YouTube features videos of everything under the sun. It is the Speakers Corner of our digital global village, attracting extremists of all types. As has been pointed out before, it can also function as a social networking site for extremists to advertise events, publish offensive material and propagandise for their cause, through establishing their own ‘channels’ and connecting with other, like-minded people.
Al-muhajiroun/Islam4UK on YouTube
Al-Muhajiroun, the al-Qaeda supporting group formed by Omar Bakri Mohammed in the 1990s, has been semi-covert since the 7th July bombings, forced into legal limbo by the proscription of three of its cover names. Shunned and reviled by the vast majority of British Muslims (to say nothing of the rest of society) it employs several aliases and uses YouTube to radicalise, recruit and organise its activists. Al-Muhajiroun’s behaviour presents a classic case study of its type.
Lectures and sermons from radical preachers such as Abu Hamza, Omar Bakri Muhammad and Abu Qatada are sent around the world, moments after leaving their mouths. By editing their activities online, activists from Islam4UK – currently the most common name used by al-Muhajiroun – can finesse the message: keeping the hatred and division as close to the legal boundary as possible. They can build international relationships with comrades in the American based Islamic Thinkers Society. They can even pose as respected Muslim clerics to viewers who are uninformed as to the extreme, unrepresentative ideas that the group promotes.
The al-Muhajiroun successor groups use three of their own websites: www.submit2allah.com, www.islam4uk.com and www.salafimedia.net. It is possible to trace the YouTube activities of these groups through their YouTube profiles. One YouTube channel entitled Islam4UK – Offical (sic) Channel states in its profile:
This is the Offical (sic) Channel for Islam4UK a Movement within UK working for the establishment of the Shariah- to make it dominate all other ways of life.
This channel has four lectures on it given by three people (divided into several videos, due to their length). Two of the lectures are given by Anjem Choudary, the figurehead of the various al-Muhajiroun successor groups, who is described on the Islam4UK website as:
Judge of the Shari’ah Court of the UK and Principal Lecturer at the London School of Shari’ah.
This is only the surface of Islam4UK’s YouTube presence.
Anjem Choudary’s YouTube channel
Anjem Choudary’s own YouTube channel is here. He has over 80 subscribers, including Izharudeen, IslamistUK, SlaveOfAllaaH, londondawah and Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah – each of whom promote the websites of one or more of the three al-Muhajiroun successor groups named above – ‘submit2allah’, ‘islam4UK’ and ‘salafimedia’. Another subscriber, Perspectives of a Muslim Da’ee, promotes al-Muhajiroun’s American chapter, the Islamic Thinkers Society, which we will return to later.
There are others who do not subscribe to Choudary’s channel, but who use their own YouTube channels to publicise the al-Muhajiroun successor groups. Take for example Abu Waleed, who has a second channel called Abu Maryam. Abu Waleed describes himself as a “Lecturer at the London School of Shariah” and the address of an al-Muhajiroun successor website is on screen throughout each of his lectures. Another example is Londonistan – who has uploaded a video called “CAMDEN TOWN -[03/10/09] LIFE UNDER THE SHARIAH”. This opens with a computerised re-creation of a plane crashing into the Pentagon, before showing footage of a recent Islam4UK stall in Camden Town, north London:
As well as subscribers, Choudary has some YouTube friends. (26 at the time of writing). They include Abu Maryam, Izharudeen, Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jammah and a channel entitled KhanQaida, whose wallpaper features a mock up of al-Muhajiroun’s white-on-black flag, a Kalashnikov and the words “support our troops”. Here is one of the videos from his “favourites” section, titled What is the least we can do for the Mujahideen:
This video does not open in KhanQaida’s channel, but instead opens on a generic YouTube page. This is because KhanQaida did not post the video himself, but simply marked it as a favourite. Users can therefore promote videos on their own channels that they have not made or uploaded themselves.
This is relevant for several of Choudary’s YouTube “friends”, who needn’t attend an Islam4UK event in order to publicise it on their channel. Perspectives of a Muslim Da’ee, for example, has 96 videos tagged as favourites, but only uploaded 11 himself. The 96 favourite videos include mainstream news reports, al-Muhajiroun and Islamic Thinkers Society videos and overt jihadi propaganda clips. Perspectives of a Muslim Da’ee has 132 friends for his youtube channel and 175 subscribers tuning in to watch and learn. So, Choudary is reaching many more people than the number of subscribers and friends that he has on his channel would suggest. His activists act as a multiplier, promoting him and his message to a much wider circle.
Al-Muhajiroun Lecturers on Youtube
Choudary is the “principal lecturer at the London School of Shariah”. This is a long-standing outlet for al-Muhajiroun’s activities in theUK. As noted above, Abu Waleed, a.k.a Abu Maryam, is a fellow lecturer at the School. His lecture on The Battle of Khandaq (split into several videos) gives an idea of his views. He repeatedly portrays Jews as the main enemy of Muhammad and talks about their alleged betrayals: here, for example, or here. After 1min 35 seconds of this second video he accuses British Muslims who cooperate with their own British government of being Kaffir (disbelievers). Then, he goes back to demonising Jews. In this video, he uses a battle from the Quran to exhort his audience to remain strong in the face of the arrest and imprisonment of their comrades (8th minute onwards). The final video of the lecture ends with the message that the battle between belief and disbelief is never over (6th minute).
Abu Maryam’s The Integration Conspiracy lecture gives his views on Holocaust Memorial Day and the Muslims that attended. He begins this clip with the words “That the Jews and the Christians will never be pleased with you until you take up their deen (belief).” He then attacks the Muslim community in the UK for, as he sees it, pandering to the government, claiming that Allah says Muslims cannot integrate into British society or join the police or the army. By the end of the video he is ranting that the very concept of Muslim integration into British society is a conspiracy to destroy Islam itself. For those who didn’t quite get the point earlier, he emphasises it here (from 8th minute). In this next part of the lecture, his bigotry is on display when he tells the story of when he first met his new, non-Muslim neighbour (3rd minute):
You know we say Kuffar are stupid, but I don’t think there’s any more stupid than my neighbour […] he said “I’ve got a cold beer, why don’t you come inside for a drink?” What’s this [pointing at large beard], you know what I mean, what do you think this is, you know what I mean? Taliban, beard yeah? He said “why don’t you come in for a drink?” I said “look you know, I’m a Muslim, Muslims don’t drink, we don’t drink alcohol.” And he’s like, looking with his head down, and [he says] “I’ve got orange juice for you”, and I said “look, I’m not interested. I’m not gonna have no dinner with you, I’m not gonna drink with you, I’m not gonna buy some roses, there’s not ever gonna be no kissing or anything like that going on, thank you very much. You apologise to me for being Kaffir, come with your begging bowl, don’t worry, we’re not going to kill you anyway because we have a covenant of security.” That’s Kaffir, anyway.
Then, by the 7th minute he has moved on to insulting Sikhs.
Another user called abu dujana is a typical case study of an al-Muhajiroun activist on YouTube. According to his channel’s homepage he studies at the School of Shariah:
your brother in islam abu dujana student at the london school of sharia working to take over the world and establish huja & make the deen of allah (swt) the most high
Abu dujana doesn’t have a direct subscription to Choudary’s channel, nor is he listed as one of his friends, but he subscribes to and is listed as friends with other al-Muhajiroun activists, such as londondawah, and lists three al-Muhajiroun successor websites in his profile. The videos he has uploaded on his channel include clips from al-Muhajiroun successor groups’ events alongside explicit jihadi films.
Abu dujana has subscriptions to around 20 channels, at least two of which, londondawah and Perspectives of a Muslim Da’ee, post al-Muhajiroun propaganda and link to their websites. One of the other channels to which he subscribes, ASSAHAB888, has a particular taste for al-Qaeda videos.
Another Islam4UK activist, Izharudeen, describes his hobby as:
To make Allah’s word the highest all over the world – Izharudeen
He links to www.submit2allah.com from his profile and his title video is a refutation of a Muslim calling for peaceful coexistence between the Luton Islamic Centre and other faiths in the UK.
Izharudeen has posted a total of 50 videos on his channel. One is titled “Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed Tribute; another, “Muslim Prisoners Guilty (Aseer) of being Muslim”. This includes photographs of al-Muhajiroun activists who are either currently imprisoned or have recently been released, such as Simon ‘Suleiman’ Keeler and Omar ‘Abu Izzadeen’ Brooks, both of whom were found guilty in 2008 of terrorist fundraising and inciting terrorism overseas. Also featured is Abu Hamza al-Masri, currently serving a 7 year sentence for incitement to murder, after which he is scheduled to be extradited to the USA; Omar Abdel Rahman, convicted in 1996 of masterminding terrorist plots in New York; and Abu Qatada, awaiting extradition to Jordan where he has been found guilty in absentia of conspiring to murder tourists over the Millennium.
Islamic Thinkers Society
This network of al-Muhajiroun supporters isn’t limited to “Londonistan”: as mentioned above, it extends to the USA where supporters of al-Muhajiroun go by the name of the Islamic Thinkers Society, which has its own Islamic Thinkers Society Official Channel on YouTube. This channel is similar to those publicising Islam4UK, with videos showing their various demonstrations and stalls. The channel’s title video shows dead bodies and casualties of various wars, and calls all Muslim leaders sell-outs, ending with a picture of the black flag used by al-Muhajiroun flying over the White House.
Another American activist, who subscribes to Choudary’s channel and to the Islamic Thinkers Society, has a channel of his own called Islamic Revolution TV. In his profile, he lists Osama Bin Laden as one of:
The True Shuyookh of the Past and Present
His list of “The True Shuyookh” is a who’s who of Islamist and jihadist thinkers and fighters, past and present: in addition to bin Laden it includes ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab, Abul Ala Maududi, Sayyid Qutb and his brother Mohammed Qutb, Abdullah Azzam, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, Abu Qatadah, Omar Abdel Rahman, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdullah el-Faisal and Abu Hamza al-Masri.
The channel features a seven-part audio series called “From the Shadows: Exposing the New World Order”:
Created and Presented by Halaqa Media, we are taken through a trip in history in order to learn the facts and reality about the notorious group known as the Free-Masons, the servants of the Dajjal (Anti-Christ). This is something each and every Muslim must learn, part of our battle is knowing who our enemy is. It is time for us to learn and turn to Islam as the solution and opposition to the Dajjal and his Freemason servants.
Al-Muhajiroun is reviled by the vast majority of people, Muslim and not, in Britain. It has been proscribed by the government under three of its names and the permanent removal of its founder, Omar Bakri Mohammed, from Britain in 2005 was greeted with relief, if not celebration. It is no surprise, then, to find that al-Muhajiroun’s supporters and activists use YouTube and other online facilities to organise activities that are shunned by most in the offline world.
The proliferation of al-Muhajiroun on YouTube demonstrates the limitations of proscription. Banning an organisation makes an important public statement about the boundaries of acceptable activity in a democracy, and provides legal channels for dealing with organisations that incite violence and hatred. However, proscribing an organisation does not mean that it will stop its activities, or disappear from view: it merely displaces it from offline meeting rooms to online chat rooms, creating new problems in place of the old. The internet erases the distance between mainstream and extremist discourse, and between different shades of extremism. A YouTube user can watch mainstream news reports about Iraq or Afghanistan, an Anjem Choudary lecture on the same subject and an al-Qaeda training video, all in one sitting. He can chat to like-minded people on the other side of the world as easily as with somebody in the next street. Extremists can disseminate their propaganda much more widely than before, but are also subject to much easier monitoring by the authorities; and it can be harder for extremist groups to turn a passing online interest into cadre of genuine quality, than if they have face-to-face contact with potential new recruits.
Needless to say, many of the videos linked to here contravene YouTube’s Community Guidelines. Even if they don’t inspire any YouTube viewers to violence, the propaganda of al-Muhajiroun, not to mention al-Qaeda, is based on bigotry and hatred of ‘the other’, encouraging separation and suspicion in our communities. YouTube and other social networking sites should do more to police, pro-actively, the use of their platforms by extremists. It should not be up to other users to prevent extremists from exploiting YouTube’s facilities and sullying its brand, a problem that is common to many mainstream blogs and social forums. However, removing these videos, as welcome as that would be, would not solve the problem: extremist groups can always set up their own websites and message boards, or meet online in private chat rooms. More important, as noted in CST’s report with the ICSR on Countering Online Radicalisation, is providing strong counter-messages to drown out the extremist voices of hate.