Last week Ben White wrote an article on The Electronic Intifada entitled: Why is critic of Islam advising Britain’s military?
The crux of the article was to question why Patrick Sookhdeo – Barnabas Fund – was acting in an advisory capacity to the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) given his views on Islam.
This article was duly uncritically reproduced across the Interweb, culminating in calls on Twitter for folk to complain to their MP.
Richard Bartholomew (for whom I have the highest respect) blogged on this and it’s noteworthy that in the comments a group called Christian Muslim Council made a robust defence of Patrick, which Richard subsequently blogged.
I have been in contact with Barnabas Fund and urged a response to this criticism; however, Patrick has been out of the country and unable to respond fully.
I have been promised a full response from Patrick that I’ll hopefully host here, but in the meantime, Barnabas Fund have asked that I reproduce an ‘initial response‘ which I am more than happy to do:
Ben White appears to believe that in his recent article on “The Electronic Intifada” website he has made a scoop by “revealing” for the first time that I not only have concerns about Islamism but also work as a cultural advisor for the British armed forces [Read Ben White’s article]. This is hardly news as I have never sought to hide either my views on Islamism or my involvement with the military. The former are easy to discover by anyone who can Google, and I mention the latter to almost every Christian audience I address. The fact that my work with the army is already in the public domain is evident from a number of the references in Ben White’s article.
In the interests of balance and accuracy, I would like to offer readers the opportunity to read in full my 2000-word letter of response to Ben White’s questions, parts of which he has appended to his article under the heading “Sookhdeo defends his work”. Read my letter to Ben White dated 15 July. Readers should be aware that I was not actually invited to “defend my work” but rather to answer four short questions, which I list below. Also, I was not responding to “The Electronic Intifada” but to Ben White personally, who had indicated only that he wanted to “clarify” some “points of information” for an article he was writing. I was not sent a copy of his completed article for comment, nor given any further indication of its content, before it was published on “The Electronic Intifada”. I consider that it is very misleading to present information derived in that way with the heading and explanation that White has used.
There are many journalists doing fine work with great integrity, work that promotes engagement, debate and critical analysis on issues of importance to us all. I am fully in favour of robust engagement with the global issues that concern many of us, as this enables us to develop an argued opinion. However, Ben White’s behaviour in manipulating me and distorting the facts, resulting in an article that is nothing more than his personal opinion, gives a bad name to the whole journalistic profession.
Ben White’s questions to me:
Do you currently teach at the UK’s Defence Academy and Permanent Joint Headquarters?
Are you still a “cultural adviser” to the UK armed forces, either pre-deployment, or in the field?
Can you expand on your role in helping write the religious engagement strategy in Kandahar?
In a talk [link] in 2007, you wondered if Islam might be “the rod of God’s anger”. Could you clarify what you meant by this?