The extremist group Al Muhajiroun, which became infamous for describing the Twin Towers attackers as “magnificent”, has re-formed under its original name.
While Al Muhajiroun has never been banned in the UK, its leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, was banned from Britain for his extremist preachings in 2005 while on a visit to Lebanon. As a result, the organisation changed its name several times.
Speaking from Lebanon, Bakri — dubbed the Tottenham Ayatollah — denied that he was behind the decision to revive the name, saying it was the wish of members not only in Britain but in other countries to use it again. He said the leader in Britain was Anjem Choudhary and: “I will be there to deal with questions and settle differences.”
News that the name was being used again has provoked concern. Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman asked the outgoing Communities Secretary Hazel Blears on Tuesday about a primary school in Harrow which had established a live link with Mohammed in March.
Ms Ellman, praising Hazel Blears’s stand against terrorism, said: “Does she share my concern about the fact that al-Muhajiroun has regrouped under different names and about the fact that on March 1 this year, Islam for the UK held an event at a Harrow primary school that featured a live link with the banished Omar Bakri Muhammad? What assurances can she give me that public facilities will not be used to promote extremism in such a way in the future?”
Ms Blears replied that she was “aware of a number of groups that have used council premises in places including Ealing and Tower Hamlets. Some of the councils concerned have very courageously taken steps to ensure that those groups are banned from their premises on the grounds that their activities seek to divide communities”.
She said her department was in touch with local authorities “to support them in making the right decisions to bring our communities together and not to divide them with the views of extremists”. It is unclear what effect Ms Blears’s resignation from the Cabinet on Wednesday will have on the work of her former department and its response to Jewish community concerns.
Community Security Trust communications director Mark Gardner said: “Al Muhajiroun was of course the name under which this group gained much of its notoriety. By using the name again, the group is basically showing that its support for global jihadist terrorism remains as strong as ever.”