Notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary has been released from prison after serving half of his five-and-a-half year sentence. Just over two years ago he was sent down for inviting support for Isis.
Choudary spent years as a sort of "tabloid terrorist", saying provocative things about Islamic extremism that were a red rag to the sensationalist press. He had numerous greatest hits, but to give you a flavour, in 2008 he led a meeting in which one speaker said the 9/11 attacks had "taught [America] a lesson". At the meeting, Choudary talked about the "flag of Sharia" flying over Downing Street by 2020 and accused mainstream Muslim organisations of "selling their souls to the devil".
He seemed to personify an extremist Muslim archetype as imagined by an EDL supporter. But, a trained solicitor, he always seemed to know what he could get away with legally and where the line was. Police attempts to stop him were frustrated for years, until 2015, when he was convicted under the Terrorism Act 2000 for expressing support for Isis in lectures he published online.
There are numerous conditions on his release: he'll have to live at an agreed address, electronically tagged, with restricted internet and communications. There will also be restrictions on meeting other extremists, speaking publicly, holding meetings or going to certain places.
His early release is already going down like a pint of sick with nearly everyone.
Nick Lowles, chief executive of anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate, said:
"No other British citizen has had so much influence over so many terrorists as Choudary – we’ve tracked over 120 Islamist terrorists linked to him – and his release is likely to turbo-charge an already-energised far right, acting as a recruiting sergeant for the likes of Stephen Lennon (‘Tommy Robinson’) and violent groups such as the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA), which could spark unrest. It’s no exaggeration to say the far right are waiting for Choudary’s release with an equal dose of excitement and outrage."
The MailOnline has already worked out that his bail hostel is near a school (or, as their headlines put it, "a SCHOOL"), while the Express website has also done the "using caps in headlines" thing to make its point: "Anjem Choudary: UK's most dangerous hate preacher FREED after serving just HALF sentence".
Meanwhile, Fiyaz Mughal of counter-extremism group Faith Matters, told the Independent:
“It is a slap in the face of many people, including many Muslims who have been, for two decades, saying that action needed to be taken against him for the poisoning of young minds.
“With individuals like him, who are a nexus of extremism, a sentence should mean a sentence that is served out.”
Shortly before he screwed up and got himself sent to prison, VICE followed Choudary as he and his Islamist chums engaged in a weird turf war with fascists in east London.
If you want to understand the fuss about Choudary, and the place he occupies in British politics, you could do worse than watch our 2014 film, London’s Holy Turf War: