UK
21/12/2013 08:07 GMT | Updated 21/12/2013 08:22 GMT

BBC Defends Anjem Choudary Interview On Today Programme After Backlash

Johnny Green/PA Archive
BBC defends Choudary interview

The BBC is standing firm over its controversial decision to invite extremist Anjem Choudary onto the Today programme in the aftermath of the Woolwich murder verdict.

The corporation said it felt the hate preacher's views could "offer some insight" into why Lee Rigby was brutally murdered by Michael Adebowale and Michael Adebolajo in May.

There was an outcry on Friday when Choudary, the ex-leader of the banned group Islam4UK, was handed the prime interview slot after the 8am news.

Host John Humphrys at one point referred to him as "representative of part of your community" and Choudary managed to rant uninterrupted at times after refusing to condemn the Woolwich murder.

The BBC faced an outcry in Saturday's newspapers for its decision, which was criticised by MPs and Muslim representatives.

It was mentioned during the paper review on Saturday morning's show, which also featured Humphrys.

But a corporation spokesman was defiant about the interview, which lasted over 12 minutes.

He said: “We have given great consideration to our reporting of the Woolwich murder and the subsequent trial, and carried a wide range of views from across the political and religious spectrums.

"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.”

Carlile did criticise Choudary, but also attacked the wider Muslim population for failing to stand up to his views.

Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a matter for the BBC as to whether Choudary should have been interviewed at all.

But he said it was important that such views were examined, "and then properly trashed for all to see."

He slammed Choudray's views as "absolutely despicable and appalling", and described him as "a minority of a minority of a minority" who did not represent the mainstream of British Muslims.

Speaking at the end of an EU summit in Brussels, he added: "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."