London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Radical cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad plans to return to Britain to see his wife and children and meet with his students but ruled out “a permanent move to London even if they gave me Queen Elizabeth’s throne.”
In a telephone conversation with Asharq al Awsat on Saturday, the firebrand cleric indicated that his return depended on renewing his Lebanese passport and affording a plane ticket, which he expected to pay for by students’ donations.
The Syrian-born Islamist Sheikh, who is barred from returning to Britain in the wake of the July 7 attacks, revealed he had not “asked his lawyer Ikbal Ahmad Haq to appeal against the decision”.
Instead the spiritual guide of the al Ghurabaa movement and the former leader of al Muhajiroun which disbanded itself in October 2004, will apply for a tourist visa. The British authorities had informed him in an official report, handed over to the Lebanese authorities, that his leave to remain in the United Kingdom was revoked and he would not be allowed to return.
The 46-year old confirmed that he needed a tourist visa to fly back to Britain and added that his children had already applied for one on his behalf and were awaiting the result.
“My wife and children live in London and so do hundreds of my students who call for my return,” he said.
Asked whether he would exercise his legal right to appeal the British Home Office”s decision to revoke his residency, Bakri said he did not to do so for reasons relating to Islamic Shariaa.
“Claiming political asylum is allowed in our religion since the early Muslims migrated to Abyssinia ,” he added.
“From the point of view of Shariaa (Islamic law), Islam permits me to travel a second time to Britain as a visitor or a new migrant.” On the contrary, his permanent return to Britain would involve appearing before an appeals judge who would not follow the rule of God in his ruling, which he considered “idolatry”.
Bakri denied that the British government’s failure to secure its anti-terror bill as MPs voted Wednesday to reject a 90- day detention for terrorism suspects was an open invitation for his permanent return to Britain. However, he did say that if the Commons had refused to allow the 28-day detention without trial of suspects, he would return to London the next day.
The home Office had intended to give the police increased powers to place those suspected of terrorism under arrest for a period of up to 90 days. MPs rejected the plan by a wide margin with 322 voting against it and 291 supporting the bill. The Commons voted to decrease the detention period to 28 days.
Asked whether being repeatedly interrogated in Beirut had encouraged him to consider a return to Britain, Bakri said he felt under greater pressure from the Metropolitan Police in London than in Lebanon. British law enforcement agents, he said, lacked neutrality and objectivity and were racist, unlike the police in Beirut.
He blamed his questioning by the Lebanese authorities on pressure from the British authorities adding, “Freedom of expression is greater in Lebanon.”