British imams visit Iraq in bid to counter Isis propaganda in the UK

A group of Sunni imams are to make the first-ever visit by British Muslim religious leaders to see first hand the front line in the fight against Isis.

The imams, representing mosques across the country, will travel to Iraq on Tuesday for an eight-day fact-finding mission. They are expected to visit parts of the country previously under Isis control as well as meeting victims of the group, including from the Yazidi community.

The hope is that the visit will help to counter Isis propaganda in this country by highlighting the Sunni resistance to Isis in Iraq and relaying back first-hand accounts of life under the extremists.

If successful, the plan is to then bring Iraqi Sunni imams to the UK, to talk in mosques about the reality of life in Isis-controlled areas and to “deglamorise” the group and its appeal to young British Muslims.

The trip is being paid for in part by trustees of the Imam Husayn Shrine in Karbala which Isis attempted to blow up earlier this year. The rest of the funding is coming from the Muslim community in the UK. Mustafa Field, an Iraqi-born community organiser who has helped to arrange the trip, said the group would travel to Samarra and Tikrit as well as Baghdad. Tikrit was previously under Isis occupation while Samarra was for a long time at the front line between the Iraqi army and Isis.

“We want to take those stories back to the UK so that Muslims can hear first hand what is going on and hopefully counter some of the myths that have been built up over the years.

“Daesh propaganda is dangerous and this is a British Muslim-led response to challenge their ideas.

Growth of Isis and Islamophobia putting British imams under huge pressure

A generation of young British imams is under huge pressure to develop better ways of showing leadership in social and political issues while also facing death threats from Isis extremists, according to the most senior imam at Leeds mosque.

Imam Qari Asim, the imam of Makkah masjid in Leeds, told the Guardian: “To them, Isis, I am not any different to any other person in this cafe, or in a restaurant in Paris. For them, I am not a Muslim either.”

In the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks, Qari, 37, spent the week speaking to imams to make sense of what happened; attending vigils and talking to senior government ministers , while also consoling members of his congregation who fear an anti-Muslim backlash.

Earlier this week, Qari wrote an article in his local paper condemning Isis, writing: “As a Muslim, a Briton and a human being, I will not stay silent on attacks on our societies in the name of my faith.”

But despite the condemnations of the attacks by British imams in the form of signed letters, sermons and social media posts – often not picked up by wider British press – he said his peers were met with accusations that Muslim leaders are not doing enough to tackle extremism.

Another British imam, Abdullah Hasan, said the view that imams were not doing enough to condemn extremism was not fair. He said: “I was given death threats by Isil sympathisers on TV. We are speaking out against extremists and we are hated by them.”

Qari said: “I think the first thing to understand is that the imam’s role has changed over the years. Imams basically were there to lead the congregation [in prayer] traditionally – we didn’t have pastoral role as part of the imam training.”

“Now we are expected firstly to have a pastoral role, and secondly to lead the community at a political and social level,” he said. “As a result we’re being unduly criticised, even though they are not trained and it’s not considered part of their role.”

Yet due to a previous vacuum of leadership in this area, Qari said he and his peers see it as their responsibility to give guidance on issues specifically affecting a British Muslim audience.

Abla Klaa, 21, a student at Leeds university, said it was frustrating to see community leaders apologise each time, but added: “It makes sense to make people aware that we are being proactive, to tackle the far-right narrative.”

ISIS Is ‘Failing’ And Becoming ‘Increasingly Desperate’, According To British Imams In Haqiqah Magazine

ISIS is becoming “increasingly desperate” and is failing in its mission to create a Khilafah for Muslims, as thousands of Syrians shun the terrorist group to seek refuge in ‘the West’, leading British Imams have said. The group, also known as ISIL and IS, is “losing” as Muslim civilians flee in their thousands and defectors abandon the terrorist orgainsation.

Contributions from British Imams in Thursday’s edition of Haqiqah magazine will explore why Muslims are fleeing Syria, rather than join the “welcoming arms” of ISIS. The magazine’s editorial highlights that both Muslim and non-Muslim ‘Westerners’ have raised millions of pounds for medical supplies, food, accommodation and clothing for those displaced from Syria.

Haqiqah states: “Now ISIS in their desperation are telling Syrians that they are committing a ‘major sin’ in Islam if they seek protection in the West. According to Daesh [ISIS], this makes thousands of Muslim refugees who are fleeing unspeakable oppression from Daesh, other groups and Assad ‘apostates’.”

Shaukat Warraich, editor-in-chief of Haqiqah, said: “Daesh is failing on multiple fronts, it is becoming increasingly desperate. The mass exodus of refugees has exposed their false claim of having established a ‘Caliphate’ for Muslims in the region.”

Angered by images of refugees fleeing the horrors of the terrorist group, Imams in Britain have written in the digital edition to emphasis their rejection of ISIS. Mr Warraich, added: “A global message needs to go out from every corner of the world rejecting Daesh.”

Shaykha Safia Shahid, contributing author of Haqiqah, said: “Through Haqiqah, British Imams and scholars, will make clear that Islam does not permit the killing of thousands of people, sexual abuse, and the destruction of mosques, churches and other religious monuments. Today, Imams from across Britain have come together to send a clear message. Daesh has no claim and legitimacy to the beautiful and compassionate teachings of Islam; we can see its web of lies unraveling.”