It’s the morning after the verdict in a horrific murder trial. The murder was a national scandal and led directly to a violent backlash against thousands of people who had nothing to do with it, but whose religion was tarred by association. One of the reasons the backlash was so large is that the leader of the group to which the murderers have been linked, has been encouraged by the media to position himself as representative of a wider religious community.

So, if you’re Radio 4’s flagship Today programme, who do you invite on to discuss the verdict?

I am, of course, talking about Anjem Choudary, and the murder of Lee Rigby.

To be clear: I have no problem with the views of extremists being exposed, scrutinised and challenged by journalists. I’ve even done it myself, having written a book about the far right that relies on first-hand interviews with members and supporters of far-right groups.

But all too often the rationale behind inviting Choudary – or, indeed, the leaders of groups like the English Defence League or BNP – onto live broadcast media seems to be based on a false assumption: that the interviewer is going to ask the perfect question, one that will finally trip up this extremist and show him for what he really is.

The thing is, we know what Choudary’s views are. And he doesn’t care if they’re “challenged” by a grumpy Radio 4 presenter. What he wants – the same as what the racists in the English Defence League want – is for people listening to Choudary to think “this guy represents Muslims”. It’s a perception that has two damaging effects: one is to increase the air of suspicion that surrounds all Muslims when an atrocity like the murder of Lee Rigby takes place; the other is to strengthen the appeal of Choudary’s poisonous conspiracy theories to those who might already be showing an interest.

Unfortunately, our own media has played a crucial role in fostering these perceptions. The former Daily Star journalist Richard Peppiatt, who resigned in 2011 in protest at his paper’s coverage of Muslims, once told me in an interview that Star reporters – under orders to get a “Muslim story” – would phone Choudary and his associates so often that “you’d chat to them like mates”. Elite outlets like Today would no doubt consider them a cut above the “uncouth” Daily Star, but the mistake is the same.

There is much to discuss in the wake of the Woolwich verdict. The killers cited both religion and British foreign policy as reasons for their actions. The negative perceptions of Muslims that were exacerbated by the murder continue to exist. How much the British security services knew about Adebolajo and Adebowale before the murder is only now becoming apparent. A south London youth worker claimed his counter-extremism programme could have helped deradicalised one of the killers, had its funding not been cut in 2010.

Yet another Punch and Judy show, with Choudary at the centre of it, doesn’t bring us any closer to the truth.