Extremist preachers recruited street gangs and asked them to “die for Islam”
Published 27/05/2013 | 15:14
SUPPORTERS of Omar Bakri Mohammed, the exiled Islamist cleric who claimed to have converted Woolwich murder suspect Michael Adebolajo, sought to recruit members of violent street gangs and encourage them to ‘die for Islam’.
Convert2Islam, a radical group run by Abu Rumaysah, a follower of Bakri and a spokesman for an offshoot of Al-Muhajiroun, ran a series of ‘roadshows’ in the poorest areas of south and east London in order to recruit teenagers from broken homes involved in gun and knife crime
It is claimed Anjem Choudary, who led Al Muhajiroun after Bakri was barred from Britain by the Home Office, also attended the recruitment drives.
Rumaysah today told the Daily Telegraph he knew Adebolajo, whom he called ‘Mujahid’, well but could ‘not remember’ if he attended the events. He added: “I’m not going to publicly say he was a bad man or an evil man.”
This newspaper encountered a group of around 30 supporters of Convert2Islam, all bearded and wearing long robes, running a leafleting staff on Peckham High Street, south east London, in August 2011.
One glossy pamphlet titled 'Gang Life or Islamic Life?' bears an image of a hooded man carrying a handgun and urges gangsters to stop “living like zombies”.
t reads: "Ask yourself, are the wheels and the bling really worth throwing your life away? Are you willing to kill or be killed over a postcode? If yes, then what value does your life really have? Have you ever thought that life is more than just guns, gangs, drugs and respect?"
It continues: “Today we are offering you the chance to change your life, to give your life a greater purpose and meaning, to take you away from following and obeying other people.
"No cause is worth fighting for and nothing is worth dying for except the Almighty.”
Speaking in 2011, Rumaysah said: "It's targeting many of the youth we find have been taken astray by the hip-hop and gang culture in South and East London.
"Many people who embrace Islam come from a background of families that have broken down." He claimed to have converted 40 people at a series of stalls in Lewisham, Dalston and Kilburn – areas blighted for years by knife crime.
Other leaflets handed out called for Sharia law, for the permanent segregation of unmarried men and women and referred to none Muslims with the highly pejorative term ‘kufr’.
Lectures by Choudary, Bakri and radical preacher Aby Saalihah were distributed on CDs.
In one track, targeted at gang members and titled ‘the Deception of Thug Life’, Abu Muaz says: "Society has let you down. Your parents have let you down and you've got nothing … Most of these thugs want an alternative, a system in Islam with solutions for all of mankind. We see the thugs coming in to Islam like wildfire."
Omar Bakri Mohammed, the founder of Al Muhajiroun who once called the 9/11 hijackers the ‘Magnificent 19’, claimed this week he converted Adebolajo to Islam after encountering him on a street stall.
He said: “We used to have a stall on the street in London where we would talk about the meaning of life with passers-by.
“He stopped to speak with us and we invited him to Islam. Because he is a convert, I can still remember him.”
Adebolajo, 28, the son of devout Nigerian Christians, turned to radical Islam after becoming involved in drug dealing and street robbery.
Similarly his alleged accomplice, Michael Adebowale, was a drug dealer and a member of the Woolwich Boys, a street gang dominated by youths of Somali origin.
Rumaysah said he remembered Adebolajo, who is alleged to have run over Drummer Lee Rigby outside Woolwich Barracks before hacking him to death with kitchen knives, as a “quiet, refined and brave” man who would break up fights between Muslim youths.
“He was impeccable. He would not lose his temper. I don’t have a bad thing to say about him,” he said.
In 2009 Special Branch warned members of three gangs in particular – Poverty Driven Children, from Brixton, the Muslim Boys, from Camberwell, and the Money Crew, from Hackney – had been converted to radical Islam inside prison.