British imam: I'm proud of my country and my faith

Speaking to ITV News, Qari Asim, the imam of Leeds Makkah Mosque, one of the largest in the UK, discusses his community's concerns that their faith has been hijacked, the "toxic" ideology of extremists, and that controversial Government letter.

My community is anxious and concerned.

The name of our faith is being used to kill and Muslims are concerned that their faith has been hijacked.

And, as a result, emotions are raw and there's been a backlash in society.

Stones have been thrown at mosques, windows broken and headscarves on the heads of women have been snatched.

The online abuse is constant because people can hide behind their pseudonyms and the anonymity the internet offers. And as a result they can say whatever they like about Islam and Muslims.

When people hear the killers saying they are committing the acts in the name of god or, in the event of the Paris killing, shouting that “we have avenged the prophet” - they believe the terminology indicates that this is what the Islamic faith endorses.

A British imam has told ITV News that his community fear a backlash following recent terror attacks. Credit: PA Wire

Muslims have been very vocal in unreservedly condemning the atrocities.

But when they are condemning the extremists' actions, they're not apologising on behalf of those people but trying to distance themselves from them and making it clear we do not endorse those killings or any kind of violence.

The people that are carrying out those actions have nothing to do with our faith.

The letter sent to mosques earlier this week was largely positive.

There were parts I couldn't agree more with such as the fact British values are Muslim values and the positive contribution Muslims make on society.

But some of the terminology, especially in one or two sentences, could have been phrased better.

Messages that Muslims need to do more to integrate into Britain and that people need to be told more about their Britishness can play into the hands of those who wish to divide and create a 'them and us' scenario.

Muslims feel very part of this society.

We feel confident in our British national identity and also our religious identity as Muslims.

We are proud of our faith and our country.

Mr Asim said young people are being radicalised online - not in mosques. Credit: ITV News

The timing to send the letters could have been better calculated.

When there's a concern about Islamophobia or anti-Semitism, we need the government's reassurance that it is here to protect us rather than it saying we need to do more.

We don't believe mosques are inciting hatred or ideologically preparing people to be extremists.

Radicalisation and breeding of extremism doesn't take place in mosques - it happens online.

It's like a paedophile trying to find their victims and groom them online.

There's always more that can be done but what is it we need to do? The Government must be clear on what it is that mosques are not doing to root out extremism.

We are all in it together and therefore there needs to be a sustained, comprehensive and well-established engagement channel between the Government and imams across Britain.

Both parties need to value each other's contribution and work together to see how we can root out extremism together.

For example, if the intelligence services are aware of any mosque or any particular Imam that is inciting hatred and that information is shared with us, we can help.

Qari Asim says his community 'more than anyone else' want to eradicate extremism. Credit: Qari Asim

The toxic ideology of groups such as Isis is an unprecedented global phenomenon that we are dealing with.

Isis is running a very sophisticated social media campaign and we must urgently produce a counter-narrative.

We don't want extremism - it is affecting our community, country and people across the world.

We more than anyone else want it to be rooted out and eliminated because it's bringing our faith into disrepute.