Ajmal Masroor sacked from Saudi-funded London mosque after criticising Saudi royals

Ajmal Masroor

The prominent Muslim activist Ajmal Masroor has accused a Saudi-funded London mosque of firing him as an imam because he criticised Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and the country’s royal family.

Masroor was fired from the Fitzrovia Mosque, also known as Goodge Street Mosque in central London, which is run by the Saudi-funded Muslim World League.

In a Facebook post Masroor’s said he had been fired at the orders of the Saudi government who run the centre “like their own fiefdom.”

He wrote: “We already know that the Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman is silencing all his oppositions or critiques at home by locking them up and internationally by threatening them. I am not a Saudi citizen but I have personally experienced their reactions to any forms of criticism. The Saudi Royal family believe that they are beyond criticism and everyone must bow down in submission to their family’s divinely ordained right to rule and absolute authority.

“For those of you who know me you would know that I am not afraid of speaking the truth and facing up to a tyrant and in that spirit, I have never accepted Al-Saud family as a legitimate ruler of Saudi Arabia. After 22 years of service to the congregation at the Goodge Street mosque I was given the marching order yesterday, 9th October 2018…

“A few years back when I was in Saudi Arabia performing Hajj and attending a conference of Muslim scholars in Makkah, I wrote a piece for the Guardian newspaper about the Las Vegas style hyper development and lamented at the desecration of Islam’s holiest site Makkah by the grotesque clocktower that overshadows the House of God.

“I was reprimanded for my criticism and was even asked to write a piece praising the royal family and its then supreme ruler, King Abdullah. I told them that I would never do that. I would always speak the truth and stand for justice and fairness. I felt their wrath while I was in Hajj and I was given a hard time when I returned.

“The current director of the centre has taken me to his office for a strong word at least five times in the last five years. Each time he has asked me to stay away from commenting about Saudi Arabia. I told him that I would not be able to comply with his request as it contradicted with my conscience and my principle of speaking the truth.

“However, we compromised and I promised to not speak against the Saudi royal family from the pulpit of the Goodge Street Mosque but I will speak about the Saudi royal family, any kings or prime ministers or any other topic outside the centre anytime I want. If he disliked my views, he will not bother me with it. That was an agreement I made three years ago, I kept my side of the agreement but he violated it several times. I can sympathise with him, he was simply obeying orders.

“I used to run a counselling service from a dedicated room in the centre since 2010 but it was taken away from me. The excuse given was that the Saudi authorities have made a policy that only Saudi projects would have the right to use the office space in the building. I was gob smacked at their blatant racism and unfairness. They were running a mosque and centre in the heart of London but only allowing Saudi projects to run from it.

“Every Friday about a thousand worshippers would attend the Friday prayers and hundreds of worshippers attend the mosque five times a day. A handful of these worshippers are Saudis and yet their policy was to only run Saudi projects. I vehemently opposed it, criticized it internally and challenged the director about their racist and unfair policy but to no avail…

“Imams are the role models for our society. Imams should speak the truth and never be afraid of its consequences. No management of a mosque or government of a country should have the right to deprive the community of their Imams right to freedom of speech from the pulpit so long as the Imam is not inciting racial hatred or calling for violence. Imams must be able to address and express their views on social, economic and political issues from the pulpits and offer spiritual solutions. I am grateful to God for giving me the strength to continue in this way without fear. I pray other Imams would do the same.”

“No option”

However, in a statement released online, the Muslim World League said it had “no option” but to fire Masroor from his position at the mosque.

“It was agreed with him that the mosque pulpit is not the place to attack people, governments, group or sect or to express certain political views. And together, we will strive for coexistence, tolerance and cooperation to serve the British community. But since he continued provoking public opinion against the individuals, governments, causing stir in the society, shaming and accusing falsely, no option was left but to stop dealing with him in anyway.

“It must be recalled that the Muslim World League London Office is a non-governmental, non-political organisation that offers its religious and community services. It must be stressed upon that the Goodge Street mosque is one of most diverse mosques in the heart of London. Its doors are wide open to all community members irrespective of their faith, race, language, orientation, gender etc. To say that only Saudi projects would have the right to use the office space in the building, as Ajmal’s Facebook says, is a sheer ignorance of real character of the mosque.”

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