Report by Jason Burke on distribution of videos in Mosques
28th January 2002
119 Farringdon Road
We are writing to express some of our concerns about the following passages in the two articles by your Chief Reporter Jason Burke, which appeared in The Observer on January 27th 2002.
1. "A gruesome video showing Islamic extremists murdering and mutilating 'infidels' is being circulated in Britain's mosques as part of a recruiting drive for Osama bin Laden's worldwide terror network."
Your reporter only relates evidence about distribution of these videos at Finsbury Park mosque run by Abu Hamza, yet he speaks of distribution in "Britain's mosques". Which other mosques are involved in distributing these videos? There are well over 800 mosques in the UK and it would seem from your report that only one actual mosque is distributing these videos. Also, it does not make the important distinction between covert distribution of videos by individual worshippers and organised distribution by the actual mosques. We believe this statement misrepresents the true situation in Britain's mosques and can only damage the position of ordinary Muslims in this country.
2. "Screenings have been arranged both in private homes and, often after prayers, in mosques."
Again, is there any evidence for this statement saying that screenings have been arranged in "mosques"? It seems to be implying that it the video been shown in many mosques.
3. "Cassettes of Islamic militant scholar Ahmed Deedat bore titles like 'Why Islam is the dominant religion' and 'The War Against Rushdie'"
Ahmed Deedat is a well-known South African Muslim scholar who specialises in Muslim-Christian debates and whose cassette and video tapes are distributed over much of the Muslim world. We have never heard of the tapes you mention although we do know of one called "How Rushdie Fooled The West" - a somewhat less sinister title than the one you mention. We are concerned that in your obvious desire to find Muslim 'extremist clerics' you are actually naming innocent persons.
In summary, since your reporter has tried to give the impression that the distribution of these videos is a common phenomenon in Britain's mosques we are very concerned that no statements have been obtained from other mosques about the truth or otherwise of this assertion.
Finally, we would like to meet the editor and senior editorial staff of The Observer to discuss some of our longer term concerns about the portrayal of Islam and Muslims in the media. We have in recent months met the senior staff at The Times, The Independent, The Daily Mail, Evening Standard etc.
Mr Inayat Bunglawala
Secretary, Media Committee
The Muslim Council of Britain