Published on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 13:13 Written by Sonia Gable
I was a bit surprised to see an article on the Hope Not Hate website today expressing concern at a Christian campaign against the Government’s plans to allow same-sex marriage. The article by Nick Lowles draws attention to a petition by the Coalition 4 Marriage and censures (justifiably) Church leaders for “handing over their data to support the broader campaigns” of what he describes as the “evangelical” radical campaigning Christian groups behind the Coalition.
One of these groups, writes Lowles, is the Christian Institute, though apparently only because its headquarters is next door to the address of the Coalition 4 Marriage. According to Lowles, “The Christian Institute is a Christian evangelical pressure group which promotes a Conservative Christian viewpoint based on the belief of Biblical inerrancy. It has campaigned against gambling, euthanasia and abortion. It is probably best known for its outspoken campaigning against gay rights. It calls for the retention of Section 28, raising the age of consent for gay men and opposition to the Civil Partnership Act.”
Certainly not a very progressive organisation. Likewise one of its backers, but herein lies the reason for my surprise. “One of the patrons of the Christian Institute is Baroness Cox, who in 1987 co-founded the Committee for a Free Britain, a right-wing Conservative pressure group which backed the Poll Tax, supported the Contras in Nicaragua and used anti-gay material during their anti-Labour campaign in 1987,” Lowles points out.
“In May 2004 she joined three other Conservative peers in signing a letter published by the UK Independence Party urging voters to support it in the elections to the European Parliament, for which she was stripped of the Conservative whip. She now sits as a crossbencher.
“Cox has been a vocal opponent of Islam and in February 2009 she and then UKIP leader Lord Pearson invited Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders to show the anti-Islam film Fitna before the House of Lords,” adds Lowles.
Lowles is the chief executive of Searchlight Educational Trust, which like Hope Not Hate split from Searchlight magazine last September. One of the trustees of this charity is Tehmina Kazi, whose links with the dodgy agent provocateur Charlie Flowers I highlighted in my article “Strange bedfellows”.
Lowles and Kazi seem to be working at cross purposes. Kazi, who is also the director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy, has been advising Baroness Cox on her Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, which would make it an offence for anyone falsely claiming or implying that Sharia courts or councils have legal jurisdiction over family or criminal law in this country.
Cox’s bill, which has progressed no further than a first reading in the House of Lords in June 2011, seeks to distinguish Sharia councils and Sharia tribunals. “Sharia tribunals operate under a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996 and, as with all arbitration, their outcomes are legally binding (as long as all parties agree to this),” Kazi told the Harrow Observer in January.
“Unlike these tribunals, Sharia councils have no legal status and could potentially be set up in someone’s front room. Problems arise when they falsely claim a legal status that they do not have, and this kind of posturing is exactly what the Arbitration Bill seeks to criminalise,” she added.
The bill, while addressing a genuine injustice, has zero chance of becoming law, rendering Kazi’s cooperation with Cox pointless. Perhaps Lowles needs to have a quiet word with Kazi about the company she keeps – except that Kazi, as a member of SET’s board of trustees, is Lowles’s boss. Oh dear!