|Hanif Qureshi gets top billing for a May 2016 event in Ghousia Mosque, Luton|
It appears that Luton’s Ghousia mosque has no intention of dissociating itself from extremist clerics from Pakistan. Their latest crowd-puller is Mufti Hanif Qureshi . Despite objections raised in the house of Parliament on allowing him entry into the country, Qureshi’s appearance at various events in Luton went ahead as planned in 2016.
Qureshi is quite an entertainer. He would have pulled a decent sized crowd in Hyde Park's speakers corner back in the day. Like most clerics, he has the gift of the gob, but he belongs to a more talented variety. He is a rabble-rouser, a fire and brimstone preacher who craves for controversy.
In Pakistan, his home country, Qureshi’s sermons and speeches are very well-attended. He shouts and screams into the microphone, breaks frequently into the traditional song-prose style of preaching and puntuates his speech with devotional songs. He gets the crowd going. He keeps them engaged and enraged in equal measure.
It is widely believed in Pakistan that his one such performance in Rawalpindi caused a high profile murder. The murderer was Mumtaz Qadri, who heard him speak at his local mosque. The victim was Salman Taseer, an outspoken liberal governor of the Punjab province and the topic of that particular speech.
Qureshi, like most other Sunni clerics in Pakistan have vowed to carry on with their mission of maintaining the death penalty for blasphemy an absolute law in Pakistan. Not only that, such preachers frequently condone vigilante acts against perceived blasphemers and against anyone trying to defend the accused.
Qureshi’s performance on the occasion of the ‘Khatm-e-Nabuwwat Conference’ in 2015 is worth noting here. It is an annual event marking the anniversary of the declaration of Ahmadis as non-Muslim in the Pakistani constitution. Many mosques around the UK hold similar events every year. Most have guest speakers like Mufti Qureshi from Pakistan.
He starts his speech in sober fashion but warms up very quickly. On what could be the equivalent of 0-60 mph in 3 seconds in oratory, he escalates from rather sombre invocation of prayers to full-blown death to apostates vitriol within minutes.
The crowd, already admiring his verbosity and his singing voice are fully engaged; chanting and singing with him and responding to his rhetorical questions. They respond with a childish zeal.
He isn’t happy at the energy levels. He tells them that blasphemers are watching them closely. He knows that the mosque was probably questioned about the purpose of his visit. He tells them that they must show how passionate they are about the honour of the Prophet. Realizing that not condemning blasphemers loudly enough could also be blasphemy, the crowd goes crazy.
Qureshi isn’t too impressed. But he must press on to more urgent matters.
His formula is simple. Its all the hits and no new material. Blasphemy, apostasy, wars, beheadings and pulling out blasphemous tongues etc. He acknowledges his hosts a couple of times and tells the crowd that UK has laws but thankfully Pakistan also has laws, much better laws - like the death penalty for blasphemy.
Then he goes on to another tirade about blasphemy. His choice of words is careful. He avoids using explicitly violent language, but he implies violence through his interpretation of historic events. He relies on the audience’s misinformation about history to hint that violence against Ahmadis will be a heroic deed.
He tells the crowd that Ahmadis are ‘Murtad’ (apostates) and tells them that apostates were murdered in the olden days. He glorifies it. He sings about it. He tells them that hundreds of early Muslim (i.e, Sahaba, the companions of the Prophet) gave their lives in fighting the Riddah wars. (Factually this version is incorrect. ‘Riddah wars’ is a misnomer. These were wars against a rebellion against the state).
He tells the crowd that according to the Quran, Ahmadis are Murtad and they are the ones opposing the apostates, i.e., the good guys who should follow in the footsteps of the esteemed ‘Sahaba’.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the algebra and come to the conclusion that Ahmadis are liable to death. But Qureshi doesn’t say that. He tells them that apostates were murdered by strangulation by the heroic good Muslims. He urges the crowd to challenge the Ahmadis with full force. He has obviously been told not to incite violence by the organizers, but he can’t help himself. It is all tongue in cheek. It is lightweight stuff compared to his performances in Pakistan.
He then turns his attack to the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. He is abusive, vulgar, slanderous and obscene; all of which are considered valuable assets for a sectarian preacher in Pakistan. The crowd readily consumes the filth and responds to the presumed blasphemies of Ahmadis with gasps of shock and horror. He finishes his performance by asking the crowd to declare the Ahmadis as blasphemers. He laments the fact that they can’t do anything in the UK. He doesn’t recommend any actions for the crowd apart from hating the Ahmadis and teach their children at home that Ahmadis are Kafir.
Since the murder of Asad Shah in Glasgow, it has become painfully clear that hate preachers wield too much influence in the UK. Amongst the many fans of Tanveer Ahmed, the murderer, the most prominent one appears to be none other than the talented Mufti Qureshi. The Ghousia Mosque in Luton has not only hosted a hate preacher, it has allowed him to incite violence and hatred against the Ahmadis. The sad reality is that for most Pakistani immigrant communities, these Barelvi firebrands offer a sordid entertainment which feeds their religious bigotries and makes them feel pious.
The next Mumtaz Qadri or Tanveer Ahmed could be getting his murderous motivation from these speeches. The government response to the parliamentary question regarding this imported hate preacher was inadequate, and evidently, ineffective. This has to stop!