Cordoba Conspiracy Theory

The latest from Pamela Geller:

Notice how [Daisy Khan] no longer calls it  “Cordoba Initiative” but park51 — now that we know that Cordoba is symbolic of Islamic conquest over the West… In the book Anti-Semitism: myth and hate from antiquity to the present, Frederick Schweitzer and Marvin Perry point out that the rosy view of Muslim Spain has been used since 1948 as “an Arab-Islamist weapon in what is primarily an ideological and political struggle against Israel.” This misuse of history ignores “a catalog of lesser-known hatred and massacres,” including the pogroms in Cordoba in 1011 and Granada in 1066 — both perpetrated by Muslims.

“An Iberian and Roman city in ancient times, in the Middle Ages it was capital of the Islamic caliphate which conquered and occupied Spain for nearly 800 years. During this time Cordoba was one of the largest cities in the world whose name continues to represent a symbol of Islamic conquest to many faithful Muslims around the world.”

Clearly, Geller is implying that the indented quote has come from the Schweitzer and Perry book – but there’s no sign of it in the Amazon book search function, and it does not reflect the book’s main concern. The quote has, though, been spammed around various web-discussions in recent weeks, with several sites giving Wikipedia as the source.

Geller’s use of Schweitzer and Perry is also a vulgar misappropriation. Their discussion of Cordoba (p. 267) is derived from Bernard Lewis, who indeed suggests that Cordoba as a “golden age” of inter-religious harmony is a “myth” which has been used polemically in the context of modern Israel – but Lewis also tells us that this simplification was created by nineteenth-century Jewish historians as “a reproach to Christians”.

We know that the idea of “Cordoba” is used by Muslims to evoke the notion of a harmonious Islam – the fact that the ideal may not reflect the historical reality does not therefore indicate that the word is being used in bad faith. If there is any evidence of another meaning – a symbolic meaning of “Islamic conquest over the West” – then why doesn’t Geller point us to a proper source, rather than dressing up Wikipedia as scholarship? Are there any Arabic sayings which point to such a meaning? Literary references? Sermons? Of course,  Al-Qaeda and various Islamist groups sometimes mention “Al Andalus”, but there’s no indication that it is has a wider symbolic resonance.

Geller is shameless in her lies and misrepresentations – I recently noted her claim that Elena Kagan is actually a Nazi.

Ex-Maranatha Pastor’s “Islam is of the Devil” Book Published by Stephen Strang

According to Amazon, yesterday was the publication date of Islam is of the Devil, published by Creation House and written by Pastor Terry D. Jones of the Dove World Outrearch Center in Florida. As with Fred Phelps, Jones has a particular obsession with one subject, which he has distilled into a slogan to attract media interest: there have been various controversies over his “Islam is of the Devil” church sign and t-shirts (the t-shirts also appeared at a rally for Rifqa Bary), and Jones recently announced “International Burn a Koran Day” for 11 September; the Gainesville Sun notes that

Last week, the church’s senior pastor, Terry Jones, was interviewed by CNN’s Rick Sanchez, and news organizations across the world — from The Times of India to The Guardian in England — have made mention of Dove World’s plans.

A number of evangelical leaders have denounced the planned stunt; Richard Land of the Southern Baptists called it “appalling, disgusting, and brainless”.

However, while Phelps is confined to the fringes of fundamentalism, Jones is better-connected: Creation House is one of the biggest conservative Christian publishing houses in the USA, and it is an imprint of Strang Communications, which publishes Charisma magazine. Stephen Strang, who heads the company, has featured on this blog previously – I noted his links to John Hagee here. In 2005, Time named him as one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America”.

But is Creation House now embarrassed by the association with Jones? Mention of the book on the company’s website is confined to a small entry in a pdf catalogue, and an associated Creation  House Facebook page has recently deleted several messages from one of Jones’ fellow pastors at Dove, Wayne Sapp:

Wayne Sapp Islam is of the Devil, will show you: Why Islam is not a religion of peace, but of violence; How the political history of Islam can demonstrate what will happen in the future if it is allowed to flourish; MOST IMPORTANTLY, what you can do to take a stand for the truth and engage in spiritual battle to reclaim nations from the grips of Islam.

June 18 at 10:51am

Wayne Sapp Dove World Outreach Center, on Monday, July 5th, 2010 will protest the Islamic Center of Gainesville, Florida. For more information contact,

June 16 at 9:17am

Wayne Sapp Creation House is releasing the book Islam is of the Devil, written by Dr. Terry Jones, on July 6!!!!! This book reveals the radical steps that are necessary to erradicate Islam! The book is available on Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Barnes & Noble

June 16 at 9:11am

Another Sapp has also posted a review of the book on Amazon:

Islam is of the devil!, July 24, 2010 By  Marvin Wayne Sapp

This review is from: Islam Is of the Devil (Hardcover)
Great book! I have read it several times already and will read it again and again. The truth about Islam is revealed in this book without all the hype.

(Wayne Sapp explains how to burn a Koran here)

Jones’ book also features a foreword by Jack Coe, son a prominent Pentecostal evangelist and faith-healer of the same name who was active in the 1950s.

Dove was profiled by the Gainesville Sun last July, including critical comments from ex-members (including Jones’ daughter) who claim the church is abusive:

…Entwined with the church’s message is a theme stressing obedience to senior pastors and work for the kingdom of God – a theme that persuaded one couple from Germany to work full time and uncompensated for Terry and Sylvia Jones’ business, TS and Company. The business sells vintage furniture on eBay.

Outside contact, even with family for weddings and funerals, is prohibited for students who attend the Dove World Outreach Academy in Gainesville. The academy members live on property owned by TS and Company, work in the selling, packing and shipping of furniture and are unpaid.

Terry Jones’ daughter, Emma Jones, who still lives in Cologne after breaking with her parents and the church, said TS and Company, which first was established in Germany in 2004 by Terry and Sylvia Jones, fed the private coffers of her father and stepmother in Cologne.

The paper has also made public the DWOC Academy’s authoritarian and semi-literate rulebook.

Jones and Sapp are not complete monomaniacs on Islam, though: the DWOC has also found time to organise a “No Homo Mayor” protest against Gainesville’s gay mayor, and Jones also rails against Obama, who is unqualified to be president and only got the job because he’s black.

In Germany, Jones founded the Christliche Gemeinde Köln (Colonge Christian Church, also known as the “Evangelical Christian Church”) in 1983; he became the leader of DWOC in 2007, although he had long-standing links with DWOC’s founder, Donald Northrup. According to a memoir by Northrup’s widow Dolores (who has a website here, and whose book is on Google Books), both Northrup and Jones were involved with Maranatha Ministries; this was a controversial Charismatic organisation which was accused of authoritarianism and abuse in the 1980s before eventually collapsing in 1989. Maranatha decided to establish its HQ in Gainesville, and Dolores writes that she and her husband came to the town at Maranatha’s request. Jones, meanwhile, was sent to Germany to create a Maranatha branch there. According to this report, Dolores (although she is named as “Elsie”) left the church in 2009, “over concerns about where the congregation was headed”.

I wrote several blog entries on Maranatha a few years ago, in particular in relation to a neo-Pentecostal grouping called Every Nation (e.g. here, here, and here). Also involved with Maranatha in the 1980s – and based in Gainesville – was Lee Grady, who is close to Stephen Strang and who edits his Charisma magazine.

A Ship of Fools “mystery worshipper” visited the German church in 2006 and gives some background:

Services are translated into several languages (English, French, Bulgarian, Russian and Portugese) and as a result the nations do come! The members hail from all over Köln. There are lots of young people, but also some oldies. They conduct a successful ministry to the poor, and quite a few beneficiaries of this ministry have joined the church. It is a cell church, with 39 cells (they call them apostolic teams) in Köln and the surrounding cities. With around 400 members, it is the largest non-Catholic church in the Köln/Bonn metropolitan area.

The church has been controversial in Germany; this CBN news report (no date given) claims it has suffered persecution, and in 1997 Jones sumitted a written statement to a “Hearing on Religious Intolerance in Europe Today”, held before the UC Congress Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (H/T Rachel Tabachnick). However, according to the 1999 U.S. Department of State Annual Report on International Religious Freedom:

According to the Christian Community in Cologne (CCK), no incidents of harassment, discrimination, or death threats have been directed at CCK members since 1992, with the exception of occasional letters from a particular individual, whom they describe as harmless. CCK representatives claimed that the Church’s current tax difficulties were due to harassment by local tax authorities. However, they admitted that the Church’s tax problem was based on errors made by the Church, although they questioned the motivation of the authorities for scrutinizing the Church’s 1992 application for extension of tax-exempt status (which must be renewed every few years, depending on state law). The fact that the Church apparently violated tax law, and the authorities’ voluntary reduction of the Church’s tax liability, raise questions about the merit of the CCK’s allegations of harassment.

UPDATE: Details of DWOC’s joint protest with Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church in April can be seen here.