World: Muslims In The West -- Radical Believes Suicide Bombers Acted With Right Intentions (Part 3) By Kathleen Moore
Britain is still struggling to come to terms with this summer's bombings in London, which killed more than 50 people. The attacks were perpetrated by Muslim extremists. But three out of the four suicide bombers were born in Britain. That fact has focused renewed attention on Britain's 1.5-million strong Muslim community -- from the contented, to the disaffected, to the radical. Authorities in Britain now have expanded powers to deport foreigners who promote terrorism, and they have already barred one prominent radical cleric, Omar Mohammad Bakri, from returning to Britain. In the third and final part of our series, RFE/RLspeaks to an associate of Bakri, who describes the London bombings as a "martyrdom operation."
Prague, 2 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Nearly a decade ago, Irish nurse Terence Kelly went to work in Saudi Arabia.
The salary was tax free. But Kelly soon found bigger money in making alcohol -- a strictly forbidden activity in the kingdom.
He was caught and sent to jail, where an Afghan introduced him to Islam. Khalid Kelly, as he is now known, left prison a convert.
"It just filled in all the gaps, you know? It was like the answer to everything I'd every wondered about. There was even a Captain Ali there at the prison, and he gave me a Koran. And I'll always remember it because he wrapped it in a piece of newspaper, you know, because he didn't have any wrapping paper. And he was so happy for me. He was nearly crying, the man. He said, 'I'm so happy you've come to the truth. It will change your life.' And indeed it did," Kelly says.
Kelly was deported to London three years ago and soon began attending sermons by the radical preacher Omar Mohammad Bakri.
He joined Bakri's now disbanded group, Al-Muhajiroun, dismissed as fringe by mainstream Muslim groups.
One of its most notorious stunts came on the second anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks, when the group planned a conference to celebrate America's "comeuppance," and called the hijackers the "Magnificent 19."
It was, Kelly says, a ploy to draw attention to what he calls the causes of 9/11.
"We wanted to look at the support of the West for the illegal occupation of Palestine, the support for the Israelis. We wanted to look at the support of the West for all the apostate rulers in the Middle East," Kelly says.
Then came the July attacks in London, and comments by Bakri and some of his followers sparked an outcry.
Bakri said he wouldn't tell police if he knew an attack was being prepared. Another associate called the bombings martyrdom operations.
Does Kelly agree with that description?
"Yep, we believe that if those brothers died for the sake of God with the right intention, we believe they will get paradise. And we believe that the people that they killed will get hellfire. I've heard many Muslims saying that what happened on 7/7 was not allowed. But I'm afraid it was. It was absolutely allowed," Kelly says.
Today, one of the suspected London suicide bombers -- identified as Mohammad Sidique Khan -- appeared on a videotape shown on Al-Jazeera television. On the video, he says the London attacks were conducted to avenge "atrocities" committed against Muslims around the world by democratically elected governments in the West. And he says Western civilians who support these governments must then be held "directly responsible."
In comments made before that videotape surfaced, Kelly also called the bombings a direct consequence of British foreign policy. They happened because some believe the "covenant of security" that prevented Muslims in Britain from attacking the country no longer applies.
But what of the Islamic injunction against the killing of innocents?
"No, you see, if you are part of a country that re-elects a government that's already committing atrocities against Muslims, there's no way you can turn around and say that you're innocent then. The only way to say that you're innocent is to completely disassociate yourself from the government, even to be charged with treason, to come out in total condemnation of your own government, give back your passport and say, 'I just don't want this country,' and leave. That's the only way you can be safe," Kelly says.
Kelly says he is not "at war" with anyone and his group has never propagated violence. He says they are merely passing on a message and asking people to listen -- that the only way to stop more bomb attacks like the ones in London and Madrid is to pull troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Osama bin Laden sent his message to Europe 18 months ago. He offered them a treaty, a covenant, to have a treaty, and there'd be no more bombings in Europe. He sent this to people, and people laughed at it. People didn't even listen to it. And, indeed, they sent more troops. So when you have this sort of ignorant, arrogant attitude, the feeling of the Muslims there is, basically, you will only understand in Europe how they feel when you yourselves are suffering -- when your wives, your daughters, your husbands are laying dead in the street. And we've seen that on 7/7. And we as part of Al-Muhajiroun were warning about that for years. We were saying, 'Hold on for a second here. People of Europe, listen. Listen to what Sheikh Osama bin Laden is saying. Listen, because it's going to come here,'" Kelly says.
It's not just Kelly's views on the London bombings that put him on the fringe.
He says he hates alcohol and pornography because God says to hate them -- and adds in the same breath that he hates Jews and Christians for the same reason.
But doesn't the Koran teach tolerance of "People of the Book"? Yes, he counters -- but only Jews and Christians of the time, not nowadays.
Some might ask -- if he hates so much about Britain and the West, why does he continue to live there?
Kelly says he hopes to emigrate to somewhere in the Middle East.
These are worrying times in Britain, he says -- and he doesn't feel safe traveling on the subway or buses these days.
MIM:It is perversely ironic that an article about the value of propaganda for Al Qaeda appears in the Financial Times, a mainstream media of note and gives a forum to several of the leading radical Islamists in Britain with documented ties to Al Qaeda and related terrorist groups.
Propaganda 'now as vital as action' to al-Qaeda By Roger Blitz, Roula Khalaf and Stephen Fidler in London
Published: September 2 2005 19:08 | Last updated: September 2 2005 19:08
Al-Qaeda's intensifying propaganda war with the US and Europe has become as important to the movement as terrorist attacks on western cities and interests, according to analysts studying a videotape featuring one of the London suicide bombers.
The tape of the last testimony of Mohammad Sidique Khan, broadcast by al-Jazeera television on Thursday, also featured Zayman al-Zawahiri, the al-Qaeda second in command, claiming its campaign had shifted to "the enemies' land".
However, doubts remained about the extent of al-Qaeda's involvement in the July 7 attacks, which killed 52 people and the four suicide bombers. A US official said the Bush administration believed the tape was authentic, but that al-Qaeda was "happy to get the word out" that the network had inspired the bombings without necessarily being behind the attack.
Analysts and security officials focused on the signals being sent in the tape and its timing. Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, in London, said the aim was to exploit the worsening crisis in Iraq and to revive debate in the UK about British foreign policy.
"...The quality of the tape, with simultaneous translations in Arabic and English of the words of Khan and Mr Zawahiri, suggested an increasingly sophisticated propaganda operation.
"What is consistent is the attempt to influence propaganda, and al-Qaeda is winning that campaign, I am sorry to say," said Mr Tamimi.
Yassir al-Sirri, an Egyptian dissident based in London, said both the tape and its production marked a new stage in the al-Qaeda propaganda war. "Al-Qaeda believes the media war is now as important for them as the actions," he said.
Al-Qaeda's media arm, called Clouds Organisation, appeared to be behind the video production, said Saad al-Faguih, a Saudi dissident and head of the exiled Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia. "Al-Qaeda is trying to say that their media arm is also intact," he said.
Mr Zawahiri's comments suggested a marked increase in the rhetoric against Europe, Mr Faguih added, saying the London attacks were planned to be linked to the Madrid bombings in March 2004. "It is part of al-Qaeda's strategy in Europe to force Europe to separate itself from America." Mr Tamimi also believed the underlying message of the tape, linking the London attacks to Iraq, would strike a chord with Muslim opinion. "If you look at the argument you can hardly find a Muslim who disagrees with this sentiment, although most Muslims would disagree with the tactic."
Al-Qaeda's approach since the London bombings had been confusing, Mr Tamimi said. In particular, Osama bin Laden, who usually figures in al-Qaeda propaganda tapes, did not feature in either of the two tapes since July 7.