Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Exclusive: Controversial pastor arrested on suspicion of sexual assault


A controversial Christian pastor who has advised British Army commanders on Islamic extremism and Muslim culture has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault.

Patrick Sookhdeo, 66, who also claims to have worked as an unpaid adviser to the Special Branch and is the director of a charity dedicated to helping persecuted Christian minorities, was questioned by Wiltshire Police earlier this month. The preacher, released on police bail until May, said he “strongly denies” any allegations against him.

Mr Sookhdeo has become a prominent expert on Islamist movements since the 9/11 attacks, working as an adviser at the Permanent Joint Headquarters of the British Armed Forces, and as a visiting professor at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom. He has also lectured at a Nato college in Germany and acted as a “cultural adviser” to  the Ministry of Defence on working with communities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But his writings and pronouncements on Islam as international director of the Barnabas Fund, a charity that supports Christian minorities in places such as Syria, have also attracted criticism after he suggested that Islam was a “religion and political ideology that puts our British way of life in grave danger”.He has highlighted what he says is evidence that radical groups in Britain are seeking to establish the rule of sharia law in Islamic “enclaves”.

The pastor, who was born in British Guiana and raised as a Muslim before converting to Christianity as a young man, has strongly denied fomenting anti-Muslim sentiment.

He has written: “Like any other ideology, Islam must be open to being critiqued, and where its political aspects appear to challenge fundamental Western values, these issues must be discussed openly and responsibly, without the debate being obscured by charges of ‘Islamophobia.’”

Mr Sookhdeo, who also runs the International Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, was arrested on 10 March. A spokeswoman for him said: “Patrick strongly denies any allegations that have been made against him but is working closely with the police to assist with their investigation.” Wiltshire Police said: “We can confirm that a man, aged 66, was arrested on 10 March in relation to allegations of sexual assault. He was bailed to return on a date in mid-May. Inquiries continue.”

The Barnabas Fund said it was unable to comment on the allegations.