Here is the full version of a story which appeared in shortened form in the print edition of this morning’s paper:
A GOVERNMENT minister spoke at an event where suicide bomber accessories and items glorifying terrorism were on open sale.
Andrew Stunell, the communities minister, addressed the controversial “Global Peace and Unity” (GPU) conference in East London on Sunday. The event’s programme says its official “supporters” include the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police.
A few yards from where Mr Stunell was speaking, a stall sold suicide bomber headbands and T-shirts promoting two banned terror groups.
One of the shirts showed a masked terrorist holding a Kalashnikov rifle in one hand and the Quran in the other against a backdrop of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The Daily Telegraph bought one of the shirts.
The image is the official logo of the al-Qassam Brigade, the military wing of Hamas, a terrorist group banned across the EU and United States. Underneath, a slogan in Arabic read: “The conscripts of the martyr. Here in response, O Jerusalem.”
The al-Qassam Brigade has been responsible for at least 200 civilian deaths in suicide attacks since 2000.
Hooded tops with the flag of another proscribed terrorist organisation, Hezbollah – a clenched fist holding a Kalashnikov, and the slogan “Resistance” – were also on sale. Hezbollah has killed many Israelis in rocket attacks.
Also available were “shahada headbands” as worn by many Palestinian suicide bombers. “Shahada” in this context means martyrdom. The headbands contain the personal testimony of the suicide bombers.
Legal experts said the items could constitute glorification of terrorism, which is illegal under UK anti-terror laws. A senior City of London police officer was listed on the programme as speaking before Mr Stunell.
The items were on sale at a stall in the GPU’s exhibition area operated by a company called Wearaloud, based in a flat in a tower block in Bethnal Green. According to its website, it specialises in “Islamic,” “political” and “guns and military” items. However, it appears to have no Companies House or other registration. The website also offers for sale a garment described as an “AK47 militia fighter fun T-shirt.”
Other stalls at the exhibition distributed fundamentalist literature calling for the destruction of Israel and the subjugation of women.
The GPU is one of the most controversial events in the annual Muslim calendar. Organised by the Islam Channel, a digital TV station with a number of extremist and fundamentalist presenters, this year’s event was boycotted by the Conservative Party because of deep concerns about some of those taking part.
They included Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, a Holocaust denier who has said that the extermination of the Jews was a “hoax,” and Mohammed Ijaz ul Haq, who has said that the British government’s decision to knight the author Sir Salman Rushdie justified suicide attacks.
The Tory chairman, Baroness Warsi, was banned from attending by the Prime Minister, David Cameron. However, Lib Dems, including Mr Stunell and the party’s deputy leader, Simon Hughes, were not affected by the ban. Senior Labour figures, including the party’s candidate for mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, also spoke at the event.
The DCLG said that Mr Stunell’s speech “made clear that the Coalition Government will not tolerate extremism, hatred or intolerance in any form.”
Paul Goodman, the former Tory MP who shadowed Mr Stunell’s brief in opposition and has campaigned against GPU, said: “This evidence demonstrates why no minister should have gone. I hope that Andrew Stunell, the minister who did go, did deliver the robust renunciation we were promised.”
Jamal Uddeen Waitakarie, a spokesman for Wearaloud, said he thought his products were “acceptable,” adding: “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” He described the suicide bomber headbands as “an identification of faith” and said: “I suppose suicide bombers wear them. But anybody wears them.”
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “There was no formal Met Police representation at GPU. The Commissioner was invited to attend or record a video message but did not. We understand a small delegation from the Association of Muslim Police attended. The Metropolitan Police Service does not support any extremist view or behaviour and would consider any allegations of criminality raised.”
A spokesman for City Police said: “We spoke at the event to raise awareness of we were doing to work with the Muslim community, and to raise awareness of fraud against hajj pilgrims.”
The organisers of the event declined to comment.