ELM says it has not banned Mufti Muhammad Ibn Adam Al-Kawthari

East London Mosque has denied that it banned a preacher on the basis of his comments regarding the Islamic ruling (punishment) for theft under Shariah law.

The London Muslim Centre (LMC) stated that it has not banned Muhammad Ibn Adam Al-Kawthari and that they have “no issues with matters as clearly defined in Islamic jurisprudence raised by the Mufti”.

“There were some potential issues of controversy surrounding Mufti Muhammad Ibn Adam Al-Kawthari, hence we wished to clarify these matters with Global Aid Trust during the event booking process, however he was removed from the speaker list to speed up the booking process”, they added.

Muhammad Ibn Adam Al-Kawthari
Muhammad Ibn Adam Al-Kawthari

The controversy was sparked when an article appeared yesterday in the East London Advertiser (ELA) written by journalist Adam Barnett who quoted a spokesman for the LMC saying: “Our booking and vetting procedures are tight, hence we asked the event organiser to remove this speaker from their proposed event when they first approached us.”

ELM said it was recommended they remove the speaker to speed up the booking procedure because the event organisers wrongly circulated the draft event poster and then later acknowledged their mistake – “We can’t confirm if Global Aid Trust even invited Mufti Muhammad to talk here for their proposed event, before declining or approaching him”.

Adam Barnett

Shiplu Miah, the London Coordinator for ENGAGE, an organisation focusing on empowering Muslims in effectively engaging with media and politics, received a reply after he highlighted his concerns to Mr Barnett about the article.

“I agree with you that the context in which people say things is important. The context of these remarks is as follows.

Mr Kawthari was asked about the punishment under Islamic law for stealing. You can read both the question and answer here:

http://islamqa.org/hanafi/qibla-hanafi/34789

His response is clearly meant to be taken as an Islamic ruling or opinion, made to people likely to consider him a sort of religious authority.

After some conditional statements, he said:

“The penalty: The penalty for the one who steals (when the above conditions are met) is that his/her right arm is amputated. If a person steals a second time, his left foot is amputated; if a third time, then he will be imprisoned until he repents, but no further amputation will take place.”

The Docklands & East London Advertiser is a weekly local newspaper covering primarily the borough of Tower Hamlets.
The Docklands & East London Advertiser is a weekly local newspaper covering primarily the borough of Tower Hamlets.

Nowhere in his answer does he make a distinction between Islamic political systems and the country from which he was writing (Britain).

But even had he done so, the idea of cutting off hands and feet to reduce petty crime is generally considered outrageous wherever it is practiced or proposed.

In this context then, you may want to reflect upon who it is who is giving your faith a bad name – journalists, who report calls for violent punishments considered medieval by many Muslims, or people like Mr Kawthari.”

Sensationalism and lies

This was Mr. Miah’s reply to Mr. Barnett’s email:

“1. It’s evident from the link you have provided that Mr. Kawthari is talking about Shariah Law; something you also acknowledged in your reply to me (“Mr Kawthari was asked about the punishment under Islamic law for stealing”) – therefore I find it absurd that you think that he is making a “call” for such punishments here in Britain. He is simply presenting the Sunni (including Shia, I believe) view on Shariah Law in regards to these crimes. You may want to even consult non-Muslim academics on Islamic studies, who will also tell you the exact same thing; that is that Shariah Law advocates (as per Qur’anic text) these punishments for these crimes.

i. Given that the link you have provided clearly states (repeatedly) that these punishments are what is prescribed under “Shariah Law”, your article was indeed very much misleading, and factually incorrect … regarding the “call” he allegedly made.

Shiplu Miah, the London Coordinator for ENGAGE.
Shiplu Miah, the London Coordinator for ENGAGE.

2. You said: “But even had he done so, the idea of cutting off hands and feet to reduce petty crime is generally considered outrageous wherever it is practiced or proposed.”

i. As I mentioned above, it is clearly evident that he was talking about Shariah Law and not what the punishment should be under UK law. So I fail to understand why you say “But even had he done so”.

ii. “Generally considered outrageous” – That’s your opinion and that’s fine. And I am not going to dispute that. However if you wanted to write an opinion piece on why Shariah Law is outrageous, then that’s your prerogative and you should have done that; what I am complaining about is that you wrote a news article with misleading information. You finding the Qur’anic punishments as outrageous should not have led you to lie and mislead the public. Mr. Kawthari presented the Islamic Law (Shariah) as has been understood by mainstream Islamic Scholarship throughout history; in fact, Dr.Usama Hasan, who you quoted – his father Dr Shuaib Hasan says that exact same thing as what Mr. Kawthari says. Where you got it completely wrong (either deliberately or through a genuine mistake) is that you have equated the presentation of Shariah Law as a “call” to implement these punishments here in the UK; that is where you went wrong.

3. “In this context then, you may want to reflect upon who it is who is giving your faith a bad name – journalists, who report calls for violent punishments considered medieval by many Muslims, or people like Mr Kawthari.”

i. I haven’t seen anything wrong from Kawthari to feel that he has given a bad name to Islam; you have misrepresented the facts, and that’s it.

ii. I blame both, nut-job Muslims and nut-job journalists, who are contributing to the growing Islamophobia in the UK.

iii. It’s evident from the article and now from the explanations you have given that you were not simply “reporting” as a journalist ought to; you just have a high dislike for Qur’anic punishments and decided to sensationalise your reporting in light of that dislike you have. Your dislike and hatred for the Qur’anic punishments isn’t the problem; the problem is you allowing that hatred to then make your reporting unfair and misleading. I hope you understand this point.”

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