LONDON,AP – When Prime Minister Tony Blair met with two dozen Muslim religious leaders to discuss a new package of anti-terrorism bills, the radical Islamic firebrand Anjem Choudary was not invited.
The British government has heard enough of his views, spoken from the angry margins of the country”s immigrant Muslim community. The extremist group he led, Muhajiroun, had called for creating an Islamic state in Britain and praised suicide attacks in Israel and elsewhere; the group claims it has since disbanded.
But Choudary hasn”t stopped espousing the ideas, and his screeds against Blair and British foreign policy open a window into the ideology of Britain”s radical Islamic thinkers, in a country known as a center of Muslim immigrant intellectuals of all shades.
In an interview with The Associated Press on the same day Blair met with his moderate co-religionists, Choudary blamed Blair”s government and its "crusader views" of Muslims for the July 7 suicide bomb attacks against the London subway and a double-decker bus.
He also said the British public shared the blame for ignoring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden”s warning last year that Britain would be attacked if it did not withdraw troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. And he lit into Blair”s meeting with the moderates.
"This is not the time for talking, it”s time for action," he said. Blair, he added, has "got to do something (about the policies) which have caused 7-7," as the attacks that killed 56 people and wounded 700 are sometimes called here.
The Muslim leaders who met with Blair did not represent the Muslim community in Britain, he said. Choudary dismissed them as hand-picked by the government for their agreement with Blair”s foreign and domestic policies — which he claimed were the root causes of the London bombings.
Had Blair tried to meet with Omar Bakri, the radical preacher and founder of Muhajiroun, and a verbal supporter of suicide attacks in Israel, it would have been "a very different picture," Choudary said. The name Muhajiroun is Arabic for "The Emigrants"
But he said he believed Bakri would have refused to meet with the Blair had he been invited. The preacher, he said, "would see Tony Blair as someone with the blood of Muslims on his hands, a murderer of Muslims, an occupier of Muslim lands."
To avoid a repeat of the attacks, Choudary said, Britain has to heed the warnings.
"Those four individuals who carried out the operation cannot be blamed solely for 7-7," said Choudary, a former director of Muhajiroun and now director of the Sharia Court of the United Kingdom and chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers. Sharia is Muslim law as derived from the Quran.
"I think ultimately, the British foreign policy — the occupation of Iraq and the support of the state of Israel — and the draconian laws which they have introduced over the years in this country — have a lot to do with why 7-7 took place. And I think one has to wake up and look at the reality," Choudary said in the telephone interview.
He said the new proposed legislation was a reflection of the government”s "crusader views, their anti-Islam and anti-Muslim views."
"When Muslims talk about jihad, suddenly they”re cast as terrorists and they”re threatened with deportation. I think this is double standards, that”s blatant racism, isn”t it?" he said.
He said the secular as well as moderate British Muslims were also to be blamed for the London bombings. "They”ve been saying all along that al-Qaida doesn”t really exist, there”s no such thing as holy war, nobody”s going to do it in Britain. Whereas people like us, we were giving the warning."
Muhajiroun outraged many two years ago by holding a conference entitled "Sept. 11, 2001: A Towering Day in History." The group was once thought to have perhaps several hundred followers, but it was driven underground by arrests and police raids.