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By Barry Rubin
Almost a decade after the September 11 attacks, the U.S. government seem unable to tell the differences between moderate and radical Muslims, much less understand that it should support the former against the latter group. So when the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom visits a mosque, you just know this nice gesture will be directed toward…a very extremist mosque with close ties to the number-one terrorist targeting America right now.
Such was the visit of Ambassador Louis B. Susman to the East London Mosque on November 29, as—in the words of the mosque’s press release--“part of President Obama's outreach program to Muslim communities.” Susman expressed “great admiration” for the mosque, invited young members to apply for free trips to the United States through the embassy, and told the mosque’s leaders:
"I go away from each of these meetings of dialogue, learning something new every time."
Unfortunately, there is quite a lot that Susman didn’t learn about the mosque, all publicly available facts one would have thought might have led the State Department to choose someplace else. Indeed, the visit came right in the middle of a controversy about the mosque's support for Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S.-born, Yemen-based al-Qaida leader who is currently the number-one terrorist attacking the United States.
The East London Mosque is dominated by the Jammat-e-Islami, a small Bangladesh-based party dedicated to turning that country into a radical Islamist state. This group's leaders are being prosecuted for war crimes against that country's people during its independence war and the movement follows the teachings of Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, South Asia's most prominent radical Islamist ideologue.
The mosque’s leader is Muhammad Abdul Bari, a Jammat-e-Islami supporter. Until June, he was also secretary- general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the main Muslim group advising the British government--until last year. Under Bari's leadership, the MBC used its influence toward such goals as: making blasphemy against Islam a crime, opposing efforts to rescue women from forced marriages, and ending government bans on radical preachers entering the country. Bari also supported the “Stop the Political Terror Campaign” opposing Muslim cooperation with the British police to find terrorists.
In 2009, when Bari was MCB leader, the British government cut links with his group after discovering that the top Muslim official in the civil service had signed a statement supporting the killing of British soldiers and the MCB refused to distance itself from his action.
The mosque's leadership comes from the Islamic Forum Europe, a group founded by Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, who the British media and human rights' groups in the country have accused of genocide in Bangladesh.
One mosque trustee is Azad Ali, who called for killing British soldiers. Among his writings is the following:
"We are the Resistance. The Zionist terrorist state of Israel had only one aim, to destroy all semblance of resistance. We have yet to hear any condemnation from our government." He criticized Foreign Secretary David Miliband for condemning Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar's statement that Israeli Jewish children are "legitimate targets."
The Times of London reported in October 2007 about the extremist books available in the mosque’s bookshop.
One of the mosque's frequent guest speakers has been Abdulrahman al-Sudais, who back in Saudi Arabia gives sermons describing Jews as the descendants of pigs and monkeys while comparing Hindus to excrement. He also said U.S. soldiers in Iraq should convert to Islam or die.
Most recently, the mosque has been in trouble over its long association with Anwar al-Awlaki, the al-Qaida preacher most involved in recent terrorist attacks against the United States, including the Fort Hood and Christmas "underpants bomber" attacks. The Times Square bomber cited him as an inspiration for his own attack on America.
The mosque leadership has defended Awlaki despite the fact that he was on the U.S. terror watch list as early as 2002. In November 2008, Undersecretary for Intelligence and Analysis at the Department of Homeland Security Charles Allen called Awlaki, “Spiritual leader to three of the September 11 hijackers,” an “al-Qaeda supporter” and “an example of al-Qaeda's reach into the [U.S.] homeland.”
Yet it was to the mosque whose current leadership has been so friendly toward this man that the U.S. ambassador was sent to visit and praise.
On November 5, 2008, the same month Allen was condemning Awlaki, Azad Ali, also the Islamic Forum of Europe’s community affairs co-ordinator, described Awlaki as, “One of my favourite speakers and scholars….He has an uncanny way of explaining things to people which is endearing."
One of the people he explained things to is Roshonara Choudhry who found him so endearing that she attempted to murder a Labor Party member of parliament as a terrorist act.
The British blog, Harry’s Place, has provided a detailed, documented analysis showing how the mosque lied to downplay its links with Awlaki. And here's Andrew Gilligan's article in The Telegraph, published on November 2, about a month before Susman's visit. The headline: "East London Mosque: the terrorist connection and the lies." Does the U.S. embassy read The Telegraph?
In January 2009, Awlaki gave a talk to the mosque by video. Although told about Awlaki’s radicalism the mosque ignored this warning.
The British newspaper Telegraph reported that the event’s advertising material:
“Appears to be a clear reference to the [September 11] attacks on New York, and features meteors raining down on Manhattan, setting fire to the city and shattering the Statue of Liberty."
Another scheduled speaker at the event was Khalid Yasin, who according to the Telegraph “has described the beliefs of Christians and Jews as ‘filth.’”
Here's the lead piece in the Sun from today, December 2. It shows a picture of Muslim demonstrators on Armistice Day last month, a demonstration that outraged Britain on the day when its soldiers are memorialized. The signs read things like, "British soldiers burn in Hell."
By the way, this same group burned an American flag in front of the U.S. embassy in London to celebrate the anniversary of the September 11 attack. How did these people get to be so extremist?
Well, the Sun tells us about one of them, a 16-year-old teenager, and explains: "Chillingly, he was just 14 when he was radicalized at the notorious East London Mosque."
So this is the mosque honored by the U.S. ambassador, representing President Barack Obama: closely associated with an anti-American terrorist; hosting programs promoting hatred of Jews and celebrating the September 11 attacks; opposing Muslim cooperation with counterterrorist police efforts; trying to stop efforts to help young women intimidated into unwanted marriages; opposing barring radical hate preachers from propagandizing; having Hamas supporters on its board; and other such things.
None of this information was hard to find. And there's a lot more. It wasn't hard for U.S. officials to know all these things before sending the ambassador there.
"What is so disappointing," says a British expert on Islam, "is that there are so many other, better, mosques to visit in London. But they are continually let down by our political leaders who gravitate towards the centers of extremism."
Why does the U.S. government honor an institution that opposes U.S. policies and is very close to America's enemies? Guess they can't tell the difference.