‘No idea it was going on’

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: CONTROVERSIAL: Anjem Choudary speaking at a demonstration in Forest Gate recently (K6W5229) CONTROVERSIAL: Anjem Choudary speaking at a demonstration in Forest Gate recently (K6W5229)

THE owners of the centre which hosted a controversial Al Ghurabaa press conference last week say they did not know who was booking the hall.

The group caused a furore when they refused to condemn the July 7, 2005, bombings and said they would not tell police if they knew another attack was planned.

They were speaking at the Al Badr centre in Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, two days before the anniversary.

Al Ghurabaa's leader, Anjem Choudary, 39, said that the Government's foreign policy was to blame for the attacks, adding that Tony Blair had "blood on his hands".

He urged Muslims to defend themselves against perceived attacks by "whatever means they have at their disposal".

Dressed in long white robes, sandals and a black skull cap, bearded Mr Choudary said that Muslims should not co-operate with the police under any circumstances.

He was speaking the day after he was fined £500 plus £300 costs for organising protests outside the Danish embassy against cartoons of the prophet Mohammed.

Referring to the Forest Gate raid, in which police shot Mohammad Abdul Kahar, an unarmed and innocent Muslim, Mr Choudary said: "I think every Muslim has the right to defend his well-being, property and life if they are being attacked in an unreasonable and unfair way."

Also speaking at the meeting was Leytonstone resident Abu Ibraheem, formerly known as Omar Brooks, 34, who has been named as leader of another Islamist group, the Saved Sect.

Mr Ibraheem, a British convert to Islam, urged the Government to introduce Muslim Sharia law to the whole country, saying that trying to impose British values on Muslims was an attack on Islam.

A spokesman for Al Badr said that the organisation was very disappointed by the comments.

"Had we been aware that Al Ghurabaa was booking the hall, we would have refused this request as the values and ethos of Al Ghurabaa do not reflect those of Al Badr, a community-based organisation committed to help promote community harmony," he said.

The spokesman said that the practical arm of Al Badr, the Active Change Foundation (ACF), already worked extensively with the police and the council to tackle crime and disorder by engaging with young people, and would continue to do so.

Council leader Clyde Loakes also wanted to distance the local authority from Al Ghurabaa.

He said: "Waltham Forest has one of the most diverse communities to be found anywhere in London and residents from all backgrounds, races, religions and cultures live side by side in a harmonious and peaceful way.

"Calling for obstruction and non-cooperation with the police may harm community relations in the immediate term and also in the future. I am sure the vast majority of Waltham Forest residents do not support these views."

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