The leader of the now-defunct, British-based Islamist radical/militant group al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants) has called on British Muslims to "join the global Islamic camp against the global crusade camp." Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, speaking at a conference in London that drew some 600 people, also warned of possible attacks within Britain.
"The response from the Muslims will be horrendous if the British government continues in the way it treats Muslims," he told United Press International (UPI), adding that suicide bombings were a possibility. Muhammad spoke at the Jan. 10 conference, titled "The Role of Muslims Nowadays," ostensibly organized by Women's Dawah U.K., though featuring speakers from al-Muhajiroun, a group that officially disbanded in October 2004.
Muhammad — a wanted fugitive in his native Syria — is known for his fiery, often-militant rhetoric. This latest call to action, however, represents a break from his earlier stance in that it directly threatens attacks against Britain.
He accused the British government of betraying its security covenant with Muslims, claiming that the betrayal now makes the country a legitimate front in the jihadist war. His wrath apparently stems from anti-terrorism legislation, British cooperation with the United States and recent security crackdowns that have led to the imprisonment of Muslims.
Al-Muhajiroun has been in disarray since the government crackdown and scrambling to restore its identity. As such, Muhammad's rather extreme departure from his previous rhetoric also can be viewed as an act of desperation from a man grasping at straws to keep his group relevant. However, he told UPI at the conference that al-Muhajiroun and other groups no longer are needed, and that Muslims should form a new coalition united behind al Qaeda, with Osama bin Laden as their leader. Al-Muhajiroun always has been considered to have more bark than bite, even within Islamist militant circles. As a result, it has been a marginal voice in the larger British Muslim community. Although al-Muhajiroun for the most part has served as a cheerleading group for al Qaeda and its jihadist allies, a number of developments over the past two years lend credence to the idea that the group has served as an ideological incubator for some militants who went on to stage attacks or to support attacks. For example: