Bin Ladin Is a 'Hero'
Posted Sept. 12, 2002
By Kenneth R. Timmerman in
Hundreds of Muslims gathered at a
radical mosque in north London on
Wednesday evening to gloat over the U.S.
commemoration of Sept. 11, while
threatening that their followers would
launch more attacks against America and
American interests overseas.
At a conference advertized with posters
showing the World Trade Center under
attack by a hijacked airlliner, Muslim
leaders from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia
and Pakistan alleged the United States had
"declared war on Islam," and praised
terrorist leader Osama Bin Ladin. All the
while claiming they had not come to
"celebrate" the attacks, they called Sept.
11 "a towering day in history" and ushered
reporters into a basement conference room
they jokingly referred to as "Ground
Egyptian cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who
was banned from preaching earlier this
year by British authorities for inciting
violence, remained defiant. Addressing
Americans, he said: "The message of bin
Ladin has reached you. You do not feel
safe. You cannot be protected by rockets."
He claimed that al-Qaeda had grown strong
after the U.S. retaliation in Afghanistan
and called Sept. 11 "a turning point" in
relations between America and Muslims that
would lead to years of war and
Born as Mustapha Kemal, al-Masri traveled
in the early 1990s to Afghanistan, where
he lost an eye reportedly while
manipulating explosives in an al-Qaeda
training camp. The FBI now suspects him of
helping to organize an al-Qaeda training
camp in Oregon. He called the allegation
"yesterday's mashed potatoes," and
scoffed: "What do you want them to do
there, riding horses and shooting trees
like John Wayne?" With just £5,000
(around $8,000) he boasted that he could
"set up a camp in Afghanistan," but even
five times that amount "wouldn't make you
anything in America."
The Finsbury Park mosque is well-known as
a hotbed of radical Islamic leaders in
Britain. It was here ó in a
three-story modern building that could
pass for a small office or a school except
for the concrete minaret sprouting from
the roof ó that the "shoe bomber"
Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussowi came to
listen to Abu Hamza, the best-known
acolyte in Britain of bin Ladin.
Camp followers who crowded the steps of
the mosque covered their faces from police
and press photographers with Palestinian
headdresses (the wrong color ó
green), and tried to look like fierce
revolutionaries. One young man wore
sunglasses well into the evening, letting
just enough of his headdress fall away to
reveal a week's growth of beard and a
thick black moustache. An older couple
left the mosque, pulling their jackets up
over their heads to hide their faces.
Besides the raw hatred of America
manifested by Hamza on Wednesday,
mosque-goers learned more insidious
hatreds. Out on the pavement a 23-year-old
Iraqi named Mourad said with a straight
face that "Jews are instructed by the
Talmud to kill Gentiles and to steal their
property. That's what it says in the Holy
A prayer leader who identified himself
only as Abdul Aziz harangued an audience
on the sidewalk under the watchful eyes of
more than 100 London police. "America is
the first terrorist state," he shouted.
"George Washington was your first
Like the prayer leaders inside, Abdul Aziz
called U.S. military action in Afghanistan
part of a "war on Muslims." He called
detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba a "concentration camp," and added:
"Now when we capture American soldiers we
know how to treat them."
"With three square meals a day and a break
for prayer?" a reporter asked.
He shook his head and passed a finger
across his throat.
Other British Muslim leaders have
denounced the radicals at Finsbury Park.
Dr. Mohammad Nassem, chairman of the
Birmingham Central Mosque and one of the
most respected Muslim leaders in Britain,
told the Times of London that the
Muslim community "does not like
extremists. We must stand up and be
counted." Although British authorities
banned Hamza from preaching, they have
adopted a cautious tolerance toward his
rabble-rousing in an effort not to make of
him a martyr.
Wary of the police presence, the speakers
repeatedly were interrupted by a host of
minders who attempted ó
unsuccessfully ó to silence them
when they broached sensitive subjects.
When asked if he agreed with bin Laden's
attacks on America, Saudi dissident
Mohammad al-Ma'assari, answered: "Yes,
it's very clear." He called U.S. attacks
against Iraq and America's support for
Israel "acts of war," adding, "If someone
is fighting acts of war they are not
respecting civilian lives. Our Muslims
decided he [bin Laden] can do
something about that and take retaliatory
action according to the principle of
retribution, an eye for an eye, and he
decided to do that. I think he didn't even
take eye for eye. He only took one eye for
a hundred. So there are still 99 to
"So you agree with what he has done?"
"Yes, it is legitimate," al-Ma'assari
said. "It is not the wisest thing, but
legitimate, yes. He took retaliation
The minders intervened, trying repeatedly
to cut him off, but al-Ma'assari wouldn't
be silenced. When asked whether he thought
bin Ladin was a hero, he told reporters:
"Yes, he's a fighter, and he fought
according to his belief. And anyone
fighting a legitimate battle is a hero,
Hamza uttered a warning that takes on an
ominous ring when set against the recent
arrests of suspected al-Qaeda
"free-lancers" in Sweden and Germany.
Until now, he said, America has "only"
been attacked every four or five years,
"because you are not on our agenda." But
if the U.S. attacks Iraq, he said, America
will "see suicide bombs everywhere, as you
see in Israel. So keep away and preserve
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer