On the Channel 4 Dispatches programme about violence and hate-preaching in some UK mosques

Bismillah. This programme was aired in February, but the Daily Mail has been citing it again regularly this month.

The violence and hate-preaching exposed in some UK mosques was, of course, deplorable. But the programme also targeted Deobandism, just as similar programmes had previously targeted Salafism/Wahhabism.

It was good that Mufti Barkatullah and Rashad Ali pointed out that the extremist views and behaviour were not mainstream Deobandism at all.

The programme failed to mention that the mosque where the worst violence was filmed, appeared to be Barelwi-Sufi, judging by the “Prophet’s birthday” celebratory items on view. Exploring this would help undermine the superficial and unhelpful “Sufism=good, Salafism/Deobandism=bad” discourse that has become popular since 9/11.

As Prof. Philip Lewis observes in his book “Young, British and Muslim” (2008), UK Deobandism has a progressive as well as a regressive wing. It is hoped that the two strands have a fruitful debate, such that the net effect is a positive future for Islam and for Britain. A similar situation surely holds for UK Salafism-Wahhabism and Barelwism-Sufism as well as for UK Shi’ism, and in fact for UK religious and anti-religions in general!

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