Today HOPE not hate launches a report into the Muslim extremist (and “media darling”) Anjem Choudary and his al-Muhajiroun network. 60 pages long, the report, Gateway to Terror, is co-authored by myself and researcher Joe Mulhall. It is arguably the most detailed investigation into this Islamist extremist organisation, its structures and its terrorist connections.
Gateway to Terror reveals that at least 70 people who have been convicted of terrorism or terror-related offences, or who have actually participated in suicide attacks, have been linked to the group. We reveal that the man who narrated a recent 58-minute all-Shabaab video, threatening a number of moderate British Muslims, is from Tower Hamlets and has also been linked to the group (al-Shabaab is the militant Islamist group fighting for control of Somalia). We expose the growing connections between Choudary and the northern Iraqi Ansar al-Islam group, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, and name its British leader. We chart Choudary’s growing network of contacts across Europe, and reveal that between 200-300 supporters from these groups have gone to fight in Syria.
This report nails the misguided view that we should tolerate Choudary’s outlandish antics. Behind his media-grabbing and provocative stunts lies a group that is a gateway to terrorism, at home and abroad.
While Choudary may not have been directly involved in terror plots, he helped to shape the mindset of many of those behind them. He indoctrinated them and through his networks linked them up to terror groups and supporters across the world. Many of those convicted of terrorism were active supporters of his group at the time of their arrest. Habib Ahmed, who was convicted of being a member of al-Qaeda, was their Manchester branch organiser. Mohammed Chowdhury, the ringleader of the 2010 Christmas bomb plot, was filmed helping set up a Skype interview between Anjem Choudary and Omar Bakri (al-Muhajiroun’s founder, originally a member of radical sect Hiz ut-Tahrir) only three weeks before his arrest.
Choudary will, on other occasions, say that people have left the group some time before their arrests so he cannot be blamed for their actions – but this conveniently ignores the fact that he and his network have played a crucial role in their radicalisation.
There will some people who will not be happy with our new report and consider it a departure from what we ‘do’ (historically we are better-known for opposing fascism and racism). There will be others who believe that by shining the light on Choudary and his gang we are inflaming hostility to Muslims.
They will be wrong.
Al-Mujahiroun is a hate group, pure and simple, and as such deserves our attention. Constantly feted by media yet treated as ‘clowns’ by many, it is by ignoring their threat that we let down the vast majority of Muslims who want nothing to do with Choudary.
The truth is the actions of this tiny minority of extremists leads to the stigmatisation of the entire Muslim community and the shameful idea of collective responsibility. The primary victim of al-Muhajiroun’s extremism is actually the wider Muslim community.
It is also important to mention that it was the actions of these people that not only led to the formation of the English Defence League (EDL) in Luton in 2009 (following al-Muhajiroun’s demonstrations against British soldiers returning from Afghanistan) but have continued to bolster its membership, and helped the organisation off life support numerous times due to either violent or offensive acts. The two biggest spikes of support for the EDL occurred when Anjem Choudary’s supporters burnt poppies on the 2010 Remembrance Day and in the immediate aftermath of the killing of off-duty soldier, Lee Rigby, in May this year.
A more fundamental reason for opposing al-Muhajiroun is that we abhor their politics of hate. Al-Muhajiroun have a worldview that we do not share. They want to impose a system that is totally at odds with one that respects human rights, diversity and equality.
Its members have been known to engage in Holocaust denial and sell copies of the infamous anti-semitic forgery the Protocols of Zion, as well as Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Some of their preachers celebrate 9/11 while others blame it on a Jewish conspiracy. They describe gay relationships as “perverted acts”, comparable to “rape and murder”, call for homosexuals to be put to death and have produced and disseminated leaflets called: “Gay Today, Paedophile Tomorrow?”
In addition, their sexist views call for the subjugation of and discrimination against women. Choudary has called for women to be forced to wear the veil and stated that women who commit adultery should be stoned to death.
Fundamentally, they seek to impose a system that is intolerant of difference, does not accept anyone or anything that fails to conform and that is totally opposed to democracy and free will.
All of this is on top of the fact that members of this group, influenced by these hateful ideas, have been involved in the 7/7 bombings and dozens of foiled terrorist plots aimed at killing and maiming innocent people.
That’s why this report is not only necessary but also 100 per cent in keeping with Britain’s long anti-fascist tradition of fighting bigotry and prejudice. This report aims to contribute to that same fight.
Furthermore, al-Muhijaroun seeks to undermine something that HOPE not hate has worked hard to promote – the idea of communities. It tries to hammer a wedge between Muslims and the society in which they live by denouncing the idea of multiculturalism, as well as promoting and preaching the dogma of separatism and exclusion. To borrow a phrase from a recent al-Muhajiroun network pamphlet, they force people to choose between whether they are “British or Muslim”, when the two are by no means mutually exclusive.
Yet sadly, there are people on the right of the political spectrum plus those within the “Counter-Jihadist” movement, such as Islamophobes Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer in the USA, who use al-Muhajiroun to justify their own anti-Muslim hatred. By not speaking out against extremism across the board we are not only inconsistent in our actions but we leave the ground open to our opponents.
In November 2010, in the immediate aftermath of burning of poppies on Armistice Day, HOPE not hate said that Choudary’s group and the EDL were two sides of the two coin of hate. We called for “a Plague on both their houses”.
This report will herald a more concerted campaign against extremism by HOPE not hate. Just as we will speak out against Islamophobia and racism wherever it emerges, so too we will begin to campaign against those extremists who justify their actions in the name of Islam.
Anjem Choudary might only have a few hundred supporters but their ability to cause terror and fear on our streets, bring a racist backlash down on mainstream Muslims and – ultimately – to divide communities is huge.
No matter under what banner the politics of hatred and intolerance raises its ugly head we must be prepared to greet it with organised and determined opposition. The face of hatred is the face of hatred and the mask it wears is irrelevant.