Seeking to keep the case of their father in front of the public eye, the family of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman, organized another conference at the site of their open sit-in across from the American Embassy.
The conference was conducted by the World Forum for Moderate Islam, under the title ‘Omar Abdel Rahman: Between the Crimes of America and the Neglect of Egypt’. The highlighted speaker was to be Mohamed Shawki al-Islamboly, the older brother of the man who assassinated President Sadat. The 75 year old Islamboly, however, apologized as he was ill and unable to attend. Islamboly had recently been released from prison on health grounds, after being deported to Egypt by Iran.
Abdullah Omar Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheikh’s son, moderated the conference. He opened by mentioning the brief clashes between pro- and anti-military council demonstrators outside the US Embassy, and gave praise to God these did not escalate further. He further announced the organization of a march from the sit-in to the nearby parliament at 9am the next day, to present a request to the parliament for intercession with the government to demand Abdel Rahman’s return to Egypt.
The next speaker was Khalid al-Sharif, the secretary-general of the World Forum for Moderate Islam. He stated that if it is the right of the United States to defend its citizens abroad (in the case of the returning NGO workers), then why is Egypt not defending its Azhar scholar and others of its citizens in the United States.
Furthermore, he stated, Omar Abdel Rahman is diabetic and cancer-stricken; it is only humane to return him to Egypt. Yet more than being an act of mercy, this request is both legitimate and legal, unlike the actions of the US government to interfere in Egypt’s judiciary and fly the NGO workers out even before their travel ban was officially lifted.
The next speaker was Osama Rushdi, head of the Front to Rescue Egypt. He argued that Omar Abdel Rahman was an innocent man framed by the US and Egyptian governments to silence his criticism of Mubarak. It is a political issue, he stated, reflecting the longstanding relationship between the two nations, in which Egypt is America’s greatest agent in the region.
Rushdi spent most of his presentation detailing how the United States has conspired previously with the intelligence apparatuses of other nations, showing similarity to the case of the Blind Sheikh. He focused on Talaat Fuad Abu Qasim, who was apprehended in Croatia and returned to Egypt where he was executed.
Rushdi criticized the United States for not yet realizing the extent to which Egypt and the region as a whole is changing. History, he declared, will not forget these crimes.
He also interceded in the case of Abdel Rahman’s lawyer, Lynne Stewart, who is in prison for facilitating communication between the Blind Sheikh and al-Jama’a al-Islamiyya. Rushdi praised her as an American and as a Christian, arguing this was the ‘alleged’ reason, but that in fact she was being punished for her defense of her client’s human rights.
On this fact Rushdi is incorrect. Whatever bias may have been suffered by Stewart for her role, Mohamed Omar Abdel Rahman, another of the Blind Sheikh’s sons, admitted to me that she did break the law and transmitted messages.
The keynote speaker of the conference was Sheikh Taj al-Din al-Hilali, the controversial ‘Mufti of Australian Muslims’. He was given a warm welcome having returned to Egypt from such a long distance.
Hilali focused his comments on Islamic history, recalling a time when the sun did not set on the Muslim caliphate. He compared the neglect given by Egypt to Omar Abdel Rahman with the vigilance of Caliph Haroun. When fighting ‘the dogs of Rome’ – comparable now to ‘the dogs of America’ – he insisted on the return of a single Muslim woman captured during war.
Hilali also celebrated the period of Islamic dominance of the Mediterranean, which he called an Islamic sea. During the 1700s even the United States had to pay ‘jizia’ to the navy of Algeria, to secure the right of shipping in the region.
Hilali then quoted the Muslim Brotherhood creed – God is our end, the Apostle is our leader, the Quran is our constitution, jihad is our way, and death is the path of God is our highest hope. He stated the weakness of the Islamic world now is due to the fact that we have no leadership and we fight each other.
In Egypt, this represents the treachery of the military council. He compared the situation to that of the Arabian Nights: Ali Baba has fled, but his 40 thieves remain.
Hilali praised the revolution, but promised a greater revolution to come. This would include going to Palestine and breaking down the wall of shame, revolting against the current borders which divide the Islamic ummah, and finally in liberating Jerusalem.
Throughout the conference a official supporter led the audience in various chants. These included:
- Oh Katatni, oh Erian, where is Omar Abdel Rahman? (these are leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood)
- Oh Abu Ishaq, oh Hassan, where is Omar Abdel Rahman? (these are popular Salafi preachers)
- Oh Tantawi, oh Anan, why submit to the Americans? (these are leaders of the military council)
- Oh Abdel Rahman, we will not leave you, even if they shoot us we’ll bring you home
- Why is Omar Abdel Rahman imprisoned why America and the military trample us?
- The blood of Muslims is not an offering for the Jews or the Americans (reflecting a popular anti-Jewish urban legend that Jews mix human blood with their Passover bread)
- They say our sheikh is a terrorist, but America has arranged this
- Oh Interior Ministry listen well, the national security forces do not belong to us
- They provoke us generation after generation, fall, fall Israel
- Egyptian people wake from your sleep, we want to rule by Islam
However legitimate or illegitimate the cause of Omar Abdel Rahman, speakers and chants such as these will not gain much support among a Western audience. Of course, if the basic charge against America is true, then perhaps some of the above statements can be understood differently.
- The Blind Sheikh and the NGO Crisis: Rally at the US Embassy – February 19, 2012
- Friend’s Brother Killed by US Drone – October 19, 2011