Friday, May 24, 2013

Omar Bakri: Woolwich killer was my student

[Originally posted at NOW]

Tripoli-based Salafist cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri alleged in an interview with NOW on Friday that one of the suspected murderers of a British soldier in Woolwich, London, on Wednesday was a student of his during his time as leader of the now-banned British Islamist party, Al-Muhajiroun.

“I came across [28-year-old Michael Adebolajo] between 2003 and 2004. He used to come and study in [Al-Muhajiroun’s] open circles and seminars, and participate in demonstrations. He was not a member of Al-Muhajiroun but he used to come to our public events,” Bakri told NOW.

Bakri described the British-born convert from Christianity to Islam as a mild-mannered person who did not appear inclined to violence.

“He used to be very quiet, very shy. He used to ask about Islam, about how to pray, how to fast, and he used to ask about the Muslim umma in general. He was not really coming for the sake of carrying out operations, I was shocked when I saw that footage.”

Despite Adebolajo’s affiliation with Al-Muhajiroun – banned by the British government in 2010 for alleged involvement in terrorism – Bakri believes he was acting in an individual capacity, rather than under orders from the group’s members.

“Al-Muhajiroun had schools, colleges, a shari’a court, it was an association, not really a school to train people to fight. And I dissolved it in March 2004. If [violence] is really what I teach people, I have 2,000 Muslims there, so are you saying 2,000 students around the UK are all going to become like Michael? It seems to me he believed in an individual form of Jihad, he was responsible for his own actions and in that footage he stated clearly why he carried out that attack. It was in response to the British foreign policies in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he made it clear, he was so firm, so courageous.”

“He did not run away from the scene, he stood firm with the blood of that British soldier on his hands, believing he attacked a British soldier who is not a civilian, believing he did it in reaction to what that soldier is involved himself in Afghanistan and Iraq as a part of the Cobra special British forces.”

Bakri added that Adebolajo should not be prosecuted for the killing, which he sees as legitimate.

“I do not condemn what he did. I believe what he did has an Islamic justification, though I maybe [would] not carry [it out] that myself, but people have different opinions, different interpretations.”

Adebolajo was arrested along with 22-year-old Michael Adebowale on suspicion of murdering British soldier Lee Rigby in a dramatic, broad-daylight knife attack.

Bakri, of Syrian birth, was a prominent Islamist cleric in London in the 1990s and early 2000s before being banned from the United Kingdom in 2005, after which he moved to Lebanon.

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