London, Asharq al-Awsat – In defiance of British laws, a banned Islamic extremist group has resumed its activities in London with the start of Ramadan, according to informed sources. Al Ghurabaa”s internet site featured several articles on the Holy month and recommendations to Muslims worldwide as well as information on new anti-terror laws.
Outlawed along with Hizb-ul-Tahrir after the London bombings on July 7, 2005, the extremist groups” website also included sermons and speeches by its founder, Omar Bakri Mohammed. Originally from Syria, the cleric now lives in Lebanon and is banned from returning to Britain. He is also the founder of al Muhajiroun, a fundamentalist group which disbanded itself in October 2004.
Last August, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced that his government intended to rid the country of all foreign Islamist extremists, extradite them to their countries of origin and halt the activity of homegrown preachers of hate. Indicating "the rules of the game had changed”, Blair said it would no longer be possible to abuse British hospitality to preach hatred and call for the killing of innocent civilians, in Britain, Israel and the Occupied Territories, and elsewhere.
On his part, Omar Bakri told Asharq al Awsat, in an online conversation from Beirut, that he resigned from the leadership of al Ghurabaa for religious reasons, citing the distance between him and his supporters in London as a critical factor. He indicated that the group”s religious council chose Abdul Muid Islam as it”s new emir (leader), who is a British born Muslim.
Bakri, who earlier described the September 11 hijackers as the “Great 19,” said, “I received the news of my replacement with calmness, because of my lack of legitimacy and my inability to preach in Britain because of the distance.” He revealed that he was currently busy writing and settling in his apartment in Beirut and expected his wife and seven children to follow him to Lebanon before the end of Ramadan.
Denying any knowledge of the new leader of al Ghurabaa, Bakri told Asharq al Awsat that the new leader, Abdul Muid Islam was not one of his students. He added, “The new leader is not my successor. The movement is still in its infancy. My role was to give guidance and not administration.”
Expressing his sadness at having to leave his students behind, he said many were still in contact and he would not abandon them, adding that in 20 years of preaching in London, he had educated hundreds of men.
The Syrian-born preacher caused controversy in the aftermath of the London July 7 attacks when he announced that he would never tell the police if Muslims were on their way to carry out a suicide operation. Bakri came to Britain in 1985 where he sought asylum.