Welsh Muslim leaders support Ali Hammuda and condemn Daily Mail journalism

Nearly 40 Welsh Muslim leaders have signed a statement condemning the Daily Mail’s reporting about a Cardiff imam.

The Mail accused Ali Hammuda of promoting “sex slaves” after an undercover operation by the journalist Rizwan Syed. Hammuda rejects the accusation.

The Muslim Council of Wales said it investigated the story, and found that the Daily Mail’s article was misleading and did not reflect the teachings of the Imam. Subsequently, many other Welsh Imams and scholars contacted the MCW expressing their concern.

The following public letter, signed jointly by many Imams and scholars, represents their unified voice on the issue.

STATEMENT

We, the undersigned, have a commitment towards working for the common good in Wales for those from all backgrounds. Towards this end, we have worked to build relationships between mosques, civic institutions and the government, believing a united Wales can help foster a society in which all forms of extremism and violence are rejected.

We, the Imams of all mosques in Wales condemn all forms of extremism and reaffirm our strong commitment to work together with all members of our communities, civic society and the Welsh Government to counter extremism and building a cohesive, unified and progressive Welsh society.

We are concerned by a recent Daily Mail article accusing a young Imam, Ali Hammuda, of promoting “sex slaves”. Not only is this slanderous and untrue, as Ali Hammuda has himself clarified clearly and unequivocally, it undermines mosques as spaces where counter-narratives to extremism can be delivered. All our mosques are open to all members of the society, and all Imams can be approached for any scholarly and academic discourse and understanding of Islam and its values. The journalist’s covert recordings were wholly unnecessary, as we are happy for anyone to attend.

One of our affiliates, the Al-Manar Centre of Glynrhoddna Street, has come under intense scrutiny since Nasser and Aseel Muthanna and Reyaad Khan were discovered to have joined the so-called Islamic State in summer 2014. Naturally, this news was a shock for all Muslims in Wales. The three individuals worshipped at a number of mosques in Cardiff, including the Al-Manar Centre. Some journalists considered this as enough evidence to incriminate Al-Manar as a centre of radicalisation, despite the mosque being a vocal and committed partner in both countering the ideology of the so-called “Islamic State” (Da’esh), and the social factors that lead to radicalisation. Moreover, it was in fact staff at Al-ManarMosque who first alerted the authorities with concerns about the three boys’ disappearance.

Undercover reporter Rizwan Syed
Undercover reporter Rizwan Syed

The leaflet, “What Islam Really Says,” produced and launched by the community-led Cardiff Prevent Stakeholders Group, is another example of an anti-radicalisation project which the Al-Manar Centre, along with the MCW and Imams from all Cardiff mosques, were involved in. The leaflet is aimed at young Muslims, challenging the messages of violent extremists.

This scrutiny of Al-Manar has continued sadly, with the Daily Mail and others insinuating that Shaykh Ali Hammuda is a “radical,” and even a persona non grata within Wales. This accusation is bizarre and certainly unfounded. He is a well respected young knowledgeable Imam. His vocal position against not only religious extremism but also political extremism, racism and bigotry is well known, recognised, and respected by those within the Welsh Muslim community and by all mosques.

Countering extremism requires all partners in society to work together, not just Muslim communities and mosques, but equally the government, statutory partners and indeed the media. Vital to neutralising the message of extremism is having the safe space to discuss sensitive issues which extremists exploit to bolster their message. These safe spaces must exist in mosques, schools, Universities and all institutions.

All mosques and Muslim institutions in Wales are committed to teaching morals and values of the Islamic tradition, compassion, forgiveness, the sacredness of all human life, and the equality and personhood of every individual, male and female. The work of Imams and religious leaders is to bring these values and teachings to the world.

We all affirm our rejection of extremism, which seeks political change through violence legitimised through a pseudo-religious rhetoric. All mosques, Muslim institutions and religious leaders are involved in protecting young Muslims from extremist influences.However,extremism is a social and political problem, not a ‘Muslim’ problem, and we extend our hand to the government and other partners to work with us in tackling this cancer.

The Muslim Council of Wales and its affiliates reaffirm their commitment to building a Welsh society free of hatred, based on respect, tolerance and proud of its diversity.

Qari Ghulam, Nabi Saheb Masjid e Bilal

Mufti Taher, Saheb Masjid Uthman

Mufti Bilal, Saheb Masjid e Abu Bakar

Mufti Suhayl Khawer, Saheb Masjid e Bilal

Shaykh Daoud Salaman, South Wales Islamic Centre

Hafiz Muhammed Siddique, Masjid e Abu Bakar

Molana Mushtaq Khan, Dar ul-Isra

Shaykh Yaqoub Kutkut, Dar ul-Isra

Dr Munir Ashi, Dar ul-Isra

Molana Mohammed Abid Chishti, Alnoor Mosque Newport

Dr Muzaffar Jilani, Imaan Islamic Society Berea Mosque

Dr Mustafa Baig, Abrahamic Faith

Molana Haider Zaman, Madni Masjid

Qari Ferozuddin, Saheb Madni Masjid

Shaykh Abdelati Fergani, Al-Manar/ Al-Ikhlaas

Shaykh Morad Eladnany, Taqwa Mosque Newport

Molana Arif Saheb, Barry Masjid

Imam Kamal Idrisy, HMP Cardiff Prison

Mohammed Afzal, Madina Mosque

Shaykh Barak Al Bayaty, Al-Manar Centre

Hafiz Ahtisham Ali, Masjid Umar

Molana Tariq Zaman, Masjid Uthman

Mohammed Saqib, Dar ul-Isra

Molana Qasim Ali, Masjid e Umar

Dr M Gaber ElSharoud, MAB Wales

Dr Baba M Gana, West Wales Islamic Centre

Mohammed Abdullah, West Wales Islamic Centre

Mrs Amina Shabaan, Cardiff University

Ali Akbar JP, Shah Jalal Mosque

Mufti Javed Kachhalia, Swansea Mosque

Abdur Rehman Mujahid, Alnoor Mosque Newport

Arshid Rahman, Jamia Mosque Newport

Saleem Bidat, Iqra Trust Newport

Molana Ashraf Ali, Port Talbot Mosque

Dr Meraj Hasan MBE, Ihsaan Social Support Association

Abdul Azim Ahmed, Muslim Youth Wales (MY Wales)

Saleem Kidwai OBE, Muslim Council of Wales

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