Mohamed Hamid: From petty criminal to tutor of terrorists

Preacher, described as ‘dangerously charming’, progressed from shoplifting to turning young men into jihadists

When Mohamed Hamid had his first brush with criminality, it saw him thieving a tin of sweetcorn and a packet of fishfingers. By the time he had finished, he had become one of Britain's most prominent recruiting sergeants for Islamist extremism.

The 55-year-old former crack addict was for years a prominent figure within fundamentalist circles, manning high street bookstalls where virulently anti-Semitic material was handed out and preaching jihad from his east London home with his twisted wit and Yorkshire vowels.

But while the man who told once told a police officer arresting him during a row in London's Oxford's street that his name was “Osama Bin London” insisted he dealt only in theology, his real stock in trade was providing the ideological groundwork for terrorism.

With a mixture of charisma and practicality, epitomised by his love of the outdoors and organising training camps for his devotees, Hamid brought into a thrall dozens of young men who included five of those responsible for the failed 21/7 bombings on London's transport system.

As David Farrell QC, who prosecuted Hamid during his trial in 2008, put it: “Hamid's purpose was to convert such men to his own fanatical and extreme beliefs. And having given them such a foundation, thereby enabling them to move on to join others in the pursuit of 'jihad' by acts of terrorism. The fact is that some did exactly as he desired.”

It was perhaps prescient that in the aftermath of his conviction - for which he was jailed for a minimum of seven and a half years along with a warning that he would not be released until he reformed - detectives wondered privately  how many others Hamid might have succeeded in sowing a seed of extremism that would blossom into murderous intent.

The preacher, who was born into an Indian Muslim family in Tanzania, was perhaps all the more potent because of a less than admirable early life which had endowed him with the spirit of the penitent.

After moving to Batley, West Yorkshire, as a child, he moved to London at the age of 12 and got into trouble for shoplifting the fishfingers and sweetcorn. By the age of 19, he was serving time in youth detention and then later in prison for robbery.

In his early 30s, he became a crack addict. He told his trial: “There was not even a spoon left in the house because I sold everything to keep my habit, my addiction. I just had one blanket and that was it. I was living like a squatter, like a tramp.”

After a redemptive trip to a mosque, Hamid rediscovered a version of his faith and opened an Islamic bookshop in the Clapton area of east London as well as attending rallies at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

It was at this point that he became increasingly radical and voluble, becoming involved with the coterie surrounding notorious cleric Abu Hamza and telling recruits to his brand of paintballing Islam that he wanted to see “six or seven” atrocities before last year's London Olympics.

Upon his arrest, he denied teaching terrorism, portraying himself as a westernised Muslim whose faith cohabited with camping trips to the Glastonbury festival. But he was also the man who sent texts to several of the 21/7 bombers after their abortive attack.

As the judge in his trial, Mr Justice Pitchers, told him: “Mohammed Hamid, you are, in my judgement, dangerous. You can be quite genuinely amusing and charming. You also have real knowledge of the Koran and Islamic teaching. However, that is only one side of you.”

“You used your charm and knowledge of the Koran to influence others to terrorism... You continue to be a danger, not directly from your own actions, but from your ability to persuade others by criminal actions to commit terrorism offences themselves.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own