In today’s Daily Telegraph, I wrote a news story about the jihadi website Revolutionmuslim. The site, one of those which radicalised the attempted murdererer of Stephen Timms MP, yesterday posted dozens more MPs’ names on a ‘death list’ with an exhortation to Muslims to follow her example. There was also a handy link allowing you to purchase a knife, like the one she used, from the Tesco online store.
Revolutionmuslim.com was named by the attacker, Roshonara Choudhry, in her police interviews as one of the sites she had visited. The site yesterday praised her as a “mujaahidah,” or holy warrior, saying: “We ask Allaah to keep her safe and secure, to hasten her release and to reward this heroine immensely.”
Soon after my story went up on the Telegraph website, the site excitedly cut and pasted it. Fame at last! This morning, they took that item – and the original death list – down. This evening, the whole site has vanished. Not a great loss to the world.
We are sometimes tempted to see websites like this as mere showbiz extremism. But Choudhry’s case shows that they can have all too real, and potentially deadly, consequences.
A couple of years ago for my then newspaper, the London Evening Standard, I wrote about the creeping growth of local authority propaganda newspapers – in-your-face tabloids produced as often as weekly by local councils, delivered free to every household and directly aimed at destroying the independent local press.
The council Pravdas offer advertisers taxpayer-subsidised rates which the commercial press cannot match. They offer readers nearly everything that they might previously have bought a commercial newspaper for (news, features, TV listings, property pages, even crumpet). Everything, that is, except for any news whatever that reflects badly on the council, and any mention whatever of the ruling party’s political opponents.
The most pernicious Pravda of all was Tory-controlled Hammersmith and Fulham’s H&F News, which I described as “a brilliant facsimile of a good, meaty local newspaper, complete with a 12-page property pullout, a sudoku and crossword, a What’s On supplement, lots of ads from real local businesses and even a five-page gardening section.
“The council PR stories (“Residents dish out the love … Poll reveals that three years of tax cuts give joy”) are interspersed with page after page of other news, much of it seemingly straight, and you struggle to remember this is an official publication. But it is.”
Now, from spring next year, H&F News is to close: a fantastic decision. This clearly anticipates the Government crackdown, announced earlier this year, on such rags.
Though H&F News was Tory, the vast majority of the council Pravdas in London – including the only two weekly ones, the execrable East End Life (Tower Hamlets) and Greenwich’s laughable Greenwich Time – are run by Labour-controlled boroughs. Time for Labour, too, to get the message: in an era of cuts, spending the vast sums of money on these things is no longer defensible.
THE think-tank Policy Exchange appears to have come off better in its fight with the Islamist-controlled North London Central Mosque, which sued for libel over the think-tank’s controversial pamphlet The Hijacking of British Islam. The pamphlet found extremist literature at the mosque, but some of its evidence was later questioned amid suggestions of forgery.
Policy Exchange emphasises that it has not apologised to the North London Central Mosque and that the mosque has been forced to pay them substantial costs, believed to be in the region of £100,000. It says:
“Policy Exchange is pleased to report that the libel action brought by the North London Central Mosque (NLCM) against it over its report The Hijacking of British Islam has now ended, following the dismissal of NLCM’s appeal against the order of Mr Justice Eady. NLCM has paid a substantial contribution towards Policy Exchange’s costs…Policy Exchange has not apologised to NLCM for the publication of its report.”
The think-tank has issued a statement as part of the settlement, saying (as it did in the contested report) that “it never sought to suggest that the extremist literature [found at the mosque] was sold or distributed with the knowledge or consent of the mosque’s trustees or staff.”
The secretary of the mosque, Mohammed Kozbar, however, says: “The case has not been dismissed at all. We had an out-of-court settlement. If it had been dismissed, they would not have put this statement on their website.” Policy Exchange says that, no, the action was definitely dismissed.
Policy Exchange stated: “NLCM sought the Court’s permission to appeal. This was twice refused. It was granted by Lord Justice Sedley on 21 April 2010 on the third time of asking. Lord Justice Sedley nevertheless emphasised that he did not believe there was a realistic prospect of NLCM overturning Mr Justice Eady’s ruling.
“In the meantime, in February 2010 the trustees of the mosque abandoned their individual claims in libel against Policy Exchange in respect of the same report and paid a substantial contribution to Policy Exchange’s legal costs.
“In October 2010 NLCM discontinued its appeal and paid a substantial contribution to Policy Exchange’s legal costs. Following that agreement the appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal on 5 October 2010.”
One of the most important tactics of Islamists is to hassle those who write about them with libel actions and complaints. Mostly, if you stand firm, they will either go away, or lose. It’s a tribute to the Policy Exchange trustees that they stood firm.
The North London Central Mosque is perhaps Britain’s most important showpiece for the belief by some in authority that we can anoint “good Islamists” and use them as a bulwark against the “bad Islamists.” The mosque, formerly home to Abu Hamza and a centre of terrorist recruitment, was closed after a police raid in 2003 and reopened under new leadership in 2005 in a deal brokered by the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, led at the time by an Islamist sympathiser, Robert Lambert.
It was essentially gifted to an Islamist group, the Muslim Association of Britain. The new leadership were certainly more moderate than Abu Hamza – not terribly difficult – but they have close links with another designated terrorist group, Hamas. Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of setbacks for them.
(Declaration of interest: I have written two reports for Policy Exchange, though had no involvement in this one.)
The spiritual leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula, Anwar al-Awlaki, has featured heavily in the coverage of the latest Islamist bomb plot against the West. He also radicalised Roshonara Choudhry, the East London Bangladeshi who has today been convicted of attempting to murder a Labour MP in protest at the Iraq war.
These are just the latest in a series of acts of Islamist violence and terrorism inspired by Awlaki. He met and was in email correspondence with Major Nidal Hassan, the alleged perpetrator of the Fort Hood massacre, whom he praised as a “hero.” He was visited by, and trained, Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged underpants bomber. He was named as an inspiration by Faisal Shahzad, the attempted bomber of Times Square. Above all, he has been named by the US government as the inspiration for three of the 9/11 hijackers. They attended his sermons; two of them met him repeatedly and privately; and the US authorities believe he may have had foreknowledge of the attacks.
Some of the latest coverage has noted that Awlaki “lived in London” for a time – but with only one exception, yesterday’s Sun, the media has steered surprisingly clear of his close links with that well-known home of tolerance and moderation, the East London Mosque, and those self-proclaimed “democratic Muslims,” the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE), who control the mosque.
On 5 November 2008, the IFE’s community affairs co-ordinator, Azad Ali, described Awlaki as “one of my favourite speakers and scholars… I really do love him for the sake of Allah, he has an uncanny way of explaining things to people which is endearing.” (Mr Ali added that he disagreed with Awlaki’s views about not voting – but didn’t express any disagreement with his views about violence.)
Later, Mr Ali again praised Awlaki on his blog, saying: “Reading his blogs, one cannot help but feel his frustration at the constant denial of legitimate Islamic principles. Worse is the complete incompetence of some Muslims to distinguish between Jihad and acts of murder.” This post was the now-famous one in which Mr Ali endorsed the killing of British troops in Iraq.
Perhaps the coverage has avoided mentioning all this because of the East London Mosque’s systematic and blatant campaign of lying about its links with Awlaki – abetted, who knows, by threats from its favourite hair-trigger libel lawyers?
In a letter to The Times on 11 November 2009, the mosque’s assistant director, Shaynul Khan, stated: “Anwar Al-Awlaki did not give a lecture via video link at an event held at the East London Mosque on 1st January 2009.” This is completely untrue. In the letter, the mosque made a false semantic distinction between the East London Mosque and the London Muslim Centre. In fact, they are the same place; the London Muslim Centre is physically part of the mosque complex and is owned and managed by the mosque. The mosque’s hiring conditions make clear that it must approve all speakers and that “all publicity materials for the event must be submitted for approval” to the mosque.
In the East London Mosque’s response to my Dispatches programme on them and the IFE, it finally admitted that he had spoken there, but rolled out a new line of defence: that “there was no credible evidence at the time of the event that Awlaki might be an extremist.”
This statement is, again, transparently false. More than two months before the January 2009 meeting at the East London Mosque, Awlaki was described in a public speech by Charles Allen, the US under-secretary for intelligence, as the “spiritual leader to three of the September 11 hijackers,” an “al-Qaeda supporter” and “an example of al-Qaeda reach into the [US] homeland.”
Awlaki was on a US terror watch list as early as 2002. As early as 18 December 2003, he was named in the House of Commons as being “reportedly wanted for questioning by the FBI in connection with the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.” He regularly featured in US media reporting, including on network TV news, as a terror suspect after this time. He was reportedly banned from the UK for his extremist links as early as 2006. In 2008, he praised the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, on his website.
Incredibly, the chairman of the East London Mosque, Mohammed Abdul Bari, who is also a former president of the IFE, continues to defend hosting Awlaki. As recently as two weeks ago, he described the decision to host Awlaki as an act of “fairness and justice.”
There could be no clearer illustration of why the East London Mosque and the IFE should be beyond the pale of democratic politics. Yet these are the people who provided backing for the man who is now mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman.