This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/66
Husband and friend videotaped in Gaza laughing and joking before suicide attack
May 1, 2004
See article below for "afterlife" plans:
Bomber's wife 'is linked to radicals'
By Sean O'Neill
The Times of London April 29, 2004
THE wife of a British Muslim suicide bomber had links with the extremist cleric who leads the hardline Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, the Old Bailey was told yesterday.
Tahira Tabassum, whose husband Omar Sharif took part in a Hamas attack on a bar in Tel Aviv a year ago, had written the mobile phone number of Omar Bakri Mohammad at the end of notes that she made on a lecture about suicide bombings.
The talk had been entitled: "What the West refer to as suicide bombings, which we refer to as Martyrdom Operations".
Jonathan Laidlaw, for the prosecution, said that the document was of "the utmost importance" in its inference that Ms Tabassum, 28, knew that her husband was embarking on a suicide mission when he left their home in Derby last April.
Mr Laidlaw said that the association with al-Muhajiroun was also significant because its leaders had "publicly declared their support for the use of suicide bombings in Israel".
Ms Tabassum and her husband's brother, Zahid Sharif, 37, and sister, Parveen Sharif, 36, are charged with failing to disclose information that could have prevented an act of terrorism.
They received an e-mail from Sharif a week before the bombing which the Crown says was a "farewell message".
Ms Sharif, a supply teacher, is charged with inciting an act of terrorism by sending a message back to her brother urging him not to show weakness or emotion. "There is no goodbyes — just a lapse of time," she wrote. "Stay focused."
Less than a week after that e-mail was sent, Sharif, a father of three children, and Asif Hanif, 21, from Hounslow, West London, attacked the bar with bomb vests taped to their bodies. Hanif's device exploded but Sharif's failed to detonate and he ran off. His body was found in the sea.
The trial continues.
|COURT HEARS OF AFTERLIFE PLANS |
The trial at the Old Bailey was told about the message, sent by Omar from Pakistan in the autumn of 2001 to his wife, Tahira Tabassum (28), of Northumberland Street, Derby.
Omar attempted to blow up a bar in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 30 last year.
His body was found washed up on a beach 12 days later.
His wife Tabassum, brother Zahid Hussain Sharif (37), of Upper Dale Road and sister Parveen Sharif (36), of Breedon Hill Road, all in Derby, are charged with failing to disclose information about acts of terrorism.
Parveen is also charged with inciting an act of terrorism. All three deny the charges.
Michael Mansfield QC, defence counsel for Tabassum, read the three-year-old letter to the court, suggesting the type of language used was common between Omar and his wife.
The letter urged Tabassum to remain "strong in my absence" and also made references to paradise.
Sharif wrote: "We will definitely, inshallah, meet soon, if not in this world then in the next." Inshallah is the Arabic term for 'God willing'.
The prosecution allege that an e-mail written by Sharif to Tabassum on April 22 last year indicates that she had prior knowledge of his bombing mission.
In that message, Sharif wrote: "We did not spend a long time together in this world, but I hope through Allah's mercy and your patience we can spend an eternity together."
Mr Mansfield said Tabassumhad been planning to join her husband in the Middle East and had made preparations for healthcare and obtaining passports.
He said: "If she knew or believed that Omar had offered himself as a terrorist and was not likely to return, what was she doing wasting her time on that?"
Mr Mansfield suggested that Omar had allowed his wife to believe joining him was still the plan, even though he had probably decided to engage in some kind of martyrdom operation. Mr Mansfield said: "He did not have the courage to tell her he was going to risk his life."
Taking the witness stand for the first time yesterday, Tabassum said how in 2000, when living in Hounslow, she and her husband had experienced marital problems. Sharif said he was divorcing her under Islamic law by reciting the word 'Talaq' three times.
But after consulting a Sharia court - which deals with Islamic law - the couple found that the word has to be recited on three separate days and therefore their marriage was not terminated.
Tabassum admitted attending meetings for the Islamic groups Hizb ut Tahrir while in London and all-female Al Muhajiroun gatherings in Normanton.
The trial continues.
Suicide bombing leaflets' UK link
Martin Bright, home affairs editor
Sunday May 4, 2003
Leaflets published in the Midlands urging Muslims to become suicide bombers have been found in Israel's occupied territories. The discovery fuels fears that Britain has become a haven for Islamic extremists.
Now Israeli authorities have demanded that Britain launch an immediate investigation into al-Sunnah, the organisation based at Birmingham's Centre for Islamic Studies, which published the leaflets.
One leaflet published just before the outbreak of war against Saddam Hussein urges Muslims to become martyrs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. Supporters are asked to send donations to a NatWest bank account at its Digbeth branch in Birmingham.
The al-Sunnah group is known in radical Muslim circles for its hard-core stance over the occupation of Palestine and the involvement of Western governments in the support of Israel. However, the organisation has had a generally low profile in Britain - until now.
Al-Sunnah publishes books, leaflets and a monthly magazine that is distributed across the Muslim world including the West Bank and Gaza strip.
One leaflet published just before the war in Iraq said: 'When this sudden explosion of American-Zionist violence is aiming to eradicate a nation's existence, eliminating its vitality and sites of resistance, the only way to protect this nation is through acts of martyrdom.'
The Centre for Islamic Studies refused to comment.
Israeli police claim that last week's bomb attack in an Irish bar in Tel Aviv, which killed three people and injured 50, was carried out by two Britons: Asif Mohammed Hanif, 21, from Hounslow and Omar Khan Sharif, 27, from Derby.
Police in Britain arrested six people this weekend in connection with the attack. The three men and three women are being held in London. They are thought to be members of Sharif's family. The Derby man is on the run in Israel after failing to detonate his explosives.
Peace activists from the International Solidarity Movement came under renewed pressure to leave the occupied territories yesterday after allegations that the British suicide bombers had attended an ISM memorial on Friday, 25 April, in honour of Rachel Corrie, an activist killed by Israeli forces. ISM last night said activists Hanif and Sharif appeared to be 'typical Brits'.
'They were in our apartment for 15 minutes, then spent 10 minutes at the ceremony,' said 20-year-old American ISM activist Lora Gordon. 'They had absolutely nothing to do with us and we had never met them before. We were just happy to have people come to commemorate Rachel. I was utterly shocked when I heard what had happened in Tel Aviv. We didn't hear about the suicide bombing until the night after it had happened.'
Yesterday US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that Syria had begun closing the offices of militant groups in Damascus, where it is thought the two British suicide bombers may have been recruited.
A State Department official said the terrorist organisations Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had been outlawed after meetings with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
More on Israel and the Middle East
Special report: Israel & the Middle East
Britain's suicide bomber
04.05.2003: UK suicide leaflets fuel bomb fears
04.05.2003: Focus: Making of a martyr
04.05.2003: Nick Cohen: 'A kind, really nice boy'
MIM Note : One of the writers of this article, Fareena Alam was named ' the face of angry Muslims in the UK', is the editor of Q-News, which is a glossy publication pretending to be a voice of Muslim moderation in Britain.
Three days after 9/11 at an open meeting organised by the BBC in London, Alam brought the former U.S. ambassador to tears for her virulent tirade against America. The BBC received more then 2,000 complaints and the head of the company issued an unprecedented public apology.
Alam doesn't think the BBC "should have apologised" while indicating that she deserved an apology for being criticised as a Muslim for her display of anti Americanism (!) .Alam also whined that she had been unfairly victimised because she had "dark skin", and went on to mock the failure of the U.S. intelligence services in preventing the 9/11 attacks.
"Fareena Alam, 22, is a news editor of Q News, Britain's leading Muslim magazine. (www.q-news.com) She spoke from the audience on the now-notorious live Question Time debate on the night of September 13. BBC director general Greg Dyke publicly apologised the next week after receiving over 2,000 complaints from viewers over the expression of "anti-US sentiment."
I told them one of the reasons the world despises America is because it sees Israel as a terrorist and America as one who harbours Israel as a terrorist. The former American ambassador on the panel, Phil Lader, said he couldn't believe I was talking about this two days after the attack on the World Trade Centre. "
I don't think the BBC should have apologised. It is stifling good, balanced debate, which is what we need at the moment, not rhetoric - that is dangerous".
I think that the tabloids put my picture on their pages, one with the caption ‘Angry Middle-Eastern woman'. It seems I have been made a symbol of anti-Americanism, which is totally inaccurate.
It it strange that America refers to the West as the civilised world, the free world, implying that the rest of the world is not. "I worry that the US public isn't seeing what it needs to see. CNN is not giving the American people the whole story. The events in New York were a big insult to the US government. It is meant to have the best intelligence organisation in the world, but it obviously isn't that intelligent." -
Making of a martyr
From pacifism to jihad
Martin Bright and Fareena Alam - The Observer - 04-May-03
As the drizzle descended on Hounslow mosque last Friday, it was not hard to see why Asif Mohammed Hanif might have wanted to spend the summer in the Middle East. It's a little more difficult to explain why this quiet 21-year-old suburban West Londoner decided to turn a holiday to study Arabic in Damascus into a suicide mission to Tel Aviv that would leave four people dead, himself included, and dozens injured.
As the 2,000-strong congregation made its way home through the rain last week, those who knew Hanif were still struggling to fit the middle-class, learned and spiritual Muslim they knew to the picture of the Islamic martyr that was emerging from Israel - a 'shaheed' prepared to kill and be killed for the cause.
Hounslow mosque has a reputation as a moderate institution influenced by a deeply mystical form Islam known as Sufism, based on meditation and prayer. Followers of the radical Al-Muhajiroun group, which has claimed Hanif as one of its own, were expelled from the mosque seven years ago.
Many close to Hanif still believe his identity may have been stolen, so out of character does it seem for this gentle six-foot giant known as 'the teddy bear' to have committed an act of violence.
His close friend Shazad Gill told The Observer: 'He was a nice polite guy, very anti-violence. He had everything to look forward to and wanted to be a teacher. I still think it is possible his passport was stolen.'
But if that is the case, then where is he? Why has he not contacted his friends or family to say he is safe? Yet if Hanif did carry out the bombing, what happened in Damascus to turn him from a man of peace into a holy warrior?
The Observer has discovered Hanif was an active member of the 'LightStudy', an international Sufi Muslim group with its British base at Hounslow mosque. The Hanifs' house in Lela Avenue, Hounslow was often used to hold gatherings of the group because it was close to the mosque.
The group is led by the Syrian cleric Sheikh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, whose philosophy is directly opposed to al-Qaeda. After 11 September, the US arm of the organisation issued a statement saying that followers should deliver flowers to neighbours and a letter of consolation saying that as Muslims they were appalled by that suicide hijackings.
Rifat Sheikh, the British 'Amir' of LightStudy who knew Hanif well, said he had travelled to Syria in search of his Islamic heritage so he could pass on his knowledge to young people in England. He aimed to reach the highest level of Koranic scholarship as a 'hafiz', one who has memorised the Koran. 'Every time Asif returned from Syria, the softer and gentler he seemed ... as if he was undergoing genuine spiritual change.' He would hear of suicide bombings and say, "God forgive us, this is not the way of our tradition." He openly condemned it.'
The teachers of LightStudy have told The Observer they are devastated by the news. Hanif was a well known and popular member of the group and they are finding it difficult to believe he would go against everything he has been taught. However, one member said: 'The teachers cannot control people, only guide them and forbid what is wrong.'
The portrait is consistent with the impressions of Hanif's neighbours. Mohammed Hashmi, a former imam at Hounslow mosque, who lives opposite the Hanif family home said he would often disappear abroad for months at time: 'I found him quiet and reserved. He was very interested in education and spent a lot of time in Syria learning Arabic. When I saw the picture in the paper I couldn't believe a person like this would be able to do such a thing.'
Sixteen-year-old Amina, a family friend of the devout Hanifs, said: 'He was very nice and friendly. He and his family were really religious and his sister wore the hijab [headscarf].' But she added that he wasn't 'sly' like some of the more extremist groups who preyed on young Muslims. He was not known to hang around with extremists such as the al-Muhajiroun group, whom some have connected him with since the bombing.
'Some people hand out leaflets saying how Israelis rape Palestinian women and how they want to bring down the Jews,' said Amina. 'But he was never with those people.'
Neither Hanif, nor his alleged co-conspirator, 26-year-old Omar Khan Sharif from Derby, fit the conventional portrait of the dispossessed Muslim extremist. Neither was known to the police or the intelligence services for their political activity. Sharif was a former public schoolboy who attended Repton prep school and went to university in London; Hanif was remembered as an able student at Cranford Community School in Hounslow, although his religious devotions took him away from the traditional academic path.
Reports that Hanif was seen in Al-Muhajiroun's London offices or the radical Finsbury Park mosque are questioned by friends, who say he has been out of contact in Damascus for several months.
The 'road to Damascus' for Sharif, who escaped the scene of the suicide attack, seems to have begun when he left Derby to study information technology in London. When he returned to Derby in 1999, he had rejected Western dress, grown a beard and started to live the life of a devout Muslim. The leader of al-Muhajiroun, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, said Sharif recently attended a course at his Sharia Islamic law school and spoke Arabic with a Syrian accent.
Investigators now believe Damascus provides the key to what happened to the two young men. One devout Muslim who had recently studied in Damascus said that Syria had become a magnet for young British Muslims wanting to improve their Arabic. It was possible to come into contact with every shade of Islamic thought in the capital of the early Islamic world.
Many go to Damascus seeking a spiritual experience. One studying there said: 'They are known as "spiritual refugees", escaping from the soul-less wastelands of modernity. Some of them go native - they don't come back.'
Imran Khan, a Birmingham-based writer and commentator on radical Islam, added: 'Anything can happen in Damascus. People who travel there are open to all kinds of influences. That includes spiritual ideas, but it is also possible that these men came into contact with more radical groups, such as Hamas, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and even Hezbollah.'
He said it was quite possible that the atmosphere in Damascus could have radicalised Hanif and Sharif: 'Everyone in Syria is against the war in Iraq and passionate about the issue of Israel. It is also very close to Palestine. That crescendo builds up, you are on your own and think you have to do something.'
The journey of these two young Britons will have deep consequences for the region. If they were recruited in Damascus, this will further fuel claims that Syria is a sponsor of terrorism and lead to renewed pressure on President Assad to expel Palestinian groups from the capital.
They may have passed through Gaza on British passports, which do not need visas for travel to Israel. The Observer has discovered that the two young Britons did pass through the offices of the International Solidarity Movement, the peace campaigners Israel is now almost certain to expel from the country.
In Britain, the police have been criticised for overplaying the risk of a suicide bombing taking place here. Metropolitan Police Assistant Deputy Commissioner Barbara Wilding said last week their concern had been justified.
'We know they have the stated intent to hit British targets and the capability. We have consistently said it is not a case of if, but when. Where does this take us? It just proves we were right to urge people not to be complacent over this issue.'
Palestine is the common thread that links the Muslim youth of Hounslow and the fanatics of Damascus. 'You cannot underestimate the importance of Palestine to every Muslim. It is present in the hearts of every believer,' said Inayat Bangalawala of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Outside Hounslow mosque, the subject was never far from worshippers' thoughts. 'If he's blown himself up, then it must be serious,' said Amina, the teenager who remembered Hanif as a gentle giant. Her friend 'Abz', studying for his A-levels at the school next door to the mosque, said he feared Hanif's actions would make him an icon for radicals: 'It makes me feel sick and it's embarrassing that he comes from here. But for some he could become a hero.'
Even the chairman of trustees of the mosque, Suleiman Chachia, said the Israel-Palestine situation was an issue that was repeatedly raised by young Muslims he encountered.
'Islam does not preach that you take a life: your own or someone else's. I don't see anything heroic about this act. But people are very much concerned about Palestine. We see the killings on television and to us a Palestinian death and an Israeli death is the same. But why are the United Nations resolutions not applied to Israel? This is a burning issue that has to be settled. Otherwise there will be other young men like this. What I know about Asif Hanif is that his nature was not aggressive. He was a 21-year-old with everything going for him.'
Chachia may yet find his answer among some of the more radical elements that still attend the mosque, despite the expulsion of al-Muhajiroun.
One young Islamist, who refused to give his name, had travelled from Hertfordshire to attend Friday prayers. He told The Observer that martyrdom was a Muslim duty: 'Any Muslim who denies it has left Islam. Palestine, Kashmir, Chechyna, these are all struggles where it is justified to become a "shaheed". This is a clash of civilisations.'
If this is not a simple case of mistaken identity, then Asif Hanif was somehow persuaded to abandon the path of peace and martyr himself for the Palestinian cause. If someone of his spiritual background can be converted on the road to Damascus, how many more British Muslims might be persuaded to do the same?
How the opposing Muslim groups reacted to the 11 September attacks
The LightStudy Group
Zaid Shakir: 'We should choose a day. On that day every Muslim family will buy 14 flowers along with 14 cards with a message explaining that we are their Muslim neighbours and we wish to extend to them a small expression of condolence. We should personally deliver them to our neighbours.'
Anjem Choudary: 'The people of America deserved 11 September. Osama bin Laden is a hero to people in the UK. If support for al-Qaeda wasn't proscribed and people were free to air their views, many more would voice their support. Here at al-Muhajiroun we fear only God and are free to speak our view. Osama bin Laden is a hero and should be loved.'
'A kind, really nice boy'
What drives Western Muslim adolescents into the arms of fundamentalism and deliberate death?
Nick Cohen - The Observer - 04-May-03 -
With the IRA, it was relatively easy. If young so-and-so was the son of old so-and-so of the Belfast Battalion, the security services would know it was worth taking a look at him. Violent republicanism passed down the generations. The death of volunteers wasn't a part of the IRA's strategy - it was as careful with its members lives as it was careless of the lives of others.
If he blew himself up, it would be an accident, but an understandable accident. His friends wouldn't be stunned. They wouldn't say, as Hamida Akhtar, a friend of Omar Sharif's mother, said last week: 'They were always a very nice, quiet family and very Westernised, not fundamentalist. The girls wore skirts and tights and they all spoke English at home.'
Sharif's father was a successful businessman. His kebab shop, launderette and amusement arcade in Derby earned him the money to give his son a good start at a prep school. If, by a fluke, an MI5 officer had met the boy, he might have predicted many futures. He wouldn't have predicted that Sharif would be a target for the Israeli police as they tried to solve a suicide bombing in a Tel Aviv bar.
The British police said on Friday that Sharif wasn't on their books. They hadn't marked him down as a suspect. Nor did they know anything about Asif Hanif, his alleged co-conspirator. Hanif did kill himself and three innocent bystanders at the bar. The Hanifs lived in west London and were more religious than the Sharifs. But then, friends of Hanif said last week that his teenage religious passion was for Sufism. If this is true, it's incredible. Sufi mysticism is about as far away as you can get in Islam from the doctrines of Osama bin Laden.
To hear that someone who was once Sufi has turned himself into a human bomb is like hearing that a former Anglican nun has bombed an abortion clinic. People who thought they knew Hanif were flabbergasted by the fate he had brought on himself and strangers. Kevin Prunty, his former head teacher, said the news was a 'complete shock which is extremely hard to contemplate'.
The shock is becoming commonplace as terrorist tourism grows. No one who knew Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, when he was young could have imagined his subsequent career. He had no connection with religious extremism. He wasn't even Muslim until he converted in prison. After release, he ended up at Abu Hamza's Finsbury Park's mosque, moped about and then joined a trans-atlantic flight with a sophisticated bomb hidden in his boot.
It's too early to be sure of all the details of Sharif's and Hanif's stories. But their friends' testimony chimes with the memoir Abd Samad Moussaoui has written about his brother, Zacarias Moussaoui, who is accused by the United States of being the 'twentieth hijacker' in the 11 September bombings. The book is written in a spirit of bitter astonishment. The Moussaoui family were Moroccan immigrants to France who wanted to assimilate. The mother didn't teach the children Arabic or take them to a mosque. The brother remembered Zacarias as 'an ideal younger brother. He was smart, clever and kind, a really nice boy'.
There were plenty of teenage miseries. The father wasn't around and Zacarias didn't get on with his mother. He had a French girlfriend from a high-bourgeois family and local racists beat him up for going out with a white girl. There were other instances of racism, real and imagined, but as Abd Samad Moussaoui says: 'Other people have childhoods and adolescences that are worse than ours. How come someone so open, so communicative and warm, so involved in working towards his degrees, let himself be swallowed up by such scum?'
In all cases, friends remember the change brought by the embrace of a suicidal faith which gave life and death purpose. Sharif went to London, where he ended up being influenced by Hamza's Finsbury Park mosque and the al-Muhajiroun group. When he returned, he was a changed man. He dressed in long robes and wore a full beard.
Zacarias Moussaoui moved from Narbonne to study in London and, inevitably, found his way to Finsbury Park. When he came back, his brother was 'aghast' at the transformation. On one occasion, his sister was about to head for the shops in a short-sleeved dress. Zacarias screamed: 'You're not to go out looking like a whore!' then burst into tears. He told Abd Samad Moussaoui's wife, Fouzia, there was no point in women studying. Later, when the three of them were watching a TV film in which a wife was hit by her husband, Zacarias muttered: 'Serves her right. That's what women need.'
The fact that Sharif and Hanif went to Israel provides a superficial rationality. Radical Islamists who deplore the atrocities of 11 September believe that suicide attacks on Israelis are fine and that Hanif is heading to heaven. The Palestinian cause is the Muslim Spanish Civil War, a struggle which inspires the Islamic world. In Palestine, the main force of suicide bombers isn't composed of foreign volunteers, but Palestinians from Hamas and the other Islamic groups. They are fighting against Israeli occupation for comprehensible motives.
But reason breaks down when you wonder why Hamas doesn't behave like a conventional guerrilla army. Why suicide bombing? Why the indiscriminate targeting of civilians? When Hanif went to the Tel Aviv bar, he must have assumed he would have killed Jews, and their deaths would have made him happy. But he might just as easily have killed Palestinians or tourists.
In his recently published book, Terror and Liberalism, Paul Berman says that there should not be too great a surprise in the US and Europe at cults of death. Nazism and communism were ideologies whose programmes were unhinged but which, none the less, persuaded millions to kill and be killed. European history is instructive because the 'clash of civilisations' between the West and Islam is nowhere near as clear as bigots on both sides of the divide make out. 'They' are 'us' and 'we' are 'them'.
The clash of civilisations is inside people as well as between them. Osama bin Laden was as Westernised as Omar Sharif, Asif Hanif and Zacarias Moussaoui. All of them, all of us, are in a Salman Rushdie world of multiple identities, although bin Laden probably wouldn't thank you for explaining this to him.
Four conclusions follow. The first is that a solution to the Palestine question based on enforcing UN resolutions, not some aimless 'road map', is a matter of urgency as well as of morality and justice. The second is that liberal Westerners should accept that Hamas will no more be happy with the return of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem than the Israeli Right. Both are irrational movements which dream of ethnically cleansing the other.
Berman follows in a tradition of writers who have tried to get earnest liberals to accept that rational explanation can only go so far. There is a moment when they have to realise that once a religion or ideology takes hold, it has a logic and life of its own. Did the injury to Germany brought by the Treaty of Versailles explain Hitler? Does the presence of US bases in Saudi Arabia or Israeli colonies in Gaza explain bin Laden?
Acceptance of the power of murderous ideology takes us to our third point - that all ideas matter, however deranged. It isn't always wise to dismiss Abu Hamza and the members of al-Muhajiroun as braggarts or clowns.
Forty yearas ago, historian Norman Cohn anticipated Berman when he looked back on the horrors of the first half of the twentieth century and wrote: 'It is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people, who thereupon take leave of sanity and responsibility.'
The final conclusion is that the security services might keep an eye on families after all. Abd Samad Moussaoui said that the men from al-Qaeda who had ruined his brother's life looked for 'young people who have become estranged from their families, the strong moral anchors that are their father, mother, brothers and sisters, and even friends'.
Beware adolescents panting for an answer to their angst. Such boys are dangerous.
Community Security Trust and Director of the Defence and Group Relations Division of the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The revelation that Asif Hanif, the terrorist who blew himself up in Tel Aviv on 29 April, and his accomplice and would-be bomber, Omar Khan Sharif, were British, should have come as no revelation. Nor should it have come as a surprise that they had links with Al-Muhajiroun (AM – The Emigrants).
What was surprising, and perhaps unforgivable, was that their "religious" and ideological descent into attempted mass murder could not have been adequately monitored by either the British or Israeli security services and law enforcement agencies. Information provided by the police at the initial court hearing at Bow Street Magistrates Court on 9 May clearly indicated that Sharif's family knew what he was up to, if not actually complicit in his terrorism. The family are now remanded to the Central Criminal Court, charged with failing to disclose information that could have prevented a terrorist attack, under section 38 of the amended Terrorism Act 2000. Sharif's sister, Parveen Sharif, also faces the more serious charge of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring acts of terrorism overseas under section 62 of the Act which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment on conviction1.
According to the judge at the court hearing on 9 May, the evidence against the three largely relies on information from emails, but it is a reasonable assumption in the circumstances that their foreknowledge and assistance went beyond this.
People who are recruited by AM are taught by the organisation that Israel, the Jews and the West are evil and that it is their Muslim duty to fight them. This is not to state that AM is itself a terrorist organisation. It is not, at least in Britain, but it does serve as an important radicalising agent in the process of turning young British Muslims against Britain and into militant Islamists, and serves as a portal through which some of them have been encouraged to pass on their way to becoming terrorists.
Articles in the British press in recent years have referred to the recruitment of young men by AM whose families fear they will become terrorists. In one instance the relatives of a student from Crawley, Sussex, went to Pakistan to search terrorist training camps for Omar Kyam, who had left his home to travel to Pakistan to train as a terrorist. Mr Kyam's uncle stated "he and boys like him are being given a rifle and told martyrdom is a good thing and sent on a suicide mission to places like Kashmir…The men responsible for sending them don't care what happens to these boys. Many families who have lost sons are afraid to speak out because they worry about reprisals against them"2.
AM was founded in the UK on 16 February 1996 by Omar Bakri Mohammed (Bakri), formerly al Fostock. He was born in 1958 in Aleppo Syria, studied at Cairo's al-Azhar University, then lived in Saudi Arabia until his expulsion in 1986 when he came to Britain. During this time in the Middle East he claims to have been active in various groups including the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir (HUT – the Islamic Liberation Party). Indeed Bakri founded HUT's British branch, with Farid Kasim, a fellow Syrian, and the two rapidly gained a reputation as the most vocal, visible and active Islamist organisers in the UK.
HUT operated mainly on university campuses but also within the Muslim community where its members repeatedly clashed with longer established, and more moderate, bodies.
In 1996 Bakri split from HUT to start AM, and proclaimed himself its spiritual leader. In addition he established himself as a judge of the self-styled British Court of Shariah, which advocates the dominance of Islamic law. Bakri is also the founder of the publishing house al-Khilafah Publications.
AM essentially follows the ideology of HUT, which was founded by Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabahani, an Islamic court judge in the former east Jerusalem in 1953. Nabahani remained leader until he died in 1977 and was then succeeded by Abdul-Qadeem Zallum, who was ousted in 1997 by Mohamed Nafi Abdul-Karim Salih. He in turn was succeeded by Bakr Salem-Khawaldah.
HUT is an international Islamist movement dedicated to the creation of a united Khilafah (Islamic state) throughout what it deems to be Muslim lands. In the Khilafah the Ummah (Muslim community) is led by a Caliph (appointed leader) who rules the state by the rules of Islam (Shariah). The size of the state is limitless and negates the need for national boundaries; anyone can live in such a state, as long as they abide by Islamic law. Where it is deemed necessary the Khilafah will be established by Jihad (holy war), which HUT sees as a physical war to be fought against the Kufr (non-believers)3.
HUT is opposed to all existing Arab and Muslim regimes and it is banned in most Middle Eastern countries, where it has a history of involvement in dissident activity.
In 1968 HUT attempted a coup d'etat in Jordan and Syria, both of which failed, as did an attempted putsch in Egypt in 1974, said to have been carried out by a disgruntled Palestinian terrorist who had joined HUT. Another sympathiser is thought to have been a member of the group who assassinated President Sadat of Egypt in 1981. Attempted coups have also been made in Iraq and Tunisia, where in 1988 over forty members were tried in secret by a military court. In 1994 ten members of HUT were convicted of plotting to assassinate King Hussein of Jordan, and though ten were sentenced to death, eight of these sentences were subsequently overturned due to lack of evidence by the Appeal Court. The other two accused were tried in absentia4.
HUT has also established itself in central asia, where it has declared a Jihad, and where it seeks to reunite the central asian republics. It is currently particularly prominent as an opposition party in Uzbekistan. According to Uzbek officials HUT was introduced into the country in 1995 by a Jordanian named Sala Huddin. As the movement began setting up its first cells in Tashkent and the Fergana Valley, and spread throughout Uzbekistan and onto Tajikistan and Kyrgystan, government crackdowns began. HUT has claimed more than 60,000 supporters in Tashkent and tens of thousands in other cities. This claim may be supported by the number of arrests of HUT members in all three countries between 1999 and 2001.
It has also been alleged that HUT were responsible for the assassination of Muhammed Amin Yakan, a leading Muslim cleric, in Aleppo Syria in December 1999. Yakan had been mediating between the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood which at that time was banned in Syria.
Members of HUT, including three British members, were recently put on trial in Egypt and charged with seeking the overthrow of the Egyptian government. In a press interview Bakri claimed to have recruited them to HUT5.
HUT is rigidly opposed to the existence of the state of Israel, and draws no distinction between Israel and Jews in its rhetoric. It is also opposed to the Middle East process, and has demonstrated against the Arab participants that have been involved in the process, as well as against Israel. In addition to this, HUT is anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh, homophobic, anti-feminist, anti-democratic and anti-western.
Following the split between the two organisations AM quickly assumed HUT's active role in recruiting in universities in colleges and through mosques, and in talking to the media, thereby becoming Britain's best-known extremist Islamist group. After the split HUT returned to a more covert style of operation, although it continues to send out communiqu?s to the press. However HUT and AM retain a near-identical ideology and some activists appear to belong to both groups. The membership of both organisations is not known but is likely to be only in the hundreds, although they have been able to attract thousands of supporters to their public activities.
From their head office in the Lee Valley Techno Park in north London, AM claim to provide physical support, including finance and recruitment to overseas Islamist groups, including Hamas, Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Hizbollah. Bakri has also boasted of having communicated with Osama bin Laden. However none of these groups have ever substantiated AM's claims, and it is perhaps doubtful that much of the money raised actually reaches its intended declared destination. Nevertheless AM did have an office and a representative, Hassan Butt, in Lahore, Pakistan, and do encourage British volunteers to train and fight abroad6. This has led to the death of at least three British AM activists in an American bombing raid on Afghanistan7. In December 2001 AM claimed that eighteen of their British activists were in Lahore claiming political asylum having fought on behalf of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Since the implementation of Britain's Terrorism Act 2000, and its subsequent amendment in 2001, AM have been more cautious in speaking about raising funds in Britain for overseas terrorist activity. Their public stance since September 11 2001 focuses more on establishing the Khilafah. However their public distaste for Jews, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, and homosexuality, and their continued criticism of western civilisation and comment on the Israel Palestine situation has led several leading members into trouble with the police (see below).
Most other Islamist groups criticise AM's ideology as being overly simplistic. There is, however, some ideological convergence with other radical groups, particularly those associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Pakistani Jamaat Islami, especially regarding the mutual responsibility that Muslims bear for one another throughout the world, the utopian vision of the Khilafah and the justification of political violence to achieve their aims.
AM claim that the Khilafah was originally established by the prophet Mohammed, and that its ‘re-establishment' is a religious and political priority for all Muslims. They also believe that it is every Muslim's duty to support those waging Jihad in any other country, for instance Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir or Palestine, and regularly call for Jihad in support of Muslims overseas. In this context AM defines Jihad as materially supporting or physically waging war on behalf of Islam. Their leaflets frequently quote a select few verses from religious text to justify their militant rhetoric:
‘The Jews and Christians will never be satisfied with you until they take you away from your way of life.'8
‘The hour will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.'9
Ultimately AM seek to convert the world to Islam so that the Khilafah state will dominate the world.
Bakri is the self-proclaimed religious and spiritual leader of AM. Described half-humorously as ‘The Tottenham Ayatollah', he is a publicity seeker whose frequent media interviews have been noteworthy for his outrageous claims10. In 1991 he threatened the life of Prime Minister John Major, and was held by the police for twenty-four hours, but subsequently released without being charged11. In December 1999 he issued a fatwa against the Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and called for British Muslims to attack the Russian Embassy. On 18 September 2001, outside the Pakistan Embassy in London, Bakri issued a fatwa which contained a death threat against General Musharraf of Pakistan12.
Anjem Choudary is the chairman of The Society of Muslim Lawyers, an AM front. He appears to be the main public spokesman for AM, and is sometimes now described as the head of the British branch, and its main operational leader. In 1998 he was arrested and charged, although not prosecuted, with burning an Israeli flag at an AM rally in Hyde Park London, but he was convicted for other offences early in 2003 (see below).
Abdul Rahman Saleem, also known as Abu Yahya, is a leading member of AM. In a press interview he stated that he had undergone military training in Afghanistan and Pakistan and would go to fight on the front line for other Muslims13. In a second interview he admitted to be recruiting a number of Britains to be trained abroad as he felt to be the duty of every Muslim to defend Islam14. A third interview he gave quoted him as saying "My support for my brothers in the Taliban or any oppressed Muslim group will be verbal, financial and physical"15. He was also arrested and charged, although not prosecuted, for burning an Israeli flag at an AM event in 1998, (see below).
Iftikhar Ali has been a senior member of AM since at least 1999 and has been the organiser of their physical training courses in east London. In May 2002 he was convicted of incitement to racial hatred for distributing AM leaflets bearing the hadith "the final hour will not come until Muslims fight the Jews and kill them". Reportedly he told the police officers who arrested him that "What is written on the paper is true. The Jewish people must die."16
Other AM activists were also arrested at the same time around the country for distributing the same leaflets but the criminal charges against them were dropped.
The late Sulayman Zain-ul-Abidin, also known as Frank Etim/Etab, was also active in AM. He was the organiser of Sakina Security Services, which advertised jihad training for Islamists on its Internet site and via handouts. The training included an overseas course called "the ultimate jihad challenge" held in the United States so that it could include weapons training with live ammunition. During 2002 he was put on trial at the Central Criminal Court in London charged with terrorism offences but subsequently acquitted, and shown to be something of a fantasist. The US authorities, however, continue to investigate the American organisers of the training camps.
Sulayman Keeler is a member of the National Daw'ah Committee of AM and chairman of The Society of Converts to Islam, yet another AM front. In 1999 he was imprisoned for 28 days for assaulting a police officer at a demonstration outside 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister, following a British attack on Iraqi missile installations.17 Shortly thereafter Amer Mirza, yet another AM leader, was sentenced to six months imprisonment for petrol bombing a territorial army base in west London, again as a protest against the British military action against Iraq.18
AM maintains close connections, often at a personal level, with other British-based Islamist organisations.
The Supporters of Shariah (SOS) was founded by the Egyptian Abu Hamza al-Masri (formerly Mustafa Kemal). Until the Charity Commission demanded his exclusion from the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park, Abu Hamza used the mosque as his UK base. From 1996 AM and SOS held joint meetings there, as well as demonstrations on the streets of London. Police raids on the mosque in January 2003 proved that the mosque was being used as a storage facility for materiel used to support a growing terrorist infrastructure.
It was also at the mosque that al-Qaeda recruiters, probably Djamel Beghal, found Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called ‘twentieth hijacker', and Richard Reid, the ‘shoebomber'.
Hamza was previously an advisor to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and had issued a number of fatwahs on their behalf justifying the killing of civilians.
Abu Qatada (also known as Sheikh Omar Abu Omar), currently held by the British authorities, is a Palestinian who has been convicted twice in absentia by Jordan on terrorist charges. He came to Britain in 1993 and was later granted asylum. Qatada is linked to the Jordanian group Jaysh Mohammad (Army of Mohammad) who are accused of planned the bombing of American targets at the end of the millennium. He has frequently been described as Bin Laden's "ambassador to Europe". Qatada has attended and spoken at AM events with both Bakri and Hamza. In particular he was the guest speaker at an AM meeting in November 1999 held to raise funds for the Mujahideen in Chechnya.
Bakri has also maintained a close relationship with Yasser al-Sirri, an Egyptian exile condemned to death in Egypt for his part in the attempted assassination of the former Prime Minister Dr Atef Sidqi. Al-Sirri has been described as the leader of the Tala'l Fatah (Vanguards of Conquest). Bakri and Sirri have shared platforms on numerous occasions at public events in London and have openly supported each others causes. Al-Sirri has also been a speaker at several AM demonstrations and meetings.
Dr Mohammed al-Mas'ari, the Saudi Arabian co-founder in the UK of the Committee for Defence of Legitimate Rights, is known to have been a member of HUT in Saudi Arabia, along with Bakri. Al-Mas'ari left Saudi Arabia in 1994 after six months imprisonment and has since been living in Britain. It was al-Mas'ari who translated and distributed Osama bin Laden's first declaration of war against the United States in 1996. Mas'ari is a central figure in AM activities and indeed has been a lecturer at Bakri's School of Shariah.
Zahid ur-Rashdi is a former Pakistani Member of Parliament and head of the Shariah Council of Pakistan. It is believed that he and other Pakistani Islamists maintained contact with the late Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader. Ur-Rashdi has been a guest speaker at a number of AM's important events in London including the Trafalgar Square rally on 3 August 1997 entitled ‘Islam Against Oppression'. Again in July 1999 he spoke at an AM rally in Trafalgar Square entitled ‘Islam III'. Ur-Rashdi is believed to be the head of the Pakistani end of a jihad recruitment and fundraising network called The Global Jihad Fund.
As has been indicated, AM operates in Britain under a variety of names, using organisations and companies as fronts. These organisations are fronted by senior members of the organisation, and the different names enable AM to recruit new members or sympathisers from varying backgrounds and ages, as well as raising money through donations.
In a press interview Bakri stated that there "are registered companies that do not exist as companies…Info 2000 Software is one of eleven companies we have used to help us with our work.19 This bogus company was investigated by the authorities and shut down subsequently.
The Muslim Cultural Society of Enfield and Haringey was a registered charity established and run by AM in May 1994. Subsequently it too was investigated, and closed in November 1999 by the British authorities20.
Anti-Israel and Anti-Jewish Activities
Anti-Israel demonstrations and meetings, and the promotion of antisemitism and Holocaust denial have been central to AM's activities from the very start. Leaflets, Internet postings and meetings focussing on this core issue for AM ideology began in earnest after the Israel bombardment of Qana in Lebanon in April 1996.
One leaflet published shortly thereafter was headed ‘Muslim vs Jew: War'. Having stated that ‘Never has one single Arab leader engaged with Israel in war' it went on to state ‘and what of so-called Jewish invincibility that the rulers of Muslim lands claim? What does Allah have to say about this? Allah through his messenger Mohammed (SAW) said: "The final (sic) shall not occur until the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, so much so that the Jews will seek shelter behind stones and trees, and the stones and trees proclaim, ‘oh Muslim', ‘oh servant of Allah!' There is a Jew behind me, so come and kill him….further in the Quran Allah says of the Jews: and thou will find them greediest of mankind for life…and concerning their cowardice: they will not fight against you in body save in fortified villages and behind wall'21.
Shortly thereafter AM produced a series of leaflets on the theme of Jihad for Palestine and embarked upon a series of widely advertised demonstrations outside the Israel Embassy in London22. Thereafter the group began a series of central London demonstrations to protest against Israel and Zionism. One entitled ‘The Rally Against Oppression' held in August in Trafalgar Square, central London, had on its advertising leaflets the slogan ‘Israel, the cancerous Zionist entity most oppressive terrorist state on earth' stated that ‘ the establishment of Israel is not only a criminal act of genocide against the Palestinian people. It is also an act of war against Islam and Muslims all over the world…the oppression of this cancerous growth can be counted by surgical, chemical or radiation treatment23.
Another demonstration held outside the residence of the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street called for the support of the ‘Jihad against the pirate racist Zionist Jewish apartheid terrorist murdering oppressive illegitimate blasphemous state of Israel…occupier of Muslim land'24. Yet another called for a ‘demonstration against 50 years of apartied (sic), occupation murdering and racism…the pirate state of Israel'. This was held outside the Jewish community's Israel Independence Day celebrations at Wembley Conference Centre, north London25.
The banners and speeches at these demonstrations were even more extreme. Banners outside the Israel Embassy at an AM demonstration in October 2000 stated ‘Jewish occupiers kill them where you see them'. At the same demonstration the organised chanting included the calls: "dirty Jews, burn in hell, jihad jihad jihad, bomb bomb Tel Aviv, bomb bomb Israel, scud scud Israel, burn burn Israel".
One chant heard frequently on AM demonstrations is the Arabic: ‘kyber kyber ya yahood jaysh Mohammed saof yaood' (kyber kyber oh Jews! The Army of Mohammed will return). At a June 1998 Rally for Islam in Trafalgar Square Avais Khan, one of the speakers, stated: ‘the Jewish Holocaust was a fabrication and everybody knows that. But the way they kill the Muslims in Palestine, that is the true Holocaust, theirs is a fabrication…b'Allah, they dirty cursed people, yahood, they make Hitler look like a saint…how wicked, how evil these Jews are, b'Allah, they don't even deserve the death of a dog'.
At an AM demonstration outside another Israeli Independence Day celebration, this time in May 2000, one speaker addressed the Jewish community thus: ‘your state is a blasphemy according to Jewish law so that makes you not only cowards, garbage, scum, thieves, I could go on, it also makes you blasphemers as well, according to your own religion. Then again what do we expect from the garbage of humanity, the most gangrenous part of humanity that has always killed its own prophets, betrayed its own people, it's no surprise to any of us that you constantly lie and cheat in your religion, that is why in our religion you are described as pigs, swines and apes'26.
The anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric has continued virtually without slowing down, but from 2000 onwards the rhetoric took on a harder tone: leaflets began to appeal for Jihad recruitment and the murder of Israelis.
One leaflet advertising an Islamic conference in east London called for Israelis to be killed wherever they are27. Another, advertising a rally to be held in Trafalgar Square in October 2000 stated that the rally would be recruiting Muslims to destroy Israel28.
AM responded to Britain's first Holocaust Memorial Day in 2001 by holding a series of lectures designed to: ‘trace back the lie of the Holocaust' and show how it has been used to justify the on-going Holocaust and genocide against the innocent Muslims in Palestine.
Bakri has frequently been quoted as saying that he does not believe in the Holocaust. Indeed it would be no exaggeration to say that AM has become perhaps the most active promoter of Holocaust denial in Britain. During November 2000 its members put up posters throughout London advertising a meeting which referred to the Holocaust as ‘a perverted lie'. The meeting was cancelled by the owners of the hall where it was due to take place, but in a press interview at the time Bakri told the Jewish Chronicle: ‘ to say six million died in the Holocaust is fallacy used to justify Zionism. We believe that the nazis killed about 60,000 Jews during the war. The story of the Holocaust is full of myths and lies29.
Holocaust denial has been repeated in numerous Internet postings on Bakri's websites. One recent example was: ‘how could Hitler kill 6,800,000 Jews when there were only 3,500,000 Jews living in Europe? This talk will trace back the lie of the Holocaust and show how it has been used to justify the on-going Holocaust and genocide against the innocent Muslims in Palestine and to legitimise the existence of the Terrorist State of Israel'30.
As a consequence of promoting these insidious and hateful views AM are banned by the National Union of Students from holding events at all student unions in the UK, as are HUT. Indeed it was their campus-based activity that led the universities' umbrella body, the Committee of Vice Chancellors (now renamed Universities UK) to investigate HUT and subsequently publish a guidance booklet for university heads on religious extremism31.
However, following their established practice they have set themselves up under different organisational names, such as the Islamic Media Forum, Pakistan Society or Muslim Cultural Society, and thereby frequently evade the bans.
As a consequence of their anti-Israel and anti-Jewish incitement several members and supporters of AM have been arrested or convicted on criminal charges, in addition to those mentioned above:
In May 2003 Anjem Choudary was convicted of organising a banned AM rally in Trafalgar Square, and fined. He subsequently told a London newspaper that ‘Muslims are obligated to court Islam openly where they live, with or without permission'.32
In October 2000, Malik Saleem, Mohammad Farooq and Sajaad Hanif were arrested in Birmingham for putting up posters which bore the slogan ‘the hour will not come until the Muslims kill the Jews'. The posters were to advertise an AM meeting, and one was posted on the wall of a synagogue.
In September 2000 Nazrul Islam, Tunveer Ahmed, Abdul Rahman Saleem, Muhammad Akhtar, Muhammad Shams Uddeen, Kawsor Miah and Abdullah Uddin were all arrested at an AM demonstration outside the Israeli embassy in London, although not subsequently charged.
In January 1998 Osman Ali, Anjem Choudary and Abdul Rahim Salim were arrested for burning an Israeli flag at a public event in Central London. However, they too were not convicted.
Thus the news that Hanif and Sharif passed through AM on their way to becoming terrorists should not come as a surprise.
AM activist Hassan Butt, who returned to Britain during 2002 from Lahore, stated in an interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat, that he estimated the number of suicide bombers waiting to carry out operations were more than fifty. He added that most of them are currently in Britain, although not necessarily active members of AM. He did state, however, that most of them had received religious lessons in Britain and that they had been taught that jihad was a priority.33
It this is the case then both Britain and Israel can expect more suicide bombings, unless the security services and law enforcement agencies make a determined attempt to discover their identities
Hanif and Sharif friends declare intentions to also become suicide bombers.
It is time that they were taken seriously.
After terrorism arrests in Britain in March 2003 Sharif's name came to the attention of MI 5 who decided that "the pair were not potential terrorists" .
MI5 knew of bombers' ties to Islam
Britain's MI5 knew that the two Britons who carried out a suicide bombing in Israel last week had links to Islamic extremists, but they decided the pair were not potential terrorists, officers of the security service say.
In an MI5 investigation of Islamic terrorism, Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif were identified as part of the hardline al-Muhajiroun movement, but were not put under constant surveillance because they were thought to be on the group's fringes, the officers said.
Last week Hanif, 21, killed himself and three Israelis when he detonated a belt full of explosives in a Tel Aviv bar.
Police are hunting Sharif, 27, who fled when his explosive-packed vest failed to detonate.
Police disclosed that six people arrested under anti-terrorism laws on Friday and Saturday were family members or friends of Sharif. As the investigations continued, another friend of Sharif said he, too, would become a suicide bomber, and he expected similar attacks in Britain. Shakil Mohammed, 31, who grew up in the same neighbourhood as Sharif in the Midlands town of Derby, met him in March. He said: "I would volunteer: more and more people will follow him."
Detectives said that Sharif was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamic group that seeks to unite all Islamic states under a single regime. It is banned in a number of countries.
MI5 officers said the security service knew for several years that Sharif had attended meetings in Derby of al-Muhajiroun, which advocates the overthrow of Western democracies. Hanif attended meetings of the group in west London. MI5 had also known that Sharif was connected to a mosque where a radical cleric, Abu Hamza, preached until recently.
Evidence gathered during the MI5 investigation in which Sharif's name came to officers' attention led to the arrest in March of eight men in Derby for terrorism offences. They were released and the security service found no evidence Sharif or Hanif were involved in terrorism.
Israel said it would deport peace activists from Gaza and the West Bank after it emerged that Hanif and Sharif posed as such to move freely across heavily guarded checkpoints.
"We have lost patience with the so-called activists," an Israeli official said. "Now we will adopt a zero-tolerance policy."
Britain has demanded an inquiry into the Israeli military's shooting death of a British television cameraman, James Miller, in a Palestinian refugee camp where he was making a documentary on the impact of violence on Palestinian children.
The Telegraph, London and agencies
This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/04/1051987610597.html
DEMOCRACY IS NOT A SUICIDE PACT:
New Breed of British Homegrown Islamicists
The arrest of eight British Muslim terror suspects, and the discovery of half a ton of fertilizer in
Even if found guilty, these eight British passport-holders of Pakistani descent, aged between 17 and 32 years old, will probably not be proven to be directly linked with Al-Qaeda.
Instead, and just as frightening -- or perhaps even worse -- is that they may represent a new class of radical Islamic terrorists: British born and bred.
Radical Islamic groups operating in the
This disturbing evidence, so far only circumstantial, suggests that at least in the
And if what is happening in Britain is only a microcosm of what is occurring all over the world, then the intelligence agencies tasked with defeating Islamic terrorism have an even larger problem on their hands than previously conceived.
Al Muhajiroun are but one of these radical Islamic groups that openly cater to bored young Muslims brought up in the West. They offer moral support for Al-Qaeda's acts of terror, and can often be seen throwing public rallies in
Britain has enacted strong legislation concerning incitement of violence, but for some reason the statements on the Al Muhajiroun are not seen by authorities to constitute an offense, because they've been publishing the same hatred for a long time, without hindrance.
However, if these eight terror suspects are found to have been developed by the Al Muhajiroun movement in
Why should groups such as Al Muhajiroun be treated with kid's gloves?
Just because they are made up of homegrown Islamic radicals, should be no reason to afford ourselves a benign tolerance, or them any immunity from prosecution for their dangerous activities.
Although Britain does not have the same history of mass immigration as her former colonies America, Canada, and Australia, Britain has historically been on the receiving end of immigration from first Europe, and later her colonies and former colonies. Until the rise of multiculturalism, immigrants to the
The rise of an explicitly hostile ideology of Islamicism, aimed at destroying the legacy of personal liberty, which is the fruit of British Civilization, cannot be tolerated any longer. Those who would defend the most glorious political tradition in the history of the world must be conscious of the danger from within.
Citizenship is a concept which encompasses both the mere formalities of passport-holding and voting rights, on the one hand, and also the responsibilities of membership in a political community, on the other. People who incite violence against that very political community are not full citizens in the latter sense of the concept, despite having access to the rights inherent in the former sense of the term.
Given the dangers Western democracies now face, perhaps it is time to begin balancing and reconciling the two senses to citizenship. Democracy, as a wise man once said, is not a suicide pact.
Michael Morris is London correspondent of The American Thinker. Thomas Lifson is the editor.
This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at http://www.militantislammonitor.org/article/id/66