Hotel Cites EDL Fears for Cancelling Al Muntada Conference

A guest post from Hasan Afzal at Harry’s Place:

After a successful campaign by Harry’s Place readers and others around the web, I am pleased to announce that the Jihadist conference that was suppose to take place on the 8th of July 2012 has been cancelled.

I would like to thank the many people who called the Grand Connaught Rooms (“GCR”) and who copied us into e-mails to their MPs and representatives. I’m also glad the GCR saw sense and did the right thing, even if they rejected our help in the initial stages.

Whilst many will be celebrating, I note with a degree of dejection, that far-right groups, including the English Defence League, had attempted to hijack this campaign. However, this was a victory for ordinary people, who stood firm against hatred and bigotry of all types. Professionals, students, mums, dads all rallied around our call to action, and expressed their concerns to the GCR by email and phone.

There’s a bit of spin here; fear of an EDL turn-out appears to have been the determining factor, not “professionals, students, mums, dads”. Bob Pitt writes at Islamophobia Watch:

…As you can see from the Casuals United screenshot, the explanation given by the venue operator was as follows: “The safety of our staff and guests is our absolute priority at all times. After careful consideration and liaison with the local police force we have taken the decision to cancel the booking.”

I had emailed the Principal Hayley Group [which runs the hotel] myself, urging them to reject calls to cancel the conference, pointing out that the people behind the campaign were extremists like the EDL and Harry’s Place. This morning I received the same email quoted by Casuals United. 

I emailed back saying that I couldn’t understand how a conference organised by an entirely peaceful organisation like the Al Muntada Trust could have compromised the safety of staff and guests at the Grand Connaught Rooms. I received the following explanation: “We cancelled the event due to the risk of public disorder, damage to our property and safety of our staff. This decision was made on Police advice.”

Afzal fails to make the case that the event would be a “Jihadist conference”; adverts for the conference are devoid of militaristic rhetoric, and the tone appears to be devotional. However, Afzal does highlight past quotes from four of the ten advertised speakers that can reasonably be characterised as either Jihadi or inflammatory. Further, one of these four speakers is the notorious Haitham al-Haddad.

Al Muntada may indeed be “entirely peaceful”, and controversial speakers may have positions within their community that are owed to more than just particular distasteful comments they may have made. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly reasonable that those who make inflammatory statements should be called to account for them, and that those who appear to endorse or facilitate such persons should be challenged for doing so. Worries about the EDL may have been well-founded, or they may have been a convenient way for the hotel to extricate itself from a controversy with the minimum of hassle. Either way, the spectre of the EDL does not change the fact that Al Muntada’s association with al-Haddad and others like him is discrediting.

Rick Joyner and Friends Reveal “God’s Thoughts” at Berlin Conference

21 and 22 June saw Rick Joyner at a “Prophetic Conference in Berlin“, on the topic of “God’s Thoughts about Germany and Europe”. Joyner knows a few things about “God’s thoughts”, having last year warned us all that God was about to destroy the west coast of the USA with an earthquake. It should be recalled that Joyner is a major player in the neo-Pentecostal strand of the US Christian Right, with particularly close links to Jim Bakker, Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, and Alan Keyes.

The website for the conference has been put together by someone with English as a second language, but even allowing for that the opening pitch is somewhat strange:

The political landscape of Europe is shaken and about to get transformed. Berlin, Paris and Brussels play a crucial role in the political negotiations. After 70 years anniversary of the Wannsee conference a chapter of nationalism in Germany came to a closure. Now is a kairos time for the land and new things come up. We want to learn to hear God’s voice clearer and to receive guidance and direction in this important and critical time. We expect in this conference that prophetic knowledge, love and transformation for our city and nation are released.

The Wannsee Conference took place in January 1942 and was famously the meeting at which a number of high-ranking Nazis came together to discuss the logistics of the “Final Solution”. The notion that it represents “a chapter of nationalism in Germany” which is only now coming to a close is bizarre and grotesque.

The Berlin Conference was organised by Wolfhard Margies, senior pastor of Gemeinde auf dem Weg (Berlin’s largest church, reportedly), and Andreas Bauer, co-founder (along with his wife) of Jerusalemgemeinde Berlin. There is not much information about either man in English; the blurb says that Margies is on “the board of directors of the biggest association of charismatic churches in Germany which he has launched 25 years ago”, and that he specialises in counselling advice.  I noted his involvement with European Christian Zionism back in 2006. Bauer, meanwhile, runs “a prayer house in Jerusalem/Israel” as well as his church in Berlin.

Joyner’s fellow-speakers in Berlin were Hombre Liggett and Don Franklin. Liggett, according to the blurb (link added),  “is the founder and senior pastor of Church of the Harvest in Dover, OH which belongs to the MorningStar Fellowship of Churches”; MorningStar is Joyner’s neo-Pentecostal grouping. Liggett ran for Congress in 2010 and 2012; despite support from Tea Party groups and an endorsement message from Boykin, he failed to get beyond the primaries.

Franklin, meanwhile, is with Evangelistic Missionaries of Ignited Church in Lakeland. This is the church that in 2010 hosted the Nigerian Pentecostal bishop NE Moses, who had formerly praised followers of Helen Ukpabio for forcibly shutting down a conference on the problem of child-witch stigmatisation. Moses also took part in a ceremony in which Ukpabio was made into an “Apostle”.

Joyner has a particular interest in Germany and in World War Two; he claims to have been friends with the late Col. Eugene  Bird, a former commandant of Spandau prison. According to Joyner,

Bird was… instrumental in helping to lead von Schirach, who was the head of the Hitler youth, Albert Speer, who was supposedly the greatest architect and engineer – they said his genius prolonged the war up to two years – and Rudolf Hess all met the Lord.

One might expect that a US colonel converting three high-ranking Nazis to Christianity would have excited some press attention, or at least been of interest to historians – however, Joyner is the only source for this claim (there’s nothing, for instance, in Gitta Sereny’s famous biography of Speer, despite interviews with Bird and Speer). But that’s just the half of it – Joyner also boasts that he was shown Hitler’s secret burial place (see here at 9 mins 25 secs).

WND Claims May 1948 Date For Israel Predicted in Bible

More Biblical pseudo-interpretation from WND:

The author of “Covenant: G-d’s Plan for Israel in the Last Days,” a book by Baruch Battlestein published in Italy, cites prophecies by Ezekiel and Moses that pinpoint with precision the date of Israel’s return to the land in May 1948.

The book is actually by Baruch Battelstein (not “Battlestein”), and according to WND he is “a messianic Jew who lived in Israel until moving to the U.S.”

Battelstein’s method is to cross-reference isolated Biblical verses, to which he then ascribes cryptic mathematical significance. His starting point is Ezekiel 4:4-6, in which God instructs Ezekiel to undertake a “sign-act” in interpretation of the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem:

Lie thou also upon thy left side, and lay the iniquity of the house of Israel upon it: according to the number of the days that thou shalt lie upon it thou shalt bear their iniquity. For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.

Battelstein explains that this total of 430 days refers to 430 years of punishment, 70 of which were undertaken during the Babylonian exile. This ended with the Edict of Cyrus in 538 BCE, leaving 360 years of further punishment ahead. However, further sinning by Judah multiplied this by seven, in accordance with Leviticus 26:23-24:

And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.

WND continues:

The 360 years needed to be multiplied by seven, for a total of 2,520 years.

Using the 360-day Hebrew calendar, that totals 907,200 days. When converted to the 365-day calendar, the 2,520 years or 907,200 days becomes 2,485 years and five months or 2,485.5 years and months. If you subtract 538 years B.C.E, you get 1,947 years and five months.

Battlestein reminds that there was no year zero.

“Therefore, the year 1,947.5 we call the year 1948.5,”…

This is all very dubious on a number of levels: why does God restore Judah in 538 BCE with 360 years of punishment still to go? And why does the second period of punishment supposedly begin on that date (which it has to do for the dates to work)? If the punishment is exile, then it begins again only 600 years later, in 70 CE. And what is Judah supposed to have done in 538 BCE to warrant the Leviticus multiplication by seven, anyway? There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that God was feeling particularly wrathful in that year – indeed, the opposite is to be inferred, with Cyrus acting as God’s “Messiah” by restoring Judah.

Ezekiel 4: 4-6 is difficult and ambiguous (one reason why prophetic texts endure), and can be interpreted in various ways. Does it even refer to “430 years of punishment”? And why is the “430” figure broken down into 390 and 40? An essay by Carl Gross for the United Bible Societies summarises the problem with reference to the scholarly literature:

In seeking to explain this verse, most interpreters try to retain the balanced structure of the passage. Thus, if the 390 years refer to the “punishment” of the “house of Israel,” the 40 years should also refer to the “punishment” of the “house of Judah”; likewise, if the years refer to the “sin” of the two houses. Some have found it impossible to maintain this linguistic balance. [Moshe] Greenberg (1983, 104-5), for example, can draw meaning out of 390 years of Israel’s “sin,” but not from the 40 years of Judah’s “sin”; similarly he can make sense of 40 years of “punishment” for Judah, but not of 390 years of “punishment” for Israel. There is, of course, another complication, if one accepts the meaning “sin” instead of “punishment.” In that case, the pattern cannot be strictly maintained, because the days of Ezekiel’s suffering cannot refer to anything but “punishment.”

The solution may be that the number 430 parallels the tradition of 430 years in Egypt, and that the “390 years” element refers back from Ezekiel’s time to the building of the First Temple:

[Walther] Zimmerli (1979, 167) suggests that the underlying message of Ezekiel’s numbers is that there will be “a new exodus of Israel after the period spent in exile.”… Familiar with this figure of 430 years of punishment, followed by an exodus, Ezekiel’s audience would be encouraged by the 390 of Ezekiel.

Thus Ezekiel may have been predicting an exile in Babylon of one generation, using the conventional round number “40 years”. This makes better sense: Ezekiel and his listeners were interested in their own time and the near future, not planning for the next 430 years.

Covenant was published by Destiny Image Europe; this is now known as Evangelista Media, after its appropriately-named neo-Pentecostal owner, Pastor Pietro Evangelista. The book appeared in 2005, and is doubtless being promoted now in the wake of Jonathan Cahn’s bestseller The Harbinger. Cahn, as I blogged here, claims that ancient Israel’s futile defiance against enemies sent by God described in Isaiah 9:10 is being literally re-enacted by Obama and other politicians in relation to 9/11.

In both instances, we have a form of Christianity in which the focus is primarily on quote-mining the Bible for esoteric references to current events or modern history. Messianic Jewish figures such as Cahn and Battelstein are also part of a general trend within the US Christian Right to emphasise the “Hebrew Roots” of Christianity. This does not just mean putting Jesus and the New Testament authors in historical context; it includes vicarious identification with Jewish cultural practices, as well as the idea that a Hebrew understanding of the Bible reveals hitherto secret spiritual realities. As well as promoting Cahn and Battelstein, WND editor Joseph Farah is also an enthusiast of a certain Michael Rood.

Dodgy Biblical exegesis is a WND specialism, and its bookstore page hawks numerous “prophecy” paperbacks and DVDs (I looked at items promoted in the wake of the Fukushima disaster here). The site has also run items claiming that the Bible predicts a Muslim anti-Christ and that Jesus named Satan as “Barack Obama”; there have also been bizarre forays into Biblical astrology and Pyramidology.

Russian MPs Call for Silver Galosh Organizers to be Imprisoned over Mockery of Patriarch

This picture is not funny


The 16th awarding ceremony of the anti-prize Silver Galosh was held in Moscow on Monday. All media reported that the nature of the prize changed, as it became political and show business got to background. The founder of the prize – the Silver Rain radio station even deprived its undertaking of its traditional subtitle “For the most dubious achievements in show business”.

…At first the organizers of the Silver Galosh Award [the Silver Rain radio station] decided to promote Patriarch Kirill in the nomination “Hands up to elbow in the miracles” for a miraculous disappearance of the wristwatch from his hand with the assistance of the Photoshop software, then declared him as a winner in this nomination…

The patriarch was completely laughed down, even the word patriarch was not voiced at all, only the surname Gundayev. 

Some (rather bizarre) pictures and videos of the occasion can be seen here. The ceremony included a spoof representative from Breguet, and a skit portraying Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin as a music-hall performer surrounded by pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic nuns. Another man joins in the dance; I’m not sure if this is meant to the Patriarch. The prize’s name refers to a Russian idiom, that to “sit in a galosh” is to “get into a mess”.

Alas, however, church and state are not amused; Interfax reports:

The United Russia MPs prepare amendments to 282 Article of the Russian Criminal Code for kindling hatred or hostility and humiliation of human dignity,” the Izvestia daily writes in Friday.

“Amendments will make it more precise and allow bringing an action against, for example, the Silver Galosh organizers. If amendments are adopted, Galosh’s organizers will be fined for 300 thousand rubles or imprisoned for one or two years,” the paper quoted MP Alexey Zhuravlyov as saying.

…Head of the Synodal Department for Church and Society Relations Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin agreed with law makers that people who kindle hatred should feel the tough power of law rather than pay fines.  

By “kindle hatred”, Chaplin means this:

It’s not clear, though, how much chance the amendments have of becoming law; according to Russia Today:

Later on Friday, the State Duma Committee for Civil, Criminal, Procedural and Arbitration Legislation has denied that the Criminal Code Article 282 on inciting hatred and humiliating human dignity will be amended.

The Patriarchial $30,000 wristwatch fiasco was widely noted in April; RIA-Novosti reported at the time:

The press service of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill apologized on Thursday for an image editing “mistake” by photo editors, who airbrushed out the wristwatch the Patriarch was wearing.

…The deputy head of the patriarch’s press service, Alexander Volkov, said that the photo was airbrushed by a 24-year-old female employee “on her own personal inexperienced initiative.”

…The Patriarch said that though he had received a Breguet watch as a present, he kept it in its box.

Red Hot Russia has a nice round-up of the story, while Radio Free Europe has some wider context:

The controversy comes just months after an undercover investigation on Russian television revealed that an Orthodox priest in Kazan owned a BMW, a Mercedes, three flats, and a country house. Father Grigoriyev was secretly filmed bragging about his own prohibitively expensive Swiss watch and his penchant for Italian designer clothes.

The Russian Orthodox Church was also criticized for a recent court ruling ordering former Health Minister Yury Shevchenko to pay a staggering 20 million rubles ($690,000) to the keeper of an elite apartment in central Moscow owned by Kirill. The court said dust from the renovation of Shevchenko’s apartment had drifted upstairs and ruined the patriarch’s precious furniture.

The lavish apartment was a gift, too, by the way. Probably just like the two Cadillacs that Kirill reportedly owns.

Meanwhile, the spoof Breguet representative has annoyed the company; Interfax again:

“A person who was introduced as Phillip Balle at the Silver Galosh ceremony organized by the Silver Rain radio station on June 18, 2012, has never had anything to do with the Montres Breguet SASwitzerland nor with any company or brand incorporated in the Swatch Group,” the company said in its statement published on Friday by the Kommersant daily.

It also reads that the company is “extremely outraged by such developments and “conducts a special investigation in order to make an official claim to the organizers of the above mentioned ceremony and official demand to make a public statement that the Montres Breguet SA (Switzerland) has never participated in this ceremony.”

According to the Moscow Times, Zhuravlyov is “the right-hand man of Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who oversees the military-industrial complex”; he recently suggested a return of “Soviet-era military training in high schools to promote patriotism and fondness for the armed forces”.

Rogozin and Zhuravlyov are members of the right-wing “Rodina” bloc within United Russia; despite this sudden posture in defence of religion, it should be recalled that in 2005 members of Rodina signed a letter calling for Jewish groups to be banned. Rogozin has since explained that the “majority of delegates didn’t read letter before signing it”.

Name variation: Alexei Zhuravlyov; Aleksei Zhuravlyov

Mother Agnès-Mariam and the Houla Massacre

Last week, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi & Phillip Smyth, writing at the conservative National Review, took a sceptical look at claims that the Houla massacre in Syria had been perpetrated by anti-Assad rebels, rather than by the regime. Their article includes a discussion of Mother Agnès-Mariam de la-Croix, of the St. Jacques-le-Mutilé Monastery in Syria:

…Mother Agnès-Mariam often assumes the slick veneer of a moderate; she even wrote an open letter to Assad about the condition of people affected by the fighting in Syrian hospitals. It’s hard not to conclude that Mother Agnès-Mariam is little more than another Assad propagandist using her religious credentials to push a particular narrative.

According to the Swiss newspaper Le Courrier, Agnès-Mariam was “comfortable among [Assad’s] security services,” and she told their reporter it was hoped he could “dismantle the propaganda of Western media.” Thierry Meyssan also conducted a revealing interview with Mother Agnès-Mariam about Middle Eastern Christians. During the interview, the mother superior repeated the typically farcical Assad line that the dictator was truly trying to “reform.”

Agnès-Mariam told Meyssan that she “deplored the fact that the so-called opponents didn’t accept President Bashar Al-Assad’s invitation to debate with him the series of reforms which he is in the process of carrying out.” (Of course, it would be of no consequence to the sister (who never recanted her earlier statements) that in leaked private e-mails Assad told his wife, “We are going to adopt [a plan that left him in power] instead of the rubbish laws of parties, elections, media [i.e., actual democratic reforms].”)

Mother Superior Agnès-Mariam continued by claiming that the opposition was just a puppet in a conspiracy guided by foreign powers. She also proffered the Assad narrative of Arabism, arguing that Middle Eastern Christians are truly Arabs. Many Middle Eastern Christians (including Eastern Catholics such as the Chaldeans and Maronites) have not adopted the Arab identity, but Arabism is part and parcel of Assad’s own ideology.

That last paragraph is off-base; there is in fact a sizable historic body of Arab Christians, and this has nothing to do with “Arabism” or “Assad’s ideology”. However, the quotes highlighted by the NR do undermine Agnès-Mariam’s credibility, and it doesn’t help that her interviewer, Thierry Meyssan, is reportedly “a well-known French 9/11 conspiracy theorist who believes that the Beslan Massacre in Russia… was actually planned and directed by the CIA and the U.S. government.” The journalists at  Le Courrier appear to have been particularly wary of the nun, asking “A quel jeu joue la religieuse Agnès-Mariam?”

More recently, Agnès-Mariam has claimed that

People told us that they have seen militias carrying out from the national hospital in Taldou corpses on blankets of the Ministry of Health, carrying them to assemble them in a mosque.

Once again, highly dramatic and potentially game-changing information on a matter of world-wide interest: yet she provides no evidence, or even a named source.

This article from Vatican Insider (which is among the sources linked to by NR) has a general account of Agnès-Mariam’s background:

Daughter of a Palestinian who fled from Nazareth in 1948, mother Agnès-Mariam was born in Lebanon in a refugee camp. Still an adolescent in the Beirut of the late Sixties (“that of the best cannabis”, she recounts), she, too, joins the flower children and starts to travel through Europe. Until in Copenhagen she will find herself in a Catholic church, and from there a journey began that in 1971 would bring her to enter into the Carmel of Beirut. She feels, however, that her journey is not yet entirely complete; until – in the Eighties, restoring an icon damaged by the war that in the meantime has bloodied Lebanon – she discovers behind an image of the Virgin a photo of the Church of Antioch. It becomes a kind of revelation: she begins to study the history of the ancient Syrian Christian communities. And in 1994 – with the consent of the mother superior and local bishop – she moves to  Qâra, in Syria, to breathe new life into an ancient monastery of the sixth century that lies in disuse. 

Syria Today reviewed the site in 2008:

Tucked away in the small village of Qara near the Lebanese border sits Deir Mar Yaqoub (St Jacob’s Monastery), an unimposing holy site housing a tumultuous and bloody history.

These days Mar Yaqoub is a sanctuary of peace and quiet some 100km north of Damascus, offering stunning views of the Anti-Lebanon mountains and providing an ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of Damascus. The humble monastery has housed a variety of holy figures and witnessed a number of unholy massacres – stories which the lively nuns of the Antioch United monastic community living at Mar Yaqoub are eager to relay.

“Antioch United” refers to the monastery’s membership of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church; this church follows Orthodox forms of worship but is part of the Catholic church and is hence known as a “Uniate” church.

The Melkite Patriarch, Gregoire III Laham, has also spoken out on current the situation in Syria, complaining that:

…”Today in Syria we can no longer speak of a government-opposition division. There is a third element: the criminals who roam freely, taking advantage of the situation. They hide behind the opposition and they exploit both the lack of armed forces and the absence of U.N. observers.”

…”The Syrian government is tied up and swept away by the international politics. Without any serious investigation, they claim the government perpetrates massacres and bombs civilians. Meanwhile, the barbarous acts by the insurgents pass by without a word.”

“There is a legitimate government who must govern,” the patriarch said. “If it is destroyed, there will be nothing to replace it. Unfortunately, we see that the international community aims to make the situation worse, divide Syria and provoke conflict. By arming and supporting forces that are out of control we are pushing the country towards more violence, terror and bloodshed.”

“I address the international community: save Syria,” he said.

The claim that the Houla massacre was staged by rebels has received currency in anti-war circles following the publication of an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine ZeitungBill Weinberg at World War 4 Report notes one example of take-up:

The World Socialist Website writes that the “Houla massacre was perpetrated by opposition forces aligned with the Free Syrian Army (FSA), according to Germany’s leading daily newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.” They don’t even bother to link to the article in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, but the text makes clear it is all based on anonymous unverifiable sources. It also offers little speculation on the motives of the FSA to kill the people they hope to win over, other than the claim that some of the victims were recent converts to Shia.

We don’t claim to know what happened at Houla, but it is eminently clear that the World Socialist Website is touting this report not because it is more credible than the findings of Amnesty International and the United Nations, but—exclusively—because it is convenient to “anti-war” propaganda. Amnesty did not back up the claims of the Syrian opposition that the pro-Assad Shabiha militia killed many of the victims at close range in house-to-house raids, but the consensus of the very human rights groups that vigorously documented US atrocities in Iraq and Gitmo is that the Houla massacre was the work of the regime.

Indeed, numerous named eyewitnesses – as opposed to Agnès-Mariam’s unnamed sources –  have confirmed that the massacre was the work of the regime.

Name variation: Agnès-Maryam

Obama Visit to Ground Zero Given Apocalyptic Significance by WND

WND has more evidence that America is doomed thanks to Obama:

“On June 14, two of the mysteries of ‘The Harbinger,’ foreshadowed in the book came true,” explained [Rabbi Jonathan] Cahn. “Obama went to Ground Zero to see the still rising tower. He was given a beam which will constitute the tower’s final and highest beam. On the beam, the president wrote eight words – which were, in effect, a summation of the ancient vow of judgment: ‘We Remember, We Rebuild, We Come Back Stronger!'”

Cahn continued: “So now the now the tower will be crowned and finished with words paralleling Isaiah 9:10, the ancient vow of national judgment. The tower was begun with the laying down of a hewn stone, the very same object mentioned in Isaiah 9:10 which begins the rebuilding.”

“Now the words and the tower have been joined together in reality – and the one who did it was the president of the United States,” he told WND. “One subtle difference in the words, is that the vow is spoken in the future tense. But now the words inscribed on the towers are in the present tense. In other words, they not only speak of the defiant vow, but of the fact that the vow is being fulfilled. This,” says Cahn, “constitutes another ominous sign.”

As I’ve previously blogged, Cahn’s book The Harbinger is currently a best-seller in the USA; he focuses on the misuse of a Biblical verse by Jonathan Edwards in 2001 and Tom Daschle three years later:

“The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.”

These words were first uttered by leaders in Israel and in response to a limited strike by Assyria on the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali – an attack the prophet makes clear is actually part of a limited judgment by God against apostasy. It wasn’t meant to destroy the nation, but to awaken it, according to most commentaries.

But, says Cahn, Israel didn’t take the cue. Instead, the response from the people in Isaiah 9:10 is one of defiance. The brick buildings were toppled, but they vowed to build bigger and better. The little sycamore trees may have been uprooted, but they vowed to plant bigger and better cedars in their place.

“Like Daschle, Edwards thinks he’s invoking inspirational and comforting words from the Bible, but he’s actually inviting judgment on America,” says Cahn. “He’s repeating the vow that provoked God to bring calamity on ancient Israel.”

The notion that the 9/11 attack was a judgement of God was of course raised at the time, by Jerry Falwell in conversation with Pat Robertson:

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way – all of them who have tried to secularize America – I point the finger in their face and say, “You helped this happen.” 

This was less than a week after the 9/11 attacks, when grief and anger at the massacre was still raw; such demagogic ramblings did not match the national mood and were widely regarded as repellent. Things have changed somewhat since then. However, Cahn’s obsession with Isaiah 9:10 takes us beyond the idea that Americans are ignoring a “warning” from God to change their ways; he seems to regard the verse as a magical invocation, through which Daschle and Edwards (and now, at a stretch, Obama) have mechanistically unleashed a spiritual force.

Cahn is a Messianic Rabbi, and his teaching is being promoted in the context of rising interest in the “Hebrew Roots” of Christianity. This does not just mean putting Jesus and the New Testament authors in historical context; it includes vicarious identification with Jewish cultural practices, as well as the idea that a Hebrew understanding of the Bible reveals hitherto secret spiritual realities. Hence items on advertised on Cahn’s website have an esoteric air:

The Mystery Of The Temple Doors!

Discover the long-hidden, never before revealed, Mystery of the Temple Doors – The ancient secret hidden in the Garden of Eden, the visions of the prophets, the writing of Josephus and the rabbis and the flaming sword of the cherubim.

The Mystery
The First Time Uncovered!

The Hebrew Mysteries!

The fascinating, deep and profound mysteries hidden in God’s ancient language. Discover The Mysteries of Heaven and living a Heavenly life on earth – Includes: The Divine Pluralities (the six divine words that break all rules) and Divine Timelessness (how to live from Heaven).

The Awesome & Heavenly Mysteries Hidden in God’s Ancient Language! – Our Gift To You!

I looked at another “Hebrew Roots” teacher promoted by WND just a week ago.

Cahn’s website also carries a bio, although this appears to have been made shorter at some point. A fuller version appeared on his site in 2006, and can be found on Wayback. The older version tells us that he is “descended of the line of Aaron”, and there’s a stronger claim to uniqueness in his teaching:

His teachings are noted for their richness and depth, the revealing of ancient mysteries, and the bringing back and restoring to the Gospel message its long lost Biblically Jewish context, flavor, and power after two thousand years. His teachings include the revealing of ancient mysteries, the depth and wonders of God’s Word, and the restoration of the Gospel message in its original Biblically Jewish context, richness, and power.

This has now been toned down to:

His teachings are widely known for revealing the deep mysteries of God’s word and for the restoring of the new covenant message to its original biblically Jewish richness and power.

The older version also goes into further detail about his particular activities:

  • Spoke at the United Nations in November of 1996.
  • Invited to lead the Christian leaders of India in the celebration of the Gospel’s coming to India, on Mount St. Thomas.
  • Was invited in as part of an historic return, walking in the footsteps of Thomas, culminating on Mount St. Thomas.
  • Was featured in news stories around the world from BBC to ABC World News Tonight.
  • Ushered in the Indian Jubilee with the sounding of the shofar.
  • Led an estimated 70,000 people in an altar call, in Madras, India.
  • Invited by the Evangelical Council of Cuba to minister in the first evangelical celebration on the island since the revolution. With the sound of the shofar, ushered in the Jubilee of Cuba, which opened up the Communist island to the public preaching of the Gospel, Cuba’s subsequent mass revival was traced to this event.
  • Led the children of Menasseh, the “lost tribes” of Israel in a prophetic gathering of reconciliation in the hill country of Northeast India.
  • Led millions of Nigerians in a prayer of dedication to the Lord after sharing an end-time message for the nation, and sounding the Jubilee shofar at what is reported as the largest gathering of believers in history.
  • Has sounded the shofar, taught, proclaimed the Gospel before millions, and to leaders and kings, to the effecting of great changes and moves in the outworking of God’s will.

I discussed the idea of a “lost tribe” of Israel living in northeast India in 2006.

Nadine Dorries Under Critical Scrutiny Over Payments to Daughter

An exchange on Twitter, between a member of the public and Nadine Dorries MP:

why do you refuse to disclose how much your daughter is paid Nadine?I thought all MP expenses where available to the public (1)

Dorries: I don’t. All my staffs salaries are paid by IPSA and listed on their website. (2)

Thanks for the reply Nadine. I saw a tweet which claimed you refuse to disclose your daughters salary.I will check out IPSA (3)

Dorries: Who posted the tweet? (4)

@sunny_hundal Posted Nadine. I read his blog. (5)

Dorries: Thanks. Fiction from him isn’t surprising. She is paid a part time salary, as IPSA have confirmed to press. (6)

It is hard to take Dorries accusing someone of writing “fiction”, given that she previously explained away discrepancies between her expenses claims and information on her blog by stating that her blog was “70 per cent fiction”. She told the Standards Commissioner that she had pretended to be in her constituency more often than she really is in order to “reassure” voters of her commitment; when this afterwards became public and was met with howls of derision, she changed tack and announced that she had disguised her movements on police advice (the Standards Commissioner has shown no interest in chasing up this discrepancy).

However,  the reference to Sunny is typical misdirection from Dorries; Sunny’s Tweet merely directs readers to an article in Bedfordshire on Sunday:

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Agency (IPSA) – the body in charge of monitoring MPs’ expenses – says it will only break down the costs of a representative’s wage bill if their staff earn more than £50,000.

…Mid Bedfordshire MP, Nadine Dorries…, employs daughter Philippa Dorries as an office manager earning up to £39,999 when working full time. BoS understands that 27-year-old Miss Dorries – who also studies law at BPP Law School in London in addition to her role – informs IPSA when she’s at college and then switches to a pro-rata basis on the hours she works.

So, the information is with IPSA, but is bundled in with other expenses – a crucial point Dorries avoids mentioning in her Twitter exchnage. Further:

When BoS contacted Nadine, she said to contact her daughter directly, but Philippa Dorries didn’t comment.

This means that Dorries declined to answer a question from the Bedfordshire on Sunday hack – so she did in fact “refuse to disclose how much [her] daughter is paid”. And with remarkable timing, Dorries is now warning journalists away from her daughters, complaining about a “low life is who watches my daughters Facebook account and keeps ringing the press”.

The story of the payments has now been picked up by the Telegraph, Daily Mail, and Mirror; Dorries writes that:

I love the words ‘up to’ in the press today. They wouldn’t write ‘half of’ would they.

But the press might well have written “half of”, had Dorries made that amount clear to them rather than declining to answer their query. And anyway, the total amount earned is of less interest than the generous pro rata rate. We may also ask what Philippa Dorries’ job actually entails: when someone on Twitter recently accused Nadine Dorries of telling an untruth, she responded with the threat that “My staff have taken a screen shot and reported your tweet to the police.”

It is also worth remembering that Dorries regards IPSA with contempt; her blog includes a photo of her copy of the IPSA guide on a roof adjacent to her office after it had somehow fallen out of her office window: “And there I think it shall stay”, she added, in mockery of the impertinent proles who think she’s accountable to them.

Employing family members wherever possible has the advantage of greater loyalty, thus avoiding awkward situations such as one that was reported in the Sunday Times in 2010:

NADINE DORRIES, the Conservative MP, faces the first expenses complaint of the new parliament after a row about a £10,000 claim she paid to a friend’s company.

Her former Commons researcher, Peter Hand, is writing to John Lyon, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, questioning whether the claim can be justified.

..Dorries, who last week retained her mid-Bedfordshire seat, claimed the money for an annual report in 2007 on her performance as an MP, and consultancy services, but Hand said he never saw the report or worked on it.

The matter was referred to police, although there was insufficient evidence to proceed. Tim Ireland tracked down a couple of photos of the “report”; it appears to consist of a two-page Word document focusing on Dorries’ activism against abortion, padded out with two large photos of a fetus in the womb. Bedfordshire on Sunday showed little interest in any of this; instead, the paper parroted a line put out by Dorries and her friend that Tim’s investigation of their financial arrangement amounted to a form of “internet intrusion”. The paper has in general tended to be evasive and defensive when asked about its relationship with Dorries, and the latest article is something of a surprise. Perhaps the difference is that the paper in this instance has found out a story for itself, rather than a blogger getting there first.

Many MPs employ relatives; in 2008 Patrick Mercer stated that  he was “happy to declare that he pays his wife a £15,000 salary as his assistant”. Paul Staines tried to make an issue of this in 2010, jumping on a bandwagon of interest in Mercer’s private life following news of an affair; however, this was essentially a token effort by Staines to appear non-partisan, and it didn’t go anywhere.

UPDATE (20 June): Philippa Dorries, who also “didn’t comment” on Sunday, now complains about libel; the Huffington Post reports:

Philippa told the Huffington Post UK: “The allegations that I am paid £39,000 a year whilst at ‘university’ is completely untrue, libellous and defamatory.

“When I am at college, I inform IPSA and my hours and salary are reduced on a pro-rata basis accordingly. I am presently on reduced hours. [£39,999] is the full-time salary…

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has today run a gossip piece about how Philippa Dorries is dating a wealthy Conservative MP; this perhaps explains Nadine Dorries’ complaint about someone watching her daughter’s Facebook account and contacting the press. Dorries’ enemies within the party may be responsible; her populist abuse of David Cameron and George Osborne as “two arrogant posh boys” has done lasting damage to the government, and an account of how Philippa Dorries is seeing someone who “tops up his £65,000-a-year MP’s salary by earning up to £4,000 a month working for his father’s company” should perhaps be read with that in mind.

Russian Patriarch Visits Cyprus, Brings Back Relics of Lazarus

Reuters reports:

Cyprus took a 2.5 billion euro (.15 billion) loan from Russia last year. It now urgently needs at least 1.8 billion euros by the end of this month to rescue its banking sector, torpedoed by its exposure to its bigger brother, Greece.

…Many in Cyprus think the only place the country could find that kind of cash would be Moscow. Especially if President Demetris Christofias – the EU’s only Communist leader and a fluent Russian speaker from his Moscow university days – wants to avoid the tight conditions Brussels normally attaches to its rescue funds.

Cyprus officials have said they are in discussion with Moscow for a loan of 4-5 billion euros… The question is: what would Russia get in return?…

This is the context in which holy relics have been given Russia; the Voice of Russia recently announced that

Russia has obtained the relics of St. Lazarus. The shrine with the relics was handed over to the Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church in the church of St. Lazarus of the Four Days in Larnaca, Cyprus, in a move that ended Patriarch Kirill’s visit to the insular state. The Russian Patriarch visited Cyprus from the 8th to the 11th of this month.

…The handover of a Christian shrine to Patriarch Kirill is a sign of respect the Orthodox Church of Cyprus is showing towards the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Krisostomus of Kityon stressed.

“Our hearts, Metropolitan Krisostomus says, are overflowed with sacred feelings and sincere jubilation because your presence here enables our pious and long-suffering people to get a blessing from the famous Russian Orthodox Patriarch – something that is decorated with humility, temperance, splendor and love. We are keeping a watchful eye on your activity that reflects grandeur of Orthodox faith and helps us hope for the best society in the world which could be based on principles of love, equality and recognition of basis human rights,” Metropolitan Krisostomus concludes.

The tomb of Lazarus was identified at Larnaca in Cyprus in 890; according to Arethas of Caesarea, writing in the tenth century, Emperor Leo VI had them brought to Constantinople; these relics were taken during the sack of Constantinople and have since been lost in translation. Happily, however, further relics were discovered in 1972 during church renovations.

Kirill’s visit also afforded an opportunity to discuss the Turkish presence in the north:

 The head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church asked the Russian Orthodox Church on Friday to help achieve the liberation of northern Cyprus from Turkish occupation, the result of a 1974 invasion that he likened to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.

“The pious Cypriot people look in hope to the sister Church of Russia, which you have headed by the grace of God, in the expectation that you will continue to help them in their struggle for the liberation of their occupied territories and the restoration of human rights that they have been waging for 38 years,” Archbishop Chrysostomos II said in addressing the head of the Russian Church, Patriarch Kirill, during a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Cypriot Church.

In 2007, Time described the Russian Orthodox Church as a “a vital foreign policy instrument”. Late last year Archimandrite Ephraim of the Vatopedi Monastery on Mount Athos, while in Russia with the Belt of the Mother of God, met Vladimir Putin and asked him to provide Greece with assistance.

When Madonna Met Turkish Creationist Adnan Oktar

The singer Madonna’s recent visit to Turkey apparently included a chat with Adnan Oktar, the well-known Turkish Creationist. Oktar has discussed his encounter on Turkish television (for some reason, in conversation with what appear to be several young models), explaining that she is

“someone who is awaiting the Madhi… she is striving for, and has a huge desire for world peace, world brotherhood, for everyone to believe in the one Allah, for an end to war and for an end to hunger.”

Oktar states that the meeting was arranged by Yehuda Berg of the Kabbalah Centre; “He has come to be with me here many times and we have had long talks”.

Oktar has also previously held meetings with conservative religious figures from Israel, including members of the self-styled “Sanhedrin”, in order to form an alliance against the theory of evolution and to discuss peace. Otkar is a prolific author of religious books, although he is most famous for his Atlas of Creation, which declares that “Darwinism and materialism”, rather than extremist religion, is responsible for contemporary terrorism. The book was sent to thousands of scientists, including Richard Dawkins (who gave his assessment here).

Oktar has also been interviewed by Joel Richardson, who claims that the Bible predicts that the Muslim world will come under the control of a Muslim Anti-Christ.

In 2007, I noted Madonna’s involvement in a plan to bring Kabbalah to Malawian schoolchildren; in 2011, it was reported that managers of the charity overseeing the project had been ousted after a “damning audit”, and a revised plan to build 10 schools was met with scepticism in Malawi earlier this year.

UPDATE: Yahya has responded to a query from a viewer on “Why is it that there are ladies present in Mr. Adnan Oktar’s Live Conversations?” He explains on his TV show (via live interpreter into English):

The women are the ornaments of the world. Loving women comes from faith in Allah. They asked Prophet Muhammad what he loves the most. He says “I love three things in the world the most.” And first, bismillah, he says, “I love the most, believer women”… So Prophet Muhammad was in love with women. He says the second is beautiful fragrance, and the third is doing salat.

…Fragrance is not something you can handle; you can’t feel it, but women you can feel with five senses, and I love women the most, too. Look, I’m surrounded by these beautiful ladies and they’re all in love with me, they are deeply in love with me, and I’m in love with them, and all of them are full of holy light, they’re all very beautiful, all very wise, very well educated. They have a very strong faith in Allah. And my beautiful here too, she loves me very much. You can ask her if you want, if she loves me. You love me. There, you see, of course… 

It’s a manifestation of Allah’s beauty. It’s a blessing from Allah… Look at the beauties here, they’re full of holy light, they’re incredibly beautiful, and the unbelievers can’t believe that they’re so beautiful. They are so jealous.

By contrast, radicals look “like gorillas”.

Religion Dispatches Reports from World Congress of Families

Religion Dispatches carries a polemical but informative piece on the the World Congress of Families, by Gillian Kane of Ipas:

Last month the World Congress of Families (WCF), an international conservative network, met at the Palacio de Congresos in Madrid to share tactics in defense of the “natural family.” For its participants the natural family is a standard for social values that harkens back to a mythical era when men headed the household, women tended the kitchen and children, and sex was for procreation only.

This was the sixth international WCF conference; I noted a previous event, held in Poland in 2007, here. This year’s conference came with a warm-up conference in London co-hosted by Christian Concern, at which the WCF’s Don Feder explained how same-sex marriage was a Marxist conspiracy inspired by Gramsci. The Madrid conference included a British delegation that included Ben Harris-Quinney (of the Bow Group); Gordon Macdonald (of CARE and Care Not Killing); Paul Coleman (a Christian Concern legal advisor); Robert Colquhoun (of “40 Days for Life”, which has brought US-style anti-abortion protests to the UK); Ade Omooba (a pastor, who organised a protest against the Sexual Orientations Regulations  in 2007); and Christian filmmaker Norman Stone (not to be confused with the historian).

Kane tells us that

…2012 marked the first time the WCF devoted an entire day to organizing with parliamentarians and civil society. The invitation-only International Parliamentary Forum met to develop concrete political and legislative solutions in defense of the natural family. By far the biggest block of participating parliamentarians was from Spain’s newly installed conservative party, the Partido Popular (PP).

One significant presence at the conference was the Alliance Defense Fund (which also has links with Christian Concern):

…The ADF is also actively litigating religious freedom cases overseas. Because U.S. justices are increasingly citing progressive international jurisprudence in their opinions and decisions, much of the ADF’s international litigation is aimed at ensuring that foreign rulings serve its domestic objectives. This, despite ADF Chief Council’s Benjamin Bull’s comment that “The Constitution is the only arbiter of American law…”

…Roger Kiska, an Ave Maria-trained lawyer, runs ADF’s European office. Located in Vienna, it’s a Eurail ride from both the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and the European Court of Human rights in Strasbourg, where Kiska spends a great deal of time. Kiska is developing an allied attorney network dedicated to litigating European cases with the potential to impact ADF work in the United States. Kiska’s WCF presentation, “How to Fight Back against International Law,” included a four-point strategy that, while not revealing too many trade secrets, was notable for its venomous tone toward “humanists” and others who, he says, accuse Christians of demanding preferential treatment.

In April, Kiska was elected to the Advisory Panel 2012-2013 of the Fundamental Rights Platform (FRP), which is a European Union agency.

Last year, Kiska debated discrimination against Christians with the National Secular Society’s Keith Porteous Wood on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme; Kane tells us that

The idea of Christian persecution, or Christianophobia, was echoed throughout and the human rights framework was frequently misappropriated to serve the needs of a given speaker.

Kane also notes the presence at the conference of “Paul Herzog Von Oldenburg, the Belgian president of the right-wing Catholic group Tradition, Family and Property”. I’ve blogged on TFP a couple of times: as part of the US New Right “RAMBO Coalition” in the 1980s it supported causes such as South Africa, and in the UK it had links with the Conservative Monday Club. In 2006 there was also an association with an Italian conference on the Crusades that had a revisionist agenda, and in 2008 it ran newspaper adverts against same-sex marriage. A good general introduction to TFP is provided by Bill Berkowitz on Talk to Action.