Shia Imam fears for community in the UK after Sunni radicals call for attacks

SHAFAQNA - Radical preachers within the UK’s minority Shia and majority Sunni communities have caused growing religious sectarianism within the country’s Muslim community, according to a media report.Of the 3 million Muslims in the UK, about 2.3 million identify as Sunni, compared with 300,000 Shias, or 5 per cent of the total. 

According to an investigation by ‘The Times’ newspaper, the divide is being widened by radical preachers on both sides.”Our faith doesn’t condone takfir [excommunication] of another. It is against Prophetic tradition and if we follow the same path as the Middle East, where sectarianism has fuelled conflict, we are in trouble,” Qari Muhammad Asim, a leading Sunni voice and imam at the Makkah mosque in Leeds, told the newspaper.Sayed Ammar Nakshwani, one of the world’s leading Shia clerics, said that he recently left the UK for the US after enduring years of intimidation from hardline Sunnis who allegedly threatened his life, followed his parents and vandalised his car. 

Sheikh Ahmed Haneef, a Shia imam in London, called for 24-hour police protection for Shia mosques. 

Most British Shias have roots in Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan or Bahrain. 

Sunnis make up the vast majority of Muslims worldwide. The sectarian atmosphere in the UK is being fuelled by propaganda that depicts the war in Syria as a battle between Sunni rebels and the Shia-led Assad regime. 

The regional power struggle between the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Shia republic of Iran has been identified as another factor. 

Superintendent Paul Giannasi, the UK’s national police spokesperson, urged victims to report incidents: “We know that many hate crimes are not reported to the police and our communities say that this type of hate crime is among the least likely to come to our attention.”

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