Ul-Haq, 41, is also the leader for new generation of "home-grown" British Islamists who loathe Western values, support armed Jihad and preach contempt for Christians, Jews and Hindus. Ul-Haq, who preaches in mosques throughout Britain, outlaws television and music, and says football is a "cancer that has infected our youth." He is appalled by young women who want to get educated and go to university. He regularly praises the work of the Taliban and their attacks against British troops in Afghanistan. His sermons are broadcast to thousands of listeners on Radio Ramadhan Leicester in Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Somali, Arabic and English.
Leicester, one of the most rapidly Islamizing cities in England, has elected its first-ever Muslim mayor.
Abdul Razak Osman, an
Indian-origin Muslim who was born in Kenya and who immigrated to Britain
in 1971, was sworn into office during an elaborate investiture ceremony
at the Leicester City Hall on May 18.
Osman's election reflects the growing influence of Muslims on local politics in Leicester. At his swearing-in ceremony, Osman declared:
"I'm proud to be the first Muslim councillor to hold the position.
We've had Christian, Hindu, and Sikh and now I'm able to bring the
Islamic faith to the office, which is a great honor."
Leicester, an industrial city some 70 minutes north of London, is
often promoted as Britain's quintessential multicultural success story.
Immigrants currently make up nearly one-half the city's total population
of 280,000, and Leicester is on the fast-track to become the first non-white majority city
in British history.
Many of the immigrants are of South Asian origin;
and Leicester -- once known as a center for manufacturing shoes and
textiles -- is now known for its many Hindu, Sikh and Muslim places of
But a sharp rise in Muslim immigration in recent years is upsetting
the city's ethnic balance, and is casting doubt upon the city's
After Christians and Hindus, Muslims are the third-largest faith
group in Leicester. The city's Muslim population is estimated to be
between 11% and 14% (or somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 Muslims),
which is well above the percentage (4.6) of Muslims in Britain as a
The Muslim population in Leicester is made up mainly of Indians,
Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, as well as Turks, Somalis, Kenyans and
Ugandans. According to the Ummah Forum, "you'd really like Leicester if you want to be around a large population of Muslims."
Muslim immigration has led to the proliferation of mosques in
Leicester, which now has more than 200 mosques and madrassas [Islamic
religious schools] and hundreds of informal Islamic prayer rooms located
in basements, garages and warehouses.
Leicester is also home to several mega-mosques. The Leicester Central Mosque
complex has a capacity for nearly 3,000 worshippers. It also has a
school, a community hall, a residence hall for imams, a mortuary and a
guest house. The huge Masjid Umar mosque has four towering minarets and a grand dome that displays Arabic calligraphy from the Koran.
The most influential Muslim in Leicester is Shaykh Abu Yusuf Riyadh-ul-Haq, a hardline Muslim cleric who runs the Al Kawthar Academy,
a well-known Islamic school in the city. Ul-Haq, 41, is also the leader
of a new generation of "home-grown" British Islamists who loathe
Western values, support armed Jihad and preach contempt for Christians,
Jews and Hindus.
Ul-Haq, who preaches in mosques across Britain, outlaws television
and music, and says football is "a cancer that has infected our youth."
He is appalled by young women who want to get educated and go to
university. He regularly praises the work of the Taliban and their
attacks against British troops in Afghanistan.
In a typical sermon, entitled "Imitating the Disbelievers,"
ul-Haq warns British Muslims of the danger of being corrupted by the
"evil influence" of Western culture. He also heaps scorn on Muslims who
say they are "proud to be British," and argues that friendship with a
Christian or a Jew makes "a mockery of Allah's religion."
In another sermon called "Jewish Fundamentalism,"
Ul-Haq says: "They're all the same. The Jews don't have to be in Israel
to be like this. It doesn't matter whether they're in New York,
Houston, St Louis, London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester. They're
all the same. They've monopolized everything: the Holocaust, God, money,
interest, usury, the world economy, the media, political institutions
[…] they monopolized tyranny and oppression as well. And injustice."
Ul-Haq's sermons are broadcast to thousands of listeners on Radio Ramadhan Leicester in Urdu, Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali, Somali, Arabic and English.
According to American diplomatic cables that were obtained and
published by the website Wikileaks, Leicester is home to the most
conservative Islamic population anywhere in Europe.
A leaked diplomatic cable recounts the October 2007 visit to
Leicester by Farah Pandith, the U.S. State Department's Senior Advisor
for Muslim Engagement. The stated purpose of the visit was for the U.S.
government to find ways to help Britain "update and improve" its
approach to stopping "home-grown" Islamic extremists. The document says
Pandith found the lack of integration of the Muslim community in
Leicester to be "striking."
Among other observations, the cable states that Pandith was shocked
to find "girls as young as four years old were completely covered." The
document continues: "At a local book store, texts… seemed designed to
segregate Muslims from their wider community, urging women to cover
themselves and remain in their homes, playing up the differences between
Islam and other religions, seeking to isolate Muslims from community,
and feeding hate of Jews to the young."
The cable also recounts a discussion Pandith had with religious and
community leaders at an Ahmadiyya (an Asian Islamic sect) mosque: "Yaqub
Khan, General Secretary of a local organization called the Pakistan
Association, insisted that he had to teach young people in Urdu. When
Pandith challenged him as to why he would use Urdu with children who
were growing up with English as their first language, Khan insisted that
there were no good books on the Koran in English."
Leicester is also notorious for having the fourth-highest rate of
unemployment in Britain. Moreover, the city has very high rates of
illiteracy, and ranks as one of the worst five municipalities in England
A recent survey, entitled "Muslims in Leicester,"
says that Muslims in the city are especially prone to underachievement
and unemployment. The report says the inner city Spinney Hills
neighborhood, which has the highest percentage of Muslims in Leicester,
is also the ward with the lowest rate of full-time employment, the
highest rate of unemployment, the highest level of economic inactivity,
the highest percentage of "no qualifications" for work and the highest
level of social housing.
Muslims are now demanding political power within the Leicester city
council, as well as the freedom to wear their religious dress at work
and to have halal food in the city hospitals. They are also seeking
their own faith-based schools.
One such school, the Leicester Islamic Academy
-- where female students wear the full-length dress and head-covering
and the boys wear black robes and skullcaps -- has been accused by the
British government of promoting Islamic separatism. Another state-run
Islamic school in Leicester, the Madani High School, has run afoul of government regulators for reneging on its promise that 10% of its pupils would be non-Muslim.
The British government has tried -- unsuccessfully -- to reverse the
tide of Islamic separatism in Leicester. In June 2008, for example, the
city hosted the first in a series of road shows designed to tackle the
problem of honor-based violence.
Leicester has been plagued by forced marriages, kidnappings, physical
and mental abuse of women, and other honor-based crimes against those
who have not, according to family and local community members, conformed
to religious or cultural expectations.
Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Commission for Racial
Equality, has warned that Britain is "sleepwalking to segregation." In a
speech in Manchester, he said:
"Segregation is now so extreme in some schools that there is not much
farther it can go. It does not help to prepare children in these schools
for the real world." Phillips also described cities like Leicester as
"literal black holes into which nobody goes without fear and trepidation
and from which nobody ever escapes undamaged."
Alluding to the transformation of cities like Leicester, Michael Nazir-Ali,
a former bishop of the Church of England, has lamented that Islamic
extremists have turned parts of Britain into no-go areas for
non-Muslims. Lashing out at the spread of religious separatism and the
damage caused by the doctrine of multiculturalism, Nazir-Ali has also
warned against the acceptance of Islamic Sharia law in Britain, and has
criticized amplified calls to prayer from mosques, which he says are
imposing an Islamic character on many British towns and cities.
Leicester's motto is Semper Eadem: "Always the Same." But Osman's promotion to city mayor implies that life in Leicester is fast changing.