A British Muslim has received death threats from other members of his community after he spoke out about alleged hate preaching and the glorification of murder by Imams in three local mosques.
Khalil Ahmed says he has been targeted after he spoke out against Imams at three major mosques in High Wycombe, Berkshire, who he says gave public sermons in which they praised Mumtaz Qadri, calling him a “martyr”.
Qadri was executed earlier this year for the murder of the governor of his province – a man he was hired to protect – for his calls to relax the state’s severe anti-blasphemy laws. The case has rocked Pakistan, with rioting breaking out on that country’s streets in protest at his execution.
Two weeks ago Mr. Ahmed told Bucks Free Press (BFP): “This is hate preaching and I think it is very dangerous and hypocritical of people in such an important position to do this.
“High Wycombe has had links with extremism and terrorism in the past and to speak in front of so many people and pretend this man is a martyr could have devastating consequences.
“What message are they conveying to this close-knit community? He was a murderer and should not be glorified like this.”
Two of the Imams, Sultan Mehmood and Hafiz Hamid Uddin, have both been at their mosques for at least a decade, while the third, Ghulam Jeelani, has served at his for 3 years.
Consequently, Mr. Ahmed’s words have provoked a furious backlash from the community, he says, prompting threats of physical violence and his murder should he ever return to Pakistan.
In a letter to Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe, seen by the BFP, Mr. Ahmed said: “I was under threat of physical violence from the time I made my complaint.
“Now real threats have been made since the BFP article, as well as threatening language used against me on social media.
“I have been warned by well-wishers of threats of violence against me including sanctioning my murder if and when I travel to Pakistan.”
He added: “I have informed the police of these threats.”
Speaking directly to the paper he added: “I run the risk of putting myself in danger. I’m not meant to say these things, they are meant to stay behind closed doors.
“But, I could not just sit around and not say anything. My kids grew up here and I’m proud of this place.
“This sort of thing should not happen in High Wycombe, England or anywhere.
“We’ve had lots of issues here, so it can’t just be brushed under the carpet.”
He is unlikely to receive much sympathy from Mr. Baker, however, as the Conservative MP has previously said he was “surprised” by the allegations, and that the three Imams feel they have been wrongly accused. “My personal experience of Wycombe Islamic Mission and Mosque Trust and the Trust’s Imams has, over six years, been entirely positive,” he said.
“Our Imams feel falsely accused. They have reassured me that at no time did they glorify Mumtaz Qadri’s actions. There is controversy over the course of justice as it was applied to this man and echoes of that controversy have been heard here in High Wycombe.
“I have an absolutely non-negotiable commitment to freedom of religion and expression.
“Tolerance means bearing with opinions, especially in matters of faith, with which we disagree profoundly.
“I am satisfied that local Imams preach the rule of law and peaceful co-existence. Long may that continue and strengthen,” he concluded.
And he challenged “any accuser” to “bring forward evidence for their allegations”.
Mr. Ahmed has insisted that the accusations were factual, saying: “I have witnesses who heard the sermons first hand. However, those witnesses are afraid of physical retribution and social exclusion from the community.”
The allegations are being investigated by The Wycombe Islamic Mission and Trust which controls the three mosques at the centre of the allegations: Jubilee Road Mosque, Townfield Mosque, and Castlefield Mosque.
According to the Trust, those three mosques alone serve 80 per cent of the town’s Muslim population.
The Trust secretary, Shafait Ali, said: “We do not accept anybody praising any murderers or terrorists, which ever form it might be. We’re totally against that.”