Controversy Surrounding the ‘Advertiser’ Newspaper and East London Mosque

In February 2014, there was some controversy regarding East London Mosque (ELM) blocking Shaykh Muhammad ibn Adam from speaking at their premises due to an article which appeared in a local newspaper (East London Advertiser) indicating that the Shaykh had ‘extremist’ views. Obviously – as is the case, sadly, these days – the newspaper article sensationalized his quotes and articles, and took them out of their intended context.

Many people complained to both the newspaper and East London Mosque management. ELM released a statement on their website saying they had NOT blocked Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam from speaking at their premises and that there was a misunderstanding in this regard. The newspaper also removed the article from their website after realizing they had made a mistake.

Below is what Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari wrote on his facebook page directly after the incident:

 

Important Message

Some of you may have today come across the controversy surrounding East London Mosque (London Muslim Centre) blocking me from speaking at an event planned there for yesterday, organized by the Inspire Youth Group. The ‘Advertiser’ newspaper today released this report titled, “Medieval Muslim cleric’s speech blocked by London Muslim Centre.”

If what is stated in the article is true, in that the ELM management did block me from speaking at the event, then it is very sad indeed. It is expected from the enemies of Islam to malign those who teach Islam by taking what they say or write out of context – and there seems to be a systematic witch-hunt by the media to ‘bring down’ popular Muslim scholars/speakers by sensationalizing their views – but for a mainstream Muslim organization to be pressurized into banning speakers, without investigating or even asking them directly about their views, is very sad indeed – to say the least!

This is not the first time it has happened to me. A few years ago, I was invited by the Islamic society at York University to deliver a lecture, but some of the groups there – such as the Jewish society, Gay society, etc… – wanted to ban me, claiming that I was an extremist, homophobic, rape-legitimiser and hate preacher!

They basically picked up some of my fiqh answers/articles on our Darul Iftaa website, and took what was written in them out of context. I eventually did go and delivered the lecture at York University, since the Islamic society Masha Allah were very strong and did not succumb to the pressure. Many non-Muslims attended the lecture, and it generally went down well with them. Some of them even said that they were misled by these groups and the local media, and after hearing my speech they were convinced that what was claimed about me was untrue.

The same thing seems to have happened in this case too. Certain hate bloggers and so-called journalists wrote articles questioning my attendance, prior to the East London Mosque event; but rather than question them or investigate, it seems the management took the easy option to prevent me from speaking.

This evening, the East London Mosque management denied they banned me from speaking at the event, saying: “The ELM has not banned Mufti Muhammad Ibn Adam Al-Kawthari. We have no issues with matters, as clearly defined in Islamic jurisprudence raised by the Mufti.” ELM management has assured me that some miscommunication may have taken place, and that they will do a press release very soon stating that I am not banned from speaking at their venue. We give them the benefit of the doubt, and eagerly wait for the statement, In sha Allah.

Nevertheless, what are these views of mine considered by these journalists and reporters as so vile, dangerous and extreme? In the ‘Advertiser’ newspaper, the reporter Adam Barnett described me as “A Muslim cleric who “calls for the amputation of limbs as punishment for stealing” and “supports stoning to death for adultery!”

The term “calls for” gives an impression that I am basically on a mission to enforce Shari’ah law in 21st century Great Britain and that anyone who steals a chocolate bar from a corner shop in East London, his hands should be amputated, and me and my friends keep knifes in our cars in case we catch someone stealing! It also gives an impression that I want anyone guilty of committing adultery in the UK to be stoned to death, and that we keep stones and rocks in our cars in case we find someone committing adultery! Subhan Allah, what absurdity...

The reality is that the articles written by me – and posted on our website – are academic and research-based answers given in light of Qur’anic texts and hadiths and clearly defined in classical works of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh). Such rulings can be found in virtually every book on Islamic jurisprudence. Who does not know that the Islamic legal punishment for stealing is amputation and the punishment for adultery is stoning to death or 100 whips – of course, subject to certain strict conditions? I have merely expressed the standard and classical Islamic viewpoint on such matters. These punishments are of course only implemented in a proper Islamic political system and under a certain context. I do not, in any way, call for or endorse amputation in non-Islamic countries such as the UK, where people choose not to have Islamic law. Islamic legal punishments are only applicable under a proper Islamic state and, as such, I was merely discussing the subject in an academic and theoretical manner.

However, the reporter failed to highlight the proper context in which I expressed these views. He says that I ‘call’ for these ‘medieval’ punishments; but does not inform the reader as to when I made this call, where I made it, and in what context I made it. It was certainly not in the context of Britain or any other country where people choose not to have Islamic law implemented. I was simply presenting the Sunni view on Shari’ah Law in regards to these crimes. Even non-Muslim academics on Islamic studies will inform you of the exact same thing, in that Shari’ah Law advocates (as per Qura’nic text) these punishments for these crimes.

As such, the news article is highly misleading and factually incorrect, and does nothing but adds to the growing Islamophobia that is taking place in our country. The fact is that reporters such as this individual have a fundamental problem with many aspects of Islamic teachings, but to cover up their dislike they mislead people and act as though it is an opinion held by one individual. After all, I only presented aspects of Islamic law, implemented in an Islamic state, subject to strict conditions, as understood by mainstream Islamic Scholarship throughout history.

Finally, I would like to thank all my brothers and sisters from the UK and across the world who sent me messages of support and reassurance. May Allah bless you all, and reward you for your concern and standing up for the truth, Ameen.

I would also encourage the readers to complain to the newspaper and the journalist in question and ask them to give an explanation. As for the East London Mosque, we give them the benefit of the doubt and eagerly await their press release. They are also under immense pressure, hence I do not wish people to turn on them. We all need to stick together in such situations, support one another and stand up for the truth. May Allah make matters easy for us all, Ameen.

Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari

Darul Iftaa (UK)

February 2014

 

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Brother Shiplu Miah (of Engage) sent an email of complaint to the journalist who wrote the article Mr.Barnett, and after receiving a response, here is what he wrote in his reply

Sensationalism and Lies

1. It’s evident from the link you have provided that Mr. Kawthari is talking about Shariah Law; something you also acknowledged in your reply to me (“Mr Kawthari was asked about the punishment under Islamic law for stealing”) – therefore I find it absurd that you think that he is making a “call” for such punishments here in Britain. He is simply presenting the Sunni (including Shia, I believe) view on Shariah Law in regards to these crimes. You may want to even consult non-Muslim academics on Islamic studies, who will also tell you the exact same thing; that is that Shariah Law advocates (as per Qur’anic text) these punishments for these crimes.

Given that the link you have provided clearly states (repeatedly) that these punishments are what is prescribed under “Shariah Law”, your article was indeed very much misleading, and factually incorrect … regarding the “call” he allegedly made.

2. You said: “But even had he done so, the idea of cutting off hands and feet to reduce petty crime is generally considered outrageous wherever it is practiced or proposed.”

i. As I mentioned above, it is clearly evident that he was talking about Shariah Law and not what the punishment should be under UK law. So I fail to understand why you say “But even had he done so”.

ii. “Generally considered outrageous” – That’s your opinion and that’s fine. And I am not going to dispute that. However if you wanted to write an opinion piece on why Shariah Law is outrageous, then that’s your prerogative and you should have done that; what I am complaining about is that you wrote a news article with misleading information. You finding the Qur’anic punishments as outrageous should not have led you to lie and mislead the public. Mr. Kawthari presented the Islamic Law (Shariah) as has been understood by mainstream Islamic Scholarship throughout history; in fact, Dr.Usama Hasan, who you quoted – his father Dr Shuaib Hasan says that exact same thing as what Mr. Kawthari says. Where you got it completely wrong (either deliberately or through a genuine mistake) is that you have equated the presentation of Shariah Law as a “call” to implement these punishments here in the UK; that is where you went wrong.

3. “In this context then, you may want to reflect upon who it is who is giving your faith a bad name – journalists, who report calls for violent punishments considered medieval by many Muslims, or people like Mr Kawthari.”

i. I haven’t seen anything wrong from Kawthari to feel that he has given a bad name to Islam; you have misrepresented the facts, and that’s it.

ii. I blame both, nut-job Muslims and nut-job journalists, who are contributing to the growing Islamophobia in the UK.

iii. It’s evident from the article and now from the explanations you have given that you were not simply “reporting” as a journalist ought to; you just have a high dislike for Qur’anic punishments and decided to sensationalise your reporting in light of that dislike you have. Your dislike and hatred for the Qur’anic punishments isn’t the problem; the problem is you allowing that hatred to then make your reporting unfair and misleading. I hope you understand this point.”

Shiplu Miah