This piece by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is cross-posted from his joint blog with Shiraz Maher
Mohammad Naseem, Chairman of the influential Birmingham Central Mosque (BCM), is well known for his ‘questions’ regarding the true perpetrators of the July 7 terrorist attacks in London. Last weekend, he finally crossed over to the realm of total and all encompassing lunacy.
My fellow Standpoint blogger, Nick Cohen, and David Aaronovitch have both recently written extensively about conspiracy theories, including those surrounding 9/11 and 7/7. One of the main complaints of both authors is the increasing trend towards the mainstreaming of theories that are based on little more than questions and debunked ‘facts’. In the case of 7/7, Cohen writes that:
More than half of British Muslims (56 per cent) agreed that the [9/11] hijackers were innocent stooges of a devilish plot, and one-quarter went on to say that ‘the British government was involved in some way’ with the 7/7 atrocities on the London Transport system.
One of the dangers in believing that the British government carried out 7/7 is that it reinforces the common Islamist belief that Britain and America are engaged in a ‘war on Islam’. So, the story goes, Mi6 murdered 52 of its own citizens so that the government can justify ongoing aggression against Muslims worldwide.
Mohammad Naseem is a man at the forefront of the mission to mainstream 7/7 conspiracy theories. He has managed to convince many of his fellow Muslims that it is very likely the government carried out the attacks, and has consistently denied that there is any evidence to prove that Mohammed Siddique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Germaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain carried out the bombings. This is despite eyewitness accounts and the ‘martyrdom’ videos produced by each bomber, which Naseem maintains were doctored by the security services. He makes the same claim when asked about the CCTV footage of the attacks.
In interviews Naseem usually stops just short of accusing the government, and simply ‘calls for an inquiry’ into the attacks. But he removed this thin veil of sanity with a senile flourish at an event he held at the BCM last Sunday. At this event he welcomed to the stage two men who a normal person, summoning all their sympathy and politeness, might, through gritted teeth, introduce as ‘a pair of paranoid cranks’. These two men, Martin Summers and Tony Gosling (the latter discussed this very subject with Aaronivitch on Press TV), have both made repeated suggestions that 9/11 and 7/7 were carried out by the US and UK governments respectively.
Martin Summers refers to the two attacks as ‘state sponsored terrorism’, and videos of his ramblings can be seen here and here. In the first video, where he gives a speech whilst rummaging around in a plastic bag, he suggests that 9/11 and 7/7 were ‘false flag’ operations. In the second video he addresses a ‘crowd’ (apparently consisting of one person with a camcorder) in Bristol on the 2008 anniversary of 9/11, where he asks various ‘questions’ (they always ask questions, but never provide any facts) regarding the fabled WTC Building 7, the collapse of which is often cited as ‘proof’ that there were bombs in the towers. In the talk Summers delivered at the BCM last Sunday, the video of which [embedded below] was dutifully uploaded by Tony Gosling, he made numerous suggestions that the Israelis and the British Security Services were likely to have been involved in 7/7. He also categorically said that 9/11 was ‘done by the state’ (25.30 minutes in).
Tony Gosling was long ago identified as not only a conspiracy theorist, but an anti-Semite and homophobe. His rants about the threat of the ‘gay mafia’ got him kicked out of the Green Party, and he maintains that the Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, must not be dismissed and is not anti-Semitic, but anti-Zionist. Anyone interested in learning more about this man should have a look at the excellent investigation into him by the Harry’s Place blog.
Naseem also took to the stage near the end and urged the audience not to cooperate with the security services. This is rather serious when one considers that last year the BCM was a partner in a project funded by the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) Pathfinder Fund, a Home Office initiative launched after 7/7 to empower moderate Muslim groups to stop terrorism at its roots. One would struggle to think of a better way to waste tax-payer money than giving PVE funds to a man who denies that extremism even exists. As long as Naseem is at the helm, the government should have nothing to do with his institution. Labour MP Khaled Mahmood has already called for him to step down, and the trustees of the mosque would be very wise to force him out.
The British Muslim community is one of the most important vanguards in the fight against jihadism. If there is a jihadist plot brewing in the UK, it is members of the Muslim community who are most likely to come across suspicious behaviour and report it to the authorities. When irresponsible madmen like Naseem convince sections of this community that such a threat does not even exist, the consequences could be deadly.