The alleged killer of a respected former imam has denied he was inspired by Islamic State, describing the jihadi group’s ideology as “absolutely wrong”.
Mohammed Hussain Syeedy, 21, denies helping to murder Jalal Uddin, 71, because the elderly community leader believed in a form of Islamic healing called taweez.
The prosecution alleges Syeedy and his co-accused, Mohammed Abdul Kadir, 24, were Isis supporters who killed Uddin out of “hatred and intolerance”.
Giving evidence on Monday, Syeedy told jurors at Manchester crown court: “I certainly do not sympathise with Isis and I don’t support any of their ideologies or their ways or actions.
“I think what they’re doing is absolutely wrong. I don’t believe [in] innocent people dying. I don’t agree with what Isis are doing around the world and I certainly don’t sympathise with them.”
Syeedy, a former part-time Manchester United steward from Rochdale, knew Uddin as the “Qari Saab” – a respected member of the Muslim community – and would “give him the Islamic hello”.
He said he did not agree with Uddin’s use of taweez – a form of Islamic healing using amulets that contain a verse from the Qur’an – because it was “dangerous” to meddle with the “supernatural world”.
But Syeedy said he was shocked when he found out Uddin was murdered, telling jurors it was “nothing to do with me”.
The takeaway worker said he wanted to get Uddin deported to Bangladesh and hold a seminar to warn Rochdale’s Muslim community about the dangers of taweez and “black magic”.
In August last year, the jury heard, Syeedy’s younger brother found a book on taweez belonging to Uddin in the Jalalia Jameh mosque where they prayed.
Syeedy, who dropped out of an electrical engineering course at Huddersfield University, said he watched as his friends “ripped up” Uddin’s book and put it in a bowl of water and threw it in a nearby stream.
He told jurors that the book was “quite dangerous because when people are involved in taweez they’re involved in the supernatural world and it’s easy to cause harm. “By ripping it up and putting it in water it would basically destroy what’s in there, kind of spells,” he said.
Syeedy said he saw pictures inside the book that included a woman with “mad hair … like she had been electrocuted” and explicit pictures of genitalia. “I’m sorry to put it this way,” he told the jury. “It was a picture of a penis with eyes and hands with one leg. It’s a bit weird.”
Another picture, Syeedy said, showed “a vagina with the same sort of features, eyes and hands and stuff”.
Asked by his defence barrister, Icah Peart QC, whether he believed Uddin should be subject to violence for his beliefs, Syeedy said: “Absolutely not.”
He added: “Throughout my community work I’ve never used aggression, never used violence, never spoken to any member of the public in a bad manner. Never in a situation have I used violence or aggression.”
Syeedy said he had previously known people who practised taweez but never been aggressive or violent towards them: “I’ve never approached them, never been aggressive with them, never debated with them. I’m not in a position to debate with them let alone take the law into my own hands.”
He added that Britain had given him the opportunity to practise and study Islam, he added: “This is my country, I abide by the laws.”
The jury has been told that Kadir, from Oldham, used a hammer-like object to bludgeon Uddin to death in a children’s playground in Rochdale after following the former imam in Syeedy’s car.
Recounting the aftermath of the killing, Syeedy said there was nothing strange about Kadir when he picked him up seconds after the killing: “I asked him ‘What happened? Did you get anything?’ and he said to me there was a few guys in the park, ‘I just gave him salaams – just said hello – and walked off, but I know where he comes now so we can get him, we can approach him, another time.’”
Kadir then told Syeedy he had a “family emergency” and had to go back to Oldham, jurors heard.
Syeedy said he was shocked when he found out within hours that Uddin had died. “I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. My initial thought was Kadir has gone into the park to ask for the taweez and he’s said there’s a few guys so maybe it’s the guys that were there but I didn’t think nothing of it.”
Asked by Peart whether he thought Kadir had anything to do with it, Syeedy replied: “Absolutely not. Not even a single thought came into my mind that it could’ve been Kadir. He’s just gone into the park, he’s come out, he’s acting normal. There’s nothing strange about what he was doing.”
Kadir is being hunted by police after he fled to Istanbul, via Copenhagen, two days after the fatal attack on 18 February, jurors have heard.
Syeedy said he had been told that Kadir had “wacky ideologies” and that he “sympathised with Isis and he had weird videos and images on his Facebook page”.
The trial continues.