Ex-jihadi turned hipster finds success in London-based beard business

Published March 13th, 2016 - 12:40 GMT
Abrar Mirza was jailed in 2009 for his part in an firebomb attack on a book publisher, but now claims he made a grave mistake. (Shutterstock)
Abrar Mirza was jailed in 2009 for his part in an firebomb attack on a book publisher, but now claims he made a grave mistake. (Shutterstock)

A former Islamic extremist jailed for an arson attack is now running a beardgrooming company in London.

Abrar Mirza was jailed in 2009 for his part in an firebomb attack on a book publisher.

He poured diesel through the letterbox of businessman Martin Rynja's house who planned to bring out a novel about the prophet Mohammed.

But Mirza, who works for the London Beard Company, insisted he is a changed man after serving a four-and-a-half year jail sentence.

He told the Daily Star Sunday: "I'm not denying it. But I made a mistake.

"I am British, this is my home.

"I got into the wrong crowd and my life is very different now."

Mirza attacked the property with former hate cleric Ali Behesti, who once dressed his baby daughter in a pink bonnet emblazoned with the words: "I love al-Qaida".

The organic beard oil at the Mirza's is sold for £14.99 and the pricey products are also sold to up-market London store Fortnum and Mason.

The company was endorsed earlier this year by Dragon's Den businessman Theo Paphitis, who tweeted about the business.

On its website the firm boasts about its British roots and says it is “handcrafted in London by Londoners.”

It features pictures of beard combs and accessories and celebrates the hipster culture which has led to facial hair becoming commonplace.

The website says: “Born and bred in London, we have noticed how the fabric of the city has changed where once the beard was uncommon but has now become a mainstream feature worn with pride.

"We’re here to cater for all types of beard growers, from the stubbly geeks to the full fl owing beardsmen.”

It continues: “We like to consider ourselves more as a community and a movement, rather than just an enterprise.”

Mirza pleaded guilty to conspiracy to recklessly damage property and endanger life at a hearing at Croydon Crown Court in April 2009.

The attack started a small blaze but injuries were averted as police and fire crews arrived in time to smash down the door and tackle the blaze.

The arsonists were seized by armed police as they fled the scene in what officers described as an “intelligence-led operation”.

The judge who sent Mirza to prison criticised him for refusing to live by Britain’s laws.

Sentencing, Mrs Justice Rafferty told Mirza, Beheshti and Abbas: “If you choose to live in this country, you live by its rules.

“There is no such thing as ‘a la carte citizenship’ and, in your case, there is no such thing as ‘a la carte obedience’ to the law.”

By Natasha Salmon


Copyright © 2019 Trinity Mirror Group

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