Reflections on “Undercover Mosque”

Having seen Channel 4’s documentary Undercover Mosque, which was shown earlier this evening (see earlier entry), I am now more reassured regarding the material quoted from the preachers they showed; however, the programme-makers repeatedly interspersed the ugly material emanating from a handful or so preachers from one wing of the Wahhabi sect with material which is more mainstream but is simply distasteful to western ears and images of women wearing niqab. The clear intention was to show that some of these people are two-faced, talking about inclusion and tolerance in public but shouting about dirty kuffar when they do not think non-Muslims are listening. In this much they succeeded. (More: Thabet @ Eteraz, Austrolabe, Kashif, Inayat Bunglawala @ CIF, Yahya Birt.)

Reading the DeenPort discussion thread on this subject, an influential contributor calls this “old news”, as here:

If a cleric is foolish enough to have two-faces, a nice touchy feely public face and a nasty bile spewing private face then whatever befalls him/her is what their own faces have earned them and no amount of “misquoted” or “out of context” will convince me to defend such views and such a person as I know for a fact that such people routinely talk like this in private.

Another contributor accused the programme-makers of sensationalism, noting that the halls in which they spoke were practically empty other than during salat. My own sensationalism charge stems from the continual use of phrases like “brainwashing”, particularly aimed at the University of Madinah. I have not been to the UM myself, but I would not have thought those involved needed much brainwashing. Wahhabism (and Ahl-e-Hadeeth, the branch of it on which this programme concentrated) does not spread like the “Church of Christ” cult with people striking up conversations in the street, but is an established presence in many Muslim communities. One way into it, particularly Ahl-e-Hadeeth, is being born into it, but it also spreads through university Islamic societies and through contacts in inner-city ghettoes. It is well-known that much of the small Afro-Carribean Muslim community in south London belongs to another branch of the sect, which controls Brixton mosque and a network of other mosques across the country.

From my personal encounters with Wahhabis in London, I am certain that part of the appeal is ethnocentric, particularly for converts. However, another part is the fact that it aims to do away with “divisions between Muslims” and with harmful cultural practices. Those who accuse the Wahhabis of doing away with the rich cultural heritage of the Muslim world often forget that this heritage includes not only all that “wonderful music” they’d have us all listen to but also female genital mutilation and the biraderi nonsense found in the Pakistani community here.

Returning to Dispatches, it irked me considerably that images of women in niqab were shown again and again. I’m aware that some Britons are uncomfortable with niqab, but no evidence was shown that those women had anything to do with the preachers who were shouting about dirty kuffar. As I’ve said before, women who wear niqab come from virtually every point on the spectrum of moderation and “fundamentalism”, and not all women attached to political Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahreer wear niqab. In fact, most of the women I’ve seen around HT do not wear it. At the couple of al-Muhajiroun functions I attended (and no, I was never a member), most of the women I saw did not wear niqab.

The programme also showed the preachers discussing what are actually normal Islamic opinions and practices and seemed to suggest that they were morally equivalent. For example, the command to enforce prayer on older children in the family, and to hit them if they refuse, is not limited to the people shown up as extremists in the programme: it comes straight from the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam). In Islam the prayer is an extremely serious matter; in the west, some parents hit their children for things of considerably lesser importance. It’s not illegal for a parent to hit his or her children in the UK. It never has been.

It’s worth pointing out that the group featured only really represents a small segment of the Muslim community, even in Birmingham. One commentator at DeenPort made the point that Ghamkolvia, the Bareilawi mosque, “rules the roost in that part” of Birmingham, which everyone who knows the community knows. People who don’t agree with them don’t go to the talks, don’t buy the tapes and DVDs and generally don’t listen. However, the programme is likely to cast more suspicion over the Muslim community generally, not just the small group involved, while much of the Muslim youth get defensive and accuse Channel 4 of taking their words out of context and the profile of Uncle Tom pseudo-Sufis is raised further; this outcome could have been avoided if they had stuck to the facts, without resorting to inflammatory side facts and juxtapositions.

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  • Osman

    I didn’t have time to watch it, did they actually find any supporters of 7/7 9/11 etc? Or was it just things that may be unsavoury to your average Brit?

  • Kamila

    Subhanallah Subhanallah

    What whatever was broadcasted was pure FITNA to Islam and lies. I have been attending Greenlane mosques for along time and what they preach is from the Quran and Sunnah of prophet saw. They removed the important messages and showed the parts that don’t complete the sentences and that shows a bad picture which they intended to do.

    The Muslim brother who was doing the channel4 dirty work does he call himself a Muslim or a traitor. Pretending to come to the mosques for the sake of Allah but doing the shaitan work. May Allah forgive him.

    Islam is originally from Saudi Arabia and Muslim knows that, so the modern Muslims should not complain about the extremism because Islam never originated from Pakistan, Iran or England. So if the Saudi are extreme then the original Islam is extreme and it should be practiced to the fullest.

    It is known that Muslims faced hardship from the time of the prophet saw when spreading the da’wa and may Allah swt help our brothers Abu Osamah and the other preachers to spread the word of Allah.Ameen

  • Osman

    Regardless of taking out of context and misquote etc etc, There is still a problem with extremism (not just mistreatment of women, but full support of terrorism) within our community, and to be honest I don’t see a clear solution.

  • Andy

    ‘in the west, some parents hit their children for things of considerably lesser importance’. And what could be less important than a useless piece of superstition. If thd kid were refusing to learn his/her English, maths or science, then some admonishment would be appropriate (but not corporal punishment: that’s just barbaric).

  • Didn’t see it but it sounds like the same old…

  • junglecitizen

    Kamila: “may Allah swt help our brothers Abu Osamah and the other preachers to spread the word of Allah.Ameen”

    One minute you are saying it is out of context, next he is speaking the ‘word of Allah.’

    What I heard from Abu Osamah (and a few others) on that programme could not have been taken out of context. It included great long unbroken piles of violent and effectively racist rhetoric, directed mostly against the majority population of this country.

    I don’t take kindly to people calling for my death in my own country, and neither do the vast majority of British people.

    If Islam is to do well in Britain and recruit new followers it could do without idiot preachers stabbing their fellow countrymen in the back. It could also do without the idiots who automatically defend them and believe them innocent just because they claim to be Muslim.

  • I haven’t visited Deenport recently, but I do wonder what those brothers and sisters make of the appearance of Abdal-Hakim Murad in the programme.

    His contributions were not outrageous, except for his negative use of the term “fundamentalist” (as though he were a “progressive” or something). And the funny thing is also that he would agree with some of the opinions portrayed in the programme as “extremist” etc.

    I think any sincere scholar should refuse to take part in these hatchet jobs. Especially considering that representatives of the organisations being smeared were not offered interviews. This has been stated by both the Ahl-e-Hadith group and the UKIM.

  • KAMILA: “Islam is originally from Saudi Arabia and Muslim knows that, so the modern Muslims should not complain about the extremism because Islam never originated from Pakistan, Iran or England. So if the Saudi are extreme then the original Islam is extreme and it should be practiced to the fullest.”

    That’s not a sound argument. You would have to prove that the Saudis (hmm, was there are a “Saudi Arabia” at the time of the Prophet (S)?) have preserved the authentic teachings and that everyone who disagrees with them on anything has corrupted them. The story is, of course, not so simple as that.

  • The young Australian imam they cited, whose DVD’s are apparently being sold in the UK, is known to hold extreme views. I wrote about him back in April 2005, 2 months before the London bombing.

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/Opinion/Muslims-must-speak-out-or-be-condemned-for-their-silence/2005/04/27/1114462100745.html

  • Andy: parents hit their kids in this country for petty “P’s and Q’s” matters all the time, not just because they won’t do their homework. To a lot of parents it’s the only way to chastise a recalcitrant child. I got smacked many times and don’t think my parents barbaric. Maybe Islam is superstition to you but to us it’s the Truth.

  • leila

    Kamila its people like you that muslims need to distance themselves from. I suggest you learn a few laws and facts about Saudi and whether it corresponds with Islam whether modern or original. Second that documentary was embarrasing to every true muslim, its embarrasing that we have so called sheikhs that call non believers filthy when they live in their country and most are probaly living on the tax payer’s money. We have to treat humans as humans, and every non muslim is a potential muslim and we cant give out dawah when our sheikhs speak like that. They might have the knowledge but they lack wisdom and intellect and what is an acceptable culture in Saudi cannot be used under the disguise of islam in the UK.

  • John Palubiski

    For example, the command to enforce prayer on older children in the family, and to hit them if they refuse, is not limited to the people shown up as extremists in the programme: it comes straight from the Prophet

    And there’s “no compulsion”, eh? Soun ds like a case of Muhammed’s “believe it or else”!

    Or how about kneel or no deal.

    Does any sensible person here need for proof of Islam’s coerciveness?

    Then again, one shouldn’t be too hard. Let’s face it, such techniques certainly worker for Molly!

    And “Yosuf”, what is the value of two-bit “truth” that needs to be enforced with violence and coercion?

    Do you even know what “truth” means? “Truths” don’t need to be enofrced; they are self-evident and people will gravitate to them by their own free will.

    Don’t believe that?

    Just ask any of the 1000s of converts from Islam to Christianity inhabiting the UK.

  • student

    If it is the case then it’s paradoxical that S.Arabia sells oil to the West and then uses that same money to call on people to attack the West. The question to ask is, why?

    Just ask any of the 1000s of converts from Islam to Christianity inhabiting the UK.

    If it’s a matter of numbers, we get far more converts than all the other major religions put together - now that is the gravitating effect of the truth :)

  • George Carty

    If it is the case then it’s paradoxical that S.Arabia sells oil to the West and then uses that same money to call on people to attack the West. The question to ask is, why?

    Because it’s easier for a dictatorship to control the people when the country’s economy is based on a single product whose production is controlled by the state.

  • John Palubiski

    You wouldn’t believe what’s happening unless the news came directly from the horse’s mouth.

    Now “student”, you’re a student, so follow the link below(islamonline.org) and then try and cite a similar phenomenon in The West.

    Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world….particularly in the Islamic world.

    Study the laws of gravity, will ya!

    http://www.islamonline.net/English/News/2004-06/26/article04.shtml

  • Osman

    100 000 Christians in Krgyistan does not make Christianity the “fasted growing religion in the world” the fact that there are 2.4 billion Christians and they have children makes Christianity the fastest growing religion in the world. Apparently there are 1.3 billion Muslims, and this no. will not get smaller.

  • DrM

    Christianity the fastest growing religion in the world, palpablinski? Which planet are you on? Pat Robertson got you high and deluded again, I see.

  • John Palubiski

    Osman, I’m not being chauvinistic, but I think that “facts” need to be verified when individuals make spurious claims.

    And in all fairness, I DID link to a Muslim website.

  • allat

    “100 000 Christians in Krgyistan does not make Christianity the “fasted growing religion in the world the fact that “there “are 2.4 billion Christians and they have children makes Christianity the fastest growing religion in the world. Apparently there are 1.3 billion Muslims, and this no. will not get smaller.”

    Neither is islam the world’s fastest growing “religion!”

    Because a great many moslems are quietly leaving it! They disappear into the general populace of the world -

    AND STATISTICS CAN N O T BE KEPT!

    There’s no records available on this phenomenon - but we are aware it’s happening.

    And then one talks about religion - but what about the HUGE populace of other minority religions and belief systems?

    That covers a great deal of the wolrds’ populace.

    A lot of people are leaving formal christianity - THAT STILL BELIEVE IN GOD!

    A lot of jews are leaving that religion - THAT STILL BELIEVE IN GOD!

    And there are a great many TRIBALS WORLDWIDE - THAT BELIEVE IN A GREAT SPIRIT.

    And a great block of the Chinese in the Mainland are NOT being counted - who quietly pray to GOD.

    And these are NOT counted in the stats.

    So -one can’t say AT ALL - that islam or christianty or any other formal religion is the fasts growing. It’s only heresay - and hubris!!!

  • Osman

    What’s your point? I never said Islam was the fastest growing religion.

  • Tazkiyyah

    Liberal christianity is paying for its sins.

    These people werent gravitated to the self evident moral truths …..

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-op-allen9jul09,0,2668973.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

  • Tazkiyyah

    Whilst John deludes himself into thinking christianity is spreading, we find quite the opposite in the Land of Luther… Germany oh Germany..no to the trinity…yes to unity….There is only one divinity..People are leaving christianity….La ilaaha illlallah

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,460364,00.html

  • Tazkiyyah

    Those of you who are horrified by the way john palubiski talks about muslim ulema should take heart. He attacks christians with great vigour too… http://atangledweb.typepad.com/weblog/2006/02/anglican_apolog.html feel very, very sorry for sincere Anglicans who still practice their faith.

    They have no one to turn to and the Anglican leadership gives them nothing that they can feel proud of; in fact, they don’t even get a sense of coherence

    Why associate/equate Anglicanism with little else than a litany of colonialist sins?

    The Arabo/muslim world still practices slavery, so what does the good “Arch” say about that?

    And the Barbadians present at Rowan’s apology probably frowned, cocked their heads sideways and said; “what the fuck is that white sucker goin’ on about”?

    Does the good “Arch” seriously think a single inhabitant of the isle would give it up and return to Africa for life under….say… Mugabe?

    The man is a silly guilt-ridden buffoon

  • Allaah says, “They plot and plan; and Allaah also plans - and Allaah is the Best of Planners.” {al-Anfaal (8): 30}

    This is a real slap in the face with a wet fish followed by a filthy rag for the likes of TJ Winter (Abdal-Hakim Murad), MECO, Haras Rafiq and others who conspired against ahlus-Sunnah thinking that the only way they could get their own partisan agendas across was to participate in such a documentary.

    Complaints to:

    http://www.ofcom.org.uk/complain/progs/specific/

    And:

    Andrew Smith Hardcash Productions 35 Waterside 44 - 48 Wharf Road London N1 7UX

  • Thersites

    CHANNEL 4 UNDERCOVER MOSQUE - AN APOLOGY

    15 May 2008

    On 8 August 2007 we published, jointly with the Crown Prosecution Service, a press release relating to the Channel Four Dispatches programme “Undercover Mosque”. This press release alleged that footage of the speakers shown had been so “heavily edited” and taken out of context that it had “completely distorted” their meaning. Reference was made to the CPS having been asked to consider (although against advice) instituting proceedings against those involved in making the programme for inciting racial hatred.

    [Deleted … more here:] http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/OnlinePress/pressreleases.asp?id=1400&c=16

    Over £100,000 in damaghes and costs as well.

  • Salam Alaykum,

    I came across this link, it’s an exchange between the despatches production team and Khalid Yassin:

    http://forum.challengeyoursoul.com/forum/topic1696.html

    I think you’ll find it interesting!

    H