Concern over society hosting of ‘radical’ preacher

news1Concerns have been raised over preacher Sheikh Kamal El Mekki’s visit to Trinity College tonight. The former George Mason University imam, who is alleged to defend the killing of apostates of Islam, is due to deliver a lecture on the prophet Muhammad in an event co-hosted by the TCD Muslim Student Association (MSA) and the Irish branch of the AlMaghrib Institute.

Trinity News understands that the talk is due to go ahead despite Domhnall McGlacken-Byrne, the president of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (SU), today contacting the Central Societies Committee (CSC) with a view to cancelling the event after being approached by eight students unhappy about El Mekki being allowed to speak on campus.

In an email seen by Trinity News, McGlacken-Byrne wrote: “While the SU does not have jurisdiction over what societies do with their time, and while I obviously haven’t had time to produce an ‘SU stance’ on this, my personal two cents’ worth is that, regardless of whether someone is Muslim, Christian or nothing at all, nobody who promotes killing people different to themselves should be given a platform, in somewhere where, to quote Trinity’s mission statement, ‘independence of thought is highly valued’.”

He added: “The SU exists to represent and to protect the welfare of all our students, whether they are Muslims or not, and given that several of the students who contacted me expressed genuine fear at the statement that this event makes, as such I personally agree that this event should be cancelled.”

Joe O’Gorman, the CSC strategic development officer, told McGlacken-Byrne that he “cannot see why there can even be a discussion about cancelling the event or not” and argued that the below YouTube clip, provided to him by the SU president, did not prove that El Mekki supports the killing of apostates.  

“The explanation Sheikh Kamal El Mekki gives [in the clip] is what might be described as doctrinal and, furthermore, he elaborates upon the moral and legal imperatives which the religious authorities must consider in the case of an alleged or supposed case of apostasy,” he said.

Kamal El Mekki at an event organised by the AlMaghrib Institute in July 2011. Source: Khalid bin Waleed 

A subsequent email from the College Secretary’s Office to the Buildings Office, seen by Trinity News, asked that the organisers of the event, and the speaker himself, “be mindful of the Prohibition of  Incitement to Hatred Act 1989.”

Earlier today, Abdul Rehman Ahmed, MSA president, told Trinity News that he had not been contacted by any College or SU representative about the event, and that he was “not really aware” of El Mekki’s views on apostasy. “It’s a general event covering the basics of who the prophet was,” he said. “All students are welcome to attend.”

One of the students who has complained about the talk taking place on campus told Trinity News that “as a former Muslim” he feels “immensely anxious and at danger that such a character should be invited to speak and express his wishes for the slaughter of us at a university and in a society where we are meant to feel safe.” The student said he was “horrified that such a blatant proponent of hate speech and violence should be given a platform to speak in a country that champions human rights.”

But responding to a Trinity News request for comment, El Mekki said that the clip had been taken out of context and was an excerpt from a 39-hour course in which apostasy is dealt with twice.

He wrote: “[In the clip,] I first deal with the issue from the historical standpoint as you have seen, and then I revisit the issue for the sole purpose of explaining to students that apostasy law is not something that we advocate, nor is it something that we are trying to revive or practice. You will be surprised how many people I’ve met while I was the chaplain at George Mason University, who thought they had the right to carry out that law in America.”

El Mekki added that part of his responsibility as an educator is to work against the radicalisation of Muslims and that he runs a course whose main theme is that “bringing Sharia Law to the west has never been one of the objectives of Islam.”

He said: “Extremism is something that needs to be dealt with, yet those who deal with it in the Muslim communities are misquoted and made to appear as the ones that should be stopped from speaking. I believe the best way to stop extremism is through moderate Muslims and Imams speaking against it. If I don’t explain it historically and within a modern context; the youth will find an online insane version to follow. I will continue to be vocal and critique what is wrong. I have not spared anyone or group that advocates violence and that is what all our instructors continue to do.”

El Mekki is visiting Trinity College as part of a week-long trip to Ireland. He is due to speak in UCD tomorrow and the Dublin Mosque on Friday.

Updated 6/3/15

Catherine Healy

Editor of Trinity News. Interested in politics, history and all forms of media.