One of the previous campaigns which the Sun has not since stopped crowing about involved Abu Hamza. The Sun has since claimed that it was more or less thanks to them that he ended up behind bars, which was utter nonsense, as have other "internet investigators" that have since become rather discredited (see Bloggerheads RE: Glen Jenvey). Nonetheless, the Sun's continual emphasis on Hamza ended up turning him into a major villain and the archetypal spouting Islamic madman. How much influence he genuinely had on those who went on to take part in terrorist attacks is disputed; he certainly was involved in radicalisation, but the more lurid claims against him don't necessarily stand up to scrutiny. He was definitely on the periphery, and some who have gone on to become noted extremists certainly did go to the Finsbury Park mosque if not regularly then on more than one or two occasions to hear him speak, but also thanks to the portrayal of Hamza many now imagine that it's radical imams in mosques that do the radicalising when this is overwhelmingly, especially now, not the case. Hamza has if anything now become a cartoon, a puppet who can be brought out and used for almost any purpose.
Since Hamza's sad sojourn to Belmarsh, the Sun has been looking for someone to replace him. First they alighted upon Omar Bakri Muhammad, the then leader of al-Muhajiroun, since banned and now exiled in Lebanon, having been denied re-entry to the country. He even more than Hamza was a media whore, who loved the attention and had even less discernible links to those who have subsequently took part in, if we must call it that, the global jihad. He still regularly pops up, when the Sun can be bothered to phone him up and incur the international charges. Replacing him though has been the second in command of al-Muhajiroun, now supposedly the leader of one of its numerous successor organisations, Anjem Choudary. Choudary is interesting for two reasons: firstly because unlike either Hamza or Bakri he has no religious training whatsoever, and has not studied to be an imam, and is instead a lawyer by profession, albeit one that doesn't seem to practice; and secondly because Choudary used to be a "normal" person, i.e. got drunk, slept around and generally had something approaching fun. Hamza also didn't embrace radical Islam until he was in his late 20s, during the mid-80s, but was not as well-known for similar behaviour as Choudary was.
Choudary however is even more shameless when it comes to media attention than Bakri and Hamza combined. He appears to adore it, perhaps even crave it. He never seems happier than when appearing on Newsnight or some other news programme, moderating his rhetoric somewhat to not appear completely out there, addressing the anchor by name (he almost seemed to be flirting with Kirsty Wark on a recent NN appearance) and generally enjoying the attention. This is not to deny that Choudary holds undoubted extremist views which go against not just the vast vast majority of people in this country but also the vast vast majority of Muslims as well, but he is, not to put too fine a point on it, an idiot, a shill, a complete incompetent who almost seems like a plant by the security services to discredit radical Islam even further. He is leader of a tiny sect that has only gained attention because both of his own inflammatory views, their skills at exploiting the outrage of the gullible, and because the media itself adores him, because he makes either their programme or their newspaper seem exciting, even vaguely dangerous. It's quite accurate to lump Choudary in with the British National Party, except that it's acceptable to use Choudary where it isn't to use the BNP. If anything, the roles should be reversed: the BNP is far more influential than Choudary and deserves challenging in the media spotlight, unlike the clownish Choudary.
Choudary is a distraction. His group may well contain some individuals who might go on to put their words into action, although not necessarily in this country, hence why it should be carefully monitored. Choudary though is just a windbag, someone who can be relied upon for a quote but who can equally be turned on when the press feels like it. Which is what the Sun has done today.
Coinciding with the release of the CONTEST anti-terrorism strategy, the Sun has unilaterally decided that Choudary is such a danger and has got away with his "incitement" for so long that he must be immediately arrested, charged, and locked away. Quite why it's decided now is anyone's guess, although it might be connected with the fact that the terrorist threat from jihadists in general seems to be receding somewhat, as the strategy set out, meaning the Sun might not be able to scaremonger relentlessly for much longer, as it also does today, as we shall come to. Other papers would suggest that the police might well want to look at the "evidence" they've gathered and go from there; not the Sun. No, the paper "DEMANDS" on the front page that the police take action. And inside it does much the same:
So today The Sun calls on police chiefs to stop dithering and charge former lawyer Choudary, 41, before he poisons more young minds.
There isn't of course the slightest evidence that Choudary has "poisoned" any young minds; those he appeals to have probably already gone through their "radicalisation" process.
Needless to say, the Sun's evidence is predictably weak and contentious, with context being everything. In his latest rant, the paper breathlessly informs us:
In his new outburst — a recording posted on a password-protected Al-Qaeda website — he said: “You do not neglect any of our duties...
“If many of our Muslim lands are under occupation then of course jihad — you are going to be talking about jihad. You are going to be recruiting for the Mujahideen.
“You’re going to be working to overthrow, sorry, liberate, Muslim lands. Because you’re living in a situation where there’s lots of Muslim lands under occupation.”
Quoting from Islamic text, Choudary added: “ ‘You cannot accomplish this until you train... train for jihad.’ What kind of training is he talking about? He’s talking about military training.”
Choudary is quite clearly not directly inciting those listening to go abroad and start overthrowing "Muslim lands". He's talking rhetorically, for a start. Britain has also never been considered a "Muslim land"; the caliphate which many radical Muslims wish to re-establish only ever reached as far as Spain. Choudary's group and Choudary himself talk rather hilariously about instituting Sharia law here and flying the "flag of Islam" from Downing Street, but it's for the birds. Not even they really believe it. The Sun doesn't try and suggest he's broken any laws here, but it's painstakingly analysed his other utterances for the slightest suggestion that he may have done:
Last September Choudary claimed the publisher of a novel about the prophet Mohammed should face the death penalty.
Martin Rynja — who put out fictional tale The Jewel Of Medina about the Prophet’s child bride — was placed under armed guard after petrol was poured through his letter box.
At the time Choudary appeared to be condoning the attacks, saying: “It is clearly stipulated in Muslim law that any kind of attack on his honour carries the death penalty.
“People should be aware of the consequences they might face when producing material like this.”
Our legal experts say this breaks section 31 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which states racially or religiously aggravated disorderly behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress, is a crime punishable by up to two years in jail.
If it could be proved Choudary’s comments were directly linked to an attack on the publisher’s life, he could be prosecuted for conspiracy to murder — which carries a LIFE term.
Again here, it's quite apparent that Choudary is not directly inciting violence against the book's publisher. Choudary had made similar remarks to prior to this, including at a demonstration against the speech by the Pope which referred to Muhammad's work as "evil", where he said that under Islamic law the Pope could be executed for his slur on the prophet. He was careful during the actual protest to make clear the inference that it had to be under an Islamic system; with reporters he was not so careful, apparently telling one:
"Whoever insults the message of Muhammad is going to be subject to capital punishment. I am here have a peaceful demonstration. But there may be people in Italy or other parts of the world who would carry that out. I think that warning needs to be understood by all people who want to insult Islam and want to insult the prophet of Islam."
Now that is potentially incitement, but the Met had already investigated and decided not to press charges, as the remarks were apparently made in private. It's unlikely that they'd be able to prosecute or make the case stand up were they to attempt to do so over what the Sun highlights.
The paper isn't beat yet though:
Recently Choudary threatened that Lord Mandelson would be stoned to death under Sharia law and declared: “He would not be able to speak openly about homosexuality.”
Our experts said his comments broke the Public Order Act 1986, section 4A. It outlaws behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Breaking this law carries a heavy fine and/or six months in jail.
They might have a case here, but it would be a piss weak one and not get rid of Choudary for long. And err, that's it. That's all the Sun's evidence. To call this an investigation is itself rather pretentious, considering the amount of work that must have gone into it.
It's the Sun's leader though that is bordering on hysterical (url will change):
Err, no he hasn't. He hasn't used any such terminology, either in his pronouncements on the anti-terrorist document, or in his Observer article at the weekend, "unprecedented" being entirely absent.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith raises fears further, predicting extremists will stop at nothing, including a nuclear “dirty bomb”, to inflict mass murder.
Again, no she hasn't. The most the document goes is to suggest that the "aspirations" of terrorists to use such materials has risen. My aspiration has risen to not get so worked up about a tabloid newspaper, but it doesn't mean it's going to happen.
So why hasn’t she rounded up dangerous loudmouth Anjem Choudary whose rants are most likely to provoke such an atrocity?
Probably because he is just what the Sun calls him, a loudmouth, just not dangerous. His rants are irrelevant except to his tiny band of followers and to the tabloid newspapers that love reporting them.
Ministers would ban harmless jokes about gays — even by gay comics — yet they allow Choudary to demand homosexuals’ execution.
Only neither is happening, or happened. Choudary was again talking about under Sharia law, while the government is not banning jokes about gays, despite the more ridiculous interpretation of potential laws again by the likes of the Sun.
This rabble-rouser pays lip service to peaceful action, yet is free to stir the hatred of gullible Muslims who might blow themselves and us to smithereens.
The key word here is "might". No Muslim listening to Choudary is suddenly going to decide to blow themselves and us to smithereens; to pretend radicalisation is that simple is more than daft, it's ignorant.
Despite his past as a cider-swigging, dope-smoking womaniser, Choudary demands death for anyone who drinks, takes drugs or fornicates.
He was behind the vile Luton demos against our brave soldiers. And he wants to sack our elected Parliament and raise the flag of revolutionary Islam over the House of Commons.
So? Is the Sun really so frightened of a thing called freedom of speech? He can call for whatever he likes or fantasise about whatever he likes as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, and so far there is nothing to suggest that it has.
This is worryingly like a re-run of the Abu Hamza saga.
“Hooky” spent years fomenting terror right under the noses of our security services before he was finally put away. And that was only to stop America getting their hands on him.
This is simply bollocks. The security services were well aware of Hamza, it's true, probably because like with the other radicals they believed that had a "covenant of security", where they were more or less free to do what they wanted as long as they didn't target this country itself, as well as quite possibly informing the security services of those who wanted to. There are still accusations that Abu Qatada, for example, is a double agent. The others also had regular contact with MI5. How deep the links go we simply don't know. The American part is double bollocks: the Americans still want to extradite him.
If the PM is right, another 7/7-style massacre is looming.
Again, Brown has said absolutely nothing like this. The head of MI5 back in January said the threat level was if anything decreasing, and that al-Qaida had no semi-autonomous structure in this country at present. He could of course be completely wrong, as you can't really trust a single thing a spook says, but considering how they've scaremongered in the past it seems doubtful whether they would suddenly decide the threat level was decreasing unless it actually was.
One day our hand-wringing police will have to take action against Choudary. What are they waiting for?
They should slam this nasty piece of work behind bars NOW — before our emergency services have to count the corpses.
Again, like with yesterday the paper almost seems to be willing such an attack to happen, almost say it can say it told you so. If the paper really cared about the terrorist threat to this country it would completely ignore Choudary and go after the really dangerous people - the ones who don't become media whores who can be contacted by phone for an instant quote, the Mohammad Siddique Khans that stay under the radar until it's too late. That though is far too difficult and costs too much. Far simpler to demand that Choudary be thrown behind bars, no matter how weak or dismal the actual evidence to do so is.