(New York, N.Y.) — In September 2021, internationally designated Islamist cleric and convicted ISIS supporter Anjem Choudary called for the release of Aafia Siddiqui from a U.S. federal prison. Urging allies to take up Siddiqui’s cause, Choudary wrote of “the obligation … to either free her physically or to ransom her or to exchanger her.” On Saturday, Malik Faisal Akram took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue, demanding the release of Siddiqui. Although it is unclear the extent to which Choudary directly influenced Akram, Choudary again called for Siddiqui’s release on Sunday in a blog post on his website and urged a Twitter storm on her behalf.
By allowing extremists, like Choudary, and their followers to post their rhetoric, social media platforms are providing a space for the radicalization of other extremists—extremists who are willing to carry out the words preached online. Choudary’s call for a Twitter campaign for Siddiqui has since spread to YouTube and various other websites.
Choudary was released from prison on October 19, 2018, only halfway through his sentence due to British probation rules that allow for early release after the completion of half a sentence. The British government imposed several restrictions on Choudary as part of his release. Several of those restrictions expired in July 2021. Choudary subsequently opened accounts on multiple social media platforms and began posting Islamist diatribes calling for the creation of an Islamic caliphate ruled under sharia law. He continues to meet with former associates to promote an Islamist agenda that had previously radicalized more than 100 individuals.
On August 30, 2021, the Daily Mail reported Choudary had joined Pinterest, Snapchat, and TikTok. Choudary boasted to the Daily Mail how easy it is to join social media and how he has “them all up my sleeve” and is “signed up to all of them… I’m on everything.” By October 25, 2021, Telegram had deleted the fourth iteration of Choudary’s account. Nonetheless, Choudary has boasted of creating new accounts, while his followers continue to spread his messages to social media platforms from which he is personally banned, such as Twitter. In Choudary’s October 15 Telegram essay on Abu Hamza, for example, he called for a “Twitter storm” in support of the cleric. An October 2021 study by the United Kingdom’s Community Security Trust found Choudary’s name mentioned more than 43,000 times on Twitter since the expiration of the government restrictions.
To read the Counter Extremism Project (CEP)’s resource Anjem Choudary, please click here.
To read CEP’s resource Anjem Choudary’s Ties to Extremists, please click here.
To read CEP’s resource Aafia Siddiqui, please click here.