The British Islamist firebrand Anjem Choudary has been released from police custody after he was arrested for allegedly being a member of a banned terrorist group.
Choudary and nine other radical Muslims were detained during dawn raids in London on September 25 as part of an ongoing Metropolitan Police investigation into Islamist-related terrorism.
Choudary—one of the most high-profile jihadists in the United Kingdom, and well known for his relentless resolve to implement Islamic Sharia law there—is a former spokesman of the Muslim extremist group, al-Muhajiroun (Arabic: The Emigrants).
Al-Muhajiroun—which repeatedly celebrated the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001—was banned under the UK Terrorism Act 2000, in January 2010.
Since then, al-Muhajiroun has repeatedly reinvented itself under an array of successor aliases. These include, among others: Islam4UK, Call to Submission, Islamic Path, Islamic Dawa Association, London School of Sharia, Muslims Against Crusades and Need4Khalifah, all of which have also been proscribed.
A study published by the London-based Henry Jackson Society in September 2014 found that one in five terrorists convicted in Britain over more than a decade have had links to al-Muhajiroun.
An investigative report published by the British anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate in November 2013 concluded that al-Muhajiroun was "the single biggest gateway to terrorism in recent British history."
Al-Muhajiroun—founded by Choudary and the exiled preacher, Omar Bakri Mohammed—is said to have also played a major role in radicalizing Michael Adebolajo, who was found guilty of murdering (and attempting to decapitate) the British soldier Lee Rigby outside London's Woolwich Barracks in May 2013.
Choudary said Rigby would "burn in hellfire" as a non-Muslim, and also praised Adebolajo as a "martyr." He said:
"Allah said very clearly in the Koran 'Don't feel sorry for the non-Muslims.'
"So as an adult non-Muslim, whether he is part of the Army or not part of the Army, if he dies in a state of disbelief then he is going to go to the hellfire.
"That's what I believe so I'm not going to feel sorry for non-Muslims.
"We invite them to embrace the message of Islam. If they don't, then obviously if they die like that they're going to the hellfires."
Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary (right) praised one of the murderers of British solider Lee Rigby (left) as a "martyr" and said Rigby would "burn in hellfire" as a non-Muslim.
According to police, over the past several months, groups believed to be successors to al-Muhajiroun have been circulating material highly sympathetic to the jihadist group Islamic State [IS], which has declared that it wants to establish an Islamic theocracy in the Middle East, and has threatened to attack targets in Europe and North America.
British police said the nine men, aged between 22 and 51, were arrested on suspicion of being members of a proscribed organization and supporting a proscribed organization, contrary to Section 11 and 12 of the Terrorism Act 2000, and of encouraging terrorism, contrary to Section 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006.
After a day of questioning, Choudary and eight others were released on bail on September 26. The men have been ordered to return to police stations in central London in January. In the meantime, police say they will continue their investigation.
A close friend of Choudary, Trevor Brookes (aka Abu Izzadeen), remains in custody after being charged with breaching his obligations under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008, for allegedly failing to notify police that he had moved to a new address.
Choudary—whose bail-restrictions include a ban on foreign travel and public preaching—said his arrest was a "politically motivated" effort by the government to silence him on the eve of a Parliamentary vote on military intervention in Iraq.
On September 26, the House of Commons voted 524 to 43 to approve a request by British Prime Minister David Cameron to join the American-led coalition against the jihadist group Islamic State, albeit only in Iraq and not in Syria.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper minutes after he was released, Choudary said:
"I think that David Cameron has plunged Britain into a very bloody war, which will manifest itself on the streets of London. We saw it before with 7/7 [July 7, 2005 bombings in London], 9/11 [Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S.], it's inevitable, if they are going to attack Muslims abroad.
"I'm not involved in any terrorism. I have and will continue to expose the British government for their foreign policy. I fight ideas with ideas."
Until now, Choudary, a lawyer by training, has managed to tread the fine legal line between the inflammatory rhetoric of Islamic supremacism and the right to free speech. He has never been convicted of any offense, presumably much to the frustration of British authorities.
Nor has Choudary expressed a fear of being imprisoned. "If they arrest me and put me in prison," he has said, "I will carry on in prison. I will radicalize everyone in prison."
Police say that Choudary has become far more brazen since the IS proclaimed the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Iraq and Syria in June 2014. Since then, they say, he has repeatedly crossed the legal threshold for criminal prosecution for encouraging terrorism, such as recently justifying the beheading of the American journalist, James Foley.
In an interview with the Washington, D.C.-based Clarion Project, Choudary said that the beheading of Foley by IS operatives is authorized under Sharia law because as a journalist, Foley attacked the IS. Choudary said:
"Muslims who abide by the Sharia and follow the jurisprudence do not make a distinction between civilians and army. This fellow [Foley] was not just a civilian of America. He was a journalist."
Separately, Choudary has insisted that he does not know the knifeman who decapitated Foley. "I'd recognize his voice if it was someone I knew," he said. But he refused to condemn the execution:
"There are circumstances in Sharia where there is capital punishment for crimes that have been committed. Now I do not know anything about these journalists, why they were there, whether they were spying or in fact part of the military. Often it turns out that people have other roles as well."
Choudary is, however, adamant that the United States is responsible for the murder of Foley:
"If you look at the death of James Foley, you only have to listen to the person who is executing him to know that the blame is the Americans' because of their own foreign policy. The fact is that decades of torture, cruelty and mass murder will have repercussions."
Choudary also said he feels no sympathy for another British hostage, Alan Henning, a volunteer aid worker marked as the next individual to be beheaded by the IS. Choudary said:
"In the Quran it is not allowed for you to feel sorry for non-Muslims. I don't feel sorry for him."
In an August interview with the UK-based Fubar Radio, Choudary admitted that pro-IS protesters in London were his students.
Radio host Jon Gaunt asked Choudary: "Are these students of yours... the ones handing out the leaflets?" Choudary responded: "Yes... I have known them for several years, they have attended many demonstrations... many lectures of mine. Very good chaps."
And in a Tweet sent hours before his arrest, Choudary condemned U.S. air strikes against the IS:
"The Islamic State could not wish for a better rallying call for Muslims worldwide to join them than for the USA to start bombing again."
Another Tweet stated:
"FACT: The war being waged by the US/UK & co is a war against Islam & Muslims. The objective is to take Muslims away from the Shari'ah (Islam)."
Yet another Tweet said:
"Eventually the whole world will be governed by Shari'ah & Muslims will have authority over China Russia USA etc This is the promise of Allah."
In September 2014, Choudary said that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is "the caliph of all Muslims and the prince of the believers."
Choudary has also been insistent in his demands that Sharia law be enforced in the UK.
In December 2013, for instance, Choudary led a group of more than 60 Muslim protesters on a march through east London to demand that businesses stop selling alcohol:
"What we did is we posted a notice to the shop owners saying that under Sharia and under the Koran the sale of alcohol is prohibited and if one were to also drink alcohol, that would be 40 lashes.
"We were there to teach them that just because they are living among non-Muslims is no excuse because Sharia law will be implemented in Britain, and so they should be aware that just because it is not Sharia today, they can't just do whatever they like.
"There will be no more pubs, no more gambling houses, no more national lottery.
"All women would have to be covered up appropriately and wear the niqab or veil and so there will be no prostitution. By 2050, Britain will be a majority Muslim country.
"It will be the end of freedom of democracy and submission to God. We don't believe in democracy, as soon as they have authority, Muslims should implement Sharia. This is what we're trying to teach people."
Choudary said the group, known as the Shariah Project (which police say is a successor to al-Muhajiroun), would be arranging many more similar rallies in the future. "This is just the beginning," he promised.
Choudary, who is married and has four children, enjoys a comfortable lifestyle that is being paid for, year after year, by British taxpayers. In 2010, the newspaper The Sun reported that he takes home more than £25,000 ($40,000) a year in welfare benefits.
In February 2013, Choudary urged his followers to quit their jobs and claim unemployment benefits so that they could have more time to plot holy war against non-Muslims. He said Muslims are entitled to welfare payments because they are a form of jizya, a tax imposed on non-Muslims in countries run by Muslims, and a reminder that non-Muslims are permanently inferior and subservient to Muslims.
In a video, Choudary said:
"We [Muslims] take the Jizya, which is ours anyway. The normal situation is to take money from the kuffar [non-Muslim]. They give us the money. You work, give us the money, Allahu Akhbar. We take the money."
Choudary added: "Hopefully there's no one from the DSS [Department of Social Security] listening to this."
In a recent interview with the American news outlet, Fox News, Choudary warned that Westerners have no choice: "Sharia law is coming to a place near you."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.