UK needs greater discussion of interpretation of Islam – analyst

With the leader of the UK’s Muslims Against the Crusades movement, Anjem Choudary, dreaming of turning Britain into a Muslim state, media analyst Phil Rees says Choudary’s provocative ideas can have serious consequences.

­“It was Anjem Choudary’s group that triggered the formation of the English Defense League, and by the way, Anders Breivik sent them many messages and referred to them many times in his tome,” Rees said. “Indeed, because their messages can be amplified by the media all around the world, they’ve had some very, very serious consequences both in creating groups like the English Defense League and perhaps even by stringing along people like this Breivik in Norway.”

Rees believes Choudary is more of a master of publicity rather than a real representative of all Britain’s Muslims.

“[Anjem Choudary’s movement is] a group probably 400-500 strong,” Rees said. “And they are masters of publicity. Basically, they have very good relations with Britain’s tabloids. The tabloids like Anjem because he is great at bringing out the quotes. And they really are making his movement politically important.”

Rees, who says he knows Choudary personally, stated that he is a “quite charming and interesting man,” but that he harbors highly aggressive ideas about turning Britain into a Muslim state.

“Well, he would like [Britain] to be a Muslim state,” Rees said. “But of course that’s not going to happen. You’ve got 1.5 to 2 percent of the British population being Muslim. They are not going to affect really the destiny of Britain. Though, I think that there are serious implications to what he says unfortunately, and they do reflect other problems.”

Rees claims that the majority of Muslims do not like Choudary or his group, as he “takes a very literal reading of the Koran and a literal understanding of Sharia law.”

He says there is insufficient discussion of how Muslim law is being interpreted in the UK. 

“I think this goes to the heart of the problem for Islam, perhaps throughout the world and indeed for Muslims living in predominantly non-Muslim countries,” Rees said. “In fact, Anjem is someone who is prepared to take on this debate, but the trouble is that it’s never really discussed on a serious level, because it is considered so outrageous.”

Rees believes people should start having a mature debate about some of the issues raised by Choudary.

“Anjem is doing this deliberately, he is doing it to provoke,” he said. “And I think what other people should do is say, ‘listen, he does not represent the majority of Muslims in Britain, and Muslims are part of Britain, and we’ve got to work out how to include their morals into the greater morality and values of British society.’ I think that’s true for every country in the world; we are living now in an international community.”