In early September, Newstalk aired an interview in which Dr Ali al-Saleh, the Imam of Milltown’s Ahlul Bayt Islamic Centre, noted his concerns regarding the presence of ISIS sympathisers in Ireland. Speaking on the show, al-Saleh said his son had increasingly heard of people expressing their enthusiasm for those attempting to go to jihad in Iraq and the Levant.
This warning coincided with the brief media storm surrounding Muthenna Ibn Abu, an Irish Nigerian ISIS fighter, who took to Twitter and Ask.fm to defend the actions of his fellow jihadi brothers in their continued fight against what he labelled the hypocrisy of western governments. After commending the execution of the British aid worker, David Haines, it was not long before his two accounts were suspended.
Then, on the FM104 Phoneshow with Chris Barry, Khalid Kelly, an Irish-born Sunni Muslim took the opportunity to speak out in praise of the formation of the caliphate. Adding to this, he suggested that those Irish peacekeeping troops stationed in Golan Heights up until October 7th ought to have joined “the right side” in this fight between “good and evil, belief and disbelief, Christianity and Islam.”
Kelly is a former leading member od the Irish branch of Al Majaroun, the British-based Salafist-Wahhabi organisation outlawed in 2010 due to alleged links with global terrorism. Following his sending of death threats to Barack Obama in 2011, he became a person of significant interest to Irish authorities.
Hence, with his brief appearance on Barry’s show, Gardaí requested a recording of the broadcast. This in turn led to Kelly’s dropping off the radar, which I learned from one of the FM104 producers, who told me that he had “gone underground”. Kelly did, however, still have an active Twitter account and I managed to get in touch with him through this.
I began by asking about how he viewed any right he may have to air his opinion on the current climate in Iraq and Syria. “The difficulty is that now, the UN has made it compulsory in European countries to arrest anyone intending, or maybe even voicing intent, to travel, or help Muslims in Syria, or Iraq. So I am trying to exercise freedom of speech,” he said.
He continued: “The situation right now is not easy for anyone wishing to speak the truth, as they have basically made it illegal to an extent depending on where you live. It seems that freedom of speech is relative to whether you are a Muslim, or not. A friend said to me a while ago, ‘you’re innocent until proven Muslim.’”
“But it has always been my way to educate and pass the message of Islam by trying to explain what is happening in our Muslim land,” he went on to say. “However, it seems now that every time I talk, I have the special branch following me around, trying to get tapes of what I said. If you are a Muslim and support the mujahedeen’s right to fight in defence of their life’s wealth, you are a terrorist.”
Citing some examples, he pointed to the United Kingdom, where authorities arrested a number of his friends “for nothing other than their support of Muslims who will fight for their right to live under our prescribed way of life, which is Islam.”
This, he stated, was hardly a recent state of affairs for either himself or his friends. Here, he referred to an incident that occurred back in 2010, upon his return to Ireland after two years of evading arrest by relocating to Pakistan. ”I was only back a few months when my flat got raided by anti-terrorist police. I was beaten badly and a friend of mine had a bag placed over his head. They beat him so badly that they burst his eardrum. It took him ages to recover from that ordeal.”
Responding then to my question over the explanation given for said act, he came back to me by emphasising it as a shining example in “the global war against Islam waged by the USA.” ”Their media propaganda is so powerful that they don’t need to justify it anymore,” he said, before drawing comparisons between his personal experience and the controversies that surrounded the abuse of Iraqi detainees in the US prison Abu Ghraib in 2003.
“They do as they like, murder, rape, torture, everything. It is now justifiable as we are all terrorists.” This, he insists, “is getting a lot worse with the whole world coming together to fight us on all levels, militarily and ideologically, which is most important.”
Support of the Gulf states
This led to my asking about the involvement of the Gulf states in tackling ISIS with support from Shi’ite neighbouring states. I had been curious about such a move, since the Independent’s Middle Eastern correspondent, Patrick Cockburn, quoted the former Saudi director general of intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as stating, albeit in vague terms, that Shia and Sunni Muslims were incompatible, vehement enemies.
However, Kelly quickly denied the loyalty of these Sunni states to either Wahhabism, or Salafist jihadism, saying that “Saudi, Qatar and the UAE will collaborate with anyone. They know if we, the Islamic State, get control there, they are finished and the USA know the same thing.”
Continuing, he was even more dismissive of any Shi’ite co-operation: “They are not real Muslims. They are not willing to sacrifice their lives or wealth to establish the law of God. Shia always hate ahl Sunnah, as us ahl Sunnah will never compromise, whereas they don’t care about Islam. They confuse everyone.” He then added that “the US and UK know Shia are no real danger and indeed you can see all of them showing their true colours by coming together against ISIS.”
He concluded this point by telling me that “the true Muslim believers will always make themselves known, whether they are the Taliban, al-Qaeda, or indeed, ISIS.” However, taking into account the fact that ISIS were an expelled splinter cell of al-Qaeda, due to their extremely radical nature, I asked whether he subscribed specifically to one of the aforementioned groups’ ideologies in particular.
This, he essentially labelled as being pure semantics, noting “all groups have the same goal with different ways of achieving that goal; Sharia law, Khalifa et cetera. They are all mujahedeen. We support all of them alhamdulilah. Shia hate true Islam, most are not Muslims.”
Here, I returned to the matter of Shi’ism in order to ask him about Dr al-Saleh’s call for Muslims to aid Gardaí in their efforts to prevent any further growth in Islamic extremism in Ireland. To this, he answered simply that al-Saleh “is Shia. Most of them hate real practicing Muslims. He likes it in the West. You may find it strange that he agrees with most western government views.”
Our discussion ended soon thereafter, but not until I asked him to clarify the ambitions of groups such as ISIS. Was this, in his view, the establishment of a caliphate in the east and an act of liberation from Shi’ism in Iraq and the Alawi in Syria, or was this going to be global? “Yes, of course,” he said in reference to the latter part. “Control firstly all Muslim land and then, from there liberate the whole world from control of Jews and the USA who are oppressing the masses.”