A Jordanian military prosecutor on Sunday filed charges against the radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada on suspicions of being a key al-Qaeda operative in Europe. Abu Qatada, who had landed in Amman after being deported from the UK, was charged with conspiring to carry out attacks on Americans, Israelis and other Western targets.
The following is a ‘Comment is Free’ headline and strap line which introduces a July 7 ‘commentary‘ by the Guardian’s former associate foreign editor (and Palestinian Solidarity Campaign ‘Patron), Victoria Brittain.
Whilst I suggest you read the whole essay, here are some highlights:
the most recent phase of this long saga has left poison in our society. The home secretary, prime minister, mayor of London, countless MPs – including senior Labour party figures – have led the media in reckless and prejudiced comments, making [Abu Qatada] the most demonised individual in Britain.
The mantra of the home secretary, Theresa May, that “this is a dangerous man, a suspected terrorist”, has been repeated so often that the facts have been forgotten. No one suggests Othman is physically dangerous himself. No one has charged him with anything, except the Jordanians with the torture-tainted evidence. No one has pointed to anything controversial that he is alleged to have said since the mid-1990s.
Our security services and politicians turned this man into an Islamic counter-terrorism myth. If instead they had chosen to talk to him, as I have many times, they would have found that the man behind the myth is a scholar with wide intellectual and cultural interests. He wrote books while he was in prison. His home is filled with books. His children have excelled at school, with help and encouragement from his daily phone calls from prison.
I have been a friend of Othman’s wife and daughters for some years, and have had many opportunities to talk to him in prison and when he was at home on bail. I’ve been struck by his dignity and lack of bitterness over his family’s treatment, and I believe that, rather than being scapegoated, his moral standards could have been useful in engaging Muslim youth and healing the wounds in our divided society.
Even by Guardian standards, Brittain’s apologia on behalf of Abu Qatada is simply stunning. And, briefly, for those who may not be completely familiar with Abu Qatada’s dossier, here’s a summary:
A 127-page report by the UK Home Office claims that from his base in London, Abu Qatada became a key al-Qaeda operative in Europe and a “godfather of global terrorism”, whose sermons and writing inspired several al-Qaeda members. Videos of his sermons were found in the Hamburg apartment of Mohammed Atta, a ringleader among the 9/11 hijackers.
Abu Qatada is accused of involvement in a failed plan known as the “millennium conspiracy” in 2000, to detonate explosives against Western and Israeli targets during millennium celebrations.
Abu Qatada became a “mentor” for international jihadists, who quoted his writings often.
In October 1999, Abu Qatada reportedly made a speech in which, as even the Guardian reported, “he effectively issued a fatwa authorising the killing of Jews, including Jewish children.”
In 1999 Abu Qatada told his congregation at Finsbury Park Mosque that Americans should be attacked, wherever they were because, in his view, they were no better than Jews.
In autumn 2002, a poem attributed to Abu Qatada appeared online praising Osama bin Laden and glorifying the 9/11 attacks.
In another sermon he is said to have stated that it was not a sin for a Muslim to kill a non-believer for the sake of Islam.
Abu Qatada is wanted on terrorism charges in the U.S., Belgium, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Algeria and his native Jordan. .
But, evidently none of this matters – not his association with al-Qaeda, or his fatwas calling for violence, including his authorising the murder of Jews and all non-believers – because, the Guardian’s former associate foreign editor assures us, Abu Qatada is a “scholar with wide intellectual and cultural interests” who has high “moral standards” and loves his children.
As we’ve argued previously, the most egregious problem at the Guardian is not, per se, explicitly Judeophobic commentary published by their contributors, but, rather, the insidious moral cover the media group often provides for the most extreme, reactionary Islamist anti-Semites in Europe and the Muslim world. Those unable to summon outrage over an al-Qaeda supporter who sanctions the murder of innocent Jewish children in the name of Islam are – at the very least – morally guilty of abetting the most dangerous manifestations of Jew hatred.