CST Blog

"Clowns" and masks of hatred

6 December 2013

A slightly shorter version of the below article is in this week's Jewish Chronicle. It concerns the release of an excellent new report, Gateway to Terror, (see here) by HOPE not Hate on the extremist Al-Muhajiroun group.


Sometimes, clowns can be deadly serious. For much of the 1990s, my colleagues and I at CST issued repeated warnings about one especially dangerous group of clowns, called Al Muhajiroun. Now, nearly twenty years later, this group (in its various forms) is widely known as a leading source of pro Al Qaeda radicalisation and recruitment; but the lesson has been long and bloody.

To be clear, it was certainly not CST which regarded Al Muhajiroun as clowns. We had seen them form in 1996, splitting from another group that was already bad enough, but now with the stated intention of rabble rousing on the streets of Britain, including provocations to grab media coverage. They certainly grabbed CST’s attention, with flyers calling for Jews to be killed; and public speeches that included Holocaust denial and warned about the true Holocaust to come.

Despite our best efforts, it reached the stage where it seemed to us that each successive Al Muhajiroun stunt was almost taken by police, government, supposed “experts” and others as further proof that this was not a serious group of players. Worse, their then leader, Omar Bakri Mohamed, was one of those people who, as they get more extreme, also appear more ridiculous: a motor-mouthed parody of a Jihadist with a big beard. With such a ringmaster, how could anybody take the rest of the circus seriously?

As time passed, CST’s concerns deepened even further. It was clear that hundreds, probably thousands, of young British Muslims were hearing Al Muhajiroun’s message of hate. We had seen the police’s difficulties in dealing with the semi-clandestine Jihadists holed up in the notorious Finsbury Park mosque; and tried consoling ourselves that the security services must be deliberately keeping Al Muhajiroun in plain sight. 

Then, with the attacks on 11th September 2001, things finally changed. The police, government, the media and their experts could no longer allow such megaphone Jihadist radicalisation, and the physical and political dangers that it poses to society. Fast forward to today, and it is estimated that hundreds of people connected in one way or another to the Al Muhajiroun network have been convicted in British courts. This estimate appears in an excellent new report on Al Muhajiroun, aptly entitled Gateway to Terror, issued last week by the anti-racism group, HOPE not Hate.

The report pulls together information that is well known to CST and informs much of our work, including the two British suicide bombers who blew up Mike’s Place bar in Tel Aviv in 2003. Linked to Al Muhajiroun, they had supposedly flown to Damascus intending to fight in Iraq, before killing themselves, and others, in the name of Hamas. That development worried us for very obvious reasons. The so-called “shoe bomber” also features, as do the 7th July 2005 London bombers, and the nine men guilty of the Christmas 2010 plot to bomb a range of targets, which included two rabbis at their synagogue addresses.

Overall, the report is well worth reading. The most important thing of all, however, is who has written it, because HOPE not Hate is a leading anti-racist group with an unparalleled track record in bringing communities together to fight against extremism. Crucially, this is just about the first time that anybody in Britain’s self-defined anti-racist and anti-fascist circles has ever shown a serious interest in Jihadist activity of any sort. HOPE not Hate has shattered that shameful pattern. Their report correctly emphasises:

No matter under what banner the politics of hatred and intolerance raises its ugly head we must be prepared to greet it with organised and determined opposition. The face of hatred is the face of hatred and the mask it wears is irrelevant.

The message is clear, and the next time a new face of hatred comes along, let us hope that everybody recognises it for what it is.   

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