Like most people who read this page, I am a tireless defender of free speech for all. However, like me, you might be struggling to give two flying forks about the recent sentencing of Anjem Choudary.
For over twenty years, the Islamo-fascist panjandrum preached hate, intolerance and the imposition of Sharia Law outside mosques, on street corners and in other public places. His antics earned him mass media exposure, and many of his protégés went on to commit acts of terrorism, including Michael Adebowale – Lee Rigby’s killer – and thwarted London bomber Brusthom Ziamani.
But on Tuesday 16th August, Choudary’s luck finally ran out, and the Crown Prosecution Service banged him up under Section 12 of the Terrorism Act. His crime? Supporting ISIS. “What a terrible shame to see him go”, said absolutely no one.
Even so, we have a problem here. For you see, Choudary never committed an act of terrorism himself, he was never found to have directly encouraged any act of terrorism, and although he never condemned attacks, he rarely condoned individual cases either. Objectively speaking, Choudary has not committed a proper offence and should not lose his liberty.
Still, that is not the same as saying he hasn’t warranted repercussions. Interestingly, he was collecting £25,000 a year in state benefits – or in his words, “Jihadi-seeker’s allowance”. Furthermore, he received grants and loans to complete his law degree, and like all of us, he had access to the NHS, a state pension and other gratuitous public services.
But Choudary didn’t much like the society that provided so charitably for him. In fact, he openly campaigned for its overthrow. He cared not for democracy, the rule of law, freedom of expression or property rights. Instead, he sought to trade all of it in for a totalitarian government in the mould of Daesh.
Choudary should not have been eligible for the help he obtained. Free healthcare, benefits, student loans and the like are not human rights; they are discretionary ministrations that should be available on the condition that you do not seek to subvert the constitution of this country. They are privileges rather than civil liberties, and if you bite the hand that feeds, expect to have them suspended.
There are several reasons as to why this is favourable to hastily incarcerating non-violent extremists. Firstly, we don’t turn them into martyrs; secondly, it’s cheaper – each prisoner costs the UK taxpayer a whopping £40,000 a year; and thirdly, we uphold our commitment to freedom of speech for all.
Plus, we can re-invest the savings back into MI5’s counter-terrorism unit. This combined approach may sound a little heavy-handed, but it’d be far less draconian and have a bigger impact than the status-quo. And besides, after a suitable period of time, a sworn allegiance to the nation and a miraculous transition into a passable human being, the reformed Islamist can have their perks back. This is all perfectly reasonable if you ask me: muscular liberalism tailored for the challenges of the 21st century. But if they prefer a scrounger’s paradise, an amoral wasteland or a safe space for smug, ignominious parasites, they’re welcome to look elsewhere.
The Great British Taxpayer is a political blogger
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty