By Elham Asaad Buaras

NEW YORK - Mehdi Hasan, an acclaimed US-based broadcaster, has opted to leave MSNBC rather than accept a demotion that would result in his losing a regular Sunday night programme on the network.

The British-born Hasan, who formerly worked for Al Jazeera English and the Intercept, began hosting his Peacock show in 2020 and joined MSNBC’s lineup the following year
Hasan, 44, announced at the end of his hard-hitting The Mehdi Hasan Show on January 8 that “I’ve decided to look for a new challenge. This is not just my final episode of ‘The Mehdi Hasan Show,’ it’s my last day at MSNBC.”

In November, the network announced that Hasan will leave his weekly show after three years but would continue to work as an analyst and fill-in anchor, The cable TV channel also removed two other Muslim broadcasters, Ayman Mohyeldin and Ali Velshi, from anchoring shows on its network, but insisted the shifts were coincidental and not due to the hosts’ religion

The decision to cancel Hasan’s show was first reported by the news website Semafor, came amid what advocates describe as a crackdown on criticism against Israel in the media, at universities and in the arts.

Hasan’s segments often went viral on social media, where users celebrated his takedowns of conservatives such as former Trump adviser John Bolton and Israeli government adviser Mark Regev.

During a November 16 interview on his show for NBC’s Peacock streaming service, Hasan pressed Regev on the children killed in Gaza by Israeli strikes.

When Regev said that Hasan had seen photos of dead children “because they’re the pictures Hamas wants you to see,” the host responded, “and because they’re dead, Mark. They’re also people your government has killed.”

The segment, as shared by Hasan, was viewed nearly 6 million times on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched a petition to reverse the decision, and from members of Congress Ro Khanna and Ilhan Omar.

“Hasan is one of the most brilliant and most prominent Muslim journalists in the US,” Omar wrote. “It is deeply troubling that MSNBC is cancelling his show amid a rampant rise of anti-Muslim bigotry and suppression of Muslim voices. Anyone who cares about free expression should be concerned.”

Hasan, one of only a handful of Muslim anchors (MSNBC has two others: Ali Velshi and Ayman Mohyeldin) has been critical of the Israeli government’s military actions in Gaza, and supportive of the rights of Palestinians. Mohyeldin will be expanding his hours to include Hassan’s old timeslot starting next week.

“It is bad optics for MSNBC to cancel Mehdi Hasan’s show right at a time when he is vocal for human rights in Gaza with the war ongoing,” Khanna said after the news broke.

“As a strong supporter of free speech, MSNBC owes the public an explanation for this decision,” Khanna wrote in a social media post. “Why would they choose to do this now?”

He was also known for his incisive and tough interviews with guests, which often went viral on social media.

His final show featured an interview with Motaz Azaiza, a Palestinian photographer who talked about the danger of working in Gaza during Israeli military operations.Hasan told viewers that he’s proud of what had been achieved on his show.

“As I say: new year, new plans,” he said. An MSNBC spokesperson said the network had no comment on Hasan’s exit.