An imam involved with the British government’s review of Sharia courts in Britain has praised the divisive left-wing organisation Hope not Hate for what he termed their “incredible work” opposing “hatred”.
In an article for The Yorkshire Post, Qari Asim MBE, chief imam at Makkah Masjid mosque in Leeds, praised the group while denouncing the “populism” which led to both the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s election as the next president of the U.S.
“2016 will be remembered as a year when the values that underpin our society – freedom, tolerance, and respect for fundamental rights – were crushed by the rise of populism in the West,” Asim wrote.
He continued: “The anti-migrant, anti-ethnic and anti-Muslim rhetoric and politics of hatred used during the EU referendum and US presidential campaign gave legitimacy and a new-found voice to racist and bigoted narratives across the world.”
Asim then claimed Muslims, in particular, have borne the brunt of discrimination, writing: “Muslims and mosques continued to be attacked during 2016 across the UK and Europe. Islamophobia gained particular validation and legitimacy this past year.
“Muslims have become the prime target of the prejudice and hatred whipped up by far right populist leaders and lazy journalists.”
He went on to single out both Hope not Hate and another EU backed group ‘British Future’ – which in December 2015 called Donald Trump a “hate preacher” and demanded he be banned from the UK – as examples of organisations working against the perceived bigotry of the populist movement:
“I am inspired to see countless examples of extraordinary dedication and courage for the vulnerable, of selfless service to others by faith institutions and charities and protection of others’ freedoms. The incredible work of Hope Not Hate and the think-thank British Future around hatred, immigration and integration in post-referendum Britain is extremely valuable.”
However, Hope not Hate has been slammed by moderate Muslims, who accuse the left-wing organisation of being a mouthpiece for radical Islam. In December, Muslim reformist and former U.S. naval officer Dr. Zuhdi Jasser told Breitbart that the group employed “Orwellian” tactics to silence moderate Muslims.
“We [moderate Muslims] get slammed from the radicals who say we’re not Muslims and we’re apostates even though we love our faith.
“And, we get slammed from the left, who is doing the bidding of the Saudis and the Iranian government and others who really don’t want us reformists to have a voice. So, they’re smothering our voices. But the bottom line answer is: They’re the bigots,” Jasser said.
In December 2015, Hope Not Hate labelled Jasser an “anti-Muslim extremist” alongside the hijab-wearing, practising Muslim Raquel Saraswati, who campaigns against regressive forms of Sharia law, in a report on what it termed the “counter jihad movement”.
“Their Orwellian approach is actually doing takfir”, Jasser added, referring to the Islamic practice of declaring a Muslim to be an apostate.
By lauding Hope Not Hate, Asim aligns himself with the organisation’s controversial views on Islam, calling into question his suitability to advise the government on Sharia law.
Asim is one of two “leading imams” who have been asked by the Conservative government to advise a panel tasked with investigating whether Sharia is being used to persecute women in Britain. As such, he will be offering theological and religious opinion on matters pertaining to the practice of Sharia.
But the inquiry has already been slammed by critics, who say it is asking the wrong questions. Baroness Cox, a cross-bench peer who has worked extensively to give a voice to women in Britain who have been victimised by Sharia courts in the UK, called out Prime Minister Theresa May in particular on her insistence that discrimination against women is due to “misuse” of Sharia teaching rather than the teaching itself.
Of the report, Cox said: “My reservation is that it won’t get to the root of the problem. A lot of Muslim women I know say that the men in their communities just laugh at this proposed investigation, that they will go underground so the investigation will have to be very robust.”