Following a fraught 10 month legal battle against the British Home Secretary, Sheikh Raed Salah's friends, supporters and campaigners bid him a fond farewell during a congratulatory function in London yesterday. He was greeted by a packed hall of over 350 people, and entered to the congratulatory cheers of the attendees celebrating his victory against the Home Office's deportation order issued in June last year.
Chaired by Anas al-Tikriti of the Cordoba Foundation, a number of speakers were welcomed on stage to congratulate Sheikh Raed on his significant victory. Sheikh Raed himself was unable to address the crowd due to existing bail conditions which had not been removed by the Home Office. Among the speakers was Baroness Jenny Tonge, who chaired Sheikh Raed's first meeting in parliament last June. She thanked him for his continued struggle and expressed her sorrow at the actions of the British Government.
Ismail Patel, Chair of Friends of al-Aqsa, spoke of the strength and conviction that Sheikh Raed had held throughout his ordeal and described the inspiration that he had provided, by encouraging all to continue the battle even when the battle seemed to be defeating them. Yet, it was this perseverance by Sheikh Raed and his supporters which ensured that he was ultimately victorious. Perhaps the most poignant words of the event came from Dr Mohammed Badie, Supreme Guide of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, direct from Cairo by phone, when he congratulated Sheikh Raed on his victory.
After a 10 month battle against the Home Office, this morning Sheikh Raed left London, and his many friends and supporters, to return to what Anas al-Tikriti described as 'the front line' in defending the rights of Palestinians living in the region. He has been much missed by his community, and having often called for his return during his legal fight, they now keenly await his arrival at Ben Gurion airport.