What are we to make of Anjem Choudary, ex-leader of banned groups including Islam 4 UK, Muslims Against Crusades and, before that, of Al Muhajiroun – original meeting place of the terrorist gang which has just been convicted of a plot to blow up the London Stock Exchange?
The sophisticated view – taken by everyone from Justin Elliott in Salon to Rod Liddle in the Spectator – is that he is a harmless, publicity-seeking buffoon.
Anjem Choudray, who dreamed up the march, is one of those thick-as-mince gobby little chancers who could only possibly come from Britain — Welling, Kent, in this particular case. Think Derek Hatton, except with an additional ideological commitment to clitoridectomies and beheadings. Typically too dense to pass his medical exams, he became a solicitor but for some time has lived off state benefits while urging death upon the rest of us, sometimes as a handmaiden to the exponentially stupid ‘Sheikh’ Omar Bakri Mohammed (whom we kicked out of the country), and latterly as the guiding light behind the wonderful Islam4UK group — a terrific name, like www.shariaImlovingit.com or www.kuffirsmustdielol.co.uk. You can watch him on YouTube explaining to a BBC interviewer why no infidels are innocent, they all have to die, not my fault, Stephen, just how it is, according to Allah.
Elliott called him “Fox’s Favorite Muslim Radical” because of his unerring ability to get himself invited back onto Fox News with his provocative statements. And it’s true, Choudary is a brilliant wind-up merchant. Remember his 2009 March for Sharia, which he publicised by photoshopping minarets onto Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square to show how glorious Britain would look under the Caliphate? Or his proposed march in 2010 on Wootton Bassett, the town through which Britain’s recent war dead make their solemn final journey from the fields of Afghanistan? Neither event transpired but perhaps that was never the point: these were merely the eye-catching initiatives of a shameless self-publicist.
An investigation into Anjem Choudary’s past by the Daily Mail further exploded his image as an homme serieux.
One former friend said: ‘I can’t keep a straight face when I see “fundamentalist Muslim Anjem Choudary” in the papers attacking the British for drinking or having girlfriends.
‘When I knew him, he liked to be called Andy, would often smoke cannabis spliffs all day, and was proud of his ability to down a pint of cider in a couple of seconds.
‘And he was ruthless with girls. When he briefly worked as an English teacher for foreign students in London, he’d pull one of them every few days, sleep with her, then move on to another.
‘If Sharia law was introduced, he would have been whipped and stoned to death many times over.’
And according to the Muslim Council of Britain’s Inayat Bunglawala – generously billed in the Salon article as “a Muslim commentator who is involved in combatting extremism in Britain – Chowdary is a figure of no consequence in radical circles.
Bunglawala points to a 2009 demonstration at a parade in the town of Luton in which Choudary and his cohort held signs assailing British troops returning from Iraq as “butchers” and “terrorists.”
Choudary and some of his followers had advertised the event by leafletting for a week among the 20,000-strong Muslim population in the town, says Bunglawala, who has closely tracked Choudary’s career. But the turnout was vanishingly small. “Literally only 20 people showed up and yet they got the front pages of just about every right-wing tabloid the next day. Even the BBC gave them a lot of coverage on that.” Bunglawala observes: “It’s almost a symbiotic relationship between Choudary and the right-wing papers.”
All this may indeed be true. Choudary, very likely, is a ridiculous oaf. And many of the home grown Islamist cells now plotting 7/7-style outrages may indeed be made up of the kind of risible incompetents mocked in the Spectator by Rod Liddle and lampooned in the funny, pretend-brave but issue-ducking cop-out movie Four Lions.
But I wonder if this Islamist-terrorists-are-a-joke meme doesn’t play into the enemy’s hands. Sure, it can sometimes make sense to defang the opposition by diminishing them through ridicule – Hitler has only got one ball, etc – but this smacks to me more like a case of denial and perhaps of moral cowardice. We’d rather not face up to the full political and social implications of the home grown Islamist terror threat, so instead we tell ourselves it’s all a bit of a laugh, nothing to get too worked up about.
Those bombs, though, had they gone off would have torn through the flesh of real people, ripping off limbs, tearing apart families, causing untold fear and misery. I doubt any of the victims would have been much consoled to learn that the people responsible were a joke.
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