Islamic group ridicules claims of terror links
The Guardian (England), Aug. 31, 2002
The organisers of the Muslim conference that the alleged hijacker is claimed to have been travelling to yesterday condemned all forms of terrorism committed in the name of Islam.
The conference in Birmingham was organised by the Salafi sect of Islam which condemned Osama bin Laden for the September 11 attacks.
After the news from Stockholm, organisers of the conference decided to beef up security. They instituted body searches of the estimated 3,000 people attending, fearing that the alleged hijacker’s real aim may have been to harm someone at the conference.
Abukhadeejah, a trustee of the Salafi bookshop which organised the conference, said claims that the group was linked to terrorism were ridiculous. He and other leading British Muslims confirmed that the group had been steadfastly opposed to acts of terrorism such as suicide bombings, and has branded the perpetrators as sinners. It even opposes street demonstrations.
Abukhadeejah said: “Part of the conference is how to break free of those Muslims who have erred, for example Osama bin Laden, and those who have taken the teachings of Marx and tried to impose them on Islam. That’s where they got their revolutionary teachings from and they try to impose their highly politicised revolutionary politics on Islam.”
The group describes itself as “puritanical” in that it practises a form of Islam which it says is derived directly from Allah and the prophet Mohammed.
Abukhadeejah said he did not think the alleged hijacker could have been a follower of Salafi Islam.
“The concept that he was in any way linked to the conference or was coming here for it makes no sense.
“I doubt he was coming to the conference. Maybe he was just using the conference as an excuse. There’s no way he was making it to Birmingham on the aeroplane, unless he’s trying to harm someone at the conference.
“Either he was trying to harm the plane, in which case there is no connection to us, or he was trying to harm someone at the conference.
“No doubt there are people out there who want to harm the conference. We see opposition to our way, which is anti-terrorist, anti-fundamentalist. We see suicide bombers as sinners who have erred.”
Salafis in the UK have denounced groups such as Al-Muhajiroun and its leader, Omar Bakri Mohammed, as un-Islamic for their support of terrorism.
Abukhadeejah said: “These people are inciters of terrorism. All these individuals in London incite terrorism into the youth of the UK and are all wanted in their countries. They should be deported.”
Organisers urged those attending not to speak to the media. The majority were from Britain and some people spoke Arabic while many wore traditional Islamic long robes.
One man from Birmingham said previous conferences had helped him get a better under standing of his faith: “The aim of the conference is to propagate the true way of Islam. I’ve come to this conference before and came away with a sense of the true faith, and worshipping Allah alone.”
Conference organisers said they had not heard from the 20 Muslims who were taken off the plane when Swedish police discovered the gun, and did not know if they would still attend.
Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, condemned the decision by Swedish police to hold the passengers because they were wearing Muslim clothes: “We’re concerned that a whole bunch of Muslims were held. That detention itself is worrying as it seems to be on the ba sis that they were Muslim, which is worrying.”
Police kept a low-key presence outside the conference venue, an Islamic centre in the run-down Small Heath area of Birmingham.
Women and men entered through separate entrances for the conference, which was being held for the sixth time. Around the corner was the Salafi bookshop, which contained books condemning the September 11 attacks, as well as selling Islamic perfume which is alcohol free. Visitors are greeted by an elegant fishtank.
A spokeswoman for West Midlands police said the force was aware of the conference and that it would be “adequately policed”.