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Anti-Gay Islamist Preacher Led Conference in a Bid to Affect UK Elections

08/04/2015 22:09 | Updated 08 June 2015

A conference, that was held at the Quaker's Friends House, London, featured American anti-gay cleric Sheikh Yasir Qadhi along with other extreme Wahhabi clerics who are accused of practicing hate.

Muslim leaders from across the UK and USA have criticised the event and some of its participants for promoting an intolerant, divisive and belligerent version of Islam.

The conference, entitled Islam in Britain, that was held this just passed Easter weekend was organised by the Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) boasting links with the Tory and Labour parties and chosen as an "official partner" by the Electoral Commission for the upcoming elections.

MEND has been running more or less the same format of talks/conferences across the United Kingdom attended by leading political figures, such as Tory Baroness Warsi and Kate Green, Labour's shadow equalities minister and vice-chair of its national policy forum.

Kate Green, in fact, took to twitter stating she was happy to join "colleagues" at the MEND conference in Manchester that took place a day earlier.

Julie Ward, Labour MEP stated on a twitter thread that she wants to present MEND to the European Parliament (EP) as "a model of best practice" for other EU states to follow.

She also vowed: "I will do my best to bring MEND - Muslim Engagement and Development to the EP - it will take some persuasion!"

Green, Ward and Afzal Khan Labour MEP pledged their support in writing to MEND.

MEND says its mission is to promote dialogue and combat islamophobia but in reality most of its leaders promote and support a Sharia system of law and government, which includes execution of apostates, blasphemers, LGBTI people and women who have sex outside of marriage. They also preach intolerance of people of other faiths, including fellow Muslims (especially Shia).

One of the main speakers, Qadhi has been previously accused of practicing hate speech towards LGBTI people, women, Jews and even towards Shi'a members of the Muslim faith.

He has been previously caught on camera stating: "In our own generation... I remember how homosexuals were looked down upon, and the names that were give to these people, and how disgusted the average masses were with that segment of society... Now look at how we have regressed - not progressed. ...

"A group of people who were punished, by the way, the likes of which no other nation has been punished! From the time of Adam to the Day of Judgement, no community, no group of people had been punished like the People of Lut had been punished.

"Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala [May he be glorified and exalted] picked up their city. He picked it up by the angel Jibreel alaihis salaam [On him be peace]. And he let it sworn [sic] up into the air and he turned it upside down and he smashed it on itself.

"And to this day ... the most uninhabitable place and the most evil water on the face of the earth is the Dead Sea. Which is the place of Sodom and Gomorrah."

He also has been branded by journalist Mehdi Hasan as a hate preacher for his anti-Shi'a slurs, where he stated: "Shism is filth ... They allow prostitution ... they allow lying."

"Beware of them [the Shias] and avoid them."

"Any Muslim that knows of their [Shia] beliefs, he should have pure anger and hatred ..."

The American hate preacher who was born in Texas and educated at the Wahhabi-dominated Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia, is well known for his extreme ideology also previously insisted that women should stay at home and not work, recommended they should take care "of the small, little things of the house"... and if you're a women you should be devoted to "please your husband."

Qadhi also claimed that the holocaust was a hoax, although he has since claimed that his views were a "mistake".

When he is confronted in public views that he expresses in closed quarters Qadhi will often say that he has since changed his mind.

Other speakers included sheikh Abu Eesa Niamatullah, who is known for his misogyny and anti-semitism.

Sufyan Ismail, MEND's Chief Executive, has been caught bragging that the organisation will be a "kingmaker" in next month's elections, claiming it could control as many as 30 seats.

Other key MEND figures have praised Al-Qaeda, and even expressed sympathy to the idea of British Muslims fighting in Syria, harming British troops and subverting UK democracy.

Owen Jones, the renowned journalist, who describes himself as a gay socialist, was also invited to but has not turned up.

Leading Muslims figures from across the UK and USA have expressed concern about MEND, its speakers and its invited guests from across the British establishment.

Fiyaz Mughal, a leading campaigner and interfaith activist told me: "Groups that are purporting to tackle Islamophobia should be very clear that they cannot counter such bigotry whilst platforms are being shared and events organised around speakers who have extremely disturbing messages around members of the LGBTI community for example.

"What kind of a message does that give out? I would argue that it promotes Islamophobia as people start to fear Muslim groups for double speak.

"Any invited speakers, when informed of the nature of those speakers, needs to think carefully about attending such a platform that sends out a message that is extremely worrying."

"So there is no moral courage or imperative in countering Islamophobia whilst turning a blind eye to speakers who have a history of anti-Shia or homophobic rhetoric. These are clear red lines that cannot be crossed."

Dilwar Hussain, Chair of New Horizons in British Islam, a charity that works for reform in Muslim thought and practice, a Trustee of the Islamic Society of Britain and research fellow at Cambridge stated: "Activists and thinkers from the Right and particularly the Left and have often been a great source of support to ethnic and other minorities and this should be applauded.

"But one serious point to consider is the value base of groups can appear to take endorsement from that support. An attitude of equality, progressive values and human rights should underpin that support and relationship building.

"This is not to say that they should have a problem with Islam, far from it. There are expressions of Islam that are very much at ease with equality and human rights, but we also need to be wide eyed that some are not.

"We cannot afford to sleep walk into supporting people that are fuelled by prejudice and bigotry, for example in the form of anti-Semitism or homophobia. Or those who claim the right to speak on the basis of freedom of expression, yet are adamantly opposed to the principle of free speech."

Tehmina Kazi, director of British Muslism for Secular Democracy urged: "The Left and Right should vociferously challenge anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-minority sentiments - even (and I would say especially) if these happen to come from minority groups themselves.

"It is crucial to have dialogue with a wide range of groups, but sentiments like these should not go unchallenged, especially when sharing public platforms.

"I would also encourage the leaders and thinkers across the UK to strengthen their partnerships with progressive and liberal Muslim stakeholders."

The openly gay American based Imam Daayiee Abdullah, Executive Director of MECCA and Saloonaat organisations, expressed shock that Qadhi and other MEND leaders who have been accused of hate speech were allowed to enter the UK and advocate their views.

He further said: "Nothing in the Quran promotes their idea that homosexuality is forbidden. The Lut story is about in-hospitality based upon heterosexual male rape committed by heterosexual men. Instead it is referenced in texts that are 200 or more years after the death of Prophet Mohammad supposedly supporting his views were similar.

"What is true is that there are various interpretations of Quran, as we see multitudes of Islamic scholars, ancient and modern, and even the current five major schools of Islamic thought do not agree on the narrow interpretation that LGBTI people should be harmed or killed.

"Preachers such as Qadhi therefore represent a very extreme minority view in Islam and definitely not a progressive one that is open to dialogue."

I contacted The Quakers in the UK, expressing concern over the values promoted by the MEND conference and querying their stance on the matter.

Juliet Prager, Deputy Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain, advised: "The Quakers let meeting space in Friends House to a wide range of organisations. All our customers are required to agree to our terms and conditions which say that the aims and policies of the hirer may not be in serious conflict with Quaker beliefs. Quaker faith holds that each person is of equal value and must be respected."

Leading human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, said: "Some of the speakers at the MEND conference hold extremist views that are in 'serious' conflict with Quaker values, I am surprised that the Quakers have agreed to host the event.

"I have huge admiration and immense respect for the Quakers but on this occasion I think they are mistaken. Tolerance of intolerance is collusion with intolerance."

When Tatchell pressed The Quakers on this matter, Paul Parker, Recording Clerk (head) of the UK Quakers, told him in an email exchange: "I'm sure you're aware that the freedom to gather is an important principle for Quakers and we do let Friends House to a wide range of organisations. Quakers in Britain are not the host organisation for this event.

"In confirming the letting we bore in mind the stated aim of the conference to engage Muslims ahead of the General Election and we received assurances from the organisers that speakers would abide by our Quaker principle that discrimination is not acceptable. We have also taken police advice."