Radical Islamist preacher Anjem Choudary has declined to condemn the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby, insisting Prime Minister David Cameron and British foreign policy were to blame for the murder.
The former leading member of banned extremist organisation Al-Muhajiroun said he was “very proud” of killer Michael Adebolajo as “a practising Muslim and a family man”, but “differed” with him about the interpretation of Islam which he used to justify the murder.
Formerly a Christian, Adebolajo converted to Islam and became a member of Al-Muhajiroun, taking on the name Brother Mujahid. BBC1’s Panorama broadcast interviews with acquaintances who said he was heavily influenced by Mr Choudary’s preaching.
One former friend told the programme: “We saw videos of him. He went to his lectures. He would talk about him with respect, that he admires the person. He said he is a very good influence and we should also go to his lectures and follow him.”
Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether he condemned the Woolwich murder, Mr Choudary said: “I think that to talk about condemnation or to talk about how we feel is not the most important question now, and I’m not going to go down that road. I think that what is important is to learn lessons from what has taken place. Whether you agree or disagree with what took place, you cannot predict the actions of one individual among a population of 60 million when the Government is clearly at war in Muslim countries.
“I condemn those who have caused what has taken place on the streets of London, and I believe that the cause of this is David Cameron and his foreign policy.”
Asked about comments by Al-Muhajiroun founder Omar Bakri Mohammed, who said he was “proud” of Adebolajo, Mr Choudary said: “He was talking about Brother Mujahid in terms of the fact that he has been invited into Islam, he is a practising Muslim, he is a family man and by all accounts I’m very proud of him as well, but as for the incident we are talking about something where we differ about the Islamic opinion that he adopts.
“I can’t control what the youth do. The sad reality is that people have cut off individuals like Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, Sheikh Abu Qatada and myself, they ban organisations who are in fact channeling the energy of the youth through demonstrations and processions. These people are now going online, finding al-Qaida, swallowing that narrative and seeing Britain as a battlefield.”
The Government’s former anti-terrorism adviser Lord Carlile told Today: “Mr Choudary is a demagogue, he doesn’t like the United Kingdom, he doesn’t believe in democracy. He wouldn’t be allowed to say what he has said in almost any other country in the world, including Muslim countries.
“I think he is an outrageously bad influence on young Muslims in this country. I think he offends the law abiding Muslim community that is proud to be British and I think we now need to hear much more from the Muslim community – particularly from young leaders in the Muslim community – about how they condemn his actions.
“I think British imams should be more ready than they are to preach the antidote to people like Mr Choudary from their pulpits, which in my view unfortunately they don’t. I think that there is a great need for the Muslim religious community in the United Kingdom to realise how serious the challenge made by Mr Choudary is, which runs the risk of criminalising a small number, but a very important small number, of Muslims in the UK.”
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick told Panorama that the police regard Mr Choudary as “a very bad influence on people” and looked forward to the day when he could be successfully prosecuted.
“When he is not committing a crime, but simply speaking in a way that is allowed by the law, clearly that’s not a job for the police,” she said. But asked if the Met would be keeping close watch on him, she said: “We absolutely are and we have been and we look forward to the day when we can bring him to justice.”