Extremism in the Community: The Case of Shakeel Begg

By Tom Wilson

Shakeel Begg, described in court by a judge as “an extremist Islamic speaker who espouses extremist Islamic positions”, has established himself as an influential figure within numerous public bodies and groups – even after the ruling, where he lost a libel case against the BBC.

A new Henry Jackson Society report, Extremism in the Community: The Case of Shakeel Begg, has found that Begg firmly entrenched himself within numerous community groups, and has been active even since he was declared to be an extremist in court. He has also continued to associatewith senior politicians, including the leaders of major British political parties.

The report’s main findings include:

  • He shared a platform with Tim Farron and Stella Creasy in December after the ruling declared him an extremist. This was not reported at the time.
  • He shared a platform in 2013 with Jeremy Corbyn in the days following the Lee Rigby killing – in spite of the fact that the killers came from the mosque where he was Imam, and the fact that his mosque has a long history of hosting hate preachers.
  • The John the Baptist Primary School put documents on their website stating that they work to promote British values, and gave the fact that they worked with Begg as evidence for this. This relationship continued after the ruling, with school children visiting Begg’s mosque. This was a clear breach of the Prevent duty.
  • Begg sat on a body at Lewisham Council charged with advising on religious education. He was advised them on their response to the Trojan horse revelations.
  • Begg is known to have worked closely with the police in community partnerships, and the police provided character witnesses during the libel case.
  • He has been a Muslim chaplain at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS trust in the past. He was also a chaplain at Goldsmith’s university, and has continued to visit as a guest speaker since.

These revelations should serve to justify the Judge’s comment that “Begg is something of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character”. He has been able to continue presenting a public face of moderation and acceptability. Searching questions as to how his activities could have been prevented must now be asked. It is clear that educational organisations are failing to meet the requirements of the Prevent duty.

Report author and Henry Jackson Society Research Fellow Tom Wilson said: “The Government has recognised the necessity of combatting non-violent extremism, yet it is questionable whether that is actually happening effectively on the ground.

“The Lewisham case shows how those who promote extremism are still being able to infiltrate public services and community groups. This allows them to mainstream their extremism, legitimise themselves publicly and exert their influence throughout British life.

“Those working in the public sector need to understand their duty to prevent this happening, while leaders in community and interfaith groups must start taking the threat from extremism far more seriously.”

To read the full report, click here.


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