Tolerance tested in UK

A report in today's Newsday tells of a meeting at London's Finsbury Park mosque, where prominent Muslim leaders signed a statement condemning the 7-7 attacks, under a banner reading "A New Beginning." But there was also a sign at the mosque warning gatherers that they were under government surveillance, and rather than a new beginning it looks more like the same old pattern is becoming more entrenched. The government is considering draconian "anti-terror" legislation, while Islamist hardliners gain legitimacy in reaction...

"Britain is tolerant and respectful of all religions, but that respect and tolerance does not extend to allowing people to incite violence and terrorism," David Davis of the Conservative Party said yesterday after representatives of the country's major parties agreed to push for sweeping new anti-terror laws.

The legislation, which still must be drafted, would muzzle radicals seen as promoting terrorism - for instance by praising suicide bombers - and would make it easier to deport those who are not British and to deny entry to those barred from other countries. It also would ban accessing terrorist Web sites and attending terrorist training camps.

"Britain has for too long been tolerant of the messengers of hate, many of whom have been foolishly admitted from abroad," The Sunday Times of London said. "Action will now be taken. It is a pity that it took the deaths of more than 50 innocents to bring it about."


On the sidewalk outside the mosque, followers of the radical Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has dubbed the proposed legislation the "Religious Hatred Bill," passed out leaflets contrasting the outpouring of grief for London's victims with the reaction to civilian deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq. "There are no vigils for the children of Afghanistan and no books of condolence to sign for the children of Iraq," it said.

The group, outlawed in Russia, Germany, and Holland but allowed to operate in Britain, has refused to join more mainstream organizations in condemning the attacks.

Mohammed Kozbar, the mosque spokesman, said the mosque did not support the group but could not stop it from handing out leaflets.

Some liberal lawmakers and political observers have warned that the rush to respond to the attacks with new legislation could backfire.

Caroline Kennedy-Pipe, an international relations professor at the University of Sheffield and an expert on governments' responses to terrorism, suggested it is better to keep perceived trouble-makers in the country, under surveillance, than to deport them or make it impossible for them to preach openly. "The effect of that is to drive them underground or to countries like Pakistan, where young Muslims are going to seek them out anyway," she said.


At Finsbury Park, even among moderates, resentment already is high. "We are more victimized than anyone else really, because people are pointing their fingers at the Muslim community," Kozbar said.

[Kenyan immigrant Daudi Mohammed] Yusuf agreed. "I'm annoyed," he said angrily. "Do you accuse every German of being a slaughterer because of Hitler? Do you think every Italian is Mussolini? So why do you think every Muslim is Osama bin Laden?"

See our last post on the London bombings.

More on the Pakistan connection...

and more on alleged links to the April 30 suicide attack in Tel Aviv. From the UK Guardian, July 19, via TruthOut:

Pakistan Militants Linked to London Attacks

Two bombers travelled together, documents show. Leader of plot also said to have visited Israel.

Two of the London bombers travelled to Pakistan together last November and spent almost three months there, it emerged yesterday, pointing towards close links between the UK extremists and their Pakistani counterparts.
Pakistani officials released dramatic footage showing Mohammad Sidique Khan, 30, the man suspected of leading the London cell, arriving from Britain at Karachi airport on the same Turkish Airlines flight TK 1056 on November 19 last year, as Shehzad Tanweer, 22. The two stayed in Pakistan until February 8 before flying back to London together, immigration officials said.

Another of the July 7 bombers, Hasib Hussain, 18, arrived separately in Karachi on July 15 last year. Investigators are convinced that Tanweer met at least one senior militant - Osama Nazir - during a previous trip to Pakistan in 2003. They also now believe that one or more of the London bombers, whose attacks on three tube trains and a bus claimed at least 56 lives, met a second militant, Zeeshan Siddiqi. Siddiqi, arrested in Pakistan two months ago, is associated with several radical groups.

Khan, a teaching assistant and respected figure in his Leeds community who is thought to have played a dominant role in the bomb plot, may have introduced Tanweer to contacts in Pakistan's thriving militant scene.

The revelation that three of the four bombers visited Pakistan so recently bolsters the belief that they had overseas militant links.

There were also unconfirmed reports yesterday that Khan, who police believe blew himself up on an underground train at Edgware Road, flew to Israel for 24 hours in 2003, where one Israeli newspaper suggested he may have helped plan a suicide bombing there.

Khan arrived in Israel on February 19, 2003, and left the next day. The Israeli daily newspaper, Maariv, said he was suspected of helping two fellow Britons, both of Pakistani descent, plot a suicide mission at Mike's Place bar in Tel Aviv on April 30, killing three Israelis.

In Pakistan, investigators are now gradually piecing together a clearer picture of Tanweer's and Khan's movements. They stayed at a hotel in Karachi's central Saddar area for a week before leaving for Lahore by train, a Pakistani newspaper, the Daily News, reported yesterday.

Pakistani officials now believe that Tanweer "shopped around", visiting several different radical madrasas. Detectives are also certain he spent time in Faisalabad, two-and-a-half hours' drive from Lahore, and a centre for radical Sunni activists.

"He visited multiple seminaries. He didn't take admission in any of them. He stayed there for a few days and travelled elsewhere. He was establishing contacts with militants," one source close to the Pakistani investigation said.

Computer records show Hasib Hussain entered Karachi from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on July 15, 2004, on flight SV714. It is not clear when he left.

Experts believe that only two Pakistani militant groups would have had the expertise and international resources to assist in an elaborate suicide operation in Britain - the banned Sunni group Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (Army of Mohammad).

Tanweer is believed to have stayed at a madrasa run by Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mudrike, 20 miles outside Lahore. Over the weekend, however, the madrasa denied any connection with him.

The revelations are likely to increase pressure on Pakistan's military president Pervez Musharraf. On Monday Pakistan's ambassador to the UN complained that Pakistan was being blamed for the London attacks, despite the fact that all four bombers were born and grew up in Britain.

Yesterday, though, President Musharraf sounded a more conciliatory note. He admitted that some Pakistani madrasas were connected to "extremism and terrorism" - a point made by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, last week.

Scotland Yard said it had not sent any officers to Pakistan, although they are liaising with the Pakistani authorities.

A Leeds man arrested in the wake of the bombings was still being questioned at Paddington Green high security police station in central London last night.

UK forensic experts are still trying to identify the homemade explosive compound used in the London bombings and the substances found in a "bomb factory" at a Leeds property, and in a hire car abandoned by the bombers at Luton railway station.

A senior security source said: "It will take some time for the forensic investigation to show us exactly what explosives were used and in what way."

Jermaine Lindsay, the King's Cross bomber, spent hundreds of pounds on perfume days before he blew himself up and police are probing whether any of this was included in the bombs. They have also yet to establish how the bombs were detonated.

Detectives are still trying to piece together vital information about the four bombers' movements in the run-up to the attack. They need to work out when three of them, Khan, Tanweer and Hussain, travelled from Leeds to meet the fourth, Lindsay, in Luton, and what route they took.

So far, they have collected more than 12,000 CCTV tapes, of which they have viewed around 6,000. They expect to view around 25,000 in total.

To date, officers have taken just under 1,000 witness statements, seized 3,500 documents and taken more than 3,500 calls on the confidential anti-terrorist hotline, not including mobile phone footage and pictures of the bombings emailed by members of the public.

More than 2,000 police officers have worked on the inquiry so far, of which 500 remain as permanent core staff.