REVEALED: Jewish News’ libel battle with anti-Israel imam

REVEALED: Jewish News’ libel battle with anti-Israel imam

Muslim leader Ajmal Masroor threatened legal action over newspaper editor's column on non-violent extremists overpowering mainstream Muslim opinion.

Muslim community leader Ajmal Masroor leads services at mosques across London.
Muslim community leader Ajmal Masroor leads services at mosques across London.

Jewish News published an opinion piece in July 2015, headlined: ‘Where are the mainstream Muslim voices?’

Written by editor Richard Ferrer, it addressed then prime minister David Cameron’s call to tackle “non-violent extremists who radicalise young people and overpower mainstream Muslim opinion”.

Ferrer wrote: “The danger [of radicalisation] does not come from mad mullahs such as Anjem Choudary. Rather, consider a popular mainstream Imam like Ajmal Masroor… who preaches that Zionism “stands for racism and Jewish supremacist ideology”… warns of “abusers” in the UK “Jewish lobby” and the “Jewish supremacist ideology” that “holds our government hostage”.

Rather than accept Jewish News’ invitation of a right of reply, lawyers for the popular Imam, who regularly appears on television and leads services at mosques across London, threatened to sue Jewish News for libel – effectively gagging this newspaper from reporting further on an important and timely issue of public concern.

After five months of exchanges between Masroor’s legal team and Jewish News’ lawyer Mark Lewis, partner at law firm Seddons, the one-year limitation on libel claims came to an end on 25 July without Masroor serving his threatened defamation lawsuit – finally allowing us to make his legal threats known to the public.

Responding to the libel challenge, Ferrer said: “The point of my column was to show how British Muslim opinion can be overpowered by extremists posing as moderates. By attacking this viewpoint, the Imam proved my point.

“The concept of Jewish supremacist ideology is pure bigotry. The Imam’s reference to the abuse of “Jewish identity” to “hold our government hostage” is textbook anti-Semitism. His views are the problem, not the solution. There is no place for such anti-Semitism in society. If the Imam wants to constructively engage in a debate he should accept our offer of a right of reply – an offer that remains open.”

A spokesman for the Community Security Trust said: “We are having an increasing number of open and constructive conversations with Muslims in which they admit to having, or having had, no knowledge of what Zionism actually is: other than an entirely hateful grasp of the word, such as that expressed by Ajmal Masroor.

“We need our communities to better understand each other and imams have a crucial role to play, moving beyond such limited and negative stereotypes of something that is for many Jews just a basic part of their identity.”

Masroor leads prayer services at mosques in Palmers Green, Goodge Street, West Ealing and Haringey and is a regular media commentator on issues concerning British Muslims.

Quotes from a speech Masroor gave at Palmers Green mosque in August 2014, which were not published in Ferrer’s column, state: “Zionism cannot be accepted in any narrative. We didn’t accept this in South Africa, did we? We couldn’t accept such supremacist ideology proposed by anybody. It is no different to any extremist ideology today my brothers and sisters…

“Zionism is not compatible with anything modern, anything old, anything spiritual. Zionism is empty Judaism. Zionism is against Judaism…

“Be smart. Like our Jewish brothers have been. And smarter than the Zionist lobby has been… We’re not condemning the Jewish people for being smart – we are saying we need to be smart but we don’t want to become abusers like the Zionist lobby. We don’t want to be abusers and hated by the world for being abusive.”

Here, we republish the article Masroor threatened to sue over:

Where are the true Muslim moderates?

MPS PRETEND they don’t know what motivates people to swap suburbia for Syria to become psycho killers or rape slaves of psycho killers. They walk on eggshells for fear of causing offence.

Well, this week, the prime minister finally did what no other politician has the guts to do. Instead of being politically correct he was just, simply, correct.

Unveiling the Government’s new counter extremism strategy, David Cameron declared war on Muslim, “non-violent extremists who radicalise young people” and, “overpower mainstream voices”.

Welcome words indeed. The trouble is, the very reason MPs are scared to speak out is that in British Muslim society “non-violent extremists who radicalise young people” are part of the mainstream.

Forget mad mullahs like Anjem Choudary. Their upside-down opinions are outside Muslim society and, indeed, sanity.

Rather, consider a piece of work like Ajmal Masroor, a popular publicity-grabbing imam who regularly crawls out of his moral cesspit to appear on cosy BBC sofas posing as the voice of progressive Islam.

Last August, London’s Palmers Green mosque, a “moderate” institution whose congregants do interfaith work with the local Jewish community, rolled out the red carpet to Masroor, who spent 30 minutes educating his hushed audience about “abusers” in the UK “Jewish lobby”, the “Jewish supremacist ideology” that “holds our government hostage” and how Obama has been “bought” by “Zionists”.

His filthy tirade, [it starts in Arabic but moves to English after a few seconds] ends with an impassioned plea to “Keep struggling” or you “won’t enter paradise”. Masroor’s hands are not bloodstained, but his mouth surely is.

Now consider the public statements of mainstream community organisations that have ill-served British Muslims for decades.

The Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) infamous official response to the 7 July 2005 London bombings still chills the bones 10 years on: “We do naturally feel deeply for the sufferings… yet we also remind ourselves of the verse of the Qur’an, “O you who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity… We call on the international community to work towards just and lasting peace settlements… and help eliminate the grievances that seem to nurture a spiral of violence.”

In other words, the 52 victims probably had it coming.

It should be stressed that that was a decade ago and the MCB has come a long way since such comments and its boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day.

Today’s soundtrack can be just as sinister.

On Monday, in response to Cameron’s constructive call for a united front, Asghar Bukhari, the paranoid founder of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee who last month accused Zionists of “creeping into my home and stealing my shoe”, said: “The vast majority of Muslim communities see David Cameron, his government and his policies as being at the forefront of alienating them, demonising them and pushing them into a corner.”

Why constructively engage when you can take knee-jerk offence?

So where are all these “mainstream” voices of reason being “overpowered” by radicals? Where are all the progressives determined to put paradise-seeking genies like Ajmal Masroor firmly back in their bottle?

They exist, but you can count those who put their head above the parapet on one hand, with fingers to spare.

A Muslim leader is yet to emerge to take the mantle of the late, great Zaki Badawi. Before his death in 2006, this brave enemy of extremism, who coined the helpful term “British Islam”, told the Guardian: “I want the government to help me train better imams. It’s cheaper than having to combat the effect of bad imams.”

Badawi was shocked at the number of Muslim leaders who can’t speak English being imported from Saudi Arabia. He firmly believed British Islam must be rooted in British values.

Nine years on, Badawi’s legacy lies in tatters. Today’s default Muslim position on ISIS could hardly be more passive: “We’re not responsible for the extremism of others so why must we apologise for it?”

Every chance to declare all-out war on the malignant cancer in their midst is greeted with embarrassment, obfuscation or obscene silence.

For all David Cameron’s big plans and brave words, only the revival of Badawi’s brand of progressive British Islam can prevent growing numbers of young Muslims from teetering on the edge of a moral precipice.

Until then the loonies will always have the loudest voices.

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