Yakunin and the Youth

News from India:

India Youth Forum was organized by The International Youth Time Movement at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The forum saw 130 international delegates and experts from 34 countries participate in dialogues on 5 key issues through Open Roundtables and interactive discussions. The conference opened with the plenary session Chaired by Mr. Imran Mukhtarov, the representative from the Ministry of Education, Azerbaijan.

The Session saw Mr. Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure & Innovations and Dr. Vladimir Yakunin, President of Russian Railways, co-founding President of the World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”…

A quote from Yakunin follows:

Being associated with the Youth Forum, I am delighted that the youth of today are challenging themselves to break the barriers and work together for a better future. The World Public Forum and I personally support the Youth Time international movement as the initiative of young active people from all over the world.”

In fact, Youth Time International, which is headed by a certain Julia Kinash, appears to be a youth off-shoot of the World Public Forum (previously blogged by me here) – it was founded as the “Rhodes Youth Forum” in October 2010, days before a World Public Forum event on the island, and the WPF looms large on the YTI website; a report from a meeting in Prague relates that

…The next day participants had the honor of meeting and accompanying Mr. Vladimir Yakunin to the round table, where they went through the draft of conference’s resolution and analyzing each task we believed should be included into the official resolution of «Youth Time» movement. The result of our two-day meeting was an official resolution where our movement has shifted from ideas to action. Furthermore, the adopted resolution, signed by all participants of the conference, was presented at gala dinner in “Troya Castle”. The event organizers have also reminded us about the success of “Rhodes Youth Forum” (3-6 October 2010) and all other past activities related with World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations”.

The site’s most recent posting is a call for “Traditional Family Values”, and there is an interview with Don Feder of the World Congress of Families – last summer, Yakunin’s wife (President of the Sanctity of Motherhood Program) joined Feder and Larry Jacobs at a WCF event in Moscow.

The website also carries a statement calling for the release from prison of Archimandrite Ephraim, the Abbot of Vatopedi on Mount Athos; as I blogged here, Ephraim was arrested for suspected fraud shortly after his return to Greece from a tour of Russia with the Mother of God’s belt. The visit had been organised by Yakunin to promote family values in Russia, and the statement on behalf of Ephraim was composed by Yakunin’s St Andrew the First Called Foundation. Yakunin’s efforts on behalf of Ephraim and in relation other matters (such as funding the building of a church in Estonia) can be seen as part of wider efforts by Russian Orthodoxy – and the Russian state – to position itself as the international defender of Orthodoxy.

Dagbladet Claims 4 Freedoms Held “Secret Meetings” in London Churches

From Norway, Dagbladet reports that Anders Breivik has stated under police interrogation that he was “inspired” (“inspirert”) by the 4 Freedoms website. This is not particularly surprising – 4 Freedoms is an “anti-jihad” forum, and it is well-known that Breivik read such such sites. However, 4 Freedoms is Alan Lake’s main vehicle for expounding his views, and there has been media interest in Lake since Breivik’s massacre; Lake responded to speculation about a link in December.

Dagbladet goes on to claim that the 4 Freedoms website is actually part of a “Four Freedoms Community”, and that the group’s “inner circle” (“indre sirkel”) has held “secret meetings” (“hemmelige møter”) in two churches in central London. The Google translation is slightly unclear in places, but it appears that at least one participant has alleged attempted “brainwashing” (“hjernevasking”).

The paper also claims to have spoken to a “leading figure in the extreme Christian community in the UK” (“En lederskikkelse innen det ekstreme, kristne miljøet i Storbritannia”), who showed the newspaper cards outlining Lake’s views and his “12-Point Plan for Equal Civil Rights”. Details of these “12 points” are readily available on 4 Freedoms; Dagbladet appears be claiming, inaccurately, that they amount to some kind of code of conduct to regulate members’ lives (“Four Freedoms Community vil regulere livsførselen til sine medlemmer.”).

Although the fact of the meetings is of interest, the report is somewhat overegged – towards the end of the article it is confirmed that their locations were commercial hirings, and it’s impossible to judge whether the unnamed “leading figure” (a woman) really actually represents anyone. Newspapers are also notoriously quick to raise the spectre of “brainwashing” when confronted with people holding views they find strange.

Dagbladet has a photo of the interior of one of the churches – it is small, and appears to be an old building that has been refurbished with modern chairs and carpet. A distinctive modern stained-glass window shows Jesus standing on a geographically-detailed globe of the world, flanked by peoples of world in modern dress (including a kneeling woman in a kimono); the report states that the churches were Pentecostal.

Lake’s own religious views are not clear – on one occasion he posted a strange anti-evolution chart to 4 Freedoms, and Searchlight has claimed that he formerly attended Kensington Temple, a large charismatic church in west London. However, he has shown no interest in the kind of “Crusader” imagery which so enthuses a number of religiously-inclined “anti-jihad” types.

There’s actually a post on 4 Freedoms about me – Lake was moved to accuse me of metaphorically “masturbating in public” for raising some issues about Rabbi Nachum Shifren, whom Lake helped to make links with the English Defence League. Lake also has links with a particularly unpleasant man who has been known to troll me on-line from time to time with abuse and threats – details here.

The Sun and “A Terrifying Reality”

Two days ago, as I blogged here, the Sun announced that “al-Qaeda fanatics are plotting a deadly cyanide poison attack on the London Olympics”. “Chief investigative reporter” Simon Hughes wrote that an unnamed “investigator” had spotted, on an unnamed website forum, that a certain “Abu Hija Ansari” had posted instructions, in Arabic, for mixing hand-cream with cyanide. Further:

A second extremist said on the website: “It is a good idea and you need to plan well.”

She added chillingly under a logo of the 2012 Games: “It’s time to prepare for the event, as once again they are interfering with innocent Muslims.”

The Sun‘s story spread widely, and in the UK inspired derivative articles from the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph. According to the Telegraph

Neither the government, Scotland Yard nor the Security Services have commented on the reports.

However, the Mail tells us that

Scotland Yard said it had no information on the alleged cyanide.

The Sun also secured a quote from Bernard Jenkin, chairman of the all-party homeland security group:

“I hope the individuals are identified so action can be taken. Those who believe there is no terrorist threat are living in cloud cuckoo land.”

One would expect Jenkin to do more than “hope”, especially given that police apparently don’t know anything about it – but so far there has been no follow-up or any further developments.

The Sun‘s cyanide revelation came a week after it supposedly exposed terror plotting taking place inside on-line games. David Willetts and Tom Wells reported that:

TERRORISTS are using online war games like Call of Duty to plot attacks, The Sun can reveal.

…Last night, a source said: “It’s a terrifying reality. These people waste no time finding a secure method of chatting.

“They are logging into group games over the internet and discussing terror plots. Security people know about it.

“For millions who love these games this will be a huge shock.

“To think fanatics use them for their own ends is a real worry.” Sources say plotters choose realistic conflict games so they can mask their deadly discussions as harmless web chat.

…News of the growing threat comes five years after the CIA first warned of the menace.

This one doesn’t even bother to tell us what kind of “source” has made us aware of the “terrifying reality”. Although the story appears plausible, the article is utterly devoid of any information about any actual instance where this may have occurred.

This comes in the wake of the Sun‘s “breast implant bomber” yarn (which quoted Joseph Farah, of all people, as a “terrorist expert”), and the paper’s “Taliban HIV-Needle” story, which was fed to it by Patrick Mercer. Both stories were similarly short on specific detail, and no further evidence ever emerged.

Apparently we’re supposed to have forgotten that the last time the Sun relied on an investigator to discover on-line terror-plotting, the investigator turned out to have made most of the postings that were then used as evidence. The investigator’s posts in the guise of an Islamist led to him being arrested at the end of 2009 “on suspicion of inciting religious hatred against Jews”; however, for reasons that were never made public, the charge was eventually dropped.

UPDATE: The Sun‘s “Call of Duty” story was picked up by the Daily Mail, which added that:

…The claims come a month after it emerged that the government is set to announce new laws to require communications companies to store all information passed between users online.

What remarkable timing…

John Sweeney Documentary on Mitt Romney and Mormonism

Last night saw the broadcast on BBC 2 of The Mormon Candidate, a documentary presented by John Sweeney. Mitt Romney provides a hook for a general discussion of the religion, focusing on various controversies: the fringe polygamists, the special underwear, the secret oaths, the baptisms of the dead, and complaints from ex-members in Utah about shunning and harassment. Sweeney raises the “cult” accusation several times – unfortunately, it is impossible to listen to Sweeney articulate the word without recalling his risible attempt to needle John Travolta by yelling “Are you a member of a sinister brainwashing cult?” at a film premiere in Leicester Square back in 2007 (discussed here).

The programme contained few surprises, although several of Sweeney’s interviews are of interest. The most noteworthy was with Jeffrey Holland, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, although it’s not clear why Sweeney asserts that “Apostles rarely speak to the media”. The interview afterwards became the subject of a formal complaint, delivered to the BBC by representatives of a PR firm. (1)

Sweeney asked Holland about Joseph Smith’s supposed translations from Egyptian, and his arrest in 1826:

Jeffrey: …What got translated got translated into the word of God. The vehicle for that I do not understand and don’t claim to know and know no Egyptian. 

Sweeney: As a matter of historical fact, was Joseph Smith convicted of being a conman in 1826?

J: I have no idea.

S: There’s a court record in New York, we’ve got an email of it.

J: There’s a good deal of difficulty in the early frontier life in America. But that’s an incidental matter to the character and integrity of the man.

Sweeney adds in voice over:

Since that interview the church has written, saying that no charges against Smith ever prevailed.

Later, they discuss secret oaths, which were part of the church until 1990:

S: As a Mormon, in the Temple, I’ve been told, [Romney] would have sworn an oath to say that he would not pass on what happens in the Temple, lest he slit his throat. Is that true?

J: That’s not true, that’s not true. We do not have penalties in the Temple.

S: You used to.

J: We used to.

S: Therefore he swore and oath saying ‘I will not tell anyone about the secrets here, lest I slit my throat’.

J: Well, the vow that was made was regarding the ordinance, the ordinance of the Temple… [The oath was] that he would not tell anyone about his personal pledge to the Lord. I’m assuming that any religious candidate, an evangelical, a Roman Catholic, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Osama, erm, I mean President Obama, I’m assuming that anybody who has a relationship to God has made a pledge of some kind to God.

Jeffrey comes across as straight-talking and personable, but the above is somewhat odd: I would expect someone in Jeffrey’s position to be fully briefed on the church’s position about what occurred in 1826. And why make such a firm denial about the use of oaths, which is then qualified away into an effective admission?

Sweeney also looks into the Strengthening Church Members Committee, which ex-members claim keeps tabs on them. According to one ex-Mormon interviewee:

I personally left the church many years ago, and then came back in. And, when they accepted me back into the church, I was given my file. And my file was that thick [holds finger and thumb up, about an inch apart]. So, these were letters from, and reports from, state presidents, and letters that I had sent to other people in the church.

Another claims that the Committee employs former FBI and CIA agents for this purpose; in a voice-over, Sweeney adds that:

We met a former CIA man, who does not want to be identified, but confirms that the agency employs a large number of Mormons, and some who go on to work for the church.

Michael Purdy, the church’s spokesman, was somewhat evasive on the subect:

S: What’s the Strengthening Church Members Committee, and does it still exist?

P: I don’t know, and I’m no…. I guess that’s a question not for me. I… I couldn’t tell you that, I don’t know… 

S: …I’ve spoken to people, ex-members of the church, who say the Strengthening Church Members Committe does exist. Does it still exist?

P: I’ve heard that, yeah, there is a Strengthening Church Members Committee, but I couldn’t you the details of how that works, but we’d be happy to provide someone that can.

Jeffrey confirmed that the Committee exists to protect the church, primarily from polygamists.

Mitt Romney’s personal Mormonism was only a minor theme in the programme, and the only anecdote which touched on how Romney’s religion may tell us something about his personal character came from Peggie Hayes; Hayes is a single mother who claims that Romney, as a Morman Bishop in the 1980s, pressured her to give up a baby for adoption. An interview with Mia Love, a Morman mayor, gave a partial insight into “normal” Mormon life; more of this kind of thing would have given the programme more balance.

British Mormon blog By Common Consent raises some criticisms, particularly as regards Sweeney’s discussion of oaths:

Mormonism is, unapologetically, a covenant religion. Its crime in BBC eyes seems to be that it has, in the past, symbolised its covenants in distinctly pre-modern ways. Ancient rituals performed by Zoroastrian priests or Orthodox patriarchs are acceptable; similar rites performed by western moderns are not. The underlying belief seems to be that educated folk like Romney should know better. This is an unfortunate kind of secular paternalism. It also bears repeating that these oaths are long dead.

…The real fact is that at the core of Mormonism is a rather plain, low church Christianity, with decaffeinated adherents who go about their lives paying their taxes, loving their families, serving in their communities, helping the poor, and making mistakes along the way. The vast majority of Mormons I know would not be able to see themselves at all in Sweeney’s documentary.

Meanwhile, Biased BBC has gleefully screen-captured some unguarded Tweets by the programme’s producer, James Jones, which express his political and religious views.

(1) The Guardian spins the story thus:

A BBC employee has been criticised by colleagues for allegedly allowing two PRs representing the Mormon church into one of the corporation’s buildings in west London to hand deliver a letter of complaint.

Sweeney, who was out of the country when the incident occurred, told MediaGuardian: “I was flabbergasted that the PR operation for the Mormon church found it necessary to invade our office. Even Scientology didn’t invade the offices of the BBC and people say they can walk through walls

…A BBC insider said many within the corporation were furious that the PRs were granted access.

The BBC issued a statement which said: “A person turned up unexpectedly and hand delivered a letter to which we later responded. There was no breach of security.”

I’m not impressed by this – the Church’s complaint is of interest, but the fact that some unnamed security guard or receptionist let the PR people in is a non-story. It looks like a lame attempt to suggest something sinister.

Sun Claims Cyanide Cream Olympic Terror Threat

From the Sun:

AL-QAEDA fanatics are plotting a deadly cyanide poison attack on the London Olympics, a Sun investigation has found.

The chilling online plot was uncovered as two convicted al-Qaeda terrorists were released early from jail and put back on the streets ahead of the Olympics.

…An extremist who called himself Abu Hija Ansari said the poison should be mixed with a handcream that would enable it to be absorbed through the skin.

…Our investigator used a false identity to access the website which has 17,000 members worldwide and known links to six al—Qaeda terrorists.

He said: “There is a contingent using this site who want to strike at the Games. The explicit nature of what is being said would indicate more than just sabre-rattling but a wish to do real harm to the event and the people at it.”

Those of us who can think back three years will recall the last time that the Sun uncovered a supposed terror plot by having an investigator poke around web forums – alas, it turned out that things were not what they seemed.

Of course, that in doesn’t mean that the new story should be dismissed – we all know that there are dangerous fanatics out there, and the Olympics is an obvious target. “Abu Hija Ansari” may just be a sanguinary fantasist sounding off, but he needs to identified and properly assessed as a matter of urgency.

However, the Sun leaves things hanging in a way that is not helpful: although there is a blurry screen-capture, the website is not named, and the quotes have all been translated from Arabic. We are completely dependent on one anonymous source, and given the Sun‘s history that is troubling. Who are the “six al-Qaeda terrorists”, and what is the nature of their “known links” to the unnamed site? Where has the “70,000 members” figure come from? Given the way the story stokes public alarm, we ought to be given as much information as possible.

Meanwhile, The Blaze has managed to botch the story, conflating the report about the postings with background details about how MI5 plans to monitor the Olympics: we thus get the headline “MI5 Foils ‘Cyanide Hand Cream’ Attack Ahead of Olympic Games“.

This is not the first time that a cyanide cream has been linked to al-Qaeda; in August 2002, William Safire discussed a “terrorist mission to set up facilities to weaponize poisons” in the mountains of Kurdistan. Safire claimed that terrorists had produced

a form of cyanide cream that kills on contact. A shipment of this rudimentary panic-spreader, produced by what interrogators say is a Qaeda-Saddam joint venture, was recently intercepted in Turkey on its way to terror cells in the West.

Following the invasion of Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reported that

A Special Forces major investigating [the terrorist group] Ansar [al-Islam] said chemicals found at Sargat are being analyzed by U.S. intelligence… The group, according to Kurdish officials, had been experimenting on animals with a cyanide-laced cream. Several jars of peach body lotion lay at the site beside chemicals and a few empty wooden birdcages.

More Endorsements for “Islamic Antichrist” Theory

Joel Richardson (widely known as “Glenn Beck’s End-Times Prophet“) has a new book coming out in the autumn: Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case For an Islamic Antichrist. One might have thought that the well would be dry by now, but the author of The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth about the Real Nature of the Beast (previously published in 2006 as Antichrist: Islam’s Awaited Messiah) has apparently managed to milk the subject further.

As before, the prophetic tome will be published by Joseph Farah’s WND Books, and Richardson’s website lists a number of endorsements: Chuck Missler of Koinonia House, who praises Richardson’s “sharp sword of diligent scholarship”; Walter C. Kaiser of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, who tells us there is “much to commend this argument for a final Islamic Empire”; Daniel Juster, Founding President of Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and Director of Tikkun International, who advises that “prophecy teachers would do well to ask if he his not giving us a new way to look at the prophecies of the last days”; Joshua Lingel, adjunct professor of Christian apologetics to Islam at  Biola University, who judges that “Joel Richardson’s thesis cuts to the core of the issues at stake”; and, among others, Billy Humphrey, of the House of Prayer Atlanta Missions Base, who sees “a compelling argument for the Islamic Antichrist position”.

Missler is a veteran in the Bible “prophecy teacher” circuit, and he regularly takes part in events with WND‘s Jospeh Farah; Kaiser, by contrast, is an evangelical with a more scholarly reputation, and he has published in mainstream academic journals. Juster is a significant figure within Messianic Judaism; Lingel was featured on this blog recently when I discussed evangelical worries about “Chrislam”. The “House of Prayer Atlanta Missions Base” has a website here.

Richardson’s previous “Muslim Antichrist” books also come with blurbs; these are mostly by pastors and the owners of apocalyptic websites, along Phil Roberts, the then-president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (“this volume will immerse you in end times, Islamic style”). Both previous books were also graced with cover quotes from Robert Spencer. A number of endorsements are also listed on Richardson’s website, and include Walid Shoebat (blogged here) and Ergun Caner (blogged here).

However, Richardson is generous enough not to want the whole field to himself; he in turn recently endorsed a book by a certain Mark Davidson, entitled Hidden in Plain Sight: The Signposts of the Coming of the Antichrist Revealed. Davidson’s specialty appears to be the splicing together of Biblical symbolism with events of the past few years. Here’s a taste:

The First Signpost would certainly include the ending of the career of the rider on the white horse. That happened early on in America’s occupation of Iraq. Entering Iraq in March 2003 and toppling Saddam in April 2003, American forces finally captured him in December 2003.

Any end of the First Signpost would also include a withdrawal of the force used in Daniel 7 that made the lion stand on its hind legs and replaced its heart. Iraq, the former lion with wings, is now standing erect somewhat like a man, and indeed has a heart of a man, rather than that of a beast. That unnamed source of the force in Daniel 7 was the United States and its international coalition.

It should be noted, though, that not all Christian Right prophecy pundits are enthusiasts of the “Islamic Antichrist” theory – Hal Lindsey, who made his name by offering up a European Anti-Christ for 1970s evangelicals, reportedly complains that Richardson’s position is a “lie”. I suspect that 20 years from now Richardson will be pronouncing similar anathemas against prophecy books proving the existence of a Chinese Anti-Christ.

2006

1991

1988

1974

etc, etc…

UK Abortion Providers Investigated “As a Priority”: Nadine Dorries Calls for Reform of Law

The GuardianAugust 2011:

The government has reversed its position on moves to strip charities and medics of their exclusive responsibility for counselling women seeking an abortion, saying it will now advise MPs to vote against proposals from a Conservative backbencher if they are put before the Commons next week.

….On Sunday, in an apparent attempt to placate [Nadine] Dorries’s growing number of backbench supporters and avoid the amendment dominating next week’s parliamentary debate, the Department of Health said it wanted to introduce an offer of independent counselling, separate from the abortion providers, promising to consult on how best to do it.

An aide to [Health Secretary] Lansley confirmed that the move was partly in response to Dorries’s proposals, triggering accusations that the government was caving in to the anti-abortion lobby, which has backed the move…

However, Lansley’s “apparent attempts to placate” Dorries seem to have continued unabated; yesterday, the Care Quality Commission made an announcement:

CQC inspects termination of pregnancy services

The Secretary of State [for Health] asked CQC, as the regulatory agency with direct powers to inspect and seize evidence across the NHS and independent sector, to conduct these inspections as a priority.

Where our inspectors discovered pre-signed forms – indicating that providers might be breaking the law – we will share this information with the police and the General Medical Council.

CQC will also be considering what regulatory action we will be taking against these providers. We will be publishing individual reports on all providers inspected shortly and cannot legally identify non-compliant services until this point.

The practice of pre-signing forms has been public knowledge since at least 2007 (see below), and so it is not immediately clear why this was suddenly ” a priority”; the prompt may have been a recent report in the Telegraph revealing that some clinics are willing to perform abortions for reasons of sex selection.

The CQC’s statement was published the day after some of its findings were reported in the same newspaper:

The Daily Telegraph understands that more than 250 private and NHS clinics were visited and more than 50 were “not in compliance” with the law or regulations.

…[Lansley] said yesterday that the regulator had found that a number of clinics may be acting beyond the “spirit and letter of the law”.

“I was appalled,” he said. “Because if it happens, it is pretty much people engaging in a culture of both ignoring the law and trying to give themselves the right to say that although Parliament may have said this, we believe in abortion on demand.”

He said it was not just a matter of enforcing the law. “There is the risk that women don’t get the appropriate level of pre-abortion support and counselling because, if your attitude is that, ‘You’ve arrived for an abortion and you should have one,’ well actually many women don’t get the degree of support they should,” said Mr Lansley.

It’s not clear whether whether this quote was given directly to the Telegraph or derived from elsewhere, but either way the “more than 50” reference is clearly a leak to the newspaper.

Concerns about how doctors handle  the “HSA1” forms needed for a legal abortion to occur were discussed by the Science and Technology Select Committee in 2007. The committee’s report noted that

86. The Department of Health has ruled that both doctors are able to sign the HSA forms without seeing the patient, so long as they believe, in good faith, that the woman meets the legal grounds for abortion on the basis of the clinical notes. We have heard that the process of certifying abortions has become, in the words of the Christian Medical Fellowship, a “sham”. Dr Vincent Argent says that that the HSA1 form “is often considered to be just an administrative process where doctors make no attempt to form an opinion, in good faith, that the patient fulfils the grounds [for an abortion]”. He further claims to have witnessed HSA1 signing practices that include:

“Signing batches of forms before patients are even seen for consultation;
Signing the forms with no knowledge of the particular patient and without reading the notes;
Signing forms without seeing or examining the patients;
Signing forms after the abortion has been performed;
Faxing the forms to other locations for signature;
Use of signature stamps without consultation with the doctor.”

87. If requests for abortions are being ‘rubber stamped’ by doctors, either the requirement for two signatures does not play a meaningful role in abortion practice or the law is not being properly applied.

The committee concluded that the two-doctor requirement should be dropped rather than more rigorously enforced, although at least one member would have dissented; this would have been Nadine Dorries, who challenged Argent directly:

Dr Argent, you are claiming anecdotally that every day doctors up and down the country are breaking the law because it is a legal requirement that two doctors sign the signature, one would hope after having both seen and consulted with the patient. You are telling us that doctors every day break the law by carrying out this procedure. The reason why we have two doctors’ signatures is that this is not like going to have your appendix out or your tonsils out where you go to a doctor and you are informed of what is going to happen at the operation and then a doctor signs. This is actually taking a life. Are the two signatures not a requirement to protect the doctors also as well as the patient, given that we are talking about ending a life in abortion, not a procedure?

It should be noted that Lansley has avoided this particular line of argument, instead preferring to conflate the medical assessment with “pre-abortion support and counselling”.

Dorries has in the past few days used Twitter to publicise further the need for reform of the law; it is perhaps significant that Dorries’ first Tweet on the subject is timestamped at 8:10pm on 22 March, two hours before the Telegraph article was published:

Time to bring ’67 Abortion Act to Parliament to be debated and redrafted to deal with number of illegal abortions which take place every day (1)

One reason why the ’67 Act need to come to Parliament – abortion clinics break the law [Link to Telegraph added] (2)

[Anne] Furedi has admitted that BPAS Drs commit perjury and worse,cld be prosecuted under the offences against the person act http://bit.ly/GJ5eKe (3)

Dorries loathes Furedi (“breathtakingly stupid”, according to a recent Tweet), and so we can be sure that Dorries does not wish to see the law redrafted in a liberalising direction.

Dorries, as I’ve noted previously, has positioned herself as a pro-choice reformer; she does not have the support of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, and she in turn has denounced SPUC’s director John Smeaton as “shameful and cowardly”. However, in 2010 she misrepresented a pro-life religious counselling charity as being “neither pro-life nor pro-choice”, and so it is difficult to take her claims at face value. She also has links with the group Christian Concern, and she has expressed enthusiasm for Rick Santorum.

Following the abortion counselling debate in Parliament in August, a committee was created to look into the issue;  Diane Abbott was a member until January, when she withdrew claiming that it was “a front for driving through the anti-choice lobbyists’ preferred option”. Dorries responded that Abbott had been asleep during one of the meetings (personalised attacks on critics is a Dorries’ trademark: see here and here).

News Sites Scrub Articles about “Islamist Resurgence” Symposium

UPDATE: See note at end of post

Here’s an odd one: the Sun (“exclusive by Luke Heighton”), the Daily Mail (“by Tom Gardner”), and Christian Concern (sourced to the Daily Mail) have all scrubbed articles quoting statements attributed to Baroness Caroline Cox at a symposium held at the House of Lords on Monday 19 March. The symposium, entitled “Islamist Resurgence: Shari’a and freedom”, was sponsored by the Christian Broadcasting Council, and featured Cox alongside Nazir-Ali and Canon Andrew White.

Cox is a veteran activist on a number of issues, in particular the plight of persecuted Christians through Christian Solidarity Worldwide. However, she is currently best-known for her opposition to shariah courts. These unofficial courts have been allowed to come into being because of the 1996 Arbitration Act, which allows for private arbitration or private  third-party arrangements in civil disputes; Cox has proposed an amendment which would make it clear that “any matter which is within the jurisdiction of the criminal or family courts cannot be the subject of arbitration proceedings”, and that arbitration should not be discriminatory as regards gender. I’m not a particular fan of Cox, but her approach here is reasonable: by focusing on generalities, her amendment is a proportionate response to a specific problem found with some of these courts, while maintaining the principle of private arbitration.

However, the quotes attributed to Cox in the scrubbed articles are rather less subtle: rather than refering to the problem that actually exists – which is that some Muslim women have been unfairly disadvantaged by decisions made by some of these courts – the quotes instead paint a lurid picture of a future Britain as Saudi Arabia, with rapists unpunished unless there are four witnesses, laws condoning honour killings, and whippings and stonings.

The quotes are excessive and fearmongering, and to many will appear foolish – but are they genuine? Have journalists been punked by a bit of bogus churnalism? Has some kind of legal threat been made? This habit of scrubbing webpages without any explanation, correction, or apology leaves things hanging in the air in a way that it is in no-one’s interest.

The scrubbed Christian Concern post included the following detail:

Baroness Cox is one of the most outspoken campaigners against the increasing use of sharia law in the UK.

Despite much opposition she invited Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders to show his documentary on Islam to the House of Lords in 2009. Islamists responded by gathering outside Parliament in protest, waving banners stating: ‘Islam will dominate the World – Freedom can go to hell’ and ‘Sharia: the true solution – freedom can go to hell’.

For some reason, the report fails to mention another group which gathered outside Parliament when Wilders came to town – not in protest, but in support. This, of course, was the English Defence League, although the group was not endorsed by anyone at the meeting.

Cox has a number of links with conservative groups and activists; she recently featured on Hope Not Hate, in a posting about the “Coalition 4 Marriage”:

Coalition 4 Marriage operates from 5 Park Road, Gosforth Business Park, Newcastle. It’s neighbour, at number 4, just happens to be the headquarters of the Christian Institute.

…One of the patrons of the Christian Institute is Baroness Cox, who in 1987 co-founded the Committee for a Free Britain, a right-wing Conservative pressure group which backed the Poll Tax, supported the Contras in Nicaragua and used anti-gay material during their anti-Labour campaign in 1987.

I discussed the Committee for a Free Britain last June; the organisation at one time employed Paul Staines, who is now famous as a conservative political blogger, smear-merchantabusive thug, and libel bully. Staines was at the time a part of a young conservative activist scene in the UK, and Cox today employs another activist from the same libertarian milieu: this is Stuart Notholt, who travelled to last year’s independence celebrations in South Sudan on behalf of Cox’s Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (I previously mentioned Notholt in passing here).

However, the Committee for a Free Britain is ancient history: last November, by contrast, Cox attended David Horowitz’s “Freedom Weekend”, where the guest of honour was Glenn Beck. In 2008, Cox was part of a “summit” in Jerusalem organised by the vitriolic National Union MK Arieh Eldad.

UPDATE: A contributor to the “Expose” Facebook page asked Cox about the comments, and received a reply:

Thank you for your email of yesterday, raising your concern over the words printed in the Sun newspaper (21 March) which were attributed to me.

I emphasise that I did not make the remark and the Sun has apologised to me personally and I hope will publish a correction.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Cox

However, as Islamophobia Watch notes, “the remark” appears to mean only the “whipping and stoning” comment which appeared in the Sun report. A press release from the Christian Broadcasting Council, which should be more authoritative than the Sun and the Mail, attributes other quotes of the same kind to Cox and to Nazir Ali. These comments present shariah as a license for indulging in rape and paedophilia:

Sharing the platform at the CBC Symposium was Bishop Michael Nazir-Al. Together they warned of the threat to rape victims if Sharia law were to be allowed in the UK.

‘Under Sharia Law if a woman wants to bring a charge of alleged rape she is obliged to provide four independent Muslim witnesses,’ said Lady Cox.

‘Failure to do so might result in the rape victim being accused of fornication and adultery,’ added Bishop Michael.

He warned that Sharia law could be used to justify child marriage. ‘You will have child marriage, because as soon as a girl begins her periods, she is eligible to be married. How will you maintain a minimum age for marriage?’

WND Downplays Beck and Boykin’s “Kony 2012” Soros Conspiracy Theory

The gang’s all here for this one; WND‘s Chelsea Schilling reports:

A former senior Pentagon official told radio talk-show host Glenn Beck where to find the shocking truth about billionaire George Soros’ influence on President Obama’s decision to deploy U.S. troops to Uganda – as he directed Beck’s listeners to WND.

On the March 9 GBTV show, retired Gen. Jerry Boykin, the former U.S. deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence – who has played a part in nearly every recent major U.S. military operation in the last four decades – said of WND’s Aaron Klein.

“He shows that there’s a more sinister side to this. And that is a George Soros connection to the whole influence on the administration of deploying U.S. military forces in there, certainly under the guise of going after Joseph Kony [leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army accused of major human rights atrocities], but I think there is some very good information in that article that shows there is a Soros connection to this whole thing. And, fundamentally, it’s about oil.”

Although a link to Beck’s programme is included, Schilling is discrete about the reason why Boykin and Beck were discussing Uganda: Beck was worried about the viral Kony 2012 video, and he suggested that it had perhaps been funded by Soros or created by “the White House”; Boykin implicitly concurred.

Alas, however, the two pundits appear to have been the last two individuals left on the planet to remain unaware that the video was of course created by Invisible Children, a group which has strong associations with conservative evangelical organisations. Right Wing Watch and Bruce Wilson have recently looked into these links, which include an appearance by Jason Russell at Liberty University last November; Boykin visited Liberty in the same month.

WND has a particular reason to downplay criticisms of Kony 2012, despite the site’s love of conspiracy theories; in 2010 Joseph Farah announced

the appointment of Megan Byrd, a young veteran wordsmith from Tennessee, as the new editor of WND Books, the subsidiary company that claims the highest percentage of best-sellers among all publishers in America.

Byrd comes to WND from a position as writer, editor and manuscript consultant with HighWire Ink… Prior to that, she served as staff writer and editor for Invisible Children, a media-driven, international nonprofit.

For more on this blog about Boykin, see here; for Beck, see here; and for Klein, see here. Klein’s 2011 article about Soros and Uganda is briefly discussed by Terry Krepel of ConWebWatch here.

UPDATE: Fark introduces the Boykin-Beck conflab thus:

One of the dumbest discussions you will ever witness: Glenn Beck and Jerry Boykin discuss how “Kony 2012” is a Soros-backed effort that will turn Kony into a Che Guevara-like figure

UPDATE 2: WND has now jumped on the bandwagon, with a piece from Molotov Mitchell on “Kony 2012: Soros’ Hipster War“.

Police Informants and Islamic Terror Plots

The Guardian has an article about Craig Monteilh, an informant tasked by the FBI with infiltrating mosques in California:

Monteilh’s story sounds like something out of a pulp thriller. Under the supervision of two FBI agents the muscle-bound fitness instructor created a fictitious French-Syrian altar ego, called Farouk Aziz. In this disguise in 2006 Monteilh started hanging around mosques in Orange County – the long stretch of suburbia south of LA – and pretended to convert to Islam.

…Yet, far from succeeding, Monteilh eventually so unnerved Orange County’s Muslim community that that they got a restraining order against him. In an ironic twist, they also reported Monteilh to the FBI: unaware he was in fact working undercover for the agency.

Monteilh was also given the go-ahead to seduce Muslim women to gather information.

The Guardian also notes some other US cases involving informants:

In the case of the Newburgh Four – where four men were convicted for a fake terror attack on Jewish targets in the Bronx – a confidential informant offered $250,000, a free holiday and a car to one suspect for help with the attack.

In the case of the Fort Dix Five, which involved a fake plan to attack a New Jersey military base, one informant’s criminal past included attempted murder, while another admitted in court at least two of the suspects later jailed for life had not known of any plot.

Infiltrators have also been used in other countries – the most famous case was perhaps in Canada, where evidence gathered by a Muslim named Mubin Shaikh helped to convict the “Toronto 18″. Shaikh was paid well for his work, although he received more money than he expected and his motive appears to have been a genuine desire to disrupt the plans of extremist co-religionists. Journalists raised concerns about entrapment; however, during a trial in 2009 the judge determined that Shaikh was credible and ruled that there had been no entrapment. Shaikh is today billed as a “Canadian National Security Consultant”, and he will be speaking at a panel event in London in April entitled “Muslims in the West – What is the Way Forward?” (as an aside, the event is being organised with the help of Charlie Flowers; Flowers has threatened to assault me if ever he meets me).

There was also a murky case in the UK in November 2006, involving a private self-described “terror-tracking” organisation called the “VIGIL Network”. BBC Newsnight interviewed an an unnamed individual who claimed to have infiltrated Hizb ut-Tahrir in Croydon on behalf of VIGIL; the programme further claimed that there was a plot to firebomb a local synagogue, and VIGIL’s director, Dominic Wightman, claimed in a private email that VIGIL’s “plant” had brought this to the police’s attention. However, despite these dramatic and incredibly serious revelations, no arrests or trials followed – and subsequent unrelated events showed that Wightman was personally dishonest (full story here. Wightman also had links to Flowers, although they later fell out).

A few months ago I made a Freedom of Information request about this, and received the following reply:

Although the incident described took place some five years ago we do not consider this matter to be resolved.  We believe that the disclosure of the information relating to the suspicious items would have a negative effect on the community relationships and would subsequently compromise our law enforcement capabilities – reducing our ability to prevent and detect crime, which is the core principle of UK policing.  Any disclosure that could disrupt the investigative process would not be in the public interest.

Happily, this also means that the police can draw a discreet veil over what may have been a problematic and counter-productive association.