The ten-minute “debate” descended into little more than a shouting match between Hannity and Choudary - a man who has praised the 9/11 attackers and claims he would renounce his British citizenship to live under ISIS rule. Over the past decade, Choudary’s Al-Muhajiroun network (also known under different names) is responsible for radicalizing countless Muslims in the UK. A 2013 report by the anti-racist organization HOPE not hate, identified over seventy people linked with Choudary’s network who have been convicted of terrorism charges or who have participated in suicide attacks. The report also found that “al-Muhajiroun-connected groups across Europe have sent between 200-300 people to Syria, making it the largest single recruiting network in Europe.”
Choudary told Hannity that he believes Muslims who leave their faith should be subject to capital punishment, and restated his belief that gays and lesbians who “do the act publicly” in front of witnesses should also be subjected to the death penalty.
Geller, the founder of a number of organizations listed by the SPLC as hate groups, used the debate to continue playing the victim – blaming “jihadis” for making the attack at Geller’s Mohammed cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, a “flashpoint.” Geller also claimed she has had to increase her security because President Obama “created an environment that raised the stakes on this” – before citing a previous anti-Muslim event she hosted in 2012 that took place without incident. On a previous appearance on Fox earlier this week, Geller absurdly compared herself to civil rights activist Rosa Parks.
Hannity’s debate not only gave a platform to two extremists, but it also, more disturbingly, succeeded in making Pamela Geller sound rational when compared to Choudary’s rants. The mainstreaming of hate is a very dangerous thing that has very real consequences and Hannity and Fox News should be taken to task for this move. No matter how either figure fared on prime time last night, the fact remains that both Geller and Choudary represent two sides of the same racist coin and giving these figures a platform to express their bigoted views tarnishes efforts to build a more inclusive democracy.