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?
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’.