Could an extremist be correct?


Anjem Choudary, leader of the recently outlawed Islam4UK group, told Alex Court of his beliefs that U.S. and British troops aren’t in Afghanistan to restore democracy

Anjem Choudary, an ex-lawyer from East London, has featured repeatedly in the press recently. Alan Johnson, the head of Britain’s Home Office, has banned Choudary’s Islam4UK organisation; since 14th January, people who claim membership of the group may face up to ten years in prison. The government says it is a precaution to protect the British population from radical militant Muslims, Choudary says it is for other reasons.

So, what does Islam4UK do? Is it really so dangerous and nasty that Brits need protection from it? The group’s main aim is to make Britain a Muslim country ruled by Sharia Law. With their particular dislike of man-made rules, Choudary says the group “will continue until the Sharia is implemented in Britain, and one day we do believe that the flag of Islam will fly over 10 Downing Street.”

Far too many people in Ireland understand Sharia as a horrible, brutal thing, being only exposed to the word in articles concerning al-Qaeda, Taliban and al-Shabab in Somalia, and never in less extreme contexts.

In Arabic, Sharia means “the clear, well-trodden path to water”. It does not mean, as some have glibly suggested, ‘stone adulterous woman to death’ or ‘cut the hands off thieves’. It has only taken these obnoxious connotations because of the actions of extremist regimes, justifying their inhumane punishments through their own (mis)interpretations.

Muslims have Shari just as Christians have Commandments. Muslims believe their guide to have been given to the prophet Mohammed by Allah, and follow it in preparation for the next life.

Choudary’s goal, though, still seems silly. The UK is yet to have a non-Christian Prime Minister, suggesting that the only way the Muslim flag might be hoisted is through (violent) revolution – not something that a country that has thrived on democracy for centuries needs.

Furthermore, democracy is not something Choudary endorses, saying: “I hate secularism and freedom… and [I hate] liberalism as defined by man-made laws and democracy” – certainly unpopular sentiments to express in the UK or in the West generally.

If one is in favour of democracy and freedom, though, then surely one should be appalled at Johnson’s decision to ban the group? If everyone is free, shouldn’t people be free to hate freedom? Listening to Choudary’s thoughts on Afghanistan, it became clear why this line of thought sometimes has to give way.

“I do believe that the U.S.A. has forces in Afghanistan to stop the rising support for the Taliban establishing Sharia Law. I do believe they [the Taliban] can take Islam and they can remove their enemy.”

But is support for Sharia in Afghanistan rising, or are Afghans being forced by gun-toting religious gangs to adopt a more radical interpretation of the Koran? One suspects it’s the latter.

Slowly it becomes less surprising that the Home Office has moved to stop Islam4UK. Choudary believes Gordon Brown – “the stooge of Barack Obama” – is misleading the public on the real reason his army is in Afghanistan: “It is really to establish their own greedy, military economic force in the area.” It would make sense for a government to restrain these remarks from percolating through society.

Choudary continued. “I believe sovereignty belongs to God, and I believe that under that regime [the Taliban], the life, the wealth, the honour, the dignity of Muslims would be protected. They would have their basic needs everyday and their shelter.” Taliban leaderships in the past have banned music and colour. Men were not allowed to shave, and  woman forced to cover their heads in veils. One hopes Afghanistan learns from history, and doesn’t plunge itself back into the dark Middle Ages.

Choudary also explained to me that “if you say something nowadays against the government… freedom quickly dissipates and it is replaced with dictatorship.” While his perspective is informed by recent censoring events, it is too much to call Gordon Brown a dictator. The current PM can’t dictate so much as a letter when he tries.

Why would Choudary care anyway? He hates democracy! It starts to sound as if dictatorship might suit Islam4UK quite well, as long as Choudary was the human form through which Allah channels his will – a man living lavishly in No. 10 with the Islamic flag blowing above the door.

The Home Office’s move to ban this group, then, is less rash than it previously seemed to be – it is founded in reason, as a necessary, isolated move to protect citizens. It is not the beginning of the end of freedom.