Bombing suspects followed Harry Potter-hating Australian sheikh

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Four months ago, the Boston bombing suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed yesterday in a shootout with police, uploaded to his YouTube Channel an eight-minute lecture by the radical Australian Muslim preacher Sheikh Feiz Mohammed denouncing the Harry Potter movies for glorifying and promoting paganism.

“How can you allow your children to watch this?” the sheikh demands in the table-thumping lecture. “This film glorifies, magnifies, promotes paganism…What does Harry Potter do and his devilish schoolmates, what do they do? They cast spells, learn magic, brew potions, learn how to tell the future…And this is called harmless.”

He condemns the Harry Potter movies for being built on shirk -- the sin of worshipping someone or something other than Allah.

Tsarnaev also uploaded Russian-language videos of the preacher Abdel al-Hamid al-Juhani, who has been influential on Jihadists in Chechnya and the Russian Caucuses.

Poignant ironies abound with the Boston bombing. Martin Richard, the eight-year-old killed in the Boston bombing, and his brother and sister used to like dressing up as movie characters. A few months before the Boston bombing we know the eight-year-old, who perished in the first blast near the finish line of the marathon, and his sister and brother did just that: a snapshot of the kids dressed up in the backyard of the Richards’ family home in Dorchester was shared with the media and shows the kids as characters from the Toy Story movies and Harry Potter.

Sheikh Mohammed appears to have been a favorite intellectual source for Chechen-born Tsarnaev. On his YouTube playlist there are 19 online videos, all are on Islamic themes and four of them are lectures by Sheikh Mohammed, who first gained international notoriety in 2005 for teaching that women who were raped only had themselves to blame.

Feiz Mohammed was born in Australia in 1970 and is of Lebanese descent. He studied for four years at the Islamic University of Medinah. Later he headed an Islamic youth center in a suburb of Sydney before fleeing to Lebanon in 2005 after there was a firestorm in Australia over his preaching, especially about women. He later moved to Malaysia.

In one lecture he said: "A victim of rape every minute somewhere in the world. Why? No one to blame but herself. She displayed her beauty to the entire world...Strapless, backless, sleeveless, showing their legs, nothing but satanic skirts, slit skirts, translucent blouses, miniskirts, tight jeans: all this to tease man and appeal to his carnal nature.”

In 2007, Australian authorities explored whether his “Death Series” lectures could be prosecuted for inciting violence and terrorism after Britain’s Channel Four exposed them to a wider public and warned DVDs of his lectures were being sold by children in the parking lot of a mosque in the British city of Birmingham.

A theme he has pushed frequently is that children should be encouraged to become jihadists. “We want to have children and offer them as soldiers defending Islam... Teach them this: there is nothing more beloved to me than wanting to die as a mujahid (martyr).” In 2010 the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf revealed that Sheikh Mohammad had urged his followers in the Netherlands to behead the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who has campaigned against the Islamization of Holland.

It isn’t clear what drew Tsarnaev to Sheikh Mohammad but they both shared a passion for boxing – the Australian was a onetime a champion boxer. The sheikh returned to Australia two years ago and retained a high profile, opening Islamic centers and maintaining a big output of lectures and speeches. Last September, critics linked his teachings to a riot in Sydney over a movie mocking the Prophet Mohmmad.