DUBAI: Just a few hours after Boris Johnson effectively became the UK’s new prime minister, reactions from around the world flooded Twitter. While many were critical of Johnson’s victory, one tweet appeared extreme even by today’s standards of demagoguery.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Massari, a Saudi dissident granted residency by the UK, tweeted a picture of Johnson with a caption reading: “This Zionist pig prepares for the leadership of Britain.”
Al-Massari’s diatribes echoed those of two other UK-based preachers, Abu Hamza Al-Masri and Anjem Choudary. Both have taken advantage of the country’s laws protecting freedom of expression to spread their hate among the population. They earned notoriety for constantly criticizing the country that gave them citizenship.
Speaking to Arab News, UK-based Saudi journalist Abdulaziz Alkhamis, who covered Al-Massari, said: “The problem is the effect on the young generation, especially young Muslims.
“He was involved in a wave of hate here, and his acts give support to the extremists against Muslims because they used his speech as an example of no tolerance within the Muslim community in the UK.”
Al-Massari, a physicist, fled Saudi Arabia in 1994 after criticizing the royal family, accusing them of being far from “true Islam.” He gained asylum in the UK and has been living there since.
This has not stopped him from calling for the killing of British troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for assassination attempts to be made against former UK prime minister Tony Blair.
“Al-Massari came here claiming that he was fleeing to find freedom. But he has used that freedom against the government and nation that welcomed him,” Alkhamis said.
On his website, tajdeed.org.uk, Al-Massari has stored a trove of terrorist and extremist rhetoric from his unofficial party, the Party for Islamic Renewal (PIR), whose logo has an eerie resemblance to the black-and-white flag of Daesh. The website contains videos depicting the beheadings of foreign troops at the hands of militants, as well as hours-long videos and articles promoting his interpretation of Islam.
“He legitimizes assassinating President George W Bush and Tony Blair, argues that the death of civilians in terror attacks in Iraq is ‘collateral damage and a necessity of war’, and calls for attacks on coalition forces and ‘apostate' Muslims who help them in Iraq and Afghanistan,” says a BBC Radio Five Live Report statement from 2004 of an interview with Al-Massari.
Alkhamis said: “How does Al-Massari get away with sowing hatred against the British people, publishing photos and videos on his website of British soldiers killed by Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and yet nobody touches him?”
If imitation is the best form of flattery, then UK hate preachers like Abu Hamza and Anjem Choudary, who praised Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, have good reason to feel flattered.
“Martyr Imam Abu Abdullah Osama Bin Laden is an imam of right guidance, but most people do not know it,” Al-Massari tweeted on January 21, 2017, placing bin Laden’s name between rose emojis.
In the PIR’s founding statement, Al-Massari said the objective was to “mobilize the efforts of Islamic working people, organizing their ranks, enhancing their thinking and deepening their understanding of Islam, in a way that would serve the path of Islamic Da’wah (Call) and movement. It aimed at the aspirations of the Islamic Ummah (nation), and its legitimate struggle for the liberation from infidel foreign domination and the establishment of the righteous Caliphate.”
The radical dissident further wants the restoration of “Islamic life by establishing a Daesh that applies Islam at home, that is, to apply Sharia in various fields of life. The Islamic call conveys guidance and mercy to the world.”
According to Alkhamis, “This is a kind of terrorism when you are asking people to kill, and asking people to hate ... but we can see there is no reaction from the British government and the British legal system”.
Arab News reached Al-Massari and the PIR for comment, but they did not respond.
On June 27, 1996, the British government discussed the request of a number of Conservative lawmakers to deport Al-Massari on the basis of statements he made to the BBC, justifying the terrorist operation in Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran, which targeted 19 US soldiers.
Al-Massari denied saying this and attributed it to erroneous translation, as reported by the Independent newspaper at the time. Efforts to deport him were scuttled by a campaign to keep him, backed by then-Labour MP George Galloway.
Unfazed by the developments, Al-Massari continued to spew political hatred. After he called for the assassination of Blair in July 2004, he faced another call for deportation. He repeated his call in a tweet on Oct. 1, 2018, demanding that Blair should be tried internationally and assassinated in return for the killing of “Attiyat Allah,” referring to Osama bin Laden.
Unfazed by the developments, Al-Massari continued to spew political hatred. After he called for the assassination of Blair in July 2004, he faced another call for deportation. He repeated his call in a tweet on October 1, 2018, demanding that Blair should be tried internationally and assassinated in return for the killing of “Attiyat Allah,” referring to Osama bin Laden.
On July 15, 2016, British security forces raided Al-Massari's home in London after determining that he had received about £600,000 from Abdulrahman Mohammed al-Amoudi, a close associate of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, between 2003 and 2004. The money transfer was linked to an alleged plot for the assassination of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.
To date, Al-Massari has not been jailed or charged with any crime, despite the calls for his deportation. Alkhamis remembered police visiting Al-Massari's residence and taking away only his computer which he had used to publish the videos. "We hear stories of people being jailed for hate speech," AlKhamis said. "We should be asking UK authorities why Al-Massari has not had to face the full force of the law.”
Under Article 10 of UK's Human Rights Act 1998, “everyone has the right to freedom of expression”. But this freedom has restrictions “in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime ... for the protection of the reputation or rights of others” among other conditions.
Taking advantage of these freedoms, Abu Hamza turned London's Finsbury Park Mosque into a hotbed of radicalism until his arrest in August 2002 under the Terrorism Act 2000. He received a life sentence for sending cash to Al-Qaeda, sending a follower from Finsbury Park to an Afghan training camp, and for assisting militants who tourists hostage in Yemen 1998."
Abu Hamza also called Britain the “inside of a toilet,” saying "We are all under the heavy boots of the Kufr [apostates]” in a video titled “Holy way to Khalifa,” filmed during a meeting in Whitechapel in London in the late 1990s.
“Abu Hamza used the system here to the maximum. He used the benefits, everything in this country," Alkhamis told Arab News. "Britain supported him financially, gave him a house, gave him everything he wanted. And he spread hate and praised Al-Qaeda for what it did in many countries.”