WISE (Wycombe Islamic Society)
Press release, 13 November 2014

"Community comes together to support WISE after sensationalist media reporting"

Wycombe Islamic Society (WISE) have been overwhelmed with messages of support after unsubstantiated claims were published in National Newspapers regarding individuals supposedly attending the organisation's mosque. WISE, who have just recently completed delivering a 3-week course warning people about the dangers of extremist groups like ISIS, were shocked to hear the claims by an unknown community leader that "There are eight former WISE mosque students who have all gone missing, believed to be in Syria." In a statement, WISE confirmed "we would like to reassure people that no WISE mosque students are missing and we are not aware of any missing person's reports from the authorities. Moreover, Zaf Hussein, who is quoted in the Telegraph as making these claims, seems to be a fictional character as our investigations could not identify a person of that name who works in the local council."

A volunteer at WISE, Joanne Clifton, emphasised the peaceful nature of Islam and said "I have never heard a call to violence or extreme ideas taught at the centre, instead the opposite has been actively promoted."
Messages of support have come from all quarters, including from members of the Council of Christian Muslim Relations. The Rev Hugh Ellis vicar of All Saints was quick to respond saying "So sorry you have been misrepresented. Please be assured of our loving support." Sheree, whose mother converted to Islam a couple of years ago, explained "I have been to the mosque several times to see what goes on, what it's all about, and how they've helped her. I have so much gratitude towards the WISE mosque for the help and support they have given my mum in changing her life for the better, and the help I've seen them give others. Every time I have been to the mosque, even as a non-Muslim, I have always been so welcomed with smiles and hugs, people always asking about me and most importantly to me, not judging me. It's always been a lovely place to be and I find it so sad that all this negativity has arisen lately from individuals that have no doubt, never even been inside."

The attendees of WISE activities come from all quarters of life as can be seen from the testimonials received which show how WISE has a strong policy against extremism as well as providing a place of peaceful prayers and support for the local community.

Robert Greaves, a business manager, tells his story: "I moved to High Wycombe approximately 7 years ago from London and whilst I found the Muslim community to be very welcoming and kind, I was delighted to be introduced to WISE. WISE has an extremely active community Programme provided for those that attend the mosque but also to serve the need to have a strong outreach to the wider community and create understanding, good community relations and cohesion. There has been a consistent message that teaches Muslims to follow Islam according to authentic evidence, and a strong continual reminder of the wrongs of extreme and wrongful (e.g. violent) actions. This is a message opposed to the activities that have been recently reported in the press."

One of the young men at the Islamic Centre, Saud Faisal, reiterated the anti-extremism ethos at WISE: "I think the centre is amazingly well run and plays a crucial role in deterring Muslims especially young Muslims from going down the route of extremism." A lecturer at the college, Mr Rauf reiterated "The continued hard work and effort by WISE and its attendees has been very supportive in promoting community cohesion and tolerance in High Wycombe." Azhar Altaf, who works in the probation service also showed his support "It is a unique institution run professionally and one which seeks to increase social cohesion and counter acting islamophobia and extremism."

Dr Imran Mohammed who is a regular attendee said "I have really enjoyed taking part in some of the mosque's many activities ranging from climbing Snowdon, cycling in the Chiltern Hills, Boy Scout group, to simply going out for a kebab with the Imam. In a recent educational course, WISE have also positively challenged and constructively criticised the ideology leading to formation of groups such as ISIS."

Kamran Mahmood, who works in the Learning Disability Sector emphasised the helpful nature of the people at WISE: "WISE also encouraged me to do community service, to be a part of the community that we live in, emphasised how much respect we should give others who have different faiths. After being taught all this WISE also organised for us to volunteer in a soup kitchen with a local Church group and regularly helping out at charity events."

High Wycombe has a long history of community cohesion and WISE have found it heart-warming to see the measure of support and good will from all quarters of society. This feeling was felt in the words of Altamish, who is a local Optometrist: "I can sincerely say I would never consider moving residence from High Wycombe in the foreseeable future because of the unique community cohesion and because of the continuous support that WISE provides in my life."

The Wycombe Muslim Communication Forum (WMCF), who represent the local Islamic organisations, met on Thursday with the local council and police to see how to build resilience to extremism and enhance cooperation in order to ensure that the excellent community relations in the town are not harmed.


Press release update A young man from Castlefield was arrested in relation to conflicts overseas on 17th December on suspicion of arranging availability of property for the purposes of terrorism. The person has not been charged and Police have confirmed that this is not in response to any immediate threat to public safety in High Wycombe. As we know, there are people undergoing immeasurable suffering in conflict zones abroad, and individuals should work with recognised charities to provide humanitarian assistance rather than putting themselves or others in danger.

The mosques in High Wycombe are open to all and promote the peaceable values inherent in Islam.

On a day, when we are still coming to terms with the terrible loss of almost 150 of our sons and daughters in Peshawar, Pakistan, our prayers are with the families who live with the terrible tragedy. WISE stands with the other Islamic and community organisations in High Wycombe united in its abhorrence and condemnation of such a vile and inhumane act of violence against innocents. No religion can stand for such heartless brutality. The Muslims in High Wycombe will be saying prayers for the bereaved and for the families who have lost their loved ones.

Contact: Amjad Iqbal : 07878 126099 amjad@wise-web.org
NB: All people quoted have given their permission for their testimonials to be used.

Further testimonials and press release can be found on http://www.wise-web.org/testimonials%202/index.html

Also for your interest, the following message was left on the Vice article about High Wycombe:
"Andy James i just wrote this back at them.. i dont know if you are interested.
"I was invited to WISE a few months back with the mayor, the local MP and many other people who were interested and far from it being a dingy place full of extremists it was a plush and sumptuous place of worship that was in fact more friendly than many churches I have been to, great food and really open, Im sure there are other places around that are less welcoming but WISE is an open book that doesnt promote extremism . My 10 year old daughter was allowed to sit in with us with no hair covering and the guys where really sound. "