'Forgery' mosque: new developments

As we reported last month, a London mosque has been reported to the Charity Commission by one of its own trustees, a Muslim Labour MP, after he said it forged his signature on key legal documents.

In a letter obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, Khalid Mahmood said he had become “seriously concerned” about actions taken by his fellow trustees at the North London Central Mosque and called for a “full investigation” into what he called “a serious criminal offence.”

The mosque, which became notorious as the home of hate preacher Abu Hamza, was closed down by police in 2005 and reconstituted with a new board of trustees, including Mr Mahmood and another Muslim Labour MP, Mohammed Sarwar.

However, an alleged extremist and supporter of the banned terrorist group Hamas, Mohammed Sawalha, was also given a prominent place on the new board, causing tensions with moderate trustees such as Mr Mahmood and Mr Sarwar.

Mr Sawalha is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his perch in London. Last year, Mr Sawalha also signed the Istanbul Declaration, which calls for attacks against the allies of Israel, which include the UK.

Conflict has come to a head over a libel action launched by the mosque against the centre-right thinktank Policy Exchange, which claimed that extremist literature was found on the premises. In his complaint to the mosque and the Charity Commission, Mr Mahmood says that the libel case was launched without his or Mr Sarwar’s knowledge or consent.

“Neither I nor Mr Sarwar have been consulted with regards to the legal action against Policy Exchange,” he said. “To spend what I apprehend to be very substantial sums of money on libel proceedings is not in accordance with the charity’s governing document.” The case was thrown out by the judge, Mr Justice Eady, who ordered the mosque to pay Policy Exchange’s costs, but the mosque is appealing.

Mr Mahmood also said that his signature on a key legal document was forged by another trustee of the mosque, not Mr Sawalha. In his letter, he says: “My signature is said to appear on that document. That signature is a forgery. I understand another trustee to claim on oath that he forged my signature but did so with my authority. I have never given any such authority. I understand his actions constitute an offence under the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act… It appears that a serious criminal offence has occurred.”

At the time a spokesman for the other trustees, Mohammed Kozdar, told us: “The decision to take legal action against Policy Exchange was recorded in the board of trustees’ minutes which we send Mr Mahmood.” Asked about the allegation of forgery, he said: “As far as we know, he asked someone to sign on his behalf. I wasn’t aware he denies that. If he does, we need to find out who’s right.”

Now the mosque has replied in similar terms to Mr Mahmood’s complaint – prompting the MP to write back a further stiff letter. “I do not believe that I was sent minutes of the trustees’ meetings,” he says. And: “I have read and re-read your explanation for my forged signature on the Trust Deed… Your letter provides no explanation as to why my signature is forged, which is a serious criminal offence.”

The Charity Commission is now investigating. Watch this space for further news.

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