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Thursday, 12 September, 2002, 08:12 GMT 09:12 UK
Hard liners call Bin Laden 'hero'
Finsbury Park mosque
The door to the mosque was guarded by some youths
Hard-line Muslims attending a north London mosque for a controversial conference marking the 11 September attacks have described Osama Bin Laden as a "hero".

They also warned that if Britain were on the "agenda" it "would see suicide bombings everywhere".

The conference, at the Finsbury Park mosque, was organised by al-Muhajiroun, whose supporters hung banners from the building, calling for Britain to be turned into an Islamic state.

Entitled September 11: A Towering Day in History, some of Britain's most radical Muslim clerics were meeting to discuss topics including the "positive outcomes" of the attacks.

An eye for an eye as an old book said, but it was only one eye for 100 eyes - there is still much more to do

Dr Muhammad Al-Mass'ari
The mosque was the scene of a tense stand-off as dozens of police separated those attending the meeting from about 100 British National Party protesters and a counter demonstration by 30 Anti-Nazi League members.

The mosque entrance was guarded by a group of youths, who covered their faces with headscarves.

Journalists hoping to attend the conference were told by the mosque's leading cleric and al-Muhajiroun leader Omar Bakri Mohammed that they would not be allowed in.

But later, they were invited inside and directed into what one man waiting on the steps described as "Ground Zero" - an empty basement with a table at the far end where radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who is wanted on terrorism charges in Yemen, and Omar Bakri Mohammed sat.

Attacks 'legitimate'

Abu Hamza warned Britain and the US: "If you were on the agenda you would see suicide bombings everywhere, just like in Israel.

"So it's simple. Stay away and preserve your people."

He described 11 September as a "turning point" and accused George Bush of "stretching" the attacks in order to justify a global war.

Dr Muhammad Al-Mass'ari, secretary general of the Commission for the Defence of Legitimate Rights, echoed his comments and said the 11 September attacks were maybe not "the wisest thing" but were "legitimate".

He went on to say: "When a regime is helping somebody like Israel attack you and if someone attacks you it is war.

"If a Muslim decides he can do something about that and take retaliatory action, then why not?

Outside Finsbury Park mosque
Al-Muhajiroun wants Britain to be a Muslim state
"An eye for an eye as an old book said.

"But it was only one eye for 100 eyes, there is still much more to do."

Describing Osama Bin Laden as a hero, he said: "He's a fighter and fighting according to his beliefs.

"Anyone who fights according to his beliefs is a hero."

Outside the mosque, police erected steel barricades to keep the BNP and Anti-Nazi League away from the mosque and each other.

Both groups used loud hailers to make their message clear, while BNP members sang Rule Britannia.

But by 2230 BST they had all dispersed.

'Harmonious community'

Earlier in the day a man who shouted abuse at the mosque was arrested on suspicion of possessing a knife.

Local MP Jeremy Corbyn appeared briefly to support the local community against all extremists, saying: "I'm protesting against racists being brought into this community. We want a harmonious multi-ethnic community."

He said many local people felt threatened by the BNP and Muslim radicals.

Commenting on the presence of Mr Abu Hamza, he said: "I have never welcomed him here and I'm not happy about some of his statements and his activities."

Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed
"I can't approve, I can't condemn"

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See also:

23 Jan 02 | UK
26 Apr 02 | England
15 Aug 02 | UK
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