What’s In A Name?

Sun_lounger_on_the_pool_terraceIt’s that lazy hazy holiday month of August – and time off from the usual activities. It’s an opportunity for reading and reflection, preferably sitting beside the pool with a book, a notepad, a cool drink, and shaded from the blazing sun by a large parasol…

Involvement in heated campaigns, local as well as national, brings with it media controversy. Some time ago when I was at loggerheads with our borough’s Labour Mayor, the Labour-leaning editor of our local rag, the Newham Recorder, twice mockingly published my picture upside down: “Alan Craig turns logic on its head”.

More recently the Left-kneeling Bishop of Buckingham splurged his sub-Christian spleen over the website of the Guardian claiming that my language during the gay marriage debate was “childish”, “offensive” and of course the Left’s default catch-all,  “bigotry”.

dramaThe twin imposters of media approval and hostility are exactly that. It’s important to become impervious to both.

But it still can be a welcome change to move into the calmer waters of books and libraries and have your activities assessed by those who at least claim to be objective and neutral.

This first happened for me when “Rescue From Danger – The story of the RFD Group” by Harold Nockolds – the author also of a definitive study of Rolls-Royce – was published. I had been the jet-setting Porsche-driving young chief executive of RFD, a Stock-Exchange-quoted international manufacturing group. Not long out of business school and appointed at 29 to effect a corporate turnaround, I’d enjoyed an exhilarating time as we moved dramatically from loss to profit, revitalised and restructured the management and then started to expand by acquisition both in the UK and in the USA. The tale was told by elderly old-school Nockolds after this thrusting and often arrogant young turk had decided to move on. Nockolds’ book concluded generously, “Alan Craig left RFD… having served the company well…”

Earlier this year Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex, Ralph Grillo, published a weighty academic work, Muslim Families, Politics and the Law. Half the book is related to Baroness Cox’s ongoing Private Members Bill in the House of Lords that tackles gender discrimination in Sharia courts. My own comments made on the Islam Channel and elsewhere are cited repeatedly, and Professor Grillo quotes lengthily from one of my posts here on AlansAngle. Even if he himself would not support our proposed legislation, he is forensic, rigorous and insightful. It is refreshingly different from the media bearpit.

vintage books and a cup of coffee

Coverage of our nine-year campaign against Tablighi Jamaat’s proposed mega-mosque close to the London Olympic stadium moved recently from the newsstand to the library. Although herself a journalist, Innes Bowen’s acclaimed book Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam published last year analyses the mega-mosque controversy with neutrality and nuance. Even where she flatly contradicts me, she quotes me fully and fairly. The whole book is a useful read.

Zacharias Pieri, formerly at the University of Exeter’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies and now a political sociologist on the staff of the University of South Florida, is an academic who has closely followed the controversy for years. Pieri studied the ‘contentious politics’ surrounding the proposed mega-mosque for his PhD thesis; authored Lapido Media’s popular Handy Book about Tablighi Jamaat and the mega-mosque debate; co-authored a study  of the ‘scalar politics’ surrounding the mega-mosque and the Olympics for Sociology journal; and recently published his magnum opus on the saga, Tablighi Jamaat and the Quest for the London Mega-Mosque.

labelsIn this he argues that the “genius” of our campaign “was to frame the issue as the ‘Mega Mosque’, an epithet that soon became a synonym of large mosques being constructed around the world.” Pieri reckons that this simple tag, and our wider moniker ‘Olympics mega-mosque’, were key to our success; from the start they put the mosque project on the back foot in the media, from which it never properly recovered.

This is flattering of course. It’s a surprise too, as at no stage were my colleagues and I aware of the power and strategic importance of these labels until Pieri published his analysis. After all, what’s in a name? We simply described the mosque plans that were promoted in front of us and ran with a self-evident description, even identifying our opposition campaign with the epithet Mega Mosque No Thanks. To us it wasn’t genius. This wasn’t a ‘giant mosque’ or a ‘huge mosque’. And ‘monstrosity mosque’ would be too pejorative. The name we chose was the gift of an easy and obvious alliteration.

Away from the heat of battle then, the detached academic can usefully both analyse the broader picture and provide in-depth insight, and here Pieri is persuasive about the power of our labels.

I must note this for future campaigns. So, now, where’s my campaign notepad?

I’m certain I put it under the sun lounger for safekeeping…

Can We Talk About Islam?

All sorts of people promote their religious beliefs at Meridian Square outside Stratford Station in east London. Pentecostal Christians, Jehovah Witnesses and radical Muslims are the most frequent proselytisers, and it is fascinating how their styles vary. stratford-meridian-squareThe Pentecostalists preach loudly quoting Scripture, the JWs stand quietly offering their Watchtower literature and the Muslims often have a stall and always engage in discussion and argument.

One afternoon last week it was business as usual. As I crossed the Square a group of bearded Muslims were debating heatedly with a well-built African Christian who, Bible in hand, seemed to be holding his own.

Separately, a Muslim man in front of me held a large poster which declared:  “Jesus – Prophet of Allah”. He handed me a leaflet which informed me that God has sent many Prophets and Messengers, from Adam the first Prophet, through Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, to Muhammad “the last and final Messenger”.

Salome-Guido-Reni's MosesApparently all those who believe in the one true God and follow His commands are called Muslims. Therefore Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus were in fact all Muslims even though there was no such word as ‘Muslim’ in their day and there is no record anywhere of these men of God understanding themselves in this way.

It is, of course, theological imperialism. The Islamic intention is to take over, neutralise and reinterpret Jewish and Christian redemptive history in an attempt to give Muhammad a legitimacy he would not otherwise have. It certainly seems – according to traditional Islamic teaching – that Muhammad was an effective Arab preacher, military leader and state governor. But he was not an Israelite descended from the patriarch Jacob. He cannot therefore stand in the line of authentic Hebrew prophets any more than can Joseph Smith or Guru Nanak.

It’s the old military adage: “the best form of defence is attack”. Classical Islam is based on shaky prophetic foundations so it has initiated theological jihad. It attempts to colonise the Jewish and Christian story and capture these religions’ major figures. It aims to establish itself as the superior all-encompassing global religion.

Hence, as the Muslim man’s poster revealed, it has tried to highjack the Founder of the older and more numerous world religion, strip him of his divine status and reduce him to one in a long line of Islam’s prophets. That’s why the poster used his New Testament name, Jesus, rather than Muslims’ own preferred Quranic/Arabic name for him, Isa. The man in Meridian Square was declaring that Christianity’s Jesus is the prophet-servant of Islam’s god, Allah.

Mehdi-HasanAward-winning journalist Mehdi Hasan is a Shia Muslim and an “interviews with attitude” talk-show host for the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera TV channel. Previously he was a senior editor of the centre-left political weekly New Statesman in London where, significantly, he seductively promoted the possibility that Islam’s version of Jesus may be a way of building bridges between the two faiths – and published his article with a front-cover image of Christ wearing a kofi or Muslim prayer cap.

crown of thornsIt was a double affront by Hasan. Not only did he dress Christianity’s Founder in Muslim clothing but he replaced Christ’s crown of thorns – the only recorded item that Christ wore on his head and the sacred sign of his humiliation and crucifixion that lies at the core of Christian belief – with Islamic headdress.

Imagine the bloodshed if a Western magazine published a drawing of Muhammad wearing, say, a crucifix or pectoral cross around his neck.

So Muhammad’s religion is nothing if not pushy, and it is pushing hard at the doors of churches, congregations and Christian communities across the UK with its debased version of Jesus.

It’s partly for this reason that a colleague and I recently created a roadshow for churches called Can We Talk About Islam?

My African Christian friend in Meridian Square apart, Christians have been reticent about engaging with Muslims and Islam. Political correctness; multicultural sensitivities; fear of Islamic aggression; lack of knowledge; invertebrate leaders; confusion about whether Islam is the religion of peace that we are told about or of violence that we see on our screens; and, amongst English Christians, post-colonial post-Crusades (yes, really) guilt – all these and more have left the church like a rabbit transfixed and sometimes terrified in the headlights of the oncoming juggernaut.

HandshakeThe aim of the roadshow is first to educate Christians in the basics of Islam and then to empower them to engage with their Muslim neighbours and workmates on matters of personal faith. Christ’s command to his followers to “love your neighbour as yourself” means that such engagement must flow out of respect for Muslims as equal citizens and fellow human beings.

The roadshow aims also to embolden people to challenge the inappropriate Islamification of society. Why, for instance, are children offered only halal meat in a school canteen, as mine were? Why, further, do teachers enforce the demanding Ramadan fast among Muslim children at the local LEA primary school, denying them water and food throughout school hours even during a heatwave? CWTAIFlyerBlogAnd why do politicians in our secular state fund mosque-building in east London, support Muslim-only youth work and promote Islamic religious practices to the general population?

It’s a bit-by-bit society-wide process, Islamification by salami-slice; we encourage roadshow attendees to challenge this process whenever they find it unnecessary or unjust.

If you reckon the Can We Talk About Islam? roadshow may be suitable for your local church or churches, contact us at info@CanWeTalkAboutIslam.com.

Learning From The Pit Of Hell

They told me it would be grim. In the event I was left numb, silenced by incomprehension and the inadequacy of words.

Early this month we had enjoyed an uplifting week in conference at the huge Hotel Golebiewski in the ski resort of Wisla, southern Poland, near the Czech border. Overlooking the Vistula River close to its source and with spectacular views across the tree-covered hills and valleys of the Silesian Beskids mountain range, the hotel offered 5-star luxury and an extraordinary range of facilities.

There 700 Christian leaders from across Eastern and Western Europe ate, slept, saunaed and swam, worshipped, prayed, fellowshipped and wrestled with issues such as church planting, understanding Roman Catholicism, the sexual revolution, apologetics and a Christian response to the ISIS crisis. It was inspirational.

KrakowOn the way to the conference, too, we had experienced a heavenly sunny afternoon in the historic city of Krakow, lazily consuming ice cream under huge parasols in the Old Town’s medieval and spacious Market Square. We sat in front of the 14th century St Mary’s Basilica facing the 16th century Cloth Hall and in view of the 10th century Church of St Adalbert, watching the elegant open horse-drawn carriages circle the Square. It was magical.

On the way back from the conference, though, we descended into hell.

At the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp 65 km from Krakow, over a million people, mainly European Jews, were gassed, shot, hanged, starved or burned to death by the Nazis during WWII. Accompanied by a fierce, perhaps emotionally-seared guide, we walked under the notorious “Arbeit macht frei” sign at the gates, stood where the camp orchestra played to accompany prisoners marching to and from work, stopped in the gas chamber in Crematorium 1 and viewed the reconstructed Death Wall where many prisoners were executed.

She took us too into the notorious Block 11, death block, with its unspeakable “standing cells” in the basement where the Catholic priest Maximillian Kolbe was starved and poisoned to martyrdom. We saw horrible mountains of children’s and adults’ shoes, human hair, spectacles and used Zyklon B gas cylinders and, at Birkenau, fragments of human bones from cremated victims still in the ground. AuschwitzDollI examined a broken doll in a glass case and, as the father of young daughters, I wondered about the little girl to whom this had belonged and feared for the anguish and pain she will have suffered.

I left the camp aware that I had read somewhere that many of the German officers, guards and staff attended church especially at Christian festivals such as Easter. How on earth could they – and we – reconcile the Christian belief in a Lord of love with such depravity and evil?

The answer is, of course, we can’t. But since returning home I’ve studied Edwin Lutzer’s analysis of the German church under the Nazis, Hitler’s Cross . Previously I had devoured Eric Metaxas’ superb biography  Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, the story of the anti-Nazi churchman Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The rapid Nazification of the Protestant church in Germay had complex antecedents. These include the weakening of belief as a result of 19th century German biblical criticism, and the post-WWI poverty and despair of the German people as a result of military defeat and the imposition of massive financial reparation by the victorious Allies. Whatever the reasons, by 1930 an open-door opportunity for a national saviour had arisen.

AdolfHitlerWhen one came along the enfeebled church compromised on the Gospel and lost sight of her true Saviour who said he himself is the real Truth. Churchmen had no theological rock on which to stand out from the crowd and were easily swept along by Hitler’s oratory and untruth accompanied by Goebbels’ propaganda and Gestapo intimidation. Although the Nazi regime planned to destroy Christianity and replace it with a new paganism, gullible pastors and church leaders arrived at a 1933 General Synod in Berlin wearing Nazi uniforms and giving the Nazi salute.

Later, many congregations submitted to the prevailing zeitgeist and substituted the swastika of the Nazis for the cross of Christ and Hitler’s Mein Kampf for the Bible. This was the anti-Semitic church-going ‘Christianity’ of Auschwitz officers and guards.

But God always has His faithful remnant, and thousands of ordinary Christians resisted the regime and heroically rescued Jews from their fate. Albert Einstein, exiled from Germany because he was a Jew, wrote  that, unlike the academics in universities and editors of national newspapers who were silenced in a few short weeks, “only the church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing the truth… The church alone had the moral courage and persistence to stand for intellectual and moral freedom”.

Dietrich BonhoefferAt great personal cost Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other members of the anti-Nazi ‘Confessing Church’ clung to Christian truth. Bonhoeffer argued in his Cost of Discipleship that the cross of Christ is above the world and that Christianity and National Socialism cannot be united. He plotted against Hitler and was executed on Hitler’s orders just three weeks before the end of the war.

Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, now famous for his poem “First they came for the Socialists and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist… then they came for me”, spent eight years in a concentration camp for his vehement opposition to Nazi control of the church, and only narrowly escaped execution.

David Cameron’s Britain is not Hitler’s Germany of course, but there are some disturbing parallels:

9911715-Elderly-Senior-Woman-Using-Walking-Frame-Stock-Photo-seniors-disabled-walkingThe UK too is rapidly saying goodbye to its Judeo-Christian roots and turning to a new secular paganism that aims to restrain, control and extinguish the church, promotes the wholesale slaughter of unborn children, and is on the way to approving euthanasia for the ill, the elderly, the frail and the medically hopeless.

The most media-friendly, youth-friendly and influential Baptist Church leader actively seeks State endorsement for his work while trashing Christian belief, dismissing the central Christian understanding of Christ’s self-sacrifice on the cross as  “cosmic child-abuse” – a profane misnomer akin to Richard Dawkins’ famously blasphemous depiction of God.

Anti-Semitism is rising rapidly and anti-Semitic attacks are at record levels.

And the Government plans to impose ‘British values’, introduce control orders, ban extreme speech and censor talks and sermons.

The Auschwitz visit gave me much to think about.

“Anjem Choudary’s Islam Is Based On A Fraud”

Last Wednesday the BBC TV’s flagship Ten O’Clock News  broadcast an extensive investigation into the disastrous influence across Europe of London-based Islamist Anjem Choudary. According to the BBC many believe it is Choudary who has prompted the Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs) and other restrictions and bans that are contained in the Government’s upcoming anti-extremism bill.

AnjemChoudaryBut in a democracy you cannot simply ban an insidious ideology or religion any more than you can bomb it out of existence. Rather the foundational ideas need to be identified and undermined so that the whole ideological superstructure falls and thereby loses its power and attractiveness.

In this context, my friend and colleague Jay Smith is holding an important debate with Choudary tonight. It will be well worth watching live online, or on YouTube from tomorrow onwards.

This morning I published the following press release about the debate:

“Anjem Choudary’s Islam is based on a fraud” 

Extremist, ISIS supporter and prime target of UK Government’s counter-extremism bill Anjem Choudary is to be challenged in a public debate in London tonight 

In a face-to-face skype debate that takes place tonight in London, the high-profile Islamic extremist Anjem Choudary – who many commentators believe is the prime target of the Government’s counter-extremism bill that will be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech on 27 May – is to be publicly challenged about the fraudulent basis of his religion.

Choudary shares the same radical Qur’an-based Islam as ISIS, of which he is a strong supporter.

David Cameron said last week that such “poisonous” extremist ideology must be confronted, but suggests this can be done simply by banning orders and speech censorship.

Others believe there is a more effective way to undermine extremists, which is to confront the foundations of what they believe. One of them is Jay Smith, Choudary’s opponent at the event. He is a London-based debater, pacifist, and Christian polemicist, who in the past has disputed with other high-profile Muslims such as the academic Dr Shabir Ali, and the banned hate preachers Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad and Abu Hamza al-Masri.

Jay Smith“I detest the slaughter and slavery that is at the heart of the ISIS ideology,” said Jay Smith. “Anjem Choudary is ISIS’ prime apologist in London. For the sake of our vulnerable young people who may be tempted to follow Choudary, I intend drastically to up the ante in order to expose the false and fraudulent basis of his – and their – Qur’anic-based radicalism.

“Their theology is a dangerous ideology,” continued Jay.  “We must aggressively pull the Islamist rug from under their feet. Choudary publicly must be shown empty and with nowhere to go; I intend to unpack his religion to accomplish just that during our debate.”

“David Cameron seems to think that banning orders, extremist disruption orders and draconian laws are the way to tackle Choudary’s ideological venom,” said Jay Smith’s political advisor Alan Craig, the leader of the 8-year campaign against the proposed ‘London Olympic mega-mosque’ at West Ham.

“But such legislation simply endangers the UK’s democratic liberties and freedom of speech,” said Alan. “It is far better openly to expose – and mock – the fictitious fabricated roots of Choudary’s fundamentalist ideology. That’s what Jay will do surgically during the debate.

“It is this way that Choudary will slowly but surely lose his malign influence over so many impressionable young minds.”

-ENDS –

Notes for Editors:

  • 1. Queries: Jay Smith 07545 984765; Alan Craig 07939 547198
  • 2. Viewing: The debate takes place online at 01:30 a.m. (UK time), on Thursday morning, 21st May. It can be viewed live simply by clicking on Trinity Channel’s ‘live’ button at: www.trinitychannel.com/#!live-webcast/c1g0n. Although the debate takes place in London, it is intended primarily for online audiences in the US where it will be viewed live during the afternoon and evening hours of Wednesday 20th May.
  • 3. Viewing after the event: A recording of the debate will be posted on Thursday at: www.youtube.com/user/trinitychannel1/videos, and on Pfander Films channel at www.youtube.com/user/PfanderFilms
  • 4. Jay Smith introduction: An introduction by Jay Smith to his line of argument against Anjem Choudary, and a BBC investigation into Choudary’s influence across Europe, can both be seen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=71mSbHHkpr8

My Journey Into UKIP

Out of the blue, less than 24 hours before nominations closed on 9th April, I received a call from UKIP London Region chairman asking me if I would be a candidate for the party in the General Election. He wanted me to stand in the Brent North constituency where the intended candidate apparently had gone AWOL.

Immediately I consented. Then, working with local activists, we managed to submit the required papers, signatures and deposit with just two hours to spare.

ukipIt was an unexpected and personally significant turn of events, so I thought I should email an explanation about my UKIP journey to people close to me. This, then, is what I wrote to them back on 11th April; the UKIP hierarchy requested that I shouldn’t publish it on my blog until today when the General Election campaign is over:

Dear family, friends and colleagues,

In October I joined UKIP, which surprised many, horrified some and delighted others.

Further, over the past month I have been campaigning at weekends for UKIP’s excellent candidate in the party’s most winnable London seat, Dagenham & Rainham. Then this week UKIP suddenly asked me to stand as their paper (that is, nominal or non-campaigning) candidate in the unwinnable Brent North constituency – which I readily accepted.

When I lost my seat on Newham Council in 2010 after eight satisfying years as Christian Peoples Alliance councillor, I decided that my period of electoral politics was over. I’d had my time and I’d done my bit. So I am, perhaps, as surprised as anyone to find myself back in the fray ahead of the general election on 7 May, this time on behalf of a different party.

I thought I’d try to explain why to those who know me and may be puzzled by my recent political conversion to UKIP. If however you are simply not interested or find it boring, please be free to ignore and delete this email.

the crossWhen I became a Christian in my late 20s, my worldview changed dramatically. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the corporate success, high income and jet-set lifestyle that I enjoyed then, I realised immediately that the Christian God rejects egotism, arrogance, selfishness and untruth: Christ showed us that His compassion is for the weak, the voiceless, the marginalised, the deprived, the disabled and the despised.

As a result and following my faith, I left the prosperity of leafy Highgate in north London and moved to inner-city Canning Town in London’s east end, then the most deprived neighbourhood in the country according to the London Research Council. There I founded and became live-in warden of an after-care home for young offenders following their release from prison, and I ended up running a local church and community centre for the disadvantaged docklands population.

My heart was primarily with the outsider and the underdog, so when in 2001 and without consultation Newham Council highhandedly and Mugabe-like announced a brutal housing clearance scheme across Canning Town (“social cleansing” the appalled locals termed it) I moved into action. I door-knocked, leafletted and held mass meetings. I was then elected onto Newham Council as the sole Opposition member facing 59 Labour councillors and a Labour executive Mayor. I was the first non-Labour councillor in Canning Town for nearly a century and this small local earthquake helped kick-start my short political career…

The union of one man and one woman in marriage, faithful to each another “for the procreation of children” and “till death us do part”, is an almost uniquely Christian ordinance. Like Christianity itself, this monogamous ideal has for more than a millennium so influenced our society, culture and language that we hardly notice it; for instance it is a bit of a shaker to consider that if I had been born in, say, traditionalist Africa or Muslim Middle East, my beloved Sally could be merely the first of my three or four wives without anyone batting an eyelid or me breaking the law.

wedding handsThe social benefits of Christian-style faithful marriage have been so great, especially for the nurture and socialisation of the nation’s children, that I put the promotion of the marriage-based family via tax breaks and other incentives at the top of my agenda. For instance when I ran for Mayor of London against Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone in 2008, my prime election pledge was to “Promote marriage and stable family as a long-term solution to youth crime, educational underachievement and child poverty”.

I was stunned therefore when in 2011, without prior notice or indeed, initially, the support of gay campaigning groups like Stonewall, David Cameron commenced his crusade for same-sex marriage and, consequently, the debasing and degrading of traditional marriage. Under the government’s gay marriage legislation, loyalty and faithfulness were negated as a key defining characteristic of marriage (“Go on, be modern, play the field, everyone does”) and, necessarily, so was procreation and the nurture of the marital union’s offspring.

Yet same-sex marriage was not in any of the main parties’ manifestos at the previous general election; there was no Green or White Paper consultation over the issue; debate in Parliament was severely restricted and one-sided; opponents were excoriated as stone-age dinosaurs or homophobes – in this way the whole metropolitan liberal political bubble (led unitedly and enthusiastically by David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Boris Johnson) highhandedly rammed through the destruction of this foundational building-block of a healthy society. They betrayed our children and it’s the coming generations who will suffer the consequences.

For me it was the last straw. It was shades of highhanded Newham Council again, but at the national level. Until this betrayal I still had – just – some residual respect for our political elite and our existing party system. But no more. Their cavalier and flagrant abuse of the political process over this vital social issue was, for me, jaw-dropping. They shoved it down our throats, and it made me sick.

But not UKIP.

UKIP is an unsophisticated grass-roots party of mainly ordinary people, warts and all. The leaders make mistakes but deal swiftly with the jesters and worse that any new party attracts.

The leadership has common sense and very real courage: alone they stood against gay marriage; alone they want the UK to exit the corrupt and undemocratic EU; alone they campaign to end to the madness of uncontrolled mass immigration; alone they plan to protect childhood innocence by banning sex education from primary school pre-pubescents.

I don’t agree with some of UKIP’s stuff, but as despised outsiders and in spite of virulent opposition the party has single-handedly shifted the political agenda on both the EU and mass immigration. The party is currently doing the same over health tourism and wages depressed by cheap labour. Yet encouragingly a significant percentage of supporters come from ethnic minorities who too, of course, are outsiders.

So I’ve joined UKIP and am campaigning and nominally standing for the party on 7 May. I want our society to regain its identity and confidence, to come out of the cosy but crumbling rich men’s club that is the EU and to engage independently with the wider world (including Europe) so that we stand or fall by our wits.

friends-fingersI don’t expect all my friends to agree with me (that’s not what friends are for!) or to support UKIP. But it is important to me that you understand why I am actively campaigning for them.

If you want to know more about the moral fury that has driven me into UKIP, I urge you to read my post “Matthew Parris’ Poison” (especially the second half) at www.alansangle.com/?p=1531.

Also if you have any comments, favourable or otherwise, be free to email me. I’d love to hear from you.

Very warmly,

Alan

Sharia Rides Up The Agenda

Since 2011 I’ve been working with the outstanding crossbench peer Baroness Caroline Cox on her legislative initiative, the Mediation and Arbitration Services (Equality) Bill.

Sharia Council of BritainThis turgid title masks sensitive and combustible issues: The primary purpose of the Bill is to tackle gender-discrimination in the 85+ Sharia courts across the UK. The secondary purpose is to tackle the growth of a parallel legal system in the UK.

Two years ago I covered the background to this proposed legislation in a post about the Bill’s Second Reading debate in the House of Lords. Despite multiple testimonies and clear evidence of discrimination against women, and strong cross-party back-bench support, the government opposed the Bill on the head-in-the-sand grounds that adequate legislation is already in place to deal with the issue.

Memorably, this inflexibility earned the new and junior minister responsible, Lord Gardiner, a magisterial put-down from one of the country’s top lawyers: “(Lord Gardiner) has given an Olympian exegesis of the processes and laws and consultations that are available to deal with the intellectual problem,” Lord Alex Carlile QC thundered from the LibDem benches behind and above the minister. “However we are concerned here with real people and real cases.”

baroness cox giving the keswick lecture week 2 09We had sat with many real Muslim women and heard their real and distressing cases at the hands of Sharia courts. We greatly relished Lord Carlile’s broadside.

This was Parliament’s first ever debate about Sharia. It was an historic debate – but this still cut no ice with the government.

Since then we’ve continued to push the issue in Westminster and Whitehall. We held briefings for Peers and met with individual MPs; we set up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on ‘Honour’ Based Abuse ; we met and listened to more Muslim women; we supported vital research by Muslim women’s group Aurat led by the inspirational Habiba Jaan; we worked with other women’s groups like IKWRO, Inspire and Karma Nirvana; and we met off-record with a junior government minister and on-record with a key senior one.

Theresa MayThe first sign that things were beginning to change came at the Conservative Party conference last September. For the first time Home Secretary Theresa May raised publicly the issue of Sharia law and women. “Across the country, there are concerns about the way Sharia law is being applied, the way women are told to live and the intolerant attitudes shown to people of different beliefs and ways of life,” she said. “We must not sleepwalk into separation, segregation and sectarianism.”

Encouraged that we may not be banging against a brick wall after all, we continued to work the corridors of Westminster and Baroness Cox grabbed every opportunity to speak out.

Then on Monday last week and in collaboration with the Bow Group, we were about to publish a report calling for a judge-led investigation into Sharia courts when Theresa May, now a Tory leadership contender thanks to David Cameron, announced the government’s new counter-extremism policy; unexpectedly this included an independent review of Sharia courts.

“There is evidence of women being “divorced” under Sharia law and left in penury, wives who are forced to return to abusive relationships because Sharia councils say a husband has a right to “chastise”, and Sharia councils giving the testimony of a woman only half the weight of the testimony of a man,” said  Mrs May. “We will commission an independent figure to complete an investigation into the application of Sharia law in England and Wales.”

This was fantastic as far as it went, but on Tuesday we published our report anyway. The Ministry of Justice has previously run scared and aborted an investigation into Sharia courts citing lack of co-operation by Islamic authorities; we reckoned a formal judge-led investigation with powers to subpoena witnesses is more likely to succeed.

Boris_Johnson

On Wednesday Boris Johnson, current favourite in the Tory leadership stakes, weighed in saying that Sharia law is “absolutely unacceptable” in the UK and should not be allowed to preside even over family disputes.

On Thursday journalist Leo McKinstry – who famously turned on his former boss, Labour’s anti-marriage deputy leader and Shadow Deputy Prime Minster Harriet Harman, and accused her of preaching a “dangerous gospel of feminist fascism” – praised “robust” Boris and spelled out his support on the issue. Harriet Harman on the other hand, like most feminists, remains culpably silent.

So the cat is out of the bag and the hare is running. There’s been a sea change and Sharia is open for proper political scrutiny at last.

Muslim women up and down the country will be grateful.

Professor Eric Anderson & Winchester University: Campaign Update

There has been welcome progress in our campaign against Winchester University and the dangerous depraved views of their American sociology lecturer, Professor Eric Anderson. BCMLogoDr Anderson is an influential commentator about sex and sexuality and appears in the media – such as on BBC TV  discussing gay marriage together with his ‘nanny’, and on ITV disputing why men cheat on their partners.

In a previous post I highlighted how Professor Anderson described in lectures how he likes sex with 16 to 18 year old boys – for which he is willing to pay if necessary – and wants sex with 1,000 more boys and men before he dies. He also claimed that the damage caused by child molestation is merely a “social construct”.

IMG_3461.JPGSuch foul views from a high-profile academic are threatening to the welfare of children and teenage boys, yet for three years a report on the lectures was available online without public comment from the Winchester University authorities. So our campaign group Because Children Matter started to protest.

In November the Sunday Times published (£) an article about the campaign and approached the university for a statement; the authorities responded merely that they have “reprimanded (Anderson) for his remarks”. Apparently they consider this private reprimand fulfils their public responsibility towards young people. There has been no public repudiation of Anderson’s views; no apology, statement of regret or insistence that he withdraws his lectures.

AlanTitchmarshIn December it was announced that celebrity gardener, broadcaster and media personality Alan Titchmarsh is to be appointed Chancellor of Winchester University in August 2015. I immediately wrote an open letter to inform him about Professor Anderson’s views and to ask him to reconsider his appointment. As Alan Titchmarsh’s views are of importance, I’m publishing here our correspondence exchange:

Dear Mr Titchmarsh,

We write on behalf of children and young people to ask you urgently to reconsider accepting your appointment as Chancellor of Winchester University.

Professor Eric Anderson is on the staff of the University’s Department of Sport & Exercise and in that capacity has visited other universities teaching unacceptable and amoral behaviour.

As an example, in a lecture at Trinity College Oxford he made the following appalling statements which were duly verified by the reporter:

“I’m going to cuss a lot and I’m going to break down all kinds of hegemonic structures. If you’re offended by discussions of anal sex, vaginal sex, rimming, cheating, having cum all over [your] face then you should probably leave.”

“[I have had sex with] easily over a thousand people.”

“I like sex with 16, 17, 18 year old boys particularly, it’s getting harder for me to get them but I’m still finding them… I hope between the age of 43 and the time I die I can have sex with another thousand, that would be awesome, even if I have to buy them, of course, not a problem, you pay for all kinds of entertainment and pleasure.”

When asked, Professor Anderson admitted with a laugh that he is a sexual predator and – worst of all in the current climate of concern about child abuse – he as Professor of Sport claimed that team sports are more damaging to adolescents than sex.

“The damage that’s caused by child molestation is socially constructed by the western world,” he said dismissively, and contrasted this to other cultures where children engage in sex with adults as a rite of passage.

Professor Anderson also gratuitously referred to the former Archbishop of Canterbury, now Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, Rowan Williams, as an “arsehole”, “a total bigot” and “a fucking liar”.

He bragged to his listeners that his previous employer, Bath University, had “practically ran me out of town because they couldn’t stand my research”.

A fuller report on Professor Anderson’s lecture may be found at the reference below*.

No doubt like most people you will consider these statements utterly reprehensible. Yet Winchester University has neither removed Professor Anderson from his post as apparently Bath University have done, nor publicly reprimanded him and repudiated his views. Rather the university authorities continue to shelter him and give him a platform from which to promote his views.

In the light of this we ask that you do not associate your good name with the University, and that you reconsider accepting your appointment as Chancellor.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Craig,

Director, Because Children Matter

 Correspondence

 

 

 

 

 

Alan Titchmarsh replied:

Dear Mr Craig, 

I was extremely dismayed by the contents of your letter and have explored matters thoroughly with the Vice Chancellor of Winchester University. 

Like you I totally deplore what Professor Anderson said in his talk and in no way share his views. The lecture you mention took place over three years ago, and at the time Professor Anderson was severely reprimanded by the senior management team of the University. He subsequently apologised for his remarks, realising that they were not only inappropriate but considerably ill-advised. There has not been – and most certainly should not be – any recurrence of such an event.  

You may argue that his views will not have changed and that it is these which you find reprehensible.  I would only say that we live in a society where free speech, opinions and social mores (even those with which many of us profoundly disagree) are allowed to be expressed and exercised, provided they remain within the law. Although most people do not share his extreme views and find them, at the very least, distasteful, Professor Anderson is a respected authority on the subject of sexuality. 

It is an uncomfortable subject for many, and there are countless differing views as to what sort of behaviour is acceptable among consenting adults. This is something which a great many of us find difficult to assimilate, and I am very sympathetic to your feelings. 

 While I realise that you may well regard this as a poor defence, I would argue that I can do far more good for the University of Winchester by accepting the post of Chancellor than I would by turning my back and declining any involvement with the broader sweep of the university’s activities which, with some 8,000 students, is of considerable importance, value and scope. The wide ranging abilities of the University of Winchester’s students, the breadth of their experience and backgrounds, coupled with their subsequent achievements, is testament to the dedication and skill of the university staff and their overriding sense of values. These values embrace tolerance as well as deeply held principles. 

I am a committed Christian who admires and respects the university’s inclusive Christian ethos and to this end I will always make my views clear and continue to stand up for legitimate human rights, as well as showing tolerance towards those of different faiths and beliefs. To remove a person from post because their sexual mores differ from one’s own, is not, in my view, either justifiable or defensible. 

However, there are boundaries which should not and must not be crossed; boundaries which are very clear in law, especially when it comes to the protection of children. This is something of which I am profoundly aware and an area in which I will have no hesitation in making my views known and in encouraging action which I think is both appropriate and justified. With a conscientious and dedicated approach I will execute the role of Chancellor to the best of my ability and in what I hope will be regarded as a responsible and vigilant fashion. 

I hope you will understand the reasoning behind my stance, even if you do not agree with it. 

Yours faithfully, 

Alan Titchmarsh 

Following our exchange of letters the Daily Mail ran an article in January under the headline: “Titchmarsh, a gay lecturer and a row over teenage sex”.

KELVINMACKENZIEThen over the horizon charged the heavy cavalry of The Sun’s Kelvin MacKenzie – the newspaper’s former editor of Gotcha! and Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster! fame.

In a series of hard-hitting pieces MacKenzie damned Anderson as the “perv prof” and a “predatory creep”. He also:

(a) urged his readers to write to Winchester’s “hapless” vice-chancellor Professor Joy Carter about Anderson;

(b) offered to pay whistle-blowers at the university to let him, MacKenzie, know what is going on there and explain why the vice-chancellor is so silent about Anderson;

(c) encouraged parents not to let their offspring, especially boys, apply to Winchester University until the authorities disclosed what action they had taken over Anderson’s remarks;

(d) dismissed Anderson’s assertion that children in some cultures engage in sexual activity as a rite of passage with the killer-comment that “that should please the people of Rotherham”; and

(e) identified Anderson’s links with the disingenuous pro-paedophile lobbying group B4U-ACT founded by the convicted paedophile Mike Melsheimer.

Winchester University and Dr Anderson were rattled by the onslaught. Someone promptly prevailed upon the Oxford Student website to take down the report on Anderson’s lecture, which was done on 4th February. In response MacKenzie, sensing yet more skulduggery and sleight-of-hand, announced he was putting back up the offending report for all to see, this time on his own website.

It was tabloid journalism at its most effective and professional.

(MacKenzie’s columns of 29 January and 2, 5, 9 and 12 February are available on The Sun (£) website.)

pseudoscienceBut Anderson continues in his post at Winchester University and continues to publish his propaganda, pseudo-science and untruth. The London Evening Standard’s David Sexton reckons that Anderson’s latest academic offering is an “outstanding imposture” and a “rant” that is unconcerned about the needs of women, provides information and links for those looking to hone their masturbation skills (!), disseminates shamelessly unrepresentative research and should not have been published by Oxford University Press. Catherine Hakim in The Guardian agrees it is “a proselytising text rather than social science” and is surprised too that the book has been published by OUP.

Anderson remains malignly influential thanks to his prestige platform at the university and the protective wall of academia surrounding him.

So our job is not over yet…

Minor Is Major

It’s a cast-iron undertaking written in just a couple of lines towards the end of the recent UKIP publication Policies for People, such that you might well miss it. It hasn’t been promoted like the party’s policies for leaving the EU or limiting immigration, and for many it is a minor matter. But it contains a major democratic principle:

“UKIP will amend the smoking ban to give pubs and clubs the choice to open smoking rooms properly ventilated and separated from non-smoking areas.”

scolding nannyThe 2007 blanket ban on smoking in all enclosed public places was a crass piece of infantilising nanny-state legislation and a denial of the right of freedom of association.

If law-abiding and adult citizens in their right minds and fully informed of the likely (medical) consequences choose voluntarily to come together to set up a peaceable smoking club, on what possible grounds can a supposedly mature democracy refuse them?

There are no grounds of course, except the instinctive desire of our masters – whenever they can get away with it – to close down our exasperating liberties, limit our frustrating choices and knock us into the shape they think is good for us.

The ban on smoking in public places where non-smokers are present, such as restaurants, offices and on public transport, is certainly to be welcomed. And there is a good case for the forthcoming ban on smoking in cars when children are passengers.

But the complete and total ban insisted on by our legislators in 2007 – and indeed the current contested proposal to ban smoking in city parks and outdoor areas – amply illustrate the bossy small-minded we-know-best attitude of the governing class that is the antithesis of an open and free participative democracy. They are managers not leaders; they act as political masters not public servants; they use coercion not persuasion; they are long on patronising paternalism and short on grass-roots common sense: and our freedoms of choice and association are suffering because it.

cigarUKIP’s track record is far from perfect, but consistently it shows that the party has the courage to do democracy, challenge established categories, confront the mainstream PC consensus and go where the LibLabCon elite refuses to go. Amending the smoking ban is a brilliant if unnoticed case in point.

So if all goes well on 7th May, next Christmas I’ll once again be free to enjoy a festive cigar alongside a pint and a game of pool in my favourite pub.

It’s yet another reason for joining and voting UKIP.

O Holy Night

Kings-College-Choir

On this silent sacred night, England’s best chapel choir sings Christendom’s best Christmas carol, here .

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!

O night divine, the night when Christ was born. 

Even in the darkness of tragedy, brutality, weariness and despair, in Christ there is a thrill of hope and through Christ every day is a new and glorious morn; we can do all things in Him who strengthens us.

Happy Christmas!

The Pink News Definition Of Democracy

I received a call from BBC Radio Northampton on Tuesday: with effect from midnight Civil Partnerships (CP) could be converted legally into Same Sex Marriages (SSM), they said, so would I discuss the issue on Stuart Linnell at Breakfast in the morning? They had heard me on BBC Radio London and wanted me to make my case to their Northamptonshire audience.

benjamincohenIn the event and on behalf of our campaign group Because Children Matter, I followed Ben Cohen of Pink News  in the show (here, commencing at 1 hr 6 mins 53 secs into the programme). I’ve met Ben before in LBC studios and he’s a friendly articulate guy although this time inevitably he stumbled and struggled to identify any advantage of same-sex marriages over civil partnerships.

“(You make SSM) sound just symbolic really,” said Stuart Linnell (at 1:14:53). The presenter was trying to help his faltering interviewee, but also unwittingly he exposed the fact that while SSM may be an important issue for Pink News gay activists and their useful idiots in the LibLabCon political class, in reality and on the ground it is an empty – if destructive – charade.

Indeed Ben was forced to concede that the number of gay couples who have entered into SSMs since they became legal on 29th March “is not that high” (at 1:13:20). Thank-you-but-noOrdinary same-sex couples have seen through the pretence and said “No thanks”. Significantly, the in-touch leadership of Ukip like Nigel Farage and gay MEP David Coburn have seen through it too, to Ukip’s electoral advantage.

When it was my turn (this slot can be heard in full here) I pointed out that while CPs are what it says on the tin, SSMs are a fake and a counterfeit: while conventional marriage commits the participants to a faithful ‘til death us do part’ which brings stability and huge benefits for the nurture of children, SSMs were designed by the government  to accommodate what Brendon O’Neill calls the “flightiness and flexibility more commonly associated with gay relationships”.

So adultery is no ground for divorce with SSMs. High-profile gay couple Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow play the field and openly advertise for sex partners – “preferably firemen, married men, muscle men and rugby players” – on Gaydar. And BBC-duping Eric Anderson reckons to have had sex with over a thousand people other than his marriage partner Grant Tyler Peterson. Faithful monogamy SSM is not.

rageMy approach clearly hit the target as Ben Cohen was incensed. He contacted the programme producer and demanded further airtime. Rebuffed, he took to his website and gave vent to his spleen. There he quoted me at length and I’m grateful for the further coverage of my views.

But he also let slip his guard and laid bare the underlying intolerance for which triumphalist gay leaders have become renowned. “Everyone understands the BBC, like all broadcasters, must ensure that news reporting is balanced and impartial,” he burbled, “however when it comes to reporting on gay rights issues the BBC seems to step well off the mark… As the law has already been enacted, this issue is no longer up for debate… So quite why BBC Northampton felt the need to allow Alan Craig on the air to regurgitate the same old anti-gay diatribe, and for that to go unchallenged is beyond me.”

No doubt Ben was disappointed at his own confused contribution to the programme, and in his subsequent anger at my arguments he illustrated an almost universal truth: gay activists, having stormed and plundered the ancient marriage stronghold, now want to lift the drawbridge and shut down all further discussion.

It’s the Pink News definition of democracy: “The issue is no longer up for debate”.