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Sunday Times’ Attack on Leading Imam Backfires

Sunday Times’ Attack on Leading Imam Backfires

In case you missed it, The Sunday Times published an article by Tim Shipman, which selectively misrepresented the views of Imam Qari Asim MBE, Deputy Chair of the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, on freedom of speech during an interfaith event in 2018.

I have known and worked with Qari Asim for the best part of the last decade, including as an Independent Member of the Working Group, and was disgusted by The Sunday Times’ portrayal of him.

You’d be enlightened to read Qari Asim’s written response here.

You probably weren’t surprised to find that The Sunday Times’ lazy article quoted the controversial former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips who suggested that Qari Asim had undermined free speech and called on him to reconsider his position.

Let’s be honest: this isn’t about freedom of speech. This is another example of the usual suspects undermining Muslims in the public eye and the despicable journalism that enables them. When a leading newspaper produces an unsubstantiated, tabloid-style attack piece on someone as roundly respected as Qari Asim for his valuable work, it only reinforces deep concerns held by British Muslims about how serious discrimination against Muslims is taken. It is not all surprising that the same newspaper published an article recently by controversial columnist, Melanie Phillips who wrote that terrorists “are more faithful to Islam than the hapless imams sent in to persuade them of the error of their ways.”

The attack on Qari Asim has backfired magnificently, as can be seen from the outpouring of public support from many leading figures of different faith backgrounds across the UK, including the Archbishop of Canterbury who tweeted:

But let’s not get distracted. It is time for the government to start genuinely working towards agreeing a definition of Islamophobia/Anti-Muslim Hatred to protect Muslims from hatred, bigotry and discrimination, and for Muslim communities to keep speaking up.

We must also continue to combat prejudice and hate with goodness. Building interfaith relations and connecting with civil society is vital for communities in Britain to break down barriers and to foster greater understanding.

Our communities should lead by example and reach out to others, even those who oppose us. This is an intrinsic part of our faith and a Sunnah (example) of the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh) in his ability to reach out to those who mistreated him, and how he earned the name ‘as-Sadiq’ (the Truthful) and ‘al-Amin’ (the Honest) in his community in Makkah enabling him to resolve disputes amongst tribes.

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