Obviously I was never going to see eye to eye with the benefitchogging Muslim hate cleric Anjem Choudary, but I didn't realise how many of his own community think he's dreadful, too. Few of the cafes on his home turf — London's East End — will accommodate the bearded 42-year-old firebrand and self-styled "most hated man in Britain". Indeed, just after he flounces out of our interview in one of the few that will — a halal diner in Whitechapel — a waiter asks me: "Is that the coffin man? I can't bear him. All he wants is fame, and the easiest way to get that is say that Christian people should be persecuted. I don't see much difference between him and Nick Griffin."
Two weeks ago Choudary, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani origin and the leader of the now-outlawed extremist group Islam4UK, caused a storm when he announced a plan to march 500 coffins through Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, a town that regularly honours the British soldiers killed in Afghanistan and repatriated to nearby RAF Lyneham.
He wanted to "highlight the tens of thousands of Muslim dead in Afghanistan", he says now, squeezing into a booth. "But as soon as I had the idea — and it was only ever an idea — Gordon Brown said it was disgusting, abhorrent, and that the home secretary, Alan Johnson, would see to any request to ban it."
As it turned out, Choudary ended up cancelling, but not before Johnson had taken steps to proscribe Islam4UK under anti-terrorism legislation. Still, when we meet on Wednesday afternoon, just eight hours before the ban comes into effect, Choudary remains defiant. "Business as usual," he barks. "I'll be going to debates, going into the street, having meetings . . ."