With all sorts of chaos going on in the Middle East- even more than usual- you may have seen quite a few interviews on cable news with a supposed “radical Islamic cleric” named Anjam Choudary.
The London-based Choudary, a frequent presence in the British press, has occasionally appeared on Fox News over the years, especially Sean Hannity’s show. I’ve seen his most recent interview with Hannity- in which Choudary claimed, among other things, that ISIS’ atrocities in Iraq and Syria are “a Western falsehood” and kinda, sorta endorsed Islamic terrorism- quite a lot on my social media feeds, and not only by conservatives:
It’s not just Fox- Choudary also appeared over the weekend on CNN’s Reliable Sources, in which Brian Stelter- a smart guy who should really know better- sparred with him, and later called out Choudary for making a 9/11 joke during a pre-air sound check.
Here’s the problem with Choudary- he isn’t real. He’s not a spokesman or leader or representative of any group or movement. He is a clown, a media whore, and a human strawman. He’s an Islamist version of the New Black Panther Party- a pretend boogeyman brought on TV to scare Fox’s elderly white audience and to get yelled at Hannity. He’s a pro wrestling jobber, basically. He’s Bob Beckel with an accent and beard.
Here’s how Salon’s Josh Elliott described Choudary in 2011:
Choudary is a London-based preacher who has over the past decade become the face of radical Islam in the British press — especially in the tabloids, and even more especially the right-wing papers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. — despite having no religious credentials and virtually no public support. In fact, according to those who have tracked his career in Britain, Choudary is wholly a press creation.
“He’s a media whore,” says Mehdi Hasan, a senior editor at the New Statesman who has covered Choudary. “There are real Islamist groups that can get crowds together but his is not one of them. He doesn’t have the numbers to make good on his claims. What he does have is a media that’s very happy to play the game with him.”
Not to mention- no legitimate terrorist-sympathizing Islamist leader would ever be dumb enough to agree to an interview with a TV network, much less many of them.
There’s a reason Choudary has no reason to fear being brought up on any kind of accessory-to-terrorism charge- because the government almost certainly knows he’s full of shit. If only the network news bookers knew it too.
Then again, perhaps they do. When Anjam Choudary appears on Fox News, everyone gets exactly what they want. Choudary’s getting his name and face on TV. Fox is getting a dreaded, scared reaction from their audience. Hannity gets to pretend he’s confronting a real-life terrorist to his face. And Rupert Murdoch gets to sell newspapers about the “controversy.”