Shakeel Begg is an influential extremist who is also chief Imam of the Lewisham Islamic Centre. His radical views are readily available and well-known. But despite these downsides a chap like him also possesses certain considerable advantages. Not least is the fact that he lives in a society which is only very slowly waking up to the threat that people like him pose.
If Begg were a Protestant preacher from Northern Ireland then he would not have been able to make any public appearance for years without being forced to bake the biggest, gayest cake possible right there and then. If he refused, the whole of civilised society would round on him to explain what a great big ‘phobe’ he was. But Shakeel Begg is not a Protestant preacher and nor would he draw the line in his perfect society at merely not baking the cake for one’s gay nuptials.
As such, he is also lucky enough to live in a country where many people who should be in the business of investigation and inquiry fail in their obligations. Many of them do so because they are understandably put off by being called names such as ‘racist’. In these cases, such names are insincerely but deliberately used as a smokescreen to allow extremist behaviour to continue.
Another advantage for the Beggs of this world is living in a country where useful idiots from the other monotheisms are always on hand to play ‘interfaith’ games and in the process either wittingly or unwittingly provide further cover for some seriously bad people.
However, despite all of this, the Beggs do have a problem. Like a bigamist dashing between their wives, he must perforce to keep two sets of books. For although most of his interlocutors - like his beards at the interfaith councils - don’t know what they are doing or what questions to ask, he knows that were they to find out, even they may look askance at one of their peaceful members telling his audiences, for instance, to go abroad and fight Jihad. They may even eventually recognise that the Imam in question means ‘Jihad’ in a very real sense and not in the sense of going and finding a Jew somewhere and then having a really intense personal struggle in front of them.
How to keep these two worlds apart? Well here is where the extremists have their final advantage. Which is that they can always revert to the law. Not the law of Allah – immutable and all powerful though they claim to think it is – but the good old English legal system. And unlike most of the rest of us, these chaps can generally find some low-grade legal team to represent them in their vexatious complaints. The aim is clear. They never really want to get to court, because they know if they do, they might be caught telling the truth on the record. But they do want to make the cost of questioning their views exceptionally high. Their long-term hope is that journalists get so fed up of the bother that they give up discovering stories about people who are trying to subvert our societies and report instead on what the Kardashians are doing today.
So three cheers for the BBC. For our national broadcaster refused to give in when – in the wake of an edition of the Sunday Politics in November 2013 – Andrew Neil of this parish mentioned on air that Begg had described jihad as ‘the greatest of deeds.’ Begg sued for libel. And while most papers and broadcasters worry about the extraordinary financial and reputational cost and try to settle when something like this comes up, the BBC fought Begg all the way. Earlier today the judge in the case dismissed Begg’s case and his judgement is damning. Mr Justice Haddon-Cave described Begg as ‘something of a Jekyll and Hyde character.’ He went on:
‘He appears to present one face to the general, local and inter-faith community and another to particular Muslim and other receptive audiences. The former face is benign, tolerant and ecumenical.
‘The latter face is ideologically extreme and intolerant.’
The Judge also went on:
‘The various core extremist messages which emerge from the claimant's speeches and utterances would, in my view, have been quite clear to the audiences.
‘The claimant's ostensible cloak of respectability is likely to have made his [extremist] message in these speeches all the more compelling and seductive. For this reason, therefore, his messages would have been all the more effective and dangerous.
‘It is all too easy for someone in the claimant's position of power and influence as an Imam to plant the seed of Islamic extremism in a young mind, which is then liable to be propagated on the internet.’
Happily Shakeel Begg will now face a very large legal bill. I for one will be opening a bottle to celebrate that fact tonight.
What the viewing and reading public often do not know is that because of two-faced Imams like Begg, for every tiny piece about some Islamist nutcase that does go on air, there are now often weeks or even months of costly work behind the scenes to respond to the resulting barrage of legal claims from the Islamists who use the law cost free most of the time. This is how they operate. And for once that fact has been exposed.
There are now some very serious questions for a set of institutions to answer.
The first is Lewisham mosque. How can Imam Begg remain in place? How can an institution led by a man proved in court to be a liar and an extremist possibly retain its charitable status? Perhaps readers would like to ask the Charity Commission themselves. Complaints to the Charity Commission can be registered here: The Lewisham Islamic Centre’s Charity number is: 285641.
There are also serious questions to ask of the Muslim Council of Britain. Imam Begg’s mosque is a member of the MCB. Why are the MCB happy to continue to have an affiliate member who is now so thoroughly exposed and disgraced? If the Imam remains in place and the mosque remains a member of the MCB there will be very serious questions to ask of the MCB.
And what, finally, of all the Rabbis and Vicars and others who have given cover to Shakeel Begg all these years? Have they no shame? In my experience such people plead ignorance about the extremist connections of some of their Muslim counter-parts. Well thanks to the BBC they can claim ignorance no longer.