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Operation Nehemiah: News Update #233

Operation Nehemiah: News Update #233

12 May 2016

UK Anti-Semitism and support for Hamas among politicians

For the past few weeks headlines in the UK have been dominated by issues of Anti-Semitism within the UK Labour Party. Operation Nehemiah has held back from commenting on this till now due to imminent elections in the UK. However, now that these are over, this is an issue that is far too important to ignore, not least because some of the forces promoting Anti-Semitism also promote the persecution of Christians.

To date one Labour MP, more than 50 Labour councillors and former mayor of London Ken Livingstone have in recent weeks been suspended from the UK Labour Party for publicising Anti-Semitic comments. Both the chief Rabbi and Israeli ambassador have voiced serious concern about Anti-Semitism in the UK Labour Party as has the leader of the Israeli Labour Party, while several prominent Jewish Labour donors have withdrawn their support. In response, Labour Leader Jeremey Corbyn has set up an enquiry into Anti-Semitism in the party. However, Mr Corbyn himself has been challenged over his own support for Palestinian terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah who he has previously described as "friends".

A spokesman for the Board of Deputies of British Jews said it has been "shocked and dismayed" at a refusal to accept problems of Anti-Semitism in the party and called on Mr Corbyn to display "clarity about people and groups with whom it is not appropriate to share panels." 

Comment: Back in the 1930s Anti-Semitism was more likely to be found among a minority on the political Right, now it is more common among certain segments of the political Left. There are several reasons for this and it is important to understand them to fully appreciate why it is only a certain portion of the Left that hold such views that many ordinary Labour Party members, councillors and MPs are appalled at.

First, much of the political Left has brought into political correctness, which in a hangover from Marxism divides the world into either oppressors or oppressed. Muslims are put into the category of “oppressed” while Christians and Jews are deemed to be part of the western majority that has “oppressed” them. That 6 million Jews died in the holocaust illustrates the arbitrariness of this classification.

Secondly, in the last two decades Labour politicians in the UK have actively and very successfully sought to secure the Muslim vote. However, the growing influence of Muslims within the Labour Party has brought with it what Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan not long ago described in the left leaning New Statesman magazine as “our dirty little secret…the banality of Muslim anti-Semitism”. He added that such Anti-Semitism “isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace.”

Thirdly, together these have created what is often at best a naivety and at worst an unwillingness to look, that has refused to recognise the incompatibility of the Islamist political agenda with human rights we take for granted, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. There have been significant exceptions to this, such as Labour MP Louise Ellman who has repeatedly raised concerns about Islamism in Britain. However, the comments on Hamas and Hezbollah by Jeremey Corbyn, the UK’s official Leader of the Opposition illustrate the extent of the problem. Even the left leaning Guardian newspaper raised concerns about Mr Corbyn’s links with Islamists last summer when he sought to become Labour leader. Hezbollah is a terrorist group set up in Lebanon by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, who have a specific duty under the Iranian constitution to export the Iranian Islamic revolution abroad. While Hamas are not merely anti Semitic, their theology denies that Jews are even human beings. They base this on a reference in the Qur’an to Allah turning Jews who broke the Sabbath into apes and pigs (Q2:65, 5:60,7:166). Hamas do not regard this as simply a one off supposedly historical event affecting a small group of Jews, but claim that all current Jews are descended from these animals and therefore only appear to be human, but are actually apes and pigs in disguise and therefore legitimate targets of suicide bombings. To be fair, Mr Corbyn, probably does not know this, although this view is widely promoted by clerics on Palestinian media, which itself illustrates the problem of naivety and refusing to look.

Fourthly, the UK Labour Party which once had a strong Christian tradition has in common with other political parties become increasingly secularised and in some respects stridently so. Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson reputedly once remarked that “Labour owes more to Methodism than to Marx”, yet the erosion of that Christian influence has allowed ideologies such as political correctness to take root. The current crisis it faces over Anti-Semitism presents an opportunity for it to reflect and recover some of those Christian based values of tolerance, freedom of religion, dignity and respect for all people that were once deeply ingrained in it.


UK London gets first Muslim mayor

Last week London elected Sadiq Khan as mayor, making him the first Muslim mayor in any major European city.  His victory followed an acrimonious campaign after rival candidate Zac Goldsmith accused him of being too closely linked with Islamist extremists to oversee London’s policing, while he in turn accused his opponent of running a smear campaign. However, Mr Khan was elected with 57% of the vote.

Comment:  During this campaign Mr Khan’s political opponents threw a range of questions at him relating to his associations with radical Islamists. Some of these were frankly unfair – such as the criticism that as a lawyer he had defended extremists in court. It is hardly fair to suggest that defending someone accused of a crime constitutes support for that crime. However, Sadiq Khan still remains to answer other more legitimate criticism. As a politician he has repeatedly chosen to share platforms with radical Islamists and organisations supporting Islamists. For example, he spoke alongside the jihadist rights group CAGE who later described IS executioner jihadi John as a “beautiful young man” and even wrote the foreword to one of their reports. In April the Times reported that Mr Khan had shared platforms with a number of prominent supporters of jihadist violence including Sajeel Abu Ibrahim, a member of the now banned al-Muhajiroun, who ran a camp in Pakistan which trained militants to fight with the Taliban, the same camp which trained Mohammad Siddique Khan the leader of London 7/7 bombings which killed 52 people.That conference was organised by an extremist who had already been arrested in connection with the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing in New York and was later convicted. Significantly, less than three weeks before last week’s election  Atma Singh, who was Asian affairs adviser to Ken Livingstone, the former Labour mayor, in an article for the Sunday Times raised serious concerns about Mr Khan’s associations with Islamists accusing him of being “far too willing to turn a blind eye to terrorism”.

Yet at the same time, Sadiq Khan has in recent times spoken out against Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party and been a supporter of much of Labour’s socially liberal legislation including gay marriage.  So is he an Islamist or isn’t he?  Former extremist Majid Nawaz argues that Mr Khan is simply an opportunist politician who woos different groups of people to get their vote. Yet this poses very uncomfortable questions about the extent to which some politicians now feel they need to appease Islamist sentiment to get elected. As we reported a month ago a recent Channel 4 TV survey showed that in areas of the UK that are more than 20% Muslim, which include several London boroughs, 23% of Muslims supported the creation of areas in the UK being governed by shari’a rather than UK law and 18% supported the use of violence against anyone mocking Muhammad. If that is now part of the broad tent of voters that some politicians feel they need to win favour with, then we have a major problem.

Mr Khan will now be judged by what he does as mayor. However, it will not be how many churches or synagogues he visits that will count, but whether he continues to court the favour of those who support extremism. Mr Khan urgently needs to give Londoners a categorical assurance that he will never ever again share a platform with those who support extremism and regrets having done so in the past.


UK: Islamic bus advertisements allowed on buses but Christian ads banned

The Yorkshire Post has reported that before and after Ramadan which should begin on June 6th hundreds of buses in Birmingham, Bradford, Leicester, Manchester and London will display large advertising banners designed to promote Islam, which have been paid for by Muslim international aid agency Islamic Relief. The Yorkshire Post has raised concerns that similar advertisements by Christians have recently been banned, including a recitation of the Lord’s prayer by the archbishop of Canterbury which was banned by three cinema chains last Christmas and in 2014 Transport for London banned bus advertisements that sought to combat prejudice against people who had left homosexual lifestyles by saying  that some people are “ex-gay…get over it!”.

Comment: One of the major problems of political correctness is that it treats people differently according to which “group” they are identified as members of. Groups deemed to have been victims of past oppression are protected from criticism, while other groups deemed to be responsible for that oppression have restrictions placed on what they can say in case they offend the protected groups. The system is highly arbitrary – Christians and Jews are treated as being in the second category, despite Christians being the most widely persecuted group in the world today and 6 million Jews having been killed in the holocaust. It is also anachronistic – why should people in the present generation be discriminated against because of the supposed actions of previous generations. It is also fundamentally unfair to discriminate against  people according to “group” they belong to? However, it is dressed up this is pure and simple religious discrimination.


Northern Ireland: Attorney General supports appeal by Christians who refused to bake gay cake

As we reported in February last year Daniel and Amy McArthur the Christian owners of Asher’s bakery in Northern Ireland were prosecuted after politely declining to bake a cake saying “support gay marriage”. In March last year they were convicted of discrimination against gay rights activist Gareth Lee who had asked them to bake the cake and fined £500. The McArthur’s appeal is currently being heard after being adjourned in February so that Northern Ireland’s attorney general John Larkin QC could make representations in the case. Now that the appeal has resumed, the attorney general has backed the McArthurs appeal. The Belfast Telegraph reported that he told the judges:

"I say very clearly, if it was a case where Mr Lee had been refused some of Ashers’ excellent chocolate eclairs because he was gay or perceived to be gay I would be standing on the other side of the court. But it's not about that, it's about expression and whether it's lawful under Northern Ireland constitutional law for Ashers to be forced... to articulate or express or say a political message which is at variance with their political views and in particular their religious views."

Referring to century-old legislation, Mr Larkin submitted: "Northern Ireland has always had constitutional protection for religious beliefs."

The attorney general also questioned whether the regulations that the McArthurs were convicted under was compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights as it implied that bakers would be compelled to put the words they profoundly disagreed with such as 'There is no God' or 'Christianity is a lie' on a cake.

Comment:  At the heart of this court case is the question of who is the victim and who is the aggressor? Gay rights activist Gareth Lee claims to be the victim. However, there are strong reasons to suppose that in fact, he is deliberately seeking to impose his own belief system on a Christian business. This is not an isolated case. Ashers bakery is well known in Northern Ireland with a chain of nine bakehouses and coffee shops, whose website does not hide the fact that the owners are Christians – and that the name “Ashers” in based on the Bible. Mr Lee placed his order just 10 days after Northern Ireland’s assembly had voted against allowing gay marriage, an outcome which gay rights activists blamed Christians for.

In some respects the case parallels that of Peter  and HazelMary Bull, who in 2011 were taken to court by two gay rights activists for refusing them a double room in their guesthouse, which was also their family home. Their website specifically advertised it as a ‘Christian hotel’  which only let double rooms to married couples. 

Ashers bakery is not the first Christian bakery to be targeted by being asked to bake cakes supporting gay marriage. In fact the Belfast case bears remarkable similarities to two earlier cases in the USA. In 2012 a Christian bakery owner in  Colorado was taken to court after he declined an order to bake a gay wedding cake. While in 2013 a Christian bakery in Oregon which refused to bake a lesbian wedding cake was similarly prosecuted. Significantly, both of these were widely reported in both gay news media and mainstream press in the UK with appeals that were ongoing at the time that Ashers were asked to bake a cake promoting gay marriage. It is therefore very likely that Mr Lee was fully aware of these cases when he walked into Ashers bakerery in May 2014 to place an order for a cake emblazoned with the words “Support gay marriage”.

If Christian businesses are indeed being  targeted by a minority of gay rights activists  intent on imposing their own beliefs on them, then it is particularly disturbing that the case against Ashers bakery in Belfast has been brought by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission. Far from promoting “equality “ the Commission appears to be ideologically driven by political correctness that prioritises the rights of  groups it favours over others, such as Christians. Significantly, the actions of the NI Equality Commission in  bringing the case against this Christian bakery has drawn criticism even from some gay rights activists such as Peter Tatchell who, as we reported earlier, has courageously spoken out in support of the McArthurs.  One of the disturbing aspects of this case is that because Mr Lee has had his case taken up by the NI Equality Commission which is funded by the taxpayer, he will have no costs to pay whether or not the court finds in his favour. However, the McArthurs have to pay their own legal costs. That is a situation which is profoundly unfair and unjust and could force the closure of Christian businesses which are targeted. To counter this threat, we would therefore urge any of our readers who visit Northern Ireland to visit Ashers bakery and coffee shops and support their business!


Germany: majority of Christian refugees targeted by Islamists

Deutsche Welle has reported that a survey of Christian refugees in Germany has found that 88% said they had been targeted by other migrants because of their faith, while nearly half of them also said that they felt those in charge of the refugee shelters discriminated against religious minorities, with security personnel, who are predominantly Muslim in the shelters, sometimes also harassing them. Of those surveyed, 42 percent have reported insults, 37 percent said they suffered a physical injury, and 32 percent reported having received death threats.

This week a coalition of human rights organisations in Germany warned that there is “fear and panic” among 40,000 Christian and other non-Muslim refugees in the country who are being harassed because of their faith.

Comment: This is an issue that Barnabas Fund has raised time and time and time again since last summer, both in respect of Germany and elsewhere. Only last week we reported on similar attacks on Christian refugees in Sweden. In January we spoke of Europe now facing a crisis of values. The simple fact is that liberal notions of multiculturalism that assume that everyone else shares similar values to ourselves have failed. They have failed because they have refused to recognise the historic importance of the Judaeo-Christian worldview in developing those values in Europe over many centuries. This failure is now leaving many Christian refugees deeply vulnerable even in Europe when they should have been protected.


EU/Turkey Why has the Turkish Prime Minister resigned?

Operation Nehemiah has for several weeks raised concerns about increasing violations of human rights in Turkey, including the recent seizure of churches on the direct orders of the cabinet, arrests of journalists and closure of opposition  newspapers, all at the same time that Turkey is being promised fast track accession to the EU. In the latest twist in this saga Turkish Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoglu has resigned, apparently after a disagreement with President Erdogan.

Comment:  There are many reasons why Mr Davutoglu may have fallen out with the President Erdogan who has shown increasingly authoritarian tendencies. Yet, it must be remembered that Mr Davutoglu has for many years been a loyal supporter of President Erdogan and a key figure in the ruling AK Party.  One possible aspect of this is that as we reported two weeks ago, the AK Party Speaker of the Turkish parliament somewhat let the cat out of the bag by declaring that Turkey should have an Islamic constitution. The AK Party has for years sought to portray itself to the West as a modern democratic party, whereas the speaker’s comments made explicit what has been implicit for a long time, that the AK Party has an Islamist agenda. At the time, the Prime Minister, Ahmed Davutoglu responded by saying that Turkey’s new constitution would feature the principle of Secularism. However, little more than a week after saying this, Mr Davutoglu resigned following a two hour meeting with President Erdogan. Commenting on his resignation a spokesman for the President said the country would stabilise "when a Prime Minister more closely aligned with President Erdogan takes office". Although the western media have focused on differences between the two men in relation to whether the new constitution should give enhanced powers to the president, the timing makes it equally likely that the issue of whether Turkey should have a secular or Islamic constitution was also at stake. If indeed, President Erdogan is seeking to foist an Islamic constitution on Turkey, the EU needs to be very clear that such a move would be incompatible with the values underpinning EU membership. As such the question we raised two weeks ago – how much will German Chancellor Angela Merkel compromise to keep Turkey on board with the EU migrant deal – becomes even more critical.