Firebrand Muslim Cleric Buys Church Hall in Heart of Midsomer Murder Country to Broadcast Vile Rants to Middle East
Hugo Gye, Daily Mail (London), March 26, 2014
Residents of a wealthy village in Buckinghamshire fear their community could become involved in a global conflict between different Muslim sects after a hate preacher was given permission to broadcast his sermons from a former church.
Sheikh Yasser al-Habib spent £2million buying a disused hall in Fulmer and turning it into a mosque which is also the base for his controversial satellite TV channel.
Last week, Ofcom revealed it was powerless to stop the cleric’s incendiary broadcasts, which are said to stir up conflict between al-Habib’s Shia sect and rival Sunni Muslims.
Now locals in the small village–favoured by celebrities such as Vernon Kay and Ozzy Osbourne–are concerned that Fulmer will become the unlikely setting for a vicious war of words between the two sects.
The Kuwaiti preacher, who has previously been jailed in Kuwait for insulting the faith of Sunnis, bought the former evangelical church last year and converted into a mosque and broadcasting centre.
His channel, Fardak TV, is registered by Ofcom–but most of its broadcasts cannot be controlled by the regulator because they are only shown outside the UK.
Among the controversial sermons al-Habib has delivered over the airwaves was a celebration of the death of one of Sunni Islam’s most revered figures.
Two years ago, Ofcom investigated the preacher after it emerged that he had suggested one of the Prophet Muhammad’s successors was gay.
And in another slur directed at a figure beloved by Sunnis, he referred to Muhammad’s wife Aisha as an ‘enemy of God’.
Residents of Fulmer, where the average home is worth nearly £1million, reacted with dismay to the news that Fardak would be allowed to continue broadcasting hate speech.
‘We have no objection to any religious group being there as long as they fit in with this community,’ Kenneth Peters, 84, told The Sun. ‘Does any community want to be the source of vitriolic and poisonous output?
‘What half of us fear is a load of angry Sunnis from Slough coming here and having a rumble.’
Another local added: ‘I have Muslim friends who are so angry that lot can get away with spreading their bile.’
The village is situated in an idyllic cluster of Home Counties towns which are frequently used to film Midsomer Murders, while it is also close to Pinewood Studios where quintessentially British films such as the James Bond and Carry On series were produced.
Last week, Labour MP Khalid Mahmood described al-Habib’s rhetoric as ’10 times worse’ than Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses, which drew death threats from Islamic extremists.
He added: ‘If somebody was being anti-Semitic, we would take action. If somebody was being racist we would take action–even if it was an Asian person having a go at a black person. And it’s quite right to do that.
‘Because this is seen as intra-faith, nobody seems to be bothered. It is already causing problems in the Gulf and the Middle East. It will start to bubble up here as well.’
Stirring up hatred against Sunni Muslims could potentially be a breach of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, although it is not know whether police have ever investigated al-Habib.
The rivalry between Sunnis–who include up to 90 per cent of the world’s Muslims–and the minority Shias lies behind many of the world’s most vicious conflicts, including the insurgency in Iraq.
Fulmer, a village of fewer than 500 people, is in the commuter belt just outside the M25, and is inhabited by rich families who value the rural atmosphere and proximity to London.