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Shakeel Begg

Updated: 2017-08-07T12:29Z

Shakeel Begg has been Imam at the influential Lewisham Islamic centre in London UK since 1998, and has played a prominent role in the UK Muslim community, and has been invited to speak at many Mosques and Islamic events, and been a spokesman for the Muslim community in many events and press releases: including high-profile attempts to secure the release by ISIS of British hostage Alan Henning.

Most recently he was in the news when he lost a court case 28 October 2016 in which he had sued the BBC for Libel for calling him an extremist.[1]

The noteworthy nature of this court case:

  • it was a ruling by a prominent UK Court
  • the UK's most prominent broadcaster the BBC was in the dock
  • a high-profile speaker and representative within the UK Muslim communities had started the proceedings
  • the court ruling's interpretation of the word 'extremism' is likely to be used as a precedent and future court cases will potentially refer back to it. (also see Islamic extremism)

Background and education

He grew up in South London and was educated within the London Borough of Lewisham.

He studied at the Islamic University of Madinah, and it is said has an M.A in Islamic Studies from the Markfield Institute of Higher Education and a Diploma in Islamic Jurisprudence, a Diploma in Islamic Finance and a Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy.[2]

Prominent role in the UK Muslim community

Begg has been Chief Imam and Khateeb of the Lewisham Islamic Centre since 1998.[3]

The mosque:

He has played a prominent role in the UK Muslim community, and has been invited to speak at many Mosques and Islamic events, and been a spokesman for the Muslim community in many events and press releases: including attempts to secure the release by ISIS of British hostage Alan Henning.

He was previously Muslim Chaplin at the GoldSmiths University.[5]

He is invited to speak at many events, such as:

He has been involved in many inter-faith activities, including high profile ones such as:

ISIS hostage Alan Henning

In 2014, Begg approached ISIS regarding the release of British hostage Alan Henning; alongside a number of UK Imams who called for his release.[6]

See joint video (from 3mins 40)

2016 - court rules him an Islamic Extremist

In 2015 Shakeel Begg took the BBC to court in the UK for Libel, complaining that they had labelled him as an extremist; as in November 2013, BBC presenter Andrew Neil had alleged on the Sunday Politics programme that Begg had said that" jihad was the greatest of deeds".[7]

In the summing up of case on 28 October 2016 Judge Mr Justice Charles Haddon-Cave's said:

"Begg clearly promotes and encourages violence in support of Islam and espouses a series of extremist Islamic positions". "On occasions when it has suited him…he has shed the cloak of respectability and revealed the horns of extremism."

Court's definition of Islamic Extremism

The Judge gave a 10-point definition of Islamic Extremism,[8] which are listed at Islamic extremism

Summary of Judges conclusions

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said four of Begg's speeches showed he had promoted such violence and two that he had espoused extremist positions.

"Shakeel Begg, is something of a Jekyll and Hyde character," he said.

"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."

Early speeches

In one speech in 2006, Imam Begg encouraged a student audience to fight in the Palestinian territories.

In a tape-recorded speech at Kingston University obtained by The Sunday Times, Begg, who at the time was a Muslim chaplain at Goldsmiths College, part of London University, said:
“You want to make jihad? Very good . . . Take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists.” [9]

Two years later he praised Muslims who had travelled abroad to fight enemies of Islam.

Belmarsh prison speech

A third speech outside the maximum security Belmarsh Prison in south-east London,[10] which holds some of the most dangerous terrorism convicts in the country, was described by the judge as "particularly sinister".

He said: "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."

A spokesman for the BBC said: "We were right to stand by the journalism of the Sunday Politics. The judge has concluded, based on the evidence, that Imam Begg has preached religious violence and an extremist worldview in his remarks."

The court case was very widely reported in the UK

Lewisham Islamic Centre response to the ruling that Begg promoted Extremist Islam

A 'Statement of the Trustees' dated 29 October 2016 was made public on their website. It contains:
"We the Trustees of The Lewisham Islamic Centre (LIC) confirm our unequivocal and unwavering continued support of our Head Imam. We reassert that Imam Begg is not an extremist, has never espoused extremist views, nor is he by any stretch of the imagination an extremist speaker.

... We are truly disappointed and disturbed by this judgement, by its skew replete with incorrect and fanciful assumptions that rely unequivocally on the speculative, specious and rigid testimony of one “expert” witness - even when this testimony clearly contradicts the Quran and authentic Hadiths of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) – as representing the myriad of normative Islamic opinions.

... We shall continue to review this judgement."[11]

Lewisham Islamic Centre publish a statement by Begg

The Centre published on their website in November 2016,a response by Begg. It contains:
"My legal team and I are continuing to study the judgment very carefully and we are considering all options, including an appeal.

...In the meantime, it is important for the public, both Muslims and non-Muslims to understand that this is a civil case of defamation, which I pursued to restore my reputation. Even though the ruling has gone in the BBC’s favour, it is important to stress that the BBC and Andrew Neil have not been 'cleared' of anything, and I have not been 'convicted' of anything.

...I will be making further comments regarding this issue in the near future.[12]

Report: Extremism in the Community: The Case of Shakeel Begg

The Henry Jackson Society report of March 2017 examined how Begg had established himself as an influential figure within numerous public bodies and groups – even after the court ruling that he is an Islamic Extremist.[13]

UK charity reports itself to Commission over Begg

The charity Citizens UK in March 2017 reported itself to the Charity Commission because it had promoted Begg even after the above court ruling; in breach of the duties of a charity not to promote extremism.[14][15]

Lewisham Islamic Centre response to criticism that school children are being exposed there to extremist Shakeel Begg

Following the visit of school children to the centre, who were hosted by Shakeel Begg, the Centre posted online details of the visit.. The Centre write:
"It's never so wonderful at the Lewisham Islamic Centre as when our guests are eager children on a school visit. In the august company of Year Four pupils of Kilmorie Primary School and their chaperones, Imam Shakeel Begg finally met his match in groups of well-informed young people over a two day visit to the Centre on Tuesday and Wednesday, 21st and 22nd March 2017.[16]
Some days later, after it became public knowledge that the children were exposed to and taught by Shakeel Begg; and criticism of both the school and the Centre arose, the Centre made public on the website a statement titled: "Who are the Real Hate Preachers?"It contains:
"Unfortunately we find today that many groups and journalists promote the Nazi method of repeating a lie a thousand times so that it becomes the "truth". This despicable propaganda campaign was waged against Jews in the most horrific way imaginable. Today, that method is still used to carry out the character assassination of people and groups who the attacker doesn't like or sees as a threat. This is certainly the case with respect to the allegation in the articles concerning the murderers of Lee Rigby who have no association with the Lewisham Islamic Centre. We have previously made this clear in our press statement on the 23rd of December 2013[3] which is on our website.

...As regards the court judgment, it should be noted that this was the view of one person (the Judge)...

...We therefore wish to remind our friends, colleagues and partners in the London Borough of Lewisham, from among Schools, Community Groups, Police, Faith Groups etc. and many others, that they should not be terrorised by those whose sole objective is to create mistrust, suspicion and to disrupt community cohesion that we have all worked so hard to establish. Let us also never forget that hawkers of hate were unsurprisingly involved in maligning other minority communities before, including leaders such as Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.[17]

Public statements against violence

In 2013 following the killing in London of off-duty soldier Murder of Lee Rigby by Muslims with connections to his mosque, Begg issued a press release saying:

“The tragic events which took place in Woolwich, the brutal killing and murder of Lee Rigby goes against the very foundations of our Religion and the characteristics of a Muslim. As Muslims, we find this act to be something totally abhorrent and unacceptable and we extend our and the condolences of the Lewisham Muslim Community to family and friends of Lee Rigby for their loss.”[18]

Community support

Prior to the court case of 2016, Begg gained favourable references from the Lewisham West & Penge Constituency Labour Party, who wrote "We applaud the efforts made by Imam Shakeel Begg and the Lewisham Islamic Centre to help to ensure that Lewisham is a welcoming, inclusive community for all its citizens".[19]

The Judge commented on Begg's Jekyl and Hyde nature: and the judge's report lists positive personal testimonials that were presented in Begg's defence:

  • Chief Inspector Graham Price of the Lewisham Police
  • Reverend David Rome of the Catford and Bromley Synagogue
  • Father Charles Pickstone, vicar of St Laurence Church, Catford,
  • Reverend Malcolm Hancock, who headed up the Chaplaincy Department at the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust
  • Dinah Griffith, former chair of the Lewisham SACRE (Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education)
  • Gerald Rose, a retired schoolteacher
  • Peter Brierely, the lead organiser for South London Citizens,
  • Simon Marks, a teacher and community and charity worker in Lewisham,

Preaching and teaching: videos etc

In 2009 he preached on "Neo-Salafi Movement: Is it Obligatory [Fard] to call one's self a Salafi? ", which prompted strong criticism from some Muslim quarters.

A 2013 article at HurryUpHarry,"More Hatred and Extremism at the East London Mosque" includes links to his 2011 preaching at Belmarsh prison that is referred to in the 2016 court case.

He advocated solidarity for his fellow Muslim brothers "locked up unfairly" in Belmarsh and around the world. At the time those prisoners included hate preacher Abu Qatada who was deported on murder/terrorism charges, Abu Hamza (now convicted of terrorism), Babar Ahmad who admitted guilt in the USA at his terrorism trial.

In 2014 he wrote about Life as an Imām in the United Kingdom.

In 2015 he preached at a CAGE event on "Citizens Not Subjects"

In 2015 he joined a number of prominent Muslims in a letter to the House of Lords Over the New Counter Terrorism and Security Bill

2009: He spoke at a "Heroes of Islam" event an event in favour of Aafia Siddiqui who had been already convicted on two counts of attempted murder.[20]


  1. ^ Casciani, Dominic (2016-10-28). "Imam loses libel action against BBC over 'extreme' claim". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-10-28. 
  2. ^ "Lewisham Islamic Centre". Retrieved 2016-10-28. 
  3. ^ "Lewisham Islamic Centre". Retrieved 2016-10-28. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Imam Shakeel Begg - Fundraising Event for Syria on YouTube
  6. ^
  7. ^ Youtube sermon – see 5 minutes in
  8. ^
  9. ^ Taher, Abul and Gadher, Dipesh.'Sunday Times', London, November 12, 2006.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Imam Shakeel Begg Vs the BBC: STATEMENT OF THE TRUSTEES" (PDF). Lewisham Islamic centre. 29 October 2016. 
  12. ^ "Imam Shakeel Begg’s Statement Concerning the BBC Case" (PDF). 5 November 2016. 
  13. ^ "Extremism in the Community: The Case of Shakeel Begg". Henry Jackson Society. 20 March 2017. 
  14. ^ "Citizens UK reports itself to regulator after criticism of link to controversial imam". Third Sector magazine. 21 March 2017. 
  15. ^ "Charity put extremist imam on stage with Lib Dem leader". The Times. 20 March 2017. 
  16. ^ "Year Four Classess of Kilmorie Primary School Visit LIC" (PDF). Lewisham Islamic centre. 22 march 2017.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. ^ "Who are the Real Hate Preachers?" (PDF). Lewisham Islamic centre. 22 March 2017. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Testimonial from Lewisham West & Penge Constituency Labour Party" (PDF). Lewisham islamic Centre. Retrieved 2016-10-29. 
  20. ^

External links

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