The conviction of Anjem Choudary is a bitter-sweet moment. At last, a known radicaliser is being taken off our streets and denied the access to social media where he spread his poison. But this moment is tinged with regret when one considers all the lives he has ruined through his radicalisation activities.
Extremists like Choudary have played a critical role in the radicalisation of young Britons who have left this country to join Daesh in Syria. His extremist outpourings have literally wrecked the future prospects of hundreds of British Muslims. Some of those groomed into terrorism were promising school and university students who could have made such a positive contribution to British society.
Choudary and his associate, Mohammed Mizanur Rahman, tapped into a quest for identity among some second or third generation British Muslims. They harnessed new digital technology to promote a globalised jihadi ideology with a brutally binary view of the world. It offered simplistic answers to complex questions.
It is no exaggeration to describe the driving force behind ALM as a terrorist enabler. Through YouTube and provocative demonstrations, he set out to normalise Daesh and its distorted version of Islam. Choudary called on Muslims to pledge their allegiance to the self-proclaimed caliph of Daesh, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Under Choudary’s guidance, bright young people rejected their families and communities to help build a barbaric so-called “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq.
It is important to understand that radicalisation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. People become susceptible to the propaganda of Daesh because extremists have softened them up in advance. Choudary and others have pumped out relentless messaging to the effect that Muslims can never regard Britain as their home, that this country is inherently Islamophobic, that violence is permissible and the actions of Islamist terrorists can be excused on the grounds of western foreign policy.
Thousands of British Muslims have been exposed to this filth. Most have turned their back on Choudary dismissing him as a loud-mouthed demagogue and peddler of hate. But some were seduced. Terrorism expert and author Rafaello Pantucci has shown how Choudary’s Al-Muhajiroun organisation was associated with terrorists involved in a string of plots including the 7/7 bombing in London and the killing of Lee Rigby.
Choudary has shown a callous disregard for what happens to those he brainwashed. Many who have fled to join Daesh have been killed in a matter of months while others are now trapped in a territory that is rapidly diminishing.
But for Choudary, these British Muslims were never anything more than fodder for his extremist ideology. They were expendable foot soldiers for a false caliphate. British Muslims will welcome the justice that Choudary now deservedly faces.
Henna Rai, founder of WARN