Syrian born radical Islamist Sheikh Omar bin Bakri Muhammad is the founder of the London branch of Hizb Al-Tahrir (the Islamic Liberation Party ), and of the organization "Jama'at Al-Muhajirun" ("The Emigrants," in reference to those who accompanied the Prophet Muhammad on his Hijra from Mecca to Medina). Additionally, Sheikh Bakri presents himself as the spokesman of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders. This organization, by Bakri's own admission, participates in fundraising for Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and is "in touch" with Hizbullah. Bakri has further claimed to have recruited volunteers for training in paramilitary camps located in the
Sheikh Bakri's Activities: A Partial Timeline
The Paris-based Intelligence Newsletter reported that Bakri was recruited at an early age by the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood movement, and participated in its leader's, Issam Al-Attar, revolt against then-Syrian President Hafez Assad that was "drowned in blood in 1982 at Hamat." As a result, he was expelled from
In 1985, after the Saudi government deported him he then went to
In 1993, Bakri became a legal resident of
Sheikh Omar Bakri preaches at several
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Sheikh Bakri acknowledged that he lives on social benefits from the British government: "He receives nearly £300 a week in state handouts for himself, his [Lebanese] wife, and their five (as of 1996) children. He told the Mirror, 'Islam allows me to take the benefit the system offers. I'm fully eligible. It is very difficult for me to get a job. Anyway, most of the leadership of the Islamic movement is on [state] benefit.'"
Up until September 1998, when seven radical Muslims were arrested in
The London Sunday Times reported that one of Bakri's aides, Makbool Javid, was appointed by Jack Straw, then Home Secretary in Blair's government, to the newly-established Race Relations Forum. In an interview some nine months later, Bakri said, "The British government knows who we are. MI5 has interrogated us many times. I think now we have something called public immunity."
But after the arrest of the seven, Bakri changed his tune, and in an interview with an Egyptian weekly he denounced
Actually, the friction between Sheikh Bakhri and the British government began long before September 1998. As early as 1991, during the Gulf War, Bakri was questioned by MI5, following a claim that he had called for the assassination of then-Prime Minister John Major. According to the Mail on Sunday, Bakri said: "Major is a legitimate target. If anyone gets the opportunity to assassinate him, I don't think they should save it. It is our Islamic duty and we will celebrate his death." Bakri later told The Birmingham Sunday Mercury that he had been "misquoted," and clarified the point, saying that Major would be a "legitimate target" if he were to set foot in a Muslim country and that the same now applied to British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bakri also said that in such a case he would not "condemn the killers."
This incident recently repeated itself, when Al-Muhajirun spokesman Abd Al-Rahman Salim said that Blair had become a legitimate target for any Muslim who wants to assassinate him, due to his involvement in the attacks on
In December 2000, Bakri went to
The issue of paramilitary training courses was discussed at length in an interview Bakri gave to CNSNews.com, in which he again acknowledged that he was involved in financing training for volunteers sent to the
According to Bakri, some of the men undergoing training in the use of firearms and explosives, and in surveillance and other skills, would be expected to join Jihad in one country or another. "Some may decide, 'I want to go and help my Muslim brothers in
Bakri added that the training camps were run by private firms in "certain places," among them
"It's not illegal. We aren't hiding anything. It should be looked at with an open mind. We're talking purely about helping people who would like to train. The skills they learn… are part of the religious obligation every Muslim has. A Muslim must have military training at least once in his life," he said. In another interview, Bakri claimed that the Koran stated that it is the obligation of every Muslim reaching the age of 15 to do military service.
Bakri continued, "In our [Muslim] countries, this is easy. We can fulfill this obligation by joining our national armies. But some Muslims would not like to join the British or American forces... [and] would rather go to an independent training camp."
"Why call this 'terror training?' All Americans can learn how to shoot – what happens when this American person is a Muslim? Or are you calling us second- or third-class citizens?" Bakri asked.
In another interview, with
The Asian Age magazine reported that Bakri claimed that it was he who had recruited 24-year-old Muhammad Bilal to carry out the suicide attack that killed a number of Indian soldiers in
Sheikh Bakri's fame has spread as far as eastern
Bakri has no objections to airplane hijackings, as indicated by his statements to the Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Yussuf: "The Islamic movement has the right to sacrifice whoever it sees fit. The rule is that [Muslim] children, women, and the weak should not be a goal except in one situation: if it is difficult to win without sacrificing them. So, if hijackers find [Muslim] women, and children and elderly people on a [hijacked] plane, they should set them free except if the goal of the hijackers is to free women, children, and elderly people held prisoners in countries. In this case, they can be kept, because the blood of Muslims is equal [to others' blood], but they can sacrifice foreigners on the plane… and if you study Shari'a you will know that. The fedya [ransom] of a Muslim is 12,000 dirhams, while that of a Dhimmi [i.e. a Christian or a Jew under Muslim rule] is 4,000 dirhams."
The bin Laden Connection
On several occasions, Sheikh Bakri presented himself as the spokesman of the political wing of The International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, established by Osama bin Laden in 1996. Al-Ahram Weekly reported that Bakri was known for his connections with bin Laden, whom he described, in an interview with the weekly, as "the leader of all Islamist movements, whether we like it or not."
However, in his interview with CNSNews.com, Bakri denied any organizational connection with bin Laden. "We have no direct links with Osama bin Laden," he declared. "[But] we have ideological links with the world Islamic movement, including Osama bin Laden. We may agree with him in something and disagree with him in something. At the end of the day, there is no proof yet that he is involved in any terrorist activity. If terrorism means someone is supporting Muslims against the occupying forces in
Bin Laden was to participate, albeit not physically, in the Rally for [Islamic] Revival, planned by Bakri for September 6, 1996 but cancelled at the last minute. The conference was to have been one of the high points of Bakri's career, and Radical Islamist leaders from all over the world were to participate in one way or another. Bin Laden was to send a videocassette, as were Sheikh Omar Abd Al-Rahman, imprisoned in the
Following severe pressure by the Egyptian, Algerian, and Israeli governments, the British Home Office announced that Scotland Yard would be monitoring the conference for "statements made in support of terrorism or racism [that] would be in violation of British law" and a threat of possible persecution for any such statements. The conference was subsequently cancelled.
After the bombing of
After the American missile attack on
On July 15, 1999, Bakri published a letter written to bin Laden on his Al-Muhajirun website, calling on him to act against the West. The letter was removed from the site after
"We are an Ummah of Jihad and beyond doubt we have been chosen by Allah to lead the whole world if we hold to his command… The opportunity is here and we must not pass it by… Our Muslim brothers are firm in their Jihad so we must not lose time aimlessly and act now. The Ummah is our Ummah, the war is our war, and the enemy is our enemy, the Mujahideen are our brothers, the victory or defeat is our victory or defeat, and the Khilafa is our Khilafa. Oh Osama… Let us hear the good news from you and your brothers, for a new dawn is near at hand." According to several sources, a reply from bin Laden was read aloud in mosques in
Excerpts of another letter to Bakri by bin Laden, sent by fax from
Sheikh Bakri's radical ideological doctrine is manifested in many different spheres. On several occasions, Bakri has expressed his hatred of Jews. He had "Kill the Jews" posters printed, and claimed that these were not his words but the words of the "scriptures."  In the Mercury interview, Bakri said that the Holocaust was "a tool used by Jews in order to justify their own hegemony over Muslims in
Yet after issuing a Fatwa calling on Muslims to fight against
Bakri also called for the death of playwright Terence McNally for portraying Jesus Christ, considered by Islam to be a prophet, as a homosexual in his play Corpus Christi. Bakri also reportedly urged all homosexuals to throw themselves from Big Ben. In response, the Lesbian Avengers and Outrage, two London-based gay-rights groups, held a mock trial for Bakri, issuing a "Queer Fatwa" that read: "Omar Bakri Muhammad is hereby sentenced to 1,000 years of relentless sodomitical torment."
The most significant element of Bakri's doctrine is Jihad. A document entitled "Jihad: The foreign policy of the Islamic state" was posted on the Al-Muhajirun website. The document included a lengthy, in-depth analysis of the meaning of Jihad. "Jihad, as a term, cannot be translated as 'holy war,'" it said, "nor can it be translated as… 'struggle.' At best, its legal meaning can be understood as 'using military force, where diplomacy fails, to remove the obstacles the Islamic State faces in carrying its ideology to mankind.'
"The aim of Jihad, unlike the Crusades, past and present, is not to forcibly convert to Islam the inhabitants of other lands. Rather, it is to provide them with the security that comes from the application of Islam, leaving them the choice of adopting Islam or keeping their own religions… History confirms that this is and always has been the role of Jihad, for it was in Muslim Spain that the Muslims, Christians, and Jews were able to live peacefully under an Islamic authority…"
"The difference between the use of force by the West and that by Islam is that the Capitalist West uses force overtly and covertly for the benefit of a few, such as corporations, while Islam uses force openly and justly to carry its mercy to others…"
"Jihad is… one of the main Pillars of Islam after Tawhid (the assertion of Monotheistic faith) and Da'wa (proselytizing). In fact, Jihad is… Da'wa by the Islamic state as its foreign policy."
In an interview with the French Le Monde, Bakri stated his "intention to make the flag of Islam fly high at No. 10 Downing Street and at the Elysee." The article continues, "Islam, according to him, is the supreme ideology facing an immoral West, and… all contemporary leaders of the Muslim world, with no exceptions, are pawns of the West."
Similar messages were conveyed in an interview Bakri gave to
Bakri told Klein, "…
"…Our duty is to work to establish an Islamic state anywhere in the world, even in
"And what Clinton and Barak are doing [in the peace process, then at its height] is putting themselves in a position of God, so they are now at direct war with the people who believe in God."
Reactions to the Attacks on
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the
"In the eventuality that the American forces launch [an] attack against Taliban, the divine verdict already expounded by the Scholars of Islam is that the military and government buildings, the war machine and the soldiers of the alliance will all become legitimate targets for Muslims wherever they are in the world and they must be fought against…"
"Oh Muslims, stand together and unite our Ummah (nation) to fight against the enemies of Allah and his Messenger Muhammad in this time of need. The Book of Allah (i.e. the Koran) calls you, the Ummah cries for your help and
"…It is time that we made a clear and unambiguous distinction between haq [truth] and batil [falsehood], between Imaan [belief] and Kufr [heresy], between oppressors and the oppressed, between the alliance of Shaytaan [Satan] and that of Allah …"
Sheikh Bakri also issued a "Fatwa Against [
"Answer: There is no doubt that
"Those people… their situation is clear and there is no need for any doubt among any of the Muslims: They are Murtaddun [who were Muslims] who left Islam for heresy, if, at all, they were Muslims to begin with. They all are involved in the war against Islam and against Muslims and therefore the sentence of Murtadd Harbi [a Murtadd who should be fought] applies to them, as follows:"
"1)His blood becomes permissible, and he must be killed, as an obligatory punishment, without possibility of forgiveness, because he fights against Allah and his Prophet… 2)His marriage becomes invalid, as does his guardianship of his children and relatives… 3)His property is permissible … he will not be able to bequeath [it]… 4)He cannot be buried in a Muslim cemetery, because burying Muslims is an honor that is fitting only those who are Muslims, while they, male and female alike, are Murtaddun Harbiyun [who should be fought] and are not Muslims 5)He must be treated with animosity and hatred, exactly like the Harbi heretic is treated… 6)There is no distinction between a man and a woman with respect to this verse. The blood of a woman Murtadda Harbiya who fights is permissible, exactly like that of a male Harbi – even if her fighting is limited to singing: thus acted the Prophet against the fighting women of the Quraysh tribe. He permitted their blood and ordered them killed, although he generally prohibited killing women, and was even strict about this…"
The Fatwa appeared under the emblem of the "Shari'a Court of the UK," and, in the Arabic version, was signed by Sheikh Bakri, Shari'a Court Judge in London, and by the Secretary General of the Committee for the Protection of Legitimate Rights (in Saudi Arabia), Muhammad bin Abdallah Al-Musa'ari "Abu Majed." The two called on all Muslim clerics to study the matter and add their signatures to the ruling.
However, during its translation into English, the Fatwa underwent a transformation. It was signed by "Juristic Muslim scholars from various countries such as:
The English version also lacks the section about "book-bearing donkeys" and "panting dogs," and is replaced by the Koranic verse establishing that "the punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides, or they should be imprisoned… [5:33]." Similarly, the section referring to the Prophet Muhammad's killing of the Quraysh women is replaced by a paragraph that reads, "Therefore we ask Muslims with the capability, especially the army of Muslim countries, to move quickly and to capture those Apostates and criminals involved in these crimes, especially the ruler of Pakistan, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, and Rabbani of Afghanistan and his followers [in the Northern Alliance]…"
*Yotam Feldner is MEMRI's Director of Media Analysis.
**Please note, some links may no longer be active.
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