by Giovanni Giacalone
On Saturday October 21st massive pro-Palestinian demonstrations took place in London with slogans invoking “jihad”, the “Dawlat al-Islam” (the Islamic State) and other hate chants such as “Lanaat Allah ala al-Kufar” (May Allah curses be on infidels) and “Lannat Allah ala al-Yahood” (May Allah curses be upon the Jews).
In a video of a demonstration organized by the Islamist organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a man is seen chanting “jihad, jihad” while banners referring to the “Muslim armies” also show up.
Incredibly, on the same evening, the MET Police announced in a statement on its website that the word “jihad” has a number of meanings but it is known that the public will most commonly associate it with terrorism. However, specialist officers have assessed the video and have not identified any offences arising from the specific clip. The same conclusion has also come from Crown Prosecution Service lawyers.
The statement further adds that, despite all this, recognizing the way language like this will be interpreted by the public and the divisive impact it will have, officers identified the man involved and spoke to him to discourage any repeat of similar chanting.
This message by the MET Police very much sounds like a “Please don’t use such language because it could be interpreted as divisive by some people”. And what about the term “jihad”? What other meaning could it have in that specific occasion which obviously wasn’t a Sufi retreat on the struggle against human passions and attachments.
As if it wasn’t enough, even a London subway driver began leading pro-Palestinian chants such as “Free Palestine” and “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free” while on duty. The driver explained that since he had to work and could not join the demonstrations, he decided to chant while at work. This obviously goes against the transportation policies by TFL (Transport for London) that have banned political messaging inside London’s underground and train stations, as explained by Mahyar Tousi. And who is in charge? Sadik Khan, the Mayor of London. Additionally, the London police was also physically attacked on Saturday in Trafalgar Square by pro-Palestinian and Islamist demonstrators. Why did all this happen?
The Home Office provided some very clear directives to the Police regarding pro-Islamist demonstrations: in sunto, they would not be tolerated. However, MET Police seems to be very far away from attending these guidelines; on the contrary, they targeted pro-Israel demonstrators driving through London’s center on board two trucks with banners showing the faces of the hostages currently held by Hamas. They forced the drivers to turn the vehicles and the banners off. Why? Because the Police was afraid that those banners could attract the attention of Hamas sympathizers demonstrating not far from the site, and who were not supposed to be there in the first place.
What’s going on in London? Why isn’t the MET police implementing the directives given by the Home Office?
Is the British mess over? No, because on Saturday October 21st, the Sunday Times revealed that fugitive Hamas leader Muhammad Qassem Sawalha, who ran the group’s terrorist operations in the West Bank, is the resident of a council property in London. The Hamas fugitive was given a discount of over £112,000 on a Barnet Council two-storey home worth around £320,700.
Sawalha managed to escape from Israeli security services through a relative’s passport and fled to the UK in the 1990s where he later obtained citizenship in the early 2000s and continued to work for Hamas. The Israeli Ministry of Defense has officially designated Sawalha as a Hamas member and will be arrested if he returns to Israel. So, what is he doing in the UK?
However, the situation in other European countries does not look any better. The Washington Outsider recently documented the case of Mohammad Hannoun, the Palestinian activist leader, president of the Association of Palestinians in Italy and the European for al-Quds, who is also an imam in one of Genoa’s Islamic centers and who recently claimed that “Hamas’ action is self-defense”. Hannoun also attacked Italy in a Friday sermon, accusing the government of siding with Israel.
It is important to recall that Hannoun has been pictured with Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal and that in July of 2023, the Israeli Ministry of Defense asked the Italian police to seize Hannoun’s money as bound for terrorist organizations in the Palestinian-controlled areas. However, no measures have so far been taken by Italy and Mohammad Hannoun is still active with his propaganda.
Indeed, Hannoun’s case is not an exception, as the Italian media uncovered plenty of imams who are supporting Hamas, and we are talking about imams preaching in well-known Islamic centers. For instance, Baraa el-Oubaidy, imam at Milan’s Islamic Center of Cascina Gobba, claimed to the LA7 TV channel that “it is not possible to state that Hamas is a terrorist organization” and that “Hamas is like the Italian partisans who fought the Nazis”, as reported by newspaper Libero. Does this mean that according to this individual, who preaches on a weekly basis in front of hundreds of Muslims in Milan, beheading babies, burning people alive, raping and torturing is not terrorism?
The imam of another Islamic center in Milan, Palestinian Ali Abu Shwaima, refused to condemn Hamas and claimed: “Hamas has been classified by you, by Italy, by Europe as a terrorist organization, so you have kept everyone quiet” about the possibility of “giving these opinions” so “you can’t ask me this question”.
In Rome, the imam of Centocelle’s Islamic Center, Ben Mohammed Mohammed, claimed that “Hamas is part of the Palestinian people, they won the elections” and that the claims of Hamas beheading children is “fake news spread by the Zionists”.
These are very serious issues because these individuals preach in front of Muslims every week and they have influence on their audience. Freedom of speech is one thing, but siding with a proscribed terror organization is a very different story.
Additionally, during the demonstrations that took place in Milan on October 21st, the chants “Open us the borders, so we can kill the Jews” were reported, as exposed by newspaper Repubblica. The President of the Jewish Community of Milano, Walker Meghnagi, appealed to the national police to identify those who incited the murder of Jews.
The honorary Consul of Israel for Lombardy, Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna regions, Marco Carrai, also announced that he will file a complaint with the Milan prosecutor’s office against those demonstrators, accusing them of terrorism apology.
How have we reached this point? Why are authorities so reluctant to take the necessary steps against Islamists supporting Hamas and invoking hatred?
There are multiple reasons; the first one indeed has to do with the broad number of Muslims present in Europe and this is the result of decades of uncontrolled immigration from Muslim countries that led to the presence of Muslim ghettos where even the police have trouble entering. They are just too many. The fear of riots and terror attacks is very high, so some prefer to be tolerant against terror supporters with the hope that things won’t turn for the worse. Indeed, this is pure illusion since the situation is already very serious; the fact in itself that authorities are afraid to intervene for fear of reaction already says it all.
In France, authorities have gone much heavier on pro-Hamas demonstrations, with anti-riot police and arrests. The French government even announced the deportation of those foreign citizens and preachers supporting Hamas. So why aren’t the UK and Italy doing the same?
Secondly, it is very likely that some security services and intelligence agencies have relied on those Islamists wrongly perceived as “moderates” or eventually “extremists who are not terrorists” in order to monitor mosques, Islamic cultural centers and communities from ISIS supporters ready to take actions. In few words “get the help of the less dangerous to hunt down the ones ready to strike”. Of course, this idea of the “less dangerous” makes no sense because extremism is the ideological doctrine that fuels terrorism. Claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood or Hamas are less dangerous than al-Qaeda or ISIS means having no idea of what Islamic extremism is. As a matter of fact, while objectives might temporarily change, the ideology of these organizations are exactly the same. Unfortunately, many government and intelligence agencies in the West have followed this path and today we are experiencing the consequences.
In some cases, governments may have opted for a silent bilateral agreement: you don’t strike on our soil and we don’t bother you. After all, until last month, many in Europe’s intelligence community perceived Hamas as an Israeli problem, despite being blacklisted in the EU, and once again, they were wrong.
In addition, it is also important to recall the strong economic links between Europe/UK and Qatar, Hamas’ biggest sponsor in the Middle East, together with Iran. Let’s keep well in mind that Hamas’ political bureau is in Doha and just last week the Qatari PM announced that they are not planning to ask Hamas leaders to leave Qatar.
The horrendous crimes committed by Hamas on October 7th 2023 is forcing many to overturn their position on the terrorist organization and on Islamism in general. Let’s be clear: extremism, terrorism and jihad are all very clear terms with a precise meaning. However, there are some who are supposed to be in charge of domestic and international security who are awkwardly trying to play with these terms to avoid taking the steps that should be taken. No matter how hard some decision-makers (or in this case we should say “non-decision makers”) try to twist events, reality does not need evidence, and it does not forgive. The worst is yet to come.