Radical Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary has a long history of spreading militant radical Islamic ideology in the United Kingdom and has been an influential figure, having pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State and its former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014.
Choudary was found guilty by a British court of inviting support for the Islamic State and handed a five-year and six-month prison sentence in 2016, though he was released just two years later in 2018.
This week, the BBC reports that Choudary faces fresh terror-related charges and appeared in court where he was accused of taking part in meetings calling for others to support the radical Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun.
According to prosecutors, Choudary has been engaging in meetings since June of 2022, giving lectures on the Internet to small groups each week and encouraging followers to support Al-Muhajiroun, which was banned in the UK in 2010 after an offshoot of the group was banned in 2006 for the glorification of terrorist acts.
A Canadian man, 28-year-old Khaled Hussein, has also been arrested in the UK when he arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport on July 17th, the same day as Choudary’s arrest. Hussein is believed to have worked with Choudary to provide him with a platform to express support for Al-Muhajiroun.
UK prosecutors have also charged the Edmonton, Alberta resident with being part of a proscribed organisation. Neither man gave a plea at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court during their separate hearings.
The Canadian National Post newspaper reports that Al-Muhajiroun, despite being banned in 2010, has continued to operate by rebranding itself under several different names, including the Islamic Thinkers Society, which prosecutors say Choudary spoke to regarding how to radicalise people.
Choudary was once known as the most prominent radical Islamic preacher in Britain and would regularly appear in various media outlets where he advocated for sharia law and the conversion of the UK into an Islamic State.
As early as 2003, Choudary and Al-Muhajiroun praised the hijackers who carried out the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, calling them “The Magnificent 19.”
“Those individuals are Muslims, they were carrying out their Islamic responsibility and duty, so in that respect they were magnificent, and the Muslims worldwide hope that they are accepted as martyrs in the eyes of God,” Choudary said at the time.
After declaring his admiration for the Islamic State in 2014, which at the time held considerable territories in Syria and Iraq, Choudary told British media that he would have travelled to Islamic State-controlled areas to live there if he had been able to.
“Everybody gets about $500 a month free of charge, no questions asked. Iraq and Syria can afford it as they have oil,” he said and added, “You’re given free food, clothing and shelter. You get a free house and electricity, gas and water. You also get income support.”
“If that is Britishness then no, I’m not British. I have no affiliation to the monarchy or the laws of this land. If you’re born in a barn it doesn’t make you a horse. A British passport is just a common document. It’s like a bus ticket to me. I don’t affiliate with things like democracy and freedom. My set of values and principles arise from Islam,” he said.
It was also revealed that Choudary had greatly benefited from British taxpayer’s money in the past and had been paid around 25,000 pounds per year prior to his conviction and sentencing in 2016. After his release in 2018, he claimed just 300 pounds per week. In a 2013 undercover recording, Choudary had referred to his welfare benefits as “Jihad Seekers’ Allowance.”
Followers of Choudary have also been involved in both extremist preaching and terrorist attacks, including Michael Adebolajo, one of the men who murdered and beheaded British soldier Lee Rigby on a London street in 2013.