Abu Hamza (BBC)
This Telegraph story makes sure to assure us in the first two paragraphs that the flag burning was done by only a tiny minority of extremists, ignored by the vast majority. Unfortunately, however, that tiny minority has the appeal of “pure Islam” on its side.
Islamic fundamentalists burned a Union flag and chanted the name of Osama bin Laden yesterday in defiance of the vast majority of mosques, which backed calls for Muslims to co-operate in the fight against terrorism.
A small number of extremists gathered outside two London mosques to protest but they were largely ignored by thousands of moderate Muslims leaving Friday prayers.
Imams across the country echoed the concerns expressed in a letter sent to more than 1,000 mosques last week by the Muslim Council of Britain, which warned against “mischievous elements” provoking “illegal activity”.
But leaders also criticised the West’s handling of the Middle East, the detention of Muslim suspects without trial and the “insensitivity” of the police.
One prominent imam argued that the council’s letter could add credibility to the misleading impression that Muslims were harbouring terrorists when, in reality, 99 per cent of them were peace-loving citizens.
Mohammad Shahid Raza, the imam of the Leicester Central Mosque, said: “Some of the members of the community are interpreting this letter as something through which the larger community may criminalise the Muslim community.
“They may interpret it as ‘Muslims are holding terrorists in their mosques’, while 99 per cent of Muslims are peace-loving citizens in this country and have always co-operated with the authorities and the police forces.”
Abdul Qayum, the imam of the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, said in his sermon that true adherents of Islam “could not conceive” of killing people unlawfully.
But he warned the international community against confusing this with the “freedom movements by the oppressed people of Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya against the occupation forces”.
In other words, his idea of “killing people unlawfully” may differ somewhat from that held by non-Muslims.
In an apparent reference to the anti-terrorism raids in the South-East this week, he added: “We are very worried about the reports of police insensitivity when arresting Muslims and the media coverage that follows.”
At the London Central Mosque at Regent’s Park, Abdesselam Daoud, a spokesman, said although the council’s letter was not read out in full, its concerns were reflected in the day’s sermon.
But as several thousand worshippers left the mosque, about 20 supporters of Al-Muhajiroun, a fringe fundamentalist group, burned a Union flag and chanted: “UK, you will pay, bin Laden on his way.”
Anjem Choudary, a spokesman for the group, said: “There is nothing me and you, or the British services or the Government, can do about stopping an attack in this country. There is nothing MI5 or MI6 can do to stop al-Qa’eda from bombing London.”
The overwhelming majority of the worshippers ignored the radicals, though a few shouted abuse.
Abu Hamza, the radical cleric, held his usual Friday prayer meeting outside the Finsbury Park Mosque, north London, watched by uniformed police officers.
He told nearly 150 Muslims that the only person who cared about the council’s letter was Tony Blair.
He claimed that the alleged bomb-making material found by the police this week was “created material” and the arrests were a “conspiracy against these brothers”.
The council’s letter said that, according to the Koran, the murder of one individual was “tantamount to murdering entire humanity”.
It added: “Islam categorically forbids violence and killing of innocents, let alone indulging in violence which can cause death and mayhem.”
Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the council, praised mainstream Muslim leaders for playing “a very important role in society”.
He dismissed comments by Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, the spiritual leader of Al-Muhajiroun, who said Muslims should not co-operate with the authorities against members of the same faith.