Reports Highlight Efforts to Counter On-line Extremism

I’m a few days late with this – an interesting article from the Independent on Sunday:

An Independent on Sunday investigation has revealed that more than 2,000 websites promoting terrorism have been taken offline since 2010 by the Metropolitan Police’s counter-terrorism internet referral unit. Experts are now bombarding extremist websites to create “counter-narrative” messages from survivors of terrorism. Former radicals also infiltrate forums to spread doubt and challenge the extremist rhetoric.

…A second group fighting to combat extremist propaganda, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, implants messages of peace when people try to access radical websites. Ross Frenett, programme manager for the Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network, says the hope is to make potential extremists refrain from meeting radicalising influences in the real world. “We use survivors of terrorism and formers [those formerly radicalised]. People who have been personally touched by the violence are very difficult to dismiss: those who have lost a loved one or a limb. And someone who has been on the inside and come out the other side is very credible,” he said.

That seems to be a good approach to the problem – honest engagement seeking to give a different perspective based on experience. More about the AVE Network can be seen here.

A slightly more spiky approach to challenging on-line extremism was discussed in a Wired article last year:

The program, called Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.”

…The U.S. has thought of several strategies for confronting the not-so-new wave of online extremism, from apparent DDoS attacks on extremist websites to infiltrating them using fake jihadi personas….

Amanullah has a different view. You don’t necessarily need to deface the forums if you can troll them to the point where their most malign influences are neutralized.

Given that infiltration via “fake jihadi personas” is a proven recipe for disaster, it’s good to see Amanullah suggesting something different.

Engaging with and challenging the users of extremist websites is important and urgent work – but I’d like to see some sort of serious discussion about it should be done ethically and sensibly. I’ve seen keyboard vigilantes and hucksters seek to incite extremists using sockpuppets, either to “expose” them or to play out weird power games; anyone who wants to be taken seriously needs to keep distance from that kind of thing.

Spotlight on Greenwich University Islamic Society in Wake of Murder

From the Daily Telegraph:

The Islamic Society at Greenwich University, where both the Woolwich suspects are thought to have studied, has hosted a series of radical Muslim speakers and distributed extremist literature, The Telegraph can disclose.

The group’s possible role in radicalising Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, is coming under close scrutiny after it emerged that the society had promoted extremist views for years.

…The Telegraph has learnt that a pamphlet written by a preacher who was banned from entering Britain by the Home Secretary in 2010 was distributed during a freshers’ fair at Greenwich University in 2011. Dr Zakir Naik, the author, said in the booklet: “Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”

The paper notes that the society has also hosted Khalid Fikry, who claims that “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman is the victim of a conspiracy, and that its Facebook page has promoted videos by Abu Usamah, who has expressed inflammatory anti-gay views and and expressed support for Osama bin Laden.

According to the Times Higher, Michael Adebolajo studied at Greenwich from 2003-05, although there are no records for Michael Adebowale.

Naik (last blogged by me here) is President of the Islamic Research Foundation, and a former student of the late Ahmed Deedat; Deedat was a prolific author of English-language tracts opposing other religions and attempting to prove the Koran through scientific arguments, and Naik follows the same method (here he is having a chat with Turkish creationist Harun Yahya and others). He’s also a 9/11 Truther.

Naik’s Wikipedia entry has a discussion of the “every Muslim should be a terrorist” comment, with links to original sources including a YouTube video where he discusses bin Laden:

If he is terrorizing America – the terrorist, biggest terrorist – I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorizing the terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don’t know.

Apparently he later claimed this had been taken out of context, and the quote from the leaflet noted by the Daily Telegraph appears to have a rather different meaning:

Every Muslim should be a terrorist. A terrorist is a person who causes terror. The moment a robber sees a policeman he is terrified. A policeman is a terrorist for the robber. Similarly every Muslim should be a terrorist for the antisocial elements of society, such as thieves, dacoits [bandits] and rapists. Whenever such an anti-social element sees a Muslim, he should be terrified. It is true that the word ‘terrorist’ is generally used for a person who causes terror among the common people. But a true Muslim should only be a terrorist to selective people, i.e. anti-social elements, and not to the common innocent people. In fact a Muslim should be a source of peace for innocent people. 

The above is from Naik’s Answers To Non Muslims:Common Questions About Islam. Of course, it doesn’t even begin to explain away Naik’s original statement about bin Laden, but does put a rather less sinister light on the detail reported in the Telegraph.

As for Abu Usamah, the Telegraph notes that he featured in the 2007 documentary Undercover Mosque; while being filmed covertly, Abu Usamah expressed hatred of the “kuffaar”, and explained that although he rejected the “methodology” bin Laden, he regarded bin Laden as worth “a million George Bushes” because he is a Muslim, and that all non-Muslims are “pathological liars”. Bizarrely, West Midlands Police subsequently threatened the programme-makers with prosecution for supposedly stirring up racial hatred by “distorting” their footage, and when they received legal advice that this would have no chance of success they followed up with a complaint to OFCOM; according to Newnight journalist Peter Marshall, the police regarded Abu Usamah as the “the last buffer before radicalised people fall off into the abyss” because of his supposed rejection of terrorism.

According to the Times Higher, Greenwich is now investigating:

David Maguire, the Greenwich vice-chancellor, said its investigation would look at what links the two men had with the university and whether there had been any “past or present” extremism on campus.

It’s not necessarily the case that a group can be defined by the worst thing ever said by a speaker or writer to whom it has given a platform, but it is reasonable to put pressure on an organisation to explain itself when a discreditable association is revealed.

BBC Doc Highlights Continuing Abuse of Children Accused of Witchcraft in Congo

BBC Three has broadcast a documentary entitled Branded a Witch, in which young British mother of Congolese heritage named Kevani Kanda visited Congo to see the consequences of child-witch accusations in the country. The statistics are grim: 50,000 children held in churches for abusive “deliverance” sessions, and 20,000 living in the streets after being thrown out by relatives who believe that they are the cause of misfortune or ill-health. As the programme notes, the problem is the result of years of chaos and conflict in the country, which have led to the distortion of traditional beliefs.

The film included visits to two churches in Kinshasa where children are accused of witchcraft and subjected to “deliverance”; at the first, the pastor explained how he chooses which children are witches, and he introduced a teenage-aged girl – obviously traumatised and unable to speak – who he explained had eaten her mother:

These two children have bad works inside them. The Holy Spirit has revealed that these kids have been possessed by witchcraft. Others haven’t eaten anyone yet, but this one, she ate her mother. The Spirit is like the wind, it is not something you can see.

One boy at the church explained that deliverance had cured him of bed-wetting.

At another church, a five-year-old boy is subjected to a distressing ordeal to remove a “witchcraft telephone” from inside him, by which he supposedly communicates with other witches: the crying and terrified boy, standing before a group of women, is repeatedly smacked, force-fed hot palm oil, starved for three days, and given a palm-oil enema and then not allowed to relieve himself. According to the female pastor:

It’s going to be like that because when you are hitting him like this, his going to feel pain because the thing that has been placed in him is being removed and when it’s being removed he has to feel pain, because it’s a foreign object in his body. So of course he will cry. The Holy Spirit will look at him and see he really has witchcraft, that he has already started killing people and he has started drinking people’s blood.

Accusing a child in this way is actually illegal in Congo now, but the pastor is unconcerned:

I am not afraid of anything. I don’t think God would let someone come and arrest me.

Ten to twelve children are brought to the church for such treatment each week.

Neither church was identified in the programme, although both appeared to be small and ramshackle. Church members wore distinctive items of clothing; at the first, a while sash marked with red crosses, and at the second, white dresses with gold trimmings and blue head-scarves. There did not appear to be any connection to wider neo-Pentecostal networks, which was a subject I raised in relation to Congo here.

Kanda also spoke to the victims of witchcraft accusations: they included a teenage girl who had gone to primary school in London but had been sent back to Congo by relatives; two young children who had been badly burnt by a relative, and were now living in a hostel for accused children; and her own cousin, who had been cast out by her family – Kanda expressed frustration with her relatives’ deep belief in witchcraft and their willingness to disown an “infected” family member.

In Paris, Kandy met with the sister of Kristy Bamu, who had been tortured and murdered by another sister and her partner in London, and she concludes:

If we don’t do more to promote the idea that calling a child a witch is totally unacceptable, we may well end up with another case like Kristy Bamu, murdered in the bath on Christmas Day.

I’ve expressed the same sentiment, in relation to child-witch accusation in Nigeria; some pastors who promote the belief in “child witches” claim that their deliverance sessions are mild and beneficial, but to make such an accusation is always abusive –  and the concept is always going to lead to pointless tragedies.

The programme also mentioned other cases in the UK, and the problem of child-witch stigmatisation in Britain was highlighted by a Channel 4 documentary in 2010. There was also a reference to “Adam”, the  boy whose dismembered torso was found by the Thames in 2001. However, as noted previously, this murder is a different issue which ought not to be conflated with “child witches”.

Religious Opposition to Gay Pride Event in Moldova

From the website of the Orthodox Church of Moldova:

His Eminence Metropolitan Vladimir addressed a message to General Mayor of Chisinau, Mr. Dorin Chirtoaca, pleading that the authorities do not allow the organization of a gay pride planned for the 19th of May.

It is mentioned in the message: “The Metropolis of Chisinau and All Moldova continues to believe that this is a defying initiative, conflicting with moral values and decency. At the same time, a potential march of sexual minorities on the streets of Chisinau will be nothing else but a strong provocation with severe consequences, taking into account general repulsion of the population towards the deviant behavior of homosexuals and lesbians…”

The event to which Vladimir objects is a Gay Pride march to mark the end of a week-long “Rainbow Over the Dniester” festival.

After apparently blaming gay people for any violence against them, Vladimir goes on to argue that the march  comes shortly after the UN’s International Day of Families, and will clash with the day on which the Orthodox Church commemorates the Myrrh-bearing Women (the women who came to the tomb of Christ and found it to be empty).

Vladimir’s call has been echoed by Vasile Filat (var. Vasily Filat), a Baptist pastor with the Good News Church in Chisinau.

Also on board is “Moldova Mea”, a “civil society” organisation:

The public association “Moldova Mea” called on all the people of the country to come together in the Great National Assembly Square in Chisinau on May 19 to protest against the march that the sexual minorities intend to stage that day.

The aim of the protest is to “prevent” the march, and Vladimir has been asked to address and bless the crowd. According to the above report, Vladimir was asked to become involved by Mihail Garbuz, President of the pro-Russian Patriots of Moldova Party (var. Moldova’s Patriots Party, Patriotii Moldovei).

Moldova Mea is headed by Fiodor Ghelici, a businessman and anti-corruption activist; he has called for a law to be passed to ban “the propagation of homosexuality”, and he claims to have the support of former president Vladimir Voronin. In 2008, Voronin received an award from the late Patriarch of Moscow, Alexy II.

Moldova Mea is also part of a wider group of NGOs, called “The Civil Society Congress of Moldova”.

(H/T Interfax Religion)

Judith Reisman’s Kinsey in Croatia Conspiracy

Right Wing Watch has the latest from Judith Reisman, as the anti-Kinsey obsessive returns to the subject of her recent visit to Croatia. In conversation with anti-Illuminati conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles, Reisman explained that funding from George Soros has “brought in pedophiles from around the world” to Croatia, as part of a plot to establish Communist tyranny in the country.

Reisman visited Croatia in January, as I discussed here, and she afterwards gave an account on Michael Coren‘s TV programme Arena. Her trip was in support of Karolina Vidovic Kristo, a television journalist who was removed from her position after her TV show The Image of Croatia aired a segment on sex education in Croatia under the headline “Pedophilia as the foundation of sexual education?” Kristo was was subsequently received by the Archbishop of Zagreb, Cardinal Josip Bozanic, and in March she was nominated to receive a “Global Leadership Award” from Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute, which holds a yearly conflab at Wellington College in Berkshire, UK (I wrote about last year’s event here; Kristo’s nomination came via the World Congress of Families).

Kristo’s programme reportedly included extracts from Kinsey’s Paedophiles, a documentary which was aired in the UK as part of Channel 4’s Secret History strand in 1998. The programme had been made by British journalist Timothy Tate, and he joined Reisman in Croatia. Tate is himself a controversial figure, having played a role in popularizing Satanic panic in the 1980s; Philip Jenkins’ book Intimate Enemies: Moral Panics in Contemporary Great Britain (Aldine De Gruyter, 1992, page 161) has further details:

In 1987, [Tate] began to encounter American allegations about satanic rings, including charges of infanticide and ritual cannibalism. He presented these views in a controversial book, which apparently uncritically accepted as fact the charges brought against supposed witches and diabolists in the historical witch trials… Tate was also significant because he worked as a researcher for Central Television’s “Cook Report,” which in 1989 presented a sensational (and influential) documentary entitled The Devil’s Work. Tate wrote extensively on the topic of ritual abuse, and acted in an advisory capacity in the Nottingham investigation.

I gave an overview of the “Satanic Panic” saga here.

Third Wave “Apostle” Calls For Homosexuality to Remain Criminalized in Singapore

Sermon followed visit by key Newt Gingrich ally Pastor Jim Garlow

From Gaystarnews:

A Singaporean pastor has delivered a sermon titled God’s Pattern for Marriage in front of 3,000 people in which he called the LGBT movement ‘diabolical’.

‘I believe that God has awakened to face one of the greatest attacks on the family by the evil one,’ said Lawrence Khong.

Khong also called the LGBT rights movement the ‘onslaught of the evil one’.

Khong leads a megachurch, Faith Community Baptist Church, and such views are what we would expect. He describes himself as an “Apostle”, having been commissioned by none other than “Third Wave” neo-Pentecostal leader and theorist C. Peter Wagner. As noted previously, Wagner sees Christians as engaged in spiritual warfare against countervailing demonic powers that seek to control aspects of society; eventually, Christians will take dominion, and certain leaders will have their authority confirmed through supernatural abilities. In March, Khong attended an international  conference in Bogota, where he shared the stage with Cindy Jacobs (who was last blogged by me here).

However, in the context of Singapore, Khong’s stance means support for existing legislation by which homosexual activity between consenting men is punished by up to two years in prison; in January, his church was visited by former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, and he marked the occasion with a welcoming statement which included the following:

We affirm that the family unit comprises a man as Father, a woman as Mother, and Children. This is the basic building block of society, a value foundational for a secure future, a premise fundamental to nation-building.

We see a looming threat to this basic building block by homosexual activists seeking to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code.

Examples from around the world have shown that the repeal of similar laws have led to negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of the society. It takes away the rights of parents over what their children are taught in schools, especially sex education. It attacks religious freedom and eventually denies free speech to those who, because of their moral convictions, uphold a different view from that championed by increasingly aggressive homosexual activists.

We love our nation. We sincerely pray for and look to the Government to provide moral leadership in preserving this basic building block and foundation of our society. And with that, to robustly protect our constitutional rights to free speech and religious liberty; so as to ensure that social cohesion and religious harmony are maintained in Singapore.

Khong’s new sermon on the subject – which can be seen here – came in the wake of an event organized by Khong entitled “Momentum 2013”, with the tag-line “”Family Foundation Future”. According to the event’s blurb:

The Family, the basic building block of society, is under attack… We see a well-organised, well-funded global campaign with a political agenda to redefine Marriage and Family. What kind of Singapore will future generations inherit? Will homosexuality become the accepted norm?…

Singapore is unique. We are a society with conservative roots. We have a pro-Family Government. We must stand firm and support the efforts of our national leaders to preserve our core values. We are a small nation with a big Antioch call. Whatever happens to Singapore will affect Asia. Hasn’t God raised us up for such a time as this? To defend Singapore. To deliver Asia. To lift up the standard of the Lord against the global push toward mainstreaming homosexuality and legalising same-sex marriage!

There is also a description of the “Equipping Team”:

An alliance of local pastors, bible scholars, thought leaders, writers, ministry founders, ministry specialists and life-changing story-tellers. ALSO FEATURING Dr Jim Garlow: Best-selling author, communicator, commentator, historian, cultural analyst and Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, California. A leading evangelical leader in the USA, Jim founded and led the California Pastors Rapid Response Team, uniting several thousand pastors across the denominations in a victorious campaign to preserve the natural, biblical definition of Marriage. As a result, the California Constitution was amended to include this provision that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognised in California.

I discussed Jim Garlow just yesterday; he and close associate named Pastor Dan Cummins are currently organising a “Washington – A Man of Prayer” event on Capitol Hill, at which Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich will be among the speakers.

Khong’s assessment of Momentum 2013 can be found on Facebook; he writes:

Momentum 2013 was certainly a defining moment for Singapore, with more than 5,000 pastors, leaders and members of churches gathered for one resolve: To defend marriage and family in Singapore to be between a male as father, a female as mother with their children. We are fully convinced the Biblical foundation for the family is founded upon the marriage of a man and a woman

…The Bible begins with a marriage in the Garden of Eden and ends with the marriage of the Lamb – between Christ and the Church at the end of the world. This Marriage is the ultimate marriage, and can only be illustrated through the mystical union between a man and a woman in a lifelong monogamous relationship. This piece of truth was brought to us at Momentum 2013 by Dr Jim Garlow of Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego. He was also one of the key leaders who rallied the pastors of California together in defence of Proposition 8, which states that only a marriage between a man and a woman will be valid or recognised in California.

As I noted just yesterday, Garlow also heads Renewing American Leadership (ReAL), which was created to promote Newt Gingrich’s religious credentials ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Of course, Gingrich is not the first name that comes to mind when one ponders “the mystical union between a man and a woman in a lifelong monogamous relationship”.

Together at Last: Newt Gingrich and Jonathan Cahn

From the Bullard (TX) Banner News:

Pastor Dan Cummins of Bridlewood Church in Bullard, and founder of “Come Pray with Me,” has, for the second consecutive year, been granted use of Statuary Hall in the nation’s capitol as the venue for “Washington A Man of Prayer 2013” by Speaker of the House, John Boehner.

This is only the second time in over 100 years that a private Christian organization has been granted this privilege, both times to Pastor Cummins.

…This year’s keynote address will be given by Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Mwanwhile, Jonathan Cahn writes on Facebook that:

I need to ask you for your prayers and intercession On Wednesday night, May 8, there will be a special gathering held for Members of Congress. Newt Gingrich will be one of the speakers, Michele Bachmann, Tony Perkins, and a few others. To help close the event, I have been asked to speak.

Cahn’s rise to the Christian Right A-list has been rapid and unexpected; up until relatively recently, his religious teaching was somewhat esoteric, and based on claims to special insight into supposed Biblical “Hebrew mysteries”; however, he hit the big-time with the Harbinger, which links the failure of God to prevent the 9/11 attacks to the USA’s sins; Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson famously expressed the same sentiments back in 2001, but Cahn has constructed an apocalyptic narrative which fits 9/11 into a Biblical template designed to appeal to alienated conservative Christians in Obama-era America. His book has become a Christian bestseller, promoted by Joseph Farah at WND and by Stephen Strang at Charisma (Strang has explained that the book came about “as a result of prophecy”).

Cummins’ first “Washington – A Man of Prayer” event was held last year, and was sponsored by Louie Gohmert. Cummins is the Director of Church Relations for Jim Garlow’s Renewing American Leadership (ReAL) organization, and Garlow is involved with the event; as I noted previously, ReAL was created to facilitate the ludicrous spectacle of Gingrich’s incorporation into the Christian Right ahead of his 2012 presidential election bid. Cummins is also the author of He Shall Confirm the Covenant: Keys to Unlocking Daniel’s 70th Week, which promises “the most significant key in unlocking the timing of the events” of the Book of Revelation.

Pamela Geller to Address Jewish Defence League in Toronto

From the Canadian National Post:

Jewish activists say a Toronto-area rabbi has been pressured by an area police force to change plans to host a controversial anti-Islamist speaker, prompting accusations the force is squelching free speech.

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan, of the Chabad @ Flamingo Synagogue, cancelled plans to host a talk by Pamela Geller, an American blogger known for her criticism of Islam.

Meir Weinstein, director of the Jewish Defence League, the hardline group sponsoring the event, told the National Post he was shocked and mystified as to why the police got involved.

Kaplan is a volunteer chaplain with the York Regional Police force. According to Inspector Ricky Veerappan, who heads the York Regional Police force’s diversity, equity and inclusion bureau:

“Our concern is that Rabbi Kaplan is also a representative of the police, he wears a police uniform, and some of the comments that have been attributed to Ms. Geller really posed a conflict situation for us at York Regional Police.”

I can’t see what’s so “mystifying” about that. A Chabad rabbi also hosted Geller last month, following the cancellation of a planned talk at the Great Neck Synagogue, and the Toronto appearance will also now take place elsewhere.

I noted the Toronto Jewish Defence League in early 2011, when the group held a video conference with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, the head of the English Defence League; despite the similarly in the names, the JDL has a separate and unrelated history associated with the late Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Soon after that, the JDL became involved in a protest against a gay pride procession in the city; this was prompted by the possible inclusion in the parade of a group called “Queers Against Israeli Apartheid” (QuAIA), but the JDL’s opposition was of a coarsely anti-gay character; Xtra! reported:

By the end of the protest at the offices of Pride Toronto (PT) on April 15, members of the Jewish Defense League of Canada (JDL) were throwing anti-gay slurs like “fag” at a small, mostly silent group of rainbow flag-waving gay people.

…A JDL Facebook posting that circulated on April 12 states, “During the Nazi era, many high-ranking Nazis were gay.”

…At one point a JDL supporter, who identified himself as Naresh Patel from the Canadian Hindu Advocacy group, threatened this reporter in hushed tones, saying, “You’re lucky there’s cops here.”

…The protest lasted about an hour and a half before the JDL group packed up and left. But just before going, one protester yelled, “We’ll be back, fags.”


One JDL demonstrator, yelling into a megaphone, expressed frustration with the anti-gay slurs and told the PT supporters that “Some of us aren’t saying what we’re supposed to be saying.”

Kaplan also became involved in the controversy, after he criticised Jewish groups for supporting the involvement of a Jewish gay advocacy group (Kalunu) in the Gay Pride event as a counter to QuAIA; as he explained to LifeSiteNews:

“God loves all of His children, and I strongly believe in tolerance and respect for everybody in our society,” he told LifeSiteNews Tuesday.  But the Jewish groups “cannot endorse things like this, things that are antithetical to the Torah, and expect to still represent the Jewish community in a united way.”

…The Torah is “abundantly straightforward” on the issue of homosexuality, he said.  “The question then becomes, can Jewish tradition and the Torah be cast aside for the modern values of secularism and liberalism?  And can it be done without injuring, or even destroying, the sanctity of the Jewish values that have been in place for 3,300 years?  I believe the answer to that question is no.”

Kaplan’s initial comments were the subject of a six-month review, at the end of which Veerappan confirmed that “the specific allegations of a vile sermon were all unsubstantiated”. Veerappan also described Kaplan as a “great chaplain”.

The review also considered an email exchange between Kaplan and the Canadian Jewish Congress’s chief executive. Xtra! reproduced the full text, which includes the following from Kaplan:

And I am deeply ashamed of you and your cohorts who shamefully publically proclaimed your disconnection from the Torah’s code of sexual morality on Shabbat Kodesh Parshat Pinchas which tells us in glowing terms about the eternal righteousness of Pinchas who fought against the same spirit of public and flagrant violation of same in ancient times (homosexual or heterosexual is irrelevant — both were public displays of immodesty in the extreme!).

Here’s the Biblical story of Pinchas, also transliterated as “Phineas”, from Numbers chapter 25:

While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods… Then an Israelite man brought into the camp a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the tent of meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand 8 and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear into both of them, right through the Israelite man and into the woman’s stomach. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped…

Geller’s alliances with religious conservatives known for expressing anti-gay sentiments have proven problematic in the past, as we saw in relation to the Christian Action Network.

(H/T BigCityLib Strikes Back for some of the links)

Book Published by NYU Press Bills Putin Ally as One of “The World’s Foremost Thinkers”

A new book on the way, from the NYU Press:

22 Ideas to Fix the World Conversations with the World’s Foremost Thinkers

…In this unique volume from the World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations and the Social Science Research Council, some of the world’s greatest minds—from Nobel Prize winners to long-time activists—explore what the prolonged instability of the so-called Great Recession means for our traditional understanding of how governments can and should function. Through interviews that are sure to spark lively debate, 22 Ideas to Fix the World presents both analysis of past geopolitical events and possible solutions and predictions for the future.

…Interviews with: Zygmunt Bauman, Shimshon Bichler & Jonathan Nitzan, Craig Calhoun, Ha-Joon Chang, Fred Dallmayr, Mike Davis, Bob Deacon, Kemal Dervis, Jiemian Yang, Peter J. Katzenstein, Ivan Krastev, Will Kymlicka, Manuel F. Montes, José Antonio Ocampo, Vladimir Popov, Jospeh Stiglitz, Olzhas Suleimenov, Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Immanuel Wallerstein, Paul Watson, Vladimir Yakunin, Muhammad Yunus

That’s quite a line-up of intellectuals. However, the key name here is not the most famous, and it has the penultimate position: Vladimir Yakunin runs Russia’s state-owned railways, and he is a part of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. He also co-founded the World Public Forum, which co-produced the book and which perhaps therefore has some bearing on why he’s among the “World’s Foremost Thinkers”.

As I’ve discussed previously, the WPF holds regular “Dialogue of Civilizations” events involving academics, activists, and religious leaders. The range of those involved is unusually broad – recent events have included input from figures ranging from Noam Chomsky, whose critical view of the place of American power in the world is doubtless congenial to Russia, through to Don Feder, an arch-conservative “family values” fulminator whose social views fit well with Yakunin’s activism on behalf of Russian Orthodoxy. WPF events have also involved Helga Zepp-LaRouche, and it is claimed that Yakunin has cited her husband Lyndon LaRouche favourably. More on all these links here and here. There’s also apparently some interest at the WPF in extra-terrestrial matters.

Another oddity I’ve noted before is that one of Yakunin’s fellow WFP co-founders is a US-based businessman who is closely involved with the neo-Pentecostal sector of the Christian Right, particularly Rick Joyner and William “Jerry” Boykin. More on that here.

Vatican Astronomer Claims Thomas Horn “Twisted, Misquoted” His Words, “Invented Utter Falsehoods”

Here’s one from early last month – Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno writes on his Specolations website:

About a year ago, an author (whom I will not name or link to) conducted an extensive interview with me by email. I thought he was a legitimate journalist. However, seeing the ways in which he has twisted, misquoted, and invented utter falsehoods from the things I said, I have come to suspect that he is either a knave or a fool.

There are no Vatican secrets about UFOs. Neither I nor anyone I know has any evidence that extraterrestrials exist. We do not believe that “Jesus is a hybrid” or any of the other bizarre claims that this author makes. He is either seriously deluded, or a deliberate con-man…

The man who Consolmagno declines to name is Thomas Horn, author of a number of crank tomes and DVDs such as Exo-Vaticana: Petrus Romanus, Project L.U.C.I.F.E.R. and the Vatican’s Astonishing Plan for the Arrival of an Alien Savior (taglines include: “Unveiled! The Vatican’s Secret Plan for the Arrival of an Alien God!”… “The Role of Petrus Romanus for the coming Alien Serpent-Savior” etc) and Nephilim Stargates: The Year 2012 and the Return of the WatchersIt is the former of these  which purports to contain things “admitted” by Consolmagno.

Horn’s fare may seem too bizarre and marginal to be worth any attention, but his ramblings have been heavily promoted by WorldNetDaily, as I noted here and here. Horn appears to have an inroad into the wider Christian Right via Chuck Missler, who runs an evangelical ministry in Idaho called the Koinonia Institute – Horn is a member of Koinonia’s “Board of Regents“, alongside WND‘s editor Joseph Farah, Ergun Caner,  Jerome CorsiAlan Keyes, Tim LaHaye, several Calvary Chapel pastors, and others (including Binyamin Elon MK, a long-time US Christian Right ally).

Missler – who came to wide attention in 2007 for his argument that peanut butter disproves the theory of evolution – appears on the cover of Horn’s Exo-Vaticana book as the author of the book’s introduction (although his name is absent from some images of the cover). Some of Missler’s own religious teachings are extrapolated from a passing reference to the “Nephilim” – a race of giants – in the Book of Genesis, which he has fused to motifs taken from science fiction and pop culture concerning UFOs and such.

This site advertises Missler’s book Alien Encounters (co-authored by Mark Eastman), and a DVD entitled Return of the Nephilim:

This subject has not gone away. On the contrary, much new evidence has surfaced with global implications. Chuck explores the Biblical relevance and disturbing agenda of the apparent extraterrestrial life forms that have been forcing themselves into our global consciousness and reveals their most disturbing agenda.

(By the way, be sure to hover over the cover images for a nice little Easter egg) There are also details of a conference, which “took place in Roswell, New Mexico, on the 50-year anniversary of the famous Roswell UFO Incident.”

Missler and Horn are far from being the first persons to supplement their Christian beliefs with extravagantly eccentric pseudo-scientific speculations presented not only as fact, but as spiritually significant truth, but Missler is not confined to the outer fringes of US conservative Christianity – as well as the names on his “Board of Regents, he has featured on GOD TV, and his “Strategic Perspectives” conferences have attracted a range of high-profile speakers.

Somewhat oddly, Consolmagno’s response to Horn’s misrepresentation of him was brought to my attention via an email from Cliff Kincaid, who runs America’s Survival and Accuracy in Media. The email was not addressed to me personally – it seems that Kincaid was contacting various websites that had discussed Horn critically. At America’s Survival, Kincaid links to Consolmagno’s post and screencaps a WND article, and adds:

I am astounded that some Christians are taking this book seriously. The Vatican’s secret plan for the arrival of an alien god? This is too far out even for Alex Jones.

Or perhaps “too far out even for Cliff Kincaid”, whose own websites include The Soros Files and Lenin and Shariah, which promotes Joel Gilbert’s birther conspiracy. Kincaid’s “Accuracy in Media” recently gave an award to the ludicrous Jim Hoft, and Kincaid has is currently using AIM to promote Glenn Beck’s “Saudi student” Boston bombing conspiracy theory (Bret Baier’s comprehensive debunking of Beck’s claims is dismissed because he works for Fox and Fox is “part-Saudi owned”). Right Wing Watch has more on Kincaid here; I mentioned him in passing here.