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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.

5 Responses

  1. While not an evolutionist myself this attitude means that just because you believe in creationism does not make one a Christian – there is much more to Christianity than creation evidence which many Christians do not debate on or maybe do not seek this creation knowledge.
    Comforting orphans and widows and remaining unspotted from the world is true religion – Paul

  2. […] Richard Bartholomew has a detailed blog post which is worth […]

  3. Good article Richard.

  4. Usama Hasan only actually joined Quilliam’s staff in May, I believe. Do you know when he withdrew his complaint and when Quilliam asked the CC to investigate? If this was before he went to Quilliam, it is not the case that it “really amounts to the same thing.” (Although he was associated with them, as an advisor, before he joined the staff.)

  5. Unfortunately the media has only presented a few disparate facts in this somewhat more complex case (although I’d blame Dr Hasan more than the media for that).

    Usama Hasan is a part of the new liberal faction of what the committee was up to a few months back. Certainly it is true that the mosque committee has a mixture of conservatives and liberals. And it is certainly true that Hasan’s specific take on evolution (which is ironically not congruent with most Biologists) is not supported by the vast majority of the congregation (leave aside for the moment the correctness of one or the other view for a moment). Whilst parts of the evolution talk did get out of hand, this was not organised by the conservative mosque committee themselves – knowing the make-up of the mosque, the drama is the last thing they want.

    Unfortunately Pakistani politics comes into play here as well. Hasan’s popularity is clearly waning, as anyone who attends the mosque regularly will promulgate. There is a process in play already: an arbitration between the two sides who have agreed to compromise with each other whilst official outside bodies seek consultation from the congregation. But instead of leaving the officials to their job, Hasan does the thing that is sure to get him as much sympathy as possible: cry terrorism.

    No one is denying that the mosque – like the majority in the UK – is a conservative one. However, like that majority, it is a law-abiding one. It is laughable that Hasan cites attendance by ‘extremists’ who attended years ago, at a time when in all probability he had no problem with these speakers attending.

    Although I have not attended the mosque that much in the last few years, I know enough to see through the superficialities of this story.

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