Anjem Choudary in happier times
Fundamentalist nutjob Anjem Choudary’s bottled it. After a week of hysteria in the British press over a planned Islamist march through Wootton Bassett, he has cancelled the demo – as many already predicted he would do. Choudary previously claimed to be organising a march for Shariah Law in London before bottling it, unfortunately not before the Daily Express ran with the story “Now Muslims Demand Full Sharia Law”.
In both cases the reasons for shitting it are obvious; Islam4UK has a membership base of only dozens and would be outnumbered in the hundreds if not thousands by far-right counter demonstrators.
Full credit must be given where it’s due however. While the Left and secular Muslims can hold sizeable demonstrations against war, terrorism and in defence of secularism they are lucky to get any coverage. Islam4UK on the other hand can picket a homecoming march with a couple dozen demonstrators holding placards and make national headlines.
People who demand that more secular Muslims speak out against Choudary, or that their voices are not being heard because they have sympathy for Islam4UK should remember how the media works. Choudary is given more publicity than any other religious Muslim leader (and possibly anyone of Muslim background in the UK) not because his ideas are popular but because they sell newspapers. A bearded lunatic raving about the flag of Allah flying over Downing Street, flogging drunks, attacking British Soldiers and generally acting like something Chris Morris would cook up is someone much more interesting to read about than some nondescript spokesperson for the Muslim Association of Britain – particularly when he’s on 25k of YOUR taxes Great Britain!
It’s this massive outpouring of hatred for Islam4UK that’s probably resulted in their banning. After being banned in their previous incarnation Al Muhjahiroun, they rebranded themselves as Islam4UK. Expect them to do the same in a couple of months – Jihad4Anglia? Scouser Muhjahadeen? Nice Cup of tea and a sit down Martyrs Brigade? The potential name changes for British Islamists are almost endless.
As much black humour Choudary and Islam4UK can provide with calls for a fundamentalist Islamic programme across the UK they are much more dangerous than their small numbers suggest. The coverage they obtain provides crucial justification for a variety of “think tanks” and a growing cottage industry of anti-Muslim bigots. Every time Islam4UK carry out a demo it can be used as evidence for massive, concealed sympathy for Islamist ideas among British Muslims. This is almost certainly Islam4UK’s strategy; punch above your weight with some mental slogans then when these are used to justify an anti-Muslim backlash pose as the defenders of Muslims.
One such organisation which has used Islam4UK to bolster it’s own anti-Muslim bigotry is the Centre for Social Cohesion. Their spokesperson agreed to debate with Anjem Choudary but then pulled out when he demanded the audience be divided into male and female. Who would have thought a religious fundamentalist would be so unreasonable. The Centre for Social Cohesion snatched headlines recently by conducting a poll claiming that one third of Muslim students supported killing in the name of religion.
The reality was that the poll showed completely different results. Only 4% of Muslim students thought it was acceptable to kill to “preserve and promote religion”. 28% thought it was acceptable to kill “only if that religion was under attack”. The second question was specifically designed to be vague enough to get the results the poll wanted.
In other questions asked, only 6% of Muslims believed that those who became apostates (converted from Islam) should be punished under Sharia Law. The poll reveals that there are only about 4-6% of British Muslims who support Islamist ideas. There were some disturbing results however – there were significant minorities who had “little or no respect for homosexuals” for instance. Also large sections of Muslims polled said they would welcome the introduction of an Islamic Caliphate, and Sharia Law in the UK. Unsurprisingly though the poll did not ask if they thought it should be forced upon non-Muslims through violence.
The only Sharia Law that is present in the UK has no legal standing whatsoever, where Muslims go to an Imam to receive a religious judgement on aspects of their lives. The Imam has no legal power and his authority is based on Muslims deciding to accept his judgements. This is not unique in the UK – Jewish Religious courts arbitrate on affairs in the Jewish community, but can only act when Jews recognise it’s authority.
Religious law shouldn’t be whitewashed – there is often pressure in marriages, families and communities to accept arbitration from religious figures even if they carry no official power. Deciding to reject it can come at a high cost in terms of personal relations with your friends and family etc. But the people who will suffer that will be Muslims and not non-Muslims in the UK, and Muslims won’t be able to challenge religious authority if there is a cloud of suspicion cast over all of them. Instead a siege mentality will develop, with these religious figures finding their authority in the community increasing.
Polling consistently shows tiny support for hardcore Islamist ideas in the UK – only 4-6% of the Muslim population support killing in the name of Islam even if its not attacked or punishment of apostates. And this is 4-6% of a religious minority. Across the UK Muslims make up 3% of the population. In Scotland it is only 0.8%. The base of support for turning the UK into an Islamic Republic would not be able to organise in telephone boxes – matchboxes would be more appropriate.
When people like Choudary are promoted throughout the media it’s not just to laugh at his ideas, or because of his sexist, and bigoted ideas. He is used by many anti-Muslim newspapers and commentators as a stick to bash all Muslims in the UK with, and to raise a nightmare scenario of Britain becoming an Islamic State. Once you have that nightmare vision you can go on to justify any kind of attack on Muslims that wouldn’t be suggested for any other minority in the UK. That makes Anjem Choudary very dangerous, but not in the way he or his opponents in the tabloid media would think.