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Saturday 11 August 2007

Support Channel Four over 'Undercover Mosque'

Channel Four's Dispatches earlier this year sent undercover reporters into British Mosques and filmed preachers saying amongst other things:
“Do you practise homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain.”

“If I were to call homosexuals perverted, dirty, filthy dogs that should be murdered, that’s my freedom of speech isn’t it? They’ll say: “No”, I’m not tolerant. But they feel that it’s okay to say something about the Prophet.”

“Homosexuality is an abomination against Allah, and all mankind, and I will never condone it. Even though this is the case, I do not believe in disobeying the law when it comes to the way people deal with homosexuals.”

'Undercover Mosque' went to:

A Deputy Head Teacher is quoted saying:

“They talk about integration. There is an overt as well as covert plan, a programme, they talk about, they talk about (sic), ‘you need to integrate’, if you don’t you’re a freak, you’re strange, there’s something wrong with you! Like, like (sic) if you have something against homosexuality they’ve got a name to call you now. You’re a “homophobic” man! There’s something wrong with you! Not with this gay, sorry, a homosexual (laughter) . Which part of this society are we supposed to adopt as our life? Which one?”

According to Stonewall's Recent Report on the situation of ruined life chances for young gay people in schools:

Seventy five per cent of young gay people attending faith schools have experienced homophobic bullying. Half of teachers fail to respond to homophobic language when they hear it. Thirty per cent of lesbian and gay pupils say that adults - teachers or support staff - are responsible for homophobic incidents in their school. Less than a quarter of schools have told pupils that homophobic bullying is wrong.]
All those quoted claimed their words were used 'out of context' or they were merely quoting book extracts and that's not what they really thought.

The Muslim Council of Britain leaped to their defense — these would be the same MCB who actively supported Clause28, and opposed every law reform such as adoption, partnerships and equality for lesbians and gays under the law.

Peter Tachell outlines how the MCB has consistently rejected talks with gay organisations and rebuffed proposals to tackle homophobia within Muslim communities.
"Some of the MCB's tirades against lesbians and gays echo the homophobic hate language of the BNP."

“One reason the MCB refuses to participate in Holocaust Memorial Day is because it objects to the ceremony including a commemoration of what it dismisses as ‘the so-called gay genocide.' The MCB regards the murder of gay people in Nazi death camps as unworthy of remembrance."
The footage starts here. I personally found it very hard to watch..

[Part two-six>] [Other video] [Transcript (haven't checked every word)]

The West Midlands Police have just announced their reaction to the program:

The police investigation initially looked at whether there had been any criminal offences committed by those featured in the programme and following careful consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), West Midlands Police have been advised that there is insufficient evidence to bring charges against those individuals featured within the programme.

West Midlands Police acknowledge the concerns that some parts of the programme may have been considered offensive, however when analysed in their full context there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges against any individual.

ACC Anil Patani for West Midlands Police said: "As a result of our initial findings, the investigation was then extended to include issues relating to the editing and portrayal of the documentary.

"The priority for West Midlands Police has been to investigate the documentary and it's making with as much rigour as the extremism the programme sought to portray."

The police investigation concentrated on three speakers and their comments in the programme. CPS reviewing lawyer Bethan David considered 56 hours of media footage of which only a small part was used in the programme. She said: "The splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying.

"The CPS has demonstrated that it will not hesitate to prosecute those responsible for criminal incitement. But in this case we have been dealing with a heavily edited television programme, apparently taking out of context aspects of speeches which in their totality could never provide a realistic prospect of any convictions."

The CPS was also asked by the police to consider whether a prosecution under the Public Order Act 1986 should be brought against Channel 4 for broadcasting a programme including material likely to stir up racial hatred. Miss David advised West Midlands Police that on the evidence available, there was insufficient evidence that racial hatred had been stirred up as a direct consequence of the programme. It would also be necessary to identify a key individual responsible for doing this together with an intent to stir up racial hatred, which was not possible.

West Midlands Police have taken account of this advice and explored options available to them and has now referred the matter to the broadcasting regulators Ofcom as a formal complaint.

West Midlands Police has also informed Channel 4 of this course of action.

In other words, because the programme was edited and because we don't think there's a law we can use this makes calling for lesbians and gays to be killed not the point. Instead 'community cohesion' is paramount.

These would be the same police and government which has tolerated murder music, dancehall reggae which is all about how to kill gays and lesbians. It isn't the government or the police which is shutting that down, it's grassroots activism.

I don't believe for one second that all Muslims want me dead — I know Muslim people as mates for one thing — but clearly some do and I can't see why they shouldn't be dealt with the same as the reverse situation.

It's hard to see this as doing anything other than reinforcing the second-class status of lesbians and gays, actually undermining 'cohesion' because it's 'one law for them ... ' and actually encouraging hate speech because clearly it's tolerated.

I find myself agreeing with Charles Moore, Editor of The Telegraph, of all people. He takes apart the 'context' argument to reveal something worse underneath:

I do not know whether the Dispatches programme is right in every detail. But it clearly raises serious, important questions - about extremists in our midst, about the way apparently moderate organisations give them shelter, about the Saudi Arabian network that supports them.

What security agencies call "thematic analyses" show that, at present, the problems of Islamist extremism are particularly acute, especially in prisons and universities, in the West Midlands area.

Yet the West Midlands police and the Crown Prosecution Service decide that the target of their wrath should be not people who want to undermine this country, but some journalists who want to expose them.

Are they fit to protect us?

Postscript: Just redited this a few days later as it had fair few typos. Truth is, I usually recheck for such things but this subject was one I just didn't want to think about again, having felt quesy but determined to post about. Why? a/ these people make me feel unsafe, b/ it's a reminder to an old queen like me that - no - the police aren't really to be trusted (as was clearly understood before but now they make claims). It's also a reminder to me just how tolerated hate speech really is - and hence how far we've really got to go. Which is depressing.


  1. Media Watch groups and OFCOM in particular are increasingly urged to take note of a flawed approach reflected by Hardcash Production's documentary “Undercover Mosque” shown on Channel Four in early 2007. The documentary instead of meeting viewers expectation to get an objective and even handed reflection of realities plays with their sentiments by brazenly overlooking established media norms.

    Many viewers are left disappointed as the documentary miserably fails on five vital criteria namely to:
    Exercise caution on references to religion, its values and its institutions.
    Demonstrate even-handed and neutral approach; and,
    Discourage witch-hunts and ghost chasing attempts.
    Applied standards uniformly as one sect member discredits another
    Fails to vet the agenda-driven, politically motivated and selective remarks.

    This documentary miserably fails to disguise its prejudices visible in exploiting schism to settle score with competing ideologies.
    Hardcash Productions might burn their fingers when stoking somebody else's fire as the documentary solicits an Iraqi Shia to pass remarks about some Sunni ventures in UK. Can we expect from a responsible channel to allow its airtime for ideologues discrediting each other at viewers' expense? Why then Dr. Irfan al-Alawi of The Heritage Foundation was allowed to pick and choose excerpts to discredit those with who he differs ideologically. Since when settling personal scores is permitted on public screen? Would you expect a balanced documentary on Ireland’s peace progress selectively referring to, say, what Dr. Ian Paisley and the Republican leadership said about one another 20 years back?
    One must question and even challenge the wisdom of subjectively picking out of context quotes to malign some religious functionaries.

    One wonders how "Hardcash Productions" got away with such a low-cost load of cheap tricks in its pursuit of "rants-for-ratings". How could HP be allowed to stir religious sentiments on prime time television? If such a trend is not discouraged, then expect tabloid-headline like tales creeping into realm of institutions of other religions too.

  2. I wasn't left disappointed, I was left scared.

    I haven't seen one thing from the MCB or anyone else (like 'anonymous') attacking Channel Four and Dispatches which is aimed at reassuring lesbian and gay people. Nothing explaining how hatred of us isn't being propagated and is in fact being countered in UK mosques and Islamic centres and schools. None. Maybe because, in fact, hatred is being propagated.

    There is nothing 'neutral' or 'even-handed' or 'agenda-driven' when it comes to my safety and well-being; we are supposed to accept bland reassurances. I don't and that's why I say Support Channel Four.

    NB: If it was any other religion the same would happen. From 'oranges are not the only fruit' through to today's satire every other religion gets the same treatment from the UK media. That the police chose to defend a religion over my welfare I find chilling.