Imam Suliman Gani, Tooting’s leading Islamic scholar: photo courtesy BBC.
The P.M. David Cameron affirmed in April during PMQs that the Tooting Imam Suliman Gani supported ISIS. He did so as Labour MPs bellowed, “Racist!” Why? Because Cameron had questioned the wisdom of Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, sharing a platform with Mr. Gani several times.
At the minimum this looked like carelessness on Khan’s part.
In the next few hours, the facts appeared to turn in favour of Mr. Gani’s story. He spoke to BBC Radio 4 and cited his support for the Tory party itself. The vehemence with which he condemned DAESH sounded credible. And Mr. Gani had already tweeted a picture of himself standing next to Khan’s Tory rival for Mayor of London, Zac Goldsmith: he who, to the consternation of some elements of the Tory Party, was running this ‘racist’ campaign.
As some on the right expressed their queasiness at some rancid whiff in Goldsmith’s hustings, the left scented bigotry and Gani had provided the evidence for the smell of right-wing hypocrisy: and for the left, the revelation of rightist two-facedness is as spinach is to Popeye. The conversational and political winds blew in Khan and Gani’s directions. Khan won and Gani looked like an obscure Muslim leader horribly slandered by the P.M., no less, cowardly hiding behind parliamentary privilege. Cameron even apologized to Gani a few days after his gaffe.
Yet the problem with the news narrative was that it was always viewed through the political lens, as through a glass darkly. What follows may not be news but it is the engine which drove the whole Gani-Khan-Goldsmith-Cameron story in the first place. If it is not true that Mr. Gani supports IS, we still know that he was backing some extremist causes. A claim about Mr. Gani’s ideas was made before Cameron’s intervention. Can’t we find out what they are?
According to alburujpress.com, Imam Gani comes from a noble South African family. I cannot find where he was born, but judging by the quality of his English, he was not born and raised in England: it is possible however that he had a sheltered British upbringing in the company of what sounds to me like an Indian sub-continent English accent.
If this CV is to be believed, he learned to recite the Koran (the hifz), when young. Certainly his ability (to this non-Arabic speaker) to intone from memory the second worst book ever written, after Mein Kampf, is impressive for those who are impressed by that kind of thing.
He studied for 3 years in Pakistan and 2 at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the institution which inspired the first distribution of Islamist leaflets in Afghanistan in 1965. The University does not appear in the list of top 700 global Universities. Here he studied Sharia (Fiqh) and the dogma (Aqeeyah), as well as the Koran and the Hadith (the sayings of Mohammed).
He then moved onto the Salafist, men-only Islamic University of Medina, an institution which apparently does not merit a mention in the 4,338 institutions of the QS Top Universities guide. Hardly surprising, as one does not need A-levels or equivalent to apply. It seems that the normal length of course is 4 years.
After a total of up to 9 years studying Islam, Mr. Gani was then sufficiently qualified to study for an M.A. at a reputable British University – the SOAS – where he ‘picked up’ a higher degree in Islamic Studies. The current brief description of the course contains no reference to historical critiques of the Islamic holy texts. It advertises itself as a translation exercise. It looks like a course in theology: or as James Joyce said, a subject without an object.
That is Mr. Gani’s education. He went on to become Imam at Tooting Islamic Centre. If brevity is the soul of wit I could not possibly write three funnier words.
So we know that Imam Gani studied Islam to some ‘higher’ level in the three countries which have produced the most toxic and consequential versions of modern Islam: Deobandi Pakistan, Muslim Brotherhood Egypt and Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. And even in London, his Islamic Studies betray no hint of a critical approach. Indeed, we know that he studied in Medina where, by common western scholarly consensus, his prophet became the very model of a medieval Major-General such as Tamerlane and where the psychopathic later Koranic verses (ayat) abrogated the earlier, and marginally sane, Meccan ones.
It is conceivable that Mr. Gani survived his education equipped with ideas of universal human rights, equality under the law and a conviction of the reactionary nature of theocracy. But it doesn’t look like that.
After up to twelve years of Islamic education, what did he decide to do next? What was the judgment of Suliman?
If any sect could claim to be the Quakers of the umma – the Muslim world – it would be the Ahmadi. They are the Muslims whom one always sees in Britain doing charitable works regardless of faith. (One of the five pillars of Islam enjoins charity, but only towards fellow Muslims.) Except that religious sectarians like Imam Gani would not admit that Ahmadi are part of the umma. That is a very serious statement in Islam. It is to say that they are apostates, for which the penalty, in an ideal Islamic state, is death. Alternatively, if one feels like it, one could declare them ‘munafiq’, even worse than the infidel enemies of Islam. The punishment for munafiq is to be the kindling for the fires of hell. If one is happy to follow this logic, it is less of an offence to Allah to be an atheist than it is to be a liberal Muslim.
Suliman Gani does not like Ahmadis.
Why should he? He is a Sunni. There are about 1.2 billion of them. And about 20 million Ahmadis. This is not a game, and certainly not a game of two halves.
If you heard a Northern Irish Protestant call a minority Catholic a ‘Papist’, you would be fairly sure that the predicate will contain nothing good or reasonable. So, when Sunnis label Ahmadis ‘Qadianis’ you get a hint of the measure of the analogy. By 2010, Imam Gani of Tooting was doing just that. And agitating against Ahmadis owning halal butcheries – that was a Sunni job. It worked. Tooting Ahmadi butchers were boycotted and called ‘Kafir’. We all now know that the pejorative means that one is not Muslim: the sanction for that, depending on the social and political circumstances, can be left to the imagination. To be clear, in this ideal Islamic state, it is curtains for the Ahmadis.
In normal circumstances, Mr. Gani delivers speeches in a flat and frankly, uninspiring style – the Andy Murray of Islamists (yet I have great admiration for the baseline Scot). When it comes to sermons on the Ahmadis, much as the far left groupuscules save their particular heat and ire for each other rather than the class enemy, the sound wave of his voice oscillates rambunctiously, the volume rises and the words per minute increase from two-time hum-drum to drum ‘n’ bass. This is the man, who says,
“If one of the (political) candidates is a Qadiani… people…may think that he’s a Muslim…we know what is the hidden agenda of these people…Who can challenge the divine laws of Allah?…(They) are God’s laws!”
He cannot abide Ahmadis.
To allow myself a parenthetical identity politics sneer. I was born in Derry. I have never found convincing the argument for one particular interpretation of an Iron Age doctrine over another: it does not entitle the winning theorist to determine the good society.
No freedom for Tooting Ahmadi butchers: photo courtesy The Wimbledon Guardian
CREATIONISM AND THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE
You will find members of the flat earth society all around the globe. ‘Scholars’ who have studied Islamic ‘science’ are disproportionately well-represented in the club. The SOAS alumnus Imam Gani is a leading scion.
At this point we need to meet Harun Yahya. He is a rich Turkish chancer who published ‘The Atlas of Creation’, an incredibly handsome tome, ‘refuting’ evolution by natural selection. With this book of Yahya’s out, he sent it to the world’s leading scientists (not in the Islamic sense). Richard Dawkins remained unconvinced and publicly had a good laugh saying so.
Yet the consensus of the finest scientific minds on the planet does not suffice for Suliman whose alma mater considers entrants holding GCSEs as over-qualified. On Mr. Yahya’s deeply funny self-publication he says,
“The style, the presentation…is something we cannot even understand. How is it possible for such great quality work…give him congratulations and make lot of da’wa (evangelizing), let Allah to preserve him.”
You get the drift of his approval and I apologize for the transcript, for this is a man who is incapable of thinking in paragraphs.
I struggle at this point to elucidate the pun on his flat oratory and the metaphor of his geological flat-earthism, but we will struggle on to his flat-out worship of the Ottoman Empire.
“There should not even be any borders. We are waiting for back where Turkey and the return of the Ottoman Empire…I mean looking at the history of Islam, it was whenever the Muslims were united, whenever there was peace in the world, then really, really in essence it meant that we had somebody who was able to take the umma forward.”
Imam Gani continues that there should be no borders in ‘occupied Palestine’, Lebanon, the Sharm area and “what do you call it? Syria.” He wants to see the ‘liberation’ of Palestine and the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. With no borders.
That is an Imam who appears in the videos of the Islamist (but probably non-violent) Hizb ut-Tahrir: and this is how he calls for the dissolution of Israel and the revival of the Ottoman Empire – a Caliphate. He leaves it to the listener to imagine what would happen to the Jews in this revival of an Islamic state in the Levant, but the poster of ‘The Portents of the End Times’ on the wall behind him during this interview does not fill one with confidence in his peaceful intentions, or sanity for that matter. Still, at this point we should not confuse Mr. Gani’s support for an Islamic state in the Levant with his outright condemnation of Islamic State In The Levant.
Suliman Gani denies evolution and calls for an Islamic state in the Levant: photo courtesy harunyahya.net
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
If you come across a young man with twisted, cropped hair, and a blind eye, you should be concerned. If you listen to Imam Gani, it is already too late to make your will. For this is the Dajjal, no different from the anti-Christ who comes before the Day of Judgement, of Resurrection, whatever your horror-fantasy wishes to call it. One should always be wary of religionists who believe in Armageddon: for it is a short step from giving it credence to wanting to bring it on. By 2013, Mr. Gani was speaking at meetings explaining precisely what to expect on that day when all shall be judged equally. We do know that on the Glorious Day men and women will still have separate entrances.
The monotheisms are particularly exercised by women: Islam, nowadays, more than the other two. Suliman is especially interested in the issues of the sisters. But not in a good way.
SISTERS AREN’T DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES
Imam Gani is on the liberal wing of the Islamic Pro Wife-Beating Tendency. Yes, it should be done but only so as not to cause pain or suffering. At 22.40 in the video he does not explain how to reconcile the two. It must be because Islam ‘elevates women to such high status’ that they are immune to physical pain.
On the question of whether to have sex with the lights on or off, the good theologian declares scripture agnostic. But certainly one ought to consider the Environment: Islam’s flag is, after all, traditionally green. Consider during foreplay: do you really need that electric light on? The earth will move with or without it.
Suliman tells us that, “The prophet never raised his hand over a women”. True enough: he punched her in the chest instead. And that was his favourite wife, Aisha, the erm…young one. Now why would the pattern of human excellence do that? Because, according to the Hadith Muslim (4:2127) young Aisha went out without the prophet’s say-so. According to Aisha who obviously felt less inhibited after the great man’s death, “He struck me on the chest which caused me pain.”
Why would Imam Gani deliberately mislead the Tooting umma about the boxing skills of his favourite warlord? Well, it’s a bit embarrassing isn’t it? And one gets the distinct impression that the phone-in host is making things up as he goes along.
At 55.30, the South London Islamist addresses ‘sisters’ who dress immodestly, are seductresses, show off their figure and tempt men with their hair in a bun so that the hijab is ’in the shape of a camel’. These exalted women are going to hell.
In the full hour of his show on domestic violence, Mr. Gani does not once mention the secular courts. The ‘authority’ which Muslim women are to submit to is the father of the family: or unnamed other authorities which sound suspiciously like himself. Or perhaps the UK Islamic Sharia Council which claims to have dealt with 9,000 cases since its founding in 1982. We cannot know if he is a judge on the Council because the ISC website forgets to name any of its members.
We know of one woman whom Suliman Gani particularly exalts. Her name is Aafia Siddiqui: otherwise known as ‘Lady al-Qaeda’.
AL-QAEDA AND MUSLIM DUTY
In 2004, Lady al-Qaeda was one of the FBI’s seven most wanted terrorists. In 2010, Aafia Siddiqui, the niece by marriage to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the man who organized 9/11, was found guilty in a U.S. court of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. She got banged up for eighty-six years.
For Suliman Gani the fact of her rendition from Afghanistan to New York to stand trial is not a human rights issue or at least he does not say so in this rally for her support. What is important for Gani is that, “We are concerned about our sister.” For him she is being humiliated and her dignity attacked: her case is not one of Universal Human Rights and he is not interested in the question of the legality of her standing trial in the U.S. In Gani’s theology it is a question of one’s duty under Islam. Those who support her do so as an ‘act of kindness’ and their solidarity will be noted in the Book on Judgment Day. The thought that those who do not rally to her banner are going to hell is implied. But the sisters in the black niqabs and brothers in unkempt beards shuffling in front of him in varying degrees of interest are the human material whom Allah will eternally reward.
Gani declares that it is an Islamic duty to defend high-ranking members of al-Qaeda.
Imam Gani says it is a Muslim duty to defend ‘Lady al-Qaeda’ at a 2010 rally: photo courtesy play.tojsiab.com
THE BAND THAT SEEMS TO TIE THEIR FRIENDSHIP TOGETHER WILL BE THE VERY STRANGLER OF THEIR AMITY
Gita Saghal was suspended by Amnesty International in 2010 for her criticism of its association with the Taliban-supporting Moazzem Begg of CAGE. She took further aim at CAGE’s Asim Qureshi for his promotion of global jihad.
This is the same Asim Qureshi who called Jihadi John ‘a beautiful young man’ at this infamous and disastrous press conference on 26th February, 2015 – remember the date. Why would the normally smooth-talking Mr. Qureshi have blundered so badly in public and ruined whatever reputation CAGE had? Perhaps the answer lies here. Qureshi and Mohammed Emwazi (aka ‘Jihadi John’) had been in irregular contact in London. Emwazi left London to join al-Nusra, otherwise known as ‘al-Qaeda in the Levant’. When Emwazi jumped ship and turned up as the ISIS YouTube guy to go to for a good guillotining, this would explain Qureshi’s faux- bewildered and regretful tone in his eulogy for the butcher of James Foley.
Asim Qureshi’s colleague from CAGE, Moazzem Begg defended Mohammed Ahmed and Yusuf Sarwar, declaring that they were not members of ISIS following their twelve year sentence after travelling to Syria. The forgetful Mr. Begg omitted to mention that they had joined a group affiliated to al-Qaeda. Qureshi and Begg are apologists for al-Qaeda. They use the denial of links to ISIS to dishonestly imply that they have no truck with al-Qaeda.
Similarly, we started this search with Suliman Gani’s shock that he could be thought a supporter of ISIS.
On 8th February, 2015, eighteen days before Qureshi’s public meltdown, Gani posted to YouTube his meeting on the Security and Terrorism Bill, sharing a platform with none other than the fan of decapitation and close friend of Moazzem Begg, Asim Qureshi. In fact Gani seems to have organized the affair.
The third speaker represented MEND – Muslim Engagement and Development. The aim of the Islamist MEND is to influence political parties, to coordinate the Muslim vote, to bombard the media with complaints about ‘Islamophobia’ and generally to play on the widespread fear of being thought racist. Labour and Tory politicians have spoken at their meetings.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET PEOPLE DISGUSTED THESE DAYS?
…Wrote Christopher Hitchens riffing on a theme of Orwell’s.
We now know of Mr. Gani’s Islamist world-view. One need only add MEND’s campaign to influence politicians of any party in order to explain the Tooting Imam’s self-confessed willingness to approve of whichever candidate advances best his Islamist agenda. Now you will see him with Labour’s Sadiq Khan. And now you will view his photograph with Tory Zac Goldsmith. It matters little at this point whether the tactic will succeed.
The advantage for Gani is that he can embarrass whomever he wants with evidence that they appeared to support him. And he really fooled some on the regressive left. Hacks such as Owen Jones of The Guardian who, when forced to choose between an Islamist Imam and a Tory candidate, see a man asking pertinent questions on one side and a racist threat to civilization on the other: as usual, Owen got the wrong answer.
What would have happened if Cameron, instead of raising the ISIS issue, had labelled Mr. Gani a supporter of al-Qaeda? Who knows? But he would have been much closer to the truth.
We are left with Suliman Gani, the woman-hater, the apocalypticist, the theological liar, the sectarian, the creationist, the evolution-denier, the anti-Semite, the Caliphate supporter, the defender of ‘Lady al-Qaeda’, the friend of Jihadi John’s advocate. On the plus side, he does not support ISIS.
SG’s CV, 2009
SG speaks at a rally in support of al-Qaeda’s Aafia Siddiqui, 2010
‘Worshippers told at Tooting Islamic Centre to boycott Ahmadiyya shops’, The Wimbledon Guardian, Omar Oakes, 2010
Channel A9 interview with SG, 2012
Promotion of SG’s speech on the Dajjal, Islamic eschatology, 2013
‘Revealed: The NHS imam who opposes organ transplants but has been employed in a hospital for three years’, Mail Online, Abul Taher, 2013
‘CAGE convenes Congress of Hate’, Ikhwan Info, 2014
Blog: The Syrian Intifada, ‘Mohammed Emwazi and al-Qaeda in Somalia’, Kyle W. Orton, 2015
‘Counter Terrorism and Security Bill’, SG, Asim Qureshi and MEND share platform, 2015
SG’s 2015 visit to al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem
SG’s 2015 interview of John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor
SG’s 2016 visit to Deobandi Jamiatur Rasheed School, Pakistan
SG at ‘Voting in Islam’ debate, 2016
Muslim leaders’ statement defending SG, 2016
‘Suliman Gani lives in fear after David Cameron’s lie’, Peter Oborne, Middle East Eye, 2016
‘Suliman Gani sues Michael Fallon over claim he backed ISIS’, The Guardian, Anushka Asthana and Heather Stewart, 2016
‘Muslim group with links to extremists boasts of influencing election’, Andrew Gilligan, The Telegraph, 2016
SG as public face of Helping Households Under Great Stress, nd
University of Southern California, Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, nd