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Friends House and Islamic Extremists

“Liberal hawk” website Harry’s Place attacks the managers of Friends House, the Quakers’ apostrophe-less London HQ in Euston Road, for allowing it to be used as the venue for a public meeting with Hussein el-Hajj Hassan, a Lebanese MP who is also a member of Hezbollah. Quakers, of course, are radical pacifists, and the Meeting House in central London is a popular venue for anti-war groups and meetings. However, Hezbollah is hardly “anti-war”, and HP called his presence a “betrayal of George Fox”. It’s not the first time pacificism has been dissed there; in 2006 the Hamas-linked Azzam Tamimi was cheered at the same venue as he ranted rapturously about how about how Hamas and Hizbollah would “deal with” the “Zionist entity” during the Lebanon war.

The venue has also been booked by extremists without any kind of “anti-war” veneer; in 2002 it was reported that

Abu Qatada, the missing hardline Islamic cleric suspected by intelligence officials of being a key al-Qaeda operative in the UK, has broken his silence to call on British Muslims to martyr themselves in a holy war against oppression…Qatada’s message was read out by Omar Mohammed Bakri Fostok, the leader of the al-Muhajiroun group which organised the meeting. The group has been implicated in sending volunteers to fight with the Taliban and other hardline forces. Fostok has said that he wanted Britain to become an Islamic state and has endorsed the use of violence.

…Most of the listeners were young men, though around 50 women, sitting in a segregated section, were also present. Around the hall – the Quaker’s Friends Meeting House in Euston – banners condemning the oppression of Muslims in Kashmir and the Israeli-occupied West Bank had been hung.

The Quakers apaprently claimed they had been misled, although just a few days ago al-Muhajiroun’s latest incarnation, Islam4UK, held a conference there after the Hilton turned them down. The (ahem) Daily Express picked up on the incongruity:

…In a matter of minutes this Christian enclave was sporting a banner proclaiming: “There is None Worthy of Worship Except Allah and Mohammed is the Final Messenger.”

In the foyer they were even ­giving away car stickers with the claim: Jesus was a Muslim. No one was in the mood for a cool and calm-headed religious discussion. The appetite was for fiery speakers extolling the true word of Islam.

Also at this event was film-maker Dave Bones:

The Quakers are quite well known for letting anyone hire a room. I was once told by a Quaker part of what sounded like a huge untold story about the importance of their meeting house in Belfast during “The Troubles”

…I try and film what is. They certainly preach controversial things, yet they also preach clearly against terrorism, usually toward the end every time I have been to these meetings. Islam is coming. It is going to dominate whether we like it or not. Maybe it will come through violence. We don’t know but the flag of Islam will fly over Downing street. This is a sort of Islamic revival meeting.

Preaching against terrorism seems to me likely to be no more than a “legal disclaimer”; Choudary and al-Muhajiroun are notorious for their praise of the “Magnificent 19” 9/11 hijackers.

Nick Cohen gave a characteristally sour assessment of the place back in 2001:

 It’s a charmless, echoing building overlooking the perpetually jammed Euston Road. Its style can best be described as municipal-pharaonic. The thousands of protests that have been made within its walls – a few of which succeeded, most of which failed – give it an atmosphere of resigned duty. You walk through its doors because you know you must, but expect defeat.

Anti-Muslim Blogger “Lionheart” on American Christian Radio

UK anti-Muslim blogger Paul Ray (“Lionheart”) has made another appearance on American radio – this time on Southwest Radio Ministries, which offers a dose of good old-fashioned Southern fundamentalism. SWRM, which is based in Oklahoma, has been going since 1933, and is currently run by Noah Hutchings, author of apocalyptic tomes such as Y2K=666? (1998 – “We are living in the most perilous times since the flood in Noah’s Day…”), and The Persian Gulf Crisis and the Final Fall of Babylon (1990). Hutchings is assisted by Larry Spargimino, who co-penned The Chronicles of Narnia: Wholesome Entertainment or Gateway to Paganism? (guess which…).

Ray didn’t have a great deal to say – there was some confusion over the phone number, so his session was cut short. The last occasion he appeared on American radio, as I noted at the time, he explained how there was a Muslim plot to make people think the word “Paki” was offensive; nothing so inflammatory this time, just a whinge about how the Luton protest march had been cancelled because the organiser feared (as I blogged here) that he and his friends (whom I blogged here) were right wing extremists.

The subject of his arrest last year on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred was also touched on; in January 2008 Ray had been briefly held up by the American right as a “free speech martyr”, although he was quickly dropped when statements in support of the BNP came to light (“the Living God is on the side of the BNP”) – leading to a bitter dispute with Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, who took the view that “Lionheart” was “off his rocker”. Ray had claimed that he was being targetted for speaking out against Islamic extremism; Sadly No! drew attention to some sanguinary quotes which suggested it was a bit more complicated than that. The issue has apparently still not yet been resolved. The radio show made only passing mention of the controversy, but there was a bit of extra information; last year Bedfordshire on Sunday reported that

Paul Ray, who ‘blogs’ as ‘Lionheart’, left Britain for an undisclosed location in the Middle East two years ago…Bedfordshire on Sunday understands that Mr Ray has been intending to return to Britain for over a year, in order to make preparations to emigrate officially and permanently.

According to the presenters, discussing Ray after his interview, he’s actually in Cyprus. I wonder which side of the border?