URGENT MEDIA ALERT: Channel 4 Series of Programmes on Islam and Muslims in the UK

Islamic Human Rights Commission

MARCH 11, 2002

URGENT MEDIA ALERT: Channel 4 Series of Programmes on Islam and Muslims in the UK

1. Background
2. Suggested Action


Channel 4 is screening a series of films about Islam and Muslims in the UK. Amongst these programmes are two which have caused particular concern to campaigners as being inaccurate and prejudiced. They further vilify ordinary Muslims as well as individuals involved in Muslim organizations.

‘Hidden Jihad’ was screened Thursday 7th March. It portrays the return of Muslims to religious values as a cause for concern for British society. It posits a non-practicising Muslim as the standard for normality and acceptability into British society.

This theme has been continued in ‘Who Speaks for Muslims’ which will be broadcast this week on Friday 15th March 2002. Campaigners who have seen a rough cut of the programme have criticized it on the following grounds.

It purports to discuss the issue of Muslim representation. Instead it turns into a vilification of the MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) and UMO (Union of Muslim Organisations). It is deeply inconsistent. It accuses both of being unrepresentative, yet it also interviews other Muslims who claim leadership positions without criticism. In itself it is an example of very sloppy journalism. It does not begin to look at the numerous other organizations that claim leadership within the community and which are less representative than the two organisations they have chosen.

It also picks out Yousuf Bhailok, Inayat Bunglawalla and Mahmud Al-Rashid of MCB and Syed Aziz Pasha of UMO as examples of so-called extremists in sheep’s clothing. Syed Pasha is demonized as a proponent of Islamic shariah law in the UK. He is actually a proponent of the introduction Muslim Personal Law, a system which operates in other countries where Muslims are a minority.

Yusouf Bhailok is criticized as being anti-Semitic for attending an international conference on Palestine in Tehran on the basis that Hamas representatives were there. This is akin to criticizing Tony Blair as being anti-Protestant because Sinn Fein MPs’ hold offices at the House of Commons.

Inayat Bunglawalla and MahmudAl-Rashid are vilified for comments they have made in Trends magazine in the 1990s, regarding Jewish conspiracies. If true these comments are unacceptable, however there appears to be ample proof available that neither man holds these views now, and this is not aired. These comments are a separate issue from Yousuf Bhailok’s attendance at the Tehran conference, yet they are all portrayed as evidence of the anti-Semitism.

Inayat Bunglawalla is further criticised for his former support for Osama Bin Ladin.

The programme’s producer is Samir Shah, currently chair of the Runneymede Trust. Ironically this programme undermines every recommendation of the Runneymede Trust’s report in 1997 into Islamophobia.

Suggested Action

Campaigners are requested to write to Channel 4 asking them to give a right to reply to those people vilified in the programme, as well as give proper airtime to the very important issue of Muslim representation to be discussed in its entirety.

Please also protest the portrayal of practicing Muslims as problematic to British society as a distorted and prejudiced view.

Letters, faxes, emails can be sent to:

Viewer Enquiries
Channel 4 Television
124 Horseferry Road
London SW1P 2TX

Campaigners should also contact the Trustees at Runneymede Trust to politely demand the resignation of Samir Shah as Chairman for undermining the Islamophobia report, and abusing his position at this race relations think tank.

Letters, faxes, emails etc. can be sent to:
The Runnymede Trust
Suite 106, London Fruit and Wool Exchange
Brushfield Street
London E1 6WP
Facsimile 020 7377 6622
Email runnymede@trt.demon.co.uk [END]