By Hannah Stuart
Home Secretary Theresa May today banned Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), a front group for the banned group al-Muhajiroun. An Islamist organisation with a small but vocal following, al-Muhajiroun seeks an Islamic state in the UK, and promotes and glorifies acts of terrorism.
Members and associates of al-Muhajiroun have been convicted in the UK for a variety of terrorism offences, including a major UK bomb plot. They have also been involved in terrorism abroad ranging from a suicide attack in Israel and a bomb plot in the US to safe houses and a training camp in Pakistan.
Based in the UK, al-Muhajiroun has worked consistently to circumvent proscription legislation by reforming under different names. Al-Muhajiroun (and its alias Islam4UK) was proscribed in January 2010, but the group has been openly operating as MAC under the leadership of tabloid favourite Anjem Choudary.
Two weeks ago members of MAC targeted a London MP over his opposition to banned pro-Palestinian activist Raed Salah. They intruded on the Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer’s constituency surgery and called him a “Jewish homosexual pig”.
Including MAC as an alternative name for al-Muhajiroun means individuals can be prosecuted for membership, providing support, attending public meetings and displaying an item i.e. a placard demonstrating support for a proscribed organisation. Membership and support carries a maximum sentence of ten years.
It is likely the group will re-form, but today’s decision will interrupt their activities for Remembrance Sunday, and sends a strong message that front groups will not be tolerated. However, this process has taken over a year; MAC has been openly operating since 2010. The Home Office should make it easier to proscribe aliases. The Crown Prosecution Service should also seek to prosecute members under sections 11–13 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (membership and support of a proscribed organisation).
Al-Muhajiroun front groups
Prevalent on UK university campuses during the late 1990s and early 2000s, the group formally disbanded in October 2004. After the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, founder Omar Bakri Mohammed fled the UK for Lebanon.
Leading members reformed under successor groups, al-Ghurabaa and Saved Sect, both of which were proscribed in July 2006 for glorifying terrorism.
Leading members again reformed, this time calling themselves Ahl us-Sunnah wal Jamma’ah, but when they were convicted of inciting terrorism overseas and fundraising for terrorist purposes in April 2008 the group effectively disbanded.
Following their release in May 2009, al-Muhajiroun formally re-launched under Choudary, Bakri’s successor.
Following proscription in January 2010, al-Muhajiroun has been openly operating as Muslims Against Crusades.
Al- Muhajiroun connections to terrorism
HJS publication Islamist Terrorism, a study of all Islamism-inspired terrorism offences in the UK between 1999 and 2010, shows al-Muhajiroun’s connections to terrorism.
Al-Mujhaijroun was the most prevalent proscribed organisation, linked to almost one in five (18%) of offences.
Members of al-Muhajiroun or individuals with known links to the group were involved in UK offences relating to: the 2004 ‘fertiliser bomb’ plot; membership of al-Qaeda; terrorist fundraising; soliciting or inciting murder; arson; racial hatred; and harassment.
Members of al-Muhajiroun or individuals with known links to the group were involved offences abroad relating to: the 2002 ‘shoe bomb’ plot; the failed 2003 Tel Aviv suicide bomber; the infamous al-Qaeda-linked Malakand training camp in Pakistan; a suicide attack in Kashmir and a number of militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan.