Omar Bakri expresses dim view of Amir Khan

Today’s Sun (Murdoch-owned London tabloid) led with a front-page story about something Omar Bakri said about Amir Khan. Omar Bakri is the former leader of the disbanded al-Muhajiroun, who ran noisy demonstrations and street-corner stalls until they were banned in 2005; Amir Khan is a British Pakistani boxer. Apparently, “in an internet exchange with other extremists”, Omar Bakri said that Khan was jahil, meaning ignorant:

Asked if Amir was setting a bad example by draping himself in the flag, he replied: “I don’t think somebody should really look to Amir Khan as a good example for the youth.

“So now for him to be wrapping himself in British flag is another sign of somebody who is completely jahil. You give him the excuse of ignorance for living among the kuffar. So you can’t call him kuffar but you can call him jahil and deviant person.”

The Sun claims to have contacted Omar Bakri in his “hideaway” in Beirut, and got this response:

He said: “Amir Khan is not a good example for Muslims. He wears shorts with the Union Jack. That is a sin.

“He should not be wearing the flag because sovereignty is for God. His only allegiance should be to the Prophet Mohammed.

“The ideal situation would be to have a Muslim team not registered to any state so he can represent the Islamic community.”

I have normally been the first person to condemn the idiotic opinions of the loud-mouthed Omar Bakri, which the tabloids were always eager to get hold of so they could put them on their front page. I find the antics of his followers, who have been engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with the government who have banned them under one name after another, ranging from sad to despicable. However, on this issue I partly agree with Omar Bakri, but in any case, find them not exactly sensational. He has not called anyone a kafir (unbeliever) or called for anyone to be killed, just called someone ignorant and a bad role model.

The Union Jack is a montage of crosses of various Christian “saints”. As Muslims we reject what the Cross stands for: the falsely claimed assassination of a Prophet, peace be upon him. It is a point of difficulty for us to use this emblem even though we may be representing this country.

The Sun also engages in stupid exaggerations, such as the reference to Omar Bakri’s “hideaway”. In a table comparing Amir with “Mad Bad Bakri”, it refers to his home as a “luxury £150,000 bolthole in Beirut said to be funded by British state handouts to his family”. If this is true, it is a scandal; people should simply not be able to fund relatives’ homes and lifestyles abroad at state expense. However, in my experience, British benefits amount to a bare minimum unless you are claiming fraudulently. Omar Bakri’s home is just that, anyway - a home, not a bolthole or hideaway. If it was the latter, surely the British press could not contact him so readily?

Perhaps he mentioned one other important factor in his address to “fellow extremists”, or perhaps not: boxing itself is against Islam because it involves punching someone in the face and head, and at that, repeatedly so as to risk causing them permanent brain damage or killing them (it doesn’t matter whether the opponent is a Muslim or not). So, this also makes him a bad role model to Muslims, or anyone else for that matter.

The Sun also features a Tory MP named Andrew Rosindell, “an outspoken MP on terrorist issues”, who represents Romford (to which neither Omar Bakri nor Amir Khan have a strong link), telling the world that he would like to see Omar Bakri and Amir Khan “slugging it out”. I always thought boxing was a sport, and that boxing was a way of use one’s fighting skills for “good” rather than just fighting anyone and everyone who gets in the way. Really, recommending that “positive role model” Amir box Omar Bakri’s head in for saying he’s ignorant and shouldn’t be flying a flag with a cross on it does not reflect the values one would expect the boxing establishment to want to be associated with, does it?

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