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He converted to Islam in 1986 and applied to attend the University of Madinah as was the practice of many new converts to Islam at that time. He completed his BSc in Usool-Ul-Deen and learned the Arabic language. After his graduation from the University, Abu Usamah went to teach in the UK before returning to the US in 1996 in order to pursue his first position of Imam in Orlando, Florida. He was an imam at a mosque in Philadelphia (he left in 2001 under a cloud of allegations of sexual misconduct), Cleveland, and Peoria before he moved to the UK, where he surfaced briefly in Keighley before moving to Birmingham to take up his place at Green Lane Mosque.
Abu Usamah has been accused of preaching messages of hate towards non-Muslims. On 14 January 2007, a documentary by Channel 4 entitled Undercover Mosque was aired attributing to him various comments, such as stating that Osama bin Laden was better than a "million George Bushes and a thousand Tony Blairs," or that non-Muslims were "pathological liars." Abu Usamah stated in defense that the documentary had quoted him out of context. Following the release of the documentary, nine people were arrested. The West Midlands Police investigated the allegations raised by the programme but found no evidence to press charges. Furthermore, the Crown Prosecution Service criticised Channel 4 for "totally distorting" what Abu Usamah and others had said. West Midlands Police have lodged a formal complaint with the regulator and asked the CPS to consider a prosecution against Channel 4 which was denied due to lack of sufficient evidence. Channel 4 have rejected these claims by the West Midlands Police and the CPS.Ofcom said it found no evidence that "Undercover Mosque" had misled its audience.
The Saltley Gate Peace group, an inter-faith action group based at the Saltley Methodist Church in Birmingham (which includes Muslims and non-Muslims), gave its "undiminished support" for Abu Usamah and Green Lane Mosque and made a press release prior to the airing of the Channel 4 documentary. The press release included the following statements:
- That Imam Abu Usaamah, one of the preachers featured in the documentary, is acknowledged by the a significant portion of his congregation and the wider interfaith community "to be a peaceful man and is known to promote peace to his congregation", and that he has denounced terrorism.
- That the Green Lane Mosque is not known to promote extremism and the founders and committee of the mosque have always distanced themselves from such extremism
- That the UK branch of Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith are based at the Green Lane mosque and Islamic. The statement explains that Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith is known loosely as 'Salafism', and that this school of thought does not promote extremism. However, it concedes that there may be a minority that feel otherwise. Nonetheless it states that those following the Salafi methodology strive to follow the earliest traditions so that their Islam is peaceful and pure.
Furthermore, Abu Usamah was known to have openly and consistently opposed terrorist and extreme takfiri thought from as early as the early 1990s to the extent that the extremist preacher Abdullah el-Faisal had called for the assassination of Abu Usamah.