Citation for Masri, Abu Hamza al-

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Lewis, Philip . "Masri, Abu Hamza al-." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. May 25, 2022. <>.


Lewis, Philip . "Masri, Abu Hamza al-." In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, (accessed May 25, 2022).

Masri, Abu Hamza al-

Abu Hamza al-Masri (b. 1958) was born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Alexandria, the son of a naval officer. Abu Hamza left for England in 1979 and married an English woman. After this marriage broke down, he remarried and had seven children. He completed a degree in civil engineering at Brighton Polytechnic in 1986.

He joined the ranks of the Arab Afghans as a result of meeting Abdullah Azzam, a founder and theorist of the Afghan Mujahidin, while on hajj in 1987. From 1989 to 1993, he built houses and demined the countryside in Jalalabad. He returned to Britain after an accident in a training camp, in which he lost both hands and one eye. In 1994, he established Supporters of Shariah (SoS) with other Afghan veterans, to promote and support international jihad.

He visited Bosnia in the mid-1990s, before turning his attention to the Yemen. In 1997, he edited Al-Ansār, the mouthpiece of the extremist Algerian ‘Armed Islamic Group’—known as GIA from its French initials—until its atrocities rendered it a pariah. In the same year, his North African supporters contrived to replace the South Asian imam at Finsbury Park mosque with the self-educated Abu Hamza. This effectively remained his base until January 2003, when police acting on intelligence raided the mosque; incriminating items were found. He continued to preach outside the mosque until his arrest in 2004.

The media first awoke to Hamza in December 1998 when his son was among the Britons—“Aden Eight”—arrested in Yemen for links to the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) and accused of planning a series of attacks on American and British targets. Abū Hasan, the leader of the IAA, subsequently kidnapped a group of Western tourists in Yemen. Before a botched rescue attempt that left some of the hostages dead, Abu Hassan had called Abu Hamza on his satellite phone.

The British government's position was that the Aden Eight had not received a fair trial. Hamza himself was finally charged in October 2004 and sentenced in February 2006 at the Old Bailey to seven years’ imprisonment for soliciting murder and inciting racial hatred. In retrospect, what is remarkable is that Abu Hamza was able to disseminate with impunity highly incendiary audio tapes and videos, which “helped create an atmosphere in which to kill has become regarded by some as not only legitimate but a moral and religious duty” (Mr. Justice Hughes).

Under surveillance from 1997, the intelligence services tolerated his inflammatory rhetoric so long as he was not instigating attacks in the United Kingdom. Yet during his years at Finsbury Park mosque, it became a nodal point and sanctuary for violent jihādīs. Up to two hundred people slept in its basement and, it is estimated, as many as fifty men from the mosque have died in terrorist operations and insurgent attacks in innumerable countries. Its impact on the radicalization of young British Muslims is only now becoming clear: his tapes were found in the flat of the terror suspects in the failed plot to attack London's public transport system on July 21, 2005, two weeks after the “7⁄7” bombings in London in which fifty-two people died and over seven hundred were wounded.



  • Bergen, Peter L.Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001.
  • Nasiri, Omar. Inside The Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda, A Spy's Story. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
  • O’Neill, Sean and Daniel McGrory. The Suicide Factory: Abu Hamza and the Finsbury Park Mosque. London and New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.
  • Investigative reporting by two reporters of The Times.

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