Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

His name is an anagram of KOOK DO CASH TRIPE. How fitting.

Further to my piece on the Barnabas Fund's anti-Islamic campaigning, there was a good recent article in the Guardian on the pernicious influence of religious fundamentalists like Sookhdeo and racist ideologues like Robert Spencer on UK government and police anti-Muslim policies as well as anti-Muslim bias in the media.

Well, like the proverbial bad penny, Sookhdeo popped up yesterday with a response published in the Republican Examiner and elsewhere. In it, he helpfully links to this even better analysis in the Guardian of the hate-filled demagoguery that he and his clones pump out, and their response to criticism of it. Unsurprisingly, his present response is an ad hominem attack on Mehdi Hasan, avoiding discussion of issues at all costs. On Youtube, Mehdi Hasan "appears to refer to non-Muslims and atheists in very derogatory terms". But in case anyone shioukld follow the links and actually watch the videos, Sookhdeo covers his ass: "Admittedly, the context of these comments is unclear".

Sookhdeo accuses the Guardian of being "little concerned with human rights and freedom of conscience when it comes to Christians far away in non-Western contexts", citing as an example the death sentence for apostasy dished out by the Iranian authorities to Youcef Nadarkhani. Maybe it's just me, but I felt that argument was weakened just a tad when five seconds on Google not only showed that the Guardian had published a piece back in September strongly condemning Nadarkhani's sentence, but that the piece in question was written by Mehdi Hasan. Reading Hasan's article confirmed what I already understood, which is that Sookhdeo is telling outright lies regarding the treatment of apostasy in Islam. He tells us: "...all schools of Islamic law prescribe the death penalty for an adult male Muslim who chooses to leave his faith". Really? In Hasan's article we see:

There is a misguided assumption among many Muslims that such an abhorrent punishment is divinely mandated. It isn't. Classical Muslim jurists wrongly conflated apostasy with treason. The historical fact is that the prophet Muhammad never had anyone executed for apostasy alone. In one well-documented case, when a Bedouin man disowned his decision to convert to Islam and left the city of Medina, the prophet took no action against him, remarking only that, "Medina is like a pair of bellows: it expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good".

Nor does the Qur'an say that a Muslim who apostasises be given any penalty. Freedom of religion is guaranteed by Islam's holy book in the famous verse: "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256). Apostasy is deemed a sin, but the Qur'an repeatedly refers to punishment in the next world, not this one. Take the 137th verse of chapter 4: "Those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, God will never forgive them nor guide them to the Way" (4:137). This verse, which explicitly allows for disbelief, followed by belief, followed once again by disbelief, suggests any punishment is for God to deliver – not judges in Iran, Saudi Arabia or anywhere else.

Interestingly, the judgment in the Nadarkhani case is based not on Qur'anic verses but the fatwas of various ayatollahs. Fatwas, however, differ. For example, the late Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, a grand ayatollah and one-time heir apparent to Ayatollah Khomeini, argued that the death penalty for apostasy was originally prescribed to punish only political conspiracies against the nascent Islamic community; Montazeri believed Muslims today should be free to convert to another religion.


Again:

Another late Iranian ayatollah, and high-profile ally of Khomeini, Murtaza Muttahari, once wrote of the sheer pointlessness of any and all measures to compel belief upon a Muslim (or ex-Muslim!), arguing that it was impossible to force anyone to hold the level of rationally inspired faith required by the religion of Islam. "It is not possible to spank a child into solving an arithmetical problem," proclaimed Muttahari. "His mind and thought must be left free in order that he may solve it. The Islamic faith is something of this kind."

So Sookhdeo has taken the decisions of some Ayatollahs and tried to spin them as the view of "all schools of Islamic law". While it is understandable that a Christian ex-Muslim might wish to dramatise his own situation (Sookhdeo contra mundum is so much more exciting than Sookhdeo versus a few crazy Iranians, is it not?), especially when he makes his living from persuading the gullible that non-Muslims are in deadly danger from Muslims, it's hardly intellectually honest. Lying about the Guardian's attitude to such persecution for no other reason than that it published an article critical of him: does this show Sookhdeo's "unshakable commitment to liberal Western values"?

A heavily-edited version of Sookhdeo's response appears in the Guardian itself. I assume its editors saw no reason to permit Sookhdeo to use its own pages either to tell lies about its human rights reportage or to traduce its staff.

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P.S.

Given Sookhdeo's dishonest take on the threats to ex-Muslims, I wondered if his path had crossed that of international man of mystery Sam Solomon. Remember that Solomn, whose origins remain shrouded in secrecy, tells us that he spent fifteen years as an Islamic jurist before converting to Christianity and being place under sentence of death: all of which assertions are completely without supporting evidence as Solomon refuses to relate even which country he was broght up in, far less where he practised Islamic law or where he was condemned to death. Google threw up a number of references to the pair together, mostly in the shape of enthusisatic reviews of each other;s work. There was also this interesting comment, though, under an Islamophobic post on an Islamophobic site:

motkhehacohen
March 9, 2009 at 9:20 am

Last July, a discreet meeting was held by a group of influential Anglican evangelicals to co-ordinate a new church approach towards Islam. The meeting was convened by Bryan Knell, head of the missionary organisation Global Connections, and others from a group calling itself Christian Responses to Islam in Britain. The 22 participants, who met at All Nations Christian College in Ware, Hertfordshire, were sworn to secrecy…The meeting had in its sights those ‘aggressive’ Christians who were ‘increasing the level of fear’ in many others by talking about the threat posed by radical Islam.

The aim was thus to discredit and stifle those Christians who warn against the Islamisation of Britain and Islam’s threat to the church. Those who do so include the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, the Africa specialist Baroness Cox, the Islam expert Dr Patrick Sookhdeo and the Maranatha Ministry…

I blogged this here. The story has doing the rounds for a couple of weeks, and it has been promoted because a journalist named Ben White gave Sookhdeo a bad review of his new book, Global Jihad, on the evangelical website Fulcrum. After the review was published, Sookhdeo was then “discredited and stifled” by being given right of reply on the same website. Two supporters of Sookhdeo wrote an essay which was duly published, but they also produced a second version containing extra sections of astonishingly crude attacks on White. Andrew Brown at the Guardian drew attention to the inflammatory version of the counter-review – but Phillips points out that Brown seems “to be driven by hostility to anyone who supported Israel”, so apparently we don’t need to go into that little embarrassment any further. Another, anonymous, article suggested that the bad review was part of a plot hatched at the Global Connections meeting to which Phillips refers, and this piece was distributed by email by Sookhdeo’s Barnabas Fund.

Phillips continues:
White then drew his review to the attention of a blogger, Islamist and Muslim convert called Indigo Jo. On his website, Indigo Jo anathematised Sookhdeo as the ‘Sookhdevil’. This attack was reproduced on various other Islamist websites and Sookhdeo has received a death threat as a result.

The tale is growing: “Indigo Jo” was rather rude about Sookhdeo, and Sookhdeo’s supporters did indeed try to puff this up into some kind of threat, telling us that:
The criticism of Patrick Sookhdeo which appeared on Indigo Jo’s website – and the epithet he coined “Sookhdevil” – have now appeared on a number of other Muslim websites, some of which appear to be radical. One of them calls for Muslims to go and fight in Gaza.

However, there was no death threat mentioned then, and if there has been one since, how come only Phillips has heard about it? And besides, as I pointed out before, Sookhdeo’s hostile views about Islam have been public knowledge for years – Global Jihad is unlikely to add to any extremist threat he may be under. Compared to White’s temperate review, the whine about White putting Sookhdeo at risk was an unworthy and intelligence-insulting attempt to, erm…”discredit and stifle” a critic.
Meanwhile, Sookhdeo has issued a new statement, co-authored with Sam Solomon and a certain Dennis Wrigley:

A number of accusations have been circulating in the media about Sam Soloman, Patrick Sookhdeo and the Maranatha Community, the movement which Dennis Wrigley heads. Some of the accusations apparently have arisen in regard to discussions held at a closed meeting convened last July, which, among other issues, discussed a perceived growth of fear of Islam and Muslims felt among Christians in the UK. Some attributed this fear to aggressive teaching by Christians concerning negative aspects of Islam and advocated promoting an alternative approach.

What does this mean? The only “accusations” that “have been circulating in the media” concerning this affair were the shrill attacks promoted by Sookhdeo’s supporters against White and Global Connections. The statement continues:

The majority of those who attended the meeting advocated maintaining a variety of approaches, which included ones that are openly critical of Islam. We would like to state clearly that we recognize that any individuals that were advocating limiting criticism of Islam were speaking their own opinions and were not following any official policy of CRIB (Christian Responses to Islam in Britain) or of Global Connections.

Whoops! So while Phillips has treated her Spectator readers to news of a conspiracy against Christians who speak out against Islamism, Sookhdeo appears to have backed down from the allegation – albeit it in a rather grudging and indirect way. But the authors soon return to form with a few more shock revelations:

We are living in a context of increasing hostility towards Christians both from secular society and from Islam. A key evangelist was threatened in public by a Muslim with a gun a week ago. A Christian leader who speaks out on Islam in Britain has received death threats. Another who writes widely on Islam had his offices burgled, apparently by Muslim extremists.

These are serious matters, and it’s frustrating that no specific details are provided.

I should add if the July meeting did indeed feature criticisms of Sookhdeo and Solomon that would in fact be quite reasonable. I blogged here about the disgraceful way that Sookhdeo misrepresented a Muslim book he’s been using as evidence of a Islamic conspiracy; Solomon provides alarmist briefings for the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship worthy of Walid Shoebat.


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The comment had no working links but I found the Melanie Phillips piece it refers to here. Usual same-old-same-old the-moooslims-are-coming-and-only-Israel-is-fighting-them MP drivel.

And here are some responses to it.

I haven't read the Stephen Sizer piece that so excites many of the commenters but would point out that offering the opinion that "repatriation of Palestinians to their own territory will be effective in retaking their own country, because, when the Palestinian refugees come to their home, they will form majority of the population and would form a multi-ethnic state including Jews, Muslims and Christians" in no way whatsover "threatens the integrity of Israel as a sovereign state". It threatens its integrity as a theocracy grounded on a theory of racial supremacy, which is not at all the same thing.

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