Category Archives: Freedom

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.

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.


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.

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.

Muddassar’s Dirty Tricks At The Mega-Mosque Inquiry

MMNTdesign“You’re the bloke I’ve seen on the internet – you’re opposing the big Tablighi Jamaat mosque,” said the bearded man as I was about to climb the stairs at Custom House station adjacent to the massive ExCel Centre in Docklands. I was on my way to this month’s Public Inquiry (here) into plans to build a 9,000 capacity mosque, and my new companion – aged perhaps 40 – fell in beside me as we climbed the steps together.

“I’ve watched your videos and you’re right you know,” he continued. “I wish others would stand up against them like you do. I’m a Muslim and I know what they’re like. I don’t go near Tablighi Jamaat mosques.”

His name, he told me, is Ali. He came to the UK from Jamaica when he was nine and had accepted Islam. “Keep strong,” was his parting encouragement as he descended onto the station platform and I continued into ExCel. “I hope you are successful.”

MMNT logoIslamic opposition to the proposed massive mosque at West Ham – the architect claims it will be a big as Battersea Power Station (here) – is nothing new. I’ve lived less than two miles from the site for over 30 years and during our 8-year campaign of opposition (here) I’ve frequently worked with and cited prominent Muslims who oppose the project (eg here).

One of the most impressive Muslim opponents has been Tehmina Kazi, director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD – here). Able, articulate and progressive, she had been a Project Officer at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (here) and, through BMSD, is now committed to promoting an Islam that is about ‘social inclusion, co-existence and harmony’ and does not discriminate against women.

On our behalf she testified strongly against the mosque in a formal submission to a previous Public Inquiry in February 2011 (here) on the grounds of Tablighi Jamaat’s isolationism and the restricted role of Tablighi women, both of which are “not conducive to social cohesion and inclusion”. She made a similar formal submission to the present Inquiry two weeks before it opened on 3rd June. It was powerful courageous stuff and right on the button; she was our star opposition witness.

Newham-Peoples-AlliancePublic Inquiries are run by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate and, 10 minutes after close of business on the day before this Inquiry opened, the Planning Inspector’s office in Bristol received an email from cowboy mosque-supporters Newham Peoples Alliance (here) informing him that our witness Tehmina Kazi had withdrawn from the Inquiry.

NPA is the dubious Muslim-led outfit that last year held demos outside Newham town hall in favour of the mega-mosque and then invited George Galloway to Newham to lead the campaign for the mega-mosque during the 2014 local elections (here), (here) and (here). Despite the usual Galloway flatulence, the initiative fizzled out.

NPA, which is driven now by internationally-connected Muddassar Ahmed, the founding CEO of Unitas Communications, by his Chief Operating Officer, Shiraz Ahmad, and by his Chief Media Officer, Zahid Amanullah (all here), had formal representation at the Inquiry, and indeed Shiraz Ahmad was one of NPA’s spokesmen.

Muddassar Ahmed(Unitas Communications claims to be a “specialist public relations and reputation management agency” with offices in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as well as London and Washington; it specialises in “the communications interface between the Islamic and Western worlds” (here) and is well-connected at senior government levels in those countries. For instance in the UK Muddassar is known to be close to fellow religionist Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Minister of State for Faith & Communities in Eric Pickles’ Department (here); ominously Pickles and his colleagues will be deciding the final fate of the mega-mosque later this year.)

While Tehmina’s withdrawal was a disappointment it was not a complete surprise. The previous Saturday afternoon she had called me, deeply distressed, from her holiday break abroad to tell me that Muddassar Ahmed was pressurising her (“intimidating” was her exact word) to withdraw. She said that Muddassar claimed he had obtained reassurances from Tablighi Jamaat that they would treat women better in future, and he promised Tehmina “they will continue to become more liberal under his influence.”

The reassurances, if made, are risible. Tablighi Jamaat, which has 80 million followers across 150 countries, has been promoting its ideologically-driven misogyny (here) and (here) to all its followers everywhere since its foundation in 1920s India.

But Tehmina was desperate. “Muddassar is not som1 u want as an enemy – he is 2 well connected in the community,” she texted me in messages that are still on my phone. “Really sorry Muddassar has put you under such pressure and intimidation,” I replied, to which she texted “I’m still shocked that hes supporting them as his wife N***** P***** (my asterisks) is a feminist.”

“It (Muddassar’s intervention) has ruined my break,” she texted further. “It’s always left to me to stick my head above the parapet – I wish others would do so 4 a change,” she added.

problem solvedI felt and feel sorry for Tehmina. Intimidation and interfering with witnesses is a dirty business; it not only indicates the depths to which Muddassar Ahmed will sink, it also illustrates the dark manoeuvring and coercion associated with Tablighi Jamaat and their mosque project. Six years ago my family and I received a death threat from another Tablighi Jamaat supporter linked to the project (here) so I know what mega-mosque intimidation is like.

Regrettably but understandably Tehmina has since denied she was intimidated and told the media that she has been “neither harried nor pressured but had accepted the reassurances she had been given about the place of women in the mega-mosque community” (here). The sneery knee-jerk Left such as IslamophobiaWatch (here), Liberal Conspiracy (here) and @NafeezAhmed were delighted of course. But fear has worked its effect, and her denial – subsequently repeated – is testimony to Muddassar Ahmed’s bullying control.

EricPicklesLord help us if the Planning Inspector recommends, and Eric Pickles decides, to allow the mega-mosque project go ahead. We can expect more, many more, such dirty tricks.

I can understand why my new friend Ali stays away from Tablighi Jamaat mosques.

Farewell Freedom Of Speech

In my previous post at the end of last month (here) I told how we, the (here) campaign team, planned to display ‘Sophie’ posters on billboards across London ahead of the third reading of the same-sex marriage Bill in the House of Lords on 8th July. The purpose of the poster was to draw urgent attention to the issue of children: at the heart of marriage for most people and, with the honourable exception of a very few parliamentarians (here), kids have been entirely ignored in the gay marriage debate.

EvidenceShowsThe ensuing Sophie story shines a small but penetrating light on the declining democracy in which we now live:

We tried first to book space for her with two of the major billboard companies, Clear Channel UK (here) and Primesight (here). They both examined the artwork and declined our business, the latter informing us it was “due to the content” which was “too contentious”.

This was ludicrous. Of course Sophie was contentious – how could she not be? She brought a specific, relevant and legitimate viewpoint about a highly contentious issue that was currently being discussed in the mother of parliaments and democracy just down the road, and we wanted to exercise our right as citizens to influence that discussion.

So we took Sophie along to the Advertising Standards Authority or rather to its associate, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which offers ‘authoritative advice’ on the UK’s advertising rules (here). In the light of their guidance we amended the statement along the bottom of the poster from ‘FACT:’ to ‘Evidence shows…’ and set about finding a new billboard company.CAPlogo(To clarify: CAP in no way endorsed or approved our poster, and they make it clear that advertisers are not to imply any such endorsement or approval. We listened carefully to their advice some of which we accepted, but the responsibility for the poster remained entirely ours.)

A colleague in Scotland had used AdTRAILERS (here) mobile billboards in the past so on Sunday 7th July, the day before the third reading, Sophie found herself being driven around Westminster and central London on one of their trucks. Response to her was both positive and very negative, and in Trafalgar Square some hostile gay marriage supporters shouted obscenities and ripped part of the poster from one side of the truck.

But much worse was to come. Early the following morning as the day of the Lord’s debate dawned I took a call from AdTRAILERS. Their staff member was apologetic but informed me they were cancelling the contract with immediate effect. The company had received “horrific” and “frightening” threats to the driver, the staff and the company, and for their own safety’s sake they could not allow the truck to go out again. “I have known nothing like it in ten years – it’s violent stuff,” said the shocked representative.

We subsequently received an email from the company cancelling the contract because of “threats” and “offensive complaints” and offering a refund. We asked them to report the intimidation to the police and supply us with the relevant crime numbers, but they declined. Fear of reprisals – to persons and business – by the gay marriage supporters paralysed the company who simply wished the matter would go away.

RainbowFlagThus Sophie’s campaign was derailed after just one day. She had been silenced by gay marriage bullies.

No doubt her antagonists crowed about their ‘victory’. But more thoughtful observers may pause to reflect on the implications for our society. The silencing of legitimate public debate through violent threats and fear are the hallmarks of autocracies and tyrannies.

The UK is not yet Putin’s Russia or Taleban-controlled Pakistan. But inch by inch our free speech is being closed down, our liberties are being curtailed and our democratic space is shrinking. So maybe, just maybe, we are on the way.

Thank You Britain

Just one week into 2013 I broke my longstanding resolution to never make New Year’s resolutions! It was all because of a Lithuanian rough-sleeper I met.

Last Sunday night I was helping out at the Stratford Night Shelter for homeless people, run each winter by churches from this part of east London. A burly man in his forties sat alone eating supper so I joined him with my cuppa and, in his halting English, he told me his story.

His name is unpronounceable and, he said proudly, unique to Lithuanians like himself. He also speaks fluent Russian and Polish and has picked up some English since coming to the UK five years ago to work as a driver for a London-based Lithuanian company; most of the chat amongst colleagues at work was in their native language so his English is still limited.

A couple of years ago he was driving his van alone 150 miles from London in the middle of nowhere and surrounded by fields when he had a heart attack. He was isolated, didn’t (and still doesn’t) know where he was, couldn’t communicate properly in our language and hadn’t a clue how to contact emergency services of which anyway he had only hazy knowledge. There was no one about so his only option was to call his London office although he was unable to identify his location.

They in turn called the ambulance service who – here’s the modern miracle – managed to trace him via his mobile signal. In due course he was in hospital, his life saved.

Two years later he is now fully recovered with merely the need to take six pills a day subscribed by a GP – “they keep me alive”. The rescue, hospital and on-going health care have cost him nothing and his amazement and gratitude are palpable. “I don’t want to die,” he kept telling me.

Further, although his company has since closed its London operation and moved elsewhere in Europe making him redundant, he cannot return home. Medical treatment in Lithuania is very expensive so he couldn’t afford the vital medication and, worse, corruption is massive and endemic so he couldn’t afford the additional palm-greasing. “I have to live here to stay alive,” he said, even though currently for him living here means living on the streets – a fact of life which surprisingly doesn’t seem to bother him overmuch.

But I was interested in his overwhelming gratitude. In our cynical self-centred age where the dominant cultural discourse is about making demands, claiming rights and complaining, his appreciation of what the medical services have done for him seems childlike and naïve. But it is also refreshing, attractive and profoundly Christian whether he is a believer or not.

Inspired by him, my New Year’s resolution now is to be thankful daily for the healthy life I have been given and the prosperous technologically- and medically-advanced society into which I have been born and from which I benefit. These are none of my doing, so my gratitude is to the First Giver of that life, the One who decided into which society I should be born. After all it might have been poverty-stricken Afghanistan or Haiti – or corrupt Lithuania.

I am also grateful to the chief architect of the NHS and Labour’s post war Minister of Health Aneurin Bevan (here). He was ‘the most brilliant Minister of Health the country has ever had’ (British Medical Journal) who battled with his colleagues and opponents for the NHS core principle of ‘free at point of use’, even to the point of resignation from the government.

My Lithuanian friend is alive today in part because of that principle. And he’s thankful.


Tackling Sharia Misogyny

On Friday last week I sat in the cramped wooden Clerks’ Box in the House of Lords – alongside the comfortable padded red leather benches of the Peers and just three metres from the large glittering golden throne of the Monarch – and watched a bit of history being made.

For nearly two years I’ve been working in parliament with inspirational cross-bencher Baroness Caroline Cox to develop legislation that tackles the gender discrimination inherent in Sharia law at the eighty-five or so Sharia courts across the UK. I sat with a couple of colleagues in the Clerks’ Box in order to be available to her with advice and analysis during the debate.

It’s been an extraordinary journey as we’ve listened to the heart-breaking stories of many Muslim women. We also visited and were stunned by the rank misogyny of the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton, east London (here) whose head, Shaykh Abu Sayeed, refused to shake Baroness Cox’s hand because she is a woman (he shook mine instead). We built a broad coalition of support that includes the National Secular Society (here), One Law For All (here) and the Christian Institute (here). And we worked with sympathetic Peers, learned lawyers and eagle-eyed parliamentary draftsmen to come up with a private members bill that would alleviate the discrimination and despair of woman at the hands of these religious courts.

One educated woman in her fifties living in south west England told us over a meal how the Imam at her local Sharia council insisted she must get permission from a male relative in order to get married. The only one available was a seven-year-old boy living in the Middle East so, after many protests and much fury at the humiliation, she was forced to send to the boy to request his agreement. She angrily waved at us his signed authorisation giving her permission to wed. 

Some of the other women’s stories we heard can be downloaded from (here).

The Bill itself is the dry-sounding Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill (here)  but the debate (here)  was anything but dry as Peer after Peer spoke strongly in favour. Only the Bishop of Manchester and Baroness Uddin expressed reservations.

Absurdly the government spokesman Lord Gardiner tried to defend the indefensible and justify the government’s total inaction (incisively summarised by Douglas Murray (here) as “there is nothing to see here, and please could everybody look away and move on”). But he was holed below the waterline by judicious interventions in rapid succession from Baroness Deech and Lords Carlile, Elton, Cormack and Swinfen. It was gripping stuff.

The history-making lay in the fact that, despite the rapid growth of Sharia – both Sharia courts and finance – in the UK, this was the first ever debate about this issue in either of the Houses of Parliament. There have been parliamentary questions which invariably elicited a bog-standard government stonewall, but no discussion or debate.

Peers saluted Baroness Cox for her courage in raising the combustible topic on behalf of oppressed women across the UK. Hear hear!

Gay Rights Trump All

Last Thursday found me in BBC London TV studios discussing the Cookham B&B case with Sam Dick, head of policy at Stonewall (here).

Earlier in the day Mrs Susanne Wilkinson, who runs the B&B at her home, had been fined £3,600 in damages ‘for hurt feelings’ experienced by a gay couple she had not allowed to share a bed. Her policy, based on Christian principles although regrettably unpublicised, is that only married couples can sleep together under her roof – in the past she has even refused to accommodate co-habiting members of her own family.

This court case is just the latest skirmish in the triumphant gay-rights march across society, crushing people’s consciences, trumping other liberties and, as eccentric gay atheist David Starkey says (here), imposing a new intolerant state-defined morality. 

It’s extraordinary that a democratic society which considers itself mature enough to protect the freedom of conscience of pacifists even in times of war, does not now allow citizens the freedom peacefully to run a small business at their home according to their own lights. The new state-defined morality is to be forced into every nook and cranny of our culture.

It’s the new liberal totalitarianism. They’ve done for smokers (here) and Christians. Maybe they’ll come for pacifists too.

Sam Dick seemed a decent bloke and we had a pleasant half-hour chatting before we went into the studio. But on-camera he reverted to the standard Stonewall myths, fables and nonsense.

First he claimed that gays should be free from discrimination “simply for the way they were born”. People are born gay? Really? He ought to read gay commentator Matthew Parris: “… male sexual orientation is less fixed than we suppose. It may alter. We gays fought that idiotic ‘Section 28’ on dishonest grounds. Homosexuality can, as the statute implied, be ‘promoted’. So can heterosexuality. It has always been, with much success.” (The Times, 21st April 2012).

Sam later equated Mrs Wilkinson to the landlords who used to put up notices, ‘No Blacks, No Jews, No Irish’. 

He was spouting silly Stonewall duplicity. The facts are that Mrs Wilkinson is a good love-thy-neighbour Christian who offers exactly the same warm hospitality to everyone – black and white, male and female, straight and gay.

I honour her. I hope she appeals the court fine on a point of principle and conscience. But unfortunately she’s fighting a losing battle as we continue our downward slide into an illiberal un-diverse intolerant state.

“Man will ultimately be governed by God or by tyrants,” said Benjamin Franklin. Guess which way we’re heading…

Mega-Mosque: TJ Take The Gloves Off!

The mega-mosque is back, and it’s metamorphosed into a mosque the size of Battersea Power Station. 

Of course it never went away. Misinformed headlines like the BBC’s “Plans collapse for the biggest mosque in England” (here) and the inevitable public silence following Tablighi Jamaat’s (TJ’s) successful appeal last year against Newham Council’s attempt to move them off the site (here), lulled many into a false sense of security.

But they’re back now, and they’ve taken their gloves off. Earlier this month they officially submitted their plans to inflict on the residents of West Ham a 9,350-capacity mosque which their architect trumpeted would be the size of Battersea Power Station (here).

You’ve got to admire their chutzpah – or their Saudi-backed arrogance depending on your point of view. Last February they publicised plans for the site that seemed roughly in line with Newham’s core planning strategy for the borough which requires a mixed-use development on this key location – it’s beside the busy West Ham interchange station. TJ said then that they intended to build separate residential, retail and business units in addition to the mosque. It would of course have been the UK’s first custom-built Sharia-controlled zone, but nonetheless it might have satisfied the mixed-use criteria of the Council.

But in reality they’ve always had the ambition for a mono-use mosque-only site, as this is to be an important global platform for the fundamentalist movement with its 80 million followers worldwide and a huge Islamic statement to the rest of us. So now they’ve done a U-turn, thrown caution to the wind, taken the gloves off and decided to go for broke.  They’ve dropped February’s plans for the mixed-use ancillary units and replaced them by a 2,000 capacity dining hall for worshippers, an Islamic library, eight flats for Imams and overnight mosque visitors, children’s facilities – and, to pacify the planners, some sports fields ‘for the wider community’… Anyone for a game of mixed doubles?

So TJ is deliberately waving two fingers at Newham Council whose local planning strategy cramps their burgeoning global ambitions. And they’re not giving a toss either for the West Ham residents who would have to live with both the growing number of disciples of TJ’s socially-hostile ideology who will come to live locally and the architecturally deficient mega-mosque (someone astutely called it “the love-child of Stansted airport and a failed social housing development”).

TJ clearly expects – even intends – that their planning application will fall at the first hurdle of Newham Council’s planning committee. But with a ‘stuff you Newham!’ they doubtless expect to succeed when appealing over Newham’s head to the national Planning Inspectorate. And, with the Planning Inspector’s pusillanimous track record at the previous appeal and George Osborne’s current more liberal ‘boost the economy’ planning environment (here) and (here), who can blame them?

Fortunately, life – and a planning application – has its inevitable twists and turns and straight-line strategies rarely work. Besides, despite the best efforts of our self-serving political and professional elite, we still live in a democracy where the ordinary punter, in West Ham as elsewhere, hasn’t yet been fully shut out and shut up.

So there’s lots to play for and our MegaMosqueNoThanks campaign team of committed volunteers (here) doesn’t intend to be silent or inactive. TJ is large, well-funded and ambitious but so too was Goliath. And David, with a confidence outside himself, triumphed over Goliath with just a sling and a well-aimed stone.

Meanwhile we’ve alerted local people by placing this half-page advert in last Wednesday’s Newham Recorder: 









The Gay Marriage Game

I hear the governing body of American football IAFA is demanding that they merge with and adopt the name of global football’s governing body FIFA.

They have told FIFA president Sepp Blatter that they too play football, that theirs too is a healthy outdoor team sport, that their supporters – while admittedly a small global minority restricted to North America – are just as passionate about their game, and that an IAFA name-change and merger with FIFA would give global recognition to American football and show the world it is exactly the same as conventional football.

Politicians and policy-makers at FIFA are sometimes corrupt, frequently foolish and certainly weak enough to be swayed by the decibel level of the noise accompanying the American demands.

Ordinary football supporters on terraces around the world know that the two games are different. But the Americans say they will just have to get over it.