UK govt removes cleric from ‘Islamophobia adviser’ position for backing calls to boycott a ‘blasphemous’ film TOU

UK govt removes cleric from ‘Islamophobia adviser’ position for backing calls to boycott a ‘blasphemous’ film
 TOU

UK govt removes cleric from ‘Islamophobia adviser’ position for backing calls to boycott a ‘blasphemous’ film

On Saturday (June 11), the UK Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities removed an Islamic cleric named Qari Asim from the position of Deputy Chair of the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group.

Reportedly, he was appointed as an Independent Advisor to the Government of the United Kingdom in July 2019. The decision to remove him came against the backdrop of the cleric’s call to boycott the film ‘The Lady of Heaven,’ which is based on the life of Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fathima.

In a Facebook post on June 6, he had written, “The disparaging movie, The Lady of Heaven, has caused much pain and hurt to Muslims. We have been working with many brothers and Imams across the country to liaise with the cinemas. ”

Screengrab of the Facebook post of Qari Asim

“As a community, in some places, we have been successful and those cinemas will no longer be showing the movie, in other places negotiations are still ongoing. Some Imams have taken a view to protest and others are in dialogue with the cinemas trying to resolve the situation, ”he had added.

“All agree that the movie is derogatory, and uses sectarian and racist narratives. Freedom of speech is important and all citizens should be able to exercise their freedoms within the law, ”the cleric had opined.

Imam Qari Asim pointed out that the movie had the potential to fuel extremism, sectarianism and hatred in the United Kingdom. He also called upon Muslim protesters to stay united and remain vigilant.

UK government fires Qari Asim

In a letter [pdf] Written on June 11, the UK Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities stated that it cannot continue its association with Imam Qari Asim due to his campaign against artistic freedom.

“We write now because we have no option but to withdraw the appointment and end your roles with Government with immediate effect. Your recent support for a campaign to limit free expression- a campaign which has itself encouraged communal tensions – means it is no longer appropriate for you to continue your work with Government in roles designed to
promote community harmony, ”it said.

“You have encouraged an ongoing campaign to prevent cinemas from screening the film” Lady of Heaven “, a clear effort to restrict artistic expression, and the campaign you have supported has led to street protests which have fomented religious hatred,” the letter emphasized.

The department noted that he was responsible for mobilizing protestors in Leeds by advertising a demonstration on his Facebook post. “This clear involvement in a campaign to limit free expression is incompatible with the role of a government adviser,” it added.

The United Kingdom government accused Qari Azim of encouraging sectarian chanting and anti-Shia hatred outside cinema halls. Although he was appointed as an adviser to counter ‘anti-Muslim hatred’, the government found him complicit in enabling such behaviors.

“Your actions are incompatible with the role of a government adviser on anti-Muslim hatred. This country is proud of its democratic values ​​and freedoms, which include tolerance, freedom of expression, and community, ”the letter concluded.

Islamic cleric justifies his actions

A day later on Sunday (June 12), Qari Asim wrote to Michael Gove, who serves as the Secretary of State for Leveling Upm Housing and Communities.

He claimed, “I have been contributing to the Government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group for over 10 years in a voluntary capacity and have served conscientiously in order to minimize anti-Muslim hatred in our country.”

He accused the government of creating hurdles in his work. “In the last 3 years, despite many attempts to make progress with my role, neither has a second adviser been appointed nor have terms of reference been issued to commence the process for establishing a definition which captures anti-Muslim prejudice,” he alleged.

“Due to this apparent lack of political will at the very top level of Government, I was not given any resources to undertake the work that my role demanded. This has fueled perceptions that the current government is not serious in tackling anti-Muslim prejudice, ”he added.

In his defense, he claimed that he did not personally organize any protests outside any cinema halls against ‘The Lady of Heaven’ film. He also said that he believed in dialogue but supported people’s democratic right to protest.

“I am of the firm opinion that the challenge to and critique of the“ Lady of Heaven ”film is part of free speech, though violence and intimidation can never be. My concern has always been that due to the way in which this film was made, it risked fueling extremism and tension in communities that would undermine cohesion in British society, ”he remarked.

Qari Asim said that his concerns found acceptance among both Shia and Sunni scholars. “In the spirit of free speech, while I continue to be concerned about the divisive nature of this film, I remain fully supportive of open public dialogue and scholarly debate around historical narratives between Sunni and Shia perspectives that do not fuel hatred or division in communities. , ”His letter read.

“I did unequivocally condemn anti-Shia hatred displayed during the protests in Leeds, that came to my attention, to my own congregation. As soon as I learned about the anti-Shia slogans being chanted during the Leeds’ protest, I publicly and firmly condemned such hateful rhetoric in our Makkah Mosque in Leeds, ”he said.

The Islamic cleric stated, “I also reached out to the Shia mosque in Leeds to show our solidarity with the Shia community. I have spent a lifetime working to promote both interfaith and intra-faith inclusivity, peace and harmony. I am on record for challenging and condemning anti-Shia hatred and violence in this country and abroad. ”

“I therefore strongly disagree with the characterization of me in the letter as someone who has supported anti-Shia statements. I also refute any attempts to attribute comments made by individuals attending the protests to me, or any suggestion that I have any association with sectarian rhetoric, ”he concluded.

Currently, Qari Asim serves as the head Imam at the Makkah mosque in Leeds.

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