Group hails 9/11 'Magnificent 19'
LONDON, England -- A UK-based Islamist group is planning a conference on September 11 hailing the suicide attackers who killed thousands in New York and Washington as "The Magnificent 19."
The group al-Muhajiroun have reportedly put up posters around Britain displaying the slogan and pictures of the hijackers ahead of the second anniversary of the attacks.
The poster, seen on the group's Web site, also shows images of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden superimposed on a picture of the World Trade Center towers in flames.
According to its site, the group says it will hold a news conference in north London on Thursday at which the venue of the conference will be announced.
Reuters news agency reported the group plans to hold conferences in four British cities -- London, Birmingham, Leicester and Manchester -- to mark the September 11, 2001, anniversary.
British authorities said police would be monitoring the group, and mainstream Muslim groups have denounced al-Muhajiroun as a radical organization that misrepresents the views of the country's two million Muslims.
But a spokesman for the group, Abu Omar, said this week that the actions of the 19 hijackers were "quite splendid" and were "completely justified" by Sharia law.
Omar said Muslims who condemned the attacks were "apostates" whose opinions should carry no weight.
"I believe that the Muslim community around the world believes those 19 were magnificent," Omar told the BBC.
The organization's UK head, Anjem Choudary, told Reuters: "Those individuals are Muslims, they were carrying out their Islamic responsibility and duty, so in that respect they were magnificent, and the Muslims worldwide hope that they are accepted as martyrs in the eyes of God."
British Muslim peer Baroness Uddin condemned the posters and dismissed the group's comments as a "gross violation" of Islamic teaching which would be rejected by the vast majority of Britain's Muslim community.
"I find it totally unpalatable," she told the BBC. "If I was having a discussion here, I would make sure that young people who are thinking of going there are made to be aware that that is not Islam."
A spokesman for Britain's Home Office said police were aware of the group's conference plans.
"Every word and statement that they and their representatives make is closely monitored," the spokesman told Reuters.
"We've got a long-standing tradition of free speech, which means people have a right to air their views however unpalatable.
"But we also have tough laws to catch those who cross the line from legitimate commentary into inciting violence, or who commit offenses motivated by racial or religious hatred."