London, October 13: A radical British Muslim group that has noisily backed Osama bin Laden has shut down, calling on all Muslims to unite against a “global crusade”.
Al Muhajiroun, led by radical cleric Omar Bakri, said it had disbanded to encourage Muslims to give up political groupings.
“There is no need any more for al Muhajiroun. Basically, the Muslims are uniting together under the banner of all those people who are following the messenger of Islam, Muhammed,” Bakri’s deputy, Anjem Choudary, told Reuters.
“We find that Muslims need to shed their party banners and unite in order to defend the lives of Muslims against this global crusade,” he said.
The organisation, which called for an Islamic state in Britain and praised al-Qaeda leader bin Laden, has long been a prominent target of tabloid newspapers.
It received widespread press coverage for calling conferences lauding the hijackers in the Sept. 11 2001 attacks on the United States as “the magnificent 19”, although the conferences were cancelled at the last minute.
Bakri has frequently been compared to two other radical clerics, Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza al-Masri, both jailed in anti-terrorism cases. Police have closely monitored him but never charged him with any crime.
It was never clear how big the group’s following was, but its high public profile worried mainstream UK Muslim groups, afraid of a backlash against a community of nearly two million Muslims in the country.
“They will not be missed,” said Inaya Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, the largest group representing Muslims.
“Al Muhajiroun has been the focus of a lot of anger in the Muslim community because it is the ordinary Muslim who has to face the brunt of the backlash because of their antics.”
But he added that he did not expect Britain has heard the last from Bakri.
“I’ll treat this statement with some caution, based on past experience. I’ll be surprised if he quietly walks off into the sunset never to be seen again. I’m sure pretty soon it will become apparent what game they are playing at.”