“Birmingham and its links to militant Islam,” from the Times Online, with thanks to Twostellas:
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham, has led calls in the House of Commons for tougher action against extremist groups and has demanded that Britain’s Muslim population expose those on the radical fringes of the religion.
“The mainstream Muslims need to speak out,” Mr Mahmood told the House of Commons on July 20, as he described the dangers of groups such as al-Muhajiroun, which has held conferences and boasts of extensive recruitment in Birmingham and the West Midlands.
And on July 18, the Sunni Council, the largest British Sunni Muslim group met in Birmingham to issue a fatwa, a ruling on a point of Islamic law, declaring the London suicide bombings “haraam” or strictly forbidden.
Explaining the fatwa, Grand Mufti Muhammad Gul Rehman Qadri said: “Anyone who commits suicide will be sent to Hell… It is the explicit saying of the Holy Prophet who ordered his followers to seek peace and harmony wherever they should live, not to cause death and destruction or to live counter to the laws of that host country.”
This doesn’t touch on Qaradawi’s contention that such bombers are not suicides, but martyrs.
But over the last six years, radical Islamists from Birmingham’s 150,000-strong Muslim community have been linked to a series of attacks in the Middle East.
In 1999, five men from Birmingham were arrested in Yemen in connection with the kidnapping of 16 tourists in the country. Four of the tourists were killed in a botched rescue attempt by the Yemeni army and Shahid Butt and Sarmad Ahmed, both from Birmingham, were sentenced to serve five years in prison in Aden.
Four years later, officers from Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch were given a list of men and organisations in Birmingham and the West Midlands by Israeli security forces after Omar Khan Sharif, a 27-year-old from Derby, killed himself in Israel after failing to detonate his bomb in a Tel Aviv bar.
Mr Sharif’s accomplice, Asif Mohammed Hanif, from Hounslow, in West London, became Britain’s first confirmed suicide bomber when he killed himself and three people the same night in Tel Aviv in April 2003. Both men were thought to have been funded by organisations in the West Midlands.
Birmingham hosts annual conferences every year from the broad and mixed world of Britain’s Muslim community.
Along with mainstream groups, radical and fringe sects hold large meetings in Birmingham, including Hizb Ur-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun, two groups condemned by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan in a speech last week in which he said “there is a lot to be done in England” to combat Islamic extremism.
“There is Hizb Ur-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun, who operate with full impunity in that area,” said General Musharraf, referring to Britain as a whole. “They had the audacity of passing an edict against my life and yet they operate with impunity.”
In 2003, a Hizb Ur-Tahrir conference entitled “British or Muslim?” attracted 10,000 people to Birmingham, prompting the Home Office to commission a study on the group and warn of the spread of fundamentalist doctrine in the region.
10,000 members of the tiny minority of extremists, that is.
Hizb Ur-Tahrir, which calls for a worldwide Islamic caliphate, has been banned from British university campuses by the National Union of Students after holding controversial recruitment sessions.
The fringe group, founded in Jerusalem in 1953, separated into factions in the early 1990’s, when Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of its London branch, broke away to form al-Muhajiroun, which espouses violent struggle in the name of Islam.
Al-Muhajiroun, which has boasted of recruiting British Muslims to fight in the Bosnian war and offering advice to others who seek a role in extremist Islam, was officially disbanded last year.