Barnabas Aid Not Spreading Islamophobia in UK, Says Director
Leaders of a support organization for persecuted Christians are relieved that the group has been exonerated by the United Kingdom’s Charity Commission after being accused of campaigning against Muslims in Britain.
Barnabas Aid has been exonerated by the U.K. commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, from any wrongdoing in passing out one of the group’s Operation Nehemiah booklets, Slippery Slope.
Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, international director of Barnabas Aid, told The Christian Post that while his writings address problems with Islamic extremism, the group's material such as the booklet, does not promote hatred toward Muslims.
“In the U.K., where we are involved in education and in published materials, we believe that it is important for us to address those areas that cause persecution. For example, the apostasy law in Islam,” Sookhdeo said. “Furthermore, in the U.K. where Islamic extremism is growing and posing severe threats to the Church, and to Christian communities, and to converts, it is important for us to address those issues.”
The complaint, filed by a lay leader from the Church of England, challenged whether Barnabas Aid should be allowed to keep its charitable status when engaged in allegedly “divisive” activity, according to a statement from Barnabas. The accusation included the charge that the material passed out by the group could incite racial hatred.
However, Sookhdeo said the booklet focused on addressing the issues of how Islamic extremism is beginning to affect society and how in turn it is affecting Christian communities within parts of Britain. The material is not meant to be hateful, he said.
“We believe that Islam as a religion, and Muslims as a people, have every right to exist in Britain as a secular democratic society. We have no concerns about that. Our concern is what happens when religion becomes political in its nature and then seeks to transform society,” he said. “Under that type of transformation of society it poses stress upon Christian minorities and communities.”
The Charity Commission issued a response to the complaint, which Barnabas Aid published in its recent press release.
The commission stated: “The charity, in its campaigning around ‘Operation Nehemiah’ appears to be acting within its objects, as the campaign can be seen as promoting ‘the advancement of the Christian faith.’ A charity can become involved in a campaign which furthers or supports its charitable purposes.”
The commission added, “The Commission acknowledges that the campaign material fits within its aims, and that the booklet quotes sources for the claims that it makes. They quote its statement of intent, not to promote anti-Muslim fear or hatred, but to address seriously the challenge of Islam to society.”
“The campaign does not appear to be inciting racial hatred and the charity believes that it has public benefit in that it is committed to maintaining Christian values of freedom of conscience, speech and religion for the next generation in church and society.
“We are therefore content that the charity, in carrying out this campaign, is operating within its objects and within the terms of our guidance,” the commission concluded in its statement.
“Throughout my writings I have emphasized that there is no Islamophobia involved, no hate. Rather, these are legitimate points of concern. The Christian response should be one of love and tolerance, but at the same time, if those issues affect them, then those issues need to be raised,” Sookhdeo reiterated to CP Monday.
“The difficulty which we are facing in the U.K. is that Islam is the elephant in the room and it cannot be discussed,” he explained. “As soon as you raise, for example, issues of the persecution of Christians, [then] newspapers, the media, and individuals will actually accuse you of being an extremist.
“We live in a culture of intimidation and silence. If anyone doesn’t agree with you they want you removed. There is no place for discussion or tolerance for saying you have your views I have mine,” he added.
In a statement issued by Barnabas Aid, Sookhdeo said, “We warmly welcome this positive response from the Charity Commission and its exoneration of our Operation Nehemiah campaign.”
“We have been deeply saddened that some Christians regard Barnabas Aid as preaching hatred when we raise the plight of the persecuted Church and the growing influence of Islamism and its impact on the Church and the Christian heritage and liberties of Western society.
“We are unshakably committed to our stated goals and will continue to pursue them with vigour, for the sake of our Lord’s persecuted people at home and abroad,” he concluded.