This morning The Sun did what the News of the World used to do. It had a front page piece of proper investigative journalism. which exposed the radical cleric Anjem Choudary as a thoroughly nasty piece of work. They taped a three hour lecture in which he called Cameron and Obama ‘devils’ and said they should be killed. He said all Muslims should have “hate in their hearts” and that they should forego work and claim what he called the “Jihad Seekers Allowance”. You can read the Sun story HERE
When I saw the story last night, I emailed my producer, Carl, and said “that’s our ten o’clock. Let’s get him on.” Normally we have a Minister or a Labour politician in the studio for the first hour of my Sunday show on LBC, but none were available today (recess, by-election) so the story was kind of manna from heaven. I interviewed Mr Choudary some time ago, and it was a pretty unedifying experience. He’s a very tricky customer and is well versed in shouting down any question he doesn’t want to answer. It must be his lawyer’s training.
On the drive to the studio I heard Radio 5 Live’s Phil Williams interview him. Phil is a very good interviewer and his top line was about how he hates homosexuals. I decided to try something different. I tried to lure him into the studio for the whole hour and get him to take calls from listeners. It would risk getting a lot of flak if it didn’t work, but in the event he was having none of it, and would only talk on the phone. Better than nothing.
I try not to shout at interviewees or lose my temper, but I knew if I adopted my usual ‘softly-softly catchee monkey’ approach it wouldn’t work with Mr Choudary and I would have to discover my Inner Ferrari. We went at it for ten minutes, and you can listen to the interview HERE
Several people on Twitter questioned whether by giving Choudary a media platform we just play into his hands. I understand the point, but I a a firm believer in exposing extremists for what they are. In addition, I think it is a great chance for the 99.9% of muslims who don’t support Choudary’s obnoxious views to ring in and say so. And they did in their hundreds. This is important because I am sure there are plenty of people out there who firmly believe that Choudary and his ilk carry a lot of support. They just don’t, and we should never lose an opportunity to point that out.
My colleague Petrie Hosken told me afterwards that she was interviewing Choudary once when she took him to task for having been found reading a pornographic magazine. He then accused her of being a prostitute when she was an undergraduate. She terminated the interview but not before telling him: “Mr Choudary, I take great exception to that. I have NEVER been an undergraduate!” At a girl.