Tuesday 16 July 2019

Choudary is someone who doesn't deserve airtime

There's no point trying to catch out the radical Islamist with clever questions, says Sarah Carey. He shouldn't have been on 'Prime Time'

Anjem Choudary
Anjem Choudary

There are two kinds of radio and television presenters. Those who emote all over the studio because they think it's all about them. And those who think it's their job to ask questions. Miriam O'Callaghan is in the latter group.

On Prime Time, she conducts interviews without aggression or contrived self-righteousness, and afterwards, no one knows what her personal opinion is about anything. Which is how it should be.

So Thursday night was fresh ground. I've never seen her crack before. During her interview with Anjem Choudary, a radical Muslim from London, she was stressed, angry and pretty emotional. Some will say there were questions she could have asked but didn't. But I've been in her shoes and when you're faced with someone like Choudary whose contempt and sinful delight in death is evident, there's nothing you can do. Her anger in the face of his evil was the only morally acceptable response. His leer showed us what he is - a truly vile individual supporting murders carried out by others. We've seen that leer in this country - in the Dail itself.

For those who didn't see it, Prime Time focussed on the free speech debate generated by the murders in Paris. Choudary came on a link from London. He's praised the 9/11 and 7/7 bombers. A number of organisations with paramilitary links set up by him have been banned in the UK under the Terrorism Act. He's been deported from Lebanon and refused entry to France. His views are nasty, medieval and he revels in these moments when decent people are horror struck by the acts carried out by this dark cult that purports to be Islamic.

And what fun he had pretty much arguing that the Charlie Hedbo staff had it coming. There was no point trying to catch him out with clever questions. He loves this. It's what he wants.

So why give it to him? Why give him his moment in the sun? Why let him mock our naive democratic freedoms? I wouldn't have put him on in the first place. We know what these people think. It doesn't enlighten us to watch it. Instead it encourages a belief that guys like this are representative of Islam when they aren't. When we see a guy with a beard and hat talking crazy, it's too easy for people to think all those guys with beards and hats are crazy.

Earlier in the show, a debate on the blasphemy laws featured Ali Selim, an Irish Muslim academic. He's not at all radical like Choudary, and condemned the attacks, but he has threatened to legally pursue any Irish papers that publish the offending cartoons.

Leaving aside the probability that there are more liberal Muslim voices out there who might have made a valuable contrbution to the debate, at least Selim gave a respectful view, though one many disagree with.

Choudary shouldn't have been there. Next time, let's have a constructive conversation rather than exposing us - and Miriam - to a contemptible person whose appearance served his purposes and not ours.

Sunday Independent

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