November 25, 2013
A network of groups led by the Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary has become the “single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history”, according to a major investigation. Groups linked to Mr Choudary have “facilitated or encouraged” up to 80 young Muslims from the UK – and 250 to 300 people from across Europe – to join al-Qa’ida-linked forces fighting President Assad in Syria, the Hope Not Hate report suggests.
The investigation also highlights links between Mr Choudary’s al-Muhajiroun network and the perpetrators of several major terrorist attacks, including the 7/7 suicide bombings in London. Mr Choudary is known for his controversial statements and has developed a reputation as a pantomime villain, but Hope Not Hate said he should be considered a “serious player on the international Islamist scene”.
Despite two decades of activism, the 46-year-old Briton has only ever been fined £500 for organising an illegal protest outside the Danish embassy in London over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. In January 2010, shortly before he become Prime Minister, David Cameron said Mr Choudary needed “to be looked at seriously” because he strays “extremely close to the line of encouraging hatred, extremism and violence”. In June, the Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick told a Commons committee that they were “constantly assessing” whether any of Mr Choudary’s “proclamations are breaking the criminal law”.
The report stressed there was no evidence he or his associate Omar Bakri Mohamed had “directly instigated any terror plots”, but added: “We do believe they have given people the encouragement to take extreme actions”. The Syrian-born Mohamed founded the now-banned group al-Muhajiroun, but was refused permission to return to Britain after going to Lebanon.
Hope Not Hate said at least 70 people linked to al-Muhajiroun and its successor organisations had been convicted of terrorism, terrorist-related offences in the UK or died overseas during the last 14 years. The report claimed the 7/7 suicide bombers had links to al-Muhajiroun network. The report said Mr Choudary had “his own international network of affiliated and partner organisations” that often used the name Sharia4 followed by the name of the country, such as Sharia4Pakistan. This network was “best described as the Global Sharia Network”.
Mr Choudary said the idea that his groups were a “gateway to terror” was “fanciful thinking” by Hope Not Hate. “We’re not a gateway to anything,” he said. “Hope Not Hate have jumped on the so-called terrorism bandwagon. They are trying to point the finger at us for everything since 9/11.”