Driven by data; ridden with liberty.
After the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby were handed their guilty verdicts, BBC Radio 4 controversially invited Anjem Choudary onto its Today programme. This decision led to widespread condemnation, with Imran Awan calling Choudary a “pantomime villain” at the Huffington Post, and Telegraph columnist Tom Chivers labelling Choudary “a Muslim David Icke”.
Of course, freedom of speech contains no guarantee of a platform, and provides no shield against vehement criticism. However, much of the consternation revolves around the supposed abhorrence of Choudary’s views. His two main propositions are that: “There is a war against our brothers and sisters around the world” and “I believe the cause of this was David Cameron and his foreign policy.” Regardless of whether you find beauty or hideousness in these opinions, such views are widely disbursed.
The idea that Western foreign policy represents a war on Muslims or Islam ferments much anti-war thought. A Stop the War coalition leaflet states: “Waging war on mainly Muslim countries means demonising the populations of those countries, claiming that they subscribe to different values.” Nidal Hasan, the US army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, said he believes the United States is at war with Islam. Earl Cox, an international broadcaster who writes for the Jerusalem Post, asks: “When will America wake up and finally realize that we are, indeed, at war with Islam?” John Feffer has penned a book entitled Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam. According to Wired, a Pentagon course advocated a “total war” against all the world’s Muslims.
Similarly, British – or more generally, Western – foreign policy causing terrorism is a widely discussed idea. Mehdi Hasan, the political editor of the Huffington Post UK, rejects the notion of a ‘conveyor belt’ towards terrorism, except when British foreign policy is turning the cogs. Mr Hasan wrote:
Yet establishment figures continue to denounce those of us who cite the radicalising role of foreign policy as “excuse-makers” for al-Qaeda. To explain is not to excuse.
Seumas Milne said in the Guardian that Dmr Rigby’s murder and acts of terrorism in Britain are “the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others in eight direct military interventions in Arab and Muslim countries that have left hundreds of thousands of dead.”
In the interview, Choudary repeatedly disagreed with US drone strikes. Owen Jones complained the British media gives Choudary a platform “to troll us”, but the same Owen Jones approved of former US President Jimmy Carter’s assessment that drone strikes “abets our enemies and alienates our friends”. Former London mayor Ken Livingstone stated after Dmr Rigby’s murder:
In 2002, before the invasion of Iraq, the security services warned the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, that this would make Britain a target for terrorist attacks. We are still experiencing the dreadful truth of this warning.
Whilst people might dislike their grotesque vessel, Choudary’s ideas are hardly uncommon. Indeed, some are shared amongst our country’s commentators: they deserve to be debated and fully challenged.