Category Archives: Crime

More Brutality – And More Grace

A couple of weeks ago I made my seventh visit in as many years to the persecuted church in northern Nigeria, this time accompanied by a British writer and commentator who wanted to see for himself what is happening there. (I’ve blogged my previous visits, for instance here, here and here.)

Together we talked with many people, and it was as distressing as ever to hear the stories of Christians and other minorities who are being crushed by the iron fist of Islam – a fist wielded in the north east corner of Nigeria by the madmen of Boko Haram, and across the north and ‘middle-belt’ of the country by murderous Fulani cattle herders.

Nonetheless some of the stories were inspirational.

In one IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp we met a woman who, together with her husband and a 30-strong group of others, tried to escape Boko Haram violence by crossing into neighbouring Cameroon in early 2014. They were caught by the militants at a river bank. All the men were slaughtered and the women and children were carted off to the now infamous former game-reserve, Sambisa Forest, where the Chibok girls are believed to be held.

During a captivity that lasted two years she was forcibly converted to Islam and married off to a young Boko Haram fighter, with whom, she says, she quarrelled incessantly. Once she received 80 lashes across her back when she and other women tried to escape. In the end they were rescued by Cameroon soldiers who defeated the Boko Haram militants in a fire-fight; the militants ran away and the abducted women were left free to return home.

At eight months pregnant by her Boko Haram ‘husband’, she in due course gave birth to a baby boy whom she breast-fed as she told us her story. When asked how she felt about the boy, she told us quietly that she had been taught by her Pastor to love even in the most difficult circumstances; she felt nothing but love towards her son despite his brutal Islamist father.

We were profoundly moved by her dignity and courage.

Other people’s stories were informative.

We met with the elderly wife of a Pastor who had ministered for decades in and around Gwoza which borders on Sambisa. Boko Haram has decimated the thriving Christian community there, killed or injured many believers, destroyed dozens of churches and, in August 2014, declared Gwoza town the headquarters of their Caliphate in Nigeria along the lines of the  Mosul headquarters of the Islamic State Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.

The causes of the rapid rise of Boko Haram have been much debated. Although Boko Haram’s official Arabic name when translated means ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad’, most authorities refuse to blame any form of Islam. Some, like the US State Department, prefer to cite poverty, bad education and “poor government service delivery”. Others reckon it is the malign influence of armed Islamists crossing the border from West African states such as Mali, Chad and Niger. Yet others identify locals’ adverse reaction to foreign influences such as decadent Western secular lifestyles and to the residual impact of British colonialism (Nigeria gained its Independence in 1960).

We asked the Pastor’s wife what she thought. She was clear: fifteen years ago or so Afghan men dressed like the Taliban arrived unexpectedly in Gwoza and started taking young Muslim men away for education and training. That is when local Muslims became radicalised, she said, and previously good relations between many Muslims and Christians cooled noticeably.

So at the territorial centre of its operations, Gwoza, Boko Haram arose out of a radical Islam imported from a country nearly 4,000 miles away. I haven’t read that in the mainstream media.

Yet other interviewees were insightful and prophetic.

“I said it would happen,” explained the charismatic if diminutive Archbishop of Jos, Ben Kwashi. We were discussing the recent slaughter of Christians by armed Fulani herdsmen in southern Kaduna. “This persecution of Christians came from the north and started here in and around Jos in Plateau State,” said the Archbishop. “I forecast then that the Fulani violence would spread south, as it has done now into southern Kaduna. I further forecast that Niger State will be next. They will not stop, you mark my words.”

The Archbishop also pointed out that in 2015 many Christians voted for Muhammadu Buhari for Federal President even though he is a committed Muslim; he had a reputation as a former military hardman and he said he would be tough on terrorism. They have been disappointed, the senior cleric told us, as government inaction over the slaughter of Christians is difficult to explain apart from the fact that Buhari himself is Fulani.

I returned to the UK sickened once again by the Islamic and Islamist violence and inspired by many Christians’ grace under pressure and persecution.

A Happy Christmas For Geert Wilders

Christmas came early this month for Dutch politician Geert Wilders, just ahead of the country’s general election in March.

2014-05-22 09:04:56 DEN HAAG - PVV-leider Geert Wilders bij basisschool De Walvis waar hij zijn stem uitbracht op een kandidaat voor het Europees Parlement. ANP BAS CZERWINSKI

During the autumn he has been dragged through the courts by Dutch authorities and a couple of weeks ago they successfully secured his conviction for ‘inciting discrimination’ and ‘insulting’ Moroccan immigrants.

Wilders is an anti-establishment, anti-Islam, anti-EU politician who, at huge personal cost  to himself and his wife, is articulating popular discontent at the country’s entrenched elite and the growing Islamisation of the country.

The authorities’ inadvertent seasonal gift is the spike in popularity of Wilders’ PVV party (Party of Freedom) that resulted directly from the the court case. In the final opinion poll of 2016 PVV is ahead of prime minister Mark Rutte’s liberal party.

censorshipWilders argued throughout that this was a political trial about free speech brought by the country’s politically-correct establishment who want to control and undermine what he says about Islam and immigration, and there is evidence he is right.

Although state prosecutors could have demanded a jail sentence for – as they claim – a serious hate crime against an immigrant community, in the event they balked and requested only a symbolic 5,000 euro fine.

The judge, Hendrik Steenhuis, went further and refused to impose any sentence at all in the belief that conviction alone will sufficiently blacken Wilders’ name. It’s clear too that Steenhuis wanted to avoid creating a pre-election martyr.

So it seems the Dutch legal establishment prefers playing to the gallery and massaging public opinion rather than imposing proper punishment. Although they’re not competent in implementation, their strategy might have come straight from a Blair/Campbell/Mandelson New Labour handbook on the dark arts of spin.

grumpy-judgejudge-holding-gavel-in-courtroomAnd the Dutch judiciary has form on this. Wilders was subject to even more blatant official skulduggery in his previous 2010 trial.

He stood accused then of inciting racial hatred against Muslims. Backed by what the media cited as ‘soaring’ popular support, he argued that his hostility is against Islam not Muslims, and certainly the case against him was so weak that the Dutch public prosecutor did not want to pursue it.

However a Dutch court of appeal led by Judge Tom Schalken insisted, and in January 2010 the trial started.

Early on in the trial Wilder’s lawyers attempted to remove a judge for bias when the court president Jan Moors, faced with Wilders’ assertion of his right to remain silent, had commented idiotically that the politician was known for making bold statements but avoiding discussion, and that “it appears you are doing so again.” It was unjudicial sniggering knockabout, but the judiciary closed ranks and refused to replace Moors.

Then, on 6th May, Wilders’ lawyers were due to call their expert witness on Islam, retired Arabist professor Hans Jensen, in order for him to verify the injunctions to violence written into in the Quran.

mud-hits-fanBut three days earlier on 3rd May, Jensen had been invited to an informal ‘dinner of friends’ by the organiser of a pro-Palestine committee of academics and professionals. By design but unknown to Jensen, Judge Schalken was invited too. At the dinner, according to Jensen, the judge repeatedly engaged with him about Wilders, Islam and the trial in order to persuade him that the legal proceedings were justified.

Nobbling a witness is a serious crime of which the mafia are acknowledged experts. It is not however expected of a senior judge.

This time the mud hit the fan. Following disclosure of Schalken’s dinner party intervention, a legal review panel was convened and the case was dramatically terminated due to this “degree of (judicial) bias”. However although judges had been guilty of prejudice and the public prosecutor remained firmly against pursuing the case, the panel farcically ordered a retrial.

This took place the following year and, as widely anticipated outside court, Wilders was acquitted of all charges. The fiasco irreparably damaged Dutch judiciary’s reputation for competence and neutrality.

As highlighted in my previous post, the political tide has turned across the western world. While in the past Dutch authorities could use anti-discrimination and hate-speech legislation to close down debate and silence opposition, they’ve been exposed as fraudulent and now find themselves preaching their message to a shrinking choir. People outside their circles are no longer listening.

christmas-presentWilders’ court appearances have boomeranged back on the authorities and become a potent badge of honour for the politician. He will of course appeal the conviction in order to milk it for all it’s worth, so the case may run and run.

It’s a welcome Christmas present and boost to his chances of becoming prime minister following the elections in March.

“Child Molestation Is A Social Construct”

Over the past couple of decades the scale of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests and members of Catholic religious orders has shocked the world. Although it is reckoned that the prevalence of abuse in the church has now significantly declined the abuse and subsequent cover-up has massively damaged the moral authority of the church – and, by association, of Christianity itself.

abused boyIn the UK concern over child abuse has moved on to other infected institutions like the BBC and the NHS, and left the former’s reputation in tatters. In 2012 the nation was stunned when it emerged that Jimmy Savile, one of the BBC’s favourite children’s entertainers, and others had systematically abused children on a massive scale over many years on BBC and NHS premises and the BBC too had done a cover-up. And within two years BBC celebrities Rolf Harris and Stuart Hall and celebrity publicist Max Clifford had been jailed for similar sexual offences against minors.

Since 2012 also, when MP Tom Watson first raised the issue in Parliament, the Elm Guest House child abuse scandal has rarely been out of the headlines. In the 1980s, it seems government ministers, top policemen, senior civil servants, diplomats, barristers and other establishment figures were part of a powerful paedophile network linked to the hostel in south London where male orgies with boys took place and up to 100 victims were groomed and abused for sexual purposes. depressed adolescentThe trail of depravity leads even to Downing Street and, more recently, there have been accusations of child abduction and murder linked to the house.

Add to this evil the other child abuse scandals and the epidemic of Asian/Muslim grooming gangs such as those at Rotherham, Rochdale (and, separately, its former MP Cyril Smith), Oxford, Birmingham and Bristol, and it seems that predatory paedophiles operate in every area and level of society. Further it is clear that the state has little idea how to protect the vulnerable victims who almost always come from public care and/or grow up outside the security of the traditional family.

So I was concerned when a colleague drew my attention to the words, works and wisdom of American-born sociologist Professor Eric Anderson who currently teaches at Winchester University. In a lecture at Trinity College Oxford, which followed a similar address at Glasgow University, Professor Anderson claimed to have had sex with “easily over a thousand people”. When asked, he admitted with a laugh that he is a sexual predator.

Professor Eric Anderson“I like sex with 16, 17, 18 year old boys particularly,” the gay Professor crowed, “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…”

Why gay sex is better than straight sex’ was the proselytising title of his lecture and Professor Anderson opened his speech to the predominantly LGBT audience with a depraved flourish: “My intention is to offend you,” he said. “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.”

Incidentally, in addition to discussing these predominantly unhealthy harmful sex games as well as bestiality and incest, Winchester University’s eminent professor called the then Archbishop of Canterbury now Master of Magdalene College Cambridge, Rowan Williams, an “arsehole”, “a total bigot” and “a fucking liar”.

In the midst of this obscenity Professor Anderson turned his attention to child abuse. He teaches in the University’s department of sports studies and in the US was a successful sports coach, but he 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 opined, and contrasted this to other cultures where children engage in sex with adults as a rite of passage.

Sambian child abuseBy classifying child molestation as an artificial social construct rather than an absolute and profound evil, the professor was using his academic credentials to undermine society’s healthy hostility towards child abuse. And he is not alone; this misleading cultural comparison has been utilised by others too. In another context gay campaigner Peter Tatchell, for instance, cites man/boy sexual relations, often during manhood initiation rites, amongst remote tribes such as the Siwan of Egypt, Batak of Sumatra, Anga of Melanesia and Sambia of Papua New Guinea.

In a direct parallel, tribes and cultures outside the West also engage in female genital mutilation. It would be just as repulsive as well as untrue to suggest that the damage to girls caused by FGM is socially constructed by the western world and that consequently it can be tolerated, affirmed or even celebrated in cultures outside the West. FGM like child abuse is an absolute evil that should be universally opposed and proscribed.

university-of-winchester-bannerWinchester University continues to give a platform and cloak of respectability to Professor Anderson’s dangerous depraved views. So colleagues and I decided to campaign for his removal. “My prior university, the University of Bath… practically ran me out of town because they couldn’t stand my research,” he bragged to his audience during the lecture. We argue that the University of Winchester should follow suit.

Earlier this month our group Because Children Matter wrote to the University Vice-Chancellor and the Board of Governors as well as to outside stakeholders such as principals of feeder sixth form colleges, and we held a leafleting campaign in Winchester city centre. Our activities were covered by the Sunday Times , the Southern Daily Echo and on YouTube .

Watch this space for further developments.

Human Trafficking Horror

This weekend’s horror story about the illiterate Indian woman who was enslaved, beaten, raped and starved at the hands of three different families in Middlesex (here) is appalling but of less surprise to me following an informative but distressing Oxford conference on human trafficking that I found myself chairing last weekend.

Domestic violence - conceptual imageIt is 200 years since the UK government abolished slavery and the slave trade and began to enforce abolition around the globe thanks to the then all-powerful British Navy. Yet we were told by speaker Ben Cooley of Hope for Justice (here) that there were over 2,000 identified trafficking victims here in the UK in 2011 and that the real rate of trafficking for sexual, criminal and work purposes is substantially higher. Another speaker, Sgt Dave Turtle of the Met Police, confirmed that both migrant and internal trafficking is rife in the UK and that rates of successful prosecution are disturbingly low.

The Voice for Justice UK (here) conference included talks by the vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking Michael Connarty MP and another Labour MP Jim Dobbin. But it was clinical psychologist Josephine-Joy Wright and convenor of the Lords and Commons Family & Child Protection Group Lisa Nolland who challenged us most.

Josephine-Joy stirred us with horrific stories about her patients. She told us of young women who are unable to have children because of physical damage from being repeatedly raped and others with appalling mental scars from years of abuse and exploitation. “In Britain we still have the mentality of ‘not in my back yard’,” she said. “So open your eyes. See what’s going on under our noses. Learn the children’s language so you can spot the signs,”

Alfred KinseyLisa traced the sexualisation of society and our children back to the junk science of 1950s father of sex research Alfred Kinsey who was himself a sex pervert and who abused children in order to gain statistics on ‘child sexuality’ (here). His impact on western society has been profound and the resulting ‘anything goes’ sex ethos makes it difficult to protect children. Lisa didn’t mention it but the BBC’s liberal luvvy culture that allowed Jimmy Savile and other celebrity child abusers to flourish is, presumably, a case in point.

So slavery and human trafficking is alive and well in the UK. Indeed Oxford has had a Rochdale-style child sex ring in its own back yard (here). Ben Cooley told us that 21st century anti-trafficking campaigners are standing on the shoulders of abolitionists like William Wilberforce (here). Wilberforce must be turning in his grave at the extent of today’s slavery, two centuries after he thought he had terminated the trade.

There were a hundred people at the conference; there ought to have been a thousand. They were mainly middle-aged; where were the city’s young people and university students?

Josephine-Joy was right. There is much work to be done.

Asia Bibi My Sister

For some unexplained reason it seems the horrendous slaughter of Iraqi Christians in Baghdad’s Syrian Catholic cathedral on 31st October has been a game-changer in mainstream UK media.

Before then, the growing persecution of Christian minorities around the globe had been ignored. Since then – well, on Friday the BBC even saw fit to make a significant radio and TV news story about the extra security necessary in Egypt as Coptic Christians celebrated the Coptic Orthodox Christmas Eve (here) following the attack on their Alexandria church on New Year’s Day in which 21 people were killed. Before 31st October the attack itself would hardly have merited mention; today increased security around churches 2,000 miles away is thought newsworthy.

The persecution of Pakistani Christian villager Asia Bibi has also been making global headlines. Her death sentence (here) passed on 8th November at Sheikhupura District Court near Lahore, Punjab, for supposedly critcising Islam’s Prophet raised the profile of the issue; the subsequent demonstrations against her and the 4th January assassination of her high-profile supporter Punjab governor Salman Taseer transformed it into a national flashpoint and a dramatic indicator of the advance of medieval Islamic fundamentalism into the mainstream heart and psyche of Pakistan society. The advance is causing the meltdown of this nuclear-armed nation. Osama bin Laden is licking his lips (here).

It seems Asia is a committed believer. Reports tell of her faith in Jesus that is strengthening her through her ordeal, and I’m interested that it was her rejected offer of a cup of water to her Muslim fellow villagers that started the original incident. Offering someone a drink in the face of their hostility, like turning the other cheek, is true New Testament behaviour (see Romans 12:20).

The sight of hate-fuelled Imams and Muslim mobs baying for Asia’s blood on the streets of Lahore and elsewhere while she sits alone in her prison cell with her Jesus reminds me of the best-known psalm:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You are with me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies… Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. (Psalm 23: 1,4,5,6)

The mobs can chant all they want; they simply demonstrate their tortured and intolerant Islamic spirit. Asia on the other hand shows quiet Christian resolution in the face of injustice and persecution. The world should watch and take note.

Next door in Afghanistan there’s a similar story but, as yet, with less media attention. 25 year old Afghan national Shoaib Assadullah converted to Christianity and now is facing the death sentence from a court in Mazir-e Sharif, northern Afghanistan (here). Recent reports say he has been given a week to renounce his faith and return to Islam or face execution for apostasy. Like Asia it seems his faith in Jesus is strengthening him through the ordeal; according to one source, ‘Shoaib stated he has given his life completely into the hands of Jesus. He said he was so happy for the spiritual fight, saying, “Without my faith I would not be able to live”’.

Islam is Pakistan’s state religion according to the country’s constitution (here), and all laws ‘shall be in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Qur’an and Sunnah’.

The ‘sacred religion of Islam’ is Afghanistan’s state religion according to that country’s constitution (here), and ‘no law shall contravene the tenets and provisions of the holy religion of Islam in Afghanistan.’

So, according to their respective constitutions and due processes of law under those constitutions, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan can put to death their own citizens for the simple fact that they’ve made public what they believe. Asia and Shoaib haven’t compromised national security, committed treason or been an agent for an enemy power. They haven’t murdered or raped anyone. They haven’t abused a child or mugged a little old lady in the street. They’ve simply made it clear they believe in Jesus Christ and they don’t follow Muhammad.

Christ warned his followers this would happen:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven. (Matt 5: 11,12)

Whatever happens to them on earth, great indeed will be the reward in heaven for Asia and Shoaib.

Meanwhile, there’s a tough question for me: They are my Christian sister and my Christian brother; what am I doing to help them?

Old Bailey Epiphany! Timms’ Judge Gets It

Dictionary.com defines an epiphany as “a sudden insight into the reality or essential meaning of something” (here). That’s exactly what occurred at the Old Bailey last week when Mr Justice Cook sentenced Roshonara Choudhary to 15 years for the attempted murder of East Ham MP Stephen Timms.

During sentencing the judge drew a pointed contrast between Timms’ Christian and Choudhary’s Islamic faith. He said (here),

“I understand that (Stephen Timms) brings to bear his own faith, which upholds very different values to those which appear to have driven this defendant.

“Those values are those upon which the common law of this country was founded and include respect and love for one’s neighbour, for the foreigner in the land, and for those who consider themselves enemies, all as part of one’s love of God.

“These values were the basis of our system of law and justice and I trust that they will remain so as well as motivating those, like Mr Timms, who hold public office.”

An Old Bailey judge gets it! I was astonished. This was a totally unexpected insight into the reality that many ideological secularists, new atheists, multi-culturalists, social relativists, hand-wringing leftists, guilt-ridden liberals, libertarian opinion-formers, academics with an agenda, Whitehall mandarins, the chattering classes, the entertainment media and the politically-correct have been denying for decades. I’ve simply got to repeat that middle paragraph in bold:

“Those values are those upon which the common law of this country was founded and include respect and love for one’s neighbour, for the foreigner in the land, and for those who consider themselves enemies, all as part of one’s love of God.”

Frame it. Stick it on your fridge. Have it as your screen-saver. There in just 43 words is solid gold truth which all the whining and wishful thinking of the National Secular Society (here) and other opponents of Christianity cannot eradicate. While the Enlightenment – which secularists rightly rate – made a seminal contribution, Christianity is the prior and prime source of our legal system, our liberal democracy, our freedoms, our understanding of the ordered rational world around us – and indeed of the Enlightenment itself. The Faith has been at the heart of our society for a thousand years and more.

This truth also is promoted in a magisterial piece by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali in the latest edition of the centre-right monthly Standpoint (here).

Responding to Education Secretary Michael Gove’s welcome insistence that “our island story” should again be taught in schools (here) the bishop points out that a connected narrative of historical events and personalities requires a Hellenistic ‘golden chain of harmony’. What is it that provides this connection and chain? It’s worth quoting him direct:

“[T]his has to do with a world-view that underlies the emergence of characteristically British institutions and values: the Constitution itself (“the Queen in Parliament under God”); a concern for the poor; a social security net, based on the parish church, which goes back to the 16th century; and personal liberties as enshrined in the Magna Carta.

“The world-view that made these fundamental national building-blocks is the Judaeo-Christian tradition of the Bible.”

There’s more, much more, to be said, as the trashing of our Christian cultural core by our national cultural establishment such as the future Monarch (here) and the BBC (here) and (here) is a key contributor to our national loss of identity and confidence.

But meanwhile I’m thanking God for Mr Justice Cook and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali.

The Key Question About The Timms Attack

Today 21-year-old Roshonara Choudhary will appear at the Old Bailey on trial for the attempted murder of East Ham MP Stephen Timms and two counts of weapon possession. The proceedings are expected to last two weeks.

I did a post on this back in June (here). The question I asked then is the one I’m now hoping will be answered during the trial. It’s vital for national security amongst other reasons:

What is it about a serious personal commitment to Islam that can cause apparently integrated, balanced and intelligent young people to turn – usually secretly and without warning – to violence and murder?

As 7/7 and the August 2006 airline terror plot showed, Islamic radicalisation in the UK typically occurs within the complex group dynamics of younger men acting together. The accused in this trial was apparently acting alone and is a woman. Maybe through these unusual facts we’ll more easily isolate, identify and learn about the inner spiritual process of Islamic radicalisation and the consequent meltdown of a personal moral framework.

Meanwhile I’ll be praying for Choudhary’s family. The trial will be an awful ordeal for them.

“They Will Persecute You Also”

It’s ironic that progressive Muslim Dr Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford, (here) asserts what radical-progressive Christian Jonathan Bartley of Ekklesia doubts (here), that there is now active discrimination against Christianity in the UK – much of the responsibility for which I reckon lies at the door of this country’s particular brand of aggressive New Atheist secularisation.

Such discrimination in schools was highlighted in an Ofsted report published three weeks ago (here). And a publication ‘A New Inquisition: Religious Persecution In Britain Today’ launched a couple of week ago by the independent non-religious think-tank Civitas (here) and dedicated to Ben and Sharon Volgelenzang (see my previous post here) highlights how recent religious hatred legislation has been used in an “at best arbitrary and at worst biased” way particularly against Christians.

But discrimination against Christians in the UK is nothing compared to the persecution of Christians abroad. Over the past month:

On 1st July, Muhammad Guul Hashim Idiris, a convert from Islam, was publicly executed in the Hudur district of Somalia, apparently because of his Christian views (here).

On 5th July Maher el-Gowhary, also a convert from Islam who in the face of deep hostility is trying to get his conversion recognised by the Egyptian authorities, was ferociously attacked on a Cairo street while accompanied by his lawyer (here). According to Maher the attackers intended to behead him.

On 16th July Pastor Artur Suleimanov, another convert from Islam, was shot dead outside his church in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian republic of Dagestan (here).

On 17th July, at least eight Christians including the wife, two children and grandson of a priest were slaughtered in a previously peaceful village near Jos, Nigeria, (here) where the wider conflict is a complex tribal and economic/land issue as well as a religious one (here).

On 20th July, two local Christians questionably accused of blaspheming Islam’s prophet were shot dead outside court in Faisalabad, Pakistan (here).

On 27th July, a Christian centre in West Java, Indonesia, was attacked by Islamic extremists and buildings were destroyed (here).

There are fewer than sixty Catholic priests in Turkey and in June the fifth to be shot or stabbed in the past four years was killed and decapitated by Islamic ritual (here).

In Iraq the campaign of violence against Christians is so decimating and displacing the community that some commentators reckon it is possible Christianity’s 2000-year history in Iraq could end within a generation (here).

It is right of course that discrimination against Christians in the UK should be challenged by Hargey, Ofsted, Civitas and others.

But it is abroad where the real Christian persecution is taking place.

(Incidentally, I spoke outside 10 Downing Street yesterday at a protest against Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. Organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association (here) and including Sikhs and people from other persecuted Pakistani minority faiths, it was held on the anniversary of the Gojra atrocity – see my previous post here – and had Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali (here), who is himself a refugee from death-threats in Pakistan, as keynote speaker.

I don’t hold much hope. Not only is the Pakistan government unwilling to address the evil effects of the blasphemy laws in their own country, they are actively promoting what is effectively a global Islamic blasphemy law at the United Nations. Pakistan, on behalf of the 57-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) – including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, etc, who are not exactly known for promoting human rights – proposed the Combating Defamation of Religions resolution (here) which was passed at the United Nations Human Rights Council in March; indicatively and ominously the resolution highlights Islam and Muslims four times but cites no other religion. It certainly makes no mention of the defamed and mistreated Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Ahmadiyya Muslim sect in the Islamic Republic’s own backyard.)

The Stabbing of Stephen Timms MP

I am hoping that the Labour government’s £145m Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) initiative will get the chop as part of the new ConLib coalition’s spending cuts. The programme has been ineffective, wasteful, puts public money into extremists’ hands (here) and finds our avowedly secular and religiously-neutral government pouring £millions into anything from schools to soccer clubs, whose common identity overwhelmingly is that they are Islamic. As far as the UK is concerned, Buddhists don’t do violent extremism so their religion doesn’t get state financial support. Nor do Christians. Nor Hindus. Nor Jews. Nor Sikhs. Odd isn’t it?

It is also awful but ironic that a senior member of the government that introduced PVE has himself been assaulted allegedly by one of the violent extremists that PVE was intended to prevent.

Stephen Timms is the personally likeable Labour MP for East Ham. He was a member of Tony Blair’s cabinet and he also held senior portfolios outside the cabinet under Gordon Brown. He lives in Newham, describes himself as a Christian Socialist and is recognised as a hard-working constituency MP.

The alleged assailant Roshonara Choudhary, 21, lives with her parents and four younger siblings in East Ham, just a mile away from Timms. According to neighbours she is a devout Muslim who has given private English lessons to local kids for £5 an hour (here) . She is also bright. A reliable source says that she was an A-star student at a London college who dropped out and became unemployed earlier this year when she started getting involved in radical Islam and studying Islamist websites.

The same source says it appears the suspect would have preferred to get Tony Blair but, reckoning she wouldn’t be able to approach him because of security, she chose Timms instead as an easier target.

Apparently wearing an orange hijab and carrying two kitchen knives she attended Timms’ first constituents’ surgery after the 6th May general election when he was returned with the largest majority in the country. Unusually for a devout Muslim woman she allegedly put out her hand to shake the male MP’s hand – then apparently she suddenly plunged one of the knives into his stomach.

The wounds were not life-threatening and after a spell in hospital Timms has now recovered enough to attend both parliament and his surgeries. He also appeared at the Global Day of Prayer at West Ham FC, Upton Park, on Sunday (see previous post here) where he said he’d been helped by the large number of people praying for him.

(“The church is growing in London,” he also told the 10,000 worshippers, contra Alan Wilson’s Guardian article quoted in the previous post too, “and is a remarkably diverse group of congregations, but one in their faith in Christ.”)

Two thoughts struck me about the stabbing:

First, Timms’ alleged assailant is likely to spend the next decade or so in jail – what a waste of a promising young life. But even more, what a tragedy for the accused’s family who by all accounts are normal local people who will now have to live with the bewilderment, horror and shame that the attack has brought upon them. They deserve our sympathy.

Second, what is it about Islam that regular and socially-integrated people from normal families with good futures ahead of them serving other people can suddenly turn into monsters and killers who perpetrate unspeakable evil?  The Glasgow car bombers were doctors working in NHS hospitals and the leader of the 7/7 bombers was a primary school teacher with a young family. Outwardly there was little sign of the dark destructive thoughts that were corroding their inner beings.

The issue is a spiritual one of course and the crisis lurks deep within the consciousness of the individuals. I have noted before (here) the inner moral collapse that was the result of one intelligent middle-class Englishman’s conversion to Islam. How much more must have been the moral and spiritual collapse of the suicide bombers cited above?

PVE is not the answer. A spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution. As a committed Christian Stephen Timms will know this too.

Cherie Doesn’t Get It

Following my criticism of the National Secular Society as an essentially deceitful organisation (here), it’s interesting to find myself in agreement with them for once.

Last August Shamso Miah, described as an unemployed 25 year-old and devout Muslim, left his mosque and went to the East Ham branch of Lloyds TSB, just a couple of hundred metres from Newham Town Hall. There he was involved in a ‘queue rage’ assault on Mohammad Furcan, hitting him three times and breaking his jaw.

Miah came before Cherie Booth QC at Inner London Crown Court on 27 January, and the wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair gave him a suspended six month sentence plus community service.

But it was her comments that caused a minor storm. According to last week’s Newham Recorder (here), she told Miah that her reason for suspending the jail term was ‘based on the fact that you are a religious person and have not been in trouble before’. She added: ‘You are a religious man and you know that this is unacceptable behaviour’.

But the fact that Miah is a ‘religious man’ (she mentioned it twice) should not of itself qualify him for special treatment. In the UK at least, religious and non-religious people are all equal before the law and what the NSS wittily calls ‘Cheria Law’, with its apparent bias in favour of people of faith, is un-nuanced and inappropriate.

However judges have to take individual and personal factors into account of course and those of previous good character may expect to receive a more lenient sentence than habitual criminals. A law-breaker who is normally embedded in a stable family within a close-knit local community may be less likely to re-offend than a solitary unattached inner-city dweller. And a man who is a leader, earning obscene sums of money from his fans and promoted as a role model for youth such as John Terry, may expect less sympathy in court than ordinary Joe Soap. And in sentencing, religious belief is as relevant as these other personal factors

But spiritual discernment is required to assess such belief as not all religions are the same, and it’s regrettable that most of our judges, like most of society, are religiously illiterate. For instance, as the Royal Navy shows (here), many authorities seem to think Satanism may be treated as the spiritual and moral equivalent of, say, Quakerism. And it’s rare for a member of the media commentariat to throw political correctness to the wind and draw a fair distinction between ‘harmless’ Christianity and ‘sinister’ Islam, as Andrew Brown did recently in the Guardian (here).

Different religions, like different foods, have different effects on their consumers. And good food is good for you while bad food ain’t. And as a case in point, it ought to be blindingly obvious even to our secularised authorities that Devil-worship – including the Admiralty-approved variety – certainly ain’t good for a soul, a ship’s crew or society.

So instead of making blanket catch-all assumptions about ‘religious people’, Ms Booth should have looked at Mr Miah’s particular faith – as well as his crime record, employment status, family and home background, education, etc – and its effect on him personally. Then she could make the right judgement about an appropriate sentence for this particular individual in respect of his particular crime.