BBC, Aug. 25, 2002
The Greater London Authority (GLA) has refused permission for the al-Muhajiroun rally to be held, although it does not have the power to ban it outright.
“We have received complaints in past years that al-Muhajiroun was using the rally as a platform for its anti-Jewish and homophobic opinions,” a GLA spokeswoman said.
The rally is due to be addressed by group leader Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, a radical who recently warned the UK of terrorist attacks if it joined military action against Iraq.
One of the organisers of the rally, Jim Choudhury, told BBC Radio 5 Live the group “had a right” to stage the rally, which was meant to support the Islamic religion.
He denied the group was homophobic or anti-Semitic – although he conceded he believed homosexuality was “an abomination”.
On the group’s support for al-Qaeda, he said: “The people who form al-Qaeda or the Taleban happen to be Muslims so inevitably every Muslim will have something in common with them.
“We share the testimony of faith, we pray in the same direction, all of us call for Islam, we all support the mujahideen.
He denied that the group had recruited any young British Muslims to go and fight with the Taleban, as ex-members had previously claimed.
“It’s not beyond probability that people from our organisation around the world… have gone to one or other of the fronts where the Muslims are fighting jihad.
“But there is a big difference between that and al-Muhajiroun having a policy of recruiting people and training people and engaging in military activities themselves.”
Police said they were not expecting any trouble at the event, which is likely to attract several hundred people.
They said if the group went ahead with the gathering they would be committing a civil offence – but it would be up to the GLA to prosecute those involved.