London: A BBC editor has come in for sharp criticism after he compared hate preacher Anjem Choudary to Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, a media report said on Thursday.
"Against a background of hundreds of Muslims heading off to fight and with people like Choudary whose rhetoric is encouraging them to go, the government thinks this needs (the new laws) to take place," BBC's home affairs editor Mark Easton said on a programme to discuss the British government's new laws to tackle radicalisation.
"It's one thing to ban someone for inciting hatred or violence, but quite another to pass a law that silences anyone who challenges established values.
"I was in Parliament Square today -- a statue of Gandhi looking down at me who was jailed for being extremist; Mandela who was jailed for being an extremist. History tells us that extreme views are sometimes needed to challenge very established values that people at the time hold so dear," Mail Online quoted him as saying.
Social media erupted with sharp criticism after the comments were made. "To compare Gandhi with Choudary however tenuous is not becoming of a respected journalist," said a tweet referring to Easton's comparison.
"Are you trying to compare that islamist scum in UK to Gandhi and Mandela? If they are your views then they're disgusting," read another post.
The comments were made following a special report by security correspondent Gordon Corera which asked: "Is preacher Anjem Choudary a radicalising force?"
Speaking on the new anti-radicalisation laws, Choudary on Wednesday accused the government of declaring war on Muslims in Britain.
"This rhetoric is aimed at people like myself and is also aimed at criminalising young people for upholding the values of freedom of religion and expression," he said.
He also said that he would continue to radicalise Muslims despite the new measures.