Hate preacher found guilty of supporting ISIS preyed on young Muslims
For decades, Anjem Choudary has been at the epicentre of the UK Islamist movement. He targeted, groomed and corrupted a generation of young Muslims in Europe and in the UK in particular.
Equally, he knowingly goaded and inspired the far right of the political spectrum into a new trend of anti-Muslim bigotry which has permeated large swathes of society.
In short, this man encapsulates the pernicious divisions of society today and has a lot to answer for.
Until now, Choudary has managed to evade prosecution through a delicate straddling of the law, exploiting the liberal values of freedom of speech, while paradoxically calling for the implementation of fascistic restrictions on civil liberties under sharia law.
With his conviction yesterday for supporting ISIS, we now know Choudary can be linked to a staggering web of some 15 terror plots and over 500 jihadists. His preying on young people and emotionally unstable families is particularly appalling.
Al-Muhajorun, Choudary’s principle organisation (banned but reformed under different names), was one of the pioneers of online radicalisation.
Through a combination of incendiary posts and peer-to-peer targeting, Choudary was able to whip up a frenzy of online hatred and then single out mostly angry young men for direct engagement and then offline radicalisation.
His systematic propaganda campaigns brutally synthesised offline and online engagement allowing for a far-reaching and entrenched radicalisation programme.
The recruitment methodology used by Choudary and his fellow extremists reminds us of the vital need for online vigilance, primary prevention and counter-speech initiatives.
Extremism, in many cases, is perfectly legal and therefore untouchable by social media companies, despite their clear usage as radicalisation conduits.
Counter-speech campaigns from civil society are the most reliable way of engaging with these narratives, countering them and offering viable alternatives.
We can no longer cede this space to extremists and expect the government to handle this alone. We need civic galvanisation.
Choudary is directly responsible for tearing apart families and destroying homes by manipulating sons, daughters, mothers and fathers. He has been spreading his poison through the veins of families for decades.
It’s not just the lives of those he has radicalised that have been irreversibly changed, but the loved ones who are left behind experience incomparable suffering.
Families were the cornerstone of Choudary’s hate campaigns – they were the first to suffer and the last to be supported. This has to end.
Mothers in particular are often the best placed to counter extremism and are essential to helping prevent the shame, guilt and tragedy that radicalisation can put on a family.
Choudary won’t be able to extend his grasp into an unsuspecting home again, but that’s not to say someone else will.
It is time to invest in programs and networks that are there to help build strength and resilience against such vindictive manipulators.
Fortunately, the ground work is being put into this and there are now dozens of local campaign groups and support networks which can support vulnerable families and defend against radicalisation.
Families Against Terrorism and Extremism, FATE, for example, is working to help stop people like Choudary and help affected families who are suffering because of him.
Comprised of multiple organisations, from internet safety groups to targeted intervention activists, its broad holistic approach to extremism holds a mirror to what Islamist organisations attempt to do every day – but works instead for good.
Now is the time to build these organisations and help put a stop to this evil.
Joshua Stewart is Strategic Communications Officer at QuilliamSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.