The extremist Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary has said that the British government should return his passport and grant him safe passage to Syria, so that he can see what life is like under Sharia law, The Times has reported. He confirmed that he would also consider renouncing his British citizenship if allowed to travel abroad.
London-born Choudary has gained a name for himself through his controversial media appearances in which he has espoused his support for public executions of those who insult the Prophet Mohammed, cutting the hands off convicted thieves, and the implementation of Sharia law in the UK.
In September Choudary, who has founded ten groups which have been banned under anti-terrorism laws, was arrested on suspicion of belonging to a proscribed group. He was released on bail under strict conditions, which included forfeiting his passport to the authorities.
He continues to deny any wrongdoing, and has now told the Times that he should have his passport handed back. “I believe the world belongs to God and that one day, hopefully, the UK will be part of an Islamic State. Why shouldn’t I be free to travel to the khilafah [caliphate] and see what life is like under the Sharia?” he said.
“The passport . . . is a basic human right and I don’t see why I should have to give it up or have my movement restricted. I want to know from the Home Office and the crown prosecution service if it is illegal for me to travel to live in the Islamic State if I have no intention of carrying out acts of terrorism.”
He also maintains that the timing of his arrest, and that of seven others, was politically motivated and intended to silence them, coming as it did the night before a Parliamentary vote on military intervention in Iraq.
Choudary has denied being in contact with anyone within the so-called Islamic State, but has called upon the Crown Prosecution Service to “make themselves clear” as to whether people who travel to Iraq and Syria leave themselves open to prosecution, claiming the right to safe passage.
It is not a view supported by the Commons home affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz, who said: “If he wants to go, he should be allowed to go. I think that would be a much better scenario than having him stay.
“Why should the Home Office or anyone else give him safe passage? He must take the consequences if he is propagating the views of Isis, then he is putting himself at risk of prosecution. I think people would like to see the back of him.”
Choudary is no stranger to criticism. Last year he was repeatedly featured on both the BBC and Channel 4 in their news programs following the brutal public murder of drummer Lee Rigby on a London street, carried out by two Muslim extremists, drawing widespread criticism for the two media companies.
A spokesman for the BBC defended the corporation’s choice of guest in Mr Choudary for their flagship radio programme Today, saying “We have a responsibility to both report on the story and try to shed light on why it happened.
“His views were robustly challenged by both the presenter, John Humphrys and by Lord Carlile, the government’s former anti-terrorism adviser.”
Yet the Telegraph pointed out that, while Mr Choudary was given 12 minutes of airtime, his debate opponent Lord Carlisle was only granted less than four minutes in response.
Commenting on the Radio 4 debate, John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley said: “I find it quite extraordinary that someone who is so hostile to British values and so unrepresentative of the Muslim community is endlessly given space by the BBC.
“Their idea of balance seems to be Anjem Choudary and somebody from the BBC and mainstream voices get excluded. The worst thing is that they probably even think that it made good radio.”
Choudary confirmed during those interviews that, while he was shocked about the public nature of the murder, he thought that the views of the murders were opinions “not many Muslims can disagree with”. He also repeatedly refused to condemn the killing both on the BBC and Channel 4.