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Imam is backing police in TV row
A DOCUMENTARY featuring a mosque in Leyton has been criticised by police for giving a distorted picture of Islamic teaching.
Channel 4's Undercover Mosque documentary, broadcast in January, featured Masjid al-Tawhid, in Leyton High Road, alongside other mosques and imams around Britain.
Speeches by Shaykh Suhaib Hassan, senior imam at Masjid-al-Tawhid, were among those used in the programme, which claimed to have uncovered extremist preachers encouraging violence against women, homosexuals and non-Muslims.
But West Midlands Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have criticised the documentary's makers Hardcash Productions for editing speeches to make them appear more inflammatory.
Shaykh Hassan's son, Dr Usama Hassan, who is vice-chairman and one of the imams at Masjid al-Tawhid, described the police's assessment as entirely accurate.
He said: "We have given thousands of hours of positive, wholesome, sensible teaching, teaching people to be good citizens as well as good Muslims.
"It's egg on their faces for Dispatches and Hardcash. It was a very poor documentary cobbled together in a great hurry, and hopefully they'll learn from it and be more balanced and professional.
"We should be able to have honest dialogue and that includes criticism. People should be able to politely make their point.
"Journalists have to have a sense of responsibility. Things like this can be as dangerous as religious fanatics causing problems."
Masjid al-Tawhid was not approached by police following the broadcast and has not filed a complaint against Channel 4.
Police have since referred the issue to communications regulator Ofcom.
The Crown Prosecution Service were highly critical of those behind the Channel 4 documentary despite deciding against a criminal prosecution.
CPS lawyer Bethan David said: "The splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying.
"The CPS has demonstrated that it will not hesitate to prosecute those responsible for criminal incitement.
"But in this case we have been dealing with a heavily- edited programme, apparently taking out of context aspects of speeches which in their totality could never provide a realistic prospect of any convictions."
Channel 4 is standing by the programme and criticised what it perceives to be a lack of substance in the police allegations.
Kevin Sutcliffe, Commissioning Editor for Dispatches, said: "We are very confident of successfully defending this unfairness complaint against the programme if Ofcom chooses to consider it.
"West Midlands Police have made a very general allegation of unfairness against the programme and have produced no evidence to support their claims.
"We believe the comments made in the film speak for themselves - several speakers were clearly shown making abhorrent and extreme comments. Many of these comments were made in DVDs and in internet broadcasts which Channel 4 had no involvement in producing and which are available for public consumption.
"This was a thorough and detailed documentary, made over nine months, which allowed these comments to be seen in a fuller context. All the speakers featured were offered a right to reply and none denied making these comments, nor have any of them complained to Ofcom to our knowledge.
"Channel 4 was fully aware of the sensitivities surrounding the subject matter, particularly its effect on community relations. However, we believe there was a greater public interest in exposing what was being preached in the name of Islam in some mainstream British mosques."