I was honored last week by a request from the Washington Times Communities to write a weekly column. Interested reader can find me there weekly under "Looking For Luke".  My first article is an introduction to the issue of politics and religion. Having lived in the Middle East for so many years, the issue of politics and religion is one that strikes very close to home, and it was one of the driving force behind the novel. Open question - why are the two so inextricably intertwined?  I look forward to hearing your answers....
It is amazing that this website for a simple novel is still being blocked in Turkey. It is also hard for my friends in the US to understand why because they haven't lived there and don't fully comprehend the mindset or the political sensitivities in that country. The obsession some governments have with controlling information they don't approve of is mind-boggling, especially given the fact that in the end, this is doomed to fail. The penetrating power of ideas is far greater than that of water and air. You can water-proof something, but idea-proofing a society is much more difficult. Ideas are pesky, pernicious little things, you know. 
After yesterday's post about the Gospel of Barnabas, I was informed today that this website is not accessible from the country of Turkey! This is fascinating. Less than a week after Turkish newspapers report that the Vatican has requested permission to view what the Turkish government claims is an ancient Aramaic manuscript about the life of Christ, this website you are reading now is blocked by Turkey! I suppose it should be taken as a compliment. Obviously, somebody somewhere thinks this is important. Unfortunately, it is also a sign of paranoia and a lack of commitment to individual liberties.

Dozens of Turkish journalists now languish in Turkish prisons because of this government's desire to control the press and the flow of information. For example, Ahmet Şık, a journalist who wrote a book entitled Imamın Ordusu (The Imam's Army), has been in prison for over a year. He was arrested before the book was even published.

Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code, is extremely popular in Turkey as many people there believe that the Vatican is the nexus of all evil, and are happy to see Christian values undermined. This says a lot about the predominant paradigm, doesn't it? Still, as a person who loves Turkey and the Turkish people, it is difficult to imagine why a work of fiction would be perceived as a threat, especially when the novel says so many good things about the country and their culture. 
As many of you may have heard the Vatican has officially asked for permission to examine a copy of the Gospel which the Turkish government has had for 12 years. Star newspaper is claiming that this may be an ancient copy of the Gospel of Barnabas, and the whole country is abuzz. I have seen hundreds of comments from Turks and Muslims across the world commenting on this story.

These claims are another example of how history repeats itself. In 1986, the Turkish military said it had found a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas. In the end, it turned out to be the canonical New Testament, and so it retracted its claim, but the retraction never received the press coverage that the initial discovery did, so even today many Turks will claim that the Army found the Gospel of Barnabas in 1986, but is being pressured by the Vatican to keep a lid on it.

Now, we have another one. What is the Turkish obsession with the Gospel of Barnabas?

The Turks have a proverb, Dilin kemiği yoktur, which translated means, 'the tongue has no bone.' In other words, people can SAY anything; there are absolutely no limits. Another Turkish proverb says, Çamuru at, yapışmasa da izi kalır.  This means "sling the mud; even if it doesn't stick, the stain will remain." The "discovery" in 1986 was, in fact, just that - mud slinging, propaganda, manipulation of religious sentiment to control the people. Having lived there for over a decade, I saw first-hand just how crucial religion is to political control.

This new "discovery" is being received with much jubilation in the Islamic world and has been carried by major news networks. For example, http://www.emirates247.com/news/world/jesus-predicted-advent-of-prophet-mohammed-pbuh-in-bible-found-in-turkey-2012-02-27-1.445391

Is any of this related to my book?  Yes! But, I can't ruin the plot by going into detail. I will only say that the news this week proves that the more-than-400-year-old conspiracy is alive and well. However, the novel contains more factual information about what is really happening than anything you're likely to read in the politically correct press... 

It is amazing that a story like this is breaking on the eve of the novel's publication...  The Kindle version will be available this week.