Face-to-face with an extremist

On assignment for 60 Minutes, Clarissa Ward enters the world of homegrown jihadis

CBS All Access
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"One of the real challenges with this interview was to constantly say, in the back of my head, 'OK, Clarissa, take a deep breath, because if you lose your cool here even for a second, they've won,'" says CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward, describing her interview with pro-ISIS Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary.

For her 60 Minutes story this week, Ward interviewed Choudary and other radical Islamists, all British citizen, who are suspected of contributing to the spike of Western fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Interviewing jihadis is familiar territory for Ward. She's covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the civil war in Syria. But interviewing British-born Islamic extremists in London was an unusual experience.

"It is challenging because when you're dealing with Westernized extremists, you're sort of a little unclear on your role as a woman, as a Westerner, as a journalist," Ward tells 60 Minutes Overtime.

Producer Randall Joyce, who has traveled with Ward to Syria and other warzones, tells 60 Minutes Overtime that seeing extremists on the streets of London, trying to impose Sharia law on total strangers, was "a very strange experience. You keep kind of looking around to remind yourself where you really are."

Choudary, a British-born lawyer, told the 60 Minutes team his mission was "verbal jihad," so convincing him to go on camera wasn't difficult, Joyce says.

"Once they figure out that you're for real and that you're a legitimate journalist, they're very keen to sit down because part of their role is outreach."

As soon as Ward began her interview, the atmosphere became very tense, with Choudary trying to dominate the discussion and refusing to answer Ward's questions.

Instead, he wanted to advocate for his belief: to end democracy and establish Sharia law throughout the West and the world.

"Essentially he's like a steamroller," Ward says. "And he will just keep talking at you until you literally say, 'You have to stop for a second and let me ask a question.'"

British Jihadi

The above video was produced for 60 Minutes Overtime by Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson, Craig Crawford, Sarah Shafer and Evie Salomon. It was originally published on November 2, 2014.