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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 July 2005, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Call for mosque chairman to quit
Mohammed Naseem
Dr Naseem: Elder statesman among British Muslims
A Birmingham MP has called for the chairman of the city's Central Mosque to resign after he said the government could not be trusted.

Chairman Dr Mohammed Naseem made the comments after terror suspect Yasin Hassan Omar was arrested in Small Heath on Wednesday morning.

Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood said Dr Naseem had brought the role of mosque chairman into disrepute.

But Dr Naseem said he did not believe he had been offensive or controversial.

"To the best of my belief, I haven't said something I thought was unhelpful," he said.

What he has done is brought into disrepute the role of the chair of the Central Mosque and the Muslim community in Birmingham
Khalid Mahmood
"I was trying to put the record straight.

"We have got a long tradition of democracy and a rule of law and that's what I think we should uphold."

On Wednesday, Dr Naseem said there was no excuse for terrorism, but he said Tony Blair had lied over Iraq.

"Now we cannot give our blind trust to the government," said Dr Naseem who has recently actively supported George Galloway's Respect Party.

Speaking to BBC Radio WM on Thursday he questioned the existence of al-Qaeda.

"I don't think al-Qaeda exists because we Muslims all over the world have not known this organisation," he said.

"The only information about this organisation is coming from the CIA. Now, the CIA is not known for telling the truth."

Mr Mahmood said: "What he has done is brought into disrepute the role of the chair of the Central Mosque and the Muslim community in Birmingham.

"If he wants to make cheap political points then he really ought to relinquish his position as chairman and let somebody who is neutral and has the interests of the community do it."

Dr Naseem is one of the elder statesmen of Islam in Britain and has been a leading figure among Muslims for many years in Birmingham.

His position in the city arguably means he runs one of the most important Islamic institutions in Britain, the mosque being regularly used by thousands of Muslims from across the west Midlands.

However, he has previously clashed with Mr Mahmood as he has been active in Respect, the party led by MP George Galloway to oppose the government's involvement in Iraq.

Dr Naseem, who stood for the Respect-Unity Coalition in Birmingham Perry Barr, Mr Mahmood's consitutency, received 2,173 votes at the last election, representing 5.6% of the votes cast.

Mr Galloway, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has had success in wooing traditionally Labour-voting Muslims away from the party.

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