Family loses defamation claim in UK after questioning donations to mosque from ‘extremist’

Trustees win legal battle after barring father and his two sons for suggesting mosque ‘condoned terrorism’

Family loses defamation case at London's High Court after raising questions over donations from Libya's grand mufti. Alamy

A family lost a defamation battle with a British mosque over claims that they were permanently barred after raising questions over £250,000 donations from Sadiq Al Ghariani, the grand mufti of Libya, because of his alleged Islamist links.

Three members of the Abdulrazaq family claim they were punished by the trustees of a mosque in Exeter, south-west England, for questioning five separate payments from 2014 made by Mr Al Ghariani, who has justified suicide bomb attacks in Libya.

Mr Al Ghariani lived in Exeter where he studied for a doctorate before returning to Libya after the fall of the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. He is regarded by the Muslim Brotherhood and others as the country’s grand mufti.

After an increasingly bitter dispute, in September 2019 the mosque leadership voted to bar the father and his two sons from the mosque.

It gave 24 reasons for the decision, including making frivolous complaints at the courts that were time-consuming and “put a needless strain on the mosque”. They were also accused of trying to trip over a trustee in the main prayer hall and bullying a child.

The family, Tallha, Basim and Abdulaziz Abdulrazaq, said the true reason for being barred was punishment for “raising perfectly valid questions about the Al Ghariani monies”, according to High Court documents.

The trustees said that the donations were legitimate and paid for building work in the Muslim community. They claimed that the real reason for the dispute was the failed attempts by a member of the family to join the mosque’s executive committee.

They posted a notice at the mosque and on social media with photographs of the three men and cited the “unacceptable behaviour and malicious actions” of the three who had “caused non-Muslims to believe that the mosque condoned terrorism”.

The family sued over the notice, which accused them of shattering the “peace, harmony and sanctity” of the Exeter Mosque and Cultural Centre.

But the judge ruled that the trustees were protected under law when responding to criticisms made by the family.

Mr Justice Jay said the family had claimed that “the Al Ghariani cash payments lie at the heart of this dispute, and represent the real reason for all the decisions made”.

He said the family had failed to come up with evidence to back up their claim. “The limited documentary material that has been made available do not support that interpretation,” he said.

The judge found in favour of the trustees and ordered the family to pay their legal costs.

Mr Al Ghariani featured in the US State department’s 2020 report on religious freedom when it accused the internationally-recognised Government of National Accord of failing to exercise effective control over its religious leaders.

It highlighted an address broadcast on a Libyan television network in which Mr Ghariani said suicide attacks against the enemy were allowed by sharia.

Updated: December 3rd 2021, 4:07 PM