I didn't join in at Finsbury Park for a while, but maintained a presence without a camera; really just so Mr. Abdullah knew I was still there. I spoke further to some of the younger guys there. I was not surprised, this being England, that they were really friendly to me. These were the guys I had hoped I would find. They could see through my chosen image and we could converse without fear of each other, even though older Muslims told them not to talk to me. They were really enjoying themselves, obviously quite tickled by their sheik's badass-edness. They loved the media scrum, waving their hands in front of world media cameras now being a regular part of their Friday prayers made this a pretty unique mosque.
I remembered going to church as a kid and wondered how I would have felt if the vicar at my local church had suddenly become public enemy number 1. As the worlds media pundits came and went, with no interest in how any of these guys felt, completely Hamza focused for half an hour and then gone I realized why this little bit of the war on terror seemed so one dimensional and sterile. I never saw the same TV journalist twice. Sticking around gave me a feeling of who was who and how things went here. I also realized that maybe time was on my side. I could learn to film, make mistakes, but as long as I was honest, listened and was looking for peace there was a reason for being here. I also just wanted to know what would happen next.
I was deliberately unjournalistic, and spoke about my own opinions without fear. Although I was so obviously not a Muslim, I enjoyed being a local. I asked as many people as possible what happened in the mosque while it was open. I got a feeling that these people were local Finsbury Park Muslims, strange conspiracy theorists, but not international terrorists. I wondered if all the terrorists weren't long gone. The guys in masks the media had ominously focused on didn't say much but I didn't expect them to.
At moments when hysteria had calmed for a bit I watched Hamza talk to journalists calmly, without fuss. Often he would turn down interviews and then get drawn into conversations anyway. Being a preacher, he had the preacher’s love of talking. I noticed he had an unintentionally comical foreigners way of speaking English which reminded me strangely of my father, a Hungarian immigrant who arrived here after World War Two.
As there were a maximum of 3 women at the mosque at any given week I wondered how female journalists would be treated. There was no problem, and when I quizzed them afterwards they often remarked with surprise how polite he was. I wondered from a distance who Abu Hamza actually was. I hadn't warmed to him, and would have agreed with the Sun's portrayal of him if it weren’t for the man next to him.
Mr. Abdullah just didn't seem like the sort of person who would secretly plot terrorist outrages, or be so devoted to someone who would. He wasn't an immigrant and spoke with a totally London attitude and a totally London accent. I really wanted to talk to him some more, I still didn't have my own camera and it was a mark of how deeply unpopular Hamza is that I couldn't find one person with a camera in the activist community who was willing to come near to Finsbury Park and this story, and no one more professional than I was here documenting it either.
I spoke to a lot of friends one reaction typified them all:
"You're wasting your time. Its all just a three ring circus. The media is totally controlled. Even people like Tony Benn are in on it. They are the worst, because they pretend there is some sort of opposition. It's a fucking charade."
"But you don't know that for certain" I countered. "I'm finding out for myself, I can't give up just because you say so."
"You're wasting your time."
"Stop saying that."
I took a copy of my finished film about the kids to Finsbury Park one Friday. I approached Mr. Abdullah for the first time since our falling out over the BBC thing.
"Here you go, this is about the kids protest. Thanks for being in it anyway.."
I didn't stick around. After the break I had from these people I felt like an alien, by most people I had been at best tolerated. I wasn't a Muslim; I wasn't there to pray. This was their deal and I was a kaffir.
A while later I saw on the news that the F.B.I said they had a prisoner in Guantanamo bay who was implicating Abu Hamza as an Al Qaida recruiter. I got to Finsbury Park on a motorbike with a friend G. Christopher Peacock was there complete with a satellite transmitter van with an ariel heading off into the skies.
" Hello, remember me? " I smiled
" Yes I do. Who was your friend? I thought we were all going to be thrown out! "
I had met Christopher at the hospital where they had brought Tom Hurdall in Hampstead (see MALUNG-TV, BBC NEWS IN FINSBURY PARK)
Outside the mosque G engaged Christopher Peacock in friendly debate about the issues involved. He was a Punjabi from the West Midlands and had twin sisters who had converted to Islam. Their husbands were involved in Islamic relief efforts. I liked Christopher. He had a disquietening beatific glow around him. There was another TV journalist I recognized who was looking much more nervous. As ITV fired up their satellite G. went over the road to the jewelers to ask if we could plug in the battery charger for our camera. I remember as I crouched over the camera box I closed my eyes and prayed for 5 minutes although I have no idea who I was praying to. As Islamists gathered Chris and the other journalist were up by the front talking to the police. I thought I would have a bit of fun.
" Everything OK? " I asked.
" They don't like you lot do they?"
" No "
" You'll be O.K. Just don’t get in front of them while they are praying because if they are bending down praying to Allah and they get up and see you there they will come and punch you. "
" Err... I'll have to take an editorial decision.." started the other guy. He was a bit of a knob end.
We didn't film Abu Hamza preaching, instead choosing to leave the battery charging for as long as possible. The comedy terrorist had struck that week and I was trying to compose a question for Hamza which would link in with this.
" Mr. Hamza is the comedy terrorist any challenge to your role in British Society? "
I noticed that this was easily his worst moment I had witnessed. Mr. Abdullah was almost holding him up as he was preaching. Was this because he was guilty? Or because he was scared now the F.B.I. had got involved? Maybe he was ill. It was strange to see him, usually so blustery and arrogant, looking so frail. As Muslims prayed G. ran to the shop to get the battery out. I looked round. Where the fuck were the TV people? I thought they had gone home. I peeped round the corner. They were halfway down the alley. I couldn't help myself bursting into laughter. A chair was brought forward for Hamza to sit in we all stood around talking. Hamza must have been wondering where the TV crews were. As he got up they came round the corner. The other guy, Paul Smtih I think his name is pushed himself up as close to Hamza as he could get waving the files in his hand.
" These F.B.I. files say that you recruited for Al Qaida. " For a change the police had decided to get between Islamists and media people.
With the police right there things got really strange. I didn't hear what the policeman said.
I heard Paul Smith answer " He is he's making one. (A statement)
A few people were shouting " All lies! All crap! "
Hamza said, " Do you believe the F.B.I. yourself? Come on. "
Again I didn't hear what the policeman said but the short angry guy shouted, " What do you want me to do fly? Do your job! "
I never got a good vibe from this guy even when I had tried to talk the police out of arresting him. He was by far the angriest Muslim I had met in Finsbury Park at any time. Christopher chose to stay well out of the frame. Chicken! I was sick of this. I wondered how anyone could take it seriously. The F.B.I with a budget of millions accuses from America, do we get F.B.I agents here at Finsbury Park to arrest Hamza? Or even wave files for themselves? Do the British police want to arrest him? So who do we get doing the F.B.I's business? Paul fucking Smith from ITV.
After meeting Chris, Colin Baker and Gillian Joseph, I no longer felt that the media was controlled. I thought these guys honestly reflected the views of the majority, and I was in the minority. I'm sure Paul felt he was just doing his job too, but I could see also how to any Islamist he was here as a representative of the F.B.I. I was pissed off with everyone. I had thought for a while that everyone was playing up to their roles of who they expected to find. Media were finding terrorists, Islamists were finding evil Zionist media.
No one was looking for a peaceful solution anywhere. I wondered what God would thing of it all. He, or she seemed a long way away from here. I thought as it was open season on kangaroo's in Britain’s most famous kangaroo court I would have a go at a bit of bouncing myself.
" The British government have been talking for years to people they accuse of terrorism in Northern Ireland. Have they been talking to you about peace in this country? " I asked.
Hamza said something about the British government and the Zionists liking I.R.A. terrorists. I asked him if David Blunkett had ever spoken to him personally.
" I wouldn't speak to him."
They got Hamza into a car and were putting newspapers in front of the windscreen to block cameras. One of the TV cameramen clocked the short angry guy on the head with his camera for which he wanted him arrested for assault.
" So are you going to clear this up? " asked Smith
" This is a cowboys court, get the people in a proper court. Where are your weapons of mass destruction? Come on." said Hamza.
" A kangaroo court." interjected the short guy. " You've got a liar as a prime minister, a fanatic as a president of America, don't expect us to comment on a bunch of jokers. And you work for them. "
I started throwing a few things in just to try and get them talking to me. I remember thinking that I was unsure if I was trying to make comedy or serious documentary.
" Why don't you go and find that butcher Putin. " Ah, it was true Vladimir Putin was in the country talking to Blair. " Three days now he's been in this country go and talk to him. "
G. was doing a great job filming, and didn't smell of alcohol too much but was being pushed back the same as every other camera.
" Brothers we need to have discipline! Brothers back off! Let the Police do their job. " Mr. Abdullah was shouting.
I noticed how he had always been a calming influence on the media scrums. On the weeks he wasn't there things were much more out of control.
" He wants to leave now so if you can all move out of the way the vehicle can leave." The policeman sounded like a teacher in a playground.
There was more pandemonium, G. was trying to film. One of the masked guys who had never spoken to me turned to me and said
" You know we're not terrorists don't you? " I just put my hand on his shoulder.
The short guy, Abu Aziz was really angry. I tried to ask them all if they wanted to go to the Sun newspaper to talk to them. I thought this would be great for my film. The short guy went on
" You've seen the behavior of the nice, neutral British Police. When Mr. Abdullah was preaching, one of them came up to me and said. He is on the verge of making a homophobic statement. But all the Police were blind dumb and stupid when we were assaulted by cameramen. "
Mr. Abdullah pulled him back and started talking to me. I looked for G. shouting to him to come and film, the guy who was stalling him saw I was talking to Mr. Abdullah and let him past.
" These are the police who are implementing man made laws to suppress their fellow human beings. "
" Police? The prime ministers pimps. " Interjected the short guy.
" But we've got the best Police force in the world though, haven't we? Compared to other countries. " I answered. In all the time I had been there I had only seen police being polite to them, closing the road for them, individual Policemen would sometimes be making conversation with Islamists, mask or no mask to ease tension. None of them wanted to be on TV or to arrest anyone if they could possibly help it.
" Yes, compared to other countries, we have the best police in the world but at the end of the day its all rubbish because they want to sit and accept man made laws but not Gods laws. At the end of the day a homosexual a paedophile, everyone else has got rights. When it comes to a Muslim, charge him with terrorism act 2000 if he preaches what’s in the Koran, that’s a threat to society, and he'd locked up with no trial, but a paedophile, a murderer, everyone else, goes to prison, for a short time, and they come out and do it again. What kind of justice? There needs to be balance. At the moment these Zionist Jews that are running your country, and America and most of Europe, there is no justice for a Muslim. There’s justice for Hindu's Sikh's everyone else but there is no rights for a Muslim. At the end of the day they have to do what they have to do, we have to do what we have to do. They can physically torture us but they can never touch what is in our hearts. "
" These governments are continuing strutting their stuff like they have in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, next will be Iran after that its Syria then Somali and after Somalia they are going to starve Turkey. They are not strong enough to attack Turkey but in five or six years time they will attack Turkey. These are the plans of the Pajan. "
My all time favorite Muslim on the scene was an old guy with a great smile who was always with Mr. Abdullah. His name was Hajj. He interjected
" You want to know the honest truth? You know David Ike? Go and get his latest book. "
Mr. Abdullah had calmed down a bit and left saying that it was nice talking to us.
I watched Christopher Peacocks report and laughed when he said they got out of the way due to respect for Friday prayers. I got the feeling most British people would agree with his take on things. I laughed at another episode of how Hamza, through the TV been turned into a cartoon celebrity. G. and I reviewed what we had on camera.
" I did all that! and without even have a drink first! said G.
It was just what I was after. We had fun, had a completely different take than the mainstream news, coming from and proud of, a distinctly different part of British society, and we managed to document what a British fundamental Islamist actually thought. I was surprised again at the Icke reference, as I knew David Icke wasn't a Muslim. I wondered how he would feel about having Abu Hamza's friends quoting him.
I felt I had learnt a lot more, from first hand than I had watching TV or reading the Sun. Finsbury park mosque, on the street has become like no other mosque in the world. I got much more of a feeling of how Muslims must be feeling worldwide. Although I knew the police in Finsbury Park seemed fair, I wondered about this catch all terrorism act 2000 and how it must feel as a Muslim to be at risk of arrest from it.
The overall feeling I got was of a people longing for a religious homeland. Christians claim Britain is a Christian country because the Queen goes to church. Afghanistan was the only religious Muslim country and as such attracted Muslims who believed in the fundamentals of their religion from all over the world. Were they training for terrorism? Or war? How much similarity has this with Ireland? If we are going to globalize isn't sorting this sort of thing what globalization is for? Is Mo Molams obvious talent for this sort of thing sitting idle? I could see these people felt they were at war. With apostate governments in Muslim countries, with the Russian government who were attacking Muslims in Chechnya, and now the Allies who attacked Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. It wasn't a war for oil, but a holy war where they felt they were justified, even compelled to be involved in by God.
Its all rubbish. If David Blunkett and Abu Hamza are as proud to be British as I or as any of the Policemen here are, I thought they should be put in a Big Bother situation together. For the safety of their fellow Londoners of course. I eventually sent this as a proposal to channel 4. I saw the chairman of Endemol wanted to do a political Big Brother and thought Hamza and Blunkett to be the ideal candidates. I thought the programme would be highly watchable, and would fulfill all channel 4's remits as well, involving as it did, disability, race, minority groups etc. A couple of months later I got a reply going something like, we haven't chosen it this time, but don't let that put you off trying!
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