So farewell, then, Anjem Choudary. For two and half years at least. On September 6, the radical cleric was sentenced by a British judge to five and a half years in prison for encouraging people to join the Islamic State. If he behaves himself in prison he could be out in half that time, although whenever he emerges, it is unlikely that it will be as a reformed character. But the law has taken its course and in a rule-bound society has responded in the way that a rule-bound society ought to behave — by the following due process. So it is useful to compare the experience of Anjem Choudary and the way in which the state has responded to him with the way in which it has responded to another person.
It is now seven years ago that a young British man from Luton going by the name of Tommy Robinson formed the English Defence League (EDL). He did so after he and other residents of the town of Luton were appalled by a group of radical Muslims who protested a home-coming parade for British troops. There is some interesting symmetry here in that the Islamists present in Luton that day were members of Anjem Choudary’s group, al-Muhajiroun. Robinson and other residents of Luton were not only taken aback by the behaviour of the radicals but by the behaviour of the police who protected the radicals from the increasingly angry local residents.