Church group backs 'extremist' mosque

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Green Lane Masjid in Birmingham, England is the headquarters of Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith UK

A British church group has defended a city mosque accused of "extremism", following an investigation by Channel 4 television.

The Saltley Gate Peace Group, an interfaith organisation based in Birmingham, has expressed "its undiminished support" for the Green Lane Masjid, featured in Channel 4's investigative Dispatches programme shown on Monday 15 January.

While filming Undercover Mosque, a secret Dispatches' reporter attended lectures at mosques run by key organisations whose public faces are presented as "moderate and mainstream" - but is believed to discover "preachers condemning the idea of integration into British society". The apparent influence of "Saudi Arabian Islam", sometimes known as Wahabism or Salafism, is also scrutinised in the film.

Programme makers claim the documentary, filmed and written by journalist Bobby Pathak, reveals "a number of mosques run by high profile national organisations that claim to be dedicated to moderation and dialogue with other faiths" but are in fact spreading "a message of religious bigotry and extremism". One of the Islamic organisations allegedly secretly filmed is Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, a registered British charity which runs more than 40 mosques and branches in the UK with its headquarters at Green Lane Mosque in the Small Heath area of the city.

The documentary largely focused on the views of Abu Usama at-Thahabi, an African-American preacher based at the Green Lane Mosque. The documentary purported to show evidence of speeches made by the imam in which he allegedly condemns women, homosexuals and non-Muslims. In one clip, he is heard to say: "Allah has created the woman - even if she gets a PhD - deficient. Her intellect is incomplete, deficient. She may be suffering from hormones that will make her emotional. It takes two witnesses of a woman to equal the one witness of the man." However, the Medinah University educated convert to Islam claimed his words had been misconstrued, later releasing a Google internet video defending his words.

However, the Anglo-Muslim group, founded in the 1970s, has rebuked the allegations, describing the documentary as "grossly distorted". Shaykh Shouaib Ahmed, the Secretary General of Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith voiced his concerns.

"We reject all forms of extremism. It is deeply alarming that a few sentences have been taken out of context in order to create the impression that our institution is a hotbed of fanaticism they could have approached us directly - we operate an open door policy in our mosques. We have nothing to hide. The religion of Islam is very clear."

The mosque explained, "We would like to make it clear that Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith cannot be regarded as endorsing every word uttered by every speaker we invite to our various mosques. Islam commands us to respond in kind to those who desire peaceful co-existence. If anyone contradicts this teaching then we would repudiate their views without hesitation."

A similar opinion was echoed in a statement from the Saltley Gate Peace Group. The community action project, based at the Saltley Methodist Church, feared the community around the mosque would be ostracized as a result of the investigation. "We cannot speak for the views of specific individuals featured in the film but are completely in support of the good nature of the mosque's diverse, multiracial and peaceful worshippers and administration."

The group has in the past successfully campaigned against propaganda campaigns in the area led by the disbanded radical group, Al-Muhajiroun.

"It is our hope that more resources will be spent on preventing true radical groups from brainwashing young Muslims and less time spent on demonising the general Muslim population for the actions of a select few", they added.

The Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith and Green Lane Masjid felt the forthcoming edition of Dispatches would "play into the hands of those who wish to exacerbate tensions within society". The religious authority has sent a letter to producer of the programme, Andrew Smith, highlighting their concerns.

An Ahl-e-Hadith mosque in Derby was also put under the spotlight in the programme, along with a Birmingham mosque run by the UK Islamic Mission (UKIM).

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