Following Islam4UK’s decision to call off its demonstration at Wootton Bassett Home secretary Alan Johnson has announced that Anjem Choudary’s group is to be banned as of Thursday. This causes little surprise as the establishment was clearly rattled by events leading up to, and on, Sunday at Wootton Bassett which caused a counter demonstration by locals, the EDL and far right groups as well as a media blackout. Rumours abounded that Islam4UK had set off for Wootton Bassett on Sunday which sparked an immediate counter-demonstration with the EDL managing to ferry a couple of hundred supporters into the town.
Choudary announced his intentions to demonstrate last week but was in negotiations with the cops over the actual date. The police need advance notice to organise especially for controversial incidents like this which they knew had caused serious outcry from across the political spectrum and media. However, no date was finalised. It was rumoured that Islam4UK had set off anyway on Sunday in 4 coaches but were apprehended by the cops before they got to the town. This is proving very hard to substantiate. At the town was a number of angry protestors from the local area as well as the EDL who had bussed in to confront Choudary. However, they did not get the opportunity to discuss the situation with him. That Choudary’s provocative intention to demonstrate was insulting, stupid, and bound to cause a media flap is beyond doubt. Choudary is a dab hand at creating publicity for his group without actually doing anything. He had announced a march in London last year which was then cancelled following ‘threats’ and he will have known that he would never make it to Wootton Bassett without serious police presence, public opposition and the attendant media event. His inflammatory desire for media publicity was quelled by the blackout on Sunday. Choudary says that the protest is to publicise the death of innocent Muslims but what he is doing in effect is furthering anti-Muslim feeling in the UK. And he must know it. The banning of his group has created more media attention for Choudary and he will no doubt simply reorganise under another a name. The only way to stop this is to arrest him which would then ensure the martyr status he know doubt reveres and it is doubtful the government would do this. However, by banning his group he will be seen by some as martyr by some.
Islam4UK is a deeply suspicious little organisation and given to making impossible proclamations such as the Islamification of the UK, the banning of alcohol and turning Buckingham Palace into a mosque. These ridiculous demands are clearly never going to be met so the question is why is he making them and who is going to benefit from it all? Islam4UK are connected to the illegal Al Muhajiroun who advocate Sharia law and are pro-Al Qaeda. The Islam4UK website reads “Go forth and proclaim Islam whether the disbelievers like it or not.”  Choudary is a preacher spreading the word of Islam but does he seriously think the majority of Brits are going to put down their bacon sandwiches and pints and get on their knees 5 times a day? The UK is a secular society with only about a quarter of the population tending towards serious religious observance.
Deliberate provocation is part of Choudary’s strategy and it creates a subsequent media event on which he thrives. Egos aside, why is he spending so much time organizing things that will never happen? Islam4UK could serve two purposes, both beneficial to the state. The first is that they attract extremists and potential security threats and they can then be more easily monitored. The 2nd is that it gives the government yet another excuse for cracking down on free speech and the right to demonstrate. Banning this ‘anti-Afghan war protest’ by Islam4UK can also be a precedent to banning an anti-war march organized by the left.
The Far Right Reaction
Opposition to Choudary’s plan was swiftly organized. The EDL issued a call to arms, the BNP leadership said they would physically oppose it and a Facebook group set up by Jo Cleary attracted ½ million people in a matter of days. However, the anti-Islam4UK reaction could also be an anti-Islam one. One admin on the Facebook site was a supporter of Nick Griffin, another a member of “If you live in England, speak English” group. This indicates a less moderate grouping than at first sight. Referring to Islam4UK as ‘rats’ and ‘filth’ on his rabid BlogSpot, BNP ‘legal advisor’ Lee Barnes was raving away, claiming that Islam4UK did turn up but fails to substantiate anything he says, quoting from another far right source.  The alleged arrest of Choudary is proving difficult to substantiate but what is clear is that they did not get to the town to face the counter-demo. Barnes also claims a tacit agreement between Islam4UK and the cops to demonstrate and that the cops and media were working together to hide ‘the truth’, whatever that maybe in Barnes’s noggin. Last week, the BNP had grandly announced Nick Griffin’s decision to physically block the Islam4UK march but he was nowhere to be seen. He was no doubt at home having his tea or in Brussels. The media blackout would not have been beneficial. Again according to Barnes, the rival National Front flew into action arriving about several hours after the event. If there was a media blackout about the incident this would deny Choudary his publicity fix. The press would only be able to report the following Monday. Some from the far right website are claiming 500 turned out. The Telegraph claims 200 and a clip from Sky News on YouTube showed a handful of casuals, some masked, hanging about in the cold.  However many turned out, it sounds like a bit of an anti-climax for all concerned.
That there was a large and vocal opposition to Choudary’s demonstration is not in doubt. However, on the day few people turned up to oppose it. The BNP failed to act on their proclamation of physical opposition and stayed in. The NF maintained a tiny presence after the event. The EDL claimed a victory by getting 200 in the area so quickly. The outcome? A few chilly hooligans, Islam4UK banned and another media coup for Choudary who will no doubt re-emerge with another group making equally absurd demands and in flaming anti-Muslim sentiment whilst he does so.
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