“Put ten British Muslims with contrasting world views in a house together and press ‘record.’ What emerges is a passionate debate, honest disagreements, humour and moments of insight that reveal what is like to be a Muslim in Britain today.” So says the BBC Media centre, describing the two part documentary Muslims like us, to be screened at 9pm this Monday and Tuesday, 12 and 13 December.
The rationale behind the idea is simple. As part of Auntie’s drive towards the promotion of religious diversity and to overcome prejudice and distrust of Muslims in the UK, someone has come up with the bright idea of putting a diverse group of Muslims into a house together for nine days, and then filming them, ‘Big Brother style’. Reality TV, you might think, at its groundbreaking best! The housemates (one is tempted to call them contestants) include, amongst others, a part-time model, a gay man, a comedian, and a boxer. The aim, as the title proclaims, is to show that Muslims are people just like us…
Except, that they are not, we hope, all like us, because one of the housemates is Islamic boxing champion Abdul Haqq who, before his conversion, went under the name of Anthony Small – in which incarnation he even appeared as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother. Since that time, however, he has become a disciple of the jailed extremist cleric Anhem Choudary, and has apparently seen the error of his debauched ways.
Last year, though admittedly acquitted, he was charged with belonging to a proscribed organization and of plotting to travel to Syria to fight with IS. He is also rumoured to have auctioned off his boxing gloves on ebay to raise money to finance the trip, and has definitely made use of his TV experience to appear in several controversial videos. For example, in one he claimed the beheading of American journalist James Foley in 2014 was a form of provoked “retaliation” against the “United Snakes of America”, and in another he said he had no sympathy for the son of murdered soldier Lee Rigby. He has also repeatedly appeared at meetings alongside Choudary and other extremists, and was pictured at the Muslims Against Crusaders press conference in 2011, sitting between Choudary and Siddhartha Dhar, since indentified as an IS executioner in Syria.
Nice character! And I guess you could certainly say his inclusion demonstrates the diversity of views within the Muslim community of the UK. But is it really appropriate or responsible to give a platform to the views of an individual who self-avowedly hates our culture, and who will undoubtedly be taken as a role-model by impressionable and disaffected youth? Is this what we are paying our licence fee for?
The most positive construction is that Dear old Auntie is deranged – so time to be pensioned off, perhaps! A less sympathetic construction might say that the Beeb’s active and deliberate promotion of Islam is endangering the security of our country.
In his first public speech since taking up office, made this week (http://www.itv.com/news/2016-12-08/highly-organised-islamic-state-plotting-terror-attacks-on-uk-from-syria-mi6-chief-warns/), Head of MI6 Alex Younger warned that, “The scale of the terrorism threat to the UK is “unprecedented”. He continued, “The risks at stake are profound and represent a fundamental threat to our sovereignty … They should be a concern to all those who share democratic values.”
It is surely time for the BBC to be called to account for its irresponsible promotion of hostile and potentially violent ideologies that run counter to our democracy and values. As VfJUK has pointed out before, the UK is a Christian country, founded upon Christian values and belief and justly proud of our famed tolerance – but open-minded lenience does not mean that views hostile to our freedoms and tradition should be given equal or greater air-time, nor, where they are in open conflict, should they go unchallenged. At the very least the BBC’s programming policy needs urgent reassessment, with explicit condemnation of values in conflict with those of our own heritage and traditions.