|Former spokesman for Islam4UK|
November 2008 – 14 January 2010
|Born||1967 (age 45–46)
|Residence||Ilford, London, England|
Anjem Choudary (Urdu: انجم چودری; born 1967 in England) is a British former solicitor, and, before it was proscribed, spokesman for the Islamist group Islam4UK. He is married, has four children, and lives in Ilford, London.
Choudary studied medicine at the University of Southampton before switching to law. He became a solicitor, and chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers. He later met Omar Bakri Muhammad, and the two helped form the Islamist organisation, al-Muhajiroun. The group organised several anti-Western demonstrations, including a banned protest march in London for which Choudary was summoned to appear in court. Al-Muhajiroun was a controversial organisation, which was later disbanded following the UK government's decision to ban it. Choudary was present at the launch of its intended successor, Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, and later helped form Al Ghurabaa, which was also banned, before he became the spokesman for Islam4UK.
Choudary is a vocal critic of the UK's involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has praised the terrorists involved in the attacks of 11 September 2001, and 7 July 2005. He believes in the implementation of Sharia law throughout the UK, and marched in protest at the Jyllands-Posten cartoons controversy, following which he was prosecuted for organising an unlawful demonstration. He was also investigated, but not charged, for his 2006 comments regarding Pope Benedict XVI. Choudary receives little support from the mainstream UK Muslim population and has been largely criticised in the media. The French Interior Ministry has also permanently banned him from entering France.
Early life and education 
Choudary was born in 1967, the son of a Welling market trader. He enrolled as a medical student at the University of Southampton, but switched to law after failing his first-year exams. His final year as a law student (1990–1991) was at Guildford. He then moved to London and taught English as a second language, until he found work at a legal firm and completed the qualifications to become a lawyer. He became chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers, but was removed from the roll of solicitors (the official register of legal practitioners) in 2002.
Choudary came to public attention in 1999, when the Sunday Telegraph identified him as playing an instrumental role in the recruitment of Muslim trainees leaving Britain to fight abroad. He told the newspaper "before they go abroad to fight for organisations like the IIF, the volunteers are trained in Britain. Some of the training does involve guns and live ammunition."[nb 1]
Choudary embraced Islamism, and with the Islamist militant leader Omar Bakri Muhammed, co-founded al-Muhajiroun. The two men had met at a local mosque, where Bakri was giving a tafsir. In 2002 the group were refused a permit for a rally in London, by then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. They ignored the ban, and held a rally on 25 August. Choudary was summonsed to Bow Street Magistrates Court on 14 January 2003, on charges which included "exhibiting a notice, advertisement or any other written or pictorial matter", "using apparatus for the amplification of sound", "making a public speech or address", and "organising an assembly". In the same year Choudary gave a talk on education at Slough, where he outlined his ideas for a parallel system of Islamic education in the UK. His speech followed a bazaar organised by al-Muhajiroun, advertised by leaflet and word of mouth. Choudary also included elements of the group's ideology in his lecture.
In 2003 or 2004 Choudary organised an Islamic-themed camping trip, at which Bakri lectured, on the 54-acre (220,000 m2) grounds of the Jameah Islamiyah School in East Sussex. The trip, which was advertised by word-of-mouth, was attended by 50 Muslim men, most of whom were members of al-Muhajiroun. Bakri later claimed the activities at the camp included lectures on Islam, football, and paintballing. In September 2006 police searched the school following allegations that it was used in the training and recruitment of terrorists. According to testimony from Al Qaeda suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, in 1997 and 1998 Abu Hamza and groups of around 30 of his followers held training camps at the school, which included training with AK47 rifles and handguns, and a mock rocket launcher. No arrests were made, and students and faculty were allowed to return on 23 September 2006, the first day of Ramadan.
The UK government had investigated expelling Bakri even before the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, and in July 2003 the headquarters of al-Muhajiroun, and the homes of Bakri and Choudary, were raided by the police. The following year, under new anti-terrorist legislation, the government announced that it wished to ban al-Muhajiroun from operating in the UK. In 2005 Bakri learned that he was at risk of prosecution for his support of the 7 July 2005 London bombers, and in August left the UK for Lebanon, where he claimed that he was on holiday. After leaving a television station where he said "I will not return to Britain unless I want to go there as a visitor or as a tourist", he was detained by Lebanon's general security department and held in a Beirut prison. Several days later, Bakri was excluded from returning to Britain by Home Secretary Charles Clarke, on the grounds that his presence in Britain was "not conducive to the public good." Choudary condemned the decision as "outrageous", demanded to know what Bakri had done to justify the ban, and claimed that ministers were inventing rules to ensure that Bakri could not return. In November Choudary was deported from Lebanon, along with three other followers of Bakri, and returned to the UK. Along with the three other deportees, he claimed that they were there to help Bakri set up a madrasah, and blamed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for orchestrating their deportations.
Following his deportation, Choudary attended the launch in London of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, the intended successor organisation to al-Muhajiroun. Choudary said that Bakri was not on the committee of the new group, but that "we would love for the sheikh to have a role." The organisation operates mainly through an invitation-only internet forum, to which Choudary contributes under the screen name Abou Luqman. A reporter visiting the site found calls for holy war, and recordings by Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Omar Bakri Mohammed.
Al-Muhajiroun attempted a relaunch in June 2009 at Conway Hall, in Holborn. Several speakers were invited to share a platform with Choudary, but some later claimed that they had been invited under false pretences. When the group refused to allow women into the meeting, the chairman of the society which runs the hall cancelled the event. He was heckled by many of those in the audience. Choudary took the microphone from the chairman and led chants of "sharia for UK", saying in reference to the exclusion of women: "Jews and Christians will never make peace with you until you either become like them or adopt their ways." Outside the hall, Choudary criticised British society, and predicted that Muslims would make up the majority within one or two decades. When asked why, if society was so bad, he lived here, he replied: "We come here to civilise people, get them to come out of the darkness and injustice into the beauty of Islam."
Al Ghurabaa 
Choudary was also a spokesman for the Muslim organisation, Al Ghurabaa. The group was proscribed in 2006 by then Home Secretary John Reid, who said: "I am determined to act against those who, while not directly involved in committing acts of terrorism, provide support for and make statements that glorify, celebrate and exalt the atrocities of terrorist groups." The group is believed to have been an off-shoot of al-Muhajiroun. Choudary reacted to the news with outrage, complaining: "The easy option when one is losing an argument is to ban the opposition voice. [...] We [al-Ghurabaa] are not a military organisation; we have only been vociferous in our views—views concerning everything from the government's foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan to the host of draconian laws, which they’ve introduced against us in this country."
In November 2008, Choudary organised a meeting of the newly-formed Islam4UK, which, according to its website, was "established by sincere Muslims as a platform to propagate the supreme Islamic ideology within the United Kingdom as a divine alternative to man-made law", and to "convince the British public about the superiority of Islam [...] thereby changing public opinion in favour of Islam in order to transfer the authority and power [...] to the Muslims in order to implement the Sharee’ah (here in Britain)". According to Ed Husain, co-founder of the counter-terrorism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, Islam4UK is a "splinter group of al-Muhajiroun and Hizb ut-Tahrir, the originators of extremism in Britain." The meeting, advertised as a conference to "rise to defend the honour of the Muslims", was held at the Brady Arts and Community Centre in Tower Hamlets. Choudary then announced that Bakri would be speaking, via a video-conference link, although technical problems meant that his address was instead given over a telephone line. When asked by a Muslim woman how the comments of one of the event's speakers could be justified, with regards to Islam being a religion of peace, Choudary stated, "Islam is not a religion of peace...It is a religion of submission. We need to submit to the will of Allah.".
With the announcement by Islam4UK that it planned to hold a protest march through Wootton Bassett (famous for honouring dead British soldiers returning from the war in Afghanistan), Choudary said "You may see one or two coffins being returned to the UK every other day, but when you think about the people of Afghanistan its a huge number [being killed] in comparison [...] I intend to write a letter to the parents of British soldiers telling them the reality of what they died for." Choudary's open letter was published on 3 January 2010. In it, he explained his reasons for proposing the march, endorsed his religious beliefs, and claimed that UK politicians had been lying about the war. Choudary stated that the proposed march was to "engage the British publics minds on the real reasons why their soldiers are returning home in body bags and the real cost of the war." In an interview with Sky News, he stated that the location of the proposed march was chosen to effect a level of media attention which "it would not have gained anywhere else". The proposed march has been condemned by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said that to offend the families of dead or wounded troops would be "completely inappropriate", the Minhaj-ul-Quran International UK centre in Forest Gate, and the Muslim Council of Britain, which stated that it "condemns the call by the fringe extremist group Islam4UK for their proposed march in Wootton Bassett." The planned march was cancelled by the group, on 10 January 2010.
From 14 January 2010, the organisation was proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000, making membership illegal, and punishable by imprisonment. Choudary condemned the order. In an interview on BBC Radio he said "we are now being targeted as an extremist or terrorist organisation and even banned for merely expressing that. I feel this is a failure of the concept of democracy and freedom."
Views and marches 
Since the disbandment of al-Muhajiroun, Choudary has often praised Muslim terrorists. He referred to the 11 September terrorists as "magnificent martyrs", and in 2003 appeared to endorse terrorist attacks by British Muslims, saying that al-Muhajiroun would "encourage people to fulfil their Islamic duties and responsibilities". In 2004 he said that a terror attack on British soil was "a matter of time"; following the 7 July 2005 London bombings he refused to condemn the atrocities. In 2008 he attacked the Muslim Council of Britain (who had condemned the 11 September and 7 July terrorist attacks), accusing them of "selling their souls to the devil". in an Interview with CBN news Mr Choudary said that “You can't say that Islam is a religion of peace, Because Islam does not mean peace. Islam means submission." Following Osama Bin Laden's death, Choudary stated that "For Obama, killing an old man [Bin Laden] and his family in his home is justice...That is the justice of the Americans – occupation, murder, mayhem, imprisonment. That is the only justice that they know. We are here to say: That is injustice. Whenever you have man-made law, whenever you rule by other than what Allah has revealed, you will have injustice, you will have oppression. The biggest Satan, the biggest oppressor, the biggest criminal in the world today is Barack Obama, his henchmen, and his allies."
Choudary has regularly attended public marches, and following a protest march outside the Danish Embassy in London on 3 February 2006, held in response to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, he was a member of a panel of interviewees on the BBC news programme, Newsnight. He defended Muslims in Britain, saying that "we live in peace with the host community, we are not allowed to target people here", and claimed that the police had inspected and allowed the controversial placards used in the demonstration. Choudary was heavily criticised by his fellow panellists, who included the MP for Keighley Ann Cryer, Humera Khan, of the al-Nisa Muslim Women's Group (who accused him of demonising Islam), vice-chair of the Conservative Party Sayeeda Warsi, professor Tariq Ramadan (who claimed that Choudary's actions were designed to evoke a strong response from the media), and leader of the UK Independence Party Roger Knapman. On 15 March 2006 he was among five men arrested in connection with the demonstration, which had been organised by al Ghurabaa. He was arrested again on 4 May at Stansted Airport for an alleged breach of bail, and charged with organising the protest without notifying police. He was bailed to appear before Bow Street Magistrates Court on 11 May. On 4 July 2006 he was convicted and fined £500 with £300 court costs.
The following day, at an Al Ghurabaa press conference at the Al Badr centre in Leyton, Choudary claimed that the blame for the London bombings lay with the British government, and said that the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair had "blood on his hands". He also urged Muslims to defend themselves against perceived attacks by "whatever means they have at their disposal", and referred to the 2 June 2006 Forest Gate raid in which Mohammed Abdul Kahar was shot in the shoulder. He encouraged Muslims not to co-operate with the police under any circumstances. Local council leader Clyde Loakes criticised Choudary's comments, stating "I am sure the vast majority of Waltham Forest residents do not support these views." Several days later, on 9 June 2006, Choudary organised a demonstration outside the Forest Gate police station in London, to protest against the arrest of the Forest Gate men. About 35 men and 15 women attended the demonstration. The family of the two men said that the police raid represented "barbaric and horrific actions", but that an extremist protest would "only give another opportunity for our community to be portrayed in a negative light".
Choudary is reportedly a regular poster on "Followers of Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama'aah Muntada", an invitation-only internet forum visited by some of Britain's more notable Muslim extremists. Using the alleged pseudonym Abou Luqman,[nb 3] Choudary has voiced support for the Muslim community in Somalia, who, he claims, have been "violated" by Christian-backed Ethiopians, and has also called for other members to fight jihad.
Choudary strongly believes in the primacy of Islam over all other faiths, and the implementation of Sharia Law, in its entirety, in the UK. In 2001 he stated that his allegiance is to Islam, and not a country. He believes that, for a true Muslim, "a British passport is no more than a travel document." In October 2006 he addressed a Trinity College debate in Dublin, where as spokesman for al-Muhajiroun he spoke against the motion that "This house believes that Islamist violence can never be justified". Supporting him were Sulayman Keeler, from al-Ghurabaa, and Omar Brooks, leader of the Saviour Sect Group. Among those supporting the motion however, Islamic scholar Sheikh Al Saleh said that "Islam is the heritage of mankind", and Shaheed Satardian of the Supreme Muslim council of Ireland criticised "Muslim vigilantes" who had made attempts on his life, and fire-bombed his home in South Africa. Satardian said that his younger brother had been killed by extremists, and told Choudary "I believe violence perpetrated in the name of Islam is a terrible slur on the name of Islam." In February 2008 the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams commented that "as a matter of fact certain provisions of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law". Choudary responded by saying that Sharia "has to be adopted wholesale", and that "it will come either by embracing Islam because it is the fastest growing religion in the country, or by an Islamic country conquering Britain or by elements embracing Islam and imposing it." In 2008 he spoke of the "flag of Sharia" flying over Downing Street by 2020, claimed that some Muslim families in east London were having "10 or 12 children each", and that hundreds were converting to Islam each day. Choudary has spoken against elements of the Christian faith. In December 2008 he posted a sermon on an Islamic website, in which he stated: "Every Muslim has a responsibility to protect his family from the misguidance of Christmas, because its observance will lead to hellfire. Protect your Paradise from being taken away – protect yourself and your family from Christmas".
In September 2006 Pope Benedict XVI gave a speech on the question of the "reasonableness" of the Christian faith, to the University of Regensburg in Germany. In the Regensburg lecture he spoke about rationality in faith, and cited comments by the 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Palaiologos, who, as the Pope put it, said "show me just what Mohamed brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." The citation attracted severe criticism from Muslims around the world, including the parliament of Pakistan which condemned the Pope for his comments, and which sought an apology from him. Following the speech, on 17 September Choudary led a protest outside Westminster Cathedral, where he told reporters "Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment." The Daily Mail reported him as saying: "I am here [to] have a peaceful demonstration, but there may be people in Italy and other parts that would carry that out." The Metropolitan Police investigated his comments, but concluded that "no substantive offences" were committed during the demonstration. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, who had called for action to be taken against Choudary, said: "It is quite disgraceful. It sends out a message to Muslim extremists that we, as a country, do not have the moral courage to stand up to them."
In July 2011, he claimed responsibility for a scheme to stick bright yellow posters on street posts to proclaim areas as "Shariah Controlled Zones." "We are going to go to all these same areas and implement our own Sharia-controlled zones," he is quoted as saying. "We want to run the area as a Sharia-controlled zone and really to put the seeds down for an Islamic Emirate in the long term."
He attempted to enter France to demonstrate against the French government's decision to ban the burka, but was stopped at the port of Calais. His passport was seized and he was issued documents banning him from France indefinitely.
Choudary has been largely criticised by most UK newspapers, some of whom describe him as an extremist. In January 2010, Guardian contributor Mehdi Hasan wrote: "Is Choudary an Islamic scholar whose views merit attention or consideration? No. Has he studied under leading Islamic scholars? Nope. Does he have any Islamic qualifications or credentials? None whatsoever. So what gives him the right to pontificate on Islam, British Muslims or 'the hellfire'? Or proclaim himself a 'sharia judge'?", and claimed that Choudary was "as unrepresentative of British Muslim opinion, as he is of British anti-war opinion."
Conservative Party leader David Cameron said that Choudary "is one of those people who needs to be looked at seriously in terms of the legality of what he's saying because he strays, I think, extremely close to the line of encouraging hatred, extremism and violence."
Salma Yaqoob, the leader of the Respect Party, said of Choudary: "He is a bigot whose goal in life is to provoke division. He engages in these provocations because he is deeply hostile to any coming together of Muslims and non-Muslims. For him, the fact that a majority of the British people – Muslim and non-Muslim – oppose the war in Afghanistan is not something to be celebrated, but is something to be feared." Rod Liddle, writing in The Spectator, said: "Anjem Choudray...is one of those thick-as-mince gobby little chancers who could only possibly come from Britain." Conservatives in the United States have also been critical of Choudary. Fox News host Sean Hannity called him "one sick, miserable, evil S.O.B." during a segment on his show discussing the 2011 Egyptian protests.
Choudary has received little support from the mainstream Muslim community, although in January 2010 Telegraph writer Jamie Bartlett speculated that he might have "some" support among the minority of Muslims in the UK who could be considered to hold conservative views.
Tabloid criticism of Islam4UK and Choudary since news of the proposed march first became public has, generally, been vitriolic. The Sun printed an article on 6 January which claimed that Choudary was in receipt of state benefits in the region of £25,000 and said: "British-born father-of-four Choudary is notoriously vague about whether he works or has other money coming in." It continued, "He is understood to be employed by a Muslim organisation on a shoestring wage, which allows him to claim income support and free time to spread his hatred." Choudary had first commented on the matter to the Evening Standard months earlier, stating "I don't think it's of any importance". While generally, follow-up reporting of The Sun's article was restricted to other tabloid newspapers, on 12 January Choudary was asked to clarify the matter by ITN reporter Angus Walker. Choudary replied "The money belongs to Allah and if it is given, you can take it. You don't lie and you don't cheat – that is what the prophet said. I am not doing anything illegal." Appearing on the BBC's The Daily Politics on 14 January, presenter Andrew Neil discussed with Choudary his opinions on the banning of Islam4UK, before asking him to comment on his financial status, claiming that it was "relevant to our viewers". Choudary told Neil that his finances were a personal matter, and that he was "doing something, and I don't want to discuss that with you. I'm not on Jobseeker's allowance, but at the same time I have family allowance, I have very firmly held views which I'm propagating at the same time." Responding to the media's criticism of him, Choudary said "I do believe that people have been whipped up into an anti-Islam anti-Muslim frenzy."
Personal life 
In 1996 Choudary married 22-year-old Rubana Akhtar, who had recently joined al-Muhajiroun, which he led at the time. She later became the group's head of women. The couple settled in Ilford and had four children.
See also 
- IIF is an acronym for International Islamic Front
- When asked why he would not condemn the 7 July bombings when Bakri already had.
- When contacted by The Sunday Times to confirm this allegation, Choudary reportedly put the phone down.
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- "The War Within", Special Investigations Unit, CNN, 20 January 2007 – transcript of a documentary featuring an interview with Choudary
- Is Anjem Choudary a Qualified Islamic Judge of a Shariah Court in the UK?
- Fareed Zakaria interview (Choudary section starts about halfway down)
- Anjem Choudary at the Internet Movie Database