Friday Ephemera
Embarrassing Improvements

Religion of Peace, Fluffiness, etc.

Tonight sees the return of Channel 4’s extraordinary Undercover Mosque investigation. Sara Hassan, whose covert filming is featured in tonight’s programme, reports on what she found in one of Britain’s “most respected centres for moderate Islam.” 

In a large balcony above the beautiful main hall at Regent’s Park Mosque in London - widely considered the most important mosque in Britain - I am filming undercover as the woman preacher gives her talk. What should be done to a Muslim who converts to another faith? “We kill him,” she says, “kill him, kill, kill… You have to kill him, you understand?”

It’s heartening to see the wisdom of Muhammad still shining upon the world.

Adulterers, she says, are to be stoned to death - and as for homosexuals, and women who “make themselves like a man, a woman like a man... the punishment is kill, kill them, throw them from the highest place.”

I’ve remarked before on how the enthusiasm for sacralised murder never quite fails to jar. And despite repeated exposure to such impressive piety, I still can’t help noting that the quoted sermons feature the word “kill” no fewer than nine times. However, the news isn’t all bad:

These punishments, the preacher says, are to be implemented in a future Islamic state. “This is not to tell you to start killing people,” she continues. “There must be a Muslim leader, when the Muslim army becomes stronger, when Islam has grown enough.”

Naturally, as with most things Islamic, inconsistencies abound.

Regent’s Park Mosque has a major interfaith department, which arranges visits from the Government, the civil service, representatives of other religions and thousands of British school children a year. I watched as an interfaith group was brought in to meet the mosque’s women’s circle for a civilised exchange. But when the interfaith group wasn’t there, the preacher attacked other faiths, and the very concept of interfaith dialogue. One preacher said of Christians praying in a church: “What are these people doing in there, these things are so vile, what they say with their tongues is so vile and disgusting, it’s an abomination.” As for the concept of interfaith live-and-let-live: “This is false. It does not work. This concept is a lie, it is fake, and it is a farce.”

Doubtless these inconsistencies will be resolved “when the Muslim army becomes stronger.” Allah willing, of course.

Please, read the whole thing.

Undercover Mosque: the Return is broadcast tonight at 8pm. The original Undercover Mosque documentary can be viewed in full here.

Update: Via The Thin Man, here it is.

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The phrase that comes to mind is “business as usual”. Unfortunately, it’s also business as usual with regard to airbrushing Islam’s founder and his “exemplary” exhortations to hatred, supremacism and violence. The reporter, Sara Hassan, is implausibly naïve and appears to believe that what she finds is somehow unrelated to Muhammad and his teachings. Perhaps registering this connection - and what it implies - would make a moderate Muslim’s faith seem somewhat misplaced, perhaps grotesque. And so it isn’t registered.

Related: Act Casual, Say Nothing, Dialogue, A Fear of Ideas, Naming the Devil



"I am filming undercover as the woman preacher gives her talk..."

A female preacher?

Oh well, they are making some progress then.

Or not.....


What struck me, aside from the usual charming pieties, was Hassan’s own naïveté. She says, “These are teachings I never expected to hear inside Regent's Park Mosque,” and refers to what is being taught as “Wahhabism,” as if it were aberrant and confined to a fringe Saudi Arabian understanding. I’m sure what Hassan found jars with Islam as she understands it, and with how a great many Muslims understand Islam, but that doesn’t make those ideas aberrant or unorthodox. As we’ve seen many times before, what is being propagated is very often the verbatim message of Muhammad himself, as found in Islam’s sacred texts (which presumably Ms Hassan has read) and, to varying degrees, in the major schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Very similar messages are repeated by luminaries at al-Azhar, the nearest thing to an Islamic Vatican, and other mainstream Islamic institutions, and much the same can be found in Egyptian school textbooks, and schoolbooks in Jordan, Palestine and Pakistan. For millions of believers these ideas are normative:

Even the comments about violent sedition “when the Muslim army becomes stronger” are merely a reflection of Muhammad’s own “exemplary” tactics and preaching. Anyone familiar with Islamic history and theology should be aware of this. And this is the problem. More liberal versions of Islam struggle to rebut such messages in a remotely adequate way. The so-called Wahhabist or Salafist versions of Islam appeal directly and repeatedly to Muhammad’s own deeds and purported revelations. Whatever Islam it is that Ms Hassan observes, it’s most likely at odds with the blueprint preached by Islam’s founder. And can one be a more “authentic” Muslim than Muhammad himself?


Regents Park Mosque Responds to allegations by giving 'em the finger:


What's the betting that right now the MCB are busy rehearsing their denials and excuses?


“What’s the betting that right now the MCB are busy rehearsing their denials and excuses?”

Pretty good, I’d have thought, given their track record. Though I’m not sure we should be taking lectures from an organisation whose Secretary General announced that “negative attitudes” towards Islam would result in Britain being faced with “two million Muslim terrorists — 700,000 of them in London.”


"the quoted sermons feature the word “kill” no fewer than nine times."

I counted ten instances of the word "kill" in Sura 9 alone of the Koran -- in the specific context of admonitions by God for His Believers to kill Unbelievers. (The Arabic word "qatiloo" is often translated as "fight", but Arabic speakers have told me that this is not as accurate as the straightforward, cold-blooded "kill").

And Sura 9 is regarded in Islam as the last chapter revealed to Mohammed, thus taking precedence (by "abrogation") over previous chapters insofar as there might be perceived any contradictions.

So these particular preachers caught by the Undercover Mosque reporter are merely reiterating the Koran itself, and the Sunnah. (Since the Hadiths, which constitute the core of the Sunnah -- which is as important to Muslims as the Koran itself -- are filled with instructions and/or glorifications of fighting and killing Unbelievers.)

The reporter (Sara Hassan), a supposedly "moderate" Muslim who was "shocked" by what she heard and insists that "most Muslims" don't think this way, is either astonishingly naive or is herself practicing a very clever taqiyya. I think it's only rational for us to assume the latter, since the stakes of our self-defense -- against innumerable, easily camouflageable murderous Muslims among us plotting horrific mass murders -- are too high.


Interesting also that the reporter, Sara Hassan, describes in detail how the "hijacked" sermons were "fundamentalist" -- but she never provides any details for her opposite claim about the putatively "tolerant and moderate" preaching in the "main hall" of the same mosque:

"the imams in the main hall are Egyptian, and the sermons I heard from them were tolerant and moderate when you listen to them on Fridays."

I do not trust Sara Hassan. Until I see detailed examples of this supposedly "tolerant and moderate" preaching she heard, I suspect that she either could not hear the intrinsic intolerance and extremism in those sermons (that would be her astonishing naivete), or that she is lying (that would be her clever taqiyya). As I noted in my previous comment, I tend to lean toward the latter explanation.


Man, these automated screening mechanisms for comments are highly annoying!

"As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below.

This test is used to prevent automated robots from posting comments."

What they mean to write is:

"This test is used to prevent normal human beings who do not have optical superpowers from posting comments."


The Establishment has invited these monsters into our own house under a misperception that Islam is a religion like any other and just as fantastic.However the Ummah have consistantly shown itself to be an invasion force bent on a horrific domination and not a body of immigrants.

John D

Just seen it. Fuming.


If Regent's Park mosque really is one of the "most respected centres for moderate Islam" why does it take Channel 4 and undercover filming to bring this stuff out in the open?


But the outraged author of the documentary, Sara Hassan, is not much better
"I share the imam's outrage at the way a peaceful monotheistic religion - so close to Christianity and Judaism in its essential beliefs - has been hijacked. To hear a call for the killing of someone because of his or her sexuality or for changing their faith in what is meant to be a place of contemplation is truly shocking".

Has she bothered to read the Koran, the Hadiths and the Sira? The trilogy of violence against the Kafir, homosexuals, and misogyny, is the running text of all canonical texts of Islam.

Of course she has read the Koran etc. But what she is trying to do is to pretend that all the horror that is Islam is not Islam. This is the most dangerous form of Taqqiya. An admission that there is a problem among Muslims, and yet pretend that ir has nothing to do with Islam. For Muslims, defending Islam is the highest priority. So it is, that in extremis, the true believers as well as the Jihadis, will be sacrificed to protect Islam.


I am bemused that it has not occurred to Sara Hassan that she's the aberration; that she might possibly be in the minority; that what she was taught is the "hijacked" understanding of Islam.

I mean, is she blind to the goings-on in Saudi Arabia and Iran, both Islamic nations (on either side of the great intra-Islamic divide, by the way) where apostasy and homosexuality are dealt in precisely the manner called for by the preachers at Regent's Park? Has she bothered to delve into the treatment of said groups (among others) throughout the history in Islam?



“If Regent's Park mosque really is one of the ‘most respected centres for moderate Islam’ why does it take Channel 4 and undercover filming to bring this stuff out in the open?”

Why indeed? The preaching of supremacism, sedition and murder takes place for 8 hours a day, Saturdays and Sundays. As Hassan points out in the film, “Any woman who goes there to pray is likely to hear their preaching.” I’m guessing it’s the same old same old. Act casual, say nothing. And how does a believer challenge what’s being preached – which is, after all, the wisdom of Muhammad - without the risk of unravelling their own religion?


Sounds just like Barack Obama, who was equally surprised at the vile Anti-American hatred spewed weekly from the pulpit by his life-long "spiritual adviser" least after it was leaked to the press. :-)


Possibly, liberals just don't take any religion seriously -- even their own.



I first became aware of your excellent work through your robust contributions to the OpenDemocracy forums on exactly this issue of Muhammad's legacy. I'm still trying to figure out how things can improve.

Did you see Antony Thomas's documentary on the Quran? It was very far from perfect, but perhaps the most revealing moment was a comparison of a Cairo street scene filmed in the 1970s with the same street now. In the 1970s no one was wearing "Islamic" clothing; in 2008 all the women are.

In the mid-20th century people would have been astonished by the Islamic revival. Before Pakistan, the only independent Muslim-majority nations were Ataturk's Turkey and Iran, which was much less enthusiastically Islamic than it is now. All my reading convinces me that Jinnah, had he lived, would have made Pakistan more secular, like Turkey, rather than an "Islamic republic".

I'm reminded of Hanif Kureishi's "My Son The Fanatic", written two years before 9/11. Kureishi had noticed how the second/third generation of Pakistani Brits were becoming more pious, and in a more severe way, than their parents ever were. It's now quite common to see young British Pakistani women wear a form of clothing which has no real cultural history back in the Subcontinent, but which is the height of chic in Saudi Arabia.

I want to believe we're seeing something no worse than the "fake Rastafarianism" of the 1980s. Back in the 80s I knew a few Windrush second generation kids who claimed to be Rastas and who wore all the gear. Their parents were certainly not Rastas, but Christians of a rather conservative type who almost certainly despised the Rastas back in Jamaica. The Rasta thing was really just a way to assert difference against Whitey. Whitey could be a Christian like their parents, but could never be a Rasta, no matter how many Bob Marley records he bought.

Rastafarianism was "just a phase" - the kids made their point, grew up and moved on. Will Islam be like that in the UK? Probably not.



I haven’t seen the documentary you mention, but the “revival” is quite striking, if not exactly encouraging. And, yes, there is an element of adolescent contrarianism to consider. For some people, quite a few I think, it’s a bit like being a goth or a punk. “Look at me, see how different I am,” etc.

For instance...

Horace Dunn


“I'm still trying to figure out how things can improve”.

I’m afraid that this will sound rather frivolous, but then frivolity is my proposed (part) solution.

It can’t have escaped notice that some of the imams and others featured in the “Dispatches” video were ... well, funny. Of course one hesitates to call it funny since the import of what they were saying was so poisonous and, of course, so many people take this stuff so deadly seriously.

But think about how a once hugely influential organisation, the Church of England, has become so marginalised and – frankly, for most people in the UK – irrelevant. There are many reasons for this, but one of them, I would contest, is the simple fact that vicars have been, for decades, the butt of jokes. So much so that it is often difficult to think of the word vicar without the preceding epithet of “comedy”. Indeed, so much so, that no-one seems to make fun of them any more. Comedians spent decades presenting these once-respected members of our community as fay, toothy, dog-collared twerps. Even if I use an expression such as “a Sunday morning sermon from the pulpit” it is more likely to evoke, in your mind (if you’ll forgive the presumption), a Dick Emery figure droning on to a collection of dozing colonels and fidgeting dowagers, than any kind of stimulating or dynamic event.

The imams in that video were ripe for parody and ridicule. What about that gaunt beardy banging on about cutting off hands and crucifixion? Didn’t that remind you a little of the ruddy-faced retired major in Tonbridge Wells blustering about bringing back the birch? Why are we less indulgent of the blustering arch-Tory these days? Because he seems so utterly preposterous. Because he is – and this touches on what David said about Goths and punks – singularly uncool. It would benefit us a great deal to make the bigoted morons of the mosques equally uncool. Someone needs to make fun of these people so that fashion-minded youngsters no longer feel able to identify with them.

As for who that someone might be, I couldn’t say. It’s a scary job, but someone needs to do it.



Mr Aki Nawaz is old enough to be a grandad - he played drums in the first version of "The Cult", for chrissake! Also, he seems unaware that Che Guevara was a militant Atheist, which negates the point of his comparison with Bin Laden. He's desperate to get noticed, I suppose. And his music is just not very good. It must feel depressing, knowing there's all these really talented UK Asian musicians, like Nitin Sawney and Talvin Singh...

BTW - The recent botched suicide attacks in Scotland may actually help reduce recruitment for Jihad, because the perpetrators made themselves look very sad and uncool.


I think you're on to something. There was a very popular movie in Iran about a criminal who pretends to be an imam to escape from the police. It was a not-so-coded attack on the country's clerical class.

I also think direct challenge, of the sort David bravely engages in, is vital. Mr Yusuf al-Qaradawi was recently voted one of the world's top intellectuals by the (Islamic?) readers of Prospect magazine. He's Egypt's Wittgenstein, apparently! Of course I find his opinions vile, but whenever I've seen him on internet telly, the main thing I'm struck by is his extreme mental slowness. You quickly realize he's probably never ever faced Paxman-style hostile cross questioning in his entire life. And that just lets him drift further and further from sanity.

I recently tried the following tack debating with a Muslim. I simple said that we should stick rigidly to the proposition that Allah was "all-merciful". Whenever we saw Muhammad following a less than all-merciful course of action, we should assume he was no longer being guided by Allah. And if the Quran portrayed a less-than-all-merciful Allah, it must be corrupted. I'm not claiming I "won the debate", but it did make him think a bit...



“The recent botched suicide attacks in Scotland may actually help reduce recruitment for Jihad, because the perpetrators made themselves look very sad and uncool.”

Well, it would be helpful if more people realised that the idea isn’t edgy or radical, just primitive and foolish. And Mr Nawaz might do well to acquaint himself with the actual history of jihad, then hang his head in shame.

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