Storm over latest Hizbollah UK visit

By Leon Symons, March 26, 2009

The Board of Deputies will ask the Home Office to exclude a former Hizbollah fighter and leader of a radical Muslim group in Belgium who has been invited to speak in Britain.

Dyab Abou Jahjah has been invited to speak at a meeting of the Stop The War Coalition on Monday evening in central London. It is thought that he will also be present on Tuesday at the launch of a British branch of International Union for Parliamentarians for Palestine, of which he was made operational director in May last year.

Jahjah was the head of an organisation called the Belgium Arab-European League after moving to Belgium from Lebanon, where he fought against Israel. He was jailed in Belgium for fomenting violence in 2002 when Muslims rioted after the murder of a Moroccan teacher.

His case comes hard on the heels of the ban on Hizbollah media relations spokesman Ibrahim Moussawi, who should have been speaking at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London this week. Moussawi sent an explanation to the Guardian’s “Comment Is Free” website, where he claimed the British government had missed an opportunity to learn more about Hizbollah. He claimed that he was the first person to host a delegation of American rabbis to a conference in Beirut. But they were part of the Israel hating Neturei Karta sect.

Two years ago Jahjah announced that he had published a picture of Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler with the caption: “Put this in your diary, Anne.”

He has criticised Holocaust study, saying that anyone who deviates from the “dominant dogmatic line ... will earn you the title of revisionist, antisemite and a jail sentence”.

On another website, Jahjah is quoted as saying: “I am for the absolute freedom of speech everywhere and that’s why I call upon every free soul among Arabs to use the Danish flag as a substitute for toilet paper. To illustrate every wall with graffiti making fun of everything Europe holds as holy: dancing rabbis on the carcasses of Palestinian children, hoax gas-chambers built in Hollywood in 1946 with Steven Spielberg’s approval stamp, and Aids-spreading faggots. Let us defend the absolute freedom of speech altogether, wouldn’t that be a noble cause?”

Board chief executive Jon Benjamin said: “We do believe that there are grounds for the exclusion of Jahjah and will be saying as much to the relevant government departments. We would consider this entirely consistent with recent decisions to exclude.”

A Home Office spokesman said they would not discuss the entry of people into Britain.

Meanwhile, the government has suspended contacts with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) over allegations that its deputy general secretary, Daoud Abdullah, endorsed a Hamas call for attacks on foreign troops, including possibly British troops, if they tried to intercept arms smuggled into Gaza. The dispute coincided with the launch of the government’s Contest 2 counter-terror strategy.

Hazel Blears, Secretary of State at the Department of Communities and Local Government, wrote to the MCB about Dr Abdullah’s position after he participated in a conference on Gaza in Istanbul last month and signed a declaration afterwards.

The declaration included a statement that despatching foreign ships into Muslim waters to halt arms smuggling would be seen as a declaration of war, and that anyone who stood with Israel would be regarded as the same as the “Zionist entity”.

Ms Blears told MCB general secretary Mohammed Abdul-Bari that if Dr Abdullah had signed the declaration, he should consider his position in the organisation and the government was suspending contact until his attitude was made clear.

Dr Abdul-Bari responded that the MCB condemned extremism and terrorism but he was vague about whether or not Dr Abdullah, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Birkbeck College in London, would resign.

l Six men were arrested on Tuesday morning in connection with two anti-Israeli demonstrations in London in January.

Last updated: 10:00am, March 26 2009