I make no comment on “radical preacher” Anjem Choudary’s guilt or innocence how that he has been charged under the terrorism act for “allegedly” encouraging people to join ISIS. I can’t abide the bloke and have no idea why he chooses to live in a country whose culture he so despises. I am more concerned about the number of people who are his Facebook “friends”: there are 32,000 of them.
I am sure that not each and every one of these people is an out and out ISIS supporter, but then I can’t be sure they’re not. Why else would they choose to be friends with him? This figure pales into insignificance when compared to the number of British muslims who support the notion of creating a worldwide caliphate based on a version of sharia. 33% per cent of them, one third. Now not all of these – again we don’t know how many – support what is happening in Syria and Iraq but something like 1000 of them thought it appealing enough to flee there. Well, you would, wouldn’t you? Why watch all those videos of people being burned alive, alleged homosexuals being thrown from tall buildings, aid workers being beheaded and people being drowned in cages, when you can go there, via Turkey, and join in with the real thing. And if you are a woman, you are almost guaranteed the opportunity to be gang-raped by the frontline “fighters”, always assuming they have not blown themselves to smithereens in suicide murder attacks. What’s not to love?
Choudary obviously doesn’t have too much of a problem with ISIS. We don’t know what he is alleged to have said and done this time, but in 2014 he said this: “From what I understand from people living there, they have security, schools are now being set up where their children are taught about Islam, and they have the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. They don’t see in the public arena things like alcohol, drugs, gambling, these kinds of vices. They’ve been completely wiped out. I think in many respects it’s the kind of society I’d love to live in with my family. Many people I know think the same. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to train and come back and carry out operations here.” And all those people who have been murdered in some of the most vile circumstances? Choudary doesn’t condemn any of them, suggesting that the journalists and aid workers had “other roles”, like being spies.
And like any other islamic extremist, Choudary believes that if you don’t believe the Qur’an is the literal word of God, you deserve what’s coming.
It’s the certainty that gets me, the certainty that religious teachings are literally true anyway. I have no such certainty over my atheism, although on the basis of evidence, or rather the complete lack of evidence, supporting the existence of a God type character, I do think it’s highly likely that there is no such supernatural creator. Just telling me that a book written back in the days when, as Christopher Hitchens once said, “nobody knew what was going on”, is “the literal word of God” doesn’t convince me that it’s true. Quite the contrary.
Choudary and his ilk need to be confronted on ideas about what’s true and what isn’t. Why should religion not conform to the same evidential questioning as science? It is through science that we have obtained cures for illness, proved that evolution is true, that we have put a man on the moon. Religion, the Qu’ran in particular, attracts no such tests. It’s all true, so just believe it and while you’re at it, you need to join it, or else.
And we need to decide what sort of country we live in. One where different cultures are tolerated within existing structures, that everyone lives by the same rules, or we continue down the rocky and ultimately doomed road of multiculturalism, by encouraging separation in schools, in the areas we live in and in society in general? This will mean tough choices, like getting rid of all religious schools for example, but we cannot engender integration whilst encouraging separation.
Choudary is often asked why, if he loves sharia laws so much, doesn’t he go and live somewhere that lives under it? He always replies that he doesn’t have to because he was born here. That’s true to a point but if we make this country genuinely secular where there can be no religious privilege, he will have some big decisions to make. By all means have your faith systems, but you do so within our laws, not instead of them. And that’s not just Choudary.