Authorities in India have acted to head off threatened demonstrations on March 2 and 3 to advocate the imposition of Islamic law and radical Muslim dominance on the country. The chief agitators in the attempt to disrupt public order are Anjem Choudary, the British-born, London-based extremist known for his outlandish claims, and his partner, Omar Bakri Muhammad, who now lives in Lebanon.
Anjem Choudary and Omar Bakri Muhammad founded the ultra-fundamentalist group Al-Muhajiroun ("The Religious Emigrants"), which was banned by the UK in 2010 under provisions for Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism. In propaganda, however, for their effort to blockade public institutions in New Delhi, the Indian capital, they stipulated that Al-Muhajiroun still exists.
Anjem Choudary was to appear as the main speaker at the New Delhi event, while Omar Bakri Muhammad, identified as "worldwide leader of the organization al-Muhajiroun," was promised as a video participant in the Indian convocation.
Even though the rally was unlikely to attract many supporters, its backers' rhetoric was extremely inflammatory. Proponents appealed to the country's Muslim minority to gather in the national capital under the slogan "shariah4hind," using the Arabic name for India. In publicity online, they proclaimed, "The Islamic Destruction of Indian Idols and Statues" and "Bollywood Gets the Axe Under Shariah."
Legal protests against the march -- as a possible source of intercommunal violence and obstacle to interreligious cooperation -- were filed by, among other complainants, the National Integration Council, an official Indian government body that includes Muslims.
On February 25, Delhi local police announced they would stop the march from taking place. The "shariah4hind" website was blocked to Indians by the national Telecoms Ministry, but remained accessible elsewhere. Authorities warned hotels in the city against the arrival of any individual associated with the march or website.
Choudary told The Indian Express that although his group had been contacted by Delhi police, he had informed them that "I do not believe in Indian law, so there is no question of seeking any permission from the authorities there. We have organized a video conferencing on March 2 with Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad who is based in Lebanon. My visa application is under process with the Indian High Commission here and I expect to get it."
Notwithstanding the exaggerated claims by Choudary, Delhi police said they expected no more than 300-400 people to appear for the assembly. India's Muslim population is estimated at 225 million, or close to 20% of the national total, so Choudary and Al-Muhajiroun cannot claim broad support for their provocative behavior.
Delhi police on February 28 submitted a case against Choudary and his cohort for sedition, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, and similar charges. Police official K. C. Dwivedi noted that Abu Baraa, a British citizen of Bangladesh origin and chairman of "sharia4hind," had echoed Chaudary's defiant attitude. Abu Baraa replied to an inquiry as to whether the group has applied for permission to hold the rally, with "an email saying that his group did not believe in the Constitution and did not recognize Parliament. We have registered a case on the basis of his reply," Dwivedi said.
Choudary and Omar Bakri Muhammad became notorious after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by their bombastic praise for Osama Bin Laden. Al-Muhajiroun had been detected in contact with the Al-Qaida leader prior to September 11. In the decade that followed, individuals associated with Al-Muhajiroun have been involved in assorted terrorist schemes while Choudary promotes himself as "Judge of the UK Shariah Court." Choudary has claimed that Britain would soon submit to Islamic law as demanded by "Islam4UK" a cover label for Al-Muhajiroun. "Islam4UK" was also banned by the British government in 2010.
Omar Bakri Muhammad left Britain for Lebanon in 2005 and was prohibited from returning to the UK. Although he was reported to have been found guilty of attempted subversion by a Lebanese court in 2010, he remains free.
Indian authorities will have taken the right step in seeking to prevent Anjem Choudary from bringing his travelling show to their country. He has responded in his usual bluffing manner by stating that arrangements for his trip have already been made and that his appeal "will fill the streets of Delhi" with the support of "many students."
While India has acted wisely, the UK proscription of Al-Muhajiroun should produce a full investigation into Choudary's continuing conspiracies to subvert public order and existing law in Britain and elsewhere around the world.