Anjem Choudary has been featured here many times. This good Muslim, who is also a lawyer, cannot be accused of misunderstanding his religion. In a country where GeertÂ Wilders is banned, this animal openly Â preaches the overthrow of the government and incites hatred and mass-murder. Chaudary is a free man, politicians like Gordon Brown, Jacqui Smith and Jack Straw try to ignore his existence.
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The unholy past of the Muslim cleric demanding the Pope’s execution
At 39, Anjem Choudary should be a symbol of success for his peers. Born into the working-class family of a market trader in Welling on the outskirts of London, he has risen – thanks to the opportunities offered by the British education system – to become a qualified lawyer.
But it is unlikely his old school will be inviting him to be guest speaker on prize-giving day. Their former pupil is not famous for his elegant oratory in court.
Instead, the articulate Mr Choudary preaches hatred and murder in the streets of Britain to the next generation of young, impressionable Muslims.
This week he stood outside Westminster Cathedral in central London to call for the execution of the Pope as punishment for ‘insulting Islam’. He fulminated against Pope Benedict XVl, adding: “Whoever insults the message of Mohammed is going to be subject to capital punishment.”
It’s a long way from his days as a medical student at Southampton University, where, friends say, he drank, indulged in casual sex, smoked cannabis and even took LSD. He called himself ‘Andy’ and was famed for his ability to drink a pint of cider in a few seconds.
One former acquaintance said: “At parties, like the rest of us, he was rarely without a joint. The morning after one party, I can remember him getting all the roaches (butts) from the spliffs we had smoked the night before out of the ashtrays, cutting them up and making a new one out of the leftovers.
“He would say he was a Muslim and was proud of his Pakistani heritage, but he did-n’t seem to attend any of the mosques in Southampton, and I only knew of him having white girlfriends. He certainly shared a bed with them.”
On one occasion, ‘Andy’ and a friend took LSD together. The friend said: “We took far too much and were hallucinating for 20 hours.”
The only sign of religious fervour came in flashes of anger over Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. A friend from that time said: “You didn’t want to get him started on that. He would go on and on about the fatwa and he supported calls for the book to be banned. But he would have a glass of cider in his hand when he was carrying on about it.”
Choudary failed his first-year exams, switched from medicine to commercial law and did his final year as a law student at Guildford, from 1990 to 1991, before moving to London.
There his legal career stalled briefly and he filled in his time by teaching English as a foreign language in one of the many colleges off Oxford Street.
But eventually, he found a position with a firm of solicitors and began completing his qualifications to become a lawyer. His personal life blossomed too.
In 1996, aged 29, he married Rubana Akhtar and started a family. The couple, who settled in East London, have a daughter aged eight, and sons aged six and one.
Then he met the cleric Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed at a mosque in Woolwich. Bakri, who is now banned from returning to Britain from Lebanon, had formed Al Muhajiroun, committed to the creation of a worldwide Islamic state, and Choudary quickly became a leading light in the group and its successor organisation, Al Ghurabaa.
He is no longer a practising solicitor and has left his wife and children to concentrate on his extreme brand of Islam. It was Choudary who organised the Danish Embassy protests over the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed earlier this year, at which demonstrators dressed as suicide bombers and banners proclaimed: ‘Behead Those Who Insult Islam’.
He lauded the September 11 hijackers as ‘magnificent martyrs’ and praised Asif Hanif, the British suicide bomber who killed three in Tel Aviv in 2003.
After the July 7 atrocities in London, he vowed he would not tell the police if he knew a terror attack was being planned and urged Muslims to defend themselves against perceived attacks by ‘whatever means they have at their disposal’.
His shocking pronouncements could be dismissed by some as the rantings of a mind clouded by religious fervour but Choudary has an audience and, at a time of increasing disaffection among young British Muslims, his activities are carefully monitored by Special Branch.
A security source said: “He is not seen as premier league because he is so conspicuous. He is seen as an irritant but with a potential to inspire impressionable youngsters to go that one stage further.”
Despite his hatred of all things British – he says: “If British means adopting British values, then I don’t think we can adopt British values. I’m a Muslim living in Britain. I have a British passport, but that’s a travel document to me” – he and his family live on state benefits.
Rubana is said by friends to claim Â£1,700 a month in housing benefit and income support while Choudary has also claimed Â£202 a month in income support.
Yesterday, Choudary declined to talk about his past dissolute life, dismissing it as ‘irrelevant’. He said: “I was born a Muslim and I have done my best to be a good Muslim all my life.”
And the drugs and alcohol? “That’s not really part of what’s happening in the world today. Anyway, it is all fabricated. It is complete nonsense.
“My personal family situation and background is irrelevant to the situation in which we live. I can talk about politics and Islam but I don’t want to talk about my personal life.”
He was too busy to answer any further questions. He now belongs to a sect he refuses to name and continues to deny any direct involvement in terrorism.
In a recent interview, he said: “Do I know how to make liquid explosives? No, I’m not military-trained. I can make an omelette.”
A flippant remark from one whose extremism is so laced with threats of violence