Muslim organisations are to ask the director general of the BBC to explain the decision to broadcast an interview with an extremist preacher with close links to one of Lee Rigby’s killers. In the latest criticism of the decision to give a prominent slot to Anjem Choudary on Radio 4’s Today programme, the organisations are to demand a meeting with Tony Hall to discuss the BBC’s editorial policies. The groups are furious that Choudary was interviewed the day after guilty verdicts were returned on Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale for the Woolwich soldier’s murder. They will be sentenced in January.
Shunned by the Muslim community, Choudary’s views are condemned by all of its leading organisations. Despite his extremist views, he was given the most high-profile slot on Today, shortly after the 8 o’clock news on Thursday morning. “It was a massive error of judgment and it does so much damage,” said Julie Siddiqui, vice-president of the Islamic Society of Britain. “Why him? He has no legitimacy in the Muslim community.” She said Choudary’s views would foster negative views that would harm faith relations and, as a result, a number of Muslim groups would be writing to the corporation in a bid to understand why it gave the preacher such prominence. “He’s not going to radicalise young Muslims, but what he is doing is reinforcing prejudices that are out there,” Siddiqui said.
Choudary pulled out of an interview with Panorama, which had gathered evidence of his close and recent links to Adebolajo. But he was not asked about this on Today. “We need to understand how this was allowed to happen,” Siddiqui said. “We need to articulate to the BBC the anger and disappointment that he was given this platform.” Sunder Katwala, director of the British Future think-tank, said: “The BBC has an editorial responsibility to explain the choices it makes.”
A BBC spokeswoman said: “We believe it is important to reflect that such opinions exist and feel Choudary’s comments may offer some insight into how this crime came about.”