ZANU PF vs Nigerian Evangelist

Last week I noted that the death of Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika in April had occurred just days after he had laughed off a prophecy by Nigerian mega-pastor TB Joshua that an African president would shortly die. Joshua reportedly followed up on this a few weeks later; Bulawayo 24 reports:

Another old African president will fall critically ill, hospitalised but will be saved from death, popular Nigerian prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua (TB Joshua), left, has reportedly said.

In his most recent prophecy this week, the popular prophet reportedly said the Africa president, whom he did not name, would miss death by a whisker.

Once again, no name is given, but SW Radio Africa now reports that:

These prophecies are not going down well with ZANU PF given Mugabe’s health and surrounding speculation.

Joshua has reportedly been invited to Zimbabwe by Morgan Tsvangirai to speak at the National Day of Prayer, although event organisers have denied this. Either way, the prospect of Joshua showing up has provoked something of a backlash:

The campaign took an unusual turn on Wednesday when senior police officers were shown a video that allegedly exposes TB Joshua as a womaniser and sorcerer…

Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner-General responsible for crime, Josephine Shambare and Senior Assistant Commissioner Nonkosi Ncube, were some of the senior officers that attended the screening of the video titled “TB Joshua’s evil doings finally revealed.”

The screening was done at the Police General Headquarters in Harare and Ncube told journalists the video was screened because “people must be aware of false prophets.”

As the police were watching the video, ex-communicated Anglican bishop and fierce Zanu (PF) supporter Nolbert Kunonga was launching an unprovoked attack on the Nigerian at his offices in Harare. He said TB Joshua’s prophecies were driven by Satanism and were “diabolic.”

I’ve blogged on Kunonga previously; in return for describing the dictator as “more merciful than God” in the run-up to the 2002 election, he was rewarded with two farms that had been appropriated by Mugabe’s militia, and which were susequently reportedly being mismanaged). Kunonga also boasts of baptising children “in the Zanu-PF way”.

The anti-Joshua video appeared in 2009; TB Joshua’s evil doings finally revealed is the YouTube title, but the documentary is actually called Deception of the Age.  Online Nigeria has some background:

…produced by Nollywood star,Paul Adams with fiery Pastor Ladi Thompson as the executive director… [it] offers chilling accounts of human right abuses, manipulations, deceptions and sexual escapades perpetrated by the prophet, which were based on the confessions of his former devotees…

With vivid accounts of the prophet’s atrocities as supplied by Bisola Johnson, a former studio worker who was a close disciple of Joshua for 14 years and Paul Agomoh, the first indigenously ordained prophet in the church, who also left after 10 years, the documentary is best described as a highly-damaging piece.

Joshua’s church (the Synagogue Church of All Nations) responded with a counter-video in which individuals who had attacked Joshua confessed to dishonesty; one case was that of “Mukaila Bello, a man who confessed he lied that he buried an eight-month old pregnant woman in the church and produced hundreds of cassettes of such fabrications which he sold to make tons of money”.

Bibles for Schools “Presented by the Secretary of State for Education”

Political Scrapbook reports:

Bibles commissioned by Michael Gove and distributed to every state school in the country have a direct reference to him on the spine, Political Scrapbook can exclusively reveal. In an act of breathtaking hubris, the tomes bear the prominent wording “Presented by the Secretary of State for Education”.

The Bibles are copies of the King James Bible, printed by the Oxford University Press and distributed to commemorate 400 years since the first edition of 1611. The books come with a letter from Gove; according to an extract quoted in the Guardian:

“I believe it is important that all pupils – of all faiths or none – should appreciate this icon and its impact on our language and democracy,” it says. He adds that the gift has been funded through the generosity of private sponsors “who share my view that this book has a unique place in our nation’s history and culture”.

It’s not clear from this whether Gove has used the letter merely to puff his own “view”, or whether he cites scholarly assessments, which would be more to the point. The Department of Education website has a list of relevant “Quotes by secular commentators” (scroll down; “Quotes from religious leaders” gets top billing), appropriately beginning with David Crystal, author of Begat: the King James Bible and the English Language. The site also announces that

Our intention is to create a lasting legacy of the anniversary and to stimulate discussion and learning across the curriculum.

We hope teachers and pupils will be inspired to explore how this book has influenced our nation’s history, language and culture over the past four centuries.

However, the project has come under criticism as being superfluous to the needs of schools, and it seems to me that there is something overly ideological about a religious text being distributed to schools with a stamp of official political approval. As one teacher at a church school writes on the TES Forum (also quoted by the Guardian):

 I feel the inscription on the side is more to do with this project than the actual ‘gift’.

I find myself less impressed, though, by complaints that the KJV is too difficult for pupils to engage with (inevitably, “inner-city” children are cited here). Of course parts of the book are difficult and obscure (indeed, Ronald Knox enjoyed pointing out that the KJV translation of Amos 4:2-3 is gibberish), but it’s not the case that the KJV is generally inaccessible or unteachable. Much of the text is actually an easier read than Shakespeare.

Also, Political Scrapbook‘s mockery is somewhat overegged; there is no indication that Gove’s name is printed in the book, and Gove appears to have dropped a plan, reported last year, to add “a two-line introduction” or foreword (shades of “with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor”).

The Guardian notes some of the project’s donors:

They include Lord Stanley Fink, the former co-treasurer of the Conservative party who was once chief executive of the listed hedge fund Man Group… Lord Robert Edmiston, a motor trade entrepreneur … Ramez Sousou of the private equity firm TowerBrook… Michael Farmer, the Conservative party co-treasurer and City financier… Lord Harris,… the chairman of Carpetright.

The Liberal Democrat donor Paul Marshall… and his wife have also donated funds for the scheme, as has Sir Peter Lampl, the founder of a private equity firm.

I previously wrote about Farmer here.

Helen Ukpabio’s Brothers Reportedly Killed by Police

A number of Nigerian news-sites are reporting that three brothers of “Lady Apostle” Helen Ukpabio were killed by police in Akwa Ibom on 25 March, and that a younger sister died from shock shortly afterwards. The reports include photos of dead bodies. The source of the story and of the pictures appears to be a blog titled Three Brothers Murdered by the Police and State Security Service of Akwa Ibom State, which posted an article by Helen Ukpabio’s surviving brother Henry Akpabio (sic for spelling) on 17 April. The article has been re-posted and adapted on a number of other sites:

It sounds like a fairy tale yet it is true. The Nigerian Police and SSS have been indulging in secret killings of supposed enemies to politicians at a fee. This they do and frame the people they killed either as kidnappers or as robbers. The victims are never given any chance to defend themselves.

According to the story, the brothers were killed following a meeting with “three white men… concerning the Dam that is to be constructed in their land”:

A little while into the meeting, the white men said they had to hold a brief discussion outside. As they left, the generating plant went off, Joseph [Akpabio]‘s wife rushed out to check if it was petrol problem. There she met over twenty police men wearing black T-shirts. They ordered her to stand still or else they would kill her; there the white men shook hands with the leaders of the squad… then left from there.

The police rushed into Joseph wife’s house rounded them up and asked them to lie down flat on their faces, handcuffed them behind, and forced them into their trucks… The police shot all the boys (about six of them) on their knees and crippled them.

The three brothers, along with others, were reportedly soon afterwards killed. Witness accounts have been posted to YouTube here.

Meanwhile, Henry Akpabio, who resides in the UK, claims to have received threatening messages from the leader of the squad, stating that “that they are commissioned to eliminate him and the entire family of Chief Esessien Akpabio”, including Helen Ukpabio.

Helen Ukpabio, as I’ve blogged a number of times, is internationally notorious as a proponent of the belief  – not found anywhere in the Bible – that personal misfortune can be caused by child witches, and that children identified as witches require “deliverance”. While Ukpabio asserts that she cures children afflicted in this way through a harmless ceremony, the doctrine has caused great harm to children and families. Ukpabio has not responded well to critical scrutiny, which she claims to believe is due to an “atheist conspiracy” that includes this blog, and she has endorsed an abusive website aimed against critics.

Needless to say, despite the controversy around Ukpabio and “child witches”, it should be recognised that a terrible tragedy has occurred here, and that the deaths raise serious questions about law and order in Nigeria. The Nigerian authorities need to undertake a thorough investigation of this incident, as a matter of urgency. I write this despite having been myself seriously defamed and abused by close followers of the “Lady Apostle”, and despite the fact that these same followers expressed vicious glee after the Nigerian humanist Leo Igwe’s father was seriously injured by corrupt police in 2010.

The Sun Paid Alan Sugar “£25,000 Damages and £125,623 in Legal Costs”

Sugar also threatened to sue Rebekah Brooks personally

In 2011, Macmillan published a book by Alan Sugar, entitled The Way I See It: Rants, Revelations And Rules For Life. Chapter 19 is on the subject of the press, and has some details about the “Terror Target Sugar” fiasco. This occurred in January 2009, when the Sun ran a front-page story stating that Muslim terrorists were plotting on-line to attack him, as a prominent British Jew, in revenge for Israeli actions in Gaza. The Sun‘s source was a self-described terror expert named Glen Jenvey, who was soon after found out by Tim Ireland to have planted the very evidence which he went on to “expose”.

Sugar explains that he was contacted by police on 7 January 2009, and that they told him that the “special terror division of the police” had looked into it:

They were pleased to tell me, from the intelligence they had, that there seemed to be no truth in it whatsoever… I put my lawyers on the case, and I also took the step of not just suing the newspaper, but suing Rebekah Wade [now Rebekah Brooks] personally. (271)

I noted the legal threat at the time. The incident occurred several months after Sugar had fallen out with the Sun on another matter, and Sugar speculates that the story may have been revenge for that. He also states that the Sun’s deputy editor, Dominic Mohan, had tried to justify the story on the grounds that it was based on Jenvey’s “expert testimony”:

They are nasty, nasty people at the Sun… They ended up paying £25,000 damages and £125,623 in legal costs. (272)

Sugar also notes that Jenvey was arrested in December 2009, although “I believe that police dropped the whole incident”.

Sugar, by his own account, was told by the police that there was no real threat on the same day that the story was published; and the evidence against Jenvey uncovered by Tim could be confirmed independently by anyone. Yet when a complaint was made to the Press Complaints Commission a week later, the Sun‘s managing editor Graham Dudman decided to press on with defending the indefensible. The Sun did not publicly apologise until the autumn, by which time Jenvey had confessed all following a summer of erratic behaviour that included anonymous libellous attacks on Tim and a short-lived conversion to extremist Islam. The Sun‘s climb-down included an article which painted Jenvey as a sinister figure, which was doubtless more congenial than reflecting on the failures which led to the original publication.

Sugar’s book describes Jenvey as “the Sun‘s terror expert”; this is not quite accurate, as he was never employed by the paper. Instead, he was the source of stories that appeared in a number of newspapers, some of which were mediated through the office of Patrick Mercer MP, formerly Shadow Minister for Homeland Security.

Jenvey has now re-emerged, with a diatribe for a Sri Lanka-focused website called the Asian Tribune:

Why is it that the national press can’t bring itself to use the words Pakistani or Afghan sex gangs in their reporting of these cases or more to the point Muslim sex gangs!

…The offenders in Rochdale and previous Muslim criminal gangs were acting from a religiously inspired cultural perspective that is incompatible with British society and is not shared by the Asian community. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity all have an older religious and cultural tradition in Asia than Islam with a moral code that is compatible with British law and values. It’s disgraceful that the media should use such racial terms to link the sexual abuse crimes committed by these Muslims with all Asians.

…The people in my community are all more than tired of the problems associated with Muslim drug gangs, Muslim sex gangs and Muslim supporters of terrorist groups. The funds raised by Muslims for Islamic terrorists are used to finance attacks on Indian as well as British innocents; in Mumbai and in London.

One wonders about the motive for this, given that the author previously wrote postings under a Muslim name urging Muslims to attack British Jews.

(Footnote: The Asian Tribune is run by a certain KT Rajasingham, and has a controversial reputation. A libel action recently brought against it in Sweden included the claim that the site “is closely associated with the Sri Lankan government, its undercover agents and Sri Lankan Military Intelligence Services”. The site also carries a number of pieces attacking Channel 4 for its documentaries on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka)

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Slams Improper Military Training on Islam

Wired reports:

America’s top military officer condemned in the strongest possible terms a Defense Department course that taught troops to prep for a “total war” on Islam using “Hiroshima”-style tactics.

“It was totally objectionable, against our values and it wasn’t academically sound,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a Pentagon press conference on Thursday. The instructor responsible for the course, Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley, is “no longer in a teaching status,” Dempsey added — but he is still employed at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.

Dempsey ordered a review of teaching materials last month. The story is now being reported widely – it’s even made its way onto the BBC Radio 4 Today programme (with input from Lawrence Kolb of the Center for American Progress – go to 2hr 46m 25s).

Yesterday, Wired reported on some of the material included in the course:

…For the better part of the last decade, a small cabal of self-anointed counterterrorism experts has been working its way through the U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement communities, trying to convince whoever it could that America’s real terrorist enemy wasn’t al-Qaida — but the Islamic faith itself. In his course, Dooley brought in these anti-Muslim demagogues as guest lecturers. And he took their argument to its final, ugly conclusion.

…Dooley lays out a possible four-phase war plan to carry out a forced transformation of the Islam religion… International laws protecting civilians in wartime are “no longer relevant,” Dooley continues. And that opens the possibility of applying “the historical precedents of Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” to Islam’s holiest cities, and bringing about “Mecca and Medina[‘s] destruction.”

Improper training on Islam for military and law-enforcement is a subject that has come under increasing scrutiny over the past year and a half: a critical article appeared in the Washington Post in December 2010, and there was a lengthy article in the Washington Monthly in March 2011 which prompted an expression of concern from Joe Lieberman, in his capacity as Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman. A report by the progressive Political Research Associates also appeared in spring 2011, while the summer saw critical pieces on CNN and NPR, as well as an earlier report in WiredWired also ran a second piece in October. This year has seen troubling stories involving the NYPD and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department in Tennessee.

The latest Wired piece has details of some of the guest lecturers used by Dooley, with links to original sources:

Shireen Burki declared during the 2008 election that “Obama is bin Laden’s dream candidate.” In her Joint Forces Staff College lecture, she told students that “Islam is an Imperialist/Conquering Religion.” (.pdf)

Stephen Coughlin…. suggested [link] that al-Qaida helped drive the overthrow of Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak and Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi. It was part of a scheme by Islamists to conquer the world, he added. And Coughlin mocked those who didn’t see this plot as clearly as he did, accusing them of “complexification.”

…Former FBI employee John Guandolo told the conspiratorial World Net Daily website last year that Obama was only the latest president to fall under the influence of Islamic extremists… Guandolo’s paper, titled “Usual Responses from the Enemy When Presented With the Truth” (.pdf), was one of hundreds of presentations, documents, videos and web links electronically distributed to the Joint Forces Staff College students. Included in that trove: a paper alleging that “it is a permanent command in Islam for Muslims to hate and despise Jews and Christians” (.pdf). So was a video lecture from Serge Trifkovic, a former professor who appeared as a defense witness in several trials of Bosnian Serb leaders convicted of war crimes, including the genocide of Muslims. A web link, titled “Watch Before This Is Pulled,” supposedly shows President Obama — the commander-in-chief of the senior officers attending the course — admitting that he’s a Muslim.

Most of these names are familiar: in 2010, Coughlin took part in an unofficial “Fort Hood Memorial” event alongside Gen “Jerry” Boykin, Walid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem, and Robert Spencer; Guandolo was the focus of last summer’s NRP piece, which focused on police training in Ohio. In 2009, Trifkovic took part in a “Preserving Western Civilization” conference organised by Dr Michael H. Hart, an astrophysicist who claims that human history should be interpreted by considering differences in racial IQs – I discussed this here.

TB Joshua: When Prophecy Doesn’t Fail

From the Nyasa Times, 2 April:

Nigerian televangelist TB Joshua of the Synagogue [Church of all Nations] has grabbed the headlines again after insisting that his prophecy of the death of an old African president is now very close

….Malawi’s septuagenarian President Bingu wa Mutharika scoffed at fears about his health and indirectly reacted to TB Joshua[‘s] prophecy when he hosted religious leaders at State House recently:

“I am not going to die because someone wants me to die… It is only God who knowns when I was born and when I will die.”

From the BBC News, 6 April:

President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi has died, doctors and cabinet ministers have told the BBC…

Mr Mutharika, 78, suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday and state media say he was flown to South Africa for treatment.

Joshua’s church subsequently posted extracts from sermons given in February and March, in which he appears to specify that the unnamed doomed president would not be from west Africa, and gave 5 April as the last of three possible dates.

The new president of Malawi is former vice president Joyce Banda, who is a follower of Joshua. Her relationship with Mutharika had been hostile for some time, and Mutharika’s death has inspired some conspiracy-mongering; according to the Zimbabwe Herald:

Social networking sites have been awash with conspiracy theories saying if this had happened in some Western countries, it would have necessitated a commission of enquiry.

…Zanu-PF legislator for Tsholotsho North Professor Jonathan Moyo… alleged that President wa Mutharika had been killed by his enemies who used TB Joshua’s pronouncement to divert attention from them.

Banda made an unannounced journey to Nigeria at the end of April; there was “speculation” that she had used the trip to visit Joshua.

However, it’s possible that Mutharika was simply spooked to death, despite making show of scepticism; he was in poor health and he appears to have been a believer in spiritual forces. A 2005 article in the Telegraph reported that he had

arrested two journalists, one from the BBC, for reporting that exorcists have been summoned to the presidential palace. They were later released on bail.

Mr Mutharika angrily denied fleeing the property and declared that he had never been afraid of ghosts.

A presidential aide had been quoted as saying: “Sometimes the president feels rodents crawling all over his body but, when the lights are turned on, he sees nothing.”

The Rev Malani Mtonga, his official adviser on religious affairs, said the terrified president had already fled his haunted palace. “We have asked clerics from several Christian churches to exorcise evil spirits,” he said.

Shortly after Joshua’s first pronouncement on the subject of an impending presidential death, Malawi Lands Minister Yunun Mussa slaughtered “three goats as a sacrifice” in an attempt to save Mutharika’s life (this was during a visit to a school; teachers and pupils were reportedly “shocked”).

The story may, though, have been overdone: a blog called TB Joshua Watch points to some anomalies:

…None of this [specific] information was publicised by SCOAN until it ‘came true’. On the contrary, before Bingu’s death, SCOAN attacked media outlets for ‘misrepresenting’ TB Joshua’s prophecy. How did the media misrepresent TB Joshua? By claiming that he had mentioned a specific timeframe for the prophecy!

…When we went to the archives of SCOAN full services on youtube, we found that the videos of the services on both February 5th and March 18th (the two crucial services in which he is said to have specified a timeframe) were mysteriously missing from the archive. See for yourselves: TB Joshua Rebroadcast Archive.


‘Mutharika knew I was talking about him,’ proclaimed TB Joshua in a service in April. He held up a letter, showing the signature of the late Malawian president and an official letterhead. In the letter, TB Joshua boasted, Mutharika had acknowledged that he was the subject of the prophecy and his days were numbered.

However, Malawian officials say that this is completely untrue. Mutharika’s aide for religious matters, Billy Gama, as well as the typist who wrote the letter, confirmed that the letter sent from Mutharika to TB Joshua was simply a routine letter thanking him for a book that he sent as a gift. 

Despite Moyo’s hostility, Joshua is now due to visit Zimbabwe; the Herald reports:

CHURCH leaders yesterday said controversial Nigerian prophet Temitope Balogun Joshua was not welcome in Zimbabwe.

The churches argued that prophet TB Joshua’s teachings were of no help to the country as they were judgmental, partisan and unorthodox.

TB Joshua heads the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria and was said to be guest speaker during the National Day of Prayer set for May 25, Africa Day.

…Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai reportedly invited the Nigerian prophet to attend the National Day of Prayer slated for the National Sports Stadium in Harare.

Cameroon, meanwhile, has banned Joshua from the country, and citizens are officially discouraged from travelling to Nigeria to attend his services:

Cameroon Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Henri Eyebe Ayissi, in an official communiqué he issued titled: “The Devil Is In the House”, described T.B. Joshua as a “son of the devil” pretending to be “a man of God.”

Joshua also claims to have predicted the death of Michael Jackson:

June 2009 will be remembered as the year when Michael Jackson died.What many people don’t know is that his death had been prophesied by TB Jackson 5 months earlier. On a live broadcast on Emmanuel TV, the prophet said,

“I’m seeing a great star whom the world is shouting, “Hey, hey, hey!” In his own area, he’s famous – he’s known everywhere. He is great – too great… I see something will begin to happen to that star and that may likely end in him packing his load and going on the journey of no return…”

Some have dismissed the prophesy as too general to be associated with Michael Jackson, but later events proved that TB Joshua actually had Michael Jackson in mind. On live TV, former President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Tee Mac, told a congragation,

“The man of God (TB Joshua) called me to his office and said to me, ‘Please, tell your friend Marlon to bring Michael here to Nigeria. Michael needs healing; he needs deliverance.’ I told the man of God that Michael Jackson just went for a medical check up because he is going to have about 50 concerts soon. But the man of God said to me, ‘Send Michael here – he needs healing.'”

Dorries Agonistes 2: The Prime Minister

Somewhat alarmingly, it appears that the UK news cycle and political agenda is now being set by Nadine Dorries MP. Writing in the Mail on Sunday (where else?), Dorries warns the prime minister that he will be gone by Christmas:

Despite my comments of last week, in which I described David Cameron and George Osborne as ‘two arrogant posh boys who don’t know the price of milk’, I hold nothing against ‘posh’ people… But I do have a problem with arrogance. And when arrogance combines with privilege to be the root cause of bad decisions it is not a pleasant sight.

…While Britons scream out for strong policies on law and order, a stable NHS and an in-out referendum on Europe to cut us free from basket-case Southern European economies, Cameron makes gay marriage and Lords reform his  priorities.

…According to the rules of the backbench 1922 Committee, in order for David Cameron’s position as leader to be challenged, the chairman of the committee needs to receive 46 signatures from Conservative MPs to signal a vote of no confidence. 

I would guess that those signatures are already coming in and will reach 46 by Christmas.

This complaint of “arrogance” comes from an MP who allowed her copy of the guide to MP’s expenses to fall out of her office window, and then  as a gesture of contempt posted a photograph of it lying on a nearby roof.

Dorries’ attack drips with personal animosity and her trademark viciousness (for other examples, see here and here), and perhaps marks the low-point of a deteriorating relationship. In February 2011 she wrote of “an excellent one to one meeting with the Prime Minister” at which coffee was served:  “The code is no coffee means bad news”. However, a few days later she mysteriously closed her Twitter account; we may speculate that she had been asked to tone down her public statements to avoid whipping up unnecessary controversy, and that Dorries acquiesced.

This, though, was prior to a Parliamentary debate on abortion counselling, which took place the following September. Dorries had hoped for Conservative support for her proposed amendment, but was disappointed; James Forsyth noted the exchange at Prime Minister’s Questions which has become perhaps her most famous moment:

Dorries, irritated by how Cameron withdrew support for her abortion amendment as soon as the Lib Dems started kicking off, asked the Prime Minister when he would tell ‘the deputy Prime Minister who is boss?’ Cameron replied ‘I know the honourable lady is extremely frustrated’ at which the House descended into puerile laughter. The double entendre appeared unintentional, Cameron seemed slightly taken aback by the House’s reaction at first, but having made it he should have tried to respectfully answer her question rather than just sitting down.

Cameron subsequently sent Dorries a private apology by text message, but this would have simply further confirmed Dorries’ sense of her own self-importance. Previously, Dorries had threatened to derail John Bercow’s position as Speaker through a campaign of media attacks on his personal character (“oily opportunist”); shortly after these attacks ceased, Bercow appointed her to a prestigious advisory body called the Panel of Chairs. The lesson of this perhaps came to mind when the Prime Minister acknowledged that he had made a mistake.

Subsequent to the “frustrated” exchange came the parliamentary debate on her proposed amendment. Her moment in the spotlight did not go well; her rambling and self-regarding discourse embarrassed the amendment’s co-sponsor, Frank Field, who wearily asked, “Does the Hon. Lady accept that she might further her case if she concluded her contribution soon?” A few days later there was a further setback when it was announced that Dorries’ Parliamentary seat may disappear at the next election due to boundary changes. On the plus side, though, Dorries now enjoys extensive media attention as a rent-a-quote “outspoken MP”; hence headlines such as “Tory MP Nadine Dorries urges reform of ‘sexist’ BBC”, and wide publicity given to a Tweet in support of a sexist beer brand in the Commons bar (that one even made it into Chinese translation). Dorries has nothing to lose by self-serving populist outbursts, and much to gain.

However, Dorries’ motives also operate at a higher level; back in 2007 she explained to the War Cry how she had been “converted through an Alpha course”:

‘… I am not an MP for any reason other than because God wants me to be. There is nothing I did that got me here; it is what God did. There is nothing amazing or special about me, I am just a conduit for God to use.’

Dorries has close links with Christian Concern, and her Twitter rhetoric increasingly echos the UK’s newly-assertive Christian Right:

Is the coalition government secretly implementing an anti-Christian agenda? And if so, who is driving it, Cameron and Osborne or the LDs? (1)

Is this the most anti Christian government in history asks @PaulGoodmanCH (2)

Farron, wears Christian badge but NEVER Supported any legislation to reduce abortion.#christianofconvenience (3)

@sunny_hundal To finish, you don’t condem people who advocate killing babies, you don’t attack Islam for executing gay men, but you do attack a Christian woman who believes in corrective therapy, which I don’t by the way. Your bigotry is priceless. (4 and 5)

Dorries discusses gay marriage in a companion article for Conservative Home:

Gay marriage is a policy which has been pursued by the metro elite gay activists and needs to be put into the same bin [as Lords Reform]. I have yet to meet a gay couple in my constituency or beyond who support it; in fact, the reaction has been quite the opposite. Great Britain and its gay couples don’t live on Canal Street in Manchester, shop in The Lanes in Brighton or socialise at Gaydar in London. Gay couples are no different from heterosexual couples and yet this policy transforms them into political agitators who have set themselves against the church and community. The policy is divisive, unpopular with the public, is tearing the Conservative Party apart and will influence absolutely no one in terms of the way they vote in the future. I won’t dwell on who got the policy into No10 in the first place; however, as I am sure the happy-in-a-civil-partnership Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw would agree, it should never have been given the time of day in the first instance.

A previous piece by Dorries on the subject was quoted by Don Feder in a press release for an upcoming Christian Concern conference on marriage.

This morning, George Osborne attempted to deflect Dorries’ news-leading outburst during an appearance on the Andrew Marr Show. The Telegraph reports:

The public were not concerned about Lord’s reform or gay marriage, explained Mr Osborne but rather they wanted the government to focus its attention on “the economy, the education system, the welfare system, the NHS (and) our police”.

This was a clever attempt to turn Dorries’ complaint back against her: Dorries writes in the Mail that “Cameron makes gay marriage and Lords reform his  priorities”, but Osborne is here saying that these are in fact Dorries’ priorities, since she is the one making an issue of them. Whether this bit of rhetorical judo will work, though, is another matter.

Dorries is not the first Tory MP to have predicted Cameron’s imminent political demise; last November Patrick Mercer (recently discussed by me here) was secretly recorded promising that Cameron would “go in the spring. He’ll resign in the spring”. Alas, Mercer didn’t go into in further details, but instead digressed onto the subject of Ukrainian women (“Ooooh ahhh. They are ­extraordinary. They ARE extraordinary”.).

Pam Geller Backs Anti-Islam Buddhists in Sri Lanka

A Sri Lankan Buddhist has written to Pamela Geller, to express his appreciation of her anti-Islam website. Geller has published his letter:

Im from Sri Lanka. A Buddhist. Im very interested in your work against Islamic terrorism. (I mean its as a terrorism because all things in their Qur’an is terrorism. aka black book of terrorism)

…Some incident happens in here last week. Islam mosque built recently in a land or more than 800 years old Buddhist temple. The Dambulla rock caves well known around the world….

this is the most recent incident only. they did, and doing many things against us. their plan is lost Sinhalese people from Sri Lanka and become Muslim country.

…Please note some fake, incorrect news published though many international news such as BBC. these terror islamic people show this as Buddhism racist to world.

But actually they against us, our religion. we did nothing…

Geller’s response is triumphant:

More news you will never see. This is the same Sri Lanka that Rifqa Bary’s parents wanted to send her back to. And everyone in the media parroted the same thing — that Sri Lanka had no problem with Islam or its devout adherents. Reality was different: Rifqa herself, in her harrowing video explaining why she fled from her home in fear for her life, said that Muslim girls in Sri Lanka are killed or put into insane asylums for trying to leave Islam. She knew what she was talking about.

In fact, Muslims make up only 7.6 per cent of Sri Lanka’s population, and the country’s laws favour Buddhism – in 2010 a Sri Lankan convert to Islam was arrested for publishing two books about her conversion. Around that time, Geller’s associate Robert Spencer was among those incorrectly and ignorantly asserting that Sri Lanka is a Muslim country (I blogged previously on Bary here).

Of course, this does not mean that Muslim extremists do not exist in Sri Lanka, but the claim that evidence of aggressive Buddhist behaviour at Dumballa merely “fake, incorrect news” is not supportable. A Sri Lankan website called Groundviews has what appears to be comprehensive coverage of recent events in Dambulla, where militant Buddhist monks have been demanding the removal of a local mosque and kovil (a type of Tamil Hindu temple). Helpfully, the site’s articles include commentary and translation of local news reports. Here’s an extract from one piece:

...There are members of the Sangha engaged in mob violence. There is a member of the Sangha who disrobes, jumps up and down and exposes himself, in public, against the mosque. Others break down the entrance of the mosque. A Chief Prelate from the Dambulla Temple suggests that the mob is a shramadaanaya, and that destroying the mosque is something that they should in fact be helped by the government.

…At around 3.47 in this video, there is a particularly chilling exchange between one of the Chief Prelates of the Dambulla Temple and a Hindu resident of the area. The female resident, who is not once dis-respectful in her submissions to the Prelate, says that from when she was small, she had worshipped at a Kovil in the area. The Prelate’s immediate answer is whether she is referring to the 1800?s. In a menacing Sinhala idiom that loses a lot of its original violence in translation, the Chief Prelate threatens to either remove the Kovil, or have it removed along with the homes of the Hindu residents, noting that they are all there illegally. The Chief Prelate notes, through a Sinhala adage, that not only are the crows attempting to fly over their heads, they are now attempting to enter the nest as well – a clear reference to the Hindus and Muslims in the areas.

…Late last year, a similar mob also led by Buddhist monks destroyed another Muslim place of worship. Photos of the incident show Police just standing by, and a green flag with Islamic iconography being burnt. Mervyn Silva, a senior government Minister whose public record of violence is well documented and is protected by no less than the ruling family, openly threatens to maim and kill human rights defenders and, literally, in the same breath says he is a good Sinhala Buddhist. Some of these statements were made in a leading temple in Colombo, with members of the Buddhist clergy present, who went on to bless the Minister.

It is alleged by the protesters that the mosque is an illegal structure, and built more recently than local Muslims assert; however, another article on the site has posted what appear to be the mosque’s deeds. Bill Weinberg notes and discusses some other sources at World War 4 Report here; the evidence strongly suggests that the monks’ attack was motivated by Sinhalese chauvinism.

Hypocrisy from Thomas More Law Center on Kamal Saleem and Free Speech

From Wood TV, 27 January:

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) – Rep. Dave Agema told 24 Hour News 8 he thinks Allegan’s police chief overreacted when he shut down an event the representative and a self-proclaimed former terrorist were both speaking at.

Allegan City Police Chief Rick Hoyer told 24 Hour News 8, he didn’t find out there was a bounty on the head of Kamal Saleem, until his speech at Allegan High School was already underway.

…Hoyer said Commissioner [Willis] Sage actually walked up to one of his officers during the event and told him that Saleem had a $25 million dollar bounty. That officer, a sergeant on the force, checked out the information with Saleem’s body guard. When the armed body guard confirmed it, telling police that Islamic terrorists who follow the teaching of the Quran that have been directed to behead Saleem, that’s when Hoyer said they took action.

Hoyer perhaps did misjudge the situation – but he found himself himself having to make a immediate decision on a matter of public safety based on information given to him at the last moment. It appears that Saleem was a victim of his own self-publicity;  the obvious question is why, if the “$25 million” bounty really exists, Saleem is not under round-the-clock police guard, in the same way that Salman Rushdie was for many years.

The Thomas More Law Center has now put its own spin on the event in Allegan, as it announces a lawsuit:

Amid shouts of “What about free speech?” from the audience, the Allegan Police Department ordered the event shut-down.   School officials notified police that they had received a letter complaining about the event from Dawud Walid, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI).   The letter asked the school to disallow the event despite an existing contract.  CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism funding trial in U. S. history, U.S. v. Holy Land Foundation.

…TMLC’s federal lawsuit was brought on behalf of State Representative David Agema; a chapter leader of ACT! for America, Elizabeth Griffin; Allegan County Commissioner, Willis Sage; and Mark Gurley, one of the event sponsors.

In fact, the TMLC’s lawsuit stinks of bad faith – and here’s why:

193. Defendants’ pretextual claim that the free speech event needed to be shut down subverts the true cause for the closing of the free speech event: complying with the demands of  hecklers, evidenced by the letter of Defendants CAIR, People For the American Way, Walid, and Keegan, and valuing the heckler’s veto over Constitutional freedoms of Plaintiffs.

…225. Defendants CAIR, [Dawud] Walid, People For the American Way, and [Michael] Keegan intentionally interfered with the Contract by sending a letter to Defendant [Kevin] Harness requesting  that the School District breach its Contract with Plaintiffs. 

226. Defendants CAIR, Walid, People For the American Way, and Keegan improperly interfered with the Contract.

First, there is no evidence that Hoyer acted on any “letter” that was sent to the School District – why would he? And if so, why would he have allowed the event to get underway in the first place? But more substantively, the TMLC is seeking to punish groups and individuals for daring to contact the School District with their concerns about Saleem. Neither CAIR nor PFAW had any decision-making power over whether the event went ahead – the only reason they are included in the lawsuit is because TMLC wishes to suppress free speech while pretending to uphold it. It’s a SLAPP, and utter humbug.

In fact, there are very good public interest reasons for interested parties and concerned individuals to have contacted the School District – and PFAW’s liberal political perspective or troubling allegations about some of CAIR’s associations are irrelevant. Saleem presents himself as an ex-terrorist turned Christian whistleblower, when in fact his back-story is extremely dubious, and his claim to be an expert on Islam cannot be taken seriously. A couple of weeks ago, for instance, he spoke a Christian Right/conservative conflab called The Awakening 2012; as Right Wing Watch has documented, he used the occasion (standing alongside Frank Gaffney) to allege that when Obama appears to pledge allegiance to the flag, he holds his hand in a special way which shows that in reality he is praying to Allah. Saleem also stated that Roe vs Wade was part of a plot to establish shariah, and that plans to reform immigration law involves “sending money to Hamas” in order to import Muslims, with the result “this world will become past tense and one day we’ll be wearing ragheads”. Such extravagances speak for themselves – and demonstrate that Saleem’s presence degrades the dignity any educational setting.

In 2010, Saleem was debunked in a piece published in Books & Culture, a sister publication of the evangelical Christianity Today. According to the article’s author, Doug Howard:

I first encountered Kamal Saleem when he appeared at Calvin College in November 2007. A look at his website told me immediately that he was not who he said he was. The signature of his deception was his statement that “in my family was the Grand Wazir of Islam.” The term is ridiculous, a spurious title meant to mislead the innocent with an aura of authority.

…In The Blood of Lambs, Kamal Saleem writes, “I wanted to be like Bond.” In these pages he is Bond, James Bond, in size 6X. He gets those emphatic rivals, the PLO and the Muslim Brotherhood, both to recruit him. He recalls the intricate details of raids he carried out at age seven. Abu Jihad himself teaches him how to use an AK-47. He is shown off by Yasser Arafat as a model warrior. In Libya at age 14 he has Muammar Qaddafi gushing in gratitude. In Iraq, he waves to Saddam Hussein… Even if one were disposed to give these entertaining claims the benefit of the doubt, the book’s frequent mistakes give the reader pause. The Islamic umma does not mean one world government, and it is not “coming.” The PLO was a secular organization even though Yasser Arafat prayed and quoted the Qur’an.

Further details appear in a recent article in Mother Jones:

Saleem claims that the Muslim Brotherhood has put a $25 million bounty on his head, and that there have been attempts to earn it: After a 2007 event in Chino Hills, California, he writes in his book, he returned to his Holiday Inn to find his room ransacked and a band of dangerous Middle Easterners on his trail. Saleem describes calling the police to alert them to an assassination attempt. Local law enforcement, however, has no record of any such incident.

The same article contains a quote from someone who knew Saleem in the USA before he was famous:

[Wally] Winter recalls his former roommate as a devout Muslim whose yarns often lapsed into wild exaggeration. “He could sell swampland in Louisiana,” Winter says. “I really do not believe the story about the terrorism. I totally believe that he would make up something like that to either make money or become well known.”

The City of Allegan, meanwhile, has issued a statement, as reported by MLive:

Attorney Scott Smith, representing Allegan, said in a statement that the city has not been served with the lawsuit, but he reviewed it this morning. It names the city, police chief, police officers, school officials and two advocacy groups as defendants.

…”This lawsuit is disappointing in many ways,” Smith wrote. “It is based on conjecture, logical fallacies, and, more disappointingly, factual inaccuracies. The plaintiffs did not even spell one of the defendants’ names correctly. It is disappointing that the lawsuit wrongly imputes motives to the police officers.”

He said he was disappointed that the lawsuit was filed. He said the city cooperated with Thomas More as it sought information about the Jan. 26 event.

“The City quickly provided the requested information and offered to address any other questions or concerns the Thomas More Law Center or its client might have. But, without any further inquiries or any attempts to address the plaintiffs’ concerns, a lawsuit was filed. If, as seems to be alleged by the complaint, its sole purpose is to ensure the defendants respect First Amendment rights, a lawsuit was unnecessary.”

UPDATE: I note that one of the the plaintiffs, Mark Gurley, is a pastor (at the Healing Rooms of Grand Rapids), and he is a member Rick Joyner’s Christian Right group the Oak Initiative. He’s also a birther.

A Tabloid Troll and Patrick Mercer

In January 2009, two articles in British tabloids revealed that “Muslim fanatics” were planning to harm public figures in the UK as a response to Israeli actions in Gaza. The People revealed that the singer Madonna was a target because of her “Jewish links”, while the Sun issued a front page story (since deleted from its website) claiming that Alan Sugar was a “terror target” because he is Jewish. Both stories relied heavily on postings taken from on-line discussion forums, and were deeply problematic. In the case of the Madonna story, Unity at Ministry of Truth noted that the postings cited came from newly-created accounts that could not be traced back to anyone, while the evidence of a plot against Sugar was discovered by Tim Ireland of Bloggerheads to have been planted by Glen Jenvey, who was the person who claimed to have discovered it.

Jenvey’s status as an independent “counter-terror” expert had been endorsed by Patrick Mercer MP, who was formerly Shadow Minister for Homeland Security. Further, Mercer’s office acted as a conduit between Jenvey and the media – Tim has published an email in which a member of Mercer’s staff pitched a (different) story to the People after having “been in touch with Mr Jenvey about a number of things”. As the evidence against Jenvey piled up, Mercer issued a statement in which he announced that he would be “looking carefully”  into “his dealings with Mr Jenvey”. However, he’s been reluctant to discuss the matter since then; instead, he discussed Tim with Nadine Dorries MP, and followed her lead by crying “stalker” to deflect further critical scrutiny (Mercer found this tactic so congenial that he went on to use the same trick against his ex-lover).

Tim’s interaction with Mercer was recently (20 April) raised on Twitter, by someone using the name “Tabloidman” (@tabloidtroll)

@tabloidtroll: @bloggerheads You’re in Private Eye for your little dodgy stunts so often you should be given your own column don’t you think? #hypocrisy

@malcolmcoles: @bloggerheads @tabloidtroll he wasn’t necessarily claiming you were named in it was he? I read it more that your stunts were in it …*

@tabloidtroll: @zelo_street @bloggerheads I was referring to his involvement not naming you insignificant little man.

@tabloidtroll: @zelo_street @bloggerheads God this is boring! Just see his manipulation in the Eye of far right activist to have a go at Patrick Mercer.

Tabloidman has spent the last few months firing off vituperative Tweets against various individuals involved with the Leveson Inquiry; his targets have included Tom Watson MP and Richard Peppiatt, who last year quit working for the Star in disgust at the paper’s standards. The above attack on Tim was Tabloidman’s response to an inquiry from Tim as to whether he would like to declare an interest.

Tabloidman’s accusations are a libellously garbled travesty. The only occasion on which material derived from Tim’s researches has featured in Private Eye was in relation to Tim’s exposure of Jenvey; however, it was not a “stunt”, nobody was “manipulated” (and Jenvey is not a “far right activist”), and the target was the Sun, not Patrick Mercer. The Eye was able to follow the evidence trail for the story independently; and having done so, this was probably why the journalist concerned felt that he could use Tim’s work without giving any credit (and to make a “nutter” jibe when Tim complained). I read the Eye regularly, and I’ve never seen anything else that could be traced back to Tim (although some input from Tim would certainly improve the magazine).

But why did Tabloidman seize on the Mercer connection in the first place? As Tim notes in an interview for the Social Media Show, this is not likely to be an issue that many people are familiar with. This, and other reasons not in the public domain, led Tim to suspect the identity of Tabloidman to be a freelance journalist named Dennis Rice, whose credits appear to include a story about a piece of burnt toast that looked like Osama bin Laden.

As Tim now writes on his blog, he recently asked Rice by email if he was Tabloidman; Rice replied, stating that he was not, and that his “lawyers will deal with anything anyone would be foolish enough to print – alleging or otherwise – that I am”. Earlier, a message had been sent to Tabloidman containing a weblink to a page on Tim’s site. Tabloidman clicked on the link; the IP matched that of Rice’s email.

It’s not clear why Rice would consider being linked to Tabloidman to be damaging to his reputation: he commended Tabloidman on his own Twitter feed, and he has been in communication with Tabloidman about Tim; after a link to Tim’s piece was promoted by Tom Watson, Tabloidman cautioned Watson that

Ricey told me about the loon stalking him. Be careful of the company you keep. (1)

Think Thames Valley Police will want to talk to you. They are currently investigating your (clearly unchecked) source. (2)

Rice has indeed reported Tim to the police for daring to ask him about Tabloidman; he has also deleted his own Twitter feed while allowing Tabloidman to rant on against Tim, both on Twitter and on his own website. These attacks include the claim that Tim has “harassed” Nadine Dorries (a subject I have discussed here) and a deliberate misrepresentation of the IP address issue – Tabloidman states that Tim is claiming to have captured an IP from a Twitter DM, which is of course impossible. Tabloidman also reportedly claims that his anonymous Tweets attacking people amount to “whistleblowing”, and that his anonymity is therefore protected by law.

Coincidentally, Rice  had a “terror target” story of his own, back in September 2008: in an article for the Express (sister paper to the Star), he wrote that Paul McCartney “has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.” The report quoted criticism of McCartney from “a number of websites”, although Omar Bakri provided the meat of the piece with a suitably sinister quote. Patrick Mercer also makes an inevitable appearance in the story.

The genre of over-hyped and poorly-sourced terror threat stories has survived Jenvey’s exposure. Over the past couple of years, British newspaper readers have pondered the spectre of “HIV-needle bombs” (that was another one from Mercer); “breast-implant bombs“; and, just recently, an “Olympic cyanide-cream” scare.

* I’ve included Malcolm Coles’ interjection as he’s a media insider – “Product Director at Trinity Mirror”.

UPDATE (13 June): Tabloid Troll is now claiming to contain multitudes:

…In the case of one journalist wrongly identified as being Tabloidtroll we haven’t been able disprove blatant lies which have been told about him in an instant – which coming out and saying who we are would obviously do.

And without giving too much more away we can tell you that those contributing to this Tweet/Blog come from four very different and distinct tabloid newspapers – giving you unparalleled insights, for example, about what is happening behind the scenes at News International, while also writing about the internal machinations at Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday. Among our ranks are both Sunday and Daily newspaper staff of all colours and creeds, and sexes.

It looks like Tabloid Troll is therefore everyone except Dennis Rice.

Of course, this may be the case now; but this plurality is oddly difficult to detect in Tabloid Troll’s Twitter history, even in posts where one would expect a corporate “we”. For example: “Has it not occurred to you that a lot of the hacks who follow me might know exactly who I am?” (12 May); “Yet he won’t answer the Q as to how he knew about plans to out me” (9 May); “All this nonsense about me only started after I dared to question the accountability and transparency of the MST and Hacked Off” (9 May); and “I am now apparently being followed by Clint Eastwood” (24 April). Also, there was a short-lived site which Tabloid Troll created to attack critics and the ex-Daily Star whistleblower Richard Peppiatt:

The peculiar irony of being wrongly outed – both in name and for no justifiable cause – is that I now have close to 2,500 followers today.

Another oddity is that a Tabloid Troll supporter using the Twitter name “frankiescar” recently claimed to have met Tabloid Troll, and in his opinion “he’s great lunch company”. Tabloid Troll confirmed that the meeting had occurred, describing his “Splendid lunch with @frankiescar today” (Mini update: as soon as I drew attention to this evidence on Twitter, Tabloid Troll blocked me.)

UPDATE 2 (17 July): Tim has now published a study of Tweets posted by @tabloidtroll and @dennisricemedia, produced by Dr Nicci MacLeod at the Centre for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University. The report’s conclusion:

There are a significant number of examples of consistency between the two sets of texts, and these are significant because as authors we are faced with a variety of options, and within each range of options the author(s) of both these sets of texts has selected the same option. Put another way, the analyses presented here have demonstrated that for all the features selected, each of which allows for a limited set of choices to be made, the author of tabloidtroll and the author of dennisricemedia make the same choice.

Based on my analyses, I conclude that there are multiple points of linguistic consistency, and no significant points of linguistic difference. It is my opinion that the use of emoticons and onomatopoeic expressions is the most marked, and therefore provides the strongest evidence of consistency.

One particularly striking parallel noted in the report is that both accounts have made use of the unusual phrase “-err not.” (including the hyphen and full stop): Tabloid Troll on 19 March, and Dennis Rice Media on 9 January. These pre-date interest in whether Rice is running both accounts.

Meanwhile, Tim has also returned to the matter of police involvement: Rice made two complaints against Tim, and each time

Thames Valley Police responded by dragging their heels and “collating papers” for many weeks before finally confirming that I was never a suspect, while neatly avoiding any comment on Dennis Rice demonstrably implying/claiming otherwise on their behalf.


One man who allowed himself to be convinced by Rice’s lies offered to come around to confront me personally about my ‘cowardice’, to see if I was a “man or a mouse”. Not as any kind of threat, you understand, just so he could know whether to bring cheese. Ha. ha. Ha.

One interesting aside is that during June the distinguished journalist Roy Gleenslade made a passing reference on his Guardian blog to Tabloid Troll’s main site, describing it as “a newly launched blog ‘written by a number of anonymous national newspaper journalists’ [which] looks as if it has the potential to be an interesting read in future.” Tim left a comment on the site putting Greenslade right, which was quickly deleted and replaced with a notice stating that “this comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our community standards” – thus leaving the false impression that it had been abusive in some way, rather than simply awkward.

Tim now adds:

Here I grant Roy Greenslade a slow handclap for immediately falling for one of these charades and endorsing a day-old site from an unknown author… over an article on the subject of media standards, no less. Roy didn’t correct his idiocy, by the way; he ran away from thread, leaving me/others to deal with the fallout, and repeatedly allowing Rice to pretend that he had been legitimised by the Guardian’s “endorsement”. Thanks, Roy. You started out with a single act of mere idiocy, but then you were so afraid of looking foolish you acted like a complete bastard. I doubt I shall be trusting you again now I know how reluctant you are to admit error and/or correct diary items even when you know you are in the wrong.