Abu Hamza al-Masri, also known as Mustafa Kamel Mustafa or the Hook Hand, is an Egyptian cleric who came to the United Kingdom as a student and later joined the Finsbury Park Mosque as its imam in 1997. In an article in the Telegraph in 2007, Mahmood Hasan, a long-term trustee of the Finsbury mosque is quoted as describing Abu Hamza as someone who initially appeared to be God-sent. He was fluent in his English and Arabic linguistic skills and had adequate theological training. Further, he was willing to take on the role of the cleric at a meagre salary. However, over time the Egyptian Imam slowly revealed his real beliefs.
Hamza’s radical Islamic views soon made the Finsbury mosque a centre with strong links to extremism. From inside the premises of the mosque, Hamza preached a violent theology and attracted disciples both from within and from outside the UK. He opened up the mosque for other extremists to reside. Allegedly, Hamza did not just propagate extremist and violent messages but also trained his followers in the usage of ammunitions. In 2002, intelligence sources had revealed that weapons training using Kalashnikov AK-47s took place inside the Finsbury mosque.
Hamza’s views were supportive of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban and the 9/11 attacks in the United States. In January 2002, Hamza was quoted as saying, “I ask God to grant long life to Osama Bin Laden.” The previous month, when he was asked if there was an earthly government he admired, he is believed to have replied the “coming Taliban hopefully.” He is also believed to have had links with the Al-Qaeda. Reportedly, he turned the Finsbury mosque into a recruitment centre for the Al-Qaeda, particularly for economic migrants from North Africa and the Middle East, who later travelled to training camps in Afghanistan.
In his lectures, Hamza criticised Muslim youth for enjoying the comforts of British life, while their brothers around the world suffered. He propagated the need for the establishment of a Khilafah or Islamic state and spoke of the need for training in violence to carry out Jihad. Over time he created some well-known names in the history of Islamic terrorism including the shoe bomb terrorist Richard Reid and the July 7 bomber Germaine Lindsay.
In 2003, the British police did a thorough investigation of the mosque and Abu Hamza was jailed in 2006 and later deported to the United States. Following the raid and the closure, the mosque was reopened in 2005 and ever since the trustees have been involved in brushing away the image of extremism that is still firmly attached to the mosque. Sunday’s attack, however, has once again brought to surface a reminder of the mosque’s links to extremism.