London, Jan. 20 (Reuters): For radical Muslims, today’s police raid on a London mosque was the perfect rallying cry to attract young extremists to their cause.
“This raid will increase our recruitment,” Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, global leader of the radical al Muhajiroun group, said after police burst into the mosque in Britain’s biggest anti-terror operation since the September 11 attacks.
“In this environment, the issue becomes black and white. Now the moderates have no grey area to monopolise. If they arrest us, we will become martyrs,” said the Syrian-born cleric who supports al Qaida.
Bakri said: “This is a violation of the house of God. It will raise the question of the authenticity of man-made law. Any embassy has immunity. The house of God has no immunity.”
The London-based radical has in the past caused outrage after reports that he called British leader Tony Blair a “legitimate target” for Muslims and urged followers to kill anyone involved in military action against Muslims.
Police said then they had insufficient evidence to prosecute him for racial incitement, but would monitor his activities.
Bakri later said al Muhajiroun’s Pakistan branch had described Blair as a legitimate target for Muslims, not him.
Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the Arabic newspaper al-Quds-al-Arabi, agreed that the raid could be a blow to moderates among the 1.8 million Muslims in Britain.
“Definitely there will be more radicals. Frustrated people will become more frustrated. It will create hatred among young people and we don't need that,” he said. “We should not treat everybody as terrorists.”
“It is outrageous to raid a mosque like that,” he said. “Police are panicking. Every Muslim is a suspect.”
Radical preachers at the raided Finsbury Park mosque do not have to look far for recruits. Hundreds of unemployed Algerians gather in coffee shops and many gather at the mosque to hear fiery sermons every Friday.
What moderate Muslims fear is a backlash against their community after the discovery of deadly ricin poison in London and then the death of a policeman in follow-up raids.
“Muslims have suffered increasing Islamophobia since September 11,” said Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain.
“Ordinary Muslims feel uncomfortable at work. They are looked at with suspicion, they are regarded with a wary eye,” he said.