Home / Comment / Imam Shakeel v The BBC: Time for the community to wake up

Imam Shakeel v The BBC: Time for the community to wake up

Imam Shakeel Begg of Lewisham Mosque, London, recently lost his case for libel against the BBC. Firstly, I would like to say that I wish to express my support for Imam Shakeel. He is a model imam who works diligently for his community in keeping with his Islamic principles. He has done excellent work in a number of areas, whether this is developing the mosque he leads or working with the wider community.

Moreover, under his stewardship, the mosque was one of the few mosques in the country to make robust statements on contemporary political issues including the proposal to close mosques,[1] or the US Senate’s Torture Report.[2] They were willing and brave enough to make declarations on such issues while others shied away for fear of backlash.

There are a number of concerns that the entire Muslim community should have with the judgement passed in the case. The High Court highlighted certain examples which it deemed as “extremist” Islamic positions. The substantive examples used by the judge in the course of his judgement, which were based on the testimony of one “expert” witness, are a cause for concern for numerous reasons. First, it is worrying that a secular court is trying to pass judgement on what Islam is or is not. Second, Imam Shakeel does not adhere to the list of beliefs alleged against him. And third, and perhaps most worrisome, is that the views that are espoused by Imam Shakeel would be considered normative Islamic positions from an orthodox view of Islam, including:

– An “Us” and “Them” worldview.

– The classification of all non-Muslims as unbelievers.

– The belief that precepts of the Muslim faith negate and supersede all natural ties (i.e. the brotherhood of Islam is stronger than the ties of blood).

– Expressing approval for people such as Sheikh Abdul Aziz b. Baz, Sayyid Qutb and Abdullah Azzam.

It is therefore necessary and important for the Muslim community in the United Kingdom to support Imam Shakeel and Lewisham Islamic Centre during this time. For too long we have stood idly by while normative aspects of Islam have been attacked and Muslims have been subjected to the harshest of terrorism measures. We have stood by while fellow Muslims had to go through raids, arrests and TPIM’s domestically or have been tortured, kidnapped and deported to black sites or falsely imprisoned internationally. I recently wrote that those initiatives such as PREVENT were about ideas and not violence. The ruling from the court appears to support this view as beliefs espoused by Imam Shakeel do not fit into the liberal and secular state in which we live.

There is a sense that the PREVENT duty, the ruling of the courts and the attitude towards normative Islam is leading us to a creeping normality. This is where major change occurs undetected if it happens over a gradual period of time. This is in contrast to something happening in a short period of time which we would consider intolerable. With judgements being passed such as in this case we may, over time, lose the Islam we believe in because the legislature and the judiciary has slowly chipped away at its very foundations.

This is why we need to stand with Imam Shakeel as it could easily be one of us affected by such a ruling in the future. This is not an issue of differing theological interpretations of Islam; this is an issue of the very foundations of Islam which we all agree on. Martin Niemoller’s famous poem “First they came” is appropriate in such circumstances.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The poem has themes of persecution, guilt and responsibility. The ideas in this poem are reflective of what is happening today. There is the persecution of Imam Shakeel and Muslims in general in the UK and the guilt felt by the wider community as we allow such things to happen as we stay apathetic to issues of politics and Islam. This apathy could be for a number of reasons such as fear, lack of knowledge and/or self-preservation. Then there is the responsibility. This is the responsibility of the community, in particular the scholars and mosques that are its pillars. They have a duty to speak out on such issues whether that is to protest the actions which have taken place or issue statements of solidarity with the oppressed.

The ideas espoused in the poem can be found in Islamic stories such as the well known story of the bull. Over the next few weeks, there will be many events organised to show support for Imam Shakeel. It is important we help these initiatives succeed. It important that the government, the courts, Islam’s detractors and the media understand that we support him.  Who knows, it could be you who is defamed next.

Source: www.islam21c.com




About Alim Hasan Islam

Alim Hasan Islam is Head of Research and Development at Prevent Watch. He holds an LLB in Law and LLM in International Law: Crime, Justice and Human Rights.


  1. ulema and anyone who stands for justice lover

    may Allah give our ulema and imams and the rest of us a life full of abada/worship ie tameer al ard / the bettering of life for us all….God bless them. ameen.

  2. Judges are almost always out of their depth when it comes to trials involving complex matters in relation to Islam. They end up heavily relying on what ‘expert’ witnesses like Matthew Tariq Wilkinson say.

    I have researched several terrorism trials where the ‘expert’ witnesses have basically directed the judge and decided the outcome. Matthew Tariq Wilkinson was used in the trial of Birmingham bookseller Ahmad Faraz who later had his conviction quashed. So much for him being an ‘expert’.

    Unfortunately, I’m not holding my breath that the community will wake up as a result of this High Court decision. Whilst I greatly admire the tireless efforts of CAGE in opposing and challenging the Government’s counter terrorism legislation, I am aware that it is very much a marginal organisation in the minds of ordinary rank and file Muslims, and it achieves almost no support from (or in some cases is opposed by) masjid and community leaders.

    Is the high level of apathy when it comes to fighting injustice resulting from the Government’s counter terrorism legislation the result of a combination of it being a surprise attack which nobody in the 1990s could predict, and masjid and community leaders overwhelmingly being confused and out of their depth with the subject? To an extent, yes. What is more worrying is that we have a situation where a small, but not insignificant, number of ordinary rank and file Muslims have devoted the time and effort to study counter terrorism legislation and the modi operandi of government ministers, the judiciary, the police, and journalists, but their efforts fall on deaf ears because they are not endorsed by the local community leaders and elders. It’s not uncommon to have more non-Muslims – such as libertarians – listening to them and taking heed of what they say than Muslims.

  3. Too often we are afraid to speak up because of the many labels and stereotypes that have come our way for being muslim.
    My support and duas for Imam Shakeel.

    Funny how its the non muslims that are becoming experts on the Islamic faith and appropriating what the perfect faith should or should not include.

    May Allaah SWT guide us all. Aameen.

  4. a muslim wanabhe sparticus...wopuld you all lik,e so to be to....?

    salaam alaikom,

    i personally bel;ieve as an opiniion that is…..all muslims will be defamed one or the other…..whtehr to do witth the beast..(whetehr man animal or what ever it is called..)….
    as to the deception…and Allah knows best….truth = falsxehoood..it is all just startting…….he lloks madf he looks angry..he is abaddy…..!experiments and expereinces…etc…as as to alittle bot abouit the brain wash….process…etc….good muslim bad muslim…good person …bad person…etc.who the hell is who? suspicion….robots reading faces..ALLAH AkBAR./…..more women than men……subham Allah..in the future the women wi9ll be men…if we only yet knew…..ap;ologioes i am acrqazy man…..and i#on that note becauser im paranoid and i think as they sit and watch me vioa..the intewrconnecetred net…..and can get me or you anythime you they ewant…Allah knows what they arew waiting for…excuse my igontance and mkadness,.,,,,,it as if i have just65 beemn poinsoined gain by those who are muslims too…lovleyu tea? cheers?!…..Allham,dullah…whetehr for my olwn benewfit otr not….i still wish i couylod have been asked to be medically given what is good instead of p;oisoned…as i gradually turn into amercifiless creature…….

    all stand up..and tjhey tyake eho they easnt…can they get rid of us all….???eithyer way….when yopu too start6 findiung it hard to pray…..ie…owont go into too muych abiout that…..but wew can all go ob about and wait for anmircale or do sopemthing about it…

  5. I am Muslim and often get agitated when people of foreign origins start criticising this country and start believing that this is their country simply because they have British nationalities or were born here.
    Majority of us came here for for economic betterment and then brought our families over so they can have better life but now we are beginning to think we are the true natives and the rest are foreigners!
    Its almost like trying to chop the hand that fed you.
    This is a Christian country and the people have thy he right to live without fear of terrorism and being overtaken by any other religions.
    Yes invite to Islam but we should respect their beliefs and live as guests rather than trying take over everything.

  6. I don’t understand – Why are the immoral gutter press, the extremist right wing types, the zionist terrorists and the extremist politicians are working so diligently to destruct the country. Wouldn’t it be better to just let that meteor going over London in 2029 just go over London. Why are the extremist immoral gutter press, the extremist right wing types, the Zionist terrorists and the extremist politicians (those who have bought in to the nonsense of the gutter press and the extremist Zionist terrorists) insisting that God lands the meteor on London. At least the true British patriots – UK Muslims- are still working to safe guard the country from destruction by calling people to believe in God and to establish a just civilisation, Amen. We have a famous British saying – Those who fail to learn the lesson of history, are doomed to repeat it. The events of Noah, Petra (Thamud), Easter Island, Aad, Pharaoh loom large. It is good that UK Muslims have still got their thinking caps on, even if the godless gutter press, extremist right wing types and Zionist terrorists have renounced objectivity, truth/ facts, morality, and instead embraced gossip, innuendo, perversion and depravity.

  7. I would like to take this opportunity to express my support for Imam Shakeel Begg of Lewisham Mosque, London. He is a model British citizen, and a true patriot. Noah was the true patriot of his country. He called to truth/ belief in God and to justice, in an attempt to save his country from self destruct. In like manner the true patriots of the UK are practicing Muslims/ activists/ scholars such as Imam Shakeel Begg, calling to truth/ universal values/ belief in God, as well as to justice, thereby attempting to secure the future of the country. The enemies of the UK are (i) gutter press (ii) Zionist extremists with their agenda of hate and loathing as well as apologetics of Israeli state terrorism (iii) politicians who formulate policy based on gossip & innuendo gleaned from tabloid gutter press and the like…. I would like to wish the Muslims well in working to secure the country’s future, even as the gutter press, extremist Zionist, extremist right wing types and unprincipled politicians sleep walk the country to self destruct. Those who fail to learn the lesson of history are doomed to repeat it.

    ‘We sent Noah to his people, and he said: O my people! Serve God. You have no other God except him. Lo! I fear for you the retribution of an awful day (when the consequence of all your crimes overtake you, in the case of such crimes & sins being left outstanding by you not having turned to God to seek his forgiveness.) The leaders of his people said: Lo! we see that you are surely in plain error. He said: O my people! There is no error in me, infact I am a messenger from the Lord of all spheres of existence. I convey to you the messages of my Lord and give good counsel unto you, and know from God that which you know not. Are you astonished that that there should come to you a reminder (placing your lives in the bigger context of past present future and the wider universe and advising you how to secure your future) from your Lord by means of a fellow citizen, that he may warn you, and that you may have regard for God and his limits, and that haply ye may find mercy. Yet they denied him, so We (God) saved him and those with him in the ship, and We drowned those who denied our tokens/ signs/ verses. Lo! they were blind folk.’ Quran(7: 59-64)

  8. Imam Shakeel is the chap who involved a secular court to examine what is and is not extremism. He can hardly complain at its conclusion. Normative islam, with its claims to supersede all natural ties, its “Us” and “Them” worldview, its aspiration to bring the benefits of islam to the whole world, is extreme by any standards but those of normative islam.

    • “Imam Shakeel is the chap who involved a secular court to examine what is and is not extremism. ”

      Unsurprisingly, this is yet another false statement. He did not do that. The only reason they started talking about that is because the BBC’s counsel had to admit they lied about him but then pursued a justification on grounds of ‘substantive truth’, i.e. scramble around for ‘evidence’ to make him look like an extremist after they were caught out.

      But, of course, paying attention to facts and truth is a waste of time for some.

  9. Really confused by looking at the verdict 🙁 Imam Shakeel faced two defendants, 1) bbc & 2) the judge himself. I would say its a miscarriage of British judiciary.
    حسبنا الله و نعم الوكيل

  10. لا حَوْلَ وَلا قُوَّةَ إِلا بِالله

    The High Court definition of an extremist, is really quite absurd…?? What experts are they consulting, the likes of Quillaim?!
    The reality is any orthodox Muslim is a target, they are pushing “their” version of Islam and if as a community we sit back and watch it will carry on. Today it is Imam Shakeel, yesterday it was Imam Sulaiman Ghani and day before that Shaykh Haitham, the list goes on and on…..

    And they are polarizing the Muslim community, just like they did in Egypt, turning us against each other. We need to stick together as a community, this is not the time to petty differences. Allah Ta’ala instructs us, do not become divided.

    وَٱعۡتَصِمُواْ بِحَبۡلِ ٱللَّهِ جَمِيعً۬ا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُواْ‌ۚ

    Very informative article, for families like ours that don’t want to have a TV in the home, I find this website invaluable in keeping up with current affairs and what is relevant to Muslims. Your hard work is much appreciated.
    جزاك اللهُ خيرًا

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