In Britain, Islamist Extremist Anjem Choudary Proves Elusive

Griff Witte, Washington Post, October 11, 2014

As British war planes arc through Middle Eastern skies and security services race to unravel terrorist plots at home, the nation’s most prominent propagandist for the Islamic State sits in a London sweets shop, laying out his radical vision between bites of dessert.

Iraq and Syria, Anjem Choudary says confidently, are only the beginning. The Islamic State’s signature black flag will fly over 10 Downing Street, not to mention the White House. And it won’t happen peacefully, but only after a great battle that is now underway.

“We believe there will be complete domination of the world by Islam,” says the 47-year-old, calmly sipping tea and looking none the worse for having been swept up in a police raid just days earlier. “That may sound like some kind of James Bond movie–you know, Dr. No and world domination and all that. But we believe it.”

With such grandiose proclamations, it is tempting to dismiss Choudary as a cartoonish hate preacher straight out of central casting. Many do. But harder to ignore is his record of inspiring impressionable young men to carry out violence in the name of Islam–both in Britain and overseas.

Counterterrorism officials and experts say Choudary and the many shadowy groups he has fronted have directly contributed to the indoctrination of dozens of people who have gone on to plan or commit attacks in the United Kingdom. His network, they say, has also become a vital facilitator in the flow of some of the thousands of Europeans who have swarmed to the battlefields of Iraq and Syria, and who could return to carry out attacks in the West.

But even as a coalition that includes Britain and the United States wages war on the Islamic State, Choudary and other enablers remain free to spread their seductively messianic ideology on the streets of the United Kingdom and globally, through the Internet. They do so by taking advantage of the very rights they condemn as un-Islamic and by using their considerable charisma to lure lost souls.

“These guys are very good at knowing where the limits of the law lie,” said Richard Barrett, a former counterterrorism director with Britain’s foreign intelligence service, MI6. “They’re also very slick, very plausible and very persuasive.”


Britain has long been a locus of Islamist extremism, with its large Muslim immigrant communities and its tolerant approach toward those with radical views. In the late 1990s and in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, north London’s Finsbury Park mosque became a critical way station for global terrorists.

But years of aggressive policing and intelligence efforts have shifted the extremist threat away from Britain’s mosques and into the hands of freelancers who are much harder to monitor and control.


Choudary–a lawyer by training, not a preacher or religious scholar–has proved particularly adept at staying out of reach of the authorities.

Late last month, police raided his home on the suspicion that he was involved in terrorism-related activities, and his passport, phone and laptop were confiscated. But authorities held him for only a night before letting him go.

Choudary has been, for nearly two decades, at the forefront of a succession of groups–including al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades–that have been outlawed for extremist activities. Once a group was banned, Choudary quickly set up a new one with a similar structure and many of the same members but with a new name.

The majority of Britons convicted of Islamic-extremism-related offenses in the past 15 years have been members or supporters of Choudary’s network. Choudary himself, despite multiple arrests, has never been convicted of anything more than staging an illegal demonstration.

Days after his latest release, sitting in the sweets shop in the northeast London neighborhood of Ilford, he is unbowed and almost dares the government to come after him.

“You need sufficient evidence,” he says, as numerous well-wishers stop by to vow their support. “And they have no evidence whatsoever.”

Choudary, whose parents emigrated from Pakistan but who was born and raised in Britain, has a thick black beard that is turning as white as his spotless shalwar kameez–the traditional South Asian garment that is ubiquitous in Ilford, where Choudary lives. He wears rimless spectacles, speaks softly, and smiles often, even when delivering a bloodcurdling message.

Choudary maintains that he has never directly encouraged young people to fight for the Islamic State but acknowledges his followers have a habit of “popping up” in Syria.

What they do there he does not know, Choudary claims. He says he doubts they are there to fight because the Islamic State already has more than enough recruits.

“There are up to 1,000 people wanting to join the Islamic army every day,” he says approvingly.

As for the Islamic State’s execution of Americans, Britons and countless Syrians and Iraqis, Choudary insists that the claims are overstated and that those the organization has killed deserved to die.

It’s that sort of dance–lauding a terrorist group, without actually inciting violence–that has kept Choudary out of prison.

The same cannot be said for his followers. According to the anti-extremism group Hope Not Hate, at least 80 people with ties to Choudary or his organizations have been implicated in terrorism cases ranging from the July 2005 bombings on the London transit system to last year’s killing and near-decapitation of a 25-year-old British soldier, Lee Rigby, on a London street.

“If you look at the people who have been through Choudary’s organizations, it’s deeply worrying. And his role has been pivotal,” said Nick Lowles, Hope Not Hate’s chief executive. “There’s no evidence that he’s directly implicated in these plots. But he gives the ideological justification for jihad, for war against the West. And around him are figures who are much more involved in sending people to Syria or encouraging people to go to terrorist training.”


Choudary’s network isn’t limited to Britain. He has encouraged acolytes across Europe to set up groups similar to his own, providing them with inspiration and guidance.

Last month, 46 members of one such group, Sharia4Belgium, went on trial in Antwerp in Belgium’s largest Islamic extremism case to date. Only eight defendants were present in court, with the rest presumed to be in Syria, either dead or still fighting.

After Choudary visited Indonesia last October and spoke at a Sharia4TheWorld rally, the Islamic State saw a surge in Indonesian volunteers. Choudary also has a prodigious following on the Internet, where he keeps a steady stream of vitriol churning through Twitter.

It’s doubtful that Choudary himself is sending would-be fighters to Syria, said Raffaello Pantucci, a counterterrorism expert with the Royal United Services Institute think tank. “He’s so careful about what he says and does,” Pantucci said.

But Hope Not Hate estimates that several hundred among the several thousand Europeans who have gone to fight in Syria passed through Choudary’s organization or one of its affiliates–making it the continent’s largest recruitment network for Islamist militants.


Choudary has so bedeviled British security officials that the government recently proposed changing the law in a way that seems tailor-made for him: Authorities would be able to restrict individuals’ travel and activities, even without a criminal conviction. The changes could also keep people like Choudary off the air and offline–in much the way Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams was barred from television and radio during the height of the violence in Northern Ireland.

But the strategy has drawbacks.

“The danger is that we make them into martyrs,” said David Hanson, a former British counterterrorism minister.

The longer-term solution is not necessarily to change the law but instead to undermine Choudary’s way of thinking, said Ghaffar Hussain, a former Islamist who now leads the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation in London.

“There’s a lot of bluster coming from these guys,” Hussain said. “You need to stand up, challenge them and rubbish their ideas.”

That’s already begun. A Facebook page called Muslims Against Anjem Choudary has proved popular, and at some mosques, he’s denounced by the clerics.

Leaders of the East London Mosque have even called the police on Choudary’s followers after they carried out vigilante “Muslim Patrols”–harassing women for not covering up and knocking beer out of people’s hands.


Sitting in the sweets shop in Ilford, recounting details of his recent arrest and release, Choudary is interrupted by a young man with a wispy beard, pushing a baby carriage.

“I saw you on the news yesterday, on the BBC, standing on Ilford Lane,” the young man tells Choudary earnestly. “I support a lot of what you–well, everything that you stand for. I think it’s the media that is against us. And obviously, the establishment.”

“Of course,” Choudary says, nodding and offering his phone number. “Of course.”

The young man leaves with a smile, and a promise to call.

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  • DaveMed

    The fact that this guy can lounge around in a candy shop and make jokes is an indictment of Western cowardice.

    He knows that we’re not going to take any action. We could. But we’re afraid of having labels hurled at us.

    • Tarczan

      Britain needs a version of the IRA.

      • B.A_2014

        I can send a few of them over if you want but don’t complain about civilians and all of that sort of thing.

      • 1stworlder

        Since the police wont go into the no go zones they should get out of the way.

    • What’s the matter with you? Don’t you know that labels hurt? Labels make people feel uncomfortable and stuff. Labels could cause one to lose sleep or make people think weird things about you.

      No, I’d say whites better are better off letting these kind of people remain in our countries unmolested because of the greater threat of others labeling us. (sarc. off)

  • Truthseeker

    They open declare their intentions to conquer us, and we sit back and do nothing because we’re committed to upholding a moral code they don’t share. Our freedoms only work as intra-tribal values, as people much brighter than me have pointed out. Ethno-cultural identity has to be a part of a country’s law, or else you leave loopholes open to exploitation. Open-society proposition nations sound good to a civilized people who’ve been socialized into treating everyone equally, but they will be conquered by anyone who’s willing to flout their norms and use force to get their way.

    • propagandaoftruth

      The eloi authorities will swoop in and arrest you, confiscate your property for cracking an off color online joke about Mandela…

      But…preach and call for the violent overthrow of “your own” government and society…

      They pay you thousands of pounds a year in welfare!

  • B.A_2014

    Keep it up my fuzzy faced friend. The indigenous people of great britain are beginning to wake up. Thank the lord for ANDREW choudary.

  • B.A_2014

    Come to Ulster and try knocking the beer out of the hands of someone in The Falls Road or the Shankill Road. He wouldn’t make it out of the place alive god willing.

    To my English comrades, you need to let this piece of human excrement know:


    • benvad

      Yeah yeah tough guys whose biggest problems are white Catholics. Losers especially Ulstermen of both cult persuasions.

    • DaveMed

      I hope that would happen in such a scenario.

      However, I wish that we weren’t retreating to alcohol as the last stand for the West.

      • B.A_2014

        Unfortunately it doesn’t look like our people care about much else.

  • John Smith

    I shudder when I envision what life will be like for white people even 3-4 years from now.

    If this demographic tidal wave isn’t reversed, let alone stopped, we’re going to be decapitated…very soon.

    • propagandaoftruth

      Well, if the English are as eloi and self hating as their “leaders”…

      It’s over.

  • MekongDelta69

    Any normal country (meaning White Western Civilization as it used to be) would have either deported, jailed, or hung Mr. mooz-lim faster than you can say, “Allahu Akbar.”

  • LHathaway

    “It’s that sort of dance–lauding a terrorist group, without actually inciting violence”

    Inciting violence: speaking while white.

    It is only a matter of time before the most insane ravings of the anti-racists ring true. Simply telling the truth will be inciting violence. Such is the world they are intent on us to inherit.

  • IstvanIN

    But Nick Griffin and Emma Watson can go to prison for not wanting these society destroyers around. Amazing.

    • DaveMed

      Emma Watson?

  • dd121

    What is it about once-great civilizations that paralyze them to inaction in the face of people who would destroy them? In more self-confident times that guy would have been drawn, quartered and his head placed on a pike at the city gate.

    • 1stworlder

      They didn’t kick out the people that have been kicked out of 200+ nations.

  • benvad

    That’s why I have disdain for the English. The regular folk put up with these monkeys, they’ve lost their will and are no better than Swedes.

  • benvad

    That’s why I piss on them now, pitiful losers.

  • AFlaVet

    ““The danger is that we make them into martyrs,” said David Hanson, a former British counterterrorism minister.”

    So make him one…then the next one…and the next one. Isn’t there one Brit with the guts to really…I mean really get into this mutts face?