/ 14 February 2006

Abu Hamza’s arsenal of hate

With controversial Muslim cleric Abu Hamza sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment for soliciting to murder and race hate offences, British police have revealed to the public what they discovered when they raided his Finsbury Park mosque.

Suspicion about terrorist involvement swirled around Hamza and the north London mosque for years, but it was only after the United States requested his extradition on terrorism charges in 2003, that officers unearthed proof that this was no ordinary place of worship.

It can now be revealed that they found blank firing guns and a wooden gun believed to have been used in training camps in the United Kingdom. CS spray, a protective chemical suit, blank and false passports, identity cards from European Union countries and credit cards were also recovered.

Abu Hamza became the imam of the north London mosque in 1997 when he moved there from Luton. He set up a radical organisation called Supporters of Sharia, which called for the imposition of a strict interpretation of Muslim law. The group is also said to have attacked and threatened other worshippers and mosque officials who stood in their way.

It was at this stage that Abu Hamza started to catch the attention of the police and the security services. In 2003 he was banned from preaching at the mosque after a Charity Commission investigation, but continued to address his supporters in the street outside.

The ”cleric of hate”, as he became known in the media, fitted the mould of fundamentalist Islam at its most provocative. He lost both hands and an eye in an explosion, which he said was the result of mine-clearing in Afghanistan but which US authorities said took place while he was making a bomb.

Born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa to a middle-class family in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1958, he arrived in Britain in 1979. He came initially to study civil engineering in Brighton but found work as a bouncer in Soho, where he had a reputation as a heavy drinker. In the early 1980s he married a British woman, Valerie Fleming. They divorced five years later. They had a son, Mohammed, who was arrested in Yemen in 1999 and sentenced to three years for a terrorist bombing campaign.

At the Finsbury Park mosque Abu Hamza rapidly acquired a reputation for vitriolic preaching, hurling his ire at many targets. Kuffurs (unbelievers), Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, homosexuals, off-licences, video shops, Muslim news agents selling men’s magazines, the British education system and television were all subjects of revulsion in his long, rambling and sometimes incoherent sermons.

The rhetoric was a way of attracting those at the extreme of Islam. In one Finsbury Park sermon, he referred to tourists in Egypt: ”Many of the scholars have said when a woman, even a Muslim woman, she is nude and you cannot cover her up except by killing her then it is legitimate.” Homosexuals, he said, should be stoned to death.

Abu Hamza’s extreme views led him to fall out with mainstream Muslims, who believe he has done Islam enormous harm in Britain.

The Allah portrayed by Abu Hamza was a vengeful God. ”No drop of liquid is loved by Allah more than the liquid of blood,” he told a rally in Birmingham in the late 1990s.

”Whether you do it by a lamb or you do it by a Serb, you do it by a Jew or do it by enemy of Allah, that drop of blood is very dear. If you want to apply justice you must have a sword — when you go to court, who are you going to see? A woman with a scale in her hand. What’s in the other hand? A pint of lager? A sword.”

But Jewish people and Israel remained the focus of his attacks. ”

We do not hate Jews because they hurt each other, we hate them for their corruption of the earth,” he said in one sermon.

As he was driven off to start his seven-year sentence, Abu Hamza was unrepentant; seeing himself as making just the sort of sacrifice that he encourages others to make and as a victim of what he described as ”slow martyrdom”. — Â