Here’s how not to defend free speech: by defending the jailing of “Islamist hothead” Anjen Choudhary – that “Bin Laden without the balls.” Spiked’s Brendan O’Neill, now on a tour of Australia and often quoted here, argues that “he’s repulsive, but he shouldn’t be sent to prison.”
What Choudhary dreams of doing — smashing freedom of thought and demanding conformity to his ideology — is done by the British state to him. In seeking to solve the Choudary problem, we become like Choudary:.
This is errant nonsense.
Yes, O’Neill is right that we shouldn’t have people arrested simply because they’re odious. And he’s very right that Choudary’s arrest and conviction now is largely “a displacement activity, a legalistic performance of toughness against the problem of Islamist extremism in place of any serious ideas for how to confront the growing influence of such anti-Western, anti-liberal ideas among young Muslims, and others”:
How much easier it is to hold up the likes of Choudary as infectors of minds than it is to ask what it is about 21st-century Britain that means a significant number of our young people can be drawn to profoundly unenlightened thought. The showy conviction of Choudary, ridiculously branded ‘the most dangerous man in Britain’, is a sad stand-in for tackling the crisis of British values and liberal thought, which is so strong that we’re losing — rather than Choudary actually winning — young people to a depressing, death cult creed.
The death cult Choudary supports exists in a vacuum created by the west itself – Islam always has. Choudary’s gleeful sponging on British taxpayers is almost a metaphor for how Islam has always survived and flourished, right from when it first began. He’s a parasite, as his religion always has been. As O’Neill identifies so well, Choudary and his fellow creatures are not winning young peope to their nihilistic stone-age cause, the west is generally losing them by failing to fully uphold, defend and identify its own founding values.
We do love life as they love death, but you wouldn’t know it from all the cringing. Getting up of our own knees would be a good way to begin fighting back against the death cult.
But it’s not true anyway that Choudary was guilty only of loose lips. Like other cowardly inciters of the suicide killings they might have done themselves but didn’t, Choudary was fully implicated in mass murder. Writes Maajid Nawaz, who has followed his career for years, this jihadi joke was in reality a terrorist mastermind:
Over the course of his 20-year jihadist freefall, Anjem’s group al-Muhajiroun and its “Sharia For…” offshoots have been deemed responsible for half of all U.K. terrorist attacks. Anjem himself has been directly linked to the RAF Lakenheath plot, to radicalising Jihadi John’s British successor Siddhartha Darr, the Anzac Day plot in Australia, the plot to behead a British soldier, the murder of drummer Lee Rigby at Woolwich in London, the Royal Wooten Basset plot, the London Stock Exchange Plot, and suicide bomber Omar Khan Sharif’s 2003 attack in Tel Aviv. Anjem has also been indirectly linked to London’s 7/7 bombings, the shoe bomber, the ricin plot, the fertilizer bomb plot, the dirty bomb plot, and the Transatlantic bomb plot.
Around 6,000 European citizens don’t just get up out of a vacuum and leave to join the worst terrorist group of our lifetime. Anjem Choudary was a key voice responsible for cultivating what eventually became this ISIS support network in Europe. And he acted with impunity.
No surprises, then, that police revealed his link to 500 British jihadists fighting with ISIS in Syria.
So, much more than just an evil clown then.
But evil itself is impotent – it “has no power but that which we let it extort from us.” So like the vermin he is, has survived midst the cracks and crevices of civilised life – surviving midst the self-imposed western disarmament of cultural relativism, of welfarism, and in the holes in people’s understanding of what free speech entails. The simple relevant fact about free speech here today is this: You are entitled to say anything you like. We all have that right. But you are not entitled, to borrow Raymond Chandler’s feliitous phrase, to become a killer by remote control. That right belongs to no-one.
There is one reason however not to lock him up, and one reason only. That reason, says Nawaz, is that prisons themselves have now become hotbeds of radical recruitment, so
now that Anjem is in prison, another challenge confronts us. He will be held for a while at HMP Belmarsh, previously described as a jihadist training camp. How will he be stopped from playing his wicked tune through his crooked flute in jail? This time his audience is made up of hardened criminals.
Nawaz maintains that “action to at least neutralise his recruitment efforts must certainly be considered. And any plan should form a blueprint for building such intervention to scale, globally.”
The way in which my path eventually forked from Anjem’s symbolizes the split at the heart of the civil war playing out within Muslim communities, and beyond: Islamists against secularists. Muslims with varying levels of devotion, and even non-Muslims, sit on both sides of this divide. They straddle a largely passive Muslim majority that values its religion and culture but just wants to get on in life.
Islamist theocrats will not allow them to do so.
A civil war has unfolded within Islam, and none of us can any longer afford to remain neutral. First and foremost, this is an ideological war. The state, private companies, and civil society must intervene on behalf of secularists.
Intervening on behalf of a terrorist mastermind to help free him would put you on the other side that civil war. Not to mention on the other side of the war against us all declared by Islamist theocrats themselves.