The revelation that Asif Hanif, the terrorist who blew himself up in Tel Aviv on 29 April, and his accomplice and would-be bomber, Omar Khan Sharif, were British, should have come as no revelation. Nor should it have come as a surprise that they had links with Al-Muhajiroun (AM – The Emigrants).
What was surprising, and perhaps unforgivable, was that their “religious” and ideological descent into attempted mass murder could not have been adequately monitored by either the British or Israeli security services and law enforcement agencies. Information provided by the police at the initial court hearing at Bow Street Magistrates Court on 9 May clearly indicated that Sharif’s family knew what he was up to, if not actually complicit in his terrorism. The family are now remanded to the Central Criminal Court, charged with failing to disclose information that could have prevented a terrorist attack, under section 38 of the amended Terrorism Act 2000. Sharif’s sister, Parveen Sharif, also faces the more serious charge of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring acts of terrorism overseas under section 62 of the Act which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment on conviction1.
According to the judge at the court hearing on 9 May, the evidence against the three largely relies on information from emails, but it is a reasonable assumption in the circumstances that their foreknowledge and assistance went beyond this.
People who are recruited by AM are taught by the organisation that Israel, the Jews and the West are evil and that it is their Muslim duty to fight them. This is not to state that AM is itself a terrorist organisation. It is not, at least in Britain, but it does serve as an important radicalising agent in the process of turning young British Muslims against Britain and into militant Islamists, and serves as a portal through which some of them have been encouraged to pass on their way to becoming terrorists.
Articles in the British press in recent years have referred to the recruitment of young men by AM whose families fear they will become terrorists. In one instance the relatives of a student from Crawley, Sussex, went to Pakistan to search terrorist training camps for Omar Kyam, who had left his home to travel to Pakistan to train as a terrorist. Mr Kyam’s uncle stated “he and boys like him are being given a rifle and told martyrdom is a good thing and sent on a suicide mission to places like Kashmir…The men responsible for sending them don’t care what happens to these boys. Many families who have lost sons are afraid to speak out because they worry about reprisals against them”2.