The British Conservative Party’s decisive parliamentary win this month may finally silence British-born Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary.
Choudary, the fiery Islamist extremist, has evaded indictment on multiple terrorism related charges over the years connected to his involvement with banned Islamist groups and the radicalization of potentially hundreds of Muslim men in the UK since the 1990s.
While not necessarily well-known in the United States, Choudary is considered notorious and influential in the UK. His prolific Twitter account, media appearances and rallies advocate Islamic law for the West based on a politicized and authoritarian version of Islam that he deems the only true Islam. Such separatist rhetoric, along with Choudary’s continuous criticism of Britain’s military involvement in the Middle East, has contributed to hundreds of British jihadists leaving the UK to fight for ISIS in Syria and encouraged gruesome incidents of violence within the UK. An example of the latter includes the 2013 beheading of a British soldier in east London by two men believed to be affiliated with banned Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun. Choudary was an originating member of Al-Muhajiroun.
Choudary has been on the Home Office’s radar for many years, but the ex-lawyer has evaded any indictment by walking a fine line between what is currently considered permissible speech in the UK and what constitutes hate speech. After his last arrest and release in September 2014, Home Secretary Theresa May announced multiple enhanced counter-terror measures to silence men like Choudary, which she hoped would be introduced as new legislation should the Tories win Parliamentary elections in May 2015. These measures include:
- Criminalization of inflammatory speech like Choudary’s, through preventive measures called Extremism Disruption Orders or EDOs;
- Closure of mosques or other venues where extremists are attempting to radicalize individuals;
- Enforcement of a two-year ban on British passport holders from re-entering the country if they are determined to be suspected terrorists; and
- Granting the Charity Commission enhanced powers to crack down on charitable groups that divert money to terrorism-related activities.
Since David Cameron led the Tories to victory this month, new counter extremism measures are expected to be outlined May 27 when Queen Elizabeth presents the new government to Parliament. It remains to be seen whether the new counter-extremism measures will remain identical to the May 2014 proposals, but Choudary has already responded, tweeting on May 13 that “I shall be on the BBC News at 6pm today InshaAllah responding to the latest attack by Cameron against islam & Muslims http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-32723881 …”
Obviously Choudary doesn’t like what may be coming. The new legislation is likely to increase tension between privacy rights and national security advocates. Nevertheless, momentum seems to be in the new government’s favor. Austria has already upgraded its 1912 Islam law in February 2015. Specifically, Austria is banning “other countries from financing Islamic groups, and bars foreign clerics from leadership positions in Austrian mosques. All imams must speak German, and Muslim clergy must prove “professional suitability,” either by completing the University of Vienna program, or demonstrating equivalent training.”
Until the new British laws are introduced and enforced, Choudary will still be found pontificating at every opportunity on social media, and in broadcast and print interviews. He may even be found at a public venue near you.
In April, a local Nevada paper announced that Choudary would be speaking in Nevada City in June. Given Choudary’s background, it is unclear on what grounds the State Department granted any visa request he may have filed. Nevertheless, so long as the British government continues to keep Choudary’s passport securely locked away, a webcast or radio interview may be all that the residents of Nevada City are likely to get.