European Psychiatry and Satanic Ritual Abuse Conspiricism

From the latest Private Eye magazine (link added):

The Eye has been alerted to an article that appeared last year in the peer-reviewed European Psychiatry, the official journal of the European Psychiatric Association, titled “The Satanist Cult of Ted Heath: Ethical Implications of Authority Compromise”. It was based on a conference paper delivered at the 24th European Congress of Psychiatry in Madrid by Dr Rainer Kurz, a chartered occupational psychologist.

Kurz states the Satanic Grocer scenario as fact to an audience of mainstream psychiatrists and in a peer-reviewed journal – which makes one wonder what respect his peers have for corroborative evidence.

The main source he cites is an Essex body-builder called Chris Spivey, who also believes that the murder of Lee Rigby was a government-organised hoax. Of Spivey’s online post naming 235 supposed members of Heath’s satanic cult, Kurz writes: “No indications were found that would throw the veracity of the document into doubt”

I: Heath, Spivey,  and the “Helen G.” Document

The publication in European Psychiatry is actually conference abstract, and as such one would not expect a rigorous peer-review. Even so, it is odd to see such a title receive an academic imprimatur of any sort – the journal is the the official organ of the European Psychiatric Association, published by Elsevier and available online via Science Direct.

The presentation itself is available via Kurz’s page on ResearchGate. Spivey’s list is actually an upload of a document that has been around for some time; no author is named, but it was apparently compiled by the Ritual Abuse Information Network  & Support (RAINS) organisation, based on the testimony of one “Helen G.” – SAFF (the Sub-culture Alternatives Freedom Foundation) has also highlighted the existence of the list (and provides the only searchable copy of it), as evidence of RAINS’s gullibility and Evangelical fanaticism. I previously noted the document here, as a possible source for new “historic” allegations against celebrities.

On Heath, the document states:

Ted Heath. Former Prime Minister. Homosexual but not exclusively, where children are concerned. He has been mentioned by at least 5 SRAS, none of whom know each other. Several have described long finger nails. Am told that he wore false claws added to his nails, with which he clawed his child victims. He died in 2005. The cult held their own funeral on 31st July – 1st August 2005.

I previously wrote about the Satanist allegations against Heath here, and more general abuse allegations against him here.

Kurz states in his presentation that Spivey suffered “persecution by state powers” after the posting: this appears to refer to Spivey’s 2015 conviction (later confirmed by an appeal court) for harassing Lee Rigby’s family with postings that accused them of complicity in the supposed “hoax” of Rigby’s murder by two Islamists on a south London street in 2013.

However, Kurz does not rely solely on Spivey’s website: he also commends an episode of UK Column, an online conspiracy broadcast hosted by Brian Gerrish. The particular episode features Gerrish in conversation with Wilfred Wong, an Evangelical “Child Protection Campaigner” whom I discussed last year. Kurz’s conclusion is that

extreme abuse ‘Death Cults’ with Daesh-like practices appear to be well-established in the UK and continue to operate with ‘de facto’ impunity.

II: From Heath to Hampstead and Norwich

Kurz’s Ted Heath paper was presented at the 24th European Congress of Psychiatry of the EPA in 2016; this year, he presented a sequel,  “From Hampstead to Norwich: Ritual Violence or Coaching?”, in which he waded into the Hampstead Satanic Ritual Abuse claims. The allegations were concocted as part of a custody dispute, but according to Rainer a judge’s ruling dismissing the claims was “extremely unsafe”. In support of this, he again turns to stuff he found on the internet, in this instance the conspiracy blog Aanirfan.

However, there’s an unexpected twist: the “Norwich” part of his title refers to the case of Marie Black, who was convicted of running a paedophile ring in 2015 and is currently serving a life sentence. Suddenly, Kurz discovers some scepticism:

One allegations was that Marie ostensibly put a baby that her friend had ‘run over’ into a bag, carried it into her house and made her children drink its blood! What is the credibility of these allegations when the friend did not own a car and did not have a driving licence either? No baby was reported missing and no dead baby was found. Without any physical evidence a criminal case ensued against 10 defendants most of whom were members of Marie’s family while the remaining 30 ‘alleged abusers’ were not even interviewed! In extremely dubious circumstances Marie and two former partners were found guilty of sexual abuse.

There are some grounds for concern about the Black verdict, from what can be gleaned from media reports, although one should of course be cautious with such limited information: six defendants were acquitted; lurid SRA-type allegations were not substantiated; the way that social workers coaxed the allegations from children was controversial; and Black was perhaps not well-served by her legal representation (1). The Chief Constable of Norwich Police described the case as just “the tip of the iceberg”, although the force doesn’t seem to have located the rest of it so far.

There was also an odd disconnect with a previous story about how Black and her partner had moved to France to avoid overzealous social workers: the journalist Christopher Booker wrote sympathetically about her plight in the Daily Telegraph in 2012, but although he was critical of the allegations during the 2015 trial he seems to have avoided the subject since the convictions.

But why would such doubts be shared by someone who is very ready to believe the most outlandish SRA claims? Black forcing a child to drink blood is beyond credibility, yet we are to accept a narrative about Hampstead that involves baby-eating and the wearing of baby-skin shoes. The contrast is bizarre.

There is, though, an explanation, to be found in Kurz’s views about the UK’s family court system: he recently expressed these on the David Icke-associated Richie Allen Show (blogged here), under the title “Family Court Child Smuggling Is A Cover For Satanic Ritual Abuse”. He also describes himself on LinkedIn as a “volunteer” for Ian Joseph’s “Forced Adoption” website; Josephs was profiled in the Mirror in 2014 as “Millionaire helping pregnant women flee UK to avoid babies taken into care”, and he has also himself appeared on The Richie Allen Show to discuss the issue.

Black was one of those Josephs assisted, and this seems to be basis on which her case is presented by Kurz as evidence of a corrupt system rather than as an exemplary example of the reality of organised child sex abuse. (2)

Footnotes

(1)

Black has twice been refused leave to appeal. In the first instance, she was represented by Richard Hendron, who was rebuked by the judges for his tardiness in bringing issues to the attention of the court (“simply not the way that anyone who wears a wig and gown as a barrister of this country should behave” – Hendron appears to have concurred, and is now a journalist; and his twin brother Henry Hendron doesn’t seem to have fared much better in his legal career, either).

The second hearing, a few months later, rejected her claim that she had been “bullied” into not giving evidence in her own defence:

…they rejected her claims, insisting it was made “absolutely clear” to Black that the decision whether or not to testify was hers alone.

Mr Justice Spencer said the court was “not remotely persuaded” there was anything negligent or improper in her trial lawyers’ handling of the case.

He added: “Quite the reverse, from everything we have heard and read it is apparent that they valiantly and skilfully defended her in accordance with the best traditions of the bar…”

(2)

As noted by the Hoaxtead Research blog, Josephs’s activism also brought him into association with Sabine McNeill and Belinda McKenzie, whose “Association of McKenzie Friends” was created to support parents in family courts. Belinda McKenzie – formerly David Shayler’s landlady – is a 9/11 Truth activist, and the two women did much to promote the Hampstead allegations (blogged here). Josephs has since distanced himself from these particular claims.

The Hoaxtead site also notes that one of the defendants in the Norwich trial is Facebook friends with Brian Gerrish – this is Carol Stadler, who was convicted of actual bodily harm, but not of sexual abuse. However, I doubt that there is any personal link – Gerrish has thousands of friends, and I expect it rather reflects her support for Black during her time in France in 2012; Gerrish has also spoken of the “corruption” of family courts.

Stadler’s husband Anthony Stadler was also a defendant; he was acquitted, and as far as I am aware he is the only acquitted defendant to have made a public statement since.

Chief Constable “Accused of Complicity in Child Sex Abuse”: A Note on the Claim and the Rhetoric

From the SKWAWKBOX, last month:

…the SKWAWKBOX has seen evidence that the Chief Constable of a UK police force has been accused of complicity in child sexual abuse.

The SKWAWKBOX has also spoken to a serving MP who was one of several witnesses present at the time that a positive identification was made by a young adult who had suffered sexual abuse since childhood. The MP told this blog,

We were all in the Strangers’ Bar [in the Houses of Parliament]. The young victim was holding a phone and looking through pictures online, looking for someone else. Suddenly s/he screamed, dropped the phone and stood there shaking and crying, saying ‘it’s him, it’s him!’ The picture on the screen was that of a serving Chief Constable. It was a very real and spontaneous reaction.

A retired Metropolitan Police officer was also among the witnesses.

After they reported the allegations, the MP and Ms [Sharon] Evans were both interviewed at length by the police force – not that of the accused senior officer – to which the accusation was reported, but in the roughly nine months since the report was made, neither have received any word of any action taken.

The SKWAWKBOX is run by a left-wing activist based in Liverpool; the site came to wider attention in June in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, when it published the false claim that media reports about the fire were being suppressed by the use of a “D-Notice”.

The author believes that the allegation against the chief constable is “credible”, based on two points. First (emphasis in original):

The young victim has given around one hundred hours of evidence – not limited to the involvement of the police officer – to police investigators about the abuse suffered, which suggests that officers consider the victim’s claims to be highly credible for them to spend so much time interviewing.

Further, in a follow-up:

Within hours of the publication of the article, the Daily Mail contacted charity head and former panel member on the government’s child abuse inquiry, Sharon Evans, in an attempt to persuade her to give them the story – thereby showing the credibility of the reports.

This is somewhat over-excited. The fact that someone has given extensive testimony to police (and in this case, about a number of individuals) does not mean that their testimony is otherwise supported, while the Mail‘s interest in a sensational story from someone with a public profile is evidence of nothing more than normal journalistic instinct.

The whole thing is simply “no smoke without fire” at this stage – and the context here particularly absurd, with a supposedly “left-wing” website asking us to suspend our critical faculties when it comes to the police and to defer to the (apparent) judgement of the Daily Mail.

However, doubters should perhaps keep their views to themselves – the same site also alleges an “Establishment backlash“:

…Anonymous troll accounts – in fact, worse than trolls – have begun a smear campaign on social media attempting to attack the credibility of a key whistleblower who exposed issues with the inquiry and, even more unforgivably, of a victim of terrible abuse.

At least one of these provocateur accounts is run by someone with a sinister history of stalking – including arrest – and who is known to have connections to key Establishment figures, including at least one who has expressed controversial views about sexual consent and a history of accusations of online and offline bullying. All have the vile tone of the bully.

The reference to “arrest” rather than “convicted” or “cautioned” heavily implies that the alleged “sinister history” has not been substantiated, and it is difficult to understand why this person was arrested if he was acting on behalf of some all-powerful “Establishment”. Presumably the arrest went nowhere (cf. here).

Evans was a member of the Home Office’s historic child sex abuse panel, before it was reorganised into a statuary inquiry in 2015; she and another panel member, Graham Wilmer, are bitterly critical of the IICSA, and in August they expressed their concerns about plans for an inquiry into Grenfell Tower. The Guardian reported:

…Sharon Evans and Graham Wilmer revealed how government officials intervened with the independent panel members by preparing a 23-page document instructing them how to answer questions from MPs.

Both left the inquiry when the original panel was disbanded within months of its formation and have since been critical of the inquiry.

But they said they wanted to warn relatives, victims or other laypeople co-opted on to the upcoming inquiries about the tendency of May and her team to seek close control over such processes. “We wanted openness, and she broke every single promise made to us,” said Evans, who runs the Dot Com children’s charity. “The top promise was that it was going to be an independent and open inquiry. And it’s been neither.”

The SKWAWKBOX story about the chief constable appears to have been a spin-off from this, presented as evidence that the IICSA is not just flawed but a bad-faith attempt to protect “VIP abusers”. Some conspiracy theorists have gone so far as to implicate Theresa May as having a personal motive here, based on an incoherent non-story about her late father not having a Wikipedia page (discussed by me here – the author afterwards Tweeted the first SKWAWKBOX story to me as evidence).

Christian Right “Firefighter Prophet” Warns on Illuminati DNA Manipulation by Radio Wave

From Right Wing Watch:

Last week, we highlighted “firefighter prophet” and right-wing conspiracy theorist Mark Taylor’s belief that the Illuminati and the Freemasons are using a special frequency to change people’s DNA in order to make them oppose President Trump.

On Friday, Taylor appeared on “The Sharpening Report” where he expanded on this theory, explaining that people who have had their bloodlines corrupted by sins committed by their ancestors are now being targeted by Satan via a frequency that is making them unable to see how God is using Trump to save America.

The Sharpening Report is hosted by Josh Peck, who is part of a group around Tom Horn that mixes Christian fundamentalism with fantastical David Icke-style conspiracy theories – the two men are co-authors of Abaddon Ascending: The Ancient Conspiracy at the Center of CERN’s Most Secretive Mission (more on anti-CERN conspiricism here). This may all seem rather “fringe”, but Horn and Taylor have both made appearances on The Jim Bakker Show and have exposure within broader currents of the Christian Right.

In particular, Taylor has been celebrated as the man who received a special message from God prophesying that Trump would become president. WND has promoted his book The Trump Prophecies (co-authored by Mary Colbert, wife of Don), and Charisma News has run various articles about his claims.

However, for some reason his new disclosures about Masonic manipulation of DNA through radio waves isn’t receiving the same amount of attention.  Why the silence on such an urgent and important message?

You’d think Taylor and his associates would be grateful to Right Wing Watch for faithfully transcribing Taylor’s utterances and making them available to a wider audience, given the odd reluctance of conservative sites to do so. Alas, however, Right Wing Watch‘s efforts are not appreciated – Sheila Zilinsky, who is also part of the group around Horn, has complained that the site’s coverage amounts to a “steady diet of hit pieces”, and warned that “God will deal” with it. Zilinsky’s rebuke appeared on Facebook, although she has now deleted it following the appearance of sceptical comments. Zilinsky has interviewed Taylor on her Weekend Vigilante podcast. (1)

Footnote

(1) Zilinsky, who describes herself as “a former government top adviser”, is the author of Green Gospel: The New World Religion, and the co-author of Power Prayers: Warfare That Works; the latter work was co-written with Carla Butaud, who has a “ministry of casting out of demons”. She also contributed to Horn’s When Once We Were a NationGreen Gospel comes with an endorsement from Christopher Horner, a more mainstream conservative. One recent episode of her show was on the topic of “Satanic Rituals, Pedogate & The Deep Underground Occult”, featuring Pastor Russ Dizdar.

VIP Child Sex Abuse Claims: A Note on Esther Baker and John Hemming

(revised and expanded)

From Mail Online:

A former Liberal Democrat MP today revealed he was the subject of a two-year probe into historical sex abuse allegations after police and prosecutors dropped the case.

John Hemming was interviewed under caution as part of the investigation following allegations made by Esther Baker, who waived her anonymity in May 2015.

…In May 2015 Ms Baker went public with allegations that she was molested during the 1980s and 1990s in woods in Staffordshire and at Dolphin Square in London.

Those allegations were first aired in an interview with Sky News on 25 May 2015, and were then followed up by Mail Online under the headline “VIPs Raped Me in Wood as Police Stood Guard: Child Sex Abuse Victim Claims Judge and Peer were Among Gang”.

Soon afterwards, Baker appeared on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes news programme in Australia, in a segment called “Spies, Lords and Predators”. The interviewer used a mobile phone to show Baker photographs of “a Lord” and a “senior politician” and asked her to confirm that she recognised them as her abusers (1). In September, the Guardian reported that the politician (who we now know was Hemming) “contacted police in April this year after he became aware via a national newspaper that the allegations were being made against him”.

By this point, however, a certain amount of scepticism had set in, and the following month the Daily Mail published “I’m the Latest Victim of Sex Abuse Witch-Hunt, Says ex-MP: VIP Police Quiz Former Backbencher”. I discussed the articles and some of the background at the time.

Baker has now published part of a document which appears to show that the case against Hemming was dropped because of the possibility of a mistaken identification on her part (2). Hemming, meanwhile, has issued a statement in which he asserts that “police have now made it clear that there has been a concerted effort to promote false criminal allegations against me”. However, that does not appear to be substantiated by Staffordshire Police, which continues to refer to Baker as “the victim”. It seems that Hemming has extrapolated his conclusion from the fact that he was never arrested, writing on Twitter that “by not arresting me it is clear that [police] believe [the allegations] to be false”. According to Staffordshire Police, there were “over 100 hours of interviews”.

The document partially released by Baker indicates that Staffordshire Police investigated three people: a relative of Baker; a former employer, who admits to having had sexual relations with her; and a politician (i.e. Hemming). According to Mark Watts, who formerly publicised Baker’s claims at the now-defunct Exaro News website, other police forces are still considering further allegations. Baker complains that her former employer has in effect admitted to child sex abuse, because she was underage at the time, but it is difficult to see what relevance this has to nationally significant allegations of “VIP abuse”.

Before identifying herself in May 2015, Baker had previously appeared in the media in January 2015 under the name “Becky”. She told Channel 4 News that she had been sexually abused “in a church setting”, and that some of the abusers had been police officers who attended the church. This was broadcast on 5 January, and the context for the story was her opposition to plans to disband the Home Office’s child abuse inquiry panel, before which she had given evidence in December 2014.

On 10 January she gave a quote to Exaro News expressing opposition to the inquiry becoming “judge-led” statutory inquiry; she also condemned “character assassination” against Graham Wilmer, who was a member of the panel (3). Three days after that, she published a commentary piece on Exaro, in which she complained about “the power plays of a small faction”, and explained that she had engaged with the inquiry as “an excerise in empowerment” suggested by her counsellor.

Hemming was among the MPs who had called for the setting up of a national inquiry during 2014; he has a long-standing interest in child protection (although his interventions have not always been well-judged), and it appears that it was within this context that Baker became aware of him and thought she recognised him as someone who had abused her over several years some time in the past. In October 2014, Hemming had called for Fiona Woolf to stand down from heading the inquiry due to social links with members of “the establishment” who would come under investigation; this was opposed by Wilmer, who disassociated from the inquiry in February 2015.

[UPDATE: Baker has now published a screenshot which indicates that she had accused Hemming privately to a third party at the end of January 2015]

The day before the Sky News item was broadcast, Wilmer wrote on Twitter “They attacked Fiona Wolf because she’d dined with Leon [Brittan]. But they feted [Keith] Vaz, who publicly supported Lord Janner. They will be exposed” (3). In June 2015, one of Baker’s supporters on Twitter suggested that “two survivors” may have “been paid by a paedo ex-Lib Dem MP to cause chaos”. Thus one faction in the conflict within the nascent inquiry found itself being associated with paedophilia due to a complaint made by a member of another faction. Small world.

After Baker had waived her right to anonymity, the “church setting” was tweaked into accounts of orgies in the woodland area of Cannock Chase; the cops were not just members of her church, but actually stood guard during the proceedings. VIPs were also involved, with a judge who was addressed as “M’Laud” participating. Although Baker did not refer to any explicit “Satanic” element, the similarity with Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations is striking. Baker was also allegedly taken by night to Dolphin Square in London, and returned in the morning; another Dolphin Square accuser, named only as “Darren”, says that he saw her there, and she in turn has endorsed his claims about a “medical room” at the location.

Somewhat oddly, Baker at first maintained that she was distinct from Becky, referring “Becky and I” in some Tweets; this distinction was dropped as Baker became a commentator on the subject of child sex abuse. In August 2016 she appeared on Newsnight to discuss the IICSA (an appearance praised by Sarah Champion MP), and in February this year she appeared on the conspiracy podcast The Richie Allen Show to express how “The Police Talking About Ted Heath’s Crimes Gives Me Hope For Justice”. She also continues to assert that Operation Midland’s “Nick” was telling the truth (e.g. here).

The CPS decision is a second set-back for Baker and her supporters in recent months – back in May the case against two people she had accused of stalking was dropped. Watts is now keen to stress that a CPS decision not to proceed is not evidence that an allegation is false, but that’s a point that would be easier to take had the existence of police investigations not formerly been reported so triumphantly and boastfully, with Watts and Baker making jokes about “green bottles” falling.

It is also a set-back for John Mann MP, a grandstander who endorsed the allegations against Hemming as “credible” and promised more to come; Mann gave a similar assurance when Harvey Proctor’s house was raided by police.

Hemming also has harsh words for his Labour Party election rival, Jess Phillips:

Some members of the Labour Party, including my opponent in the last two General Elections, have invested considerable time in promoting these allegations. The promotion of the complainant as an expert in this subject area as a consequence of these allegations has caused addtional difficulties for my family.

I am not myself aware of another situation where members and supporters of a political party have promoted such allegations in such a public manner – essentially arming the villagers with torches and pitchforks and setting off on a lynching. There were public attempts to prevent me from standing as a candidate because of allegations made maliciously by a Labour Party member backed by other members of the Labour Party. Many Labour members will find this unacceptable and it is an issue that needs consideration by the Labour leadership.

Baker and Phillips have communicated on Twitter from time to time: on eve of the 2015 election Phillips told her that “I will think of you every time I feel like giving up!” Shortly afterwards, Baker said that she had joined the Labour Party (winning praise from Stephen Twigg and Sarah Champion), and she and Phillips met in June 2015. During the same period, Phillips Tweeted to Baker and others that she had blocked Hemming on Twitter after having received “creepy” comments from him. The Mail on Sunday Diary column noted:

Lib Dem John Hemming, dumped by voters at the Election, sent a shiver through Labour’s Jess Phillips – his successor as the MP for Birmingham Yardley – by telling her on Twitter: ‘I hope you are having a nice drink in the Prince of Wales.’

After Phillips’ protests that it was ‘creepy tweeting my location’, Hemming tells Dog: ‘It is bad enough her pushing me out of my parliamentary seat, but pushing me out of my local pub is a rum do.’

Footnotes

(1) It’s not clear what the point of this theatrical flourish was – it gave the impression of being some sort of “test”, but it was not a test that it was possible for the subject to fail. The documentary also focused on Richard Kerr, as I noted here.

(2) [UPDATE] This obviously implies that there was nothing to implicate Hemming other than Baker’s own testimony. However, Exaro‘s Mark Watts presents this detail as if means that Hemming has got off on a technicality, writing: “CPS says that it decided not to charge ex-MP John Hemming with child sexual abuse b/c Esther Baker had identified him from an image online.” In fact, however, the “Turnbull guidelines”, which require a judge to warn a jury about the possibility of mistaken identity, are a general instruction and do not specifically pertain to online images.

(3) I noted Vaz and Janner here.

A Note on an Austrian Study on Islamist Radicalization

Here’s one I missed, from early August. From Die Tagespost, via Google translate:

What role does religion play in islamist radicalization processes? The Islamic theologian Ednan Aslan, who works at the University of Vienna, investigated this question in 29 biographical interviews with delinquent Muslims (26 of them in prisons, three in juvenile institutions) in Austria. Two-thirds of the men surveyed have Russian citizenship and are ethnic Chechens. The most important result of the study is that the active debate “with content, norms and values ??of the Islamic doctrine” plays a decisive role in the radicalization. “This intensive examination of theological issues is a turning-point in many of the interviewees in their lives, and the majority of them are positively evaluated.”

It is clear that the majority of the respondents came from a Muslim religious home and knew the foundations of Islam before radicalization. The widespread view that radical Muslims have mostly little knowledge of their religion, has not been confirmed in this study, says the 310-page book. The author admits, however, that those studies, which see religion as the main cause of Islamic radicalization, are in the minority. His conclusion: “Regardless of their religious knowledge, a radicalized person sees in theology an offer that lends meaning and structure to their lives.” (1)

The story was picked up across the border by Welt, tagged as “Deutschland” despite pertaining to Austria. That article contrasted the findings with a recent study conducted in Germany, which found that juvenile radicalisation was due to a “Lego-Islam” disconnected from the tradition. The German study was based on an analysis of messages on WhatsApp. (2)

References to the Welt article then made their way into English, where the piece was deployed polemically on conservative websites. Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch provided a translation, although he also incorporated a link to a different article called “Why Islam is so immune to reform”, which he misleadingly presented as a sub-heading within the translation. A few days later the British Barnabas Fund also referred to Welt; their post then got picked by CBN, from where it has spread to other Christian websites.

These derivative English articles present Aslan’s research not as a new contribution that needs to be placed alongside other studies as part of a wider picture, but as a definitive rebuttal of all commentary that has come before it, significant as proof that Islam itself is the inspiration and explanation for extremism. In these articles, the specific Russia/Chechen context of many of Aslan’s interview subjects disappears from view, and there is no direct reference to the source itself: Islamistische Radikalisierung Biografische Verläufe im Kontext der religiösen Sozialisation und des radikalen Milieus. The work can be accessed from the University of Vienna website here.

Aslan is a “liberal” Muslim of Turkish heritage, and he is also known for a study into Islamic Kindergartens that proved to be a source of controversy over alleged changes that were made to it (it was removed from the university website, but can be seen here and here). Aslan has published a number of academic book on Islam, in German and in English.

Footnote

(1) The original article was paywalled by the newspaper after a week, although the text remains available on a web-capture page. Here’s the text translated above:

Welche Rolle spielt die Religion in islamistischen Radikalisierungsprozessen? Dieser Frage hat der an der Universität Wien wirkende islamische Theologe Ednan Aslan in 29 biografischen Interviews mit straffälligen Muslimen (26 von ihnen in Gefängnissen, drei in Jugendeinrichtungen) in Österreich nachgespürt. Zwei Drittel der befragten Männer haben die russische Staatsbürgerschaft und sind ethnische Tschetschenen. Das wichtigste Ergebnis der Studie ist wohl, dass die aktive Auseinandersetzung „mit Inhalten, Normen und Wertvorstellungen der islamischen Lehre“ bei der Radikalisierung eine maßgebliche Rolle spielt. „Diese intensive Auseinandersetzung mit theologischen Themen stellt bei vielen Befragten einen Wendepunkt in ihrem Leben dar, der mehrheitlich positiv bewertet wird.“

Aufschlussreich ist, dass der Großteil der Befragten aus einem gläubigen muslimischen Elternhaus stammt und die Grundlagen des Islam bereits vor der Radikalisierung kannte. Die weit verbreitete Ansicht, radikale Muslime hätten meist nur eine geringe Kenntnis ihrer Religion, habe sich in dieser Untersuchung nicht bestätigt, heißt es in dem 310 Seiten starken Werk. Der Autor räumt allerdings ein, dass international jene Studien, die Religion als hauptursächlich für islamistische Radikalisierung sehen, in der Minderheit sind. Sein Fazit: „Unabhängig von ihrem religiösen Wissensstand sieht eine radikalisierte Person in der Theologie ein Angebot, das ihrem Leben Sinn und Struktur verleiht.“

This was published on 2 August; there was also a piece published the day before in Kosmo, an Austrian magazine aimed at residents with connections to the Balkans.

(2) The German study is published by Springer as “Lasset uns in sha’a Allah ein Plan machen”: Fallgestutzte Analyse der Radikalisierung einer WhatsApp-Gruppe; the authors are Michael Kiefer, Jörg Hüttermann, Bacem Dziri, Rauf Ceylan, Viktoria Roth, Fabian Srowig and Andreas Zick. Springer also publishes some of Aslan’s works.

A Note on Conor Burns MP and his “Hacking” Claim

From the Independent, several days ago:

A Conservative MP and parliamentary aide to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has claimed his Twitter account was “hacked” after tweets were sent to the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, demanding publish details of the UK’s payment obligations to Brussels.

…Mr Burns was accused of embarrassing the UK and his boss the Foreign Secretary, by taking to social media to criticise the EU’s chief negotiator.

But hours later, the MP for Bournemouth West deleted the tweets and said: “Have been out on visits since 10am this morning. Home to find both twitter and email hacked. Passwords changed.”

The paper quotes law commentator David Allen Green as noting that the supposed hacker has an “impressive” knowledge of EU law.

Burns has not spoken about the matter in any further detail, despite social media users accusing him outright of making it up and an undertone of incredulity in some of the media reports. Did the hacker access confidential emails pertaining to government business? Have private messages from constituents been compromised? Burns appears to be under no pressure from journalists or party superiors to explain what exactly the alleged “hacking” entailed, or to substantiate his claim.

Expectations as regards truthfulness from politicians have perhaps never been particularly high, and only the most stern moralist would censure a public figure for a face-saving misrepresentation after some private embarrassment (“a bad reaction to medication” for an alcohol-related indiscretion, for example).

But in this instance, Burns has explained away a blunder in his performance as a public servant by presenting himself as the victim of an illegal hostile act. Surely this deserves a bit more interrogation than a giggle and a wink?

This is not a trivial matter. One recalls Lucy Allen’s inability to properly account for how the words “unless you die” were added at her end to a hostile email she received, or Nadine Dorries’s many and varied false allegations and vicious distortions. There are of course examples from the other parties, but it is not unreasonable to be particularly concerned with members of the party currently in power.

Politicians escaping scrutiny as regards kind of thing is corrosive – yet these days newspapers simply regurgitate Tweets rather than dig into what may or may not be true.

Trump Described as a Gift from God in Oval Office Prayer For Hurricane Harvey Victims

And now you have given us a gift, President Donald Trump”

From the Washington Times:

President Trump has signed a declaration designating Sunday as a “Day of Prayer” for Hurricane Harvey victims.

The president said that is was appropriate “during times of great need to ask for God’s blessing and God’s guidance.”

He singed the declaration Friday after meeting with faith leaders in the Oval Office.

A transcript of the event can be read on the White House website here. Trump introduced the “faith leaders” thus:

And behind me, we have faith-based people who are highly respected, and especially so in their communities where they’re not only respected, but they’re loved — evangelical leaders, Christian leaders — many people of faith.

“Many people of faith” hints at a broad range of religious traditions, but those who spoke to thank Trump for signing the declaration and for overseeing disaster relief were mostly members of his Evangelical Executive Advisory Board (1) (Tom Mullins, Ralph Reed, Harry Jackson, and Paula White), alongside veteran Christian Right activist Gary Bauer and Frank Page (leader of the Southern Baptist Convention) and an unidentified “participant”. A photo of the occasion shows 15 or so “faith leaders” crowding around Trump – I don’t know them all, but there is no-one present who is recognisably from outside this strand of American Christianity (and White is the only woman).

There was also a prayer from Pastor Robert Jeffress, which Trump introduced ahead of the signing:

So I’m going to sign it, and then a few of the folks will say a few words, and Pastor Jeffress will say a prayer for not only the people so affected — so horribly affected by Hurricane Harvey, but for the people of the nation and, in fact, the people of our world.

The transcript does not record the prayer itself; as with some other White House pages, it merely indicates in brackets that “a prayer is offered”. However, a video of the prayer is available on CBN’s website, alongside the headline “National Day of Prayer: Read President Trump’s Full Statement Here”. For some reason, though, the “full statement” is not in fact present, and although the page did formerly have a transcript of Jeffress’s prayer even that is no longer available.

Here’s what Jeffress said (emphasis added):

Father, your word says, if your people who are called by your name will humble themselves and pray and seek your face, you will forgive their sins and heal their land.

Father, I thank you that we have a president, President Donald Trump, who believes in the power of prayer. We thank you for a vice president like Vice President Pence, who works alongside of him. And we thank you that the president had the wisdom to call our nation right now for a day of prayer this coming weekend, Father. This is what we need.

We pray for healing for our country. We pray for physical healing for those who have suffered the devastation from hurricane Harvey. Father, be with them. Provide for their needs. Help us to be the embodiment of Jesus Christ as we minister to them. But Father, we also want to pray for spiritual healing, emotional healing for our country.

This country has been bitterly divided for decades upon decades. And now you have given us a gift, President Donald Trump, who wants to bring healing to this country. And he is bringing healing to this country. And I pray that you would give him and Vice President Pence the wisdom they need to truly make our country the country you want us to be.

We want America to be great again. And we know that America can only be great, if America is good. And we know we have a president who wants to make America good. I pray your blessing upon him, the first lady, their family. Give them wisdom as they seek to honor you.

And we pray this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came and died and rose again that we might have eternal life. It’s in his name that we pray. Amen.

The segue from reflection on those who have suffered loss in Texas to blatant political partisanship and unabashed political triumphalism would be laughable were it not so distasteful.

Right Wing Watch‘s Brian Tashman has Tweeted some commentary:

Robert Jeffress is the same pastor who said Satan is behind homosexuality, Islam, Mormonism and Roman Catholicism [Link; sources here and here]

Ramiro Pena, behind Trump, is a right-wing pastor from [Jim] Bakker’s “there’ll be a civil war if Trump’s impeached” [Link and source]

Harry Jackson said gay marriage is caused demonic activity and gays recruit kids like Hitler [Link and source]

Paula White recently said that opposition to Trump is opposition to God [Link and source]

Gary Bauer, who thinks gay people have sex with 150 people per year, also with Trump [Link and source]

Of course Ralph Reed, notorious for his involvement in the Jack Abramoff casino lobbying scandal, was with Trump [Link and source]

Ramiro Pena, behind Trump, pushed the discredited Seth Rich conspiracy hoax [Link and source]

I’ve previously blogged on White (dubbed “Trump’s God Whisperer” by the media) here; and a few days ago I noted Jeffress’s endorsement of a book called God and Donald Trump, which Jeffress enthused over as “a much-needed look at the undeniable hand of God working in our nation’s most recent presidential election”.

Some of the figures present in the Oval Office yesterday were also present at an earlier meeting with Evangelical leaders in July, after which Jeffress posted a photograph of himself with Trump to Facebook, describing it as “the ultimate selfie”.

UPDATE: A photo from the meeting is now Trump’s Twitter banner:

Footnote

(1) The Evangelical Executive Advisory Board was announced on Trump’s website in June 2016 as “a new executive board convened to provide advisory support to Mr. Trump on those issues important to Evangelicals and other people of faith in America”, along with a list of members. That page has since been consigned to Wayback, but the list remains available on some other websites. The body is sometimes referred to as the “Religious Advisory Council”, “Religious Advisory Board” or “Faith Board”, which obscures its true nature.

Two members have resigned since it was formed: Pastor James McDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago left in October 2016, after Trump’s lewd “grab them by the pussy” comments came to light, while Pastor A.R. Bernard of the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, whose mother was black, recently quit over Trump’s initial comments on violence in Charlottesville.

WND Describes Israeli Rabbinical Court as “Sanhedrin”

A bizarre headline at WND:

Sanhedrin bans all Messianic Jewish marriages in Israel

The state of Israel’s religious establishment is taking its persecution of Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus to a new level.

A rabbinic court, or Sanhedrin, has ruled that a Jew who believes in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is no longer considered a Jew for purposes of marriage in Israel. This makes it impossible for two Messianic Jews to get married inside the country.

This use of the term “Sanhedrin” here by WND‘s Leo Hohman is misleading, for three reasons.

First, the connotation of the word is a religious court with the power to deal with criminal matters, and to enforce religious rules through criminal penalties – akin to the situation in Iran, for instance. This hardly applies to rabbinical courts in Israel, which deal only with certain civil matters.

Second, Israel’s rabbinical courts do not use the word “Sanhedrin” to describe themselves. The correct term for a rabbincal court is Beit Din (or Beth Din), which literally means “House of Judgement”. The author’s source, Haaretz, shows the court building in Tel Aviv where the decision was made; above the entrance is written in Hebrew:

??? ???? ????? ?????? ??-????

The English underneath reads “The Rabbinical Court of Tel-Aviv”, although the Hebrew also includes the word “Regional” (?????). “Beit Ha-Din” are the first two Hebrew words (reading right-to-left); the next word “?????”, meaning “the rabbinical”, is perhaps a redundancy coming after “??? ????” but presumably denotes the court’s status as an official arm of Israel’s Rabbinate.

The word “Sanhedrin” (???????), in contrast, is not present, as it would not be appropriate. The word does appear in places on the rabbinical court website, but usually in relation to a section of the Talmud with that name. Books and articles discussing modern Israel’s rabbinical courts do not refer to them as “Sanhedrins” either.

Third, there is a group in Israel that calls itself the Sanhedrin, but this is a theocratic and fundamentalist project that lacks any official standing. However, WND articles have cited its existence as evidence of the further restoration of ancient Israel in the modern world as a sign of the Last Days (“extremely relevant to students of Bible prophecy”, according to Hal Lindsey).

Hohman (or an editor) perhaps chose the word “Sanhedrin” because of its Biblical connotations – reflecting a Christian Zionist tendency to conflate modern and ancient Israel, and in the context of rabbinical hostility to Messianic Jews perhaps also recalling the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin as described in the New Testament.

Hohman goes on to quote two Messianic Jews on the subject of the court’s decision: Michael Brown, who is one of the more moderate and sensible voices at Charisma News, and Zev Porat, who is based in Tel Aviv. Porat is an enthusiast of a WND book claiming that the elderly kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri found Jesus shortly before he died in 2005; the work is by none other than the birther and Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Carl Gallups.

The lack of secular marriage in Israel is a long-standing problem; for Israeli Jews who are denied the right to a rabbinically approved marriage for one reason or another the usual solution is to get married overseas, most conveniently in Cyprus.