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Gillingham mosque leader says new Prime Minister Boris Johnson must tackle Islamophobia

The leader of a Gillingham mosque has said the new Prime Minister must unite the country in the wake of Brexit and increasing anti-Muslim views.

Safeer Khan, Imam of Nasir mosque on Richmond Road, believes it falls to the leader of the country to set an example for a more tolerant society.

He said: “We have the Brexit issue, which has divided our country to huge scale, and these things are frustrating, and when frustration builds up, things can go wrong. So the new prime minister has a huge responsibility of first to bring people together.”

Safeer was a guest on this week's podcast
Safeer was a guest on this week's podcast

Boris Johnson has come under fire in the past for comments which have been considered Islamophobic, including referring to Muslim women wearing burkas as ‘letterboxes.’

He added: “We all have religious freedom, we have freedom of speech, we should talk about issues, and we should bring that to the table, and try to understand each other's point of view and respect that.

"But comments like that are derogatory, I believe, and damage the respect and the peace of the society.”

Mr Khan said one of the most common misconceptions of the religion is people who see extremism and Islam as interchangeable: “I've seen almost 50% of the people who come and visit us, they have these sorts of questions, which is surprising.”

He holds open days at the mosque where people from all over the community can come to ask questions about the practice of Islam.

The KM Community podcast (14181195)
The KM Community podcast (14181195)

Yesterday, Harrow borough council in north London made the decision to adopt the definition of Islamophobia developed by the All Party Parliamentary Group of British Muslims: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

Mr Khan said the description is too broad and could discourage healthy debate, but believes there is a clear difference between questioning and being offensive.

He said: “One thing is questioning with the reason of questioning and the other thing is to actually make a comment that is derogatory.

“We have to go back to the principles, back to the basics and just promote love and discourage hatred together as a united nation. And that challenge is tough for the politicians now, to first of all bring the country together.”

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