Jamaal Uddin a seventeen (17) year old, white British convert; he was the spokesperson for the deemed controversial group ‘Muslims against Crusades’.
The home secretary Theresa May banned ‘Muslims against Crusades’ a day before a planned anti-Armistice Day protests. The group is another extremist organisation set up by Omar Bakri Mohammed. It was a proscribed terrorist group that uses a number of names including; Al Ghurabaa, Islamic path, Al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK.
I arrived at East London Mosque on Eid-ul Fatir (Islamic festival) to interview Jamaal. There was a large number of people in the corridor, men wearing their Islamic dress that came below their knees. There were men from different age group, young men, and middle aged and older men. Some of the men had fully grown beards that covered their chest. The young men were collecting rubbish, that was scattered on the floor into a black bag while women with their faces covered, hurried past the men to get into the ‘women’s only’ room.
Jamaal had suggested by text to me, to meet him here last week. I was quite relieved it was taking place in a mosque. While nervously waiting to meet Jamaal, I had my back towards the entrance to ensure I saw him as soon as he was in view. I kept looking back frequently to see whether he had arrived, as I did not want to miss him.
Jamaal arrived twenty (20) minutes late. He was with a companion, a dark skinned muscular man. They stood outside the entrance both looking deviously at me. I gave them a nervous smile and waved. Jamaal gestured his index finger at me indicating (to wait). He turned his face towards his companion and they both started to talk hurriedly and then they went out of sight.
He wore the traditional white Islamic dress that came below his knee, accompanied with a jacket over it. Visible under the dress was a grey tracksuit bottom. He had on an Islamic cap that sheltered his baldness and long over grown ginger beard flourishing his chin.
I waited, confused and apprehensive at what I had witnessed. Several minutes later Jamaal returned, with a ‘swagger’ and said, ‘As Salam Alaikum (Peace be upon you.)
He sat down, looking at the floor as I replied to his greeting with ‘Wa Alaikum as-Salam’ (and upon you be peace).
‘Jordan’ was Jamaal’s name before he embraced Islam. He went to Waltham Forest mosque where he took his Shahadah, (one of the requirements before converting to Islam). The ‘Imam’ (similar to a priest or chaplain), chose the name Jamaal Uddin (a famous Afghan activist of the 19th century.) Jamaal did not know any Muslim names.
He said, “I was a Muslim for a year and four months (1 year and 4 months)” with his hands in his pockets. “I met a brother on my way back from a party with my Pakistani friends. He thought I was Muslim because of my association with Pakistanis. He gave me a Salaam and I obviously knew what it meant. He was a white revert (convert), with a ginger beard, he looked like me,” he explained. “I thought I would be a bit arrogant, so I asked him hard questions about Islam. He answered them Alhamdulillah (praise to God), and the next day I became a Muslim.”
Jamaal has been learning about Islam since the day he was converted. He said, “We never seek enough knowledge, I have been studying Islam for a year now.” Jamaal was raised a Christian but chose not to follow it, in his early teenage years.
He leaned back, his hands now out of his pockets and his light hazel eyes focused on mine. “I do what a normal Kufr (non-Muslim) does, smoking weed, drinking alcohol and hanging around with girls.” His Pakistani friends never influenced or talked to him about Islam. “They were very ignorant, they normally smoke weed and other form of drugs, and I was one of them,” he said.
Suddenly a group of young Muslim men called Jamaal over; he stood up and rushed towards them. The men surrounded themselves into circle, talking to one another. I waited anxiously for Jamaal, several minutes later he returned with the companion, I saw him with earlier. Bewildered and perplexed by all this but of course, I just smiled vaguely at Jamaal. Jamaal sat down as he apologised, we continued the interview.
Jamaal went to Tunisia for a Christmas holiday with his family before he converted to Islam: “it was corrupt and I did not see a sense of Islam over there. I would see men wearing Islamic clothing drinking alcohol. It was just like any other western countries.”
Saudi Arabia lives under Sharia law that enforces Hadd offences. “Saudi, they don’t follow Sharia law’’ He said. “ The English Defence League, British National Party and the western government would say to us to go and live under their strict laws, but if you look at the Saudi Arabians they are more westernised as this country Britain.
At least in this country you can live in a Muslim community and can speak for the sake of Allah. If I say I want a Sharia law in the UK, the government would say it is a freedom of speech, but if I did the same thing in a Muslim country, I would be put into a prison for “extremism.”
Jamaal’s said his grandma told him, that sixty (60 ) years ago, homosexuality and prostitution were looked down on and were seen as ‘diseases’. He continued by saying, “And now all of this is completely normal in today’s society. If we let the society go on like this, there will be no solution, so that is why it is inevitable Islam will dominate the world”.
‘Muslims against Crusades’ had been banned from every mosque in London. “I’m surprised I’m even sitting here, as I have been banned from here as well,” he said. The East London mosque was funded by the government to tackle extremist. “They say I preach hatred….and I say love the Muslim brothers and hate the Kufrs (non-believers). “That is what Allah has told us, so when I say this I become an extremist?
Jamaal prayed in Mansfield mosque, the Imam there was a Mujahideen- (someone who engages in Jihad in a Muslim land). The government wanted to fund the mosque, but the Imam refused, and wanted to fund it himself. According to Jamaal, the council regularly checked Mansfield mosque. “Alhamduliah (praise to God) he lets me teach the children about Islam” he smiled subtly.
It had been claimed by the former Newham councillor Alan Craig, that Islamic activist painted, Burkhas over swimsuit models on street advertisements. He was quoted in the Daily Mail saying, “Muslim women were being subjected to violence for not wearing Burkhas.” Jamaal said his group did not threaten anybody, and that they simply warned those individuals who want to follow Islam. However, they accepted Britain is not an Islamic state. He insisted “all of this is to make Islam look bad so people would step away from the Dawah (missionary work for Islam)… but Allah is the one who guides.”
Islamic extremist had put up posters in some parts of London allegedly proclaiming a Sharia Law Zone. The bright yellow poster ordered a ‘no gambling, no music or concerts, no porn or prostitution, no drugs or smoking and no alcohol’, covered the bus stops and street lamps everywhere you went.
Jamaal said the purpose of the poster ‘You’re entering a Sharia law zone’ was to raise awareness of the Sharia Law being imposed . “We do not go around chopping people’s hands off.”
A third year student Amina Ali (the name has been changed), met Anjem Choudary while attending one of his teachings /lessons on Islam last year. She went with her cousins who were members of ‘Muslims against Crusades’ to listen to his teachings on Jihad and politics. Amina disagreed with his teachings, and said ‘they did not provide evidence to back up their arguments. As a result I never went back’. I asked her to ‘to take me to Anjem’s classes instead’. She insisted “it was too dangerous,” as you had to be related to someone already in the organisation to attend.
‘‘Muslims against Crusades’ was a misrepresentation of the Muslims in the U.K, painting a false picture of the fundamental beliefs of Muslims. Our beliefs are based on “worshipping one god and following what has been revealed in the Quran and what the prophet said.” “It was more important for Muslims to learn about the basics of their faith than be politically active,” Amina explained.
Naseem Bint Amir was the director of the Hillingdon assembly of Muslim youth. She has been working diligently to open channels of communications thus building bridges in communities that were non-Muslims. This was an on-going process. She said ‘’everything that ‘Muslims against Crusades’ do undermines what we do and breaks up the bridges that have taken so long to establish. They just came…. and swept it all out, from under us’’.
Naseem disagreed with Jamaal, She said ‘’if you are going to pick and choose and not take Islam in entirety , and applied it to your life the way it is supposed to be applied. I cannot see that person as being a Muslim, at least not a proper Muslim anyway’’.
Syed Amir is one of the founders of the Islamic Society in West London. The centre was used mostly for prayers and after school Islamic studies for the children. He said, “People forget that everything that was halal and decent can be done in a mosque’’.
The only restrictions for the Islamic centre are that; there should not be any indecency, any abuse of language nor an insult, other than that everything else is permissible in a mosque. “Thecommunities are not socially interacting inside the mosque, and that is probably the biggest damage that we have. That could account for why groups like these are emerging’’ Syed said.
Syed believed that people chose Islam as a religion after researching the truth about Islam. He had witnessed in the thirty one (31) years- he was running the centre that more people were turning to Islam, and the bulk was women. He said, “They were more women who were turning to Islam then there were men, despite of all the negative media reports against Islamic women not having a voice.”
He continued: “It was important that Muslims do not use language which will irritate people or which make people fear Islam. The language and the way we speak are vital for the delivery of Islam to be convincing and effective”.
Syed said ‘it is not my responsibility to convert people’ “Our responsibility is to show what a good Muslim is, how we can work together to show a good Muslim society. Whether people see us individually or as a social group, being at peace and being harmonious then they will be attracted to Islam.
I texted Jamaal after I heard ‘Muslims against Crusades’ had been banned. He replied, “MAC is only a name, the call for Islam will remain no matter what they do. I went on ITV and BBC with Anjem Choudary today …. A group name that was banned in the past has clearly not stopped us’’