Evening Standard warns of ‘terror’ threat to Olympics … from Leyton mosque

The Evening Standard has latched on to the allegations against Masjid-al-Tawhid in Leyton, carrying a report in today’s issue titled “Mosque near Olympics site in ‘terror link’ investigation”. The aim of this scaremongering headline, which is based on a quote provided by the mosque’s former imam Usama Hasan, is obviously to suggest that the forthcoming Olympic Games face a threat from Masjid-al-Tawhid.

Interestingly, the nature of this supposed “terror link” has changed. According to the Standard, the Charity Commission’s investigation, launched in response to a complaint by Usama Hasan, is now “understood to centre on sermons delivered at the mosque between 2004 and 2010 by Haitham al-Haddad, a preacher by whom notorious ‘underpants bomber’ Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab claims he was influenced”. Indeed, to underline this point the report is illustrated with a photo of Abdulmutallab.

Which is rather odd. Because in his interview with the BBC yesterday Usama Hasan made no mention of Haitham al-Haddad. His accusation that Masjid-al-Tawhid was linked to terrorism was based on Anwar al-Awlaki having spoken at the mosque around 2003 and on an attempt by Abu Qatada’s supporters to start a study circle there back in 1998. Dr Hasan’s summary of his dispute with some of his fellow trustees at Masjid-al-Tawhid, contained in a now deleted blog post, similarly cited the 1998 and 2003 events and raised no objections to Haitham al-Haddad’s sermons at the mosque. It is therefore difficult to believe that Usama Hasan’s complaint to the Charity Commission would “centre on” this issue.

So what is going on here? Perhaps a clue is to be found in Sunny Hundal’s report at Liberal Conspiracy, which includes an update stating that Usama Hasan has withdrawn his complaint to the Charity Commission but his new employers at Quilliam “have also asked the CC to investigate”. So presumably the objection to Haitham al-Haddad and his sermons originated with Quilliam. They perhaps reasoned that Dr Hasan’s charges about the mosque’s links to Abu Qatada and Anwar al-Awlaki were so weak that if a complaint to the Charity Commission was to get anywhere it needed beefing up.

However, if we turn to another now deleted blog post by Usama Hasan, we find a statement dated 6 April by himself and his supporters reporting that one of the two “mutually-agreed mediators” in their dispute with the opposing faction among the Masjid-al-Tawhid trustees was none other than “Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad of the Muslim Research & Development Foundation”. The statement added that this had been agreed back in September/October 2011 and noted that the Charities Commission had been made aware of the situation.

So, if I’m interpreting this correctly, it appears that Quilliam is now complaining to the Charity Commission on the grounds that the trustees at Masjid-al-Tawhid allowed sermons to be given there by an individual who Quilliam’s own Senior Researcher thought was an appropriate person to mediate in a dispute between himself and the trustees opposing him. Would Usama Hasan have agreed to Haitham al-Haddad performing this role if he seriously believed that Haddad was a man who inspired terrorism?

Hopefully the Charity Commission will treat this malicious nonsense from Usama Hasan and his associates at Quilliam with the contempt it deserves.

Postscript:  Just to add that the allegation about a connection between Haitham al-Haddad and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is based on autobiographical notes by Abdulmutallab which were apparently written in 2008. They can be consulted here. As you can see, these notes provide no justification for the accusation that Haddad influenced Abdulmutallab’s turn to terrorism.