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'The Imam of hatred' in Greece

29 November 2015 / 18:11:13  GRReporter
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At the beginning of 2015, in the Pakistani Sunni mosque in Megara, Attica, police detained a self-styled imam. In the past, he had fled to Pakistan and was trying to return to Greece in order to continue preaching hatred among his denominational brothers. This is what journalist Tassos Teloglou reports in Kathimerini. The imam's name is H. Μ. I. (the newspaper has his details). Some of his compatriots blew the whistle on him back in November 2014 when he gave a sermon in the Egaleo mosque, which all the elders of the Pakistani community qualified as "a sermon of hate against other Muslims and Christians."

Having lived in Greece 6-7 years, H.M.I. was repeatedly denounced for the extremist content of his sermons. He was active not only in that small western Attica mosque, but on the web as well. Some of his fellow countrymen say that while in Pakistan, he had been influenced by the ideology of the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba ('army of Allah' or 'army of the faithful' or 'army of the uncorrupted' in Urdu, but it is a militant organisation whatever the translation). set up in Afghanistan with the funding of Osama bin Laden; the organisation seems to have maintained close links with Pakistan's secret services (Inter-services Intelligence, ISI) and has played a significant role on the Indian subcontinent.

The Pakistani embassy gets a warning

H. Μ. I.'s sermons attracted attention and stirred resentment among his countrymen, who warned the embassy in 2013. In November 2014, Χ. Μ. I. preached in the Egaleo mosque calling other Muslims and Christians "infidels" and urging the true believers to "raise the sword against them." The present 18 people, among them a few Pakistani community elders, decided to act by reporting not only to the Pakistani embassy. They drew up a protest note and after having disclosed it to the imam himself and five others, who shared his views to a certain degree, passed it on to the Ministry of Interior. The note, which is in Kathimerini's possession, alleges the self-styled imam had delivered a speech, which was "fanatical, extreme, and a hazard to law and order and the country's security." According to representatives of the Pakistani communities in Athens comprising a total of 50,000, this sermon distorted Muslim traditions "and the words of the prophet, urging believers to resort to violence."

Meanwhile however, the imam managed to abscond to Pakistan. From there, he tried to re-enter Greece two months after the warning against him had been filed. He was detained at the airport, then transferred to the Amigdaleza immigrant centre and hence extradited to Pakistan. The other five Pakistanis "were forgiven", but their compatriots said they continue to keep a close eye on them.

Witnesses say the imam was not the only one who had been using the term 'jihad', or had been inciting his loyalists to punish the infidels. "Unfortunately, such sermons have been made in mosques in Menidi and Kolonos," they say.

Lashkar-e-Taiba is considered the most effective among the extreme Islamist outfits in Southeast Asia. US and India have listed it as a terrorist organisation. Pakistan, conversely, at least until the attacks in Bombay, was treading a rather equivocal line vis-a-vis Lashkar-e-Taiba. On the one hand, it detained its members without basically punishing them, and on the other, its leaders found refuge in Pakistan. The organisation was founded in 1979 by Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian, who taught Islamic Studies in Amman and Saudi Arabia. Azzam set up a bureau, which helped Arab mujahideen in their fight against the Soviets in the 1980s in Afghanistan. His associate in the creation of the organisation was one Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who, like Azzam, was a follower of the Salafi strand (the rigid, conservative Islam that permits violence against those who do not respect the sacred laws).

In 1989, Azzam was killed by a bomb which was allegedly planted by Mossad (the Israeli intelligence service), while Saeed was promoted to the State Council for Islamic Ideology, and then given a university position in Lahore. In 2005, Hussein Haqqani, who later became Pakistani ambassador in the US, acknowledged that the organisation, which designed and carried out a series of deadly attacks in India, "was financed by Saudi Arabia and protected by the secret services of Pakistan." The organisation created a Centre for Faith and Doctrine Dissemination, which has built up a large network of charitable, educational and paramilitary units in the area of Lahore. In London and other European capitals, the organisation maintains dozens of mosques, while its leaders today are under house arrest in Pakistan.

Tags: imam radical Islam mosques terrorist organisations
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