Abu Haleema

“Abu Haleema” is a U.K.-based Islamist extremist who has long been active on social media platforms including YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, despite being banned from using those platforms by the U.K. government. In many of his online lectures, Abu Haleema speaks at the camera in a hurried voice, often shaking his finger and warning Muslims against “allying with the kuffar [nonbelievers]”“Allying with the Kuffar,” YouTube video, 2:11, posted by “Abu Haleema,” July 15, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJs-TKcjvqM. or getting “cozy” with the taghut (rejecters of Islam).“You Haven’t entered islam @AbuHaleema16,” YouTube video, 2:06, posted by “Abu Haleema,” April 8, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REhw7HcA1z4. Haleema is a suspected supporter of ISIS, and regularly refers to the khilafah (caliphate). In a March 2015 YouTube video titled “Sharia over your noses,” Haleema warned, “Soon we’re going to see the black flag of sharia [Islamic law] in the white house. We’re going to see the black flag of sharia over Windsor castle. We’re going to see the black flag of the khilafah on the Suez Canal.”“Sharia over your noses @AbuHaleema16,” YouTube video, 2:35, posted by “Abu Haleema,” March 31, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpgtIiiq3ws.

Haleema is an associate of imprisoned ISIS supporter Anjem Choudary, the founder of banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun. Choudary has been linked to hundreds of extremist and terrorist cases in the United Kingdom.Martin Bentham and Colin Bortbus, “Radical London preacher Abu Haleema banned from promoting his views online,” London Evening Standard, May 26, 2015, http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/radical-london-preacher-abu-haleema-banned-from-promoting-his-views-online-10275924.html;
Clarissa Ward, “Campaigning for ISIS In the West,” CBS, November 4, 2014, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/recruiting-for-isis-60-minutes/.
Haleema has also been tied to terrorists. Khuram Butt—one of the attackers in the June 3, 2017, London Bridge attacks—was reportedly radicalized in large part by lectures from both Choudary and Haleema, and had appeared in a documentary about Haleema released in 2016. Following the June 2017 attacks, YouTube removed Haleema’s lectures from its platform in the United Kingdom, but did not ban the videos worldwide.Josh Layton, “Hate preacher who targeted Small Heath hit by YouTube ban as TV link to London terrorist revealed,” Birmingham Mail, June 7, 2017, http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/hate-preacher-who-targeted-small-13153089. On June 8, 2017, a search for “Abu Haleema” on YouTube yielded nearly 10,000 search results when conducted in the United States.Counter Extremism Project. While a November 20, 2017, search yielded just under 2,000 search results, a YouTube channel dedicated to Haleema and featuring more than 100 of his videos had received more than half-a-million views.Counter Extremism Project.

Before his partial ban from YouTube, Haleema had resurfaced both there and on Twitter dozens of times.Abu Haleema, Twitter profile, accessed July 17, 2015, https://twitter.com/abuhaleema16. When appearing on Twitter, Haleema would regularly share the links to his videos on YouTube:


Haleema was arrested several times by British authorities. In April 2014, authorities raided Haleema’s home and confiscated his passport, accusing him of conspiring to travel to Syria to join an extremist group. Haleema denied the accusations and called the raid a “war against Islam.”“British man accused of wanting to travel to Syria has passport seized in raid,” ITV, April 24, 2014, http://www.itv.com/news/2014-04-24/british-man-accused-of-wanting-to-travel-to-syria-has-passport-seized/. In May 2015, Haleema was again arrested and detained in west London. He was released without charges on the condition that he would halt his use of social media.Martin Bentham and Colin Bortbus, “Radical London preacher Abu Haleema banned from promoting his views online,” London Evening Standard, May 26, 2015, http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/radical-london-preacher-abu-haleema-banned-from-promoting-his-views-online-10275924.html. Following his release, however, Haleema was again active on both YouTube and Twitter, producing almost daily YouTube videos and sharing their links on his Twitter page.Counter Extremism Project. Haleema has also been active on Facebook and Telegram.“ Extremist British Preacher Abu Haleema Launches Telegram Channel, Which Is Then Promoted By ISIS Activists,” MEMRI Cyber & Jihad Lab, March 1, 2016, http://cjlab.memri.org/lab-projects/tracking-jihadi-terrorist-use-of-social-media/extremist-british-preacher-abu-haleema-launches-telegram-channel-which-is-then-promoted-by-isis-activists/.

In January 2016, Channel 4 released a documentary called “The Jihadis Next Door.”Graham Ruddick, “Channel 4: police did not request footage from The Jihadis Next Door,” Guardian (London), June 6, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/06/channel-4-police-did-not-request-footage-jihadis-next-door.The film, which took two years to film, followed Haleema and his small band of extremists.Rachel Olding, “British extremist Abu Haleema turns to Australia,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 21, 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/british-extremist-abu-haleema-turns-to-australia-20160120-gma1zc.html. In one scene, Haleema laughed while watching an ISIS propaganda video of people being killed, saying, “that’s HD quality, bruv [brother].”Dominic Kennedy, “Muslim hate preacher flees UK home,” Australian (Sydney), June 7, 2017, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/london-terror-attack-muslim-hate-preacher-flees-uk-home/news-story/fdb4dd4a223a4c9cf03d384e53e81676. In the film, Haleema also confessed to having regular contact with a 14-year-old boy from Blackburn, Lancashire, convicted in a beheading plot targeting police officers during the Anzac Day parade in Australia.Dominic Kennedy, “Muslim hate preacher flees UK home,” Australian (Sydney), June 7, 2017, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/london-terror-attack-muslim-hate-preacher-flees-uk-home/news-story/fdb4dd4a223a4c9cf03d384e53e81676. According to Haleema, he had advised the boy against carrying out the plot and was released from custody due to insufficient evidence.Dominic Kennedy, “Muslim hate preacher flees UK home,” Australian (Sydney), June 7, 2017, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/london-terror-attack-muslim-hate-preacher-flees-uk-home/news-story/fdb4dd4a223a4c9cf03d384e53e81676. Also appearing in the film was June 2017 London Bridge attacker Khuram Shazad Butt.Dominic Kennedy, “Muslim hate preacher flees UK home,” Australian (Sydney), June 7, 2017, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/london-terror-attack-muslim-hate-preacher-flees-uk-home/news-story/fdb4dd4a223a4c9cf03d384e53e81676.

Haleema tailored his recruiting efforts to Australian and British audiences alike. In January 2016, he produced videos attacking moderate Australian clerics Shady Alsuleiman and Wesam Charkawi, both of whom reside in Sydney. In the same video, Haleema criticized Imam Sheikh Abu Adnan of Liverpool for allowing a policeman to give a talk to the mosque about domestic violence.Rachel Olding, “British extremist Abu Haleema turns to Australia,” Sydney Morning Herald, January 21, 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/british-extremist-abu-haleema-turns-to-australia-20160120-gma1zc.html.

Shortly before the June 2017 London Bridge attack, Haleema reportedly fled his home when his address was revealed to the public by Tommy Robinson, a far-right activist and founder of the English Defence League. According to a notice posted by Haleema’s landlord, he left without notice. Neighbors had previously avoided making Haleema’s address public under threat of arrest and prosecution by the police.Dominic Kennedy, “Muslim hate preacher flees UK home,” Australian (Sydney), June 7, 2017, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/the-times/london-terror-attack-muslim-hate-preacher-flees-uk-home/news-story/fdb4dd4a223a4c9cf03d384e53e81676.

As CEP has noted, YouTube has long failed to remove videos posted by Haleema that were flagged for more than a year. Google, YouTube’s parent company, said in March 2017 that Haleema’s videos do not meet the company standard for removal on the grounds of promoting terrorism.Josh Layton, “YouTube refuses to ban hate preacher Abu Haleema who targeted Small Heath,” Birmingham Mail, March 17, 2017, http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/youtube-refuses-ban-small-heath-12755883. Following the London Bridge attack, Google changed course, blocking Haleema’s videos as they appeared in the United Kingdom, although Haleema videos continued to be readily accessible in other countries.John Shammas, “Banned from YouTube: Hate cleric Abu Haleema who featured in ‘The Jihadis Next Door’ has his YouTube account blocked in the UK after London Bridge terror attack,” Sun (London), June 7, 2017, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3747961/hate-cleric-abu-haleema-who-featured-in-the-jihadis-next-door-has-his-youtube-account-blocked-in-the-uk-after-london-bridge-terror-attack/. According to Google Vice President Peter Baron, the company wants “to make sure that terrorists do not have a voice.”John Shammas, “Banned from YouTube: Hate cleric Abu Haleema who featured in ‘The Jihadis Next Door’ has his YouTube account blocked in the UK after London Bridge terror attack,” Sun (London), June 7, 2017, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/3747961/hate-cleric-abu-haleema-who-featured-in-the-jihadis-next-door-has-his-youtube-account-blocked-in-the-uk-after-london-bridge-terror-attack/. A July 2017 YouTube search yielded 13,600 results.“Violent Extremist Content Still Found on YouTube,” Counter Extremism Project, July 26, 2017, https://www.counterextremism.com/blog/violent-extremist-content-still-found-youtube-0. A June 2019 search of YouTube yielded fewer than 200 results, but a YouTube channel called Abu Haleema Media continued to upload the propagandist’s videos.Abu Haleema Media, YouTube channel, accessed June 11, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPw-ZBqLUaWMIcKxy1Cz2SA.

Channel 4 and Netflix have since removed  “The Jihadis Next Door” from their online streaming services worldwide.Graham Ruddick, “Channel 4: police did not request footage from The Jihadis Next Door,” Guardian (London), June 6, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jun/06/channel-4-police-did-not-request-footage-jihadis-next-door.

Despite multiple arrests and the seizure of his passport, Haleema’s identity was not publicly revealed until June 8, 2019. London’s Daily Mail revealed Haleema’s true identity as Shakil Chapra, a former used car salesman and bus driver. Haleema previously ran a used car dealership in Kilburn, England, for several years until the business closed in 2010. Afterward, Haleema reportedly worked as a bus driver in London. According to neighbors, Haleema had been involved with gangs and drugs at various points in his life.Abul Taher, “Unmasked: Islamic extremist linked to ringleader of London Bridge terror attacks and hate preacher Anjem Choudary is a former car dealer and part-time London bus driver,” Daily Mail (London), June 8, 2019, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7119783/Islamic-extremist-linked-ringleader-London-Bridge-terror-attacks-London-bus-driver.html. Media identified him as Abu Haleema when British police raided his home and seized his passport in April 2014, but reports of Shakil Chapra’s September 2014 arrest alongside Choudary made no linkage to Haleema.“British man accused of wanting to travel to Syria has passport seized in raid,” ITV, April 24, 2014, http://www.itv.com/news/2014-04-24/british-man-accused-of-wanting-to-travel-to-syria-has-passport-seized/; Josh Halliday, “Islamist cleric allowed to preach in London while on bail,” Guardian (London), November 21, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/nov/21/islamist-cleric-allowed-to-preach-london-bail-anjem-choudary. Until June 2019, there was no confirmation that the two were the same person.

Haleema was reportedly part of a WhatsApp group in March 2020, that received a video encouraging ISIS supporters to attack London’s Royal Concert Hall. The video was shared by Shehroz Iqbal, who was later found guilty of encouraging terrorism and disseminating ISIS propaganda.Sophie Tanno, “Extremist is Found Guilty of Terrorism for Telling ISIS Fanatics to 'Attack' the Royal Festival Hall in 'Chilling' Video he Shared with Fellow Islamists Including Star of 'The Jihadis Next Door',” Daily Mail, October 20, 2020,  https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8860391/Extremist-guilty-terrorism-telling-ISIS-fanatics-attack-Royal-Festival-Hall.html.

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