The General Secretary of one of Blackburn’s biggest mosques has been suspended after being arrested on Thursday morning after allegedly trying to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex.
Mufti Ashraf Sidat, 45, of Masjid-e-Noorul Islam, was apprehended in a sting operation in Flixton, Manchester, by what appeared to be vigilante paedophile hunters.
Police arrested him shortly afterwards and he has since been released on bail until February 9.
Greater Manchester Police said in a statement: “At around 9.50am on Thursday 11 January 2018 police were called to Roedean Gardens in Flixton to a report of child grooming. Officers attended and a 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity. He has been bailed until 9 February 2018 pending further enquiries.”
Anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting reference number 433 of 11/01/18 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
A video of the incident was originally posted on the “Justice Will Be Served” Facebook page.
Since it was posted the video has been viewed more than 137,000 times.
The 27 minute “Facebook Live” shows Sidat in a car while the vigilantes accuse him of trying to meet up for paid sex with a minor after conversing with him on dating app. At the end of the video the police arrest Sidat and read him his rights before taking him away.
Sidat, who is married with 5 children, remains silent throughout most of the encounter.
The mufti has been the principal of Madrassah Noorul Islam for over 20 years and is a trustee of Al Islah Girls School. He is also the director of a translation and interpretation service.
In addition, he advises the Home Office on counter terrorism and Sharia law and works closely with the local council and police.
Hassan E Karolla, the trustee and chairman of Masjide Noorul Islam, released a statement about the incident.
He said: “Regarding the incident involving Mr Ashraf Sidat we have suspended him from all his duties at the Islamic Educational Society.
“I am working with my management team and the authorities who are conducting the investigation. I am also making arrangements for the overall management of the Madrassa whilst the investigation is carried out.
“Please note as the investigation is now in progress I cannot give you any further information. We are working closely with the authorities. In the meantime, please be reassured that your child’s teachers will continue to provide the best possible education in a safe and happy environment.”
5Pillars spoke to a mosque congregation member who told us that local Muslims were in shock because Sidat was considered a pillar of the community. The source told us that a large group of parents had gathered at the mosque for Isha prayers seeking answers and the mood was very somber.