The brother of one of the men convicted on Thursday of murdering Lee Rigby has told the Guardian that he believes the killing of the soldier in the street was justified by their Islamic faith.
In remarks that a majority of British Muslims would regard as an extremist mutation of their religion, Jeremiah Adebolajo claimed his brother Michael had sought to “please Allah by fighting in his cause” in the barbarous attack in Woolwich, south London.
Jeremiah also sought to argue that the brutal murder of a young man was motivated by anger at western foreign policy – but dismissed the possibility that MI5 could be blamed because the security service had repeatedly tried to recruit his brother as an informant.
The horrific, public murder of May 2013 sparked a renewed debate and focus, from government down, about what triggers certain people to commit terrorist acts in the furtherance of a political cause.
Jeremiah Adebolajo’s interview offers a rare – and highly controversial – insight into why his brother murdered, and to the fact some extremists will support his actions. But it left the imam of a mosque attended by Michael Adebolajo appalled.
Shakeel Begg, senior Imam at the Lewisham Islamic centre in south London, said the Adebolajo view of Lee Rigby’s murder was wrong and against Islamic teachings: “The tragic events which took place in Woolwich, the brutal killing and murder of Lee Rigby goes against the very foundations of our religion.
“As Muslims, we find this act to be something totally abhorrent and unacceptable and this is not jihad.”
In the interview, Jeremiah – who says he was converted to Islam by Michael – adopted many of the views his brother expressed when he gave evidence at the Old Bailey. Asked if he was proud of his brother, Jeremiah said: “In that he is a Muslim and that he sought to please Allah by fighting in his cause and dying in his cause, then to this extent yes.”
Interviewed by the Guardian before the jury returned its guilty verdict on Michael, Jeremiah said he loved his brother more than he did a year ago, despite the Woolwich events. Counterterrorism officials continue to assess 2,000 individuals in the UK as posing a terrorist threat, a number that they say has remained roughly constant since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.
Jeremiah works as an English teacher in Saudi Arabia, and came back to Britain for his brother’s trial. Aged 27, Jeremiah then studied politics at Essex University; previously when he was at school in Essex, he was being tutored for Oxbridge before he was expelled.
His defence of his brother contrasts with the stance taken by their parents – of Nigerian Christian heritage – who have condemned their son’s attack.
Jeremiah said he was close to his brother, and that their upbringing in Romford had not been deprived and there was a strong family focus on education. He dismissed claims Michael Adebolajo might have had a troubled family life.
Jeremiah argued that his brother’s act of murder was a “military strike” by a “soldier”, and in keeping with the teachings of the Qur’an. It is a claim British Muslims dispute, but he mocked them too, saying Muslims in the rest of the world regard Britain as having “blood on its hands”.
When asked to compare his brother to his young victim, Jeremiah tried to argue the two men were equivalent: “From a strictly secular point of view he is the same as Lee Rigby. Lee Rigby is a man who decided to join the armed forces of Britain to protect what he holds dear. And my brother was a man who decided to also join military resistance in what he holds dear. We may call them different things, one might be called the armed forces whilst another might be called the mujahadin.” I would suggest that from that purely secular point of view my brother and Lee Rigby are exactly the same. From a religious point of view I consider my brother to be better because he is a Muslim and because he is fighting in the cause of a war.”
However, Jeremiah said his brother had exonerated the security services of playing any part in the killing, having previously said they may have repeatedly harassed him as they wanted to turn into an informant on other extremists. Jeremiah said he had done this after talking to his brother after his arrest, and dropped his earlier view that Michael Adebolajo had cracked after MI5 pressure.
Instead, he claimed his brother had been forcibly brought back to Britain from Kenya in 2010 after he tried to reach areas of Somalia controlled by extremist groups affiliated to the al-Qaida ideology. Jeremiah said: “My brother left to Kenya, to go and live in Somalia under the sharia. This was his choice. What the British government did is brought him back.”
Michael Adebolajo was arrested by Kenyan authorities after being captured close to the Somali border, but after being brought back to Mombasa to appear in court, he was suddenly let go and returned to Britain.
Jeremiah said he had last seen his brother in prison on Saturday and said he was not violent but was someone who values peace. But he argued that western foreign policy, has led to the deaths of many Muslims, and left his brother feeling violence was the answer.Asked if his view was that his brother was not a terrorist murderer or a butcher but a soldier who did a duty, Jeremiah said: “Definitely. My view is that Lee Rigby is akin to my brother in that they were both soldiers for their individual, though differing, causes.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
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