Production chief defends decision to include him despite his ‘incredibly offensive’ comments
- Anthony Small has previously expressed support for Islamic State
- The convicted fraudster was cleared last year of plotting to join the terror group
- He will take part in a two-part series called Muslims Like Us on BBC2
- Programme places 10 British Muslims with contrasting views in a house
A TV boss behind a BBC show dubbed Big Brother for Muslims has dismissed complaints over the decision to include a member of hate preacher Anjem Choudary’s inner circle.
Convicted fraudster and ex-boxing champion Anthony Small has previously expressed support for Islamic State but was cleared last year of plotting to join the terror group.
Now known as Abdul Haqq after converting to Islam, he will take part in a two-part series called Muslims Like Us, which airs on BBC 2 tonight and tomorrow.
The programme will see ten British Muslims with contrasting world views, including 35-year-old Haqq, put in a house and filmed.
Haqq, who has posted provocative videos online – including one appearing to justify the IS beheading of US journalist James Foley and referring to the ‘United Snakes Of America’ – is said to be seen making sexist and homophobic comments in the show.
He is seen handing out a leaflet outlining his view that men and women who are not related should not mix freely. In the programme, Haqq also says he feels pain only for the Muslims who were killed in the Nice truck attack in July.
But Rich McKerrow from Love Productions defended the decision to include Haqq, despite the ‘incredibly offensive’ comments he makes in the programme.
He told Tom Latchem on talkSPORT radio’s Extra Time show: ‘Haqq holds some pretty questionable views [and] we thought very hard about putting him in.
‘We thought about it a lot, we spoke to the BBC a lot, we talked to the organisations we worked with [on the show] and we felt it was very important to include that voice.
‘But also more important to see that voice challenged, as it was, and challenged by Muslims.
‘Because that’s the great lie, that Muslims and the Muslim community aren’t challenging those voices, because they are, in a major way, and that’s what this programme shows.
‘On my part there was no thought about not including him, and nor did the BBC. They are ultimately responsible about broadcasting it, so there were serious conversations. But everyone stuck together.
McKerrow, creator of The Great British Bake Off, added: ‘His voice is a legitimate voice, and is a voice that is challenged. What is interesting is while he makes incredibly offensive remarks by “normal” standards, but as is appreciated by people in there, he’s quite a sensitive guy. It’s not communicated in a really aggressive way, that you might stereotype. So I like that it breaks stereotypical perceptions.’
Fatima Salaria, a senior commissioning editor for the BBC, said it was important that Haqq’s voice was represented.
Haqq won the British and Commonwealth light middleweight championships in 2009. He converted to Islam aged 24 and later gave up boxing to ‘take on the fight for Muslims’.
Last year he was cleared of plotting to travel to Syria to fight with IS. He was also found not guilty at the Old Bailey of disseminating terrorist publications and supporting a proscribed group. But in a separate case he was found guilty of three counts of fraud.