Wednesday, 2 March 2011

London Imam expelled for lecturing on evolution

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Via Pickled Politics, we learn that a mosque in Leyton, East London, the Masjid and Madrassah al-Tawhid, has sacked an imam and trustee, Dr Usama Hasan, after he delivered a lecture in January entitled "Islam and Evolution", in which he suggested that the theory of evolution and a belief in Islam are compatible. Responding to the controversy on his blog at the time (the lecture itself was disrupted by protesters), Hasan, who is a lecturer in science, engineering and astronomy at Middlesex University, expressed a view that "theologians who have no grounding in science, have no right to pronounce upon scientific subjects. Any such fatwas about science from people ignorant of the subject matter are null and void." He suggested that "any scientific theory must be debated on its own merits".

In a letter announcing Hasan's sacking to its community, the mosque pointed to controversy over "his belief in the evolution of Adam (AS) from 'near-humans' and also his belief that Muslim women are allowed to uncover their hair in public". (Hasan had rejected the latter accusation in his earlier blog post, saying "I have never rejected the Qur’anic concept of Hijab (Veiling), contrary to certain lies, and have always argued that men and women must dress decently and modestly in public".)

In support of their decision, the mosque's trust cite the views of Shaykh Salih al-Sadlan, a "noted jurist from Saudi Arabia" who has previously visited the centre in Leyton. Al-Sadlan, the mosque's letter states, has said "that it is not permissible to pray behind one who holds such beliefs". As Sunny Hundal points out at Pickled Politics, the sacking of Hasan can be viewed as evidence of the increasing influence of Saudi-based, conservative forms of Islam in Britain:
"This is deeply troubling because it looks like we have Saudi nutjobs running McCarthyite campaigns against sensible and moderate Imams in the UK. I knew / know Dr Hasan from his time at City Circle. I’m glad he took a robust stance against these people and did not let them shout him down… but the actions of the mosque are utterly cowardly and worrying."
 The dismissal can also be seen to demonstrate the prevalence of creationism within Islam – its most famous proponent may be Turkey's Adnan Oktar, who presents it in his own uniquely bizarre manner, but the anti-evolution current extends far beyond his sphere of influence.

Update: It was later announced by the mosque that the letter announcing Hasan's dismissal "contained a number of untruths and was circulated via notoriously fanatical websites", and that "Dr. Usama Hasan remains Vice-Chairman of the Trust". More details in my subsequent post.
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