London, City of
By Busra Akin Dincer
A London-based Muslim preacher has demanded a formal apology from the British premier for labeling him a Daesh supporter in the parliament in the run-up to the mayoral elections.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency Thursday, Suliman Gani said he was shocked by Prime Minister David Cameron’s allegations, which he described as racist and Islamophobic.
“I could not believe it. I was really, utterly, deeply shocked. How is it possible for such a serious, serious, allegation [can be] made against myself.
“What was even more shocking was being singled out, my name to be mentioned. It is not an ordinary personality, it is the prime minister of the country. That I found it very, very Islamophobic, very racist,” Gani said.
On April 20, Cameron referred to Gani as an extremist during the prime minister’s question time in the parliament as he criticized London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan.
“I am concerned about Labour’s candidate as mayor,” the British premier had said, adding: “Let me tell him, Suliman Gani – the honorable member for Tooting [Sadiq Khan] has appeared on a platform with him nine times. This man supports IS [Daesh]. I think they are shouting down this point because they don’t want to hear the truth.”
Gani, who is a former imam of a mosque in Tooting in south London, said it was shocking that such allegations had been leveled against him in front of all other parliamentarians without any investigation. “Where is the evidence?” he asked.
About the impact of the accusations on his life, Gani said he had been affected deeply, both professionally and personally.
He said he had been suspended from his work-related duties because of the allegations and he had not even left his neighborhood ever since the prime minister mentioned his name in the parliament.
Gani, who has six children, is especially concerned about the safety for his family. “I feel insecure… not only for myself but for my family and my children. There are people who are right wing, who are already Islamophobic, this [is] going to add to the rise of Islamophobia and there is a great, strong possibility of personal attacks on myself,” he said.
Family members living abroad too are worried for him, he said as he emphasized the point that his entire family had been impacted by the allegations, even though he had always been a law-abiding British citizen, who worked for his community. He has been living in the U.K. since 1998.
He said the accusations had tarnished his reputation, which he built over the period of several years.
“Those people who know me, the support is there. But my concern is because it [accusations] came from the prime minister, people would believe it. And they will not even investigate. They will say, Oh! prime minister said it. I found they [are keeping a] distance themselves from me. Because they do not want to be seen, sharing or sitting with a company whom [the] prime minister has accused of being a supporter of terrorism, extremism because Islamic State [Daesh] is a terrorist organization. It is very damaging to my reputation,” he said.
He repeated that neither did he have any criminal record nor did he support any terror group like Daesh.
“I do not have criminal record, never. I have never been stopped, questioned or investigated by the security services…I have nothing to hide. Whatever I say in private, whatever I say in public.
“There is no way that there is a shred of evidence that I support extremism [or] I support terrorism. I have in fact condemned it,” he said.
In fact, he claimed that he was a panelist at a conference titled “Evils of ISIS” early January this year.
He said it was clear that apart from tarnishing his name, the accusations had been made to discredit Labour candidate Khan in the upcoming elections
“It could be used as a political strategy to tarnish my image, damage my reputation, and also this is obviously to target, to discredit the mayoral candidate,” he said.
Also, he accused Cameron of being a racist. “I believe he [Cameron] is racist. This is very clear. Personally, I have experienced it. I have no other words. Because it is very clear for me,” he said.
He said he was only a “victim” of the prime minister’s political agenda despite him being involved closely with Cameron’s own Conservative Party campaign.
“I have been engaging and working and supporting and encouraging people to become councilor in the Conservative party. So it just did not make sense. My engagement, some of the work for campaigning for justice was cross party.
“So, it was not only that I was working and participating with Labour candidates but also Conservative candidates. Why I am specifically singled out… it seems there is an agenda very close to the mayoral elections,” Gani said.
The preacher, who holds a master’s degree in Islamic studies from University of London, said he had even thought about voting for the Conservative mayoral candidate before accusations were hurled against him.
“I was seriously considering supporting Goldsmith. I was really considering. But after, when I was accused by Zac GoldSmith to be ‘the most repellent figure in the U.K.,’ I was shocked,” he said. The mayoral elections are due in London on May 5.
Gani demanded an apology from Cameron.
“In strong terms, we want and we demand the prime minister to apologize. I am a citizen of this country and I feel it is only fair…If a prime minister of a country can make a such false accusation against a citizen then I fear the worst for the many of other citizens who maybe have nobody to defend, to support or to help them,” he said.
He also urged opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to raise the issue in the parliament.
About the option of suing Cameron, Gani said the prime minister could not be taken to court for remarks made in the parliament, a fact which he believes Cameron exploited before he made the allegations.
“You have this parliamentary privilege, you are able to say, make this allegations and get away with it. Because I was informed also that if [those] very statements were made outside the parliament, he could be sued.”
But Gani said Cameron will not make such allegations outside the parliament. “Because there is no proof, no evidence, if he had done so…This is the challenge…We would pursue it and he would be sued for it. Obviously, this is defamation.”Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.