Several prominent British Muslims have been warned of a possible threat to their lives following the release of a video by the Somali Islamist group al Shabab.
Among the Muslims who’ve been warned by the police are Ajmal Masroor of the Islamic Society of Britain, political commentator Mohammad Ansar, Usama Hasan of the Quilliam Foundation and Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation.
The “threats” came in a video posted on the internet which singled out Muslim personalities who had criticised jihadists in the aftermath of the Woolwich murder.
The hour-long film, “The Woolwich Attack: It’s an Eye for an Eye,” is narrated by a man with a British accent, wearing a black mask and a camouflage jacket. It praises those behind the murder of Lee Rigby and incites others to carry out attacks in the UK.
In the film, the jihadist group singles out British Muslims who have distanced “themselves from the mujahideen who carried out these attacks” as having “mutilated the teachings of Islam”.
Holding an automatic weapon in his hands, the narrator tells people to purchase knifes: “Do not waste your time trying to reinvent the wheel. If you can’t afford to get hold of one of these then certainly a simple knife from your local B&Q will do the job.”
At the end, the narrator encourages others to follow the example of the Woolwich killers and not to let the security services put them off.
One man, named as Talha from Tower Hamlets in east London, says: “I call upon you today all the Muslim men in Britain, especially the people of Tower Hamlets who are in the city I was born in … I call upon you to come to jihad, and raise the banner, humiliate the disbelievers, cut the necks of the disbelievers.”
Among other Muslim personalities featured in the video are Ibrahim Mogra of the Muslim Council of Britain, Imam Shams ad Duha of Ebrahim College, and right-wing political commentator Amir Taheri.
Meanwhile, Anjem Choudary also appears in the video but in a seemingly more approving context.
Mohammed Ansar said he was now getting police protection. “If they [jihadists] are going to start targeting British Muslims and set fanatical extremists against them then that is a frightening new dimension,” he said.
Mohammed Shafiq confirmed that “significant intelligence” had been shared with him about threats by al Shabab but did not comment further. He is out of the country at the moment.
Usama Hasan, a senior researcher with the Quilliam Foundation, said: “The video is idiotic but also chilling in many ways. This guy has a British accent and he is using the language of fascism about the deaths of kuffar.”
The imam and broadcaster Ajmal Masroor said police officers from Scotland Yard special branch visited him last night to tell him his life was in danger.
In a Facebook post he wrote: “The police officers were visiting me to give me a warning and asking me to be more vigilant. They were being the messengers. They left me a telephone number to call in case of emergency or if I felt under any immediate danger. They did not give me any further details and left me guessing.
“As soon as they left my house I started digging further and found an Al-Shabab video has been uploaded on the Internet and in it they name me as a Muslim who is an enemy of Islam and should be eliminated.
“They name a few others in their video message and encourage people to resort to using knives to behead people like me. I spend some time today to verify the threat and it was confirmed to me that it was this video that had spurred our security services to action.
“My reaction is simple – if my death has been destined at a particular place, in a particular way and at a particular time, there is nothing in the world that can alter or avert it. Conversely if my life has been destined to run for a specific period there is no power in the world that can shorten it.
“I shall continue doing what I believe is right and true despite threats and I shall speak out loud and clearly against extremism and terrorism no matter how many threats I receive. Ultimately the extremists would run out of steam and the terrorists would fizzle out, but moderation, fairness and truth will always prevail.”
Al Shabab is a Somali jihadist group which is affiliated to al Qaeda. It used to control large swathes of southern Somalia where it is fighting the Western and African Union backed government. However, it was pushed back in many areas last year in the face of a government offensive.
The group is an off-shoot of the Islamic Courts Union which splintered into several smaller factions after its defeat in 2006 by the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the TFG’s Ethiopian military allies.
Al-Shabab describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam”, and is engaged in combat against the TFG and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
Al-Shabab has been designated a terrorist organization by several Western governments and security services.
As of June 2012, the US State Department has open bounties on several of the group’s senior commanders. The group has also attracted some members from western countries, including Britons.
According to the Harar News Media website the Al Shabab video was taken down several times and digitally corrupted since its release (perhaps by Western intelligence agencies) although digitally corrupted versions are still in circulation.
5Pillarz has seen a copy of the video, which is completely in English and seems to be targeted at Muslim youth in Britain. It heavily focuses on lone wolf operations and encourages viewers to carry out such operations.
“Jihad is an obligation upon every Muslim in the West” declares the mysterious presenter who has a distinct British accent. “So if it’s impossible for you to make it safely to any of the lands of jihad, then follow the example of your brothers in Woolwich, Toulouse, Texas and Boston”.
The video further encourages viewers to read a book on jihad translated by the late Anwar al-Awlaki, which was also read by Roshanara Choudhry before attacking a British MP. It also persuades viewers to get “inspired by Inspire (magazine)”, which al-Awlaki also contributed to.
The video starts off with some Islamic history and how Islam’s empire declined, to the current situation of Muslims around the globe, to the rise of jihad, to the suffering of Muslims and then finally to what in the video is believed as the solution, lone jihad.
Al Shabab in the video claims that the Woolwich attack was a result of British foreign policy, for killing Muslims and for aiding the United States in their “war of terror”.
Al Shabab openly admits to having numerous British youth in its ranks, many of whom have been killed in action. The video goes into detail about these fighters. In the video a young man named “Talha” is seen, who was born and raised in Tower Hamlets borough of London. He calls on fellow Muslims to join him, so that they could “establish an Islamic state”. Apparently, he was killed in November 2012 in raid carried out by British and American forces.