The conviction of radical Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary -- the most prominent extremist in Britain -- has been widely welcomed in the UK. For years his followers and he have infuriated the vast majority of the British public (including most British Muslims) with their inflammatory and hate-filled rhetoric. They have also provided a constant stream of people willing to follow through the words with actions. More people around Choudary have been convicted of terrorism offences in the UK than any other Islamist group -- including al-Qaeda.
But Choudary's conviction for encouraging people to join ISIS should not be greeted as though that is the end of a matter.
The conviction of radical Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary (centre) -- the most prominent extremist in Britain -- has been widely welcomed in the UK.
Last week we noted here how, after the murder of an Ahmadiyya Muslim in the UK at the hands of another Muslim, some Muslims are "more Muslim than others" and that those outside a particular theological group can be killed is not an idea held only by the murderer. It is an idea with a significant following in the UK Muslim community, as well as among Muslims worldwide. A recent test of this issue was the execution in January this year in Pakistan of Mumtaz Qadri. This was the man who murdered Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province in Pakistan. Taseer had opposed the strict blasphemy laws which operate in his country. In Qadri's eyes, Taseer was an apostate for even thinking of watering down the blasphemy laws that jihadists and Islamists such as the Taliban wish to preserve. And so Qadri killed the governor.
Of course one would like to think that everyone could unite in condemning the actions of a man such as Mumtaz Qadri. What is striking is how many people fail to do so, and how many Muslim clerics and religious leaders -- even in the West -- not only fail to do so but have been open in their praise of Qadri and their condemnation of Pakistan for putting him to death. Prominent among the latter group is the imam of the largest mosque in Scotland -- the Glasgow central mosque.
This past month, however, an even more significant event occurred. In July, two Pakistani clerics started a tour of the UK. Their seven-week expedition, called "Sacred Journey," goes on until September 4, and includes appearances in Oldham, Rochdale, Rotherham and the Prime Minister's own constituency of Maidenhead. One of the first things that Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman did when they arrived in the UK was to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop welcomed them in Lambeth Palace and claimed that the meeting would strengthen "interfaith relations," as well as address "the narrative of extremism and terrorism." One wonders how far the Archbishop got in this task?
If there is a "narrative of extremism and terrorism," Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman can take some serious credit for the fact. Both men took an enthusiastic stand in Pakistan in support of Mumtaz Qadri. That is, they supported the murderer of a progressive Pakistani official. Listen here, for instance, to Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman delivering a hysterical speech in support of Mumtaz Qadri while his fellow cleric, Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman, looks on approvingly from the platform.
Here is Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman whipping up the vast crowd of mourners after the funeral of Mumtaz Qadri in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. During his speech he repeatedly refers to Qadri as a shaheed [martyr]. Tens of thousands of people attended the funeral, and afterwards rioted, chanting slogans such as "Qadri, your blood will bring the revolution" and "the punishment for a blasphemer is beheading."
After Qadri's execution, Haseeb ur Rehman said on social media "Every person who loves Islam and Prophet is in grief for the martyrdom of Mumtaz Qadri."
So what are two clerics who approve of murdering reformers and mourn the death of fanatics and assassins doing touring the UK? Shahbaz Taseer, the son of the Salman Taseer, is among those who has criticised the UK authorities for allowing the two men into the country. "These people teach murder and hate," he has said.
"For me personally I find it sad that a country like England would allow cowards like these men in. It's countries like the UK and the US that claim they are leading the way in the war against terror [and] setting a standard. Why are they allowing people [in] that give fuel to the fire they are fighting against?"
"They have got hundreds of thousands of followers in the UK," the imam of the Madina Mosque and Islamic Centre in Oldham, Zahoor Chishti, said of the two clerics. Chishti denied that the event was organised by his mosque and said that he was not aware of the views of the speakers. "When I found out I was upset. I think it was really upsetting and wrong. They come to the UK every year and give messages of love, so that's why they're booked on that basis.'
Elsewhere, the "Sacred Journey" tour has already thrown up another interesting connection. Mohammed Shafiq runs a one-man outfit called the "Ramadan Foundation" in the UK, and is regularly called upon by the British media. He appears to be viewed as a "moderate" Muslim because he has been outspoken in opposition to the mass rape of children by gangs of Muslim men. Despite this heroism, his own liberal credentials (not least as a member of the Liberal Democrat party) have often come into question. Several years ago, for instance, when the Liberal Democrat candidate and genuine anti-extremism campaigner Maajid Nawaz re-Tweeted an innocuous cartoon from the "Jesus and Mo" series, Shafiq was among those who tried to get up a lynch-mob against Nawaz. Shafiq wrote on social media that Nawaz was a "Ghustaki Rasool," Urdu for "defamer of the prophet." He warned that he would "notify Islamic countries." Shafiq angrily denied that these and other messages constituted incitement against Nawaz.
But now, on the visit of two clerics to the UK who applaud and mourn Mumtaz Qadri, where is Mohammed Shafiq to be found? Why, warmly greeting the cleric who praises the murderers of reformers and glad-handing with the terrorist-apologists and blasphemy lynch-mob, of course.
Almost everyone in Britain is pleased that the loudmouth Anjem Choudary has gone to jail. Like the hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza before him, Choudary was -- as a case -- almost too easy. He was the most visible part of the problem. But he was not the greatest or deepest problem in this area. That problem is shown when two extremist clerics with pre-medieval views come to Britain, they are welcomed by an ignorant British establishment. The problem is shown when they tour mosques, they do so to packed houses because they have "hundreds of thousands" of followers of Pakistani origin in the UK. The problem is shown when you scratch the surface of one of the self-proclaimed "moderates" like Mohammed Shafiq and discover that he is happy to pal around with the people who threaten reformers and praise murderers.
That is the problem for British Islam in a nutshell. And that is a problem we still remain woefully unable to confront.
Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England.