This is a cross-post by a brother from Wales
Asim Hafeez was born and raised in Birmingham. As a student he studied at Swansea University in South Wales. He worked as a nightclub doorman/bouncer in both places. During his time at Swansea University he discovered Islamic activism and eventually, through the force of his personality, became an activist preacher. He regularly spoke at the Swansea Mosque, a Salafi/Wahabi institution.
In April 2002 Asim joined the Welsh Assembly Government as a race and religion advisor. He then went on to Head the Equalities unit before taking the lead for the Community Cohesion Strategy. In 2007 Asim became the Prevent Coordinator for the Welsh Assembly Government. In this capacity he was responsible for helping to fund an organisation called the ‘Muslim Council of Wales’ (of which he was also a member). This organisation is believed to have received funding commitments to the tune of £255’000 despite it having cooperated with Islamist groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. To date the money given to the Muslim Council of Wales has not resulted in any useful outcomes. Asim has also spoken publically as a representative of the Muslim Council of Wales on many occasions. What is very concerning is that whilst he was publically representing this organisation, he was also helping to fund it through his role as Prevent Coordinator. This issue raises serious questions and deserves to be investigated. The results of an initial FOI request on this matter can be found here.
Last year Asim was given the position of Community Advisor at the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) in the Home Office. He was later promoted to the senior role ‘Head of Interventions’. Government officials have become increasingly concerned about Asim’s strong links to hardcore Salafi groups and the funding he provides to them. An example of this is the hard-line Salafi ‘STREET’ project.
In 2009 Asim spoke at a controversial International Conference in India. Other speakers at the conference included: Zakir Naik, Bilal Philips and Hussain Yee, all three are now banned from entering the UK for having extremist views and sympathising with terrorists.
A “hardcore” Islamist has been given a key Home Office job to tackle terrorism and divert fellow Muslims from the path of violence.
The appointment of Asim Hafeez as head of intervention at the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism has caused serious concern among more moderateMuslim advisers across Whitehall. It is seen as a sign of a shift in the government’s policy on radical Islam away from engagement with more moderate groups. There is a sharp divide of opinion within government about whether ministers should engage with Muslims at risk of radicalisation or concentrate on forging links with moderates.
Mr Hafeez was described by one fellow adviser as “hardcore Salafi”. Salafism is a strictly puritanical branch of Islam, often associated with Saudi Arabia. It does not promote violence, but does urge the creation of an Islamic state.
The new Home Office adviser is reported to have raised eyebrows at his new department during the Muslim festival of Ramadan, when he lectured guests at a reception about the benefits of fasting. Before his appointment at the Home Office, Mr Hafeez worked as an adviser to the Welsh Assembly where he had areputation for his strict views on Islam. He also regularly lectured on Islamic issues at Welsh universities.
The blog Spittoon also raised concerns about a speech Asim gave in support of how a Muslim State should be run. It also reminded him that ‘the Home Office was no place for proselytisation’.
Asim’s appointment at the Home Office is a major issue of concern because of his strict conservative religious views and activist background. For this reason many experts believe his advice, recommendations and professional work to be seriously biased. It would be interesting to see how the new government minsters deal with senior officials such as Asim and how seriously they take his advice. What is clear is that his presence in the Home Office will certainly not help any future Preventing extremism strategies. It’s most likely he will continue funding hardcore Salafi groups and promoting likeminded friends, whilst blocking any serious attempts to challenge extremism.