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Documentaries on Islamic Extremism and the English Defence League in Luton

Two recent British TV documentaries have looked into Islamic fundamentalism and the English Defence League, focusing on the town of Luton. The first, My Hometown Fanatics: Stacey Dooley Investigates, aired on BBC 3; Dooley, who is herself from Luton, went to school with EDL leader Stephen Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”), and the programme’s narrative structure was built around Dooley’s attempts to secure an interview with the apparently elusive Lennon. On the way, she comes across an Islamist protest against the September arrest of Mona Thwany, widow of Stockholm suicide-bomber Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly. The protest, which called for British police to “burn in Hell”, appeared to have attracted more than 50 supporters, with women in regulation burkhas; one of them told Dooley to “Go and put on some clothes”.

Dooley’s interviews contain few surprises: two minions Sayful Islam, whose 2009 protest against a march by soldiers prompted the creation of the EDL, expound on the evils of the British military and on Islam as the answer to all society’s problem; moderate Muslims disassociate themselves from the fanatics; and Lennon, when he eventually appears, gives a typically media-savvy performance, concentrating on reasonable concerns about extremism and distinguishing between Muslims:

I say it to the English Defence League all the time… there are some great Muslims… I say it in every interview I do, but they don’t play it.

Lennon instead focuses on shariah, which he identifies with mutilations and sex with children. Lennon also tells Dooley that his wife “disagrees” with “what the EDL stands for”, and that her family “certainly don’t” agree with the EDL.

The second programme, Proud and Prejudiced, aired on Channel 4 on Monday. This documentary focused on Lennon and Sayful Islam, and as interview subjects the two men again for the most part tended to say what one would expect them to say. However, there were some points of particular interest: a chance encounter between Lennon and Sayful Islam ends with Islam reaching through Lennon’s car window to give him a slap, suggesting that Sayful Islam, who is careful to just about keep on the right side of the law, is willing to engage in violence if he thinks he can get away with it. The footage, though, is not new, and has been available on YouTube since November.

The most revealing moment in the programme came after Lennon had had a few drinks. Fortified by a green plastic bottle of White Lightning or similar, Lennon got into some banter with a Muslim security guard in a shopping centre. The guard’s face was obscured, but he was perhaps an older, first-generation immigrant. They began by embracing and laughing, and Lennon maintained a jocular tone:

Guard: Yeah, yeah, I respect your views. [shaking hands with Lennon] You want us to be elsewhere.

Lennon: I don’t want you… are you Muslim?

Guard: Yeah.

Lennon: I don’t want you to do anything, bruv… other than just fuck the fuck off. No, I’m only joking.

Guard: That’s alright, man. Everybody’s not the same.

Lennon: Seriously, I don’t.

Guard: Not all Muslims are bad.

Lennon: I know they’re not, bruv. I know they’re not. Just most of them. Ha, I’m only joking.

Then to camera:

Lennon: Other than Breivik, cos he’ll shoot ’em all. I’m from Norway and I’ll shoot you. [Grins]

As a follow up, Lennon tries throwing stones from a distance at some police officers, as a prank; he then pulls his hood down over his face in comic fashion, and once again says “Breivik”. It’s clear that this was bad-taste humour rather than a threat of violence; as a moment of candid self-exposure, I was reminded more of David Brent than of Mark Collett. Nevertheless, the fact that the leader of the EDL finds Breivik’s massacre to be a source of amusement ought to be seriously damaging.

Proud and Prejudiced also contained some footage from protests; an Islamist protest in London on 11 September 2011 was met with an angry and aggressive counter-protest, and it was clear that the Islamists would not have been keen to see the police disappear into Hell at just that moment. There was also footage from an EDL protest at Tower Hamlets, where Lennon (as I blogged here) came disguised as a rabbi; Lennon’s message, which others noted at the time, was aimed at British Muslims in general:

The islamic community will feel the full force of the English Defence League if we see any of our British citizens killed maimed or hurt on British soil ever again.

Footage from an earlier protest showed Lennon with Guramit Singh, an EDL leader who has also made speeches against Muslims in general. Singh resigned from the EDL in June, claiming personal reasons.

Glenn Beck Meets Vatican Clergy and “International Tea Party Leaders”

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze reports:

This weekend [19 Feb], The Blaze has confirmed that Beck flew from Miami to Rome, where he had meetings with prominent Catholic Church leaders. In addition to holding discussions with them about important religious freedom issues, Beck also met with individuals from various countries to discuss the creation of an international Tea Party movement.

…During his dialogue with Cardinals, Monsignors, Archbishops and other Catholic leaders, the popular host pledged support for the church, while also discussing ways in which members of various faith communities can join in solidarity against secular attacks against religion.

Beck is adept with using religion to self-publicise: Christian Right figures such as David Barton and Jim Garlow gloss over his Mormonism; his 2010 “Restoring Honor” event featured “240 men and women of all faiths”; he has a “pastors and preachers panel”; and last May the Temple Mount “almost pulsated” as Beck approached.

Continuing:

…Additionally, Beck met with Tea Party leaders from Rome, Serbia, Milan, Germany, Austria, and London, among other localities, to begin discussing an international coalition that is being headed by FreedomWorks. Reflecting the ideals held by peace and freedom proponents in America, the persons involved discussed their goals for an integrated global effort to champion Tea Party ideals.

Speaking to Bill O’Reilly afterwards, Beck added Bosnia, Georgia, and Israel to the list of “Tea Party Leaders”, while O’Reilly himself mentioned Belarus. Tea Party Italia has posted a short set of photos from the Tea Party event; one shows Beck with Terry Kibbe of FreedomWorks (which organised the visit) and Giacomo Zucco, while the second shows Beck with Zucco and Alberto Mingardi, Director of the libertarian Istituto Bruno Leoni (Beck described Mingardi to O’Reilly as “Austin Powers”).

Nina Michael, writing on the CUNY School of Professional Studies blog in December 2010, gave some general background to the movement:

Sometime last year, David Mazzerelli, a 28 year-old advertising executive from Prato, Italy, developed something that makes liberals on this side of the pond cringe; a fascination for Sarah Palin’s Tea Party Ideology.

Inspired by the cries for lower taxes and less government, Mazzerelli had an epiphany; within a year, Tea Party Italia was born.

…While he may have been inspired by Sarah Palin and her devotees, Mazzerelli certainly follows a different path of action. US tea partiers, aside from complaining about taxes and pontificating as to the damaging effects of the involvement of government in just about anything, like to skirt the edge of relevance by taking up issues such as abortion, gay rights, evolution, creationism and other such issues that are hardly germane to any economic related issue. Italian Tea Partiers on the other hand, restrict themselves to issues of the state. Mazzerelli says; “Before everything we refrain from taking positions on ethical, moral and religious themes. We’re interested in economic themes: less taxes, less public spending and less government.”

A journalist named Luca Bocci is responsible for “international projects”. The group has a website here, and a Facebook page here.

Dorries Agonistes

From the Guardian:

MPs are considering plans that would allow anti-abortion organisations to offer publicly funded pregnancy counselling services, despite the defeat of similar proposals in a parliamentary vote last year.

A cross-party group of MPs, set up by the public health minister Anne Milton after last September’s vote against proposals by the Tory MP Nadine Dorries, is looking at plans that could give anti-abortion groups an official role.

One group member said Dorries had opposed most of the favoured option, particularly the idea that counsellors should clearly state their views on abortion.

Dorries told the Guardian that the consultation would give everyone an opportunity to contribute. “I am particularly keen to hear the voices of those women who have been actually been through the abortion process as opposed to those which are ideologically biased either as pro-choice or pro-life,” she said.

…Tracey McNeill, director of UK and Europe at Marie Stopes, said… “We simply don’t believe that organisations whose own publications describe abortion as ‘a most grievous sin’ can provide impartial pregnancy counselling to women. 

Dorries has responded to one of the report’s authors, on Twitter:

@BenQuinn75 There are SO many inaccuracies; I don’t know where to start. I am amazed that your employer pays you to be write ficton? (1)

@BenQuinn75 No organisation which is ‘anti-abortion’ will be allowed to provide counselling. (2)

@BenQuinn75 Totally untrue that I argued against every aspect of option 2, in fact, it is my favoured option, (3)

@BenQuinn75 Stewart Jackson [MP] is not ‘anti-abortion’ and neither am I . We are both opposed to abortion after 20 weeks which is very different (4)

@BenQuinn75 No one whose literature describes abortion as ‘a grievous sin’ would be allowed anywhere near a pregnant woman (5)

Dorries’ attempts to reform laws around abortion go back to her experience of attending a botched abortion when she was a nurse. She has, however, positioned herself against some anti-abortion activism, particularly that of the the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children – SPUC has declined to support Dorries’ proposals, prompting Dorries to Tweet that SPUC’s director John Smeaton is

…shameful and cowardly and will never fly on the wings of an eagle. (6)

This is typical Dorries – all critics are subjected to personalized venom, here with a weird quip attached to give a bit of “only joking” wriggle-room.

On the other hand, Dorries expressed enthusiasm when Rick Santorum surged ahead of Mitt Romney in the polls:

Who says there isn’t a God? Lots of people have been praying for this! [Link given] (7)

Why would someone supposedly keen to show that they are “not ‘anti-abortion'” make such a statement, other than as a dog whistle to conservative religious groups? It’s also the case that one counselling service Dorries has in particular commended does treat abortion in terms of sin – this is Forsaken, an organisation based in Taunton. Forsaken’s literature associates abortion with a sense of guilt which will be assuaged only by conversion to Christianity; the notion of abortion as “a grievous sin” is certainly implicit, even if the phrase is not itself used.

It looks like the Guardian piece did contain errors – the claim that Dorries is opposed to “the idea that counsellors should clearly state their views on abortion” is in particular strange. But, as I’ve discussed previously, Dorries’ true intentions remain unclear.

The Guardian also notes that in relation to Milton’s group that

Last month, the shadow health minister Diane Abbott walked out, claiming the group was a front to push an anti-abortion agenda without debate in parliament.

This led to a memorable spat on Newsnight, in which Dorries claimed that Abbott had “fallen asleep” during meetings. Abbott – already on the ropes over other matters – was effectively diminished. Abbott attempted a comeback via the Guardian, but her recollection that

As she walked off the television set Nadine’s high heels clacked triumphantly

served only to remind us of Abbott’s own poor performance.

However, Abbott shouldn’t have been surprised by Dorries’ line of attack, which was characteristically ruthless: a blogger who has investigated her expenses and challenged some of her assertions is a “stalker” whose “special hatred is reserved for women”; a constituent who was off work waiting for operations on her feet and who criticised Dorries on Twitter “is giving housebound disabled people a bad name” and ought to be put to work; her (now ex-) boyfriend’s estranged wife is “violent” and has been repudiated by her own children; Tim Farron MP, while purporting to be a Christian, has been “outed” as someone  who has been “blinded by ambition and sold his soul to the devil” (“outed” was also a mocking jibe about rumours concerning Farron’s sexuality); Chancellor the Exchequer George Osborne is a “traitor” and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is “mad”; the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has “offended every practicing Christian in the UK”.

And that’s not even including disputes contrived simply to maintain Dorries’ media profile: an abusive attack on Andrew Neil as an “orange, overweight, toupee-wearing has-been” is the most famous (and perhaps the least controversial), while an ill-advised quip from the Prime Minister was milked in a Daily Mail op-ed entitled “The PM Publicly Humiliated Me in Front of the Entire Nation, What Did I Do to Deserve That?”

Consequently, as “outspoken MP Nadine Dorries“, she now finds its easy for her pensées on a range of subjects to garner media attention; last month almost simultaneously saw “Tory MP Nadine Dorries urges reform of ‘sexist’ BBC”, and wide publicity given to a Tweet in support of a sexist beer brand in the Commons bar: “Banning of the Top Totty beer was weak PC decision and gives sensible pro-women advocates a bad name”. Part of that last quote even made it into Chinese translation:

???(Nadine Dorries)??”??Top Totty????????????”

UPDATE: One other person on the receiving end of Dorries’ abuse is the former Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris. Harris is known for his support of abortion rights and euthanasia, and so Dorries naturally accuses him of having sanguinary motives:

Everyone calls Evan Harris Dr Death. I always will due to his obsession with ending people’s lives via abortion/euthanasia (8)

The claim that “everyone” calls Harris “Dr Death” appears in a  2007 Daily Mail hit-piece by Leo McKinstry, although Sunny Hundal argues that

The ‘nickname’ isn’t widely used at all, except by some internet commenters and by Nadine Dorries.

The Telegraph columnist Christina Odone did use it, but has now stopped as far as I can tell. The broadcaster Gerri Peev used it in the Daily Mail but apparently apologised for it afterwards.

Harris is Jewish, and he believes that the Mail, by applying to him a nickname given to Dr Josef Mengele, is guilty of anti-Semitism. I don’t think that’s supportable, but Dorries’ response to objections from Sunny is embarrassing in its ignorance and spiteful glee:

Evan Harris isn’t Jewish is he Sunny, he’s a humanist. Abortion forbidden in Jewish faith. So no slur then eh? (9)

…He has renounced his faith and is a humanist. You lost buster. Night. (10)

UPDATE 2: Dorries further defends the “Dr Death” jibe on the grounds that humanists support infanticide:

Evan Harris is a humanist and humanists support this [Link] why do people wonder at his Dr Death Moniker. #welldeserved (11)

As I discussed here, Dorries is involved in a more general feud with humanism.

Rick Joyner’s Oak Initiative Summit Promotes 2008 “Economic Terrorism” Theory

Neo-Pentecostal evangelist Rick Joyner has published an account of the 2012 Oak Initiative Summit, which took place earlier this month:

…It was an exceptional gathering with many calling it the best yet. It began with a stunning presentation by Kevin Freeman, the author of Secret Weapon, which well deserves its present rise on the New York Times bestseller list. It is a brilliant and scholarly work on one of the greatest threats to America in these times—economic terrorism.

It is well-known that events like the 2008 stock market crash were caused by someone trying to do great harm to America. … Secret Weapon is an evaluation of how economic terrorism caused the U.S. Stock Market crash in 2008, who the source was, and how it can happen again

…We will do all that we can to circulate the DVD of this presentation. I encourage all Oak members to watch it carefully and to buy this important book. This is not just another conspiracy theory but illuminates a very real threat to America.

Freeman’s “not just another conspiracy theory” has been around for a while; in March 2011 it featured in both the Washington Times and on the Glenn Beck show. Ryan Chittum took the measure of it, for the Columbia Journalism Review:

…This is the perfect Fox News story: based on innuendo rather than fact, fear rather than reason, and swarthy terrorists are to blame instead of ruddy capitalists. The icing on the cake: Reporting the story sows confusion, misdirecting attention from Murdoch-supported policies like deregulation that actually caused the crisis and onto our enemies, including Al Qaeda, Iran, China, and even Hugo Chavez. Hey, maybe George Soros is involved? See: You can report anything when you put a question mark after it and say you were just asking a question.

Some reports described Freeman as a “Pentagon contractor”, although “Pentagon subcontractor’s subcontractor” would appear to be a more accurate designation. Freeman produced a report in 2009; according to the preamble:

The report was originally published under contractual arrangement with a subcontractor of the Department of Defense Irregular Warfare Support Program (IWSP) per contractual arrangement between the sub-contractor and Cross Consulting and Services, LLC.

Cross Consulting is Freeman’s business, operating as part of his “Freeman Global Investment Counsel”; according to a blurb, he used to work for Sir John Templeton’s Templeton Private Client Group, and he

…has consulted for and briefed members of both the U.S. House and Senate, present and past CIA, DIA, FBI, SEC, Homeland Security, the Justice Department, as well as local and state law enforcement.

Alas, however, Andrew Leonard noted at Salon that

It seems the Pentagon no longer wants to have anything to do with Freeman’s thesis, and even though it was submitted as source material to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, failed to be included in the final report. So clearly, there is a conspiracy to suppress Freeman’s truth-telling.

Joyner continues:

After Kevin, I spoke on “the four winds of the earth” from Revelation 7. In 1990, I was shown that these are the Military, Religious, Political, and Economic powers that bring sweeping civilization-wide changes to the earth, have set the course of history, and are determining present events in the natural realm. 

Nothing in the text of Revelation 7 supports this interpretation, but the rest of us don’t have secret meanings to the Bible “shown” to us by God. It should be recalled that God has also warned Joyner that the west coast of the USA is about to be destroyed by an earthquake.

Other Summit speakers included Janet Folger-Porter (previously blogged here) and Bob Weiner, as well as two men with whom Joyner is particularly close: these are the perennially controversial Gen “Jerry” Boykin, and Nicholas Papanicolaou, with whom Joyner shares membership in a “chivalric order” (see background here):

Last year, The Oak circulated a seven-minute video on the theme of Marxist Insurgency by Gen. Boykin and it went viral very fast, reaching millions. To some degree, this has been a topic of conversation around the world. The extended message Gen. Boykin gave Friday morning backed up and well established the precepts of the short video. It was as captivating as Kevin’s presentation had been the night before and helped to even further establish some of the conclusions of Kevin’s message. This is another “must-see” DVD we will be circulating.

… Nicholas pointed out that the Constitution is clear that the “Congress” shall not establish a religion or prohibit the free exercise of it. This means that as the Constitution also makes clear that any authority not specifically given to the Federal Government by the Constitution is reserved by the States, so the States do have the freedom and the authority to establish religion.

Somewhat surprisingly, Joyner’s report includes the suggestion of a third-party candidate to fight the next election:

Even Republicans are beginning to talk about the possibility of a third party candidate. Most react to even mentioning this with the traditional wisdom that a third party candidate would ensure the re-election of Obama, but not necessarily. The right one would not only cause Obama to have to fight on two fronts, but would also have a very serious chance of winning. Even some of the most loyal Republicans are now getting increasingly distraught at the GOP’s establishment that they see leading them to a second defeat by Obama.

Telegraph Attempts to Whip Up Bizarre Richard Dawkins Slavery Controversy

A rather bizarre hit-piece in the Sunday Telegraph:

He has railed against the evils of religion, and lectured the world on the virtues of atheism.

Now Richard Dawkins, the secularist campaigner against “intolerance and suffering”, must face an awkward revelation: he is descended from slave owners and his family estate was bought with a fortune partly created by forced labour.

One of his direct ancestors, Henry Dawkins, amassed such wealth that his family owned 1,013 slaves in Jamaica by the time of his death in 1744.

…In an unwitting anticipation of a later Dawkins’s opposition to religion, the Anti-Slavery Reporter also castigated Jamaica’s rulers for making slaves work on Sunday: they couldn’t worship and were condemned to “toil and secularity”.

…He is now facing calls to apologise and make reparations for his family’s past.

Esther Stanford-Xosei, of Lewisham, south London, the co-vice chairman of the Pan-African Reparations Coalition in Europe, said:… “The most appropriate course would be for the family to fund an educational initiative telling the history of slavery and how it impacts on communities today, in terms of racism and fractured relationships.”

This is of course in a long tradition of hacks generating pseudo-news rather than actually reporting anything of interest. The article has appeared à propos of nothing in particular, and the main revelation is hardly new: the details of Henry Dawkins’ estate and slave-ownership can be found in Richard B. Sheridan’s Sugar and Slavery: An Economic History of the British West Indies, 1623-1775 (2000: 225-226), which is available on Google Books preview, and Richard Dawkins’ links to the Dawkins family estate of Over Norton are hardly secret.

Lusher also cites quotes relating to other Dawkins family members who opposed the abolition of slavery; Lusher appears to have found these himself, although the material is again readily available on Google Books. All that Lusher needed to complete the non-story was someone willing to provide the “calls to apologise and make reparations”, and a phone-call or email to Stanford-Xosei provided that.

Lusher’s article also reports Dawkins’ own reaction:

He quoted Scripture – disparagingly – to insist: “I condemn slavery with the utmost vehemence, but the fact that my remote ancestors may have been involved in it is nothing to do with me.

“One of the most disagreeable verses of the Bible – amid strong competition – says the sins of the father shall be visited on the children until the third or fourth generation.”

Audibly irritated, he added: “You need a genetics lecture. Do you realise that probably only about 1 in 512 of my genes come from Henry Dawkins?

Dawkins has given a fuller response on his own website:

…I was ready for yet another smear or diversionary tactic of some kind, but in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have imagined the surreal form this one was to take.

When he persisted with his insinuations I made my somewhat peremptory excuses and left (I was in a hurry because I was about to go on stage in London to give a lecture and wanted to prepare for it).

I’d scarcely had time to re-open my lecture notes when he rang back: “Darwinian natural selection has a lot to do with genes, do you agree?” Of course I agreed. “Well, some people might suggest that you could have inherited a gene for supporting slavery from Henry Dawkins.”

Dawkins goes on to explain the scientific problems with Lusher’s insinuations, although these should be glaringly obvious to anyone who is even half-educated.

UPDATE: The Daily Mail wades in, with a piece entitled “Revealed: How atheist Richard Dawkins’ family fortune came from the slave trade”:

Ancestors of secularist campaigner Richard Dawkins made their fortune from the slave trade, it has been revealed.

…In 2010 Dawkins, an firm admirer of Charles Darwin, spoke of how his father inherited the family estate but never mentioned how his distant relatives had made their fortune.

…Equality groups are now calling on him to apologise for his family’s past.

A caption under a photo of Dawkins adds the detail that:

Richard Dawkins has condemned slavery despite his ancestors making their money through forced labour

Alex and Cyril

Some exchanges between Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, and Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus and “Europe’s Last Dictator“.

Cyril to Alex, reported 31 August 2010:

Dear Alexander Grigoryevich,

Many happy returns of the day.

Working in the high and important office of President of the Republic of Belarus for many years, you have gained the love of your people who see in you not only a political leader and head of state but also a man who takes care of ordinary citizens of your country…

Cyril to Alex, reported 23 December 2010:

“I cordially congratulate you on the victory in the election of the President of the Republic of Belarus. Occupying the supreme state office in the previous years, you have faithfully served your country and people. The results of the election have demonstrated the level of people’s trust in you,” Patriarch Kirill said in a message addressed to the President of Belarus, which is available on the official website of Moscow Patriarchate.

Alex to Cyril, reported 1 February 2011:

President Alexander Lukashenko has sent a message of greetings to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia on the occasion on the anniversary on his enthronement.

“We have a deep respect for you as an outstanding leader of the Christian world and a good friend of our country,” the message runs.

Alex to Cyril, reported 20 November 2011:

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has sent birthday greetings to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

“Belarus treats you with recognition and cordiality. Let your good advice and wise precept help us live according to evangelic commandments,” the President noted.

Alex to Cyril, reported 1 February 2012:

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko congratulates Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Cyril on his enthronement anniversary.

“Your self-sacrificing devotion illustrates incessant spiritual improvement, – the congratulation says. – You always behave to Belarus with particular care and paternalism. We deeply feel and appreciate your friendly support and pastoral love. I am sure that your selfless activity will further support prosperity of the Orthodox Church, consolidation of unity of the people of the brotherly countries”.

This mutual backslapping follows the pattern set by Alexy II, Kyrill’s late predecessor.

Houston Liberty Gospel Pastor Gives Interview

Sahara TV has a telephone interview with Pastor Godwin Umotong, who runs a franchise of Helen Ukpabio’s Liberty Gospel Church in Houston. Ukpabio was due to visit Houston in March, provoking the threat of protests; the Houston Press reported at the end of January (links added):

…The Pentecostal cleric [Ukpabio] claims to have the power to identify and exorcise “witch children” who are possessed by the devil. 

…critics, such as Staise Gonzalez, say that once children are identified as witches, especially in areas where people believe in sorcery, they are tortured and sometimes killed.

“These suspected witches have been treated in brutal and inhumane ways,” says Gonzalez, who is organizing 12 days of protest to correspond with Ukpabio’s appearance, scheduled from March 14 to March 25.

… An online petition through change.org is attempting to block U.S. entry to Ukpabio.

…Meanwhile, the Stand Against Helen Ukpabio Facebook page, created three weeks ago by Gonzalez, has nearly 900 likes as of the time this post was published.

However, Umotong has now told Sahara TV that the visit has been postponed to May.

The Sahara TV interviewer, Chika Oduah, gives Umotong plenty of rope with questions about his and Ukpabio’s beliefs (“Where are the mermaids*, by the way? Are they in the Gulf of Mexico?”), but for the most part Umotong  manages to avoid hanging himself: he emphasises that Ukpabio is coming to Houston to help consenting individuals, and that he is not overly concerned with witches – he tells Oduah that child-witchcraft did not come up during Ukpabio’s previous visit to Houston, in 2010, and that he himself only “prays” for those who need his help. However, he also states that children can be “initiated” into witchcraft.

It is important not to conflate Ukpabio’s practices with those of some other “ministries”, in which peripatetic healers perform bizarre and abusive rituals, or where children are harmed or abandoned after being identified as being witches. In contrast, witches who are brought to her church are simply prayed over, and once cured the former “witch” is reintegrated with his or her family.

Umotong makes the same distinction, but that does not get Ukpabio off the hook: children will only ever be safe from harm from witchcraft-related stigmatisation when belief in child witches has been eradicated. Ukpabio’s teaching keeps this harmful belief alive, and not everyone adversely influenced by her books and DVDs will come to her church. Further, to tell a child that he or she has caused family misfortune or bereavement through being a witch is obviously grotesquely cruel in itself.

It should also be noted that Ukpabio exhibits malign behaviour: her targets have included a man who runs a hostel for stigmatised children, whom she denounced as a “wizard”; the governor of Akwa Ibom state, whom she warned to “remember what happened to Saddam Hussein”; and the British actress Sophie Okonedo, who narrated the Channel 4 documentary on child-witches that brought her to wider attention. Ukpabio has also  personally endorsed crudely abusive websites registered by her webmaster; new sites have now appeared ahead of her visit to Houston.

Note

*”Mermaids” is a reference to a traditional African belief in water spirits known as “Mami Wata”. These spirits are venerated in traditional religion; some African Christians regard them as demonic beings.

Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department Trained on Islam at Tennessee Freedom Coalition-Hosted Event

From the website of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition (link added):

The Tennessee Freedom Coalition is proud to announce an event coming your way in February!

We will be hosting the Strategic Engagement Group in Murfreesboro at the World Outreach Church for an evening event, “Understanding the Threat to America… Speakers for this event are EJ Kimball and Fred G[r]andy.

(I blogged on Grandy’s “Delta Airlines shariah” conspiracy theory here.)

So far so unremarkable: the TFC hosted an anti-shariah event in November, and SEG is known for its views on Islam as a grand conspiracy; its website warns of “The Global Islamic Movement”, which

includes the fifty-seven member states of the Organisation (sic) of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) (formerly “Organization of the Islamic Conference”), Islamic Jihadi organizations like al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood (Arabic: Ikhwan). Each of these entities has declared openly, in official documents (i.e. factual/evidentiary), their commitment to the Movement’s shared dream of a Global Islamic State (AKA worldwide “Caliphate”) governed by Islamic Law.

However, the Tennessean has further details about the training event:

A former FBI agent who has claimed that Nashville’s mosques have no legal right to exist is training the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department about Islam and the threats of terrorism.

John Guandolo, a former FBI agent and vice president of the Arlington, Va.-based Strategic Engagement Group, is leading training being held at World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro.

Guandolo featured in an NPR story in July about improper anti-terror training in Ohio. He was also profiled by Right Wing Watch back in 2009, after he made an appearance on a radio show hosted by David Barton. Barton introduced Guandolo as “the guy who briefed the FBI on terrorism and radical Islamic terrorism” until “so many Islamic folks worked their way into the FBI” and “got him thrown out”; Right Wing Watch, however, quotes a 2009 article from the The Times-Picayune which explains that Guandolo in fact left the FBI following an “intimate relationship” with a government witness he was supposed to be protecting, leading to the collapse of a corruption case.

The TFC also has a  blurb for the training event:

Tennessee Freedom Coalition is announcing an evening training program by The Strategic Engagement Group (SEG) entitled “Understanding the Threat to America”. This program has been presented to law enforcement, military, National Guard, intelligence professionals, prosecutors, and legislators.  This program is the premier training program in the United States in detailing terrorism matters, the nature of how the threats operate at the local and state level, the identity of front organizations, the doctrine the enemy uses, and strategies local, state and federal agencies can use to engage and defeat these threats.

An endorsement of SEG follows,

signed by former leaders in the Intelligence Community to include: Director, Central Intelligence; Director, Defense Intelligence Agency; Inspector General, Department of Defense; and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence…

Curiously, no names are given, but the SEG website has further details. Three of the men are Lt. Gen. Harry Soyster, Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin (previously blogged here), and R. James Woolsey.

Incidentally, the Tennessee Freedom Coalition also has links with two British groups. These are the UK Christian-Right lobby group Christian Concern, and the English Defence League. Further details here.

UPDATE: A report from WSMV adds the detail that

Guandolo talked about Hamas and its plan to destroy Western civilization from within, and spoke of Islamic centers as potential military compounds.

UPDATE 2: The Digital News Journal has a follow-up, noting “a class schedule submitted by the Rutherford County Sheriff’s office to the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission”:

…Titled “Understanding the Threat to America,” the course claims that all Muslims are required to wage war against non-believers.

“Under Islamic Law, non-Muslims must ultimately convert or submit to Islam or be killed,” the curriculum claims.

…Kimball said the presentation is only meant to be the start of an officer’s research into the subject.

…Lou Ann Zelenik, of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, which paid for this week’s training, said law enforcement officials need to know the truth about Islam and terrorism.

“We don’t need political correctness when it comes to the training our police and sheriffs,” she said. “This is accurate information. It’s not part of any agenda.”

Zelenik said her coalition introduced Strategic Engagement Group to the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office. This week’s training is the second time SEG has trained Rutherford County deputies, she said.

UPDATE 3: As others have noted, the World Outreach Church and its pastor were in the news in 2010:

A plan to build an Islamic community center in the middle-Tennessee town of Murfreesboro sparked an eruption of ugly criticism on Thursday from some residents who don’t want a mosque built in their backyard.

More than 600 people turned out for a meeting of the Rutherford County Commission Thursday night, with some sharing their opposition in public comments that at times turned intolerant.

“We have a duty to investigate anyone under the banner of Islam,” Allen Jackson, the pastor of World Outreach Church, said at the meeting.

The church was founded in 1980 by Allen’s parents, George and Betty Jackson. The elder Jacksons were associates of Derek Prince, and are currently directors of Derek Prince Israel; Prince, who resided for much of his life in Israel, was a British neo-Pentecostal revivalist who emphasized Christian Zionism and spiritual warfare against demonic entities. According to Prince:

I believe Islam is the scepter of wickedness if ever there was a scepter of wickedness. And I can’t tell you how many times I declare into the air the scepter of wickedness shall not remain over the land allotted to the righteous. And I believe every time I say it the forces of darkness begin to reel back before the authority of scripture uttered in faith. 

Allen Jackson is himself close to the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem; ICEJ events have been held at WOC, and the ICEJ’s Rev. Malcolm Hedding is a member of WOC’s pastoral staff.

Satanic Panic in Australia

A blog called The Palimpsest has details of how a young married woman was persuaded by a religious group to repudiate her marriage and her family. The blog’s author, Nathan Zamprogno, is the woman’s ex-husband, and his case has featured on Australian television:

 …She cast aside her home, her wider family, even her name for the sake of a pseudo-Christian group that she had never met six months previously. She now goes by a name given to her by the cult, Hope,  after she was told that the person named Kylie had never existed. At a point where she was mentally unwell and exceptionally vulnerable, this cult misdirected her therapy, providing instead what a psychologist identified as a “treatment program” written by a group who believe Nazi-built, demonically piloted UFOs kidnap women and impregnate them to create a race of half-demon super soldiers.

…Kylie’s natural affections for her family, which were so loyal; her maternal bond with our son, which was so fierce, were pared away. She was persuaded that they were evil; that she had spent her childhood exposed to satanic torture (Necessary interjection: Kylie’s family are good, kind, civically engaged people, and their support has been indispensable). Her illness, the presentation of alternate personalities, was perverted into some kind of spiritual attunement, a conduit to hear messages from Jesus springing from Kylie’s lips; her altered states the channel to a prophetic gift, to foretell the future; to detect and oppose “astrals”, which were satanists purportedly making psychic out of body attacks on the group.

Zamprogno names the group as the Springwood Faulconbridge Home Church, and he explains that he and his wife encountered this church while working at an interdenominational Christian school near Sydney.

Some time later, Zamprogno met another man who had lost his wife to the same group; this man had some papers belonging to the group which his wife had left behind:

I leaf through hundreds of pages of handwritten and typed documents, some in Kylie’s writing, and some in the hand of various cult members. Pronouncements, curses, abjurations. Notes made by cult members as they guided my wife’s therapy, encouraging her to verbalise ever more lurid accounts of satanic murder and torture, with no evidence that they ever stopped to ask if it was true, but ecstatically wishing it to be true; insisting, surely it must be still worse, and pray, go further? Crudely drawn pictures of stick figures having indignities performed on them with bombs, torture devices, even a helicopter suspending victims over a mine field. Kindergarten scrawls of obscenities, ostensibly written by Kylie as she “regressed” to infantile alters to re-live her traumas. Crayon daubings of rainbows, roughly done.

Further:

Throughout the notes I had been provided, there was the repeated reference to two names: “John and Glenys Darnell” and “The Shepherd’s Heart Church”, based in Canberra:

… John Darnell believes demons walk the earth in human guise, called “Nephilim”. They breed with women, creating half demon-half human hybrids. They fly around in Nazi-built, demonically piloted UFOs. They kidnap women and take them to a secret underground base where the half demon embryos are removed. Oh, and the British Royal Family may be reptilians. All of this wackiness is recorded in the church’s own materials, or in a series of radio interviews John Darnell gave to some fringe U.S based Christian radio stations over the last 2 years.

Read the full account: Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Darnell has a background with various house-church and Charismatic Christian groups; in particular, his website mentions a “group of churches God… largely based on the teachings of Mr George North, a powerful, authoritative minister”, Unity Bible College, and “Billy and Isobel Simpson… the worship leaders from Sunderland Christian Centre, a church where God poured out His Spirit in 1994”:

 Bill Simpson reached me, placed his hand on my head, and prayed “Lord, give him everything you have for him” I knew then that this was wonderfully of God. I managed to stand for about 10 seconds, and then completely overwhelmed by the presence and power of God, I collapsed. 

However, Darnell’s website does not indicate any current links with other churches, and Darnell does not appear to be answerable to anybody. Obviously, doctrines such as the “reptilian Royal Family” concept are derived from David Icke rather than from any sort of Christian teaching.

The “fringe U.S based Christian radio stations” which have given Darnell a platform include the Derek Dreamer Show, Firefall Talk Radio, and L.A. Marzulli’s Acceleration Radio. Marzulli in turn crosses over with some better-known US conspiracy theorists, such as George Noory. According to Marzulli,

John Darnell is on the front lines of ministry, in my opinion. He ministers in places that most of us will never see and only read about. He has been called to do what he does and I believe that he does it well and with a heart that is surrendered to God.

Darnell also has second website, devoted to a book called Satanic Strategies.

The World Public Forum: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

From the website of the World Public Forum:

The World Public Forum “Dialogue of Civilizations” International Coordination Committee meeting was held on February 4, 2012 in Vienna, Austria. The ICC members discussed the forthcoming 10-th anniversary Rhodes Forum to be held in October 2012.

The meeting included a statement on tensions between Israel and Iran, helpully urging “all parties to use maximum restraint.”

Among those present was Vladimir Yakunin, one of the three co-founders of the forum. Yakunin runs Russia’s railways, and he is a close confidant of Vladimir Putin; reports describe him variously as an “Orthodox Christian Chekist” (a phrase recently used by singer Mikhail Borzykin in a song refering to “the group of KGB officers who came to power in Russia after President Boris Yeltsin resigned in 1999”) and as “the Kremlin’s model Orthodox businessman”. Yakunin also runs the Center of the National Glory of Russia and the Saint Andrew the First-Called Foundation, and these organisations are named as the “initiators” of the WPF. Some WFP events dovetail with the Foundation’s interests: the WPF held a conference on the subject of Mount Athos last summer (again in Austria) involving Archimandrite Ephraim, abbot of Athos’s Vatopedi Monastery. A few months later, the Foundation organised the first ever Russian tour of the Belt of the Mother of God, which is kept at Vatopedi .

Yakunin’s presence in Vienna for the co-ordination meeting was noted by Der Standard:

[Wladimir] Jakunin ist Chef der Russischen Eisenbahnen und Präsident des World Public Forum. Diese hauptsächlich von russischen Wirtschaftskreisen finanzierte Stiftung will mittels eines Dialogs der Kulturen einer behaupteten westlichen Wertedominanz etwas entgegensetzen.

Am Wochenende war Jakunin in Wien, wo das Sekretariat des World Public Forum angesiedelt ist, um den zehnten “Dialogue of Civilizations” im Oktober auf Rhodos vorzubereiten. Zu Sowjetzeiten stand Jakunin unter anderem als Diplomat in KGB-Dienste.

Yakunin told the Standard that unrest against Putin was due to people getting their information “from bloggers and the internet”; I noted a previous statement made by Yakunin on the subject here.

In the run-up to elections in Kazakhstan last March, Yakunin personally awarded President Nursultan Nazarbayev with a “Dialogue of Civilizations International Prize” on behalf of the WPF. This is just one link between the WPF and Kazakhstan: former Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer is a co-chairman of the WPF and a “consultant” to Nazarbayev, while the chairman of the WPF’s International Coordination Committee is the Austrian politician Walter Schwimmer. Later this month there will be a “Celebratory Event to mark the 20th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Kazakhstan and Austria”, at the Kazakh embassy in Vienna; Schwimmer will be the moderator, and the programme for the event highlights his WPF position. Just a few days ago, Schwimmer gushed that the authoritarian Nazarbayev (who is currently cracking down on opposition movements) is “a real politician and a wise leader of his nation”.

Alongside Yakunin, the World Public Forum has two other co-founders. One is a businessman named Nicholas Papanicolaou, who resides in America and who has links with the neo-Pentecostal segment of the Christian Right. As I’ve noted previously, Papanicolaou is a board member of Rick Joyner’s Oak Initiative, and he is the “Grand Master” of a chivalric order called  Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, the Ecumenical Order (not to be confused with the more famous Roman Catholic “Knights of Malta”). Joyner is also involved in this Order, as “Deputy Member of the Supreme Council”, while the “Grand Chancellor” is none other than General William “Jerry” Boykin. In 2010, Papanicolaou and Boykin co-signed a fundraising letter on behalf of the Order which reflected Boykin’s well-known anti-Islam and anti-Obama views, and around the time of the last WPF meeting in Rhodes, Papanicolaou joined Boykin for an investiture ceremony on the island. (1) Joyner himself attended a WPF forum in 2009, alongside Bob Weiner (formerly of the controversial Maranatha Ministries) and Louis Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition.

The third co-founder of the WPF was Jagdish Chandra Kapur, an Indian philosopher and futurologist who died in 2010. According to the WPF, he

contributed a lot to the transformation of the WPF “Dialogue of Civilizations” from a small seminar into a recognized international public organization that unite like-minded people from more than 60 countries. The ideas of Kapur about a dialogue of civilizations for the sake of a new globalization based on common human values laid the groundwork of themes for discussion. The Forum’s “Cosmic humanism” – this was his vision of the future which is to come into being by merging science and spirituality.

Close links with Kapur’s legacy remain; the Kapur Surya Foundation in New Delhi co-sponsors the WPF and sponsors the World Affairs Journal, which is listed as one of the WPF’s partners. The convenor of the editorial board of this journal is Come Carpentier de Gourdon, a French writer based in India who is also a consultant to Kapur’s Indfos Industries Ltd.  Carpentier de Gourdon has an esoteric perspective on world affairs; at the last WPF meeting in Rhodes he spoke of his

theory to unify science and traditional wisdom systems under the name of “cosmosophy and psychosynthesis”.

Carpentier de Gourdon also has an interest in “exopolitics”, referring to research into the role played by extra-terrestrials in human affairs, and he is on the advisory board of the Exopolitics Institute. In 2006 he spoke to the World Public Forum on the subject of “The Case for Exopolitics: Ushering in a Cosmic Dialogue”:

Earth is under observation, some say under some sort of quarantine, while mankind operates its transition towards full contact with and admission into the interplanetary Cosmic Community.

…The Dialogue between Civilisations will have to include, sooner or later, those beings and cultures that are not human, in the “homo sapiens” category but which clearly have a  presence on our planet and a stake in the future of terrestrial and human life. 

A site called Exopolitics.com added a note of commentary:

According to a well-placed observer, Come Carpentier de Gourdon’s presentation… at the Rhodos World Public Forum was well received, including some present and former officials from various governments asking for more information on Exopolitics and the Extraterrestrial issue. No one raised any doubts about the information.

****

(1) Joyner, who receives messages from God about how an earthquake will soon destroy the west coast of the USA, claims that he was introduced to the Order by an “Austrian baron”, and that his books were responsible for a “spiritual renewal” in the Order. Joyner also claims that his involvement “began a series of events that made Kurt Waldheim a believer as well” – a remarkable and otherwise undocumented incident in Waldheim’s life.