Whilst the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) likes to present itself as the representative body of mainstream, British Muslims, when one begins to probe amongst the 400 or so Muslim organisations affiliated to the MCB, problems quickly emerge. On 20 July 2005, MCB Watch exposed racist hate speech
by MCB affiliate organisation Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith. The MCB's response, as is so usually the case when faced with criticism, was denial. MCB Secretary-General Iqbal Sacranie publicly refused to disown
Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith for the racist views directed at both Jews and non-Muslims on their website.
Another day, another racist (and in this case, misogynist) affiliate. This time we turn our attention to Leeds Grand Mosque
and in particular the collection of khutbas [sermons]
published on their website.
It was to Leeds Grand Mosque that Iqbal Sacranie travelled in the wake of the London bombings of 7 July 2005. The BBC reported
that at the mosque that day, a preacher called Sheikh al-Judai spoke a message aimed particularly at young Muslims, speaking of the need for them to be good citizens and to benefit their society. But that is not always the message in the sermons at Leeds Grand Mosque. When you read the extensive collection of sermons on the mosque’s website, you discover preaching that contains hate, intolerance, incitement and misogyny.The purpose of jihad
In several of the many sermons on the mosque's website, the speaker (usually Sheikh Taher, the Imam
of Leeds Grand Mosque) addresses the question of when jihad (fighting) can be used. Contrary to the moderate line that, at most, jihad can be used in self-defence, Sheikh Taher pulls no punches and states that jihad is to be waged when something is restricting the propagation of Islam in a country. He begins:
Islam has made the protection and preservation of the deen [Islamic religion] obligatory.
So how should Islam be protected and preserved? Sheikh Taher is clear:
It is also done through calling people to the deen, and explaining to them its beauties and advantages, loving guidance for mankind, that they believe in Allah and worship Him alone. That they rule by Allah, establish the law and implement its rulings, and for this we have legislation to fight jihad in the path of Allah to preserve the deen, checking and deterring those who stand in the way of calling people to Islam.
[Source; emphasis mine]
The Sheikh goes on to explain that there is good precedent in Islamic history for this, since this is what the Islamic conquests (632-732CE) were all about:
It is to this end and purpose that Muslims fight in jihad, and for this purpose the first believers fought. This is what Rabai bin Aamr said, when he addressed the Persian leader of the Mahjus, Rustum, with all confidence and strength [c. 630s CE] … Look to the greatness of the morals and the pride in the values that the Muslims had and they were fighting and facing their enemies on the battlefields.
This fighting to ensure that Islam can be freely propagated amongst non-Muslim peoples can include martyrdom operations:
If the forces of evil stop and intervene between the people and them entering this deen as Allah, exalted is He, loves for them, it is legislated for those who call, when they face these oppressive forces, to fight Jihad in the path of Allah, and it is legislated for them to sacrifice themselves for the sake of this deen and for the sake of making the da’wah of Islam reach every heart.
[Source; emphasis mine]
(Interestingly, the sermon in which this paragraph occurs was pulled from the Leeds Grand Mosque website after a few journalists came across it. Thanks to the vast historical cache of web pages that Google keeps, it is still accessible to us.)
In the same sermon, Sheikh Taher explains that the preservation of religion comes before the preservation of life (whose
life he does not specify, but the context suggests it is the life of those who block Islamic evangelism that is forfeit):
The preservation of the deen comes before the preservation of life.
Islam must be preserved, he explains, because without it the earth will become corrupted — and Allah intended the earth to be a good place to be enjoyed by Muslims:
If the deen goes and imaan is absent, obedience is abandoned and tawhid of the All-Merciful is not found, and the worshippers of the Shaytan appear, great corruption spreads in the earth, which Allah made a resting place for His servants.
Killing and murder are indeed very serious, but if somebody is spreading “corruption” then the command not to kill is not applicable:
You learnt, O beloved brothers and sisters, how Islam forbids the killing of the self, and destroying it and damaging it without right, for whoever kills for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth it is as if he has killed all of mankind, and whoever gives a self life it is as if he has given life to all of mankind.
[Source; emphasis mine]
The message from Leeds Grand Mosque seems very clear; jihad against the unbeliever is very much part of Islam. Contrary to Sheikh al-Judai’s message of peace and tolerance to Muslim youths, Sheikh Taher thinks that Muslim youths would do well to imitate the youths of the first Muslim community:
It was they who strived day and night, sacrificed and persevered, fought jihad so that they could spread and implement this religion, its dignity and glory. Overnight the Muslims acquired an empire. Authority and leadership was established for them.A wider jihad
(Within 36 hours of this article being published, Leeds Grand Mosque edited the sermon and changed the wording from "jihad" to "strived". But you can download a pdf version of the original web page, jihad and all, by clicking here.)
Sheikh Taher also believes that jihad has a wider scope than simply ensuring that Islam can be freely preached. There is the goal of making Britain an Islamic state:
This is the sacrifice, to give your blood, your tears, your wealth, your time, for Islam. Not just the prostrations and the praises which make firm the hearts of men, but to make efforts to do more, to change our state, so that ‘La ilaha ila Allah [there is no god but Allah] is given victory.
[Source; emphasis mine]
Britain needs to be changed into an Islamic state, as do all Western nations, because they are inherently anti-Islamic and this corrupts Muslim youth:
We, as Muslims today, living in the lands of Islam and outside the lands of Islam, but especially those who live outside the lands of Islam; how great is our need of a reminder and an exhortation. Because everything that our youth face, our sons and daughters, everything that they see and witness, everything that they hear each day, contradicts and opposes their belief, their religion, and the manners and morals of Islam. There is only the small, occasional exception. This is a natural consequence for anybody, whether by choice or compulsion, who lives outside his own environment and society.
For Sheikh Taher, there can be no integration by Muslims living in Britain because man-made laws are inherently false and anti-god. In a passage that could have come straight out of Sayyid Qutb, Sheikh Taher preaches the following:
Know that any tradition or custom of a people that opposes or contradicts the Shariah, in its objectives or rulings, must be rejected.
Sheikh Taher is not alone in his view, it is shared by other preachers at the mosque. In a sermon prepared by Ghassan Al-Basri, worshippers are told that, after Britain, the world is the next target:
… the task of the believer is to bring people to worship the Lord of the worlds, and to make the religion of Allah the supreme one upon every other methodology. [Source; emphasis mine]
The kind of offensive jihad that will be required to bring this about is as much an act of worship as fasting:
… anybody stand as a hurdle in the way of its spread [of Islam] must be fought against, the real worship is not confined upon prayer and fasting only, in fact, the One who made fasting obligatory is the same One who made fighting obligatory, and the One who said: 'Fasting has been prescribed for you', is the same One who said: 'Fighting has been prescribed for you', so both are worship.
[Source; emphasis mine]
If Muslims simply follow the Qur’an and Sunnah [example of Muhammad] then military victory will be sure to follow, according to the lessons of Islamic history:
With the Qur’an to strengthen them [the first Muslims], they faced oppressive nations, and they fought against fierce armies. The life of this world was subjected to them, and they were shown respect. This is how it was for the Muslims, throughout the period in which they adhered to their Qur’an and raised the rank of the Sacred Law, the Shariah, of their Lord.
This aim of world domination is based firmly on the supreme example of all, namely that of Muhammad:
Indeed, the generation that the 'chosen one', Al-Mustafa [Muhammad], had nurtured with such distinguishing traits would inevitably succeed in the world; leading it and it subjugating itself to them.Israel and the Jews
[Source; emphasis mine]
No hate-preaching Imam’s repertoire would be complete without some rhetoric aimed at Israel and the Jews. Sheikh Taher is, indeed, no exception and in the sermon removed from the mosque website but preserved for us, thanks to Google, he rejects Israel’s right to exist in any form. With echoes of the Charter of Hamas
, Sheikh Taher explains Muslims must fight jihad until Israel is no more:
Does not the land which has been illegally seized from its people since 1948, and its people forced to flee, kicked out of their houses in order for it to be inhabited and occupied aggressively by people coming from various parts of the world, does it not deserve [to be defended] … Therefore know that this defence is an honour and an aspiration, a jihad and a sacrifice, striving for it, the like of Shaykh Ahmad Yasin
Israel can never have any validity because the whole of the land belongs to the Muslims by divine right:
Palestine is a Muslim land, occupied, its right seized, and the rights of its people seized. Palestine is the first Qiblah [direction to which Muslims pray], and it is where the Prophet sallalahu alahi wa sallam ascended from to the Heavens.
Sheikh Taher goes on to remind his audience that the Jews are an inherently corrupt and sinful race, a fact testified to by the problems Muhammad had with them:
Who tried to kill your Prophet by throwing a rock from the top of the house which the Prophet sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam was sitting in, and who is the one who put poison into the lambs meat which was given to the Prophet sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam? Who whispered to Abu Lu’luah al-Majoosi, who betrayed and killed Amir-ul-Mu’mineen, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, and he was leading the Muslims in Fajr prayer? Who was the one who spread tribulation and dissention and planned the assassination of the Khalifah of the Muslims ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan, who was killed while reading the book of Allah? And who was the one who killed Imam ‘Ali RA while he was on the way to Fajr prayer?
They were evil then and they are evil now:
The planning and the actions are the same; it is only the hands and the names that differ.Women
The preachers at Leeds Grand Mosque are also more than willing to add misogyny to jihad and anti-Jewish diatribe. So, for example, Sheikh Taher has no time for the idea that moderate Islam respects women and offers them full and equal rights with men. Why should they, since men are inherently superior:
Allah created the man to be more prudent and rational, and he is more exposed to the affairs of life than the woman.
This idea is fleshed out by an unnamed preacher who claims that women are far less rational than men because of their “sensitive” disposition:
There are also logical reasons as to why Islam considers the testimony of two women equivalent to the testimony of one man. This is for the sake of justice and completeness of the evidence. A woman is far more likely to be inclined to a sensitive character that may bias her testimony. Or she may be affected by the witnessing of a violent crime.
[Source; emphasis mine]
But women can take some comfort. If they witness a “simple” crime, their minds can cope with it and so their testimony does stand:
This ruling concerns major crimes where a serious punishment may have to carried out on the accused. When it comes to simple matters the testimony of one woman is sufficient.
According to Sheikh Taher, women cannot leave the house unless they are properly attired and unless their husband permits them to:
The woman is obliged to wear lawful clothing when she leaves her house, and she must not leave without her husband’s permission and knowledge. He is the one that is called upon to prevent suspicion and doubt.
Women have just three roles in life: daughters, wives or mothers:
Islam has come to protect the women in all three stages of her life. First as a child, then as a wife and finally as a mother.
And once they are married, their function is purely domestic:
The wife takes care of the house, to keep it orderly, to clean it, and prepare the food (as is the custom), to protect her husband’s property, to spread peace and happiness in the house, and to not give anything of her husband’s property without his permission. The woman is the caretaker of her husband’s house; this is her responsibility. She is trusted with her husband’s property, and she is not allowed to spend out from it, even for charity, without his permission.
The wife cannot refuse any demand by her husband for sex:
We know from the hadith that if a man invites his wife to bed and she refuses the angels curse her until the morning.
But, thankfully, if she obeys her husband in everything, she may see Paradise:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If a woman prays her five prayers, fasts the month of Ramadan, guards her chastity, and obey [sic] her husband, she will enter Paradise. Response
What are we to make of such hateful preaching and such deeply ingrained sexism and misogyny? One hopes that Sheikh Taher and the other preachers might fall foul of the government’s plan to tackle radical imams and that any replacement might be a moderate, able to teach appropriately within the context of 21st century, pluralistic Britain. But how likely is that, given the fact that mosque chose to appoint Sheikh Taher, has allowed him to remain for over five years, and has continued to publish and promote his hatred on their website? One presumes that this can only have occurred because the mosque committee agree with his stance on jihad, on the Jews and on women.
So then, what of the MCB? Will they deal with this kind of radicalism and extremism from another of their affiliates? Will they eject Leeds Grand Mosque as an affiliate member, set up and publish a code of conduct for their 400 affiliates and ensure such preaching is dealt with more rapidly in future?
I wouldn’t hold your breath.
When challenged over radical affiliates in the past, the MCB have always refused to take action. Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith
claim that Jews are trying to take over the world and are responsible for all of its problems, before moving on to call all non-Muslims “sick” and “deviant”. The MCB refuse to act. The Muslim Association of Britain, another affiliate, state that suicide attacks against civilians in Israel are perfectly acceptable and, again, the MCB refuse to act
The problem is that there is a tremendous double-standard here, because at other times the MCB do display a willingness to draw the line. Consider the Ahmadi Muslims, a small, moderate sect who differ from mainstream Muslims in that they believe Muhammad was not
the last prophet, but that the 19th century Indian ascetic Mirza Ghulam Ahmed was a prophet and the promised Messiah. The MCB issued a press release in 2003 that was brutally clear:
Mainstream Islamic teaching holds that the blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last in a long line of prophets sent to mankind. Mainstream Sunni and Shi'a Muslims are both agreed on this basic tenet of the Islamic faith. Furthermore, we believe that there are no more than 1 million Ahmadis in the entire world as opposed to the 1.5 billion strong worldwide Muslim community. So, whilst we fully accept the right of Ahmadis to their own religion, it is clearly misleading to describe them as Muslims. They are not.
So when it comes to obscure Muslim sects, the MCB will
draw the line. But when it comes to affiliates who preach hate, call for jihad, or support extremism, suddenly line-drawing is out of the question. All this makes it very hard to avoid the conclusion that the MCB approves of the preaching at Leeds Grand Mosque. This allows us to read some MCB statements in a new, revealing light:
Islam as a faith is famously colour-blind and was revealed to bring peoples of all nations together in worship of the One True God.
[Source (Word file)]
Leeds Grand Mosque and its preachers would probably agree, only stressing that jihad should be fought to achieve this aim.