Archive for June, 2012

The Big Dig – WaterAid’s Malawi Appeal – 21 June to 18 Sept 2012

June 23, 2012

Bismillah. From 21 June to 18 Sept 2012, any donations made to WaterAid’s Malawi appeal will be matched by the UK govt, effectively doubling the amount. See http://www.thebigdig.org for details. Please contribute, & share this message – thanks!

Note: this period roughly corresponds to three lunar months. In the Arabian/Islamic calendar, they are Sha’ban, Ramadan & Shawwal 1433.

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Vacancy for Research Fellow at Cambridge Muslim College

June 20, 2012

Bismillah.

The Cambridge Muslim College invites applications for the post of Research Fellow to be based at the College’s facility in Cambridge, United Kingdom, for one academic year with effect from 1 November 2012.

 

The College seeks an outstanding candidate who is engaged in innovative, robust and world-class research who will make a major contribution to the College’s intellectual life. During his or her appointment at the College the post-holder will be expected to complete a significant research project, preferably taking the form of three articles for peer-reviewed publications, or the preparation of a monograph. The College is especially interested in post-doctoral students with a specialisation in Islamic Studies, interfaith relations, or British Muslim studies.

 

In addition, the successful candidate will be expected to offer a maximum of six lectures, participate in seminars and attend the College’s public lectures on behalf of the College.

 

The successful applicant will be expected to begin on 1st November 2012 and the post will continue to 31st October 2013. Applicants must have completed a PhD in a relevant discipline by the start date for this post, and must demonstrate a commitment to the aims and ethos of the College. The Research Fellow will be given access to the College’s library, office space and equipment, and administrative support. The successful applicant will be remunerated at a rate of £29,133 per annum. The College has a responsibility to ensure that all employees are eligible to live and work in the UK.

 

The deadline for applications to be received at the College is 10.00am, 2nd July 2011.

 

Applicants should submit a covering letter, a personal statement, curriculum vitae and two sealed letters of recommendation (including one from a thesis supervisor). The personal statement should describe the ambitions and interests of the applicant, should include a synopsis of the PhD and an outline of the research project or projects that the applicant would undertake during the period of engagement. Inclusion of published work would be an advantage.

 

Applications should be submitted by post to:

Cambridge Muslim College,

14 St Paul’s Road,

Cambridge,

CB1 2EZ.

 

The Cambridge Muslim College is an equal opportunities employer. Information about the College may be found at www.cambridgemuslimcollege.org.

 

Further particulars may be obtained from Atif Imtiaz: ai@cambridgemuslimcollege.org

 

Attempted Extremist Takeover at Al-Tawhid Mosque

June 20, 2012

With the Name of God, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful

 

ATTEMPTED EXTREMIST TAKEOVER AT AL-TAWHID MOSQUE

 

 

Al-Tawhid Mosque in Leyton, London E15 is one of the closest to the London 2012 Olympics site, which is clearly visible from the neighbourhood of the mosque.  Of the 15 (or so) mosques in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, Al-Tawhid is the only one that falls within the Olympic zone.

 

The mosque is historically a salafi mosque, having links with Saudi Arabia.

 

For many years, the mosque has been a platform for intra-Muslim and intra-salafi debate, with voices across the spectrum from spiritual salafism to political salafism to Jihadi salafism.  This has involved moderate & extremist interpretations of Islam and salafism.

 

Thus, the attempted exclusive takeover at the mosque by hardline salafists, including supporters of extremism, terrorism-sympathisers and narrow-minded fanaticism, and to expel all moderate voices, is a major cause for concern, since it will seriously damage women’s rights and community cohesion at best, and become a major national security threat at worst.

 

 

Introduction

 

1. The mosque is one ofLondon’s leading salafi mosques, if not the leading & most influential one, and is linked to Jamiat Ahl-e-HadithLondon.  (Ahl-e-Hadith is the name of the salafi movement in the Indian subcontinent.)

 

Salafism is closely linked to “Wahhabism,” and has overlaps with Islamism (over-politicised Islam) and Jihadism (that can range from justifiable Jihad to terrorism).[1]

 

Salafism all over the world has strong links with Saudi Arabia, where the official religious establishment may be seen as the home of salafism.

 

Many terrorists and hate-preachers, including those convicted in the UK, are heavily-influenced by extremist interpretations of salafism: hence, the importance of moderate salafism.  Some of the people referred to in the previous sentence are: Usama bin Ladin, Abu Hamza, Abdullah Faisal, Abu Qatada & Anwar Awlaki.  (See below for the latter two’s associations with Al-Tawhid Mosque.)

2. Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith London used to be part of Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith (MJAH), a national HQ and registered charity headquartered at the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, featured heavily in the “Undercover Mosque” Dispatches programme (Channel 4, 2007), about extremism in UK mosques.  Many of the extremist speakers featured in that programme and its follow-up have been suggested as speakers at Tawhid Mosque over the years. Over the past decade, I had repeatedly blocked invitations to such speakers in my role as Khatib and Vice-Chairman.

 

3. Since the 1990’s, Al-Tawhid Mosque has functioned independently from MJAH, under a Trust.

 

4. The Ahl-e-Hadith movement inPakistanhas strong links with Lashkar-e-Taibah (LeT), proscribed by the Pakistani, US &UKgovernments as a terrorist organisation.  In April 2012, theUSgovernment placed a $10 million bounty on the head of Hafiz Saeed, founder & leader of LeT as well as its successor organisations after proscription.  (Hafiz Saeed was an official guest of MJAH & a keynote speaker at their national conference in Birmingham in 1995, many years before he was internationally designated as a terrorist.)

 

TheUKintelligence authorities seem to have been monitoring LeT’s links in theUK, especially after the Mumbai massacre of 2008, blamed on LeT.  For example, in 2009, Leyton Police showed me a letter from Scotland Yard urging national police forces to keep an eye on fundraising by Ahl-e-Hadith organisations, presumably due to LeT being part of the wider Ahl-e-Hadith movement in Pakistan.

 

5. Extremist interpretations of salafism tend to be xenophobic, encouraging hate-speech against kuffar or non-Muslims, and misogynist, denying women’s rights.  The struggle over women’s rights inSaudi   Arabia between conservatives/extremists and reformers/moderates is an example of this issue.  Hence, the many examples of salafi hate-speech in theUK.

 

 

Struggles against extremism at the mosque

1. In 1998, supporters of the notorious hate-preacher & terrorism-sympathiser Abu Qatada tried to gain him a foothold in the mosque, even organizing an unauthorized study circle or two with him there.  This was ended by Sheikh Suhaib Hasan’s firm stance on the issue, forcing Abu Qatada & his followers to back down.  Sheikh Suhaib realized that if Abu Qatada gained a foothold in the mosque via a weekly study circle, the natural, next step by his followers would have been to allow him to lead the Friday prayers, thus giving him a large audience and possibly leading to a takeover attempt by him, as happened with Abu Hamza at the Finsbury Park Mosque.  (All this was before Abu Qatada became well-known to the UK & its media.)

2. In 2002-3, Anwar Awlaki[2] spoke several times at the mosque, invited by one of the myriad of London salafi groups, including a weekend lecture, at least one Friday sermon (in which he referred to the arrest of terror suspects in the UK), and a packed weekend course on the Lives of the Caliphs that remains a popular audio series of lectures amongst some British Muslims.  This was before Awlaki’s terrorist teachings were known. 

 In 2011-12, it has become clear that the attempted extremist takeover at the mosque involves supporters and sympathisers of Awlaki.  Some people have tried to claim that I am somehow responsible for Awlaki’s visits (I did not organise any of them).  The truth is that whilst I have been outspoken against extremism and terrorism for many years by the grace of God, it is people like Saleh Patel who promoted Awlaki until as late as April 2009 in London (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/rosie-waterhouse-universities-must-take-action-on-muslim-extremism-1922730.html ); as did Cage Prisoners (see Hitchens’ report on Awlaki, http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/files/1289579667_1.pdf ), for whom Saghir Hussain, the lawyer, worked for many years; as did Islam Channel until 2010 (http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/images/stories/islamchannelreport.pdf ), for whom Talat Sultan works.  In contrast, I publicly criticized Awlaki’s extremist views as soon as I learnt about them, e.g. at the City Circle meeting about the Gaza crisis in January 2009.  And about a decade before that, it was my father who forced Abu Qatada out of the mosque by the grace of God.

 

3. In 2006, after the arrests of the transatlantic-airliner “liquid bomb” plotters, including two from the Leyton area, one of whom was on his way to another Leyton mosque (not Al-Tawhid) for evening prayers when he was arrested, local mosque committees went into denial about the problem of extremism and refused to speak to local & national media, being incapable of dealing with the issue.  I was outspoken, however by the grace of God, giving interviews to Simon Israel & Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News, and to the local newspaper, the Waltham Forest Guardian.  The problem clearly needs to be addressed, since Leyton is a centre of extremist activity, including Al-Muhajirun and its successor organisations, as well as Hizb-ut-Tahrir.  One of the convicted 21/7 terror plotters also lives in the area, although he has served his time in prison and reformed, now working to get youth away from terrorism.

 

4. In 2007, a 1-hour CNN documentary, The War Within, profiled me as Imam Usama Hasan at Al-Tawhid Mosque, and as one of the moderate voices against extremist Muslims in Britain.  An article based on the documentary may be found here: http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/01/17/warwithin.overview/index.html?iref=allsearch

 

5. Also in 2007, the Policy Exchange named a number ofUK mosques, including Al-Tawhid, as having links to extremism in a major report.  I defended the mosque against this accusation, with the help of an interview given to BBC Newsnight, which featured a famous, live studio clash between Jeremy Paxman and Dean Godson of the Policy Exchange.

 

6.  The people adamant on expelling me show signs of xenophobia and misogyny, a notable feature of extremist salafism (see Introduction).  For example, they officially criticized my speaking at a meeting of the Redbridge Three Faiths’ Forum in Spring 2011 held at the mosque, when I shared the platform with Rabbi David Hulbert and a Christian priest.  Furthermore, they have objected to the hosting of female speakers (Lauren Booth & Myriam Francois-Cerrah) speaking for the first time to a mixed male/female audience in 2011-12, since they believe that female speakers should only speak to female audiences under all circumstances.

 

7.  Since the attempted extremist takeover in 2011, there has been a concerted attempt to suppress moderate voices and invite extremist ones.  For suppression of moderate voices, including Abu Muntasir of JIMAS, Myriam Francois-Cerrah & Ajmal Masroor, see: http://www.masjidtawhid.org/news/42-unauthorised-events-by-khola-hasan-and-jimas and http://www.masjidtawhid.org/news/12-masjid-management/19-unauthorised-event-organised-by-usama-hasan.  For an example of an extremist voice, see the hosting of Assim al-Hakeem on 2/4/12: http://www.masjidtawhid.org/news/41-beneficial-lectures-by-sh-asim-alhakeem-and-sh-muhammad-salah , a speaker described as a “superstar extremist” by Student Rights, an active and influential group dedicated to tackling extremism on UK campuses: http://www.studentrights.org.uk/article/1903/edinburgh_napier_university_hosts_superstar_lineup_of_extremists (all URLs were active until at least 17/5/2012)

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

Al-Tawhid Mosque is surrounded by the dangers of extremism and terrorism.  The congregation, trustees, Charity Commission, local and national government, police and wider British society all need to ensure that it, and other UK mosques, are run effectively by people with a firm grounding in moderation, non-violence and anti-extremism.


[1] See R. Meijer, Global Salafism: Islam’s New Religious Movement (Hurst, 2009), in which the author of this post is quoted several times, for a recent, comprehensive discussion of these themes in salafism.

[2] See Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens’ report on Awlaki (King’s College London, 2011), in which the author of this post is quoted.

Mosque – Arbitration and Charity Commission Investigation

June 20, 2012

Bismillah.  A brief summary of events, with the Arbitration Report appended at the end – the latter is legally binding, and the people who have changed the locks at the mosque and are attempting a total takeover are in violation of this agreement.

10 May 2012: First arbitration meeting.

17 May 2012: Second arbitration meeting, resolving the dispute for the time being and appointing a 6-month interim trust.

11 May 2012: In the meantime, the Charity Commission opened its statutory investigation into extremist and terrorist links around speakers at the mosque, a serious step that is never taken on the basis of an individual complaint, as is clear from the Commission procedures on their website.  They wrote to various people at the mosque about this almost 2 weeks’ later.

The media got hold of the story, and I did a half-hour interview with BBC London (aired 7/6/12) to attempt damage-limitation using conciliatory language about the mosque congregation and trust together dealing with this crisis.  Although the TV & website pieces were quite accurate, the TV piece misrepresented me as being “openly critical of the mosque,” for which they have apologised to me personally.  The  conciliatory language is also clear from my interviews to the Independent and the Evening Standard on 8/6/12, and from the piece on the BBC website.

More background in the next blog post, but please note:

* The Charity Commission does *not* endorse the list of trustees under any trust on its website, since this is entered by trustees themselves and not checked by the Commission.

In 2011-12, it has become clear that the attempted extremist takeover at the mosque involves supporters and sympathisers of Awlaki, which is no doubt why the Charity Commission investigation has terrified them.  Some people have tried to claim that I am somehow responsible for Awlaki’s visits (I did not organise any of them).  The truth is that whilst I have been outspoken against extremism and terrorism for many years by the grace of God, it is people like Saleh Patel who promoted Awlaki until as late as April 2009 in London (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/higher/rosie-waterhouse-universities-must-take-action-on-muslim-extremism-1922730.html ); as did Cage Prisoners (see Hitchens’ report on Awlaki, http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/files/1289579667_1.pdf ), for whom Saghir Hussain, the lawyer, worked for several years; as did Islam Channel until 2010 (http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/images/stories/islamchannelreport.pdf ), for whom Talat Sultan works.  In contrast, I publicly criticized Awlaki’s extremist views as soon as I learnt about them, e.g. at the City Circle meeting about the Gaza crisis in January 2009.  And about a decade before that, it was my father who forced Abu Qatada out of the mosque by the grace of God.

MUSLIM ARBITRATION SERVICE

In the Name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful

ARBITRATION REPORT

The Trustees of Masjid & Madrasa al-Twhid, 80 High Road, Leyton, London E15 2BP, who have been in dispute over the running of the Masjid for a long time, had agreed in writing to submit their dispute to Nizar Boga BSc LL.B(Hons) DMA FRSPH MCIEH JP for arbitration. They have authorised him to be the sole Arbitrator of all issues and conduct the arbitration procedure as he considers fit and proper and make decision which will be final, binding and not subject to appeal in any court of law or tribunal.

Two hearings were held at Crown House, North Circular Road, Park Royal, London NW10 7PN

At the start of the first hearing session on 10 May, Nizar asked all the Trustees to take an oath by holding the Quran in their right hand and swear by Allah to speak the truth and nothing but the truth. All the trustees complied.

THE OUTCOME

RESIGNATIONS

Resignations of the following trustees were offered voluntarily and pronounced without conditions. They will sign resignation documents in due course and the same will be transmitted to the Charity Commission.

Dr. Usama Hasan
Ebrahim Patel
Nisar Ahmed
Arif Saleem

INTERIM ADMINISTRATION

Interim Administration for 6 months starting from 17 May 2012 to 17 November 2012 was constructed and announced as follows:

1. Dr Suhaib Hasan – Chairman for the first 3 months and Vice Chairman for the remaining 3 months
2. Mehmud Patel – Vice Chairman for the first 3 months and Chairman for the remaining 3 months
3. Mohamed Patel – Treasurer through out the 6 months
4. Liaqat Ali – Secretary through out the 6 months

The following Trustees were appointed to serve in the Interim Administration for 6 months. All the 10 Trustees may be re elected under the new constitution.

5. Mrs. Nazima Shaikh
6. Mohammed Tahir
7. Raja Wali Mohammed
8. Muhammad Sethi
9. Talat Sultan
10. Zahid Ahmed

The Trustees, who were appointed during the period of dispute by both sides, will step down permanently but will be eligible for consideration as members of the new charity and administration in future.

It is my sincere desire that all the 10 Trustees will act as one body of Trust to oversee all the functions and responsibilities of managing the affairs of the mosque during this crucial period of six months which will take us pass the Ramadan, Hajj and Olympic period and I request all the mosque users to help and support them in their individual as well as group capacity.

During this period, I would be working closely with the trustees to bring up options for new charity scheme in which I hope to have your input. I hope to consult you regularly in person and through email. Please feel free to talk to me when I visit your mosque, or send me any feedback/comments over the interim period.

My email is : nizarboga@hotmail.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

OR send me a letter to 70 Friern Park, North Finchley, London N12 9LA

Let us all pray to Allah (swt) to give us the courage and wisdom to work together as brothers in Islam and help our community

ARBITRATOR – Nizar Boga BSc LL.B(Hons) DMA FRSPH MCIEH JP

17 May 2012