The BBC is funded by a universal tax. If you own a TV you must pay the licence fee. However, though we all pay for the same service, Mark Thompson, the BBC Director General has declared we will not receive an equal service. Islam is to be treated very sensitively. Christianity is fair game but criticism of Islam is off limits. This approach is ignorant and wrong. Mr Thompson should apologise or be sacked.
It is difficult to know what is worse about Mr Thompson’s statement. The patronising insinuation that Britain’s Muslim population are incapable of dealing with intelligent criticism in the same way as non Muslim citizens. The idea Muslims require official protection as they are incapable of defending their views in a free and fair debate and the notion we should limit debate and censor comedians and news reporters because some people might be offended. All these views have clearly been embraced by the BBC hierarchy and clearly all these elements are shameful.
However, the worst aspect is the fact that the BBC, a taxpayer funded broadcaster, has now publically abandoned even the pretence to air impartial coverage. Mr Thompson’s statements are by no means unique. He embodies the BBC approach.
So the BBC is politically correct, I hear you say. They admitted this in 2006, when the results of their impartiality summit were revealed. That’s not big news, what is the story? Well not so long ago (six months to be precise) Mr Thompson said pretty much the exact opposite. Let’s compare Mr Thompson in April 2008 with Mr Thompson in October 2008.
Speaking at Westminster Cathedral in April, Mr Thompson said there was “a growing nervousness about discussion about Islam and its relationship to the traditions and values of British and Western society as a whole.” However, he said the BBC had a “special responsibility”, which was to ensure that debates about religion “should not be foreclosed or censored”. This all sounds very sensible.
However, speaking in October 2008, Mr. Thompson said “their religion [Islam] is also associated with an ethnic identity which has not been fully integrated.” He added “I don't want to say that all religions are the same. To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.” So now religions are not the same. Religious and political debate is to be restricted to protect a specific faith.
So why did he change? Well Mr. Thompson provides us with a clue. He says Islam tends to be linked with an ethnic identity. Now actually Islam is not linked to a specific ethnicity. British Muslims come from all different ethnic backgrounds. But what Mr. Thompson appears to be saying, is that in the last six months, he has realized the majority of British Muslims share a common ethnic feature. They are not white.
So what you might say and I agree it should not be an issue. However, it is an issue for the BBC and here is why. If the BBC does not censor the debate about Islam then this religion might be criticized as Christianity and the other religions are. This criticism of Islam could then be interpreted (for which read portrayed) by some people as racist.
Now objectively we know that criticism of Islam is not racist because Islam is not a race. Islam is a belief system held by people of all races. However, the new definition of racism is not objective. Racism is defined subjectively. Statements are (post Macpherson) racist if the victim perceives them to be.
Islamophobia is a word created by the Islamists and their allies on the British far left. Although both parties seem unable to agree on a common workable definition, both of these forces want to make criticism of Islam akin to racism.
Mr Thompson has tremendously benefitted their cause. He is suggesting that if a belief system tends to be held by people with non white skin it is entitled to be treated with greater respect. This is the exact opposite of what the BBC should be doing.
The Director General notes that this minority community is not “fully integrated”. Well I have a suggestion as to why this might be. Perhaps it is because people like Mr Thompson insist on treating British Muslims as a cohesive ‘other’ rather than simply normal patriotic decent Briton’s.
A sign of true integration is when you treat all citizens the same regardless of their religion or race. Making Islam a special case and privileging it does not aid integration. It aids fragmentation. It sets community against community. We don’t pay the licence fee to subsidize the promotion of communal strife.
It may be easier to concentrate on criticizing the other religions but I expect more from the BBC. We pay for this public broadcaster because it is meant to be impartial. It is meant to provide the kind of intelligent debate that commercial TV is (supposedly) unable to provide. Now we have the BBC Director General saying the BBC will not provide this service and we are still expected to pay the licence fee.
April’s Mark Thompson had it right, “there is no point having a BBC which isn’t prepared to stand up and be counted.” The BBC should “always be forthright in the defence of freedom of speech and of impartiality.” October’s Mark Thompson has it wrong. A BBC which refuses to allow candid discussion of the Islamist threat fails in its duty as a public broadcaster. The Director General must retract his statement and apologize or be sacked. If the BBC refuses to sack their Director the Government should seriously consider abolishing the licence fee now.