Muslim Blogger Endorses Critical Review of Patrick Sookhdeo’s Book: Barnabas Fund Whips Up Hysteria

Recently, Ben White wrote a reasonable critique of Patrick Sookhdeo’s book Global Jihad: The Future in the Face of Militant Islam. White pointed out many shortcomings regarding Sookhdeo’s use of sources and theoretical assumptions, but he kept his deconstruction businesslike and avoided ad hominem attacks. I’ve haven’t read the book myself, but White’s review rings true – I wrote an in-depth blog entry in 2007 about how Sookhdeo had wilfully quote-mined and misrepresented an obscure 1980 book called Muslim Communities in Non-Muslim States in order to whip up an anti-Muslim conspiracy theory that is now being touted in the USA by the likes of Charles Colson (and in the UK by the BNP).

Now, however, a link to the review has appeared on a Muslim blog called Indigo Jo Blogs; the author, who mocks Sookhdeo as “Sookhdevil”, states that Ben White personally drew his attention to it. Cue a remarkable display of histrionic and hysterical whining from Sookhdeo and his supporters: why would White, a Christian, make a Muslim aware of his review? Is he not putting Sookhdeo’s life in danger and undermining Sookhdeo’s efforts to protect persecuted Christians in Muslim countries? And is not White racist? An article by an anonymous missionary on Virtue Online explains:

 Ben White’s review of “Global Jihad” soon appeared on the Church Mission Society, and also on the website of Richard Sudworth, one of their missionaries, who urged people to read the review and see what really underpins the ministry of Barnabas Fund.,Barnabas Fund, headed up by Patrick Sookhdeo, is an aid agency sending practical help to persecuted Christians. If Sudworth’s comment damages its work, he will have reduced the support available for faithful Christians living courageously in hostile contexts. But of course, they are mostly non-white and many of them are converts, so their wellbeing is perhaps of little interest to him…What on earth is going on in the evangelical camp right now? Not only have they turned on each other, but they have even enlisted the aid of a radical Muslim in their attempts to destroy one of their own…I am writing this because of my concern about what I see happening, in particular the attacks on and betrayal of Christian converts from Islam and other non-white Christians by white Western Christians.

We’re also told that the author of Indigo Jo Blogs – a convert to Islam – is an Islamist:

A self-confessed truck driver with a degree in politics who lives with his parents in Surrey, Matthew Smith has become not just a Muslim but an Islamist. This he makes clear on his website where he describes himself as pro-madhhab Le. pro-sharia.

Smith does indeed state that he is a truck driver, although it doesn’t appear to be a “confession”. Here’s how he defines himself religiously:

I’m strictly Sunni, that is to say, pro-madhhab (Maliki in my case) and anti “salafi”, although I can get on with “salafis” over a curry in Tooting.

Sooner him than me, but hardly sinister.

Sookhdeo’s Barnabas Fund has now decided to distribute the article by email, which adds details about Sookhdeo’s “great hurt and distress” over the fact that a Christian contacted a Muslim who then made fun of his name; the email is available on various sites, including that of armageddonist Joel Richardson (blogged by me here), who is quick to point out that this is just another sign that the End is Nigh. According to the email:

The criticism of Patrick Sookhdeo which appeared on Indigo Jo’s website – and the epithet he coined “Sookhdevil” – have now appeared on a number of other Muslim websites, some of which appear to be radical. One of them calls for Muslims to go and fight in Gaza. So we are very concerned for Patrick’s safety and that of his family… he feels especially acutely this betrayal and plotting by fellow Christians, as well as the malicious stories being circulated about him.

This is an insult to the intelligence: Sookhdeo’s anti-Islam views have been a matter of public knowledge for a long time; there is nothing in Smith’s blog post or White’s review which would rachet up any deplorable threat he might be under from Islamic extremists.

Weirdly, some material from the Virtue Online article appears to have been deleted, but it is retained in the email. It alleges a wider conspiracy against Muslim converts to Christianity:

More recently, and back in the UK, consider the case of CRIB (Christian Responses to Islam in Britain), a body which appears to be administered by the umbrella mission organisation, Global Connections. An invitation-only meeting was called by Bryan Knell of Global Connections, on behalf of a group which included Tim Green, Howard Jones, Steve Bell and Colin Chapman. The 22 participants, who met at All Nations Christian College 21-22 July 2008 and included someone from the college, were sworn to secrecy. At the meeting a document was drafted called “Gracious Christian Responses to Muslims in Britain Today”. It is embargoed until the CRIB conference this summer in London, but various prominent Christians in the UK are being approached privately to sign up to it.

So what was this secret meeting for? What is this secret document about? Believe it or not, a main aim of both was to discredit two British Christian leaders who are converts from Islam (one being Patrick Sookhdeo) and a British Christian ministry not connected to either of them…Ben White, whose foolish, ignorant and spiteful review of “Global Jihad” was prominent on the Fulcrum website for some time, claims to have lectured at All Nations Christian College.

Commentary from the Barnabas Fund claims that Sam Solomon (who gives anti-Muslim presentations to the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship, as I blogged here) and a ministry called “Maranatha” are the other supposed targets. The author then suggests that the “habit of treachery” may be turned back against them, and warns – in one of the most bizarre suggestions I’ve come across in all my years of blogging – that rival groups of evangelicals may end up setting Islamic extremists on each other:

Sudworth was at one time a missionary in Tunisia, who naturally wanted to keep his own material secret. What if he now seeks to return there, and his activities are reported to radical Muslims in the region? Steve Bell, involved in calling the CRIB meeting at All Nations, heads up Interserve, which also sends white missionaries to the Muslim world. The venue itself, All Nations Christian College, exists to train missionaries to share the Gospel with Muslims amongst others. Global Connections, the home of CRIB, exists to link missionary agencies together. Elaine Storkey, chair of Fulcrum, is also president of Tearfund, a vast relief and development agency which sends Christian workers to many.different countries, some of them extremely sensitive. What if they were denounced to local Muslims, followed and killed? The tentacles of treachery can spread far. Canon Graham Kings, the theological secretary of Fulcrum and also vicar of Islington, north London, who seems to have a personal vendetta against Patrick Sookhdeo, might find that missionaries from his church were betrayed as they served God overseas. He himself might be threatened, or his family.

Or if not, perhaps Muslim bloggers could be prompted to come up with whole lists of mocking fake evangelical surnames!

UPDATE (22 Feb): More today.

Also, I see the CMS has responded to the claims against it:

CMS has no intention whatever to undermine the work of the Barnabas Fund. CMS has consistently affirmed the work of the Barnabas Fund on behalf of persecuted Christians and has occasionally worked collaboratively with it.

CMS affirms the ministry and integrity of Richard Sudworth who having lived and served in the Muslim world knows the realities Christian minorities face and is now engaged in sensitive and courageous work here in Britain.

CMS regrets that this episode has sown disunity among evangelical Christians whose common aim is to share Jesus.

John Martin
CMS Head of Communications

A statement on Interserve concurs:

There have recently been various public statements linking Global Connections and CRIB to an alleged campaign against the ministry of Patrick Sookhdeo, the Barnabas Fund and others.

Global Connections and CRIB wish to make it clear that they are not part of any such campaign nor are they involved in any personal attack on Patrick Sookhdeo. Furthermore they have not sought to undermine the important work of the Barnabas Fund.

Global Connections facilitated a meeting at All Nations Christian College in July 2008 about the training Christians receive on Islam. It was not a secret or clandestine meeting but a meeting by invitation and was attended by twenty-two Christian leaders. No individual or organisation was targeted at the meeting. We believe that as Christians we should reach out with love and compassion to Muslims and not allow fear to stifle that approach.

Those involved have been working on a statement entitled ‘Gracious Christian Responses to Muslims in Britain Today’. It is hoped the statement will be finalised and published in the near future. The aim is to help UK Christians when they encounter Muslims and not to discredit anyone.

No one in Global Connections, CRIB or at the meeting in July 2008 knew anything about the review of Patrick Sookhdeo’s book by Ben White until it appeared on the Fulcrum website. No one in Global Connections or CRIB knows Indigo Jo or anything about him.

We hope that this statement will allay concerns on these matters.

Martin Lee

Director, Global Connections