| 7th January 2002 |
BBC Radio 4
London W1A 1AA
Re: Interview with Hassan Butt (al-Muhajiroun spokesman in Lahore, Pakistan) broadcast on 7th Jan 2002
We were shocked and surprised by your decision to broadcast the interview with Hassan Butt which we believe will only succeed in further demonising the mainstream British Muslim community which has no time for extremists like Mr Butt. We note that you did also interview Mr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui of the 'Muslim Parliament' but we believe this in no way justified the airtime given to Mr Butt.
As you are doubtless aware, Mr Butt has been making extravagant claims about his activities in Pakistan since October 2001 when the American-led bombing of Afghanistan first began. Mr Butt claimed to have sent 'hundreds' of British Muslims to Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. When prominent figures in the British Muslim community dismissed these figures and demanded he substantiate his claims, Mr Butt failed to do so. Indeed, after the fall of the Taliban, Mr Butt secretly returned to the UK in December 2001 and showed to what extent he despised this material world and was a dedicated 'jihadist' by trying to sell his story to The Mirror for a reputed £100,000.
The BBC as a public service broadcaster must really show more responsibility in the coverage it gives to extreme fringe groups like al-Muhajiroun because we have seen a massive rise in the reports of anti-Muslim incidents in the UK since Sept 11th.
Do you go out of your way to interview extremists from Jewish, Christian and Hindu communities? You will always find someone who has violent opinions but does that mean that ordinary members of those respective faith communities should be made to suffer because of it? I am disturbed at this pattern of 'underhand' attacks on the mainstream Muslims in the UK.
Mr Inayat Bunglawala
The Muslim Council of Britain
cc: Greg Dyke, Director General, BBC
UK 'terror target' claim dismissed
Mr Butt says the holy war against the West is not over
Downing Street and sceptical British Muslim groups have dismissed claims that Britons recruited for the Taleban will return to the UK and launch terror attacks.
Hassan Butt, 22, from Manchester, told the BBC's Today programme that many would return home to launch terrorist attacks that "strike at the heart" of the UK.
The Lahore-based activist, who claims to be a "spokesman" for Islamic fundamentalist group al-Muhajiroun, says he has recruited 200 British volunteers to fight for the ousted Afghan regime.
I do believe that they will take military action within Britain
The Metropolitan Police are investigating whether a prosecution can be launched against Mr Butt.
Mr Butt told the Radio 4 programme he would now personally encourage attacks on political and military targets in the UK.
But his claims to speak for al-Muhajiroun have already been denied by the organisation's leader, Tottenham-based cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed.
And both Downing Street and the Home Office said Mr Butt's claims should be treated with caution, while Muslim groups accused him of being a fantasist.
Speaking from Lahore, Mr Butt insisted the fall of the Taleban did not spell the end of the holy war against the West.
He said that although many British Muslims had been "martyred", others could be bringing the war home from Afghanistan.
"If they do return I do believe that they will take military action within Britain," he told the BBC.
"One thing I've always tried to stress is the point that the mujahideen that are coming in from Britain should strike at the heart of the enemy which is within its own country, within Britain.
Hassan Butt no longer represents al-Muhajiroun in Pakistan
Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed
"Those mujahideen that are coming from America should strike, again, at the heart of America and I have always been in favour of this."
The prime minister's official spokesman said there was "no evidence" to support Mr Butt's claim that hundreds of British citizens had joined the Taleban.
He added: "Attention seeking does take many different forms.
"We have to be slightly careful in giving too much credibility to claims like this."
It would be for the police to decide whether Mr Butt should be investigated under the Terrorism Act 2000, which makes it an offence for British citizens to incite acts of terror abroad or recruit people for terrorism training, he said.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the Met was working with the Crown Prosecution Service to examine the comments on the radio, to establish if any offences had been committed.
Mr Butt said British Muslims would be encouraged to attack "British military and government institutes as well as British military and government individuals".
Asked if they would be helped by the al-Qaeda terrorist network, Mr Butt claimed that any Muslim - including many in the UK - would be willing to offer assistance.
But Mr Bakri Mohammed, a spokesman for the al-Muhajiroun group, said Mr Butt was no longer linked to the organisation.
"Hassan Butt no longer represents al-Muhajiroun in Pakistan," he told BBC Radio 4's World at One.
"We are an ideological, political party. We do not recruit people to go and fight on behalf of anybody or to indulge in any military activities."
Mr Bakri Mohammed, a radical Muslim cleric based in Tottenham, north London, added: "He no longer even exists in our offices in Lahore.
"He himself now, I think personally, functions as an individual or has his own organisation."
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the self-styled Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, said the interview with Mr Butt was "very worrying and frightening", although he thought the claims were "more fantasy than realism".
Citing his return to Britain last month for three weeks, Mr Butt claimed none of the pro-Taleban volunteers were worried about being caught.
He said the method he used to enter the country was "irrelevant" but there were many "secret" routes into Britain for use by Muslims.
Shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin said Mr Butt's comments about a domestic terrorist threat could be "largely fantasising" but his claimed three week stay in the UK raised questions about Britain's intelligence capabilities.
The shadow home secretary added that he viewed Mr Butt's remarks as "traitorous".
I want to be a martyr says activist
|BUTT: He says he envies the Madrid bombers |
A MANCHESTER Muslim who publicly declared his support for the Madrid terrorists and claims he wants to be a "martyr" is being investigated by police today.
Hassan Butt, 24, featured in a TV programme last night which alleged that British Muslims are preparing to take up arms despite the efforts of police and security forces.
Butt, who has been arrested twice under the Terrorism Act, said he "envies" the Madrid bombers and that he too would like to become a martyr.
He said: "It is my hope that by the age of 40 I am a martyr - and if I hadn't I would probably be a bit dejected in not being among the martyrs of Islam." Asked if he was prepared to follow other British Muslims to a terror training camp, he said he would be "honoured" and that he would have his mother's support.
Today Chief Supt Tony Kane said: "Greater Manchester Police will be viewing last night's programme to determine what, if any, offences have been committed. The experience of GMP in dealing with our Muslim communities is that the vast majority of British Muslims are appalled by terrorist atrocities.
"Furthermore, they believe that Islam categorically forbids any such violence which causes death and mayhem."
The programme, Real Story with Fiona Bruce, claimed many young men, like Butt, are influenced by London-based Omar Bakri, leader of the controversial al Muhajiroun group.
The programme claimed Bakri has recently defended the Madrid bombers and told young British Muslims, some as young as ten, that they must "kill and be killed" for Islam, that "suicide bombers would be guaranteed a place in paradise", and even that they should consider "flying a plane into 10 Downing Street".
And, referring to the continued presence of British, Spanish and US forces in Iraq, it said Bakri told an East London audience: "What happened in Madrid is all revenge. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life. Anybody (that) commits a crime should be punished - that's exactly what happened in relation to Spain.
"Objective number one - break the psychology of the occupier by hitting back in their homeland. To be worried about their own wives and loved ones. Prepare as much as you can from strength and from force to terrorise - because terrorism it is part of Islam." At another British meeting Bakri was said to be recorded saying: "Martyrdom is what you want. Do the effort. Clear your intention. Go forward. Never look backwards. Make sure you have nothing left behind you to think about or cry for and fight in the name of Allah.
"So what is self sacrifice operation? It's got to be the following scenario. Somebody he fly aeroplane and he decide to land the aeroplane over 10 Downing Street, for example, or over the White House. This is a form of self-sacrifice operation."
A few months after the September 11 atrocities Butt claimed to have recruited a large number of British Muslims to fight in Afghanistan for the Taliban. He also said the mujahideen should "strike within Britain"..
Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council for Britain, said: "Both these men are known for their lunatic opinions and are utterly repudiated by the Muslim community. If Hassan Butt wants to be a martyr you wonder why he is living in Manchester and not in a war zone."