The Scottish Mail on Sunday

I fear IS ‘sis­ters’ will be next bridge killers

- By ‘AISHA’ UN­DER­COVER TV JOUR­NAL­IST

WHEN I saw the face of Khu­ram Butt star­ing out of the news­pa­pers at me last week, af­ter he was named as one of the three Lon­don Bridge killers, I was deeply shocked.

It took me back to the day nearly two years ago when I filmed him with a hid­den cam­era as he protested, clad in head­dress and robe, out­side Re­gent’s Park Mosque in Lon­don.

We had gone un­der­cover to make a Dis­patches doc­u­men­tary for Chan­nel 4, fo­cus­ing not on Butt and his fel­low Is­lamists but on a less ob­vi­ous group – the ‘sis­ters’, the women who share their twisted views. Un­like their male coun­ter­parts, the women only ever ex­press th­ese views be­hind closed doors or on­line.

Now my great­est fear is that one of those women I watched be­ing brain­washed – or, even worse, one of the chil­dren who ran around play­ing as the hate-filled rants were de­liv­ered – might go on to mur­der in­no­cent peo­ple as Butt did.

I didn’t pay much at­ten­tion to him that day in July 2015 as he handed out ex­trem­ist leaflets to wor­ship­pers leav­ing Fri­day prayers, but last week’s events made me re­call the vile pro­pa­ganda he was ped­dling – in the same man­ner as the women, as I would dis­cover. They were part of banned ter­ror group Al-Muha­jiroun

in all but name. Its for­mer leader, An­jem Choudary, had just been ar­rested, and is now serv­ing a prison sen­tence for urg­ing sup­port of Is­lamic State.

But his fol­low­ers con­tin­ued their ‘work’ with­out him – and no doubt still do now. What’s more, the woman lead­ing the ‘sis­ters’, is Choudary’s wife, Rubana Akhtar.

Over the course of a year, I slowly gained ac­cess to Rubana’s

group, ini­tially by con­tact­ing her fol­low­ers on Twit­ter, then through tex­ting and other so­cial me­dia.

Af­ter months at­tempt­ing to win their con­fi­dence, I was in­tro­duced to Rubana, who used the pseu­do­nym ‘Umm Luq­man’, and was in­vited to one of her talks in a non­de­script build­ing next to a bar­ber’s shop in Whitechape­l, East Lon­don.

What I wit­nessed there con­vinced me that the stereo­typ­i­cal im­age of ji­hadis as young men needs to be ad­justed, be­cause the women were equally vir­u­lent in their views.

The ha­tred to­ward non-be­liev­ers runs deep in this politi­cised ver­sion of Is­lam. The women be­lieve that the self-de­clared Is­lamic State is the true caliphate. In essence, they are swear­ing their al­le­giance to IS, which has de­clared a war on Bri­tish and Western so­ci­ety.

The ca­sual way this small but mo­ti­vated group trot out such ab­hor­rent ideas in the pres­ence of small chil­dren shows just how ‘nor­mal’ they be­lieve them to be.

I al­ways felt the group were sus­pi­cious of me – and that was to prove the case. As a re­sult, I be­lieve they toned down their rhetoric in my pres­ence but that didn’t pre­vent them from es­pous­ing truly shock­ing views which I cap­tured on film.

Rubana re­ferred to ‘filthy Jews’ and praised the ad­vent of IS, say­ing ‘The good days have al­ready be­gun, no­body would ever have thought in our life­time we would see the es­tab­lish­ment of the Khi­lafah [IS].’

She also mocked the Govern­ment’s at­tempts to tackle ex­trem­ism, say­ing: ‘If they thought it was a plan to de­rad­i­calise peo­ple, God they got it so wrong, be­cause if any­thing more and more peo­ple are be­com­ing what they call rad­i­calised.’

She even laughed about the Jor­da­nian pi­lot who was burned alive by IS, sug­gest­ing that he would be ac­cepted in mar­tyr­dom, be­fore adding ‘My foot’, as her fol­low­ers chuck­led.

There may be a temp­ta­tion to write th­ese peo­ple off as harm­less id­iots, but let’s not for­get that AlMuha­jiroun have been linked to half of all UK ter­ror plots and, al­though they have been a pro­scribed or­gan­i­sa­tion since 2010, it is clear from what I saw that they still ex­ist. We ur­gently need to ad­dress what ex­trem­ism is, and what to do about it.

Per­haps I asked too many ques­tions while un­der­cover, be­cause even­tu­ally Rubana cor­nered me in a small kitchen area as one of her fol­low­ers stood be­hind me. She ac­cused me of be­ing a spy and de­manded to look in my bag. I was scared they weren’t go­ing to let me go, be­cause she said she wouldn’t.

The stand-off went on for about 10 min­utes. At that stage, I’d just dis­cov­ered that Rubana was mar­ried to Choudary and that made her ap­pear more dan­ger­ous. There were so many of them, there was noth­ing I could have done to pro­tect my­self if they had turned on me.

In the end, I pre­tended I was men­tally ill and went into an emo­tional melt­down, scream­ing at her, which seemed to work, and thank good­ness they let me go.

Look­ing back, I think I was lucky to get out un­harmed.

 ??  ?? VILE: Rubana Akhtar was filmed hail­ing Is­lamic State
VILE: Rubana Akhtar was filmed hail­ing Is­lamic State
 ??  ?? FEEL­ING THE HEAT: Wil­liam looks to be flag­ging in the sun­shine
FEEL­ING THE HEAT: Wil­liam looks to be flag­ging in the sun­shine
 ??  ?? KILLER: Khu­ram Butt at Re­gent’s Park mosque
KILLER: Khu­ram Butt at Re­gent’s Park mosque

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