Leading Islamic scholar harassed at Heathrow
14 November 2003
In the evening of 11 November 2003 Maulana Yusuf Motala and his wife left their home near Bury, North West England, to take a flight to Jeddah. Their destination was Mecca, to perform the Umra and spend a few days of Ramadan in the sacred Haram. For 67-year old Maulana Yusuf, this was nothing exceptional. He is a leading Deobandi-trained scholar of the hadith and rector of several darul-ulooms - religious seminaries - in the UK. He has been a UK resident since 1968 and was instrumental in the founding of the well-known Darul Uloom Al-Arabiyyah Al-Islamiyyah, Bury. With students all over the Muslim world, he is a seasoned traveller often breaking his journey in Saudi Arabia in order to visit Mecca and Medina. However the trip on 11 November was to prove different.
After checking in at Manchester the couple proceeded to Heathrow for their connecting flight. While in transit at Heathrow Maulana Yusuf and his wife were detained and interrogated by an MI5 officer, an anti-terrorism Special Branch officer and an immigration officer. The Muslim News reports "most of the questions he was asked were on Islam, on what is taught in Darul-ulooms and his views on various aspects of Islam. He was also asked about 'jehadi' groups and if he was associated with them, to which he replied in the negative". The questioning took place from 11am to 6 pm. Maulana Motala told the officers that he was sad to have missed his flight to Mecca in order to answer "trivial questions": "When I told them this, they got very angry". The couple's luggage was searched and the Maulana’s mobile phone taken away. They were released without explanation, but were too upset to continue their journey on a different flight and returned to Bury.
The Muslim Safety Group, comprising representatives of several Muslim organisations, called for a meeting with Met Police on Thursday 13 November. They were told that Maulana Motala was detained because of "intelligence information" received by the Security agencies.
The Muslim community is finding it difficult to fathom why one of its most senior Ulema should have been treated in this crude manner. If the Police wished to put some questions to the Maulana, could this not have taken place in Bury or his office? Given the rigid ‘command and control’ system within the Police hierarchy, it is unlikely that these arrests were the actions of overzealous or ill-trained local officers. A signal has gone down from the very top to make Muslims the new Irish.
Watch this site for further revelations.
Sources: Daily Jung, 14 November 2003, www.mcb.org.uk, www.muslimnews.co.uk