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Newport imams preach mosque anti-extremist message

By Nick Dermody
BBC Wales News


Muslim leaders in Newport have preached sermons backing law and order to tackle extremist Islamists who have tried to recruit their worshippers.

Imams at the city's seven mosques co-ordinated their efforts to speak out against radicals after Friday prayers.

The lectures included reading from a leaflet, called What Does Islam Say, aimed at contradicting views which cite Islam as approving violence.

Newport has a worshipping Muslim population of about 2,000.

The anti-terror readings come weeks after two young men from nearby Cardiff were arrested in Kenya and quizzed as they tried to cross into Somalia.

The father of one of the pair claimed at the time that his 18-year-old son had been "brainwashed" into believing he was going to fight a holy war in conflict-ravaged Somalia.

Vocal radical groups, with members from Cardiff, have been spotted in Newport in the past few months, said Sheik Mohammad Tahir Ullah, chairman of the Shah Poran Jame Mosque.

"There have been incidents in the past three to six months of radical groups coming to Newport and leaflet dropping and trying to preach and take hold in Newport," said Bangladesh-born Sheik Ullah.

He said his worshippers were also targeted last year by five extremists who tried to hand out leaflets at the building.

The group were challenged by men from the mosque and were told they were not welcome, he said.

"They came to our mosque to distribute leaflets. We stopped them distributing.

"They said on the leaflet you don't have to vote, voting is forbidden. That's not right. They said because there is no Sharia law in this country, they can commit crimes. That's wrong.

"The Koran says you have to obey the law of the land and that's that and all about it. The police were called and the police told them to go because they were not welcome."

He said: "There is no place in Islam for extremism."

The Shah Poran Jame is one of five mosques for Sunni worshippers in Newport. Followers of Shia have two mosques.

This week saw the Shia Muslim festival of Ashura - the most important day in the Shia calendar.

It was marked with a procession by the city's Shia community, the only annual procession of its kind in Wales.

The leaflet is a joint initiative of the Council of Mosques and Muslim Organisations Newport (Common) and the Newport Prevent Delivery Group (NPDG), part of a Home Office strategy to tackle extremism.

Launched in June, it is backed by a wide range of Muslim scholars and the Prevent delivery strategy.

The 10-minute readings took place on Friday lunchtime simultaneously at the seven mosques in Newport following daily prayers.

The initiative is being supported by Gwent Police.

Hate crime officer, Mike Davies, co-chairman of the NPDG, said the mosque leaders were taking to task the arguments promoted by Muslim extremist groups.

"This will send out a clear message that true Muslims reject extremism and know that the indiscriminate use of violence is forbidden," he said.

"This gesture is extremely welcome in Newport and I applaud the local Muslim community for working so closely with Gwent Police and Newport City Council to prevent the possibility of extremist groups influencing the outlook of young Muslims in the city.

"The local community are aware of this. They don't want these groups and people spouting what they they say about terrorism and religion to the people and the young people of Newport."

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