UKIP Puffing Bilderberg Conspiracy Theories at European Parliament

Staying with WorldNetDaily and economic woes in Greece, we’re told that the meltdowm is evidence of the Bilderbergers’ influence in world affairs, and that this will be acknowledged in a discussion at the EU:

Daniel Estulin, author of the hot-selling book,  “The True Story of the Bilderberg Group,” has even been invited to present an unprecedented speech before the European Parliament in Brussels June 1 on the subject of the secretive cabal…

“Economists cannot explain it without acknowledging the shadow masters working to manipulate economies,” Estulin said. “There is a general awakening taking place in people and the national press. This is no longer the domain of conspiracy theorists. Especially in Europe, we’re seeing enough cracks to have hope that this dam will break and more and more people will demand to know what the Bilderberg Group has been doing.”

…”To these powerful people, national resources are theirs, not everyone’s,” Estulin told WND. “All these people want an empire. They don’t want the people of the world to develop, to prosper, to grow the population. They want us to work for them, where our children and our children’s children work for an elite group, the oligarchy.

“If people participate in the ideas shaping the world, if a nation is allowed to grow its own food, develop its own natural resources, be truly self-governing, it would end the Bilderbergers’ oligarchy,” Estulin said.

A second WND piece, from a few days ago, has further background to the EU invite:

He was invited to speak by Mario Borghezio, Italy’s most senior member of the parliament, considered one of the most powerful legislative bodies in the world.

He compared his address there to an invitation to address a joint session of the U.S. Congress, a rare honor for anyone outside the ranks of the government.

…His work will be part of a presentation titled “Bilderberg Group – Towards Creation of One World Company Ltd.,” which will include the work of Borghezio and British members Nigel Farage and Gerard Batten.

WND is promoting Estulin’s book (published in English by TrineDay, a Eugene-based conspiracy-theory publishing house founded in 2002 by a certain Kris Milligen), and the book’s thesis will be endorsed by Borghezio and his UKIP allies. A dissenting UKIP blogger named “Junius” has some fun with this:

In 1997, Rodney Atkinson published a book entitled ‘Europe’s Full Circle’. A large amount of the book was devoted to the Bilderberg Group. In 2000, the contents of this book were used by Farage as the basis for a series of attacks on Mr Atkinson after the author decided to stand for election as UKIP leader.

Atkinson was accused of being obsessed with conspiracy theories and was rather uncharitably branded a ‘wacko’.

We can only assume that Farage was hoping that UKIPPERS had forgotten about this!

While WND gushes over Borghezio as “Italy’s most senior member of the parliament”, to most people he’s known as a far-right rabble-rouser noted for distasteful publicity stunts for his Northern League party; Searchlight noted a few things about him in 2008 as part of an article on the anti-Islam pro-Köln movement:

He began his political career as a member of the fascist group Ordine Nuovo led by Pino Rauti, who is still under investigation for terrorist activities. He later joined the Northern League, which has been at the forefront of the xenophobic trend since its inception in the 1980s.

…Borghezio made his mark by setting fire to the tents of immigrants in Turin and later fought hard to convince people that immigrants were responsible for the spread of dangerous diseases such as TB.

A French-language news report about him can be seen on YouTube here. Borghezio is also a traditionalist Catholic; the Lega Nord’s unofficial “chaplain” is a former SSPX priest named Floriano Abrahamowicz; Seismic Shock noted last year that:

In late January 2009, British Catholic SSPX priest Richard Williamson [this guy – RBmade headlines due to comments in an interview on Swedish TV playing down the numbers of Holocaust victims (Williamson estimated the real count to be between 200,000-300,000) and denying that the Nazis employed gas chambers to kill Jews.

Some days later, in an interview with Italian newspaper Tribuna de Trevise, Abrahamowicz defended his fellow SSPX member, claiming that the gas chambers were only used by the Nazis for ‘disinfection’, and complaining about the importance given to the Holocaust. The SSPX promptly dismissmed Abrahamowicz, distancing themselves from Holocaust denial.

As for Estulin himself, like a lot of these characters he boasts of all kinds of links to “intelligence sources”, who tip him off on subjects such as 2007 US government plan to bump off Ron Paul. Last year he caused some offence to conspiracy theorists by describing Alex Jones’ followers as “crazies” on Press TV.

I blogged on Bilderberg conspiracy theories here.

UPDATE: See today.

WorldNetDaily and the Muslim Anti-Christ Yet Again

The latest from WorldNetDaily:

The headline is aimed at conservative Christians who bought into the “Revived Roman Empire” theory of apocalypticism in the 1970s and 1980s, which warned that European integration part of Satan’s plan to create a powerbase for the Anti-Christ. The theory was most famously promoted by Hal Lindsey, and although Lindsey has published many columns in WND, he appears to have been quietly dropped a year ago.

WND wants Christians to focus instead on the Islamic world as the locus of Satan’s ultimate designs, and the headline is just the latest in a long line of puffs for Joel Richardson, author of  The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth about the Real Nature of the Beast. Economic woes in Europe provide the hook for the latest outing; Richardson – who is personally congenial and has left a few comments on this blog – himself writes

As the world watches, the European Union seems to be teetering ever closer toward the brink of collapse with its massive debt crisis. Member nations are fighting to prop up the euro and maintain European unity through, you guessed it, a mega-billion dollar bailout. Meanwhile, Greece’s economic failure continues to metastasize across its borders. Numerous headlines across the globe are asking if the EU can survive… Could it be that what the Bible actually teaches is that the Roman Empire would revive, then collapse and then revive again? Not likely.

While such a scenario will surely invite mockery from the new atheists, what is important to remember is that if the EU does collapse, this does not represent a failure on the prophetic accuracy of the Bible, but simply of a particular school of interpretation. Atheists come and go, but the Word of the Lord stands forever, baby.

…Throughout the history of the church, many great Christian leaders have looked not to Europe, but to the Middle East for the emergence of an end-time empire. In fact, going back to the first few centuries of the church, the consistent testimony of the early believers is that the Antichrist, his empire and his religion would arise from out of the Middle East, and not Europe…

…What many Westerners, and perhaps Americans most of all, often fail to recognize is the fact that the Bible is a thoroughly Eastern book. It always has been. As shocking as this may be to some, the Bible was not written primarily for Americans.

When the prophets specify which nations surround Israel to attack her, the wording used in Hebrew is goyim caybib, which translated means “the surrounding nations.” These are Israel’s neighbors; they are not references to Belgium or Luxembourg or Rome.

The lead-in article adds:

Richardson believes the key error of many previous prophecy scholars involves the misinterpretation of a prediction by Daniel to Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel describes the rise and fall of empires of the future, leading to the end times. Western Christians have viewed one of those empires as Rome, when, claims Richardson, Rome never actually conquered Babylon and was thus disqualified as a possibility.

It had to be another empire that rose and fell and rose again that would lead to rule of this “man of sin,” described in the Bible. That empire, he says, is the Islamic Empire, which did conquer Babylon and, in fact, rules over it even today.

Of course, this is a farrago of nonsense that would be dismissed outright by any serious Biblical scholar – whether atheist, Christian, Jewish, or whatever. As I wrote the last time this came up, the Book of Daniel was written in second century BCE, and, like the other books of the Bible, it was written with a contemporary audience in mind; it does not contain secrets that make sense only thousands of years later. The various empires that concern the author end with that of his own time and location: the Hellenistic kingdoms of the post-Alexander period. The author is not interested in Rome, and shows no knowledge of any kind of “Islamic Empire” hundreds of years in the future (or of a Christian future, for that matter). Babylon as a city had already lost much of its historical significance by the time the book was composed, and by the Islamic period the town itself was largely a ruin.

Like other self-styled “prophecy experts” (as opposed to actual Biblical scholars), Richardson believes in an Islamic Anti-Christ because he’s reading into the text what he wants to be there. On the one hand, he tells us that “the Bible was not written primarily for Americans”, but what he gives us an interpretation which obviously emerges out of early twenty-first century America. Just a few years after invading Iraq, and with increasing tension with Iran, American Christians suddenly discover that their holy book teaches that their nation’s current conflicts are central to a supernatural struggle between God and Satan. Who would have thought it?

But there’s still work to be done; WND also tells us that

Richardson, a student of Islam and the Middle east, found few churches in America welcoming him as a guest speaker. He was not invited to address many prophecy conferences. He found himself as a “political incorrect” outsider in most evangelical circles.

That’s suprising; Richardson’s website features a number of churches where he has spoken, and his associate Walid Shoebat, who promotes the same theory, seems to have a steady trickle of church invitations.

One man who must be too intelligent to take any of this seriously is Robert Spencer. However, Spencer sees Richardson’s book as useful for his own anti-Islam purposes, and he has given an endorsement:

A fascinating and provovative work. Joel has broken fresh ground in the ongoing exploration of the relationship between Islam and the rest of the world. A must-read for priests and pastors, students and lay readers everywhere. Bravo!

Part of that blurb appears on the cover:

Dorries Outburst will not Feature in Private Eye

Nadine Dorries MP’s recent claim that she removed her blog as the result of police advice received a passing mention in yesterday’s Independent, although there was nothing about how her explanation also included an outrageous attempt to smear the blogger Tim Ireland. Dorries’ outburst is just the latest attempt by some of Tim’s political opponents to neutralise his criticisms, research, and satire by suggesting that he should be dismissed as mentally unstable, and the fact that a group of cyber-bullies are consequently targeting him for real harassment has not given these opponents reason to pause.

Dorries’ behaviour won’t be appearing in Private Eye, either, as Tim now explains:

I ran into Ian Hislop in Westminster yesterday. He agreed with me about how unacceptable this situation was… right up until the point where I pointed out how his staff were involved and how much good a simple retraction would do. His response; “Conversation over. Not going to happen.”

Ian Hislop also stated quite clearly that he would not be covering any of Nadine Dorries’ extraordinary outbursts in his magazine.

As I’ve blogged previously, in 2009 a man named Glen Jenvey supposedly discovered evidence of a terrorist plot against British Jews, and this formed the basis for a front-page splash for the Sun. However, Tim discovered that the evidence  had been concocted by Jenvey himself, and the fiasco was noted in Private Eye – although Tim’s research was not credited.

The discovery also prompted Jenvey to leave anonymous comments across the internet accusing Tim of being a convicted paedophile. Somewhat alarmed, Tim sought to get in contact with  Patrick Mercer MP, who had previously  publicised some of Jenvey’s supposed discoveries concerning on-line extremism and who might therefore be able to help.

To try to get to Mercer, Tim approached Iain Dale, a well-connected Conservative blogger with whom Tim has had a number of disputes over the years. According to Tim, Dale agreed to contact Mercer on his behalf, but then failed to deliver. Tim also claims Dale misled him in the process. Tim then went to some efforts to get through to Dale how serious the situation was; Dale’s response was to publish a blog entry accusing Tim of being a stalker, which was picked up by various sympathetic blogs. Tim left a response on one, which was followed soon after by a comment from a certain Adam Macqueen addressed to another commentator:

Oh my god! You made eye contact with the nutter on the bus! You should never, ever do this. I found this out the hard way a few months back…

This is actually shockingly shabby, for reasons that Tim went on to note:

In one of those coincidences that continues to make life delightful, Adam MacQueen is the man responsible for Private Eye taking credit for the discovery of the connection between the ‘Richard Tims’ alias and Glen Jenvey [which revealed the concocted evidence].

It was Jenvey who finally lost it and started accusing me of paedophilia… i.e. because I took the risk on the story for which MacQueen took credit.

Tim then sent an email to Macqueen, who responded that he was justified in calling Tim a “nutter”

Because you obsessively trawl the internet responding to every single comment you dislike.

I complained about Private Eye‘s failure to credit Tim for his research at the time; to find that the journalist concerned would further stoop to such conduct was disheartening. PE‘s editor Ian Hislop is a bit snotty about blogs and the internet, but among bloggers there is great respect for the magazine’s ability to spotlight hypocrisy and corruption in an amusing manner, and for its aggressive stand against the absurdities of UK libel law. This, then, was something of a kick in the teeth.

Tim then wrote about this, with the result that Dale waved lawyers at him, complaining of “harrassment” and (inevitably) making a vague accusation of libel. Dale has also told his readers (while attempting to appear non-boastful about it) about a recent Private Eye lunch he attended:

It was good to see Adam Macqueen again. He worked for me briefly (don’t they all?!) at Politico’s many moons ago and is now one of the Eye’s main journalists. He is also writing a history of the magazine to mark its 50th anniversary, and blogs HERE. An all round good guy.

The lads all stick together, eh?

The full account can be read here.

(This blog entry is partially recycled from this one)

Pastor Associate of Rifqa Bary Announces She has been “Healed”

UPDATE: Williams has left a comment by way of clarification as to why he made the Facebook posting:

it’s because she is a minor and although the prayers of many are needed and appreciated, it is not the entire world’s business about her health condition… Jamal’s intentions are pure and sincere. I have no[t] broadcast the news of her health circumstances because I am more concerned about the numerous outsiders who have little interest in Ms Bary as a person, and more an interest in generating hits to their blog, or using her as an opportunity to be seen in the public light. With all of our governmental problems, even federal law protects indivuals from having there medical records and circumstances known to the public. Given the past 9 months Ms. Bary has endured, I believe that as a 17 year old she is also entitled to that same level of privacy…

***

Now, following the situation outlined in my previous post, what are we to make of this?

Brian Williams, the pastor who helped Rifqa Bary escape Ohio to Florida, has just posted the following on Jamal Jivanjee’s Facebook page – twice (quote marks in original):

“Rifqa is doing fine, she has had much prayer, but she is healed, she has been prayed for and healed. Her love for Jesus is at an all time high. COntinue to pray for her though. Jesus lives! :)”

Curiously, Williams does not mention this remarkable recovery on his own Facebook page, or give any details.

Another poster then asks Williams why his announcement seems to differ from Jivanee’s; Jivanjee’s response is ambiguous:

The beautiful thing about many, many people praying, vs only a few people praying, has to do with joy. God uses the prayers of His people to accomplish His purposes. The purpose is Joy. Jesus said in John 16 that if we ask anything in His Name, the Father will grant it so that our joy may be made full. It is the will of God that the joy of many people be made full because this brings Him glory. The more that people pray, the more the joy. This is, in my opinion, the main reason why God is raising up so many people to pray for Rifqa. May the news of her situation, and the prayers of the saints be multiplied! God is good.

Pastor Announces Rifqa Bary Seriously Ill with Cancer

The Rifqa Bary circus has taken an unexpectedly tragic twist, with an announcement on Facebook from Jamal Jivanjee, the neo-Pentecostal minister who is close to her in Ohio:

… Rifqa has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of uterus cancer. The symptoms and health complications that are associated with this cancer materialized and are what led to its detection. Rifqa has already had 2 surgeries at this point, and she is getting ready to undergo a third surgery which will be occurring this Thursday, May 27’th

…I am writing this to you because this is not a time for silence regarding Rifqa’s life and situation. I am very thankful for many of you who have not ceased to pray and ask questions about her situation. Her situation is very serious, and she will need the help of many people in the weeks and months ahead…

Jivanjee has also given a further statements to the media. At OneNewsNow, he uses the critical illness as an excuse to villify the teenager’s parents further:

According to Jivanjee, Bary’s estranged Muslim parents were allowed to come into her hospital room.

“I don’t know if it was her attorney, her case worker, [but] somebody made the decision to bring her parents into the room to see her without her permission,” he says. “And that caused her a lot of emotional turmoil and stress, and she objected to that and they had to get them out of there.”

As has been widely reported, Bary believes that her parents want to kill for converting from Islam to Christianity (“In 150 generations in family, no one has known Jesus. I am the first; imagine the honor in killing me” – this is a garbled understanding of honour killings). At FOXNews, Jinanvee adds:

“She really wants people to pray for her… That was why the decision was made to get the news out there.”

Curious use of the passive voice there [UPDATE: see below].

Inevitably, fanning the flames is the disgusting Pamela Geller:

…Her lawyers kept her in the dark about her condition – cancer – for well over a week, while they conferred with her parents and their CAIR appointed lawyers about her treatment. While most cases like this result in a hysterectomy, she is only having the advanced malignancy removed. From what I understand, the survival rate in cases like these is 5%. Her surgery is Thursday. Pray.

Was she allowed to get a second opinion? No.

While she was lying ill, her lawyers brought her parents to her hospital bed. She was strapped in for treatment and became very agitated and upset, and they had to be removed. She has broken her silence, a silence mandated by her lawyers, that she could not talk to her friends such as Jamal Jivanjee and those of us who have been unwavering in our support for Rifqa Bary’s civil rights and religious liberty.

The parents’ wish to see their daughter is of course quite natural, but  it poses a problem for the likes of Geller, who have held up the parents as exemplars of the hateful and inverted relationship that Muslims supposedly have with their children.  Thus we are given a conspiracy theory: the parents and lawyers must be plotting to sabotage her treatment! Comments show her readers spurred on to further heights of insanity: might this be a ploy by Muslim doctors to “sexually mutilate” her? Is her cancer evidence of sex abuse? And so on. But where did Geller get her extra information from? If from Jivanee, why didn’t he reveal these details  himself? If not, then from whom?

It’s difficult to imagine what must be going through Bary’s head at the moment – she’s been told that her parents hate her and want her dead, yet they show up at her hospital expressing normal parental concern. Meanwhile, pastors like Jivanee and Lou Engle have been telling her that she has a special prophetic role to play in the world, and that God has given her supernatural powers of healing. According to Charisma:

Jivanjee said Bary believes God has a plan for her and that she will be healed. “But she felt like she needed people to be aware and praying for her,” he told Charisma.

We can’t know at this stage (and perhaps we never will know) why Bary is not having a hysterectomy, but if the choice is in her own hands might not statements such as that be affecting her judgement? In any circumstances, for a pastor to assert that a gravely-ill person will be healed when in fact their outcome is very uncertain is grossly irresponsible – abusive, even.

On Facebook, Jivanee is now being a bit more discreet. Responding to a reader’s query, he writes:

For now all I can tell you is that prayers are vital. There is much spiritual opposition.

UPDATE: Bary’s Florida lawyer is quoted by the UPI:

“The only reason she wants this to be known is she wants people to pray for her,” [John] Stemberger said.

Well, that’s certainly not Geller’s reason for her lurid posting on the subject.

Jivanjee himself has added on Facebook:

Rifqa made the decision to rally the troops for prayer regarding her situation. I know this was not an easy decision for her to make, but I know the benefits will far outweigh anything else in the long run.

UPDATE 1.5: According to Geller,

Lots of readers are forwarding me emails from Rifqa’s lawyers and shills for Stemberger, denying the facts of my reportage. I stand by my story.

Apparently Geller has been on bad terms with Stemberger since last month, when Stemberger posted the following to Facebook:

Folks I do not know how to say this more kindly but Jamal Javanjee and Pamela Geller are not trusted or accurate sources of information on Rifqa Bary and her case. They also do not represent Rifqa or her views and neither one of them are Rifqa Bary spokespersons. Rifqa is in the hands of some of the best legal counsel available.

UPDATE 2: Pastor Associate of Rifqa Bary Announces She has been “Healed” (with comments from Brian Williams)

UPDATE 3: At the anti-Islam New English Review, Jerry Gordon (“former Army Intelligence officer”) reveals that Jivanjee has been freely discussing intimate medical symptoms with him:

I spoke with Pastor Jamal Juvanjee, one of Miss Bary’s friends.  He indicated that the cancer had been detected within the past two weeks given symptoms including severe vaginal bleeding.

Gordon adds some distasteful and stupid commentary on this:

It is unclear as to what form of cancer Bary has contracted. Given that she came from a honor shame society there are several possibilities. Clearly those will have to be addressed in the context of possible investigation of childhood abuse.

Except that Bary does not come “from an honor shame society”, and not even Jivanjee has hinted at sex abuse.

(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)

Helen Ukpabio: Different Journalists, Different Explanations

Helen Ukpabio explains the purpose of her films to a Nigerian journalist:

Generally, my movies are educative; they also serve as warning to the entire world. Either I warn the world against God’s anger or impending dangers… One of my expository movies End of the Wicked brought in over 800 people to the church and that made me real happy. This also led to our opening of 11 new branches in Calabar, in order to accommodate these new members.

Pretty clear, then. End of the Wicked is a visual exposition of her theology – which teaches that children can become infected with “witchcraft”, and will be a source of misfortune to others unless someone such as herself steps in with some “deliverance”.

Helen Ukpabio explains the purpose of her films to an American journalist:

“Do you think Harry Potter is real?” Ms. Ukpabio asked me angrily, in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express where she was staying. “It is only because I am African,” she said, that people who understand that J. K. Rowling writes fiction would take literally Ms. Ukpabio’s filmic depictions of possessed children, gathering by moonlight to devour human flesh.

So, End of the Wicked is just entertainment, and only anti-African prejudice (read: racism) would make anyone think it is supposed to be taken seriously.

I blogged on the New York Times article about Ukpabio a couple of days ago; Nigerian sceptic Leo Igwe (who a few months ago was being sued by Ukpabio) has left his response in a comment.

The British documentary Saving Africa’s Witch-Children will be broadcast on HBO2 on Wednesday evening at 8pm.

Nadine Dorries Explains Why She Deleted Blog: Cites “Police Advice” over On-Line Critic

On Thursday, the Independent‘s “Pandora” diarist observed

Disappointment for those seeking a drop of Nadine Dorries’, um, wisdom yesterday. The Tory MP’s usually entertaining blog was oddly unavailable. Her Twitter account appeared to have vanished, too. She wasn’t so shy the day before, penning both an irate comment piece in the Daily Mail, and a heartfelt email to colleagues, arguing against the Speaker John Bercow’s reinstatement. Why the sudden silence?

Why indeed? Dorries herself has now stepped forward with a supposed answer, in an interview for Bedfordshire on Sunday; take a deep breath and prepare to have your intelligence insulted:

MP Nadine Dorries has taken her blog down and closed her Twitter account claiming she has been advised to do so by the police.

Ms Dorries… says she has been having “problems” with political blogger Tim Ireland.

Ms Dorries said: “Tim Ireland is not a Mid Bedfordshire resident and I am not answerable or accountable to him.

“I have been in consultation regarding his behaviour with the Westminster division of the Metropolitan Police, and the House of Commons police, for more than a year.

“Their advice was to close down my blog and Twitter account and thereby remove the ‘oxygen’ upon which he fed. As an election was imminent, I ignored this advice.

“I have decided that I should pay attention to the police advice and have therefore closed down both Twitter and my blog for the time being.”

This is a shameful spectacle many levels. Dorries has a national media profile. She uses the internet to address a national audience, she appears on TV reality shows, and she just last week she made a futile attempt to bring down the Speaker of the House of Commons. But when criticism comes from outside her constituency, suddenly she’s a local MP for local people only.

But more serious than her claim that she is not accountable to the public at large is the vicious aspersion cast on Tim, which even the newspaper balked at publishing in full. Tim has posted the unexpurgated version, which the paper passed to him for his response:

Following the Stephen Timms incident last week I have decided that I should pay attention to the police advice…”

As has been widely reported, Timms was hospitalized recently after being stabbed by a mentally-ill woman.

First, this shows a public servant up as a liar. Tim satirises Dorries quite mercilessly, and Dorries has made it clear that she has found some of his jibes to be offensive. But that’s life if you’re a public figure. Dorries knows damn well that she is not under any kind of personal threat from Tim. Why didn’t she give the newspaper an example of one of his threats, if she had anything? And – more to the point – why hasn’t the police had any contact with Tim? An MP claims that she has been forced off-line by threats, yet the police can’t be bothered to have a word with the supposed culprit? And the MP just accepts that without any bitter complaint about the unfairness of it all? Come off it. She’s lying, and shamelessly. Lying to the voters, and – if she’s sincere in her supposed religious faith – before God.

Second, Tim has himself been targeted with actual threats, by a gang of cyberstalkers who have used her complaints against him as a vigilante excuse for their campaign of harassment. Dorries knows this, and so one can only imagine the depths of the calculated and immature spite exposed by the outburst quoted above.

Tim has more on his blog here

Of course, a number of other people besides the cyberstalkers will be pleased to see Tim attacked by an MP in this way; Tim presses his point quite assertively when he’s calling someone to account, and certain political opponents have decided that the best counter-attack is to sneer that his persistence must be a sign of mental illness and should be disregarded or mocked. If Tim has to spend time rebutting inflammatory allegations or dealing with thugs, then he has less time to investigate other matters. But on the other hand, Dorries’ attack is so excessive that perhaps some of those who might like to jump on the bandwagon might do well to give thought to where it might be heading.

Just a few days ago the Telegraph reported that Tim had salvaged some Tweets by a Conservative MP who no longer wanted his attacks on Nick Clegg remain available, and last year he forced Patrick Mercer MP to disassociate himself from a self-styled “anti-terror” expert who had been been feeding him dubious information.

UPDATE: Chris Paul points out that Dorries announced her intention to deactivate Twitter on 7 May. Timms was stabbed on 14 May.

New York Times Profiles Child-Witchfinder Helen Ukpabio

The New York Times carries an article by Mark Oppenheimer about Apostle Helen Ukpabio, the Nigerian Pentecostal minister at the centre of the child-witchcraft hysteria in Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. The British Channel 4 documentary Saving Africa’s Witch Children is due to air in the USA on Wednesday (on HBO2) – and as luck would have it, Ukpabio was in Houston last week, leading a “Worship Warfare” event at a Pentecostal church (a “demonstration of the power of GOD to save, Heal and Deliver from all demonic operations”).

Ukpabio appears to have been as blustering as ever, and she tried to make a distinction between her sermons and her witch-themed horror films, such as End of the Wicked:

“Do you think Harry Potter is real?” Ms. Ukpabio asked me angrily, in the lobby of the Holiday Inn Express where she was staying. “It is only because I am African,” she said, that people who understand that J. K. Rowling writes fiction would take literally Ms. Ukpabio’s filmic depictions of possessed children, gathering by moonlight to devour human flesh.

Oppenheimer, however, observes that

“Saving Africa’s Witch Children” makes clear that many rural Nigerians do take her film seriously. And in her sermons, Ms. Ukpabio is emphatic that children can be possessed, and that with her God-given “powers of discernment,” she can spot such a child.

He also quotes from her book Unveiling the Mysteries of Witchcraft:

if a child under the age of 2 screams in the night, cries and is always feverish with deteriorating health, he or she is a servant of Satan

Ukpabio also railed against a school which gives shelter to abandoned children stigmatised as witches:

The Children’s Rights and Rehabilitation Network, a school for abandoned children run by Sam Itauma and featured in Mr. [Gary] Foxcroft’s documentary, is “a 419 scam,” Ms. Ukpabio said, referring to the section in Nigeria’s criminal code that deals with fraud.

…The school “does not understand demonic possession,” she said. “If they understood, they would take the children to Liberty Gospel.

“We would deliver them!”

ln other words, Western criticism of her is just anti-African prejudice, but African opposition to her preaching can be dismissed in terms of the Nigerian “419” stereotype. I’ve blogged a number of times on the attacks she and her supporters have made against CRARN – see here. Oppenheimer notes that she also uses lawyers against her opponents, and I’ve blogged on how she has fired off lawsuits in all directions.

In Houston, Ukpabio was hosted by Glorious Praise Ministries, which is led by Pastor Jonathan A. David (also known as Jonathan Agba). According to his biography, David was “officially ordained on 7th of April, 2002 by the House of Grace Ministries Incorporated, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria, after several years of serving and training under the same ministry”. There are of course innumerable Pentecostal organisations in Nigeria, but this is perhaps the same the Royal House of Grace International Church (also sometimes refered to as “Royal House of Grace Ministries”). The leader of this denomination is David Zilly-Aggrey and, like Ukpabio,  he a leading figure in the Pentecostal Association of Nigeria. However, unlike her, he has spoken against an excessive interest in demons and witches.

Oppenheimer adds that

 Last August, when she had herself consecrated Christendom’s first “lady apostle,” Nigerian politicians and Nollywood actors attended the ceremony.

I blogged on that event here – she was consecrated by Bishop Nnadi E Moses, who took the opportunity to praise Ukpabio’s distruption of a conference held by the Nigerian humanist and activist Leo Igwe.

(Hat tip: Bulldada Newsblog)

BBC Documentary on the English Defence League

As has been widely blogged and reviewed, BBC 3 featured a documentary on the English Defence League on Wednesday evening, entitled Young, British and Angry. The BBC’s reporter, Ben Anderson, attended several EDL protests and spoke with some leading activists – in particular, the Sikh-origin Guramit Singh, and a Luton-based activist named Kevin Carroll.

Singh was challenged about his speech at the protest in Westminster, when he announced to a cheering crowd through a megaphone: “God bless the Muslims – they’ll need it when they’re burning in hell”. Singh explained this had been highly embarrassing slip of the tongue:

A big apology. I messed up big time, I messed up big time…I fucked it up, yeah. Two days before, that speech was published on the internet, on the English Defence League website. It says “God bless everybody, even the militant Muslims – who’ll need it when they’re burning in hell.” Now, I missed out that word like a twat. I apologise so much. I felt so bad, you know, because we’ve got Muslim members, I thought “oh my god, what are they going to think of me?” I felt like the biggest twat, I really did.

As for the cheers that followed his speech, Singh suggested that “half the crowd” hadn’t been able to hear him because of the quality of the megaphone (A picture of the scene can be seen here – and holding the megaphone was none other than the cyber-bully Charlie Flowers, whom I’ve blogged on a number of times). Anderson also mentioned Singh’s abusive writings, although he was not directly asked about those.

Carroll, meanwhile, showed Anderson around Luton. He took the journalist to the spot where Islamist extremists had protested against British soldiers last year, causing outrage and serving as the catalyst for the EDL’s formation. They also visited a couple of children’s playgrounds, one in any area with many Asians, and one in the predominately white estate of Farley Hill; while the former was state-of-the-art, the latter was shabby and with few facilities. Anderson complained that “this is as good as it gets for us”. However, Anderson later spoke with Sian Timoney, a Labour councilor, who took him to a new and more extensive playground on the same estate. She dismissed as “ludicrous” the suggestion that certain ethnic groups receive more funding.

One awkward moment came when Anderson asked Carroll why he had signed nomination papers for a BNP candidate two years ago; he explained that he had been approached on the doorstep by a BNP canvasser and took their word for it that they were non-racist party; only later did he realise his mistake. He also made a quick phone call to his black teenage daughter, who then came on camera (but didn’t speak) as evidence of his non-racism. The BNP link was noted by Three Counties Unity in March:

He is well-known to local anti-fascists and was only dissuaded from standing as a candidate in the 2007 Luton Council elections by a last-minute plea from his partner… He did, however, sign nomination papers along with Stevenson for the BNP candidate for Farley in that election – Robert Sheddock – and in doing so shows his political colours.

Footage from the EDL’s various protests seemed to be even-handed; there were some ugly incidents of racism (including someone making monkey noises at a black counter-protestor), but also efforts to weed out such elements – we even saw a steward being stripped of his position for making a gesture at counter-protestors. EDL leaders stated that “idiots” are always likely to show up, although they were not welcome. At one protest there was a short interview with Abdul, a nominal Muslim who is treated with some affection by other EDL members.

Anderson managed to convey the sense of grievance felt by EDL members, although besides a reference to support for Geert Wilders there was little sense of a coherent ideology behind the movement. However, Anderson was concerned with the EDL on the streets rather than on the internet; consequently there was nothing about links to groups such as “Politically Incorrect“, or the Crusader fetishism often found on EDL-linked YouTube videos and such.

If you are in the UK, the programme can be viewed here for the next week.

Militant Orthodoxy in Georgia

The Georgian Times reports (link added): 

Live televised debates in Kavkasia TV’s studio between leaders of hardline Orthodox Christian groups and thier opponents grew into a fistfight outside the Tbilisi-based station’s studio late on Friday [7 May] night. 

Young men affiliated with radical group, known as Union of Orthodox Christian Parents, which  has became associated with a newly established People’s Orthodox Christian Movement, verbally and physically assaulted some of Kavkasia TV program’s guests and also some members of the station’s staff, witnesses said. 

…Malkhaz Gulashvili, who founded People’s Orthodox Christian Movement, in March, 2010, told the movement members at an indoor gathering on May 7, that the movement was launching struggle “to set Georgia free of a dictate by Liberty Institute ” – an influential Tbilisi-based think tank with links to the authorities. Gulashvili said Liberty Institute and its affiliates in Ilia State University’s administration were “promoting anti-religious ideology.” 

Malkhaz Gulashvili is a powerful media tycoon in the country.

In particular, complaints have been made about a book entitled Saidumlo Siroba, which translates as Holy Crap, but is derived from the words “Saidumlo Seroba”, the Georgian term for the Last Supper. “Siroba” also recalls the word “dick”. The author is a certain Erekle Deisadze, and the book was launched at the university. The Georgian Times helpfully provides an extract of passages the movement finds offensive: 

“I have often thought of rubbing out my parents. I sucked the tit which my father probably licked during sexual intercourse… I welcome this kind of stuff, like my sister’s secret masturbations, and I am pissing in my pants when I imagine all that… God is a holy product packaged for marketing. The masses, whose consciousness is full of sediment, are ruled by Him. Today this society saturated with snobbery is a mass ready to fight to the last drop of blood to save this product which they have little idea of. Heresy is the only way to experience a mental erection… Do you remember the star shining in the sky over Bethlehem which signaled the birth of Christ? Similar lights appear over McDonalds.  

According to a statement published by the Georgian International Media Centre

On May 4 2010 members of same groups publicly assaulted and verbally harassed representative of Public Defender Beka MIndiashvili, Ilia University Professor Simon Janashia, journalist Ninia Kakabadze, activist Paata Sabelashvili and other persons who gathered in front of Ilia University for defending freedom of expression of one of the authors. Mobs of persons loudly sweared, spat and assaulted a small peaceful gathering of activists. Some activists, like Acho Khachidze were chased and assaulted in the street, ambushed and threatened at their homes. Others, like editor of a weekly magazine Liberal Shorena Shevardashvili were verbally harassed and threatened via electronic mail, social networking websites or at their workplaces. 

That report describes the Orthodox protestors as “neo-Nazis”; this news report makes the same association: 

This was not the first attack on the university by the Union of Orthodox Christian Parents (or Orthodox Parents’ Union); a year ago it claimed that “the Vatican is promoting anti-Orthodox activities at the university”.

The People’s Orthodox Christian Movement appears to have come into existence to capitalise on anti-gay sentiments; Sabelashvili is a gay rights activist, and he has some details

During the winter session of the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) the issue of the resolution on “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity” gave  a push to the controversy in Georgia, thus prompting the leaders of several religious communities to condemn PACE’s intention to address the issue of homophobia.  

This criticism was immediately accelerated by Christian Democrat’s Movement, a political party represented in the Georgian Parliament.  The Party misinterpreted resolution as obligatory instrument for recognizing same sex marriage and parental rights and was able to stir negative PR for the resolution in Georgia. 

Several weeks later, new People’s Orthodox Movement was founded by Mr. Malkhaz Gulashvili, a newspaper publisher known for his close ties with the Russian authorities.  His Moscow ties have frequently put him in a position when he needed to answer pressing questions about his fidelity to Georgian national interests.   

Instead of submitting direct answers, Mr. Gulashvili adopted a strategy to drive away from the discussion by irrelevantly scapegoating lesbians and gays, and calling them perverts and sick.  This has enabled him and his supporters redirect any public discussion from his own agenda.  Mr. Gulashvili has dangerously partaken in into endless and shameless session of insult and defamation of his LGBT co nationals.  He and other members of the movement have been outspoken rather radically, calling on punishing all who are, in his words “against orthodox beliefs and values”.

Several arrests were made following the protest at the TV station, leading to further protests. Gulashvili, meanwhile, has fled to Tskhinvali in South Ossetia, which is currently under Russian control. In an interview with the Georgian Times (which he also owns), he says that: 

…I am protecting my son from the dangerous and unruly people, who act on police orders. After I said on Eka Kvesitadze’s programme that single sex marriage is inadmissible I received several threatening telephone calls at home. Later my wife was stopped in the street by a black jeep, whose occupants put the window down and told my wife that if your husband does not stop they will punish her and her family. Soon after this my son had a car accident. He was crossing the road when a jeep smashed into him. At the time we thought this was an accident, but on 9 May my son was taken away in a car by four men. 

Gulashvili has also claimed that his son was sexually assaulted. He rejects the neo-Nazi accusation: 

Look for yourself at what fascism is and what our programme is and you will not find anything like fascism in our programme. The two-headed eagle is a Byzantine symbol, not a fascist one. Some poor historians who are out to please the Government, like Simon Maskharashvili, say that this symbol belongs to the Russian Empire. I would like to tell him that it is a Georgian symbol, used for this purpose before it became Byzantium’s symbol. It embodies the relationship between the Church and State under a temporal government. 

An article by Giorgi Kvelashvili has some background to the situation: 

Chaired by Malhaz Gulashvili, a Georgian media tycoon and businessman with close Moscow connections, the organization is associated with the Union of Orthodox Parents, itself in existence for several years. The declared goals of the People’s Orthodox Movement are “to cherish Georgia’s Orthodox Christian legacy” and turn the country into a constitutional monarchy. Gulashvili claims that his organization is “apolitical” and has no special relationship with the Georgian Church and Patriarch Ilia II, but nonetheless emphasizes the importance of developing close ties with Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. Gulashvili is a frequent guest in Moscow and has even presented his book to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during one of his latest visits to Russia. 

The major targets of the radical organization’s violent rhetoric and actions are President Saakashvili’s government and all liberal political parties, academic and social institutions that have a pro-Western stance and advocate for Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration. High on Gulashvili’s agenda is the Liberty Institute, a leading pro-Western Georgian NGO chaired by Levan Ramishvili, that was one of the driving forces behind the Rose Revolution in November 2003 and whose former members are now top officials in the Saakashvili government…. 

An article by Michael Cecire concurs

Gulashvili, who is also the President of the Georgian Times Media Holding and has major connections to Kremlin authorities and their oligarch allies in Moscow and Europe, is also an outspoken critic of Georgia’s current government. 

…Even if the allegation about Gulashvili’s son is true – itself questionable given Gulashvili’s frequent use of hyperbole and homophobic comments – his choice of Tskhinvali as refuge highlights just how close he is to the Kremlin and also underscores not merely dissatisfaction with the current government, but also a general antipathy towards a fully independent Georgia. By any reasonable estimation, it is not unfair to conclude that Gelashvili’s motives, even if they were buoyed by some degree of religiosity, were primarily Moscow-driven. 

…This suggests that Russia’s policy towards Georgia – emphasizing the use of local proxies to destabilize the country and reverse reforms – is continuing apace and likely to build momentum at least through the summer.

The Georgian Orthodox Catholios has now waded into the dispute over Holy Crap, with a predictable intervention; Civil Georgia has the details

Attempts are being made today to redirect all the public attention on the confrontation, which took place in Kavkasia TV, while less is being spoken about the reasons, which triggered this [incident]… Physical confrontation in fact was triggered by moral and psychological violence, expressed through publishing of and direct or indirect support to the book.” 

…the Georgian Church will never support violence, no matter from whom it might be coming. 

…the Church can not support propaganda of immorality, indecency, licentiousness and satanism. Of course we do respect and share democratic values, but it is also a fact that freedom does not mean to have the right for everything. That is why in almost all the traditional European countries freedom of expression and the right to dignity are equally protected. 

…If religious feelings of absolute majority are insulted like this (appealing the court can not compensate degree of moral damage) in the country, which is already in a difficult situation, there is no guarantee that external or internal enemy will not use this situation and through persons like Deisadze will deliberately insult feelings of followers of other religions, which may serve as a reason for civil confrontation, leading to irreparable consequences. 

For that reason we appeal the authorities to give a real assessment to what has happened and to promptly adopt a law, which will appropriately defend population from indecency, defend dignity and religious feelings of the society and of a person. By doing that we will protect peace and welfare of citizens of our country. 

Further

…On May 9 an archpriest with close links to a radical Orthodox Christian group, which was involved in series of confrontations that took place last week in Tbilisi, not only in Kavkasia TV but also outside the Ilia State University, was awarded by Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, on May 9. 

After Sunday sermon in Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta, Ilia II announced that he was awarding archpriest Davit Isakadze with decorated pectoral cross and the right to wear the miter for, as he put it, “his service to welfare of our nation and the Church.”

I blogged on a Georgian priest’s complaints about fundamentalism in the national church here.

The situation seems a close parallel to events in Russia; a January report from the Carnegie Moscow Centre noted that

Patriarch Kirill, elected to head the Church a year ago, is trying to systematize and modernize the Church’s social activities, Knorre reported. Dissatisfied with the scale of work with youth, Patriarch Kirill is creating a parallel system, maximally independent of the clerical hierarchy, of spiritual instructors for youth, the all-Russian public Orthodox movement, built on the Orthodox wing of the pro-Kremlin political youth movement Nashi. 

I last blogged on Nashi here

(Hat tip: Bulldada Newsblog)