Married To A Muslim Fanatic- Mail on Sunday Newspaper- Exclusive Real-life Story- ***February 2011***

We were able to help Kay Rocco after she was caught in the media glare.

Kay Rocco contacted us after members of the media contacted her to tell her story about being married to a notorious Muslim fanatic.

We set up an interview for Kay to tell her side of the story with the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

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'My husband sold the TV, threw away CDs and even tried to take a second wife': Sister of Strictly star Laila Rouass' insight into how some Muslims are lured into fanaticism

It is a photograph that, even now, makes Kay Rocco shudder.

It shows members of the extremist Al-Muhajiroun organisation standing outside the London Central Mosque, their faces contorted with rage as they chant 'UK, you will pay, Bin Laden on his way' and holding aloft a burning Union Flag.

For the vast majority of those who saw it in 2004, it evoked revulsion. 

Avoiding fanaticism: Kay Rocco did not realise just how extremist her husband was until she saw a photo of him burning the Union Jack

Avoiding fanaticism: Kay Rocco did not realise just how extremist her husband was until she saw a photo of him burning the Union Jack

Back then, an attack on our soil still seemed a remote possibility. But there could be no doubting the message behind the photograph: there were British Muslims whose anger and hatred for the British way of life were such that they would welcome terrorist atrocities.

For Kay, sitting at her parents' home in London, the image elicited a more complex series of emotions.

Standing alongside the organisation's leader, Omar Bakri Mohammed, was her then husband, Abdul Rahman Saleem, a key member of the group. 

Although he had told her triumphantly of his actions, it was only when her disgusted parents showed her the picture in a newspaper that she fully grasped the implications.

'I thought Abdul was all talk, but when I saw that photo and the rage in his eyes, I didn't recognise him,' she says. 'It was the first time I wondered what he was really
capable of, how far he would go and what he'd become.

'My family are moderate, open-minded people who hated me being with him. They showed me the picture in a newspaper and asked how I could be with a man who held such beliefs. I hated what he stood for and felt so ashamed.'

It is easy to see why Kay's family found it hard to comprehend  her relationship with Saleem. The 31-year-old is an unlikely candidate for the wife of one of Britain's most notorious extremists.

Strikingly attractive, she wears Western clothes and bears a remarkable similarity to her older sister, Laila Rouass, the actress who starred in Footballers' Wives and Strictly Come Dancing.

She is also highly articulate, with a confidence that makes it difficult to imagine anyone dominating her.

Yet Kay, who divorced Saleem in 2007 when he was in prison for inciting racial hatred, is in no doubt that he exercised a powerful hold over her one that held the couple together for a decade as his views became increasingly abhorrent.

'It was an abusive relationship. He was never physically violent, but he constantly criticised me, telling me nobody else would want me and that  I was lucky to have him,' she says.

Kay's background was a world away from the life she would later lead and she struggles to understand how she found herself with Saleem.

The fifth of seven children, she was born in East London to Moroccan parents who had lived in Britain for most of their lives.

Growing up in Tower Hamlets, Kay and her four sisters and two brothers were brought up as Muslims, but she was not required to cover her head with the hijab or attend the mosque.

When Kay was 16 and had just finished GCSEs, her parents left London to spend the summer in Morocco, leaving her with her older siblings. She admits she used the opportunity to rebel.

'I was going through a stage where I wanted to be different from my family,' she says.

Kay's friend took her to a meeting of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the organisation run by Omar Bakri Mohammed.

It had initially been a mainstream political organisation, not associated with jihad. Yet when Kay arrived it was becoming increasingly radical.

'I went to a few meetings before I realised that their views weren't mine,' she says.

'Eventually, I was asked to leave for asking too many questions.'

But by then she had been introduced to Saleem, a 19-year-old from a second-generation Pakistani family in Newham, East London.

He was intelligent and persistent and she was flattered.

Swept up in the courtship she agreed to marry, and they were wed in November 1995, just six months after they had met.

Although her family came to the wedding, they were profoundly upset to see her marry so young.

The couple had their first child, a girl, in 1996, and four more followed over the course of their relationship.

For Kay, the five children now 14, 13, nine, seven and five are the one positive to have come from the marriage.

He watched 9/11 on TV and shouted: 'Look at that it's brilliant, isn't it!'

Saleem, who also uses the name Abu Yahya, worked at the Job Centre in Hackney while she stayed at their home in Tower Hamlets looking after the children.

Despite his membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and then Al-Muhajiroun, the now-outlawed organisation started by Bakri when he split with the former in 1996, Kay found little in his behaviour to alarm her.

'He went to events and meetings, but they never seemed to do anything other than talk,' she says. 'It was prior to 9/11 and there was no sense of urgency to their plotting.

'I never knew the details because I didn't get involved. Abdul accepted that, and we got on well.'

Over time, his views began to harden, and in 1998, Kay first tried to leave him.

She says: 'He'd suddenly quit his job, saying they didn't need him any more. I eventually found out he'd been sacked because he had taken the confidential details of a woman who came in to sign on and gone to her house.

'He told me he wanted to make her convert to Islam and marry her. It was insane, so I moved into a house by myself with the children, but he apologised and promised not to mention other wives again. I let him move in with us.'

Kay says he never worked again while they were together, preferring to claim benefits.

'When I pointed out the irony of living off money from the Government you claim to hate, his argument was that his role here was to carry Islam and working would detract from that.

'I was feeding us all and paying the bills on very little, but he wasn't interested. He was never very involved in the kids' lives he left it all to me.'

Kay believes most of her former husband's views originally came from Bakri, who was treated as a demi-god by members of the organisation.

When he began Al-Muhajiroun, it was a small organisation, and everyone was given a prominent role in return for absolute devotion.

'Everyone was in awe of Omar, and Abdul would go to him for advice on every little thing,' she says.

'Abdul was only 19 when I met him and he was impressionable. His real father was present, but emotionally distant, and I think Omar fulfilled that role for him.

Abdul wasn't from a poor family and neither were many of the other members of Al-Muhajiroun. A lot were highly educated. But Asian communities can be insular and some young Muslims grow up feeling separate from British life.

'If they feel angry over the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and meet someone involved in extremism, they might go along to a few meetings. When they see the charisma of the leaders, they're easily sucked in.

'Omar was very warm and friendly but only if you toed the line. If you disagreed, you were a "deviant". As time went on, I was called a "deviant" many times.'

September 11 and the War on Terror transformed the organisation's stance. It became increasingly radical, calling for further bloodshed.

In 2003 Saleem was pictured holding a poster hailing the suicide attackers who killed thousands in New York and Washington as 'The Magnificent 19'.

'I remember 9/11 vividly,' Kay says. 'I was at home with Abdul and the kids and when it came on television he became very excited, jumping off the sofa and shouting, "Look at that, it's brilliant, isn't it!"

'I was horrified. Taking another life, even taking your own, is totally against Islam.

There is never any justification. But he couldn't see things rationally any more.

'He started talking about jihad constantly and raising money to fund it. He stopped talking to me about his beliefs and activities because it would always end in a row, but he would frequently complain about Britain, in particular British women.

'He found them disgusting for drinking and wearing revealing clothes. He never talked about men.'

Saleem sold the TV, threw away all the couple's CDs and insisted their children wear no Western clothing.

'He tried to make me wear a full veil, but I refused,' she says.

'He hated that I wasn't like the other wives, who were very involved in the organisation, although they weren't allowed at important meetings.

'They disliked me because I kept my distance and one told Abdul I was a threat. Some were graduates but they let every part of their lives be controlled by their men. They weren't even allowed to drive. It horrified me however hard Abdul tried to take away my freedom, I would never allow it.'

He was increasingly irrational. 'He'd flip suddenly. Once, I dropped something in the street and he shouted at me. He'd scream if white drivers overtook him, getting out of the car and squaring up to them.'

He also turned his attention to their eldest son, taking him to meetings and explaining the West's 'crimes' against Islam.

'He'd tell me our son was going to be a mujahideen when he grew up,' she says.

However, Saleem was frequently away, spreading the word of Al- Muhajiroun around the world.

In his absence she and the children led a normal life, wearing normal clothes, watching TV and seeing friends.

'I hardly thought about what he was up to,' she says. 'I couldn't bring myself to dwell on it. I was just so relieved he was away and we could live normally. Until he returned.'

For two months, he went to Pakistan to 'discover his roots'. The truth was more sinister.

A few years later, he told her that he had met Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. 'I thought, "Why would he want to meet you? What's your involvement?" I read in the paper that he had visited training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan and learned how to use explosives.

He hated that I wasn't like the other wives, who were very involved in the organisation, He tried to make me wear a full veil, but I refused

'I felt sick, there was so much I didn't know about him.'

In fact, Scotland Yard were monitoring him, believing he was recruiting Muslims for military training.

Occasionally, there were times when he treated her and the children with kindness.

But although she fought to keep her own identity, she was simply too scared to leave.

'I was terrified because he'd tell me that if we split up, he'd take the kids to Pakistan and our eldest daughter would have to marry at 15,' she says.

'Abdul hated my sister Laila as she's an actress, and wouldn't let her in our house. I didn't want to defend Abdul but while I was still with him I believed I had to honour him. Laila and the rest of my family just waited for me to leave him.'

From the time of Saleem's flag-burning, which Kay says his mother recorded on the news so she could replay it excitedly, he became infamous, getting arrested many times for inflammatory behaviour.

When he went to prison I thought it might be a wake-up call. Sadly, he's more arrogant than ever now he sees himself as a martyr

He reacted with glee to 7/7, but Kay refused to discuss it with him.

In 2006, he took part in a march on the Danish Embassy in London to campaign against cartoons that satirised the prophet Mohammed. Through a megaphone, he chanted: 'Denmark, USA, 7/7 on its way.'

He was one of four men who appeared in court a year later and was jailed for four years for inciting racial hatred. He served little more than two years and was released in August 2009.

Kay split from him shortly before his imprisonment, after discovering he had been having an affair with a French woman.

'I finally said "Enough",' she says. 'That period was the worst in my life. I had a breakdown. I hated myself for what I'd put up with, for being weak.

'When he went to prison I thought it might be a wake-up call. Sadly, he's more arrogant than ever now he sees himself as a martyr.'

Last year, he caused uproar when he chanted, 'Death to Britain' outside the Old Bailey after radical Roshonara Choudhry was jailed for stabbing MP Stephen Timms.

In November, he and the group Muslims Against Crusades burned a giant poppy in London during the Armistice Day silence.

Last month he was also exposed for working on a market stall at the same time as collecting his 60-a-week benefits.

Kay says he has not paid a penny in child maintenance, or even seen his children recently.

'At first he asked for them to stay with him, but the children started coming home with bruises,' she says. 'I went to court and took out an anti-molestation order against him.'

Kay is now engaged to a new man, music producer Djinn Choudry, and is hoping to become a life coach.

She can finally look forward with confidence. 'I'm just so relieved that he's gone and that the kids' lives aren't dominated by him any more,' she says.

'They know what he preaches is wrong. But if you asked me what Abdul might be capable of in the future, I honestly don't know.'

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