In his richly-entertaining, car-crash interview with the BBC’s Stephen Sackur which I covered yesterday, Muhammad Abdul Bari, the chairman of the East London Mosque, was heavily pressed on his mosque’s unfortunate predilection for hate and extremist speakers, specifically the al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Dr Bari told Sackur that, while mistakes might have been made in the past, it was all quite different now at this renowned centre of tolerance and harmony. In one of the many hurt letters he has written to the media lately (the climate for Islamism seems to be turning rather chillier) he further insisted: “The 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.
“All accusations of ‘extremism’ links are also historical: it is two years since the Awlaki issue arose, for example, and since then we have tightened our procedures and policies accordingly, to ensure no such issues arise again. Let me state once more: we deplore extremism of all kinds and fully support democracy.”
Oh dear, but what’s this I see – happening at the East London Mosque this evening, organised by our very dear friends the Islamic Forum of Europe? An event on “The Fiqh Of Social Ills.” Fiqh is normally translated as “understanding” or as “knowledge of the rules of God.”
It’s the last of a four-week seminar series. For the first two weeks the IFE’s “social ills” were pretty uncontroversial – “drug and alcohol abuse,” “domestic violence.” In week 3, it started to get a bit wackier – “jinn possession and black magic” was on the agenda. But tonight is the big one.
Tonight’s social ill to be condemned? That well-known scourge, “child-rearing in the Western context.” If the Western context, or society, around this mosque, can be described as a “social ill,” that doesn’t bode too well for cohesion and inter-community harmony, does it? Will the people at this seminar be raising their kids to mix with fellow Londoners of other cultures – or to stand apart from them?
For such a famously harmonious’n’democratic institution, the East London Mosque is perhaps over-fond of seminars decreeing what is and is not Islamically permitted. On 9 July 2009 the mosque’s London Muslim Centre had an event on the theme that “music,” too, was a “social ill.”
The speaker at that one, Haitham al-Haddad, believes that music is a “prohibited and fake message of love and peace.” He opines more broadly (h/t Harry’s Place): “We always say that the conflict between Islam and the enemies of Islam is an ongoing conflict and we should pay a very high price for us, for Muslims, to gain their victory. And we should realise that victory cannot be gained easily and we should be pay the price of this victory from our blood, and Muslims are ready to do so.”
Gosh – that sounds pretty “controversial” and “extremist” to me. Thank goodness we have Dr Bari’s word for it that the mosque and London Muslim Centre’s “policies and procedures” have been “tightened… to ensure that no such issues arise again.” How lucky we all are to have Dr Bari’s assurance that the East London Mosque’s associations with such people are purely “historical.”
Happy Christmas everyone. Back on the 2nd of January.