Acommunity kitchen supported by the Duchess of Sussex is housed inside a mosque linked by experts to individuals connected to “terrorist acts” and run by an imam who says girls who listen to music risk becoming strippers.
Meghan visited the Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre on Wednesday after championing a cookbook to raise funds for the “Hubb Community Kitchen” project there to help victims of the fire at nearby Grenfell Tower.
In February it emerged the 37-year-old royal had made secret visits to the mosque in Westbourne Grove, which has also hosted Princes William and Harry, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in recent months.
An investigation by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), the anti-extremism think tank, has linked the mosque, opened by Prince Charles in 2001, to 19 jihadists, including Islamic State executioner Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John.
Imam Samer Darwish, who has been photographed with Mrs May, Mr Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, presents a weekly show on the Islam Channel where he has condoned bigamy, suggested women should not pray while on their periods, claimed girls who listen to music risk becoming strippers and said women should not cry when visiting graves.
The comments are likely to shock the Duchess, who has described herself as a feminist and is committed to championing gender equality.
On Wednesday, Meghan visited the kitchen at Al Manaar after it was refurbished with proceeds from the sale of the Together cookbook of recipes inspired by women involved in the “Hubb” project, for which she wrote the foreword. So far 39,000 copies have been sold raising £210,000 which has been channeled into the community group based at the kitchen via The Royal Foundation.
Research by the HJS suggests the mosque was once attended by three of the four “Beatles”, the Isil terror cell charged with guarding, torturing and killing hostages in Syria and Iraq. As well as Emwazi, Choukri Ellekhlifi, Alexanda Kotey and Aine Davis, all from west London, also have links with Al Manaar. Emwazi and Ellekhlifi were associates in London and it seems highly likely that they fought together after joining Isil in late 2012 and early 2013. Ellekhlifi reportedly fought with al-Qaeda affiliate Jhabat al-Nusra and was killed in 2013 near Aleppo.
Kotey would allegedly stand outside Al Manaar and preach extremist propaganda, such as arguing that suicide bombings did not violate the Koran. In 2008, Kotey became involved with the London Boys, a radical network linked to terrorist attacks in the UK, including the 7/7 bombings. According to the US State Department, Kotey acted as a guard for Isil and "likely engaged in the group's executions and exceptionally cruel torture methods, including electronic shock and waterboarding". He is currently being held in solitary confinement in Syria.
Former drug dealer Davis oversaw beheadings of British hostages, including British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines, and US journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley. He was convicted of terrorism charges in Turkey, 2017 and sentenced to seven and a half years.
Davis’s wife Amal el-Wahabi, the first woman to be convicted of terrorism offences connected to Syria, formerly worked as a nursery assistant at Al Manaar.
You Tube videos show Mr Darwish, who preaches at the mosque for three and a half days a week, speaking on the Islam Channel. In one clip he says of women on their periods: “Bleeding, no praying. Stop bleeding, just pray. I’ve seen some of our sisters holding Koran using glove, which is a good idea.” Condoning bigamy in another, he says: “In Islam, it is permissible, yes, to marry more than one wife.”
He also says listening to music or dancing is haram (sinful) except as reward for memorising the Koran, adding: “Those who are uncovering up some parts of their body and you will have no control in your daughter.”
On women visiting graves, he says: “There is no harm for the women to visit the grave, but this is also conditional that she will not commit something haram, she will not cry to the extent to the point that she start screaming and stuff.” In other footage, he claims a man can “bring back” his divorced wife “by having sexual intercourse” with her.
Dr Alan Mendoza, executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, said: “The Duchess of Sussex has been poorly advised over her involvement with a mosque where many former congregants have gone on to commit terrorist acts. This is not one or two isolated cases but 19 separate individuals. A simple Google search would have highlighted concerns over these connections, and the recently expressed views of Imam Darwish.”
The support that Al Manaar Mosque has given to survivors, their families & the local community following the horrific Grenfell Tower fire continues to demonstrate the true spirit of our city. Good to be back as part of #VisitMyMosque Day. pic.twitter.com/2nV3JGgsbG— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) February 18, 2018
A Kensington Palace source said: “The funds raised by the cookbook are supporting the Hubb Community Kitchen, which is an independent project that leases space from Al Manaar. The project is empowering the women and helping provide some hope and joy to a community that has gone through unspeakable tragedy.”
Abdulrahman Sayed, chief executive of the Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre said: “Al Manaar has been on the record rejecting and condemning extremism and terrorism. The Charity’s vision and mission is to be a vibrant and welcoming community hub and resource that encourages and promotes a sense of belonging, unity and pride for both Muslims and the wider community; and to contribute to building cohesive and resilient communities.”
He said the mosque could not be held responsible for anything Mr Darwish said outside the mosque but added: “I’m happy to look at what he said and have a word with him about that language.”