A few years ago I had a flat in Finsbury Park. More precisely on St Thomas’s Road, which is best known for two things neither of which I knew when I moved in.
The first is the North Bank of Arsenal Stadium (not sure how I missed that), which is at one end of the street, and the other is the Finsbury Park Mosque former home of Abu Hamza or “The Untouchable” as he’s being dubbed in The Times this week, which is running extracts from Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGory’s book ‘The Suicide Factory: Abu Hamza and the Finsbury Park Mosque’.
Actually there’s a third, but Andy the Scottish homeless guy (“I have nae eaten for two days”) is not quite so internationally famous.
I’d always thought that Abu Hamza’s career was mostly made by the British tabloids who turned the hooked one with ease into a national figure of hate. Without their help in promoting him as the poster boy for Islamic extremism we might never have paid him much attention. He has variously been dubbed a fantasist by some and more mediahedeen than mujahedeen by others.
‘The Suicide Factory’ has it that his bogey man status, with his links to the 7/7 bombers and money raising activities, is well deserved. Today, from ‘The Suicide Factory’ the writers wonder why wasn’t Hamza picked up by British authorities when the Americans seemed to have so much on him.
“American investigators were aghast at how Abu Hamza was treated. They were sick of handing information to British agencies only to see him being allowed to continue preaching hatred in front of the cameras. One senior official in the US Department of Justice said: ‘We just did not understand what was going on in London. We wondered to ourselves whether he was an MI5 informer, or was there some secret the British were not trusting us with? He seemed untouchable.'”
“Exasperated US security agencies decided that if Britain were not going to act, then they would. Hence the warrant handed over by FBI agents stationed at the US embassy in Grosvenor Square in May 2004.
“Some in the British Government continued to dither.”
Exasperated security agencies seem to be something of a theme in the book. Yesterday’s extract begins “Exasperated by Britain’s failure to silence the Islamic preacher of hate, France considered drastic measures to protect itself from a terror attack”, and covers the run up to the 1998 World Cup:
It was March 1998. In a few months the football World Cup was to be held in France, and it was a huge security headache. Algerian terrorists of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) had bombed the Paris Métro in 1995, and the architects of that atrocity — regarded in France as a deadly enemy — were still on the loose, living untroubled lives in London
As far as the French were concerned, the British had entered into a Faustian pact with the extreme Islamist groups assembled in London. They were free to organise, propagandise and speak, as long as there was no threat and no trouble on British soil
Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.