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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Omar Bakri Mohammed and the London bombers

Omar Bakri Mohammed and the London bombers

August 14, 2005

Radical cleric kept up inflammatory rhetoric despite becoming an outcast
By Sean O'Neill

OMAR BAKRI Mohammed has been feeling the pressure of political disapproval in Britain for several months — modifying his language in public while taking his extremist movement underground and continuing to preach jihad.

On television and in press interviews Sheikh Bakri Mohammed, 47, has claimed recently that he has restrained young British Muslims from mounting terrorist attacks in the UK.

But on the internet and at private meetings in parks and homes he has advocated terrorism, praised the 9/11 hijackers as the "Magnificent 19" and told his followers that Britain was a "land of war".

Last weekend a Sunday Times undercover reporter who infiltrated his Saviour Sect group said that Sheikh Bakri Mohammed had described the 7/7 suicide bombers as "the fantastic four". It was exactly the kind of outrageous and offensive remark that has characterised his 19-year career on the Islamist fringe.

For many years he was dismissed as a buffoon. But in the aftermath of September 11 it became clear that Sheikh Bakri Mohammed and other radical preachers had influenced small numbers of impressionable youths to travel to Afghanistan and Kashmir to wage jihad.

In 2003 Omar Sharif from Derby and Asif Hanif from Hounslow, West London, two of his followers, died in Tel Aviv after taking part in a Hamas suicide bombing of a seafront bar.

Omar Bakri Fostock, to give him his birth name, was born in the Syrian city of Aleppo in 1958 and from the age of five was immersed in strict religious schools. He is said to have trained as a printer and bookbinder but also claims to have attended at the Sharia (Islamic Law) Institute at Damascus University.

His autobiography, published as a foreword to several of his fundamentalist books, claims that he also studied at universities in Cairo and Beirut. Sheikh Bakri Mohammed also joined many Islamist movements including the Muslim Brotherhood, the oldest fundamentalist political group in the Arab world. But his career was characterised by falling out with those groups and setting up new movements with himself as the leader.

In 1985 he was one of a number of Islamist dissidents expelled from Saudi Arabia. He came to Britain where he claimed asylum and was granted indefinite leave to remain here because of the risk that he would face political persecution if deported back to Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Bakri Mohammed became leader of the first British branch of Hizb ut Tahrir (Islamic Liberation Party) and preached firebrand sermons — mostly on an anti-Israel theme — across Britain.

He targeted university campuses to win recruits, aping the tactics of revolutionary left-wing sects. The allegedly anti-Semitic literature distributed by the group attracted widespread concern and it was banned from many colleges.

It was not until the mid-1990s that many mosques began to realise that the guest speaker addressing many of their young people was such an extremist. He began to be expelled from many mosques.

In 1991 he was arrested and questioned for two days after suggesting that John Major, the Prime Minister, was a legitimate target for assassination.

He split with the international leaders of Hizb ut Tahrir in 1996 and set up al-Muhajiroun (the emigrants) in a technology business park in North London. He became known as the Tottenham Taliban. Sheikh Bakri Mohammed, who has a close relationship with the Saudi dissident Muhammad al-Massari, was among the first in the Islamist world to realise the value of the internet in spreading his message.

Al Muhajiroun developed branches around the world, notably in Pakistan, where its leaders claimed in 2001 to be recruiting hundreds of young British Muslims to fight against the US invasion of Afghanistan.

But as knowledge of his activities became more widespread, Sheikh Bakri Mohammed's constituency began to shrink. He became a pariah in the Muslim community and there was a growing clamour for legal action to be taken against him.

He has been the subject of a number of police inquiries and the Crown Prosecution has been studying a case against him for a number of months.

What he said

‘I declare we should ourselves join the global Islamic camp against the global crusade camp'

‘The banner has been risen (for the 7/7 bombers) for jihad inside the UK'

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