UK: Still Welcoming Jihadis
The British Prime Minister's June declaration, that when it came to terrorism in the UK, "enough is enough", already looks like little more than rhetoric. If members of the British government want to move on from rhetoric to action, however, they need to do more than just work out what new things are going wrong in British counter-extremism policy. They will need to identify the mistakes they keep on making, and perhaps try to avoid making them yet again. Bewilderingly, a remarkable opportunity to learn a lesson appears to have been missed yet again.
At almost precisely this time last year, two clerics from Pakistan toured the UK. Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman are well-known clerics in their native country. Not the least of the reasons for their fame - or notoriety - is that they took a particularly strong line on the issue of Mumtaz Qadri. He is the man who in 2011 murdered Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab province in Pakistan. Taseer had gained attention for taking a brave public stance in opposition to his country's strict blasphemy laws - often used as a pretext to persecute religious minorities, including Muslim religious minorities, in Pakistan. Such laws have recently been used against a Christian, Asia Bibi, who has now been imprisoned under a death sentence for seven years because of allegations made against her by a Muslim woman: that she drank from the same water as Muslims. The case of Asia Bibi was one of the injustices which Taseer had highlighted. Because of Taseer's vocal opposition to such laws, Mumtaz Qadri (who had been employed to act as one of the governor's bodyguards) evidently decided that Taseer was an apostate. In January 2011, Qadri murdered the man he was employed to look after.
Qadri's action were hugely divisive both in Pakistan and in the global Pakistani diaspora. After a trial that same year, Qadri was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to death - a sentence that was carried out in February 2016.
That event brings us back to the two clerics, Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman and Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman. After Qadri's conviction, on at least one occasion Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman delivered a hysterical speech supporting the murder of Taseer, while his fellow cleric, Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman, looked on approvingly from the platform. The video of this occasion has now been removed from YouTube, where it had previously been hosted.
Meanwhile, here is Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman after the funeral of the murderer Mumtaz Qadri in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, whipping up a vast crowd of mourners. During the speech, he repeatedly refers to Qadri as a shaheed [martyr]. This was after tens of thousands of people attended Qadri's funeral, and afterwards rioted, chanting slogans such as "Qadri, your blood will bring the revolution" and "the punishment for a blasphemer is beheading" - and then murdered the human rights attorney who had defended Taseer.
After Qadri's execution, Haseeb ur Rehman also declared on social media that "'Every person who loves Islam and Prophet is in grief for the martyrdom of Mumtaz Qadri."
So, these are two clerics whom the British government thought appropriate to let into the UK. The British government has previously made it clear that entry to the UK is not a right of absolutely everyone in the world, and that under certain conditions (especially if the individuals may be thought to contribute to a breach of the peace) the government can bar people from entry. Nevertheless, on their visit to the UK last summer, the two clerics were allowed to talk at mosques up and down the UK, including in Prime Minister Theresa May's own constituency. By way of explanation, as the imam of the Madina Mosque and Islamic Centre in Oldham, Zahoor Chishti, said of the two clerics, "They have got hundreds of thousands of followers in the UK."
For his part, the son of the murdered Governor Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Taseer, criticised the UK authorities for letting people who praised the murderer of his father into the UK:
These people teach murder and hate. For me personally I find it sad that a country like England would allow cowards like these men in. It's countries like the UK and the US that claim they are leading the way in the war against terror [and] setting a standard. Why are they allowing people [in] that give fuel to the fire they are fighting against?
On that occasion it was perhaps possible to claim that the UK government were ignorant about whom they were allowing into the UK. If so, they could not claim to be once the men were in the country. Here at Gatestone, among other places, the government was warned about the two clerics and informed about their extremism.
What excuse is there in a country which has now seen and suffered the effects of Islamist terror so many times, a country that the Prime Minister has claimed has had "enough" of this terror, for precisely the same two clerics to return to the UK for another tour? And not just to return but to take part in a meeting of faith leaders in Oldham which claimed to be organised with an intention to "bring communities together and address terrorism"? That engagement (which took place at the end of last month) turns out to have been just one more meeting in another tour of the UK and Europe - this one lasting up until August 27.
Last year, members of the British government could have claimed to have been ignorant of the views of these two clerics. They could have pretended that they did not know that they were allowing into the UK two men principally known for encouraging the murder of apostates. They could have pretended to have been ignorant of the beliefs of two men who like to whip up crowds to praise murderers. They could have been unaware that such people were going to speak to thousands of UK Muslims. But they cannot be unaware this year. So what are the excuses for letting them in? Are there any? Or are the words of elected officials in Britain just words today?