London, Asharq Al-Awsat – Omar Bakri Mohammed, the fundamentalist leader and founder of al-Muhajiroun group and its successor al Ghuraba (the foreigners in Arabic), both banned by the British government last Friday, indicated he planned to leave London voluntarily prior to being expelled by the authorities who, allegedly, will backdate the charges brought against him.
The 47 year old Syrian-born fundamentalist was reacting to the decision by Prime Minister Tony Blair last week to ban both extremist groups, as part of a number of measures to combat terrorism and punish those fostering hatred or, advocating and justifying violence to further beliefs.
Bakri said, “The eviction of Muslims from their homes is not new. We were expelled from our lands in the past and now it is Britain ’s turn. Migrating to a country where we can perform our Sharia duties is very important to us.” The latest measures include deporting and excluding those who instigate and support terrorism from the UK, in addition to agreements with 10 countries to ensure the deported individuals are not tortured or ill-treated in their countries of origin.
In a telephone interview with Asharq Al Awsat, Bakri revealed he planned to return to Lebanon as he holds Lebanese citizenship and had traveled to London from there. He repeated that no sentence against him had been issued in Syria or in Lebanon . Bakri described plans to backdate the charges against him to include past speeches as “sheer madness” because he has been “preaching in the name of God in sermons and lectures in Britain for almost 20 years.” He wondered, “If I had broken the law in my speeches, why have I not be arrested and interrogated?”
Claiming the British government had a hidden agenda against Islamic fundamentalists and political Islam, Bakri added, “At the end of the day, I can worship God in London just as I can worship God in Lebanon .” He recalled how he had looked after and educated two generations of Muslims youths through religious sermons and lectures, and by participating in religious conferences. Bakri said he founded the Sharia court in Britain which officiated over 1,400 marriages and 600 divorces. He also established a college where hundreds of Muslims youths learned the fundamental tenants of Islam.
The Syrian-born extremist denied issuing a fatwa (religious edict) calling on Muslims to engage in jihad against non- believers, wherever they may live. Instead, he evoked his address to young Muslims in Britain forbidding them from committing terrorist acts in the UK . Bakri repeated his call for Muslims to support their long-suffering brethren in Palestine , Chechnya , and Kashmir .
Arguing that western democracy was a man-made religion that varies as interests and circumstances changed, the fundamentalist preacher repeated his support for al Qaeda.
A father of seven, Bakri was granted political asylum in Britain in 1986. He headed the extremist al Muhajiroun group, which later changed its name to Jamaa Ahl al Sunna wa al Jamaa , until it was disbanded on 13th October 2004 . He later formed another group, al Ghuraba and held the post of General Guide.
As he settled in London , after being expelled from Saudi Arabia , Bakri founded the British branch of Hizb ut Tahrir, first established in Jerusalem , in 1953 by SheikhTaqiuddin AL Nabahani. Bakri left the group in 1996 and started the al Muhajiroun movement, best known for its fiery pronouncements. On the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it described the perpetrators as “the great 19.” Bakri has also caused controversy for his calls for jihad on Paltalk internet forum.
For his part, Muslim peer Lord Nazir Ahmad, had repeatedly asked the Home Office to launch an investigation on the activities of al Muhajiroun after reports the extremist organization was recruiting young Muslim men in London and across Britain and sending them abroad to receive military training.