Mosab Hassan Yousef: A “Spiritual Trophy” After All

Interesting observations from Shayna Zamkanei in Haaretz about Mosab Hassan Yousef, the famous “Son of Hamas” who collaborated with Israel to prevent acts of terrorism and who now lives in the USA:

Although his love for Israel has grown since he moved to the United States in 2007, his ability to think critically about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has diminished. While writing “Son of Hamas,” his 2010 memoir, Yousef was acutely sensitive to the needs of the Palestinian people… Critically, he maintained that although he had collaborated with Israel, he was “not pro-Israeli.”…  He conscientiously and continuously drew attention to the suffering of Palestinians, both at the hands of Israelis and of Hamas and Fatah leaders.

…Yet, over the last two years, Yousef’s discourse has shifted. In a talk sponsored by Chabad in Montreal last year, he suggested that Palestinians would destroy their own future by establishing a state.

Yousef’s new approach to the Palestinian issue – namely, capitulation – marks a clear departure from his earlier stance. Furthermore, rather than defining the conflict as an Israeli-Palestinian struggle over land, he views the problem as rooted in a regional ideological war between democracy and totalitarianism.

…Why does the specific historic and political context of the conflict no longer seem to matter for Yousef? Perhaps, as he claims, living in America has exposed him to the American Jewish community, which in turn has shaped his views. Yet during this same period, he also immersed himself in an evangelical environment. He joined the Barabbas Road Church, named America’s “Church of the Week” by Pat Robertson’s “700 Club,” which is more “pro-Israel” than most American Jews.

Zamkanei notes that Yousef is also planning to make a film; Yousef has stated that the film will “expose the life of Muhammad”.

In March 2010, Yousef gave an interview to GQ, in which he expressed his intention avoid becoming a “spiritual trophy” and his opposition to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. At the time, I thought it possible that he might resist the lure of a career as a professional ex-Muslim. A few months later, however, his hostility towards Islam was deployed in the service of rabble-rousers when he jumped on the anti-“Ground Zero Mosque” bandwagon with an appearence on Fox News warning that “every mosque is a danger on American soil”.

That was just an early sign: Yousef’s transformation appears to have occurred following a scathing attack by Walid Shoebat, who is also an ex-Muslim of Palestinian heritage. Shoebat has made a career out of visiting churches and conservative groups with lurid tales of Muslim depravity and about how Obama is a secret Muslim and such;  although he initially endorsed Yousef and sought to work with him, in 2011 Shoebat went on to accuse him of being a secret Muslim sent to “infiltrate” American churches. In turn, a Shin Bet officer close to Yousef mocked Shoebat’s claims to have committed an act of terrorism in the 1970s.

Joel Richardson (author of the Robert Spencer-endorsed book The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth about the Real Nature of the Beast) saw the need for damage control:

…Walid and Yousef have both opened the idea of meeting together to work through their disagreements. My hope is that beyond reconciling as brothers in Christ with very similar pasts, Yousef would also come around to understand that if one is to truly follow Jesus, they must move on to embrace the full revelation of who Jesus is, what He does when He returns and whose side He has told us He will be on.

One way or another, it seems that Yousef got the message that even a mild lack of enthusiasm for the idea of Greater Israel is simply unacceptable and contrary to God’s purposes. One can see why he might acquiesce: here is a man estranged from his family, who has got used to having an audience, and who now spends his time among new co-religionists who have been Christians for far longer than he.

Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post has details of Yousef’s film projects:

He is working with Israeli film producer and actor Sam Feuer. Feuer played the role of Yosef Romano in the film Munich and is releasing the movie The First Grader in the fall. Feuer will produce both a feature film adaptation of Son of Hamas as well as the Muhammad movie, and insists that the film will be a “historical account” faithful to Muslim texts.

…Yousef said the film would be a historical depiction of Muhammad’s life as told through Ibn Ishaq, an Arab historian from the eighth century who is believed to be one of the most reliable biographers of the prophet. Feuer said the movie has already interested sponsors and a major screenwriter who is in the process of creating the script.

The Son of Hamas film was announced in March; according to Deadline:

David Aaron Cohen has signed on to adapt Son of Hamas, the bestselling memoir that Mosab Hassan Yousef wrote with Ron Brackin. The project has been set up independently and will be produced by Richard Harding and Sam Feuer of Sixth Sense Productions, and Southpaw Entertainment’s Richard Lewis. Development is being financed by The Shea Family Foundation, whose Darin Shea and will be exec producing with Dennis Baker. Southpaw’s Gabrielle Jerou will coproduce.

Glen Jenvey Retracts “Terror Target Sugar” Confession

Paul Ray: “I was in communication with Glen throughout the time of his false conversion to Islam”

Last month, it was reported that a married British Muslim couple in Oldham were standing trial for planning “to assemble an improvised explosive device to carry out a terrorist attack after scoping Jewish targets”. According to the prosecution, they had been “radicalised by material found on the internet such as an al Qaeda magazine called Inspire”.

The story has encouraged Glen Jenvey to claim that the January 2009 “Terror Target Sugar” front-page Sun splash, which had been based on bogus information which he had provided, was a true story after all. An interview with Jenvey has been published on Paul Ray’s blog:

Now the truth is coming out about British Jews being terror targets of British Muslims

…every posting placed on had been written by British Muslims on message forums. To make our id look real Southwest news asked me to monitor and post in the same frame of mind as British muslims on the web, this allowed us to carry on monitoring what was posted, each post myself and Southwest news posted was in fact posts already posted on British muslim message forums against Jews. The hit list of top Jews was posted by a senior member of message forum taken from a Jewish newspaper.

To recap: Jenvey had drawn attention to a discussion thread in which a certain “Saladin1970” had raised the idea of writing complaints to “Wealthy Zionist Jews” through “Muslim organisations” (“The best thing to do is not to contact them directly”). “Saladin1970” received support from a poster using the name “abuislam”; this “Abuislam” asked for “names and addresses”, raised the name of “Sir Alan Sugar” on the thread, and upped the ante by suggesting “Demo’s out-side their Home’s and Business”. However, the thread did not gain much interest, no planning occurred, no private details were posted, and other contributors to the thread suggested that the whole thing was a bad idea. The thread is still visible to this day.

Alas, however, evidence uncovered by Tim Ireland quickly showed that “abuislam” was in fact Jenvey. After a summer of erratic behaviour, Jenvey eventually confessed to what he had done and apologised. The Sun paid Sugar £25,000 damages and £125,623 in legal costs; Jenvey was arrested for incitement, although no charges followed (this perhaps leaves the unfortunate impression that attempting to whip up Muslim resentment against Jews is a less serious matter if the motive is to make Muslims look bad, although other factors may have been involved). Meanwhile, Patrick Mercer MP, whose office had been a conduit for passing Jenvey-sourced material to tabloids, sought to distance himself (albeit with as minimal amount of fuss as possible).

However, even without knowing about Jenvey’s involvement, it’s clear from the thread that the story was “Two people mouth off about British Jews on-line”, rather than “Terror Target Sugar” (Certainly, Saladin1970 is a genuinely unpleasant character, as discussed at Harry’s Place). For his part, Sugar has speculated that the Sun had chosen to run the story in the way that it did in revenge for an earlier falling-out with the paper, and he has written in his memoir that on the day the story appeared he was assured by anti-terror police “that there seemed to be no truth in it whatsoever”.

At the time of his arrest, Jenvey claimed that the way in which the story had panned out had been due to a news agency’s error:

Jenvey said planting the posts on were part of an undercover sting, which was prematurely reported by South West News.

He said: “With these posts I wanted to see what sort of extremists would be attracted to it, and what sort of threats they would make against Jews. My intention was to wait for a week.”

In his new statement, however, Jenvey is claiming that his fabricated posts were made at the behest of the agency, and that his postings were versions of real messages.

But in this case, why did he confess to having misled the public? Jenvey explains:

Well, Anjem Choudary, BBC, Guardian newspaper, Bloggerhead and other sad bloggers all live in cuckoo land with the idea that British muslims loved British Jews at the time Gaza was being bombed, so I confessed to something I never did (make up a story) and said I had become a muslim… It was very interesting for someone connected to the intelligence services to openly be invited into Mosques and Radical circles, you would not believe it. I have collected enough information that could see Anjem Choudary behind bars…

The interviewer appears to be Ray himself, who adds in a preamble:

I was in communication with Glen throughout the time of his false conversion to Islam. The before, during and after so I know the full story behind it and we had some British black humour moments about it all, especially the bacon part at the end.

Jenvey’s conversion to Islam occurred at a time of great personal turmoil, following a passing reference in the Daily Mail to Jenvey as having been “accused by several newspapers of fabricating stories about Islamic extremism”. He had also threatened suicide, which had some bearing on how police treated the fact he had posted paedophile smears about Tim Ireland out of spite after Tim’s discovered that “Abu Islam” was Jenvey. Perhaps Jenvey’s distress and conversion were simply a ruse; but it is also possible that his conversion and continued communication with Ray simply reflect an unbalanced mind.

Of course, no-one has suggested that there are no dangerous Muslim extremists or that British Jews are not potential targets; the problem was with the specific story published by the Sun in 2009. However, in true vigilante style, Ray and Jenvey suggest that concerns about the latter amounts to asserting the former:

Question: So you never posted the list of British Jews?

Glen Jenvey: No I in fact work with Jews alot on the internet I have even given talk’s in the UK at Jewish centers and took part in the film obsession the movie… everyone who took part in obsession has been attacked by the far left and muslims.

Question: When you put your name into google the Guardian newspaper and bloggers come up and Muslim sites, is this part of their attempt to silence you and spam your name.

Glen Jenvey: Yes even the BBC got on the bandwagon writing to all of my neighbours with an abusive letter about me in their research so I strung the BBC along with the rest of them.

Jenvey was interviewed by Tom Mangold for a BBC radio documentary on intelligence fantasists.

Ray adds in his preamble:

The story behind the smear job against him has not been fully told yet but I know it because I know who those who were involved in it are and their modus operandi because I was/am a target of the exact same people.

Ray discussed Jenvey on his blog and on an American radio show shortly after the “Terror Target Sugar” story was published; he claimed that Jenvey was at that time in hiding following death threats from Muslim extremists.

Ray had received a certain amount of public exposure in 2008 due to having been previously arrested for inciting hatred; he had initially been hailed as a “free speech martyr” by some American conservatives, despite the extremity of his statements (which were noted by Sadly No!). However, support melted away after pro-BNP comments came to light; Ray claimed that God was using the BNP and moving it away from racism. The incitement charge, though, was eventually dropped. During 2009 he became involved in the founding of the English Defence League, although he was quickly sidelined. Wide press attention came last year (including a front-page article in the Times), following the Utoya massacre: Anders Breivik claimed to have meet a man in the UK using the name “Richard the Lionhearted”, and Ray writes his posts under the name “Lionheart”.

I’ve written about all this a number of times on this blog; it’s not clear whether I’m supposed to be one of Ray’s “exact same people” who supposedly “smeared” Jenvey, but that would appear to be the implication. However, although my posts have for the most part been scathing and probably unwelcome, I’ve always been careful to be accurate as regards facts: I have distinguished between Ray’s qualified support for the BNP and his rejection of racism; I debunked the accusation that he had had anything to do with Breivik; and I even warned him about a bogus website which had been created in his name. Similarly, Jenvey knows from my posts and from personal communications that I have always dealt with him in good faith, as has Tim Ireland: indeed, given the viciousness of the paedo smears that appeared in the summer of 2009, Tim’s concern over Jenvey’s suicide threat demonstrated exceptionable forbearance. An expression of gratitude would be more appropriate than jibes about “sad bloggers”.

In the interview on Ray’s site, Jenvey also claims to have had “dealings” with MI5 and with “officers… attached to the anti terrorist squad running their own operations apart from New Scotland Yard”.

Church of England Backs Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel

Ekklesia reports:

There has been a widespread welcome for a vote in the Church of England General Synod supporting a nonviolent human rights programme in Palestine and Israel… By a margin of almost four to one, the Synod passed the motion praising the “vital work” of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).

…The debate on Monday (9 July) followed weeks of heated controversy. Anglican Friends of Israel and the Board of Deputies of British Jews had encouraged Synod to reject the motion. They accused EAPPI of helping to “generate a climate of hostility to Israel in the churches”. They said that after returning from Palestine, EAs form “a cohort” of “anti-Israel advocates who have almost no grasp of the suffering of normal Israelis”.

…There was embarrassment for EAPPI’s opponents when one of their key claims was found to be untrue. The Board of Deputies alleged on their website that of their three months in the region, EAs spend only one day inside Israel. It soon became apparent that every former EA, as well as many others associated with the programme, could testify to the inaccuracy of this claim.

Sharen Green, a former Ecumenical Accompanier, explained in a letter to the Church Times, “I have served twice as an EA, for whom a week hearing a variety of Israeli perspectives was programmed. We spent a day at an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. We also visited a kibbutz and many of us travelled down to Sderot, a town where the Qassam rockets rain down from Gaza.”…

This all seems reasonable enough: it’s true that outsiders who sympathize with Palestinian civilians on the sharp end of the conflict sometimes develop a distorted and incomplete understanding of the complexities of Israeli society, but EAPPI appears to be making efforts to ensure that this doesn’t happen. Pro-Israel groups might not like EAPPI’s perspective, but it looks as though the EAPPI provides a healthy counter-balance to various Christian Zionist organisations that take Christians into the area.

However, the EAPPI’s case has not been helped by the rhetoric of some of its supporters in the Synod. According to a polemical account in the Jewish Chronicle:

The proposer of the motion, Dr John Dinnen, referred to the vast sums he decided had been spent producing a leaflet to explain the opposition to the motion.

What was in fact a modest double sided A4 leaflet “must have cost £1,000”. Another speaker spoke of “powerful lobbies” seeking to influence Synod.

….In his closing remarks [Dinnen] evoked the parable of the good Samaritan in which the uncaring Jews cross the street to avoid helping an injured man, and he concluded by saying that “the Palestinians are being pushed over, while the Jews are quite powerful,” before correcting himself and saying “Israelis” instead of “Jews”.

This can be overegged: the phrase “powerful lobbies” has unhappy connotations, but it is self-evidently the case that there has been lobbying against the resolution by groups that have a certain amount of standing. That in itself is not sinister, but neither is pointing out the fact (I discussed the “lobby” issue in general here). However, unless the JC has misrepresented Dinnen’s presentation, he appears to have made some ill-considered comments.

Meanwhile, Joseph W and Alan A from Harry’s Place have been scouring the EAPPI’s website looking for discrediting material:

…An EAPPI volunteer beams at how an EAPPI team was warmly greeted by Bethlehem’s mayor Victor Batarseh, who is a supporter and key ally of the terrorist group PFLP.

…EAPPI has teamed with Mayor Batarseh alongside the antisemitic Atallah Hanna, for a joint Christian event in Bethlehem. Another speaker at this event was Sheikh Taysir Tamimi.

Tamimi still features on the EAPPI website, alongside Hanna, as someone who supports hunger strikes in protest against Israel.

Tamimi thinks Israel spreads AIDS and drugs.

… the position of EAPPI [is thatthe cause of the Middle East conflict is that Jewish theology has gone astray because of Jewish reliance on the Talmud.

There are a couple of points to be made here: first, while human rights groups would do well to maintain critical distance from the individuals named above (I have discussed Hanna here), rebuffing local officials and dignitaries is not likely to be practical, and may indeed be counter-productive. Such associations may be valid grounds for criticism and requests for explanations, but it is excessive to suggest that this is the “true” face of EAPPI.

Further, the EAPPI website contains hundreds of reports filed by supporters and volunteers; one of these, dating from 2005, makes the argument that some religious Jews are unable to persuade other religious Jews that it is acceptable to trade land for peace because of the Talmud. It’s not not a strong article, full of assertions rather than evidence, but it doesn’t claim that the Talmud is the “cause of the Middle East conflict”, and the article is not presented as being “the position of EAPPI” on Jewish theology.

Among those supporting the Anglican Friends of Israel’s opposition to resolution was Andrew White, the famous “Vicar of Baghdad”. White is also the “spiritual protector” of a chivalric order (taking over the role from Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali) with which some of the activists with Anglicans for Israel are involved.

EDL at “Free Speech and Human Rights” Conference at European Parliament

The International Civil Liberties Alliance reports:

On 9 July 2012, at the European Parliament in Brussels, writers and representatives of human rights and civil liberties groups from eighteen countries held the first International Conference for Free Speech and Human Rights, sponsored by the International Civil Liberties Alliance.

…The highlights of the conference were the presentation and signing of the 2012 Brussels Declaration, a foundational document to defend freedom of speech, civil liberties and human rights, and the presentation of the Defender of Freedom Award by Canadian humourist Mark Steyn to Lars Hedegaard, founder of the Danish Free Press Society and the International Free Press Society.

The event has received some attention due to the involvement of the English Defence League and representatives from Vlaams Belang and the Dutch Freedom Party. EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) took the opportunity to attempt to call on Richard Howett, a Labour MEP who has previously described the EDL as “racist thugs”. Howett writes:

It’s not often when you find a constituent has knocked on your office door in the European Parliament, that you’re relieved you were out at a meeting – but I was when the caller was the so-called leader of the Far Right English Defence League (EDL), who sickeningly try to call Luton in my constituency their “home.”

The fact he called came in a bizarre twitter message saying “Outside Richard Howitt’s office! Knock Knock,” after I had exposed a clandestine meeting Tommy Robinson was taking part in with neo-fascist MEPs.

This morning I found a copy of the book the meeting was discussing – a publication which calls all mosques “houses of war” –  left in my personal mailbox, together with a handwritten note: “You spineless coward, Love Tommy!”

The event was billed as a “relaunch” of the ICLA, and the participants appear to overlap with the crowd that took part in a “counterjihad leadership summit” in London in September.

The ICLA website has a list of speakers, including a couple of individuals I’ve noted previously: Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff, a “friend of the EDL” who was inducted into a “chivalric order” by Gen “Jerry” Boykin back in October; and Magdi Allam, an Italian ex-Muslim who was baptised by the Pope in 2008.  I noted Lars Hedegaard’s International Free Press Society here. Other participants included Gavin Boby, although billed for his “Law and Freedom Initiative” rather under the better-known “Mosquebusters” name. Yaxley-Lennon is not himself listed on the site, although he apparently did speak; according to a certain “Kassandra”, writing on a website called New Europe:

looking sweaty and nervous, [he] claimed that Luton was the centre of a plot by the Islamic world to bring Britain under their authority.

The ICLA’s “Brussels Declaration” focuses on the “Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam”, which was adopted by the Organization of the Islamic Conference in 1990. The Cairo Declaration stresses shariah as the basis for human rights, in ways that limit aspects of the UDHR; the ICLA apparently see this document as the key to understanding how Islam, through the OIC, plans to “enforce sharia in the world”. The signers of the ICLA’s “Brussels Declaration” therefore “solemnly require of their governments and civil society” not to involve themselves with any activities involving “known proponents of the Cairo Declaration or societal sharia enforcement” (aside from discussions on “transition of their codification and implementation of human rights to the UNDHR definitions”). Presumably those organisations which fail to meet this “solemn requirement” will get a knock at the door from “Tommy”.

Gaubatz Repeats Claim that US Muslim Soldiers are Murdering Fellow Troops and Claiming “Friendly Fire”

Staying with WND:

Sources: ‘Friendly Fire’ Cases Actually Are Murder

…”Muslim Mafia” co-author David Gaubatz said on a recent edition of his counterterrorism radio program that because of a Muslim’s first allegiance to Shariah law, they are ill-fitted for the U.S. armed forces.

Gaubatz said a mosque leader in Knoxville, Tenn., reported many Muslims in the military believe that their fellow soldiers are the “enemy.”

“An Islamic leader at a mosque in Knoxville, Tenn., told me that many of the ‘friendly fire’ incidents were actually murders. He advised many Muslims are joining the military for outstanding training and to fight the enemy (their fellow troops),” Gaubatz said.

Gaubatz previously made this claim in 2010, while discussing his involvement with the risible “Mapping Shari’a” project (which I discussed here) at Front Page:

Gaubatz: …On Dec. 14, 2007, I went to an Islamic Center in Knoxville, TN. (yes recorded and evidence obtained). I had an extensive conversation with a long-time member of this mosque. He was also a former Nation of Islam member. This man described to me in detail how some U.S. Muslim soldiers are killing their own troops because, per his words, U.S. Muslims do not want to kill their brothers (the Islamic terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan).

FP: Did you provide this information to law enforcement?

Gaubatz: I provided the intelligence to the organization that paid for the research and strongly encouraged this intelligence to be provided to law enforcement immediately. During the Mapping Sharia research project we uncovered numerous pieces of intelligence similar to this.

Note that the “long-time member” of the mosque has now somehow become an “Islamic leader” in the re-telling. And also note that Gaubatz fails to go provide any specific details which would allow us to judge either his source’s credibility or the feasibility of the plot he claims to have related.

To risk stating the obvious: the circumstances of friendly fire deaths are typically subject to intense official and journalistic scrutiny; the idea that Muslim US soldiers could be murdering other US soldiers under the cloak of “friendly fire” yet remain undetected lacks believability, even without the added difficulty of Muslims in Knoxville somehow being in on it and deciding to blab to an anti-Islam polemicist.

The story is of some wider interest due to Gaubatz’s claim to expertise: as a “veteran counter-terrorism investigator” he is involved with Pamela Geller’s “SIOA” organisation, and in 2008 he was championed by Melanie Phillips in the Spectator over his claims to have found the sites of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

Gaubatz’s resurrection of the story comes in the wake of a suggestion made by Matt Staver and bogus ex-terrorist Kamal Saleem that the Obama administration is enrolling foreign Muslim students into US military academies as a part of a plot to “dismantle” western civilization.

(H/T Islamophobia Watch)

Ex-FBI Official Claims to have Seen Angels at Flight 93 Crash Site on 9/11

From Joe Kovacs at WND:

A former police officer and FBI official who retired due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder claims she saw angels when she first responded to the Pennsylvania crash of hijacked Flight 93 during the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

…”The angels started appearing on the perimeter of the crash site,” Lillie Leonardi said in an interview with Pittsburgh television station WTAE.

“They were dressed as if they were in warrior garb like a Roman centurion, and there were so many of them, you couldn’t see their faces.”

Leonardi has just published a book about her account, titled, “In the Shadow of a Badge: A Spiritual Memoir.”

In a video on her own website, she gives more details of what she saw at the crash site, explaining, “All of a sudden, I kept seeing this flicker of light. You saw all these angels manifest. One in particular, in front, that I knew, it was Michael. He knew I was there to do something. I just didn’t know what it was at that moment. He’s the conduit to God as far as I’m concerned. I’m then the conduit for other people to listen to what has to be said. And then it’s their choice to decide what to do.”

Kovacs is here writing a straight journalistic piece, so he doesn’t include any commentary expressing his own views. However, it should be noted that Kovacs’ position at WND is heavily identified with his writings as a Bible expositor, and so we can infer an implicit endorsement. Here’s his WND author by-line:

Joe Kovacs, author of the brand-new book, “The Divine Secret: The Awesome and Untold Truth About Your Phenomenal Destiny”, as well as the No. 1 best-seller“Shocked by the Bible: The Most Astonishing Facts You’ve Never Been Told,” is executive news editor for WND.

Kovacs’ books claim to bring to light aspects of Bible teaching that are often overlooked (such as information on “eating and drinking in the eternal kingdom of God” and “special abilities you can have in the kingdom of God”), although the way the book has been spun as the revelation of Biblical “secrets” has upset some of the conservative Christians who have left comments on WND.

It looks that Kovacs has been drawn to Leonardi’s story because the idea of a dramatic supernatural manifestation confirming spiritual reality and the cosmic significance of an American tragedy is just too good to pass up. Thus he’s not put off by her unorthodox claim that the Archangel Michael is “the conduit to God”, and he leaves out a detail included in an AP article from yesterday, that although Leonardi was raised a Catholic she “now practices what she calls ‘spiritualism.'”

But he’s far from being alone in succumbing: Google News results for the past 24 hours bring up hundreds of news-sites using the AP article. The flurry of interest is doubtless related to US Independence Day; Leonardi’s book was in fact self-published last autumn. The book description on Amazon includes an endorsement from a colleague:

 “An outstanding and inspirational story that will provide its’ readers with hope, and renew their faith in God and mankind… through this book the WORLD will benefit from her caring, loving personality. I personally encourage all who believe, and even those that have their doubts, to read Lillie’s story. I could not put the book down until I had read it in its entirety.” – Kenneth T. McCabe Special Agent in Charge – Federal Bureau of Investigation (Retired) Commissioner – Pennsylvania Gaming Commission Board (Retired)

Leonardi’s vision fits a pattern of idiosyncratic fantastical experience; according to her blog:

My affinity for the Archangels and most especially of Michael did not only begin with my religious upbringing. It began when the Archangel started visiting me as a child. Although I was not exactly sure who he was when he manifested, it was definitely love at first sight. In those early years, he was simply known to me as the “blue man.” A name I bestowed upon him because of his lovely cobalt blue aura. In time, Michael revealed himself to me when finally I asked him his name. 

The notion of Leonardi’s story playing any sort of role in national reflection on 9/11 seems to me to be a rather unencouraging prospect.

Although Leonardi “retired due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”, she remained at the FBI for several years following 9/11. In 2009 the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review mentioned that she was on a “leave of absence at her request” during an investigation which involved her.

“Senior Leaders” Receive Messages from God at Parliament

A UK evangelist named Christian Forster reports:

On Tuesday this week [12 June] over ninety senior leaders from church, commerce, culture and politics met in St Mary’s Undercroft directly beneath the House of Commons to listen to Jesus in silence for an hour and then to feedback what they felt He was saying to the nation…

After listening together for an hour in silence, two hours of initial responses where taken in Committee Room 16 hosted by Fiona Bruce MP. Sixty or so participants where able to speak briefly on what the Lord had said to them, further written words are being collected and collated so that a word to church and nation can be released.

An “initial summary” follows, including the following:

Our nation and its church have turned away from God and His standards and we are beginning to see and feel the resulting judgement.

The shaking of every part of man’s world-wide economic, social, political and religious systems has begun. It will be a time of great humbling, purification and refining in every aspect of society. Only what is built on the foundations that God requires will be permitted to remain – righteousness, truth and justice.

When the judgement has run its course, God has promised to restore us. This restoration must follow God’s revealed strategies and guidelines and not be led astray again by Man’s initiatives and good ideas.

According to Forster, the event was “issued by the Organising group, a coalition of ministries under the banner ”Together for the Nation’ chaired by the Maranatha Prayer Community.”

The Maranatha Community is a para-church organisation, created in 1981 by Dennis Wrigley (a Methodist layman) and Mgr. Michael Buckley, a Roman Catholic priest. As well as holding religious meetings, it provides briefing for parliamentarians and makes submissions on various topics, and issues (rather dull-looking) leaflets warning about how the UK is in moral crisis. There is a strong emphasis on the supernatural, with members claiming to receive direct messages from God on the need for national repentance. The group’s publications include an article warning of “links between organisations promoting pedophilia and the gay movement”, and it has the support of Melanie Phillips for “warn[ing] against the Islamisation of Britain and Islam’s threat to the church” (in 2009 Wrigley took part in a meeting on the subject with Sam Solomon and Patrick Sookhdeo).

Fiona Bruce (not to be confused with the newsreader of that name) featured in a Financial Times article in 2010 about evangelicals in the Conservative Party. The report included details of an “open primary” for the safe seat of Congleton:

Bruce won comfortably, taking a majority of the 220 votes cast in the first round. But a rumour soon spread that most of her votes had come from members of the New Life church, a local evangelical congregation. Buses were alleged to have ferried 150 Christians from the church.

In truth, according to churchgoers and constituency officials alike, only between 40 and 60 of the people voting were parish regulars, and they made their own way to the meeting. Bruce had addressed the church shortly before the selection – but, then, all candidates had been welcome to do so.

“Together for the Nation”, meanwhile, is also the name of a conference recently organised by the Newfrontiers grouping of neo-Pentecostal churches; David Stroud, husband of former MP Philippa Stroud, is a pastor within this group, as was widely noted in 2010. However, the name is fairly generic and there might not be any direct connection.

Forster’s account does not make clear his own role in the Parliament meeting. Forster is the son of Roger and Faith Forster, two well-established neo-Pentecostal leaders in the UK, and according to his blurb, he “has a prophetic teaching gift with a strong ministry focus on healing and prophetic release and impartation”. Also:

Christen spent time in Pasadena, California taking classes at the Fuller Seminary. Here his teachers included Peter WagnerJohn WimberRick Warren and Donald McGavran. While in the U.S, Christen lived with Che Ahn, founder of Harvest International Ministries.

Wagner heads the “New Apostolic Reformation”, which teaches that Christians should seek to take control of seven domains in modern society: “government, business, education, arts and entertainment, family services, media, and the church” (Bruce Wilson has some background here, including links with Sarah Palin). Leaders of the movement (“Apostles”) claim to be empowered by God with spiritual gifts, and rival perspectives on the world are placed within a demonology of malign supernatural forces, to be battled through spiritual warfare.

Forster is also advertising what appears to be a tie-in event, called “United Kingdom Come” and billed as “An Evening of Prophetic Prayer for Parliament and Government”:

This is an unprecedented time for the United Kingdom: financially, politically, structurally, culturally and spiritually the Nation stands at a crossroads.

Over this next month, national elders from Church, State, Culture and Commerce will be waiting on the Lord to hear heaven’s thoughts amongst the clamour of human wisdom. This will form a backdrop to an evening of prayer for the redemption, revival and reformation of these islands, this nation of nations.

Maranatha is among the groups supporting this event, which will be hosted by Christians in Government.

(H/T God and Politics UK)

Tensions at Dearborn Festival Written Up as Attack on Christians

A reasonable observation from Alan Noble at Christ and Pop Culture:

Get a bunch of kids together, mock their beliefs, try to ward them away with a pig head on a stick, yell at them, and no matter what religion they are, don’t be surprised if they start throwing trash. That doesn’t in any way justify their action, but it does explain it.

Noble was responding to reports that Muslims had “stoned” Christian evangelists in Dearborn – the source for these is a video created by Tom Trento‘s “United West” outfit:

Ruben Israel returned this year to the Arab Festival and once again incited the festival goers to scream and yell and throw trash… It was picked up by The BlazeAmerican VisionAmerican ThinkerFrontPage Magazine, and other, smaller conservative websites.

Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer have also promoted the story. However:

…The video edits out the part where Ruben Israel explains to a police officer that they have a pig head on a pole because Muslims are “petrified” of pigs and so it “keeps them at bay.” No really. He says that… They also cut out Ruben Israel mocking the crowd for being a “religion of peace.”  And one of the other “preachers” yelling at the kids that all they think about is violence and murder and hate.”

Noble notes that the edited version also leaves out footage of police working to keep order, and adults attending the festival attempting to calm the youths down. I’m surprised that this bad faith spun version of the story has received so much traction – mainstream media had a full account at the time, and Noble notes that even the Blaze had originally reported the incident as “Screaming Anti-Islam Protestors Taunt Muslims with Pig’s Head”.

There is also a claim that media has underplayed the violence Israel and his gang encountered; in particular, Israel alleges that one Muslim attempted to drive his car into the group, with the result that he is “now officially charged with 9 counts of attempted murder” (Walid Shoebat, taking this even further, headlines his own post on the subject as “Dearborn Muslim charged with Nine Counts of Murder”).

Ruben Israel’s “Official Street Preachers” have been around for a while; in 2009 they abused worshippers at a mosque in Tampa while en route to evangelising a Super Bowl event; perhaps the publicity which the stunt received (along with the lesson of Pastor Terry Jones’ rise to fame the following year) encouraged Israel to concentrate his focus more on Muslims. After I wrote about the 2009 incident on this blog, the Preachers were kind enough to feature me on their website, where I am described as a “beer guzzling, left wing LIBERAL”.

Of course, waving a pig’s head around has nothing to do with telling Muslims about Jesus – it is purely an expression of contempt, which is why activists with the English Defence League have done exactly the same thing.

(H/T Islamophobia Watch)

Conservative Documentary on 2009 Little Rock Recruiting Office Shooting

From the New York Times, February 2010:

When Monica Bledsoe spoke to her younger brother late last May, he seemed his old upbeat self… A week later, her brother, Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad [originally Carlos Bledsoe], opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle on a military recruiting center in Little Rock, killing one soldier and wounding another.

…A gentle, happy-go-lucky teenager, he had become a deeply observant Muslim in college, shunning gatherings where alcohol was served. He traveled to Yemen to study Arabic, married a Yemeni woman, was imprisoned and then deported for overstaying his visa. 

…In Mr. Muhammad’s case, the same F.B.I. agent interviewed him twice before the shootings: once while he was in prison in Yemen and then again in Nashville soon after he returned.

While the prosecution case concentrated on the facts of the murder, Bledsoe’s father Melvin called for a more wide-ranging investigation:

What he wants, Mr. Bledsoe says, is to understand how “evildoers” brainwashed his son, as he puts it. And he wants the F.B.I. held accountable for what he considers its negligence in preventing the attack.

“They didn’t pull the trigger, but they allowed this to happen,” Mr. Bledsoe said. “It is owed to the American people to know what happened. If it can happen to my son, it can happen to anyone’s son.”

Melvin Bledsoe has also made public appearances with Daris Long, the father of the soldier murdered by his son, and both men have given evidence at Peter King’s Muslim Radicalization Hearings (here and here).

The case and its aftermath are now the subject of a documentary, Losing Our Sons: An American Tragedy. The film’s website highlights endorsements from various conservative pundits, including Frank Gaffney, Brigitte Gabriel, and Daniel Pipes, and there is a video clip endorsement from Mike Hukabee. However, while this will doubtless help sell the film within conservative circles, it is likely to put anyone else off: Gaffney, Gabriel, and Pipes are known primarily as anti-Islam polemicists, and I’ve noted instances in which each has undermined his or her own credibility by making a statement of supposed fact that could not be supported (herehere, and here; in 2003, Christopher Hitchens described Pipes as a “poor if not useless ally” against Islamic extremism because of his misrepresentations).

An enthusiastic review from Rebecca Bynum at the New English Review has some discouraging background:

Losing Our Sons is the title of a brilliant and moving new documentary produced by A.R. Maezav and Ilya Feokt [sic – should be Ilya Feoktistov] of the Boston-based Americans for Peace and Tolerance led by Charles Jacobs, with financing and support by Andy Miller and the Tennessee Freedom Coalition. 

The TFC held the “world premiere” of the documentary at Maury Davis’s Cornerstone Church in Nashville last month, with Melvin Bledsoe and Daris Long in attendance; this was the location of last November’s anti-Islam “Preserving Freedom” Conference, which the TFC sponsored. In February, the TFC was in the news after arranging for local police to receive problematic training in Islam at an evangelical church in Murfreesboro. As I’ve noted previously, the TFC has close links with the English Defence League, and Miller has met both Tommy Robinson and British Freedom’s Paul Weston (the TFC also has links with the UK Christian Right group Christian Concern).

Background details for Americans for Peace and Tolerance appear in a blurb on the film’s website:

Americans for Peace and Tolerance is headed by Dr. Charles Jacobs, named by the Forward as one of America’s top 50 Jewish leaders…

The APT board of directors includes Dr. Dennis Hale and Sheikh Dr. Ahmed Mansour. Dr. Mansour is an Al Azhar-educated reformist Islamic scholar who fled his native Egypt after persecution by radical Islamists and imprisonment by Egyptian authorities. He is the spiritual leader of a reformist movement of Islam called the Quranists.

Of the film’s two co-directors, there are oddly no further details about “A. R. Maezav” anywhere. Feoktistov, meanwhile, is the APT’s research director, and he and Jacobs have launched attacks on the Anti-Defamation League for allegedly “allying with Muslim anti-Semites to fight ‘Islamophobia’ and then defaming legitimately concerned citizens”. The ADL responded last month, accusing Jacobs of “McCarthyism”.

Of course,  the biases of the documentary’s creators and supporters do not automatically mean  that the film is no good, and certainly do not mean that we should ignore a wider religious context for Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad’s actions. Indeed, the best way to ensure that the killing is not used for partisan ends is for the subject to receive wide critical attention.

Putin Confidant to Receive Award from “Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative”

From the website of “Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative“:

First Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative (GCGI) Award for Public Service in the Interests of the Common Good

The first GCGI Award is to be presented to Dr. Vladimir Ivanovich Yakunin, Founding President of the World Public Forum, “Dialogue of Civilisations” (WPFDC).

The Award is given in recognition of Dr. Yakunin’s extraordinary and tireless work for peace and justice, and his selfless service in helping to build a better world. He exemplifies the great potential that the Dialogue of Civilisations has to offer towards peaceful co-existence for the common good. He continues to encourage and empower others to discover their own potential for change and to evoke their hidden strengths to bring more goodness into the world.

The award will be presented in Oxford in September. Yakunin runs Russia’s railways, and he is a confidant of Vladimir Putin; reports describe him variously as an “Orthodox Christian Chekist” (a phrase recently used by singer Mikhail Borzykin in a song refering to “the group of KGB officers who came to power in Russia after President Boris Yeltsin resigned in 1999”) and as “the Kremlin’s model Orthodox businessman”. Last November, Yakunin arranged for the Mother of God’s belt to be brought from Mount Athos for a tour of Russia, in order to promote family values (by coincidence, the timing also allowed Putin to strike a religious pose shortly before elections), and in 2010 it was reported from Estonia that “Mayor of Tallinn Edgar Savisaar had secretly attempted to fund his political party and the building of a church in Savisaar’s electoral district in Lasnamäe through the deep pockets of Vladimir Yakunin.”

Yakunin also runs the Center of the National Glory of Russia and the Saint Andrew the First-Called Foundation, and these organisations are named as the “initiators” of the WPF. The organisation holds regular meetings on Rhodes, which brings together international religious leaders and academics. It also hands out awards; ahead of elections in Kazakhstan in 2011, Yakunin personally delivered “The Dialogue of Civilizations International Prize” to Nursultan Nazarbayev, who also hosts large-scale international inter-faith meetings (meanwhile, former Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer is a co-chairman of the WPF and a “consultant” to Nazarbayev). The WPF was co-founded by Nicholas Papanicolaou, who resides in the USA and who has close links with activists in the neo-Pentecostal Christian Right (in particular, with Rick Joyner and Gen “Jerry” Boykin).

GCGI, meanwhile, describes itself as follows:

Founded in 2002 at an international conference in Oxford, the GCGI is the UK’s leading progressive think tank, producing cutting-edge research and innovative policy ideas for a just, democratic and sustainable world.

This leading position will perhaps be news to people at Demos, which is a rather better-known “progressive think tank” in the UK. However, the GCGI does have an impressive advisory council of academics, religious figures, and other individuals (including Yakunin). The founder is a certain Kamran Mofid, who is also involved with the WPF.

“Progressive” is not a word that one would associate with Yakunin; back in January he denounced anti-Putin protestors as having “no connection with democracy”, and in his opening speech at the most recent WPF conference in Rhodes he noted “incompatibility between the neo-liberal interpretation of the system of human rights and the system of human values”, and that “the universal urge to have the ‘freedom’ to say ‘anything and in any form’ has a temporary character and is beginning to fade away”. Inevitably, he particularly rails against “homosexual propaganda” as a “social pollutant”; last summer, Yakunin and his wife (President of the Sanctity of Motherhood Program) joined Don Feder and Larry Jacobs at a World Congress of Families event in Moscow.