Iranian Regime calls upon British Shi’ites to take up arms
Stand for Peace can reveal that the Iranian regime’s propaganda network in the UK is encouraging British Shi’ite Muslims to join the “jihad” in Iraq against Sunni Islamist forces. Previously, jihadist recruits traveling to Syria and Iraq have comprised young Sunni Muslims, many of whom end up fighting for ISIS.
Iranian attempts to recruit jihadist fighters confirms warnings voiced in a recent article published at the Clarion Project by Stand for Peace’s Head of Research, Jacob Campbell, in which he warned that, “as sectarian conflict metastasises from Syria to Iraq – where many of the most sacred Shi’ite shrines are located – the phenomenon of Shi’ites leaving their native lands to take up arms in those countries may well spread from the Asian and African continents to the Western world.”
The prospect of British Shi’ite Muslims fighting in Syria and Iraq raises the possibility of sectarian conflict spreading to the West, fuelled by returning jihadists from both sides.
Although a few leaders within the Shi’ite community in Britain have publicly discouraged their faithful not to travel to Iraq, media reports have noted a readiness among some British Shi’ites to do exactly that. In June, a Shi’ite Muslim living in London told the Guardian that, “There are a lot of youth talking about [going out to Iraq] … A lot of people [in the UK] are willing to defend Karbala. And to be honest with you, if my son was of a much older age and he turned around to me and said, ‘Look, I want to go and fight,’ I’d send him on his way.”
On 17 June, the AhlulBayt Islamic Mission – a leading British Shi’ite Islamist group whose activities are directed by the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – issued an “Urgent Call” on its website in which the organisation wrote:
“The situation [in Iraq] is so serious and threatening that … the grand Marja’eat in Iraq has pronounced a statement demanding and commanding the obligation of believers to take arms in defense of Iraq, its citizens, and the holy shrines of our beloved Imams (AS) … Any participant believer in this jihad is considered a martyr (Shaheed) in the path of Allah Almighty.
The situation is grave, and the statement is binding on each and every one of us and is not limited to those living in Iraq. The call of grand Ayatullah Sistani applies to all believers and not only the Muqaledeen (those who perform Taqleed) of his Eminence as the cause he is calling for is for the safety of Islam and the Muslims and our sacred mausoleums.
Brothers and sisters, what are we waiting for? … The time has come for us to put our words into actions and our dreams into reality!
Indeed, the time has come for each and every one of us to reassess our position, our readiness to act and jump to the defense of Islam without hesitation.
We must be ready to sacrifice, leave everything behind us and run for the defense of truth and its supporters, representatives, and relics. The Jihad ul Asghar (minor jihad) must also be accompanied by Jihad ul Akbar (bigger jihad) so that we prepare ourselves spiritually and deserve the honor of defending Islam. Every man must be ready to join the armed forces and every woman must urge the male members of her family to go seek this noble cause and do anything she can to serve this cause … May Allah (SWT) enable us to put our words into actions and to defend Islam and its principles till our last breathe and drop of blood!
This call to arms was then reiterated by Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi – one of the Iranian regime’s most senior clerics – in a 23 June fatwa, summarised by Al-Monitor as “a fatwa for jihad … call[ing] for a general mobilization of all Shiites in the world urging them to form armed forces along with the Iraqi army, which implies the promotion of militias.”
This is of particular relevance to the British Shi’ite community because, as Stand for Peace has previously shown, Shirazi maintains a personal representative office in the UK under the guise of a religious charity.
Also of concern is the presence of Mohammad Ali Shomali, another Iranian cleric, on the Shi’ite lecture circuit in Britain. Shomali, who heads the Islamic Centre of England – also controlled by Iran’s Supreme Leader – has spoken in recent month at such events as “The Nights of Qadr” (16-20 July), the “Love Quran Exhibition” (18-20 June) and the “Imam Khomeini Conference” (8 June).
Stand for Peace has profiled Shomali before:
“Mohammad Ali Shomali is a senior Iranian cleric who serves as Head of the Department of Religions at the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Qom, Iran. The Institute’s founder and “guiding light” is the “archconservative” Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who is considered to be “the mystical mentor of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.” In the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the institute’s official publication, Parto-Sokhan, ran advertisements that led to the recruitment of an estimated 55,000 young Iranians for the regime’s “Lovers of Martyrdom [Suicide Bombers] Garrison,” which was deployed inside Iraq.” [Emphasis added]
The British Shia community is, broadly, divided between mosques and movements aligned with the Iranian regime and those aligned to the revered Iraqi Shia cleric Ali Al-Sistani.
Sistani did not, in fact, call for British Shi’ites to fight in Iraq; he called upon Iraqi Shi’ites to stop Sunni Islamist aggression. The Iranian regime, however, knowing how much weight Sistani’s pronouncements carry in the Iranian diaspora, has distorted that message to portray Sistani’s rulings as a call to arms for Shi’ites everywhere.
Outside Europe, government agencies and media have reported that thousands of Shi’ite Muslims have signed up to fight Sunni groups in Syria and Iraq. On May 22, the Wall Street Journal revealed that “Iran has been recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight in Syria,” while intelligence agencies have noted the presence of Shi’ite jihadists from as far afield as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Yemen, Bahrain, Somalia and the Ivory Coast.
In July, the Asia Times reported that “the [Indian] organisation Anjuman-e-Haideri, led by Shi’ite cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad, has launched a campaign to recruit volunteers willing to travel to Iraq to defend the Shi’ite shrines in Karbala and Najaf.” According to Al Jazeera, up to 25,000 Indian Shi’ites have already answered the call. Their leader, Kalbe Jawad, a radical cleric notorious for his anti-Western activities, is described in a leaked American embassy cable from 2006 as a “principal agent” of the Iranian regime, which allegedly pays him “approximately $4,000 per month” for his services.
As noted by Aaron Y. Zelin of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, while “Sunni jihadists are coming in through informal networks,” Shi’ite jihadists “are directed through Iran’s state-sponsored apparatuses.”
Some of the most prominent Shi’ite groups in the UK serve as arms of the Iranian regime, as Stand for Peace has previously revealed. As with the Sunni jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq possibly to wreak havoc in the streets of Paris or London, the potential threat posed by Europe Shi’ite jihadists, funded and controlled by the well-oiled Iranian machine, must not be ignored.