Melanie Phillips Sees Plot to “Discredit and Stifle” Christians who Oppose Islamic Extremism

From Melanie Phillips, at the Spectator:

Last July, a discreet meeting was held by a group of influential Anglican evangelicals to co-ordinate a new church approach towards Islam. The meeting was convened by Bryan Knell, head of the missionary organisation Global Connections, and others from a group calling itself Christian Responses to Islam in Britain. The 22 participants, who met at All Nations Christian College in Ware, Hertfordshire, were sworn to secrecy…The meeting had in its sights those ‘aggressive’ Christians who were ‘increasing the level of fear’ in many others by talking about the threat posed by radical Islam.

The aim was thus to discredit and stifle those Christians who warn against the Islamisation of Britain and Islam’s threat to the church. Those who do so include the Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, the Africa specialist Baroness Cox, the Islam expert Dr Patrick Sookhdeo and the Maranatha Ministry…

I blogged this here. The story has doing the rounds for a couple of weeks, and it has been promoted because a journalist named Ben White gave Sookhdeo a bad review of his new book, Global Jihad, on the evangelical website Fulcrum. After the review was published, Sookhdeo was then “discredited and stifled” by being given right of reply on the same website. Two supporters of Sookhdeo wrote an essay which was duly published, but they also produced a second version containing extra sections of astonishingly crude attacks on White. Andrew Brown at the Guardian drew attention to the inflammatory version of the counter-review – but Phillips points out that Brown seems “to be driven by hostility to anyone who supported Israel”, so apparently we don’t need to go into that little embarrassment any further. Another, anonymous, article suggested that the bad review was part of a plot hatched at the Global Connections meeting to which Phillips refers, and this piece was distributed by email by Sookhdeo’s Barnabas Fund.

Phillips continues:

White then drew his review to the attention of a blogger, Islamist and Muslim convert called Indigo Jo. On his website, Indigo Jo anathematised Sookhdeo as the ‘Sookhdevil’. This attack was reproduced on various other Islamist websites and Sookhdeo has received a death threat as a result.

The tale is growing: “Indigo Jo” was rather rude about Sookhdeo, and Sookhdeo’s supporters did indeed try to puff this up  into some kind of threat, telling us that:

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.

However, there was no death threat mentioned then, and if there has been one since, how come only Phillips has heard about it? And besides, as I pointed out before, Sookhdeo’s hostile views about Islam have been public knowledge for years – Global Jihad is unlikely to add to any extremist threat he may be under. Compared to White’s temperate review, the whine about White putting Sookhdeo at risk was an unworthy and intelligence-insulting attempt to, erm…”discredit and stifle” a critic.

Meanwhile, Sookhdeo has issued a new statement, co-authored with Sam Solomon and a certain Dennis Wrigley:

A number of accusations have been circulating in the media about Sam Soloman, Patrick Sookhdeo and the Maranatha Community, the movement which Dennis Wrigley heads. Some of the accusations apparently have arisen in regard to discussions held at a closed meeting convened last July, which, among other issues, discussed a perceived growth of fear of Islam and Muslims felt among Christians in the UK. Some attributed this fear to aggressive teaching by Christians concerning negative aspects of Islam and advocated promoting an alternative approach.

What does this mean? The only “accusations” that “have been circulating in the media” concerning this affair were the shrill attacks promoted by Sookhdeo’s supporters against White and Global Connections. The statement continues:

The majority of those who attended the meeting advocated maintaining a variety of approaches, which included ones that are openly critical of Islam. We would like to state clearly that we recognize that any individuals that were advocating limiting criticism of Islam were speaking their own opinions and were not following any official policy of CRIB (Christian Responses to Islam in Britain) or of Global Connections.

Whoops! So while Phillips has treated her Spectator readers to news of a conspiracy against Christians who speak out against Islamism, Sookhdeo appears to have backed down from the allegation – albeit it in a rather grudging and indirect way (Sookhdeo’s back-pedalling is doubtless because several of the organisations at the meeting have issued statements: see here and here). But the authors soon return to form with a few more shock revelations:

We are living in a context of increasing hostility towards Christians both from secular society and from Islam. A key evangelist was threatened in public by a Muslim with a gun a week ago. A Christian leader who speaks out on Islam in Britain has received death threats. Another who writes widely on Islam had his offices burgled, apparently by Muslim extremists.

These are serious matters, and it’s frustrating that no specific details are provided.

I should add if the July meeting did indeed feature criticisms of Sookhdeo and Solomon that would in fact be quite reasonable. I blogged here about the disgraceful way that Sookhdeo misrepresented a Muslim book he’s been using as evidence of a Islamic conspiracy; Solomon provides alarmist briefings for the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship worthy of Walid Shoebat.