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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Al-Muhajiroun
Worshipper
As we have been repeatedly reminded by prominent Moslems in this country, it is unfair to paint the community as extremists. But some extremists do exist, and prominent among them is the organisation Al Muhajiroun.

It wants this country to become an Islamic state, and refuses to condemn terror attacks here. In fact, it applauds the perpetrators of the murders of 11 September.

Richard Watson had access to the organisation, and met some of their recruits.

SULOMON:
It's like diving off the biggest diving board into the unknown. It's a complete shift from what I used to be. Before, I believed in democracy, freedom, so it was about doing what I liked and making most out of this life. Enjoyment to the max, whereas I embraced Islam all of that changed.

RICHARD WATSON:
This is the story of how Simon became Solomon. How a party loving teenager from Crawley became a devout Muslim. And how he, unlike the vast majority of his moderate Muslim brothers and sisters, went on to join one of the most radical Islamic groups operating in Britain today.

SULAYMAN KEELER:
I don't believe in democracy. It's man made. You're talking about a government that taxes the people to death. It oppresses many millions of people in the world. It wouldn't be such a shame to have them overturned. You're talking about one man, Tony Blair, sends a bunch of aircraft into Iraq, bombs a bunch of people. You're talking about another man, Osama Bin Laden, who sends a bunch of aeroplanes into America and bombs a bunch of people - what is the difference? You tell me.

RICHARD WATSON:
On a spring evening in east London Sulayman Keeler is taking his son to a meeting organised by Al-Muhajiroun. The group says it's involved in a purely ideological battle for the creation of an Islamic state here in Britain. They assemble at a community centre rented for the night. The women don't want to be filmed and some men fail to turn up because they don't want to be identified. This is the face of extreme political Islam. Al-Muhajiroun holds these meetings three or four times a week across the country. The organisation emerged in the mid-1990s after its British-based leaders split from the equally radical international movement for a global Islamic state known as Hizb ut-Tahrir.

ABU IBRAHIM:
The topic today is knowledge...

RICHARD WATSON:
Sulayman and others in the group think overturning a democratic government and opposing Shari'a law would be a force for good in Britain and reject what they call the secular approach adopted by the vast majority of British Muslims.

ABU IBRAHIM:
Look to capitalism, it has only existed for 75 years and it's crumbling already. Communism is finished. The only other ideological belief around now, not a religion, Islam is not a religion. Let's make it clear. It's a political ideological belief.

RICHARD WATSON:
Active membership of Al-Muhajiroun is probably measured in the low hundreds. But the police are increasingly concerned that if home grown terrorists they may come from within the organisation nationally or from a group they've influenced.

UNNAMED MAN:
I noticed how when Tony Blair came out, George Bush came out at the same time and he said, "You're either with us or you're with the terrorist. And what did we Muslims say? We said, "We're not with you, we're with the terrorists." Allah Akbar. .Allah Akbar.

RICHARD WATSON:
The organisation says members would be banned from taking violent action on British soil. Nevertheless, the police and intelligence agencies are focusing on the recruiters and recruited. Sulayman became a Muslim eight years ago. But tonight it's Wayne Derby about to convert.

ABU IBRAHIM:
I bear witness

WAYNE DERBY:
I bear witness.

ABU IBRAHIM:
That's there none worthy of worship.

WAYNE DERBY:
That there's none worthy of worship.

ABU IBRAHIM:
Except Allah and Mohammed, the messenger of Allah.

WAYNE DERBY:
Except Allah and Mohammed, the messenger of Allah

ABU IBRAHIM:
Wayne now has become Osama.

RICHARD WATSON:
So Osama becomes the latest recruit to Al-Muhajiroun, a troubled man finding a new path.

OSAMA DERBY:
Going back before I decided to convert to Islam, my life wasn't any sort of life. I was drinking alcohol, lack of work, lack of family around me, didn't have no family. Now I've got one billion point, so many brothers around me. I couldn't ask for a bigger family in my life now. You've got all these governments doing wars and doing things and like, they're actually saying, like, they're fighting, like, Bin Laden and that saying he's a terrorist. But I look at it as Tony Blair and Bush being terrorists.

RICHARD WATSON:
The group broke to pray. Afterwards further discussion left no-one in doubt about Al-Muhajiroun's view on 9/11.

ABU IBRAHIM:
When they speak about September 11th, when the two planes magnificently run through those buildings, OK and people turn around and say, "hang on a second, that is barbaric. Why did you have to do that?" You know why? Because of ignorance.

RICHARD WATSON:
You describe the 9/11 attack, planes flying into the Twin Towers and said it was magnificent, how can you justify that whether you're a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew?

ABU IBRAHIM:
For us it's retaliation. Islam is not the starter of wars. If you start the war we won't turn the other cheek.

RICHARD WATSON:
The killing of innocent civilians can't be right?

ABU IBRAHIM:
It can't be right according to you. According to you it can't be right. According to Islam it's right. When you talk about innocent civilians, do you not kill innocent civilians in Iraq? Do you not kill innocent civilians indiscriminately in Afghanistan? How do you -

RICHARD WATSON:
I wouldn't describe that as magnificent.

ABU IBRAHIM:
Islamically speaking it's magnificent. I don't believe in democracy. For - from my perspective it's a magnificent day in history because it changed history.

RICHARD WATSON:
A few days I caught up with Sulayman Keeler in west London. I wanted to ask him if he agreed with the Al-Muhajiroun stance on the 9/11 attacks.

SULAYMAN KEELER:
It's up to them to justify it really.

RICHARD WATSON:
Would you use the word magnificent?

SULAYMAN KEELER:
I would, yes.

RICHARD WATSON:
You would?

SULAYMAN KEELER:
Yes, any of those superlatives. But the fact of the matter is that 3,000 Islam people died.

SULAYMAN KEELER:
But you talk about 3,000 so-called innocents. What about the 200,000 innocents in Afghanistan? What about the one million children in Iraq who died as a result of America's foreign policy? Let's remember who we're talking about. You're crying about the fact that America, the oppressor, has been punched in the nose. That's what happened.

RICHARD WATSON:
So what drives young men like Sulayman to join Al-Muhajiroun? Rather than embracing a gentler version of Islam. How did the bright strong-willed Simon Keeler turn into the campaigning zealot he is today. Are there clues in his home town of Crawley? We traced his brother who still lives in the town.

COLIN KEELER:
I used to live in there. My brother lived on the other side.

RICHARD WATSON:
His room was on the other side.

COLIN KEELER:
Yeah. Quite a nice view from up there.

RICHARD WATSON:
Simon's dad left home when he was a toddler. He was brought up by his mum and step dad who worked for the RAF on bases in Lincolnshire and Hampshire. When the family moved to drawly, Simon stayed behind to finish exams, then came onto the town on an engineering apprenticeship. After that there were periods of unemployment while Colin joined the army.

COLIN KEELER:
I come back I'd have some money, I mean Simon was out of work then. So he wouldn't have. I'd take him down the pub, nightclubbing, Brighton, Brixton, London, we used to go everywhere. Good night out.

RICHARD WATSON:
Simon and Colin had made good Muslim friends in the town who prayed at the Langley Green Mosque. Soon both boys became more interested in Islam after a spell working in France, Simon and Colin went their separate ways.

COLIN KEELER:
He disappeared off to Morocco. I carried on doing what I was doing for a year-and-a-half. I come back, and then I noticed that when I come back, he'd been back for six months or so, and he was more religious. He was going to the mosque more regularly. He'd stopped drinking and he had started becoming more a good Muslim.

RICHARD WATSON:
Simon was becoming more radical. He went to meetings held by the extreme cleric Abu Hamza who preaches support for Bin Laden.

COLIN KEELER:
The guy with the hook.

RICHARD WATSON:
Abu Hamza?

COLIN KEELER:
Yeah, he's up there going on about how the West and how bad, how evil it is. This was before the 9/11 bombing. Basically I've gone up there with my brother and I didn't believe in his point of view.

RICHARD WATSON:
Shortly after this the brothers' paths parted. Colin has left Islam behind and hasn't seen Simon, now Sulayman, for three years. Colin and his girlfriend Heidi , who lost her best friend in the Twin Towers, were shocked when I told them Al-Muhajiroun and Sulayman described it the event magnificent.

COLIN KEELER:
They've got their opinion. I think that's wrong. You don't have to kill someone to prove you're a good Muslim much what's the point in that.

RICHARD WATSON:
But Sulayman is convinced it's his brother who's on the wrong path.

SULAYMAN KEELER:
He should be more concerned his life. He needs to have another think about his purpose in life. For me and his concern about what I do, I joined Al-Muhajiroun with complete conviction.

RICHARD WATSON:
Many Muslims say to us, look Al-Muhajiroun are giving Muslims a bad name, they're brain washing young people, they'e a dangerous group. What do you say to that?

SULAYMAN KEELER:
We are a dangerous group. We pose a danger to this Government and the governments of the world. Not because we're big in build or anything like that, but because of what we carry.

RICHARD WATSON:
The message they're carrying is worrying to most mainstream Muslims to organise opposition.

UNNAMED MAN:
Today's topic that I've chosen is to talk on Al-Muhajiroun. I'll tell you what I think of Al-Muhajiroun, but I want to hear it from you.

RICHARD WATSON:
At youth group in Oldham young men gather to discuss Al-Muhajiroun's activities.

SHAMIN MIAH:
The whole idea of Islam being hijacked by a minority organisation of thugs, that's what they are, we need to reclaim Islam back to the mainstream. This is the challenge we have as Muslims.

MOHAMMED RAHMAN:
They're benefiting from this country - the NHS, the education, good transport, communication - everything they're benefiting from all this. And we as reasonable Muslims we appreciate all that.

RICHARD WATSON:
The other thing they say to us is we don't believe in freedom and democracy. We don't respect democracy in this country. What do you make of that?

SHAMIN MIAH:
Why are they in this country? Why don't they go to Saudi Arabia? This is an organisation which is banned throughout the Middle East. Not a single Muslim country accepts this organisation.

MOHAMMED RAHMAN:
They like democracy and freedom, which is why they're here. They can't go to the Middle East because they won't get that freedom there.

RICHARD WATSON:
Many were worried about the possibility of a terror attack here.

SHOHIDUR RAHMAN:
We're going to get the back lash. We're going to get, people will say, "He's one of them." And we're not. What can we do?

RICHARD WATSON:
Al-Muhajiroun's website makes it clear that a so-called Covent of security means their members are not permitted to strike their neighbours on British soil. When it comes to Al-Qaeda coming to Britain to strike, then their argument changes.

SULAYMAN KEELER:
I wouldn't condemn them. I wouldn't condemn the act. It's retaliation.

RICHARD WATSON:
Sulayman's political activities with Al-Muhajiroun have landed him in trouble before. He was arrested at this rally after getting into a fracas with a far-right BNP. He spent two weeks in Brixton Prison after assaulting a prison officer several years earlier.

RICHARD WATSON:
Is he capable of doing something more serious, such as condoning and supporting terrorism?

COLIN KEELER:
Supporting, probably. Doing anything about it, I don't know. I honestly believe he wouldn't. I don't believe he would bomb something. He's got a family and kids.

RICHARD WATSON:
First thing they said to me when I phoned them up was "Oh, no what's he done?"

SULAYMAN KEELER:
Maybe they're expecting for me to be arrested or something like this. At the end of the day, our struggle in this country is purely ideological. They shouldn't be concerned, you know. I'm not planning anything.


This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.



WATCH AND LISTEN
Newsnight's Richard Watson
reported on what drives young men to join one of the most extreme Islamic groups operating in Britain today.



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