Channel 4’s Dispatches programme Undercover Mosque was always going to be controversial, with its investigation being billed as revealing disturbing evidence of Islamist extremism at a number of Britain’s leading Muslim institutions.
The show’s pre-broadcast publicity described it as an “extensive undercover investigation” into several mosques which it claimed were spreading a “message of hatred and segregation”.
Today, the way the programme was edited came in for criticism from the Crown Prosecution Service, which considered charging Channel 4 with broadcasting material likely to stir up racial hatred, but decided against proceeding.
Independent producer Hardcash’s 12-month investigation, which was watched by 1.5 million viewers when it went out on January 15, featured secret video footage revealing Muslim preachers allegedly exhorting followers to prepare for jihad, to hit girls for not wearing the hijab, and to create a “state within a state”.
Many of the preachers featured were linked to the Wahhabi strain of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia, which funds a number of Britain’s leading Islamic institutions.
The programme painted an alarming picture of how preachers in some of Britain’s most moderate mosques were urging followers to reject British laws in favour of those of Islam.
At the Sparkbrook mosque, run by UK Islamic Mission, an organisation that maintains 45 mosques in Britain and which former prime minister Tony Blair described as “extremely valued by the government for its multi-faith and multicultural activities”, a preacher was captured on film apparently praising the Taliban.
In response to the news that a British Muslim solider was killed fighting the Taliban, the speaker was filmed saying: “The hero of Islam is the one who separated his head from his shoulders.”
Another speaker was shown saying Muslims could not accept the rule of non-Muslims. “You cannot accept the rule of the kaffir [non-Muslim],” a preacher told a meeting held within the mosque. “We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.”
A deputy headmaster of an Islamic high school in Birmingham was also shown telling a conference at the Sparkbrook mosque that he disagreed with using the word “democracy”.
“They should call it . . . kuffrocracy, that’s their plan,” he was shown as saying. “It’s the hidden cancerous aim of these people.”
Elsewhere, another preacher at a mosque in the east Midlands was caught on film praying: “God help us in our fight against the kaffir, in every field, in every department of life. We beg you to help us fight against the enemies of our religion.”
Inside the Green Lane mosque in Birmingham, a preacher was also recorded as saying: “Allah has created the woman deficient.”
A satellite broadcast from the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, beamed into the Green Lane mosque, suggested that Muslim children should be hit if they didn’t pray: “When he is seven, tell him to go and pray, and start hitting them when they are 10.”
Another preacher was heard saying that if a girl “doesn’t wear hijab, we hit her”, while another said: “The time is fast approaching where the tables are going to turn and the Muslims are going to be in the position of being uppermost in strength and, when that happens, people won’t get killed—unjustly.”
In a statement to Channel 4 at the time, Lord Ahmed, the convener of the government’s Preventing Extremism taskforce, said he was worried about the programme’s consequences.
“While I appreciate that exaggerated opinions make good TV, they do not make for good community relations”, he added
A spokesman for the Green Lane mosque told the Observer before the programme’s broadcast in January that Channel 4 was intensifying the “witch-hunt” against Muslims.