- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

LONDON — Moderate Muslims joined Britain’s opposition Conservative Party yesterday in calling for a crackdown on militant Islamists in the country.

The demand came one day after a Muslim group turned September 11 into a tribute to the “magnificent 19” hijackers who killed more than 3,000 people in the attacks two years ago.

“This is a sickening abuse of the freedom of speech that this country provides to all those who live in it,” said Oliver Letwin, who would become Home Secretary if the Conservatives win the next election.

Mohammed Nasim, chairman of the moderate Central Mosque in Birmingham — previously named the Saddam Hussein Mosque in honor of its sponsor — accused the British authorities of “letting ordinary Muslims down by not taking a stronger stance.”

Both men want to see arrests and prosecutions of radical Muslims, especially when they publicly spout hatred and make threats.

The government has to do its part and intervene when people cause racial hatred, Mr. Nasim said.

“This group is giving Islam a bad name and the Home Office is letting all Muslims down by refusing to act when it openly incites violence.”

The uproar followed calls on Thursday by speakers from Britain’s radical Al Muhajiroun for more jihad, or holy war, against the West.

The popular Daily Express newspaper dubbed them the “faces of evil,” including an eloquent bearded lawyer, Anjem Choudray, the group’s British leader.

“Boot Out Bin Laden Monsters in Britain,” screamed the front-page lead headline of the conservative Express newspaper, describing what its sub-headline called “fury as mullahs gloat over world’s worst terror attack.”

Al Muhajiroun was planning demonstrations this weekend, despite the loss of its four announced sites in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester when the owners withdrew permission for the rallies.

On Thursday, the militants gave their speeches to reporters inside a grubby warehouse in north London, where many immigrants and Britons of Asian origin live.

There, a man calling himself Abu Omar said the 19 hijackers had “done a good deed” and that they had “made the ultimate sacrifice” for Allah.

One of the speakers later told a national television news program Thursday night that Prime Minister Tony Blair would be “a legitimate target for Muslims in those countries his soldiers occupy.”

British police have arrested a number of hard-line Islamists, but in most cases only when they are thought to be directly involved in planning attacks.

Little has been done to curb a weekly stream of vituperation at a small number of radical mosques.

Posters rimmed with photographs of all 19 hijackers said they were “the men who split the world.”

Omar Bakri, the world leader of Al Muhajiroun, recently told The Washington Times that splitting the world was good for Islam.

Separation was needed between those who accepted Islam as the only legitimate religion and the rest, the “infidels.”

The ultimate battle will be between the true Muslims and the rest of the world, who are either Christians, Jews or heathens — and “there are also many Muslims who we consider traitors,” Mr. Bakri said.

The vast majority of Britain’s estimated 2 million Muslims support the left-of-center Labor Party, and several Muslims are members of Parliament.

One of the lawmakers, Khalid Mahmood, said the radicals’ speeches Thursday were an affront to Muslims.

“They are doing it deliberately to incite racial hatred and they should not be allowed to get away with it,” he told the Express.

“They are inciting divisions between communities, and I would say to decent people: Don’t give them any credibility, and let people see how isolated they are.”

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