The Government has pledged to halt public funding of mosques that host hate-preachers.
An investigation by the JC revealed that four mosques that have hosted inflammatory speakers in Britain have received substantial public grants in recent years.
The investigation found that Finsbury Park Mosque in North London received almost £300,000 from Islington Council between 2017 and 2022.
Earlier this year, the mosque’s General Secretary, Mohammed Kozbar, reportedly wrote on Facebook that he was “honoured” to meet the antisemitic former Malaysian Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad.
In 2015, Mr Kozbar allegedly visited the grave of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and described him as “the master of the martyrs of resistance, the mujahid [holy warrior] sheikh, the teacher.” Mr Yassin is known as one of the founders of Hamas, an antisemitic genocidal terrorist group.
Mr Kozbar has also reportedly met senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud al-Zahar.
In 2021, the UK banned Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist group following calls by Campaign Against Antisemitism and others.
Mr Kozbar also hosted Egyptian cleric Omar Abdelkafi. Despite Mr Abdelkafi’s record of quoting from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and a Facebook post that included a prayer to “liberate the al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews,” Mr Kozbar reportedly described him as “our beloved preacher”.
In 2011, Mr Kozbar was reportedly caught on video speaking at an anti-Israel rally, where he allegedly said that he looked forward “to the end of Israel, inshallah.”
He has also reportedly given public support to the disgraced Bristol University academic David Miller and to Shaima Dallali, who was removed from her position as President of the National Union of Students amidst allegations of antisemitism.
Days after the investigation was published, Jeremy Corbyn, the former Leader of the Labour Party, wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter: “Finsbury Park Mosque offers a place of peace, hope and solidarity to so many people in our community. We will not be divided by those in our media who seek to sow hatred and fear. It is love for our neighbours, whatever their faith, that unites us all.”
According to the investigation, Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre in Birmingham was reported in August to have received a grant of £2.2million from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The funding is understood to come from a Government Youth Investment Fund and is for the mosque to build a centre for young people. The centre would host courses provided by the mosque on topics such as “how to empower marginalised communities” and “critical thinking”.
The decision to award the mosque money was reportedly made by the Social Investment Business (SIB). SIB is a foundation that is contracted by DCMS to help with decisions in social investment.
A spokesperson for SIB said that the distribution of the grant has been “paused”. A “pre-construction” grant of £600,000 however, has already been paid to the mosque.
In terms of SIB’s vetting processes, the spokesperson said: “Prior to any decision to award beneficiaries funding, due diligence checks are conducted.”
The spokesperson added: “This includes information publicly available via the Charity Commission and Companies House, as well as extensive assessments of project bids and documentation.”
In 2021, Shaykh Zakaullah Saleem, the mosque’s Head Imam and Head of Education, reportedly said in a recorded talk that female adulterers should be killed and that “there must be a hole dug in the earth and she [the adulterer] must be covered up to half her body.”
In 2019, Shaykh abu Usamah at-Thahabi, who is known to be a regular speaker at Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre, appeared in a video that was posted to the mosque’s YouTube channel in which he said that he was stopped from entering Israel as he was considered a “threat to public safety”. He later reportedly remarked in the same video that he was not a threat and that his visit was to see holy sites in Jerusalem before comparing Israel to a “concentration camp”.
In another video, Mr Thahabi allegedly said that “the Jews made a lot of trouble for the Arabs in Medina, a lot of trouble.”
He has also reportedly expressed homophobic beliefs publicly which included saying, “you make sure you kill the one who is doing it and the one who it is being done to,” after suggesting that Shariah law permitted killing LGBTQ+ people.
It is also understood that the mosque hosted a speaker who claimed that Jews are “people of envy” who “killed the prophets and the messengers”.
Another video appeared to show a leading imam of the mosque saying that women who are adulterous should be stoned to death.
A spokesperson for Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre claimed that the video “lacked context” and was “taken from a wide-ranging theological discourse that included the recounting of events in Arabia over 1,400 years ago…he did not suggest that these practices have a place in UK society.”
The investigation also found that Lewisham Islamic Centre in South London received nearly £540,000 between 2015 and 2022 in “local authority grants”.
In 2016, the mosque’s Head Imam, Shakeel Begg, was determined by a High Court judge to have “promoted violence in support of Islam” during his unsuccessful libel claim against the BBC.
It is also understood that Mr Begg told young Muslims to “go to Palestine and fight the Zionists.”
Lewisham Council has reportedly said that it has no record of the grants made between 2015 and 2022.
Michael Adebolajo, who murdered British soldier Lee Rigby, used to be a member of the Lewisham congregation and attended a speech by Mr Begg at the mosque in 2021. During the speech, Mr Begg reportedly showed support for the use of rockets against Israel. Mr Adebolajo described the speech as “inspiring”.
Mr Begg said that he was “appalled” by the murder of Mr Rigby.
In the centre’s 2022 Annual Report, there is an endorsement by Ellie Reeves, the Labour MP for Lewisham West, which says that the centre does “absolutely brilliant work for the Lewisham community”. In the same report, Damian Egan, the Labour Mayor of Lewisham, described it as “a source of guidance, community and friendship”.
Another mosque was revealed to have received over £850,000 between 2017 and 2022. Jamia Islamia Ghousia in Luton is believed to have received the funding locally from its town council.
In 2021, Jamia Islamia Ghousia allegedly backed a rally where the speaker, Attiq Malik, reportedly claimed that Israel was committing “genocide” and said that this was underreported in the media due to “global censorship by Zionists”.
It is understood that the mosque’s Chief Imam attended the rally.
At the same rally, another speaker reportedly said that “Israel is a disease that needs to be cut out,” before leading a chant that said: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”
“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” only makes sense as a call for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state — and its replacement with a State of Palestine — and is thus an attempt to deny Jews, uniquely, the right to self-determination, which is a breach of the International Definition of Antisemitism.
According to the Definition, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour)” is an example of antisemitism.
It is understood that following the investigation, Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary are pushing for better “due diligence” checks to be conducted by the Government and local governing bodies.
Rachel Hopkins, the Labour MP for Luton South, attended the rally and said to local media afterwards: “I was proud to speak at today’s Luton demo against the abuses in Israel and Palestine. There’s no justification for such violent, traumatic attacks.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism works to raise awareness of antisemitism among all faith and minority communities.