Lord Ahmed and Yvonne Ridley Tour Sudan with David Hoile

The new Private Eye (1209 p. 7) reports on a peace initiative in Sudan led by Lord Ahmed and Yvonne Ridley, and supposedly launched on behalf of British Muslims. Alas, the signs are not good:

Bizarrely, Ahmed and Ridley were stewarded around Khartoum and Darfur by David Hoile, whom older readers may recall from the 1980s as a noisy Conservative student famous for wearing “Hang Nelson Mandela” stickers. Having allied himself with an exotic assortment of rebels and terrorists over the years – the Nicaraguan Contras, Unita in Angola, Renamo in Mozambique – he now works as an adviser and apologist for the Sudanese government, mainly through his European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council in London.

And readers not old enough to recall his 1980s exploits might at least remember his 2001 spat with the Guardian, after the paper printed the claim that he had worn a “Hang Mandela” t-shirt; Hoile insisted it was untrue, and the Guardian issued a correction:

…There is no evidence that Dr Hoile ever wore a ‘Hang Mandela’ T-shirt…Furthermore, Dr Hoile wishes to say equally categorically that at no time did he propose a motion at Warwick University that ‘Nelson Mandela is a terrorist and should be hanged’ nor would he have done so.

A few days later an old photograph emerged showing Hoile sporting a “Hang Mandela” sticker. The Guardian’s readers’ editor Ian Mayes gives further details:

I rang up Dr Hoile on the day of publication and suggested that he owed the Guardian an apology. Dr Hoile apologised profusely to me for any “embarrassment” he had caused me personally. He insisted, however, that word for word, the correction remained correct. He had absolutely no recollection of wearing anything of the kind shown in the photograph, but he had known beyond any doubt that he had not worn a Hang Mandela T-shirt.

Hoile’s adventures are also recounted in Conservative Radicalism, a book on the libertarian right in the UK written by one of the movement’s exponents, Timothy Evans (pp. 40–41):

In May 1985 David Hoile outraged many outside the FCS [Federation of Conservative Students] by going on a secret fact-finding mission to Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua…As well as spending eight days on patrol with Nicaraguan Contras, Hoile told of how he had carried a Kalashnikov, adding: ‘it was a very enjoyable experience’…The Guardian story carried a photograph of Hoile at a Contra camp surrounded by armed soldiers…

The Rhodesian-born Hoile was an FCS vice-president, and he was also involved with the Libertarian Alliance, whose current leader, Sean Gabb, shares his enthusiasm for Sudan. A 1987 Guardian Diary piece also makes a link with the South African Embassy in London:

…Between 6pm and 8pm tomorrow some 150 selected members of the Young Conservatives will be guests at the South African Embassy for a drinks party. According to the invitation, the host is the Counsellor at the Embassy, a Mr. C. Raubenheimer, and the shindig is to mark the departure of a Mr. P. Goossen…The invitation list was drawn up with the help of David Hoyle [sic], chairman of the Conservative Student Foreign Affairs Group, who devotes a lot of his time arranging support for the Nicaraguan contras. (1)

Among those invited were Andrew Rosindell (misspelt as “Rosendale”), now an MP but then chairman of the Greater London Young Conservatives (the GLYCs had sent a delegation to meet independent student groups in South Africa in 1985) and a certain Paul Staines.

I discussed some of this in February.

(1) Edward Vulliamy, “People Diary”, in The Guardian, 24 September 1987.

Archbishop Duncan Williams Marries US Businesswoman

New wife was Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa

One of the more interesting African neo-Pentecostal leaders is the Ghanaian Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams, founder of Action Faith Ministries International. Duncan Williams, who preaches a message of prosperity and success, underwent a turbulent divorce and remarriage to his first wife Francisca between 1998 and 2001, and their second marriage fell apart in 2005 despite interventions from T.D. Jakes and Morris Cerullo. Duncan Williams has now married for a third time, and this time the bride is someone different. Joy Online reports:

…Then last Saturday April 19, 2008, news came out that Archbishop Duncan-Williams was remarrying in Maryland in the United States of America.

He got married to a successful African American public official and entrepreneur, Ms. Rosa Whitaker, who wields so much influence in the United States and across Africa as the Chief Executive Officer of The Whitaker Group.

That the new wife is American is not surprising – Duncan Williams has been mainly based in the USA for the past few years.

The Whitaker Group website has some background on the new wife:

TWG was founded by Rosa Whitaker, the first-ever Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa under the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and William J. Clinton. Prior to founding TWG, she was an architect of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and worked on World Trade Organization (WTO) and other trade initiatives directly under the current Chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, Charles B. Rangel, and the current President of the World Bank, Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick. With more than 25 years of Africa experience, Ms. Whitaker has an extensive network of high-level contacts in the U.S. government and business community as well as public and private sectors throughout Africa.

Whitaker’s clients have included President Museveni of Uganda; at least one commentator there is sniffy about her efforts for AGOA:

Ugandans should have a special interest in Ms Rosa Whitaker; not only because she was the assistant United States trade representative to Africa when AGOA sounded like a sub-county in heaven, but also because through her company, the Whitaker Group, she was later to be employed by the Uganda government as the country’s AGOA consultant, some kind of USA-based market scout for Ugandan goods, with a thinly veiled role as spinner for Museveni’s politics.

Ghanaweb adds criticism from the other side of the continent:

President J. A. Kufuor has engaged another American lady, this time an African American, as a Special Advisor on AGOA. Her name is Rosa Whitaker, and she is paid a whopping US$300,000.00…per year, effective March 2005 when she signed the contract with the Government of Ghana.

…Whitaker stands out as an example why Washington officials are increasingly debating what constitutes a conflict of interest in such comings and goings. Whitaker set up the first in a series of business relationships with African leaders and countries while still working as the U.S trade representative’s top official for Africa, according to our sources, correspondence and other documents obtained by the LA Times. By March, she had signed the contract with Ghana, also for $300,000 a year, to consult on the law, known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act or AGOA. “It looks like she’s trading off on her expertise and credentials and in a really blatant way”, said Larry Noble, head of the Centre for Responsible Politics, a Washington watchdog group. Whitaker said her private pursuits were above board and approved in advance by the Trade Representative’s office.

The Ugandan connection had an unhappy sequel last July:

An American adviser to the NRM government on trade and investment has lost a preliminary appeal in a U.S. court to dismiss a fraud case filed against her by her Ugandan housemaid.

Ms Idah Zirintusa, a former State House employee, sued Ms Rosa Whitaker in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for fraud, unjust enrichment, and illegal interference with her earlier contract with State House.

…In the pleadings, a copy of which Daily Monitor has obtained, Ms Zirintusa further says that Ms Whitaker violated various provisions of the US Fair Labour Standards Act, D.C. Payment and Collection of Wages Law, and D.C. Minimum Wage Act by failing to pay her the minimum wage and overtime fee to which she was entitled for the domestic services she provided Ms Whitaker and her friend Ms Pauline Harris.

…The court found that Ms Whitaker falsely promised Ms Zirintusa that if she accepted her offer of employment, the American lobbyist would provide payments for the care and support of the accuser’s family in Uganda.

Whitaker – rather shabbily – offered the defence that “Ms Zirintusa could not sustain her claims because she was not legally permitted to work in the United States”.

Duncan Williams (whom I discussed here on Talk to Action) teaches that prosperity comes through divine laws of sowing and reaping, and that a pastor should manifest success in his personal lifestyle. A high-flying businesswoman is certainly an appropriate catch; and for her being married to a man of God will perhaps have the added bonus of dampening controversy over TWG.

Daniel Pipes, Demagogue Part 94

Admits NY “Madrassa” claim was “a bit of a stretch”

From the New York Times:

Debbie Almontaser dreamed of starting a public school like no other in New York City. Children of Arab descent would join students of other ethnicities, learning Arabic together. By graduation, they would be fluent in the language and groomed for the country’s elite colleges. They would be ready, in Ms. Almontaser’s words, to become “ambassadors of peace and hope.”

This was the Khalil Gibran International Academy, and as was widely reported last year, the school became a centre of controversy in large part to a campaign inspired by Daniel Pipes and organised as the “Stop the Madrassa Coalition”. Now Pipes makes a casual admission:

…Given how little Mr. Pipes knew about the school at the time, the word [madrassa] was “a bit of a stretch,” he said in a recent interview. He defended its use as a way to “get attention” for the cause.

How “a bit of a stretch” to “get attention” is distinct from a deliberate mischaracterisation to capitalise on fear and prejudice is not clear.

The Times also notes a Pipes article from the New York Sun:

…he referred to Ms. Almontaser by her birth name, Dhabah, and called her views “extremist.” He cited an article in which she was quoted as saying about 9/11, “I don’t recognize the people who committed the attacks as either Arabs or Muslims.” (As The Jewish Week later reported, Mr. Pipes left out the second half of the quote: “Those people who did it have stolen my identity as an Arab and have stolen my religion.”)

That Pipes is a dishonest demagogue isn’t exactly news, though. Christopher Hitchens provided a few examples back in 2003, observing that “…he employs the fears and insecurities created by Islamic extremism to slander or misrepresent those who disagree with him.” Hitchens complains that Pipes is “useless” as an effective opponent of Islamic extremism because of this tendency.

Meanwhile, Pipes’ blog has a couple of paragraphs about the NY Times article, in which he whinges:

Of interest particularly to me was to learn that in mid-2007 (no specific date provided), David Cantor, chief spokesman for the NYC Department of Education, wrote an e-mail message to Seth Lipsky, editor of The New York Sun: “I won’t allow Dan Pipes a free pass to smear Debbie Almontaser as an Islamist proselytizer who denies Muslim involvement in 9/11. It is a false picture and an ugly effort.” Comment: Excuse me, but is this the way for public officials to refer to critics?

Answer to comment: Yes, when the “critic” is Daniel Pipes. If anything, Cantor was too restrained.

(Hat tip: The Revealer, which notes that the article’s author, Andrea Elliott, won a Pulitzer last year)

Court Case over “Censorship” of Electoral Broadcast

MediaWatchWatch draws attention to a statement from the Christian Legal Centre:

A LONDON Mayoral candidate is taking the BBC and ITV to the High Court for ‘censoring’ his Party Election Broadcasts in the run up to the May 1 elections.

The Christian Choice candidate, Alan Craig, has instructed the Christian Legal Centre to file papers this morning at the Royal Courts of Justice after BBC and ITV officials instructed him to remove parts of his Party Election Broadcast which was aired on Wednesday evening (23 April).

Craig had wanted to say that

“You may know about plans by a separatist Islamic group to build Europe’s biggest mosque next to the Olympics site in West Ham. I think it’s a bad idea that will bring division and I’m glad moderate Muslims support my stance in opposing it.”

According to the statement:

BBC didn’t like “separatist” (said it was libellous) or “moderate” (which implied that the unnamed Tablighi Jamaat were extremist).

I expect the BBC actually said it was “potentially libellous”, but the effect is the same.  Craig changed “separatist” to “controversial”; ITV then insisted that the word “controversial” should apply only to the plans for the “mega-mosque” rather than to the group, and that he should clarify that only “some” Muslim leaders agreed with his concerns.

As I have noted on this blog more than once over the past couple of years, libel in the UK can be an extremely expensive business, so we can well understand why the BBC and ITV have decided to be cautious – even though Tablighi Jamaat have in the past been called worse than “separatist” and “controversial” with no legal repercussions.

It’s also not the first time that concerns over libel have led to an election broadcast being censored: I have read (sorry, I don’t have the reference) that in the 1970s the BBC refused to broadcast an advert by the Labour Party which referred to the fact that John Tyndall, the leader of the far-right National Front, had once been found guilty of a weapons offence. The BBC feared the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, which makes it libellous to mention a “spent” conviction if “malice” can be proven; despite the obvious public interest, the BBC decided it wasn’t worth the risk.

Meanwhile, the Christian Legal Centre is an unlikely opponent of censorship: judging from the “blasphemy” section of its website, the organization appears to have no problem with some things being banned.

Farah: WND Column was “Satire”

The Joseph Farah-CAIR dispute continues: as my previous two blog entries noted, Farah has been complaining that CAIR has incorrectly attributed to him the idea that pigs blood should be air-dropped over Afghanistan, and that such a false statement is defamatory and dangerous. CAIR has now corrected its statement, pointing out that in fact it was referring to a WND column by another author, Paul Sperry, which advocated dropping leaflets over Kabul threatening to put pig’s blood in the water supply.

Farah responds to CAIR’s lawyer:

I continued: “Perhaps a second or third reading of Paul Sperry’s column by Hooper and you will help you realize what anyone should be able to comprehend in the context of the complete column – that it was satire…”

Yes, it’s the old “it was only a joke” defence, as used for years by bullies and bigots when challenged over their behaviour. Farah also points out that Sperry’s column was written shortly after 9/11.

Of course, spotting satire on WND is rather difficult when you have to wade through columns and reports arguing that the Holocaust was caused by Darwinism, that child abuse in the Roman Catholic church is down to subliminal occult imagery in artwork, and that the pyramids were built by the Nephilim – not to mention the never-ending farrago of nonsense from WND columnists such as Hal Lindsey.

Farah also complains that:

It’s not true that WND is an “an extremist hate site” that “promotes hate every day”…Knowing the kind of people who listen to Hooper, it is very dangerous to be mislabeled as an anti-Muslim extremist.

This comes as Farah headlines his dispute with CAIR as “US Muslims spewing bile”. For a long time WND also promoted Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) under the banner “Shock a Muslim – With the Truth!”, the “Truth” being that

When PC propagandists assure us that jihadist terror doesn’t reflect “true,” “peaceful” Islam, they’re not only wrong, they’re dangerous — because they lull America and the West into letting their guard down against their mortal enemy. And not only do self-appointed “experts” lie elaborately and persistently about Islam — they have also replaced the truth about Christian Europe and the Crusades with an all-pervasive historical fantasy that is designed to make you ashamed of your own culture and heritage — and thus less determined to defend it.

Many more examples can be dredged up, although perhaps not literally for “every day”, and there’s also his continued advocacy for the anti-Muslim demagogue Michael Savage. And let’s not forget more general observations on WND, such as this one from Jack Wheeler:

…neither the adoption of Islam nor all the intervening centuries since has decreased the addiction Arab men have to pederasty…

Farah wants us to believe that Hooper has put him danger because WND has just published a book of ex-Muslim testimonies (with an Islamic portrait of Muhammad on the cover for good measure), and he is desperate to concoct a controversy around it. His target readers, however, will be perplexed as to why Farah is now trying to distance himself from the anti-Muslim views which he has been feeding them for years.

CAIR: Joseph Farah Threatens Libel Action

From WND:

Now consider how dangerous it is for me when the spokesman for this Islamic lobby, with countless connections to terrorism, asserts this prima facie libelous mischaracterization about me – an Arab-American seen by some in the Arab world as a traitor because of his pro-American stands, his commitment to Jesus Christ and his defense of the Jews.

Hooper put a target on my back.

As I blogged yesterday, Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR had dismissed the new WND book Why We Left Islam with the accusation that Farah had once suggested that pig’s blood should be air-dropped across Afghanistan. Farah denies this, although he fails to tell us that he did once publish a column by another author suggesting that the US should drop leaflets over the country threatening to put pig’s blood into Kabul’s water supply (this was in late September 2001). Of course the inaccuracy should be corrected, but Hooper’s garbled version hardly amounts to putting “a target” on Farah’s back. However, Farah is desperate to generate a controversy around the book, hence the feeble suggestion of some kind of threat to his person.

Farah goes on to ponder the possibility of legal action, asking us questions like “Will I get a fair shake in America’s politically correct courtrooms?” and “Are there sharp lawyers brave enough to take my case?” He also commends Michael Savage’s legal efforts against CAIR:

My friend Michael Savage is doing just that – and I commend him for it. But I know the sacrifice he is making by getting down into the gutter with these people. I would urge you to contribute to his legal defense fund so he can pursue his lawsuit against CAIR for as long as it takes to win.

As I blogged at the time, Savage’s original legal suit was dismissed in March, although he was allowed to submit an amended version. However, if Farah finds being accused of anti-Muslim hate so objectionable, why he so keen to identify with a man whose whole reputation is based on vulgar rants about Muslims “getting on…all-fours and braying to Mecca” and suchlike?

UPDATE: More today.

UPDATE 2: Terry Krepel of Conwebwatch observes that:

Since WND is less a “news” website than a platform to advance the personal views and agenda of its founder and editor — Farah — it’s a logical assumption that Farah condones, if not approves, such actions. For Farah to narrowly defend himself and portray CAIR’s claim as completely baseless is disingenuous and a cynical attempt to sell books.

And as for Farah’s demand that the New York Daily News, which printed Hooper’s comment, should give him right of reply, Krepel

…WND regularly attacks people and organizations without giving them an opportunity to respond — columnist Olivia St. John is just one recent example. And “print[ing] accurate and truthful statements about known individuals – named or not” is simply not WND is known for, despite what Farah would like us to believe — just ask Clark Jones. Or Barack Obama. Or Islamic Relief. Or Michael Schaivo. Or Teresa Heinz Kerry. Or…

Joseph Farah Looks Forward to Riots over Anti-Muslim Book

…but has to make do with snark from CAIR

WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah rubs his hands with glee at the thought of a new WND book provoking an immoderate reaction from Muslims:

“If Muslims rioted around the world after a Danish newspaper published a political cartoon making fun of Muhammad, what will they do in response to this?”

Farah is referring to Why We Left Islam, a collection of testimonies from ex-Muslims which is decorated by a medieval Persian portrait of Muhammad, and which argues that terrorism is the “real face” of Islam. Farah quotes CAIR:

“This book is put out by WND Publishing (sic), which promotes hate every day on its extremist anti-Muslim hate site,” Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for CAIR, told the New York Daily News. “The editor is a guy who suggested air-dropping pig’s blood over Afghanistan. There are 7 million American Muslims and over a billion worldwide who love Islam and practice it peaceably on a daily basis.”

So, no calls for the book to be banned or for the authors to be hunted down, but Farah – who is quick to headline this as “U.S Muslims spewing venom” on his front page – makes the best of it:

“CAIR can always be counted upon to make wildly untruthful and reckless claims about others, while maintaining a hypersensitivity about its own concerns…Here, for example, Hooper makes this claim that WND promotes anti-Muslim hate on its site every day, offering only one example – and that one is totally untrue.”

Well, Hooper’s claim is somewhat garbled, but it’s not “wildly” off-base. Probably he was thinking of this late September WND 2001 column, by Paul Sperry:

U.S. forces should start by dropping leaflets over Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, warning residents, in their native Persian tongue, that we’ve enlisted Afghani moles to contaminate their water supplies with pig’s blood.

Sperry – whose Muslims-under-the-bed book Infiltration was recently commended to Christian Zionists at a Jerusalem conference by Retired Lt. Gen William Boykin – sees the Islamic prohibition on pork as a morbid horror rather than as simply a religious taboo, and he claims that “pigs are to Islamic terrorists – such as Osama bin Laden and his henchmen – what kryptonite is to Superman, or what garlic is to Dracula.”

Why We Left Islam is edited by Susan Crimp and Joel Richardson. Crimp is a veteran journalist-biographer, and her past subjects include Joan Collins, Elton John, and the Kennedys; she has also written a book on Mother Teresa, entitled Touched by a Saint. Richardson, meanwhile, is the author of Antichrist: Islam’s Awaited Messiah, which, according to an endorsement from Pastor Reza Safa, “is central to recognizing the fulfilment of Biblical End-Times prophecy in our day and understanding the role that Islam plays in it”; Robert Spencer adds that it’s a “must read”. “Richardson” is apparently a pseudonym due to death threats, although no details are given.

Joseph Farah, of course, has a bit of a problem: we wants us to hate and fear Muslims, but as a Christian dominionist he also despises habits of religious moderation, pluralism, secularism, and respect for reason which would provide a sensible way forward for the Muslim world. Richardson’s Islam-obsessed rehash of the familiar themes of “Last Days” Christian prophecy paperbacks would suggest that he’s just the man to present the stories of ex-Muslims without seriously raising any general criticisms of religion.

UPDATE: Joseph Farah Threatens Libel Action

The Jihad Seller

Back in February I blogged on the most absurd libel threat ever: Walid Shoebat, self-proclaimed Palestinian “ex-terrorist” turned evangelical Christian, was threatening to sue over claims that he hadn’t been a terrorist at all, and had in fact lied about his past. At the end of March the conservative Jerusalem Post also raised doubts:

Shoebat’s claim to have bombed Bank Leumi in Bethlehem is rejected by members of his family who still live in the area, and Bank Leumi says it has no record of such an attack ever taking place.

His relatives, members of the Shoebat family, are mystified by the notion of “Walid Shoebat” being an assumed name. And the Walid Shoebat Foundation’s working process is less than transparent, with Shoebat’s claim that it is registered as a charity in the state of Pennsylvania being denied by the Pennsylvania State Attorney’s Office.

…Shoebat told The Jerusalem Post that this could be because the bank building was robustly protected with steel and that the attack may have caused little damage.

Asked whether word of the bombing made the news at the time, he said, “I don’t know. I didn’t read the papers because I was in hiding for the next three days.” (In 2004, he had told Britain’s Sunday Telegraph: “I was terribly relieved when I heard on the news later that evening that no one had been hurt or killed by my bomb.”)

Questions have also been raised over Shoebat’s claim to have been an Islamic militant in the 1970s, before Islamism became a significant ideology in the West Bank, and his claim of descent from the nonsensical “grand wazir of Islam”. Further:

Visitors to Shoebat’s Internet site are encouraged to make a donation to his foundation to enable him to disseminate his message. However, a notice on the page states that for “security reasons,” the money will not be debited to his foundation, but rather to a company called Top Executive Media. The name Top Executive Media is used by a greetings card firm from Pennsylvania called Top Executive Greetings, a company with an annual turnover of $500,000.

A colleague of mine at Talk to Action, who uses the name “Dogemperor“, has dug further. He notes that “Top Executive Media” used to sell greetings cards, and that, as seen on Whois, the administrative contact is none other than Keith Davies, Shoebat’s “handler”. Further, the address given is an up-market private property. Dogemperor notes that Top Executive is also Shoebat’s publisher, and has also published for Hilmar von Campe, an aged Christian ex-Nazi who is now a walking violation of Godwin’s law, diagnosing Nazism and Communism as the root as everything he dislikes, from “fanatic Islam” through to support for Nelson Mandela and opposition to General Pinochet.

Shoebat is also controversial for other reasons; right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel claims that he plagiarised a couple of paragraphs from her, and that a subsequent complaint was met with an un-Christian “Fuck you, bitch”. Dogemperor also draws attention to an article in New Voices, an American-Jewish student newspaper. While accepting Shoebat’s “former-terrorist” story, the piece questioned his current anti-Palestinian perspective and the way he plays down his religious associations, provoking a denunciation from Davies:

…As an evangelical Christian, Shoebat has a vision that goes beyond annexing the entire West Bank–a vision that he avoids mentioning to his Jewish audiences. In private, though, Shoebat explained that he believes there will be “a great battle at the end…the children of Ishmael versus the Jewish community. Christians believe [the Jews] will…recognize that Jesus is the Messiah in the end.” Then he added, “but that is beside the point, this is not my agenda in the universities.”

…Keith Davies, an Irish Jew now living in Pennsylvania, is Shoebat’s agent and tour manager. Davies has no qualms about sending Shoebat to speak to Jewish groups without mentioning his Christian Zionism: all that matters, Davies says, is Shoebat’s willingness to speak for Israel. But Davies clearly feels that if attention is called to his evangelism, Shoebat’s credibility may suffer: immediately after I interviewed Shoebat and asked about his religious beliefs–particularly pressing him on details of his Christian Zionism–I received a call from Davies instructing me not to mention those beliefs in this article. If I did, Davies warned, it would “hurt Israel.” And Davies is protective of his own image as well; upon being emailed the quotes to be attributed to him in this article, Davies replied, “This is a disgusting article and I will [not] have anything further to do with you.”

…Maneuvering his biography like a Trojan horse, Shoebat gains the ear of liberal Jews. And his status as a “reformed sinner” gives him credence in the eyes of his target audience, overriding other Palestinian perspectives. At the very least, he has the power to lull Jewish audiences into complacency, absolving them of the need to examine their own history and politics.

Also facing unwelcome scrutiny is one Shoebat’s former associates, a Lebanese named Zachariah Anani:

Tom Quiggin, Canada’s only court-qualified expert on global jihadism and a former RCMP intelligence and national security expert, said Anani’s tales of terror and murder just don’t jibe with the time and place he claims to have been killing.

“Mr. Anani’s not an individual who rates the slightest degree of credibility, based on the stories that he has told,” said Quiggin, also a Senior Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for National Security in Singapore.

…”His story of having made kills shortly after he joined and having made 223 kills overall is preposterous, given the lack of fighting during most of the time period he claims to have been a fighter,” Quiggin said. “He also states he left Lebanon to go to Al-Azhar University at the age of 18, which would mean he went to Egypt in 1976. In other words, according to himself, he left Lebanon within a year of when the fighting actually started.”

…He also pointed to a story on WorldNetDaily in which Walid Shoebat, another ex-terrorist and friend of Anani, also claims to have killed 223 people, two-thirds of them with daggers.

“What a coincidence,” Quiggin said.

Quiggin also again raised the problem of the self-proclaimed former terrorist being a Jihadist at a time when fighters were mainly far-left secularists.

This came a few weeks after Anani disassociated himself with the Walid Shoebat Foundation. According to a website which reported on this (again noted by Dogemperior), Anani stated that as a “Spiritually charged Christian” he felt the WSF was too centred on “materialistic achievements”, and that as he had never believed in killing civilians he is an ex-soldier rathan than an ex-terrorist.

There was a previous time during which converts to evangelical Christianity would achieve prominence through tales of a former association with a fanatical and wicked ideology: this was in the 1970s and 1980s, when the likes of Mike Warnke would entrall with lurid stories of life as a Satanist. Warnke and his imitators were eventually shown to be frauds.

Spelling variation: Zacharia Anani

US Evangelist Jailed in Russia over Hunting Ammunition

News from Russia:

A Moscow court has sentenced a US pastor to more than three years in jail for illegally importing hunting rifle ammunition into Russia.

The pastor is Phillip Miles of Christ Community Church in South Carolina. Miles has been a visitor to Russia for many years, where he has undertaken mission-related activities, and in February he decided to bring a case of hunting cartridges to a friend, Eduard Grabovenko, in Perm. A Russian article translated on this site gives further details. Apparently, the cartridges were noticed by customs when Miles arrived in Russia:

Seeing a suspicious-looking box, they asked the pastor what it was. The pastor honestly replied: these are bullets, which I’m taking to my friend in Perm.

They drew up a report, confiscated the bullets, and allowed the pastor to fly on to Perm. Upon returning from Perm, on 3 February of this year, they detained the pastor right at Sheremetyevo, presenting him with a charge of having committed a crime under Article 222 – “unlawful acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transport or bearing of weaponry, component parts thereof, munitions, explosive substances and explosive devices”.

…However, soon after, yet another Article was added to 222: Article 188 – contraband. Now this is considered a “serious” crime. Under it, the term of punishment is up to seven years.

The author of this article, Grigory Pasko, was himself once imprisoned for espionage after investigating environmental degradation in Sea of Japan, and so he takes a rather sceptical view:

Come on, do you really expect me to believe that the procuracy investigator, when tacking on Article 188 to the already-existent Article 222, honestly didn’t understand that the “contraband” charge was clearly excessive? Of course he understood. Because there was no intentional premeditated concealment of the bullets from customs control (they weren’t under something that would have screened them or hidden inside something); there was no fact of misleading declaration of goods; there were no counterfeit documents used… That is, many of those items that form the body of a crime under Article 188 were clearly not evident here.

Predictably, a resolution in the South Carolina General Assembly insisting in “the strongest terms that the Russian government release Pastor Miles from his imprisonment” has failed to have any effect.

Phillip Miles is the son of Bishop Houston Miles, a former pastor with the Assemblies of God and associate of some high-profile neo-Pentecostal leaders. He is also the founder of Evangel Fellowship International. According to Houston Miles’s website:

Today, EFI has 36 missionaries serving in countries around the world.  In 1991, we launched “Operation Russia”, an effort to take the gospel to the Russian people.  In 1992, we did 25 evangelistic campaigns throughout Russia.  Many additional campaigns were done in the following years.  I personally, with a team from my church, did six crusades a year for several years.  Thousands of people surrendered their lives to Christ.  Everyone who attended a crusade was given a New Testament in the Russian language.

In 1993, I printed 5,000 copies of a book I wrote entitled, Sermon on the Mount in the Russian language.  These books were distributed throughout Russia…Today we are working with 672 churches in that country.  My 45th trip to Russia was in October 2007.

Doubtless this has annoyed the Russian Orthodox Church, and one wonders if nationalist sentiment has played a part in the draconian sentence meted out to Phillip Miles. The recipient of the hunting cartridges, Eduard Grabovenko, featured in the 2006 U.S.A. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom:

According to a May 2005 article in the Perm newspaper Permskiy Obozrevatel, in late 2004 the Pentecostal New Testament Church in Perm purchased the local House of Culture from a private company to house its social and charitable activities. The purchase provoked considerable controversy in the area, reportedly encouraged in part by the local ROC Bishop Irinarkh, a long-time critic of Pentecostals. The case went to an arbitration court, which ultimately recognized the sale as legal and valid but did not issue a ruling that would bind the owner to proceed with the registration. The Pentecostals paid 50 million rubles ($1,851,851) for the House of Culture and were using it for their services, but they were not registered as the owners at the end of the reporting period. According to Pastor Eduard Grabovenko, oblast administration officials had put pressure on the owner to block registration. On May 11, 2006, the New Testament Church filed a suit asking the court to issue an order that would permit property rights registration without the former owner’s cooperation.

Further, this appeared in 2007:

A statement by the secretary of the Syktyvkar and Vorkuta diocese of the Russian Orthodox church of the Moscow patriarchate, Hegumen Filipp, requesting that the Directorate of the Federal Security Service (UFSB) “pay attention” to the preaching activity of an evangelist from England, David Hasavy [sic: this must be David Hathaway – RB], appears to be a regular threat, behind which is an attempt to frighten people away for evangelical churches. This was stated in an interview at the press service of the Slavic Legal Center by the pastor of the “Spring of Life” Pentecostal church, Pavel Kudrov. The church is a member of the Association of Independent Churches of Christians of Evangelical Faith, which is a member of the Russian Associated Union of Christians of Evangelical Faith (ROSKhVE). The church belongs to the Perm diocesan administration of KhVE, which is headed by Bishop Eduard Grabovenko.

How convenient that Grabovenko (who is also associated with Oral Roberts University) should now find himself discredited by association with a convicted “arms smuggler”!

The fate of Phillip Miles comes several months after a Korean-American missionary was detained in Sakhalin on suspicion of attempting to bribe an official; the Sakhalin Times reported on the latest developments just a few days ago:

This week a missionary from the USA, Pastor of Kholmsk Church “Good Fortune” – 66-year old Pak Khio Sun and his lawyer Vyacheslav Zhigalov will start to get acquainted with the materials of the criminal case against him.

Last week the translation into the Korean language of three volumes of criminal evidence was completed. This week the Pastor, who does not know Russian and has poor English, will start to get acquainted with materials of this criminal case as translated into Korean.

Also last year, the governor of the Russian region of Tula announced that he had uncovered an unnamed American “secret service officer” working for a religious organisation, and the Pasko article reminds us of the 2003 Andrew Okhotin case. Okhotin, an American citizen and Harvard Divinity Student, was accused of trying to smuggle $48,000 into Russia, which he claimed was for local churches. Okhotin had a customs declaration and a letter explaining the purpose of the funds, but was arrested after taking the wrong line through customs. He got away with a suspended sentence, but the money was confiscated.

An American evangelist was also recently jailed on weapons charges in Uganda, although he was soon released; I blogged on this here.

Spelling variations: Philip Miles; Edward Grabovyenko; Eduard Grobovenko; Eduard Anatolyevich Grabovenko; Pak Hio Sun; Pak Hyo Sung; Park Hyo Sun

Kimball’s One-Track Free Speech Conference

(correction made; see comments for details. And hello to readers who have come – rather unexpectedly – via Mark Steyn’s site)

In my previous post I included a link to Roger Kimball’s blog, where details can be found of a recent New York conference co-organised by Kimball and entitled “Free Speech in an Age of Jihad”. Let’s give it a closer look:

Over the last several years, proponents of Islamic jihad have increasingly turned to the courts and government agencies in their effort to suppress criticism of radical Islam. The result has been a proliferation of libel suits and so-called “hate speech” actions that aim to curtail free speech and further the cause of radical Islam.

This is a typical example of the US right’s monomaniacal response to the problem of free expression today. Yes, a Saudi billionaire has used British libel law to suppress books dealing with one of the most urgent areas of public enquiry: namely, the dangers of Islamic extremism. But those libel laws have been hampering free speech for decades – the problem is far too generalised simply to be regarded as a manifestation of what Kimball calls “soft jihad”. Indeed, in the UK some of Kimball’s intellectual soul-mates are quite happy with libel laws as they are – and to use them to dampen critical investigations.

The “hate speech” issue is particularly pertinent to two of the speakers at the conference: Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant, both of whom have come to the attention of the Canadian authorities after making anti-Islam statements. Kimball verges on the apocalyptic as he ponders the reason for this:

…The unhappy truth is that the threat to civilization in the West comes not only from our enemies but also from within…Mark Steyn developed [this] with his characteristic blend of humor and admonitory insight in his luncheon talk, “The Dimming of Liberty: Legal Jihad and the Criminalization of Resistance.”

…Mark’s talk ranged widely, but its central message, he noted, was summed up by the historian Arnold Toynbee: Most civilizations, Toynbee wrote, die from suicide not murder. We in the West preen ourselves on our high standard of living, our freedoms, our pleasures. But what beliefs, what backbone, underwrite those material triumphs? Radical Islam is a fanatical, often a murderous, faith. The welfare-state liberalism of the West is less a faith than a perpetual grievance.

There’s no real analysis here of why “hate speech” laws have come into existence in various countries, except that liberals are weak and self-hating and so willing to appease Islamists (and as for Toynbee, I’m sceptical of guru-like axioms that claim to reveal supposed laws of history). But the fact is that most societies tend to ban discourses that are seen as corrosive of the public good: in the past works regarded as obscene, blasphemous, heretical, or subversive were forbidden; today prejudice against minority groups is regarded (rightly) as one of the most serious social evils and so naturally, following past form, censorship is seen as the easiest way to deal with the problem. This is, of course, a bad idea: as well as being counter-productive, sometimes futile, and inherently undesirable on free speech grounds, whether a piece of writing incites hatred or not is often subjective, and such laws will inevitably be abused by those who want to curtail criticism and debate. These flaws are fatal, but it is absurd to conclude therefore that such laws are created for the benefit of Islamists with bogus “grievances”: if this were so, holocaust denial and homophobic hate speech would not also be banned in various countries (the problematics of banning the latter are discussed in this article by Peter Tatchell). Also, if the west were too morally weak to oppose extremism, Islamists in the UK would not be facing imprisonment for the more clear-cut activity of incitement to violence.

However, Kimball gets one thing right when he mentions the Saudi context. The west has indeed shown a lack of principle and backbone when it comes to this country, and disgust and dismay at the feting of Saudi elites for the purposes of oil and arms dealing (extending to the dropping of a corruption probe in the UK) is perhaps the one subject that unites a broad range of the political spectrum. Kimball notes some Saudi-themed books that have had difficulties being published or distributed in the UK due to repressive libel laws; here’s one he overlooked he didn’t mention in his article, although it was brought up at the conference (note top right-hand corner):