You Can't Do That on Television


In the past few years, England's Channel 4 has produced a string of terrific documentaries on religious and political extremism. Last year, they broadcast Undercover Mosque, an investigation into radicalism in Britain's Muslim community (Watch it on YouTube here). A sampling of some of the nutty opinions captured in the film, as transcribed by the Guardian:

At the Sparkbrook mosque, run by UK Islamic Mission, an organisation that maintains 45 mosques in Britain and which former prime minister Tony Blair described as "extremely valued by the government for its multi-faith and multicultural activities", a preacher was captured on film apparently praising the Taliban. In response to the news that a British Muslim solider was killed fighting the Taliban, the speaker was filmed saying: "The hero of Islam is the one who separated his head from his shoulders."

Another speaker was shown saying Muslims could not accept the rule of non-Muslims. "You cannot accept the rule of the kaffir [non-Muslim]," a preacher told a meeting held within the mosque. "We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others."

A deputy headmaster of an Islamic high school in Birmingham was also shown telling a conference at the Sparkbrook mosque that he disagreed with using the word "democracy".

"They should call it … kuffrocracy, that's their plan," he was shown as saying. "It's the hidden cancerous aim of these people."

But showing video of nutty preachers stirring religious hatred got the producers charged with, um, stirring racial hatred:

Today, the way the programme was edited came in for criticism from the Crown Prosecution Service, which considered charging Channel 4 with broadcasting material likely to stir up racial hatred, but decided against proceeding.

The Crown Prosecution Service doesn't dispute any of the material in the film—the producers didn't edit out mitigating sections of the pro-beheading sermon, for instance—but claim that such truths best not be shown on television, lest they stir up anti-Wahabbi sentiment. Lord Nazir Ahmed, the House of Lord's house extremist, chided Channel 4 for discussing such matters in public, as they weren't contributing to a constructive dialogue…or something:

In a statement to Channel 4 at the time, Lord Ahmed, the convener of the government's Preventing Extremism taskforce, said he was worried about the programme's consequences.

"While I appreciate that exaggerated opinions make good TV, they do not make for good community relations", he added

It should be pointed out that the head of the government's "Preventing Extremism Taskforce" was roundly criticized last year for inviting an extremist to lecture at the House of Lords on the subject of "Jews and Empire."

Full story.