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East London Mosque
| Party Like It's 632|
|Turning towards Mecca|
The East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre is a… well, does what it says on the tin, really. It also has the unfortunate tendency to invite crazy bigots over to give talks.
“”We stand together with our fellow citizens against all forms of hatred, including homophobia. We are committed to building strong and cohesive communities in Tower Hamlets, and our strength is that we will not let incidents of hate divide us.
|—Dilowar Khan, London Muslim Centre director|
This statement is a tad at odds with the Centre's practices. For one, the East London Mosque has allowed Uthman Lateef — a man who claims that "We don’t accept homosexuality… we hate it because Allah hates it." — to speak at a gala dinner.
"There's no such thing as a Muslim having a non-Muslim friend", says Khalid Yasin, another guest speaker at the London Muslim Centre, "If you prefer the clothing of the kafirs over the clothing of the Muslims, most of those names that's on most of those clothings is faggots, homosexuals and lesbians." He went on to state that "homosexuality, lesbianism and bestiality… are immoralities and if they are tried, convicted, they are punishable by death."
The East London Mosque's Friday sermon has been delivered by the likes of Abdullah Hakim Quick, who agrees that homosexuality is punishable by death; and Bilal Philips, who has said that "[t]he consequence of AIDS is enough to prove that homosexuality is evil and dangerous to society" and has been named by the US government as a co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.
On 4 August 2009 prayers at the mosque were led by Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, a man who has called Jews "offspring of apes and pigs", Christians "influenced by the rottenness of their ideas and the poison of their cultures the followers of secularism" and Hindus "idol worshippers", and allegedly asked God to "terminate" the Jews. Islamophobia Watch, for reasons that are not immediately obvious, defended his presence.
In April 2011 the Centre hosted an event held by the Tayyibun Institute, with Abdul-Rahman Al-Barrak one of the scheduled speakers. This cheery chappie has stated that "[a]nyone who accepts that his daughter, sister or wife works with men or attend mixed-gender schooling cares little about his honour" and that "[w]hoever allows this mixing… is an infidel and this means defection from Islam… Either he retracts or he must be killed". Other speakers at the Mosque include Hussein Yee, who blames Jews for 9/11.
The mosque has ties to the Islamic Forum of Europe, which it describes as "social welfare organisation". "Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers", says Muhammad Rabbani, a trustee of the IFE's youth wing. He also advises against "free mixing with women in that which is not necessary". IFE community affairs coordinator Azad Ali has stated that "[d]emocracy, if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia, no one's going to agree with that".
In late 2010 the mosque held a four-week series of seminars entitled "The Fiqh Of Social Ills". The 'social ills' discussed in the seminars ranged from the reasonable — alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence — to the downright nutty — "jinn possession and black magic" and "child-rearing in the Western context".
The borough of Tower Hamlets has given the mosque around £200,000 across five years for its contributions to community cohesion.
In December 2008 The Telegraph ran an article criticising the mosque for showing a videotaped lecture by Anwar al-Awlaki, whom it claimed was banned from the US for allegedly serving as an advisor to three of the 9/11 terrorists; al-Awlaki denied these allegations.
In early January 2009 al-Awlaki released an article entitled "44 Ways of Supporting Jihad". Following the Fort Hood shootings he made a blog post claiming that "Nidal Hassan[sic] is a hero. He is a man of conscience who could not bear the contradiction of being a Muslim and fighting against his own people. No scholar with a grain of Islamic knowledge can deny the clear cut proofs that Muslims today have the right — rather the duty — to fight against American tyranny." In 2010 The Telegraph ran another article on al-Awlaki's visit to the mosque, now claiming that he had shown a video named "Stop Police Terror".
The mosque responded by issuing a statement denying that al-Awlaki's video was named "Stop Police Terror" and claiming that this was simply the title given to it by someone who uploaded it to YouTube. The statement also said that, at the time, the mosque's Executive Director had spoken to police and that no concerns had been raised about al-Awlaki's views. The mosque claimed to have cut all ties with al-Awlaki after his extremism became clear in 2009, and concluded that "[w]e would like to reiterate our position on violent extremism, and the roads towards it, as having no moral or religious justification."
"Lucy Lips", writing for the blog Harry's Place, was not impressed by the mosque's claims. "Central to the East London Mosque's defence is the contention that it only became clear clear from late January 2009 onwards that Awlaki was an extremist", she wrote. "Awlaki's involvement with violent jihad and terrorism stretches back to the mid 1990s. No amount of spin will disguise that fact." She went on to say that, while "Stop Police Terror" was not the name of the lecture, it was the name of an organisation — a forerunner to Cageprisoners — that both the mosque and al-Awlaki were involved in setting up; she also analysed al-Awlaki's lecture in detail, concluding that it was in fact anti-police, despite the mosque's claims to the contrary.
Meanwhile another blogger, "habibi", took objection to part of the mosque's statement claiming that "[t]he controversial speakers who were able, in the past, to speak via third-party bookings of our facilities (circumventing our procedures) have now all been banned." "Banned? Really?" stated the post. "Earlier this month the mosque's London Muslim Centre hosted the Cageprisoners crowd… The purpose of the meeting was anti-American agitation on behalf of Aafia Siddiqui, the crudely antisemitic woman convicted earlier this year of attempting to murder US soldiers and officials in Afghanistan. Cageprisoners were among Awlaki's most ardent supporters in the UK, long after it was abundantly clear he was a preacher and recruiter for al Qaeda."
Abdul Karim Hattin
In 2007 the Mosque was visited by one Abdul Karim Hattin, who delivered a homophobic presentation. A video containing part of his speech has been posted online:
“”This is a little game I like to play: spot the fag. Elton John, or Tupac? So just a quick show of hands, brothers. Is the faggot Elton John? Put your hands up. Don't be shy, brothers, we're family here. And how many would say Tupac is the fag? Couple of you. Well, let's find out… now, this is a reference from a book I actually found called Homosexuality and Effeminisation of African Males by an individual by the name of Mwalimu Baruti. And he says the following:
'Parents and their sons are unaware of the origins of young males wearing their pants hanging down off their behinds, a style called sagging. It originated as as a practical style that allowed for easy access for homosexual inmates by other inmates in a standing sexual position. No preparation was necessary, all the heterosexual inmate had to do was approach the homosexual inmate from the rear.'How many of our young Muslims are running around with their trousers hanging down their backsides? I've seen them myself! You don't look like a thug, you look like a fag! It ain't Tupac, it's Tufag! I just want to put this warning up… for those of you who have young children you may want to avert their gaze away… this next particular image we'll show to you, will demonstrate to you the reality when you try to live the life that you don't live, when you proclaim a life that you never have lived. This is Tupac after he got killed, lying on the autopsy table… this man who proclaimed the gangster lifestyle — the fag lifestyle, thug lifestyle — he ended up nothing more than a dead body on an autopsy table.
Commenting on the video, Telegraph blogger Douglas Murray described Hattin as "an evidently lunatic semi-literate". "Mad-as-a-Hattin is saying all this whilst wearing what looks to me distinctly like an elderly lady's nightdress", he says. "This is not the first time that I have wondered about the weirdly homosexual-obsession of ostensibly homophobic Muslim preachers. The picture of '2-pac' stays up just a little too long. It is almost as though Hattin could not resist the temptation to share the photo of this glistening black male body with his Muslim 'brothers' for as long as possible."
"And as I'll never fail to say: only in a mosque", he concludes. "Only in a mosque in Britain could routine hatred like this pass by unnoticed and largely unobjected to."
Delwar Hossain Sayeedi and Jamaat-e-Islami
Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, leader of the Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami (and bearer of a weird scarlet beard that makes him look like some kind of Muslim incarnation of Timmy Mallet) has been a guest of honour at the mosque.
"The JI helped to create and subsequently dominate the leadership of the MCB, currently the largest Muslim umbrella body in Britain", says a Department of Communities and Local Government report on Pakistani Muslim communities in England. "Vying for the leadership of the MCB are the Pakistani and Bangladeshi wings of JI, alongside the Muslim Brotherhood and some politicised Deobandis. The current Secretary General is the Chair of the East London Mosque, the key institution for the Bangladeshi wing of JI in the UK."
In June 2011 gay rights activists complained that preachers at the mosque had "created an atmosphere in which hate is socially acceptable [and] spread a message in which maiming and violence is the most dutiful, honourable, devout thing to do"; this followed an incident in which "gay free zone" stickers, quoting the Koran, were placed around areas of East London. Always eager to defend looney Muslims, Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch referred to the gay rights campaigners as "a small group of bigots [who] are trying to stitch up the East London Mosque".
Salman Farsi, acting as a spokesman for the mosque, responded that by claiming that "[a]ny speaker who is believed to have said something homophobic will not be allowed to use our premises". A press release from the gay website Homintern accepted this pledge. It should be noted, however, that this campaign focused solely on the homophobia being preached at the mosque, and ignored the rest of its nuttery.
Telegraph blogger Andrew Gilligan took Farsi's apology with grain of salt. "Unfortunately, it is at least the third time the East London Mosque has made this promise", he wrote. "On 10 November 2007, the mosque’s chairman, Muhammad Abdul Bari, told my newspaper: 'If I hear of a specific preacher who is inciting hatred, I will ban him from preaching.' In the six months after this rousing statement, the numerous 'specific preachers inciting hatred' not banned from speaking at the mosque included Khalid Yasin, who describes Jews as 'filth' and says gay people should be killed... In subsequent months, the hit parade continued". He concluded by predicting that "The supply of bad guys will dry up for a month or two, then as soon as the coast is clear they’ll start creeping back again. Let’s hope it’s different this time. But you’ll forgive me, I’m sure, for being a little sceptical about the East London Mosque’s 'good faith.'"
A book, Defending Multiculturalism – a guide for the movement, set to be officially launched in September 2011, contains Dilowar Khan's thoughts on the matter. He blames journalists such as Gilligan for inciting the English Defence League, and in response to the accusations that the mosque hosts radical speakers (or "so-called 'radical' speakers", as he describes them) states that "This wasn’t true, a fact that both the police and the local council confirmed".
Blogger "habibi" points out that what the local council's spokesman actually said was "This Islamic conference is not supported by the council and we call on the Troxy to call it off in the interests of public safety and social cohesion."
Post-backlash controversies and issues
Eight days after the mosque made its promise not to allow any more homophobic speakers, it was announced that an "emergency public meeting [about] explicit sex education in primary schools" would be held at the mosque, Yusuf Patel of SREIslamic being amongst its speakers, alongside London Muslim Centre director Dilowar Khan. Andrew Gilligan points out that Patel is just the kind of homophobe that the mosque promised not to allow to use its premises: he has previously stated at the mosque that homosexuality is "not an acceptable lifestyle" and is instead a "sin against Allah"; his SREIslamic group, meanwhile, has declared that "We cannot accept that homosexuality is normalised in the minds of young children and that a normal family unit can involve two dads and two mums, as the storybook ‘And Tango Makes Three’ suggests."
The mosque was quick to point out that the meeting was partly organised by a Christian anti-abortion group and that its emphasis was on graphic sex education in schools rather than homosexuality per se; Gilligan points out that this is beside the point: Patel is a homophobe and letting him speak at the talk breaks the mosque's promise. "The mosque’s argument is akin to claiming that it would be all right for, say, a Christian cathedral to host a meeting with Nick Griffin, chaired by the dean, so long as he promised to confine his remarks to education policy", he concludes. "Lucy Lips", meanwhile, points out that the Christian group mentioned — The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children — is run by the homophobic John Smeaton, and so mentioning its involvement is no defence.
Later, Abdullah Hasan was invited to the mosque to teach lessons over Ramadan, a move which has also been criticised. Hasan has praised the suspected Al Qaeda operative Aafia Siddiqui, commenting rather curiously that "How can she be a terrorist if she had children, and she was going out with her bag and so on and so forth. She's not a terrorist, she was a Muslim trying to practise Islam". He has also claimed that the detainees in Guantanamo Bay are there simply because "they believe in Allah".
- Islamophobia or homophobia? by Paul Burston (Mar 8 2011) Time Out London.
- East London Mosque and mayor condemn anti-gay stickers by Jessica Geen (7th February 2011, 1:34 PM) Pink News.
- Soas hits back at David Cameron's accusations that it played host to 'hate preachers': It emerged that only one of the named speakers had visited the college by Sarah Cassidy & Jonathan Owen (17 September 2015 20:29 BST) The Independent.