“We don’t abide by British rule.” “Sharia is the law of God, and should be implemented in the whole world.” “The ‘flag of Sharia’ will eventually fly over Downing Street.” These are statements voiced by the radical preacher, Anjem Choudary, in the UK.
What do Choudary and his supporters seek?
Anjem Choudary, a 47 year-old British Muslim of Pakistani descent born in England, is a former lawyer and founding member of proscribed Islamist groups like al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK. These groups were banned based on government evidence of them operating as terrorist organisations with links to al Qaeda. According to Hope Not Hate, Choudary represents “the single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history.”
His support base is prominent. According to a recent poll by ICM Research, 40 per cent of 500 Muslim families that were surveyed expressed support for the establishment of strict Sharia laws in the UK. Policy Exchange reveals that one-third of the domestic Muslim youth would happily succumb to Sharia. According to Henry Jackson Society, 18 per cent of people linked to acts of terror have had associations with Choudary´s banned organisations. Hope Not Hate reveals that 200-300 supporters from Choudary’s European network have left to fight in Syria. His guidance has resulted in an indoctrination of vulnerable youth who have devoted themselves to terrorism in the UK and abroad.
The shared views of Choudary and sections of the British Muslim population who are his supporters have been well documented by the media. However, whether these supporters extend solidarity to Choudary because they genuinely believe in him or whether it is because of the cause he represents, is unclear. Jihad is considered a just war, and like Choudary, his supporters believe that the IS will surface as the winning power. They may not directly believe in Choudary as a person, but they seek the same end: a worldwide Islamic Caliphate.
If Sharia offers such an exceptional way of living, why is Choudary still living in Britain? When confronted with whether he should leave Britain, Choudary says, “Why should I? I was born here.” It is this supposedly oppressive apartheid system that, according to Choudary, impedes him from leaving: apparently if he decides to go, he will be arrested and his passport confiscated. “Muslims are imprisoned over here. We can’t travel abroad,” says Choudary. How then does he travel to Spain and France for Islamic conferences?
Choudary cheers for Muslims to quit their jobs and request unemployment benefits. He despises the country he lives in, but contentedly receives welfare benefits provided by the state. UK’s Terrorism Act 2000 categorises terrorism as the use of threat to intimidate or influence the government, organisations or the public with “the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause.” Choudary somehow seems to stay on the right side of law. On occasions where he has been linked to convicted terrorists like Habib Ahmed (convicted for membership with al-Aqeda), Choudary has proclaimed that these people left his groups prior to the conviction, and he cannot therefore be held responsible for their actions. Thus, as a former lawyer, Choudary probably knows his way around British law so as to avoid prosecution for his provocative views on race relations and religion. However, there have been debates on whether his hate speeches should be met with resistance by law enforcement officers.
In 2010, the Terrorism Act led to the banning of Islam4UK, based on accusation of the group’s controversial statements about the 9/11 attacks and the 7/7 bombings. Choudary openly condemned the act, saying, “We are now being targeted as an extremist or terrorist organisation and even banned for merely expressing that. I feel this is a failure of the concept of democracy and freedom.” On the contrary, Choudary said in an interview with Iranian Press TV: “As Muslims, we reject democracy, we reject secularism, and freedom, and human rights.” However, it is this democracy that allows Choudary to use his freedom of speech and make controversial statements.
On 25 September, Choudary and eight other radicals were arrested in an anti-terror raid, based on the accusation of their support for banned organisations and for encouraging terrorism. However, Choudary was later released on bail. According to Choudary, the arrest was nothing more than a politically motivated move for the government to gain votes on Iraqi airstrikes, and went as far as to say that this bloody war will eventually “manifest itself on the streets of London.” In a multicultural society like Britain, views similar to Choudary’s have proved difficult to silence. An interesting question to ask is: if Britain were to adopt Sharia, how would people like Choudary react to hate speech against its state, and would the same rights to protest that radical Muslims enjoy today be granted in such a state?