My imam

Sheikh Shakeel Begg is the Iman of Lewisham and Kent Mosque, in Ladywell, South London, just down the road from me, and Muslim chaplain of Goldsmiths College in New Cross, South London. Here are four facts about him:

1. He is reported as urging '
students to wage jihad in Palestine. In a clandestinely recorded speech, Begg said to students: "You want to make jihad? Very good...Take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists."' (source) This has been strongly denied by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies:
“Some of the comments that have been attributed within the article, have been deliberately taken out of context to push a certain viewpoint, rather than present a balanced picture. An example of this was the misquotation of Imam Shakeel Begg who was actually delivering a talk on the illegitimate nature of terrorist activites that have taken place in recent years, which was overlooked by the article."
2. He says the veil is not a subject for free speech within the Muslim community.
The veil, irrespective of its specific juristic rulings, is an Islamic practice and not a cultural or a customary one as is agreed by the consensus of Muslim scholars; it is not open to debate...
We recognise the fact that Muslims hold different views regarding the veil, but we urge all members of the Muslim community to keep this debate within the realms of scholarly discussion amongst the people of knowledge and authority in the Muslim community. (emphasis added. source)
3. On the other hand, he thinks the fascist Hizb ut-Tahrir are entitled to free speech, their "extremism" simply an unhelpful, emotive pejorative term; their support for "terrorism" simply support for "the right of people anywhere in the world to resist invasion and occupation". (source)

4. He endorses the Tayyibun Institute, dedicated to the spread of Islamic ultra-orthodoxy, which in turn endorses the (alleged) terrorist fundraising group Interpal, favourite charity of George Galloway (of "Celebrity Big Brother" infamy).

[UPDATE May 24 2013: I have written more about the Lewisham Islamic Centre here, talking the story up to 2013, in light of alleged link of Michael Adebolajo to the Centre.]


kate said…
hi bob petty i know but the mosque is not ladywell. its verging on the borders of catford se6 and lewisham se13. where i live also gets called ladywell hither green lewisham, i say lewisham.
Anonymous said…
I’ve met them before when I was at university. This is their website (

a) They want to establish a modern Islamic State in the Muslim countries (like this:
b) In the UK, they’re trying to address the propaganda against Islam
c) They’re against all forms of dictatorships – they want elections so that the people can select a ruler but once the ruler is elected, he would have to rule by Shariah Law (in the Muslim countries)
d) Not all Muslims agree with everything they say but there is a huge overlap of ideas amongst most Muslims
e) Their work is non-violent and political – see quotes below:

"Hizb ut-Tahrir [HT] is an independent political party that is active in many countries across the world. HT's activities centre on intellectual reasoning, logic arguments and political lobbying. The party adheres to the Islamic Shariah law in all aspects of its work. It considers violence or armed struggle against the regime, as a method to re-establish the Islamic State, a violation of the Islamic Shariah." [Restricted Home Office Documents 19/8/03, Released to Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain 1/6/05 under FOI Act]

"We have yet to see convincing evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir as an organisation advocates violence or terrorism. Nor are we aware of any co-operation between it and Al Qaeda." [UK FCO Minister Bill Rammell, Hansard, 19/4/04]

So... I guess what I'm saying is I'm not sure what the problem is!
Anonymous said…
i know tayyibun institute, youve totally got a misconception of Islam Muslim and the Imam. You have no clue what jihad is. did you know that the UK and US have killed over 650k people, are you standing up for the murderers? ive seen alot of pictures on muslim, jewish christian and against war people brought evidense pictures proof of the murders, torture, himiliation of people by the west, And people are standing against this many like myself with just words, but its not going no where, the killing continues, we all know the lies which led to the war. So how do u fight this evil..? Thats Jihad
Anonymous said…
This is slanderous, and is a complete misconcption of this man. if this statement was true he would be locked up - but he is still the Imam at that islamic centre. Anyone who is an educated person or a critical thinker and wants to rationalise about this man and his methidology objectively should visit the mosque. Anyone who would eat from the bowl of a dog should absorb this propogated slander and consider it true.

Search and you will find.
bob said…
Anonymous, I don't understand how you can claim this is slanderous. Point 1: I said he has been reported as urging jihad on students, but that this report had been denied by the FSIS (well, they said he had been taken out of context). 2. His position on the veil is well-documented, and widely distributed on Islamic websites. 3. His support for Hizb ut-Tahrir is also widely available in the public sphere. The source I used is down, but can be found elsewhere, e.g. Full text: joint statement from Muslim groups | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics. 4. His endorsement of the Tayyibun Institute is noted on their website; their endorsement of Interpal is clear from their links page.
Anonymous said…
Hi Bob,

I'm quite interested as to how you have come to the conclusion the this imam is guilty of the list of things that you've stated. You do not that no claim can be accepted unless otherwise verified based on FACTUAL evidence. I am a person who does not settle for what claims are made but rather HOW it can be proven. And sadly, I do not see this practised in your article whatsoever.

It's quite peculiar to see that you are judging a man by a joint statement, signed by 15 associates or so. But my question is, what on earth is the point of singling out this one imam?

I'm just intrigued into finding out what point you're trying to make here, instead of just slagging people off, persumably people you haven't even met to talk about.

How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly!
Anonymous said…
hey bob the builder!!! aint u got anything better to do than to post fake stories about people you dont even know? your name suggests it all...building lies of people!!:S
bob said…
I am intrigued by the attacks on this post. Begg is the imam of my local mosque, which I pass by often. I always wondered what sort of person he was, and spent a couple of google hours trying to find out, posting my results. I often blog about Islam, and I often blog about South London, so it seemed like a nice thing to be able to combine both interests in one post.

I did not call him an Islamic terrorist or Muslim extremist or make any other such personal attack; I simply reported the facts that I was able to discover, without any commentary. There were four facts.

The first fact is that an allegation was made against him, an allegation refuted by the Federation of Student Islamic Societies. I did not say that the allegation was true: I reported both reports without comment.

The second fact was that he signed a public statement, along with 26 or so other Islamic scholars, to the effect that Muslims do not have the right to debate the issue of the veil. I did not comment on that opinion. I could have added that this statement was initiated by the Muslim Council of Britain, which claims to represent mainstream British Islam, but was signed by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain and others to the Islamist side of the mainstream.

The third fact is that, along with 37 others, he has defended Hizb ut-Tahrir, which I consider to be a fascist organisation, from charges of extremism. The defence also described their support for the Iraqi insurgency as simply defence of a legitimate resistance movement. The statement was signed by a number of Islamist organisations, as well as slightly more mainstream Islamic figures. It can be read here or here.

The fourth fact was that he endorses the Tayyibun Institute (or, to be strictly accurate, they claim he endorses them, although if he actively opposed this I'm sure he would have noticed). The Tayyibun Institute links to Interpal, which you can read about here and here.

In short, I stand by my statements, and refute the notion that I am making statements which cannot be evidenced or that I am simply slagging people off.

Sara asks the sensible question, what point am I making? I guess I didn't want to make any particular point. I simply wanted to know a little about my local imam and my local mosque, and then shared what I found out with my readers, many of whom live in the borough of Lewisham.
Anonymous said…
Bob, as you know, those providing the critical comments come from a culture of shame and victimization. Unable to critically look at themselves, or their community, they lash out at you the messenger. It's a familiar, if sad, pattern.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali reviews Kevin Harris' "The Suicide of Reason" in the NYT book review. Here is a bit:

"Harris does not regard Islamic fanaticism as a deviancy or a madness that affects a few Muslims and terrifies many. Instead he argues that fanaticism is the basic principle in Islam. “The Muslims are, from an early age, indoctrinated into a shaming code that demands a fanatical rejection of anything that threatens to subvert the supremacy of Islam,” he writes. During the years that this shaming code is instilled into children, the collective is emphasized above the individual and his freedoms. A good Muslim must forsake all: his property, family, children, even life for the sake of Islam. Boys in particular are taught to be dominating and merciless, which has the effect of creating a society of holy warriors."
Anonymous said…
So Bob, how much do you know about your local priest and local Rabbi? I suggest you do some 'fact finding' on them aswell. And by the way, stop being so defensive and acting as if I'm attacking you. Don't be such a baby and debate like a real man. Damn...

As for the The New Centrist, don't try to figure us out, you'll only end up failing my friend.

One piece of LOGICAL advice for you: Not everyone is the same, dont brush everyone with the same brush, its not right! Indeed your comments are critical and extreme! I mean where do you think you get off by criticising people's culture? You'll just end up looking like a low life trying to interpret the way people live by your twisted beliefs. Educate yourself my friend, that's the only way you'll succeed in this life.
"where do you think you get off by criticising people's culture?"

People's culture is as much open to criticism as any other aspect having to do with acquired behaviour. An acquired behaviour means it is a set of practices and beliefs which a person is taught.

For example, South African whites were taught to believe that Africans were inferior and their practices followed this belief. It was part of their culture. Is it Sara's position that such a culture was immune from criticism from outside critics?

Cultures that hold beliefs in submission and violence ought to be vigorously criticized. A culture is not genetically encoded. It is acquired. Bad habits, bad beliefs and bad laws can be untaught, discarded, reversed. But no change will ever take place if "culture" becomes untouchable and hallowed.

Sara's response to NC is rather peevish and irrevelant.
bob said…

"how much do you know about your local priest and local Rabbi? I suggest you do some 'fact finding' on them aswell."

Actually, a number of my local priests play an active part in the local affairs of my area, so I don't need to do "fact-finding" to have a grasp of their politics. If I found that any of my local priests supported suicide bombers, I'd certainly post about that here.

"And by the way, stop being so defensive and acting as if I'm attacking you. Don't be such a baby and debate like a real man. Damn..."

My masculinity: now we're getting to the core of the issue! I presume you'd like me to start posting explicit attacks on Islam, instead of defending this post?

"One piece of LOGICAL advice for you: Not everyone is the same, dont brush everyone with the same brush, its not right!"

Wow, that's logical. Not everyone is the same. I'll have to ponder on that. Not everyone is the same. Profound.

"Indeed your comments are critical and extreme!"

This is the bit I don't get. Please tell me what I've said that is extreme. I think there's nothing wrong with critical, but actually this post wasn't particularly critical.

Well, I've got to dash off now, but maybe I'll resume this later!
Anonymous said…
Sara writes:

"As for the The New Centrist, don't try to figure us out, you'll only end up failing my friend."

You are much less opaque than you think. In fact, most of us can see right through you, if you know what I mean.
Anonymous said…
Well he is no longer the Imam of Lewisham mosque so you can now rest Bob.
bob said…
Source re Hizb now off-line. Try here.
bob said…
Last week the Guardian reported death threats against Usama Hasan,

A Quilliam Foundation press release This claims: "The issuing and the distribution of the fatwas against Hasan was meanwhile co-ordinated by
Saleem Begg (aka ‘Abu Zubair’) a prominent Wahhabi preacher partly based at Lewisham
mosque in South London. Begg (who also helps run the radical webforum) was helped by a network of Wahhabi extremists based in a number of mosques through east London, including the increasingly hardline Masjid-al-Ansar mosque in Goodmayes and Redbridge Mosque. Saleem Begg also produced a youtube video in which he directly and openly argued that the killing of Usama Hasan was permissible."

A footnote adds: "The youtube video of Saleem Begg in which he discusses the permissibility of executing Usama Hasan for his beliefs (he concludes that in principle it is permissible) is still available online here
( – from 03:00 onwards). Notwithstanding Begg’s
‘disclaimer’ that he is only discussing his execution".

As far as I can tell from the internet, Begg is now the imam at Redbridge Mosque and no longer at Lewisham. Muslim chaplaincy at Goldsmiths is now provided by Mr Asgar Halim Rajput (Muslim Chaplain at Brunel University).

Any further facts welcome.
bob said…
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bob said…
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Dean said…
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Umer said…
Actually Imam Shakeel has a lot of credibility in his local area. I'm surprised that you are not aware of this. He has good relations with both the local MPs, several councillors and other faith community leaders including Jewish rabbis.

The thing about him is that he is an open book. You can go to the mosque, speak with him and ask him about his views. Like all orthodox Muslims he has strong views on ethical areas that are in divergence with what many may consider to be 'the norm'. He won't hide away from that fact. Is it not praiseworthy though, that someone who has strong views on certain things actually tolerates the views of the wider society and works with them for the common good?

I have never heard of you Bob, except through this post, but Imam Shakeel Begg is well-known among many in his local community and extremely respected by Muslims all over London. Maybe it's worth you going inside the building and actually talking to the man before you report findings.

Once upon a time first-hand research was seen as more academically credible that a google search.
Anonymous said…
Shakeel Begg just lost his court case against the BBC ! Hooray.

Imam loses libel action against BBC over 'extreme' claim

A spitfire victory role at HurryUpHarry!
Anonymous said…
wikipedia has the Judge's detailed definition of islamic extremism from Begg's case

Which is in the judge's full write up here

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