The North London Mosque and the case of the pig's head

North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park
North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park

On the night of 19 July, a severed pig’s head was left on the railings of the North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park. It appears to have been a serious racist attack – pork is of course forbidden to Muslims – and it reportedly caused great offence to worshippers who discovered it when they arrived for early morning prayers. But some aspects of the mosque’s response to the incident have raised questions.

As I’ve reported, one of the mosque’s own former trustees, the Muslim Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, has asked the Home Secretary to investigate whether the mosque hosted the key al-Qaeda spiritual leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, and the alleged Detroit plane bomber, Farouk Abdulmutallab. The mosque fiercely denies it. The story first emerged in a post on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog on July 19 – the same day as the pig’s head incident.

The mosque seized on the timing. In a press release, it explicitly linked the pig’s head incident to the Spectator blog post and Mr Mahmood’s intervention. It also blamed Mr Mahmood for the attack in the local paper, the Islington Gazette.

Something about that rang alarm bells with me. It turns out that the blog was only published by the Spectator at 8.49pm on the night of the 19th. Do racists of the kind who would carry out such an attack obsessively read the Spectator blog? Could they have been so outraged by this relatively obscure and moderately-worded post that they immediately decided to rush out and attack the mosque? And how did they managed to get hold of a pig’s head in a few hours at 9pm?

Police sources tell me that there definitely was a pig’s head – it was recovered by their officers – and there is also some CCTV footage of two men carrying something and walking towards the premises, although it is too poor quality to show anything much. It doesn’t show anyone putting anything on the railings. As of last week, no-one has been arrested and there has been no response to their appeals for information about anyone seen with, or buying, a pig’s head.

The police do believe a crime took place – and no-one should minimise its seriousness – but they do not appear to connect it to the Mahmood criticism. Who actually placed that pig’s head there? And has the mosque been spinning, just a little?

Muslim group: some MPs are the wrong kind of Muslim

One of the stated aims of a group called the British Muslim Initiative is to “encourage Muslim participation in British public life.” Yet, at the coming election, the BMI is urging people to throw out one of just four Muslim MPs in Britain.

The recommendation to vote against Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, is being spun by the BMI’s spokesman, Anas al-Tikriti, as a heart-warming sign of the BMI’s non-sectarian nature. The actual reason is that Mr Mahmood is an outspoken moderate opponent of Islamism and of Hamas, the terrorist group which the BMI supports.

Last month, Mr Mahmood – who is a trustee of the North London Central Mosque – reported the mosque to the Charity Commission after he said other trustees forged his signature on key legal documents (a charge the mosque has not convincingly denied.) There has long been tension between Mr Mahmood, other moderate trustees and the more radical elements of the mosque.

One of the other trustees (not necessarily involved in the forgery) is Mohammed Sawalha, who is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas “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.

Mr Sawalha, by extraordinary coincidence, is the president of the BMI. Mr al-Tikriti regularly defends Hamas. Another BMI figure is Azzam Tamimi, a Hamas supporter who has advocated suicide bombing. The BMI itself has been closely involved in some of the most inflammatory and dishonest campaigning in British politics outside the ranks of the BNP. In the 2008 London mayoral election, for instance, it claimed, in concert with the Islamist group the Islamic Forum of Europe, that Boris Johnson wanted to ban the Koran.

For the Islamists, Muslims taking part in British life is not enough. They have to be the right kind of Muslims. And if they’re not, they’d rather not have a Muslim MP at all, thanks.

I rather suspect that BMI-type lists of recommendations have no effect whatever. But just in case they do, it’s worth alerting people to this group’s true agenda.

'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.