Category Archives: Religious/Politics

Can We Talk About Islam?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning From The Pit Of Hell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Auschwitz visit gave me much to think about.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-ENDS –

Notes for Editors:

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

My Journey Into UKIP

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

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

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

Dear family, friends and colleagues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But not UKIP.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Very warmly,

Alan

Sharia Rides Up The Agenda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boris_Johnson

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

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

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

Muslim women up and down the country will be grateful.

Sack Revd Giles Fraser – For Christ’s Sake

In my previous post  I told how I have applied to join UKIP. This simple democratic act seems to have caused some fluttering in some dovecotes.

I was contacted by a self-styled ‘business reporter’ from the HuffPost, left-liberals’ right-on answer to the Daily Express, who in his subsequent piece avoided business issues and instead attempted to generate a media puff by citing my three-year-old bullseye post about the gaystapo and claiming that my application had “sparked fury on Twitter”. ukip badgesFortunately UKIP would have none of it and dismissed this with the comment that the party is “very wary of joining in a witch-hunt against somebody who holds those views that the vast majority of the world would also hold” – which explains why UKIP is the popular and rising power in the land.

Another anti-UKIP political weblog, the gay-run PinkNews, also tried to climb on board but in its article it paid me the compliment of accurately quoting at length my views about gay marriage taken from two posts on this blog. I’m grateful for the further coverage.

And down amongst the minnows, here in east London a parochial blog called ForestGate.net ran the unimaginative headline ‘Alan Craig gets kippered’. It claimed that I have always been a bit mad and that I am not really that much of a Christian at all. “Just as Nigel Farage is a bigot who dresses his nasty prejudices up as ‘common sense’, Craig dresses his up in scripture and calls them religious convictions,” it snarled, desperately trying to create some local froth. But I don’t think Forest Gate was listening…

In the previous post ‘Matthew Parris’ Poison’, I highlighted a sniffy article by Times columnist Matthew Parris about Clacton and its residents (“Ten tattoo parlours, no Waterstones”) as a prime example of why UKIP is so popular, coming as it did right from the heart of the out-of-touch metropolitan political class where Matthew Parris resides. I now have another example, but this time from the Guardian:

Rev Giles FraserIn his day job The Revd Canon Giles Fraser was, until 2011, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral. He is now parish priest at St Mary’s Newington just a few streets from Lambeth Palace, London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Revd Giles also has a regular Saturday column in the Guardian. Earlier this month he turned his attention to UKIP in a piece headlined “Jesus wasn’t much taken with biological kith and kin – he said we’re all one family”.

For three paragraphs he paraded his professional compassion for a struggling parishioner – whereby, as Christ said, he like the hypocrites has received his reward in full. Then Canon Giles turned his journalistic cannons onto UKIP and, grandstanding for his Guardian readers, pigeonholed UKIP-supporting fellow citizens with a loathing and poison that out-Parrised Parris.

“I despise them (my italics),” he sneered sanctimoniously. “I despise them for their Little England mentality (my italics). I despise them for their total absence (my italics) of fellow-feeling towards vulnerable people who look and sound different. I despise them for the way they scapegoat (my italics) immigrants and whip up (my italics) the resentment of white working class. IDespiseYouBut I especially despise them (my italics) for the way they dress all this up (my italics) as the protection of something they call Christian England.”

This is such inaccurate dishonest hate-fuelled stereotyping that it is a parody of itself. Indeed the article would be laughable if it didn’t come from an establishment figure of the national church. As it is, it is unbelievable and unfair. “Physician, heal thyself,” Jesus might chide him for his inflammatory bigotry. “Take the log out of your own eye.”

The Lord also might remind him that it is not an option for a Christian, especially a Christian minister, to despise anyone whatever their views. “Love your neighbour” and “Love your enemy” are foundational for all Christ’s followers.

Justin WelbyAnd if he doesn’t want to follow Jesus, the Revd Giles should at least listen to his boss just down the road at Lambeth Palace. “The language we use must reflect the value of the human being,” said  Archbishop Justin Welby, rightly, about the recent immigration debate.

By ramping up his language and displaying his bigotry across the columns of the Guardian, the former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral works wonders for UKIP, just like Matthew Parris. But I’m not sure that’s what he intends. And I’m not sure heaven smiles on his article either.

If he continues to write such bile, for UKIP’s sake the Guardian should give him more frequent space and more column inches.

But for Christ’s sake the Archbishop should sack him from the church.

Rising Gay Christian: Bright, Able And Wrong

Luke Tryl is an Oxford-educated young Tory-on-the-move. Luke-TrylHe was President of the Oxford Union in 2007; stood as a Conservative candidate for Lambeth Council in 2010 , a useful Tory precursor for a subsequent shot at Parliament; was appointed Head of Education at Stonewall after experience at various policy think-tanks ; and was elected chairman of Dulwich & West Norwood Conservative Association in March this year .

Still only in his late 20s, last month he was appointed Special Adviser to Nicky Morgan, the new Education Secretary. I wish him well personally as he continues his climb up politics’ greasy pole.

But Luke self-identifies as gay and Christian, and in an autobiographical piece for the Faith and Sexuality Project  he promotes the idea that because Christ never mentioned it directly, “Jesus… never condemned homosexuality.”

This is naïve and simplistic. The same for instance could be said about child brides. And incest. And FGM. And zoophilia. And cannibalism. And animal cruelty. And deforestation. And spitting on other people’s food. And a host of other activities, ills and evils.

Furthermore it’s a self-serving and untrue conclusion that cheapens the radical demands which Jesus lays on all his followers.

Luke has a personal agenda of course but regrettably he is not alone in his views. Soaking wet liberal clergy similarly misrepresent the issue. And last Christmas the tabloid news site HuffPost mockingly displayed a blank-paged Bible in response to its own headline, “What Jesus says about homosexuality” .

Candy-FlossFurther, with the doctrinal authority that accompanies celebrity, Elton John informs us that “if Jesus was alive today” (oops, fallen at the first fence; Elton clearly is not too strong on the most basic tenet of his religion) the Lord would be in favour of gay marriage for priests as “he was all about love and compassion and forgiveness and trying to bring people together”. And fairies, Father Christmas and cuddly bunnies too, no doubt.

So, leaving aside the candy floss of pink theology we can turn instead to the challenges of reality and truth:

During his three-year ministry Jesus engaged almost entirely with Jews in the land of Israel whose religious and cultural background was the Hebrew scriptures – what Christians today call the ‘Old Testament’. As is well known, the ‘Law of Moses’ found in these scriptures is formidably firm about much sexual morality: for instance it specifically prohibits incest (Leviticus 18:6f), adultery (20:10) and bestiality (20:15) as well as homosexuality (18:22).

Did Jesus try to alter or amend this Law? Absolutely not; he told his followers specifically that he did not come to change even “a jot or tittle” of the Law.

raising the barNot only that, he raised the bar significantly and told us we are judged on our thoughts and attitudes as much as our outward actions. “You have heard that it was said (that is, in the Mosaic Law) ‘Do not commit adultery’, but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he said in his Sermon on the Mount.

Time and again, using specific examples to illustrate the general principle, Jesus moves from the outward action proscribed by Mosaic Law to the deeper attitude of heart he requires of his followers. ‘Do not commit murder’ (outward) becomes ‘Do not even be angry’ (inward). ‘Take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ (outward) becomes ‘Do not even resist an evil person’ (inward).

So, although Jesus doesn’t mention incest, it is self-evident that if you are a follower of Christ you cannot copulate with your close family or even look at them sexually.

Similarly, although Jesus doesn’t mention bestiality, the man who proudly claims to have enjoyed “interspecies intercourse” with a dolphin and a dog  cannot – and hopefully does not – claim to be a committed Christian.

Therein lies the rub. Luke wants to have his cake and eat it. He wants both to follow Christ and to have sex with men.

Of course as a free citizen he is able to go to bed with whoever he chooses within the law. But if he joins the army he cannot fight for the enemy. If he signs for the local football club he cannot kick a rugby ball on the pitch. If he chooses to cycle to Birmingham he cannot travel via the motorways.

And if he decides to follow Christ he cannot bed another man.

merciful JesusChristians sin and do wrong, Luke and yours truly included, and certainly Jesus’ commands are radical and demanding. But it is disloyal, unChristian even, for us actively to promote a morality that is flat against his teaching.

(It is significant that singer-theologian Vicky Beeching, in an interview with gay activist Patrick Strudwick that inevitably includes a hefty dose of his agenda-driven vitriol about the church, avoided any reference to the Faith’s founder when she came out as lesbian this week.)

So what would Jesus say to Luke? Probably the same as he said to the woman caught in the act of adultery: “I don’t condemn you, but go and sin no more.”

A 7/7 Warning To The World

twin towersThirteen years ago, on 11th September 2001, two airliners flew into the Twin Towers and the world changed for ever. The pictures and political shockwaves circled the world in milliseconds; Radical Islam had arrived, dramatically, on the global stage.

Three days ago, on 4th July 2014, the leader of the Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, dressed in black, stepped out of the shadows and onto the steps of the minbar (pulpit) at the Great Mosque in Mosul – the largest city his troops have captured so far – to announce himself as the long awaited Caliph, or global Islamic ruler, and successor to Muhammad the founder of Islam (here). He thereby detonated an Islamic earthquake, and reverberations of fascination and anticipation are now circulating the resurgent Ummah or worldwide Muslim community.Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Of course most Muslims reject al-Baghdadi’s claim and an American drone may ensure he personally does not last long. But after a single 90 year absence (1924 to date), the 1,400 year old Islamic Caliphate has returned to the global stage with a vengeance, backed and enforced by the victorious evil savagery of ISIS shock troops and instantly promoted across the world by small screens and social media.

The international significance of the event is huge and can be equated in evil and intent with Adolf Hitler appearing on the platform at the 1938 ‘Greater Germany’ Nuremberg Rally soon after Nazi storm troops had marched into and forcibly annexed Austria.

HitlerHalf a million were at Nuremberg to hear Hitler while maybe only a hundred were at the Mosul Great Mosque to hear al-Baghdadi. But with internet and instant communication the wide-spread electrifying effect is the same. Young German people flocked to enrol in the Hitler Youth. Young British Muslims are flying to Iraq and Syria to enrol as jihadis.

The purpose of both Hitler and al-Baghdadi was to exude total authority and create fear. Our response to Hitler was tardy, stuttering and appeasing.

It must not be the same with al-Baghdadi, as there will be no peace in our time as long as this evil, barbaric, resurrected Caliphate continues.

Muddassar’s Dirty Tricks At The Mega-Mosque Inquiry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anjem Choudary Comes Clean On Quran

It has long interested me that orthodox Muslim belief reckons the Quran is the uncreated Word of God that existed in heaven before time and that – unlike the “inferior” Jewish and Christian scriptures which were written, edited, selected and, they say, despoiled by men – the Quran that we have today is the pure, perfect and unadulterated Word, exactly as revealed to Muhammad from heaven by the angel Gabriel, and since protected from corruption by man (here).

BibleborderThis is nonsense of course, and I’m grateful that orthodox Christian theologians make the more modest claim that the Bible was written by holy men who were inspired by God – “God-breathed” St Paul called it (2 Tim 3:16). This enabled the Christian scriptures to survive the onslaught of higher criticism, textual critism, historical critisism, source criticism, form criticism and all the other methodologies that put Holy Writ under the sceptical rationalist microscope and were expected by some to demythologise and destroy it. Unsurprisingly the Bible shrugged off the assault and flourishes still as the global best seller, even in parts of publicly godless Europe (here).

Recently I flew to the Revelation TV studios (here) in southern Spain, determined to challenge the Quran’s claims to direct divine authorship and scriptural superiority. I was invited there to debate a related topic, ‘Islam or Christianity – which is more relevant to 21st century Britain?’ and my opponent was the Islamist, Sharia judge and hate-figure Anjem Choudary. Even to our post-Christian rapidly-paganising society it shouldn’t be difficult to demonstrate how Biblical values have been the foundation of British culture, language, education, laws and parliamentary democracy, and how there are still Biblical echoes from the past impacting society today; the much-prized NHS, for instance, was firmly founded on Christian care and compassion and praised by its creator Nye Bevan – no believer – as a “bit of Christianity” (here).

AdebolajosnoteborderAnd the Quran is clearly impacting Britain too: an appropriate if appalling illustration is the case of terrorist Michael Adebolago, aka Mujahid Abu Hamza, who has been directly linked with Choudary (here). Adebolago quoted twenty-two Quranic verses in his hand-written justification of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich last year.

In the first half of the TV debate – you can view it in full (here) – Choudary advanced some of the standard Islamic claims why today’s Quran is the only flawless Word of God; it is “a miracle”; unlike the Jewish and Christian scriptures it was “written down contemporaneously in the time of the Messenger Muhammad”; there is “only one version in the world”; while there are “many many versions of the Bible, we don’t have many versions of the Quran”; and “we do still have the original of the Quran”.

This last point is central to mainstream Islamic belief about the Quran; “All Qurans available in the world today are exactly identical to the Uthmani version” they claim (here) which was the version selected and compiled by Caliph Uthman some twenty years after Muhammad’s death in 632 AD.

Leaving aside the extensive arguments then about what available Quranic texts should and should not be included (Muhammad’s preferred wife Aisha, for instance, complained that a favourite clause in her copy of the Quran was not included in the new official Uthman version, and that Surah/Chapter 33 had been reduced from 200 verses in her husband’s time to just 73 verses), it is a simple historical fact that we do not today have a copy of this Uthman version.

Further, the oldest versions we do have (the Summerkand and Topkapi manuscripts are the most comprehensive) date from the 8th century decades after Muhammad’s death, are incomplete, inconsistant and have significant variant readings; they have non-divine human editors’ fingerprints all over them.

Adebolajo michael.jpg-largeIn the light of this I pressed Choudary hard on his claim that we do still have the original and exact Muslim scriptures (about 25 minutes into the debate if you wish to check the video), and he was forced to concede that these “may or may not exist”.

It was worth flying to Spain just to hear a representative Islamic fundamentalist acknowledge this. Next we must persuade him and others publicly to concede the fact that extant versions of the Quran have significant, confused and contested variations. And then, logically, that today’s Quran as derived from them cannot be the pure, perfect and uniquely authoritative Word of God untouched and unspoiled by man, as they claim.

Then maybe – tragically too late of course – we need to tell Michael Adebolago.