Category Archives: World Politics

Goodbye Scotland?

12376_haggis-1I was born the son of a London-based proud Scot who to the end maintained his distinctive Glaswegian brogue, contended that haggis isn’t haggis without bashed neeps and a nip (ie. mashed swede and a tot of whisky), reckoned that sugar on porridge is solely for Sassenachs, and even on his death-bed required a dram of his favourite single-malt Scotch.

So I’ve watched with disappointment as that once significant nation, home of the Calvinist rectitude that some believe made Scotland the moral standard for the world, and of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment whose intellectual and scientific accomplishments reached around the globe, has deteriorated since the war into a small-minded whingeing country with the national motto, nicked from the terraces at Hamden Park, of “ABE” (Anyone But England).

A country gets, sometimes, the politics and politicians it wishes for: recently Scotland has voted overwhelmingly for the blustering Scottish National Party and has got its chip-on-the-shoulder nationalists, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, as First Minsters.

p1080018So a breakaway from England – but not, if Scots get their way, from the European Union – is on the table and I determined during my summer holiday to try to understand why. I took historian Lynda Colley’s magisterial work, ‘Britons: Forging the Nation 1707 – 1837’, with me to the sun-drenched beaches of Sardinia. It was a fascinating read.

Colley reminds us that Britain was only created in 1707 following the Act of Union between England, Wales and Scotland and therefore – I for one had overlooked the obvious fact – the British nation is just a few decades older than the young country the other side of the Atlantic which forged its own Brexit  (Amexit?) and independence in 1776.

Historically British identity is a modern concept, superimposed on the older but enduring identities of Englishness, Scottishness and Welshness and other regionalisms. union-jackColley traces how this new overarching identity gained so much pull and power amongst ordinary people as well as social elites in the 130 years leading up to the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, and – my particular interest – gives explanation why the collective identity seems now to be unravelling.

Colley cites three reasons why British identity prospered:

Her second reason is mutual hostility across the English Channel. Colley point out that Britain and France were at war six times during this period culminating in Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815 – and “these were only the most violent expressions of a much longer and multi-layered rivalry”. The external threat from France united the peoples of the British Isles such that, most visibly, Scottish, Welsh and English regiments fought closely together in the decisive Waterloo victory over the French that brought extended peace to Europe after twenty bloody years of war.

british_empire_1921Colley’s third reason is the expansion of Britain’s global empire and the opportunity this gave people from different ethnic and social backgrounds to fight, trade with, govern and otherwise benefit from Britain’s increasingly valuable colonial possessions. They had a real interest in accessing Britain’s subjects and captive markets world-wide rather than limiting their livelihoods to these islands. Fame and fortune lay abroad.

However Colley’s first reason is the big surprise. Our secular age is blind about religion so her thesis is unexpected: Protestantism, she argues, was the unifying and distinguishing bond.

linda-colley“More than anything else,” she writes, “it was this shared religious allegiance combined with recurrent wars that permitted a sense of British national identity to emerge alongside of, and not necessarily in competition with, older more organic attachments to England, Wales or Scotland, or to county or village. Protestantism was the dominant component of British religious life. Protestantism coloured the way that Britons approached and interpreted their material life. Protestantism determined how most Britons viewed their politics. And uncompromising Protestantism was the foundation on which their state was explicitly and unapologetically based.” (p18)

So why have we ignored the impact of the Protestant faith on 18th century society, and its subsequent role in creating 19th century Victorian Britain? “The absolute centrality of Protestantism… is so obvious that it has proved easy (for historians) to pass over,” Colley argues. Personally, I reckon in secular UK it is opinion-formers’ and academics’ anti-Christian bias that has led to this omission; although Colley is British-born and educated, she lives, publishes and is a professor of history in the more church-going United States.

john_wesley_by_william_hamiltonIt is regretable too that Colley herself passes over the impact of Protestant preacher and one of my all-time heroes, John Wesley, plus his fellow founders of Methodism. In the half century from 1738 when Wesley first preached the Christian gospel outdoors to crowds of unwashed ragged miners at Kingswood, Bristol, “their tears making white channels down their grimy faces”, to 1791 when he died as “the most loved man in the country”, Wesley travelled 290,000 miles mainly on horseback (equivalent to circumnavigating the globe 12 times), preached 15 sermons a week sometimes despite violent opposition, and created Methodist churches up and down the land from, primarily, working and lower-middle class converts.

Wesley and his evangelical colleagues were also social reformers. Methodism promoted education and health-care amongst the poor as well as ‘manners and morals’ and a commitment to wider society. The Protestant faith brought prosperity and patriotism: “Get all you can, save all you can, give all you can,” preached Wesley, and the changes in behaviour led to widespread uplift and social improvement that benefitted the nation as well as the individual.

(c) Ferens Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Perhaps as a concession to our religious illiteracy Colley notes only the public impact of the change, not the spiritual source. “In the early and mid-eighteenth century it had been possible for high-ranking politicians like Viscount Bolingbroke or Robert Walpole to flaunt the fact that they were keeping mistresses and to be blithely unconcerned about newspapers and cartoons publishing it. But by 1800 the fashion amongst politicians… was for ostentatious uxoriousness… (and they) wallowed in domesticity. Public men acknowledged the vital importance of practicing regular church-going and conventional sexual morality.” (p189)

If Colley’s three-point thesis is right, and Protestantism amongst all social classes, armed enmity across the Channel and the widespread fruits of global Imperialism were the main contributors to British identity, it is not difficult to see why this identity has declined. Public religion, Anglo-French hostility and the British Empire have all virtually disappeared, and local identities have begun to dominate again. So Scotland may yet go independent.

But eighteenth-century Englishmen did not all want the 1707 Union anyway, according to Colley. “(M)any regarded the Scots as poor and pushy relations, unwilling to pay their full share of taxation, yet constantly demanding access to English resources…” (p13)

Hmm… Plus ça change.

C’mon Nigel, It’s Your Churchill Moment

We’ve been here before of course. The UK is facing an existential threat from a corrupt unelected assertive Imperium from across the Channel chamberlainand we have been landed with an appeasing invertebrate weasel occupying the prime minister’s residence in Downing Street.

The huge difference this time is that, in a magisterial act of betrayal that could only be perpetrated by a certain type of Philby-esque former public school boy, the occupant of 10 Downing Street and his establishment friends are the ones who are training their guns on us.

Night after night the Biased Broadcasting Corporation bombards us with pro-EU and Remain stories and highlights the latest salvo orchestrated and fired by prime minister’s heavy weaponry:career children elite figures from the military, the scientific community, the arts and media, academia and FTSE 100 companies are obediently paraded across BBC airwaves to trot out Pavlov platitudes about the supposed benefits of remaining in the EU.

Next door in No 11 the Chancellor of the Exchequer moves the beads around on his abacus and expects us to believe his forecast that each household will be £4,300 worse off if we leave the EU. Really, George? abacusIs this one similar to your previous economic forecasts? So why not £14,300? Or £144,300?

And together these two architects of austerity Britain lavish £9m of our money on a glossy pro-EU propaganda publication that is dumped unsolicited on every home.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,” someone nasty said once. That’s certainly the hope of the Quisling boys in Downing Street.

Then last week weasel turned poodle; the prime minster hosted the president of the United States at Downing Street and asked him to do battle on behalf of the Remain campaign. poodle-groomingCameron stood smilingly obsequious beside the presidential podium while his friend Barak Obama instructed us with threats to surrender our sovereignty to Brussels and to become a sort of Michigan in a United States of Europe.

Followed by similar stuff from Hillary Clinton, there is no doubt this was a US Exorcet that hammered at the heart of the Leave campaign, and it hurt. An acquaintance tweeted that he has never harboured a scintilla of anti-US feeling in his life, until now. I was reminded of the Duke of Wellington’s comment at the height of the Battle of Waterloo; “Hard pounding this, gentlemen,” he exclaimed as Napoleon’s cannon ripped into the British troops.

Many Leave troops are struggling from the onslaught of Cameron’s guest and the official Vote Leave leadership seem to have been battered into silence or, like London mayor Boris Johnson, into squawking impotence. Although some believe Obama’s intervention in UK domestic affairs will boomerang back on the Remain campaign, the president was strong in challenging Leave arguments – and also in making clear that the ‘special relationship’ between the US and UK is a dead letter and not worth the paper it was never written on. True friends don’t publicly threaten each other.

But we Leavers have two key factors in our favour:

First, timing is everything and Cameron may have fired his heaviest guns too early. There are still two months to go until Referendum Day and a week is a long time in politics.

Second, there are not many people who single-handedly have changed the national agenda and turned political tides, but Nigel Farage is one.

nigel_farageWith focus, courage and a thick skin, for twenty years Nigel has toured the country promoting the benefits of leaving the EU. Dismissed by many including Cameron as a fruit cake, nutter and worse, he has sung his song and made the strong case for Brexit. Slowly the tide has turned in his favour until the prime minister, who a few years ago instructed the Tory Party to “stop banging on about Europe”, has been forced to hold a referendum and to bang on about Europe almost full-time.

Now, post-Obama, we must urge Nigel to step up to the plate and raise his game even further. He must take the lead to raise morale amongst Leave grassroots campaigners, to constrain the squabbling Leave factions,winston_churchill with cigar to re-frame the Brexit arguments, to set a fresh campaign direction, and to hold aloft the vision of a sovereign independent Britain that together we can achieve once again.

No one else can do it.

Nigel, it’s your Churchill moment to Speak for England and save the nation.

We’re right there with you.

Courage In A Bleak Mid-Winter

I’ve just returned from another visit to Jos at the north end of Plateau State in middle-belt Nigeria. Nigeria_map_JosHere, despite the proliferating Christmas decorations in homes and churches, peace on earth and goodwill between communities continues to be in short supply and, across northern Nigeria, the church is facing an existential threat from the violence and intimidation of Islam in its various forms.

I travelled in the company of Baroness Caroline Cox and members of the team from her Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) charity for the first time. The Baroness is seventy-seven but her drive, energy and zeal for travelling to help oppressed people in remote and dangerous locations show she clearly considers herself thirty years younger.

Zambiri2In Jos we met with Ben and Gloria Kwashi, the Anglican Archbishop and his wife – an essential engagement in a Christian visitor’s itinerary as it is never less than inspirational. We visited Gloria’s school for 400 orphans where, for a third of the children, the lunchtime bowl of mixed rice and beans with added nutrients is the only meal of the day. Education of these precious orphans is taken seriously by Gloria and her dedicated staff of seven, not only as a Christian imperative but also as a vital route out of poverty.

We had dinner too in the archiepiscopal home and joined in night-time prayers with the fifty five orphans who Gloria also has rescued to live with them.

archbiship_ben_kwashi_and_his_wife_gloria“Good night children,” said Archbishop Ben after leading the prayers. The fatherly but diminutive spiritual colossus stood in front of the youngsters holding the rudimentary archbishop’s staff they had made for him from branches of a nearby tree in one hand, while blessing them with the other.

“Good night Daddy Kwashi, goodnight Mummy Kwashi,” they chimed in unison. The orphans have nothing, but, surrounded by the warm and disciplined Christian love of the Kwashis, they have everything. It was difficult to join in the prayers thanks to the lump in my throat.

I’ve blogged before about the inter-communal violence generated by Fulani Muslim herdsmen migrating from the Sharia states in the north onto Plateau land belonging to Berom Christian villagers. Ostensibly the Fulani are searching for grazing pasture for their cattle although their motive seems also to do with Islamic expansionism.

ShoVillage2On the fourth day of our visit and protected in convoy by two police armoured cars bristling with guns, we were taken to a distressing recent example of the phenomenon. The farmland belonging to and surrounding the Berom village of Sho in Barkin Ladi local government area, some 30 minutes’ drive outside Jos, has been occupied by force by Fulani herdsmen. Since September 2013 twenty-four of the Berom villagers have been massacred, ten of them on 7th July of this year. As a consequence they live in terror, unable to enter or exit their village or cross their own adjoining occupied farmland except under armed military escort. Their school and church have been destroyed.

We met the head man and villagers in the village square and heard their stories. They were grateful that outsiders – perhaps especially foreign ones – were being made aware of their plight. Fear and distress was in their eyes as they explained they are isolated, grieving and desperate, living in poverty without access to their farmland food source.

It wasn’t clear why the authorities have not attempted to rectify the situation except that justice is in short supply in northern Nigeria. And it wasn’t clear either how we as outsiders could help except by publicising their predicament. I left Sho with a heavy heart.

Mark_LipdoI also visited an IDP (internally displaced persons) camp run in dilapidated school buildings in Bukuru south of Jos by the under-funded but resourceful Stefanos Foundation and it’s energetic CEO, Mark Lipdo. Primarily the camp comprised Christians from the Gwoza area of Borno State in the north east of Nigeria, close to the Cameroon border.

Until the second half of the last century, Gwoza was peopled by primitive and frequently warring tribes. Then, after the Second World War, the colonial authorities allowed British and other missionaries into the area. These were doctors, nurses and teachers as well as evangelists, and they built health clinics, schools and in due course churches. The first indigenous convert, Inshaya Hutuku, became a Christian in the early 50s (he is still alive today) and the early trickle of converts grew to a steady stream. By 2013 there were over 200 churches in the thriving Gwoza council area.

But twelve months later, by the middle of 2014, there were almost none.

Boko Haram, who last year killed more people than ISIS and who this year pledged allegiance their brutal Iraq/Syria counterparts, moved into the area in April 2014, killing, kidnapping, burning and destroying churches and homes. On 2 June last year the militants perpetrated the infamous Gwoza massacre wherein up to 500 males were slaughtered. Then on 24 August Boko Haram declared Gwoza town the headquarters of their Islamic Caliphate. An acquaintance of mine, an elderly Nigerian minister, narrowly escaped death by scrambling up into the hills and hospitalising himself in the process through a heavy fall. His home was burnt out.

IDP2Many escaped the slaughter in Gwoza with only the clothes they stood in. Over 450 are now living in the IDP camp I visited, surviving on church generosity and handouts organised by Stefanos. The conditions are pitiful, the drafty rooms are cold during the December nights, most of the refugees are desperate to return home to Gwoza as soon as possible and there is limited cause for optimism for them. While the military under the new Federal ‘hard man’ President Muhammadu Buhari, together with increasingly effective civilian vigilante self-defence groups, are gaining some push-back against the militants across Borno State and elsewhere, there is little prospect that families can return to and rebuild their lives back in Gwoza itself in the near future.

Ben and Gloria Kwashi and Mark Lipdo – like many other Christians in northern Nigeria – are faithful, courageous, visionary and inspirational. They spread hope, joy and generosity in the darkest of places, and it is certainly appropriate to highlight and celebrate their endeavours at Christmas time when we remember the true Light who came into the world.

But the tide is flowing strongly against them. Through violence, persecution and discrimination, over the centuries and especially over the past decade Islam has chased Christianity out of the heartlands of the Middle East as well as across North Africa. The signs are that the same is happening in northern Nigeria.

So despite the joy of Christmas, rising militant Islam means it’s a bleak mid-winter for many believers there and indeed around the world.

If you are moved to help them, you can donate via HART. Your money will be well spent.

Mega-Mosque: The End

I was waiting on Dagenham East station one Saturday recently when out of the blue I received a call from Andrew Gilligan of the Sunday Telegraph.DagenhamEast

I had been door-knocking with Peter Harris, the excellent UKIP candidate for Dagenham & Rainham at the general election last May and for the London Assembly in the GLA election in May next year. He had discovered that Barking & Dagenham council were trying quietly to foist a mosque onto greenbelt land in the predominantly White English neighbourhood of Eastbrook, so we had been assessing local opinion with a door-to-door survey.

But Gilligan had good news for me about a different and much bigger mosque, the proposed London mega-mosque at West Ham in Newham close to the 2012 Olympic stadium. Mega-mosqueOriginally this mosque had a futuristic design and a proposed capacity of between 45,000 and 70,000 which would have made it one of the biggest in the world. In the face of our vociferous opposition the mosque capacity was downsized but the mosque architect still claimed the building would be the size of Battersea Power Station with a capacity three times that of St Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve been campaigning against it for nearly a decade.

At first on my own but in due course backed by a superb small team, I had spent months studying, analysing and understanding Tablighi Jamaat – the fundamentalist and isolationist group behind the project. As our opposition campaign took off I encountered vicious verbal hostility and a death threat, and had a website set up against me personally; our combative team produced the MegaMosqueNoThanks campaign website, video channel and Facebook page and participated in two huge Public Inquiries; we delivered at least one campaign leaflet to each of the 97,000 homes of Newham’s 300,000 residents, and four or five leaflets to each home in the West Ham neighbourhood;  2000px-Seal_of_the_Ronald_Reagan_Presidential_Library.svgI was flattered to receive a ‘Hero of Conscience’ award for our efforts at a glittering American Freedom Association event in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California; I undertook public debates in Newham and at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, and engaged in informal discussions in cafes and on the street with mosque supporters many of whom live near my home in Muslim-majority Forest Gate; and I was interviewed by journalists and on TV and radio from around the world as well as in our national media.

crossculturalHandshakeIt has been an extraordinary journey during which I have come to like and respect the overwhelming majority of Muslim people I have engaged with, but also to loathe the dark fundamentalist Islam that is rising across the world from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East to the UK and Europe, from Pakistan in South Asia to Nigeria in West Africa. And recently in Paris too.

But the journey was coming to an end. “The mega-mosque isn’t going to happen,” Gilligan told me. “Reliable sources say that the DCLG (the Department of Communities and Local Government) will announce soon that the trustees’ appeals have failed. The mega-mosque isn’t going to be built. My exclusive on this will be in tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph,” he continued, “and I need a quote from you.”

My joy was great and relief was deep.  I could hardly believe my ears. Gilligan swore me to silence until his exclusive was published the following day, but that didn’t matter. This massive platform for promoting fundamentalist Islam globally which also would have had a disastrous effect on social integration locally, was over, sunk, dead. My colleagues and I could relax, be grateful and celebrate. Our job was done.

Gilligan’s story was published and four days later the formal decision of the Secretary of State at the DCLG, Greg Clark, was published too. To our amazement he took a firmer line against the mosque project than the Planning Inspector recommended;Bulldozer not only is the mega-mosque not to be built, but within three months the mosque trustees must cease using the site and must demolish the 2,000-capacity wood-frame buildings they are using there as a temporary mosque.

Technically the trustees still have the right to challenge the Government decision. However, due to new and tighter regulations that came into force just two days before the decision was announced – the Government was astute in its timing – they have first to apply to the High Court for permission to make the challenge before submitting the challenge itself, and they have to do so by 9th December. Also the challenge can be only on technical points of law and not about the decision itself. This is a huge mountain to climb for the trustees and if they have any sense they will not waste their time and money.

Meanwhile I now find myself involved with UKIP in the much smaller mosque project close to Dagenham East station where I took the call from Andrew Gilligan. Here, as in Newham, the authorities have been secretive and ignored local opinion until we forced the issue into the open: Peter Harris contacted and briefed the Dagenham media; we undertook a door-to-door survey where we found 93% of locals were against the mosque for reasons ranging from “too much traffic already” and “save our greenbelt” to “no Muslims live here so no need for a mosque”; Eastbrookmeetingand ten days ago we held a residents’ meeting in a pub and invited UKIP heavyweights Peter Whittle – our London mayoral candidate – and Roger Gravett. The pub was packed. You can read about it here and here.

Inevitably, as in Newham, Labour’s borough leadership in Barking & Dagenham has been incensed by our actions.

So deja vue. Here we go again…

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.

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.

Nigeria: ‘The Time Is Now!’

I was back in Nigeria again last month for the second Stefanos Foundation conference for  minorities sponsored by Gatestone Institute, which I helped to put together. Media interest was even greater than for the January conference (here) and I found myself again calling on the British government to rectify colonial wrongs on NTA (Nigeria Television Authority) and AIT (Africa Independent Television) news programmes as well as elsewhere (here). 

boko_haram_logoMy report on the conference was published last week by Gatestone (here  and below):

The security situation across northern Nigeria is unstable-to-terrible. Islamists Boko Haram have threatened to eradicate Christianity through a campaign of violence against Christians and churches (here) and have killed 2,000 people including moderate Muslims in four years (here).

Further, the next Federal elections are planned for just twelve months’ time; during the last ballot in 2011 the re-election of Christian presidential candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, resulted in the death of 800 Christians and other minorities and the destruction of up to 300 churches at the hand of rioting Muslim protestors in the twelve northern Sharia states (here). 

Nonetheless, Dr. Bala Takaya, vice-president of Nigeria’s Middle Belt Forum, former head of the Department of Political Science at Jos University and alumni of the London School of Economics, is hopeful. Speaking to the media outside the second Stefanos Foundation conference for the country’s northern ethnic minorities – an initiative of Gatestone Institute held in Abuja recently – he claimed that the northern minorities are becoming stronger and more united. “We have come of age,” he said.

Bala-TakayaInside, he had reminded the gathering how for a hundred years the minorities in Muslim-majority northern Nigeria had been oppressed and held back both by the Fulani Islamic elite and, until independence in 1960, by the British colonial masters.  But now better education, increasing consciousness and hard-won political experience has resulted in the grass-roots growth of a “Middle Belt” identity separate from the dominant Fulani-Hausa Muslim culture. “The yoke is broken. The shackles are being thrown off. The time is now,” he told delegates.

In line with the governance structure imposed by colonial administrators, Nigeria – at 170 million, Africa’s most populated country — is frequently recognized as two separate regions with a common border and a joint Federal government: and the larger but more dispersed mainly-Muslim North, and the geographically smaller but more intensely populated Christian-majority South.

Ethnically the North is dominated by Hausa tribal language and culture, while the South is identified with the main Yoruba and Igbo tribes.

But these political and ethnic monoliths betray an on-the-ground diversity that is politically inconvenient and therefore regularly ignored. It has been calculated that there are over 800 different tribal and linguistic groups across the country. A recent book by the journalist Rima Shawulu Kwewum, for instance, calculates that Bauchi — the seventh largest of Nigeria’s 37 states – has ninety ethnic groups and nationalities, while Adamawa and Taraba States have over a hundred. For many Nigerians the local tribe is a prime source of identity.

Nigerian Sharia MapNowhere is tribal attachment stronger than in the polyglot southern areas of Northern Nigeria – the “Middle Belt” of the country which was first tentatively claimed as a separate collective entity as long ago as the 1930s. Comprising mainly Christian and Traditional African (British administrators called them “Pagan”) tribes, ‘Middle Belters’ – who are found indigenous in even the most northerly Sharia states of Borno, Yobe and Kebbi – have increasingly asserted their ethnic distinctives, and rejected northern Fulani/Hausa hegemony with its second class dhimmi status for non-Muslims.

“(We have) historically found solidarity and expression in feelings of alienation and deprivation based on (our) crude and systematic subordination, oppression, suppression and exploitation,” explained a Middle Belt Forum leaflet some years ago. MBF counters the oppression today by “promoting freedom…, respect for human rights, human dignity and the sanctity of human lives” (here).

But ethnic diversity can be a weakness: tribes frequently have a history of local disagreement and even fighting among them. Unity may be strength but cooperation is not necessarily easy.

This is why, according to many delegates, the Gatestone-Stefanos conferences have been important, unique and timely. The events are the first grass-roots initiative for local people rather than state politicians, although some key public figures have attended too. The aim is to find common interest and facilitate local collaboration between minority groups in fifteen of the nineteen northern states. The emphasis is on training: appointing local co-ordinators, drawing up action plans, planning networking opportunities and setting time-lines.

Despite the tension, the conferences have been calm and focused. During a priority-setting session, “equal opportunity for all tribes and groups,” “job creation,” “better education,” and “recognition of excellence” were rated significantly higher than “defeat of Boko Haram,” perhaps because that is seen primarily as the job of the military.

Although the events were about asserting minorities’ human rights in the Muslim north, the mood was conciliatory; the organizers anticipate that some marginalized Muslim tribes will join the initiative too in due course. National unity and “One Nigeria” were, informally, the conference strapline; peace-making and nation-building at the local level were the task in hand.

“Middle Belt is in the middle of the country,” said Dr. Takaya. “We are the glue that holds north and south Nigeria together.”

Our Children: Putin or Tatchell?

HenryJacksonSocietyThe Henry Jackson Society (here) is an admirable Atlanticist think tank based in London that among other things gives home to the redoubtable Douglas Murray (here). But yesterday, for a robust and independently-minded organisation, HJS got it badly wrong.

Their bias was on the tin. They held a meeting in Parliament called ‘LGBT Rights In Russia, Sochi 2014 and Beyond’. The only speaker was Peter Tatchell and the event was chaired by sponsoring gay MP Chris Bryant.

What I see in the mirror: Peter TatchellThe director of HJS’s Russia Studies Centre, Andrew Foxall, tried to persuade us that the event was also about corruption and security issues at Sochi 2014, Russia’s current Winter Olympic Games, but Peter Tatchell put paid to that; “LGBT rights is our main focus” he stated firmly at the beginning.

There is nothing wrong with discussing the issue of course. Russia’s abuse of human rights is a matter of real concern. But there was no discussion. The audience were allowed only to listen and ask questions. It was a one-way platform for the promotion of international gay rights under the guise of attacking the fairly easy target of Vladimir Putin and his regime – with the added bonus of Bryant and Tatchell recounting juicy stories about their own experiences as gay men in Russia. The former apparently had to wait 20 minutes at the reception desk of the Moscow Marriot hotel while he patiently explained that, yes, he planned to share both his room and his bed with his male partner.

PutinInterestingly the MP also objected strongly if briefly to the “obscene” amounts of money that have been spent on Sochi 2014, with no reference at all to the many billions spent just down the road at London 2012. It’s not difficult to see why Putin is gaining global traction with his claims about ‘Western hypocrisy’.

The rest of the world listens to the Russian President but, despite him being named The Times’ International Person of the Year last year (here) partly for his brilliant out-manoeuvring of Obama and Cameron in order to stop their military adventurism in Syria, we don’t. So when Putin claims that his prime concerns are the protection of children and Russia’s traditional family structure (here), we are so deafened by the West’s gay rights discourse that we cannot or will not hear.

But he does have a point and ironically, as a prime anti-Putin protagonist, Tatchell’s sexual ideology also makes Putin’s point for him. It is foully anti-children and, as I told the HJS meeting, the ideology renders Tatchell utterly disqualified from addressing the issue:

wolf in sheeps clothingFrom the 80’s when Tatchell was part of a team of contributors to a depraved pro-paedophilia book Beyond Youth edited by former vice chair of the Paedophile Information Exchange (here) Warren Middleton  (Tatchell wrote a chapter about reducing the age of sexual consent), to the views on his website today that school children should be taught anal sex and sadomasochism (here), he has demonstrated that Putin is right. Our children do indeed need protecting from this sort of sexual propaganda.

The HJS meeting was set up to promote Tatchell’s LGBT line and my interventions – “What about children?” I asked loudly a number of times – were not welcomed by the chair. I was faced with being ejected or leaving. I chose the latter.

Before I did so I distributed my contact details and a flyer with the following text:

Fathers Against Child Sexualisation 

Putin is a fascist brute but maybe he also wants to protect his children from this Tatchell-promoted sexualisation:

1. Tatchell advocates teaching anal sex and sadomasochism to school children:

“Sex education has an obligation to give all the facts and tell the whole truth about every kind of sex and relationship. This includes… anal intercourse and sadomasochism… Nothing must be off limits.” (www.petertatchell.net/sex_education/schoolsex.htm)

2. Tatchell bewails robust punishment of pederasts:

“…any man who has sex with Lee (a 14 year old boy) could face a maximum sentence of 10 years for kissing, touching, sucking or wanking, and life imprisonment for anal sex.” (www.petertatchell.net/lgbt_rights/age_of_consent/14-gay-boyfriend.htm)

3. Tatchell quotes sex abuse of 9-year-olds as “great joy”:

“Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of 9 to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy… It is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.” (The Guardian: 26th June, 1997)

4. Tatchell contributes chapter on reducing age of sexual consent to 1980’s paedophilia book about (inter alia) ‘Incest’, ‘Child Pornography and Erotica’, ‘Child Prostitution’ and ‘How to Make Paedophilia Acceptable’, edited by paedophilia advocate and former vice-chair of Paedophile Information Exchange, Warren Middleton:

“(I)n the realm of sexual ages of consent, we need to ask whether the law has any legitimate role to play in criminalising consenting, victimless sexual activity.” (The Betrayal of Youth, p 118)

So who offers the greater threat to our children’s welfare?

It’s a relevant question especially if you’re a parent. Putin or Tatchell: whose views do offer the greater threat to your children’s wellbeing?

Northern Nigeria: Listening And Learning

gatestone logoI helped put together a conference for indigenous and ethnic minorities in Jos, northern Nigeria, earlier this month. Gatestone Institute, who generously sponsored the event, today published a report I wrote (here and below).

The British Government‘s Responsibility for the Crisis in Northern Nigeria 

It is a truth not universally acknowledged in Western politically-correct circles that Christianity has become the most persecuted religion in the world and that most of the oppression comes from the hands of Islam and in Muslim-majority areas (here).

Nowhere is this more true than in northern Nigeria where, in 2012, 70% of all Christians murdered worldwide were slain (here). Not only death but discrimination, too, is rife across the country’s twelve northern Sharia states in which Christians and other minorities live with second-class dhimmi status, and with inferior rights to jobs, justice and worship.

stefanos foundation logoMuch of this inequity is Britain’s responsibility according to the keynote speaker at a recent human rights conference, a program of Gatestone Institute and organized by the Nigerian aid and advocacy charity Stefanos Foundation (here). 150 delegates from many minority groups met in Jos, a city on the fault-line between the mainly Christian south and the majority Muslim north, where, in September 2001, over a thousand people were reported killed in ethno-religious clashes (here). These clashes were followed by further major riots and fatalities in 2008 and 2010, and suicide-bomb attacks on Jos churches in February (here) and March 2012 (here).

The speaker was Dr. Yusufu Taraki, a mild-mannered academic who, given the keynote platform, talked with passion on the issues in which he has specialized. With a PhD in Social Ethics from Boston University, Massachusetts, and currently Professor of Theology and Social Ethics at Jos ECWA Theological Seminary (JETS), he was given a warm reception as he delivered his speech about the place of ethnic minority groups in northern Nigeria.

Nigeria was a British colony until 1960 during which time, he argued, “the British colonial masters took our land and handed it over to Muslim rulers… They gave us [non-Muslim groups] an inferior social/political role in the colonial hierarchical system in northern Nigeria, and that is exactly where we are right now.”

When first published in his book The British Colonial Legacy In Northern Nigeria (here), this thesis earned Professor Turaki a British government ban from entering the UK.

Professor YusufuTurakiTruth hurts even hardened British authorities, but Professor Turaki was bold enough in his speech to spread around the honors: “The worst kind of slavery in Africa was conducted by Arabs and Muslims,” he said touching on another specialist subject. “The majority of African slaves went to the Middle East and Arab countries… not to the Caribbean, the US and Latin America.” He advised the audience, for further information, to look into his book, Tainted Legacy: Islam, Colonialism and Slavery in Northern Nigeria (here).

Later, privately, he pointed out that, once British troops had conquered the northern Muslim forces of the Sokoto Caliphate and Kanem-Bornu Sultanate in 1902/3 with the laudable objective of terminating their slave trade, the colonial administration and the defeated Fulani Muslim elite found they had much in common. They both had top-down authoritarian views of governance and an ordered elitist view of the world; they saw the many different non-Muslim groups (NMGs) across the north as pagan, uncivilized and inferior. “Read the memoir But Always As Friends by Sir Bryan Sharwood Smith, the last British governor of Northern Nigeria (here), to understand the British colonial outlook,” Dr. Turaki said.

Ahmadu BelloA corresponding Nigerian autobiography, My Life by Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna (traditional leader) of Sokoto and first Premier of the Northern Region after Independence (here), also tellingly shows the Sardauna playing English cricket and Eton Fives. The English and Muslim Nigerian upper classes became close.

Working with Fulani and Hausa Muslim elite, the colonialists instituted a system of Indirect Rule which was cheap and effective. A limited number of British administrators were placed at the top of the power structure; the educated Muslim elite were next; other Muslim groups were below them; and everyone else was at the bottom. Frequently the British would foist, say, a Fulani Muslim chief on a non-Muslim village or district thereby disempowering the locals and creating an alienated hostile underclass.

Nigerian Colonial StampIronically, during colonial rule many of the pagan tribes converted to Christianity and caused tension between British colonial authorities and British missionaries on the ground. The indigenous new Christians, actively supported by the missionaries, enjoyed “redemption lift” (here) and began to assert a moral vitality, ethnic identity and spiritual independence that sometimes challenged the cozy Anglo-Islamic status quo.

But Nigerian Independence in 1960 saw the British depart, leaving behind unamended the unjust governing structure and unfettered Muslim hegemony across the north, which Professor Turaki describes as “internal colonialism.” This was the seedbed of the crisis we see today.

Libya and – until thwarted by Parliament – Syria have amply demonstrated British Prime Minister David Cameron’s liberal interventionism and his desire to reassert British power on the international stage. And, when it comes to issues such as gay rights, he has Commonwealth and former colonial countries specifically in his sights. To the fury of African leaders who want to protect their traditional values and cultures, he insists they must dance to his liberal gay agenda or risk losing overseas aid (here).

But Mr Cameron might do well to replace colonial arrogance with Christian humility; and he could, and should, acknowledge some British responsibility for the Nigerian crisis.

The Gatestone-Stefanos conference gave unique voice to minorities who, after half a century, continue to be marginalized across the north. Among other projects to rectify residual colonial injustice, the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and the British High Commission in Nigeria should consider giving strong moral and financial support to this exceptional grassroots initiative.

What’s The Difference?

Pakistani fundamentalists are at it again. Jamaat ud Dawa demoTheir favourite sport is threatening and menacing the vulnerable minority Christians, sometimes to the point of summarily executing them in cold blood (here).

This time it’s a young man in Lahore, Adnan Masih, who, while bored at work last month, wrote amendments in a book about the Bible and the Quran (here). His Muslim workmate shopped him to the police for defiling the Quran and defaming Islam’s prophet under Pakistan’ notorious blasphemy laws. He also informed the banned extremist group, Jamaat ud Dawah.

Rightly fearing for his life Masih went into hiding. Soon a bearded JuD mob was gathering outside the local police station. “The police had better arrest the blasphemer and hand him over to us,” demanded the group’s spokesman Hafiz Abdul Malik. “How dare someone use derogatory language about our beloved Prophet?” The protestors met every day to clamour for Masih’s arrest.

Last week hardline UK gay activists were at it too.

Valery Gergiev is a leading Russian conductor, musical reformer (here) and friend of Vladimir Putin. In London to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra for a series of works by Berlioz, the musician was compelled to issue a statement about his attitude to gay issues: “I do not discriminate against anyone, gay or otherwise, and never have done…

“It is wrong to suggest that I have ever supported anti-gay legislation and in all my work I have upheld equal rights for all people. I am an artist and have for over three decades worked with tens of thousands of people in dozens of countries from all walks of life and many of them are indeed my friends.

“I collaborate with and support all my colleagues in the endeavour for music and art. This is my focus as a conductor, musician (and) artist…”  (here).

Tatchell demoThis of course is not good enough for UK gay activists who brook no compromise, take no prisoners and delight in humiliating anyone who, they judge, doesn’t submit to their gay demands. Last Thursday Peter Tatchell and friends protested loudly outside the Barbican concert hall in order to hound and harass Gergiev. “He’s a friend of Putin,” thundered Tatchell. “He must suffer public condemnation. He must face the music.” (here).

So, spot the difference between the Lahore police station last month and the Barbican concert hall last week. The bullying and venom is the same. The nauseating hardline intolerance is the same. The claim to be judge and jury and the refusal to give any credence to the selected defendant is the same.

And, while it is true that the protestors didn’t threaten death at the media-driven event outside the Barbican, away from the spotlight gay activists in the UK are as up for criminal violence as any turbaned Muslim militant, as both the gentle unassuming B&B owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull (here) and our reasonable reasoned GayMarriageNoThanks campaign (here) have discovered to our cost.Jamaatuddawa-banner

gay-flagBullying and barbarism are not the sole prerogative of Islamic fundamentalists.