Radical hate preacher Anjem Choudary has been found guilty of breaking terrorism laws in the UK by actively inviting support for ISIS.
The ruling comes after Choudary appeared in court in July alongside co-defendant Mohammed Rahman, who has also been found guilty for the same crimes.
Choudary was heavily involved with the now-banned group al-Muhajiroun, which has been responsible for targeting young people. The pair made their position clear by offering an “oath of allegiance” (known as giving Bayah) to Daesh.
Evidence collated for the prosecution included tweets, Facebook posts, WhatsApp messages and Telegram messages, as well as speeches posted online by both men. Prior to this, al-Muhajiroun were using Facebook and Twitter to build mass followings and to engage on a peer-to-peer basis with vulnerable young people, taking them into private messaging spaces where friends and families could not reach them.
Prosecutor Richard Whittam QC said: “The prosecution case is that whichever name is used, the evidence is quite clear: when these defendants were inviting support for an Islamic state or caliphate they were referring to the one declared in Syria and its environs by Ibrahim [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi at the end of June 2014. Terrorist organisations thrive and grow because people support them and that is what this case is about.”
The dangers of online channels
While this ruling is a small step towards stamping out hate, division and violence in the UK, the issue is, sadly, far from over.
The threat of terrorism has grown with the digital age, as groups like Daesh and al-Muhajiroun have utilised social media platforms to expand their reach and share extremist material.
And sometimes, it’s not easy to avoid.
Earlier this year, Daesh famously shared execution videos using the #JustinBieber hashtag on Twitter to reach audiences that may not be actively searching for extremist resources online.
What’s more, the group recently indicated that they have been pushing their followers to increase their wider social media output. A new study suggests they are attempting to find ways to combat the closing down of pro-ISIS accounts on Twitter and reach audiences who are not direct followers.
Groups like al-Muhajiroun have used their influence to hone in on young people in transitional stages of their lives, who are sometimes facing complexities in their day-to-day experiences.
Being vigilant for our family
Choudary’s case points to the influence of extremists and radicalisers in our communities and the vast dangers of online channels. When given a platform, such figures will use their voice to manipulate audiences and consequently cause so much anguish.
That’s why we need to be vigilant to the dangers of online and offline communication. We can use reporting tools online to make sure hateful content is taken down, and we can continue to spot the signs of radicalisation within our families.
If you have concerns your child or relative might be succumbing to those who encourage intolerance or violence, or groups likeminded to al-Muhajiroun, please visit our help page: http://familiesmatter.org.uk/take-action/finding-help/.