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The EDL Has a Concern for Christianity, but Christian Concern Does Not Support the EDL

Yesterday (and in an update added earlier today) I noted Kevin Carroll’s use of a narrative of persecution against Christians in the UK when speaking at a recent anti-Islam conference in the USA organised by Pamela Geller. Extrapolating extravagantly from  an article in the Daily Express, Carroll, who is the deputy leader of the English Defence League, suggested that the lack of an automatic right to display a cross in British workplaces was due to Muslims, and that the UK government intends to use the police to enforce a general ban. I looked at the actual court cases here.

One group promoting the idea that the current legal situation amounts to the suppression of Christians’ religious freedom in the UK (without going as far as Carroll’s claims) is Christian Concern. Paul Diamond, who is “Standing Counsel” to Christian Concern’s associated Christian Legal Centre, has reportedly also made the connection to Islam. Last year, he spoke at a conference in the USA entitled “Constitution or Sharia” (Geller was also part of the original line-up for this, although for reasons I discussed here she did not attend); the American evangelist William Murray, writing on the Sharia Awareness Action Network website, summarized Diamond’s contribution:

Barrister Paul Diamond from the United Kingdom spoke of the Islamization of London and his struggle in the courts to represent Christians whose rights have been taken from them.  He presented the case of British Airlines which permits employees to wear Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and other religious clothing, but prohibits them from wearing any cross or other item identifying them as Christians. The courts actually upheld British Airlines’ right to discriminate against Christians. Diamond has founded Christian Concern in the United Kingdom to assist Christians who are persecuted as the United Kingdom becomes more Muslim oriented.

I recently had an email exchange with Diamond, in which he made clear that neither he personally nor Christian Concern support the EDL. However, he declined to respond to two specific issues. These were:

(1) Christian Concern’s view of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition’s support for the EDL, given that Christian Concern has made links with the Tennessee Freedom Coalition;

(2) A claim that there has been one instance of telephone contact between Christian Concern and the EDL. The claim was made by a former employee of a UKIP MEP, Gerard Batten, and has been published on a website run by what appear to be disaffected UKIP ex-members. This employee recently lost an employment tribunal against Batten, and Diamond, who represented him, has sent me the tribunal’s judgement. It is clear that the court was not impressed by the ex-employee’s reliability, and the blog where the claim was published also contains other accusations that are obviously excessive and actionable (hence no link from this site). However, Diamond made no specific clarification as to whether or not the phone call did in fact occur – and I have had no response to emails sent to Christian Concern and to its director, Andrea Minichiello Williams.

I should add that I do not take the view that having had contact with the EDL is necessarily significant or reprehensible: I can imagine various trivial or non-controversial reasons why one-off contact may have occurred. However, it seems to me that it is in the public interest to for the matter to be clarified.

EDL Uses Express and Mail to Highlight Christian Complaints at SION Conference

11 September saw yet another anti-Islam conference under the auspices of Pamela Geller’s “Stop Islamization of Nations” branding. Among the usual speakers was Kevin Carroll, vice-chair of the English Defence League and British Freedom. Carroll took the opportunity to brandish headlines from the Daily Express and Daily Mail that focus on perceived slights against Christianity in the UK:

Geller writes:

Mr. Carroll dramatically held up some British newspapers with headlines that are testimony to the degree of Muslim influence the British are living under today and the loss of their individual freedoms. These brave gents refuse to leave their homes in spite of the fact that their country is now in the second stage of Islamic transformation.

The first story, entitled “No Right to Wear a Cross at Work”, can be seen here. It concerns court cases brought by Christians who believe that their wish to wear a cross at work should enjoy the same protection as that given to symbols of minority religions. The UK government, following the London Appeal Court judgement of Eweida v British Airways plc [2010] EWCA Civ 80, takes the view that the wish to wear the cross is not a “requirement” of the Christian faith, and so should not be seen as an automatic right; however, the text of the Express article mischievously gives the impression that the government wishes to actively bring in a blanket “workplace ban”. The Appeal Court’s ruling may be wrong, but how is that the fault of Muslims? If anything, the efforts of immigrant religious minorities to achieve accommodation (such as those of Sikh bus drivers and conductors in 1969) have opened the way for (and have perhaps even inspired) Christian activism on the issue of wearing the cross. I discussed the background more broadly here.

The second piece, “Speak Up for Christianity PM Tells Archbishop”, can be seen here. However, as Liberal Burblings notes,  the text of Cameron’s speech does not support the Mail‘s interpretation of it. Again, though, how this relates to Islam is obscure [UPDATE: Although there is, of course, some hostility towards Rowan Williams in general for his views expressed in 2008 on shariah arbitration].

 UPDATE: A video of Carroll’s speech has now been posted on-line. Carroll (from 9 mins 33 secs onwards) claims that the Archbishop wants shariah to run “parallel” to British law (which is not in fact Williams’ view), and he made the claim that Williams was a “former member of the Socialist Workers’ Party”; this is not actually true, and is probably a garbled recollection of a Telegraph report (which I discussed here) about Williams’ involvement with the Jubilee Group in the 1980s.

As regards the issue of the right to display the cross, Carroll claims that the government wants to bring in a ban for the benefit of Muslims who may be offended by the sight of a crucifix, and that the ban will be enforced by the police. Pointing to his own lapel cross (which also incorporates a poppy), he affirmed that he would take “a bullet in my head” rather than remove it.

Media Researches Innocence of Muslims Originators and Promoters

With considerable media interest in the authorship of the anti-Islam Innocence of Muslims YouTube videothe AP tracks down one of its originators:

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, told The Associated Press in an interview outside Los Angeles that he was manager for the company that produced “Innocence of Muslims”…

Nakoula denied he directed the film and said he knew the self-described filmmaker, Sam Bacile. But the cell phone number that AP contacted Tuesday to reach the filmmaker who identified himself as Sam Bacile traced to the same address near Los Angeles where AP found Nakoula. Federal court papers said Nakoula’s aliases included Nicola Bacily, Erwin Salameh and others.

The only reasonable conclusion from this is that Nakoula is Bacile. And it seems that Nakoula – who has a fraud conviction – is playing some sort of game: the “Sam Bacile” persona described himself to journalists as being an “Israeli Jew”, and he claimed that “100 Jewish donors” had contributed to the short film’s production. Presumably the motive is that this will incite acts of anti-Semitism, thus exposing “true” Muslim attitudes (aspects of a vigilante syndrome I’ve seen before).

The AP account also draws attention to Steve Klein, “a Christian activist involved in the film project”. At the AtlanticJeffrey Goldberg reports speaking with him:

He said Bacile contacted him because he leads anti-Islam protests outside of mosques and schools, and because, he said, he is a Vietnam veteran and an expert on uncovering al Qaeda cells in California. “After 9/11 I went out to look for terror cells in California and found them, piece of cake. Sam found out about me. The Middle East Christian and Jewish communities trust me.”

…I asked him who he thought Sam Bacile was. He said that there are about 15 people associated with the making of the film, “Nobody is anything but an active American citizen. They’re from Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, they’re some that are from Egypt. Some are Copts but the vast majority are Evangelical.”

It should be noted that tone of the Innocence of Muslims is crude and satirical – there is nothing suggestive of a religious motivation, and the actors, according to the AP, claim that they were lied to about the film’s subject matter.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has further details about Klein, who is involved with militia groups:

Klein has been waging his own holy war since 1977, when he founded Courageous Christians United (CCU), a group that conducts “respectful confrontations” outside of abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques.

…Klein now heads Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group recently partnered with the ironically named Christian Anti-Defamation Commission to leaflet California high schools with material depicting the prophet Mohammad as a sex-crazed pedophile.

…He runs drills with the Christian Guardians, a San Francisco-based group headed by Andrew Saqib James, an American-born Pakistani Christian who calls Islam “a giant crime syndicate” and hopes his group will become “the most feared militia in the world.” The trainings, which allegedly take place at the Church at Kaweah’s sprawling central California compound, are described as a “unique system of learning how to survive the Muslim Brotherhood as we teach the Christian Morality of Biblical Warfare.”

The Fresno Bee has further details on the church (also sometimes called “the Church of Kaweah”):

The church at Kaweah — it uses a lower-case “c” in its name — is a rustic, one-story building off a rural foothill road just west of Sequoia National Park.

…Pastor Warren Mark Campbell on Wednesday confirmed that Klein has spoken twice, in 2010 and 2011, at The church at Kaweah: “He came to our church and spoke to us on Islam and the history of Islam and problems with jihad in America and around the world. He’s a specialist on the subject of Islam.”

…Klein is not a member of The church at Kaweah, Campbell said. But he refused to answer questions about the church’s relationship with Klein.

The church at Kaweah is the focus of the Southern Poverty Law Center Spring 2012 intelligence report, which states that it teaches far-right views and trains a militia.

Campbell blasted the report as “full of lies and distortions. They never met with me or anyone.”

The SPLC report on the church notes that the church holds regular “Old Paths Christian History Conferences”, which have involved the likes of militia John Trochmann, creationist Eric Hovind (son of Kent Hovind), Gary DeMar of American Vision, and Chuck Baldwin. Further:

The church’s obsession with Muslims appears to have begun in 2010, when it invited white Zimbabwean evangelist Peter Hammond to speak at its Old Paths conference. A staunch defender of Zimbabwe’s last white leader, the racial supremacist Ian Smith, Hammond heads a South Africa-based “ministry” called Frontline Fellowship that is anti-Islam, anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-communist.

I wrote about Hammond here.

However, Klein is not confined to the fringes of the Christian Right; Max Blumenthal notes links to better-known activists who focus on Islam:

It appears Klein (or someone who shares his name and views) is an enthusiastic commenter on [Pam] Geller’s website, Atlas Shrugged, where he recently complained about Mitt Romney’s “support for a Muslim state in Israel’s Heartland.” In July 2011, Spencer’s website, Jihad Watch, promoted a rally Klein organized alongside the anti-Muslim Coptic extremist Joseph Nasrallah to demand the firing of LA County Sheriff Lee Baca, whom they painted as a dupe for Hamas.

I discussed Nasralla in June 2010 here, after he took part in Geller’s anti-mosque protest in New York (he came to wide attention because he had been mistaken for a Muslim and abused). As reports note, Klein has a programme, entitled Wake Up America, on Nasralla’s The Way TV station; the station is part of Nasralla’s “Media for Christ” organisation.

The AP also notes the involvement of two other familiar individuals:

The AP located Bacile after obtaining his cell phone number from Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who had promoted the anti-Muslim film in recent days on his website. Egypt’s Christian Coptic population has long decried what they describe as a history of discrimination and occasional violence from the country’s Arab majority.

Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fla., who burned Qurans on the ninth anniversary of 9/11, said he spoke with the movie’s director on the phone Wednesday and prayed for him.

As I discussed Sadek and his links to Jones here.

UPDATE: It seems that Nassralla was directly involved with the creation of the film; the Los Angeles Times reports:

…An official at Media for Christ said Wednesday the charity was not connected to the movie and was upset by its controversial content. The same day, an associate who served as a script consultant told the paper that Nassralla “had nothing to do with it.”

But Duarte’s deputy city manager said she had been told by sheriff’s officials that the permits to shoot the movie had been issued to Media for Christ.

UPDATE 2: Nassralla has now issued a statement, in which he says that Nakoula had made use of the Media for Christ name to get the permit “without knowledge or permission”.

UPDATE 3: Another Los Angeles Times article has some background to Nakoula’s anti-Islam motivation:

…While in the Metropolitan Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles, he lectured a fellow Egyptian inmate about his devotion to [anti-Islam preacher Zakaria] Botros.

“He called him Abouna [father] Zakaria. He was just obsessed with the guy,” recalled the inmate, Mohamed, a Northridge doctor who asked that his last name not be used because he did not want it known that he had been in custody.

He said that Nakoula’s cell was stacked with Arabic books about Islam, and that he carried a heavily annotated Koran around the common areas of the prison, using the holy book’s own words as ammunition for his anti-Islamic lectures.

“He used to go to Botros and he used to bring him people that wanted to convert from Islam to Christianity,” said the doctor, a Muslim married to a Catholic. He added that Nakoula urged him to convert and promised to set up a meeting with Botros.

Screening Party for Channel 4 Documentary about Islam Cancelled after Advice from “Security Authorities”

From Jenny Taylor at Lapido Media, 5 September:

HISTORIAN Tom Holland is bravely shrugging off Twitter threats this week following broadcast of his Channel 4 documentary Islam: the Untold Story.

…Now Channel 4 have cancelled the screening party due to be held next week.

The cancellation is now being widely reported, after taking a week to trickle up into the mainstream media. According to the Guardian:

Channel 4 has cited concerns over security as the reason for cancelling a planned screening at its headquarters this week of a documentary film questioning the origins of Islam.

…A Metropolitan police spokesperson said the force had no knowledge of the event or the decision to cancel it.

However, sources close to the channel said the screening had been cancelled after advice was taken from “relevant security authorities”.

It’s not clear to what extent Holland has faced real threats rather than just unpleasant abuse; the Telegraph tells us only that:

One message sent to Holland read: “You might be a target in the streets. You may recruit some bodyguards, for your own safety.”

The planned screening was noted in a letter dated 30 August, which the Muslim Council of Britain sent to Channel 4 and placed on-line. The MCB Secretary General, Farooq Murad, complained about the documentary, citing “Reverend Bosworth Smith writing in 1874” and Edward Gibbon in “1823” (sic – actually 1788), and he added that:

The Muslim Council received an invitation to a special screening of this ‘ground-breaking film’ Islam: The Untold Story which is to be held on 13th September 2012. One fails to understand the logic of holding a screening nearly a month after the film was broadcast on Channel 4 at prime time.

It’s a great shame that the MCB rejected the opportunity afforded by the programme to engage with modern scholars, but there’s no indication that news of the special screening generated any kind of hostile “chatter” among Muslims. Despite this, the Independents report is headlined “Channel 4 Cancels Controversial Screening”.

According to UK television listings, the programme will be repeated on Channel 4 on Friday at 1.10am (i.e. late on Thursday night). The Independent gives the impression that this repeat has also been pulled from the schedules, but  there appears to have been confusion between this and the “special screening” event. The paper also claims that

those attempting to watch the documentary on 4OD were met with an error message.

Tom Holland has responded to this on Twitter:

People are saying #IslamTheUntoldStory has been ‘pulled’ by Channel 4. Not true. Film’s been showing on 4Seven & is still available on 4oD. (1)

All that’s been cancelled is a small, pvt post-TX screening 4 people involved with the prog & other interested parties. (2)

I’ve just checked, and the programme is certainly still accessible from the 4OD site.

Holland’s documentary has been much discussed since its broadcast last month. As is often the case with these kinds of programmes, it at times failed to make clear a particular theory’s status within a wider scholarly debate, but it gave a reasonable account of how scholars working in good faith approach the subject of religious history. Holland has responded to critics here.

Mennonites in Nicaragua Claim “Persecution” over Miller Case

From Life Site News (H/T Right Wing Watch):

Nicaraguan Mennonites say that they have been persecuted by government authorities since they chose to shelter ex-lesbian Lisa Miller and her daughter Isabella following their escape from the United States, but add that they are willing to suffer and even die to protect Isabella from a court-ordered custody transfer to her non-biological lesbian “mother” [Janet Jenkins].

…The letter of the Nicaragua Brotherhood does not specify which Nicaraguan Menonite churches are represented. Although its publication date is given as February of this year, it appears not to have been distributed outside of Mennonite circles. It was quoted in May in the Mennonite World Review, and was quoted in Jenkins’ lawsuit.

The letter can be seen here. It contains accusations of low-level harassment and intrusion, but there is no reason to suppose that anyone is at risk of coming to real harm.

However, one can see why Life Site News would want to promote a narrative of persecution: last month, a pastor named Kenneth Miller (no relation to Lisa Miller) was found guilty of helping to organise Lisa Miller’s escape, and Jenkins has now begun her own proceedings against him and others. Those named are (links added):

Liberty University School of Law and Thomas Road Baptist Church… Ken Miller; Lisa Miller; Timothy Miller, a pastor in Nicaragua apparently of no relation to the other Millers; Andrew Yoder and the Ohio ministry he works for, Christian Aid Ministries; Philip Zodhiates and his corporation Response Unlimited; and Winchester resident Douglas Wright.

The connections are explained in an extensive account which appeared in the New York Times at the end of July. The article includes a reference to “the family of Pablo Yoder, another pastor”, who “hosted a birthday party at their tranquil homestead”; Pablo Yoder came to wider attention last year, after he sent an email to the AP:

“God’s Holy Law never recognizes a gay marriage,” said Pablo Yoder, a Mennonite pastor in Nicaragua, in an email message to The Associated Press. “Thus, the Nicaraguan Brotherhood felt it right and good to help Lisa not only free herself from the so called civil marriage and lesbian lifestyle, but especially to protect her nine year old daughter from being abducted and handed over to an active lesbian and a whole-hearted activist.”

In August, a blog called Ain’t Complicated reproduced an article from “Pablo’s Newsletter”, in which Yoder described meeting Lisa Miller and her daughter in Managua in March 2010. Yoder was impressed by Miller’s spiritual progress, noting that “though she started wearing modest apparel strictly for disguise, it started to work on her after she lived in Managua”, and he added that “we are saddened now to know that they had to go into hiding at a later date.” However, this is slightly odd; the meeting was months after the court-ordered custody transfer date, so she was already in effect “in hiding”.

Pablo Yoder is a member of the Beachy Amish Mennonites, named after Bishop Moses Beachy. He is the author of a number of books, including an autobiographical account of his youth in Costa Rica after his parents relocated from Virginia. Since 1995, he and his family have been engaged with “evangelization, church planting, and ministry in Waslala, Nicaragua”.

At the outcome of Kenneth Miller’s trial, according to the New York Times, “more than 100 of Mr. Miller’s supporters from the Beachy Amish-Mennonite sect… gathered outside the courthouse to sing ‘Amazing Grace’ and other hymns.” However, not all Mennonites approve of his action, and a recent article by Tim Huber in the Mennonite World Review is highly critical:

Refusing to obey laws that violate one’s conscience is an Anabaptist tradition, but aiding a kidnapping exceeds justified civil disobedience… It is far from obvious that Lisa Miller is a fit mother and Jenkins is not, and it seems presumptuous for Ken Miller to claim to know who deserves custody.

Lisa Miller is wanted by Interpol and the FBI. Federal marshals are hunting her in Nicaragua. Church members fear their phones are tapped. All because some Anabaptists in Virginia were willing to do what even Liberty University wasn’t willing to do itself.

Ken Miller and his supporters claim to “gladly submit” to the state but fought charges the state brought against him. Mercy may have been the motive, but the actions stand on shaky ground, theologically and legally.

(Name variations: Nicaraguan Brethren; Nicaraguan Brotherhood)

BBC Radio Docudrama Explores the Murder of Salmaan Taseer

BBC Radio 4 yesterday broadcast a docudrama in its Saturday Drama strand about the murder of Salmaan Taseer, entitled “Blasphemy and the Governor of Punjab”. It is available to listen to for the next week here.

The dramatization is punctuated by interviews with Taseer’s family (his widow Aamna Taseer, youngest daughter Shehrbano Taseer, youngest son Shehryar Taseer, and brother-in-law Ehsan ul Haq) and Shahnaz Wazir Ali (Special Assistant to Prime Minister), as well as commentary from Tariq Ali (who went to school with Taseer), the writer Ahmed Rashid, and the journalist Omar Waraich. There are also short quotes from the killer Mumtaz Qadri’s elder brother and father, approving the murder, as well as a (pre-recorded, by the sound of it) sanguinary statement by one of Qadri’s lawyers.

A significant role in the drama is given to Meher Bokhari, a prime-time news anchor who was formerly one of Aamna’s pupils. Taseer agreed to give Bokhari an interview following a request based on their personal connections; however, she took an unexpectedly hostile approach, stressing his links with the west and making reference to a fatwa issued against him by an obscure group of Ulama. Shehrbano Taseer claims that Bokhari, who is of secular appearance, has used Islam to “reinvent herself” since photos were published showing her at a party, and it is clear that the family has bitter feelings about her. The play includes Bokhari being ejected from Taseer’s funeral; she soon afterwards hosted a discussion programme asking whether Qadri should be regarded as a killer or a hero.

The story ends with the August 2011 kidnap of Taseer’s son Shahbaz Taseer; he remains a prisoner of militants. And Asia Bibi, meanwhile, continues to have a death sentence hanging over her.

Ahmed Rashid was at Salmaan Taseer’s funeral; he recalls in the programme that:

We expected to see the army chief himself, the president – after all, Salaam was governor of Punjab province, the governor is the representative of the president, and you expect the army, and the navy,  the air force, and all the top bureaucrats and the top politicians to come and pay their respects. And absolutely nobody came… Salaam in his death had literally been abandoned by the state.

No wonder that we now see the ascendancy of creatures such as Rao Abdur Raheem.

Tabloid Journalists Attempt to Whip Up Twitchfork Mob against Blogger

(Expanded: thanks to West of Westminster for bringing a couple of extra details to my attention)

Daily Star showbiz hack Nigel Pauley censures Tim Fenton (@zelo_street) on Twitter:

@zelo_street @tabloidtroll we live in a democracy + you are free to air ur obnoxious views and to mock cancer victims. No problem with that (1)

Pauley’s accusation forms the central prong of a typically unsavoury Twitchfork: Richard Price, who writes for the Daily Mail, fumes that:

Usually ignore vile bloggers who spend their lives attacking journalists out of spite, but @zelo_street goes too far… (2)

While a certain Matthew Drake (it’s not known if he is a journalist) adds:

@richpeppiatt @zelo_street what a tragic little union you boys are mocking cancer. Being jobless must give you so much time to bond. (3)

Richard Peppiatt was included in that last Tweet following an earlier rebuke from Pauley:

@richpeppiatt … What unpleasant company you are keeping these days. People like Zelo who mock life threatening illnesses. Less than Zero.. (4)

Peppiatt, it should be recalled, is a former journalist with the Daily Star who quit in disgust at the newspaper’s standards last year. There is therefore perhaps ill-feeling towards him from Pauley [UPDATE: see below; Pauley denies that there is any such ill-will].

Also on board is Harry Cole, who is an enthusiast for this sort of thing.

However, all these Twitter jibes are all outdone by an indignant J’Accuse posted by “Tabloid Troll” on Storify, which he subsequently advertised with 20 Tweets addressed to cronies, journalists, and cancer charities about a “a cancer mocking troll” (e.g. here and here).

Readers will not be entirely surprised to learn that, despite the chorus of outrage, Tim Fenton did not in fact make fun of Pauley’s illness or express any malice about it. Here’s what he wrote, and the context:

[Pauley] has set great store by protesting vehemently that I should not pass adverse comment on him, as he is recovering from “a life saving operation“. But, typically, he is not averse to putting the boot in himself… Pauley commented, on a photo which Rice claimed was of me, “I’d be in denial if I looked like that“.

…Pauley could easily stand in for the lead in a Wallace and Gromit film without anyone noticing, except that his ears are funnier than the plasticene one’s.

That’s it. Really. Pauley made fun of what he took be Tim’s face and Tim responded in kind, focusing on the prominence of his ears; there is nothing that might reasonably be taken as referring to signs of illness, despite Tabloid Troll’s attempt to spin the Wallace comparison into the claim that Tim had compared Pauley “to a piece of plasticine”.

Pauley and Tabloid Troll also discern “sneer quotes” around Tim’s reference to a “life saving operation”, and Tabloid Troll claims (5) that Tim has accused Pauley of “faking cancer”. However, the phrase was in fact was a direct quote from Pauley himself, made on 17 August when Pauley wished to withdraw from an argument on another matter:

I am currently recovering from a life saving operation and have no wish to get drawn into pointless online Spats and abuse. (6)

In the hours that followed this call to be left alone, Pauley went on to make Tweets accusing the blogger Tim Ireland of stalking various individuals, drawing on the kind of material I discussed here and here.

But there’s a second act to this unedifying story; there is strong evidence, which has been assembled by Tim Ireland, indicating that Tabloid Troll is a journalist named Dennis Rice. Rice denies it, and Tabloid Troll has since made a half-hearted pretence at being a “collective” of journalists. However, this pose is undermined both by numerous Tweets written in the first-person singular, and by the strange detail that the entire “collective” apparently recently went on holiday to Spain in the same week.

Given that Tabloid Troll had published a photo of someone whom he believed to be Tim Fenton, Tim responded with a request in kind:

And, if any helpful people out there can supply a recent photo of Dennis Rice, so he too can pass before this blog’s examination – email address, as ever, at right – that would be much appreciated. 

Tabloid Troll noticed this, and wrote:

…cretin is now blogging asking for a pic of TT

But as Tim notes:

I have not made such a request: I’ve asked for a photo of Rice (twice).

Tim makes an obvious inference from this. Tabloid Troll’s next Tweet added the detail that:

Noticed one of his chums is looking for that picture on LinkedIn (7)

But how would Tabloid Troll be aware of this, unless he has access to Rice’s Linkedin account? Tabloid Troll also claims that

as an undercover hack someone putting my pic… up anywhere is putting my life in danger (10, 11)

Tim was then sent a photo, which he inadvisedly published without checking; the photo was in fact that of another journalist, who had been killed in Afghanistan in 2010. It was a silly mistake which could have easily been avoided: Tim ought to have run the photo through the Google Image search feature; the icon of a camera on the right-hand side of the search box can be used to upload images, or they can simply be dragged in from the desktop. Alternatively, there is the TinEye search engine. However, Tim met his obligation to deal with his error, promptly amending his post and adding  an apology to the journalist’s family and “to any of his friends and colleagues who may have looked in.”

Tim’s correction, though, was never going to deflect the inevitable barrage; Tabloid Troll  purports to believe that Tim is “mocking” the dead journalist, and he looks forward to friends of the journalist from the army “visiting” him. This thought was inspired by a certain  self-described “Editor/Journalist” named Darren Ingram, who fantasises about someone giving Tim “a dig in the ribs”.

Finally, having smeared Tim Fenton as someone who “mock[s] cancer victims”, and having attacked Richard Peppiatt for “the company” he keeps, Pauley is now ready to change the subject:

@tabloidtroll @zelo_street @richpeppiatt: Can we all move on please? I’d appreciate it. Thanks. (8)

Of course, the above is just one ephemeral example of the kind of unedifying rubbish that deluges the internet on an hourly basis: shrill denunciations made in bad faith, tossed as red meat to baying cronies.

In this instance, though, professional journalists are involved. In other words, people who ought to know better. Or is it the case that Twitter is merely a new vehicle for old journalistic vices?

UPDATE: Nigel Pauley has responded to the above, via Twitter:

@Barthsnotes How’s an assertion of his right to free speech an accusation? I have no issues with Rich – ask him. PrettyPauley blog came Ist (9)

“Pretty Pauley” is a reference to this Zelo Street post. There is no need for me to comment on the obtuseness of his denial that his “you… mock cancer victims” tweet contains an accusation. I will take him at his word that there is in fact no ill-will between him and Peppiatt.

Moving on:

@Barthsnotes he wasn’t to know I was recovering from cancer +the pic was taken days after serious op but does now and has not taken it down (12)

This is an indication that Pauley wishes to have it both ways: he knows that Tim has not mocked his illness, but he wants us to believe that Tim has nevertheless fallen short in a duty to revise his post anyway. Pauley might have had a point, had Tim inadvertently drawn attention a physical feature that was the result of illness, but there is no reason to suppose that he has. Pauley may not be the world’s handsomest man, but neither am I – and if the worst I ever have to put up with is a claim that that I resemble an animated character, I will consider that I have got off very lightly. It’s the kind of mild mockery one finds in every issue of Private Eye magazine, and it’s rather less biting than the comment that Pauley originally fired off against against Tim. Besides which, Pauley has stated that he wasn’t even particularly bothered by a Wallace comparison.

And third:

@Barthsnotes the real moral of this tawdry tale is that it is easy to mock others but impossible to always be right. We all make mistakes. (13)

It’s not clear from this if Pauley is here showing self-awareness that he has also “made mistakes” in his matter, but either way, this may be an appropriate point at which to conclude our discussion of the subject.

I will, though, make clear that, like Tim, I also wish Pauley a speedy return to health.

UPDATE: A few weeks later Pauley returned to form under the influence of his peers, and he now accuses me of being someone who “likes baiting those recovering from operations!”. Chilling to see what a lifetime of being given money to write for papers like the Daily Star does to your soul.

Helen Ukpabio Attacks T.B. Joshua in Interview

A number of Nigerian websites have noted the front cover of a magazine called Yes! International (17 September 2012), announcing an interview in which Helen Ukpabio “Exposes T.B. Joshua”. Subheadings promise details about “the demons that give him money” and “why his predictions should not be believed”, as well as “more, much more”. The interview does not appear on the magazine’s website, so it’s impossible to tell whether the interview focuses on Joshua or whether the headline refers to statements made in passing from a more wide-ranging piece.

Neither Ukpabio nor Joshua are uplifting characters to have to ponder.Ukpabio is known for her aggressive fear-mongering over the existence of child-witches; as well as deploying lawfare, she has sent church members to disrupt a conference on the problem of child-witch stigmatisation, and attempted to shut down a hostel for children which she claimed was being run by a “wizard“. Critics – including this blog – have also been subjected to crude abuse on a website created by her webmaster and endorsed by her.

Joshua, meanwhile, makes extravagant claims to supernatural powers of prophecy in relation to global and African news events. A vague reference to the death of a president in Africa earlier this year preceded the demise of President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi; Mutharika knew of the prediction, and it is perhaps possible that it had a psychosomatic effect on him. However, in most cases Joshua’s supposed power is demonstrated through heavily-edited videos promoted after particular incidents; T.B. Joshua Watch shows that deceptive editing methods are employed.

Joshua is a more powerful figure than Ukpabio. Forbes names him as one of the “The Five Richest Pastors In Nigeria“, and his followers include politicians; a report last year in the Zimbabwe NewsDay stated that:

A number of senior African politicians and businesspeople have visited the popular Nigerian prophet including suspended Zanu PF legislator Tracey Mutinhiri, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Zifa president Cuthbert Dube, former South African president Nelson Mandela’s ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Malawian Vice-President [now President] Joyce Banda.

However, Joshua also sits somewhat apart from other Nigerian pastors; in 2002,  Charisma magazine reported that

Pastors of Nigeria’s largest churches say Joshua mixes Christianity with occult practices. During a leadership summit held near Lagos in July, they firmly denounced him while discussing the issue with a group of Americans that included theologian C. Peter Wagner, Colorado pastor Ted Haggard and prayer leader Chuck Pierce.

…The summit was held at the world’s largest church building, Winner’s Chapel in Ota, pastored by Bishop David Oyedepo…. The Nigerian leaders included Oyedepo; Mike Okonkwo, head of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria; Enoch Adeboye, general overseer of the fast-growing Redeemed Christian Church of God; and Ayo Oritsejafor, pastor of the 26,000-member Word of Life Bible Church in Warri.

In this context, Ukpabio’s position on Joshua simply follows the majority consensus.

Charisma also noted that Joshua does have some international links:

…several prominent charismatic leaders have visited Joshua’s compound and returned with favorable impressions.

These include Canadian renewal leader John Arnott, Pittsburgh pastor Joseph Garlington, Louisiana evangelist Marvin Gorman and New Zealand minister Bill Subritzky.

…Arnott also noted that a South African evangelist, Kobus van Rensburg–who has been heavily influenced by Joshua–has established a healing center in the town of Stilfontein, near Johannesburg. This month, van Rensburg will be speaking at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, which Arnott pastors.

Another Order of St John: “Vast Majority” Disassociate from Leadership of Ally of Gen. “Jerry” Boykin

From the website of the Sovereign Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta (SHOSJ):

Past Grand Masters

…Blessed Peter Gerard-Abbott: Master-French,1087-1120

…Joseph Frendo Cumbo: Grand Master-Maltese, 1997-2006

Nicholas Papanicolaou: Grand Master-Greek,2006-2011-*Disassociated

Adrian Busietta: Grand Master-Maltese, 2011-

* The Order and its Members in vast Majority have dissociated themselves from the leadership / grand master-ship of Chev. Nicholas Papanicolaou for grave reasons already explained in detail to him by correspondence, after due warnings and requests for his resignation

The “grave reasons” for the split with Papanicolaou are not explained. However, as I’ve previously noted, Papanicolaou has links with controversial figures on the US Christian Right; none other than Gen “Jerry” Boykin was installed as the Order’s Grand Chancellor, and in 2010 the two men sent out an aggressively anti-Muslim fundraising letter in the Order’s name:

The Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security recently swore in two devout Muslims in senior posts…. Was it not “Devout Muslim men” that flew planes into U.S. buildings 9 years ago? Was it not a Devout Muslim who killed 14 at Fort Hood?

…Read Sura 18:21 and you will know WHY Muslims insist on building a mosque over Ground Zero…

Your DONATION to the KNIGHTS will directly go to our global effort to inform, put pressure on legislators, media ads, communication with leaders, and much more to heighten the awareness of the grave danger that is confronting us and the United States Constitution…against Sharia Law.

Last October, the two men held an inauguration ceremony for the Order on Rhodes, at which “friend of the English Defence League” Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff was made a “Dame”.

Boykin is absent from the new SHOSJ website (which was created in February), as is Rick Joyner, who was previously made “Deputy Member of the Supreme Council” (Joyner  claims that his books are in part responsible for a “spiritual renewal” in the Order). However, all three men continue in their roles on an older website, where the Order is referred to as the “Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta, the Ecumenical Order” (OSJ). As with the SHOSJ website, the OSJ website also carries a list of Grand Masters; until recently, Busietta was included as having been in charge “pro tem” during 2006, which was before Papanicolaou took over, although his name no longer appears anywhere.

A blog post about the split appeared in Swedish a few months ago, but is no longer available; the author suggested that some European members had become unhappy about the direction which the Order was taking. It certainly seemed to me strange that an organisation which exists to promote charitable activities would want to become embroiled in extreme anti-Islam polemics and identified with Joyner’s Christian Right form of neo-Pentecostalism. However, the OSJ has retained its original European “Royal Protector”, Enrique de Borbon y Garcia-Lobez, while the SHOSJ’s Royal Protectors are “HIRH Sandor Habsburg Lothringen, Archduke of Austria, Prince of Tuscany and HIRH Herta Margarete Habsburg Lothringen, Archduchess of Austria, Princess of Tuscany”.

Some details about Busietta have appeared in the Malta Independent:

Chevalier Adrian Busietta has been one of Malta’s leading businessmen and entrepreneurs for the last five decades, a span of time in which he experienced the tenure of no less than six Prime Ministers.

…In later years he has concentrated more on his very active role within the Knights of St John of Jerusalem Ecumenical Order, again a role that has brought him into contact with a great number of international personalities including international pop stars Sir Cliff Richard and Mike Reed, as well as a number of kings and princes who are members of the Order.

A picture of Cliff in his gown can be seen here.

It should be borne in mind that both Busietta’s SHOSJ and Papanicolaou’s OSJ are both separate from the exclusively Roman Catholic Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), which is the organisation that most people think of when the name of the “Knights of Malta” is mentioned. Another report in the Malta Independent concludes with the notice that

…it was again reiterated that the Embassy of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, known also as The Order of Malta, wishes to inform the general public that it has no connection with the organisation which calls itself the “Knights Hospitallers of the Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, Knights of Malta – The Ecumenical Order”.

This organisation has recently been given coverage in connection with the fact that the renowned singer Cliff Richard has been made a member of this organisation.

It is pertinent to note that the organisation in question is not recognised by the Republic of Malta or by the Holy See.

I discussed competing claims about the historical background here. Last year, SMOM lost a trademark case against the OSJ in Florida. Despite SMOM’s objection to “ecumenical” rivals, and its exclusive recognition by the Vatican, SHOSJ has as its Spiritual Protector a Roman Catholic Cardinal, Sergio Sebastiani.

Guardian Notes Nick Greger’s Support for Breivik and Links with Paul Ray

From the Guardian:

A number of rightwing British activists have publicly praised mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik – one describing him as a “role model” – since the Norwegian extremist was sentenced.

The report goes on to note a petition on behalf of Breivik by “Kickboxer Darren Cliff”. Further:

Another Breivik admirer, Nick Greger – who, along with EDL founder member Paul Ray, runs Order 777, which claims to bring together Christian resistance movements – wrote on Facebook that the Norwegian deserved a medal “for the groundbreaking performance to blow up his Marxist traitor government building”.

…Greger, a German former neo-Nazi, lives in Malta as does Ray, who reportedly fled the UK fearing arrest for inciting racial hatred.

I noted Greger’s “Order 777” in a post in April, following a reference in the Daily Telegraph. I added further details in June, when Greger uploaded a video to his “madnick77” Youtube account vilifying Breivik’s victims and describing Breivik as “Commander Anders Breivik”. There is no evidence that anyone besides Greger is a member of “Order 777”, and a comment left by Greger below the video suggests a difference of opinion with Ray:

This video kinda ruins everything Paul said to the norwegian police, doesn’t it? – flasKamel

no it dosent as the video is just a information of what the media doesn not tell the public and we just support that people have to get access to all informations surrounding breiviks motivation.by the way,paul rays opinions are paul rays opinions.me myself i did never hide that those people in utoya havent just been innocent kids playing football in a summer camp and thats the point. – madnick77

Greger’s support for Breivik was also noted by Dagbladet, which also explicitly claims that Greger and Ray have “broken”.

Ray, by contrast, has condemned the killings, and he complains bitterly of news reports speculating (incorrectly) that he may have been Breivik’s supposed mentor “Richard the Lionhearted”. Indeed, much of Ray’s blog is now concerned with conspiracy theories about the murders, which he  attempts to link to former elements within the EDL with whom he has fallen out.

However, Ray’s residence on Malta is not due to his having “fled the UK fearing arrest for inciting racial hatred”, and it’s not even clear that he still lives there. Ray did flee to the USA in 2007 when the police took an interest in statements on his blog, but the matter was eventually resolved without charges being brought; for a time during this period, Ray enjoyed some support as a “free speech martyr”, although much of that melted away when comments he had made offering (non-racialist) support for the BNP came to light.

The Guardian continues:

Hope Not Hate, an anti-extremist group, said the sentiments of a small number of extremists helped to underline concern that the UK was “not immune” to a Breivik-style attack… Hope Not Hate has now set up a monitoring unit to track counter-jihadist activists that they hope will work as an “early warning system” to help identify potentially dangerous extremists.

Hope Not Hate produced a report on subject in April, which turned out to be problematic and had to be revised. The organisation also has a problem in that one of its trustees, Tehmina Kazi, is very happy to work with a thug who recently wrote a gun massacre fantasy.