What would you do if you found out that, for the last three years, you were engaged in promoting and supporting an al-Qaeda ideologue with extensive links to the last two terrorist attacks in the United States? Most people would likely show a bit of humility and "sit the next couple of plays out". Not Moazzam Begg however, whose organisation, Cageprisoners, are the UK's leading promoters of al-Qaeda linked preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki. Instead, Begg has come out fighting.
Last week, he wrote an indignant article responding to criticism of him and his group where he tried, and failed, to defend his links to Awlaki. He began by trying to distance himself from the underpants bomber, who in 2007 organised the UCL Islamic Society's ‘War on Terror Week', at which Begg was a keynote speaker. According to Begg "a rudimentary investigation would have uncovered that Abdulmuttalab was not the actual organiser of these lectures - he was not even present." Not according to the Times:
The Nigerian student who organised "War on Terror Week" in January 2007 is now better known as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be suicide bomber who tried to blow up a transatlantic airliner last week.
Or the New York Times:
For the inaugural lecture of the "War on Terror Week" that Abdulmutallab helped organize as president of the college's Islamic society from 2006 to 2007, the group booked a large lecture hall. It was a full house, said Fabian De Fabiani, a student at the time who attended, with about 150 people.
[...]Abdulmutallab was seated "where the lecturer would usually sit," De Fabiani said, "very close" to Moazzam Begg...
This, anyway, was the result of my "rudimentary investigation", perhaps Begg can share with us what he found.
Begg then moves on to "another person I keep getting calls about: the US-Yemeni Imam Anwar al-Awlaki". It shouldn't surprise him too much that people would like to know why his group continues to promote Awlaki despite what has been revealed about his repugnant views. Even if we were to forget for a moment that Awlaki was in direct contact with the Fort Hood murderer or that Abdulmutallab was a student of his in Yemen, just one look at his blog, the existence of which Begg acknowledges, shows him to be a jihadist of the highest order. Take, for example, his praise of the al-Qaeda linked Somali group, al Shabaab, a group that executes 13 year old girls for the crime of being gang raped:
We are following your recent news and it fills our hearts with immense joy. We would like to congratulate you for your victories and achievements.
Al-Shabab not only have succeeded in expanding the areas that fall under their rule but they have succeeded in implementing the sharia and giving us a living example of how we as Muslims should proceed to change our situation. The ballot has failed us but the bullet has not.
Or his jihadist take on the already rigid and ultra-sectarian Wahhabi concept of al wala' wa al-bara', (loyalty to Muslims and enmity to non Muslims):
If a Muslim kills each and every civilian disbeliever on the face of the earth he is still a Muslim and we cannot side with the disbelievers against him.
[the blog is now offline, but Cageprisoners have been reading it since at least mid 2008]
In his article, Begg is unwilling to criticise these pronouncements and instead can only muster a half -acknowledgment of Awlaki's extremism: "After his release [from Yemeni prison in 2006], I am told, Anwar's position on issues pertaining to US foreign policy had started to become more hostile." What a child- killing, totalitarian organisation in Somalia has to do with US foreign policy is not, however, immediately clear to me. In any case, Awlaki was an extremist long before 2006, and his links with terrorists, including three of the 9/11 hijackers, have been clearly documented. Among other things, Awlaki also called for the murder of Mohammed cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, before his 2006 incarceration (again, where US foreign policy fits into this is a total mystery to me).
Begg ends his muddled explanation of his dealings with Awlaki by "condemning the ideology of killing innocent civilians". This is not good enough, especially considering that he promotes a man who represents exactly that ideology.
Despite his protestations, Begg is still more than happy to have Awlaki's material on his website, presented as a respectable voice in Islamic jurisprudence no less. Cageprisoners even reproduce Awlaki's book reviews of Islamic material as if he is an authority on the matter. The gross irresponsibility of this cannot be overstated and presenting Awlaki as an authority on Islam is what will create the next Abdulmutallab or Nidal Hasan.
Begg and his cronies should take some advice from these guys:
Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.
Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London. He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon.
To contact the authors, click here
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