This article first appeared in the 21 November 2006 edition of The Irish Times and is reproduced here with their kind permission
We must take very seriously the threat to Ireland from radical Islamic elements, writes Richard Whelan.
The threat to Irish airports made by Islamic cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed in an internet chatroom, revealed last week by BBC2 television, must be taken much more seriously than the Minister for Defence’s public statement on it indicates. Mr O’Dea told an audience at the Curragh last Thursday that an intelligence assessment indicated that the risk to Ireland was low.
Wrong Mr O’Dea. The British take Bakri seriously. They deported him, but now he is back via the internet which knows no borders. He is the leader of al-Muhajiroun, a radical Muslim group banned by the UK. Al-Muhajiroun is an offshoot of Hizb-ut-Tahrir (the Party of Liberation) commonly known as HT.
That connection, and the role of HT, makes Bakri’s threat a serious issue. This is not some fundamentalist extremist preaching sedition, this is a serious recruiting master with a track record of radicalising disaffected young Muslims. He only has to reach four or five in Ireland, and we are in trouble the like of which we have never seen.
What the BBC did last week was expose the deception. Bakri’s words, to a presumed radical audience, show the true secret face of HT, not the open legal “political” party it professes to be.
HT has always been an enigma. The French Islamic scholar, Olivier Roy, aptly described it as a UFO – an “unidentified fundamentalist object”. Described by one EU expert as “a conveyor belt for terrorists”, HT is expert at recruiting or influencing young alienated Muslims and turning them against their own families, Muslims who do not agree with them, and the West, and into suicide bombers or active terrorist supporters. For this reason they have been banned in Germany, Denmark, the UK and The Netherlands is considering a ban.
HT was set up in Egypt in 1953, by a breakaway group from the Muslim Brotherhood whom the original founders of HT viewed as not radical enough. Their objective is the re-establishment of the Sunni Islamic caliphate that was abolished by the Turkish Republic in 1924.
They aim to have a radical version of Sharia law applied as widely as possible and eventually worldwide. In the meantime, and to help achieve these objectives, they actively try to prevent Muslim assimilation in non-Muslim states.
The three stages that HT has defined for itself to achieve these objectives are spelt out clearly by them. The first stage is what they call “culturing” to produce believers in their idea and methods. Part of this process involves all new members taking an oath to act upon the orders of their superiors, even if they disagree with them. Second, to interact with the Muslim worldwide community, the Umma, to achieve active radicalisation through the creation of tension between Muslims and non-Muslim, and the infiltration of organisations not open to them. This is the stage they are at in most countries in which they now operate.
Then, in the final stage, to establish Taliban-like governments implementing their version of radical Islam and Sharia law, both universally.
In practice they operate both as an open organisation and use secret cells. Although they declare themselves to be a non-violent, political party, their own statements and activities give the lie to this.
They openly express their contempt for democracy, seeing it as godless, and oppose Muslim involvement in all constitutional politics. They glorify and encourage suicide attacks and justify violence in the cause of radical Islam.
They oppose all integration and assimilation efforts. They work to delegitimise every state in the world, all of whom, both Islamic and non-Islamic, they believe to be illegitimate.
Finally, they actively campaign to provoke a clash of civilisations.
They are said to have been involved in coup attempts in Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Iraq. Secret HT cells have been identified in Denmark and Uzbekistan, while they are openly active in most EU countries.
They have frequently been identified on the fringes of terrorist activities in Europe.
The HT leader in Germany lectured Muhammad Atta, the lead pilot in one of the two aircraft that was crashed into the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11, and several other 9/11 planners were exposed to HT’s German magazine, Explizit. It is also known that at least some of the 7/7 bombers in London were involved with a HT offshoot.
In evaluating the significance of Bakri’s words we need to evaluate not just him but also the wider HT network. In the EU we need to focus on the HT threat Europe-wide and liaise closely with Muslim governments to monitor and disrupt their activities.
We also need to work with moderate Muslims within the EU and in Ireland to reverse the successes of HT and to seek a convergence of civilisations and not a bloody clash.
In the meantime, the direct threat from Bakri to us should not be ignored. His words have resonance for a minority of radicalised Muslims in Europe.
A Western, democratic Ireland is a target to such people. To them Shannon or Dublin is just an operational decision.
I’m no alarmist. This is a serious threat from a very dangerous organisation.