The Observer: Stockholm bomber’s mosque website carries links to banned preacher

There is a good article in The Observer today on the Luton Islamic Centre, where Abudlwahab preached Al Qaeda aligned “takfiri” theology, before being chased away.

Preachers at the Luton Islamic Centre told last week how they had tackled Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, 28, the suicide bomber who blew himself up in Stockholm last weekend, over his extremist views.

However, the centre’s website carries a link to a lecture by Dr Bilal Philips, a Muslim preacher who was barred from entering Britain by the home secretary in July because of his extremist views.

Philips’s speech includes a passage during which he says that a person who kills him or herself is motivated by different instincts to those of a suicide bomber. “When you look at the mind of the suicide bomber, it’s a different intention altogether,” he says. Suicide is generally considered to be against Islamic law.

Philips added that the suicide bomber had made a military decision based on the defences of the enemy. He says: “The [enemy] is either too heavily armed, or they don’t have the type of equipment that can deal with it, so the only other option they have is to try to get some people amongst them and then explode the charges that they have to try to destroy the equipment and to save the lives of their comrades.

“So this is not really considered to be suicide in the true sense. This is a military action and human lives are sacrificed in that military action. This is really the bottom line for it and that’s how we should look at it.”

Abdaly, who showed up at the Luton mosque in 2007, blew himself up in a busy shopping street in Stockholm last Saturday after sending an email urging Muslims to avenge the deaths of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. Swedish police are investigating the theory that one of several devices that he was carrying went off prematurely and are also exploring the possibility that he was part of a wider cell.

Qadeer Baksh, chairman of the Luton Islamic Centre, said Philips had made some “errors” in his speech. “He’s talking about a military operation; he’s made an error by calling it suicide bombing. He’s talking about troops, not innocent people,” he said.

Baksh added that it was also wrong to encourage suicide. “The enemy have to kill him, he cannot kill himself by his own hands. That is an error. He’s called it suicide bombing but it’s not suicide bombing, it’s a military tactic. I will definitely take [the website link] down immediately. I’m glad you brought that to my attention,” he added.

However Haras Rafiq, director of Centri, an organisation that specialises in countering extremism, said: “I do not blame the Luton Islamic Centre for the terrorist attacks in Stockholm but how on earth were they going to prevent al-Abdaly from blowing himself up when messages on their own website justify the concept of suicide bombing as an operational military tactic?”

I have no doubt that the Luton Islamic Centre sincerely oppose suicide bombing: on the theological grounds that suicide is always impermissible. However, there is only a hair’s breadth difference between extreme Salafi theology and Al Qaedaism. Support for terrorist attacks on civilians in Israel is near universal among Islamists and Salafis. So is support for attacks on troops (and often, Muslims who are opposed to Islamic states) in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

That doesn’t mean that most Salafis are likely to become terrorists in this country – they’re evidently not. It is even possible that some individuals who might become terrorists are persuaded on theological grounds not to murder people. However, I doubt that a man who has already decided that the Saudi Monarchy is illegitimate that that they are apostates, will be persuaded to return to the straight and narrow by pro-Saudi quietist Salafis.

The policy of promoting Salafis as the front line of defence against Al Qaeda is a misguided one. I doubt it has any benefit at all. Thanks to their efforts, how many British citizens who might otherwise be moderate Liberals, Tories or Labour supporters have been diverted into dreams of the perfect Islamic state, where homosexuals will be killed and women beaten for being raped?

In our free country, Salafis should not be prevented from expressing extreme theological or political views, within the boundaries of the law. However, we should be challenging this politics: not praising or allying with it.