British media is reporting prominent Leeds imam Qari Asim has been dismissed from his post as a governmental adviser on Anti-Muslim Hatred after backing calls to ban a film about the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter. According to the BBC report:
June 13. 2022 Mr Asim, imam of the Makkah Masjid mosque in Leeds, was told his appointment as deputy chair of the government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group had to end in a letter from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities. It said: “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.”
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The controversy centers on “The Lady of Heaven,” a new film by Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Yasser al-Habib, described as the first film depicting the life and death of the Prophet Mohammed’s daughter Fatima. Strict religious bans on the depiction of the Prophet have led to protests outside cinemas in several British cities which called the film “blasphemous” and “racist.” More than 133,000 people had signed a petition against the movie, leading to some British cinemas pulling screenings from their schedules. Most Sunni Muslims believe depictions of Islamic prophets should be prohibited, whereas Shia Islam typically accepts such depictions if they are done respectfully. Asim was said to have advertised a protest against the film in Leeds, giving details of its timing and location. Supporting such a campaign to limit free expression precluded Asim from continuing, the government said in a letter to him cited by the BBC.
Asim, who in 2012 was appointed Member of the British Empire (MBE) for building “community harmony” in Leeds, subsequently criticized the decision in a Facebook post, adding he was concerned the film “risked fuelling extremism and tension in communities that would undermine cohesion in British society.” After his dismissal, Asim received several messages of support, including from the Bishop of Bradford. Asim has been working as an Independent Adviser since 2019 and has served as Deputy Chair of the British government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. In addition, Asim acts as chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), which was created in 2007 as a facilitatory and advisory body for Muslim places of worship in the UK. The founders of MINAB included two groups tied to the Global Muslim Brotherhood (GMB).
- Muslim Association of Britain, the leading GMB organization in the UK
- Muslim Council of Britain, among Britain’s most influential Muslim organizations, historically acting in concert with the GMB.
In November 2020, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that the French government had dissolved a controversial Islamophobia watch group accused of taking part in a social media campaign against a French history teacher, beheaded after showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class. After the attack, France ordered a crackdown on groups accused of radicalism, carrying out dozens of raids and temporarily shutting down mosques.