Do they not see the irony in this? He was once defended for being a moderate. But their true nature is always there, under the surface. They just need to bring it out. Anjem Choudary has not radicalised anyone. Choudary was not even born when ‘prophet’ Mohammed announced that he had been made victorious by terror, after a string of slaughters where he and his men descended on people at nights, while they lay innocently sleeping in their beds completely unaware of the terror that would befall on them. It’s the Koran that radicalise Muslims. It’s Islam that created terrorism upon the rest of the world. And as long as Islam continues to exist, there will be hundreds of millions of Choudary’s.
Swaggering jihadi who used to love drugs, beer and porn… before claiming £25,000 a year in benefits and laughing at Britain for 20 years
- Anjem Choudry, a father of five, claimed up to £25,000 a year in benefits
- At university his party trick was downing a pint of cider in ‘seconds’
- Jurors found extremist preacher guilty after he swore allegiance to ISIS
- His wife Rubana Akhtar is now under investigation for extremist activity
Anjem Choudary was once asked if there was anything he liked about this country? ‘Fish and chips,’ he quipped. Nothing else sprung to mind.
No mention, obviously, of the benefits father-of-five Choudary and his family have raked in (thought to have topped £25,000 a year at one time) from infidel taxpayers.
Or the grants that put Choudary, the son of Pakistani immigrants, through university and law school.
No mention, either, of the NHS, where Choudary’s wife (also a supporter of Islamic State) recently had a kidney removed. Or the BBC, which has given him a platform for his unpalatable views. Or, the police protection he has been afforded, enabling him to peddle his perverted version of Islam without interference.
Hypocrisy is something all hate preachers have in common. But few can have been quite so shameless, or enjoyed such a poisonously long career, as Choudary, 49.
He was dismissed by some, not least fellow Muslims, as a cartoon figure, an excitable rabble-rouser – he once vowed to turn Buckingham Palace into a mosque with minaret and dome – of no significance.
He claimed that he and his followers had signed a so-called ‘covenant of security’ not to wage war against this country in return for being allowed to live here and spread his ideology in the name of religious freedom.
It was bunkum. For Choudary was also committed to what is known by Islamic extremists as ‘taqiyya’ – telling lies to fulfil their agenda.
In fact, we now know he was responsible for radicalising a generation of young Muslim men, a number of whom have stood trial for terrorism related offences on these shores as well as abroad. ‘Europe’s main jihadi proselytiser’ is how he is described in a new book about Islamic terrorism.
But, after nearly two decades, of abusing our cherished, and deeply entrenched tradition of free speech, Choudary is finally facing jail.
He was found guilty at the Old Bailey earlier this month of ‘inviting support for a proscribed organisation’ – namely, Islamic State. Reporting restrictions meant his conviction, carrying a sentence of up to ten years, could not be disclosed until now because it might have prejudiced a simultaneous trial involving his followers which ended yesterday.
Predictably, when he was arrested in 2014 Choudary argued his ‘human rights’ had been infringed.
His prosecution, under section 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000, is only the second time such a case has been brought. Why the authorities didn’t take action against Choudary sooner is perhaps a scandal in itself.
At his home in east London, however – where the £1,300 rent was paid by the local council – he led the life of a typical British family man with wife Rubana Akhtar and their children aged between three and 18. There is a swing set and basketball hoop on the back lawn and a satellite dish at the front.
Outside their neat terrace this week was a Range Rover Evoque (circa £33,000 new) and a BMW. Choudary has been seen driving a seven-seater Toyota people carrier, and was recently involved in a heated row with a neighbour over a parking space in the street.
Choudary, who has been described as unemployed, was once asked how he justified living on benefits, to which he replied: ‘They give us the money but we attack their system. If I’m given wealth, I will take it.’
State handouts, he said, amounted to nothing more than ‘Jihad Seekers Allowance’.
So behind the curtains of his house, Choudary would give speeches, sometimes up to two a week, which were uploaded on to the internet.
A cellar in the basement of a sweetshop run by relatives a few miles away in the East End was also used as a base to deliver lectures to his acolytes, which, like his monologues at home, were posted on YouTube.
His wife played a prominent role. She ran the female chapter of the banned extremist network Al-Muhajiroun (her husband ran the male side of the group until it was proscribed in 2010).
In an undercover investigation by Channel 4’s Dispatches last November, secretly-filmed footage showed Akhtar, who used the name Umm Luqman and was not identified for legal reasons, promoting IS propaganda and trying to recruit impressionable women.
Akhtar was often the only one of her husband’s supporters in the public gallery during his Old Bailey trial, frequently joining him for lunch at a nearby cafe.
Could there be a more odious couple in Britain?
A glimpse into their sinister ‘domestic’ routine emerged in text messages police found on their mobiles. In one, Choudary gently scolds Akhtar about the size of her phone bill. ‘When you add VAT, that’s about £100 dearest,’ he wrote. But she reassures him: ‘Most of it is Dawah.’ Dawah is Arabic for proselytising or preaching of Islam – their version of Islam, in this case, in which the 9/11 hijackers are ‘magnificent martyrs’.
On another occasion, Akhtar congratulated Choudary for swearing allegiance to IS. ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is the greatest’], she wrote. ‘I’m so happy.’ The text was accompanied by a yellow smiley face.
Those who knew Choudary as a young man would not recognise the bespectacled, bearded zealot in a flowing tunic he has become today.
Back in his days as a law student at Southampton University he asked to be known as ‘Andy’ rather than Anjem, indulged in casual sex, swilled beer, and took LSD and other drugs. His party trick was to down a pint of cider in a few seconds.
Proof of his ‘decadent’ western lifestyle emerged in photographs of him as an undergraduate. They show him, cans of booze in hand and holding what looks like a cannabis joint to his lips. In one picture, he is grinning maniacally for the camera while a friend holds up a copy of Mayfair.
The pornographic magazine, launched as a rival to Playboy, was infamous for needing to be sold in ‘modesty covers’ by newsagents to protect children from seeing its graphic covers of semi-nude women. Inside, it featured naked women in obscene positions and graphic sexual descriptions.
‘If Sharia [Islamic] law was introduced, he would have been whipped and stoned to death many times over,’ said a contemporary. Another recalled: ‘At parties, like the rest of us, he was rarely without a joint. The morning after one do, I can remember him getting all the roaches [butts] from the spliffs we had smoked the night before out of the ashtrays, cutting them up and making a new one out of the leftovers.
‘He would say he was a Muslim and was proud of his Pakistani heritage, but he didn’t seem to attend any of the mosques in Southampton, and I only knew of him having white girlfriends.’
It has been suggested that his failure to land a well-paid job with a big city law firm after leaving university and qualifying as a solicitor set Choudary on his path to notoriety.
Whatever the reason, his ‘conversion’ followed a frighteningly familiar pattern and began at his local mosque in Woolwich, south-east London, where the preacher was Omar Bakri.
Choudary spent ten years studying under Bakri, the infamous ‘Tottenham Ayatollah’ now in exile in Lebanon, as his ‘niqib’ or deputy.
The two ran the Al-Muhajiroun (it means ’emigrants’ or ‘foreigners’) network. When Choudary married Akhtar, she joined them. Al-Muhajiroun may have been outlawed six years ago as a terror organisation but it simply re-emerged with a succession of different names such as Need4Khilafah, the Sharia Project, and, most recently, Islam4UK. Material circulated via a link on Twitter included a guide on what ‘to do in the first 24 hours after establishing an the Islamic state’ in Britain and elsewhere.
The booklet declared that the Ministry of Defence would be replaced by the ‘War Department’ and specified roles for different divisions of the army.
‘Sports training of Western style will be abandoned to be replace [sic] by military training in the use of arms and warfare techniques,’ the pamphlet revealed, and a ‘Department of Internal Security’ would ‘collect information about the enemies’ and ‘monitor the activity of foreign residents’.
There would even be a special police squad to ‘supervise people travelling on public transport’.
Such a society already exists in Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS-controlled territory in Syria. ‘I would love to live under the Sharia,’ Choudary insisted in a recent interview. ‘I would take my wife and children to parts of Iraq and Syria to experience the Sharia.’
Why didn’t he, then? He gave his reason – or rather, excuses – at his trial.
Choudary told the judge he could not leave the country because he was he was his mother’s carer, had five children, all at different schools, one of whom suffered from OCD [Obsessive Compulsive Disorder], and his wife had recently been diagnosed with cancer.’
He was also needed here, for other reasons, Choudary said.
‘If you are in a country like Britain propagating Islam, and if you left, you would leave behind a vacuum, you could be obliged to stay if no one was left to fill it.’
There was a theory that, until now, at least, Choudary was allowed to continue his activities with impunity because he was regarded by the police and intelligence agencies as someone who could flush out dangerous Islamic extremists. As he was under constant surveillance, so the argument went, those likely to present a threat could be flagged up and monitored more easily than if his network were driven underground. If that was the case, it has proved to be dangerously counter-productive.
Choudary and his followers have been linked to string of plots to attack Britain, it emerged at the Old Bailey. Scotland Yard, meanwhile, has reportedly spent in excess of £1million policing rallies led by him.
This policy of apparent appeasement has resulted in growing disenchantment among the public. No more so than in the wake of the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, hacked to death outside his barracks in Woolwich in 2013. Footage later surfaced of Choudary, megaphone in hand, standing side by side with one of the killers, Michael Adebolajo, at a demonstration in Central London in 2007. In the wake of the killing, Choudary described Adebolajo as a young man ‘of impeccable character’.
Choudary was subsequently given star billing on the BBC’s Newsnight, where he refused to condemn Adebolajo or his accomplice, implying the atrocity was the consequence of British prejudice and racism towards young Muslims.
‘There are,’ Choudary once declared, ‘three types of Muslims: those in prison, those of us our way [to prison], and non-practising Muslims… I live under the expectation that I could be taken to prison at any time.’
In fact, it has taken nearly two decades to bring Anjem Choudary to justice. Until now, he had chalked up only two minor convictions: for holding a protest without due notice in 2006 and for using an insurance document with intent to deceive and using a vehicle without insurance in 2004. He was fined for both offences.
Choudary has run up a huge bill for legal aid – footed by the taxpayer – since his arrest in September 2014. He tried, for example, to get his case thrown out by the Supreme Court, claiming that his right to free speech under human rights legislation had been trampled on.
During his various court appearances, he displayed the same swaggering arrogance – and hypocrisy – he had shown throughout his ‘career’. On one occasion he refused to give out his address, berated officials for not giving him a pen in the dock and refused to stand when the judge entered, demanding to know why there was ‘a reason for me to stand’.
Outside Southwark police station in South London, when he was first bailed, he told the TV cameras: ‘I don’t think they have got anything on me. They are thinking, “Well, maybe we’ll keep him and when he comes back we’ll stick something on him like an Asbo”.’
‘If people have strong views why should they be curtailed. If you believe in freedom of expression why should they be curtailed. When the Government first got into power they said they were going to deal with terrorism and the people who provided the justification for terrorism – which means what? ‘The Government talks about British values – but what are they? Fish and chips? God Save the Queen? One of the 7/7 bombers worked in a chippie.’
Additional reporting: Beth Hale, Alex Ward and Rebecca Camber