Ukip, the Grand Mufti, and War Crimes 5 May 2015
The Grand Mufti of al-Azhar, Shawki Allam, is one of the most senior Muslim clerics in the world. It is strange then that the UK Independence Party (Ukip), known for its far-right and casually racist views, would have invited the Grand Mufti to Britain to speak in December 2014. It was stranger still for the Grand Mufti to have accepted the invite despite Ukip’s controversial reputation. The story concludes in a bizarre manner also, with the Grand Mufti cancelling his plans for fear of being arrested in the UK for war crimes.
The series of events began with a conference organised by Ukip to tackle ‘youth radicalization and religious extremism’. Two religious leaders were invited to address the conference, the Grand Mufti of al-Azhar, and former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey. The latter has been an outspoken critic of British Muslims and Islam, having recently stated that Muslims must “discipline their young people or face the consequences that such radicalised young men will be banished from our shores”. The two certainly would have provided interesting perspectives on the challenges of radicalisation.
Everything was set for the conference to go as planned on 4th December, until the Grand Mufti had a change of heart. Although the position of Grand Mufti of al-Azhar is widely respected, the current holder has been heavily criticised for his role in supporting the military coup that ended the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and its nascent democracy. The most vocal critics of the Grand Mufti’s visit to the UK were the Egyptian Revolutionary Council, who sent open letters to the organisers citing their concerns. The letter was also signed by a number of British Muslim organisations, who aside from concerns regarding the Egyptian coup, were irked the Grand Mufti was also tacitly legitimising Ukip and their political viewpoints.
All this would have likely come to naught however, had there not been whispers that the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain were planning to utilise the principal of universal jurisdiction to prosecute the Grand Mufti during his visit. There is precedence in British law that individuals accused of war crimes, or collusion in them, can be arrested upon their arrival in Britain. Most recently, in January 2013, the Metropolitan police arrested and charged Nepalese Colonel Kumar Lama for human rights abuses while he was on his Christmas vacation.
Had the Mufti been arrested, it would have been an incredibly embarrassing political blow to the UK government, who themselves are under pressure to list the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation from the Egyptian government, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. David Cameron was likely relieved the Mufti had cancelled his plans.
Given the farce that was their conference against extremism, Ukip might want to take a leaf out of New Labour’s book, and follow their policy of not ‘doing God’.