London, Asharq Al-Awsat– Omar Bakri Mohammed, the radical Muslim cleric, called on his followers in the al Ghurabaa movement and al Muhajiroun, which disbanded itself in October 2004, to join him in the Lebanese capital.
In an interview with Asharq al Awsat, Omar Bakri indicated that some supporters, originally from the Indian subcontinent, had already arrived in Lebanon to study religion.
The cleric who had sensationally called the September 11, 2001 hijackers the “Magnificent 19”, urged his fellow Islamists to leave British soil if they are to continue spreading their beliefs, “in the name of God”.
Omar Bakri revealed a number of new converts to Islam, who hailed from Britain, Ireland, and other European countries, intended on traveling to Beirut and enroll on three-month Arabic course.
Despite being forbidden from returning to the United Kingdom, the radical cleric denied abandoning his students in London. He expressed his sorrow at having to be separated from his Muslim followers and indicated that in 20 years spent preaching, he had educated hundred of students.
He blames circumstances for obliging him to shut the offices of al Gurabaa and the religious school which he headed in London.
Omar Barki ruled out returning to Britain even if circumstances changed. “Even if I was given large sums of money and a British passport, I will not be retuning to land of infidels”, he told Asharq al Awsat.
The radical cleric revealed that he first considered leaving London following the Madrid bombings in 2004, after suffering from intimidation from the security services. With the increased media attention and negative publicity he received after the attacks in London on July 7, Omar Bakri said he resolved himself to leave.
He described his new life in Beirut as good and stable and said religious leaders he had visited had welcomed him warmly. “Life is good here, praise be to God. I am treated differently here”, he added.
Omar Bakri, who had predicted the London bombings, said, “The people of Lebanon respected preachers and students of religion and revered their opinions and showed them respect, unlike in Britain.”
Calling for “all Muslims to leave Europe”, he predicted, “the Islamic flag will be raised over Downing Street”, the Prime Minister’s residence in London.
Commenting on the July 7 attacks which targeted London’s transport system, the radical cleric stressed that the biography of each of the 4 suicide bombers indicated that, “Osama bin Laden’s message had reached moderated circles.”
In the aftermath of the bombings, the cleric controversially said he would not cooperate with the police, even if to alert them of an impending terrorist attack.
On his future plans, Omar Bakri said he was busy writing a book on the companions of the Prophet, in six volumes, but denied any plans to compose an autobiography detailing his experiences in Britain. “I do not like speaking about myself or my work”, he said.
The cleric has seven children and lived, until August 2005, in Edmonton, North London, for 20 years, after arriving in Britain in 1986 and seeking asylum. He relied on state benefits totaling 300 GBP per month.