UK police to investigate Muslim scholar's call for martyrdom

Tells Manchester crowd Blair waging 'war on Islam'.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
A controversial Islamic scholar told an audience in Manchester this week that it was it was right to fight Israel and that "martyrdom" in Israel was just. Azzam Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought and a leading member of the Muslim Association of Britain, was speaking at the Expo-Islamia, which was attended by more than 8,000 people at an arena in central Manchester. The daylong event on Sunday, entitled, "A Call To Humanity," was designed to "present Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims, to call for the promotion of the common good for humanity and clarify the role and responsibility of Muslims living as minorities in the West." It was organized by Islamic Forum Europe and Youth Muslim Organization UK. The local Jewish community expressed concern at the invited speakers. Tamimi, a Hamas supporter, told a cheering crowd that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush were pursuing a path which was not "just and fair." He said the British government was attempting to make the war on terrorism a war on Islam. Tamimi, who had previously said he was prepared to be a suicide bomber in Israel, said, "The greatest act of martyrdom is standing up for what is true and just. Martyrs are those who stand up and stand up in defiance of George Bush and Tony Blair." "You stand up to them and you say, 'Desist. Stop this injustice, stop this oppression. We are Muslims in Europe, not European Muslims,'" he said. "Being fair and just means finding the middle path. The middle path is not rubbing shoulders with Blair and Bush. They say we are in difficult times. I tell you, we are in the best of times, we must just have confidence in ourselves. Just stand up and defend what is right." Following up on his statement last month glorifying the "resistance" of Hizbullah, he added, "Hamas is making sacrifices for you. We tell this government, Hamas is not a terrorist group, it is elected by the people of Palestine." "We are not terrorists. We are defenders of the truth. Fighting those who invade Muslims is a just cause. The government is trying to turn the war on terror into the war on Islam," he said. The British Transport Police, who are responsible for security at the arena, said they would investigate the speech as it may have constituted incitement to terrorism. A police spokesman said, "We are not aware at this point of the precise content of the speeches, other than what has been reported in the media. We will speak to the arena management to ascertain what has happened." Ahmed Khabir, spokesman for Expo-Islamia, said before the event that individual views held or professed in the past had nothing to do with the event and that speakers would not stray into "extremist subjects." In BBC interview eight months before the 7/7 terrorist attacks on London in 2005, Tamimi made it clear to journalist Tim Sebastian that would be prepared to go to Israel and carry out a suicide attack. He told Sebastian, "Israel has no right to exist in my home, on my father's land - has no right to exist. It may exist despite me. It may exist because it is powerful, because it is supported by the US, but I will never as a Palestinian give legitimacy to a state that is created on land robbed from my father, from my grandfather and from my mother." Asked that if suicide bombing was so glorious and honorable would he carry one out, his response was a categorical "Yes." "If I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself I would do it. Why not?" he asked. "In the long term Israel has no future and the Jews who support Israel and Zionism, and especially those who have chosen to migrate to Palestine to occupy the lands and homes of Palestinians, should reconsider their positions. Eventually, Palestine will return to the Muslims, as it did after more than a century of occupation by the Crusaders about 10 centuries ago," he said. Other speakers at the expo included Dr. Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in Mumbai, India, who has reportedly said it was blasphemous for Muslims to wish Christians a Happy Christmas, as it acknowledges Jesus as a son of God. Also among the speakers was leading Respect Party member Yvonne Ridley, a journalist who was incarcerated by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 1994 and is now a Moslem convert and political editor of Muslim Channel, the biggest Muslim satellite channel in Europe. In June she caused controversy when she called for Muslims to "boycott the police and refuse to cooperate with them in any way, shape or form." Louis Rapaport, president of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester, said, "It is certainly not anything that I or my community would want to be associated with. We are greatly suspicious of what their motives are. Tamimi's remarks would not help Jewish-Muslim relations; we have good relations with the Muslim community here. This is not going to lead to harmony and understanding." Organizers said the expo was a multifaith event, with other religious groups invited to attend. However Jewish community leaders were not invited and representatives of other faiths said they had not heard of the event. A spokeswoman for the Manchester Inter-Faith Forum said, "We appear not to have been invited." At a public meeting hosted by the Stop the War Coalition in London last month to discuss the Middle East crisis, Tamimi voiced support for Hizbullah and threatened to give Israel "hell." At the event, entitled, "Israel out of Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon and Syria," he said, "Hizbullah is dealing with you and Hamas is dealing with you," and added, "Israel cannot exist in peace with anyone. The Zionist entity is made of evil." A week later, Tamimi told a demonstration in central London, calling for "freedom for Lebanon and Gaza and hands off Iran and Syria" that Hizbullah gunmen were "freedom fighters." "The terrorists are the ones waging war on innocent women and children," he said, referring to Israel. "Blair, do you think the destruction of Lebanon will go unpunished? They're the terrorists, they destroyed our land and they will be punished," he told a cheering 5,000-strong crowd in London's Hyde Park. In January, The Jerusalem Post reported that Merrill Lynch had withdrawn sponsorship from an event discussing the Palestinian elections because of Tamimi's participation and his support for Hamas and suicide bombing.