Helen Ukpabio Discusses “Festival of Sweet Victories”, New Book, Demons

Nigerian magazine Yes! International has placed on-line its recent interview with evangelist Helen Ukpabio, who is known for her teachings about the dangers of child witches. The interview received some attention earlier this month, as it includes an attack on Pastor T.B. Joshua, whom she accuses of working with demons.

The full transcript shows that a number of subjects were discussed, such as her August “Festival of Sweet Victories“:

In recent times, I have been enjoying a lot of victories over those who accused me of one thing or the other. First, it was the Censor’s Board that took me to court and for four years they made me to stand trial as an accused or as a criminal. But at the end God saw me through. I was discharged and acquitted. I was not even cross-examined or anything. While I was still pondering on what to do next, the atheists came in with this heated blackmail and again, God gave me victory.

The tagline for this event was “Do you know that God has Vindicated us (Liberty) from a Global Scandal of Child Witch Abuses which was heavily smeared at us?”, and Yes! tells us that

The one-week programme which was immensely successful attracted leading men of God like Bishop N.E Moses

Moses, it should be recalled, “consecrated” Ukpabio as an “Apostle” in 2009,  and other clerics participated in the event. Moses praised members of her church for invading a conference on child-witch stigmatisation, and declared that: “The enemy is attacking! Witches attacking! Wizards attacking! Atheists attacking!”

Ukpabio claims that criticism of her teachings about child witches and attempts to rescue children accused of witchcraft amount to an atheist conspiracy, and it seems that the “Festival” was also a book-launch event:

The book is about my encounter with the atheists who claimed they were fighting for child witchcraft that never existed. They were fighting for a non-existing cause and made noise and generated money from the world. I marvel at the way people can easily use their demonic wisdom to kill, murder and slander another person to be brought forward and to be able to make it. So, I had to write the truth and let people see the truth. So, the book is very rich by way of its exposition on the individuals involved. Every chapter is about an individual and the extent the person was involved in the child witchcraft saga.

I’ve seen part of this book, which is entitled Akwa Ibom State Child-Witch Scam: The Wholesome Truth and published by Kings View Publishing House of Calabar (tagline: “Forever Excellent”) . An entire chapter (Chapter 9) is devoted to none other than me, and consists of material taken from this blog interspersed with claims about an atheist conspiracy supposedly involving me and a number of other persons (in particular, Leo Igwe). The book even includes the suggestion that I may be murderer, since I am supposed to have had a girlfriend from university days who has supposedly disappeared. The whole story is of course completely made up, but apparently Ukpabio has no fear of being punished by God for breaking one of the Ten Commandments.

The Yes! interview also touches on the subject of the recent deaths of three of Ukpabio’s brothers in violent circumstances, the shock of which also caused a sister to pass away. I discussed this incident here. Ukpabio explains that:

…in my own family, people don’t die young. The youngest person that has ever died in my family died at 115. Yes, my father’s elder brother. They don’t die at 90, they don’t die at 100. They must put something on top. My father’s eldest sister died at 132 years; from the same father but different mother. So, it is the first time our family, our compound is experiencing untimely deaths and four people at a go.

The later part of the interview is concerned with theological questions. These include the problem of visions given by demons:

So, when somebody is seeing from the scope of a witchcraft realm called Tam and Oma. Tam and Oma are like the demonic springboards that transmit visions to their agents.

The dangers of “Adonai” demons:

Adonai is a group of demons that if you serve them, they can give you money. They only demand worship, they want to be worshipped like God and most preachers, that is what they are doing.

The age of the universe:

If God had created this world and this world was up to two hundred and something million years before human beings came to inhabit it, that God that has been there, what haste is He in to come and destroy a world of 7000 years? This world is not older than 7000 years. In fact, this is the 7000th year we are entering.

And the difference between paradise and heaven:

There is heaven; the heaven of God. But that is not where the Christian goes when he dies. He goes to paradise. From paradise he will be raptured if the trumpet sounds. The dead in Christ shall rise first. That’s from paradise.

Man Arrested in Greece for Satirising Venerated Orthodox Monk on Facebook

As has been widely reported, a man in Greece has been arrested for blasphemy after creating a satirical “Pastafarian” Facebook page in which a venerated Orthodox monk named Elder Paisios is transformed into “Elder Pastitsios”. The most detailed summary of Greek media sources on the subject I’ve come across is provided by a guest-post published by the Center for Inquiry’s Free Thinking blog; the post explains that the Facebook page had received “one hundred thousand complaints”, including death threats, and that the Greek police have stated that their investigation was completed before the matter was raised in Parliament by the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. In July, the creator of the Facebook page also submitted a fictitious miracle story about Elder Paisios to various Orthodox and far-right websites, “not only to expose the gullibility of the faithful, but primarily to show the poor fact-checking done by these sites”.

Elder Paisios died in 1994, and it is thought that he will be made into a saint by the Orthodox Church. A 2002 book chapter by John Chryssavgis published in Paths to the Heart: Sufism and the Christian East can be viewed on Google Books and gives an overview of his life and work, drawing  in part on a book by a fellow-monk writing under the name “Priestmonk Christodoulos”. Chryssavgis tells us that Paisios was known for his “positive and edifying counsel”, with a spirituality that recalled the Desert Fathers, and that “he directed the lives of numerous people who sought his advice through visitations and correspondence alike”.

Collections of Paisios’ writings, and of texts about him, can be found here and also here. Although much of what he wrote appears to have been concerned with spirituality, he was also the author of a pamphlet entitled Signs Of The Times – 666, which fed into apocalyptic Greek Orthodox fears over bar-codes and the EU; Chryssavgis explains that “when he no longer felt that the issue was as relevant, he encouraged people to be silent”. This site has a reproduction of the original manuscript.

Numerous prophecies have also been attributed to Paisios, some of which have been translated into English and posted to YouTube; these include the suggestion that Turkey will “dissolve” and that Greece will re-take control of Istanbul/Constantinople (Paisios and his parents were refugees from Asia Minor). One website has published an essay in which Paisios supposedly rants against how “Zionists” use “black magic” and “Satan-worship” and are preparing an Antichrist Messiah; it is claimed to have been translated into English via Russian, although no proper source is given and its authenticity is disputed.

Walid Shoebat’s Cousin Linked to Innocence of Muslims Filmmaker

Walid Shoebat writes (emphasis and link in original):

Court documents reveal that Nakoula Bacile Nakoula, producer of the movie Innocence of Muslims, partnered in a scheme with Eiad Salameh, my first cousin.

Eiad is a Muslim terror supporter and is not an Egyptian Copt.

He comes from Beit Sahour, Bethlehem and is well known by the FBI and the Arab community as a conduit for Middle Easterners who can obtain authentic, legitimate identifications, from passports to credit cards that include many nationalities. He then places these forms of identification into the hands of dubious characters that are not the real identity.

I wrote about Nakoula here and here. Shoebat was named as “Walid Salameh” by a former associate in 2009; other evidence (which I won’t go into here, out of respect for privacy) also suggests that this is his legal name.

Shoebat has featured on this blog a number of times: it seems that he probably had some involvement on the fringes of the PLO back in the 1970s, and he has milked this into a supposed general expertise on the evils of Islam, which, as a convert to Christianity, he now purports to expose. Thus Shoebat claims that Obama is a secret Muslim, working in cahoots with terrorists; he also claims to be an expositor of the Bible, promoting the ludicrous claim that “666” is a reference to the phrase “in the name of Allah”. Shoebat has also toured with the more extravagantly phoney Kamal Saleem, as part of an ensemble of “3 ex-terrorists”.

The court document linked by Shoebat was posted to The Smoking Gun, which also has some background:

Nakoula, 55, was arrested in June 2009 for his role in a check-kiting ring that stole nearly $800,000 from six financial institutions by using stolen Social Security numbers and identities.  Nakoula was named in a six-count felony indictment accusing him and unnamed “co-schemers” of perpetrating the bank fraud.

…Nakoula identified the ring’s leader as Eiad Salameh, a notorious fraudster who has been tracked for more than a decade by state and federal investigators. In his debriefings, Nakoula said he was recruited as a “runner” by Salameh, who pocketed the majority of money generated by the bank swindles, according to James Henderson, Nakoula’s attorney.

The document itself, which dates from 2010, spells Eiad’s surname as “Salamy”. It has been  reported previously that Nakoula’s past aliases have included “Erwin Salameh”; Shoebat claims that this was when he was posing as Eiad Salameh’s brother.

Shoebat asserts that Eiad Salameh has “contacts with terror networks”, although details are scarce; Shoebat has linked to one of his own older posts, in which he mentioned an alleged link to “Hilarion Cappucci, a Christian Syrian born terrorist”, and he now draws attention to a recent Daily Beast article about Nakoula’s past involvement with drug dealing, which includes the following quote:

“I’m satisfied that portions of the drug sales have moved back to the Middle East and portions of that are going to support terrorist organizations,” said then DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson.

Shoebat suggests that “The Eiad Nakoula connection was likely terror-related”, and he claims that his cousin, like Nakoula, had previously used a false Israeli identity. He concludes:

Who ever made this film, claimed Jews funded him and that he was Copt. Obviously, this was intended to do harm to his real enemies — Israel and the Copts.

Meanwhile, Nakoula has been returned to jail for probation violations; according to the Daily Telegraph:

As a condition of his release, Nakoula, a Coptic Christian who most recently lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, was barred from accessing the Internet or using aliases without the permission of a probation officer, court records show.

…Federal prosecutors have made eight allegations against Nakoula of violating the terms of his release, including lying to probation officers. 

For Robert Spencer – who shared a stage with Shoebat in Texas in November 2010 – this means that Nakoula is a “political prisoner”, whose arrest “is a symbol of America’s capitulation to the Sharia”.

Joel Gilbert: The Self-Described “Islamic History Scholar” Behind Obama “Real Father” Conspiracy Doc

From Jerome Corsi at WND:

One million copies of the documentary film that presents evidence Barack Obama’s real father was Communist Party activist Frank Marshall Davis have been mailed to households in the crucial presidential-election swing state Ohio.

Filmmaker Joel Gilbert told WND his mass distribution of his documentary “Dreams from My Real Father” is an attempt to bypass an establishment media blackout.

…Gilbert also has sent another 100,000 copies to New Hampshire, and he has plans to send 1 million to six more swing states.

His effort through his company, Highway 61 Entertainment, is governed by the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which barred government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.

The film was recently endorsed by Alabama state GOP chairman Bill Armistead (he reportedly calls it “factual” and “absolutely frightening”), and it has received a certain amount of attention due to an advert placed in the New York Post. A central plank of Gilbert’s argument is that Marshall Davis supposedly took intimate photos of Stanley Ann Dunham that were published in pornographic magazines; this claim was widely discussed back in 2008. The film itself came out several months ago.

Gilbert has also made two films on middle eastern affairs. These are Atomic Jihad: Ahmadinejad’s Coming War for Islamic Revival and Obama’s Politics of Defeat (“Hudson Institute Film Festival Winner”) and Farewell Israel: Bush, Iran and The Revolt of Islam. According to his blurb on the sites for these films:

Joel Gilbert is a graduate of the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies and London School of Economics and Political Science. He was a Middle Eastern studies scholar under world renowned Islamic history experts Professors Eli Keddouri [sic – more usually spelt “Elie Kedourie” – RB], P.J. Vatikiotis, Michael Cooke [sic – should be “Michael Cook”], and Abbas Kelidar. Gilbert is one of the few Western scholars of historic Islamic-Jewish relations. Gilbert has lived, studied, and traveled in the Middle East, including Egypt, Israel, Morocco, and Pakistan. He speaks Arabic and Hebrew, and lectures on the Middle East.

The blurb for Dreams states that Gilbert received his BA from London University (of which SOAS and the LSE are both colleges) in 1986, followed by an MBA from George Washington University in 1991. By calling himself a “Middle Eastern studies scholar under world renowned Islamic history experts”, he appears to mean that he took their courses or attended their lectures as an undergraduate. That, of course, no more demonstrates expertise than having read their books or articles. Gilbert has also written for Family Security Matters, where he is described as “an Islamic history scholar”.

The website Think Israel has re-posted a couple of reviews of Farewell Israel. One, derived from Americans for a Safe Israel, commends the film, while another, by the late Ron Maiberg and originally published in Ma’ariv, was sceptical:

It is easy to see how this movie can become a hit with the Israel supporting Christian right. Gilbert claims he produced this movie by himself. However, this is quite an expensive production, with respectable quality, animation, and archival material which in itself costs (in general) thousands of dollars per minute of broad time. For those of us born into this bubbling “publishing world” stew, Gilbert is one more violin out of tune in the philharmonic. The problem is that Gilbert’s professional credentials are quite meager for carrying such a heavy intellectual load. He helped research a book on Jabotinsky for Shmuel Katz; he learned about Islam from Eli Keddouri; he wrote a book that is a basis for a movie; and he is a friend of Tsakhi Ha’Negbi. Not exactly Dan Meridor, lacking self restraint. Katz and Ge’ulah Cohen are mentioned in the movie without relation to the context.

In the wake of the Frank Marshall Davis film, Gilbert has been interviewed by Alex Jones and Michael Savage – he told Jones that “you can’t put anything past them” when discussing whether the Obama administration had orchestrated the mass shooting at Aurora, while Savage was warned that Obama intends to end capitalism and that “the middle class’ health care is going to be given away to poor and illegals”.

Alongside these political activities, Gilbert also runs a Bob Dylan tribute band, and Highway 61 Entertainment has made several documentaries about the singer. Josh Marshall writes at TPM:

I’m something of a Dylan fanatic myself. And I’ve actually bought a few of Gilbert’s docs on iTunes. The production qualities aren’t the highest. They’re a little hokey in places. And he doesn’t manage to land the interviews with the really critical people in Dylan’s life. But he gets people that if you’re really into Dylan are kind of interesting to hear from.

It is perhaps relevant to note that Gilbert has also made two films described as “mockumentaries”: these are Elvis Found Alive and Paul McCartney Really is Dead.

 

Colorado House District 50 Election: Pastor Who Believes Obama May be the Anti-Christ Dropped as Debate Moderator

From a certain Jack Minor at WND:

Democrats at their nominating convention in Charlotte, N.C., earlier this month removed any reference to God in their platform, and it took three votes to restore Him. Even then, delegates booed the action.

Seems the trickle-down theory must work, as a Democratic candidate for state office in Colorado worked to exclude a member of the clergy from moderating a local debate because his supporters were “uncomfortable” with a church leader asking questions.

“Just hours before the debate, the campaign manager for the Democratic incumbent told me I would not be doing the debate because they said supporters were uncomfortable with having a member of the clergy moderate it,” pastor Steve Grant of Destiny Christian Center told WND.

The debate took place in Weld County in Colorado’s House District 50, and was between Democrat incumbent Dave Young and Skip Carlson. Instead, a local newspaper editor was given the job; Grant complains:

[Young] never called me personally to discuss the issue, instead saying he talked to other people who supposedly knew me to make his decision,” Grant explained. “When I called him, he told me there were people he had talked with who were uncomfortable with having a member of the clergy moderate a debate. He also said there was a conflict of interest because Carlson had suggested I moderate the debate.

“The campaign’s attitude shows utter contempt for the First Amendment. They deify journalists as being objective and impartial compared to clergy, who work with all types of people. The right to freedom of religion is clearly listed before the freedom of the press, showing what the founders considered to be more important.”

Minor – whose byline includes the detail that he “has been acknowledged for his research ability in several books” – doesn’t bother to tell us anything about Grant’s theology or teachings; we are expected to take at face value Grant’s claim to be “objective and impartial”, as well as Minor’s heavy implication that Young’s objection derives from a distaste for Christianity.

Perhaps it’s worth noting that one of two books heavily promoted on the church’s website suggests that Obama may be the the anti-Christ. The book, by Grant’s brother Stanley Grant, is entitled In Defense of a Nation, and includes the following (pages 105-106):

Verse 16 through verse 68 [of Deuteronomy] then detail the “curses which God will bring upon America as a result of it turning away from Him…

43 – The stranger that is within thee shall get up above the very high; and thou shalt come down very low

Progressives have hailed the election of Barack Obama as a national triumph. But according to God’s Word, it was a national tragedy. The stranger in Israel is the foreigner , and one without the birth certificate…. The verse certainly applied to both topics of illegal aliens in general, and a usurper in the Oval Office… His entire work would be to enslave the people of God…

Many get the feeling that America is but a stepping stone for Barack Obama’s ambitions. Is he THE “baraq o bamah” of scripture that usurps the throne in the Temple illegally? That remains to be seen…

I discussed the crank theory that Jesus named Satan as “baraq o bamah” here.

We can be confident that Steven Grant is at one with his brother’s view: both men are pastors at the same church, the church officially promotes the book, and the two men host a radio show, also called In Defense of a Nation. It’s true that the brothers don’t seem very keen on Republicans, either (“535 People Controlling America… Change Them All!”), but it’s clear from the above that Grant’s claim to impartially is absurd.

Steven Grant is also the author of an essay called “The Fourth Tea Party“:

Many American citizens treat the current “Tea Party Movement” as a recent innovation, or a novel idea that will disappear in the future.  Others tie current thought patterns back to the Boston Tea Party that occurred in 1773.  Actually, the thought patterns and mindset of the Tea Party movement finds its origins in a rebellion that occurred more than 3,000 years ago.  Believe it or not, this movement was detailed in the Bible.

The “First Tea Party” was the revolt against Rehoboam, while the second was Jesus driving the money-lenders out of the temple:

I believe the current Tea Party movement is ordained by God.  As you rise up with others to reclaim our nation, you too will have your place in history.  It’s our turn now.  Let’s go forward for God.

Grant describes himself as having “spent many years studying links between the United States and Bible Prophecy”; he also teaches that the House of Israel which rebelled against Rehoboam eventually “dispersed to the north and the west, settling in Western Europe”, thus meaning that the first European settlers in north America were “the descendents of the Israelite tribes”. This is not supported by historical evidence, and is suggestive of a fringe form of Christianity.

Incidentally, Jack Minor has not simply failed to research why Grant might be particularly controversial; he’s deliberately left information out of his article in order to mislead. Grant writes articles for a website called the Greeley Gazette, and he regularly calls on Grant to provide sound-bites.

Legislators Attend Scientology National Office Opening: Associations Overlap with Nation of Islam and Unification Church

From the Daily Caller, last week:

Three U.S. congressmen and a top-level government official attended the opening of the Church of Scientology’s National Office in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

…Lawmakers in attendance were Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Indiana Republican Rep. Dan Burton and Illinois Democratic Rep. Danny Davis. Liz Gibson, Senior Program Manager at the Federal Emergency Management Agency was also in attendance.

Burton and Davis have received donations from the Church’s “Citizens for Social Reform” (noted by Alex Pareene at Salon last year); Burton has for some years promoted the work of the Church-linked Citizens’ Commission on Human Rights, which lobbies against medication for mental health problems, and he praised the organization in July.

One should be cautious of reading too much into what appears to have been a standard civic function, but Jackson Lee went so far as to praise L. Ron Hubbard:

“I want to thank L. Ron Hubbard for recognizing that courage is not rewarded but it is valued,” said the congresswoman.

A PR release with further details can be seen here.

Some forums are speculating that this development may be connected to the Nation of Islam’s embrace of Scientology: Jackson Lee has also praised Robert Muhammad, and, as I noted in 2010, the NoI has in recent years promoted Hubbard’s book Dianetics. An audio of a 2011 speech, purportedly given by Robert Muhammad, was recently uploaded to YouTube; at 23:20, Muhammad reports Louis Farrakhan describing Hubbard as “the greatest aider to the prophets”, and promising to take Dianetics to “the Muslim world” and to set the book “next to the Koran”.

Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam have also been commended by Danny Davis. Further, Ed Brayton reminds us that in 2004 Davis was involved in a ceremony in Washngton DC at which Rev Moon was declared to be the world’s “King of Peace”; as the Washington Post reported (following John Gorenfeld’s article on the subject):

Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on Moon’s head. 

The Unification Church itself has long-standing links with the Nation of Islam, as discussed in a piece for Salon by Frederick Clarkson in 2000. In 2008, Tynnetta Muhammad, the wife of Elijah Muhammad (she believes that Elijah Muhammad is still alive, and so she’s not seen as his widow) attended a Global Peace Festival organised by the Unification Church’s Universal Peace Federation at the Presidential Palace in Mongolia. Here, she met Rev Moon’s son Hyun Jin Moon, and received “gifts and awards”.

Of course, politicians say all kinds of things and attend all kinds of events for reasons of political expediency or as part of their civic duties; it does not follow from the above that Jackson Lee or Davis are necessarily personally invested in these groups. However, their overlapping associations suggest an interesting convergence of rejected knowledge and controversial fringe religious organisations.

Egyptian Government Seeks Arrests over Muhammad Film: Who’s Who

(amended)

Reason to doubt involvement of some of those named

As has been widely reported, the Egyptian government is seeking the arrest several expatriate Copts, plus Pastor Terry Jones, for supposedly “undermining national unity and independence through a video that ridicules Prophet Mohamed”. CNN reports:

The charges — largely symbolic because the accused all live outside Egypt — name alleged filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who is identified by Egyptian officials as Elia Bassili.

…Egypt also charged Morris Sadek, who is believed to have posted the clip to YouTube.

…The others accused were identified as Morcos Aziz; Fikri Zokloma, also known as Esmat Zokloma; Nabil Bissada; Nahed Metwali; and Nader Nicola.

Although CNN, and other media, have headlined those accused as being “Coptic Christians linked to infamous video”, it’s not quite clear who all of these people are. Of course, people shouldn’t be under fear of arrest (or worse) for blasphemy whether or not they’re supposedly “guilty”, but it is possible that the Egyptian government is deliberately associating certain persons with the film for its own purposes. Working out who’s who is complicated by the variety of Arabic transliterations.

In particular, “Morcos Aziz” is identified by the Egyptian government as “presenter of a religious TV show in the USA”. There’s already scope for some confusion here: there is a famous Father Morqos Aziz, a high-profile Coptic priest who has a YouTube channel here. Aziz has been quoted in the media on a number of occasions over the years on the problems faced by Copts in Egypt, and he either was or still is (reports vary) the priest of the famous Hanging Church in Cairo. However, according to this Arabic language report (brought to my attention by Marlyn Tadros on Twitter) he has nothing to do with the film and he is against the defamation of religions; it seems that the name on the list may refer to someone else, although he’s had to reiterate the point in relation to an earlier list (see below). Other spelling variations of his name include: Marqus Aziz Khalil; Morkos Aziz Khalil; Morcos Aziz Khalil; and Maurice Aziz.

There is also reason to be sceptical about the supposed involvement of Nahed Metwali, who is actually convert from Islam. She has appeared in the media alongside Father Zakaria Boutros, and she has written about Islam, but she seems to have a different temperament from the makers of the film. Name variations include Nahed Metwally, Nahed Metwaly, and Nahed-Mahmoud Metwally.

Nader Nicola, or “Nader Farid Nicola”, is unknown.

By contrast, some other persons named have perhaps had some association with Nakoula, although the experience of Joseph Nasrallah, who claims he was misled by him, suggests there is a need for caution. I discussed Sadek a few days ago, and his links to Pastor Terry Jones in 2010. Nabil Bassida is named by the Egyptian government as “Nabil Adib, the media coordinator” of Sadek’s “Coptic Assemby”; other forms of his name are “Nabil Besadeh”, “Nabil Besadeh”, and “Nabil Adib Bassida”. Sadek came to attention for promoting a trailer of the film on his website, and according to a report for McClatchy Newspapers he made efforts to drum up interest:

Morris Sadek… had an exclusive story for Gamel Girgis, who covers Christian emigrants for al Youm al Sabaa, the Seventh Day, a daily newspaper here. Sadek had a movie clip he wanted Girgis to see; he e-mailed him a link.

“He told me he produced a movie last year and wanted to screen it on Sept. 11th to reveal what was behind the terrorists’ actions that day, Islam,” Girgis said, recalling the first call, which came on Sept. 4. Sadek, a longtime source, “considers me the boldest journalist, the only one that would publish such stories.”

Girgis said he watched the movie and found it insulting. He didn’t want to write about it. But Sadek called Girgis back and urged him to, telling him he could not deny that the movie existed.

Meanwhile, the involvement of Firkri/Esmat Zokloma is unclear, although some reports name him and Sadek as “producers” of the film. In June 2010 Zokloma spoke at Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer’s rally against the supposed “Ground Zero Mosque”.  He was in the news in relation to another matter in December, when an unlicensed restaurant building he owned burned down. Name variations include Fekri Abdel-Mesih, Fekry Abdelmessieh, Esmat Zaklama, Esmat Zaqlama, and Esmat Zelgah. An unknown “Fibbi Abdel-Mesih Bolous Salib” (or “Fibbi Abdel-Mesih Bolos Salib”) mentioned by the Egyptian government alongside Zokloma is perhaps a mistaken duplication of the same person.

Some reports have a variation on the list, naming Adel Riad, Ihab Yaacoub and Jack Atallah. It’s not clear who these individuals are, and their names appear to have been incorporated from an earlier list of Copts banned from Egypt over the film. On 12 September, Bikyamasr reported that:

…The 9 Copts include Morris Sadek, a notorious figure known for his virulent attacks on Islam, Priest Morqos Aziz, Esmat Zelgah, Nabil Besadeh, Ehab Yaqoub, Jack Attalah, Nahed Metwally, Ellia Basily and Adel Riyad.

They were put on the list after cases were filed against them for allegedly participating in the hate campaigns against Islam and Muslims, according to the Attorney General’s office.

There are some other name variations to be noted: Morris Sadek is also “Morris Sadiq Abdel-Shahid” and “Morees Sadek”, and  Nakoula Nakoula/Elia Bassili is also “Elliya Bassilie” and “Elia Bassily”.

Thomas More Law Center Representing Matthew Dooley in Anti-Islam Army Training Course Controversy

From the website of the Thomas More Law Center:

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced today that it is representing U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley, a 1994 Graduate of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point.  In April 2012, LTC Dooley, a highly decorated combat veteran, was publically condemned by General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and relieved of his teaching assignment because of the negative way Islam was portrayed in an elective course entitled, Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism.

I discussed the case here; the content of Dooley’s course came to widespread attention following reports in Wired, which described Dooley as part of “a small cabal of self-anointed counterterrorism experts [that] has been working its way through the U.S. military, intelligence and law enforcement communities”.

The Thomas More Law Center claims that Dooley is in fact the victim of an Islamic conspiracy, and – quoting “former CIA agent” Claire Lopez – that Dempsey has given “Muslim Brotherhood-dictated orders”:

The actions against LTC Dooley, an instructor involved with this elective, follow a letter to the Department of Defense dated October 19, 2011 and signed by 57 Muslim organizations, demanding that all training materials that they judge to be offensive to Islam be “purged” and instructors “are effectively disciplined.”

I’ve been unable to find any details of this “letter”, and Dempsey’s memorandum on the subject of 24 April 2012 suggests that Dooley in fact came under scrutiny for other reasons:

Last October, in response to media attention surrounding the FBI’s Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) training and related DoD lecturers, OSD asked the Joint Staff to task the Combatant Commands, Services, National Guard Bureau, and other components to determine the current processes used to vet CVE training and educations.

I discussed this “media attention” on the FBI here. Further, there had been complaints about the quality of Dooley’s course by some of those who had attended it; Wired reported:

[Lt. Gen George] Flynn [Dempsey’s deputy for training and education] disclosed that since an unspecified “revision” of the course in the summer of 2011, multiple officers who attended the course had raised internal objections about its presentation of Islam and Muslims. He estimated that about 20 officers attend each eight-week elective course, which is offered four times a year.

Flynn said he heard about the objectionable material on Friday after a colonel enrolled in the course complained about the anti-Islam lessons. “We looked at it and we found the material to be objectionable and we started digging into it to see, how did the course get this way?” Flynn said.

The course, which included guest lectures from the likes of Stephen Coughlin and John Guandolo, allegedly urged “total war” on Islam and suggested that Obama is a secret Muslim.

The TMLC now writes that:

Parroting the FBI’s reason, namely, “political sensitivity” as the reason for not thoroughly investigating Army Major Nidal Hasan, which  ultimately led to the Ft. Hood Massacre, General Dempsey on 24 April 2012 ordered a review of instruction that was “disrespectful of the Islamic religion” to ensure “cultural sensitivity.”

Certainly, Dempsey would have done better to avoid mentioning “sensitivity” and “respect”, which ought not to be the guiding principles of academic enquiry; but it’s clear that the main problem with Dempsey’s course was an excessively unbalanced polemical approach which meant that the course was not fit for purpose.

The reference to the FBI is also distorted: you would think from the above that the FBI had offered “political sensitivity” as a justification for its failures over Hasan, and that Dempsey was concurring in this as a reasonable excuse. This is not in fact the case. Rather, the Final Report of the William H. Webster Commission contains a few references to a Washington DC Task Force Officer who had described Hasan as “politically sensitive”, and congressman Frank Wolf had subsequently noted that:

After reading the report, I am concerned that there were warning signs, and that with more aggressive investigation, there is a chance that this incident could have been prevented.  I am further concerned that the reason for less aggressive investigation may have been political sensitivities in the Washington Field Office, and maybe even the FBI’s own investigating guidelines.

Clearly, a excessive concern for “sensitivity” is a bad thing – but that hardly means that the intellectual and quality problems with Dooley’s course should be ignored.

The TMLC also complains that Dempsey’s comments have been prejudicial:

Despite a preliminary inquiry that confirmed the purely notional, conceptual, and theoretical nature of LTC Dooley’s class, General Dempsey’s implication, before the inquiry was complete, that Dooley formally advocated actions outside of U.S. policy was both premature and inaccurate. 

Presumably this relates to the course’s “total war” content, as described by Wired:

…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.”

Back in May, I noted another case involving the TMLC, concerning the bogus self-proclaimed “ex-terrorist” Kamal Saleem. Despite making pious noises about the First Amendment, the TMLC claims that a letter sent to a school district urging the cancellation of a speech by Saleem on school property amounted to interference with a contract and is therefore actionable. According to a recent report, some of the defendants, including People for the American Way, requested summary dismissal in August; the article adds that “no hearing dates are set in the case.”

(Hat tip: Right Wing Watch)

Joseph Nassralla: Nakoula Used “Media for Christ” Name “Without Knowledge or Permission”

Joseph Nassralla has issued a statement (published by Pamela Geller) about his lack of involvement in the making of Innocence of Muslims.

[Nakoula] told me that he was making a film about Christian persecution, and that it would examine the culture of the desert and how it is related to what is going on right now. The name of Nakoula’s film, he told me, was Desert Warrior.

…Nakoula needed a place to film. So I let him use my facility – that is all I did, and is the full extent of my involvement with this project. Nakoula used my facility for ten days. Media for Christ employees were given a vacation during that time, because Nakoula was using the facility and so there was no work for them. There was only one Media for Christ employee who remained, to answer phones for the ministry.

I later discovered that Nakoula, using the name Sam Bacile, had gone to LA Films as producer of Desert Warrior, and used the name of my organization, Media for Christ, to obtain the permit he needed. He did so without my knowledge or permission.

Nakoula filmed his movie not only at my ministry location, but in Nakoula’s own home (which reporters located by getting the address from the actors), and in another facility for outside scenes that was included in the permit, Blue Canyon. I gave him no further assistance with the project.

…The work of my ministry and my television station is to expose the brutal ideology of sharia and terrorism. Our work is not against Muslims. I urge you to check out our work, we never insult anyone. 

Nassralla’s statement does not mention Steve Klein, who was a “consultant” on the film; Nassralla and Klein previously co-organised a protest against LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, and Klein has a programme on Nasralla’s The Way TV station.

Nakoula also complains about “a campaign of disinformation”, although its not clear whether by this he means Nakoula’s behaviour (it should be remembered that Nakoula, as Bacile, had claimed to be an Israeli, and that “100 Jews” had financed the film) or general media reports. Geller also adds some commentary confirming that Nakoula’s film has no connection with a film planned by Ali Sina of Faith Freedom International; a link had been suggested in a post made to the Daily Kos a couple of days ago.

As has been widely reported, Nakoula recently served time in prison for bank fraud, and by using the internet he may have violated his probation conditions. A couple of days ago he attended a voluntary interview with federal probation officers, provoking hysterical commentary claiming that he had been arrested at the behest of Obama. Robert Spencer’s post on the subject is headlined “Sharia in the U.S.: Blasphemy police pick up Muhammad filmmaker”, and he dismisses – without explaining why – the notion that Nakoula’s probation violation ought to have consequences:

If Nakoula Basseley Nakoula gets sent back to jail, no matter what priors he has, no matter how checkered his past, make no mistake: he will be a political prisoner. He will be in prison not for the meth or the fraud or for the technicality of the probation violation, but for insulting Muhammad. His imprisonment will be a symbol of America’s capitulation to the Sharia.

Incidentally, as far as I can see, neither Spencer nor Geller have felt the need to pass comment on Nakoula’s attempt to promote a conspiracy theory about Jewish financing of the project, or on his dishonest dealing with Nassralla and with those who worked on the film.

WND Pushes Bizarre “Origin of Allah” Theory

Time for silliness at WND:

1700 B.C.: ‘ALLA’ GOD OF ‘VIOLENCE AND REVOLUTION’
Researcher says Babylonian reference dates to 2 millennia before Muhammad

The “researcher” is none other than Walid Shoebat’s son, who has long embraced the family business. Theodore Shoebat has noted a couple of references in Mesopotamian mythology to a god called “Alla”, and he suggests that this is the same as “Allah”. However, the scholarly community has conspired to hide the truth:

“Allah of the Babylonian Epic of Atrahasis was most likely kept hidden by researchers who feared controversy or even concealed the find,” he wrote. “In the epic Allah, which translators spelled ‘Alla’; (really pronounced the same way), was never even linked by any of the experts on Assyriology or any of the translators who wrote on the subject to the known Allah of Arabia and Islam.”

Shoebat describes the supposed essential attibutes of Alla, which therefore reveal the “true” nature of Islam:

…Even more troubling for Muslims today is that this deity was described nearly four millennia ago to be a god of “violence and revolution”. The beginning of the Epic of Atrahasis describes Allah as how all of the gods labored endlessly in grueling work, under the rule of the patron deity Enlil or Elil. But soon revolt of the gods had erupted, and one deity of “violence and revolution” named Allah (spelled by the experts as Alla), as the following inscription recounts:

Then Alla made his voice heard and spoke to the gods his brothers, ‘Come! Let us carry Elil, the counselor of gods, the warrior, from his dwelling. Now, cry battle! Let us mix fight with battle!’ The gods listened to his speech, set fire to their tools, put aside their spades for fire, their loads for the fire-god, they flared up.[3]

This is from the Atrahasis, as translated by Stephanie Dalley Myths from Mesopotamia (although he’s Americanized “counsellor” and failed to note a gap in the original text of eight lines after “brothers”). However, the reference to Alla as a “deity of ‘violence and revolution'” does not appear in the text – it seems that this is Shoebat’s own interpretation of the deity’s character, placed in quotation marks for no good reason.

A later line of the text mentions “Ilawela who had intelligence”, or, in Helge Kvanvig’s version as published in his Primeval History: Babylonian, Biblical, and Enochic, “Ilaw?ila who had planning capacity” (p. 44). Kvanvig notes that a late Babylonian recension has “Alla” rather than “Ilawela” here, and he suggests that the original version may be a “hint to Alla”. Kvanvig  also discusses various transliteration options. Either way, though, this is the god who led the revolution – and his attribute as given in the text is “planning capacity”, not “violence and revolution”. This god is then slaughtered, and his flesh and blood used to create humanity.

Kvanvig also refers to an article entitled “Tablets from the Sippar Library VI. Atra-?as?s”, by A. R. George and F. N. H. Al-Rawi and published in the journal Iraq in 1996. They describe Alla as a “minor deity” and as “well known as a dead god”, and they regard the relationship of “Alla” to the name in the older version as being “fraught with difficulty”. George and Al-Rawi also have a footnote about “Alla”, instructing us that “On this god in general see W. G. Lambert in B. Alster (ed.) Death in Mesopotamia (CRRA 26; Copenhagen, 1980), pp. 63-4″. I do not have access to this book (full title: Death in Mesopotamia: papers read at the XXVIe Rencontre assyriologique internationale), although there is a snippet view Google books of limited value. It should be noted that there is also German literature on the topic. Shoebat references Thorkild Jacobsen, but his discussion is for the most part informed by old and general works (such as S.H. Langdon’s The Mythology of All Races: Semitic, which was published in 1931).

Shoebat does not make any actual etymological link between the Mesopotamian “Alla” and the Arabian “Allah”; instead, he relies on the very general suggestion that:

The “Akkadians” it must be noted did not originally spring from Iraq, but had migrated from south Arabia, specifically Yemen, into Mesopotamia, where south Arabian inscriptions have been discovered, as in Kuwait on the Arab shores of the Persian gulf close to the borders of Iraq.

Therefore what? That’s far from adequate to show that the Atrahasis records information about Arabian religion that has otherwise been lost, and it certainly doesn’t tell us anything about Arabian religion of a later period. Shoebat instead goes on to present also a somewhat obscure argument about Alla having a consort.

The whole thing is a mess; Shoebat fails to make any link between the character and story of “Alla” in  the Atrahasis with the concept of Allah in Arabia. And his association of “Alla” with “violence” in the Atrahasis appears to be based on his personal (and very odd) subjective view of the story. The whole argument amounts to no more than the banal observation that “Alla” sounds like “Allah”.

It’s a shame: Theodore Shoebat is young, and he clearly has some passion for research. Alas, his only role model is the crank theorising of his father and his father’s friends.