidate saw parallels with her own longshot campaign for Congress in western Massachusetts.

The 44-year-old Muslim, African-American civil rights lawyer, who is taking on a 30-year congressman and ranking Democrat on the influential House Ways and Means Committee, says she wasn’t alone, as encouragement, volunteers and donations started pouring in.

“We could barely stay on top of the residual love,” says Amatul-Wadud, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal’s lone challenger in the state’s Sept. 4 Democratic primary. “It sent a message to all of our volunteers, voters and supporters that winning is very possible.”

From Congress to state legislatures and school boards, Muslim Americans spurred to action by the anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric of President Donald Trump and his supporters are running for elected offices in numbers not seen since before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, say Muslim groups and political observers.

Many, like Amatul-Wadud, hope to ride the surge of progressive activism within the Democratic Party that delivered Ocasio-Cortez’s unlikely win and could help propel the Democrats back to power in November.

Still, the path to victory can be tougher for a Muslim American. Some promising campaigns already have fizzled out while many more face strong anti-Muslim backlash.

In Michigan, Democrat candidate for governor Abdul El-Sayed continues to face unfounded claims from a GOP rival that he has ties to the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, even though Republican and Democratic politicians alike have denounced the accusations as “conspiracy theories.”

In Rochester, Minnesota, mayoral candidate Regina Mustafa has notified authorities of at least two instances where anti-Muslim threats were posted on her social media accounts.

And in Arizona, U.S. Senate candidate Deedra Abboud received a torrent of Islamophobic attacks on Facebook last July that prompted outgoing U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, the Republican lawmaker Abboud is hoping to replace, to come to her defense on Twitter.

“I’m a strong believer that we have to face this rhetoric,” said Abboud, who has also had right-wing militant groups the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights and the Proud Boys stage armed protests her campaign events. “We can’t ignore it or pretend like it’s a fringe element anymore. We have to let the ugly face show so that we can decide if that is us.”

There were as many as 90 Muslim-Americans running for national or statewide offices this election cycle, a number that Muslim groups say was unprecedented, at least in the post-9/11 era.

But recent primaries have whittled the field down to around 50, a number that still far exceeds the dozen or so that ran in 2016, said Shaun Kennedy, co-founder of Jetpac, a Massachusetts nonprofit that helps train Muslim-American candidates.

Among the candidates to fall short were California physician Asif Mahmood, who placed third in last month’s primary for state insurance commissioner, despite raising more than $1 million. And in Texas, wealthy businessman Tahir Javed finished a distant second in his Democratic primary for Congress, despite an endorsement from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

Nine candidates for Congress are still in the running, according to Jetpac’s tally. At least 18 others are campaigning for state legislature and 10 more seek major statewide and local offices, such as governor, mayor and city council. Even more are running for more modest offices like local planning board and school committee.

The next critical stretch of primaries is in August.

In Michigan, at least seven Muslim Americans are on the Aug. 7 ballot, including El-Sayed, who could become the nation’s first Muslim governor.

In Minnesota, the decision by Keith Ellison, the nation’s first Muslim congressman, to run for state attorney general has set off a political frenzy for his congressional seat that includes two Muslim candidates, both Democrats: Ilhan Omar, the country’s first Somali-American state lawmaker, and Jamal Abdulahi, a Somali-American activist.

But historic wins in those and other races are far from assured, cautions Geoffrey Skelley, an associate editor at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political analysis website run by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Omar’s chances of emerging from a field of five Democratic candidates in Minnesota’s Aug. 14 primary was bolstered by a recent endorsement from the state Democratic Party, but El-Sayed is an underdog in his gubernatorial race, he said.

Other Muslim-American candidates might fare better in Michigan, which has one of the nation’s largest Arab-American populations, Skelley added.

There, former state Rep. Rashida Tlaib has raised more money than her Democratic rivals in the race to succeed Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who resigned last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct. Former Obama administration official Fayrouz Saad is also running as a Democrat in the wide open race to succeed Republican Rep. David Trott, who isn’t seeking re-election.

Either could become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress, which has only ever had two Muslim members: outgoing Ellison and Rep. Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat seeking re-election.

Saad, who served most recently as director of Detroit’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, recognizes the importance of representing her community in an era of rising Islamophobia.

The 35-year-old broke from the conservative Republican politics of her Lebanese immigrant parents following the 9/11 attacks because she felt Arabs and Muslims were unfairly targeted.

“I felt the way to push back against that was to be at the table,” said Saad, adding that her parents’ political leanings have also since moved to the left. “We have to step up and be voices for our communities and not wait for others to speak on behalf of us.”

But not all Muslim candidates feel that way.

In San Diego, California, 36-year-old Republican congressional candidate Omar Qudrat declined to comment on how Islamophobia has impacted his campaign, including instances when his faith have been called into question by members of his own political party.

Instead, the 37-year old political newcomer, who is one of at least three Muslim Republicans running nationwide this year, provided a statement touting his main campaign issues as faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Scott Peters in November: addressing San Diego’s high number of homeless military veterans, improving public education and expanding economic opportunities for city residents.

“Running for public office is about advancing the interests of your constituents and the American people,” Qudrat’s statement reads. “Nothing else.”

Ancient Mosaics Discovered in Israel; One Depicts 2 Spies Sent out by Moses

Ancient Mosaics Discovered in Israel; One Depicts 2 Spies Sent out by Moses

Researchers have found mosaics in Israel, including one that appears to depict the two scouts Moses sent to explore Canaan.

The mosaic depicts two men carrying a pole with a cluster of grapes. In Hebrew is inscribed: “a pole between the two.”

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced this week the discovery of the mosaics at the Huqoq site in Galilee.

The mosaic of Moses’ scouts appears to refer to the book of Numbers, where the men were sent to the land of Canaan after their exodus from Egypt. According to Numbers 13:23, the men “cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes” and returned to Moses.

“We went into the land to which you sent us, and indeed, it is flowing with milk and honey,” Numbers 13:27 reads.

Previously, Israeli officials and researchers have uncovered other mosaics, including ones showing Samson carrying the gate of Gaza, Noah’s Ark, Jonah being swallowed by a fish, the parting of the Red Sea and the construction of the Tower of Babel.

“The discoveries indicate villagers flourished under early fifth century Christian rule, contradicting a widespread view that Jewish settlement in the region declined during that period,” UNC-Chapel Hill said in a statement.

UNC-Chapel Hill professor Jodi Magness is leading the research teams. She has participated in some 20 different excavations in Israel and Greece. She is also president of the Archaeological Institute of America.

“The mosaics decorating the floor of the Huqoq synagogue revolutionize our understanding of Judaism in this period,” she said.

“Ancient Jewish art is often thought to be aniconic, or lacking images. But these mosaics, colorful and filled with figured scenes, attest to a rich visual culture as well as to the dynamism and diversity of Judaism in the Late Roman and Byzantine periods.”

The mosaics have been removed from the site for conservation and excavations will continue in the summer of 2019.