Why is critic of Islam advising the British military?

by Richard on July 19, 2012

From an email…

An article in Electronic Intifada by Ben White published today reveals that a British Ministry of Defence (MOD) adviser who helped write the “religious engagement strategy” in Kandahar believes Islam might “be the rod of God’s anger”.

Patrick Sookhdeo, a Visiting Professor at the UK’s Defence Academy and former advisor to the Permanent Joint Headquarters, has served in the role of “cultural adviser” to troops in Afghanistan and southern Iraq, and is also a regular speaker at churches and Christian organisations internationally.

Involved in pre-deployment training for commanders, and praised for his “stunning in-depth analysis” by Major General (ret) Tim Cross, General Officer Commanding Theatre Troops in Iraq 2004-’07, Sookhdeo is on the record as stating “everything about the West is inimical to Islam”, as well as seeing shar‘ia finance and even Muslim birth rates in the West as threats.

Sookhdeo has developed close ties with the British military at the same time as his reputation has grown in the so-called ‘Counter-jihad’ movement (individuals and groups recently highlighted in a Hope Not Hate report). In 2007, Sookhdeo was a speaker at a significant conference in Brussels, where other speakers included Robert Spencer, co-founder of ‘Stop the Islamization of America’.

The nature of Sookhdeo’s views and his relationship with the British military raises troubling questions. Has the MOD, which failed to respond to requests for comment, been aware all along of Sookhdeo’s teachings on Islam in Christian contexts? Would the UK military employ individuals who said equivalent things about other religious groups? And what does it say about our armed forces’ approach in Iraq and Afghanistan when such an individual is providing ‘cultural’ advice?

Read the article

Richard Bartholomew has picked up the article, noting

Sookhdeo runs the Barnabas Fund, which has done much to publicise the plight of persecuted Christians. However, I have seen a troubling disregard for accuracy or fairness in his some of Sookhdeo’s statements: in 2007 I noted how he had seriously misrepresented the content of a 1980 book of essays by Muslim writers in order to whip up fear about Muslims in the UK , and his response to a critical review by White in 2009 of his Global Jihad book was hysterical and unworthy: he claimed that White’s criticisms had somehow put his life at risk (Melanie Phillips also joined the fray).

Sookhdeo and the Barnabas Fund have also produced a booklet, entitled Slippery Slope: The Islamisation of the UK, which has been distributed to churches – last summer, I came across a copy in a small village church in the depths of the English countryside. Unsurprisingly, Sookhdeo works closely with the UK Christian Right group Christian Concern, which promotes his view that the increasing availability of halal meat is a sign of “Islamisation”.

I have to agree with Bartholomew: while these concerns should not rule Sookhdeo out of national consultations, it is troubling that he will be seen to be receiving endorsement from the military’s ‘top brass’.

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }


Ric 07.20.12 at 1:14 pm

From the rash of ‘green-on-blue’ killings in Afghanistan, we have to ask ourselves whether any Afghans are willing to work with anyone from NATO, even in their own cause. From Hamid Karzai’s willingness to knuckle under to the Taliban’s denial of education to women, we have to ask ouselves: what are we fighting for? Apart from the ‘rod of God’s anger’ comment which is blame-the-victim silliness, are Patrick Sookhdeo’s comments slander or fair comment?
At the risk of an ad hominem, Adam Levick has some sharp words about Ben White on ‘CiF Watch’.


Daphne Anson 07.20.12 at 5:27 pm

Richard, I assume you will wish to link to this article, on a great new Christian website that I thoroughly recommend to you and your readers:


Richard 07.20.12 at 8:18 pm

I’ll let it go, but I’m not really comfortable linking that website and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t do so again. It isn’t just that I don’t like the content: it talks about “balance” but provides none and rather smacks of Islamophobia. More seriously, it provides very little information about who is behind it. The company and website are registered to the same address as an Elim Pentecostal Church. It claims to be made up of organizations which represent 30 000 members, but gives no clue about who those organizations are. There is no physical address or phone number on the website, which to me raises questions about its legitimacy. Call me paranoid, but I’d like to know more about CMEW before I take it seriously.


Daphne Anson 07.21.12 at 6:57 pm

Richard, you baulk at linking to one article from this Christian site exposing the plight of your imperilled co-religionists in Gaza, and raise the spectre of “Islamophobia,”yet you think nothing of linking to articles from the heavy-duty Israel-bashing Electronic Intifada and, I noticed a few days ago, recommending something on the equally heavy-duty Mondoweiss re the BDS movement.


Richard 07.21.12 at 7:17 pm

Yes, I regard those websites as worthwhile sources. I don’t know anything about CMEW. Yet.


Kim 07.21.12 at 7:51 pm

Elim Pentecostalism, I’m pretty sure, holds to dispensationalist-premillenarianism. Such a loony eschatology would make any sensible person look askance at anything it has to say about the Middle East. Jews, in particular, should be very wary about anything it says about Israel: they are, ultimately, an expendable part of of a mega-violent end-time scenario — supersessionism with a vengeance.

My son-in-law’s grandmother is an Elim Pentecostalist. She once started talking to me about Israel and Palestine at a wedding reception (!). She isn’t too bright, but she was very scary.


Daphne Anson 07.21.12 at 7:56 pm

Worthwhile sources? Well, for demonising Israel they certainly are.
But after you have perused the following, I assume you won’t be linking to Mondoweiss any more:


Turning to the imperilled Christians of Gaza, this might be more to your taste. The writer , a Muslim himself, can hardly be accused of Islamophobia:


Perhaps you would care to bring it to your readers’ attention, Richard, by linking to it in a post.


Daphne Anson 07.21.12 at 8:04 pm

Sorry, Kim. You weren’t there when I began my post. But that smacks to me of blaming the messenger. Re Gaza’s imperilled Christians, Khaled Abu Toameh, no Elim Pentecostalist, can’t be so easily dismissed!


Ric 07.21.12 at 11:06 pm

‘Mondoweiss’ is an unashamedly anti-Zionist blog whose author openly expresses the view that the creation of the state of Israel was a mistake and would like its Jewish national character to disappear. The difference between Christian Zionists and Christian supersessionists is that Christian Zionists are content to wait until all Jews are ingathered to the Land of Israel, which they believe will trigger the coming of the Messiah, before starting to try to convert us to Christianity. As a Jew, I’m content to wait for that too, before having that conversation! Christian supersessionists believe that all Jews must be disabused of their ‘error’ right now, and one way to do it is to disconnect them from the Land of Israel. As in the natural operation of cause and effect, it is the order of events that is key. That is why I welcome the support of Christian Zionists and disdain supersessionists like the monstrous Richard Williamson.


Richard 07.21.12 at 11:37 pm

Help me out - remind me what I recommended from Mondoweiss. I’ve forgotten.


Ric 07.21.12 at 11:53 pm

5 supra:
“Yes, I regard those websites as worthwhile sources.”


Kim 07.22.12 at 6:41 am

So your apocalyptic enemy is your friend because he’s your earthly enemy’s enemy.


Richard 07.22.12 at 7:13 am

Ric - Daphne said “…you think nothing of linking to articles from the heavy-duty Israel-bashing Electronic Intifada and, I noticed a few days ago, recommending something on the equally heavy-duty Mondoweiss”. I was asking what specifically I had recommended, as I can’t remember, and don’t see anything on there That I recall linking to. It wasn’t a debating point: I was just asking for a reminder.


Ric 07.22.12 at 11:04 am

Yes, Kim. We’ve already had our apocalypse, thanks for asking. It was called the Shoah. The Messiah who didn’t report for that one is, as Hulk would say, a pretty puny God, and is going to face some pretty tough questions if He does show up.


Kim 07.22.12 at 1:41 pm

Don’t be hoodwinked by the demotic understanding of “apocalypse”. As a biblical literary genre, “apocalypse” (e.g., in Daniel) is actually good news to the faithful, as God judges the earth and rights global (indeed cosmic) wrongs. I take the Holocaust to be a human hell of significantly Christian making, not the apokalypsis Theou.


Ric 07.23.12 at 12:02 am

Yes, Kim, the Shoah was “a human hell of significantly Christian making”. A response in the spirit of promoting interfaith dialogue might be an acknowledgment that Jews appear to have been singled out for ’sonderbehandlung’ (special treatment) by the nations of the world and therefore have a moral right to secure their existence by any means necessary. Any suggestion that Jews should ‘learn’ from the Shoah to be more humble and compassionate to people who want to kill them is a rather silly insult that gets nobody anywhere.


Richard 07.23.12 at 12:23 am

No, Ric. Jews have not been ’singled out’. Remember that all of these conversations have been about the modern state of Israel, not Jews. A distinction that even my critics have been able to recognize when it suits them.


Ric 07.23.12 at 12:46 am

Richard, my ’sonderbehandlung’ referred to the treatment of Jews between 1881 and 1945. Interestingly enough, since the establishment of the modern State of Israel, massacres of Jews seem to have dried up. I wonder why?


Jemimah 07.23.12 at 8:45 am

For eqaulity purposes and access to all information, visitors of this blog may wish to consider the response posted by Dr Sookhdeo. It is available at http://patricksookhdeo.com


Kim 07.23.12 at 10:37 am

Any suggestion that Jews should ‘learn’ from the Shoah to be more humble and compassionate to people who want to kill them is a rather silly insult that gets nobody anywhere.

And who, pray tell, has made such a suggestion in this thread, Ric?


Ric 07.23.12 at 12:28 pm

Not on this thread, Kim. But it underlies a great deal of Christian (and Jewish anti-Zionist) criticism of Israel. Was it off-topic? Let the moderator decide.


Kim 07.23.12 at 3:28 pm

OK — sorry, Ric. I thought the comment was directed at me (it began “Yes, Kim”)


Daphne Anson 07.23.12 at 7:40 pm

I assume, Richard, that having now been apprised of the kind of site Mondoweiss is, you no longer consider it a “worthwhile” one?


Daphne Anson 07.23.12 at 7:45 pm

btw, here is where you linked to, or recommended, an article on Mondoweiss very recently:


Richard 07.23.12 at 8:03 pm

Thanks for that Daphne. As it turns out, I didn’t recommend the Mandoweiss link myself — that was an automatic trackback from the site when they linked here. That’s why I didn’t remember it.
However, I disagree with your assessment of Mandoweiss and will gladly link to it in the future.


Ric 07.23.12 at 10:14 pm

As the late, great Hugo Gryn would say when hearing something egregiously anti-Israel on ‘The Moral Maze’: “Wow!”
Maybe Geoffrey Alderman is right in the latest edition of ‘The Jewish Chronicle’


Kim 07.23.12 at 11:25 pm

“Consider this and then agree with me that the JC’s editor was only too right when he concluded that the Synod debate was not about Israel, but about Jews. It was about Jews because the Anglican Communion has - insofar as its attitude to Jews and to the Jewish state is concerned - returned to its Augustinian roots: the Jews are an accursed people; the promises the Almighty made to them have been transferred to the followers of Jesus; Jewish self-government in the Holy Land is an affront to the Christian spirit.”
– Geoffrey Alderman

Maybe Geoffrey Alderman is right in the latest edition of ‘The Jewish Chronicle’

Not. The idea that the “Anglican Communion” — though I’ll give Alderman the benefit of the doubt and presume that he means the “Church of England” (though the misnomer is indicative of his blunderbuss thinking) — is as virulently anti-Semitic as he alleges, both attitudinally and theologically, and that presumaby (as a fish rots from the head down) the “boss”, Rowan Williams — Rowan of all people — bears the brunt of culpability — this is scurrilous as well as ridiculous talk. And then to go on and call for an end to inter-faith conversations at a national lvel — what a responsible and constructive suggestion.

Here we are again: it’s this default position, this insistence that for Christians to be critical of the policies and actions of the state of Israel is, ipso facto, to be anti-Semitic. There is no doubt that there are anti-Semites in the C of E — in all Christian denominations — which is precisely why word-care must be exercised. It actually plays into the hands of real anti-Semites when word-care is not exercised, wrongly confirming them in their malicious stereotyping. But hey (evidently thinks Alderman), why use a scalpel when you’ve got a hatchet.

BTW, here is some more Hugo Gryn:
“That I spend much of my time working for better understanding between religious groups, is partly because I know that you can only be safe and secure in a society that practices tolerance, cherishes harmony and can celebrate difference.”
[Hugo Gryn, Chasing the Shadows: Hugo Gryn (London: Penguin Books, 2000), p. 257.]

Shalom chaverim


geoffff 07.24.12 at 2:31 pm

“No, Ric. Jews have not been ’singled out’. Remember that all of these conversations have been about the modern state of Israel, not Jews. A distinction that even my critics have been able to recognize when it suits them.”

If by your critics you include me Richard, I have never had the difficulty with nuance you seem to suggest.

The Jews have not been singled out because there is a distinction between the Jewish state and the Jews? Excuse me?

Sorry. No sale.

Criticism of Israel is one thing and of course is not of itself antisemitism. I don’t believe anyone has ever suggested it is. But Israel is singled out for condemnation out of all proportionate and held to a different standard. Much of the criticism of Israel is motivated by antisemitism and Jews everywhere are under increased threat as a result. You have to wonder why anyone would attempt to deny or mitigate this.

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