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November 15, 2003

Muslim community livid at detention of respected scholar

The Muslim community is outraged at the detention of a prominent and well-respected Muslim scholar by the security forces at London’s Heathrow airport reports The Muslim News exclusively. Shaykh Yusuf Suleman Motala was forced to cancel his planned visit to Makkah for ‘Umra (‘lesser pilgrimage’) and Madinah for the last 10 nights of Ramadan after being questioned for over seven hours under the Terrorism Act on Tuesday, October 11.

Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), Iqbal Sacranie, told The Muslim News that the Muslim community is taking this incident “very seriously”. He said he was writing to the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to express “our outrage and shock at the Shaykh’s detention” and to seek assurances that “this profiling of Muslims will not happen in future”.

Shaykh Motala, speaking from Bury, told The Muslim News that he was “surprised” that he was stopped at the airport as the questions posed by the security forces were the ones that could have been asked at any time. He was “sad” that he was not able to continue with his journey to Saudi Arabia and had to answer “trivial questions”. “When I told them this, they got very angry”, he said.

Shaykh Motala is the spiritual guide to Darul Uloom Al Arabia Al Islamia in Bury, Lancashire, which was established in 1973 and other Darul Ulooms in the UK and Islamic institutions. He has also a large following amongst Muslim scholars and ordinary Muslims. He is a highly regarded and respected Muslim leader and has a vast following in the UK. His institutions educates Imams at various Darul Ulooms in the UK. His Darul Ulooms are the most recognized Muslim institutions that train local Imams and provide English speaking imams to majority of the mosques in the UK.

The Muslim Safety Group called an emergency meeting with the Metropolitan Police on Thursday to demand an explanation why the respected Shaykh was detained at the airport on his way to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah. Muslims attending the meeting were told that Shaykh Motala was detained because of “intelligence information” received by the security forces. However, the police refused to discuss what this information was but promised to look into the matter further.

“I am disgusted with the police action,” the MCB representative in the Group, Dr Rahim Khan, told The Muslim News. The intelligence used to detain the Shaykh was “very poor and needs to be questioned,” he said.

The Shaykh was interrogated by three officers, an Immigration officer, an anti-terrorism officer and MI5 officer, after arriving at Heathrow from Manchester airport. He said that most of the questions he was asked were on Islam, on what is taught in Darul Ulooms and his views on various aspects of Islam. He was also asked about “jihadi groups” and if he was associated with them, to which he replied in the negative.

A neighbour of Shaykh Motala, Maulana Ahmad Sidat, who lives in Blackburn, told The Muslim News: “I was shocked to hear that he was detained and I tried to trace his whereabouts when he left a message in my answer phone after his detention.” Maualana Sidat eventually traced to him to Heathrow airport. He said he telephoned the Foreign Secretary’s office to ask for his help (as Jack Straw is their MP), but he was not available. “However, his office has told me that Jack Straw has said the case will be investigated thoroughly.”

Chairman of Lancashire Council of Mosques, Ibrahim Master, was also very angry at the detention of Shaykh Motala. He told The Muslim News that he had written to the Prime Minister, Home Secretary David Blunkett and Director of the MI5 on the Shaykh’s detention. “We support the Government’s initiative on national security, but not at the hounding of innocent Muslim citizens,” said Master, who knows the Shaykh personally.

The spokes woman for David Verness, who deals with terrorism cases at the Met, told The Muslim News that they “do not discuss any individuals”.

For further information contact us on 020 8863 8586 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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