Islamic Human Rights Commission
13 July 2006
Urgent Alert: Complain to BBC regarding Islamophobic documentary on Omar Sharif
IHRC urges all campaigners to complain to the BBC regarding a clearly Islamophobic documentary broadcast on 11 July which is very detrimental to community relations in Britain.
2. Action Required
On 11 July 2006, a documentary ‘Britain’s First Suicide Bombers’ was broadcast on BBC2. The programme looks at the life of Omar Sharif Khan, one of two British Muslims, who traveled to Palestine to join the Palestinian resistance to Israeli military occupation.
The documentary contains a number of inaccuracies about Islam and jihad demonstrating a clear lack of research by the producers. No distinction is made between speculation and established fact and Muslims in general, including those found innocent in a court of law, are demonised as a Fifth Element within British society
IHRC’s concerns about the documentary include the following:
It was claimed that Sharif names his son ‘Hamza’ because this was the name of the first martyr in Islam. In fact the first martyrs of Islam were Sumayyah and Yasir followed by numerous others before Hamza.
Shaving under one’s arms and in the pubic region was portrayed as something human bombers are required to do before carrying out their operations. It is in fact compulsory on all Muslims to keep these areas of the body clean-shaven at all times.
Maligning mainstream organizations:
Mainstream videos on issues of international conflict were presented as being of an extremist or terrorist nature, including the video ‘Jenin’ which was launched by the Palestine Return Centre in the Houses of Parliament.
Equating Muslims with Terrorism
Attempts were made to delegitimise national liberation movements such as the Kosovan Liberation Army, by alleging that they had been infiltrated by al-Qaeda. Tenuous and inaccurate comments were made to try and equate any type of legitimate liberation movements involving Muslims with terrorism.
It was clearly implied through the selective use of court transcripts that the family of Omar Sharif were guilty of terrorism when in fact they had been acquitted in a court of law.
The very real grief of someone who had lost a family member in the bombings was exploited to portray the notion that terrorists could fit any profile from the Muslim community, thus criminalizing the whole community.
2. Action Required
IHRC urges all campaigners to express their concerns to the BBC regarding the documentary. Please find below a sample letter for your convenience.
You can complain via email, post or by telephone:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/complaints/handle_complaint.pl and fill online quick complaints form.
Please also send a complaint to BBC Director-General Mark Thompson at email@example.com
Please CC correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can track the number of letters sent.
BBC Broadcasting House
Dear Mr. Thompson:
Islamophobic Documentary: Britain’s First Suicide Bombers
I am writing to express my concerns about the Islamophobic nature of the documentary, ‘Britain’s First Suicide Bombers’ which was broadcast on BBC2 on 11 July 2006 at 9pm.
The documentary was very poorly researched with many assumptions about Islam and Jihad being made which were based on mere speculation rather than on established fact. For example, it was claimed that the first martyr in Islam was named ‘Hamza’ which is simply incorrect but this untruth was used to further demonise the main character.
Islamic hygiene practices, such as shaving under the arms, were portrayed as some sort of ritual performed prior to carrying out suicide attacks when in fact this is something made obligatory on all Muslims at all times.
The programme made a clear attempt to criminalise all forms of political viewpoints as “extremism”. Mainstream documentaries on Palestine which were launched in the Houses of Parliament were presented as being of an “extremist” nature. Attempts were made to delegitimise national liberation struggles involving Muslims by falsely equating them with acts of terrorism in Britain.
Most concerning of all was the exploitation of the very real grief of someone who had lost a family member in a bombing in Israel, to portray the notion that terrorists could potentially be any member of the Muslim community, including one’s neighbours.
I am disgusted that the BBC seems to be continuing its Islamophobic agenda whereby Muslims are treated as some sort of Fifth Element within British society. I urge you to apologise for allowing this clearly prejudicial programme to be broadcast and to issue a correction regarding it. I also urge you to set out some concrete procedures to ensure that sufficient research is carried out to the highest standards and that objectivity is maintained in all programmes.
I look forward to hearing from you soon on this urgent matter.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
T (44) 20 8904 4222
F (44) 20 8904 5183