Alleged Extremism at Leyton Mosque Highlighted

The Independent reports:

Leyton Mosque, which overlooks the Olympic Park, has been at the centre of a bitter dispute between rival factions for more than a year. Last month Dr Usama Hasan, a prominent theologian and one of the mosque’s imams, resigned following a string of disruptions by extremists who were angered by his lectures on Darwinism and comparatively progressive interpretation of Islamic teaching.

…Under a deal that was supposed to bring some form of closure to the dispute Dr Hasan and some of his detractors resigned from the board of trustees. But much of the power within the mosque still rests in the hands of Dr Hasan’s critics.

Now it has emerged that the Charity Commission is investigating the mosque over concerns that it has links to extremism… According to the Liberal Conspiracy website, a letter has been sent to the mosque’s new trustees stating that the commission was opening a statutory inquiry after “concerns were raised with us about alleged links to extremism.”

Sunny’s Liberal Conspiracy post makes clear that the complaint to the Charity Commission was made by Hasan himself; the “statutory inquiry” is a journalistic hook for bringing Hasan’s concerns to wider attention [UPDATE: Oddly, Hasan’s name on the letter is obscured in a BBC report]. These concerns were published on Hasan’s blog last month, although he withdrew his posts as part of the dispute resolution.

Unhappily, the Liberal Conspiracy article is entitled “London Mosque investigated for terrorism”; while eye-catching, such a headline obviously gives the erroneous impression of a police investigation either into acts of terrorism or a terror plot. Judging from Hasan’s deleted material, it seems that the problem rather is that certain individuals involved in Hasan’s ousting are alleged to have extremist links and extremist views. That’s obviously worrisome, but not quite as dramatic as the headline implies.

The campaign against Hasan was widely noted last year; the Guardian reported:

Dr Usama Hasan, vice-chairman at Leyton mosque and a senior lecturer in engineering at Middlesex University, ceased delivering Friday prayers after 25 years of service when 50 Muslim protesters disrupted his lecture by handing out leaflets against him and shouting in the mosque for his execution.

A statement from the secretary of the mosque, Mohammad Sethi, that was leaked to extremist websites, said Hasan had been suspended after his lecture resulted in “considerable antagonism” from the community and for his “belief that Muslim women are allowed to uncover their hair in public”.

…The death threats against Hasan were made in an anonymous leaflet handed out by protesters. It quotes religious authorities saying that any Muslim who believes in evolution is an “apostate” who “must be executed”.

Hasan says he believes the leaflets were produced by the website Islamic Awakening. The website’s leader, Abu Zubair, has led a long campaign against Hasan including making threats when Hasan was delivering a lecture in January.

The leaflet, which was written in English, included a footnote warning readers that only a Muslim ruler of a Muslim country can implement the execution: “Muslims are not allowed to execute anyone without such authority, and as such are discouragedfrom entertaining any such thoughts about the person concerned”. This was obviously a token effort to avoid an incitement charge; Hasan judged that

 “This was incitement to murder, death threats, there are enough nutters out there and I do worry next time I am in a public place or if I lead prayers.

“I have already beefed up security at the house. I am worried about my wife and young children. I do a lot of public speaking and I may need it (security) for the rest of my life.”

Those of us who remember the Rushdie affair and the related murder of Hitoshi Igarahi in Japan know that an extremist bent on killing an “apostate” or his/her associate is unlikely to be overly concerned with the jurisdiction of where the murder takes place. Muslims who spoke in support of Hasan were also targeted with threats.

Unfortunately, however, Hasan’s troubles have also come to the attention of an anti-Islamist vigilante, who last year used a sockpuppet Facebook profile to encourage Islamists to attend the mosque to make a scene and thus expose themselves; such idiotic antics are not in Hasan’s interests (or anyone else’s, for that matter).

Sunny adds:

Dr Hasan has since withdrawn his complaint after but I’ve learnt that the anti-terrorism think tank Quilliam Foundation have also asked the [Charity Commission] to investigate.

As commentators below the article note, Hasan is a “Senior Researcher” with Quilliam, and so this really amounts to the same thing. Again unfortunately, however, there are reasons to be concerned about Quilliam’s integrity, as I discuss here.