Don’t fear preachers, Ken tells the capital

Don’t fear preachers, Ken tells the capital

By Isabel Oakeshott

Evening Standard, 20 July 2005

Londoners should not get too worked up by radical Muslim clerics living in the capital, Ken Livingstone suggested today.

The Mayor attacked the media for highlighting the activities of preachers such as Omar Bakri Mohammed, who blames the British public for the bombings. Mr Livingstone claimed it was “utter nonsense” to focus on such individuals and stressed that high-profile figures such as Bakri have only a handful of followers.

The Mayor’s comments are likely to be rejected by police and intelligence services, who will point out only small numbers are needed to carry out attacks.

Today the Mayor said: “I do regret the fact that the British media, or some of them, pick on the most minority strand amongst the Muslim community – people whose followers are numbered in tens, not even hundreds, and elevate them to the front page as though these are leading figures of the Muslim community in Britain.

“We have three-quarters of a million Muslims in this city of London, and yet the same three or four totally unrepresentative individuals are always stuck on the front page of the papers. Some of them are serial fantasists. I mean, it’s utter nonsense.”

He spoke out amid mounting calls for Charles Clarke to deport Bakri. Today the Home Secretary was explaining to MPs his proposals for dealing with foreignborn extremists in Britain and will reveal plans for anti-terror laws agreed with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

But ministers admit they do not know how to deal with foreign clerics who won the right to stay in Britain many years ago and now have families here.