The imam of Leeds Makkah Mosque, Qari Asim, has been sacked as a government advisor after appearing to advocate the banning of the blasphemous film The Lady of Heaven.
In a Facebook post a few days ago (which has since been updated), Qari Asim wrote that the film was blasphemous and appeared to advocate ending screenings. He also posted a link to a protest taking place in Leeds.
But in an open letter to him yesterday, the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities said that his support for a campaign to limit free expression, and which has encouraged anti-Shia sentiment, means he can no longer work with Government to promote community harmony.
Here is the letter in full:
Over the past few years, and while many Muslim leaders have chosen to boycott the government over its Islamophobic policies, Qari Asim has worked closely with the Tories on a number of state-funded initiatives.
As well as his role as an independent advisor to the government to define Islamophobia, he is Deputy Chair of the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, the Chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board and senior editor of ImamsOnline.
He is a blogger at the Times of Israel, a trustee of the Christian Muslim Forum, a director of the Forum for Promoting Peace and one of the faith advisors to Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
A few days ago Qari Asim wrote on Facebook in a post which now appears to have been amended: “In the last 24 hours, have had many online meetings and discussions regarding the Lady of Heaven film. All of these discussions have caused much heartache and been extremely emotional and challenging.
“The film Lady of Heaven is deeply offensive and inflammatory and has caused much distress to Muslims across Britain.
“The film directly disrespects Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and spread false information on Islam. The aim of the film seems to be to cause hurt and pain, as well as cause divisions and sectarianism, which could provoke violence. Muslims are understandably very upset about the derogatory depiction of the Prophet (peace be upon him), and the compassions (may Allah be pleased with all of them).
“There has been much discussion amongst the Muslim leadership how best to respond to the screening of this film in cinemas in the UK. On the one hand, some are in favour of ignoring it so as not to give much airtime, others have organised protests to express their emotional trauma and raise profound concern and warn others about the consequences. In between, these two views, there have been many other valid views expressed by concerned faithfuls.
“All agree that the film is derogatory, factually incorrect, contrary to Islamic ethos, and uses sectarian #Sunni#Shia and racist narratives and therefore it would potentially fuel #hatred and #extremism.
“Sadly, doing nothing allows extreme fringes to create their own narratives and push their deviations and hatred on all sides. Therefore, “the right” approach should be adopted to deal with this very sensitive issue that has caused profound concern and deep pain.
“At the same time, the Muslim leadership is urging everyone not to rise to the provocation and to make their views known in a measured and peaceful way.
“There are radicals who over the years have been marginalised because of the peace building work that many in our communities have done. Unfortunately those who were waiting in the wings to flame tension and division, will use this as an opportunity to do so.
“We must not give fuel to the haters and extremists whilst trying to “deal” with this film in the best interests of our faith (Imaan) and the community.
“May Allah Almighty help us to respond in a way that the #ProphetMuhammad would have responded when it came to the issue of the #HonourOfProphetMuhammad ﷺ and the symbols of #Islam.”