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Why did the BBC give a platform to Anjem Choudary?

17 August 2016

8:12 AM

17 August 2016

8:12 AM

Anjem Choudary’s arrogance eventually led to his downfall. He was convinced he could stay one step ahead of the authorities by picking his words carefully. Until now, that is. The hate preacher finally came unstuck when he encouraged others to join Islamic State. Yet whilst his extremist rants were always marked with an alarming confidence, his manner belied a somewhat different reality: Choudary was a man with few followers.

His appearance in YouTube videos inevitably showed him with a tiny handful of half-witted acolytes alongside him. His ‘protests’ were of a kind likely to be greeted with indifference by passers-by. So why have we all heard of Choudary? Many media outlets have questions to answer for giving him a platform in order for him to spout his views. Twitter, for instance, has still refused to delete the convicted criminal’s account; his last message attacks the Prime Minister. Elsewhere, dozens of the Islamist preacher’s videos remain on YouTube.

The BBC, too, is responsible for, at the least, turning Choudary into something of a household name. It’s harder to criticise the corporation for inviting Choudary on many years ago. But more recently, in the wake of the murder of Lee Rigby, his message of hate hardened – yet still the invitations from the BBC kept coming. One of the most unfathomable of these was the decision to hand Choudary the prime 8.10 slot on the Today show after Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale were convicted in December 2013 of carrying out the Woolwich attack. Inevitably, Choudary refused to condemn the attack during the interview in which he droned on for 12 minutes, a length of time on the Today show which the Prime Minister wouldn’t be unhappy with having been given.

The BBC has defended itself by saying the interview took place nearly three years ago and Choudary was ‘robustly challenged’ throughout. That may be the case, but the question remains: why was a man like Choudary invited on in the first place? Then home secretary Theresa May spoke for many back when she said:

‘Anjem Choudary has disgusting views and I think it is right that we look at how those views are being presented. ‘There were many people who did indeed say, ‘What is the BBC doing interviewing Anjem Choudary?’.’

It’s a question which, after the conviction of Choudary, seems even more pertinent.

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