The leader of Peterborough’s 15,000 Muslims says the city’s mosques are leading the way in the campaign to combat extremism.
The comments from Abdul Muquaddas Choudhuri, chairman of the Faizan-e-Madinah Mosque, in Gladstone Street, and co-ordinator of the city’s five mosques, come in response to a controversial letter from Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.
Following the atrocities in Paris, Mr Pickles is urging Islamic leaders to show young people that “extremists have nothing to offer them”.
The letter calls on faith leaders to demonstrate what being a British Muslim means and condemns the commandeering of Islam to justify killing.
It has been criticised by some Muslim leaders in the UK but Mr Choudhuri said: “There is nothing in the letter that gives me concern.
“We are pro-active on these issues. We are very much ahead of the game.
“There has not been a single case of extremist thought here. Our Imams have regularly been speaking about the dangers of extremism.
“For instance at our Friday gatherings, we have been giving two lectures -one in Urdu and one in English - explaining Islam teaching. The Imams have been speaking very clearly on these issues.
“We all love and want freedom but we will also have responsibilities however we make it clear that killing people is not part of Islamic teaching.
“The killing of innocent people is not justifiable whatever the circumstances.”
In a further bid to explain Muslim teachings, the mosques are holding a special seminar on February 7 dealing with the issues of terrorism, radicalisation and behaviour contrary to Islamic teachings. The seminar will be held at the Faizan-e-Madinah Mosque.
Mr Choudhuri said: “As part of the UK community, our aim is to be proactive on all the issues and to try and prevent any atrocities happening.”
Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson said: “We’ve always benefited from wise and moderate faith leadership from the mosques and Muslim community leaders in the city.
“It doesn’t surprise me that they understand the key points in Mr Pickles’ letter - that it’s in all our interests to root out the evil of murderous fanaticism where it might appear.”