In 2014, I took the BBC to the High Court for defamation in a case that I subsequently lost.
The case involved six statements made by me more than a decade ago now. Following a trial, in 2016 the judge found that the statements supported the claim made on the BBC that I was “an extremist Islamic speaker” who espoused extremism and that I had “recently promoted and encouraged religious violence” by telling Muslims that Jihad “in support of Islam would constitute a man’s greatest deed.”
Although I disagreed with the outcome of the case, in the 6 years which have passed since the judgement, my work as Imam has continued unhindered and the Lewisham Islamic Centre I work at has received numerous accolades, praise and commendations. Despite this, there are some, however, who continue to raise the case and the findings that were made as a concern, and, in light of the judge’s findings, I therefore wish to set the record straight with this statement:
1. The six statements which formed part of the judgment were interpreted differently to what I had intended. I regret making those statements in the way that I did and apologise for this
2. As I have previously said many times, I remain committed to disseminating the true
teachings of Islam, and the public condemnation and unreserved disavowal of terrorism
and extremism of all kinds.
3. I encourage all people – Muslim and non-Muslim – to pursue peaceful and lawful means of protest in response to injustice or oppression. This shall not impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence for those facing an armed attack although this must adhere to the strict guidelines of international law and conventions.
4. I have never held or preached a simple “us” versus “them” view of the world. I live by and encourage the Islamic precept and statement of Prophet Muhammad (upon him be peace) that “the best of people are those who are most beneficial to humanity”.
5. I reject and disavow any statements which may have been perceived as such or as a call for violence.
Imam Shakeel Begg