Suspension of Prison Service Imams
28th December 2001
Following controversial statements from Dr Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Imams and Mosques Council UK and also chairman of the Muslim Prisoners’ Commission, the prison service has responded by suspending two of its imams on the basis that they had made ‘inappropriate’ comments following the events of September 11.
The IHRC condemns this McCarthy style witch-hunt believing it to be motivated by Islamophobia rather than normal practice. Muslim clergy are being singled out for their dissident opinions, not because they are recruiting. An IHRC spokesperson said:
“Currently there has been unlimited misrepresentation and demonisation of Muslims and Islam in the media and political circles without outcry. On the contrary Muslims have been told that this is a trait of free society where universal values of free speech apply. Clearly some rights are more universal than others, as the government clearly believes that Muslims must be censored and even punished, whilst those who attack them do so with impunity.”
The proposals are also discriminatory. Other religious groups such as Jewish and Greek Orthodox clergy are not subjected to the same rigours. Some sections of both clergy support ethnic cleansing in Palestine and the Balkans, respectively.
Ironically, Zaki Badawi was one of only two Muslim supporters of Salman Rushdie’s right to free speech, but now appears to want to deny the same right to his fellow Muslims.
The IHRC also finds disturbing the statements of Dr Zaki Badawi suggesting that the government should take action against radical Muslim clerics and play some role in overseeing the training of imams. The IHRC spokesperson continued:
“This is a dangerous move aimed at creating an establishment-friendly class of religious leaders. Given the government’s current attacks on civil liberties, a pliant religious class ready to rubber stamp dubious ethical decisions bodes ill for the whole of society.”
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