ON Friday, Anjem Choudary, a key figure in the banned extremist group, Al-Muhajiroun, was given 12 minutes of airtime on Radio 4’s flagship Today Programme, during which he refused to condemn the savage killing of drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich, south London, earlier this year.
He was interviewed after Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were found guilty of the murder of the British soldier.
After the verdict was given, Adebolajo kissed his Koran and raised it in the air. The two devout Muslim zealots will be sentenced next month.
After the verdict, Prime Minister David Cameron said:
The whole country was completely shocked by the murder of Lee Rigby and the whole country united in condemnation of what happened and I’m sure everyone will welcome these verdicts.
Well, not quite.
Asked on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme whether he condemned the Woolwich murder, Anjem Choudary said:
I think that what is important is to learn lessons from what has taken place. Whether you agree or disagree with what took place, you cannot predict the actions of one individual among a population of 60 million when the Government is clearly at war in Muslim countries.
I condemn those who have caused what has taken place on the streets of London, and I believe that the cause of this is David Cameron and his foreign policy.
Asked about comments by Al-Muhajiroun founder Omar Bakri Mohammed, who said he was proud of Adebolajo, Mr Choudary said:
He was talking about Brother Mujahid in terms of the fact that he has been invited into Islam, he is a practising Muslim, he is a family man and by all accounts I’m very proud of him as well, but as for the incident we are talking about, something where we differ about is the Islamic opinion that he adopts.
I can’t control what the youth do. The sad reality is that people have cut off individuals like Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, Sheikh Abu Qatada and myself, they ban organisations who are in fact channelling the energy of the youth through demonstrations and processions. These people are now going online, finding al Qaeda, swallowing that narrative and seeing Britain as a battlefield.
The Government’s former anti-terrorism adviser Lord Carlile told Today:
Mr Choudary is a demagogue, he doesn’t like the United Kingdom, he doesn’t believe in democracy. He wouldn’t be allowed to say what he has said in almost any other country in the world, including Muslim countries. I think he is an outrageously bad influence on young Muslims in this country.
I think British imams should be more ready than they are to preach the antidote to people like Mr Choudary.
It was later revealed that the BBC used licence payers’ money to ferry Choudary to its studios where he was allowed to spout his “poisonous narrative” over the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby
Prime Minister David Cameron denounced Mr Choudary’s views as “absolutely despicable and appalling” and said he represented a “minority of a minority”.
But despite widespread condemnation of his views, the BBC insisted it had been correct to allow the extremist a platform on one of its most iconic programmes.
The interview was conducted by presenter John Humphrys, but Choudary repeatedly ignored calls to express his condemnation over the terrorist murder, and used the time instead to attack British and American foreign policy in the Middle East.
At one point he said he did not believe in democracy, but insisted he had every right to stay in Britain because it was where he had been born and brought up.
Cameron, speaking at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, said:
This is an absolutely classic case of that poisonous narrative of extremism and violence. We must defeat it by demonstrating what a minority view it is.
John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley said:
I find it quite extraordinary that someone who is so hostile to British values and so unrepresentative of the Muslim community is endlessly given space by the BBC.
Left wing veteran Diane Abbot also hit out at the decision to allow Mr Choudary on the radio. Writing on Twitter she said:
I am a big believer in free speech. Opposed the war in Iraq etc But WHY give airtime to Anjem Choudary!
The Muslim Council of Britain, which has strongly condemned the Woolwich murder, also criticised the BBC for giving Mr Choudary the “oxygen of publicity”.A spokesman for the group said:
This was a dishonourable act and no cause justifies cold-blooded murder. Mr Choudary is a self-serving publicity seeker and the BBC was unwise to give him so much airtime, unchallenged.
He relies on the oxygen of publicity to influence impressionable young people at the margins of society.
A spokesman for the BBC denied accusations of “lazy journalism” and insisted a great deal of consideration had gone into carrying view points from across the political spectrum.
The spokesman said:
We have a responsibility to both report on the story and try to shed light on why it happened. We believe it is important to reflect the fact that such opinions exist and feel that Choudary’s comments may offer some insight into how this crime came about.
His views were robustly challenged by both the presenter, John Humphrys and by Lord Carlile, the government’s former anti-terrorism adviser.
However while Mr Choudary was on air for more than 12 minutes, Lord Carlile was given less than four minutes to respond.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn