The BBC could be in for a rude awakening as viewers watching its Sunday Politics show on 28 May were horrified that a guest could be calling for what they deemed the ethnic cleansing of Muslims, prompting some to complain.
The show hosted by Jo Coburn gave a platform to Douglas Murray, Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society. He appeared alongside Sara Khan, the CEO of Inspire (a counter-extremism advocacy organisation), to talk terrorism prevention. But many took exception to Murray’s views, which one commentator said advocated ethnic cleansing.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has now submitted a formal complaint about the clip, which they say has breached editorial standards, allowing Murray to make a number of inaccurate, controversial, and untested assertions.
‘Less Islam leads to less terrorism’
Firstly, the MCB says that Murray claimed “Eastern Europe does not have a problem with Islamic terrorism because it does not have much Islam”. But they point out that Eastern Europe is actually the only part of Europe with Muslim-majority countries (like Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and Azerbaijan). Murray then used this false statement to argue that “less Islam in general is obviously a good thing”.
The facts do not back up Murray’s views. A restricted MI5 report from 2008 actually debunked the view that religion causes extremism. Its key findings were reported in The Guardian at the time, and stated:
Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.
‘Muslims do not report terrorism to the police’
Murray also used a ‘statistic’ that two thirds of British Muslims would not report someone to the police if they knew they were involved in extremism.
But there have been several polls about the views of British Muslims that do not corroborate Murray’s sweeping claim. One poll, an ICM poll carried out on behalf of Channel 4 News around April 2016, did indeed find that 34% [p62] of Muslims said they would report someone they knew to be involved in extremism to the police. But then 46% and 37% respectively said they would intervene themselves or seek help from friends and family. A later poll conducted with the same company for Policy Exchange found 52% [p61] would report someone to the police. And an earlier ComRes poll for the BBC found that 94% [p26] of British Muslims would report someone to the police.
Unchallenged platform for someone with a hate agenda
Murray is notorious for his right-wing and anti-Islam rhetoric, which he has written about extensively for The Spectator. And he regularly appears on the BBC. His views are controversial, and he once called the religion of roughly 1.8 billion people a “virulent infection” and said the “whole deal under which Muslims live in our societies must change” in a 2006 speech in the Netherlands. He also said:
Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition.
Murray is also from the Henry Jackson Society, a controversial far-right thinktank that has been accused of pushing an anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant agenda. In addition to his affiliations being skirted over, the MCB says that his views were left unchallenged.
Breach of guidelines
MCB Secretary General Harun Khan says:
Whilst it is of course important to allow freedom of expression for those from a variety of standpoints, inaccuracy is in clear breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines.
Pointing to a number of editorial guidelines, the MCB claims the BBC breached guidelines on accuracy (3.4.11 and 3.4.12) by “misleading” the public, and also on impartiality (4.4.14, 4.4.18, 4.4.8) by not signalling a controversial subject, not rigorously testing it, and assuming the commentator was unbiased.
The BBC‘s reputation for unbiased reporting is consistently left wanting. And if it insists on remaining an impartial and taxpayer funded entity, its editorial standards must be held more rigorously to account.
– Complain to the BBC if you believe this broadcast breached standards.
– Read more Canary articles on the BBC.
– Read and support independent media outlets that hold the powerful to account:
The Canary, Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Red Pepper, New Internationalist, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia, Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, STRIKE! magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Meteor, Salford Star, The Ferret.
Featured image via Tim Loudon/Flickr