Anti-terror march highlights activism as well as divisions among German Muslims

Initially, reactions on the part of German Muslim leaders to the attacks in Manchester and London had been muted, with a sense of the routinized and somewhat hapless repetition of well-worn formulas of shock and condemnation prevailing.

Fighting against complacency

This limited response has not gone unnoticed, with many criticising Islamic associations and Muslim representatives for their relative silence on recent events. The psychologist and renowned expert on jihadi radicalisation Ahmad Mansour spoke for many when he accused the country’s Islamic organisations of complacency.(( https://www.zdf.de/nachrichten/zdf-morgenmagazin/zdf-morgenmagazin-clip-14-242.html ))

Now, however, Islamic scholars and activists have called for a public demonstration in Cologne on Saturday, June 17. United under the slogan #NichtMitUns (#NotWithUs), protestors gathered to reclaim their religion from what they deem to be its usurpation by extremists.(( http://www.ramadan-friedensmarsch.de/ ))

Striving for greater visibility

One of the organisers, Islamic scholar and chairwoman of the Liberal-Islamic Union (LIB), Lamya Kaddor, asserted prior to the event that she was hoping for the demonstration to send a strong and noteworthy signal to terrorists and mainstream society alike.

Kaddor observed that “every Islamic organization writes a press release after every attack, and Islamic legal opinions have been drawn up by leading theologians. Yet these things are not publicly noticed.”(( http://www.ksta.de/koeln/muslime-demonstrieren-gegen-terror–manchester-hat-das-fass-zum-ueberlaufen-gebracht–27778146 ))

Broad endorsements

The initiative started by Kaddor and others, including peace activist Tarek Mohamad, has received broad support. Fellow religious leaders, such as Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Lutheran Church in Germany, have tweeted their support.(( https://twitter.com/landesbischof/status/875301959284248576 ))

Politicians, such as Cemile Giousouf, the CDU’s first Muslim Member of Parliament, are equally supportive of the rally. Approving statements have also been made by Social Democratic and Green Party politicians.(( https://www.domradio.de/themen/islam-und-kirche/2017-06-16/kritik-ditib-wegen-absage-anti-terror-demo ))

Reception among Muslim representatives

The echo among other Muslim leaders has been somewhat more complex. Aiman Mazyek, chairman of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), stated that his organization would take part in the march.(( http://www.rp-online.de/politik/deutschland/aiman-mazyek-vom-zentralrat-der-muslime-zur-demo-in-koeln-aid-1.6873750 )) The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, so far the only Muslim group to obtain full legal recognition in some of Germany’s 16 states, also announced its participation.(( https://twitter.com/presseahmadiyya/status/874666652864040962 ))

Further support came from authors and activists, such as Islamic feminist Kübra Gümüsay, who called upon Muslims to “emancipate themselves” from a situation in which they are merely reactive to Islamophobic insinuations: according to her, the Cologne march offers the possibility for a Muslim voice to “become the driving force of a peace movement”.(( http://www.ndr.de/ndrkultur/sendungen/freitagsforum/Kommentar-Muslime-demonstrieren-fuer-Frieden,freitagsforum488.html ))

Critical voices

Nevertheless, even within ZMD, support for the march has not been unanimous. The association’s deputy, Mehmet Alparslan Çelebi, has voiced his suspicion that the event will merely reinforce the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims.

The chairman of the Islamic Council (IR), of which the Islamist-leaning Islamic Community Millî Görüş is the biggest member, has been even more categorical in his rejection of the demonstration. He points to the considerable number of comparable public events in the past two years; events that, according to him, have neither helped to dissipate Islamophobic prejudice (as exemplified by repeated calls for Muslims to ‘distance’ themselves anew after every attack), nor been conducive to addressing the root causes of terrorism.(( http://www.islamiq.de/2017/06/13/zeichen-gegen-terror-setzen/ ))

DITIB refuses to participate

Yet public attention has, once more, focused on Germany’s numerically largest Islamic association, DITIB. Although the organisation’s Chairman had initially welcomed the announcement of the rally((http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/friedensmarsch-in-berlin-tausende-muslime-wollen-gegen-terror-und-gewalt-demonstrieren-27783342 )), a DITIB press release subsequently stated that “demands for ‘Muslim’ anti-terrorism demonstrations fall short, stigmatise Muslims and unduly focus international terrorism on Muslims, their communities and mosques – this is the wrong path and the wrong signal, for this kind of assignation of blame divides society.”(( http://ditib.de/detail1.php?id=603&lang=de ))

On a practical level, DITIB asserted that – due to their commitment to fasting – Muslims could not be expected to take to the streets and demonstrate on a summery day in the month of Ramadan. (Although it might be noted that with the weather forecast predicting temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius and an overcast sky, health risks should have been manageable.)

Faultlines among Islamic associations

DITIB went on to castigate the organisers of the demonstration for what it perceived as a failure to consult with DITIB and others in order to reach a consensus prior to publicly announcing the rally. DITIB also accused Kaddor of being too eager to please and of being the instrument of ulterior and potentially Islamophobic political interests.

Kaddor herself had sought to pre-empt such criticism, by arguing that “it’s not about distancing. We have no reason to distance ourselves, because we are not close to these criminals. But what is at stake is a clear affirmation on our part to our open and pluralistic society. What is at stake is a condemnation of terrorism. For yes, it does have something to do with Islam if other people blow themselves up in its name and kill others.”

To accuse Kaddor of pandering to Islamophobic sentiments, is, however, at least questionable if not outrightly disingenuous. Kaddor herself had in the past repeatedly taken a bold stance against supposedly ‘liberal’ Islamic initiatives that may in fact only serve as a fig leaf for marginalising discourses.

Criticism from the other end of the spectrum

Given this political positioning of Kaddor’s, it is not surprising that those who have taken a much more confrontational line against Islamic conservatism in the past – and whose activism has often earned them the praise of those on the political right flirting with Islamophobic prejudice – have been almost as critical as DITIB of the protest march.

For instance, Seyran Ateş, a lawyer and activist for women’s rights who recently made headlines with her planned opening of a gender-equal mosque in Berlin, asserted that the march was in some sense too little too late and disparaged Lamya Kaddor’s statements as “sad”.(( http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/friedensmarsch-in-berlin-tausende-muslime-wollen-gegen-terror-und-gewalt-demonstrieren-27783342 ))

Ideological divergences, political differences

In these squabbles, ideological or doctrinal differences, personal enmities, and jockeying for public and political influence seem to intermingle quite freely. Ateş’ and Kaddor’s dispute is in part reflective of substantive disagreements: the two women have a different understanding of Islam, a different agenda, and a correspondingly different set of political sympathies.

Yet Ateş’ categorical rejection to participate in any of Kaddor’s events might also be linked to the fact that Ateş’ gender-equal mosque is due to open its doors on the eve of the planned peace march in Cologne and that Ateş is planning her own anti-terror demonstration in Berlin.(( http://www.berliner-zeitung.de/berlin/friedensmarsch-in-berlin-tausende-muslime-wollen-gegen-terror-und-gewalt-demonstrieren-27783342 )) Any competition over the leadership of a ‘liberal’ Islam is therefore most unwelcome.

Political momentum

Initially, the political momentum appeared to be with Kaddor: DITIB’s non-participation has been harshly criticised, with the federal government’s Commissioner for Integration, Aydan Özoguz, stating that DITIB “is positioning itself even further on the sidelines and is threatened with an altogether final loss of credibility.” (( https://www.domradio.de/themen/islam-und-kirche/2017-06-16/kritik-ditib-wegen-absage-anti-terror-demo ))

The Green Party leader Cem Özdemir echoed this criticism, asserting that “it is beyond me that DITIB does not make use of this possibility to send a clear signal of solidarity.”(( https://www.domradio.de/themen/islam-und-kirche/2017-06-16/kritik-ditib-wegen-absage-anti-terror-demo )) Even Chancellor Merkel stated her support for the rally.((https://twitter.com/RegSprecher/status/875699500043689986 ))

A disappointing turnout

Subsequently, however, the march suffered from a disappointingly low turnout. Instead of the up to 10,000 demonstrators that had been expected, only roughly 1,000 ended up congregating in Cologne.(( http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/demonstration-in-koeln-den-islam-von-den-terroristen-zurueckerobern-1.3548979 ))

For now, further marches are planned by Kaddor in other German cities, including Berlin and Hamburg. Whether these marches will still take place, and how the politics around them will evolve, remains to be seen.

The old question of loyalty: German Turks and their relationship to Erdogan

 

A charged political atmosphere

On July 31st, 2016, up to 40,000 people, most of them German Turks, congregated on the banks of the river Rhine in Cologne to show their support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the wake of the country’s failed coup. German media and politicians presented the rally in an overwhelmingly negative light. This is perhaps not surprising, given the fact that the came at the highpoint of months of diplomatic rows between Berlin and Ankara – including, but not limited to, renewed dispute surrounding the German government’s position on the Armenian genocide, the Turkish government’s refusal to let German parliamentarians visit German soldiers fighting ISIS from Turkey’s Incirlik Airbase, President Erdogan’s defamation lawsuits against a German comedian, as well as the lukewarm German reaction to July’s putsch attempt.

Whilst the scenes of rioting and violence conjured up prior to the rally did not materialise in the end, the spectre of large crowds waving Turkish flags nevertheless sent shockwaves throughout the German political scene. Subsequent weeks witnessed growing calls that German Turks be more active in displaying their loyalty to Germany. Conservative Die Welt newspaper chastised them for remaining silent in the face of Islamist terrorism while loudly supporting Erdogan. This, the paper argued, “raises questions about the attachment of large swathes of the Turkish community to our federal republican democracy.” ((https://www.welt.de/debatte/kommentare/article157395025/Tuerken-in-Deutschland-muessen-ihre-Loyalitaet-klaeren.html ))

Chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to pick up on this view when she asserted in mid-August that “we expect from all those with Turkish origins who have been living for a long time in Germany to develop a high degree of loyalty to our country.” ((http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2016-08/angela-merkel-deutsch-tuerken-loyalitaet-deutschland )) Concomitantly, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière announced his support for the abolition of legal provisions allowing dual citizenship. ((http://www.zeit.de/politik/deutschland/2016-08/innere-sicherheit-thomas-de-maiziere-doppelte-staatsbuergerschaft-abschaffung )). On a more polemical note, young CDU hopeful Jens Spahn encouraged all those with too much of an interest in Turkish domestic politics to return to their country of origin. ((https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article157406464/CDU-verurteilt-tuerkische-Aufmaersche-Erdogan-empoert.html ))

Sources of support for Erdogan

Amidst all this furore, the question why large numbers of German Turks remain extremely supportive of Erdogan – the AKP received close to 60 per cent of the Turkish German vote in last November’s elections ((http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/tuerken-in-deutschland-waehlten-erdogan-partei-akp-a-1060661.html )) – has been less explored by politicians and the media.

Yet when interviewed by the Forum am Freitag TV magazine ((http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/beitrag/video/2838240/Deutschtuerken-mit-Doppelherz?setTime=83.633#/beitrag/video/2838240/Deutschtuerken-mit-Doppelherz )), Seyran Ateş, Turkish-born publicist and outspoken critic of the Erdogan administration, deemed the continued support for Erdogan among German Turks to be eminently comprehensible: after Turkish emigrants had for a long time been viewed as convenient suppliers of migrants’ remittances at best and as national traitors at worst, Erdogan has been the first Turkish leader openly welcoming German Turks as full-fledged citizens and members of the Turkish nation. At the same time, economic growth and rehabilitation of religiosity have enabled Erdogan’s mostly lower and middle class supporters in Germany to look upon their country of origin with pride.

Long-standing issues of social acceptance

These feelings were echoed by Bilgili Üretmen, a blogger and fervent Erdogan supporter born and raised in Germany. ((http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/beitrag/video/2838240/Deutschtuerken-mit-Doppelherz?setTime=83.633#/beitrag/video/2838240/Deutschtuerken-mit-Doppelherz )) He cited economic and social development, greater stability, and the ability to be more open in one’s religious practices as Erdogan’s main achievements. Commenting on Merkel’s call that Turkish citizens be more outspoken in their allegiance to Germany, he asserted that “loyalty is not a one way street” and that Merkel’s demand was “absurd”.

Üretmen stressed that in his view German Turks had contributed a lot to German society for decades; yet that German politics towards Turks and Turkey had remained antagonistic. Moreover, he bemoaned a lack of social acceptance, noting that in Germany “everything that is foreign is seen as a problem”, as well as the fact that German Turks are still predominantly perceived as “toilet-cleaning headscarf-wearing women” rather than as a diverse and successful community.

As Euro-Islam has reported in the past, Üretmen’s comments are illustrative of broader trends and perceptions among Germany’s Turkish population, with shortcomings in terms of social inclusion and of thorny questions of religious acceptance being frequently-cited concerns. ((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/07/14/religiosity-integration-participation-new-survey-attitudes-experiences-citizens-turkish-descent-germany/ ))

The search for the moral high ground

A little more than a month after the pro-Erdogan demonstration, Cologne came full circle when 30,000 Kurds used the same spot by the Rhine to criticise the AKP government and demand the liberation of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Although the PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by the EU and forbidden in Germany, the rally elicited only scant public and political attention. ((http://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2016-09/koeln-kurden-abdullah-oecalan-demonstration-kundgebung ))

The fact that such a degree of toleration was extended quite nonchalantly to the pro-PKK rally was promptly picked up upon by AKP supporters. Perhaps not unreasonably, they interpreted this as a sign of German double standards. ((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/08/01/tensions-supporters-erdogan-partisans-gulen-rise-germany/ )) Yet their claim to be recognised as the pristine defenders of democracy loses its moral clarity when taking into account not just the course of events in post-putsch Turkey but also developments in Germany: Turkish German partisans of Erdogan have themselves engaged in aggressive and at times violent actions against Kurdish and Gülenist dissident individuals and institutions; actions that appear to have been condoned or perhaps even coordinated by the Union of European-Turkish Democrats (UETD) – the very same organisation that also organised the pro-Erdogan rally in late July. ((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/08/01/tensions-supporters-erdogan-partisans-gulen-rise-germany/ ))

German Turks as well as German politicians thus gradually come to realise that in the complex struggle between rival Turkish political forces and factions, it is increasingly difficult to maintain neutrality. At the same time, siding with any single one of these forces – be they the AKP, the Gülen movement, or the Kurds – comes with enormous strings attached, since no single player ticks all the boxes of democratic accountability and openness.

Taking sides thus involves a high price – a price that German politicians have not been willing to pay. Instead, they have been flip-flopping between condemning and courting Erdogan: while depicting him as a neo-Ottoman dictator, they have nevertheless signed the EU-Turkey deal on refugees; while lambasting the AKP government for its lacklustre response to ISIS, they have nevertheless refrained from pulling out German soldiers from Incirlik; and while they passed a parliamentary resolution determining that the killing of Armenians amounted to genocide, the Merkel government promptly distanced itself from this position. After so much vacillating of their own, German politicians should perhaps refrain from asking for declarations of unconditional loyalty from their Turkish German citizens.

German anti-Islam group marches in Britain

Pegida, a populist anti-Islam movement – in Germany. It only held its first march against the “Islamisation of the West” in the German city of Dresden last October; now, it seems, it is ready to spread its message internationally. Branches have been set up in several other countries, including France and Spain, and the Newcastle demonstration next Saturday will be its first in Britain. If it is successful, more marches are planned, for Birmingham and London, as well as Bathgate in Scotland.

It is a remarkably ambitious expansion plan for a group that has proved so shambolic at home. Its spokesmen initially insisted that it had no links to the far-Right, a position that was rather undermined when a picture emerged of its leader, Lutz Bachmann, sporting a Hitler moustache. Yet, for all the chaos, Pegida has clearly touched a nerve. Its weekly marches in Dresden have been attended by as many as 25,000 Germans, and were particularly well-attended in the aftermath of last month’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo.

Organisers expect only a tiny fraction of that figure at the march in Newcastle. Matthew Pope, its UK spokesman, said he hoped 1,000 supporters would show up. Even so, it will be a crucial test for Pegida, to see if it can tap into local disenchantment to build a broad-based movement in Britain to mirror the mass marches in Germany.

But why Newcastle? The number of Muslims in the city nearly doubled in the decade after 2001, but they still only account for around six percent of the overall population, a much lower concentration than in other northern cities such as Bolton and Manchester. The official line – put about by Pope, a 29-year-old born-again Christian from Cambridgeshire – is that the city was deliberately chosen because it is not a regular haunt of the far-Right, so that Pegida would not be tarnished by association.

However, Newcastle United fans have urged far-right activists to stay away from their city, amid growing tensions over the anti-Islamic movement Pegida’s first rally in Britain. NUFC Fans United supporters group made it clear that far-right protesters were not welcome in Newcastle, saying the city was “famous for its tolerance, integration and warmth of spirit”. In a statement, they warned: “There is a fear that Newcastle United supporters who are of the Islamic faith or origin may be singled out for abuse by this group and we say that the authorities cannot allow any of our community, whatever their race, creed or religious belief to be treated in such a manner in our city on match day or any other day.

Outcry at ‘gender apartheid’ in new guidance for UK universities

December 13, 2013

 

Over 100 demonstrators attended a rally last night in protest against “legitimisation of sex apartheid” by Universities UK (UUK).

Protesters are up in arms over controversial new guidelines from the body on the laws affecting external speaker events. They claim that the new guidance will allow “ultra-orthodox religious groups” to separate men from women at events.

Demonstrators in Tavistock Square in central London carried banners with slogans such as “separate is never equal” and “no gender apartheid”. Several speakers addressed the crowd, condemning UUK’s actions, including Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the Independent journalist.

UUK’s guidelines state that gender segregation might not necessarily discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way”.

It continues: “Concerns to accommodate the wishes or beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief system.”

UUK insists that “assuming the side-by-side segregated seating arrangement is adopted, there does not appear to be any discrimination on gender grounds merely by imposing segregated seating”.

Maryam Namazie, an organiser of the rally and spokesperson for Fitnah, which champions women’s liberation in Islam, told the Independent: “it’s fitting that this rally is on International Human Rights Day, as well as the day of Mandela’s Memorial Service, as it goes to show that the fight against all forms of apartheid is not over.”

She added: “Any form of separation can never be equal as segregation is a restriction of equality and freedom. Women must not be separated. People have a right to religious beliefs, but this is about equality and universities should protect that equality.”

Meanwhile, In response to claims that the NUS supports the guidelines, a spokesperson said that the “NUS supports the rights of groups to self-organise how they wish but would be concerned about enforced segregation and certainly does not endorse it.

The education secretary, Michael Gove, has accused Universities UK of “pandering to extremism” with controversial guidance endorsing the segregation of men and women at campus events, urging it to be withdrawn immediately.

 

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/13/michael-gove-university-gender-segregation

The Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10517111/Campus-segregation-religious-freedom-cannot-be-allowed-to-trump-equality.html

The Independent:

Florida Parents Protest Textbook With Chapter About Islam

November 6, 2013

 

Parents upset about a history textbook that they say emphasizes Islam more than other religions protested outside Volusia County school district headquarters.

The parents claim that the book contains too much information about Islam and not enough about Christianity and other religions. There was even a call by organizers asking students to go home and tear the section on Islam out of their books.

Because tearing up (or burning?) books is always the proper response to such things.

The county district was forced to postpone a Tuesday meeting “in the interest of public safety.”

“This group is holding a protest and rally to oppose the teaching of the historical and basic pillars of Islam to students in Volusia County,” said Hassan Shibly, Florida executive director of CAIR, a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization.

“It is displaying an alarming level of intolerance and brazen disregard of minority religions… We find their actions un-American and against every core principal that makes this country so great.”

The textbook in question, Prentice Hall World History, protesters claim, devotes an entire chapter to Islam and teaches children about how it came to be and about the building of the Muslim empire, while Christianity and Judaism are referenced only in small paragraphs here and there.

And we can see the problem here: Where in America will the children learn about Christianity?

Of course, the protesters claim that this is in no way about getting all worked up and encouraging kids to vandalize a schoolbook because they think Islam is un-American and evil.

It’s about religious equality!

You know, with all the crazy things going down in Florida, such as a law that makes it perfectly legal for a person to shoot and kill another person because he or she feels threatened, and with people with serious medical conditions that can be alleviated only with medical marijuana having their homes raided by cops like they’re the leader of a drug cartel, it’s good to know there are citizens out there tackling the truly important issues.

 

Broward-Palm Beach New Times: http://blogs.browardpalmbeach.com/pulp/2013/11/florida_parents_protest_textbo.php

 

Syrian-Americans, supporters rally on Common to protest possible US strike

More than a hundred people, including Syrian-Americans and pro-peace supporters, gathered on the Boston Common today to protest a possible US missile strike against Syria.

Speakers standing in front of Syrian flags bearing portraits of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad decried US plans to launch a “limited” attack against the country in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians last week. The ideologically diverse crowd included members of the Green-Rainbow Party and other anti-war protesters.

Syrian-Americans at the event almost universally supported Assad, whom they praised as a secular leader capable of holding together Syria’s many ethnic and religious factions. They also said the majority of rebel fighters in the country were foreign-backed terrorists, not Syrian dissidents.

 

Muslim youths plan peace rally

BOSTON (AP) — A group of Muslim youths is planning a rally on Boston Common, saying they want to emphasize that true Islam is a religion of peace.

 

The organizers of the Muslims for Peace rally Sunday afternoon say they’re responding to recent violence, including the Boston Marathon bombings in April and the killing of a soldier in London in May. Both incidents have been linked to Islamic extremists.

 

The group, which includes many youths who attend the Islamic Society of Boston mosque, says it wants to clear up misconceptions about Islam. It says it also wants to stress that the people accused in the crimes are responsible for their own actions and don’t represent Islam.

 

About 100 youth are expected to show up at the rally, which will include signs, chants and speeches.

Anti-Ground Zero Mosque campaigners Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer barred from entering Britain to speak at an EDL rally

Two of the people behind a campaign against the building of the “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York have been barred from entering Britain to speak at an English Defence League rally in London this weekend, it has been announced. The Home Secretary Theresa May has told Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, both of the anti-Islamic group Stop Islamization of America, that their presence in the UK would “not be conducive to the public good”. The decision, which they cannot appeal, will stand for between three and five years.

 

Ms Geller said: “In a striking blow against freedom, the British government has banned us from entering the country. In not allowing us into the country solely because of our true and accurate statements about Islam, the British government is behaving like a de facto Islamic state. The nation that gave the world the Magna Carta is dead.”

 

Mr Spencer echoed her comments, and added: “This decision is a victory for the campaign of smears and defamation that has been waged against us in the UK since we announced we were going. In reality, our work is dedicated to the defence of the freedom of speech and equality of rights for all. If that is too hot for the U.K. now, then Britain faces a grim future.”

 

A Home Office spokesman said: “We can confirm that Pamela Geller is subject to an exclusion decision. The Home Secretary will seek to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good. We condemn all those whose behaviours and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form.” EDL co-founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – aka Tommy Robinson – did not respond to a request for comment.

 

EDL leader Tommy Robinson ‘utterly condemns’ attacks on Muslims

The leader of the English Defence League has said he “utterly condemns” attacks on Muslims, and called for the internment of Islamic extremists. Tommy Robinson’s comments, made on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, come the day after six extremists were jailed for a total of more than 100 years for plotting a gun and bomb attack on an EDL rally in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. He also denied claims his group had firebombed an Islamic community centre in north London on which “EDL” was spray-painted. He called for the internment of Islamist extremists and the outlawing of all aspects of Sharia law. “I’d stop the building of mosques in this country until Islam reforms in such a way and works in this country with Western democracy and freedom,” he added.

Islamist gang of six jailed for at least 18 years each for plotting bomb attack on EDL rally

Six Islamist extremists have been jailed for a total of more than 100 years for plotting a gun and bomb attack on an English Defence League rally that could have sparked spiralling communal violence in Britain. The Islamist extremists planned a bomb and gun attack on an English Defence League rally in the knowledge that it would spark a tit-for-tat spiral of violence, a court heard. The plot to bomb the rally in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, in June last year failed only because of a mixture of incompetence and chance after the plotters turned up late. One of their cars was then impounded following a traffic check on their way home. The bungling group had planned the attack for eight weeks, including research to find the telephone number of the EDL’s leader Tommy Robinson and tracking the location of EDL rallies. The Old Bailey heard that it had planned “terrible vengeance” on the EDL for what it saw as blasphemous words and actions against Islam.

 

The six men being sentenced, all from the West Midlands, admitted planning the attack in April 2012. Jewel Uddin, 27, Omar Mohammed Khan, 31, and Zohaib Ahmed, 22, were jailed for 19-and-a-half years. Mohammed Hasseen, 24, Anzal Hussain, 25, and Mohammed Saud, 23, were given jail terms of 18 years and nine months.

 

All of the men except Hasseen travelled to Dewsbury on the day of the rally but arrived at around 4pm, while the event had finished earlier than expected, at 2pm. They were armed with two shotguns, swords, knives, a nail bomb containing 458 pieces of shrapnel, and a partially assembled pipe bomb.

 

As they drove home to Birmingham, one of their cars was pulled over by police because a plotter failed to fill out an online application form properly and the car showed up as having no insurance. The weapons were found several days later along with declarations of war addressed to the “kafir (non-believer) female and self-proclaimed Queen Elizabeth” and David Cameron. The plotters were rounded up by West Midlands officers after a huge anti-terrorism operation.

 

Bobbie Cheema QC, prosecuting, told the court: “They intended to bring about a violent confrontation with the EDL during which they intended to use weapons to cause serious injuries and they anticipated, each one of them, that some victims may have died.”

Mr Robinson briefly watched proceedings from the public gallery of the Old Bailey and called out “God Save the Queen” when the sentences were announced. Outside, police stepped up security as dozens of EDL members gathered at a pub close to the court. One man was held on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly.