There has been some controversy about the recent Channel 4 Dispatches programme about extremism in British Mosques. There was an exchange of correspondence in the build up to the broadcast, and a little bird has dropped into my lap a letter dated 7th January 2007 from Shouaib Ahmed, Secretary General, Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith UK to Andrew Smith of HardCash Productions Ltd, the programme maker. In it, Mr Ahmed is at pains to dispel slanders against Islam, but I'm not sure he had the effect he intended. Here is the opening of his letter:
I am writing in response to your letter dated the 28th December 2006 which appears to have been written just when you knew we would be celebrating the ‘Id al-Adha, thereby giving us less time in which to respond to what in any case appears to be a programme whose content has already been decided.His enthusiasm for prosecutions for incitement to violence is to be welcomed.
Naturally I am surprised that you appear to have already more or less decided what words you are going to put into my mouth and that you did not even have the courtesy to request an interview with me so that my viewpoint could be included in your programme. In my humble opinion the mark of balanced investigative journalism is to do just this, to talk to everyone who is going to feature in an article or documentary, even if this means that some preconceived notions may prove to be unsustainable before they are aired.
If, which I hope is not the case, this is going to be just another attack on Islam and Muslims, which is very much in vogue nowadays, then I must remind you that if I or any member of my staff or anyone who worships at the Green Lane Mosque or the Mosque itself are subjected to any form of physical attack as a result of your programme then you, HardCash Productions Ltd and Channel 4 will all be liable to prosecution for incitement to commit a criminal act.
Towards the end of a long letter, some aspects of Islam are explained:
Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab was an 18th century reformer who sought to restore that middle way where itSaudi-style salafism is, you will note, moderate, and the middle way. Later:
had been ignored or abandoned by the people of his time. He called on them to follow the Qur’an and the Sunnah, just as all sincere Muslim teachers and leaders do, whatever group they belong to. Many views and excesses are attributed to him that were not his – and which if anything characterise those who have abandoned the middle way.
As regards corporal punishment, the teachings of Islam permit a light smack as a mark of disapproval, but never the violent physical abuse of either children or marriage partnerI can only read that as an assertion of the rightness of giving a marriage partner a "light smack". And:
As regards amputations, whippings, and crucifixions, [...] Some of the hadd (fixed punishments) punishments in Islam work as an effective deterrent, even for those who do not fear Allah and the Last Day.That clears things up, then. But perhaps not in a way intended by the writer.