In late July, HSBC, a British multinational bank, closed the bank accounts of Anas Al-Tikriti, a prominent British Islamist activist, and his family. HSBC also closed down the bank accounts of the Cordoba Foundation, of which Tikriti is the Director, and the Finsbury Park Mosque.
In response to enquiries, the bank simply stated that to continue providing services would be outside the bank's "risk appetite."
This latest round of bank account closures has come as a surprise to counter-terrorism experts and much of the media, who note that the Cordoba Foundation and the Finsbury Park Mosque have enjoyed strong political support in the past.
Just a few weeks previously, HSBC also closed the accounts of the Ummah Welfare Trust, a leading British Islamist charity that has previously partnered with the Al Salah Islamic Association, described by the U.S. Treasury Department as "one of the largest and best-funded Hamas charitable organisations in the Palestinian territories." Senior Hamas officials have confirmed that Al Salah is "identified with us."
Anas Al-Tikriti, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain, had his bank account, along with that of his wife and two children, shut down by HSBC. Tikriti has been described as "one of the shrewdest UK-based Brotherhood activists ... [who] has sought to persuade Western governments that they should fund Brotherhood groups as moderate alternatives to al-Qaeda."
Tikriti is also a vocal supporter of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, and he has regularly hosted a program on the Arab TV satellite station, Al-Hiwar, founded by Azzam Tamimi, Hamas's "special envoy" to the UK. Tamimi, in 2004, told the BBC that he would become a suicide bomber if he "had the opportunity," and described self-sacrifice for Palestine as "a noble cause."
In an interview with the Muslim Brotherhood's official website after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Tikriti affirmed "the right of the Iraqis to engage in legitimate resistance against foreign occupation." He also has stated that the decision by the Muslim Council of Britain to boycott Holocaust Memorial Day was a "principled stand."
Anas Al-Tikriti (right) with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
In response to HSBC's closure of his bank account, Tikriti claimed that, "HSBC has targeted my family because of my activity in defence of Gaza against the barbaric aggression of the Zionists" and because of his efforts to "oppose the military coup in Egypt."
While many would dispute Tikriti's conclusions, his instincts might be right. The one thing that connects Tikriti with the Cordoba Foundation, the Finsbury Park Mosque and the Ummah Welfare Trust is evidence of their support for the Muslim Brotherhood and the designated terrorist group, Hamas.
The Cordoba Foundation, which Tikriti heads, has been described by Prime Minister David Cameron, as a "political front for the Muslim Brotherhood." In 2009, Cordoba co-sponsored an event organized by Cageprisoners, a pro-jihadist group, which featured as a guest speaker Anwar Al-Awlaki, who later became a senior leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, before he was killed in a U.S. drone-strike in 2011.
The Cordoba Foundation also works closely with the Emirates Centre for Human Rights, whose website was originally registered to Tikriti's wife, Malath Shakir, whose bank account was also shut down by HSBC. According to UAE media, the Emirates Centre for Human Rights is part of the global Muslim Brotherhood network.
The most surprising organization to be shut out by HSBC, however, is the Finsbury Park Mosque. The loss of its bank accounts has sparked anger from leading British Muslims and sympathetic parliamentarians.
The Finsbury Park Mosque was once a much easier target for criticism. Ten years ago, the hook-handed Imam of the mosque, Abu Hamza -- recently found guilty of eleven terrorism charges after a five-week trial in New York -- was arrested on terrorism charges.
After his arrest, however, the British government, eager to rid the Finsbury Park Mosque of its pro-terror reputation, passed control of the institution to the Muslim Association of Britain [MAB], one of the better-known Muslim Brotherhood fronts in the UK, and one with which Anas Al-Tikriti was once closely involved. Tikriti's lobbying efforts for the government to embrace Muslim Brotherhood groups as "moderate" alternatives to more overtly terrorist organizations appeared to have paid off.
The government seemed oblivious, perhaps wilfully so, that the MAB's founder, Kemal Helbawi, has proclaimed:
"Oh honoured brothers, the Palestinian cause is not a struggle on borders or on land only. Rather, it is an absolute clash of civilisations: a satanic programme led by the Jews and those who support them and a divine programme carried by Hamas and the Islamic Movement in particular and the Islamic peoples in general."
To run the Finsbury Park Mosque, the MAB appointed directors such as Mohammed Sawalha, a Hamas official described by a Brotherhood website as being "responsible for the political unit of the international Muslim Brotherhood in the UK." Sawalha is also "said to have masterminded much of Hamas's political and military strategy" out of London, as reported by the BBC.
Mohammed Sawalha (middle) with Anas Al Tikriti (to his left).
Mohammad Kozbar (far-right), another MAB-appointed trustee of Finsbury Park Mosque, meets with senior Hamas official Mohammad Al-Zahar (centre), who has called for the killing of Jewish children
Finsbury Park Mosque continues to promote the Muslim Brotherhood preacher, Jamal Badawi, who has described suicide bombers and Hamas terrorists as "freedom fighters" and "martyrs." Badawi also advocates the right for men to beat their wives, if they show "disregard for [their] marital obligations."
Badawi has also shared a platform with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, and he is a director of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, which, in 2004, issued a fatwa authorizing the murder of American troops in Iraq. In addition, during the U.S. terror-financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation in 2007, Badawi was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.
By closing the bank accounts of these groups, HSBC appears to be acting where governments and parliamentarians have failed. The authorities have not, in fact, just failed; they have colluded.
Finsbury Park Mosque still enjoys strong support from the local Council and the Metropolitan Police, both of which have sponsored events at the mosque with the support of the World Association of Muslim Youth [WAMY], a Saudi group that is a prolific publisher of anti-Jewish and anti-Shia material. WAMY is accused by a number of governments of funding terrorism.
Both the police and the local government body have provided several tens of thousands of pounds in grants to the mosque.
Likewise, the Ummah Welfare Trust has enjoyed the support of MPs; and the Cordoba Foundation has also received government funding through the Prevent scheme, a fund established by the previous Labour government to combat extremism.
As for Anas Al-Tikriti, in January 2014, he was invited by President Obama to the White House, as part of a delegation led by Iraqi politician Osama Al-Nujaifi, who leads the Mutahidoun bloc, a coalition of Iraqi political parties, the leading member body of which, according to Al Monitor, is the Islamic Party, the Iraqi branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The biggest question now about HSBC's actions is "why?" Some observers have suggested that the HSBC's decision in 2012 to hire Stuart Levey, the former under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, might have something to do with it. Others have suggested the possibility that the British government's review into the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Prime Minister is due to hear during the summer recess, might be already having some effect.
On the face of it, it seems unlikely that the government would pressure HSBC to shut down Muslim Brotherhood bank accounts while allowing the British police to fund and sponsor Finsbury Park Mosque, one of the Brotherhood's most important institutions.
But the coalition government, much like the Labour government that preceded it, seems always to have embraced a contradictory approach in its efforts to confront British Islamism. The present government, for instance, managed to declare the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation a "Hizb ut-Tahrir front" and at the same time provide it with £70,000 of taxpayer monies.
In addition, after the announcement of the Muslim Brotherhood review in March 2014, the Foreign Office revealed that its advisory group on "freedom of religion" was to include a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Tariq Ramadan, as a board member.
Regardless of these apparent contradictions, HSBC's decision to close down these bank accounts is welcome. For far too long, Muslim Brotherhood groups in Britain have escaped censure in spite of their promotion of extremism and their connections to terrorism. Even if the government is dithering, at least the private sector is acting.