Islamic State ‘ambassador-at-large’

Following IS’s announcement of its Islamic State in June 2014, and as its heinous crimes multiplied, Anjem Choudary became the go-to figure for TV outlets…

a journalist interviewing Anjem Choudary

Following IS’s announcement of its Islamic State in June 2014, and as its heinous crimes multiplied, Anjem Choudary became the go-to figure for TV outlets and newspaper journalists across the world, offering IS open and vocal support.

Over the summer of 2014 media outlets in six continents showcased Choudary. In America alone, he appeared on CNN, CBS, Fox News and ABC. He appeared in a major feature in The Washington Post and his arrest was reported in numerous newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and the LA Times.

Unsurprisingly he also became an international hate figure for the large anti-Muslim “Counter-Jihad” movement and a cause of acute embarrassment for America’s own Muslim communities, who have no comparable extremist of their own.

Welcoming IS’s creation and declaring it “legitimate”, Choudary joined a growing number of radical preachers who offered IS their open and vocal support. Others included the Australian radical preacher Musa Cerantonio, who according researchers at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation was among the most influential of a “new set of new spiritual authorities” who used social media to cheerlead for jihad and persuade young men to join the conflict in Syria and Iraq.

There was also Abu Baker Bashir, an Indonesian cleric and spiritual leader of the former Jemaah Islamiyah, as well as the Jamaican national, Abdullah Faisal, who leads the Authentic Tauheed.

Speaking to Lebanese TV in early July 2014, Choudary said that there were now two camps in the world: those who believed in man-made law, which he said were led by President Obama, and those who believed in the law of God and who were led by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“This propaganda is not just a case of demonising the enemy, even the terminology we use we need to be very careful with, because there is nothing called moderate Islam or extremist Islam, there is Islam. Yes, we are extreme from (sic) democracy and freedom, liberalism and human rights.”

In an interview with The Guardian he called al-Baghdadi “the caliph of all Muslims and the prince of the believers”.

Asked to comment on Obama’s strategy of supporting moderate groups in Syria, Choudary responded:

“What the policy of the West has always been is to divide and rule. What they want to say is that these people are extreme, so support the others so as to cause factions to fight with each other. But, in fact, if you look at the history of the Caliphate, even if you look now in the area controlled by the Islamic State, the Jews, the Muslims and the Christians are living side by side in security. It is not true that people are being slaughtered. Those people who are allied with the previous regime or those who are fighting against the Muslims, certainly they will be fought against.”

Denying IS’s horrific atrocities and blaming Western propaganda became a central theme to Choudary’s comments. He and his cohorts toured the TV studios at the height of media interest in IS, playing down reports of atrocities and urging Muslims to rally behind the new “state”.

In 2015 a key al-Muhajiroun member and leading Choudary acolyte, Abu Rumaysah, who had relocated to the Islamic State in Syria, produced A Brief Guide to the Islamic State which echoed Choudary’s words, ignoring the brutal reality of IS and instead painting a picture of a land of “scrumptious” falafel sandwiches and fruit cocktails.

Despite the huge weight of evidence to the contrary Choudary steadfastly refused to acknowledge the brutal crimes of the Islamic State or even condemn its beheading of US and UK citizens, claiming that they were perhaps guilty of some crime.

“There are circumstances in Sharia where there is capital punishment for crimes that have been committed,” he told The Guardian following the beheading of US journalist James Foley.

“Now,” he added, “I don’t know anything about these journalists, why they were there, whether they were spying or in fact part of the military. Often it turns out that people have other roles as well.”

In the same interview, he then tried to turn the tables by claiming the beheadings were actually the fault of the US and UK authorities for both their foreign policies and their refusal to deal with the IS.

“If you look at the death of James Foley,” he said, “you only have to listen to the person who is executing him to know that the blame is the Americans’ because of their own foreign policy. The fact is that decades of torture, cruelty and mass murder will have repercussions.”

Responding to the British media outcry following the beheading of Alan Henning, who was in Syria on an aid mission, Choudary told the Daily Telegraph: “In the Quran it is not allowed for you to feel sorry for non-Muslims. I don’t feel sorry for him…I don’t know the real story, I only heard from the British Government and media.”

More provocatively, Choudary revelled in telling the media that he would love to move to the Islamic State – if only the authorities would let him.

“I’d go tomorrow. I’d love to bring my children up there,” he told the Sunday Mirror. And he told The Times: “I believe the world belongs to God and that one day, hopefully, the UK will be part of an Islamic State. Why shouldn’t I be free to travel to the Khalifah [caliphate] and see what life is like under the Sharia?”

Conveniently sidestepping the question as to why he did not go before police raided him in late September, he used the confiscation of his passport as an excuse. “If the Home Office give me back my passport, I could start making plans straight away because I would love to bring up my children under Sharia law. I could do a farewell press conference at Heathrow Airport,” he told IB Times UK.

Next: A Short History of ALM Encouraging Foreign Fighters


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