Wembley Central Mosque authorities and congregation members who were involved in an extraordinary row involving scores of worshippers and the police on Saturday are blaming each other for the commotion.
Video emerged over the weekend of congregation members shouting and pushing and shoving each other inside the mosque after an imam was sacked. 5Pillars understands that the mosque committee and the imam, Abdul Sattar, have had significant differences over how the mosque is run and who speaks there.
Police were called to restore peace and the mosque was closed for a day and a half, only opening again for ishaa prayers last night.
In a statement to 5Pillars, the mosque committee said Imam Abdul Sattar’s attempts to lead dhuhr prayer after his sacking led to the commotion and ultimately to the police being called to restore peace.
On the other hand, supporters of the imam say that the vast majority of congregation members insisted that he should lead the prayer, and that it was the committee members’ efforts to stop him from doing so that led to the row.
Wembley Mosque said: “After the dismissal notice was handed over, Imam Abdul Sattar came to Wembley Masjid with his followers to forcefully lead Zuhar Salah even though he was clearly informed not to do so. He was in breach of peace when he occupied the prayer mat in the masjid nearly 45 minutes before the Zuhar salah. He was aware of the fact that the Management Committee had appointed a new Imam to lead Salah.
“When the member of the management Trustees approached Imam Abdul Sattar with the newly appointed Imam informing him that he will be leading the salah and kindly requested Imam Abdul Sattar to join the rows of the musallees his supporters interfered and became violent and made a physical attack and assault on the Security staff, Trustees and volunteers.
“At this point sadly Imam Abdul Sattar did not even try to stop his supporters from violence taking place openly in the masjid. He continually ignored all the pleas made by the General Secretary, Management Trustees, Musallis and Volunteers to leave the masjid premises.
“Eventually sighting the welfare of the masjid, health and safety of the general public, trustees and volunteers’ police were called in by members of the congregation and volunteers. When the Police arrived on the scene, and after having initial conversation with the worshipers present at the scene, they identified Imam Abdul Sattar as the main reason for the on-going unrest.
“Shortly after having a conversation with the Imam Abdul Sattar, Police escorted him from Wembley Central Masjid to maintain the peace and harmony within the place of worship and to stop the situation getting worst.
“After Imam Abdul Sattar was escorted out his followers were also asked to leave the premises only then the police were able to control the situation and Masjid was handed over to the management trustees.
“Further to this, Police is still investigating the matter related to assault that took place within WCM premises. Members of the congregation who will be found involved in this incident will be prosecuted and will not be allowed to attend the mosque until further notice.”
A “much loved” imam
On the other hand, supporters of Imam Abdul Sattar gave a completely different interpretation of events and say that he is already consulting lawyers to issue a complaint for unfair dismissal.
5Pillars spoke to several of the imam’s supporters who told us that he is much loved by the congregation who are incredulous that such a dedicated man should be sacked.
A friend of the imam, Habib Qamar, told 5Pillars: “We believe the imam’s sacking is not valid and any accusations against him are not based on any fact. The disciplinary notice against him does not ban him from the mosque and we, as a community, wanted him to lead the prayers. Anyone can lead the prayer, not just employees or even imams.”
He added: “The majority of the congregation is behind the imam. He’s been here over 21 years and the musaleen (worshippers) love him. It’s one of the most well-attended masjid in London, bar East London Mosque, and it’s largely because of his voice and his character that people love to come there from very far away.
“Wembley is a such a diverse area – there are Sri Lankans, Arabs, Indians, Somalians, every community and nationality you can think of. But the imam has no special loyalty to any one group; he brings all people and communities together and that’s why we love him.
“But only Allah knows what will happen. At this point in time the mosque atmosphere is awful.”