Radical Islam finds unlikely haven in liberal Britain
In the leafy northern suburb of Hendon, a small group at the community center listens to a young man in track pants and sneakers. The charismatic speaker, Mohammed Sultan, the son of immigrants from India and a former student in business information technology, is a regional leader of al Muhajiroun, a radical youth movement based in Britain.
Speaking in staccato tones and gesticulating sharply, he calls for support of jihad to liberate the children of Iraq, Palestine, and Afghanistan.
"The US wants to control everyone," Mr. Sultan says to the muscular young men leaning forward in their seats, and veiled women along the back wall. "But the US can't stop us. Islam will one day dominate the world."
Sultan is part of a growing number of Muslim radicals who find Britain, with its liberal immigration laws and tradition of free speech, to be a comfortable base for their jihad against the West. Scotland Yard estimates that some 3,000 Muslim Britons have joined Al Qaeda forces in Afgahnistan, just as thousands before joined their Muslim brothers in Bosnia, Kashmir, the Palestinian territory, and Chechnya.
Many of these recruits are suspected to have come through youth movements such as al Muhajiroun or attended radical mosques here such as the one in Finsbury Park, presided over by Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri.
Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" who tried to blow up a passenger flight last December, studied in Finsbury Park and frequented al Muhajiroun meetings. So, too, did James Ujaama, a convert to Islam who is today one of the seven British citizens being held by the US in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The "20th hijacker," Algerian-born Zacharias Moussaoui, chose a mosque in Brixton, in south London, to do his studying, turning for instruction to another firebrand imam, Sheikh Omah Abu Omar "Abu Qatada," nicknamed "bin Laden's ambassador to Europe."