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Islam and Muslims in Britain: Scotland’s In dependence Splits Muslims

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  • Zafar Khan
    Scotland’s Independence Splits Muslims OnIslam & Newspapers Sunday, 16 February 2014 00:00
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28 12:03 PM
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      Scotland’s Independence Splits Muslims
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Sunday, 16 February 2014 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/europe/469305-scotlands-independence-splits-muslims.html

      CAIRO – As Scotland braces for campaigns on independence from Britain, the country’s Muslim minority is still split on the vote that will decide the fate of their country.

      “I may be Muslim and I may have a Muslim background but I identify myself as a Scottish person and a member of the United Kingdom,” Anum Qaisar, student affairs representative for the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, told The Herald Scotland on Sunday, February 16.

      “And I think this is a very important decision that everyone does need to make an informed choice on.

      “For me, it is the basic concept that I think countries should be building bridges and not borders,” added the student who will vote against the independence.

      A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent country will take place on Thursday 18 September 2014.

      Reflecting the division among Scotland's Asian and Muslim communities on independence, a recent poll by Awaz FM, a prominent Asian radio station, has found that 64% of listeners would vote “yes”.

      Meanwhile, other 32% of voters were against independence from Britain.

      For yes voters, independence promised better chances of prosperity for the upcoming generations

      “That for me sums up the decision that I make come September, and the rest of Scotland will make,” said Aamer Anwar, a member of the Scots Asians For Yes campaign.

      “It will have an impact on my children and my children's children.”

      Scotland is home to more than 500,000 Muslims, making up less than one percent of the population.

      Muslims are the second largest religious group in the country, which has thirty mosques.

      Political Divisions

      British researchers believe that although most of Muslims back the Labour party, they are still divided on the issue of independence.

      “You could be a firm Labour voter but still think that independence is in your interests,” said Dr Timothy Peace, a postdoctoral fellow at Edinburgh University who specializes in research into British Muslims and political participation

      “There is no doubt that Muslims in Scotland feel Scottish, but that doesn't necessarily mean they want to vote for an independent Scotland. The feeling I get from speaking to people is people are divided on the issue and there is certainly a lot of votes still up for grabs.”

      Anwar, the member of ‘Scots Asians For Yes campaign’, warned politicians of depending on the block vote strategy.

      “When you talk about a block vote, they will literally go door-to-door when it comes to election times and expect families to deliver sometimes 400-500 votes at a time,” he said.

      “That is the way it is done on the Asian sub-continent and the process was carried back to Scotland.”

      Block vote was harder for younger generations, Anwar added.

      “I think for the second or the third or sometimes the fourth generation, people have had enough of having a vote taken for granted,” he said.

      “Some of the community leaders who were the first here in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and who fought for the community, did a very admirable job.

      “But times have moved on and it is no longer the case that they demand a vote and it has to be instantly delivered,” Anwar added.

      Unlike Anwar, other Muslims opposed independence from Scotland, referring to political and economic benefits of being a part of the Great Britain.

      “One of the aspects that is most important to me in this referendum is ensuring a diverse set of voices is being heard and Scotland is truly represented at the polls,” said Talat Yaqoob, Blogger, community campaigner and a supporter of the Better Together campaign.

      Taking the debate of the independence to the campus, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) at the University of Strathclyde will hold an event on the independence.

      The event, planned next March 9, will include a pilot vote on independence from Britain.

      The FOSIS event will also host a panel of speakers including Scottish Labour deputy leader, Anas Sarwar, and the SNP's external affairs minister, Humza Yousaf.

      “It will be aimed at young Muslims, but it is going to be opened up to everyone as I do think it is such an important issue.” said Qaisar, the organizer of the event.
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      Will an Islamic tech boom help teach young Muslims to pray?
      by Peter Manseau @petermanseau February 28, 2014 2:45AM ET
      Munif Zia saw in the UK a 'generation who want to pray but don’t know how.' Islamic iPrayer was his response.

      http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/2/28/will-an-incipientislamictechboomteachyoungmuslimstopray.html

      SHEFFIELD, England — The Magna Science Adventure Centre, on the outskirts of this born-again industrial age boomtown, is a vision of a possible future for northern England. A century-old former steelworks, it is a massive battleship of a building in a landscape of low-slung skiffs. While once it made the metal forged into cutlery by nearby shops crowded with child laborers, today it aims to get children excited about science and engineering — keys to the ongoing transformation of Steel City into a technology hub of Silicon Britain.

      Munif Zia, an inventor playing a small but telling part in that transformation, believes the role of technology in changing a community could be not just economic but religious. As Sheffield’s South Asian community settles into its third generation and approaches 10 percent of the total population, Muslim culture and the U.K. mainstream are becoming ever more entwined. The city’s tech dreams and its once foreign but now deeply rooted traditions were bound to combine in unexpected ways.

      In a cavernous space at the heart of the complex, which doubles as an event venue for hire, Zia walks through a room once hot and glowing with liquid steel but now filled with smoke-machine haze and a laser light show. Seated on the floor in front of a white Mercedes and Rolls-Royce available for rent, a Sufi qawwali band competes with Bollywood rhythms from a bridal fashion show drawing a crowd at the far end of the hall. At the foot of the temporary runway, young women in designer headscarves lean in close to pose for selfies.

      “What you see here is the confusion of British Muslim culture,” Zia says. A trim, clean-shaven man in a knit cap and a leather jacket, he is both the director of mathematics at a secondary school and the developer of a device he calls the Islamic iPrayer, which shows that Islam is as open to innovation as Sheffield itself.

      The Magna Centre was consciously designed to be an avatar of the region’s economic reimagination, which extends into the city center, where vacant lots and abandoned silverplate shops have been transfigured, with the help of a massive influx of funding from the European Union, into the Sheffield Technology Parks and a Cultural Industries Quarter. Yet the event Zia is there to see — Sheffield’s first Asian wedding fair — reflects developments more homegrown and inevitable.

      Many of the young adults in attendance were once his pupils. As he wanders among the wedding-service merchants’ stalls, teenagers shyly seek him out, shake his hand, call him “sir.”

      To him, they are in danger of becoming a lost generation: young Muslims drawn to be at once worldly and traditional, yet having only a limited understanding of what their tradition entails. When, two years ago, he noticed that the majority of his Muslim students, even the girls in headscarves, did not know how to perform salat (the five daily prayers), he quickly discovered the distractions that had stolen their attention.

      “Xboxes, PlayStations, social media,” Zia says. “These kids have grown up surrounded by technology.”

      When the afternoon entertainment takes the stage — first a Punjabi-rapping boy band, then a Muslim-Sikh Michael Jackson tribute act — the hijabi girls shriek the way Sheffield bobby-soxers 50 years ago might have for the Beatles, then cover their faces with the draping edges of their veils. One looks demurely away but keeps the camera eye of her Android trained onstage, careful not to miss a swagger or a step.

      Inspired by Grand Theft Auto

      Despite recent reports of growing insularity, contemporary Islamic culture in the United Kingdom is anything but parochial. The teenagers especially are as engaged with the wider world as their non-Muslim peers, and they are similarly consumed with it. “The day after ‘Grand Theft Auto’ was released,” Zia says, “10 percent of the Muslim students in my classes were missing from school — they had stayed up all night playing.”

      Could the same gadgets that lure adolescents from the old ways provide a model for the kind of tools that might inspire young Muslims not to leave tradition behind? Zia thinks so. To find out, he developed the Islamic iPrayer, an elegantly designed device intended to take the guesswork out of fulfilling a religious duty whose details may have been lost in the tumult of immigration and assimilation.

      “There’s a generation out there who want to pray but don’t know how to,” he says. “They’re embarrassed to go to the scholars of the mosque, who would say, ‘Look at your age, why don’t you know how?’ or to go to their parents, who often assume their children learned long ago.”

      Zia and his business partner, childhood friend Norman Aslam, are themselves children of immigrants. They saw firsthand how the older generation’s focus on education and middle-class striving spelled the end of religious instruction as the primary focus of family life. Local mosques, meanwhile, have rarely had the resources to make children a priority.

      Operating as Islamic Innovations Ltd, Zia and Aslam created the simple, machine-woven prayer mat attached to a digital audio console programmed to play the prayer necessary for each of the five times a day when salat is required. Salat is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. Along with declaring belief that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger, it is the religion’s only daily obligation — the one action undertaken by Muslims that defines them as such.

      “Technology used in the wrong way corrupts,” Zia says. “Technology used in the right way can unlock your potential.”

      Therein lies the sales pitch of the Islamic iPrayer to older Muslims who may feel at a loss to pass on ancient practices in an age so full of competing stimuli. Technology’s promise as a tool of religion also suggests the possibility that products like the iPrayer could recalibrate a tradition often thought to be out of step with the times: To turn to a device for instruction of salat is to ask if a machine can succeed where parents and imams have failed.
      ...
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      81% of practising Muslims either use or will consider using Islamic finance
      Feb 28 2014

      https://www.zawya.com/story/81_of_practising_Muslims_either_use_or_will_consider_using_Islamic_finance-ZAWYA20140228171537/

      Islamic Bank of Britain celebrates 10 year anniversary and reveals findings from UK's first survey into attitudes towards and usage of Islamic finance
      28th February 2014 - As celebrations for its 10 year anniversary begin, Islamic Bank of Britain plc ( IBB , www.islamic-bank.com) the UK's only wholly Sharia compliant retail bank, has revealed findings from the first national survey to look into British consumers' understanding of, and attitudes towards, Islamic finance. The research provides insight into how British consumers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, are using Islamic finance products currently, and their inclination to use them in the future.
      The survey was conducted by independent research company, 2Europe, on behalf of Islamic Bank of Britain , in August 2013 through telephone interviews. 300 British Muslim and non-Muslim consumers across the UK were questioned: two thirds of all respondents (i.e. 200) were Muslim and a third of all respondents were a combination of Muslim and non-Muslim customers of IBB .

      As part of the survey IBB asked Muslim respondents how much they practiced Islam. This served as an indicator of how their use of Sharia compliant retail financial products, such as savings accounts and home finance, is influenced by their faith. The findings showed that a large proportion of UK adults who classify themselves as Muslims practice their faith as follows:

      94% of those surveyed do not drink alcohol
      91% only eat halal foods and always check labels for ingredients
      90% calculate and pay their Zakat annually, ensuring it reaches the most worthy recipients. They also pay Sadaqah during the course of the year
      89% have been/plan to perform the Hajj and /or Umrah in the short term
      84% fast during the month of Ramadan
      68% pray five times a day, every day
      56% always keep a beard/wear a headscarf for Islamic reasons
      29% are actively involved in the events and organisations of their local Muslim community
      The research also identified how this high level of practice translates into usage of Islamic finance products. According to the findings, 9% of Muslim respondents exclusively use Sharia-compliant finance, 27% use a mix of both Islamic and conventional finance and 64% do not currently use Sharia finance products at all. Encouragingly, the research showed that 70% of those Muslims who don't use Islamic finance currently would consider using it in the future, so representing a further 45% of likely future consumers. Combined, therefore, 81% of Muslims either currently use or would consider using Islamic finance.

      The survey suggests that whilst many Muslims do not currently fully understand Islamic finance and how it can help them to avoid interest, which is forbidden in Islam, it also demonstrates a strong future potential for the take-up of such products. IBB estimates that there are about a million UK Muslims adults with a need for its savings and home finance products, who are also inclined towards Sharia compliant finance. With approximately 50,000 current customers, the Bank feels there is plenty of capacity for growth amongst this core segment.

      Commenting on the findings, Sultan Choudhury, managing director of Islamic Bank of Britain says, " IBB has long been considered the pioneer of Sharia compliant retail banking. It's therefore fitting for the Bank to mark its 10 year anniversary by revealing findings from the UK's first survey into British consumers' attitudes on Islamic finance."

      He continued, "The results identify that whilst Muslims practice their faith to a high level, there are a large number of devout individuals who have not yet committed to this important aspect of their faith. It may be that they do not fully understand the important role Islamic finance can play in their spiritual lives. More needs to be done by IBB , and the Islamic finance industry as a whole, to increase awareness and understanding of this area.

      We also need to continue to ensure that our products are equal to, if not more attractive than, comparable conventional finance products. With at least one of IBB 's savings accounts 'top of table' on comparison site Money Facts for 10 of the 12 months in 2013, it has been pleasing to see many non-Muslims as well as Muslim customers coming to the Bank, recognising not only the ethical, Sharia compliant nature of our products but also the value they represent."

      Islamic finance, based on Islamic commercial law, offers consumers a different approach to banking, which IBB has dubbed 'Banking you can believe in'. It operates entirely without the main instruments of the conventional finance sector, including interest and speculative products. The whole premise of Islamic finance is to provide a way for society to conduct its finances in a fair, ethical and socially responsible manner.

      IBB was formed in 2004 based on this approach and to date has attracted over 50,000 customers. IBB has been recognised as an ethical alternative to conventional banks by the Move Your Money campaign and Ethical Consumer magazine, which has rated it amongst the top ten providers of ethical current accounts www.ethicalconsumer.org/buyersguides/money/bankingcurrentaccounts.aspx

      About the survey
      The survey was conducted by independent research company, 2Europe, on behalf of Islamic Bank of Britain , in August 2013 through telephone interviews.

      300 British Muslim and non-Muslim consumers across the UK were questioned: a third (i.e. 100) of all respondents were non-Muslim (i.e. 200 were Muslim); and a third of all respondents (i.e. 100) were a combination of Muslim and non-Muslim customers of IBB (i.e. 200 were not IBB customers).

      IBB customer data was provided randomly by the Bank and prospect data was sourced randomly by 2Europe from accredited third party sources.

      About Islamic Bank of Britain
      Islamic Bank of Britain plc (the Bank, IBB ) has pioneered Sharia compliant retail banking in the UK and now offers the largest range of Sharia compliant retail financial products in the UK. These include Sharia compliant mortgage alternatives, the Home Purchase Plan (HPP) and Buy to Let Purchase Plan (BTLPP), current accounts and savings accounts. The Bank was also the first to introduce Sharia compliant business banking to the UK, and now offers a wide range of institutional and business banking products and services, including Commercial Property Finance. Several of the Bank's products remain unique in the UK retail financial market.

      The Bank is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority and is a member of Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

      Sharia compliant banking operates without the use of interest and is founded on Islamic finance principles derived from trade, entrepreneurship and risk-sharing. IBB has a dedicated Sharia Compliance Officer (SCO) and a panel of respected Sharia Scholars, called the Sharia Supervisory Committee (SSC), which acts as an independent body to ensure that IBB 's products and activities are Sharia compliant.

      As a Sharia compliant bank, the source of IBB 's funding, profits and business investments must be ethical. They cannot be from businesses that are considered unlawful under Sharia law, i.e. companies that deal in interest, alcohol, gambling, pornography, speculation, tobacco, arms and other commodities contrary to Islamic values.

      Whilst IBB offers products and services that are designed in accordance with Sharia principles, it is an inclusive, ethical organisation and welcomes customers of all faiths looking for a bank with a transparent, prudent and community-focused approach.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Life sentence for "terrorist" killing of British soldier in London
      A Muslim extremist has been jailed for life and his accomplice for 45 years for hacking British soldier Lee Rigby to death on a London street in a "terrorist" killing that shocked the nation.

      http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/muslim-killer-of-british/1013670.html

      LONDON: A Muslim extremist was jailed for life and his accomplice for 45 years on Wednesday for hacking British soldier Lee Rigby to death on a London street in a "terrorist" killing that shocked the nation.

      Michael Adebolajo, 29, and Michael Adebowale, 22, were dragged from the dock in the Old Bailey court in London after they started screaming "Allahu akbar" (God is greater) at the judge during the sentencing.

      The pair of Muslim converts were found guilty in December of ploughing into Rigby with a car before attacking him with knives in broad daylight outside his barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, in May 2013.

      Judge Nigel Sweeney ordered Adebolajo to spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole for killing Rigby, who had previously served in Afghanistan, and said Adebowale had to serve a minimum of 45 years.

      "This was a murder with a terrorist connection," the judge said, describing the killing as "sickening and pitiless".

      He said a whole-life prison term was a "just penalty" for Adebolajo, who had proclaimed his admiration for the Al-Qaeda terror network, but that the younger man's "lesser role" meant he would get a shorter sentence.

      Adebolajo and Adebowale, both Britons who were raised by Nigerian Christian families before converting to Islam, said they had attacked the off-duty soldier to avenge the deaths of Muslims at the hands of British troops.

      Minutes before the sentencing, Adebolajo started shouting "Allahu akbar" and Adebowale called out "that's a lie" in response to claims that they had been radicalised.

      They scuffled with guards before being carried down to the holding cells and were not in court to hear their penalties read out.

      The sentencing had been delayed for several weeks because the judge wanted clarification on a European ruling that made it uncertain whether life sentences could still be imposed.

      England's Court of Appeal upheld the right to do so on February 18.

      Far-right protesters jostled with police outside the court before the pair were sentenced, an AFP photographer said.

      They carried a portable hangman's gallows, waved British flags and chanted slogans calling for the restoration of the death penalty.

      Rigby's family, including his parents and the mother of his child, arrived at the court wearing T-shirts emblazoned with a photograph of the 25-year-old fusilier and the words: "Justice For Lee Rigby".

      Adebolajo joins a list of more than 50 people serving life sentences in Britain, including 1960s "Moors Murderer" Ian Brady and serial killer Rose West, who tortured, raped and murdered a series of young women with her husband Fred.

      The court heard statements from Rigby's family on Wednesday saying that their lives had been "irreparably changed" by his murder.

      His widow Rebecca said that their young son would be forced to see "images of his dad that no son should ever have to endure."

      She said she had accepted that her husband would be at risk when he went to serve in Afghanistan, but "you do not expect to see this on the streets of the UK".

      Adebolajo's lawyer argued against a life sentence on the grounds that he was "not so depraved" that he was incapable of atonement.

      Adebolajo tried to behead Rigby with a meat cleaver in front of horrified passers-by. He then allowed a passer-by to film him showing his bloodstained hands and explaining his reasons for the killing.

      The pair were shot and wounded by armed police at the murder scene after Adebolajo charged at them waving the cleaver, while Adebowale raised a rusty, unloaded gun.

      The convicted killers claimed they were "soldiers of Islam" and therefore justified in their actions.

      The Rigby murder stunned Britain and sparked a rise in community tensions, with several mosques attacked by arsonists. British Muslim leaders deplored the killing.

      The brutal daylight attack also raised questions for British intelligence agencies as Adebolajo was known to the security services, having been arrested in Kenya in 2010 and deported.

      Sweeney had held off passing sentence in December because the European Court of Human Rights last year condemned the punishment whole-life terms as a violation of prisoners' rights, causing the Court of Appeal to launch their review.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Surveilling UK Muslims 'cradle to grave'
      New report details 'McCarthy-like' police surveillance and discrimination against the Muslim community.
      Simon Hooper Last updated: 26 Feb 2014 12:21

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/02/surveilling-uk-muslims-cradle-grave-201422575943406757.html

      London, United Kingdom - Muhammad still does not know for sure why British counter-terrorism police came to the door of his east London home shortly before dawn one morning in March 2012.

      It was 5:30am on the day of Muhammad and his wife's third wedding anniversary. The couple's two young children were sleeping in their cots, and his elderly parents were also visiting.

      "My mum woke me up, saying: 'There are police at the door. Get up! Get up!' My wife grabbed her headscarf and we all went into the living room," Muhammad told Al Jazeera, requesting only his first name be used for legal reasons.

      "I counted 12 police officers in there and there were others lurking in the other rooms. They said they had a warrant to raid my house and my car."

      As police searched the property, Muhammad's father suffered a heart attack. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital. The police eventually left at 2am the following morning, taking with them money, documents, electrical equipment, phones and Muhammad's passport.

      Muhammad, a British-born Muslim of Bangladeshi origin in his late 20s, was not arrested, detained or questioned as a result of the raid. His father made a full recovery. But the incident has turned his life upside down.

      He has subsequently been routinely stopped and questioned at airports under Schedule Seven counter-terrorism powers, making his work as a guide escorting British pilgrims to Saudi Arabia on Hajj increasingly untenable. In October last year he said he was held for 26 hours at Riyadh airport before being deported back to the UK without explanation.

      Pressure to inform

      Last August, he was invited to visit a London police station to collect the belongings and money seized from his house almost a year and a half earlier.

      "Two officers from SO15 [the London Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism unit] were waiting for me. You know they play good cop, bad cop? Well, that day they were both playing good cop, just chatting about stuff. As I was going to walk out they said: 'Hold on, there's someone that quickly needs to speak to you.'"

      Muhammad was shown into a room where two men he said he believes worked for MI5, the UK's internal security service, were waiting. He said they put him under pressure and offered him incentives to inform for them.

      "They asked me about my friends, about Syria, stuff like that. They said they believed there were people who wanted to come back and cause mayhem in the UK. I said I had no intention of going to Syria. They gave me a phone number and told me to call if I heard anything."

      Muhammad's story, according to the civil liberties group CAGE, is merely one case demonstrating how many British Muslims are becoming ensnared by increasingly intrusive and illiberal counter-terrorism policies targeting those deemed to be "extreme" in their faith.

      In a report published this month into the UK government's Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, CAGE warned that Muslim communities were being subjected to "cradle-to-grave" levels of surveillance and discrimination that go beyond the policies used against suspected communist sympathisers in the United States at the height of the Cold War.

      It highlighted how Prevent had put mosques, Muslim institutions and charities under scrutiny and how public officials, including teachers, lecturers, chaplains and healthcare workers, were being urged to inform on schoolchildren, students and patients deemed to be at risk of radicalisation.

      CAGE's director is Moazzam Begg, who was arrested on Tuesday for alleged terrorism offences related to Syria.

      The former Guantanamo Bay detainee was captured in Pakistan in 2002 by US forces. He was released from the American prison camp in Cuba in 2005 without ever being charged.

      In December Begg wrote about how he had been continually harassed by the British government and members of its security services and had his passport confiscated because of his investigations into British complicity in rendition, and because of his work supporting humanitarian-aid efforts for Syria.

      In a statement CAGE said it was "outraged" by the detention.

      "We do not accept involvement by Moazzam Begg in any form of terrorism," it said. "He is simply one of many individuals and charities involved in Syria being viewed with suspicion in an effort to send a message to the wider Muslim community that working in Syria is no go area for them."

      'Deprogramming'

      The CAGE report highlighted the case of a nine-year-old boy alleged to have shown signs of extremism who was referred to authorities for "deprogramming". Police figures show a steady increase in referrals among young people, with 748 referred for assessment in 2012-2013, compared with 580 a year earlier and more than 2,600 in total since 2006.

      In other cases, youth groups and mental health projects aimed at Muslim communities found that access to public funding was conditional on sharing data and information with law enforcement agencies, while university Islamic societies have faced pressure to hand over membership lists and other data to counter-terrorism police.

      "There has been nothing like the Prevent policy since the McCarthy era, but Prevent goes a lot further; it goes into every aspect of Muslim life," Jahangir Mohammad, the co-author of the report, told Al Jazeera. "Prevent has created a climate of fear and alienation in the Muslim community. People feel they can't challenge this stuff and they don't have any rights."

      Yet recent proposals to further toughen the UK's counter-terrorism laws in the aftermath of the killing of British soldier Lee Rigby last May, and amid current concerns over the security risk posed by British Muslims travelling to Syria, could make Prevent even more draconian.

      In December, Theresa May, the British home secretary, announced plans to introduce legislation that would place the policy on a statutory footing. While local authorities, mosques, universities and other institutions are currently under no legal obligation to cooperate with Prevent, such a move would force them to do so by law.

      Critics argue the government's efforts to enshrine Prevent in law are driven by a neo-conservative ideology that conflates conservative interpretations of Islam with a heightened risk of violent radicalisation.

      "Teachers, doctors, police officers, civil servants and local government officers are effectively being trained and indoctrinated with a politicised understanding of Islam," the CAGE report states. "It is a policy to silence Muslims and pacify/de-politicise their faith. In short, it criminalises political dissent or alternative political thought."

      Alienation

      Many of those on the sharp end of Prevent measures believe the policy has already proved counter-productive by alienating, rather than engaging, Muslim communities.

      Shakur Rahman, an imam at the Redbridge Islamic Centre in east London, told Al Jazeera that he and other mosque officials had been regularly visited by Prevent officers voicing concerns about invited speakers and other events.

      "We have people claiming to be Special Branch [SO15] coming in and demanding a meeting with the imam and saying: 'If you do not comply we are going to make your life difficult,'" Rahman said.

      "The implication is: 'We are watching you. We have got our eye on you and we are going to be keeping our ears to the ground.' Then you find certain people coming along to the community and asking strange questions. They turn up every now and then and then they disappear.

      "We know, as every imam knows, that if you say something which they do not like you could be raided that night. They are creating that fear so that we are afraid to speak about fundamental issues that pertain to our community. If the whole strategy of Prevent is to minimise problems in the community then it is doing the exact opposite."

      Al Jazeera contacted the London Borough of Redbridge's Prevent officer but she declined to comment. A spokesperson for the council said queries regarding Prevent should be directed to the Home Office.

      A Home Office spokesperson told Al Jazeera: "Our Prevent strategy challenges extremist ideology, helps protect institutions from extremists, and tackles the radicalisation of vulnerable people.

      "We work closely with local authorities to engage with faith institutions, civil society groups and other organisations and ensure they have the support and advice they need. We are also giving additional support to local communities on the frontline of tackling extremism by supporting integration projects and setting up a dedicated public communications platform."

      It's UK government policy for spokespeople not to be named.

      Under watch

      The only reason that Muhammad can think of to explain why the police raided his home is that he had been collecting money for a Syrian aid appeal outside his local mosque the previous Friday.

      "There was a group of brothers and they asked me to hold a tin for them," he recalled. "Maybe MI5 was watching someone at the mosque and I was with that person and that's how I got dragged in. The raid has made me fearful of going to mosques. I think, what if I go and it makes the situation worse?"

      Muhammad is convinced he is still under surveillance. He has started wearing casual clothes rather than traditional Islamic dress to avoid drawing attention to himself. He often gets unknown calls on his phone, but the line is silent when he answers.

      "Even when I came here tonight [for the interview] I saw a car parked up. You can tell what police look like when they are undercover. I have MI5 on my back, I have SO15 taking my stuff, and I am fearful. There is a question mark at the end of this because I don't know what is going to happen to me."

      Follow Simon Hooper on Twitter: @simonbhooper
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      Muslim Bus Driver Saves Woman in Labor
      OnIslam & Newspapers
      Thursday, 19 December 2013 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/europe/467215-muslim-bus-driver-saves-woman-in-labor.html

      CAIRO – A London bus driver has managed to save the life of a woman in labor, rushing her to the hospital after she waited for more than 75 minutes for an ambulance close to midnight.

      “She came on and said ‘baby’ and ‘hospital’ and was breathing quickly and heavily,” Sajjad Shariff told London Evening Standard on Thursday, December 19, referring to Fatim Faye.

      The story began when Shariff, 41, was driving along a road in Leytonstone at about 11 pm.

      Seeing Faye, a pregnant woman who looked in desperate need of help, he stopped and let her on.

      The woman, 44, was forced to take her own way to hospital after she waited for an ambulance for an hour and 15 minutes.

      Taking a quick decision, Shariff called “code red” which alerts Transport for London’s emergency control room of an urgent incident and requested an ambulance.

      Passengers got off the bus with only one woman, Bee Cole, stayed to offer help.

      “It felt wrong to leave her, it was cold and it was not a very nice place to be about to have a baby,” Cole, 27-year-old woman from Leytonstone, said.

      With no sign of an ambulance 30 minutes later, Shariff decided to drive the woman himself to the A&E at Whipps Cross Hospital, which was six bus stops away.

      Reaching the hospital, Faye gave birth to a baby girl at 1.45am on December 12 and mother and baby are both said to be doing well.

      Defects

      As Sheriff saved the mother and child, London Ambulance Service tried to clear its image.

      “The information initially given to our control room was that the patient was nine weeks pregnant,” a London Ambulance Service spokesperson said.

      “This was corrected during a second call at 11.20pm, when it was explained she was nine months pregnant.

      “The patient’s condition had not changed at this stage and she was fully conscious and breathing normally and was not categorized as being in a life-threatening condition.

      “Unfortunately we did not have an ambulance available to send and were cancelled at 12.18am.

      “We would like to apologize for any upset this may have been caused.”

      Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million, mostly of Indian, Pakistani and Bengali backgrounds.

      In July 2012, a report by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex found that Muslims are the most likely of all groups to be identified with the concept of ‘Britishness.’

      In 2011, think tank Demo found that Muslims in the United Kingdom are more patriotic than the rest of population.

      Responding to the statement “I am proud to be a British citizen”, 83% of Muslims said they are proud of being British.

      The percentage came higher than average across the population which scored only 79%.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      British Mosques Go Green
      OnIslam & News Agencies
      Tuesday, 03 December 2013 00:00

      http://www.onislam.net/english/news/europe/466563-british-mosques-go-green.html

      LONDON – A British Muslim organization has launched an award scheme to encourage mosques to become eco-friendly, educating them to participate in environmental beneficial activities.

      "We see in the Qur’an how elevated the natural world is, compared to our traditional cost-profit conceptions of it, and this awareness of the divine nature of creation implies that we should protect it," political journalist and academic Myriam Francois-Cerrah told E2B Pulse, the UK Carbon Reduction network, on Monday, December 2.

      "We do get overly focused on minor issues and have not been concerned with the greater priority of protecting the environment."

      Sponsored by Muslim Agency For Development Education (MADE), the eco-award scheme was launched last Saturday to encourage UK mosques to be eco-friendly.

      The award is a part of Green Up My Community! Campaign, which is co-organized by MADE in Europe and the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO).

      The campaign aims at encouraging Muslims to think-green by boosting their eco-awareness to affect their choices of food, transport and clothing.

      The first award, supported by the City Bridge Trust, was announced at an event titled 'Signs For Those Who Reflect; The Forgotten Sunnah'.

      About 150 prominent Muslims figures attended the event which was held at Ecology Pavilion, Mile End, in London.

      Free copies of the Green Up My Community! campaign toolkit, which included vital instructions to keep environmental sustainability, were given to the attendants.

      At the event, Shaykh Shams, an expert in Islamic Law, and one of the founders of Ebrahim College, highlighted Islam's instruction for environmental sustainability.

      “Islamic principles teach us to shun the idea of living a life defined by materialism, in favor of one where we are less interested in the trappings of wealth, and more interested in moderation in every aspect of our lives,” he said.

      Take action!

      A handful of mosques in London have swiftly taken action after announcing the award including; East London Mosque, Palmers Green Mosque and Al Manar Mosque.

      Located in the middle of Manchester, Al-Markaz Al-Najmi Mosque will be used as a model for eco-friendly mosques by the award scheme.

      In 2010, Al-Najmi mosque was inaugurated as Manchester's first eco-mosque built with wood from renewable sources and reclaimed stone, with a coast of £3.5m.

      Plans for fully-green mosque are also set for University of Salford's mosque which will be running using solar panels, a bio-garden for recycling and geo-thermal energy, with the coast of £10m.

      “This project is about educating the next generation about the importance of environmental principles,” said Usman Ali, Chair person of the Salford eco-mosque.

      “In addition to systems that recycle water from bathroom facilities, the building also incorporates outdoor piping to harness the sun's heat in order to warm water, while the temperature of the mosque will be regulated with biomass heating systems.”

      “43 students were involved in the project and, I have to say, they all produced absolutely wonderful designs," Mark Alston, Head Tutor of Salford eco-mosque.

      "Quite a lot of the students looked at how to bring water into the building, and also how this could enhance the building."
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Jews help guard UK mosques after attacks
      Muslims leaders recruit ultra-orthodox neighbourhood patrol to help keep one London area safe after attacks and threats.
      Simon Hooper Last Modified: 05 Sep 2013 12:23

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/09/20139413527769518.html

      London, UK - Muslim leaders in an area of north-east London have recruited the help of a police-trained ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbourhood patrol to bolster security following attacks on mosques and threats against Muslim communities in the UK.

      The initiative, in the Stamford Hill neighbourhood of Hackney, has seen mosques added to a list of local sites watched over by Shomrim, a volunteer organisation that responds to reports of crime, anti-social behaviour and other incidents in the area and calls itself "the eyes and ears of the police".

      "We keep an eye on all the mosques. If we see anything suspicious, we'll take down a car registration number, report it to the police, keep it for intelligence, log the call and hopefully there won't be any trouble," Chaim Hochhauser, Shomrim's supervisor, told Al Jazeera.

      Munaf Zeena, chairman of the North London Muslim Community Centre, said the arrangement, under which Shomrim volunteers have also advised the centre on security issues, was prompted by a series of attacks targeting mosques and Muslims since the killing of Lee Rigby, a British soldier, in Woolwich, south London, in May.

      Increase in attacks

      Police have also reported an increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes, while the far-right English Defence League, which is accused of fomenting Islamophobia, plans to march through the neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets on September 7.

      "The more evidence we have [of attacks happening], the more vigilant we need to become," Zeena told Al Jazeera.

      Stamford Hill is home to Europe's largest community of Haredi Jews. Many arrived as refugees from Nazi-occupied Europe or as Holocaust survivors in the 1930s and 1940s and the fast-expanding population, now estimated at upwards of 20,000 people, is served by its own synagogues, schools and kosher stores.

      Yet it is also an area as diverse as any in London. About 14 percent of the population - approximately 34,000 people - of the wider borough of Hackney is Muslim, according to 2011 census figures, with large and long-settled communities from South Asia and Turkey.

      After Friday prayers at the neighbourhood mosque, hundreds of men pour onto the street, many dressed in white shalwar kameez and other traditional robes and headwear, even as Haredi men, with their hair in ringlets and wearing distinctive black suits and rimmed hats or yarmulkes, go about their preparations for Shabbat outside a nearby synagogue.

      Ian Sharer, a local Liberal Democrat councillor who brought leaders of the community centre and Shomrim together in June, said Jews and Muslims had long ago learned to live side by side.

      "People just get on with their lives, bring their children up, study their own laws, pray to their God," Sharer told Al Jazeera. "People walk side by side to the mosque and the synagogue, and we like to see it."

      Neighbourhood watch

      Shomrim, modelled on the organisation of the same name in Haredi neighbourhoods of New York, was established in Stamford Hill in 2005 amid local concerns about crime and anti-Semitism. "There's always been trouble. You always got people knocking off their hats. It's a tough area. You've got 'murder mile' a few yards away," said Sharer, referring to the infamous nearby stretch of road where stabbings and shootings were so common a decade ago that newspapers declared it "more dangerous than Soweto".

      Sharer said he sympathised with his Muslim neighbours now facing the heightened threat of Islamophobia. "Anybody who doesn't like Jews probably doesn't like black people, doesn't like Sikhs, doesn't like anybody. It's unfounded hatred," he said. "Anyone who says they don't like Muslims, there's something wrong. It's a bigoted view."

      That opinion was echoed by Eusoof Amerat, a Muslim community advocate in Hackney.

      "Shomrim has been patrolling this neighbourhood for many years now and when they pass the mosque they don’t close their eyes," he told Al Jazeera. "But this makes it legitimised and the community now knows we are working together. Forget about race, forget about ethnicity, we are living together. And how can we live together without respecting and tolerating each other's viewpoint, faith and customs?"

      Shomrim operates a 24-hour emergency line with operators fluent in Yiddish and Hebrew handling almost 5,000 calls in the year up to June 2012, according to its own figures. Its volunteers pass on information to the police and attend the scene of reported incidents. Although they do not have powers of arrest, volunteers will often identify and follow suspects until the police arrive, as well as searching for missing people and stolen cars.

      "We are local, we live in the community. We see what is going on and we pass over intelligence to the police," said Hochhauser. "We deliver the goods, and they get the pat on the back."

      Matthew Horne, the Metropolitan Police's borough commander for Hackney, said the police had a strong relationship with Shomrim, adding that he could cite "day in, day out incidences of intervention" by the group that had contributed to an overall decline in crime in the area.

      "The Jewish community are extremely good at noticing when something is wrong. They will very quickly contact Shomrim. They will keep an eye on it and they will generally know when is the time to call us. They don't tend to waste our time and they don't let people go," Horne told Al Jazeera.

      Muslim patrol

      Amerat said the Muslim community planned to use Shomrim as a model for its own local volunteer patrol group, with operators handling calls in Urdu and Gujarati.

      "It's going to take time. We are looking for volunteers and maybe in two or three years we will be in position to set something up," he said. "In the meantime we work together and we support each other."

      Hochhauser said he welcomed the prospect of a Muslim patrol joining Shomrim on the streets of Stamford Hill, providing it recruited its volunteers responsibly. "We've told them we are more than happy to help them out if they get the right people for it. We don’t want any hotheads because they could bring down the whole operation," he said.

      Such a scenario could be beneficial to the Jewish community as well, he added. Because of their strict observance of Shabbat, when many activities are prohibited, Shomrim volunteers can only respond to life-or-death incidents, such as a search for a missing person, on that day.

      Visiting relatives in Hackney as a boy from his childhood home in Yorkshire, northern England, Zeena admitted once feeling scared of the "strange people with braids and black hats".

      But he paid tribute to members of the Jewish community who welcomed Muslims and helped them settle in the area, even supporting them as they established the first mosque in Hackney in the 1970s. And he said both sides were now reaping the benefits of the willingness of local leaders to put historic animosities aside, consolidated a decade ago with the establishment of a Muslim-Jewish forum in the neighbourhood to address issues of concern to both communities.

      "It took great risks and understanding between the Jewish group and the Muslim group to say we are not enemies of each other," he said. "We live side by side and we share many of the same problems. This is about living together as neighbours and human beings, respecting each other and tolerating each other."
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Mosques tighten their security as attacks follow the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby
      Islamic population keeps a low profile after the Woolwich killing is exploited by extremists
      Mark Townsend
      The Observer, Sunday 1 September 2013

      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/01/lee-rigby-braintree-mosque-harlow

      Kashif Ahmed pointed to a hole in the middle of the mosque's carpet where the smoke grenade landed. On 22 May this year Geoffrey Ryan kicked open the front door of the Al Falah mosque in Braintree, Essex, tossed the incendiary device inside, and brandishing two kitchen knives threatened to kill worshippers.

      Five hours earlier, Drummer Lee Rigby had been murdered on the streets of Woolwich, south-east London. Muslim convert Michael Adebolajo has been charged with the killing.

      The mood among many Muslim communities in the aftermath of Woolwich remains fearful. In the months since then, Braintree's only mosque has been strikingly modified. The front door is now protected by a security code, CCTV cameras monitor the entrance and police patrols frequently pass by.

      Ahmed, who lives in nearby Chelmsford, believes community relations in Braintree have broadly improved since the attacks, citing gestures of support from local church groups, businesses and schools.

      Yet 100m away, along South Street, two men outside the Wagon and Horses articulate a different sentiment. They are firmly opposed to the spread of sharia law. In fact, it is not something Ahmed endorses, either.

      "We don't go to an Islamic country and want different laws," said one.

      His friend nodded, adding: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

      Although they acknowledge that the town's Muslim community does not cause "aggro", they admit to being relieved that Braintree's Turkish men don't wear "bedsheets".

      Ahmed said that some drinkers at another pub close to the mosque can provoke tension. "On Friday and Saturday nights, you get some name-calling. They want to show off in front of their friends," he explained.

      During the recent month of Ramadan, police guarded the mosque every night for two or three hours to ensure that late-night drinkers could not cause trouble. "When people are drunk, everybody has a problem. Anybody who looks different – for example, if they have a funny haircut – can get targeted," said Ahmed.

      Such behaviour can make life uncomfortable for the town's modest Muslim population.

      Ahmed's mosque, which opened in 2002, draws 110 families from the town's 42,000 people, yet many of Braintree's eateries and taxis are run by Muslims. One driver, Mohammed, who has been working in the area for seven years, said: "You always get the odd idiot, but 99.9% of the people are fantastic and are against that type of person."

      There are few apparent signs of extremism within Braintree, unlike in Chelmsford, where three weeks ago the English Defence League (EDL) marched in protest over plans to build a mosque in the city. Leaked details of apparently senior EDL figures have listed addresses in Braintree and nearby Colchester.

      Last week, three figures outside a mosque in Harlow, 30 miles from Braintree, sprayed insulation foam underneath the shuttered doors of the Harlow Islamic Centre and started a fire in an apparently premeditated arson attack. More long-term analysis indicates that, in the years since September 11, around half the mosques and Muslim centres in Britain have been subjected to attacks.

      Those who have inspected the site of the Harlow attack have suggested that its owners were expecting unwelcome visitors. The doors are protected by steel shutters, light sensors, CCTV and an alarm system.

      However, most nearby residents describe a relaxed neighbourhood with no tangible interfaith tensions. Dog walker Philip Lennon said: "It's a very calm area, apart from some of the young kids. There has never been any trouble between different religions."

      But the voice of dissent is again soon evident. Sheila, who has lived in south Harlow for 40 years, said some residents were worried about a perceived increase in the number of Muslims.

      "It's getting bad, people have had enough," she said. "I remember we managed to stop it [the Islamic centre] turning into a mosque. They were going to bring the dead bodies in, despite it being next door to the school. People don't want that."

      Yet the truth is that the town's Muslim population of 2,000 out of a total of 82,000 keeps a low profile.

      The Islamic centre is discreetly located on the town's southern periphery, barely visible from the road. "I've been driving past it for three years and never even noticed it.

      "I didn't even know we had a mosque until the house fire last year," said Angela Hudson, 38, referring to last year's fire in Harlow that killed a woman and all five of her children. Their father, Abdul Shakoor, worships at the mosque.

      The police investigation into last week's attack continues, with forensic science experts examining the building and detectives sifting through CCTV footage for clues.

      Local gossip suggests that the arsonists might merely have been youths from the nearby Milwards estate. One passerby said: "They'll do anything after they've had a drink."

      Yet the aftermath of the Woolwich attacks has drawn attention to the fact that the far right, particularly the EDL, is behind many of the attacks, with the group recently linked to a third of cases of Islamophobic abuse online.

      The revelation that Ryan – who was jailed last week for nine months for his attack on Braintree's mosque – had ties to the EDL came as little surprise. Similarly, anti-racism campaigners expect those who attacked Harlow's mosque to be revealed as extremists.

      TARGETED

      21 June

      A small homemade explosive device is left near a mosque in Walsall. Residents hear a loud bang.

      12 July

      A homemade device explodes near a mosque in Tipton, West Midlands, two hours after the funeral of Lee Rigby, right. The bomb showers the area with nails and debris.

      18 July

      Wolverhampton central mosque is evacuated as part of a security alert after police find debris from an earlier explosion among trees and shrubbery near the mosque.

      25 August

      A mosque in Harlow is hit by a suspected anti-Muslim arson attack.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Islam's ability to empower is a magnet to black British youths
      When I was younger it was Islam's sense of brotherhood that my life needed, not the passivity of Christian doctrine
      Abdul Haqq Baker
      theguardian.com, Monday 19 August 2013 19.04 BST

      http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/19/islam-empower-magnet-black-british-youths

      A seminar was hosted last month by Christians Together in England to consider ways to "stem the flight of black British youths to Islam and radicalisation". In an unprecedented move, Muslims were invited to attend – and they did. Together, both faith groups discussed the reasons why a growing number of young black people are choosing Islam in preference to Christianity. According to this morning's BBC Radio 4's Today programme, one in nine black Christian men are converting to Islam.

      Following in my father's footsteps, I was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended Sunday mass regularly as a child. I also attended a Roman Catholic secondary school – initially a cultural shock as I found myself the only black student among a predominantly white class. The religious focus of the school was, however, a refreshing contrast to my urban, street background. Teachers and students were more serious about God than at my previous schools. A student was not considered "nerdy" or "odd" due to their religiosity. I was therefore able to excel in religious studies and was successful in my final O-level exam.

      During these lessons, the more we learned about religion, the more we questioned and challenged particular concepts, particularly relating to Christianity. Questions about the concept of the trinity – the Godhead being three in one – caused many debates as some of us; myself and others did not find this logical or feasible. Our religious studies teacher became exasperated by persistent questions on this topic, and arranged for the local priest to attend and address the question. His explanations did little to remove our doubts in this very fundamental and important area of faith.

      I recall one particular lesson where we were doing Bible studies and I queried why we, as Christians, failed to prostrate in the same manner that Jesus had in the garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest. I was unable to identify any relationship between Jesus's prayer and ours as his Christian followers. However, the Muslim prayer most closely resembled Jesus's.

      After leaving school, I lost contact with most of my school friends. I also abandoned many aspects of Christianity and instead submerged myself into the urban street culture of my local friends and community – we would make our own religion based on the ethics and beliefs that made sense to us.

      The passivity that Christianity promotes is perceived as alien and disconnected to black youths growing up in often violent and challenging urban environments in Britain today. "Turning the other cheek" invites potential ridicule and abuse whereas resilience, strength and self-dignity evokes respect and, in some cases, fear from unwanted attention.

      I converted to Islam after learning about the religion's monotheistic foundation; there being only one God – Allah who does not share his divinity with anything. This made sense and was easy to comprehend. My conversion was further strengthened by learning that Islam recognised and revered the prophets mentioned in Judaism and Christianity. My new faith was, as its holy book the Qur'an declares, a natural and final progression of these earlier religions. Additionally, with my newfound faith, there existed religious guidelines that provided spiritual and behavioural codes of conduct. Role models such as Malcolm X only helped to reinforce the perception that Islam enabled the empowerment of one's masculinity coupled with righteous and virtuous conduct as a strength, not a weakness.

      My personal experiences are supported by academic research on the same topic: Richard Reddie, who is himself a Christian, conducted research on black British converts to Islam. My own studies revealed that the majority of young people I interviewed converted from Christianity to Islam for similar reasons to me.

      Islam's way of life and sense of brotherhood were attractive to 50% of interviewees, whereas another 30% and 10% respectively converted because of the religion's monotheistic foundations and the fact that, holistically, the religion "made sense" and there were "no contradictions".

      My research examined whether such converts were more susceptible to violent radicalisation or more effective at countering it. The overwhelming conclusion points to the latter – provided there are avenues to channel these individuals' newly discovered sense of empowerment and identity towards constructive participation in society, as opposed to a destructive insularity which can be exploited by extremists.

      Many Muslim converts – not just black British ones – will confirm the sense of empowerment Islam provides, both spiritually and mentally. It also provides a context within which such individuals are able to rise above the social, cultural and often economic challenges that tend to thwart their progress in today's society. Turning the other cheek therefore is never an option.
      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      Woolwich attack: Terror suspect Michael Adebolajo was arrested in Kenya on suspicion of being at centre of al-Qa'ida-inspired plot
      MIKE GLOVER , BRIAN BRADY , JONATHAN OWEN , PAUL CAHALAN , PAUL BIGNELL Sunday 26 May 2013

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/woolwich-attack-terror-suspect-michael-adebolajo-was-arrested-in-kenya-on-suspicion-of-being-at-centre-of-alqaidainspired-plot-8632398.html

      Evidence emerged last night that one of the suspects involved in the killing of the British soldier Lee Rigby was well known to anti-terror police and the security services for at least three years before the brutal Woolwich attack. Michael Adebolajo was arrested in Kenya under suspicion of being at the centre of an al-Qa'ida-inspired plot in 2010, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

      He was one of seven men arrested by Kenyan police after landing on an island off the Kenyan coast in November 2010. Local press reports of the arrests referred to Mr Adebolajo as a "Nigerian with a British passport" who was "suspected of masterminding the racket". Police claimed the men were travelling to Somalia to join the ranks of the al-Shabaab terrorist group. His family claimed he was held in detention and tortured before being deported back to Britain without charge.

      After the incident, members of his family said he was "pestered" by MI5 agents pressuring him to become an informant for them and infiltrate radical Islamic extremist groups. Relatives said other family members were also harassed and questioned by the UK authorities. In an exclusive interview with The IoS, Mr Adebolajo's brother-in law claimed constant demands to get him to spy on Muslim clerics might have pushed him over the edge.

      The allegation that MI5 knew of Mr Adebolajo's radical views for so long has increased the pressure on the intelligence services over their failure to recognise the scale of the threat he posed, amid the fall-out from the shocking killing of Drummer Rigby last Wednesday.

      A friend of Mr Adebolajo has told the BBC that MI5 had attempted to recruit the suspected killer six months ago. It was also reported last night that Michael Adebowale, who was arrested alongside Mr Adebolajo following the soldier's killing, had been detained by police two months ago.

      Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who leads the body that oversees the work of the intelligence services, said the organisations had "serious questions to answer". The MI5 chief, Andrew Parker, will provide a written report on the incident this week, before he is called before the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

      But Sir Malcolm, who is chairman of the ISC, pledged that the committee would also use new powers to force intelligence agencies to hand over all confidential documents relating to the case.

      Abu Zuybyr, who is married to Mr Adebolajo's sister, Christiana, said last night that his brother-in-law had recently been "elated" following the birth of his child. But added: "Then things became a little strange."

      Speaking from a café in the shadow of a mosque in an east Lancashire town, just before midday prayers, Mr Zuybyr said: "Why did he suddenly flip?" As family members struggled for explanations for Mr Adebolajo's actions, they speculated that pressure from the security services to turn informer may have pushed him to act.

      "That is what the [Mr Adebolajo's] family is saying; that the secret service pushed him over the edge," his brother-in-law claimed.

      They insisted that Mr Adebolajo's character changed markedly in 2010, after a visit to Kenya – where, they say, he had gone to study Arabic and Islam with imams in mosques in Nairobi.

      But an investigation by The IoS has revealed that Mr Adebolajo – officially described as "Mr Michael Olemindis Ndemolajo" – was one of seven youths arrested by Kenyan police on suspicion of trying to join the ranks of the al-Shabaab terrorist group in Somalia.

      The young men had gone on a speedboat from Lamu island to Kizingitini, Pate island, where they were arrested by police who were waiting for them after a tip off. The group he was travelling with, which included two secondary-school boys, had been radicalised during weekly visits to a mosque in Mombasa, according to police sources.

      They were thrown in jail and "the suspect from Nigeria" accused police of torturing him, according to local reports.

      "We are being tortured by the police and we haven't eaten for two days now," he was quoted as saying. "We have been denied the right to talk to our family members and lawyer. We are being treated as criminals and we are innocent."

      Kenyan media stated: "The Nigerian, Mr Michael Olemindis Ndemolajo, is said to have travelled from the UK to join the group."

      He was kept in jail for several days before being deported back to Britain, "after it was established that his travelling documents were genuine and that he lacked a criminal record", according to The Nation newspaper. Mr Adebolajo's family said he had been told he would be hanged or beheaded, but after he had appeared in court he was freed to return to Britain. Relatives said they believed the release came after they had alerted local MPs and the Foreign Office. The decision has raised questions over official involvement in Mr Adebolajo's release – and the true extent of his connections with the intelligence services since he returned home to the UK.

      Mr Zuybyr claimed his brother-in-law had been tortured violently, threatened with rape and his private parts had been grabbed.

      Mr Zuybyr also alleged that, when Mr Adebolajo returned to Britain, he had been pestered by MI5 about informing for them. He added that other members of the family had been quizzed about Mr Adebolajo in an effort to put pressure on him.

      Mr Adebolajo's elder brother, Jeremiah, had gone to Saudi Arabia to teach English, but had been arrested and harassed by the authorities about his brother. And Mr Zuybyr himself said that when he went to Yemen <br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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