Sunday, April 17, 2011
Persecuted for his cross: British electrician told he faces the sack for Christian symbol on his van dashboard
Everything but Christianity is OK, apparently
An electrician faces the sack for displaying a small palm cross on the dashboard of his company van. Former soldier Colin Atkinson has been summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the giant housing association where he has been employed for 15 years because he refuses to remove the symbol.
Throughout his time at work, he has had an 8in-long cross made from woven palm leaves attached to the dashboard shelf below his windscreen without receiving a single complaint.
But his bosses at publicly funded Wakefield and District Housing (WDH) in West Yorkshire – the fifth-biggest housing organisation in England – have demanded he remove the cross on the grounds it may offend people or suggest the organisation is Christian. Mr Atkinson’s union representative said he faces a full disciplinary hearing next month for gross misconduct, which could result in dismissal.
The association strongly promotes ‘inclusive’ policies and allows employees to wear religious symbols at work. It has provided stalls at gay pride events, held ‘diversity days’ for travellers, and hosted a gender reassignment event entitled A World That Includes Transpeople.
Mr Atkinson, who has an unblemished work record, said he had not been shown similar respect. ‘The past few months have been unbelievable, a nightmare,’ he said. ‘I have worked in the coal mines and served in the Army in Northern Ireland and I have never suffered such stress. The treatment of Christians in this country is becoming diabolical. It is political correctness taken to the extreme.’
But he added: ‘I have never been so full of resolve. I am determined to stand up for my rights. If they sack me, so be it. But I am standing up for my faith.’
Mr Atkinson’s battle follows a series of similar cases involving Christians who claim their freedoms have been curbed following the introduction of controversial equality laws.
Campaigners accused the housing association of ‘remarkable intolerance’ at a time when millions of Christians will be celebrating Palm Sunday today, a week before Easter Sunday. Palms are traditionally distributed during services to mark Christ’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem.
Despite the company’s treatment of Mr Atkinson, the boss of the depot where he works in Castleford has been allowed to adorn his office with a poster of the Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara. Denis Doody, who is WDH’s environmental manager, also has a whiteboard on which are written several quotations by the Marxist guerrilla leader, who was a key figure in the Cuban revolution in the Fifties. Colleagues said staff and even members of the public who were visiting the depot would be able to see the poster and whiteboard through his office window.
Mr Atkinson began work as an electrician in the mines before serving as an Army radio technician for seven years. His military career included a stint at the notorious, riot-torn Long Kesh internment camp in Northern Ireland in 1974. He was employed as a £25,000-a-year electrician by Wakefield Council in 1996, but its housing department was transferred into the association’s ownership six years ago.
His ordeal began last year when managers at WDH, which has 31,000 properties, told Mr Atkinson to remove the cross from the van after years of ignoring it.
He demanded to know why. He said his cross was as discreet and inoffensive as other forms of religious expression and accused his bosses of badgering him.
The company said, however, that he had refused a ‘reasonable’ request to remove the symbol from an official vehicle that could be seen by members of the public.
The 64-year-old grandfather became a committed Christian more than 20 years ago and was a regular Church of England worshipper for many years.
He and his second wife Geraldine, 61, who have five children from previous marriages and three grandchildren, now attend the Pentecostal Destiny Church in Wakefield.
The softly spoken electrician said he never pushed his beliefs on other people but would gently explain his faith to anyone who enquired.
‘I’m just an ordinary bloke. I get on with people and have many friends of other faiths, including a Sikh and a Hindu who both came and spoke up for me at one of the meetings I’ve had with managers about this. ‘Christians are called to be public in our faith, and the cross is my way of being obedient to that call. It brings me peace and strength. It is a central part of who I am and I can’t hide it away.’
Wakefield and District Housing's equality and diversity manager, Jayne O'Connell, believes wearing a burka at work would be considered discreet
Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre, which is backing Mr Atkinson, said: ‘Colin Atkinson is a decent and hard-working man, yet after many years of service he has been told he cannot continue to have a small palm cross in his van. ‘This smacks of something deeply illiberal and remarkably intolerant. Is this the kind of society the British public want to live in?
Wakefield District Housing said: ‘We do not allow employees to display any personal representations in our vehicles, although they are free to do so upon their person. ‘It would be inappropriate to comment further about this individual case.’
The association had a turnover of £106 million in the financial year to the end of March 2010. The chief executive is Kevin Dodd, who earns £157,000 a year. A 2009 report revealed that the association staged a number of diversity days for employees and tenants. Sessions have been led by groups including Women In Construction, Mental Health Matters and The Leeds Gypsy and Travellers Group. The imam from Wakefield Central Mosque has also been involved.
The company also produces an intranet calendar for employees that shows religious festivals and celebrations.
Repeat offender: Ga. county sued again, unlawfully denies another church’s right to build
Alliance Defense Fund attorneys filed their second lawsuit of the year against Coweta County Wednesday for unlawfully blocking another church’s right to build on its own property despite prior recommendations for approval.
In the most recent case, the county board of commissioners denied Holiness Is the Way Ministries a conditional use permit even though the county planner and the board of zoning appeals had already recommended approval of the permit to build a place of worship. The refusal comes despite the county’s issuance of conditional use permits to 13 other churches over the past four years.
“Churches shouldn’t be singled out for discrimination by a county’s zoning decisions,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “This is especially true when the church has already received all the recommended approvals through the appropriate channels and no other legitimate reason for denial has been given. The county must learn to abide by the U.S. Constitution and federal law, which prohibit this kind of discriminatory treatment of churches.”
After entering a contract to purchase 10 acres of land in January 2010, Holiness Is the Way Ministries applied for a conditional use permit with the Coweta County Board of Zoning and Appeals to build a church on its rural property in April 2010. The following month, the Coweta County planner issued a recommendation to the zoning board for the permit to be approved. The board then recommended to the Coweta County Board of Commissioners in June 2010 that the church’s application be approved, yet after a hearing, the commissioners denied the permit without providing any reason for the denial.
ADF attorneys argue that the county’s refusal is once again in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, a federal law that prevents zoning officials from singling out churches for discriminatory treatment.
The lawsuit, Holiness Is the Way Ministries v. Coweta County, was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Newnan Division.
In February, ADF attorneys filed suit against Coweta County for refusing to let All Souls Church of God in Christ build on its own property after it also had met all county requirements and previously received recommendation for a conditional use permit to be issued.
Another Muslim wriggler
His emotional testimony, choking back tears as he discussed a Muslim-American first-responder killed on 9/11, garnered national headlines last month for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.
But two days after a House committee hearing on Muslim radicalization, the Minnesota Democrat had a far more hostile tone. In a speech in Rochester Hills, Mich., Ellison made a series of personal attacks against three other witnesses who were on the opposite side of the issue.
* He seemed to blame Melvin Bledsoe for the actions of his son Carlos, who stands accused of shooting and killing an Army private after converting to Islam and becoming radicalized.
* A Somali-American who complained about interference from organized Islamist groups while trying to learn about a score of missing young men who turned up with a terrorist group in Somalia was there simply to "diss" the Muslim community in Minneapolis.
* Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix physician who challenges the Islamist narrative, simply is out to make a buck, Ellison said.
His tearful tribute to Mohammed Salman Hamdani came before the House Homeland Security Committee and the national media drawn to the controversial hearing called by Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. Ellison's attacks on the other witnesses came before a friendlier and more partisan crowd, with sponsors that included the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.
The hearing generated controversy because of its focus on radicalization solely among Muslims in America. Committee Democrats criticized King and the hearing's premise, with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas saying the proceedings placed the U.S. Constitution "in pain." California Rep. Jackie Speier dismissed the witness testimony as anecdotal.
Ellison's speech echoed that criticism, and he told his Michigan audience that if King "really was trying to learn something about violent radicalization, why wouldn't he include [as a witness] somebody who actually had something to say of value?" Ellison asked. Instead, he called "one guy… named Mr. Bledsoe, whose son I guess became a Muslim, went to Yemen, came back and killed some police officers (sic)."
Bledsoe dropped out of college shortly after his conversion to Islam in 2004. Muslim leaders in Nashville urged him to go to Yemen, long a hotbed of jihadist activity. In 2007 he traveled there, apparently to study under a radical imam.
He is accused of opening fire outside an Army recruiting office in Little Rock, Ark. in June 2009, killing one soldier, Pvt. William Long, and seriously wounding another, Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula.
In his testimony, Melvin Bledsoe recounted his son's descent into violence, saying the American people are largely unaware of the threat posed by Islamist radicalism. "There is a big elephant in the room, but our society continues not to see it," Bledsoe said.
After stating that he did not want to bring pain to a grieving parent, Ellison appeared to suggest that the bulk of the blame for Carlos Bledsoe's radicalization didn't lie with the jihadists who indoctrinated him, but with his father. Carlos "was in that man's house all his life. He's a Muslim for a few years. Enough said," Ellison said.
Melvin Bledsoe did not mince words when told about Ellison's comments during an interview with the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He dismissed Ellison's notion that radical Islam played no part in his son's actions. Carlos left the Bledsoe home in 2003, changed his name to Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad when he converted to Islam a year later, and spent extensive time in Yemen.
"They stole my son," Bledsoe said. "They raped his mind. They changed his thought, his behavior. They changed him from Carlos to Abdulhakim. I asked God to give me my son back."
Ellison is a "fool" and "liar" when he tries to deny the insidious nature of jihadist recruiting that is occurring in this country, Bledsoe said.
In his speech, Ellison expressed similar disdain for Abdirizak Bihi, a Somali American from Minneapolis who also testified. Bihi's teenage nephew Burhan Hassan was shot to death in Somalia in June 2009. Burhan was one of at least 20 Somali men and teenage boys from the Twin Cities area who have traveled to Somalia since 2007 to fight for the terrorist group al-Shabaab. The "only reason" Bihi was invited to testify was "because he's willing to diss the Somali and Muslim community in Minneapolis," Ellison said.
As part of his testimony, Bihi described how Islamist leaders discouraged people from cooperating with the investigation into the missing men. Talking to the FBI could get you sent to Guantanamo Bay, they said. And, there are consequences in the afterlife by being damned with "eternal fire and hell."
Ellison's harshest remarks were reserved for Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy - and like Bihi, a non-Islamist Muslim. Jasser was invited to testify "because he fits the narrative of people who want to defame you," Ellison told his Michigan audience.
Jasser's real goal, he suggested, was to criticize Muslims in order to enrich himself. Ellison said that "if you want to make some money talking about Muslims," follow the example of Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Hirsi Ali renounced her faith and has been highly critical of it in her writing. A good portion of her money goes to 24-hour-protection since her life was threatened in 2004. When filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered on an Amsterdam street, the killer tacked a note on him saying Hirsi Ali would be next. The two collaborated on "Submission," a short film protesting the treatment of women in Islam.
Ellison said: "You know, I think Zuhdi Jasser just said, 'Why should Ayaan Hirsi Ali make all the money'" criticizing Islam?
In a statement to the Investigative Project on Terrorism, Jasser, a devout Muslim, said he was shocked by the carelessness of Ellison's statements. Ellison engaged in "fabrication and character assassination rather than" debate the issues put forward, Jasser wrote.
"Perhaps it is naïve of me to assume that a sitting member of Congress would maintain a degree of honesty and forthrightness commensurate with his office. Congressman Ellison's false and malignant attacks on my character and integrity speak volumes to the tactics used by leading Islamists in their efforts to marginalize dissent within our Muslim communities," Jasser wrote. "Mr. Ellison's behavior also demonstrates the mudslinging directed toward reform minded Muslims by some leading Muslims threatened by our ideas."
Another Ellison claim about Jasser "is a complete fabrication," said a Des Moines man who was involved in the incident. In October, Drake University hosted a forum on Islam. Ellison claimed that Jasser approached the congressman's son, who was president of the MSA at Drake, and "demanded" to be included in the "What it means to be an American Muslim" event.
Stanley Richards, a philanthropist and sponsor of the event, said that was not true. Jasser was the first person he contacted about attending the forum. Jasser's organization then invited the Drake Muslim Student Association to participate. Ellison's son "informed me that his board had voted not to participate" by sponsoring the forum or serving as a panelist, Richards said.
Ellison's son Isaiah did attend the forum, making statements and asking questions. "Ellison's son spoke with Jasser after the forum and had a respectful conversation," Richards wrote. Rep. Ellison was also invited to be a panelist but declined due to a scheduling conflict.
In his Michigan speech, Ellison claimed he had "gotten to know" Jasser and had had "debate[d]" him in the past. During an October 2009 Capitol Hill briefing on political Islam, the Minnesota congressman slandered Jasser as a bigot seeking to censor Islamists.
Jasser criticized groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for trying to discredit reports noting the connection between radical Salafism and support for jihad. He said that if Muslims want equal respect and credibility they must "stand for reform within our faith of laws that are still in the 15th and 16th centuries."
Ellison responded to Jasser's call for reform with an angry personal attack in which he virtually called him an Islamic "Uncle Tom."
"I think you give people license for bigotry," Ellison told Jasser. "I think people who want to engage in nothing less than Muslim-hating really love you a lot because you give them freedom to do that."
In Michigan, Ellison continued to mischaracterize Jasser's views and motives. Jasser advocates a "separation between mosque and state" and fights against "political Islam," the application of religious tenets into government and society as espoused by violent jihadists like al-Qaida to political movements like the Muslim Brotherhood.
"By the way, I don't believe that my faith as a Muslim should be politicized," Ellison said. "My faith is way bigger than politics, right? So I don't agree with, but I don't even know what he's even talking about quite frankly. I don't know what he means."
That's surprising, given that groups Ellison works closely with, including the Muslim American Society (MAS) was founded by Muslim Brotherhood members in the United States. MAS even paid for Ellison to travel to Mecca for the hajj in 2008.
Brotherhood bylaws show its adherence to political Islam, calling for "the need to work on establishing the Islamic State, which seeks to effectively implement the provisions of Islam and its teachings."
Court records show that CAIR, meanwhile, was created by a Hamas-support network in America created by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ellison repeatedly defended CAIR in his Michigan speech, saying it is "a legally operating organization" that would have been shut down had it done anything wrong. He failed to tell his audience that the FBI severed formal relations with CAIR nearly three years ago, due to questions about its founders' ties to the Hamas-support network known as the Palestine Committee. FBI Director Robert Mueller has repeated this position twice in the past month before congressional panels.
In court papers, prosecutors wrote that CAIR was "a participant in an ongoing and ultimately unlawful conspiracy to support a designated terrorist organization, a conspiracy from which CAIR never withdrew."
The Congressman cannot blame Jasser or the other witnesses for that.
Turkey’s cautionary tale
Turkey's AKP used democracy to gain power. Now that they have power, they are systematically destroying freedom in their country
Today’s Turkey is a cautionary tale for the West. But Western leaders are loath to consider its lessons.
Ever since Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development AKP party under Recip Tayip Erdogan won the November 2002 elections, Western officials have upheld the AKP, Erdogan and his colleagues as proof that political Islam is consonant with democratic values. During Erdogan’s June 2005 visit to the White House, for instance, then-president George W. Bush praised Turkish democracy as “an important example for the people in the broader Middle East.”
Unfortunately, nine years into the AKP’s “democratic” regime it is clear that Erdogan and his colleagues’ embrace of the language and tools of democracy was a mile wide and an inch thick. They used democracy to gain power. Now that they have power, they are systematically destroying freedom in their country.
Turkey ranks 138th in the international media freedom group Reporters Sans Frontieres country index on press freedom. Sixty-eight journalists are languishing in Turkish jails for the crime of doing their job. The most recent round-up of reporters occurred in early March. And it is demonstrative of Turkey’s Islamist leaders’ exploitation of democratic freedoms in the service of their tyrannical ends.
As Der Spiegel reported last week, veteran journalists Ahmet Sik from the far-left Radikal newspaper and Nedim Sener from the highbrow Milliyet journal were among those rounded up. As radical leftists, both men oppose the AKP’s Islamist politics. But they shared its interest in weakening the Turkish military.
The Left opposed the military’s constitutional role as the overseer of Turkish democracy because the military used that role to persecute leftists. The AKP party opposed the military’s power because it blocked the party’s path to Islamizing Turkish society and politics. When the AKP turned its guns on the military it used leftist journalists to support its actions.
This collusion came to a head in 2007. In a bid to destroy the legitimacy of the military, the AKP regime has engaged in unprecedented levels of wiretapping of the communications of senior serving and retired generals.
This wiretapping operation preceded the exposure in 2007 of the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy in which senior military commanders, journalists, television personalities, entertainers and businesspeople have been implicated in an alleged attempt to topple the AKP government. As part of the Ergenekon investigation, over the past four years, hundreds of non-Islamist leaders from generals to journalists have been arrested and held without trial.
Ironically, Sik, who is now accused of membership in the Ergenekon plot, was an editor at the leftist weekly magazine Notka that “broke” the conspiracy story.
As Der Spiegel notes, the arrest of Sik and Sener shows that the AKP’s early embrace of investigative reporters and championing of a free press was purely opportunistic. Once Sik, Sener and the other 66 jailed reporters had finished discrediting the military, the regime had no need for them. Indeed, they became a threat.
Both Sik and Sener have recently written books documenting how Turkey’s version of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Fetulah Gulen network, has taken over the country’s security services.
In an interview this month with the opposition Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review, former Turkish president Suleyman Demirel warned that the AKP has established “an empire of fear” in Turkey.
TURKEY’S DESCENT into Islamist tyranny has not simply destroyed freedom in Turkey. It has transformed Turkey’s strategic posture in a manner that is disastrous for the West. And yet, in this arena as well, the West refuses to notice what is happening.
Earlier this week the US Ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone gave an interview to the Turkish media in which he romantically upheld the US-Turkish partnership. As he put it, “Our interests are similar. Even if we have different methods and targets, our strategic vision is the same.”
Sadly, there is no way to square this declaration with Turkish policy.
This week it was reported that NATO member Turkey is opening something akin to a Taliban diplomatic mission in Ankara. Turkey supports Hamas and Hizbullah. It has begun training the Syrian military. It supports Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It has become the Iranian regime’s economic lifeline by allowing the mullahs to use Turkish markets to bypass the UN sanctions regime.
In less than 10 years, the AKP regime has dismantled Turkey’s strategic alliance with Israel. It has inculcated the formerly tolerant if not pro- Israel Turkish public with virulent anti-Semitism. It is this systematic indoctrination to Jew-hatred that has emboldened Turkish leaders to announce publicly that they support going to war against Israel.
The Turkish government stands behind the al- Qaida- and Hamas- linked IHH group. IHH organized last year’s pro-Hamas flotilla to Gaza in which IHH members brutally attacked IDF naval commandoes engaged in a lawful mission to maintain Israel’s lawful maritime blockade of Gaza’s coast. With the support of the Turkish government, IHH is now planning an even larger flotilla to assault Israel’s blockade of Gaza next month.
Actually, in a sign of the intimacy of its ties to the AKP regime, this week IHH announced it is considering postponing the next pro-Hamas flotilla in order to ensure that its illegal pro-terror campaign will not harm the AKP’s electoral prospects in Turkey’s national elections scheduled for June.
American and other Western officials have argued that it would be wrong to distance their governments from Turkey or in any way censure the NATO member because doing so will only strengthen the anti-Western forces in the anti- Western government. Instead, Western leaders have done everything they can to appease Erdogan.
The US even allowed him to invade Iraqi Kurdistan.
Unfortunately, this appeasement policy has only harmed the West and NATO. Take the behavior of NATO’s Secretary-General and former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. As Denmark’s prime minister, Rasmussen stood up boldly to the Islamists when they demanded that he apologize for the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten’s publication of caricatures of Muhammad in 2005. Yet when Turkey threatened to veto his appointment as NATO secretary-general in 2009 over the Islamists’ rejection of free speech, Rasmussen abandoned his strong defense of Western liberal values to placate the Turks.
In a humiliating speech Rasmussen said, “I was deeply distressed that the cartoons were seen by many Muslims as an attempt by Denmark to mark or insult or behave disrespectfully towards Islam or the Prophet Muhammad... I respect Islam as one of the world’s major religions as well as its religious symbols.” Rasmussen then proceeded to appoint Turks to key positions in the alliance.
Far from reining in Turkey’s anti-Western policies, by maintaining Turkey in NATO Western powers have been forced to curtail their own defense of their interests.
NATO’s incoherent mission in Libya is case in point. It can be argued that Germany’s large and increasingly radicalized Turkish minority played a role in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to risk her country’s good ties with Britain and France and refuse to support the Libyan mission. So, too, it was reportedly due to President Barack Obama’s deference to Turkey that the US failed to support the anti-regime forces until Gaddafi organized a counteroffensive against them. So if as appears increasingly likely, Gaddafi is able to survive the NATO-backed insurgents’ bid to overthrow him, he will owe his survival in no small measure to Erdogan.
TURKEY IS a cautionary tale for the West, which is now faced with the prospect of AKP-like regimes from Egypt to Tunisia to Jordan to the Persian Gulf. And the real issue that Western leaders must address is how things in Turkey were permitted to deteriorate to the point they have without any US or European official lifting a finger to stem the Islamist tide? The answer, it would seem, is a combination of professional laziness and cultural weakness. This mix of factors is also on display in the US’s behavior toward the revolutionary forces active throughout much of the Arab world.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.