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Sh Haitham responds to this week’s BBC Panorama

My Response to Panorama

In the name of Allāh, all praise and thanks belong to Allāh, may the peace and blessings of Allāh be upon his final messenger, Muhammad (sallAllāhu ‘alayhi wasallam).

Divide and conquer

The recent Panorama documentary was a shameful attempt to divide Muslims in the UK into arbitrary labels and categories, which can then be abused by this Tory government and the right wing. Its misrepresentation of my views was a negligible misdemeanour when compared to the more dastardly crime of carrying out traditional schemes of divide and conquer, by presenting a dichotomy between a government-sponsored Islām and the Islām practiced by the mainstream majority. I wish to address this fact first and foremost, and secondarily I will point out some aspects which show the inaccuracies in presenting my thoughts and beliefs.

complain bbc

John Ware concocted a biased programme that was in support of a right-wing agenda to assert that there are two types of Islām in Britain. British Islām, according to him, is what is consistent with (his) ‘British values’ and ‘extremist’ Islām – that which opposes British values, despite being non-violent.

The problem with ‘extremism’

Any serious attempt to investigate this matter would first consider what the government’s definition of extremism actually is. Having done so, it would be evident that what the government has decided to label as ‘extreme’ is totally arbitrary and open to abuse. It defines extremism as opposition to British values. Yet not once did the government or the Panorama programme define ‘British values’. So, immediately, it is clear to any objective person that the term ‘extremism’ is subjective and open to abuse—as we have seen. The programme purposefully overlooked this key point.

The most hard-fought value that came out of the British revolution was the freedom of religion and thought. Yet we now have a government and an agenda-driven BBC reporter trying to criminalise those that practice that very same British value. It has manufactured labels that divide a minority religious group, and sanctioned one version of Islām that sits well with the right-wing agenda of robbing us of our freedom of thought and religion, while trying to present genuine orthodox Islamic beliefs as criminal.

An excruciating result of demonising normative Islamic beliefs and acts can be seen in the countless cases of attacks on Muslims who display symbols of their faith. The example of Nahid Almanea comes to mind, who went for a walk in her local park in Colchester. She was not doing anything out of the ordinary for a woman in Britain, other than dress in the Muslim headscarf and long dress. Yet she was targeted for her identity as a Muslim, and stabbed no fewer than 16 times by an assailant, who then ran away leaving her to die in a pool of her own blood. Nahid did not practice any form of ‘extremist’ Islām, she merely practiced the orthodox understanding of Islām like the rest of the 99% of the Muslims. Yet her attacker saw her as an extremist because normal Islamic practice has been demonised in the media to the point of dehumanisation.

Through this labelling of normal practices and beliefs of Muslims as ‘extreme’, the Islām of the majority of Muslims is being attacked. Such as, for instance, gender segregation at Muslim gatherings or simply stating a clear-cut belief that homosexual acts are a sin in Islām. There is a clear attempt being made to almost criminalise certain aspects of being a Muslim. John Ware’s programme was seeking to help this process.

The programme’s whitewashing the debate reached intolerable levels. In order to avoid the elephant in the room, that it may be government policy and the War on Terror which seems to have increased terrorism around the world and is in fact to blame for the rise in actual violent extremism, it sought to blame Muslims for having a victim mentality. Being angered over illegal wars and gross miscarriages of justice conducted in the name of freedom and democracy is what John Ware would have us believe is a victim mentality. Furthermore, the discrimination and Islamophobia against Muslims in the UK is not something we will be silenced over. John Ware demonstrated clearly his political allegiances by declaring that the Tories would crack down on non-violent extremists. The BBC effectively allowed him not only to promote the Tories and encourage voting for them in the upcoming election, but to do so using the most potent tool in the far right toolkit: irrational fear.


The programme claimed that I declined an interview. This is false. We were in conversations with Panorama but I suspect the programme makers wanted to cynically capitalise on the events in Paris and they released the programme sooner than scheduled before we could agree a suitable time and terms. The programme sought to demonise me by showing imagery of crimes committed by ISIS, such as beheadings and the events in Paris, in-between clips of myself.

The programme purposefully quoted me out of context. A clear example is shown with the clip suggesting I asserted that democracy is ‘filthy’. In the whole video I was actually encouraging people to participate in the 2011 elections and I was responding to some Muslims who believe that we should not participate in Western democracy because it is ‘filthy’. I was illustrating the attitude of some who may disapprove of political participation—many of whom are of course not even Muslims. It is a matter of public record that I have already responded to this particular clip. I was in fact one of the first orthodox Islamic scholars to encourage voting in Britain. John Ware most likely sourced these from a well-known racist website and, quite frankly, this was fitting for the type of programme he made.

Another deliberate misrepresentation was in another video clip of me referring to ‘this equality’ as ‘evil’. Again, the programme did so in order to give the impression that what I meant by ‘equality’ is the common political and philosophical usage of the term, referring to equality ‘in status, rights, or opportunities’. However, as it is clear for anyone watching the video or referring to my numerous, clearly expressed views in the public domain, this cannot be further from the truth. I was in fact obviously referring to a growing childish, irrational and frankly misogynistic literal interpretation of ‘equality’ which demands women act exactly like men.

Genuine open, honest debate.

It is important to stress that just like not everyone will agree completely on their interpretations of ‘British values’, likewise those Muslims subscribing to mainstream, orthodox Islamic values will also disagree with others on their interpretations of ‘British values’. Firstly, Muslims who are part and parcel of British society are just as much entitled as anyone else to contribute to what ‘British values’ actually are and how they are applied. Secondly, the inevitable differences of opinion among us must never be used as an excuse to silence Muslims or any other stakeholders from this debate, under the xenophobic pretext of fear, national security and ‘terrorism’.

It is important to stress that the differences between Muslim beliefs and some western values, need not be a reason for violence. I strongly believe in peaceful social cohesion. This requires mutual respect, decency and compassion for all. This means allowing a space for genuine, honest debate, not an intellectual dictatorship that criminalises a Muslim for simply having different opinions—essentially being Muslim. This is indeed the best solution to resolve conflict and the problem of terrorism.

Finally, to be clear, a peaceful society that accepts Muslims for who they are is what all Muslims desire. The sooner the right wing in this country accepts that Muslims and Islām are part of Britain and British society the better.

Also read: In response to last night’s shocking BBC Panorama by Dr Salman Butt


About Shaikh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.


  1. Alhamdulillah I am so glad to read your article. I have feeling quite shocked at the bias of the BBC tv and their manipulation of Islamic values, and I strongly feel that the media is fully responsible for this sense of Islamophobia that is rippling all over. BBC should be ashamed and show true reportership – we are not blind as to what Islamic values are and, in fact, neither are a lot of non-Muslims – and they need to be refuted. What they are doing is abominal and not only affects Muslims in the way they practice Islam but is a way of further degradation of the entire world’s ethical and moral values.

    Allah grant you the best abilities to give an informed response to their baseless attacks!

  2. Assalaamu alaykum,

    May Allaah reward Shaykh Haytham for responding in such a professional and balanced way ma sha Allaah.

    I am sure if Panorama wanted to know Shaykh Haytham’s views on “non violent extremism” or his views on voting in Britain or any other issue they could have arranged an interview and given him a chance to answer their questions in person but it seems that, that was not what they wanted.

    Instead they decided to quote him out of context, using their media cutting and clipping and try to connect him to ISIS even though he has spoken out against them and on behalf of some of their British victims. How ungrateful can they be?

    Amazing how this programme was allowed to run considering how the BBC always pride themselves on providing high quality unbiased reporting. Also considering that many Muslims are paying their wages.

    Non violent extremism, IF such a thing exists is not the only thing that will affect British Muslim and non Muslim relations. There are many sides to this problem.

    One such side is the way the Muslims are portrayed in the media. That is also a problem that needs to be addressed in a responsible way. The media is as responsible for the hate and lies that they spread about the majority of Muslims who are peace loving people as the extremists which they are claiming to stop.

    Stop associating extreme Islam with classical mainstream Islam which most Muslims practice. Stop brainwashing the public. Only then will the British public’s attitudes to Muslims in the UK and the other western countries will change.

    Creating biased doctored progammes like the Panorama documentary referred to above is something is certainly not going to improve relations between Muslims and non Muslims living in Britain.

    If you want to improve relations between British Muslim and non Muslim relations then why don’t you consult with balanced scholars who have been born and raised as Muslims and have spent their whole lives studying Islam. They know more about Islam than some deluded think they know.

    Why don’t you give respected scholars like Shaykh Haytham a chance to have his say in person and defend the lies that you make up against him and this website which is doing nothing except to spread peace and a better balanced understanding of Islam to the public?

    May Allaah guide us all to the Straight Path. Ameen!

  3. jamal james
    1 week agoPublic
    I just find it quite hilarious and extremely telling, that the killing of these cartoonist, was met with such an outrageous out pouring of solidarity and blatant Western hypocritical bias. This so called civilised continent of Europe (and it’s illegitimate off-spawn the USA), which has contributed to the world… The genocide of the true American people, the transatlantic racist slave trade, the continued exploitation of Asia, Africa and South America; the dropping of two nuclear bombs on Japan. Not One, but Two World Wars (well, really European wars, they just had the audacity to drag the rest of the world into it). Now in it’s hegemonic decline, chooses to back those who would insult an individual who is beloved to over a billion inhabitants of this planet. Then denounce them as intolerant. While invading many of their lands in the name of freedom (spelt ‘Oil & Gas’). While at the same time, banning women from wearing the veil in public, banning the practice of halal slaughter (while continuing to feed and inject your own cattle God knows what, and housing them in conditions truly horrendous, not in all cases I admit). Attempting to ban the religious practice of circumcision. Yet you, Europe and America, are the tolerant rational minded saviours of humanity. This is what following secular liberal extremism does to you. A totally inflated, biased and unrealistic perception of yourself! If you want to engage in critiques, do so with a manner of respect and humility. Your material dominance (and we all know how you Europe acquired it, lying/cheating/stealing; and that’s a whole another article) has fooled you into believing your own hype. So remember this, Empires come and Empires go… and yours is about to be thrown into the dust bin of history!!!

  4. Abu Yusuf al-Hanbali

    Overall a good response. The argument to ‘Equality’ was good but why not be consistant to also clarify ‘Democracy’. Is Democracy not filth! Is it not worst? Is it not shirk? Since it’s core element in its definition is the sovereignity to man and not the Creator.

    Muslims participation to this system is out of necessity – lesser of evils – since the system, in and of itself, does not protect its minority but rather maintains the capitalist power structure. That’s why blacks, women, Jews, Irish etc had to struggle and today it is the Muslims turn.

  5. I watched the panorama program and I was quite frankly, disturbed but it. Though I have not seen the full video from which the clip in which Shaykh Haytham spoke about ‘filthy’ democracy was shown, it was clear to me from the clip that he was describing the attitute of some people whilst about to encourage a healthy participation in the democratic process. It is also true to say that that has been his stance for many many years. Equally, I can understand from the Shaykh’s comment above that his reference to ‘equality’ may have been misconstrued and quoted out of context knowing what we are have read and understood about the status of men and women in Islam with respect to the reward the earn from Allah, equally.

    If I were to have the best opinion of the producer then I will say this is pure sensationalism whilst my worst opinion will be cynism. Whichever of the two it is, we must call for a public apology and an interview of the Shaykh, not clips which are taken out of context. That will be consistent with free speech!

  6. A response to the response! This is one of the most negative parts of the internet it gives a platform to everyone, which can be extremely tedious. Shaykh Haitham has responed, is anyone remotely interested in “a response to the response” Oh my goodness we are in the playground! What is the point…..

    • Well dialogue and debate should be encouraged. I think it’s a positive aspect of the internet – to give anyone a voice.

      If you don’t like it, simply ignore.

  7. This info is worth everyone’s attention. Where can I find out more?

  8. I would be grateful if somebody could get this to Haitham al-Haddad as I no longer have his email address. Thank you.

  9. Very important ending statement from the shaykh concerning Muslims in the UK, Muslims just seek to be respected for what they are. The sooner some elements of this society accept that, the better.

  10. Musab Kevin Holloway

    Assalamu Alaykom wa rahmat Allah wa barakatu Dear Shaykh and Islam21c,

    May Allah keep your feet firm and gather your hearts upon patience,
    May He help you to speak and think calmly against this storm of hateful complacence.

    Don’t worry Shaykh, I think that your ‘interiority complex’ diagnosis is correct,
    Muslims must now choose the group that Sayyidna Muhammad (sAllah3ws) and his group or defect.

    Let’s not panic and carry on waking this Ummah,
    And hope that these storms help to bring it out of its coma.

    I love you all for the sake of Allah and love your dawah,
    So I remind you to fear Allah alone, for it is but from He alone should we cower.

    Your brother,

    Musab Matthew Abu Mariam

    • Assalamu Alaykom wa rahmat Allah wa barakatu Dear Shaykh and Islam21c,

      May Allah keep your feet firm and gather your hearts upon patience,
      May He help you to speak and think calmly against this storm of hateful complacence.

      Don’t worry Shaykh; I think that your ‘inferiority complex’ diagnosis is correct,
      Muslims must now choose the group that Sayyidna Muhammad (sAllah3ws) and his Companions were on [i.e. normative Islamic practices] or defect.

      Let’s “not panic and carry on…” waking this Ummah,
      And hope that these storms help to bring it out of its coma.

      Subhan Allah – I love you all for the sake of Allah and love your dawah,
      So I remind you to fear Allah alone, for it is but from He alone should we cower.

      Your brother,

      Musab Matthew Abu Mariam

  11. What we have here is a very clear example of western terrorism through their tool (the media). It is worrying that such attacks are becoming increasingly frequent and brazen. The fact that racist bigots the likes of john ware are being allowed to scare monger, pervert facts and demonise/criminalise innocent muslims is serious cause for concern. It is a concerted crusader effort to falsely accuse, attack and then illegally prosecute innocent muslims scholars (as a means of dismantling the Islamic establishment in the uk).

    This is nothing short of a criminal act and ethnic cleansing, yet the british government turns a blind eye to it, in exactly the same way they have always turned a blind eye to british and american illegal invasions, terrorism, war crimes and pillaging of natural resources in sovereign muslim lands.

  12. JazakAllahKhair dear Shaykh, excellent response!

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