LONDON — It is a Sunday night in London’s East End and the self-styled “most hated man in Britain” is holding court, reveling in his vision of a Taliban victory over America and a world under Islamic Shariah law.
The crowd of about 250 listens intently as Anjem Choudary issues a call to arms in the pristine surroundings of the newly refurbished art deco conference center, built to host weddings and business meetings.
“There are many battlefields,” he says calmly into a microphone. “There’s a battlefield outside 10 Downing Street [home to Britain’s prime minister] and in the mountains of the Tora Bora [in Afghanistan].”
Any man who fails to fight, he warns, will face difficulty when the “angel of death” arrives and he is forced to explain to Allah why he did not raise his hand “against the oppressor” out of fear. “Allah will say to him, ‘Am I not more worthy to be feared than them?'” Choudary says.
“Allahu Akbar!” the men shout out in unison, as if a war cry, during his speech. “Allahu Akbar.” God is great.
A group of women, all heavily veiled and sitting in a screened-off area, remain quiet throughout.
As former leader of the banned Islamist organizations al-Muhajiroun and Islam4UK, Choudary was kept off the bill and appeared as the surprise star speaker at the rally.