Historic Wembley shul sold to group that hosted extremist Imam

Decision by the United Synagogue to sell Wembley site to the UK branch of Dawat-e-Islami, a Pakistan-based charity, faces widespread criticism


A historic London synagogue has been sold to a Muslim organisation linked to extremist views, which raised money to buy the building by describing it as “a former place of worship for non-believers”.

The decision by the United Synagogue to sell it the Wembley shul site — which it has occupied since 1939 — to the UK branch of the Dawat-e-Islami, a Pakistan-based educational charity, is facing widespread criticism, including from one of its former rabbis.

Last week, the Islamic charity — which has already exchanged contracts to buy the site — was forced to apologise after distributing a fundraising leaflet and posting a video describing Jews as “non-believers” as it tried to raise £5 million for the purchase.

Now the JC can reveal the group’s troubling track record, raising further questions about why the United Synagogue would agree to do business with the organisation, despite what the Jewish group described as its “robust due diligence” process.

In 2021, Dawat-e-Islami hosted extremist preacher Shaykh Asrar Rashid, who once claimed Hitler did Jews “a favour” and labelled the late Queen Elizabeth II a “disgusting woman”, at its Midlands branch in 2021.

Its international website sells a book by the group’s founder, Muhammad Ilyas Attar Qadri, in which he says boycotting Jewish products is not enough for Muslims and writes that they must make sure not to behave as “imitations of the Jews”.

The shul’s former rabbi, Dr Martin van den Bergh, said: “I feel it is the height of insult for the synagogue to be sold to a group which openly describes Jews as ‘non-believers’.

“This goes against the principle of having respect for members of other faiths… all avenues should be explored to stop this sale.”

Reacting to the complaints, a spokesman for Dawat-e-Islami UK said he wished to “apologise for the hurt caused by our leaflet this week” and would amend the text.

A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We will be asking the Charity Commission to investigate the disturbing allegations that its Midlands branch hosted a preacher accused of claiming Hitler did Jews ‘a favour’and that its founder called on Muslims to boycott Jewish goods.

"The commission should find out whether Dawat-e-Islami UK rejects the alleged statements.”

David Collins, the United Synagogue’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are pleased that the trustees of Dawat-e-Islami UK immediately recognised the hurt caused by the offensive language on their fundraising flyer. We are also glad that they have apologised to the members of Wembley United Synagogue and by extension the wider community, and have ordered a reprint of the flyer and removal of online content which contained the same language.

“The United Synagogue has robust due diligence processes. As with all property transactions, we engaged external consultants and lawyers. Our due diligence covered three areas: financial, legal and security background checks. All the professional advice we received, as well as our own checks, indicated that this is a reputable and relatively large UK charity, registered with the Charity Commission with the funds available to make the purchase in compliance with our standard procedures. We proceeded with the sale on that basis.

“The buyer was selected after a full marketing exercise for the sale. All the serious bids for the property came from other faith groups and following due diligence, the highest bidder was chosen as would be expected by the Charity Commission.”

In response to questions about its activities, Dawat-e-Islami UK’s legal department said: “We would like to point out that most mainstream religions including Judaism refer to other as ‘non-believers’ if they do not follow that religion’s beliefs. In this context, rather than writing ‘non-believers in Judaism’ or ‘non-believers in Islam’

"These words are not directed at any particular community but used generally.

“In relation to the other matters you have mentioned, we would like to remind you that the core texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam as documented in the Torah, the Bible and Quran, all have identical positions of punishments for blasphemy. If we search for short, cherry-picked clips, we are sure we could find lots of example of reference to Leviticus 24:16 for the Seven Law of Noah.”

It went on that it hoped the “amendment of the leaflet will see an end to this matter”.

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