BBC reporter slammed for comparing hate preacher Anjem Choudary to Gandhi and Mandela
THE BBC has come under fire after one of its chief reporters shockingly compared extremism preacher Anjem Choudary to civil rights heroes Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
Mark Easton compared Anjem Choudary to Gandhi and Mandela
Stunned viewers watched home affairs editor Mark Easton criticising the Government's plans to silence hate-mongers such as Choudary, who has refused to condemn the killing of Lee Rigby, by asking whether great historical figures would pass the proposed test.
The newsman carried on by saying extreme views were needed in order to "challenge very established values".
Speaking on BBC News at Ten last night, the home affairs editor went further and, following a news piece on Choudary, Mr 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 very established values that people at the time hold so dear."
Mr Easton's comments have provoked anger against the public service broadcaster.
There was also upset regarding the air-time given to Choudary on last night's news.
It is not the first time the BBC has been criticised for allowing the British-born extremist to promote himself.
PA Theresa May has revealed plans to tackle those with extremist views
A spokesman for the Clarion Project, which scrutinises Islamist 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.”
While, on Twitter, viewers also vented their fury.
DavidJo52951945 said: "BBC compares Anjem Chodary to Ghandi!!! BBC neeed to lose the licence fee now defending muslim extremists."
@politicallord wrote: "Mark Easton been sacked yet? Or an insight thinking of BBC, siding with Islamic extremists?"
A spokesman for the BBC defended Mr Easton's comments.
He said: "The news story reflected the deep concerns over Choudhary 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
"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."
Choudary is the former leader of groups such as Al-Muhajiroun, who were later banned in 2010, and has also called for Sharia law in Britain.
He has been slated as a "self-serving publicity seeker" by the moderate Muslim Council of Britain.
Speaking on Twitter, Choudary was defiant, even saying: "The comparison with Mandela & Ghandi are false, they are kufaar heading to hellfire whilst I am a Muslim."
Defending himself on BBC news he said he had never encouraged anyone to fight abroad.
The Conservative Government is planning to bring in new legislation with Asbo style orders to help combat extremism.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she wanted to challenge those who seek to spread "hatred and intolerance".
But some groups have already criticised the plans.
Among them is controversial group CAGE.
It said it was vilifying those who disagreed with "unjust foreign and domestic policies" and denying them freedom of speech.
Ibrahim Mohamoud, a spokesman for CAGE, which previously described the ISIS executioner known as Jihadi John as a "beautiful young man", said: “If Theresa May and the Justice Minister believed in tolerance and equality they would have the courage and confidence to allow debate and the force of argument to prevail against the so-called 'preachers of hate'."