News Sites Scrub Articles about “Islamist Resurgence” Symposium

UPDATE: See note at end of post

Here’s an odd one: the Sun (“exclusive by Luke Heighton”), the Daily Mail (“by Tom Gardner”), and Christian Concern (sourced to the Daily Mail) have all scrubbed articles quoting statements attributed to Baroness Caroline Cox at a symposium held at the House of Lords on Monday 19 March. The symposium, entitled “Islamist Resurgence: Shari’a and freedom”, was sponsored by the Christian Broadcasting Council, and featured Cox alongside Nazir-Ali and Canon Andrew White.

Cox is a veteran activist on a number of issues, in particular the plight of persecuted Christians through Christian Solidarity Worldwide. However, she is currently best-known for her opposition to shariah courts. These unofficial courts have been allowed to come into being because of the 1996 Arbitration Act, which allows for private arbitration or private  third-party arrangements in civil disputes; Cox has proposed an amendment which would make it clear that “any matter which is within the jurisdiction of the criminal or family courts cannot be the subject of arbitration proceedings”, and that arbitration should not be discriminatory as regards gender. I’m not a particular fan of Cox, but her approach here is reasonable: by focusing on generalities, her amendment is a proportionate response to a specific problem found with some of these courts, while maintaining the principle of private arbitration.

However, the quotes attributed to Cox in the scrubbed articles are rather less subtle: rather than refering to the problem that actually exists – which is that some Muslim women have been unfairly disadvantaged by decisions made by some of these courts – the quotes instead paint a lurid picture of a future Britain as Saudi Arabia, with rapists unpunished unless there are four witnesses, laws condoning honour killings, and whippings and stonings.

The quotes are excessive and fearmongering, and to many will appear foolish – but are they genuine? Have journalists been punked by a bit of bogus churnalism? Has some kind of legal threat been made? This habit of scrubbing webpages without any explanation, correction, or apology leaves things hanging in the air in a way that it is in no-one’s interest.

The scrubbed Christian Concern post included the following detail:

Baroness Cox is one of the most outspoken campaigners against the increasing use of sharia law in the UK.

Despite much opposition she invited Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders to show his documentary on Islam to the House of Lords in 2009. Islamists responded by gathering outside Parliament in protest, waving banners stating: ‘Islam will dominate the World – Freedom can go to hell’ and ‘Sharia: the true solution – freedom can go to hell’.

For some reason, the report fails to mention another group which gathered outside Parliament when Wilders came to town – not in protest, but in support. This, of course, was the English Defence League, although the group was not endorsed by anyone at the meeting.

Cox has a number of links with conservative groups and activists; she recently featured on Hope Not Hate, in a posting about the “Coalition 4 Marriage”:

Coalition 4 Marriage operates from 5 Park Road, Gosforth Business Park, Newcastle. It’s neighbour, at number 4, just happens to be the headquarters of the Christian Institute.

…One of the patrons of the Christian Institute is Baroness Cox, who in 1987 co-founded the Committee for a Free Britain, a right-wing Conservative pressure group which backed the Poll Tax, supported the Contras in Nicaragua and used anti-gay material during their anti-Labour campaign in 1987.

I discussed the Committee for a Free Britain last June; the organisation at one time employed Paul Staines, who is now famous as a conservative political blogger, smear-merchantabusive thug, and libel bully. Staines was at the time a part of a young conservative activist scene in the UK, and Cox today employs another activist from the same libertarian milieu: this is Stuart Notholt, who travelled to last year’s independence celebrations in South Sudan on behalf of Cox’s Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (I previously mentioned Notholt in passing here).

However, the Committee for a Free Britain is ancient history: last November, by contrast, Cox attended David Horowitz’s “Freedom Weekend”, where the guest of honour was Glenn Beck. In 2008, Cox was part of a “summit” in Jerusalem organised by the vitriolic National Union MK Arieh Eldad.

UPDATE: A contributor to the “Expose” Facebook page asked Cox about the comments, and received a reply:

Thank you for your email of yesterday, raising your concern over the words printed in the Sun newspaper (21 March) which were attributed to me.

I emphasise that I did not make the remark and the Sun has apologised to me personally and I hope will publish a correction.

Yours sincerely,

Caroline Cox

However, as Islamophobia Watch notes, “the remark” appears to mean only the “whipping and stoning” comment which appeared in the Sun report. A press release from the Christian Broadcasting Council, which should be more authoritative than the Sun and the Mail, attributes other quotes of the same kind to Cox and to Nazir Ali. These comments present shariah as a license for indulging in rape and paedophilia:

Sharing the platform at the CBC Symposium was Bishop Michael Nazir-Al. Together they warned of the threat to rape victims if Sharia law were to be allowed in the UK.

‘Under Sharia Law if a woman wants to bring a charge of alleged rape she is obliged to provide four independent Muslim witnesses,’ said Lady Cox.

‘Failure to do so might result in the rape victim being accused of fornication and adultery,’ added Bishop Michael.

He warned that Sharia law could be used to justify child marriage. ‘You will have child marriage, because as soon as a girl begins her periods, she is eligible to be married. How will you maintain a minimum age for marriage?’

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