Choudary detention ignites social media storm

Friday 14/08/2015
Chilling tweets. A 2012 photo shows Anjem Choudary speaking to a group of demonstrators outside the US embassy in central London.

London - Supporters of radical British Muslim preacher Anjem Choudary have launched an online campaign threat­ening “revenge” for his detention on charges of supporting Islamic State (ISIS), but opponents fought back accusing the long-time critic of free speech of double standards for arguing he has the right to assert his views.
Choudary, 48, is known for bom­bastic media appearances during which he has praised the 9/11 hi­jackers and repeatedly called for the implementation of sharia law. He founded the proscribed al-Mu­hajiroun group and has described himself as the most hated man in Britain.
Choudary was remanded into custody on August 5th on charges of “inviting support for the Islamic State (ISIS)”, after initially being arrested and remanded on bail in September 2014.
The British-born preacher, who was charged alongside supporter Mohammed Rahman, represented himself in court, appearing dressed in a white robe. When asked to enter a plea, Choudary, who has trained as a solicitor, said: “I plead that [British Prime Minister David] Cameron and the police are guilty and the only people who are inno­cent are me and Mr Rahman.” Rah­man also pleaded not guilty.
Senior District Judge Howard Riddle referred the case to the Crown Court and refused the men bail, remanding them into custody. This is the first time that Choudary has been behind bars. He previous­ly warned, “If they arrest me and put me in prison… I will radicalise everyone in prison.”
The Twitter hashtag #FreeAn­jemChoudary was trending sev­eral days after Choudary’s arrest, with his supporters and opponents competing to win the online de­bate. The hashtag was launched by supporters of Choudary to call for his release and included a chilling tweet of a photo of a black Islamic State (ISIS) flag with London’s icon­ic Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben, in the background. “The black days is coming to Britain if it doesnt (sic) release the Muslims,” the accompanying tweet threat­ened.
According to data compiled by an online analytics company, the hashtag was shared almost 600 times in the first 24 hours after Choudary’s detention, potentially reaching up to 700,000 people. It has been shared thousands of times since then.
While some Twitter users lauded Choudary as a “lion” of Islam, oth­ers tried to hijack the campaign and condemn the radical preacher. “Let’s NOT #FreeAnjemChoudary” read one tweet from the username “IS Hunter”.
“If only there was a caliphate where #FreeAnjemChoudary sup­porters could go and never return?” wrote another Twitter user.
“How come ‘freedom of speech’ is important to Muslims for ji­had inciters but not for cartoon­ists?” asked another, using the hashtag #jesuischarlie alongside #FreeAngemChoudary. Choudary defended the attack on Charlie Hebdo in an open letter entitled People Know the Consequences, which claimed that Muslims do not believe in the concept of the free­dom of expression.
Choudary’s arrest comes on the back of a new counter-extremism policy in the United Kingdom, which some fear could limit free­dom of religious expression but which others praise as a necessary step to combating radicalisation.
Choudary is a prolific user of Twitter and Facebook and it is be­lieved that the charges against him relate to his calling support for ISIS in Facebook activity between June 29, 2014, and March 6, 2015.
His last tweet before his arrest sums up his belligerent social me­dia activity. “UK PM’s are crimi­nals, today they murder kids with drones & take them from their par­ents in the past it seems they also raped them” he wrote in reference to alleged child sex abuse scandal by the late former Prime Minister Ted Heath.
An earlier tweet asked followers to pray for him as the Crown Pros­ecution Service decided whether to formally charge him.
Choudary is next expected to ap­pear at the Old Bailey on August 28th.