Published: 22 September 2011
by SIMON WROE
A MUSLIM cleric has vowed to fight plans to evict him from Regent’s Park Mosque until he is compensated for an horrific attack that left him blinded.
Sheikh Mohamed El Salamouny, 61, was the victim of a vicious assault carried out by an intruder who scaled the mosque’s perimeter wall on Park Road and rammed his fingers into his eyes four years ago.
Southwark Crown Court found the attacker, Brian Donegan, not guilty by reason of insanity in 2008.
He was detained indefinitely under the Mental Health Act.
Managers at the mosque are now seeking to evict Mr El Salamouny from the on-site apartment where he has lived with his wife and son since the incident, insisting that his contract has ended and he must make way for a new imam.
Influential figures in the Muslim community including Mostafa Ragab, the former chairman of the Egyptian Society, and London Assembly member Murad Qureshi, have condemned Mr El Salamouny’s treatment.
Mr El Salamouny, a leading academic in interpretations of the Quran from Al-Azhar university in Cairo, said: “I was a strong man and a very active man when I came to the mosque.
I lost my sight in this place.
I lost all of my life.
I lost everything.
Now they say the contract is finished and they need the flat.
“They (the mosque management) never thought to offer me compensation.
Yes, my contract is finished. But as a result of [their] negligence before my contract was finished I lost my sight.
Nobody will be able to compensate me for my vision.
But they should deal with it like human beings. I will stay until I have justice.”
The mosque obtained an eviction order in August but it was never carried out.
Mr El Salamouny is taking his own legal action against the mosque’s managing body, the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), alleging that security shortcomings led to the 2007 assault.
Supporters of Mr El Salamouny say any attempts to remove him would be fiercely opposed.
Nahed Mahmoud, a former secretary to the mosque’s director, Dr Ahmed Dubayan, claimed the management was “scared of what might happen if they tried to evict a blind man” during the holy season of Ramadan.
“They want to kick him out quickly,” she said. “But we will have a hundred people outside the imam’s flat, stopping the order. We will lock the door and we will stand in their way.”
Mr Ragab, the former Egyptian Society chairman, decried the ICC’s behaviour as “un-Islamic” and said the mosque “badly needed the imam’s service”.
Mr Qureshi said: “The security lapses that caused [the Sheikh’s] eyes to be gouged out are so horrendous.
“There were clear lapses and I think they have to take responsibility. I do think they owe the imam something, but that’s for them to negotiate.”
A press statement released by the ICC said that Mr El Salamouny’s post was a “temporary assignment”,
adding: “As a result of an unfortunate physical attack on Sheikh Salamouny, the ICC took significant steps in assisting and supporting Sheikh Salamouny… Since that time, Sheikh Salamouny has continued to reside in the ICC’s residential flat at no cost to him even though his secondment was terminated by Al-Azhar almost two years ago.
“The ICC has exercised patience and understanding and has wished to show a conciliatory attitude throughout its dealings with Sheikh Salamouny, but he has sadly refused to leave or appreciate the position the ICC finds itself in.”