International

Fighting Extremism

Meet Imam Shaheed Satardien:

Beneath a basketball net in a freezing sports hall, a Muslim cleric is waging war on Islamic extremism.

Imam Shaheed Satardien is taking a stand against those Muslims in Ireland whom he claims are too sympathetic to Osama bin Laden and the cult of the suicide bomber. At Friday prayers in the sports hall in north-west Dublin, the South African-born former anti-apartheid activist warns his multinational congregation against blaming other religions and the West in general for all Muslims’ ills.

Cast out by the majority Islamic community in Dublin for his outspokenness, the 50-year-old preacher says he has received death threats. ‘I am standing firm in my beliefs,’ Satardien says. ‘The truth is more important than being popular or living a quiet life. Extremism has infected Islam in Ireland. It’s time to get back to the spiritual aspect of my religion and stop it being used as a political weapon.’

The imam from Cape Town fled his native country following death threats, he says, from Islamic extremists in South Africa. His younger brother, Ibrahim, was shot dead in 1998 following a row with Islamic radicals in the city. When Satardien was told he would be next, he travelled to Ireland, the birthplace of his maternal grandmother, and pleaded for asylum.

‘I never, ever, expected that Muslims would come under the influence of extremists in Ireland when I arrived here with my family. So I was shocked to find support for Osama bin Laden, to discover the presence of the Muslim Brotherhood and even al-Qaeda here in Dublin.’

Satardien fell out with the main Dublin mosque at Clonskeagh, singling out the influence of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian born sheikh who has spoken openly in support of suicide bombers and issued fatwas on gays.

Read the rest.

And then watch Dispatches, tonight, Channel 4, 8-9 pm:

in this extensive investigation Dispatches reveals how a message of hatred and segregation is being spread throughout the UK and examines how it is influenced by the religious establishment of Saudi Arabia.

Dispatches has investigated a number of mosques run by high profile national organisations that claim to be dedicated to moderation and dialogue with other faiths. But an undercover reporter joined worshippers to find a message of religious bigotry and extremism being preached.

He captures chilling sermons in which Saudi-trained preachers proclaim the supremacy of Islam, preach hatred for non-Muslims and for Muslims who do not follow their extreme beliefs – and predict a coming jihad. “An army of Muslims will arise,” announces one preacher. Another preacher said British Muslims must “dismantle” British democracy – they must “live like a state within a state” until they are “strong enough to take over.”

The investigation reveals Saudi Arabian universities are recruiting young Western Muslims to train them in their extreme theology, then sending them back to the West to spread the word. And the Dispatches reporter discovers that British Muslims can ask for fatwas, religious rulings, direct from the top religious leader in Saudi Arabia, the Grand Mufti.

Saudi-trained preachers are also promoted in DVDs and books on sale at religious centres and sermons broadcast on websites. These publications and webcasts disseminate beliefs about women such as: “Allah has created the woman deficient, her intellect is incomplete”, and girls: “By the age of 10 if she doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her,” and there’s an extreme hostility towards homosexuals.

The investigation reveals that the influence of Saudi Arabian Islam, Wahabism, extends beyond the walls of some mosques to influential organisations that advise the British government on inter-community relations and prevention of terrorism.

The Dispatches reporter attends talks at mosques run by key organisations whose public faces are presented as moderate and mainstream – and finds preachers condemning the idea of integration into British society, condemning British democracy as un-Islamic and praising the Taliban for killing British soldiers.

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