Please don’t listen to Anjem Choudary

First, he announced his plan to march through Wootton Bassett, in Wiltshire, carrying 500 coffins to symbolise the thousands of Muslims killed ‘by the oppressive US and UK regimes’ in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, he is sending letters to the grieving families of fallen British soldiers, telling them he has “no sympathy whatsoever” for their plight, urging them instead to become Muslims to “save” themselves “from the hellfire”.

Is there anything Anjem “Andy” Choudary won’t do for the sake of a cheap headline? As Inayat Bunglawala wrote on Cif almost a year ago, Choudary and his gang deploy “a simple formula – hold up some offensive placards designed to get people’s backs up and call a local reporter to come along and capture some footage – that has reliably generated acres of media coverage for them in recent years”.

Our sensationalist and irresponsible media has, in fact, been deeply complicit in the rise and rise of this fanatic, devoting quite disproportionate and counter-productive coverage to his various rantings. 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”?

Will he even manage to round up enough misfits to carry the 500 coffins with him? I doubt it – Choudary and co couldn’t even persuade enough people to join a ‘march for sharia’ that they had proudly planned to hold in central London in late October, and, at the very last minute, had to humiliatingly withdraw from their own rally. Pathetic, eh?

Mehdi Hasan at Comment is Free, 4 January 2010

This is spot on. Except that even Anjem Choudary is not so stupid as to imagine that he could mobilise any more than a few dozen supporters to stage his proposed demonstration in Wootton Bassett. As with his “march for sharia” in October, Choudary’s method is to announce some provocation, predict that hundreds or even thousands of Muslims will turn up to support it and then, having milked it for all the publicity he can, announce that the event won’t be going ahead after all.

This has the entirely predictable effect of stoking the fires of Islamophobia, which has real consequences in terms of physical violence against Muslims and arson attacks on mosques. Of course, neither Choudary nor the media who play along with him have any concern for that at all.

Update:  See also “Islam4UK provocateurs inflame public opinion with help of UK media”, ENGAGE, 5 January 2010