Islamism with a Human Face
The British media is continuing to publish puff pieces about Islamist extremists working for British charities in Syria.
In December 2013, the BBC aired a programme documenting the struggle of aid convoys travelling to Syria, but failed to mention the convoy volunteers’ support for Al Qaeda operatives and extremist preachers. In April 2014, Britain’s Channel 4 aired an interview with two “charity workers” in Syria – Tauqir Sharif and his wife, Racquell Hayden-Best. Channel 4 neglected to mention that the husband and wife team were supporters of ISIS, the leading terror group in Syria, now wreaking havoc in Iraq.
A few months later, on July 2, the BBC published a sympathetic piece about Kasim Jameel, another British “aid worker”, whom they portrayed as the victim of an over-zealous British police. Jameel, in fact, has expressed praise for Syrian jihadi “martyrs” and paraphrases a notorious quote by Osama Bin Laden: “Our men love death like your men love life.”
Most recently, on July 12, The Times published a profile of Mohammed Shakiel Shabir, another British “aid worker” working in Syria and Gaza. The article touches on Shabir’s difficult adolescence: his “multiple spells in prison, an ill-fated marriage and the birth of two sons when he was barely out of his teens.”
Although the piece notes some of Shabir’s associations, including the fact that he carries around with him DVDs of sermons by Anwar Al-Awlaki, the late Al Qaeda leader, Shabir’s turn to radical Islam and his purported charitable work, however, is painted as “a classic redemption story” made harder by others’ attempts to label him an extremist. The journalist, Laura Pitel, writes that, “the fears of a Syria terror threat have muddied the narrative. [Shabir] embodies the difficulties of protecting national security without alienating British Muslims who are determined to help.”
In truth, Shabir, and the profile painted of him by The Times, actually embodies the continued and distinct failure of the British media to recognize the signs of radical Islamism and to grasp that a number of nefarious groups have understood the importance of placing a human face on an iniquitous ideology.
Mohammed Shakiel Shabir, as The Times article notes, is a “point man for a string of British Islamic charities.” In particular, Shabir works for Children in Deen and Lifecare UK, two extremist British Islamist charities funding projects in Syria and Gaza.
Lifecare UK is a British charity that claims to fund humanitarian projects implemented in Gaza by another charity, Families Relief. Families Relief has been identified as a member of the Hamas-funding Union of Good, a designated terrorist entity under US law. Trustees of Families Relief include an official in the Islamic Society of Britain, a Muslim Brotherhood group; as well as a founder of the Tunisian Islamist Ennahda Party.
Lifecare UK is also part of a coalition of charities named the “UK Convoy to Syria,” whose members include Shabir’s other charity, Children in Deen.
Children in Deen works closely with the Gaza-based Al-Falah Benevolent Society, which is described by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre as one of “Hamas’s charitable societies,” and is known to be run by Ramadan Tanbura, “a well-known Hamas figure.” One of Al-Falah’s Directors, Jamal Hamdi al-Haddad, also manages one of Hamas’ Hebrew-language education programmes, entitled “Know Your Enemy”. Shabir has promoted the partnership between Children in Deen and this Hamas charitable front.
In March 2014, it emerged that an aid convoy organised by Children in Deen was used by British suicide bomber Abdul Waheed Majeed to get to war-torn Syria in July last year — the same convoy with which Mohammed Shakiel Shabir travelled.
Events partly organized by Shabir’s charities have included fundraising evenings with speakers such as Khalid Fikri, a sectarian cleric who describes Shia Muslims as “the worst and greatest enemies against our Ummah [Islamic nation]” and a vocal supporter of a convicted terrorist, Omar Abdul Rahman, whom Fikri claims was the victim of “a false accusation and a political court” presided over by a “Jew Judge”. Fikri was joined on stage by Yusha Evans, another Islamist preacher, who has said that he feels “sicken[ed]” by “Muslims [who] have love and affection for … disbelievers.” He has also described “moderate Muslims” as “one of the biggest threats to the success of this Ummah [the Muslim community.]” Evans has expressed admiration for Tarek Mehanna, who, in 2011, was convicted of “conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaeda, providing material support to terrorists (and conspiracy to do so), [and] conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country.”
Shabir’s social media postings include expressed praise for leaders of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization; support for the hate preacher Zahir Mahmood, who has claimed that, “Hamas are not terrorists. They’re freedom fighters”; and calls for Moazzam Begg, the pro-jihadist leader of Cageprisoners, who was recently arrested on terrorism charges, to be freed.
Shabir dismisses the use of “protests and demonstrations” and calls upon Muslims “to rise and defend and fight” against the “kufaar”
Most importantly, however, is that Shabir has acted as the middleman between the British charities listed above and the IHH, a Turkish charity that The Times has reported is involved in gun-running missions to Syria. German media has revealed that similar convoys of ambulances from Germany, supposedly containing medical supplies, are being used to bring weapons into Syria. It is noteworthy that when Shabir’s charities travel to Syria through Turkey, they liaise with IHH aid convoys.
The IHH operates in 120 countries with an annual budget of around $100 million, but its various offshoots are among banned terror groups under Dutch, German and Israeli law. The IHH’s claim to be humanitarian organization is a thin façade – its own website includes a tribute to Shamil Basayev, the Chechen terrorist who murdered 350 people, including 186 children, during the Beslan school siege.
Shabir, in fact, first entered radical Islam through the IHH, when he took part in the infamous 2010 boat convoy to Gaza, which was raided by Israeli forces. Today, Shabir remains an important “coordinator” between British Islamist charities and the IHH. Shabir has even described IHH leader Bulent Yildrim as his “dear big brother” for whom he has a “lot of love and respect.” Yildrim, known for his intense anti-Semitism, recently tweeted a warning that “All Jews living in Turkey will pay a price.”
“Aid workers” like Shabir use philanthropic endeavour to put a human face on extreme Islamism. These various puff pieces paint violent Islamism as nothing more than welfare provision. Although the misuse of charitable aspirations is by no means a new phenomenon, the media is, at present, particularly guilty of affording legitimacy to such barefaced exploitation.