Chatham House Rules?

This is a guest post by Abu Faris

Chatham House are often esteemed as an international affairs think-tank of global repute. Every year, Chatham House awards the Chatham House Prize to “the statesperson who is deemed by Chatham House members to have made the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year.”

Previous recipients have included such luminaries as Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy campaigner and long-time political prisoner of the disgusting Burmese military junta, who won last year. On the other hand, Chatham House have “balanced” such worthy awards by, for example, awarding the Hamas-friendly, Islamist President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, the prize back in 2010 – despite the howls of disapproval from secularists, liberals and minorities in Turkey herself.

This year, nominations have just closed for the Chatham House Prize. Two nominees, one a Christian cleric from South Sudan, the other an Islamist cleric from Tunisia, stand out as further examples of Chatham House’s persistent addiction to dubious Third World leaders and to stretching the meaning of the expression “improvement of international relations” to breaking point.

The first of these nominees for this year’s prize is the Anglican/Episcopalian Primate of Sudan, Archbishop Deng. Chatham House puff the Archbishop for his “invaluable contribution to South Sudan’s peaceful transition to independence in 2011.” In particular, we learn that the Primate of Sudan was personally responsible for brokering “a ceasefire agreement between the army and militia loyal to General George Athor, enabling the South to go to the polls united.”

Let’s examine these claims. Firstly, the Anglican/Episcopalian Church in South Sudan played no greater or lesser role in the independence struggle than any other church organised in that place. Secondly, the chairmanship of the group tasked with stopping the inter-tribal feuding in South Sudan hardly makes the brokering by that group of partial accords (largely and almost immediately broken by the Dinka hegemony in the new state, as it happens) the personal victory of Archbishop Deng as Chatham House seem to think. In fact, it grossly insults the role of others in brokering that deal – men and women who have spent a lifetime on the ground in struggle and not sequestered in the Episcopal Palace in Juba – or, in Deng’s case, mostly jetting around the world on jollies paid for by missionary groups from outside of Sudan.

In considering Deng for their prize, Chatham House might do well to dwell on the fact that Deng oversees approvingly a Church in South Sudan that is at the forefront of a growing campaign of rampant homophobia – a campaign that has gained the backing of the President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir. Recently, one of Deng’s senior clergymen, Reverend Faustino Wel, fulminated:

Let us always bear in mind that the world and all its materials are not eternal. We came from the Lord without our knowledge and will return to Him with our knowledge. And creation is for a purpose, which must be fulfilled. Our failure to fulfill the mission of creation means that destruction awaits us in the end. The South Sudan cannot afford to be part of the societies and people who wish to earn the anger of the Creator and his lethal punishment.

Our culture in diversity opens the doors for all and sundry, but gays and lesbians and others whose actions, thoughts and conscience are by it not progressive and are opposed to the Divine Will cannot be entertained.

Chatham House might also want to consider the case of the Bishop of Khartoum, over whom Archbishop Deng has direct control. Bishop Kondo of Khartoum has been repeatedly – and with considerable evidence – been accused, along with his own clergy, of (amongst other things) a series of diverting Church funds into their own pockets, using the funds of Church-owned educational institutions for their own benefit, defrauding overseas charities and Church missions… all of this is known to Archbishop Deng. He has done not a thing – even refusing to respond to letters, emails and direct contacts about these matters.

There are a lot of questions to be asked of Archbishop Deng and the Episcopalian Church in Sudan. His winning a prize dedicated to the most significant contribution to the improvement of international relations in the previous year would be entirely unacceptable and a travesty.

If consideration of an often absentee Archbishop with oversight of an allegedly deeply-corrupt and definitely homophobic African church is bad enough, Chatham House have another killer nomination up their collective sleeve. Another contender for the 2012 Chatham House Prize is none other than the Muslim Brotherhood’s very own man in Tunisia, Rachid Ghannouchi.

Clearly wedded to the delusion that there are “good, moderate” Islamists that we should be encouraging, Chatham House spurt dizzily about Ghannouchi. The Islamist thug, well known for his anti-Semitic comments and support for violent jihad has been jointly nominated with the human-rights activist, one-time political prisoner and exile and now President of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki.

Marzouki has proved rather too keen to opportunistically acquiesce in the creeping Islamisation of Tunisia’s traditionally very secular and liberal (by MENA standards) society, joining the Islamist led coalition soon after his election – despite having made noises that he would do quite the opposite in the run-up to his accession to the presidency.  In March this year, Marzouki dismayed many of his remaining liberal and secular supporters by explicitly supporting the conviction of two men for “insulting the Prophet”. One wonders if that is what Chatham House had in mind when they described these individuals as “two sides of the same coin.” Whatever the case, one wonders if a president’s self-serving and repeated collapses in the face of local Islamist clerical fascist pressure is really what should be considered high statesmanship.

Chatham House ooze over Ghannouchi:

Sheikh Ghannouchi has been widely praised for preparing the Ennahda movement – of which he is the spiritual leader – for Tunisia’s democratic Constituent Assembly elections in October 2011.

What? “Widely praised” for organising a clerical fascist Islamist party, wedded to the ideas of the forcible introduction of Shari’a, with extensive links to other organisations of similar ideological perspective across the globe? By who has Ghannouchi been praised – save the usual bien pensant chattering hordes in the West and the global Muslim Brotherhood?

Chatham House cannot contain their adulation for Ghannouchi. The spin increases to a velocity of epic proportions:

Without seeking political office himself, he oversaw the transformation of the Islamist Ennahda movement from an illegal opposition at the beginning of 2011 into a well-organized and successful political party. After winning the election, Ennahda was open to working with secular political formations in Tunisia, including in the coalition government established after cross-party negotiations in November 2011.

Unfortunately for Chatham House, their pet Shaykh is also known for other interesting propensities and alliegances.

In 1994, scholar Martin Kramer reported on Mr. Ghannouchi’s his extremist background:

Assuming a valid distinction can be made between Islamists who are “extremist” and “reformist,” Ghannouchi clearly belongs to the first category. Since his last visit to the United States, he has openly threatened U.S. interests, supported Iraq against the United States and campaigned against the Arab-Israeli peace process. Indeed, Ghannouchi in exile has personified the rejection of U.S. policies, even as he dispatches missives to the State Department.

Kramer also notes that Ghannouchi has alleged that Jews are behind a “worldwide campaign against Islam”:

The Jews everywhere are behind a worldwide campaign against Islam. Islam and the West could reach an accommodation, he says, were it not for the worldwide machinations of the Jews, who fan the fires of mistrust. Beware the Jews, he admonishes the West: “We Islamists hope that the West is not carried away by the Jewish strategy of linking the future of its relationship with the Islamic world with a war against Islam.

In another article posted that same year (1994) on an Islamic website, Mr. Ghannouchi wrote:

“Zionism can be seen as hostile to every element rooted in ethical and religious principles (excepting those remnants, which can be exploited as slogans and national myths). It both represents and serves the new existential ethos which transforms the human race into ‘marketing’ and ‘geopolitical’ units which can be deployed, rewarded or punished by the powers that be, who are accountable to no-one save themselves. Zionism, then, nurtured by and in turn nurturing this global pseudo-civilization, represents a secular onslaught on the heart of our Islamic nation. The Islamic project, by contrast, is its polar opposite, representing the hope that human civilization can be rescued from this new worship of the golden calf. To speak of saving Palestine from the Zionists is to speak simultaneously of one’s hope for a global liberation. The ‘Palestinian cause’ does not signify the simple reconquest of a patch of territory occupied by aggressors. It is not even about peace and war; Its implications go much further. For to strike at Zionism in Palestine is to strike at the enemy in its new citadel, which it has constructed at the centre of the world, in the very heart of our Muslim nation, in a land which has always been of unlimited strategic and spiritual fecundity. The West, as a civilization, seems set to extend its influence to the heartland of the Old World, the better to destroy the surviving traces of spiritual resistance which have remained intact there, and finally to obliterate mans remaining hopes for the rebirth of a civilization which is qualitative and humane, rather than quantitative and secular.”

According to one Muslim Brotherhood watch-site, as recently as 2002, Mr. Ghannouchi co-signed a statement that said “The bodies of the men and women of Palestine are shields against the Zionist agenda, which its greater target is to destroy the entire Islamic Ummah.” The statement was also signed by:

  • Mustafa Mashhour, the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood
  • Esam Al Atar, leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood
  • Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General for Hezbollah
  • Ahmed Yassin, the late former spiritual leader of Hamas

In March 2010, Mr. Ghannouchi said that the Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, “is compatible with Israel’s aggressive nature”. In a May 2011 interview, Ghannouchi called for and predicted the end of Israel.

A homophobic archbishop, a weak principled President and a leader of a clerical fascist Islamist party that supports international terrorism – these are amongst three of the nominees for the Chatham House Prize this year.

I am speechless.