Counter-terror thinktanks call for inquiry into public library stocks after a Channel 4 News investigation finds hundreds of books written by radical Islamist preachers, writes Johnny McDevitt.
Among the authors was the first person to be banned from entering the country by the Coalition Government earlier this year.
Works by Zakir Naik as well as other banned Islamist leaders, such as Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Abdullah Al-Faisal and Bilal Philips, are available to borrow across London’s libraries.
Indian televangelist Naik was barred from entering the country in June, after Home Secretary Theresa May uncovered comments attributed to him, which she said represented “unacceptable behaviour”.
Egyptian Qaradawi was excluded in 2008, when the Home Office said it would not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify acts of terrorist violence.
During his previous visit in 2004, Qaradawi defended suicide attacks on Israelis as “martyrdom in the name of God”, during a BBC interview.
Al-Faisal was jailed in 2003 after cassette tapes of his sermons, which solicited the murder of Jews, Christians and Americans were found. He was deported from Britain in 2007.
Others authors included Muhammad bin Jamil Zino, in whose book, Islamic Guidelines – which we borrowed from Bethnal Green library in Tower Hamlets in east London – tells readers that “The Last Hour will not appear unless the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”
The Channel 4 News investigation found hundreds of books, DVDs and ‘talking book’ cassettes by these authors in libraries around several London boroughs.
The borrowed books were taken out with a normal library card, with many coming from Whitechapel library, also in Tower Hamlets.
Until January, the library used to stock taped sermons by Anwar al-Awlaki, the so-called ‘Osama bin-Laden of the Internet.’
Roshonara Choudary, the 21-year-old woman who in March stabbed MP for East Ham, Stephen Timms, told a court earlier this month that she had been inspired by his Awlaki’s lectures on YouTube.
Presented with our investigation, James Brandon, head of research for counter-extremism thinktank, the Quilliam Foundation, called for an urgent review of what material is stocked in public libraries.
“It is very disturbing that books written by people who have been banned from this country are still available in public libraries,” he told Channel 4 News.
“Libraries stock a wide range of materials, but in the cases of some of the radical authors, they go very far over the line.
“In the cases of people like al-Faisal and Zino, there is absolutely no reason for them to be there.
“The Government needs to launch an enquiry into which books are retained, how they got there in the first place – because it is not clear how books are chosen – and how to put positive books in their place.”
Last month, Mrs May announced a review of the counter-extremism strategy Prevent, which the Conservatives in opposition accused of wasting money.
It will be undertaken by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.
Mrs May said that the role of prisons, universities, schools and mosques will be considered in combating extremism, but made no mention of libraries.
At the time, she said: “Stopping radicalisation depends on an integrated society. We can all play a part in defeating extremism by defending British values and speaking out against the false ideologies of the extremists.”
Quilliam’s Mr Brandon added: “The review of Prevent will mean that the Department for Culture, Media and Sports will have more power over combating extremism, and they really need to get clued up on hate literature because these books are potentially very dangerous.”
His concerns were echoed by the Centre for Social Cohesion, whose 2007 report ‘Hate On The State,’ uncovered scores of books, including some by deported hate cleric Abu Hamza, on library shelves in London, Birmingham and Blackburn.
Following the report, then Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the Government would consult with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) after extremist literature was found on lending lists.
What followed was the publication of a set of guidelines designed to help local authorities – who independently choose what to stock in their libraries – take a view on controversial material.
A spokeswoman for the Centre for Social Cohesion said: “It is amazing that some libraries continue to stock books by pro-jihadist clerics.
“Something is very wrong with current legislation if these books are still available to borrow after it’s been proved they can inspire hatred.
“If the guidelines in place are not being followed, they are not worth the paper they are printed on.
“If that is the case, one suggestion is if a one-off, systematic stock check is ordered in problem councils, to level the playing field.
She added: “They are narrowing the Prevent agenda at the moment, but they need to consider looking at the libraries, because years after the guidelines were published, public libraries may be unwittingly encouraging Islamist extremism.”
Home Secretary Theresa May and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt were both unavailable for comment.
When we told the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that numerous libraries were ignoring MLA guidelines, which advise that “material which incites religious or political hatred cannot be stocked or displayed,” it released a statement.
It read: “Decisions on the publications libraries stock are made by individual library authorities.
“Libraries need to balance issues of freedom of expression and democratic dialogue with concerns about controversy or offence.
“The MLA guidance on controversial material supports libraries as they make case by case decisions about what to stock. However, there are powers to ban terrorist publications within the Terrorism Act 2006 and it is up to police to decide when and how they are used.”
Several books authored by Indian national Zakir Naik, mostly in Urdu, were obtained by a Channel 4 News reporter at Southall library in Ealing, west London.
In Universal Brotherhood, Naik writes about the dangers of alcohol, saying: “Every 12th or 13th person you come across in America has committed incest…and in almost all the cases, takes place under the state of intoxication.”
Naik was banned from entering the UK by Home Secretary Theresa May in June.
Having visited Britain 15 times previously, he was been due to give a series of lectures at Wembley Arena and in Birmingham and Sheffield.
At the time, Mrs May said she was excluding him because “numerous comments he made” were evidence of “unacceptable behaviour.”
Among the nine comments, 44-year-old Naik – a televangelist for the satellite channel Peace TV – had called for any Muslim who changes religion to face the death penalty.
“If a Muslim becomes a non-Muslim and propagates his/her new religion, then it is as good as treason. There is a ‘death penalty’ in Islam for such a person,” he said in an interview several years ago.
In another interview, Naik appeared to show support for Osama bin Laden.
“Beware of Muslims saying Bin Laden is right or wrong,” he said.
“I reject them…we don’t know.
“If he is terrorising the terrorists, if he is terrorising America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
Naik appealed against the ban to the High Court of Justice, but Mr Justice Cranston ruled that his exclusion was lawful on November 5.
He claimed that the comments were taken out of context, and did not fully reflect his beliefs on the topics.
He said he did not believe the death penalty was automatic for a Muslim rejecting their faith and that his comments about bin Laden were made before 9/11, and therefore felt justified in saying that he had not seen any proof that he was responsible for terrorist activity.
Naik also referred to another sermon he conducted, in which he said that terrorism is prohibited by the Muslim faith.
The Muslim Council of Britain, which branded the exclusions of Naik and Qaradwi “serious errors of judgement,” called for caution about the removal of their books.
“Libraries remain sources of information through which debate and ideas are shaped on a range of issues,” it said.
“It is difficult to justify the removal of books by authors and speakers who have been banned by the Home Secretary but have not broken any laws, especially, when they are outspoken critics of the underlying narratives that drive the terrorist mindset, are examples of individuals who have been maligned and deliberately misquoted by those who have sought to politicise the issue of national security.
“The removal of books by these sorts of authors simply plays into the hands of those on the right who seek to censor and limit free speech. Given the unique role our libraries play, such a move would be unfortunate and would impact on the wonderful diversity of books that our libraries currently have on offer.”
While in opposition, David Cameron spearheaded criticism of the Labour Government for allowing radical Islamist preachers to incite hatred on lecture tours.
He successfully campaigned to get Qaradawi, an Egyptian radical, banned from Britain in 2008.
Two books written by Qaradawi were obtained from the Whitechapel library, although many more are available across the capital’s libraries.
“The most honourable form of jihad nowadays is fighting for the liberation of Muslim land from the domination of unbelievers,” he writes in Fiqh az-Zakat.
“Fighting in defence of the home of Islam is obligatory until the enemy is driven away and Muslims are liberated.”
Qaradawi is considered a moderate by many Muslims for, among other things, urging the Taliban not to destroy Buddha statues in Afghanistan and stating that the consumption of small amounts of alcohol was acceptable for Muslims.
But has also provoked controversy in the past by reportedly issuing a fatwa on Muslims who join US Forces and Iraqis who seek US citizenship.
He stated on Channel 4 News in 2004 that the practice of wife beating was justifiable in certain circumstances.
The then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, wrote a lengthy dossier in his defence.
Two copies of Natural Instincts by Abdullah al-Faisal can be borrowed from Watney Market Library, also in Tower Hamlets.
However, both were out on loan when Channel 4 News visited the library. An online version of the book contained several incendiary comments, including: “The societies of Europe and America are the new Sodom and Gomorra of today.
“The kafirs [non-believers] are the henchmen of the devil…The only language the kafirs respect is jihad.” Al-Faisal says Christian clergymen who practise celibacy are prone to paedophilia.
“Priests, monks, popes and nuns who abstain from sex…will inevitably be led to child abuse.” He adds that non-Muslim charity workers will go to hell.
“The Red Cross or any other infidelic organisation should not expect to receive any reward from Allah in the hereafter for their so-called humanitarian works.
“The infidels who die in their disbelief will be in the hellfire forever.”
In another chapter, the book reads: “Of all the people in the world, the Jews are the greediest…Every one of them wishes that he could be given a life of 1,000 years. But the grant of such life will not save him even a little from due punishment.”
Al-Faisal, who toured Britain inspiring audiences to support Islamic extremism, was sentenced to nine years in jail for inciting murder and racial hatred, including soliciting the murder of Jews, Hindus and Americans after police found tapes in specialist Islamic shops in the East End.
He was deported to his native Jamaica in 2007, having served four years behind bars.
In his taped sermon ‘Jihad’, al-Faisal advised Muslim mothers to raise their children “with the jihad mentality” by giving them toy guns – and condoned the use of nuclear and chemical weapons on India.
He had been a religious mentor for Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a Paris-Miami plane with a bomb in his shoe. Reid is serving life. The preacher’s tapes were found in the flat of Jamaican-born Jermaine Lindsay, one of the suicide bombers who killed 52 people in attacks on the London transport network in July 2005.
A copy of The Fundamentals of Tawheed by Philips – another Jamaican-born convert to Islam – was loaned from Watney Market library in Tower Hamlets.
The book says “un-Islamic government must be sincerely hated and despised”.
Philips, a Canadian citizen, has previously written that Aids shows homosexuality is evil and dangerous to society.
He has also argued that a woman is obliged to give herself to her husband and that the husband may not be charged with rape.
It has also been reported in the Washington Post that the US government had named Philips as an ‘unindicted co-conspirator’ in the World Trade Centre bombing in 1993 and deported him in 2004, although the US has never confirmed or denied this.
Philips says that he was also banned from Britain at around the same time as Naik.
He said in his blog: “Well, the inevitable finally happened. At least the British Home Secretary called Dr Naik in Mumbai prior to his trip and told him not to come. I arrived to London this Saturday morning, 19 June, at 8am only to be denied entry and put on a plane at 11am back to Doha!!!”
Muhammad bin Jamil Zino
Several titles by the Syrian preacher Muhammad bin Jamil Zino, who died in October, are also stocked on Bethnal Green’s library shelves, in Tower Hamlets.
Islamic Guidelines contains several explicitly anti-Semitic comments, including: “The Last Hour will not appear unless the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them…Teach your children the love of justice and revenge from the unjust like the Jews and the tyrants.”
He also writes: “Singing is a prelude to adultery…handclapping and whistling are abominable acts which one should abandon,” and “Dolls made in foreign countries should not be bought and given to children. Why should we support the finance of…Jewish exporters?”
Zino also features prominently in the 2005 report “Saudi Publications On Hate Ideology Invade American Mosques”, published by the US-based human group the Center for Religious Freedom.
Other authors whose books were found in this investigation included Maulana Masood Azhar, a Pakistani Mujahadeen leader listed by the Indian Government as one of its most-wanted terrorists, who is believed to have been in close contact with 7 July bomber Shehzad Tanweer.
Bangladeshi Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, who has previously compared Hindus to excrement and Egytian author Sayiid Qutb, whose works inspired bin Laden and Awlaki, are others.
Emma Boon, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance told Channel 4 News that the public should not fund books by those banned from the country.
“Taxpayers will be shocked to discover that their money is being used to buy books that are inciting hatred,” she said.
“Libraries should be places of learning and by stocking literature by hate clerics they risk poisoning young minds and creating or deepening racial and religious tensions. It’s disgraceful that these books and their repugnant views are in our libraries – the existing guidelines are clearly not offering sufficient protection against the threat posed by hate education.
“There should absolutely be a ban on hate books being bought with taxpayers’ money. Existing books that have be flagged as inciting hatred should be identified and removed from our libraries and schools.”
An MLA spokesperson said: “The MLA does not and cannot issue rulings on individual books or publications. It is the responsibility of the local authority concerned to make sure the publications they stock and issue are appropriate and lawful. We have issued guidance designed to help authorities take a view on controversial material, and we would hope they would follow it.”