Inclusivity, transparency and accountability at Exeter Mosque & Cultural Centre
Inclusivity, transparency and accountability at Exeter Mosque & Cultural Centre
Mr Shaheed Ul Hassan
Exeter Mosque & Cultural Centre
12-13 York Road
08 January 2018
Dear Mr Hassan
RE: Community complaint against the Board of Trustees
We, the undersigned members of the Muslim and wider community of Exeter, write to you to complain about a number of issues and significant concerns that have come to our attention. We write to you further to the Mosque’s own complaints procedure, and with the expectation that you will take these complaints seriously and act upon them, while fully explaining yourselves to the community you are supposed to be serving.
Cash donations and links to extremist groups:
As the trustees already know, you, Mr Hassan, accepted cash donations totalling to almost £250,000 from your personal friend and associate Sheikh Sadiq Al-Ghariani who is also the Grand Mufti of Libya. Ghariani fled the United Kingdom in August 2014 after the Guardian newspaper revealed that he had been in contact with and directing dangerous militants in Libya from his home in Exeter. Ghariani was later banned from re-entering the United Kingdom by the British Home Office in October 2014 due to his alleged links to extremist religious organisations.
This raises a number of concerns. Firstly, the community is concerned about the extent of your relationship with Ghariani, and any other ties – political, social, business or otherwise – that you may have with him. We are aware that, on a number of occasions, you had personally invited the mufti to give lessons at the Mosque, and you also have financial interests with him. This could be highly damaging to the Muslim community in Exeter who, on the whole, are law abiding, peaceful and upstanding members of British society. Their good reputation and standing with the rest of the British public should not be jeopardised by a trustee whose son had links to hardline groups, and who has potentially concerning links to a man who has been banned by our government who may be involved with extremist groups.
Secondly, and upon examining the Mosque’s accounts for the past several years, it is unclear where this enormous amount of money has gone. It is not clear where, when or how this money was banked, and it is similarly vague as to what it was spent on. Further, this substantial sum of money could be proceeds from criminal or terrorist activities, which raises significant criminal and legal concerns for us as a Mosque and a community. You are required to provide a full accounting of your relationship with Ghariani, what you did with that money, where it went, why it was not properly accounted for, and to state how you know that it is not money born from criminal proceedings.
Mosque trustees trading in and promoting alcohol:
As you are no doubt aware, the buying, selling, drinking, carrying, gifting, and touching of alcohol is strictly prohibited in Islam, with even sitting at a table where it is being served being haram, or forbidden, under Islamic law. Our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said that anyone who engages in the above are cursed by Allah.
In numerous paragraphs in the Mosque’s Constitution it states that trustees and members alike have to abide by the Quran and Sunnah (the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad) and have to also abide by the moral standards set out in the Sharia.
Why, then, does Mr Mohammed Abdullah – a trustee – have a licence to sell alcohol issued to him by Exeter City Council and registered in the alcohol licencing register? The restaurant he operates, Curry King in Heavitree, also proudly displays the large selection of alcoholic beverages that are available to his customers, and he profits from the purchasing and selling of this obviously haram substance. Such a person cannot be a trustee, and it is therefore clear that Mr Abdullah falls far short of the Islamic standards expected of him to hold office as a trustee. We demand an explanation as to why Mr Abdullah is deemed fit to be a trustee despite him not fitting the criteria, and with the knowledge that he profits from alcohol, described as “the mother of all evils” by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) due to its destructive potential.
This brings us to our next complaint. A recent event named “Diver-City” was held in Exeter across three days on 8, 14 and 29 October 2017 and showcased “wine tasting” and “dancing”, both clearly impermissible in Islam and for obvious reasons. As posters for the event show, this event was promoted by the Mosque and even included the logo clearly emblazoned on the poster. The Mosque’s seeming promotion of alcohol and dancing must have been with the knowledge of the trustees and those who work on their behalf, as we are also aware that Muslims have made complaints about this yet the trustees have not issued any clarifying statements or apologies to the Muslim community of Exeter for associating them with haram activities. We demand an explanation and full written and announced apology after Friday prayers.
The buying, selling and consumption of alcohol is perfectly legal in the United Kingdom. However, you are in breach of the Constitution by knowingly allowing those who are involved with alcohol to continue to serve in influential positions.
Appointing people with violent histories as trustees:
It has also recently come to our attention that you, Mr Hassan, have removed Mr Mohammed Saeid as a trustee and replaced him and the other vacant seat on the board with your own son, Mr Taha Hassan, and your personal family friend Mr Mohammed Tellesy.
In the Mosque’s constitution, it quite clearly states in several instances how it is impossible for someone to become a member of the Mosque if they have been involved in any criminal activity. It further states that trustees may be removed if found to have perpetrated any criminal offences.
As you well know, Mr Tellesy assaulted a member of our community on 16 December 2016. This assault was reported to the police and Mr Tellesy admitted to the offence of assault and was forced to issue a letter of apology for the harm he caused through his violence. You knew this, yet you appointed him to the board of trustees anyway, and possibly as a reward because Mr Tellesy attacked someone whom you hold a personal grudge against.
Not only is it a conflict of interest that you have appointed your own son to the Board of Trustees without the community having any say at any AGM - of which there has not been one for decades - but it is also deeply concerning that you would completely ignore the constitution by appointing someone with a violent history to the board. You are required to explain why you chose to appoint these two new trustees, and why you think it appropriate that someone who has definitely assaulted a member of our community can be appointed to the board that is supposed to represent us all peacefully.
Attempts to demolish social hall without consent:
Late last year, you also unilaterally and without consultation filed planning permission applications with Exeter City Council. You utilised Mosque funds to make this application and to pay an architect to draw plans for your unilateral proposal without the knowledge or consent of the community. You also quite clearly planned, and continue to plan, to demolish the Mosque’s social hall in order to convert it into flats.
These flats could be inhabited by anyone, and the Mosque would have no right to discriminate against potential tenants by law. This means that, potentially, we could have people who do not conform to Islamic morality suited to this place of worship living on the Mosque premises, drinking alcohol, partying late into the night, and committing other activities the community consider to be sinful as per the Sharia that you are supposed to abide and live by according to the constitution.
You are also planning to remove the car parking facilities enjoyed by worshippers at the Mosque, and a car park we as a community raised approximately £30,000 for. Your plan is to maintain four spaces for staff, and four for the abovementioned residents. You plotted all of this without consent, having never held membership meetings or even AGMs for decades in a (successful) attempt to avoid transparency and accountability something the community now demands.
Not only do we oppose your authoritarian, draconian and undemocratic approach, but we demand that you pay the costs of this application rather than the cost being borne by the Mosque and the community who donate to the charity. You are also required to explain your actions, and to withdraw your application. You are also required to provide an explanation as to why various stakeholders were not consulted, and Mosque funds were used without due diligence and consideration, costing the charity and charitable members of the community whose money is being misused and misappropriated without their knowledge or consent.
As per your own complaints policy, we demand a response to all of the above, as this is not only a petition and a call to action, but a formal complaint against you and the Trustees. This is particularly as concerns have been raised regarding misappropriation of funds, funds coming from potentially criminal or ideologically extreme sources, and potential links with terrorist or extremist groups.
Failure to respond by your complaint policy time limit will mean that the Charity Commission and other law enforcement and investigatory agencies will be notified of this community action and complaint as a matter of urgency to prevent any further damage to our Mosque, its finances and reputation.