Asharq Al-Awsat talks to Islamist Omar Bakri
By Mohammed Al-Shafey
London Asharq Al-Awsat- After a long absence, Syrian Islamist Omar Bakri,
who founded the now defunct UK-based Al-Muhajiroun and Al-Ghurabaa
Movements, and was leader of the fundamentalist movement during his presence
in Britain, agreed to comment on the violent events in Syria, especially
after the claims by the Syrian regime about the existence of Al-Qaeda
elements in Syria, who have entered through the Lebanese territories.
The following is the full text of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] In your opinion, how can the crisis in Syria be resolved?
[Bakri] The Sunni and collective Muslims in the countries neighbouring
Syria, i.e. from Jordan to Turkey through Iraq and Lebanon, ought to close
their ranks in order to support our brethren and kith and kin in Syria.
There is no salvation for the Sunnis in Syria except through jihad for the
sake of God to topple this oppressive tyrannical regime. As for the tyrants'
preachers, such as Hassun and his ilk, the Muslim nation will hold them to
account for their crimes, the same as their tyrant master, because they not
only rely on the unjust, but they also participate in his injustice and
My appeal to the Sunnis in Greater Syria in general, and Lebanon in
particular, is to support your brethren in Syria with life, money, and word,
avoid raising the pagan or secular banners, avoid chanting slogans that
contradict Islam so that you do not fall into sin that delays victory, and
raise the banner of monotheism, the banner of "There is no god other than
God." According to Sahih Muslim [one of the main sources of authentic
Hadith] the Prophet, God's prayer and peace be upon him, said: "Whoever dies
under a sinful banner, calling for or supporting fanaticism, his death is a
pagan one." Any banner that does not support the aim of "Let the word of God
be exalted to the heights" is a pagan banner.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Tell us about your activities, are you still based in
[Bakri] I still live in my house in Tripoli in Mahallat Abu-Samra. As you
know, I am the director of the Open Dialog Forum in Lebanon, and member of
the Sharia Council of the Sunni and Collective Muslims. I practice my
Islamic call activities at the foreign level through daily contacts with my
students across the world in the United States, Europe, the Indian
Subcontinent, and even the Arab Maghreb and Gulf countries through the
Internet, Facebook, and social contact chat rooms. I still participate in
academic courses in foundation of religion and jurisprudence in English, and
I deliver my academic lectures on continuous daily basis all year round. For
this I receive payments that are sufficient for me and my family, praise be
As for my Islamic call activities at home, I communicate with some of the
brethren and loved ones from the Salafi tendency or Al-Ghurabaa, and we
study together the Koran, the Sunnah, and the books of the Salafi call. We
beseech God to accept us among the strangers [Arabic: Ghurabaa] of whom
Prophet Muhammad, God's prayer and peace be upon him, told us in the Hadith
recorded by Muslim in his Sahih and attributed to Abu-Hurayrah: "The
Prophet, God's prayer and peace be upon him, said: "Islam began as something
strange, and it shall return to being something strange, so give glad
tidings to the strangers."
[It was asked, "Who are those strangers, O Messenger of God?" He replied,
"Those that correct the people when they become corrupt." Another narration
says, "Those that correct my Sunnah which has been corrupted by the people
after me." In another narration he said in response to the same question,
"They are a small group of people among a large evil population. Those who
oppose them are more than those who follow them."]
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What about reports in the British press about the issue of
the delinquency of your daughter, and that she works in a nightclub?
[Bakri] This is a fabricated lie and a falsehood against me, my sons, and
honourable and veiled daughters. It is fabricated by some British Jewish
media organs that harbour malice against the Islamic callers. There is no
doubt that the western media fights the call for God, because of this
media's malicious crusading viewpoint. The Arab media copies from the
western media. This is in addition to the falsehoods of some of Rafidah
[pejorative term used to describe Shiites by their opponents] Shiite
newspapers, and Lebanese secular newspapers. They are promoting these lies
to damage my dignity and the sincerity of my call. This has become exposed,
and no one repeats or accepts it other than the naive defeatists.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Tell us about your court case, and the reasons for its
continued postponement. What are the charges against you?
[Bakri] There is no doubt that it is a fabricated charge aimed at fulfilling
the aim of satisfying the United States, which leads the international
campaign against Islam and Muslims under the cover of combating terrorism.
This campaign is hostile to the Islamic callers who call for establishing
the Caliphate, and it is the enemy of the mujahidin and their supporters who
fight the forces occupying the Muslim countries. My name was dragged into
the case of the group of Sheikh Nabil Rahim, and the group was falsely and
unjustly accused of being Al-Qaeda Organization in Lebanon. This is despite
the fact that none of the Islamist detainees have any links to Al-Qaeda,
Osama Bin Laden before his death or contacted Bin Laden at any time.
However, the various political tendencies, security organizations, and
military institutions have many aims, and there is no doubt that the aim of
this charge is to distort the image of the Islamic callers.
The issuing of my exoneration from the fabricated charges levelled at me has
been postponed. The fact is that I feel that my trial has been politicized,
and that I am between the devil of 14 March Forces and the deep blue sea of
8 March Forces; the prevarication and postponement of the session until 5
March 2012 is the best proof of what I am saying. I beseech God that my
trial does not become politicized, and that I will not be wronged because of
my stance toward the oppressive Syrian regime; God knows best.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] When did this change in you take place? What about your
stance toward the Lebanese resistance?
[Bakri] Everybody knows that I reject the man-made regimes. The Syrian
regime was boasting arrogantly about its support for the resistance, and
talks about rejection, but it has not moved a finger on the Golan front
since 1973 until today. The regime in Syria has thought that its support for
the Palestinian resistance and the Lebanese resistance in fighting the
Israeli enemy would intercede for its injustice and crimes. When the Syrian
forces and thugs started to assault our brethren in Syria, I announced to
the Syrians my opposition stance publicly in Al-Khulafa Mosque.
With regard to my support for the Muslims in their fighting against the
Israeli enemy in Lebanon and Palestine, against the US and British enemy in
Iraq and Afghanistan, against the Russian enemy in Chechnya, the Hindu enemy
in Kashmir, or the Ethiopian enemy in Somalia, this hostility toward the
enemies is a firm ideological hostility, and not one based on interests.
As for my support for any resistance to the Israeli enemy (if such a
resistance exists), it does not mean by any means keeping silent about the
crimes of the unjust oppressive Baath regime, and relying on it. Also it
does not mean that we accept from those who call themselves the Lebanese
resistance or their allies the stance of shame and disgrace, because God
Almighty says: "And incline not to those who do wrong, or the Fire will
seize you [Sura Hud, from Verse 113]."
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How can you explain thanking Hezbollah Secretary General
Hasan Nasrallah a year or so ago, and your attack on Hezbollah's standing by
the Syrian regime?
[Bakri] As for the issue of the stance adopted by Hezbollah secretary
general to lift the injustice from me, I have thanked him for it, because
the Prophet, God's prayer and peace be upon him, said: "Anyone who does not
thank the people does not thank God." The Prophet, God's prayer and peace be
upon him, was under the protection of the polytheist, Al-Mutm Bin Udayy,
when he returned to Al-Taif while being chased.
I thanked Hezbollah secretary general for briefing lawyer Deputy Nawwar
al-Sahili to defend against the injustice inflicted on me. This thanking
does not mean in any way whatsoever that I am in the same trench as
Hezbollah or 8 March Forces, the same as I have never been in the same
trench as the Future Trend or 14 March Forces. I thanked Hezbollah secretary
general for the good deed he did for me in order to lift the injustice from
me; however this does not mean that I accepted or accept the political
directions, policies, and stance of Hezbollah, its deeds on the Lebanese
domestic arena, or its relationship with the Iranian regime.
My thanks for the good deed he did for me will not make me a slave for
anyone other than God, and will not turn me into a devil who never speaks
the truth. I will not keep silent or turn a blind eye to the crimes of the
tyrannical regime of Al-Assad regime, and I will not cease to explain the
Sharia ruling on Hezbollah's crime of being loyal to the oppressive Baath
regime in fighting the Sunnis in Syria.
My support for anyone who truly fights the Israeli enemy is a religious
duty, for which I deserve no thanks, and it is one of the Sharia duties, but
not at the expense of disobeying God or relying on the unjust.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What is your opinion of Abdullah Azzam Battalions? Are
they linked to Al-Qaeda?
[Bakri] As an expert on Islamist groups, I can say that Abdullah Azzam
Battalions - led by Salih al-Qarawi who has been proved to be still alive -
has proved its credibility, and has been approved by a number of jihadi
factions. Al-Fajr Media Center continuously publishes its statements and
tapes. There is no doubt that it is independent from Al-Qaeda, despite the
fact that it sympathizes with the jihadi state. Abdullah Azzam Battalions
focuses on instigating the Sunnis in Lebanon and Syria to fight the Jews in
order to liberate Palestine. It represents the Salafi jihadi line in Greater
Syria, and it has denied any responsibility for firing the latest rockets
from South Lebanon, and also denied any links to the explosions that took
place in Damascus recently.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are the most prominent aims of Al-Qaeda Organization
and of the Salafi jihadi groups?
[Bakri] What is known by necessity is that the ultimate aim of every
committed Muslim is to achieve the satisfaction of God Almighty. This cannot
be achieved except by worshiping God alone without any partner, following
His orders, and adhere to these orders in all our utterances and deeds.
These Divine orders are given either in the form of bans and demands to
refrain from actions, i.e. not to carry out physical actions or verbal
behaviours prohibited by Sharia, and the Muslim ought to avoid and refrain
from such things. Also, there are orders in the form of demands to act, i.e.
to do something.
Every committed Muslim from the Sunni and collective Muslims aims to perform
these duties, and undertake carrying them out in order to clear his
conscience in a sincere and dedicated way by obeying God's orders so that he
achieves the satisfaction of God Almighty.
These duties include individual ones that the person can carry out and
follow as an individual, and include collective duties that require the
cooperation of the individuals in righteousness and piety in implementation
of Almighty's saying: "Help ye one another in righteousness and piety [Sura
Al-Ma'idah, from Verse 2]." Al-Qaeda Organization and the Salafi jihadi
groups have announced that they are committed to the collective duty, and
its requirements of forming an organization or a group to work to establish
the state of Islamic Caliphate, and to implement Sharia on the ground.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Does Al-Qaeda have any presence in Syria?
[Bakri] Through my study of the literature of Al-Qaeda, the Islamist
movements, and the Salafi jihadi tendencies, through my following up of the
reports of their activities and operations, and through my presence in
Lebanon, I can say confidently (describing the reality at face value):
neither Al-Qaeda Organization, nor the Salafi jihadi groups have any
presence in Lebanon or Syria. There are many Salafi individuals and youths
committed to the course of true Salafism, but they are scattered without
organization or a leader that forge them in the same melting pot.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are your thoughts on the Damascus explosions? Has
Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for these operations?
[Bakri] In my opinion, what the Syrian regime claims is mere falsehood that
is unfounded. We have not heard at all from any of these organizations,
which the regime claims to exist, an announcement of its responsibility for
any operation. This is bearing in mind that Al-Qaeda Organization and the
Salafi groups usually publish video tapes after each suicide operation in
order to recruit youths and attract new supporters, which has not happened
in any of the Syrian events.
The collapsing Syrian regime, as usual, is fabricating events, inventing
news and evidence, falsifying charges, kidnapping, torturing, raping, and
killing people, and then attends their funerals. It is fabricating charges
against the unarmed Syrian population, and so do the allies of this regime.
The stance of the Al-Assad regime and its media say: There is nothing you
can do other than to believe my version of what is taking place.
The tyrannical Syrian Baath regime and its devils are well known for their
wantonness, lies, deception, slyness, and cunning; these are their most
prominent qualities. This regime is most remote from religion, truth,
goodness, and moral values. Therefore, it cannot be excluded that the
Al-Assad regime has carried out such criminal actions and atrocious deeds. I
can say with utmost confidence that the Syrian regime has been fabricating
explosions and assassinations, and attributing them to Al-Qaeda and the
Salafi movements, which do not exist in Syria, and then the regime's
mouthpiece, SANA news agency, report this falsely. This has been continuing
since before the peaceful revolution in Syria until today. The criminal acts
and fabricated massacres are nothing other than the creation of the Syrian
security organizations, which is based on lies and falsehood.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why do you cast doubts on the credibility of SANA news
agency and the Syrian leadership?
[Bakri] The Syrian news agency SANA is considered the mouthpiece of the
Baath regime, and it has not proved its credibility in covering the events
in Syria. The announcement by Al-Qaeda organization in the Land of the Two
Rivers of its responsibility for its military operations against the US
forces is a proof of the method of Al-Qaeda and the Salafi and jihadi groups
in claiming responsibility for their operations; these announcements take
place through broadcasting a video tape. This adopted style of publishing a
tape and announcing responsibility is the best proof of the lies of the
tyrannical Syrian regime, which commits massacres and crimes, blows up its
unarmed opposition, and then accuses Islamist organizations that have no
real existence in Syria, such as Al-Qaeda and the Salafi movement.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there a quick message that you would like to address to
those whose hands are not soiled with the blood of the Syrian people?
[Bakri] The Alawites, the soldiers, and the members of the security forces,
whose hands are not soiled with the crimes committed against the Sunnis in
Syria, ought to announce to the world their rejection of the Syrian regime,
and support the unarmed Syrian people in their demonstrations that call for
toppling the regime before it is too late.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Is there a message to Hezbollah?
[Bakri] My message to Hezbollah and the Islamic Action Front is: It is
inadmissible in anyway whatsoever to justify your stance, which contradicts
the orthodox Sharia, which says that the Syrian regime supports the Lebanese
resistance and the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli enemy; you are
not permitted to support this tyrannical regime, which commits massacres,
and kills and sheds the blood of the Sunnis in Syria. Such a stance,
according to the glorious Islamic Sharia, is considered support for the
aggressive tyrant, i.e. supporting this tyrant in fighting the Muslims. This
is considered major support, i.e. it is considered a major infidelity that
excludes the person from the faith according to the orthodox Islamic Sharia.
Beware the anger of Muslims, and God's wrath and punishment.
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Received on Mon Jan 09 2012 - 17:18:59 EST