Muslims Who Distort Islam

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THE POLICE RAID this morning on the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park has focused attention once again on the radical Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza. The imam's whereabouts are not known, but it is understood that he is not among the seven people arrested in the raid, which Scotland Yard says was linked to the discovery of the poison ricin at a nearby flat. It has caused great offence to the public - including to the vast majority of Muslims - that under the guise of operating as a charity, the Finsbury Park Mosque has become a focal point for extreme Islamic fundamentalism and an alleged meeting place for al Qaeda activists. Abu Hamza, whose inflammatory sermons are filled with hate for the West - including for Britain, the land that gave him asylum more than 20 years ago - distorts Islam. Over the last few years he and his cronies have taken over the mosque, and forced out worshippers whose brand of Islam is more, moderate and in line with the religion as practised by most British Muslims. His activities are related more to political propaganda than to religion or charitable purposes as most of us would understand them. Rightly, the Charity Commission has investigated Hamza, and today may use its banning powers to end his occupation of the Mosque, which is a registered charity. Hamza was given the freedom of speech here that he would never be allowed in his native Egypt. He has chosen to abuse that freedom, and our hospitality. There is no reason why we should tolerate his brand of extremism and hatred - nor, obviously, should he and his dangerous work retain charitable status. However, the public must not imagine that Hamza speaks for anybody except a tiny minority of Muslims in this country. The last thing the majority of law abiding, peaceful Muslims need now is a backlash against them prompted by the activities of one overzealous cleric.

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