I meant to blog about this Telegraph article from a few weeks ago about Anjem Choudary, written by someone, David Toube, who knew him as a party-animal Uni student:
Anjem – known then as Andy – was a sweet and friendly guy. When we studied law together at Southampton in the late 1980s, he was one of a group of kids who lived together in a shared house, in the red light district of the city. His digs were reminiscent of the Young Ones or Animal House. There was a sofa in the living room which was gradually disassembled into its component parts during the course of the year. Mysterious graffiti used to appear on the walls
Toube wonders why he turned from a non-political party animal, who seemed more interested in drinking than religion, into a hard-line Islamisist, and speculates that it was because his law career stalled, while all his old classmates started doing well. I expect that had something to do with his radicalisation, but I think the idea that Choudrey didn’t have strong religious and political ideas beforehand is naive. As Toube himself writes:
There was one issue which greatly upset him, however: the publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in 1988. At the time, I was editing a student law magazine, in which I had written a defence of the book … I had to ask another writer to make the case against Rushdie because I couldn’t get Anjem to put pen to paper. What struck me about his anger over the book, however, was how out of character it seemed. He told me that the insult he felt was akin to being told by a stranger that his mother was a prostitute. Nothing I could say to him shifted his conviction that the book was deeply wicked.
This simply isn’t the response of someone who isn’t that bothered about his religion. Just because he was tempted from the straight and narrow path by the joys of the flesh when he was at the age when those joys were at their sweetest doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care about Islam, or doesn’t care about his family’s ethnic background. I’ve met a few Muslims like that at University — most of the time they give the impression of being thoroughly Westernised, and good guys, but then they sometimes let slip something completely barking, and you realise that not only are they not very Westernised under the surface, they strongly resent having to pretend to be.
And Toube also undermines his own contention that Choudary wan’t very political:
Neither was he tremendously political. He was part of a group of students who were chummy with a young, fun, criminology lecturer, Penny Green: now a professor at Queen Mary. Penny was an activist in the far Left Socialist Workers Party, and much of her work these days consists of campaigning against Israel. Islamists and Communists share a preoccupation with Zionism, but I don’t remember the subject ever really coming up with Anjem. It wasn’t the conflicts in the Middle East that radicalised him.
So I think the likes of Choudary were entertaining radical and murderous thoughts well before they made them public. They were probably entertaining them even while they were drinking and smoking dope and looking at porn. To some degree they were having these thoughts because they were drinking and smoking and looking at porn (“Look at what the West is making me do”).
Perhaps if they’d gone on to have successful conventional careers they’d have put away those thoughts, at least for a few years (perhaps they’d have eventually ended up funding others to go down the routes they were thinking of when younger). But failure in their careers made them think, why bother pretending any more?