The Sun: Baroness Warsi backs Sun’s call to act
You won’t find a bigger supporter of the Sun’s ‘case against Choudary’ campaign than me.
For years I’ve been saying that this nutter, and hate mongers like him, are poisonous and destructive.
My run-ins with Choudary go way back.
When I stood for Parliament in 2005, he and his mates from Al-Muhajiroun called me a ‘kafar’, a non-believer, because I strongly believed in democracy and politics.
In 2006 on Newsnight he accused me of not being a Muslim because I wasn’t wearing a veil.
Three years later his mates pelted me with eggs and shouted obscenities at me in Luton as punishment for being a Muslim woman in a public role.
What really riled me, though, was seeing this man on the box, the day after the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, trying to glorify and justify this terrible attack.
It’s because I believe in free speech, that I believe in shouting people down rather than shutting them up – winning the argument, not banning the conversation.
That’s why I gladly took on British National Party leader Nick Griffin on Question Time – so I could challenge his racist views.
But I felt, in the days after Woolwich, it was deeply irresponsible for broadcasters to give large amount of airtime to this vile Choudary – allowing him to spout his bile to millions
He and his mob, who are no more than a handful of followers, do not represent British Muslims. His views are abhorred by British Muslims.
He doesn’t represent Muslims any more than Tommy Robinson and the English Defence League represents the English.
In fact, there are real similarities between people like Choudary and Robinson. Both perpetuate a polarised view of the world. Both practice the politics of fear. Both seek to divide communities.
They are two sides of the same rusty coin.
What’s laughable with Choudary is that he tries to dress up his hate speech as intellectual argument and theology.
He’s thinks the length of a man’s beard corresponds to the size of his intellect.
Never mind being unBritish, his behaviour is unIslamic.
His violent rhetoric is completely at odds with the teachings of the faith of Islam.
The fact is British Muslim communities are as repulsed and outraged by him as everyone else is.
Their strong, united, unequivocal condemnation of the cowardly attack in Woolwich, and rejection of hate speech like Choudary’s, was heartening in the midst of the horror.
We need to stand together with these communities, support them as they face reprisal attacks, and applaud them and join them as they say ‘not in my name’.
This week we had the first meeting of the task force on tackling extremism and radicalisation.
The Prime Minister charged each of us with finding any way and every way to send a clear message to extremists: we will not tolerate you.
We will support British Muslim communities in their campaigns to stop mobs like Choudary’s trying to take over their mosques.
We will show that there’s no place for them in our institutions – there’s nowhere for them to hide.
And, as the Sun revealed this week, we will look at ways to stop them living off the taxes of people who work hard and do the right thing, halting their State handouts.
Because that is one of the most galling things of all: Choudary taking home thousands of pounds in benefits when his only pasttime is peddling poison.
He may snigger about his ‘Jihad Seeker’s Allowance’. But the joke’s on him: the faith he professes to belong to, my faith, prohibits taking money when you’re fit to work and there is work available.
This is a hate preacher who doesn’t even practice what he preaches.
Just as communities and government have a role, broadcasters have a role too. Of course they have a right to interview who they want.
But they also have a responsibility too. Because every one of Choudary’s appearances undoes the hard work of interfaith, community-building work that people do every day.
That’s the other task in hand: creating a more integrated society – one which is resilient enough to stand up to those who are hell-bent on dividing us.
A resilient society is one whose members sign up to common values.
It is a place where people demonstrate fairness, tolerance and responsibility.
Where everyone feels pride in our nation and pride in the brave people who defend our nation, like Drummer Rigby.
Like it or lump it, that’s the British deal.
And if people don’t like it, they can, as I said to Choudary many years ago, make life easier for us all and get off our island.