27 February 2008
AROUND 150 Muslims voted with the leader of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir that taking part in the political process is a waste of time.
A packed audience at a controversial debate at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel on Tuesday night was overwhelmingly persuaded by Dr Abdul Wahid's argument to reject democracy.
But Tower Hamlets council is now considering cutting off all £38,000 funding to the Cordoba Foundation, the event organisers, because they allowed Dr Wahid to speak.
The leader of the British wing of Hizb ut-Tahrir was applauded as he called on Muslims to work outside the political system and concentrate on grass roots initiatives such as building madrassas and mosques.
He also attacked Muslim MPs including Sadiq Khan for voting for gay rights and failing to defend Muslim Sharia laws.
Muslims who joined mainstream political parties were "selling out" their morals and principles, he insisted, adding that only Islam was the solution to a moral crisis in Britain.
He cited binge-drinking, even among 'Muslim youths', when he urged the audience: "Why don't we establish those Islamic values in our country as an example for people to look up to?"
He added, to cheers: "Let's reclaim Islam."
He would rather have adherence to religion than freedom of speech, he said.
Others speaking at the debate included Labour peer Lord Nazir Ahmed, Scottish nationalist Osama Saeed and radical lawyer Makbool Javaid.
Mr Javaid told the meeting: "I think that we have lost our way, that we've been mesmerised by this society.
"We need to return to our roots. Our vision is to change the world, not join silly little parties.
"What could be better than that when it's rooted in Islam?"
But Lord Ahmed angrily rejected those arguments.
He told the audience: "Britain is a great place. There's no other place in the world that gives Muslims more rights than the UK.
"Don't isolate yourselves just because you think you are superior."
Muslims wanted the same things as everyone else, he added, such as good transport, health, education and no crime.
Even the prophet Mohammed engaged in dialogue with non-Muslims, he pointed out.
"Muslims have been here in numbers only in the last 50 or 60 years.
"But it wasn't until 30 years ago that we thought it was our country. So in 30 years we haven't done that bad."
He added: "There are 8,000 Muslims in prisons in Britain because they've committed crime.
"We should be doing more to rehabilitate them rather than do nothing and be isolated."
But he was jeered when he criticised those who had clapped other speakers.
"You have done nothing for society apart from give us a bad name," he told them.
A vote at the end of the debate showed 78 per cent of the audience agreed that political participation had 'failed Muslims.'
Lord Ahmed told the East London Advertiser as he left at the end: "They just packed the room with their own supporters."
The only Tower Hamlets councillor to make a brief appearance at the debate was Labour's Alibor Choudhury.