CAIRO – Angry British Muslims have expressed fury over the BBC’s decision to interview a radical preacher a day after guilty verdicts were returned in trial of men accused of Woolwich murder, saying the unsuitable decision might foster negative views about Islam and Muslims.
"It was a massive error of judgment and it does so much damage," Julie Siddiqui, vice-president of the Islamic Society of Britain, told The Guardian on Sunday, December 22.
"Why him? He has no legitimacy in the Muslim community."
Muslims’ anger followed a Radio 4's Today program interview with Anjem Choudary the day after guilty verdicts were returned on Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale for the Woolwich soldier's murder.
Choudary is the former leading member of banned extremist organization, Al-Muhajiroun, and is credited with helping to convert Adebolajo to Islam.
Shunned by the Muslim community, Choudary's views are condemned by all of its leading organizations.
Despite his extremist views, he was given the most high-profile slot on Today, shortly after the 8 o'clock news on Thursday morning.
Siddiqui said Choudary's views would foster negative views about Islam and Muslims.
She added that 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 radicalize young Muslims, but what he is doing is reinforcing prejudices that are out there," Siddiqui said.
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.
British Muslims and mosques have been potential targets for dozens of attacks after the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, south London, last May.
A video showed the attackers, who are Muslim converts of Nigerian origin, blaming British policies for the killing and calling on Britons to remove their government.
British Muslims have condemned the machete killing as contradicting with the basic teachings of Islam.
Yet, the number of anti-Islamic attacks has increased as much as tenfold in the days that followed the Woolwich murder of Drummer Lee Rigby.
Questioning the BBC decision, Muslim demanded a meeting with Tony Hall, the director general of the BBC, to discuss the BBC's editorial policies.
"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 thinktank, shared similar concerns.
"The BBC has an editorial responsibility to explain the choices it makes," Katwala said.
Choudary pulled out of an interview with Panorama.
A BBC spokeswoman tried to justify the BBC’s decision to give such a prominent slot to Choudry.
"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," she said.
In June 2013, the BBC came under fire following an interview with the leader of the far-right English Defence League which triggered uproar in the country for “poisoning” airwaves with anti-Muslim views.
Hostility against British Muslims has been on the rise since the machete attack of an army soldier in London last month, which Muslims condemned as running against the basic Islamic teachings.
A series of attacks against Muslim targets included three terrorist bombings targeted at different mosques in West Midlands in July.
Tell Mama project, which monitors anti-Muslim attacks in Britain, has also reported 212 “anti-Muslim incidents” after the Woolwich attack, including 11 attacks on mosques.
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