NBC has announced that British activist-journalist Mehdi Hasan will be presenting the "Mehdi Hasan Show" on its new streaming service, Peacock, from October 5. He is also joining MSNBC as a "political analyst."
Hasan was once a leading voice within British journalism's outspoken left-leaning circles, before becoming a star presenter for the Qatari regime's media arm, Al Jazeera.
Perhaps Al Jazeera – a notorious home for Islamist extremism – was a comfortable ideological home for Hasan, despite his Shia background. In 2009, he gave a speech at a Shi'ite mosque in London in which he stated, "Once we lose the moral high ground we are no different from the rest, of the non-Muslims, from the rest of those human beings who live their lives as animals, bending any rule to fulfill any desire."
He was also recorded describing disbelief in Islam as an "infirmity" and approvingly citing the Qur'anic classification of atheists as "a people of no intelligence." He additionally compared homosexuals to pedophiles and "sexual deviants."
Hasan has also appeared to despair over Muslims "losing battles" against the Jews, whom, he warned, had "out-thought" Muslims.
Welcomingly, in 2019, Hasan apologized his past comments. Although he must have been around 30 years old when he expressed his hatred for non-Muslims, atheists and homosexuals, he attributed his bile to the folly of youth.
He perhaps elicits less sympathy upon accompanying his apology with a complaint that his previous hatreds have been used to "smear" him as an "extremist." Well, indeed.
And yet Hasan's behavior since his "apology" does not fit the pattern of a man who has left his extremism behind. He continues to regularly speak on platforms alongside Islamist clerics who incite hatred against minorities.
Last November, for example, Hasan was happy to share a stage with Dawud Walid, who preaches about the evils of Jews. A few months earlier, Hasan moderated a debate at a conference with Hatem Bazian, who has complained about Jews in "control" of universities and was censured by his employer for tweeting anti-Semitic cartoons.
The conference, hosted by the Islamic Society of North America, also featured dozens of the most extreme clerics in America, such as Hussain Kamani, who claims that Muslim men may fulfil any sexual desires "with a female slave that belongs to him." When Muslim husbands are learning to "train their wives," beating them, Kamani concedes, should only be a "last measure."
Is Hasan not merely a Muslim journalist, but an Islamist activist? Certainly, his speeches in the past suggest some Islamist leanings. And his regular appearances at Islamist events, as well as his long-standing employment by Al Jazeera, the key media arm of the despotic, terror-financing Qatari regime, are cause for concern.
And so it seems a rather unwise decision by NBC to give such a prominent platform to a man with a history of extremism, who - despite claims of repentance - continues to collaborate with extremists who incite hatred so openly. There are certainly many admirable Muslim journalists who do not have a history of spouting and enabling religious supremacism; why are NBC and MSNBC hiring one that so clearly does?
Sam Westrop is director of the Middle East Forum's Islamist Watch project.