Cllr Phil Briscoe, a Conservative opposition councillor on Labour-run Tower Hamlets Council has been making urgent enquiries over the following press release from the Quilliam Foundation, an organisation set up to counter Islamic extremism.
Tower Hamlets is home to Britain’s largest Muslim population and the Brady Centre has recently hosted a number of extreme Islamist events, including a video-conference by Omar Bakri.
According to online adverts posted on extreme Islamist websites, the weekend’s event, entitled ‘Virtues of the Sahabah [the Companions of the Prophet Mohammed]’, will be a two-day “weekend course” featuring Anwar al-Awlaki as the “main lecturer” as well as two UK-based Wahhabi
speakers. The event has also been advertised on the Islam Channel
Anwar al-Awlaki is one of the most prominent pro-jihadist English-language speakers currently active anywhere in the world. Until he moved to Yemen in 2002, he was active in the US as a radical preacher. Since then, he has lectured in Yemen’s private al-Iman university which is run by Abdul Maajid Zindani, a US-designated terrorist who is a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen, while he also runs a website popular with English-speaking extremists.
Awlaki’s pro-jihadist statements:
During the last few years, al-Awlaki has repeatedly issued highly extreme statements that are supportive of al-Qaeda’s global jihad. For example, he has openly called on all Muslims to carry out jihad against the rulers of Muslim-majority countries and for this jihad to be like ‘total war’.
In December 2008, he issued a statement praising Al-Shabaab, the Somali jihadist group, writing that:
“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.”
Al-Awlaki has also written a text called ‘44 ways of supporting jihad’ – which tells Muslims around the world that they should support al-Qaeda’s jihad by conducting attacks if they are able or else by raising funds (among other things).
The event is charging an entrance fee of £70. It is not clear what this money will be used for.
Maajid Nawaz, the Director of Quilliam, says:
“Anwar al-Awlaki has a track record of making statements that overtly call on Muslims around the world to support al-Qaeda’s global jihad. It is deeply worrying that the Brady Arts Centre and Tower Hamlets are repeatedly allowing supremacist hate preachers like Awlaki to broadcast this propaganda into the heart of London’s East End.”
“Local councils have an obligation to promote social cohesion and to pro-actively tackle extremism and hate preaching. Instead we find that Tower Hamlets council is subsidising extremism by allowing fanatics to use a venue that is directly funded by the British taxpayer. When will Tower Hamlets council wake up to the extremist threat and put in place procedures in place to prevent such events from happening?”