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East London Mosque: When in Trouble, Throw Chaff

As you might have noticed, the East London Mosque is in hot water for its association with the Al Qaeda hate preacher, Anwar Al Awlaki. What appears to have spurred them into action is a report in The Telegraph which records that Awlaki:

appeared at an event at East London Mosque called “Stop Police Terror” in which he told his audience: “A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he does not oppress him, he does not betray him and he does not hand him over… You don’t hand over a Muslim to the enemies.”

Accordingly, they have put out a statement, explaining the history of the relationship, in an attempt to lessen their culpability. Unfortunately, they now appear to have taken the full statement down, but the short version is still on their website. More unfortunately, for them, the statement is deeply misleading, in important respects. Even worse for them, we have a copy here.

Central to the East London Mosque’s defence is the contention that it only became clear clear from late January 2009 onwards that Awlaki was an extremist. As we have shown, Awlaki’s involvement with violent jihad and terrorism stretches back to the mid 1990s.  No amount of spin will disguise that fact.

The East London Mosque case begins as follows:

When did Anwar Al‐Awlaki visit the East London Mosque (ELM)?

Anwar Al‐Awlaki spoke at the East London Mosque in 2003. He delivered a series of lecture on the life of Umar bin al‐Khattab, Islam’s second Caliph. He also gave a guest Friday sermon (audio available on YouTube in four parts at time of writing) “that talks [about] the duty of the Ummah to be a support for one another, and the consequences if Muslims ignore the plight of other Muslims.”

Did you host an event called “Stop Police Terror”?

On 26 December 2003, a guest Friday sermon was given by Anwar Awlaki. Contrary to claims there was no event held called “Stop Police Terror”. A YouTube user has uploaded the sermon (see video description on YouTube) and chosen to name the audio/video “Stop Police Terror”. In addition at no point in the sermon does he say that Muslims should not co‐operate with the police. This was the last time Al‐Awlaki visited the East London Mosque.

Where to start?

First of all, Stop Police Terror was indeed not the name of the prestigious sermon with which Awlaki was honoured at the East London Mosque. Neither, as they correctly observe, was there an event called Stop Police Terror. Rather, Stop Police Terror was a campaigning organisation, which ultimately became the pro-Salafi Jihadi campaign group, CagePrisoners, who have been among Awlaki’s loudest supporters. The founding statement of Stop Police Terror can be viewed here. Anwar Al Awlaki was listed as a founding supporter of the organisation, as was the East London Mosque.

Stop Police Terror supporters (click to enlarge)

Another ’supporter’ was the Islamic Forum Europe, the political clique which provides much of the leadership of the East London Mosque.

The Islamic Forum Europe was founded by Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, who has been accused in a Channel 4 documentary, and in an article in the Guardian, of involvement in genocide in Bangladesh. The Islamic Forum Europe is aligned with Jamaat-e-Islami, a nearly-defunct Islamist party in Bangladesh, whose Al Badr militia abducted and murdered prominent Bangladeshi intellectuals during the War of Liberation.

The Islamic Forum Europe’s activists include the former Liberty National Council member, former chairman of the Civil Service Islamic Society, former chairman of the Muslim Safety forum, advisor to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, villain of Gilligan’s Dispatches expose, blogger, talk show host, thug, Awlaki fan, Hamas enthusiast, supporter of the killing of British soldiers, and unsuccessful libel litigant, Azad Ali.

As a pamphlet published by the Department of Communities and Local Government explains, Muhammad Abdul Bari “is the Chair of the East London Mosque, the key institution for the Bangladeshi wing of [Jamaat-e-Islami] in the UK.”

Stop Police Terror was founded on 10 December 2003, with the support of Anwar Al Awlaki, the Islamic Forum Europe and the East London Mosque. They declared:

We have come together to say that enough is enough and that Britain’s Muslims, as a community, will refuse to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities if this abuse continues.

That is a very clear exhortation, in the strongest terms, to Muslims to not co‐operate with the police.

Two weeks later, the Islamic Forum Europe organised the following event at the East London Mosque:

Islamic Forum Europe presents the 11th Islamic Christmas Alternative:

ALONG THE THORNY PATH

Be careful, how you walk “along the thorny path”!

Packed with talks nasheeds and stalls. An event for the whole family.

Presenters: Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki (Yemen / USA) and others.

Dates: Thursday 25th & Friday 26th December 2003
Time: 10.30 am till late
Venue: East London Mosque, Whitechapel Road, London E1 1DL

Buse Routes: 25, 253
Nearest Tube: Whitechapel / Aldgate East
[Note: public transport will not be working on 25th December]

All Welcome

On the 26 December, Awlaki gave his now infamous Friday sermon at the East London Mosque. In the euphemistic phrase, quoted by the East London Mosque, he most certainly did talk about “the duty of the Ummah to be a support for one another, and the consequences if Muslims ignore the plight of other Muslims.” But it is absolutely clear that the message of the sermon was the same as the Stop Police Terror campaign: that Muslims should not co-operate with the police.

Awlaki starts with the parable of the four cows and the wolf.  One of the cows was white and the other three were black.  They lived in a dangerous area surrounded by wolves.  But they stuck together for protection.  And they survived. Then one day the black cows said “the white cow is giving us away.  When we hide at night the enemy can’t see us because we’re black but he can see him because he’s white.  So let’s let him go.” The wolf attacked the abandoned white cow the next night.  Over the following nights he attacked the others, because they were not as strong as they were when they were all together.

As the last black cow is attacked, he says “I was eaten the day the white cow was eaten” and “I died when I allowed the wolf to eat the white cow”.

Now for the payoff:

This story is a good representation of the situation of the Muslim ummah today.  This is exactly what is happening.  We are watching one Muslim nation fall after another and we are watching, sitting back, doing nothing.  When Palestine was taken, we did nothing. And then one nation after another is entering into problems.  We have Kashmir, Chechnya, the Muslims in the Philippines, and now we have Iraq.  And the ummah is doing nothing.  The ummah is watching while Iraq is being devoured.

It’s not going to end there, because it will spill over to other countries like Syria and only Allah knows who’s next.  So those nations weren’t taken today.  They were taken a long time ago, when we allow a Muslim nation to fall down we have allowed the same thing to happen to every and each one of us.

This shows us the consequences of having disunity.  When these cows didn’t stick together, when they allowed the enemy to snatch one of them way, this is what happened to them.  They were all defeated.

A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he does not oppress him and he does not hand him over.  You don’t hand over a Muslim to the enemies of Allah. These three cows, they handed over the white cow to the enemy.  Now what happens is, they thought, that by doing that they’re securing themselves.  They thought that they would be safe if they hand over this white cow.  This white cow was outspoken, it was causing a lot of trouble, it was being accused of being a terrorist, so let it go.  “We don’t want anything to do with them.  Let them go to jail.”  But the thing is, they don’t realise, that it will come to you next.  You will be next in line. So brothers, if you want to protect yourselves, you need to stop that, you need to stop such things from happening.  Because as soon as you allow one Muslim to be taken, Allah does not help you anymore.  You lose the assistance of Allah.

Shaytan [the devil], take it as a rule, shaytan will never be satisfied, will never be happy until he is able to destroy the entire ummah.  Nothing will satisfy shaytan.  If you try to please him, by all means it’s not going to work.  He has been our enemy since the time of Adam and he will carry on being our enemy until the day of judgment.  Don’t think that you will please him and keep him quiet by feeding him one of your brothers.  No.  His hunger is never satisfied.  His thirst is never quenched.

Now dear brothers and sisters, we talked about this issue in general, however some specifics in your city, in your own neighbourhood.  We are not talking now about things that are happening in Iraq or Palestine, or somewhere else, in your own city, and in this country, many Muslims have been arrested.  You know, when you talk about Guantanamo Bay and all that stuff, there is a Guantanamo Bay in this country.  There are 524 Muslims who are arrested under the new laws and only two of them have been charged.  You have over 520 Muslims who are locked up in jail and are left to rot in there, and there is no crime, they have not committed anything, there are no charges brought against them.  And they are left there for months on end to just rot in those prison cells.

What have you done for them?  Your North African brothers who have nobody to help them in this country and the Muslim community in this country is not doing anything for them and they are left there for years on end.

This is not just a political argument against ‘handing your brother over’. It was delivered in a religious context, from a pulpit, and couched in theological terms: a battle between the Ummah and “Shaytan”. And it was given without a murmur of objection by the East London Mosque, or the Islamic Forum Europe, during a two day event organised by the Islamic Forum Europe and hosted at the East London Mosque.

This is how populations become radicalised.

Skip forward five years to 1 January 2009, when Awlaki returns to the East London Mosque/London Muslim Centre by way of a video message. The institution continues to protest that they had no idea that Awlaki was an extremist. They go to great lengths to demean and attack their opponents. Apparently, the report by the Centre for Social Cohesion of December 2009 that detailed the concerns was “inconsistent”, and so they paid it no attention. Similarly, they claim to have no record of speaking to the Quilliam Foundation which they say, rather sniffily, “declares itself to be a counter extremist think‐tank”. Nelsonian blindness.

However, the reaction of Muhammad Abdul Bari and the East London mosque in the aftermath of the January 2009 event is also instructive. Paul Goodman takes up the story:

was at the time the Party’s front bench spokesman in the Commons, and had had some dealings with Dr Bari in his MCB capacity (we hadn’t at that point broken off relations with the organisation).  This was the first I’d heard of Al-Awlaki, and I wrote to Dr Bari about the Telegraph’s report.  In my letter, I said that “the claims in the piece are serious” (a statement of the obvious) and “have serious implications for the relationship between the mosque and the Conservative Party” (ditto).

However, I noted that the mosque “hasn’t had the chance to put its side of the story to us, and would be grateful for your view of the claims”.  Dr Bari replied a fortnight or so later.  He wrote that “we saw no need to revoke the permission for the event based on one article in the Daily Telegraph, whose record on reporting our institution or our community does not inspire us with much confidence“.  He didn’t address the US Department of Homeland Security’s view.

He did write that “we found no evidence that the event was promoting hate”.  Interestingly, he didn’t add the words “or violence”.  As the Telegraph reported, the material advertising the event “appears to be a clear reference to the attacks on New York, and features meteors raining down on Manhattan, setting fire to the city and shattering the Statue of Liberty”.  As for further evidence of hate, another speaker advertised for the event was Khalid Yasin, who according to the Telegraph “has described the beliefs of Christians and Jews as ‘filth’.”

In short, we have a mosque committee Chairman who, when asked about the visit to his mosque of a preacher viewed by one of our main allies as an Al Qaeda-linked preacher, either couldn’t be bothered to address the matter or evaded it – the same preacher, remember, who later turned out to be associated with an attempt to blow up an airplane and a separate attack which killed 13 people.

The dates are very important here. Goodman wrote to Bari on 14 January.  Bari answered on 23 January. “44 Ways to Support Jihad” was published on Awlaki’s blog, in English, on 5 January – not “late January” as the East London Mosque claims – two and a half weeks before Bari dismissed Paul Goodman’s warning about Awlaki.

As the East London Mosque insists, “it is important to judge events by the information to hand at the time”. There was ample evidence, not least Awlaki’s sermon at the East London Mosque in 2003, and generally on the internet which would have left the East London Mosque in no doubt as to Awlaki’s politics, well before the publication of “44 Ways to Support Jihad”. When Paul Goodman queried Muhammad Abdul Bari about the beliefs of his guest, the Chairman of the East London Mosque closed his eyes to the truth about the jihadi preacher, which he could have verified simply by looking at Awlaki’s home page, or indeed speaking to any Muslim with an interest in contemporary Salafi theology.

The East London Mosque and Islamic Forum Europe are on the ropes. Both the Tories and Labour know what they’re about. No amount of chaff-throwing can save them now.