A couple of days ago, I received a circular e-mail (this link appears to be the same) from the Barnabas Fund, of which I am a supporter, alleging a concerted campaign against its director, Patrick Sookhdeo, and members of its staff.
The e-mail referred to “an article by an anonymous Western missionary, which ... has appeared on various websites” and which described “what appears to be an orchestrated, multi-pronged attack on Patrick Sookhdeo (and therefore on Barnabas Fund) and other evangelical Christians.”
The e-mail went on, “The most shocking element is the deliberate passing of negative criticism about Patrick from an evangelical Christian to a radical Muslim,” and claimed that, “We have checked several of the allegations in the article and found all of them to be correct.”
One of these allegations, borne out on his website, is that a Muslim blogger, Indigo Jo, had indeed had his attention drawn to a negative review of Patrick Sookhdeo’s book “Global Jihad” on the Fulcrum website by the author of the piece, Ben White. In fact, White has posted a further comment on this site to say, jokingly, that he would not “describe [himself] as a conservative Christian ;)”.
Indigo Jo, meanwhile, whose real name is Matthew Smith, describes himself as a convert to Islam, and thus also takes the name Yusuf. Jo’s name for Sookhdeo, rather less charmingly, is Sookhdevil, a name which he seems to have coined as early as 2005.
Jo’s hostility to Sookhdeo is thus clear, and one does indeed wonder at the appropriateness of Ben White’s eagerness to point Jo in the direction of his own criticisms of Sookhdeo, if White is a Christian at all (a denial that he is a conservative Christian obviously being not the same as a denial of any Christian faith).
Meanwhile, there was enormous excitement on the Fulcrum discussion forums about two different versions of a response to White’s review by David Zeidan, who is associated with the Barnabas fund, and Tawfik Hamid, who I understand is not.
A version sent round by Barnabas e-mail was considerably less temperate in some of its language than that which appeared on the Fulcrum website as a reply to White’s critique. This is perhaps to be regretted, but it led to speculation by Graham Kings, the Theological Secretary of Fulcrum, as to who might be responsible for the intemperate sections (see his message 10104, here).
All this put me in mind of St Paul’s warning to the Galatians, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” And indeed, in the spirit of this warning I had a telephone conversation several days ago with David Zeidan to try to answer some of Graham King’s questions. I was also telephoned by Graham Kings, though unfortunately just as I was leaving on holiday so that I was unable to talk for long.
It would be inappropriate to go into detail, but what both these conversations confirmed to me was that there was considerable heat being generated for reasons which were not immediately clear.
I was therefore further concerned that the article quoted in the later Barnabas e-mail spoke of an “invitation-only meeting ... at All Nations Christian College 21-22 July 2008” at which, it is alleged, “a document was drafted called Gracious Christian Responses to Muslims in Britain Today” which aims (it is further alleged) “to discredit two British Christian leaders who are converts from Islam (one being Patrick Sookhdeo)”.
The Barnabas e-mail states specifically,
We have confirmed by a telephone call to the principal of All Nations Christian College that the secret meeting described in the article was held on their premises in July 2008 and that a representative of the college was in attendance. He emphasised that in no way did the college sponsor the meeting, but simply that the group used their premises and the college felt it important that a member of their staff should be present.It stated further that the specific targets of Gracious Responses are Patrick Sookhdeo and Sam Soloman (another Muslim convert, and also, as it happens, known to me personally). The e-mail then goes on to request prayer, especially for Sookhdeo, Soloman and the work of the Barnabas fund.
Now my own point in posting all this is along the lines of Matthew 10:26, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Most Christians in this country will be blissfully unaware of these actions and allegations. And many others, like me, will be very unclear as to what is actually going on.
If the anxieties at the Barnabas Fund are groundless, then at very least they should be reassured and should pass that reassurance on to their supporters. If, on the other hand, there is substance to them, then that needs to be made public and responded to accordingly by the wider Christian community. And above all, if there are untruths being spread, either accidentally or deliberately, then these must be corrected.
So I invite comment and clarification, absolutely none of which will be published without a name and address.
Revd John Richardson
22 February 2009