Islamic Human Rights Commission
22 August 2005
Urgent Alert: Complain to BBC regarding Islamophobic Panorama Documentary
2. How to Complain
3. Talking Points / Model Letters
IHRC is deeply concerned at Last night’s Panorama, ‘A Question of Leadership’. A combination of factual errors, distortions, broad stereotypes and glaring inaccuracies shown up in the programme questions the integrity of the programme makers.
A transcript of the programme can be found at:
Whilst purporting to be an examination of the Muslim Council of Britain,, the programme called into question several widely held Muslim beliefs and in particular demonised any aspiration of Muslims in whatever form if based on their religious faith. This extended from an aspiration for shariah to the wearing of jilbaab at school and integration of Muslims into mainstream society.
As a result IHRC feels that the programme falls foul of basic journalistic standards and has shown bias and prejudice in its presentation of issues.
2. How to Complain
A number of talking points are listed below. Those who watched the programme and / or read the transcript and wish to complain can do so by:
Go to this BBC link:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cgi-perl/complaints/handle_complaint.pl and fill online quick complaints form
Copy your complaint to the Panorama team by email on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or post it to them at:
BBC Panorama Room 1118, 201 Wood Lane London W12 7TS 4. Go to this panorama link and fill in complaint via email:
3. Talking Points / Model Letters
(a) General Talking Points
The presenter, Jon Ware, set out a range of issues by which Muslims were judged as extremist and thus a problem and potentially a danger to British society. These included:
(i) believing that Islam was superior to other faiths;
(ii) women wearing hijab and niqab;
(iii) support for victims of human rights abuses in Palestine, the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation and Kashmir;
(iv) holding a belief that the war on terror is a war on Islam.
If these are the standards by which to measure Muslims there need to be analogous standards used to judge other faith and non-faith groups. As many have pointed out in the wake of the programme, most adherent to faiths and ideologies believe their values are better than others.
Freedom of religious expression, in the above case in the wearing of religiously mandated clothes, is supposed to be a human right – one which the Court of Appeal in this country very recently upheld.
Sympathising with those oppressed in various parts of the world evidences a form of solidarity that is based on ethics rather than nationalism and is something that should be commended. Extrapolating from it that Muslims care about Muslims only not only belies the reality of the situation in those conflicts it also expects Muslims to be different from other faith communities who also show solidarity primarily to those who share their faith. This is evidenced by the work of many faith based charities in the UK.
Finally, if people believe that the war on terror is a war on Islam, it is simply no different and they should be treated no differently than those who believe that the war on terror is a war for oil or anything else. This is supposedly the nature of political participation.
The fact that all the foregoing are held by the programme makers’ to be reason to fear Muslims shows that they believe Muslims should be treated differently – that their beliefs and opinions should not be respected and they themselves should have to forego some of these to be considered British.
(b) Specific talking points
• Verses of the Qur’an were quoted in a melodramatic voice against a backdrop of sinister music depicting Islam as something to be feared and loathed.
• John Ware purports that the Saudis have deliberately mistranslated some verses of the Qur’an in order to create more intolerance and hatred of Jews and Christians by implying that they cannot enter Paradise. Regardless of interpretations in Islam, before condemning such a concept, it is worth noting that every religion in the world including Judaism and Christianity hold the belief that only followers of their faith will enter Paradise; yet these religions do not find themselves coming under attack for intolerance and hated of others.
• The word ‘kaffir’ which is basically an umbrella term for people of other faiths and no-faith is demonised as something secret and sinister which Muslims use in a derogatory fashion. There is no similar condemnation of the Jewish term ‘goyim’ or ‘gentile’ or indeed language from any other faith which differentiaties non-believers from adherents to that faith.
• John Ware states that the Islamic Foundation “was once described as the most influential outpost of militant Islamist ideology in the West” without giving any reference as to who described it as such or in what year.
• The analysis of Maulana Maududi and his works is to be condemned outright. His writings are deliberately edited and distorted to present his vision of Islam as something abhorrent to civilization. For example, quotation of Mawdudi is shown as saying that his vision of an Islamic state bears “…a kind of resemblance to the fascist and communist states…”. Compare the above quotation that Ware provides his viewers with the actual full quotation from Mawdudi’s book, Islamic Law and Constitution:
“Considered from this aspect the Islamic State bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states. But you will find later on that, despite its all-inclusiveness, it is something vastly and basically different from the totalitarian and authoritarian states. Individual liberty is not suppressed under it nor is there any trace of dictatorship in it. It presents the middle course and embodies the best that the human society has ever evolved . . . Unlike the Communist state, Islam does not impose its social principles on others by force, nor does it confiscate their properties or unleash a reign of terror by mass executions of the people and their transportation to the slave camps of Siberia.” (Islamic Law and Constitution, Chapter on The Political Theory of Islam, 9th edition, Lahore, 1986, p146-147)
• John Ware is critical of the Islamic Foundation for promoting the works of Maududi because he is opposed to secularism. Even Pope Benedict XVI yesterday warned of the dangers of growing secularism while in Germany. Yet British Catholics for whom the figurehead of the Pope may be vastly more influential than the leader of any Muslim organisation on Muslims in Britian, have not come under fire as potentially dangerous members of British society who need to tackle separatism and extremism in their ranks.
• Leeds Grand Mosque is portrayed as an extremist mosque merely because Abdullah Jamal, one of the alleged London bombers, was known to worship there and the Imam speaks of political events around the world affecting Muslims. It is natural for Muslims to feel sympathy with fellow Muslims suffering around the world, similar to how Jewish people feel an affinity with the suffering of other Jews around the world or indeed Christian sympathise with fellow Christians who suffer. In reality, Muslims do not need to go to any mosque to learn about the atrocities being committed against other Muslims; they need only switch on their television sets and see the horror for themselves.
• John Ware’s pro-Israel bias is very clearly exposed in his one-sided representation of the conflict. He reserves all his criticism and condemnation for the Palestinians without a word of censure for the Israelis. Ware censures Iqbal Sacranie for attending a memorial service for Sheykh Ahmad Yasin because of his promotion of martyrdom operations in the liberation struggle. Regardless of whether people agree with methodologies, it would be hard to argue as sadly Ware tries and fails) that the Palestinian cause is not a just one. Would he also condemn those who attend memorial services for the late Steve Biko and eventually Nelson Mandela on his passing?
• The final statements emphasise a clash of civilizations theory depicting it as “a battle” which “will help shape British society in the 21st century.” Such a statement is emotive and divisive and can only be considered as incitive.
Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
T (44) 20 8904 4222
F (44) 20 8904 5183