LONDON (Feb. 27)
British Jews have welcomed the hate crimes conviction of a radical Muslim cleric who urged his followers to kill Jews, Hindus and Westerners.
Sheik Abdullah Faisal was convicted Monday on three counts of inciting murder, as well as charges of using threatening or abusive language and of distributing recordings of his threats.
During a trial that lasted a month at London’s Old Bailey, prosecutors showed a videotape of Faisal making jokes about the Holocaust in a public meeting.
“How did the Jews get back at Hitler? They sent him the gas bill,” the cleric said.
Islamic bookstores sold recordings of Faisal lectures with titles including “No Peace With the Jews,” “Jewish Traits” and “Them vs. Us.”
A spokesman for Britain’s Community Security Trust, a Jewish security organization, welcomed the conviction and said law enforcement officials must keep up the pressure on Islamic extremists.
“The judicial authorities must continue to prosecute hate from wherever it comes, and those who claim a religious belief in calling for the killing of others should take note of this important conviction,” said the spokesman, who spoke to JTA on customary condition of anonymity.
He added that the Jewish community hopes authorities will show no “hesitation in prosecuting those Islamists who have been emboldened by calls from Islamist extremists from abroad and who abuse the freedoms that residence in Britain allows them.”
Faisal was prosecuted under a rarely used Victorian law, the Offenses Against the Person Act.
He faces a maximum of life imprisonment. He is due to be sentenced March 7.
In an unusual step, the judge in the case barred Jews, Hindus and their spouses from serving on the jury.
Faisal, 39, was born William Forest in Jamaica. He converted to Islam at 16 and took an Islamic Studies course in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The Community Security Trust spokesman said Faisal had learned his anti-Semitism in the religious schools, or madrassahs, of Riyadh.
“That’s what they’re teaching in the madrassah,” he said.
In Britain, Faisal became associated with the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, and with radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who was recently banned by British authorities from his north London mosque for “inappropriate political statements.”
The defense considered calling Abu Hamza as a witness but ultimately decided he had become too much of an embarrassment.
Faisal set up “study circles” that attracted audiences of up to 150.
He was seen on videotape taking a written question from the audience about whether burning Jewish businesses was allowed.
“That means you would have to burn down the whole of the U.K. and the USA, because it’s all under Jewish control. You would only make it worse for Muslims,” he replied.
In a tape made shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, he said Muslim women should give their children toy guns to raise them with a “jihad mentality.”
He said a Muslim’s main task was to “lessen the population of unbelievers.”
He also advocated attacks against Israelis.
“People with British passports, if you fly into Israel it is very easy — no rules. Go and do whatever you can and if you die, you will go to paradise,” he said.
His venom was not limited to Jews.
He told followers they could go to India, kill Hindus and take their money: A Hindu’s “wealth isn’t sacred nor is his life.”
Faisal said in his defense that his words came directly or indirectly from the Koran and that if he was on trial, so was Islam’s holy book.
Prosecutor David Perry rejected that claim.
“This is emphatically not about the Koran, or a trial of the Koran,” he told the court. “This case is not about the words of Allah. It is about the words spoken by the defendant.”