Friday, June 2, 2023

UK government withdraws Imam’s advisory role over film protests

The UK government has withdrawn the appointment of an Imam from his role as an Independent Advisor over his endorsement of a campaign to ban screenings of a new film claiming to reflect the story of the daughter of Prophet Muhammad.
Imam Qari Asim, who was the government’s so-called anti-Islamophobia adviser and also Deputy Chair of the Government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group, was informed by a letter from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on Saturday evening that his support for the protests against ‘The Lady of Heaven’ restricted artistic expression and encouraged communal tensions.
Earlier this week, UK cinema chains cancelled screenings of the film, described on its website as a heart-wrenching journey of Lady Fatima – the daughter of Prophet Muhammad, to ensure the safety of staff and customers.
“Your recent support for a campaign to limit free expression – a campaign which has itself encouraged communal tensions – means it is no longer appropriate for you to continue your work with Government in roles designed to promote community harmony,” reads the letter addressed to Asim, who is Head Imam at the Makkah mosque in Leeds. “You have encouraged an ongoing campaign to prevent cinemas from screening the film ‘Lady of Heaven’, a clear effort to restrict artistic expression, and the campaign you have supported has led to street protests which have fomented religious hatred,” it said.
The letter quoted the Imam’s Facebook posts from earlier in the week to highlight his push towards cancelling screenings of the film and also highlighting the timings of a protest organised against the film.
“This clear involvement in a campaign to limit free expression is incompatible with the role of a government adviser. You will have no doubt seen reports of the scenes outside different cinema venues. These included deeply disturbing videos of sectarian chanting and anti-Shia hatred,” the government letter pointed out.
“As you know, anti-Shia hatred is a long-standing and very serious issue, which must be challenged at every opportunity as part of a wider effort to combat anti-Muslim hatred. We were disappointed to see that you failed to condemn some of the protests complicit in these behaviours. Your actions are incompatible with the role of a government adviser on anti-Muslim hatred,” it added.
The film, written by Kuwait-born Yasser al-Habib and released in the UK on June 3, has been banned in Egypt and Pakistan, while in Iran, clerics have issued a fatwa against anyone who watches it. In the UK, demonstrations have been held across cinemas in Birmingham, Bolton, Bradford and Sheffield.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid and House of Lords peer Baroness Claire Fox were among the politicians warning against the “cancel culture” being propagated by the protests.


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