Sunday Times Reports on School’s Hijab Requirement

From the Sunday Times:

Pupils ordered to wear hijab out of school

A STATE-FUNDED school in Blackburn has become the first to force its pupils to wear a hijab both in and out of class.

Rules at Tauheedul Islam Girls’ High School require its 800 pupils “to wear the hijab [Muslim headscarf] outside the school and home”, “recite the Koran at least once a week” and “not bring stationery to school that contains un-Islamic images”, such as pictures of pop stars.

The ST begins by describing the school as being the first to “force its pupils”; the authors could have chosen to begin with “require its pupils” (as in second sentence), or even to refer to “the first school that only accepts pupils who wear a hijab at home”; I suspect that the word “force”, which has a connotation of coercion and violence, has been chosen deliberately for polemical reasons.

The school’s rules are available on a pdf that has been uploaded to the TES website, and include the following:

Spiritual Conduct Outside of School

In their normal life, students are expected to:
1. Perform 5-times Salaah punctually at home.
2. Wear the Hijaab outside of the school and home.
3. Recite the Qur’aan at least once a week.
4. Desist from listening to any form of music or nasheeds that are not compliant with the Deobandi Hanafi Tablighi School of Thought.
5. Desist from unislamic communication and relationships.

But here’s the odd thing: the url for this includes the element “A1%20posters%20Aug%2009” – which strongly implies that the ST‘s scoop is based on information that has been in the public domain for at least four years. That doesn’t mean that the rules are not of interest or uncontroversial – number 5 may just mean “avoid bad company”, but it may also suggest separatism. That would make it more significant than the ST‘s sensationalising  hijab hook, which is clearly an attempt to bandwagon on a story from last week about a non-Muslim teacher reportedly being told to wear a hijab at a Muslim school.

The article was co-authored by Richard Kerbaj, who specialises in stories about Islamic extremists (not without controversy), along with education editor Sian Griffiths and Georgia Graham. I asked Griffiths via Twitter whether the story was based on the pdf; she responded:

Er, no, I hadn’t even seen that pdf until now. Multiple sources including rules displayed in school last week

Fair enough, and it’s reassuring to know that there’s more to the story than “journalists find something on internet”; but the existence of “multiple sources” does not change the fact that the story is not about a new development.

The article continues:

…Concerns were raised about the Tauheedul charitable trust in a dossier given to the Department for Education by Haras Rafiq, a former government adviser on the prevention of extremism, in 2011. Despite it, the trust was granted approval to set up three free schools

In his dossier, Rafiq said Sheikh Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, a Saudi cleric who is alleged to have referred to Jews as “pigs” and the “scum of the human race”, had made a visit to the school. “I raised concerns in June 2011 with the Department for Education,” said Rafiq. “Despite presenting them with my findings, they decided to brush them to one side and go ahead and reward them with not just one school but three free schools.”

Of course, without access to the “dossier”, it’s impossible to assess properly the significance of al-Sudais’ visit to the school, or Rafiq’s implication that extremism has been unduly dismissed by the Department of Education. It is valid to raise concerns; but it’s frustrating not to be given sufficient information so that we can make our own informed assessment about what’s been going on.*

The Sunday Times also has another story in the same edition, also co-authored by Griffith and Kerbaj (this time with Isabel Oakeshott):

…Michael Gove, the education secretary, has warned that “potentially extremist parents” could be flooding the governing bodies of some schools that have large numbers of Muslim pupils.

He has set up a “counterextremism” unit in his department to weed out educational institutions and practices that do not conform with British values. The unit includes two former intelligence officers with expertise in counterterrorism, two academic experts and senior civil servants.

So the story about Tauheedul also just happens to complement a government talking point. Very handy.

The the presence of “two former intelligence officers” in the unit was used to justify a sensationalist headline about “Ex-MI5 agents target school Islamists”.**

*UPDATE: The National Secular Society has a quote from the school headmaster that Terry Sanderson seems to have acquired himself:

Patel confirmed that Sudais had been asked to address the school three years ago. “The girls wanted to see this guy with 5m followers. They had seen him on YouTube. He stayed 20 minutes.”

**UPDATE 2: There’s also something odd about the “counterextremism unit” aspect of the story, given the well-publicised existence of just such a unit within the Department of Education for several years; the Telegraph noted in June 2011 that:

…A “preventing extremism unit,” which will include experts in counter-terrorism, has been established at the Department of Education to stop unsuitable providers setting up Free Schools – a key part of the government’s new education strategy.

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they would support UK democratic values including support for individual liberties within the law, equality, mutual tolerance and respect.

More recently, the TES further reported in July this year:

School inspectors in England have been ordered by the government to carry out emergency inspections of private schools amid fears that they are fostering religious extremism, TES has learned.

…A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “There is no place for extremism in any school. Our Due Diligence and Counter Extremism Division, established in 2010 under the government’s Prevent strategy, works to ensure that children and young people are safeguarded from extremist views in or out of school hours…”

So why is the Sunday Times reporting the existence of the unit as if it’s something new? And where has the specific detail about “ex-MI5 agents”, rather than just “experts in counter-terrorism”, come from?

Rabbi At North America’s Largest Orthodox Synagogue Backs Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer

Rabbi Daniel Korobkin of Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto (BAYT)  explains why he’s promoting Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer:

BAYT is one of the largest Orthodox synagogues in North America, and Korobkin’s endorsement is a significant step in the duo’s quest to achieve mainstream respectability. The two were introduced by Korobkin at an event in Toronto that took place a couple of weeks ago, hosted by the Jewish Defence League.

Korobkin comes across as congenial and thoughtful – and, assuming he’s speaking in good faith, utterly clueless. His argument is that Geller and Spencer are “merely speaking the truth” about radical Islam, that they are not anti-Muslim, and that calls for them to be disinvited from venues and events goes against principles of free speech.

It is true that Geller and Spencer have in the past asserted that they are not anti-Muslim (see here and here), and Spencer occasionally refers to “Muslims of conscience”, but as I’ve written previously, these are very minor notes in their rhetoric. Spencer constantly makes sarcastic references to “misunderstanders of Islam” whenever an act of Jihadist brutality is reported, while Geller’s well-documented excesses include birtherism and trivialising the Holocaust through the grotesque deployment of “Nazi” accusations against just about anyone she takes against (e.g.  Elena Kagan). Meanwhile, their allies include  Babu Suseelan, a Hindu militant who claims that Muslims “breed like rats” but that Islam can be “wiped out”, and it was only bad publicly that prompted the two to cut links with John Joseph Jay, a man who openly called for violence against Muslims and others. There’s also, of course, their association with the thuggish English Defence League. It’s perfectly possible to “speak the truth” about Islamic extremism and Jihadism without resorting to these kind of antics.

And that’s before we get onto the nature of Jewish Defence League – see here for more about this group.

Korobkin also stated that he was present “on behalf” of two Muslims, named as Hossein Ziai and Tashbih Sayyed. Ziai was Professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies and Director of Iranian Studies at UCLA, and Korobkin studied under him as a graduate (MA level) student, while Sayyed ran the newspapers Pakistan Today and Islam Today. Both men are now deceased; Sayyed (d. 2007) was part of the neo-Conservative movement (he was represented by Benador Associates), and would probably have approved of the posthumous association; it is less clear whether Ziai (d. 2011) would have recognised Korobkin’s claim to be acting “on behalf” on him by endorsing Geller and Spencer.

Iain Dale Apologises to “Mr Holmes, Mr Miliband, the Police, my Family, Friends and Colleagues”

Iain Dale, 24 September (now deleted):

Damian McBride was doing a live interview on Daybreak on the Brighton seafront. I was waiting in my car to drive him to do his next interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC when I noticed that a protester was holding a placard behind Damian which was filling a lot of the screen and totally distracting from the interview. I assumed someone from Daybreak would intervene to stop him, but no one did. So I did what any self respecting publisher would do, got out of the car, ran across and pulled him out of the shot. He started resisting and we ended up in an unseemly tumble on the ground.

…In some ways I have committed the cardinal sin of becoming the story myself, rather than my author, and I regret that. But do I regret that I stepped in to protect my author? No I do not… Everyone has an inalienable right to protest, but no one has a right to make a continual nuisance of themselves and interrupt interviews like that.

Iain Dale, 26 September:

Following the incident on Brighton seafront on Tuesday morning, I have today voluntarily attended Brighton police station where I accepted a police caution… I want to apologise and say sorry to Stuart Holmes, who is a passionate campaigner and well known to everyone who attends party conferences and was perfectly entitled to do as he did on Tuesday in trying to get attention for his causes. It was totally out of character for me to react to him in the way I did.

I also want to apologise for the blogpost I wrote after the incident. It was full of absurd bravado and in the heat of the moment I behaved in a frankly idiotic way.

The story has received widespread media coverage.

My first thought on viewing the footage of the scuffle was that Dale came across as someone with an unattractive sense of entitlement; Holmes was holding a placard in a public place a way that may have been a distraction, but which wasn’t disrupting McBride’s speaking. But I didn’t see the incident as “assault”, either – Holmes was actively attempting to keep in close shot in a way that was doubtless annoying, and as an activist he might reasonably expect someone else to attempt to obstruct him from doing so as part of the “game”. Ordinary “assault” has the connotation of seeking to inflict injury or pain, which clearly wasn’t Dale’s intention here.

Two other factors coloured my view of what happened: there was a great deal of critical comment on Twitter, and I am in general wary of “Twitchhunts”; second, I don’t like how Dale operates or what he stands for, and I so I react cautiously – perhaps too cautiously – when presented with a gifthorse. However, it’s clear that things got out of hand, as Dale escalated from obstruction to aggressive restraint – and although the outcome was farcical, Dale is lucky that Holmes or his dog were not seriously injured (although Holmes was bitten by his dog, which had become distressed and confused).

Dale’s apology, though, smacks of self-importance:

I also want to apologise to Labour leader Ed Miliband and his conference attendees…

I know there will be many who will never forgive me for what I did and I understand that, but those who know me will know that I mean every word of my apology to Mr Holmes, Mr Miliband, the Police, my family, friends and colleagues.

I’m sure that Miliband will be glad to read that.

It should also be remembered that Dales’ apologies are strategic; following a gaffe about a war reporter in 2011, he wrote that:

You can do one of two things in these circumstances. Stick to your guns or issue a rapid apology. I have been in this situation before on my old blog, and I have always taken the view that if you’re in a hole, stop digging. And if you think you’ve gone over the top or just been plain wrong, say so. Acknowledge it. Apologise and put it behind you.

…What I did tonight was give those who already think ill of me further ammunition. So be it. They lost no time in dubbing me a cunt, a bellend, a pompous snot, a fuckpiece, a knob head, a dick, a wanker and much worse. 

One can’t help feeling that the real point Dale wanted to convey was that his critics are uncivil and crude. And when he thinks that he can spin his way out of a hole rather than apologise, he’s more than willing to do so, as I noted last year. This tendency explains his absurd original justification that he was “protecting” McBride.

So where’s the religion angle in all this? It’s karma – in 2011, the blogger Tim Ireland was falsely accused of “stalking” by Nadine Dorries, who wished to discourage critical scrutiny of her performance as a Member of Parliament. Tim was interviewed by police “under caution”, meaning that his statements could be used as evidence in court. In fact, Tim demonstrated to the police that he had done nothing wrong, but Dorries deliberately misrepresented the situation to suggest Tim had been given a caution, which would mean that he had accepted that he had broken the law. Dale, as a supposedly independent (albeit Conservative) journalist, publisher, and blogger, ought to have taken a sceptical view, but he instead joined in for his own reasons. Now Dale himself has an actual police caution.

Incidentally, Dale’s scuffle with Stuart Holmes is not the first unseemly incident involving anti-nuclear protestors and a Conservative on Brighton seafront; in 2002 the late Mike Keith-Smith wrote to the Independent with recollections of an attack by Young Tory “libertarians” on a CND display on Brighton beach during a Conservative Party conference.

BBC Looks at Quiverfull Movement

A warning from Alice Gurr, a UK coordinator of “Above Rubies”:

Well, [the problem] for society is the birth rate is dropping, it’s dropping to the point where we’re almost in decline as a people, as a race. Well, we are in decline as a race, most European races, most ethnic groups within Europe, are now in decline… but there are other societies and other ethnic groups that are having a lot of children, that are increasing. And so our way of life will change, our society will change, purely because we will be outnumbered, purely because our, you know, I’m talking about, for myself, and my family, you know, white British – is it alright to say this? – ethnic group, that it will disappear in time because the birth rate is fallen so much.

Gurr’s analysis can be heard in a fascinating BBC radio documentary (by Cat McShane for the Heart and Soul strand) about the “Quiverfull” movement. The name relates to the idea that Christians should be producing “quiverfulls” of children as spiritual warriors to shore up or re-establish Christian hegemony in culture and society; contraception is shunned, and male headship stressed. The programme first aired in May, but was rebroadcast a couple of days ago (which was when I became aware of it) and is permanently available on the BBC website. A tie-in article can be seen here; an ex-member who is now crticial of the movment maintains a website called “No Longer Quivering” here.

Above Rubies” is the particular ministry of Nancy Campbell and her pastor husband Colin; she’s based in Tennessee (although from New Zealand), and was in the UK as the programme was being made. Interestingly, a British family that features in the programme sounded somewhat embarrassed by the Campbells’ “overt” rhetoric, despite being influenced by their gender teachings; they were keen to make clear that they were not particularly political, and that they do not believe that God’s way for them is necessarily what everyone else should be doing.

Anyone interested in the Quiverfull movement in general needs to read Kathryn Joyce’s excellent 2009 investigation Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Partiarchy Movement.

Putin: West Equates “Belief in God with the Belief in Satan”

Several months after announcing his divorce, Vladimir Putin turns to the subject of family values:

Another serious challenge to Russia’s identity is linked to events taking place in the world. Here there are both foreign policy and moral aspects. We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilisation. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan.

The excesses of political correctness have reached the point where people are seriously talking about registering political parties whose aim is to promote paedophilia. People in many European countries are embarrassed or afraid to talk about their religious affiliations. Holidays are abolished or even called something different; their essence is hidden away, as is their moral foundation. And people are aggressively trying to export this model all over the world. I am convinced that this opens a direct path to degradation and primitivism, resulting in a profound demographic and moral crisis.

Putin was speaking at Valdai International Discussion Club; according to a blurb, the club “was established in 2004 by the Russian News & Information Agency RIA Novosti and the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. It has become an important cooperation venue for the Russian and foreign intellectual and political elite.”

Putin’s reference to paedophilia appears to relate to the legal status of a Dutch group called Stichting Martijn. According to Dutch News in April:

Last year, a civil court in Assen banned the paedophile lobby group Stichting Martijn with immediate effect, saying what the foundation does and says about sexual contact between adults and children contravenes the accepted norms and values in Dutch society.

The appeal court said texts and photos on the foundation’s website do not break the law.

The group has existed since 1982, and reportedly has about 60 members; an associated political party (the “the Charity, Freedom and Diversity Party”) was registered in 2006 and dissolved in 2010. Of course, Putin’s extrapolation from this case to the general outlook of “Euro-Atlantic countries” is absurd and in bad faith, but it’s part of an old Russian tradition of justifiying authortarianism in moral terms by invoking the decadence of the west. Putin may also have been inspired by an anti-gay group called “Russian Mothers”, which claims that paeodophilia is promoted in Norway; I wrote about this here.

Putin also discussed the place of organised religion in Russia:

Russia – as philosopher Konstantin Leontyev vividly put it – has always evolved in “blossoming complexity” as a state-civilisation, reinforced by the Russian people, Russian language, Russian culture, Russian Orthodox Church and the country’s other traditional religions. It is precisely the state-civilisation model that has shaped our state polity. It has always sought to flexibly accommodate the ethnic and religious specificity of particular territories, ensuring diversity in unity.

Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and other religions are an integral part of Russia’s identity, its historical heritage and the present-day lives of its citizens.

Leontyev, according to an account by George L. Kline (1), has been described as “the Russian Nietzsche”:

Leontyev was a Russian thinker who, almost two decades before Nietzsche, offered a “Nietzschean” celebration of “the aesthetic” and an equally Nietzschaen critiqie of democratic and egalitatian values, “mass culture”, and ultilitarian and socialist ideas.”

However, unlike Nietzche, he was a Christian, and he called

for a struggle to the death against the “anti-Christ of democracy”

Shades here of the kind of thing that reportedly appears in Patriarch’s Kirill’s book Freedom and Responsibility.

(1) page 197 of Nineteenth-Century Religious Thought in the West, edited by Ninian Smart, John Clayton, Patrick Sherry, Steven T. Katz, Cambridge University Press, 1985. And there’s a profile of Kline – formerly Milton C. Nahm Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Bryn Mawr College – here.

Speaker Notes Syria Crisis Ahead of Prophecy Conference

An announcement from Bible “prophecy expert”* Rob Lindsted:

Extract:

…You know, in the last ten days we’ve watched the United States, Syria, Putin and Russia, with Iran in the background go through an incredible time. A time maybe unparalleled in American history. And for sure, in recent yearsm no-one can believe what is taking place. And I go to the book of Ezekiel, I see what God said in Ezekiel 38 and 39, exactly the nations that are aligned up right now, with their ships right there in the Middle East, the boiling pot in the Middle East. The Bible indicates what will take place, how it will build up, and then what will take place.

Lindsted’s assurances that current events were predicted in the Bible as signs of the Last Days come a mere 23 years after his 1990 video Saddam Hussein, The Persian Gulf and End TimesFrom a blub:

Is the drama of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein’s invasion into Kuwait really the fulfillment of prophecy in the Bible? Are the events taking place in the Middle East actually being set up to bring Israel into a war? Could the chemical and biological warfare – using anthrax – threatened by Hussein, and the nuclear retaliation promised by Israel bring about the state of “desolation” of Iraq as stated in Jeremiah 50 and 51? Will the eventual destruction of Iraq and Hussein make a peace treaty for Israel possible? These questions and many more are addressed by Rob Lindsted as he examines current events in the light of Bible prophecy.

Lindsted’s new YouTube video comes ahead of the Midwest Hebrew Ministries’ 35th Annual Prophecy Conference, where he will be speaking alongside Glenn Beck’s End-Times Prophet Joel Richardson. Richardson is better-known, and his theory about a forthcoming “Muslim Anti-Christ” is particularly suited to profit from contemporary fears, but Lindsted is more of a veteran: some years ago he was a collaborator with Emil Gaverluk** on titles such as Why the Church Will Not Go Through the Great Tribulation.

Lindsted – an engineering PhD and the superintendent of a Christian school – recently also took part in the 23rd Annual Winnipeg Prophecy Conference; while the likes of John Hagee or Joel Rosenberg are best-sellers, there’s also an extensive circuit of lesser-known speakers and authors. I looked at a couple of other examples here and here.

****

*NB: “Prophecy experts” have a detailed familiarity with the prophetic texts of the Bible, onto which they impose pet theories and current affairs; such persons should not be confused with Biblical scholars.

**Gaverluk, who is no longer with us, also specialised in wonderfully crank theories about technology; in Did Genesis Man Conquer Space? he suggested that pre-Flood humans had developed advanced technology, and in Fiber Optics: Eye of the Antichrist he warned that televisions contain cameras by which viewers are monitored. Lindsted did not collaborate on these titles, but his YouTube video above does make reference to technology being predicted in the Bible.

Syria and End-Times Beliefs: Fox News vs Channel 4 News

How Fox News does it:

How Channel 4 News does it (*warning: distressing images):

BBC Documentary Explores Bob Larson and the “Teen Exorcists”

A couple of nights ago, BBC3 (the network’s “youth channel”) broadcast Dan Murdoch‘s observational documentary Teen Exorcists, the latest example of media fascination with Brynne Larson and her two friends Tess and Savannah Scherkenback. The trio come across as personable, good humoured, and bright – yet they are committed to the beliefs and worldview expounded by Brynne’s father Bob Larson, a man who has been a familiar figure in US media for years with extravagant tales of Satanic cults and of exorcising thousands of people who he says have been spiritually oppressed by demonic powers.

The programme showed us the Larsons’ (rather plush) home in Scottsdale, and the three young women in action at services in Pasadena and at a New Generation church in Pershotravensk, Ukraine, but for the most part the documentary is about a mission trip to London. Highlights include a conversation with a bemused elderly church guide at Waltham Abbey; a goth teenager being cajoled into sheepishly smashing up his self-made ouija board; and two case studies. The first of these was a troubled woman who believed that she had come under a black magic curse after eating a pie; she went away unsatisfied after Bob failed to induce any of the screams and convulsions that are associated with his exorcisms, and declined to pay the suggested £200 donation. The second woman, a former Anglican chaplain, kept closer to the script by manifesting a demon that claims to have been attached to her for seventeen generations due to withcraft.

The BBC Magazine has an in-depth summary here, and several newspapers carried articles about the show ahead of the broadcast; the girls’ view that spells featured in the Harry Potter stories are real and Satanic provided the lead-in for a piece by Rebecca Seales in the Daily Mail, while the Express came up with the prurient “The Sexorcists: These girls have been busy casting out STDs (Sexually Transmitted Demons)” as the headline for an article by Jon Coates. The Daily Mirror‘s Francesca Cookney, meanwhile, produced a spin-off article about a London church that also appears in the programme (although not affiliated with Larson’s Spiritual Freedom church grouping). Larson and the trio’s exploits in Ukraine were covered by Vice in July.

Bob Larson, as ever, came across as a showman who pays close attention to branding; his church’s slogan is “DWJD” – “Do What Jesus Did”, referring to the role of Jesus as exorcist in the Bible – and he wields a distinctive ornamental cross. This cross, along with his clerical garb and dog collar, appear to be a pastiche of Roman Catholicism, but it all plays into the popular image of what an exorcist should look like. Larson’s background is actually in neo-Pentecostalism: according to a footnote in Mike Hertenstein and Jon Trott’s Selling Satan (1), back in the 1960s he ran an “Action Center” for Morris Cerullo.

In 1971, according to Hertenstein and Trott, Cerullo created an “anti-occult ministry” with Mike Warnke and David Balsiger (2); Balsiger ghosted Warnke’s bogus Satan Seller ex-Satanist memoir, and Larson was among those who came to Warnke’s defence when the book was comprehensively debunked (3). Larson himself wrote a novel, Dead Air, which purported to be based on true events involving Satanism, although the publisher (Thomas Nelson) removed this claim when asked to provide evidence. The novel was somewhat odd Christian reading, containing a grotesque and pornographic description of a Satanic ceremony involving a naked girl being pulled through the rear end of a horse (4); this was all back in the heyday of “Satanic panic” – as fears about Satanic cults waned due to lack of evidence, exploded memoirs, and tragedies caused by false accusations, charismatic and neo-Pentecostal Christians have instead put a greater stress on “spiritual warfare” against demons.

These days, Larson does not appear to have links with wider neo-Pentecostal organisations or movements, such as C. Peter Wagner‘s “New Apostolic Reformation” – as the leader of his own church franchise, presumably he prefers to be the biggest fish in his own pond, although he clearly benefits from being part of a general milieu. The link to New Generation is interesting; as well as his visit to Ukraine, the BBC documentary briefly features visitors had flown in to London from Latvia to see him, and I suspect these are likely to be New Generation members too. The church group – which is known for its aggressive anti-gay view – has its base in Latvia, and it has featured on this blog previously.

Writing on Twitter, Larson claims that the BBC programme is a “Huge witness for The Lord”.

One unexpected oddity in the programme was that Larson has managed to get himself photographed standing alongside various world political figures, and the results are displayed in his office: the line-up includes George HW  Bush, Colin Powell, Gerald Ford, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher… and John Major:

John Major and Bob Larson

In the case of Thatcher, Larson explained to Murdoch that a friend had arranged a “private dinner”.

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(1) See page 440 of Selling Satan: The Evangelical Media and the Mike Warnke Scandal (Chicago: Cornerstone Press, 1993).
(2) Page 144. More on Balsiger here.
(3) Page 370.
(4) Page 286.

No Sign of Morning Glory For Rise Up Australia

From the Facebook page of Rise Up Australia:

HISTORY MAKING DAY FOR AUSTRALIA !

Breaking News:
The Aussie political landscape will never be Red nor Green again.
True blue Aussies of every skin-colour voted today for a True Blue party. -RUA!

Real Breaking News:
Often party “officials” of other parties “crossed the floor” to intimate that they had SECRETLY voted for………………….
RISE UP AUSTRALIA Party.

RISE UP AUSTRALIA 
THIS IS YOUR CENTURY

According to figures from the Australian Electoral Commission, the party received 38,856 first preference votes, representing 0.37% of the electorate. Of course, the real point of such parties is to gain publicity and to nudge the mainstream parties in a particular direction rather than to win lots of votes; Nalliah is doubtless very happy with how the election went.

Rise Up Australia is the vehicle of Pastor Danny Nalliah of Catch the Fire Ministries, and the party campaigned under the tagline: “Keep Australia Australian! Multi-Ethnic, One Culture”. Nalliah is known particularly for his anti-Islam views, although he also advocates the usual suite of religious-right positions; opinions that have been widely reported include the suggestion that bushfires can be connected to a decision to de-criminalise abortion in Victoria.

There was particular controversy for Labor last week when it was reported that the party had given the party preferences on “how to vote” cards above other parties; according to the Sydney Morning Herald, under the heading “Labor Gives Preferences to Extremists”:

A Labor campaign spokesman said: ”We completely reject their politics and what they stand for. Labor advocates a vote only for Labor. In Australia, we have high rates of informal votes in elections and our how-to-vote cards are designed to ensure that every vote intended for Labor, counts for Labor.”

The 15 seats in which Labor advises voters to put Rise Up in their top four include former prime minister Julia Gillard’s seat of Lalor, being contested by Joanne Ryan, the ultra-marginal Corangamite in Victoria, and the marginal WA seat of Brand, held by Gary Gray.

…The Liberals have placed Rise Up ahead of Labor in all seven seats Rise Up Australia is contesting in NSW, and 30 of the 31 seats Rise Up is contesting in Victoria.

One Labor MP explained that the instruction was simply a formality “aimed at making it easier for Labor supporters to lodge a valid ballot paper”, since Labor and Liberal preferences in practice are not re-distributed in house election:

His instructions are to number the candidates in the order they appear on the ballot paper, beginning with a ”1” next to himself, then continuing down the page, before returning to the top of the list to number the remaining candidates.

Nalliah, however, told the press that he

had had ”unofficial talks with people in Labor and the Liberals” and felt that his party had been given favourable preferences by Labor in some seats because it was sympathetic to Rise Up policies, including concerns about Islam and multiculturalism. Asked why those sympathies had not been made public, Mr Nalliah suggested Labor’s sensitivity to political correctness.

Nalliah’s highest-profile political supporter is perhaps Lord Christopher Monckton, who was the keynote speaker at the party’s relaunch earlier this year; Graham Readfearn explored the association at DeSmogBlog at the time. Nalliah also has an honorary PhD, bestowed by a certain Dr Zamekio Jackson, president of “St. Thomas Christian College in Jacksonville, Fla”.

Russia Today Promotes Nun’s Chemical Attack “Fraud” Claim

A game-changing headline from Russia Today:

Footage of chemical attack in Syria is fraud

The supposed evidence:

Mother Agnes, a catholic nun, who has been living in Syria for 20 years and has been reporting actively on what has been going on in the war-ravaged country, says she carefully studied the video featuring allegedly victims of the chemical weapons attack in the Syrian village of Guta in August and now questions its authenticity.

In her interview with RT, Mother Agnes doubts so much footage could have been taken in so little time, and asks where parents of the supposedly dead children are. She promises to send her report to the UN.

In normal journalistic practice, the words “is fraud” in the headline would be in quotation marks, to indicate that it refers to a claim being made by someone rather than an established fact – but of course, Russia Today, as mouthpiece for the Putin regime, is hardly a normal news source.

Mother Agnès-Mariam de la-Croix has featured on this blog previously, after she pronounced that rebels had been responsible for the Houla massacre. In a cosy interview with a 9/11 Truther named Thierry Meyssan in 2012, she described Assad as a “reformist”, and she appears to have links to his security services. However, her new claim about the chemical weapons attack on Guta does not rely on any claim to special access or inside information – she has merely watched the same publicly-avilable footage as the rest of us and drawn a conclusion that she finds congenial:

I have carefully studied the footage, and I will present a written analysis on it a bit later…The key evidence is that Reuters made these files public at 6.05 in the morning. The chemical attack is said to have been launched between 3 and 5 o’clock in the morning in Guta. How is it even possible to collect a dozen different pieces of footage, get more than 200 kids and 300 young people together in one place, give them first aid and interview them on camera, and all that in less than three hours?… I am not saying that no chemical agent was used in the area – it certainly was. But I insist that the footage that is now being peddled as evidence had been fabricated in advance. I have studied it meticulously, and I will submit my report to the UN Human Rights Commission based in Geneva.

Of course, while Mother Agnès-Mariam may be a regime stooge, middle-east Christian support for Assad goes far deeper, and is to some extent driven by a reasonable fear of Islamic extremists among the rebels.

At the start of last week, Palestinian Christians held a sit-in at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, at which supporters chanted “Only God, Syria, and Bashir”; the crowd was addressed by Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna, a Palestinian who is not on good terms with the Greek hierarchy, but who is often quoted in the media as representing the church. Hanna is at times an articulate defender of Palestinian rights, although he also embraces conspiracy-theories; he recently described the Free Syrian Army as (indirect quote) “pawns who serve Israel”. Hanna is also a close associate of Israel Shamir, the Swedish anti-semite best-known as being the link-man between Julian Assange and the Belarussian security services.

In the USA, the plight of Syrian Christians was recently cited by Rand Paul as a reason against US intervention in the conflict, although Julia Ioffe at the New Republic is sceptical that the issue was raised in good faith:

Pointing out that Assad protects Christians even as he gasses Sunni Muslim children may not be what Paul was intending to imply, but it sure looks that way when his most ardent supporters are writing editorials titled “Letting Allah Sort Out Islamic Civil War in Syria,” itself a borrowed line from nuanced foreign policy thinker Sarah Palin. Or “Christians Under the Crescent.”

Ironically, this is similar to the way that Palestinian Christians have sometimes been used by supporters of Israel, with unhappy results.

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There are also other conspiracy theories doing the rounds about Ghouta; in particular, Rush Limbaugh has been promoting a claim by Yossef Bodansky that the chemical weapons used in the attack were provided to rebels by US intelligence. According to Bodansky:

On Aug. 13-14, Western-sponsored opposition forces in Turkey started advance preparations for a major and irregular military surge. Initial meetings between senior opposition military commanders and representatives of Qatari, Turkish, and U.S. Intelligence… took place at the converted Turkish military garrison in Antakya, Hatay Province, used as the command center and headquarters of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and their foreign sponsors. Very senior opposition commanders who had arrived from Istanbul briefed the regional commanders of an imminent escalation in the fighting due to “a war-changing development” which would, in turn, lead to a U.S.-led bombing of Syria.

Bodansky cites unnamed “participants”, although he gives no explanation as to how he came by his information. Enthusiasts (such as Glenn Beck’s End-Times prophet Joel Richardson) have instead cited Bodansky’s credentials – he’s a political scientist, and formerly served as Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare of the US House of Representatives (1988 to 2004). Mother Jones, by contrast, describes him as “an Assad sympathizer who has previously suggested that the 1995 Oklahoma bombing was orchestrated by Iran and that Saddam’s WMDs all ended up in Syria”; he also famously suggested that Bosnian Muslims engaged in “self-killing” during the Yugoslavia conflict in order to demonize the Serbs.

The claim that “the US did it” has also been helped by a bogus report carried by the Daily Mail back in January (by Louise Boyle) that led to a six-figure libel payout; the Press Gazette noted the paper’s apology:

An article on 29 January reported allegations on the internet that the US Government had backed a plot to launch a chemicals weapons attack in Syria and blame it on the Assad regime.

The reports made reference to an email said to have been from David Goulding, the Business Development Director of Britam Defence, to company founder, Philip Doughty. The email had been published on the internet after Britam’s computer system was illegally hacked in Singapore. It referred to a proposal that Britam would deliver chemical weapons to Syria for enormous financial reward and suggested that the directors were willing to consider the illegal proposal. We now accept that email was fabricated and acknowledge there is no truth in any suggestion that Britam or its directors were willing to consider taking part in such a plot, which may have led to an atrocity. We apologise to each of them and have agreed to pay substantial damages.

The Mail article’s sources were Alex Jones’s Infowars.com and “Cyber Wars News”, which one would have thought might have set off alarm bells. Alas, the report was then picked up by Asian News International (ANI) and in this form remains available. As with RT, there was a fatal lack of distance between claims being made and facts being reported by the agency itself:

The Obama administration gave green signal to a chemical weapons attack plan in Syria that could be blamed on President Bashar al Assad’s regime and in turn, spur international military action in the devastated country, leaked documents have shown.