By Andrew Malone
25 May 2013
As the awful events unfolded on the streets of Woolwich on Wednesday, the mobile phone secreted inside the black Islamic robes worn by Anjem Choudary — the self-styled Sheik of East London — soon started ringing.
Calling him were producers from the BBC’s Newsnight programme, as well as rolling BBC news shows and Channel 4, all wanting to find out from this so-called ‘expert’ what exactly drove young, British-born men to hack an innocent young soldier to death in the capital with knives and a meat cleaver.
Anjem Choudary on Newsnight, May 23, 2013
Media-savvy, and far more intelligent than his oafish demeanour suggests, Choudary was given star billing on a discussion panel with Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark, as he insisted he was not a ‘hate preacher’ or Islamic extremist.
The 45-year-old, who is often seen talking in whispers with young acolytes at Middle Eastern cafes in London, was given a platform as if he were a respected academic talking at arm’s length about Islamic extremism.
Refusing to condemn the killers of Lee Rigby, the British drummer crushed by a vehicle and then hacked to death with machetes, Choudary even suggested that ‘one man killed in a street’ was hardly proper vengeance for those killed by ‘Britain and the U.S.’ in wars overseas.
Claiming most Muslims support that view, the ‘preacher’ — he has no formal religious qualifications — also talked over the presenter and other guests as he implied that the killing was the result of British prejudice and racism towards young Muslims.
‘When I saw what took place I was shocked,’ he told Ms Wark. ‘But what he [one of the killers] said in the clip, I think not many Muslims can disagree with.’
As well as admitting that he knew and had been on marches with Michael Adebolajo, one of the alleged Woolwich killers, who was photographed standing immediately behind him at a demonstration in 2007, Choudary insisted that ‘persecution’ of Muslims prompted attacks against Western targets.
Perhaps that’s why he felt moved to describe Adebolajo — whom he first met eight years ago — as a man of ‘impeccable character’.
Disgracefully, Choudary even claimed that he and his followers had signed a covenant — akin to the British military’s covenant to care for the welfare of its soldiers — not to wage war against this country’s people in return for living here unmolested and at our expense.
There is only one problem with this preposterous claim: it is simply not true. For the preacher, is a fan of what is known by Islamic extremists as Taqiya — the telling of lies to protect their secret, deadly aims.
For, during a lengthy investigation into the activities of this portly, bearded figure, I uncovered conclusive evidence that Choudary is one of the key recruiters of young British extremists, at least one of whom was later linked to planned atrocities.
Indeed, given the atrocity in London this week, the extent of Choudary’s activities in Britain raise disturbing questions about how individuals with known terror links are allowed to flout the law and openly recruit on our streets.
Though he comes over as an excitable buffoon (he orders his young recruits to call him ‘Sheik’ and shouts down anyone who disagrees with his extremist views), the reality is that Choudary is smart, cunning and dangerous — prompting commentators to brand him the most dangerous man in Britain.
Funded by benefits from the infidel taxpayers he so despises, for the past four years he has openly staged ‘Islamic road shows’ across Britain to recruit young men to his chilling cause.
As a result, some of those with whom he has come into contact have become embroiled in hatching terrorist attacks here and abroad. An extremist who believes his sole calling is to wage holy war against Britain and her ‘infidel’ allies; his real goal is trying to prepare the ground for a global Islamic jihad.
He dreams of seeing the black crescent flag — which is the symbol of his extremist Islam and Al Qaeda — flying over Downing Street, and a draconian form of sharia law imposed across Britain.
Once described by a moderate Muslim as the sort of religious leader who ‘sets the mood music for suicide bombers to dance to’, Choudary wants alcohol banned, amputations for thieves and adulterers to be stoned to death.
I investigated this odious individual after he posted a video on his website of an unidentified 11-year-old white youth called ‘Sean’ being converted to Islam during a road show in Birmingham in 2009.
When I challenged him about his views, Choudary was unabashed. ‘People are living in anarchy,’ he told me. ‘There is a rape every minute. Islam has the answer to everything. It is a deterrent. If you steal, you know you will face having your hands and feet cut off. Why should I not invite the British people to embrace Islam and save themselves from punishment in the hereafter?’
According to terrorism experts, Choudary is the recruiting sergeant for what U.S. intelligence dubs Britain’s ‘Generation Jihad’.
Richard Dart — a white British 26-year-old from Weymouth, Dorset — was one of Choudhary’s protégés. Dart converted to Islam in 2009. He joined Choudary in a private house in East London and, after swearing oaths on the Koran, was re-named Salahuddin Al-Britani.
For years, ‘Salahuddin’, the son of teachers, had drifted from job to job. A confused young man, with strangely glazed eyes and sallow skin, he once explained to me his bizarre reason for converting to radical Islam.
‘Michael Jackson’s death to me was a sign — he said he was a Muslim, but he didn’t live the life of a good Muslim.’
Surrounded by members of the ‘Islamic brotherhood’, Dart also told me he would be happy to fight — and die — overseas for the cause, and that Islam must defeat Western aggression. In a chilling portent of the horrors that unfolded in Woolwich this week, Dart also told me that British soldiers were a fair target.
‘The soldiers taking part in these wars are the enemies of Islam, so I don’t support them in any way, nor any man-made government or law,’ he said. ‘These governments are the terrorists.’
Like many other vulnerable young men recruited by Choudary, Dart is behind bars, serving a six-year sentence for plotting terror attacks and trying to attend terror training camps in Pakistan, having been told by the ‘preacher’ that ‘Jihad training’ is a duty for Muslim men.
Publicly, of course, Choudary denies he has links to terrorism. A former lawyer, he understands the pitfalls of telling the ‘enemy’ too much, and insisted on the BBC this week that he did not personally support terrorism, though was clearly sympathetic to why others did.
Yet he has been secretly taped urging his followers to raise money for Islamic fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying this would help them kill the ‘butchers and cowards’ from the U.S. and Britain.
Captured Al Qaeda terrorists, held at Guantanamo Bay, have also claimed that Choudary staged a ‘camping trip’ for militants in 2003 at an Islamic school in East Sussex.
At the camp, young Britons were trained in how to use AK-47 rifles and rocket launchers.
Choudary insists they were only ‘paintballing’ — presumably keenly aware that, under the Terrorism Act 2000, it is an offence to ‘invite another to provide money or other property’ for the purposes of terrorism. Offenders risk a prison sentence of up to 14 years.
Choudhary’s tentacles run far across a number of militant Islamic groups. He is a founding member of extremist groups that are banned in many countries, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir and Al-Muhajiroun — of which the alleged Woolwich killer Michael Adebojalo is thought to have been a member.
It was this group that praised the ‘magnificent’ July 7 London terror attacks that killed 52 innocent people in 2005. Choudary also once ran a hard-line sect called Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’aah Muntada.
Other original members of this organisation have been imprisoned, including Simon Keeler, a white Briton who was sentenced to four years in 2008 for raising money for terrorism and was a devout follower of Osama Bin Laden.
Abu Izzadeen, a Jamaican formerly known as Trevor Brooks, who is a close friend of Choudary, has also recently finished a prison term after his sermons at the Regent’s Park mosque in London were found to be inciting terrorism.
Choudary is also the right-hand man and close confidant of Omar Bakri, who often addresses Choudhary’s meetings via video-link from Lebanon. Known as the ‘Tottenham Ayatollah’, Bakri is an Islamic firebrand who has admitted to being in contact with the July 7 suicide bombers and giving them ‘religious guidance’ at mosques in Leeds and Bradford.
According to former members of his sect, Choudary also holds classes to help new recruits avoid surveillance by British intelligence.
He teaches them to change their mobile phones and computers regularly so they don’t leave an electronic trail. Nor does he shy away from preaching about jihad.
‘Jihad is part of the Koran,’ he says. ‘What the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Palestine are doing is defending themselves from foreign fighters coming to kill them. It’s outrageous that we get called terrorists if we speak about the right to defend ourselves.’
But Choudary doesn’t draw the line at fighting: he wants Britain to become an Islamic state itself.
He believes Muslim immigrants will eventually out-breed the native British population, pointing out that Medina in Saudi Arabia once had just 200 Muslim inhabitants, but went on to become the second city of Islam. His mood will no doubt have been buoyed by new figures this week showing that one in ten of under 25-year-olds living here are Muslim.
He hopes this rise in numbers will pave the way for the implementation of a brutal form of Sharia law that forces women to cover themselves completely in public and bans them from education and employment.
Choudary claims to have converted hundreds of young men to his cause. Many are former addicts and alcoholics, who now zealously promote Islam and want to see people publicly lashed for consuming alcohol.
I met four of his converts who shared the views espoused by the Woolwich killers, and they made it clear that they regarded me and all other non-Muslims as ‘unclean’.
‘Of course, we must support Osama bin Laden,’ said one. ‘I would be proud to give my life in the name of Islam. We are the oppressed. We are involved in a defensive jihad to protect ourselves.’
With breathtaking cynicism, Choudary instructs his recruits that it is their Muslim duty to claim benefits, ensuring they make no contribution to the ‘enemy’ British state through taxation.
The ‘Sheik’ leads by example. Now separated from his wife and three children, for years he has received more than £1,700 a month in benefits — which he once referred to as ‘Jihad seekers allowance’.
The son of immigrants from Pakistan — part of a wave of Muslims who came to Britain from the sub- continent in the Sixties — he found the strictures of religion suffocating as a child growing up in Kent, and as soon as he left home he went wild.
As a medical student at Southampton University, he was known as Andy and was a hard-drinking womaniser with a fondness for cannabis and LSD.
Indeed, so bad was his drinking and drug-taking that his friends and family were worried his addictions would kill him. He flunked his first-year medical exams, forcing him to switch to commercial law.
Out of control with drink and drugs, he moved to London and taught English to foreign language students — and, say colleagues, tried to sleep with as many of them as possible.
After finally qualifying as a lawyer in 1992, he became bitter and depressed when his application for a lucrative post at a City law firm was rejected.
Railing against white Britons, he started attending mosques around London and was introduced to Bakri and Abu Hamza, the hook-handed Islamic firebrand who also supports terrorism in this country and abroad.
Choudary stopped drinking and womanising,; grew a beard and started wearing black robes. He was ‘radicalised’ — deciding Islamic extremism was the answer to his problems and vowing to convert as many others as possible.
So why is he still allowed to preach hate on Britain’s streets — and why is he given airtime on flagship TV news programmes only hours after a murder he refused to condemn? That is a question that is going to enrage more and more people — whatever their race or religion.