Extremist group’s teachings changed lives of British Muslims
Michael Adebolajo radicalised after joining al-Muhajiroun
Anjem Choudary speaking at UCD Belfield in Dublin in January 2010. He says Michael Adebolajo was “pleasant . . . peaceful and unassuming” when he attended demonstrations by the banned Islamic organisation al-Muhajiroun. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
It has been known by a myriad of names, but the reach of the banned Islamic organisation al-Muhajiroun has changed the lives utterly of a generation of young British Muslims.
One of the men detained by police after the Woolwich killing, Michael Adebolajo, was radicalised after he began to attend its meetings a decade ago. In the 1990s, its founder, Omar Bakri Muhammad, had sponsored the International Islamic Front which helped to send British Muslims to fight in the Balkans and later Chechnya.
Following 9/11 it grabbed international headlines when one of its leaders, Anjem Choudary described the men responsible as “the Magnificent 19”. Yesterday, Choudary was content to acknowledge Adebolajo’s past links to his former organisation, saying he had attended “a few demonstrations and activities that we used to have.
“When I knew him he was very pleasant man, he was peaceful, unassuming and I don’t think there’s any reason to think he would do anything violent,” Choudary, a former solicitor, told Reuters. He has always maintained that al-Muhajiroun forbids its followers in Britain from carrying out attacks there under a “covenant of security” demanded of Muslims in non-Muslim lands.
But he defended Adebolajo’s reasons for acting, if not the action itself: “I think if anyone needs to be condemned it is the British government and their foreign policy. It’s so clear that that is the cause. . .
“[He] blamed Cameron and he blamed the army and the authorities, and he said that the British public should do something about it because they’re not doing anything in their names,” he declared.
Within days of 9/11, al-Muhajiroun was banned from university campuses in Britain after posters went up declaring “the last hour will not come until the Muslims kill the Jews” – though the organisation subsequently claimed it had been misrepresented. Al-Muhajiroun and its subsequent incarnations argued that Islam is first and foremost a political ideology, to be used to unite Muslims globally before the forced creation of an Islamic caliphate. It was banned nationally in 2005 – when the government declared its existence was not “conducive to the public good” – but relaunched itself in 2009 and was banned again. In the years in between, it morphed into a number of new organisations, one called the Saviour Sect, another al-Ghurabaa. In time, they, too, were banned. Following its 2010 banning, it returned once more under a new guise, Muslims Against Crusades, which burned poppies outside the Royal Albert Hall during a ceremony to remember Britain’s military dead. Both before and after the legal edicts against its existence, al-Muhajiroun has consistently denied it has links to violence.
Erupting in anger after one police raid on its offices, it warned British ministers they were “sitting on a box of dynamite. . . [They] have only themselves to blame if, after attacking the Islamic movements and the Islamic scholars, it all blows up in their face.”