Tolerance of Islamic intolerance is the Home Office's cardinal doctrine
By Jules Gomes
December 10, 2016
Our Prime Minister may be a Christian, but you could be forgiven for believing that our Home Office is now an Islamic fiefdom. Why else ban the Archbishop of Mosul from visiting the UK, but issue visas to Muslim preachers who advocate the stoning of homosexuals?
It is an historic moment in the historic city of Mosul (bordering Nineveh--the cradle of ancient civilisation). Over 100,000 Christians fled the Iraqi city in one night after so-called Islamic State (Isis) launched a genocidal jihad against the Christian population, who numbered two million in 2003. The entire population was issued with a 24-hour ultimatum--convert to Islam or die.
Iraqi and Kurdish fighters supported by coalition air strikes are fighting to free Mosul from the stranglehold of Isis in a knife-edged battle that reminds me of Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade.
The Archbishops of Mosul and of the Nineveh valley, Nicodemus Daoud Sharaf and Timothius Mousa Shamani should be hailed as heroes. In June, Archbishop Nicodemus was in Strasbourg addressing the European Centre for Law & Justice on the genocide facing one of the world's oldest Christian communities.
But our Home Office slammed the door in their faces and told them there was no room in the Immigration Inn, even though they were invited to attend the consecration of the UK's first Syriac Orthodox cathedral in London to which Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter to be read out to the congregation. The Home Office also refused entry to Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, the Archbishop of Homs and Hama in Syria.
Mrs May's letter told the congregation how 'the appalling violence that has afflicted so many areas of the Middle East reminds us how fortunate we are to live in a country where different religious beliefs are not only tolerated, but welcomed.' Did you really mean that, Prime Minister?
If so, will St Theresa of 10 Downing Street, daughter of the Rev Hubert Brasier, regular worshipper at St Andrew's Church, Sonning and longest-serving Home Secretary of modern times, please tell us why she aimed her steel-toed brogues (or was it her mock-croc stilettos?) at the three archbishops while opening Britain's back door to Muslim preacher Hamza Sodagar who calls for gays to be beheaded or thrown off a cliff?
Is Mrs May asking us not only to tolerate but to welcome Imam Sodagar's intolerant 'different religious beliefs' that call for gay men to be burned to death? Why does the Home Office grant Hamza Sodagar a visa to lecture at the Islamic Republic of Iran School in London while at the same time refusing to grant the archbishops of Mosul, Nineveh and Homs visas to attend a consecration at which Prince Charles is guest of honour?
Is it because the archbishops did not have enough funds to support themselves? Or is it because they might not leave the UK? The Home Office cites these as the official reasons for denying visas to the archbishops. It simply beggars belief! If the archbishops had to flee their beloved war-torn countries, they could have done so long ago. Did the Home Office ask a similar question while playing Santa Claus and shoving hundreds of thousands of pounds in housing and child welfare benefits into the stockings of Muslims who travelled to join Isis, as Lord Carlile, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, now reveals?
Is Home Office immigration policy one of different strokes for different folks? The answer is a resounding yes. The grotesque case of moral inversion with the Iraqi archbishops and Hamza Sodagar is the rule, rather than the exception. Western tolerance of Islamic intolerance is the Home Office's cardinal doctrine.
In 2013, when Theresa May was Home Secretary, the Home Office refused to grant a visa to Melkite Catholic Robert Spencer. Spencer, a world renowned Islamic scholar and a US citizen, is director of Jihad Watch and has led seminars on Islam and jihad for nearly every intelligence wing of the US administration. He has appeared on nearly every major international television channel. During the same period, the Home Office welcomed Muhammad al-Arifi, who advocates Jew-hatred, wife beating, and jihad, into the UK. Mr Spencer's crime is that he is warning the Western world to beware of Islamic jihad.
Earlier this week the Home Office refused entry to two senior members of the Church of Pakistan invited for a short trip to Glasgow. They are now reviewing the decision after criticism from the Church of Scotland. In a Kafkaesque twist, in the same period the Home Office granted a visa to Pakistani hate preacher Syed Muzaffar Shah Qadri who has been banned by Pakistani authorities from preaching in Karachi! Qadri will spout his venom at Falkirk Central Mosque later this month while the Pakistani Christians still await the Home Office's decision.
If only this disease were not endemic, my first reaction would be to blame Home Secretary Amber Rudd. Ms Rudd's department recently produced guidance on asylum claims from Syria. It fails to even mention Christians! The same guidance recommends that senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood should be granted asylum in the UK in case they face ill treatment in Egyptian prisons. This despite the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has repeatedly incited violence against Egyptian Christians, leading to around 80 churches being burned down since 2013, and has declared a violent jihad against the Egyptian government.
Or I would blame Minister of State for Immigration Robert Goodwill, who is an Anglican as well as a member of the Cornerstone Group, which like our own Conservative Woman, stands for values of Faith, Flag and Family.
Or is there someone else to blame?
As a Christian who loves this country and who is proud to be an Anglophile, I know the feeling of being refused a visa. In 2005, the Home Office denied a Leave to Remain for my Minister of Religion visa even though it was standard procedure to grant the visa for one year and then extend it for two years. My bishop, Dr Tom Butler, wrote to Home Secretary Charles Clarke. Mr Clarke sorted out the matter and to his credit apologised for the cock-up.
A Home Office civil servant had signed the initial letter denying my extension. As an immigrant from India, I expected the letter to be signed by Sir Humphrey Appleby or his sidekick Bernard Woolley. After all, I'd gotten to know these delightful chaps while watching Yes, Minister on Indian television. But, no! The letter was signed by Masud Ghafoor. Hmm...I hadn't seen him on Yes, Minister.
What's in a name? Not much, when it comes to civil servants. The real concern is whether officials in the Home Office are prepared to say 'Yes, Minister' or 'Yes, Prime Minister' to the message they receive from on high. And that message needs to be clearer than it has ever been: Persecuted Christians, not Islamic hate preachers, need priority.
The Rev'd Dr Jules Gomes is pastor of St Augustine's Church, Douglas, on the Isle of Man.
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