LONDON – The American ambassador to the UK has been criticized for an official visit he made last week to a London mosque deemed to have accentuated extremism.

A London-based research institute and a think tank condemned the decision of Ambassador Louis Susman to visit the East London Mosque, which is accused of hosting and espousing extremist Islamist views which has encouraged terrorist acts.

The American Embassy said in a statement that the visit was “a part of President [Barack] Obama’s call for a renewed dialogue with Muslim communities around the world.

“Ambassador Susman has visited several mosques and Muslim community groups in the UK,” the embassy said.

“His private visit to the East London Mosque and London Muslim Center was part of this effort to promote dialogue, discussion and debate between the United States and Muslims around the world. The ambassador toured the facility and had a private meeting with young members of the mosque.

“The East London Mosque and London Muslim Center have a large and diverse membership reflecting a wide range views. The ambassador’s visit offered an opportunity to share perspectives on the role of Islam in the US, discuss US foreign policy and explore areas of disagreement and common ground,” the embassy statement read.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal last week, Shiraz Maher, senior researcher at the International Center for the Study of Radicalism at King’s College London, said the mosque “is among Britain’s most extreme Islamic institutions.”

He continued: “Built with financial aid from Saudi Arabia, the sprawling facility is home to the London Muslim Center where incendiary preachers are regularly welcomed.”

Last year, the mosque hosted an event with Anwar al- Awlaki, a US and Yemeni citizen accused of being a major al-Qaida player and who allegedly has inspired Islamist terrorist attacks around the world, including 9/11, the Fort Hood attack and the attempt last year to blow up a Delta Airlines flight over the Atlantic.

“Awlaki’s terrorist credentials rival those of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al- Zawahiri. Two of the 9/11 terrorists as well as Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 US soldiers in Fort Hood last year, attended his sermons in Washington. From his new base in Yemen, Awlaki called Hasan a ‘hero’ and boasted of having directed the ‘underpants bomber,’ Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in his bid to blow up a Delta airlines flight last Christmas,” Mahar said in the Wall Street Journal.

Alexander Hitchens, a research fellow also at the International Center for the Study of Radicalism, said the ambassador’s visit gives legitimacy to extremism.

“The ambassador’s visit to the East London mosque, and any possible future relationship between the two, risks lending further legitimacy to an institute with multiple links to extremism.

The most notable being Anwar al-Awlaki’s recent address, via pre-recorded message, to a large audience of British Muslims.

“In future, it would be advisable for the US embassy to take more care with who they publicly engage with,” Hitchens said.

Robin Simcox, from the London-based think tank Center for Social Cohesion, said the mosque is “no friend of the US government.

“It consistently hosts extremist, anti-Western speakers – even Anwar al- Awlaki, a man that President Obama has authorized the CIA to assassinate.”

Awlaki is on the US’s “kill or capture” list.

At the mosque event which Awlaki spoke at last year, which was titled “The end of time: A new beginning,” flyers were distributed with a depiction of Manhattan skyline crumbling and the Statue of Liberty ablaze.

Speaking also was Khalid Yasin, who, according to Maher, described the beliefs of Jews and Christians as “filth.”

Maher also told the Journal that a trustee of the mosque, Azad Ali, supported the killing of British and US troops in Iraq.

A report published last year by the British government on the Pakistani Muslim community in the UK stated that the East London Mosque “is the key institution for the Bangladeshi wing of [South East Asian Islamist group] Jamaat-e Islami in the UK.

“Mr. Susman’s visit illustrates the blunders Western politicians often make by reaching out to the wrong Muslim dialogue partners,” Mahar said.

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