Instead of being ashamed by the atrocities perpetrated by Hamas during the October 7 massacre which resulted in the murder of more than 1,400 Israelis, numerous imams of mosques in the United Kingdom have called for yet more violence against Israel. At least one of the imams making these statements is based at a mosque that has received significant public funding and others are preaching at institutions with charitable status. The nature and quantity of the expressions of support for the October 7 massacre and for Hamas reflect the extent to which Islamist ideas and organizations have thoroughly penetrated Muslim communal life in the UK.
The ferocity of these expressions of hate, which have drawn a largely lackluster response from public officials, are unprecedented in the UK, Faran Jeffery, director of general operations and independent policy research at the Midstone Centre for International Affairs, told Focus on Western Islamism (FWI).
"The response following the October 7th massacre in Israel has been unlike anything we have seen in recent years," he said. "The explanation for that is disturbingly simple: Islamist extremists have tasted the blood of the Jewish people. When Hamas massacred over 1,400 Israelis in cold blood in a single day, it sent a wave of euphoria among Islamist extremists."
Such euphoria was on display, for example, at the Lewisham Islamic Centre in London, where on October 20, Imam Shakeel Begg preached that Muslim countries must invade Israel for "honor" and prayed for a Hamas victory.
Astonishingly, the center received almost £540,000 in public funds a few years back. The Lewisham Council gave the money to the center to support its now-defunct Olive Tree School, which, according to council officials, was eligible for nursery grants from the UK Department of Education.
"The Olive Tree School closed in July 2019 and no funding has been distributed since," an official from Lewisham Council told FWI, declining to offer further comment.
During a sermon at Chatham Hill Mosque in Kent, a preacher, who referred to Israel as a "rapist" that has only suffered a "scratch on his face," claimed that "The Zionist media is trying to suppress all Palestinian content," and that the aim is to "twist the narrative" to make Palestinians look "in the wrong." (FWI has inquired via email as to the preacher's identity but has yet to receive a response.)
At the Cheadle Mosque in Greater Manchester, Sajjaad Khalil ended an October 20 sermon with prayers for the humiliation of "polytheists," the destruction of the enemies of Islam, and victory for the "mujahideen" in Palestine.
And that same day, an imam at the Redbridge Islamic Centre prayed for victory over the "cursed" Jews and infidels, stating, "Scatter them and rip their groups apart, and destroy their houses and homes, bring them down and punish them like you do criminals."
"Make Muslims get their victory" over "the usurping Jews," he continued.
At the Al-Rahma Centre in Leeds, Imam Umer Muqadam preached that it was "obligatory" for Muslim leaders to support jihad, and praised Hamas as "heroes" an October 20 sermon. The center is a registered charity with the Charity Commission of England and Wales, a UK government department.
At the Jamia Islamia Rizvia mosque in the neighboring city of Bradford, Imam Shahid Ali urged Muslim armies to invade Israel due to the command of "jihad," and said that Muslims must learn to love death. A spokesperson for the West Yorkshire Police told FWI that the department is aware of the video and is assessing it in light of the relevant statutes. "We are taking any concerns raised seriously and will look to provide an update in due course."
A preacher at the Greenwich Islamic Centre, also a registered charity, claimed that Allah is implored to grant "victory over the enemy." He also said: "Curse the infidels.... Destroy their homes, scatter them," and "Purify and protect al-Aqsa from the usurper Jews."
Matthew Pennycook, the Labour MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, posted to X that he is "aware of footage circulating on social media that appears to show anti-Semitic hate being preached at the Greenwich Islamic Centre," and that he "condemn[ed] the remarks in question in the strongest possible terms. I have informed the relevant authorities and expect action to be taken." He told FWI he "does not intend to make any further statement on the matter at this stage."
On November 3, another imam at the Madina mosque in Oldham, Greater Manchester, prayed that Allah would: "Give victory to our mujahideen brothers in Gaza.... Deal with the unjust usurping Jews and their Christian and hypocrite helpers.... Shake the ground under their feet, scatter them, tear them apart." (Again, FWI has asked the mosque in question for the identity of the imam who said these things, but has yet to receive a response.)
Two days later, an imam at Masjid Khadijah in Peterborough urged his congregants to boycott Coke, Pepsi, Starbucks, and McDonald's to stop "stabbing Palestinians in the back" and referred to Hamas as "freedom fighters." The imam seems to be responding to the sale of products from these companies to Israelis in Israel. In particular, McDonald's has come under fire because franchises of that company have provided free food to Israeli soldiers in recent weeks.
FWI has reached out to a number of British MPs who represent constituencies where extremist preaching has recently taken place, but no responses have been received at the time of publication. When quizzed over evidence of extremist preaching at several registered charities, a Charity Commission spokesperson told FWI: "Concerns have been raised with us regarding activities linked to a number of charities, and we are currently assessing information to inform our next steps."
Jeffrey warns that the hateful rhetoric was motivated by the belief that Israel was vulnerable.
"For the first time in many decades, they started believing that maybe Israel could be defeated, maybe Israel is not all that invincible. Hamas knew exactly what it was doing when it live-streamed its atrocities. It knew exactly the kind of reaction that it would generate. It is that taste of blood that led Islamist extremists all around the world to take to the streets in celebrations," he told FWI. "UK authorities need to get serious about Islamist extremism before it's too late. There are an unimaginable number of charities and mosques in the UK that are influenced or controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood or its affiliated entities. UK authorities should begin by blacklisting and shutting down these charities." (The Commission has previously shut down charities over concerns regarding extremism.)
"At the same time, UK authorities need to try to take back British mosques from extremist imams. But legally all this is going to be very difficult to achieve unless UK authorities first recognize that Islamist extremism is a unique problem that requires unique, out-of-the-box solutions," Jeffrey said.
"As long as there's an unwillingness to recognize this reality, Islamist extremists will continue to exploit the UK's democracy and freedoms to create more space for themselves, while the space for everyone else will continue to shrink," he added.
FWI requested comments from every place of worship whose preaching is mentioned in this report, but no responses have been received at the time of writing. Also, all video clips linked to this article were shared to X by @habibi_uk.
Georgia Leigha Gilholy is a writer in the UK who specializes in counterterrorism, culture and politics. Her writings have appeared in The Spectator and First Things. Twitter: @llggeorgia