The BBC has been attacked after comparing Islamist hate preacher Anjem Choudary to Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill.
Mark Easton, Home Editor, said that government plans to silence extremists were wrongheaded and that extreme views were needed to “challenge very established values.”
However, according to the Telegraph, his comment that Mandela and Gandhi were both seen as extremists in their time just as Choudary is now has been described as “ludicrous” and “disgusting” by critics.
Following a BBC report on the issue on Wednesday that mentioned more airtime for Choudary, Easton said: “It’s one thing to ban someone for inciting hatred or violence, but quite another to pass a law that silences anyone who challenges established values.
“I was in Parliament Square today – a statue of Gandhi looking down at me who was jailed for being extremist; Mandela who was jailed for being an extremist.
“History tells us that extreme views are sometimes needed to challenge a very established values that people at the time hold so dear.”
Choudary is currently on police bail after being arrests on suspicion of being a member of a terror group.
A spokesman for the Clarion Project, which opposes Islamic extremism, said: “It is ludicrous to compare Anjem Choudary, who promotes the most extreme form of Sharia law which denies entire segments of the population their basic human rights, to human rights champions such as Gandhi and Mandela.”
Even Choudary himself is not impressed, tweeting:
The comparison with Mandela & Ghandi are false, they are kufaar heading to hellfire whilst I am a Muslim Alhamdulilah http://t.co/6YPl8bY3CV
— Anjem Choudary (@anjemchoudary) May 14, 2015
A BBC spokesman said: “The news story reflected the deep concerns over Choudary and the extent of his influence and Mark Easton reiterated that point in his live broadcast.
“He then made a wider point that the definition of extremism can change over time. He was not suggesting that the views of Anjem Choudary will be thought of differently in the future and we believe this was clear to the viewer.”