- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

LONDON Radical Muslims at a London mosque marked September 11 last night by urging young men to become foot soldiers in the struggle for Islamic victory against "American efforts to dominate the world and snatch Gulf oil fields."
A crowd of several hundred at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London applauded when Sheik Abu Hamza al-Masri said that the FBI had blown up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as an excuse to swing world opinion against Islam and allow the United States and allies to "turn the world into a war zone."
Speakers called for resistance against American "oppression" and praised Osama bin Laden as a hero "whose actions have been totally legitimate."
Resistance by Muslims "is the only legitimate response to unparalleled arrogance and oppression" by America, leaders of four radical groups said in a joint statement.
In a distant part of the Muslim world, residents in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo watched television coverage of memorial services in New York and joined their leaders in proclaiming the United States a defender of world freedom at a candlelight vigil in Pristina.
The London rally, called to discuss the "positive outcomes of September 11," was also proclaimed by the extremist al-Muhajiroun movement as "A Towering Day in History" on posters displaying the burning and collapsing New York towers.
As he entered the brown- and red-bricked mosque, which is notorious for its support of militant radicals, Sheik Hamza said yesterday was not a day of celebration. "That's because we have in the last year lost a country [Afghanistan] that many of us would have liked to emigrate to," he told reporters.
Many of the young men attending the event had draped black-and-white Palestinian head scarves across their foreheads in the style of the suicide bombers who have wreaked havoc in the nearly 2-year-old uprising against Israel.
Mainstream Muslim communal leaders sharply criticized the gathering, asserting that it was not representative of true community attitudes. "It is offensive to all right-thinking people, irrespective of religion," declared the Muslim Council.
There has been considerable outrage in some quarters here that any such gathering of radicals was not broken up by British police or declared illegal. Reflecting that view, the Daily Mail newspaper called the rally's organizers "as much our enemy as [Osama] bin Laden." The newspaper described the decision to allow the meeting as "a mark of our rulers' blind stupidity." It made a mockery, said the paper, of Prime Minister Tony Blair's claim to be tough on terrorism.
Omar Bakri Mohamed, the leader of al-Muhajiroun, has openly stated his desire to create an Islamic state in Britain, called for the assassination of a previous prime minister, John Major; recently held a rally in support of bin Laden and has described his organization as the 'eyes, ears and tongue' of the radical Islamic Palestinian group, Hamas. Al-Muhajiroun has boasted of recruiting Muslims to fight in Afghanistan late last year, and of creating 'martyrs' there.
The mood was very different at the candlelight vigil in Pristina, where Kosovar President Ibrahim Rugova described the September 11 attacks as "an explosion, an assault of evil."
"We can say today that this whole year has been a victory of the good over evil. The U.S.A. and the civilized world have prevailed and emerged stronger," he said.
"We avail ourselves of the opportunity of this Remembrance Evening to hail President Bush and the American people. We pray for you. We stand by you."
The mood of solidarity and appreciation was shared by virtually all of the speakers and participants who attended throughout the afternoon and evening. At one time, the audience numbered close to 300 people, according to a U.N. police officer.
"We will never forget what the U.S. did for our country," said Pilanra Sibrin, holding aloft the American and Kosovar flags. "Arabian people will one day understand who is a friend and who is an enemy."
The United States organized and led NATO forces in a 1999 air assault that drove Yugoslav forces out of Kosovo, ending an "ethnic cleansing" campaign that had killed thousands of Muslim Kosovars and driven tens of thousands more from their homes.
A Western diplomat described the Pristina ceremony as the only such event in a Muslim capital that was not coordinated by an American embassy.
Indeed, the anniversary of the September 11 attacks served in much of the Arab world as an occasion for expressing pent-up anger at the United States.
"I hate America, its policy, and even Americans themselves," Mahmud Mohamed, 38, a Cairo street sweeper, told the French news agency Agence France-Presse. "I would be very happy if America were hit every month."
However, other Arabs tempered their fury at U.S. policy with sympathy for the American dead.
"Of course, I cannot be happy with what happened in the United States. It wouldn't be human to enjoy seeing thousands of innocent people die," said Selim Awad, a 48-year-old employer at a private company.
Hans Nichols in Pristina, Yugoslavia, contributed to this report.


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