Clerics may have stoked radical’s fire

By Charles M. Sennott, Globe Staff, 8/4/2002
Boston Globe, Aug. 4, 2002

HAMBURG – As a guest orator at the Al Quds mosque, Sheik Mohammed al-Fazazi delivered thunderous sermons about Christian and Jewish ”infidels” and the need to fight a ”jihad” against America.

”The Jews and Crusaders must have their throats slit,” said Fazazi, an Islamic cleric from Morocco, as he implored those who listened to ”fight the Americans as long as they are keeping Muslims in prison.”

This vitriolic preaching was recorded on videotapes. Some were seized by German police in a July 3 raid on a bookstore two blocks from the mosque, which was frequented by Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker in the Sept. 11 attacks, and from the apartment of Atta’s former roommate.

As officials in Germany and throughout Europe piece together the disparate pieces of the Al Qaeda network, Fazazi’s relationship to the group remains unclear. But investigators have voiced little doubt that the cleric’s fiery speeches helped foment militant thinking among Muslims across the continent.

”We think sermons like this were the flame under the pot,” said Manfred Murck, the deputy director of Hamburg’s Protectorate of the Constitution, the equivalent of a state attorney general.

Murck, whose agency is responsible for investigating extremist groups, said that Fazazi’s language had violated Germany’s laws against hate speech. Of the 100 mosques around Hamburg, fewer than 30 were under the influence of such extremists, and only a handful openly preached militant Islam, he said.

Both Croll and Murck said such guest lecturers were also part of a strategy of the Al Qaeda network to rely on militant clerics like Fazazi, who were brought in to plant militant seeds and harvest new recruits. These guest lecturers, and the mosques they attended, including Al Quds, are often funded in part through Saudi-based charities that seek to spread the fiercely puritanical Wahabi doctrine that is the
cornerstone of Islam in Saudi Arabia.

Videotapes of the militant sermons, along with radical pamphlets recounting the speeches, also played a role in recruitment, they added.

Fazazi has appeared on Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arabic satellite television network, which often broadcasts the views of Islamic thinkers, militant and moderate alike. Islamic clerics familiar with Fazazi’s teachings say he lives in Tangiers and is the patriarch of a family of clerics from the Salafi school of Islam.

Salafi is a particularly puritanical stream of Islam from which the Saudi school of Wahabi emerged. The Salafi sect is notoriously militant and often secretive, and has been connected to extremist movements in North Africa.

Fazazi is one of dozens of militant preachers who have toured mosques in Europe, experts say. Some of the most radical mosques are to be found in London.

One cleric, known as Abu Qatada, has been described by a Spanish judge as ”the spiritual head of the mujahideen in Britain” and by French intelligence as ”Osama bin Laden’s European ambassador.”


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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday August 5, 2002.
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