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June 09, 2003

BBC accused of inciting attacks against Muslims

Muslim leaders have accused the BBC of violating its responsibilities as a public service broadcaster by screening a programme that has already provoked attacks against Muslims reports The Muslim News.

Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) told The Muslim News that he was “extremely worried” that an episode of ‘Spooks,’ a fictional drama supposedly based upon factual events, will bring about acts of violence against the Muslim community, incite hated, endanger lives and tarnish the image of mosques.

“The BBC will be held responsible for any attacks on individuals and Islamic centres and mosques,” Sacranie warned.

Following the initial screening of the programme on BBC 3 digital channel last week, a Muslim university student in Birmingham, where the episode is set, has already been beaten up by two white youth, saying that “you have been spooked.” The Central Mosque in the city has also been daubed with such graffiti slogans as ‘Kill suicide bombers’ and ‘there is a suicide bomber in the mosque.’

Chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, Mohammed Naseem, warned that there would be more Muslim students would become targets of attacks. He told The Muslim News that the programme would be “counter-productive as it will scare non-Muslims and malign Muslims.” Spokesperson for the mosque, Shaman Manir, said the Muslim community was “amazed” at the portrayal of the mosque. “This is not what happens in mosques, on the contrary, we are having dialogue with non-Muslims. The programme does not show positive aspects of the mosque. The mosque is for prayers and not violence,” she said.

Secretary of MCB’s Media Committee, Inayat Bunglawala, said that there had been many complaints from British Muslims about the broadcast, which depicts an Imam at a Birmingham mosque inducing a young boy to carry out a suicide bombing at a London school. The episode also shows the torture by Muslims students of an MI5 infiltrator at the mosque after his cover was blown.

“This is a distortion of reality and can only serve to further demonise the mainstream Muslim community,” Bunglawala said in a letter to BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey in an attempt to prevent the programme, which includes no Muslim actors, being screened to a wider audience on the BBC’s main terrestrial channel on Monday night.

“The programme, which was of a very sensational nature, unfortunately only serves to reinforce many negative stereotypes of British Muslims. Instead of being a well-informed piece of film-making, this episode of ‘Spooks’ pandered to grossly offensive and Islamophobic caricatures of Imams, Muslim students and mosques,” he said.

Bunglawala further warned that the “increased amount of Islamophobia that is sure to result from the broadcasting of this programme at peak-time on Monday is wholly unacceptable and a gross violation of your responsibilities as a public service broadcaster.”

But in response, Heggessey rejected the complaints and concerns, insisting that the episode “fall legitimately within the story lines of Spooks” and “offers a balanced view of a difficult subject.” She denied that the programme suggests that “mosques are a breeding ground for terrorists” but claimed that the few cases of bad Imams depicted as dangerous extremists “had not” been disowned by his Muslim community.

“There has never been such a dreadful incident in the UK, but as I say, the programme examines the subject of suicide bombing in a fictional way and speculates about what might happen if such an act did take place in Britain,” she said in defence of the episode. She also insisted that it was “extensively researched and the BBC’s usual rigorous editorial policy and legal requirements have been followed”.

For further information contact us on 020 8863 8586 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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