Piers Morgan, Tommy Robinson and GMB
Having previously been vocal in my adulation for Piers over his brilliant response after the Grenfell Tower fire and Finsbury Park terror attack - both of which which have been a knife into the heart of Muslim communities - today was a different day.
My criticism of Piers Morgan for giving Tommy a platform on GMB was not about denying free speech - anyone who knows my record from BBC Newsnight to my interview in the Telegraph, will know I am a free speech advocate. But this is not absolute. We need and have (whether we like it or not), limits.
Piers didn’t tackle, let alone dismantle, Tommy’s ideological extremism - he didn’t look adequately prepped and seemed to cover it by telling Tommy he has seen and read up on him. More likely, Piers woefully underestimated Tommy. The third alternative is worrying but equally plausible. Piers went out of his way to call Tommy an "influential voice" on more than one occasion. However, he went further to say he actually agreed with much of what Tommy says. In counter extremism circles this is known as 'emboldening' extremists. It is a classic example.
Tommy has been closely connected to and supported by the likes of Michael Gove, Douglas Murray and Sam Harris. Herein lies an axis of evils for those who know. He had been supported and supposedly "deradicalised" by the Quilliam Foundation, who were publicly mocked for the claim. It was always bullshit. I was there. It was more about the interests of Maajid, Nicky Campbell, Tom Holland, Douglas Murray, Nick Cohen and others in the faux-reform lobby, to create a narrative to elevate Maajid and Quilliam. Tommy had never changed colours. Maajid has no magic. And they all bloody well knew it.
Few Muslims in the public space have spent the time with Tommy that I have. He is undeniably a complex character. A master rhetorician employed to do a job for anti-Muslim interests. His technique and narrative has been forged of fire. Just like Paxman, Andrew Neil and the rest, Piers was utterly ill equipped to tackle Tommy and his barrage of faux-theology and story-based anti-Islam diatribe. And this is where either Piers was utterly negligent and unprofessional, or more likely, he is complicit. He agrees with much of what Tommy does - he has told us himself. And hence Tommy was not brought on to be taken down but to be elevated.
And in response to my criticism, Donald Trump's number one supporter, he of Levenson, phone hacking and so many other scandals, calls me a "shameless hypocrite"; for spending a year and a half trying of my life, suffering a heart attack en route, recovering and carrying on that journey, to reach out to Tommy and his people, to turn hearts and minds.
I'm a little more rock n roll nowadays. Like I give two fucks what the galactically ignorant Piers Morgan calls me. But emboldening anti-Muslim leaders like Tommy is dangerous and utterly wrong. Piers tried to go for a Nick Griffin Question Time style take down. Instead he failed. He used Tommy as a punchbag at the end of the interview but it was too late. Too little. It was the biggest backfire on British TV as Tommy railed again and again, spouting bile, falsehoods and verse after verse of the Quran. To his detractors, no less an extremist than usual. To his ideological supporters, like Jo Cox's killer and the terrorist who ploughed a white van into Muslims in Finsbury Park, and the likes of Anders Breivik who in his own trial said he advised and met with the EDL - Tommy was a hero. Again.
The injury is worse for us Muslims. Tommy is a modern day Goebbels and we are living in an era of frightening and murderous Islamophobia. I’ve spent a decade warning communities, working in the media and with government to raise the issues. Quite frankly, there was no better way of dishonouring the Muslim communities in Ramadan, in the wake of horrific deaths at Grenfell and the attack in Finsbury Park, than to give Tommy a platform. We need to ask how and why Tommy hasn’t been marginalised or banned either through his work as leader of the EDL, as a supporter of paedophile EDL leader Richard Price (after he was convicted of child porn charges), or unrepentant anti-Muslim hate preacher, convicted career criminal and leader of Pegida. Theresa May was Home Secretary for this entire time and rather than ban these groups like other extremist organisations like Al Muhajiroun with Anjem Choudary, the UK has spent more than an estimated £10 million to protect Tommy and his ilk.
Piers, you did us Muslims no favours today. It was just for ratings. Shameless hypocrisy? Start with the guy in the shaving mirror in the morning.