Editor of prominent UK Muslim news site appears to support the death penalty for local Afghans who worked with British and Americans
According to the editor of the one of the UK’s most prominent Muslim news websites, 5Pillars, local Afghans who worked with the British and American forces in Afghanistan are “collaborators” who “committed treachery to one degree or another and sold their nation down the river to foreigners”. Roshan Muhammed Salih, the chief editor and a director of 5Pillars, travelled to the war-torn country and interviewed people who worked with what he described as “foreign invaders and occupiers”. In an article published on November 25, 2021, Salih wrote that he was “dismayed” to meet so many people that had worked with the British and Americans. He added:
one of the most serious crimes you can commit in any country is to help a foreign power establish their authority over your nation. It’s called treason and the usual punishment for it is extremely harsh.
Salih referred to the “extremely harsh” punishment for treason in “any country”, likely meaning a death sentence. But most countries do not impose such a punishment for treason
It is interesting, also, to ponder which concept of treason guides Salih’s thinking. 5Pillars says it is “committed to an Islamic ethos”, so perhaps the concept of treason he has in mind is derived from Islamic sources, such as the hadith and shari’a as encoded in Islamic jurisprudence. The website also says it is “non-sectarian”, so it is unlikely to be tied to one particular school of Islamic jurisprudence. But all four schools of Sunni law prescribe the death penalty for treason. One who has committed an act of treason – a form of apostasy – has turned his or her back on the faith and nation of Muslims, the ummah, and presents a threat to Islam and the ummah.
Salih’s Twitter posts confirm that he is a public advocate of shari’a, including hudood punishments, which traditionally include the cutting of hands of thieves and the stoning of apostates and adulterers. In August this year, he tweeted a thread on shari’a (below), which complained about people demonising shari’a by focusing on the “harsh punishments”; described “the burden of proof” in shari’a as “extremely high”; and acknowledged that some aspects of shari’a “go against western liberalism and would offend many in the western world”. He added: “All I can say is that God’s law will always be superior to man’s law …”.
It is difficult to ascertain the impact of such support for the supremacy of shari’a upon British Muslims’ attitudes towards life in Britain. But it is concerning that the editor of a website that claims to be the “Largest regulated Muslim news site in Europe, Australia and the Americas” should express such views seemingly without a challenge.
In August last year, he tweeted that Muslims should not be embarrassed to defend shari’a and its harsh punishments (below).
But he has also, on numerous occasions, drawn attention to the “standard of proof” that has to be met for such punishments to be meted out, such as in a tweet also from August 2020 (below).
Yet, Salih seemed to have ignored the importance he attaches to this “standard of proof” or “stringent conditions”, when he declared, regarding the “legions” of ordinary Afghans who had worked with the British and American forces: “Ultimately, all these people committed treachery to one degree or another and sold their nation down the river to foreigners”. He seemed to have already made his mind up about their guilt.
Salih wrote that some Afghans provided reasons – “excuses” – that they needed the money to support their families. Some worked with the British and Americans because they thought they were “far better” than the Taliban. Others felt “troubled and remorseful”. But, for Salih, they are all “traitors”. He wrote: “if our general attitude is one of forgiveness to traitors who are willing to betray their own nation, then this is a recipe for eternal Western invasion, occupation and subjugation.”
Salih’s trip was funded by 5Pillars “donors”. These donations likely came via the 5Pillars website. It is unclear if the donors were aware at the time of giving that they would be funding Salih’s trip to Afghanistan and his pro-Taliban writing.
Salih was the head of news at Islam Channel between 2005-2007. Subsequently, for five years, he was the head of news at Press TV, the English language arm of the Iranian regime’s broadcast agency. During this time, in 2012, Ofcom revoked Press TV’s licence to broadcast in Britain.
5Pillars is located at Crown House in North London. Several other Islamist organisations are also based there, including Education Aid for Palestinians, which was dropped by credit card organisations and JustGiving in 2019; the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA), which has been criticised for organising “extremist preachers around British universities and mosques”; the Middle East Monitor (MEMO), directed by former MCB deputy secretary general Daud Abdullah; and the Palestine Return Centre (PRC), of which Abdullah is an Advisory Board member.
Several senior staff of these organisations are listed on 5Pillars as contributors, including Ibrahim Hewitt, a Senior Editor of MEMO; Abdurraheem Green, the Chairman of the IERA; and Hamza Tzortzis, IERA’s Lead Instructor. Other contributors include Sufyan Ismail, the founder and former CEO of MEND; Abdul Wahid, the Chairman of Hizb-ut Tahrir Britain; Moazzam Begg, the Outreach Director of CAGE; and Anas Altikriti, the CEO of the Cordoba Foundation.
5Pillars’s website instructs users of its social media pages that there should be no “racism, fascism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia”. In May this year, however, 5Pillars was investigated by Impress, an independent press regulator in the UK, following a series of complaints regarding content on its website and Facebook pages that was claimed could incite hatred towards LGBT people. Impress ruled that a video posted on the website’s Facebook page breached its code, which states that publishers must not incite hatred against any group on the basis of their sexual orientation. The video was subsequently removed under protest from Salih and Deputy Editor, Dilly Hussain, who complained “that a regulator run by secular non-Muslims has delved into an area of Islamic theology and Quranic exegesis where we feel it has absolutely no business or authority”.