Category Archives: Democracy

Betrayed

Tomorrow the National Executive Committee of UKIP meets to discuss what to do about the party leader, Henry Bolton, whose personal affairs have been on national and social media relentlessly for the past three weeks. Unilaterally Bolton has brought to party into crisis with officers resigning and members apparently leaving in droves, yet he adamantly refuses to fall on his sword.

My article below was first published three days ago on Kipper Central:

Most UKIP members were willing to give Henry Bolton a chance.

He was the unknown and surprise victor in the party leadership election last September. He had come from nowhere, had few political policies and had campaigned almost entirely on his military and police track record and his own character. “Trust me, I will serve to lead,” he said regularly in hustings, quoting the motto of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

He may have the charisma of Herman van Rompuy and the appearance of a bank manager but could he be the person to stabilise and professionalise the troubled UKIP ship? Most were willing to give him time and space to show what he could deliver.

As autumn turned to winter and little seemed to be happening, anxious enquiries to his office were met with calm assurances from his staff that he was concentrating on internal party reorganisation. But come the new year, we were told, Henry would be out there doing the business, promoting new policies, setting the agenda and putting UKIP back on the political map.

The new year broke, and this week Henry was indeed interviewed for six minutes on the BBC’s national flagship prime-time agenda-setting Radio 4 programme ‘Today’. In political terms this was striking gold.

But for almost the entire interview Henry talked about himself, his marriage, his love life, his critics and his determination to continue in the job. It was all about Henry. He said nothing about the party, UKIP policies, the political situation or the all-important local elections in May.

It was an excruciating interview that resulted directly from a foolishness and selfishness that is worthy of a spotty hormonal teenage boy, not a mature and responsible adult man.

The whole sordid saga that includes betrayal, abandonment, racism and intimidation has been chronicled in detail – usually with salacious photos – by national and social media. Yet to date Henry has offered no apology, no expression of regret and definitely no recognition of how badly he has damaged the party.

And there is more.

On 6th January I published an article about how Henry had broken his word over pledges amongst other things.

This now seems prescient. Two days later on 8th January party chairman Paul Oakden wrote to all party members about NEC deliberations regarding “press coverage of our leader Henry Bolton”. The NEC had decided to discuss the matter at a special meeting ten days’ later and, Paul wrote, “No further comment will be made on this issue by the central party or any NEC member until that meeting has concluded.”

48 hours later, to the fury of other NEC members, Henry reneged on the agreement, broke the vow of silence and agreed to be interviewed by the political website Westmonster. He told them he would not be quitting and blamed “bitter opponents” for his troubles. None of it was his fault of course.

Clearly, for Henry, pledges, agreements and taking responsibility for his actions are like his women: to be dumped at will and as it suits his own selfish interests.

“I’ll serve to lead,” he had claimed, yet he neither serves UKIP’s interests nor shows leadership qualities of honesty and responsibility.

Last summer UKIP was in the doldrums: now, thanks to Henry, it is a dead man dying. So we need to bite the bullet and do the right thing. Cutting out a cancer is painful and costly, but the operation is necessary to try to restore the body’s health and former vigour.

And week is a long time in politics; who knows what new opportunities the coming months may offer the party? Tides turn, stuff happens, pollsters get it wrong and pundits make false predictions. Politics is unsettled and fluid today. Further, the country and Brexit still need UKIP.

In 1940, former cabinet minister Leo Amery castigated the inept Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for his incompetent conduct of the war. Speaking in the House of Commons, Amery repeated Oliver Cromwell’s 1653 rebuke for the corrupt and ineffectual Long Parliament: Amery told Chamberlain, “Depart, and let us have done with you. Go!”

Amery’s speech led to Chamberlain’s immediate resignation and the appointment of the formidable but wayward Winston Churchill in his place. The result, as they say, is history.

At its meeting on Sunday the NEC too should say the same to Henry Bolton: Depart, and let us have done with you. Go!

We certainly can do no worse than at present and we might, just might, do a whole lot better.

Welsh Gag

My following article was published last week by Kipper Central. Although it is primarily about the gagging of a UKIP elected representative, the freedom of speech issue it addresses is of course much wider than the party:

When UKIP’s National Executive Committee meets on 8th January there is one issue that should be top of the agenda: the shameful decision by the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly, Elin Jones, to ban Gareth Bennett from speaking during Senedd debates in 2018.

Gareth is UKIP’s Assembly Member for South Wales Central.

During an Assembly debate about an Equalities and Human Rights report, Gareth made an excellent call for a grown-up conversation about minority rights and made the unarguable point that the increasing focus on the rights of minorities must ultimately impact negatively on the rights of the majority population.

By way of illustration he referred to the Westminster Tory government’s proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act which liberalise the process of changing gender, and he made these observations (here at 17.35 hours):

“There is only so much deviation from the norm that any society can take before that society completely implodes, and if we carry on down this road of appeasing the nuttiest elements of the transgender movement, then what we will face as a society, within a very short space of time, is total implosion.”

You’d have thought these remarks were mere common sense: Gareth was rightly cautioning against too much accommodation to the demands of transgender extremists or, he predicted, society will suffer.

But for the biased and hostile Presiding Officer, Plaid Cymru’s Elin Jones, political correctness trumps common sense. The following day, and at the prompting of a muddled Labour AM who accused Gareth of “homophobic rhetoric” even though he hadn’t mentioned gays or lesbians let alone been hostile to them, Ms Jones demanded that Gareth withdraw his comments. She claimed his views were “particularly hateful to the transgender community” and insisted that he apologise.

When he refused, she informed him he was barred from speaking in Senedd debates in 2018. He walked out of the chamber.

Although by all accounts Gareth remains personally relaxed and upbeat, his ban is a serious issue and an ominous threat to democracy and free speech.

Journalist Arwyn Jones pointed out on BBC Wales Live that banning an elected representative from speaking indefinitely in Senedd until they apologise is completely unprecedented.

Also Welsh commentator and academic Carys Moseley wrote that Senedd is “the first legislature in the world to ban a politician for criticising transgender activism”.

She continued: “The Presiding Officer’s overreaction was subjective, disproportionate and all too typical of those who enforce the concept of hate speech.

“Her role is equivalent to that of the Speaker of the House of Commons, and as such banning a politician from debate sets a dangerous trend, and undermines free speech and democracy.

“It is also a snub to everyone else in Wales who has serious reservations about the direction that transgender policy has been taking in the UK. It is saying you cannot be a politician if you think transgenderism is abnormal, which probably rules out most of the population.

“This is a sinister state of affairs that is unprecedented and completely unacceptable.”

Sinister and unacceptable indeed, so what is to be done? First, all Kippers must support and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Gareth.

But the matter is bigger than him and the implications are much wider than for just the Welsh Assembly.

So, second, Kippers must urge the NEC to take up the cause. The NEC should commit the party to supporting Gareth, confronting and challenging the Presiding Officer, and using all means possible in the UK to defeat this attack on freedom of speech. If you are a paid-up member of the party, you can contact the general secretary Paul Oakley at paul.oakley@ukip.org and request that the issue is put on the NEC agenda and discussed at their meeting on 8th January. For information copy in the chairman Paul Oakden too, at chairman@ukip.org.

And, third, Kippers and other concerned individuals can write a polite but firm email to the Presiding Officer herself, reminding her that in the UK we live in a democracy which embraces freedom of speech, and proposing that she revokes her ban on Gareth with immediate effect. Ms Jones’ email address is: elin.jones@assembly.wales or llywydd@assembly.wales. If you email her, I suggest you copy in Gareth for his encouragement: gareth.bennett@assembly.wales

A key issue of principle is at stake. We cannot simply sit on our hands.

Islam And Freedom Of Speech In The Lords

As readers of this blog will know, I have sometimes sat in the gallery of the House of Lords listening to debates, and a couple of times I even sat in the Clerks’ Box on the floor of the House right by the Monarch’s throne which was cramped but enjoyable. This was usually in connection with my work with crossbench peer Baroness Cox on her private members bill that tackled gender discrimination in  sharia courts.

Recently I listened in on a debate about Islam initiated by UKIP peer Lord Pearson. My take on the debate, below, was first published by Kipper Central:

You’ve got to hand it to Lord Pearson of Rannoch. The former UKIP party leader doesn’t mind standing alone.

For years he has stood virtually solo in the House of Lords against hostile peers who are overwhelmingly pro-EU and Remain.

Now the Brexit referendum has been won he is turning his attention to Islam. And it’s clear that this too is unpopular amongst the political class who invariably mention the religion in hushed and deferential tones.

So once again his Lordship finds himself ploughing a lonely furrow and swimming against the politically-correct tide. In other words, Lord P is a true Kipper.

On Thursday he forced a Lords debate about some major tenets of the Islamic religion because, he said, no one is willing to talk openly about the nature of Islam. “You can say what you like about the virgin birth, the miracles and the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” Lord Pearson said at the beginning of the debate. “But you get into serious trouble if you try to touch at all on the subject of Islam and what it really is.”

He mentioned the high Muslim birth rate and “the spread of sharia law whereby a Muslim man can have four wives.” Whenever people try to raise these issues, he continued, “we are told… we are spreading hate towards the Muslims”

Which is exactly what happened to him.

“The way Lord Pearson uses his ill-informed narrative to demonise the great religion of Islam and blame this religion for all the ills of the world actually fuels anti-Muslim sentiments that lead to hate crime,” railed Lord Hussain, illustrating Lord Pearson’s point.

“I begin by expressing my disquiet and resentment at the wording of (the debate motion),” protested Lord Sheikh. “I received numerous complaints from Muslims when it became known that this debate had been tabled. Islam is indeed a religion of peace… I feel that a debate such as this… can create discord and lead to further problems.” This peer proved Lord Pearson’s point too.

“The deliberate concept of the mischievous Muslims who can have four wives in the UK is nonsense,” remonstrated Lord Ahmed. “Nobody is allowed to have four wives.” His assertion flew in the face of recent Muslim research which found that 67% of Muslim women in the West Midlands say their husbands have more than one wife, and 7% claim their husbands have the full four wives permitted by Islam.

And by playing the Nazi card, Lord Ahmed also accused Lord Pearson of using hate speech: “Saying that Muslims are breeding more children and will take over is using the language that Nazis used against Jewish communities.” This is the same Lord Ahmed who four years ago blamed a Jewish conspiracy for the jail term he received for a dangerous driving offence after a fatal accident.

The debate achieved what Lord Pearson wanted – it got their Lordships talking about Islam and in the event not all were completely hostile. A Labour peer even complimented him: “The thing about Lord Pearson is that everyone thinks he is wrong, but he wins in the end – as he did with Brexit – so we have to listen to him carefully.”

It was progress, and the UKIP peer was having a good week. The previous day, he had intervened forcefully in the Lords during a discussion about hate crime.

There is widespread concern that the bar for recording hate crime falls lower and lower. You can now be reported to the police for a hate crime if a person – or even a bystander – merely feels you are hostile to or prejudiced against them on grounds of their race, religion, ethnicity or other protected characteristic. No hard evidence of hostility or prejudice is required.

A few years ago a report by the independent think-tank Civitas argued that hate crime legislation is reducing freedom of speech and has effectively introduced by the back door a blasphemy law that protects Islam from animosity and robust criticism. Police and prosecutors, it further claimed, are unfairly singling out alleged hate crimes by the majority population – termed ‘white’ or ‘ Christian’ – while ignoring other similar offences by minority groups.

Lord Pearson grasped the religious bull by both horns. “Will the Government confirm unequivocally that a Christian who says that Jesus is the only Son of the one true God cannot be arrested for hate crime or any other offence, however much it may offend a Muslim or anyone else?”

The Government minister flatly refused to give any such assurance.

In the light of this, Lord Pearson indicated later that he is deeply concerned that Christians’ freedom of religion is being curtailed and that Christians in the UK can now be arrested for simply preaching the Gospel as they are in Saudi Arabia, Iran and China. He made it clear to colleagues that he intends vigorously to pursue the Government on the issue.

So watch this space…

Islam And The West: Irreconcilable Differences

My post here was first published by Kipper Central:

“If you compare Jesus Christ who had so much influence on the Western world, and Muhammad who has had so much influence on the Islamic world, and look at their teachings and their lives and lifestyles and so on, it’s game, set and match to Jesus.”

The audience at the celebrated Conway Hall, high temple of humanism and self-styled ‘landmark of London’s independent intellectual, political and cultural life’, erupted with clapping and cheers.

I was participating in a recent public debate entitled ‘This House believes Islam and the West have irreconcilable differences’ and, given the irreligious nature of the audience, the warm response to my comment about Christ was unexpected.

Alongside me as proposer of the motion was Anne Marie Waters, founder of ShariaWatch UK, former Council member of the National Secular Society, and lately a high-profile controversial candidate for the leadership of UKIP.

The opposition were Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al Husseini, Senior Fellow in Islamic Studies at the Westminster Institute; and Dr Michael Arnheim, practising Barrister, author of books on religion, law and government, and former Professor of Classics and Sometime Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge.

So the academic qualifications were clearly on the side of the opposition; but the audience and the weight of the argument were on ours. The full debate can be viewed here.

I have real differences with Anne Marie over how to respond to the rise of aggressive Islam but on the night she and I made a good team. She tackled Islam as a social and political force and critiqued it from a human rights, women’s rights and freedom of speech point of view, whereas I tackled it head-on as a religion.

I did so by comparing Islam with Christianity as the origin and cradle of our western civilisation.

I was free to undertake this exercise because, while the second half of the 20th century saw an increasingly aggressive secularisation of society and a growing hostility to Christianity, 9/11 changed the world. Since then we have found ourselves reaching for our religious identity both as an acknowledgement of our roots and as our distinctive against rising Islam.

Professional unbeliever Richard Dawkins today happily calls himself a Christian atheist or cultural Christian. Similarly political commentator and fellow atheist Douglas Murray told a Canadian interviewer recently that we are all Christians whether we like it or not, that rational secular atheists all “dream Christian dreams and have Christian thoughts” and that our universal human rights are derived directly from Christianity.

My argument in the debate was straightforward: Islam and the West have irreconcilable differences because Islam and Christianity have irreconcilable differences.

Theologically, Islam flatly refutes the historical crucifixion of Christ which is at the heart of the Christian faith. And if, as Islam says, Christ was not crucified, then there is no true Christianity – which of course is Islam’s contention. The cross on our war memorials and in our graveyards, on our village church steeples and atop the Queen’s coronation crown – these all represent a fake event according to Islam, and consequently are a huge deception at the core of the UK’s heritage and culture.

From a political and social perspective too, the contrasting lives and teachings of the founders of the two religions are profound and irreconcilable.

Muhammad – the perfect role model for all mankind according to Islamic orthodoxy – was a religious leader, governor, lawmaker and military chief who slaughtered enemies of Islam as well as personal opponents, and who installed a state theocracy at Medina as a prototype for his followers. Even today Muhammad’s swords are proudly on display in the Topkapi museum, Istanbul.

Jesus, on the other hand, was interested in hearts and minds not physical territory, and in the power of persuasion not political power and military might.

From a rule-bound legalistic Judaism he inaugurated a new grace-fuelled spiritual religion (“the Kingdom of God is within you”), separated church and state (“render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”), taught that love is a prime ethic (“love your enemies”), and refused to allow his followers to use force to defend him or promote his new faith (“put away your sword for those who live by the sword will die by the sword”). The only violence during his ministry was that done to him not by him.

Consequently, I argued, Muhammad and his teachings in the Quran are irreconcilable with Jesus and his teachings in the New Testament.  And the values and cultures of Islamic societies based on the former are incompatible with western societies based on the latter.

Anne Marie is not religious so she, of course, took a different approach in the debate. For her the West is characterised by freedom: freedom of speech, expression and religion; equal rights before the law; and science and reason. The blasphemy laws with death penalties in Islam and the subjugation of women into second class status are, for her, ample illustrations of why the West and Islam are incompatible.

She is a persuasive speaker and she argued her case powerfully. I admired her cool too, as she knew that, late on the same evening after the debate finished, ITV were to broadcast a biased and brutal character assassination job on her led by the lefty hatchet men from Hope not Hate, Nick Lowles and Matthew Collins.

It was entitled Undercover: Inside Britain’s New Far Right www.youtube.com/watch?v=-IM4wtEr4No, and Lowles and Collins were paraded across the programme as neutral “experts”, and in the credits as “consultants”.

The analysis was incoherent and low-level which may explain why ITV scheduled it for a late time-slot. And, despite an undercover reporter following Anne Marie for months, there were no condemning new revelations.

In the end the programme could only resort to smearing her, and did so by including her in the same broadcast as an investigation into real militant extremists, the banned anti-Semitic Hitler-praising occasionally violent Nazi group, National Action.

It was damnation by slur, defamation by association.

Hope not Hatefunded by billionaire global financial market-manipulator George Soros – tries to silence anyone who refuses to dance to its regressive lefty political agenda. For years it has directed its bile against patriotic, anti-establishment, anti-EU, anti-globalist, pro-localism UKIP – including during this year’s general election.

And Lowles and Collins have regularly pilloried Nigel Farage personally too. Based on his experience with them, Farage reckons Hope not Hate “are among the most hateful people in modern Britain”.

Now vilified by them as well, Anne Marie is in good company.

Of Fog And Boomerangs

Recently a favourite commentator of mine, Brendon O’Neill, wrote a striking article about Islam that “slices through the fog of confusion, obfuscation and sheers dishonesty of public debate” (as Melanie Phillips says in another context).

Actually, of course, there is very little proper public debate about Islam. It is a belief system privileged by our Islamophilic political establishment and protected by politically-correct but unwritten blasphemy laws in the media and elsewhere which ensure that criticism of Islam – except of its most violent versions of course – is immediately shut down as Islamophobic, racist and/or hate speech.

This protection is shown to no other religion. “Show some damn respect for people’s religious beliefs,” a pious Piers Morgan instructed Tommy Robinson last week when the latter held aloft a Quran and claimed that Islam’s holy book is “the reason why we are in such a mess” following the London Bridge and Finsbury Park Mosque attacks.

This is the same Piers Morgan who was venomous in his disrespect for Christians and others who held to traditional Biblical views of marriage during gay marriage debates.

Brendon O’Neill’s article ‘After London Bridge: let’s start talking about Islam’ points powerfully to the dangerous social consequences of protecting Islam from criticism. He writes:

“This… privilege is not extended to any other religion… Islam is ringfenced from tough discussion; phrases which at some level include the word Islam are tightly policed; criticism of Islam is deemed a mental illness: Islamophobia. 

“This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them to be intolerant. You licence their intolerance. You inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas. You provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion.” 

Get that? The censorship of criticism of Islam contributes towards Islamic intolerance and violence. It’s a brilliant insight that ‘pierces the fog’ of a dishonest public debate and rightly boomerangs back onto the heads of our political class some of the responsibility for Islamic atrocities .

I’ve done my own bit to counter dishonesty in the public portrayal of Islam. In an article published on UKIP Daily following the Manchester Arena suicide bombing atrocity I argued that from its violent foundation in the 7th century it has been impossible to argue sensibly that Islam is a religion of peace.

I wrote:

Why do politicians and other religious illiterates intone the vacuous mantra that Islam is a ‘religion of peace’ every time there is an atrocity like the Manchester bombing last week? 

9/11 should have stopped such nonsense in its tracks sixteen years ago. But no, they continue to inform us that Islamic terrorism has nothing whatever to do with ‘peaceful’ Islam. 

Theresa May gave Donald Trump and the Republican Party the benefit of her witlessness in a speech during her January visit to the US. “We should always be careful to distinguish between this extreme and hateful ideology and the peaceful religion of Islam,” she lectured them. 

The Prime Minister is of course just the latest in a long line of dissembling Western leaders. It started with President George W Bush. Six days after the 9/11 atrocity he went to the Islamic Centre in Washington to assure traumatised Americans that “Islam is peace” and that the religion has nothing to do with the “acts of violence” perpetrated by the airline hijackers. 

The problem with this supposed division between violent extremists and the rest is that all forms of Islam – from the “twisted version” propagated by ISIS to the most moderate westernised version – have one factor and focus that unites them: they all revere Islam’s founder and prophet, Muhammad. 

For Muslims he is second only to Allah, and indeed occasionally the Quran even gives him equivalent authority: “Obey Allah and the Messenger (Muhammad) that ye may obtain mercy” (3: 132). For every Muslim he is the greatest moral example in history, a mercy for the world and a model for all time. 

For centuries across Muslim lands it was impossible to raise objections to him as the objector would risk execution for apostasy. Glorified legends and sanitised stories about Islam’s prophet were able to flourish without contradiction, while outside the Muslim world there was minimal interest in the man or his religion. 

However, increasing post-WW2 immigration from Muslim countries and the dramatic 9/11 wake-up call has brought Islam into full engagement with the West for the first time. Therefore things have changed: the religion has become subject to our tradition of critical inquiry, Muhammad’s life and character have been put increasingly under the microscope and, particularly, the advent of the internet has enabled open scrutiny of both Islam’s founder and his religion like never before. 

Of course in the West it is our democratic duty to examine, challenge and debate any belief system that is impacting our society; that’s how a free society works. We’ve done it with Christianity and atheism. We’ve done it too with communism, fascism and even climate change. 

We are doing it now with Islam and, as this process is new to Muslims, it has made many defensive and over-sensitive to criticism. Nonetheless the job must be done if we are to remain an open society, and we must do it despite the efforts of the political class to protect Islam, of the liberal Left to damn critics as Islamophobic and racist, and of Islamic community leaders to play the victim card. We still have freedom of speech – just. 

For as long as Muhammad was a lone and persecuted prophet in Mecca, he cut a sympathetic Gandhi-type figure who simply preached his new religion to mostly deaf or hostile ears. But after his migration to Medina in 622 (significantly, the start-date of the Islamic era) he became the powerful warrior-governor of this desert community. 

It was here he resorted to violence if it was necessary to impose his (and, as he understood it, Allah’s) will and it was here at its foundation that Islam lost any claim to be a religion of peace. 

In his ten years as Medina’s governor Muhammad fought eight major battles, personally led eighteen military operations and oversaw thirty eight others. He himself was wounded twice. 

He had a poetess, Asma Bint Marwan, assassinated at night while she slept at home with her five children. She had been virulent in her criticism of him and called for rebellion against him so, apparently, she had to go. 

After one successful battle, Muhammad authorised and attended the slaughter of hundreds of prisoners; they were beheaded in batches and their bodies pitched into a trench he’d had dug in Medina’s market place. 

So it simply isn’t credible to sanitise Islam as a religion of peace. Even today Muhammad’s swords are proudly displayed at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul for all to see, and until recently mainstream Islam gloried in its early history of military conquests and successful battles as a sign of Allah’s special grace towards believers. 

Muhammad was no peaceful religious leader like Jesus Christ or the Buddha, nor indeed was he a political pacifist like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. He used the sword frequently during the birth of his religion. 

Muslim community leaders may describe Salman Abedi’s massacre at Manchester Arena as “unIslamic” and politicians, media and police may explain that he was an ordinary young British Muslim radicalised by his regrettable links to Libya. 

But they cannot bolster their theories by arguing that true Islam has nothing to do with violence. At heart it is not a religion of peace and never has been.” 

Following Brendon O’Neill’s insight, perhaps I should add to my article a further conclusion: Political leaders who insist Islam is a religion of peace are deliberately promoting falsehood. This dishonesty boomerangs back onto their own heads through our increased mistrust of the political elite and increased doubts about the state’s willingness to protect us from the growing Islamic fundamentalism, militancy and violence – especially amongst young Muslim men – that they deny exists.

So if in the future people feel forced to take their personal security and defence into their own hands, who can blame them?

Another UKIP Christian Manifesto?

I published this piece on the UKIP Daily website recently. It resulted in some interesting online comment and discussion:

Nigel Farage caused a storm a couple of years ago when, against the prevailing political zeitgeist as always, he called for Britain to accept only Christian refugees from Syria. “They are a seriously persecuted minority… under attack on all sides… as Islamist elements seek to purge the (Middle East) of Christianity”, he argued.

Then, after Muslim migrants from north Africa threw Christian fellow migrants out of their boat to drown in the Mediterranean, he proposed that Europe should accept only Christian African  refugees “as they have almost nowhere else to go”.
So it was welcome when UKIP deputy leader Peter Whittle recently weighed in too. “There needs to be a prioritisation of Christian refugees from Syria,” he contended ten days ago. He was echoing the concern of renegade former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, that the UK government is “institutionally biased” against Christian refugees and “politically-correct” officials are discriminating against Christian Syrians in the UK’s refugee programme.

The political class is at best embarrassed by Christianity as the nation’s traditional religion, and at worst actively hostile. It prefers to support the religions brought into Britain post-war by immigrant communities, especially from South Asia. Remember Boris Johnson fatuously proposing that we should all fast for a day during Ramadan and then break our fast at the local mosque? I don’t recall him ever asking us all to pray during Lent and visit the local church on Sunday.

And when the then director-general of the BBC was accused by Ben Elton of letting Vicar jokes pass but not Imam jokes, Mark Thompson admitted that the public service broadcaster – flagship of Britain’s global soft-power with a world-wide audience, but also at the heart of British culture and paid for by you and me – does give special treatment to Islam but not Christianity “because Muslims are from a religious minority and… often from ethnic minorities”. It was classic liberal twaddle that patronisingly plays the victim card on behalf of the world’s second largest and most aggressive religion, and flagrantly repudiates the Beeb’s own claims to neutrality and impartiality.

UKIP is never afraid to stand alone or challenge conventional wisdom, so it is both bold and typical of the party that it insists on standing up for the nation’s traditional religion against the prejudiced political establishment. Neither is it surprising that UKIP broke new ground at the May 2015 general election and was the first and only national party to publish a separate Christian manifesto.

Nigel Farage contended in his foreword to the manifesto – it was entitled Valuing Our Christian Heritage – that “we need a much more muscular defence of our Christian heritage and our Christian Constitution. Ours is fundamentally a Christian nation… UKIP is the only political party… that still cherishes our Judeo-Christian heritage.”

The manifesto contained common-sense stuff. It recognised that children are best brought up “within safe, secure, happy families”; said that “reasonable accommodation” should be made legally for those in the workplace who cannot accept same-sex marriage; and backed faith schools “provided they are open to the whole community, uphold British values, do not discriminate against any section of society and meet required educational standards”.

UKIP is a secular party and, as far as I know, neither Nigel Farage nor Peter Whittle are regular church-goers let alone committed Christians. But they, and UKIP’s 2015 Christian manifesto, acknowledge that Christianity has a particular place in the culture of our society that Islam and other religions do not have. And, as I have argued elsewhere, UKIP is and should be a defender of the Faith.

In the name of multi-cultural tolerance and good inter-faith relations, liberal Scottish clergy at Glasgow Cathedral recently invited a Muslim student to read verses from the Quran during a service marking Christianity’s Feast of the Epiphany. As a good Muslim and in honour of Allah no doubt, he read the key Quranic verses which specifically deny Christianity’s central tenet – that Jesus is the Son of God.

When a courageous Church of England clergyman, the Revd Gavin Ashenden, objected strongly to this denigration of Jesus within Christian worship, atheist commentator Douglas Murray memorably commenced an article proposing an award for the cleric thus:

“Very occasionally — even in contemporary Britain — some good news arrives. No single       piece of news has been more invigorating than the discovery that a member of the clergy of the Church of England has found a vertebra.”

In the event Reverend Ashenden was forced to step down from his post as Chaplain to the Queen for being controversial, so Murray finished his article with an equally memorable conclusion:

“For the time-being, Revd Ashenden is on the retreating side. But in the long run he may not be. In a nation much in need of heroes, an Anglican Reverend has stepped forward, putting his sincere and serious beliefs ahead of the unserious and insincere pieties of our time. Everybody — secular or religious — has cause to feel enormous gratitude.”

UKIP members – secular or religious – should be willing to support Britain’s traditional religion. After all, Winston Churchill was a disbeliever who reckoned himself a buttress of the church rather than a pillar, as “I support it from the outside”.

UKIP ought to continue its pioneering work and publish the party’s second Christian manifesto in time for the June general election.

Respecting Muslims, Challenging Islam

Since the successful Brexit referendum in June last year UKIP has, inevitably, been struggling to find a new purpose and political identity.

There is much internal party debate, and one of the current hot topics is about how the party should respond to the rise of Islam as a religio-political force across the UK. My contribution was published last week on the blogsite ‘UKIP Daily’, and now here:

Recently UKIP Daily has hosted a number of articles about issues such as halal slaughter, Sharia courts and jihadi terrorism. It is good to see the party is beginning to get to grips with the rise of Islam in our society.

But it seems we are still tip-toeing around the topic and trying to avoid giving offence. One of the contributors even wrote that we should be careful about going too far when discussing Islam in case our political enemies “have us promptly branded as BNP-Lite, or similar” – as if it matters what our opponents say about us.

We cannot do policy by worrying about tomorrow’s headlines.

Islam now saturates our political landscape and dominates the public imagination in the way that, say, Communism/Marxism did fifty years ago, and the UK is being increasingly Islamised. UKIP must therefore develop a coherent approach to the issue if it wants to be a serious political party.

I offer two key principles to guide us:

First we must fully respect Muslims as our friends, neighbours and fellow British citizens who have the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us. Stupidly stereotyping them, insulting them or slagging them down as people is unacceptable.

But, second, we must insist that we are free to challenge all aspects of Islam, unconstrained by political correctness and with nothing off-limits. Nonsense accusations of racism and Islamophobia must not be allowed to shut down necessary debate.

I’ve tried these principles and they work:

In 2005 a fundamentalist Islamic group called Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) announced that they planned to construct one of the largest mosques in the world, with a capacity of between 45,000 and 70,000, at West Ham in east London just a mile from my home and half a mile from the London Olympic stadium. TJ intended to build this as a massive showcase mosque for the 2012 London Olympics and as a global centre to propagate their hostile form of Islam across Europe and North America.

I decided to oppose it without personal animosity towards the Muslims behind the project. Indeed I often subsequently defended their right to propose their mega-mosque just as I defended my absolute right to oppose it. That’s how democracy works in the UK even if not in Saudi Arabia.

Before I started the campaign I tried to meet with the TJ elders in order to explain my opposition. Although they refused, I regularly extended the right hand of neighbourliness to them to show I had nothing against them personally or as Muslims. However they continued to refuse to meet.

I was also ruthless in publicly exposing the political ideology of the group and their underlying hostility to British society, with no holds barred. In my view it would have been utter madness to allow them this huge platform to propagate their anti-social beliefs across the UK and wider.

I launched the campaign via BBC TV in July 2006 and immediately ran into a storm of vitriol and bile, mainly from the Left, with the inevitable accusations of race-hatred, bigotry and Islamophobia. Jonathan Bartley, now joint-leader of the Green Party and that party’s leading UKIP opponent, was one of the first out of the blocks with uninformed and typically knee-jerk comments.

Muslim mega-mosque supporters too attacked me. One even issued a death threat by publishing my obituary on social media.

But as I respect Muslims and am not Islamophobic, I was able to campaign together with moderate British Muslims who also opposed this monstrosity. Our campaign co-operation was telling and in due course the message got through. Newham Council, which previously had been 100% in favour of the mega-mosque, took note, changed its mind and in December 2012 it rejected the TJ planning application. The government followed when in November 2015 Secretary of State Greg Clark MP rejected TJ’s appeal.

A personal warmth towards Muslims, together with an iron determination to publish the unpalatable facts about Tablighi Jamaat and their mega-mosque no matter the cost, were both vital to the success of our campaign.

Islam is a theocratic religion, that is, both a political ideology and a religious belief system. Also, like Communism/Marxism, it wants to take over the world. In our democracy we primarily challenge such take-overs by disputing their ideas and contesting their policies. We must maintain therefore that we are completely free to dispute the Quran, to expose hypocrisy in the Hadith and to rubbish Sharia, for example.

Further, at the heart of Islam lies Islam’s prophet Muhammad whom every stream of Islam claims is the ‘Role Model for All Humanity’.

It is our democratic duty to put Muhammad under the microscope and see what he has to offer UK society.

For instance, he had nine wives, the youngest of whom was aged six when they wed and with whom he consummated the marriage when she was just nine. If our increasingly Islamised society begins to accept Muhammad as a role model for the UK, will this necessarily change our collective view (and, ultimately, our legislation) about polygamy, paedophilia and child brides to a more Islamic approach?

UKIP is a bold radical party that rejects the soggy truth-denying political correctness of the political class. We must be willing, if necessary alone, to raise tough issues, ask hard questions and champion unpopular causes.

And from now on Islam, but not Muslims, must be on UKIP’s agenda and in our political sights.

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.

A New Day Dawns

It was an off-the-Richter-scale earthquake, followed by an even bigger – because American – aftershock. Brexit, followed by Brexit plus plus plus. History before our eyes.

farage_trumpWhen it comes to forcing new realities upon disconnected political elites, Donald Trump’s election victory in the US is the biggest thing since 9/11 and Nigel Farage’s Brexit victory in the UK is bigger even than the 1956 Suez debacle.

For decades politically-correct liberals – of all parties – have succeeded in every skirmish and won every battle in the culture wars. They’ve established their hegemony and new morality right across the institutions.

They’ve done this so effectively that, when it came to the highpoint of trendy right-on progressive gestures, gay marriage, they were able to impose it on society without electoral mandate, popular support or, in the UK, statutory consultation or proper debate.

But almost single-handed, the two unashamed unapologetic older straight white males have taken on the political establishments, said the unsayable, spoken for the sidelined masses, and won.

The shock-waves will reverberate for years. The elite will fight back of course and no doubt win some battles. But the lights have come on, the tide has turned and the hypocrisy, shallowness and manipulation of the politically-correct has been exposed for what it is.

One benefit is that freedom of speech is being restored. free-speech-voltaireThe abusive language through which the liberal elite controlled discourse and confined debate, has been shown, in the event, to be so overused and misapplied as to be rendered powerless. ‘Racist’, ‘fascist’, ‘misogynist’, ‘homophobe’, ‘Islamophobe’, ‘hate-fuelled’, ‘bigot’, ‘prejudiced’, ‘uneducated’, ‘narrow-minded’ – the list of insults intended to shut down discussion and cast outsiders back into outer darkness is endless.

But now thanks to Farage and Trump these epithets are bouncing off like Teflon and have little effect, at least amongst the electorate. Indeed they are becoming a badge of honour and success.

“UKIP are closet racists,” railed David Cameron. He’s gone, thanks to Farage.

“Love Trumps hate,” campaigned  Hillary Clinton. She’s gone too, thanks to Trump.

Not just powerless and a badge of honour, but hypocritical as well. The poisonous post-referendum torrent of social media bile towards Brexit voters was a vivid illustration of metropolitan Europhiles’ authoritarian intolerance and rejection of ordinary patriotic Brits’ majority decision. Liberal, open-minded and charitable they are not.

geldof-on-boatLuvvy Bob Geldof is a well-heeled millionaire from southern Ireland. His invective and visible loathing for out-of-work fishermen from English east coast ports whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the EU, rivalled Labour MP Emily Thornberry’s famous tweet for contempt and condescension.

And furious feminist Grace Dent’s anti-Trump anti-men tirade – published centre-page in a self-described ‘concise quality newspaper’ and complete with expletives – is a public window on her partisan soul.

So the liberal elites’ emperor is wearing no benevolent tolerant clothes after all, and their fangs have now been pulled by Farage and Trump. While they rant and rave in protest, a new day of freedom to discuss real issues has dawned for the rest of us.

During the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013, doubters were intimidated into silence by Peter Tatchell of OutRage! who claimed across the media that anyone who opposed gay marriage (which then included Nigel Farage and UKIP of course) was “homophobic”. Ben Summerskill, then CEO of Stonewall, merely damned us as “bigots”.

However, following Brexit and Brexit plus plus plus, and embracing this new freedom of speech, I’d like to see the gay marriage debate reopened:

There is now credible peer-reviewed evidence  that same-sex parenting is damaging to children compared with that of still-married heterosexual biological parents.

There is credible evidence too that sexuality is fluid, orientation is not fixed from birth and therefore people are not necessarily ‘born gay’ – the claim that was the central plank of gay marriage campaigners’ platform.

Also, since the legislation was passed in 2013, the prestigious but liberal Royal College of Psychiatry has been forced by the facts to concede that “post-natal environmental factors” at least partly determine sexual orientation.

In the light of this and for the sake of our children, I personally reckon we should resurrect the gay marriage debate and consider repealing the same sex marriage Act.

And if this means that the gay Tory LBC Radio presenter Iain Dale yet again abuses his position and calls me a homophobic bigot on air, it doesn’t matter. He is yesterday and on the wrong side of history.