Liberal Oxford imam counters the “Muslim McCarthyists”

Dr. Taj Hargey, “a clean-shaven imam from Oxford”, who describes himself as a “thorn in the side of the Muslim hierarchy”, has won a libel claim against a conservative Muslim newspaper. The Muslim News published an article that claimed he belonged to the Ahmadiyya sect which many in his faith believe is heretical.

Dr. Hargey has made many enemies because of his liberal brand of Islam, which he preaches from a small assembly hall. Unlike most British imams who insist on segregation during Friday prayers, Dr. Hargey allows men and women to pray in the same room. He believes Muslims should not feel compelled to grow beards or wear a veil and last November his mosque became the first in Britain to allow female Islamic scholar Amina Wadud to lead Friday prayers.

After winning the lawsuit Dr. Hargey said: “This is a watershed moment in the struggle between liberal Muslims in the UK and the extremist views … [of] a foreign-educated clergy. Progressives like me are described as heretics in order to ruin our credibility. It’s a form of Muslim McCarthyism that is used to root out anyone who dares question these unenlightened, tribal and foreign forms of Islam.”

Islamic sect complaint highlights Ofcom’s increasing impotence

A small Islamic sect that is deemed heretical by some mainstream Muslims has complained to Ofcom after being labelled “liable for death” by a Pakistani television show broadcast in Britain via the Sky satellite platform. The complaint, made by leaders of the Ahmadi community in Britain, is being investigated by the watchdog and raises concerns over how much control it has over the content of the burgeoning number of foreign language channels UK viewers can access. The comments were made during a live broadcast of Aalim Online, a religious discussion programme aired daily on Geo TV throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It is viewed by millions of Urdu speaking viewers worldwide. Aalim Online, available in Britain on Sky Channel 815, is presented by Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain, a former minister for religious affairs turned popular spiritual television host. Ofcom is investigating the 7 September edition of the show, which included views from a number of prominent Pakistani Muslims scholars as guest speakers. The broadcast coincided with the anniversary of a change in Pakistan’s constitution in 1974 that officially classified Ahmadis as “non-Muslims”. Human rights groups say this event legitimised persecution of the sect in Pakistan and eventually forced the leadership of the 70 million strong community to flee to London. The Ahmadis are deemed heretical by hardline Islamic authorities because of their belief that their 19th century founder was the Mahdi – Islam’s equivalent of the messiah – and the successor to the Prophet Mohamed. Dr Hussein asked his guests during the broadcast how orthodox Muslims should respond to the claims made by Ahmadis. One speaker, Dr Saeed Ahmad Innayatullah, responded: “As long as this sedition is alive and even one [Ahmadi] remains on this earth, there is need to eliminate it.” Two other speakers, meanwhile, used the Arabic phrase “Wajb-ul-Qatal” (liable for death) to describe those who believe in Ahmadi doctrine. Dr Hussein did not intervene to moderate those views, nor was a member of the Ahmadi community invited to speak. Earlier this year, Ofcom ruled Geo TV had breached guidelines during another prayer show hosted by Dr Hussein, when the host called for the death of Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie. During evening prayers he said: “Ruin Rushdie. I beg you for his death. O God, give him death.” Jerome Taylor reports.

Canada’s Largest Mosque Opens in Calgary, Alberta

Canada’s newest and largest mosque opened on July 5th in Calgary and was praised by Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an architectural treasure which demonstrated the true and benevolent face of Islam. The mosque was built by the Ahmadiyya community, a Muslim sect persecuted in some countries because of their differing understanding of the line of prophets. Harper added that this community knows first-hand what it is to experience persecution and discrimination based on your religious beliefs. Mr. Harper and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion were among the hundreds (National Post listed 5000 present) who attended the opening, alongside the group’s global spiritual leader, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad. The mosque complex is more than 4300 m2 and includes a community centre, classrooms, office space, kitchen, dining room, children’s area and a multi-purpose hall. It cost nearly $15 million CAD to build, with 8 million coming from local Calgarians. Ahmadiyya from around Canada also chipped in. Mr. Dion stated that Canada will show the world that Muslim communities can flourish in a secular state like ours.

Finland: Shi’i Muslims unsatisfied with their Muslim education

Some Muslims living in Finland are not satisfied with their Islamic education in schools, as critics say that the teachings are too closely tied to one particular sect. Finnish public schools are required to offer lessons in general Islam – i.e., teachings that are agreeable with all Muslims and sects. However, in the city of Turku, Shi’I Muslim parents say that all of the city’s teachers are giving instructions that are dominated by Sunni teachings. The issue is especially relevant in the Lausteen School in Turku, where nearly half of the students are from immigrant families that are mostly from Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and Kosovo. The school’s headmaster Lauri Tiikasalo says he is not qualified to judge the quality or direction of the Muslim classes at the school, pointing out a general shortage of Islamic education teachers across the country.

Man charged over child cruelty during Ashura

A man charged with child cruelty appeared in court this week, after allegedly encouraging two teenage boys to harm themselves as part of a religious ritual. Police arrested Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, Eccles, after a complaint was made that the boys had taken part in an Ashura ceremony often done by the Shia sect which involves self-flagellation, at a community centre in Longsight, Manchester on January 19, it was reported.http://www.themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=79E939EA6BF9D8BA5A9B38A9&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News

U.S. Case Against Muslim Scholar Is Religious Attack: Defense

By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The government’s prosecution of a prominent Islamic scholar accused of recruiting for the Taliban in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks is an assault on religious freedom, a defense lawyer said Monday during the trial’s closing arguments. “The government wants you to think Islam is your enemy,” said Edward MacMahon, who represents Ali al-Timimi, 41, of Fairfax. “They want you to dislike him so much because of what he said that you’ll ignore the lack of evidence.” Prosecutors, on the other hand, said al-Timimi is on trial not because of unpopular political or religious views but because he specifically urged his followers to take up arms against U.S. troops just five days after the 9-11 attacks, and because several of them traveled half way around the world with just that intent. “When Tony Soprano says ‘Go whack that guy,’ it’s not protected speech,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, drawing a comparison between al-Timimi and the fictional mob boss. Al-Timimi, a native-born U.S. citizen who has an international reputation in some Islamic circles, is facing a 10-count indictment that includes charges of soliciting others to levy war against the United States and attempting to aid the Taliban. The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon after hearing two weeks of testimony. If convicted, al-Timimi faces up to life in prison. The government contends that al-Timimi told his followers during a secret meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, that they were obliged as Muslims to defend the Taliban against a looming U.S. invasion. Just days after that meeting, four of those in attendance flew to Pakistan and joined a militant group called Lashkar-e-Taiba. Three of the four testified at al-Timimi’s trial that their goal had been to obtain military training at the Lashkar camp and then cross the border to Afghanistan and join the Taliban. It was al-Timimi who inspired them to do so, the men testified. None Of The Men Actually Made It To Afghanistan. Kromberg said at the trial’s outset that al-Timimi enjoyed “rock star” status among his followers. On Monday he said al-Timimi knew that the men at the Sept. 16 meeting–many of whom had played paintball games in 2000 and 2001 as a means to train for holy war around the globe–would do as he instructed them. “These guys couldn’t figure out how to tie their shoelaces without al-Timimi,” Kromberg said. But MacMahon said that al-Timimi merely counseled the men to leave the United States because it might be difficult to practice their religion in America in a post-Sept. 11 environment. The three men who testified against al-Timimi at trial, he said, are all lying because they struck plea bargains with the government and are hoping to get their sentences reduced in exchange for helping the government. MacMahon said it was two other men, Yong Ki Kwon and Randall Royer, who were the ones recruiting paintball members to join Lashkar-e-Taiba. Kwon, for instance, admitted that he and Royer had met a LET recruiter in the spring of 2001 on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Kwon also acknowledged that Royer had previously trained in Pakistan with Lashkar and that he had frequently encouraged others to join LET well before Sept. 11 and well before the government alleges al-Timimi’s criminal conduct. MacMahon pointed out to jurors that Kwon–one of the four who allegedly traveled to Pakistan at al-Timimi’s urging–had placed 25 phone calls to the other three in the three days before al-Timimi allegedly made his first exhortation on the Taliban’s behalf. The government’s case, MacMahon said, is built on a misperception that Islam is a sinister religion and its practitioners deserve strict scrutiny. “Are you appalled that the federal government is reading the Quran to you” at this trial? MacMahon asked the jurors. The prosecution of al-Timimi “is a fundamental assault on the liberties we all hold so dear. … If you don’t believe our freedoms are under attack by this prosecution, you haven’t been sitting here.” Kromberg disputed the notion that the government was casting aspersions on all Muslims. “Ali Timimi does not speak for all Muslims. Ali Timimi speaks for his sect of Salafi Muslims,” Kromberg said, referring to a sect of the religion often equated to Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Islam practiced by many of the leading clerics in Saudi Arabia, where al-Timimi once studied.