| Hardline British cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. (Reuters)
London, Jan. 17 (Reuters): One of Britain’s most outspoken Muslim clerics said today he would fight plans to evict him from a London mosque which watchdog officials allege has become a focal point for Islamic extremism.
Abu Hamza al-Masri, leader of the group Supporters of Sharia, said he had no intention of answering complaints from the Charity Commission that he had abused his position at the mosque in Finsbury Park, in the north of the city.
“I’ll just carry on preaching until they stop me physically, by putting me in prison,” Masri said. “As long as I’m free I’ll continue preaching. I’m here to serve my religion, to do my duty and to serve the community which has chosen me to do the work.”
Egyptian-born Masri confirmed a report in the Daily Telegraph newspaper which said the Charity Commission had given him until Monday night to comply with their request.
The paper quoted David Rich, head of investigations at the Charity Commission, as saying Masri had taken over the mosque to the exclusion of the trustees.
“We have given him written notice that we intend to exclude him from his post permanently,” Rich said. “We have heard nothing from him and if we continue to hear nothing by the end of the day on Monday we will remove him.”
The Finsbury Park mosque is a registered charity, which gives the commission the right to intervene in its affairs if it believes the building is being used for political purposes.
It has already warned Masri for making inflammatory comments.
Masri has become Britain’s most notorious Muslim cleric due to his praise for Osama bin Laden’s al Qaida network and his outspoken criticism of Western policy towards the Islamic world.
The British government and police have said that, while they keep an eye on his activities, they are powerless to curb him because of the mosque’s charitable status. Moderate Muslim groups dismiss Masri and others such as al-Muhajiroun’s founder, Syrian-born Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, as fringe voices and accuse British media of giving radical groups too much attention.
North African charged
A north African man accused of murdering a British policeman and attempting to kill four other during an anti-terror raid in Manchester appeared in court today, handcuffed and flanked by several armed police.
Kamel Bourgass, 27, appeared at the high-security Belmarsh magistrates court in south London after his arrest on Tuesday night when a police raid ended in the death of detective constable Stephen Oake.
Bourgass, who was guarded by seven officers wearing heavy body armour, was charged with murdering Oake and attempting to murder four other officers.
He entered no plea and made no effort to apply for bail during the brief proceedings, which were translated into Arabic for him. Judge Timothy Workman remanded him in custody for a further court appearance on January 27.