Who’s endangering who?

Nearly a month ago, I flagged up a review by Ben White on an evangelical website of a new book by Patrick Sookhdeo, who I have taken to calling Sookhdevil for reasons anybody who has read his newspaper and magazine articles will know. A couple of weeks later, I got a flood of comments attacking my post, most commonly for having trashed Sookhdeo’s book without having read it. I allowed a few of the comments through; I deleted most of them, as I suspected they were orchestrated as I don’t want my blog becoming a cesspit for pointless debate between Islamophobic bigots and ill-tempered Muslims. However, it now appears that my post has stimulated some debate among the evangelical community, with a post at the Barnabas Fund (run by Sookhdeo) claiming that he has been put in danger by Ben White telling me about his article and my flagging it up. (More: Bartholemew’s Notes [1], [2], Andrew Brown, Seismic Shock, with a statement by Ben White.)

It appears that people are concerned that my use of the epithet “Sookhdevil” has been taken up by various other, so-called radical Muslim, websites. Their definition of “radical” is pretty loose: they judge me a radical because I follow a madhhab: “he is pro-madhhab … Madhhab is the word for a school of sharia, Islamic law, so this means that he is pro-sharia, i.e. a radical Muslim”. This is typical of Sookhdeo’s rather liberal way with words; for most of us, a “radical Muslim” is one who advocates certain types of political action. It also appears that they are more irritated by Ben White tipping me off than with what I’ve written (originally here):

Why should an evangelical Christian go out of his way to point out to a radical Muslim a negative review of another evangelical Christian’s book? Was he put up to it by the evangelical group Fulcrum? If so, what was their purpose? To destroy the Sookhdevil and his ministry?

As a matter of fact this kind of betrayal of one Christian by another to a Muslim is not as uncommon as you might think, especially if - as in this case - the betrayer is white and the betrayed is not. Let me give you another example.

In December 2005, Pastor Daniel Scot was speaking in Australia to Christians about Islam. Scot, originally from Pakistan, had moved to Australia because of persecution in his home country, where his bold defence of the Christian faith had led to him being accused under Pakistan’s “blasphemy law”. In Victoria, Australia, he had fallen foul of the new state law on religious “vilification”, in a case brought by the Islamic Council of Victoria. (Incidentally, Gary Bouma, a white Anglican priest, gave evidence for ICV against Scot because he did not like charismatic Christians.) White Christians who attended the 2005 meeting - which was not in Victoria - took Scot’s material to the Islamic Council of Victoria to get him into still more trouble. Imagine the distress this betrayal caused him.

For my part, I have no intention of disrupting any campaign to protect Christians in the Muslim world, or anywhere else. That is not my objection to Sookhdeo’s writings and never has been. My objection is that he defames Muslims in his writings, which have appeared not in obscure Evangelical publications but in mainstream political magazines such as the Spectator, and even major newspapers such as the Evening Standard in London. He makes alarmist and false claims about the designs Muslims supposedly have on the west, such as that we “sacralise” public spaces by means of marches and processions, when in fact there is no Islamic ritual which involves such activity. Any opportunity he finds to raise fear about Muslims or make Islam out to be a threat, he does so. I fail to see how this helps protect Christians anywhere else. If anything, for someone involved in such work to be stirring up Christians against Muslims in the west puts that work in jeopardy.

Why did I condemn his book without reading it? Normally, doing such a thing makes you look very ignorant (as was the case most recently with those who condemned the title of the film Slumdog Millionaire, when if they had seen the film, they would have known that the term “slumdog” was only used by baddies, namely a gangster and a corrupt cop), but I had actually read an awful lot of Sookhdeo’s other writings on Islam, which were given great prominence in the Standard, Telegraph and Spectator. My own observations bear out the claim in Ben White’s review that Sookhdeo’s book contains very basic, stupid historical inaccuracies.

While we are on the subject of Sookhdeo, can anyone tell me where he got his name from? It is not his real surname; I did a Google search for some common Muslim and Christian names followed by Sookhdeo and Sukhdev, from which it seems to be derived, and found no examples of people with such names. The name Sookhdeo looks like a corruption of Sukhdev, a common Hindu name (the words deo and dev both mean god, in the former case with or without a capital G); why would a man who converts from Islam to Christianity adopt a Hindu surname? Something does not seem quite right here.

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