The East London Mosque (ELM) continues pushing the line that it only hosted the al-Qaeda linked preacher Anwar al-Awlaki at its mosque on one occasion and that ‘there was no credible evidence at the time of the event that al-Awlaki might be an extremist'.
Both parts of that statement are demonstrably wrong.
The ELM admits the Awlaki spoke at the mosque in January 2009, stating:
A video of al-Awlaki was shown by an external hirer on 1 January 2009 in which he talked about life after death. Nothing controversial or extreme was said in the video.
That might be so, but the manner in which the event was advertised was certainly controversial and extreme. Billed as an ‘end of days' conference the poster shows Manhattan under siege, submitting to an almost Hadean apocalypse.
The content of Awlaki's talk in this respect is largely irrelevant. Yes, he spoke about ‘life after death' but would the ELM have allowed Nick Griffin to lecture at their mosque provided he agreed not to speak about race?
The ELM says this is the only occasion on which Awlaki spoke at its premises. Yet, at a conference the following month held at the London Muslim Centre - a venue owned and controlled by the ELM, and attached to the mosque - the same group that hosted him in January promised to repeat the lecture:
[Message from "Abu Salahudeen"]
Re: Noor Pro Media...Don't Despair
For those who missed the opportunity to watch the video lecture by Anwar Al Awlaki (Your Just Reward...Paradise or Hell) at our last event, we will be airing this video again at this event.
So please arrive early and make sure you have purchased a ticket, as we have limited seating available.
It is not known whether this actually happened but, so far, there have been no denials from either the ELM or the event organisers, Noor Pro Media.
What the ELM also fails to acknowledge is that they hosted Awlaki in 2003. He spoke at an event hosted by the now defunct group ‘Stop Police Terror' in the East London Mosque and focused on anti-terror arrests, urging Muslims not to report fellow Muslims under any circumstances:
A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he does not oppress him, he does not betray him and he does not hand him over...You don't hand over a Muslim to the enemies...
You can hear his speech here:
The second point raised by the ELM is that when it allowed Awlaki to broadcast his message in 2009 ‘there was no credible evidence at the time of the event that al-Awlaki might be an extremist'.
To be honest, I don't even know where to begin with this one.
Last month I produced an authoritative rebuttal of the argument that Awlaki has somehow become more radical in recent years. It is manifestly untrue.
Long before Awlaki spoke at the ELM he was translating and disseminating jihadist texts such as Thawaabit Ala' Darb Al-Jihad - which means ‘The Constants of Jihad'. He also promoted stories from the ‘Book of Jihad' written by a 14th Century jihadist, Ibn Nuhaas and delivered the lecture ‘Allah is preparing us for victory' in which he told listeners:
...the solution for the Ummah is Jihad fe Sabeelillah [Jihad in the path of God]. When the Ummah revives this Ibaadah [worship], it becomes ironical; Jihad fe Sabeelillah becomes an irony. People run away from it because they see that is it a loss of money and it's also a loss of self; you could loose [sic] life and you could loose [sic] your wealth in Jihad fe Sabeelillah. The irony is that when the Ummah fights Jihad fe Sabeelillah, the Ummah becomes the wealthiest and when the Ummah is fighting Jihad fe Sabeelillah, the least of this Ummah die.
Indeed, two months before the ELM hosted Awlaki in 2009 the Homeland Security Under-Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, Charles Allen, stated:
Another example of al-Qa'ida reach into the Homeland is U.S. citizen, al-Qa'ida supporter, and former spiritual leader to three of the September 11th hijackers Anwar al-Awlaki-who targets U.S. Muslims with radical online lectures encouraging terrorist attacks from his new home in Yemen.
One month after Awlaki's video message was broadcast at the ELM, he wrote the following on his blog:
I pray that America sees no progress at all. I pray that Allah destroys America and all its allies and the day that happens, and I assure you it will and sooner than you think, I will be very pleased.
Let's assume the ELM is sincere when it says it did not know the truth about Awlaki. Surely that means its senior management - such as Mohammed Abdul Bari - are grossly unfit to continue serving as government advisers on violent extremism?
That is the best case scenario for them.
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.
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