News Analysis: ‘Peace Pact’ Between Brits and Islamists Collapses By JALAL GHAZI Pacific News Service

Tuesday August 16, 2005

Since the London bombing attacks, Arab writers have expressed amazement that for two decades the British government looked the other way as Islamist extremists preached hate-filled jihadi ideologies in city mosques. Now, several Arab commentators insist that Downing Street must have made a deal with London’s radical Islamists: They could say what they wanted about Jews, the corrupt West and Iraq, as long as they didn’t attack the United Kingdom at home.  

The July 7 subway and bus attacks, and Prime Minister Tony Blair’s subsequent crackdown on Islamist extremists, destroyed that pact. Ironically that may have been the purpose of the blasts: to force Islamic extremists in London into more direct confrontation with the British government.  

Ilyas Frahush, writing in the London based Al-Majalla, a leading international Arab magazines, uses the term “Londonistan” for the once-happy home for Islamic extremism in England. Only under an explicit or unspoken agreement between British authorities and the radicals, Frahush speculates, could a man like Egyptian national Abu Hamza Al Masri have preached freely for 10 years in the Frinsbury Park Mosque. Al Masri was linked to Zacarias Moussaoui and “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. Yemen accused him of inciting the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Yet, not until 2004, under intense pressure from U.S. and European officials, did Britain ban Al Masri from his mosque. He responded by preaching to his followers in the streets.  

London also became a safe haven for the Syrian national Omar Bakri, who received political asylum in the United Kingdom. According to Frahush, Bakri’s case points more directly to a pact between Britain and the extremists. Frahush writes that in an interview with the British “Evening News” program on channel 2, Bakri commented, “As an Islamic scholar I believe that the September 11 attacks are justifiable because America did not make a “peace pact” with Muslims living abroad. Thus when I heard about the attacks I prayed that the attackers were non-Americans.”  

What Bakri meant is that when Muslims agree to become citizens of the countries in which they live, they become obligated not to attack those countries.  

Farhush sarcastically asks what Bakri has to say about the “heroic four British citizens” who carried out the London explosions and what kind of “peace pact” they could have been observing when they killed British citizens on their way to work in subways and buses.  

So who would want to end the tolerant stance of the British government with a brutal bombing, and why? A front-page article in the July 12 issue of the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper offers a possible answer. Jamal Khashqaji, a consultant for the Saudi Ambassador to London, believes that certain radical Islamists want to force other groups of Muslims into direct confrontations with their governments.  

Kkashqaji says that 10 years ago in London, he personally talked with Abu Musab Al Suri, who, according to Al-Majalla magazine, was and still may be closely associated with Bin Laden and other radical Islamists. Khashqaji told Asharq Al-Awsat that Al Suri met with him and said, “I know you like the non-violent Islam orientation of the Muslim Brotherhood, but we will force you to get involved despite your noise.” Al Suri continued, “When jihad [armed operations] are carried out in Saudi Arabia, the government will respond by going after everyone. Since we are more organized and better prepared, you will be forced to seek our help when the government puts pressure on you.”  

Al Suri lived in London from 1995 to 1998, but was not placed on the list of wanted terrorists until January 2004. While in London he edited Ansar, a publication aimed at young Algerian men. Along with the Jordanian Abu Qatada Al-Falastini, whom the Jordanian government linked to the assassination of an American diplomat in Amman in 1999, Al Suri issued religious decries allowing armed Algerian groups to kill civilians. Abu Qatada was teaching the radical Islamic ideology “Takferism” to young Muslim men in his home in London at the time.  

According to Asharq Al-Awsat, the United States has offered $5 million for the arrest of Al Suri, who is believed to be hiding along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.  

The London bombings can be understood in the same context as the series of armed attacks carried out in Saudi Arabia recently, such as the suicide car bombings against the Saudi Interior Ministry in February 2005. For many decades, Saudi Arabia has had a deal with the puritanical Wahhabists, who are allowed to preach freely in mosques, determine school curricula and proscribe social rules so long as the king retains sole control over foreign affairs, including oil. The deal shielded the kingdom from armed attacks until America stationed U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia during the first Gulf War.  

Both London and Riyadh thought that by tolerating radical Islamists, those groups would not turn against them. But it seems that Al Qaeda and other groups that advocate a particularly violent brand of radical Islam have grown frustrated with the perceived passivity of these jihadi groups.  


Jalal Ghazi monitors and translates Arab media for New California Media (a project of PNS) and Link TV.?