The headline of the Express on Sunday story on April 18 was "Maddest Asylum Plea Yet" (not online) and the story begins thus:
A Muslim cleric who taught sermons of hate to suicide bombers is seeking asylum from ... America. British taxpayers are already forking out £1,400 a month to support Ramee Abdul Rahman Muhammad, his pregnant wife and their eight children. The Islamic teacher - who once lectured shoe-bomber Richard Reid and has close links to hook-handed hothead Abu Hamza - was born in the United States but is seeking asylum in Britain on the ground that he faces persecution in his native country because of his beliefs.
The 40-year old imam, born in Michigan to a Muslim father and Christian mother, and who served in the U.S. Marines, gave the Express on Sunday a glimpse of his worries about going home:
The way I have been treated in America you would think I was a murderer. If I went back I would be persecuted because of calling people to jihad in the past. People I used to teach in America have been locked up because the government claims they have ties to Al Qaeda.
Muhammad has some large ambitions for the United Kingdom, where he has been living since 2001: "Ultimately I would like Britain and the world to become an Islamic state. I want everyone to be a Muslim." Publicity caused the authorities to wake up to the imam's circumstances; the Guardian reports today that he has been detained, his asylum claim given priority, and that he may shortly be deported.
Beside the inherit oddity of an American seeking political asylum in Great Britain, I mention this case because it is nearly the mirror opposite of a 2001 episode when a French Muslim won asylum in the United States. Karim Kamal, half-Moroccan, had tried to remain in the United States since 1994, arguing he was the victim of a conspiracy in Nice. A U.S. immigration court upheld his claim, saying that Kamal, then 39, had been targeted by a justice system in Nice tainted by "strong elements of personal revenge and vendetta" and plagued by "systemic corruption." This was the first time a U.S. court ever granted political asylum to a French national, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service acknowledged and Reuters reported on June 14, 2001. As a footnote, he was sentenced by a French court on Nov. 29, 2002 to four years in jail, but by this time he was well beyond its reach.
Comment: It would seem that between them, militant Islam and the partial exclusion of Muslims from European society might be changing the notion of asylum. (April 26, 2004)