Omar Bakri shoots off his mouth again

Today I was off work. I went to Kingston, and the first place I headed was the Algerian cafe up near the mosque. On the way, I saw the Evening Standard’s headline boards saying that a “cleric” had blamed the British for the bombings. Which “cleric”? Perhaps an imam from Central Mosque, or any mosque in London, or Leeds, or perhaps Damascus or Cairo? Perhaps someone from a religion that has clerics … perhaps Cormac Murphy O’Connor?

No, it’s the media’s favourite “Muslim cleric”, Omar Bakri Muhammad and his sidekick Anjum Choudhary. Apparently the British are to blame for the bombings because we voted Labour, the party which took us into war. Never mind the fact that the Tories, had they been in power, would most likely have done precisely the same thing.

This was front page news, and my guess is that the Standard sought this story out. Perhaps because there was no news, at least before the report about the leaked memo which shows that MI5 missed these guys who bombed London. But I can’t understand why the papers care for his opinions, given that he represents such a small minority of the Muslims in London. No doubt because it allows them to make headlines at the expense of our community.

I had really planned a much ruder headline, because I was really quite annoyed at seeing that this man’s opinions had made the front page of London’s only evening newspaper. Literally every commuter (well, unless they cannot read the boards) knows about this. Ahmed Weir, in his sadly missed blog Levantine Historian, noted that while Muslim voices were sadly missing from the media, those voices which do get heard are those we wish would stay quiet. Rod Liddle, former editor of Radio 4’s Today programme, used to invite OBM quite a lot, and I heard him interviewed by Jon Gaunt a few months ago as well.

From my observations it seems Muslims are both annoyed and suspicious about his and his boys’ antics. They do not seem to care how their actions reflect on the community - the notorious US embassy rally in May for example, which was reported as a rally in which former Guantanamo internees spoke and people chanted anti-American and pro-Qa’ida slogans. My enquiries at a subsequent rally held by the same group revealed that the sloganeers were al-Muhajiroun or their remnants, and nothing to do with the rally.

Much of this annoyance and suspicion has been voiced at the MPAC UK website and forum. He is accused of making fitna (trouble), of “do[ing] the Muslim community a great deal of damage”, called a “media junkie” and a “maniac muppet” and suspected of being a “Wahabi stooge” and an agent. An article on their site today “wonders why the big mouth of Britain went silent so quickly” - clearly this was written before the Evening Standard piece hit the stands today.

The opinions actually expressed are only a little bit more extreme than those in the recent Chatham House report: that the Iraq war increased the chances of the UK getting hit by a terrorist attack. The story, for some reason, is not repeated on This Is London, the Standard’s website, but the “blame” comes from voting for politicians who make war on Muslims. Still, Bakri disapproves of the attacks, which given how little influence he has, makes him only one of many people without much sympathy over the recent atrocity. So why do his views make the front page of the Evening Standard?

Does Omar Bakri care about the effect he has on our community? If so, he should wake up and realise the damage he is doing. The papers who interview him are only interested in selling papers, and some have ill-intent towards our community. Omar, if you are not an agent, do us all a favour, and shut up.

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