Jamia Masjid Swafia, the Wakefield mosque at the centre of a row about a Quran being accidentally damaged at a local secondary school, is being investigated by the charities watchdog (Times). This is a significant regulatory intervention on behalf of free speech, freedom of expression and the separation of religion from civil affairs – and it’s thanks to the FSU.
Members may recall that we wrote to West Yorkshire Police earlier this month, asking them to remove the ‘non-crime hate incidents’ that had been recorded against the names of four boys at Kettlethorpe High School in Wakefield after one of the boys, a 14-year-old who is on the autistic spectrum, brought a copy of the Quran into school and accidentally dropped it, causing minor damage. In a completely disproportionate response, the police decided to treat this episode as a ‘non-crime hate incident’ and recorded it as such. You can read that letter here.
We followed up with a letter to Helen Stephenson, the CEO of the Charity Commission, asking her to open an investigation into Jamia Masjid Swafia after video footage emerged of one of the boy’s mothers appearing there shortly after the episode, dressed in a Muslim headscarf, seemingly in an effort to protect her son, who had been receiving death threats. You can read our letter urging the Charity Commission to open an investigation into the mosque here.
Writing in the Times, Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, described this meeting as “look[ing] more like a sharia law trial, inappropriately held at a mosque instead of a neutral setting”.
It’s difficult to disagree. We’ve reviewed the footage posted on social media and it’s pretty alarming.
While the boy’s mother sat on a panel, modestly bowing her head, the Imam warned that the Muslim community wouldn’t tolerate any disrespect shown to the Quran and if necessary would defend its honour with their lives. “When it comes to the honour of the Quran we will stand and we will defend the honour of the Quran no matter what it takes,” he said. “The slightest bit of disrespect [to the Quran] is not accepted and it is not going to be tolerated at any point, in any city, in any country by any Muslim and that’s the fact of the matter.”
He continued: “The difficulty that we have in this incident is that these are not adults that have carried out this act. Had it been, for example, a teacher who had disrespected the holy Quran – had it been, let’s say, an adult that had thrown the holy Quran – then the matter would be different. We probably wouldn’t be sitting in the [mosque] right now, we’d probably be standing outside that school and voicing our concerns without any doubt whatsoever.”
As we pointed out in our letter to the Charity Commission, the Jamia Masjid Swafia mosque is a registered charity and we think these remarks constitute a breach of one of the mosque’s charitable objects, namely, “promoting good community relations and cohesion between Muslims and non-Muslims”.
Responding to our letter, a Charity Commission spokeswoman confirmed to the Times that the regulator has “opened a regulatory compliance case to assess concerns raised with us about Jamia Masjid Swafia”. She added: “We are carefully considering the issues raised to determine our next steps.”