BBC’s Newsnight carries an interesting investigation on Islamist recruitment in the UK, with some remarkable allegations against Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) from an anonymous mole, known as “J”. According to “J”, he was asked to join a secretive cell of five members, and to find five new recruits of his own. These cells, however, are actually gangs:
We’ve been told that it’s alright to hurt non-believers…The loyalty to the group, I had to show it…they actually asked me to take some money from three guys…By force…I threatened them and the gave me the money because of who I was with…This is Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Shuiab Yusaf, a Trustee at Croydon Mosque in South London, adds the claim that HT members in the area have also been involved in gang warfare:
People have observed the same faces in these gang warfare situations as they have observed distributing literature outside the mosque on Fridays.
There’s also footage of a BBC cameraman being attacked by an apparent HT supporter outside Croydon Mosque, although the assailant’s associates try to calm him down.
The allegations are strenuously denied by HT spokesman Abdul Wahid in a subsequent interview with Jeremy Paxman. Paxman asked Wahid if HT would cooperate with the police in investigating such accusations; Wahid evaded the question, and instead asked Paxman if Newsnight would be passing on information about “J”‘s admission of involvement with criminality.
So how reliable is “J”? In the programme he is vouched for by Dominic Whiteman, the spokesperson for an organisation called “VIGIL”. Newsnight also features Glen Jenvey, a VIGIL member who monitors extremist websites (he has his own site here). However, VIGIL itself remains a rather secretive organisation; it has no website of its own, and there are no named members besides Whiteman and Jenvey. Whiteman was interviewed last month in Global Politician, in the wake of a VIGIL report on the Tamil Tigers:
I’m a Brit in my early thirties who – like my grandfathers at my age – is proud to be part of an effort to prevent the attempted spread of totalitarian fascist ideology and terror. To prevent the spread of hatred, anti semitism and violence (in this case primarily Islamofascism) in Britain and around the free world. I am the spokesperson and one of the British directors of VIGIL. I’d prefer to say nothing more about myself and focus on VIGIL.
VIGIL is a non-profit, non-political group of experts covering various fields of expertise who have voluntarily joined forces – after in depth background verification – to help the relevant authorities thwart terrorist entities. The network is international and we have intelligence gatherers across the planet – from India to South Africa to Spain. Our core effort is based out of the UK and the US. Our strategy team is based in London. We are growing fast.
…Q Are you a Christian organisation or do you have any other religious motivation?
A No. As an organisation we don’t “do” religion. That doesn’t mean that our experts and intelligence gatherers are not religious individuals privately – I know of Muslims, Christians, a Buddhist and a couple of Hindus on our team… Our efforts are certainly not anti-Islamic. Our resources allow us to focus 80% on the Islamist – rather than Islamic – threat.
…VIGIL has linguistic experts, banking experts, anti-terror experts, policing experts and other experts we are fortunate enough to turn to. However, the backbone of the team is comprised of former intelligence and military personnel.
PR Web, meanwhile, gives a bit of background on Jenvey, who
…is profiled in the bestselling book, The Terror Tracker, by terrorism investigator Neil Doyle. Jenvey worked for several military attaches monitoring terrorist groups in London and obtained crucial video and surveillance evidence used by British police to arrest radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was convicted last February.
According to Wikipedia (at the moment, anyway), Jenvey has worked for the US against Iran and for the Sir Lankan intelligence services, as well as for India and with “close links to Russia”, whatever that is supposed to mean. Jenvey also works with Jeremy Reynolds of the US neo-Pentecostal news service ASSIST Ministries; Reynalds has made his own researches into internet Islamism, as I blogged on early last year. Less encouragingly, however, Jenvey also associates with the demagogues of Little Green Footballs (1) and the Jawa Report (2). His “memoirs” are currently being serialised in the Asian Tribune.
One would like to know how far exactly VIGIL leans to the right, but with only murky references to “former intelligence and military personnel” and links to Wingnut websites to go on we can only guess. However, with large swathes of the left apparently determined to ignore the problem of Islamism altogether, the field has somewhat been left open.
UPDATE: More on VIGIL today.
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