In raids across London, a total of nine men – including hate preacher Anjem Choudhury – have been arrested by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of being members of a proscribed organisation, presumed to be al-Muhajiroun.
The arrests are a welcome and overdue use of existing counter-terrorism laws, which allow the government to prosecute individuals suspected of being members of proscribed organisations or encouraging terrorism, among other offences. The Henry Jackson Society has long called for relevant counter-terrorism laws to be more effectively implemented as a tool in the long-running fight against radical Islamist ideology. Furthermore, al-Muhajiroun’s activities have been highlighted by HJS on a variety of occasions as a threat to UK security.
In its first public release, HJS’ policy paper Disrupting Extremists: More Effective Use of Existing Legislation clearly sets out how proscribed organisation offences could effectively disrupt British-based extremists like Anjem Choudhury and his followers. It also details the ways in which al-Muhajiroun members have continued to participate in the group, using a variety of aliases as crude smokescreens.
Key findings regarding the threat posed by the group and the avenues for prosecution available to the British authorities include:
- Al-Muhajiroun, which advocates the establishment of an ‘Islamic’ State in the UK and supports jihadist fighters in foreign conflicts including in Syria and Iraq, has an almost 20-year-long history of encouraging terrorism both overseas and at home – one-in-five Islamism-inspired terrorists in the UK have links to the group;
- There have only been three successful prosecutions for Islamism-inspired proscribed organisation offences, despite at least 50 convicted terrorists in the UK having known links to proscribed terrorist organisations;
- In terrorism-related investigations where the suspect has known links to al-Muhajiroun, the CPS should seek to prosecute membership or professed membership of a proscribed organisation alongside the principal offence;
- Additional convictions could be secured on the basis of online activity in support of al-Muhajiroun. The CPS should prosecute owners of online platforms promoting extremist material and suspected to be al-Muhajiroun front groups for a) the unlawful dissemination of terrorist material and b) membership of a proscribed organisation, in order to prove legal aliases in court;
- As well as disrupting extremists’ activities, prosecution for membership would establish a legal precedent and proving aliases in court would send a strong message that proscription is the result of criminal activity, helping to delegitimise the ideology behind Islamism-inspired terrorism.
Hannah Stuart, Research Fellow at The Henry Jackson Society and author of Disrupting Extremists, commented:
“Al-Muhajiroun in its various guises has been allowed to promote violent radical Islam for too long. The arrests are a welcome sign that the government is taking the threat of extremist ideology seriously and beginning to effectively use the tools already available in the fight against terrorism in the UK.”