Leeds imam Qari Asim dismissed as government adviser after backing calls for The Lady of Heaven film to be banned

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
A Leeds imam has been dismissed as a government adviser after backing calls for a film about the Prophet Mohammed's daughter to be banned.

Qari Asim, 44, was removed from his role as an Islamophobia consultant after protests against the film The Lady of Heaven saw it pulled from cinemas last week.

Read More
Leeds imam says Government failure to define Islamophobia ‘disappointing' amid N...

He was told his appointment as deputy chair of the government's Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group - which he was appointed to in 2019 - had to end.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Imam Qari Asim at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds. Picture: James HardistyImam Qari Asim at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds. Picture: James Hardisty
Imam Qari Asim at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds. Picture: James Hardisty

Mr Asim, who was appointed MBE in 2012, was told "supporting the campaign to limit free expression" meant he could not continue.

Hundreds of demonstrators turned out to picket theatres showing the film across the country last week.

On Wednesday, cinema chain Cineworld cancelled all UK screenings of the film after protests outside a number of cinemas.

In a letter from the Department of Levelling Up, Housing & Communities, Mr Asim was told: "Your recent support for a campaign to limit free expression - a campaign which has itself encouraged communal tensions - means it is no longer appropriate for you to continue your work with government in roles designed to promote community harmony."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The letter said his actions were "a clear effort to restrict artistic expression" and that the campaign had "led to street protests which have fomented religious hatred".

The government said that on Monday Mr Asim had posted on Facebook: "We have been working with many brothers and Imams across the country to liaise with the cinemas….Some Imams have taken a view to protest and others are in dialogue with the cinemas trying to resolve the situation."

The government said his reference to "resolving the situation" meant cancelling screenings.

Mr Asim was said to have advertised a protest in Leeds, with details of its timing and location.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The letter went on: "This clear involvement in a campaign to limit free expression is incompatible with the role of a government adviser.

"You will have no doubt seen reports of the scenes outside different cinema venues. These included deeply disturbing videos of sectarian chanting and anti-Shia hatred.

"As you know, anti-Shia hatred is a long-standing and very serious issue, which must be challenged at every opportunity as part of a wider effort to combat anti-Muslim hatred.

"We were disappointed to see that you failed to condemn some of the protests complicit in these behaviours."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Last week the film's executive producer Malik Shlibak said he'd received death threats from activists.

The movie opens with the invasion of Iraq by ISIS and features a graphic jihadist murder.

It then goes on to document the life of Fatima, daughter of the founder of Islam, during the seventh century.

Islamic tradition forbids the direct portrayal of religious figures and the film’s director Eli King depicts Fatima as a faceless character, shrouded by a black veil.