You may well have heard of Patrick Sookhdeo, the director of Barnabas Fund and the Institute of the Study of Islam and Christianity (ISIC). Sookhdeo’s organisation Barnabas Fund supports persecuted Christians in various parts of the world, be they living under economic hardship, warfare, civil war, or totalitarian regimes. As such, Sookhdeo speaks out for the rights of Christians in North Korea, Iraq, Gaza and Nigeria, among other places. Sookhdeo is also vocal in his call for the apostasy law to be abolished throughout the Islamic world. Whatever one’s religious persuasion, this is clearly a positive step for supporters of human rights.
With regards to Muslims and Christians, Sookhdeo’s ISIC aims to provide an “objective, robust and rigorous understanding of the relevant issues and their implications for Islamic and western societies” and “is committed to human rights, religious freedom, equality and respect for all and stands against all forms of discrimination and incitement to hatred.” Sookhdeo has also lectured British and NATO military officers on the very real threat posed by radical Islam.
Yet recently, Sookhdeo has been facing much opposition from within the Christian world as much as outside of it. Last week, many were shocked to learn that Ben White, a notorious anti-Zionist supporter of terrorism who claims to understand antisemitism, had his review of Sookhdeo’s Global Jihad published on the Anglican website Fulcrum. (You can read Barnabus Fund’s response to White here).
Curiously, a post was been put up on the Distinctly Welcoming blog in praise of Ben White’s article. Distinctly Welcoming is run by Richard Sudworth, a blogger on the planning team of the Christian interfaith movement Faith to Faith with Bryan Knell.
According to the Barnabas Fund, however, Knell is leading a wider Christian movement seeking to target and defame Sookhdeo. Sookhdeo’s concerns about the spread of political Islam, the implications of a sharia law system being introduced in Britain, and the implications of adopting literal interpretations of certain verses of the Quran deserve to be heard, even if one doesn’t agree with all of his conclusions.
Bryan Knell, the man who called the CRIB meeting, is interested in finding a “new approach” to Islam from a Christian perspective. Yet Knell’s approach appears to be principally concerned with the demands of radical Islamism rather than Islam itself. If we are in any doubt of this, consider Knell’s Muslim World Forum, which claimed to deal with issues relevant to Muslims. The only paper discussed at the MWF was Stephen Sizer’s polemic against Christian Zionism. Knell himself has exclusively blamed Israel for the lack of peace in the Middle East.
In choosing to oppose Sookhdeo in such a seemingly underhanded way, Knell undermines the struggle against militant Islam and the brave attempts by Sookhdeo to bring an end to the apostasy law. As Knell himself works for a missionary organisation, it seems paradoxical that he should use his political clout in a way that could adversely affect converts to Christianity.
Knell’s choice to invite Colin Chapman to his secret CRIB meeting is very revealing. Chapman is the anti-Zionist author chiefly responsible for re-introducing Jewish power theories to Christianity in the context of Christian anti-Zionism. Chapman wrote the book “Whose Promised Land?” in 1983, which spawned the Christian anti-Zionism movement in the UK.
Knell’s connections with known antisemitic sources such as Sizer, Chapman and White are indicative of an intolerant and distorted perspective on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish people. However it is interesting to note that many Christian anti-Zionists are now turning against Christians in the West who support persecuted Christians in Muslim countries. Such a phenomenon is eerily reminiscent of the decision of much of the British Left to abandon its comrades in Iraq and Iran in favour of anti-imperialist ideology.
The worldview of Bryan Knell is ultimately as anti-Christian as it is anti-Jewish, abandoning both groups to the horrors of radical Islam. Whatever our worldview or religious persuasion, we would all be wise to sign the Barnabas Fund petition for the abolition of the Islamic apostasy law.