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Osama Saeed Goes on the Defensive

This is a cross post by Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens

On his blog, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Glasgow Central, Osama Saeed, seems to have taken issue with a pamphlet I wrote last week, which cites his 2006 support for pro al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. Firstly, this should be put into some kind of perspective: if a PPC who defined himself as a Christian wrote in support of a promoter of the Ku Klux Klan who had extensive links with white supremacist terrorists, it would rightly prompt national outrage. Mr. Saeed will be subject to the same standards as any other potential MP, and he had better get used to it.

Mr. Saeed begins his defence by displaying a striking level of either dishonesty or plain ignorance, though it is unclear which of the two. He claims that "Al-Awlaki’s opinions have swung dramatically since I blogged about him following his incarceration in Yemen back in 2006. Before that he was middle of the road and had a significant following." Of course, we were well prepared for this predictable response, which has been reiterated by at least two others: the Islamic Forum of Europe, and Inayat Bunglawala (‘friends’ tell him that Awlaki changed after 2003). The claim is demonstrably untrue. There is in fact enough material to write an academic paper on Awlaki’s pre-2006 extremism, but for the purposes of this blog here is a little taster:

Answering questions on Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s IslamOnline website just days after 9/11 Awlaki was very receptive to the idea that Mossad carried out the attacks:

Q: What do you think about the possibility of involvement by Israeli Mossad?

A: Add to that the fact that there has been an uprising in Palestine that was becoming very popular while the popularity of the Israeli response was plummeting. Israel was going through a serious PR crisis. Israel has even hired U.S. public relations firms to try to clean up its reputation and Ariel Sharon’s damaged image.

Also there were lawsuits filed against the war criminal Ariel Sharon in Belgium. That was a serious blow to Israel to have its highest official in such a position.

Now doesn’t the timing of the attacks raise a question mark???

Although it is clear that Awlaki hasn’t quite made his mind up, as later on he also suggests that the FBI set the whole thing up:

The evidence coming out is perplexing. ..It appears that these people were victims rather than hijackers. It seems that the FBI went into the roster of the airplanes and whoever has a Muslim or Arab name became the hijacker by default…It doesn’t make sense at all. There is something peculiar happening??? [sic]

This interview was also spiced up with support for Hamas suicide attacks against civilians:

Islam does not teach people to kill innocents, that and the act of committing suicide are forbidden in the religion. There is no Muslim who advocates killing American civilians. We haven’t heard that before. If you are talking about Palestinians fighting in Israel, these are freedom fighters fighting an illegal occupation.

In 2003, at the East London Mosque Awlaki gave a lecture called ‘Stop Police Terror’, where he told the audience that Muslims should never report on or turn over their fellow Muslims, under any circumstances:

A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he does not oppress him, he does not betray him and he does not hand him over…You don’t hand over a Muslim to the enemies…

In 2002, he made a similar speech, this time in Virginia where he presents counter-terrorism raids as an effort to ‘put out the light of Allah’. Again, speaking on the subject of anti-terror operations he tells his audience that:

[…] if you conceal the private sins of your Muslim brother, Allah will conceal yours on the day of judgement

In the lecture, he also claims that Jamil al-Amin, a man who had been convicted that year for the murder of US Sheriff’s deputy, was innocent and that the jury that convicted him was illegitimate because the US is against Islam.

These are two clear examples after 9/11 (but BEFORE 2006) where Awlaki has essentially told his audience not to inform authorities of any suspicious activities involving their fellow Muslims.

Not only had Awlaki made numerous extreme pronouncements before 2006, but he also had a long list of terrorist affiliations:

According to the Washington Post:

Documents filed…in federal court in Alexandria assert that a year after 9/11, Aulaqi returned briefly to Northern Virginia, where he visited a radical Islamic cleric and asked him about recruiting young Muslims for "violent jihad." That cleric, Ali al-Timimi, is now serving a life sentence for inciting followers to fight with the Taliban against Americans.

The 9/11 Commission Report details the extensive links between Awlaki and two of the 9/11 hijackers, Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi as well as his connections with the Holy Land Foundation – a charity which was recently found to be channeling funds to Hamas.

The 2003 joint inquiry into 9/11 by House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence also found further connections between Awlaki and the two 9/11 hijackers, including evidence of closed door meetings between them in 2000. A phone number for Awlaki’s mosque was also found in the German apartment of Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The inquiry also found connections between Awlaki and a close associate of Omar Abdul-Rahman, the so-called ‘blind Sheikh’ who was convicted for his part in the 1993 World Trade Centre attacks.

All of this information suggests one of two things: either Saeed had failed to do his research properly when he praised Awlaki in 2006, or he was aware of all of this and still thought Awlaki was a man who should be promoted in the UK. Either way, it doesn’t look too good.

In his blog, Mr. Saeed confidently points out that although I criticise him for referring to Awlaki in the respectful term of ‘Imam’, my co blogger Shiraz Maher recently referred to him as ‘Sheikh’. Although he fails to point out one crucial difference: his blog was in praise of Awlaki, whereas Shiraz Maher makes it quite clear that Awlaki is an odious and dangerous character.

Mr. Saeed also has the audacity to call me an ‘extreme right winger’ with ‘odious politics’ – this coming from a man who has also written in praise of clerical fascist, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, referring to a "a rightwing smear campaign against such eminent scholars as Sheikh al-Qaradawi – a man who has worked hard to reconcile Islam with modern democracy." Here are Qaradawi’s views on the Holocaust:

Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place.

This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.

That is the language of an extreme right winger. Now this has been brought to his attention, will Mr. Saeed also renounce his support for yet another extremist Islamist he has lavished praise on? Incidentally, why did it take a phone call from the Times to coax a denunciation of Awlaki from Saeed? By his own admission he was aware of the vitriolic contents of Awlaki’s blog, and should not have needed a public prodding to clarify his position.

Rather than putting up his hands and acting with a bit of humility, Mr. Saeed has instead decided to respond with insults and lame, baseless excuses – perhaps he would make a good MP after all.