Londonistan calling

The New York Times Magazine carries Christopher Caldwell’s intensely reported piece “After Londonistan.” It is long and intricately written; the following paragraphs can stand alone to provide a taste:

In January, at his trial for incitement to murder and other charges, the radical cleric Abu Hamza claimed that between 1997 and 2000, members of MI5, the British domestic security service, effectively O.K.’d his frequent incitements to jihad, on one occasion telling him: “Well, it’s freedom of speech. You don’t have to worry as long as we don’t see blood on the streets.” Hamza is an Egyptian-born British citizen who was maimed during the Afghan war against the Soviet Union and who later ran the Finsbury Park mosque in North London. Foreign governments (including the United States’) urged for years that Hamza be arrested, most loudly after he was accused of organizing a 1998 attack in Yemen — in which his son was an assailant — that killed four tourists. Hamza’s mosque was also linked to a plot to construct a weapon using ricin. When the police raided it in 2003, they found guns, chemical-warfare suits, stolen passports and laminating equipment. Hamza was finally arrested in 2004.

The term “Londonistan” was first coined by French officials outraged at the British government’s inability — for the better part of a decade — to extradite the Algerian Rachid Ramda, who had been charged in France with financing a series of attacks on public transport in Paris in 1995. Until Ramda was finally sent to France this past December, British courts held that he could not get a fair trial there. Other prominent jihadists — the Syrian-born Omar Bakri Muhammed, who fled the country after July 7; the Syrian-Spanish Qaeda leader Abu-Musab al-Suri, captured by coalition forces in Pakistan last fall; and Abu Qatada, who led several European Qaeda cells and is now fighting deportation to his native Jordan — found a safe haven in 90’s London.


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