A Muslim cleric was allowed to tour the UK through Britain's largest Islamic group to preach jihad, it has claimed.

The Deobandi sect, which controls almost half of the UK's 1,600 mosques, is said to have allowed Masood Azhar to teach young Muslims that the Quran encouraged murder and urge them to undergo terror training in Pakistan.

Azhar, a former associate of Osama bin Laden who has links to al Qaida and runs a terrorist organisation in Pakistan, was allowed to tour 42 mosques during his month-long tour in 1993.

Shortly before his arrival in Britain he provided bin Laden with jihadi fighters to carry out terror attacks in Somalia.

His UK tour is reported to have acted as a recruitment drive and raised large amounts of money for his cause.

Among those at his sermons were Omar Saeed Sheikh, who went on to behead American journalist Daniel Pearl in Afghanistan, and Rashid Rauf, who helped organise the 2005 London bombings.

Hosted by the Deobandis, an apparently moderate movement that teaches an orthodox view of Islam, Azhar, then 25, preached in London, Birmingham, Lancashire and Yorkshire during his tour.

Details of the trip were recorded at the time by a British Deobandi scholar and published in a magazine in Pakistan, which has since been uncovered by the BBC and shared with The Times.

The claims bring into question arguments that mainstream Islam in the UK has had little to do with radicalisation and creating extremists.

According to the newspaper, Azhar promoted hatred for Christians, Hindus and Jews and glorified murders "for the sake of Allah".

At a Deobandi boarding school near Bury in Greater Manchester he taught children in a talk entitled "O my dear Prophet, do murders", that large parts of the Quran urged "murders for the sake of Allah".

During one seminar in London he told Muslims that "if seeking glory for the name of Allah is fundamentalism and terrorism, then we were fundamentalists and terrorists yesterday, we are fundamentalists and terrorists today and will be... tomorrow".

Among those who met Azhar - who is now in protective custody in Pakistan - in 1993 was Yusuf Motala, who founded the school in Bury. Asked why Azhar was allowed to teach violence, Mr Motala told The Times they "weren't able to save themselves from these terrorists".

The Deobandi movement was founded in India in the 19th century.

A Deobandi spokesman told the newspaper: "We strongly condemn the activities of Masood Azhar and do not agree with his views." A two-part documentary, The Deobandis, will air on BBC Radio 4 at 9am on Tuesday and on April 12.

Deobandi Scholars in the UK said it condemns "in the strongest terms all forms of hate speech, violence, radicalisation, and involvement in terrorism, whether home or abroad".

A statement on the Islam21C website said the sect's scholars "explicitly, categorically and strongly condemn, and have no links to, terrorist organisations", and "promote British values ... and teach that they are completely complimentary to Islamic values"