Readers of Jewish News may be aware from previous editions that I am an imam involved in several campaigns and organisations in Britain.
In 2015, the editor of the Jewish News labelled me a “non-violent extremist” when he selectively quoted a Friday sermon I gave during the Israeli attacks on Gaza in 2014.
In the wake of Brexit, Donald Trump, the rise of Islamophobia and, indeed, the continuing rise in anti-Semitism, I am taking up the Jewish News’ invitation of a right of reply, as if there were ever a time when we need to understand each other’s perspective it is now.
I write in my own capacity and not as a representative of any group or mosque.
I have always been fiercely pro-Palestinian and that will never change. I have consistently condemned the murder of civilians anywhere in the world and that also will never change.
To take just two examples, when Yusuf al-Qaradawi was banned from entry to the UK for supporting suicide bombings in Israel, I spoke out very publicly through the media to state unequivocally that such attacks are not permissible in Islam – there is no justification for killing civilians of any “side”. I received a lot of abuse for this stance from certain quarters.
Following the tragic murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, I condemned the perpetrators in such strong terms I received advice from the police that I was subject to serious threats from Al-Shabaab and Daesh, meaning my family had to leave the country for two years.
My statements are not the words of a “non-violent extremist”.
I did clearly state in that 2014 sermon that any actions or protest in relation to Palestine must be peaceful and, in my concluding words, I stated that in the Holy Land, we must “…establish a state for all people whether they are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, people of faith or no faith…all people with same rights, equal right to dignity and honour and protection”.
These are the words of someone who believes in a single-state solution in the Holy Land, with equality and justice for all.
I do hold my hands up and, on reflection, I can see that some of my words that day could be misinterpreted.
I will do my best to ensure that, even in the midst of conflict, I am very careful with my words to ensure that my unflinching support for the rights of the occupied Palestinian people cannot be misconstrued by the congregation, online listeners or the media.
We may disagree vehemently about Palestine, but we must all work to ensure that we do not “import” the conflict into our mutual home in Britain.
Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are stains on Britain and we must collectively struggle to ensure that our country does not descend further into intolerance.
Ultimately, we are all human beings, created by God, and we are also all British.
Perhaps that is how we must start to see one another, before we see our