Taxpayers fund mosques that host hate preachers

At least four received grants totalling millions of pounds with the largest of £2.2 million awarded to a Birmingham Islamic centre that has hosted a speaker who described Jews as 'people of envy'


The Government has vowed to stop giving taxpayers’ money to mosques that host antisemitic hate preachers after a JC investigation revealed that at least four had received grants totalling millions of pounds.

The largest grant was a £2.2 million award to a Birmingham mosque which has hosted a speaker who has described Jews as “people of envy” who “killed the prophets and the messengers”.

In a viral video, its leading imam was filmed teaching how adulterous women should be stoned to death. The money has now been “paused” pending official inquiries.

Three other Muslim centres with a history of offering pulpits to extremist speakers have also received large sums, the JC can reveal.

Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, which hosted an Egyptian imam who pledged to “liberate” Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem from the “filth of the Jews”, received almost £300,000 from the Labour-controlled Islington Council between 2017 and 2022.

The mosque’s general secretary, Mohammed Kozbar, praised Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the wheelchair-bound founder of Hamas who was killed by Israeli missiles in 2004, as a “martyr” on a visit to Gaza in 2015.

Lewisham Islamic Centre in south London, whose chief imam Shakeel Begg once called on young Muslims to “go to Palestine and fight the Zionists”, was given £540,000 between 2015 and 2020, in what its accounts describe as “local authority grants”.

Following the revelations, Communities Secretary Michael Gove and Home Secretary Suella Braverman are demanding tighter “due diligence” checks by both central and local government, the JC understands.

A government source said: “All parts of government including councils are responsible for spending public money appropriately, so they must be far more careful about the organisations they support.

“It’s appalling that mosques and other religious organisations in receipt of taxpayer funding have provided platforms for extremist preachers to spread vile messages of hate.

“We will be taking action to improve due diligence and seek to exclude organisations that fail to deliver their responsibilities effectively.”

The measures that are being considered include a requirement that before granting public funds, both central and local government agencies must check with the Home Office and Levelling-Up departments for evidence that the recipient has sponsored extremism.

A High Court judge found that Begg, who has been imam of the Lewisham Islamic Centre since 1998, promoted “violence in support of Islam” during his failed libel action against the BBC in 2016.

Michael Adebolajo, who murdered Private Lee Rigby in a London street in 2013, was a member of his congregation, although Begg said the killing left him “appalled” and went against Islamic teaching.

In 2021, Begg attended an event at the Lewisham mosque where a speaker expressed support for rocket attacks on Israel, and was praised by the imam as “inspiring”.

Lewisham Council, which is Labour-controlled, claims to have no record of the £539,418 shown as being given to Begg’s mosque in its accounts.

Lewisham Islamic Centre’s 2022 annual report includes an endorsement by local Labour MP Ellie Reeves saying it does “absolutely brilliant work for the Lewisham community” and another by the borough’s mayor, Damian Egan, who described it as “a source of guidance, community and friendship”.

In early August the Department of Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) was reported to have given £2.2 million towards a scheme run by the Green Lane Masjid in the Small Heath area of Birmingham.

The money, to be paid from the government’s Youth Investment Fund, was supposed to support the construction of a “state of the art” youth centre where the mosque would run courses on “critical thinking” and “how to empower marginalised communities”.

One of the Green Lane Masjid’s regular preachers is Shaykh abu Usamah at-Thahabi, who said in an educational lecture in 2019 — screened on the mosque’s YouTube channel — that he had been stopped from entering Israel because he was deemed to pose “a threat to public safety”.

In the video he insisted this was untrue, saying he told officials: “I’m not here to harm anyone, I’m here to go to the old town of Jerusalem,” and pray at its holy sites. In the same video, he likened Israel to a “concentration camp”.

In another online lecture last year, at-Thahabi said “the Jews made a lot of trouble for the Arabs in Medina, a lot of trouble”.

Those who were “giving the believers the most animosity, hatred, the people who most promise it, are the Jews”, he added, because “they are people of envy” and “they killed the prophets and the messengers”.

In a Facebook post in 2016, he wrote that any Muslim who argued that “Allah’s ordained punishments such as cutting off the hand of a thief or stoning an adulterer is not befitting for the modern era” was “nullifying Islam”. Such a person was an “apostate” who “renders his blood and money violable”, he said

In a talk recorded in 2021, Shaykh Zakaullah Saleem, the Green Lane Masjid’s leading imam and head of education, set out the Shariah law governing how female adulterers should be slaughtered. He said “there must be a hole dug in the earth and she must be covered up to half her body” in order to preserve the victim’s modesty.

In 2007, the Green Lane centre featured in a Channel 4 documentary, Undercover Mosque, which triggered an inquiry by West Midlands Police into both the mosque and the filmmakers, who were accused of stirring up racial hatred. No charges were brought.

In a video recorded at a mosque in Liverpool in 2018, Green Lane regular At-Thahabi suggested killing gay people was justified under Shariah law. “You make sure you kill the one who is doing it and the one who it is being done to”, he said, although he added: “I’m not here today to say it’s OK for you to do that.”

The following year, he preached at Green Lane against the British education system’s tolerance of homosexuality. “Don’t teach my kids homosexuality. Don’t teach my kid about lesbianism,” he said, “because I don’t condone it.”

The decision to award the grant to the Green Lane Masjid was made by Social Investment Business (SIB), a private foundation that works in partnership with DCMS. A spokesman for DCMS declined to comment.

An SIB spokesman said that it had “paused the distribution” of the main £2.2 million grant while it “investigates the recent allegations”, although a smaller, “pre-construction” grant of £60,000 has already been paid.

The spokesman said that before the award was made, the mosque had been vetted. “Prior to any decision to award beneficiaries funding, due diligence checks are conducted,” he said. “This includes information publicly available via the Charity Commission and Companies House, as well as extensive assessments of project bids and documentation.”

Other British mosques handed hundreds of thousands of pounds by local government have histories of extremist activities.

The general secretary of Finsbury Park mosque, Mohammed Kozbar, who is also deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, visited the grave of the assassinated Hamas founder Sheikh Amhed Yassin on a visit to Gaza in 2015, and praised him as “the master of the martyrs of resistance, the mujahid [holy warrior] sheikh, the teacher”.

He also met senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh — Gaza’s former prime minister — and its hardline former foreign policy chief Mahmoud al-Zahar.

The mosque hosted Egyptian Omar Abdelkafi, described by Kozbar as “our beloved preacher”, in April last year.

Abdelkafi is on record quoting from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious antisemitic forgery that claims Jews seek to dominate the world, and his Facebook posts include a prayer to “liberate the al-Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews”.

After the JC published details of Kozbar’s views earlier this year, he issued a statement saying the report was a “smear”, adding that he was committed to interfaith dialogue and working with Jews against both antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Luton’s Ghousia mosque accounts say it received grants worth £886,687 in the period 2017-22 from the town’s council, which is also Labour-controlled.
In 2021, the Ghousia mosque supported a rally attended by its chief imam at which speaker Attiq Malik claimed Israel was perpetrating “genocide”, which was not being reported by the media because of “global censorship by the Zionists”.

Another speaker described Israel as “a disease that needs to be cut out”, and ended his talk by leading a chant of the Hamas slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.

Also present was Luton South’s Labour MP Rachel Hopkins. Afterwards, she told local reporters: “I was proud to speak at today’s Luton demo against the abuses in Israel and Palestine. There’s no justification for such violent, traumatic attacks.”

A Green Lane Masjid spokesman said the video showing imam Saleem recounting how a woman should be stoned to death “lacked context”, and was “taken from a wide-ranging theological discourse that included the recounting of events in Arabia over 1,400 years ago… he did not suggest that these practices have a place in UK society”.

The video has been removed from the mosque’s website, the spokesman said, adding that at-Thahabi was an “external speaker”, not a staff imam. The mosque is now investigating some of the videos flagged by the JC, all of which have now been taken down.

An earlier Green Lane statement said the mosque took pride “in upholding the laws of this country, and we reject violence and extremism unequivocally… In accordance with these values, we developed a comprehensive Speaker Anti-Extremism Policy and Declaration in 2019.

"Everyone who preaches or speaks at Green Lane Mosque — including our own senior leaders — is required to sign it and abide by it”.

The Luton, Lewisham and Finsbury Park mosques have been approached for comment, as have at-Thahabi and Islington and Luton councils.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive