The new deputy secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain has praised the leaders of terror group Hamas and hosted a cleric who compared Jews to pigs and monkeys.
Visiting the grave of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 2015, newly elected MCB official Mohammed Kozbar praised him as “the master of the martyrs of resistance, the mujahid [holy warrior] sheikh, the teacher”.
Mr Kozbar, who is also general secretary of Finsbury Park Mosque in North London, also met senior Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh — Gaza’s ex-prime minister — and its hardline former foreign policy chief Mahmoud al-Zahar.
Kozbar visiting the grave of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin
Despite these contacts, an MCB spokesman said suggestions that Mr Kozbar supported violence or antisemitism were “smears”. The London branch of the National Association of Muslim Police has “praised” Mr Kozbar, according to the review of the government’s Prevent strategy, released this week.
Disquiet over Mr Kozbar’s appointment also centres on his decision to host Egyptian cleric Omar Abdelkafi, whom he described as “our beloved preacher”.
Mr 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”.
Mr Kozbar was also filmed making a speech at a pro-Palestinian rally in London in 2011 saying he looked forward “to the end of Israel, inshallah”.
But last week Mr Kozbar told the JC he was committed to working with “our Jewish friends” to fight both antisemitism and Islamophobia.
His assurances came despite his public support for the former Bristol University professor David Miller and Shaima Dallali, the former president-elect of the National Union of Students, who was removed from her post last year following an investigation into antisemitism allegations.
Mr Kozabar supported calls to reinstate Mr Miller who was sacked in 2021 after claiming that Jewish students were being used as “political pawns by a violent, racist foreign regime”.
He also signed an open letter protesting against the NUS decision to remove Ms Dallali.
Last week Mr Kozbar said: “I look forward to bringing my experience to help Muslim communities be part and parcel of British society.
“I have demonstrated interfaith action at a local level, and it is much needed at a national level.
“I look forward to particularly building this with our Jewish friends. I have worked with many Jewish colleagues who have looked past the Islamophobic smears levelled at me in the past.”
Lord Carlile KC, the former government reviewer of terrorism legislation, said the appointment of Mr Kozbar was “incredibly insensitive”.
Steve McCabe MP, the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, also said: “This doesn’t appear to be… designed to build tolerance and encourage friendship across communities and faiths.
“This individual has an appalling history and unless he’s prepared to apologise for the past and promise to turn over a new leaf I can’t see how he can be anything but a liability for the Muslim Council of Britain.”