On 26th March 2010, Quilliam issued the following press release:

New Quilliam report released

Re-programming British Muslims: A study of the Islam Channel

A new report by Quilliam has found that the Islam Channel, the UK’s most watched Muslim TV channel, is sowing suspicion between different religious communities and promoting intolerance and prejudice.

The report, based on Quilliam’s recording and monitoring of the channel’s output over a three-month period, found that there were several key problematic trends in its output:

– Promotion of backward attitudes to women. The Islam Channel’s presenters and preferred guests repeatedly promote socially conservative, Wahhabi-influenced views of women, which see female freedom as a threat to social harmony.

– Intolerance towards other sects and religions. Religious preachers featured on Islam Channel programmes such as IslamiQA repeatedly make derogatory remarks to the followers of other forms of religious expression and urge viewers to reject the practices of non-Muslims and non-Wahhabi Muslims alike.

– Promotion of extremism. The Islam Channel has also promoted extremist individuals and groups, for instance, by advertising recorded lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the pro-al-Qaeda preacher, on the channel and allowing members and supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir to host religious programmes. The Channel also uses the phrase ‘human bombs’ to describe suicide bombers.

The Islam Channel’s Chief Executive is Mohammed Ali Harrath who has been convicted in Tunisia on terrorism-related offences and who is the subject of an Interpol Red Notice. He was most recently arrested in relation to this in South Africa in January 2010. Harrath has regularly advised key parts of the British government, including the police force, on how they should tackle extremism and terrorism.

Quilliam calls on Ofcom, the UK broadcasting regulator, to hold a full investigation into the Islam Channel’s recent output.

Talal Rajab, the report’s author, says:

“Islam Channel is the most watched Muslim TV channel in the UK. Unfortunately during the three-month period that we monitored its output, it repeatedly promoted bigoted and reactionary views towards women, non-Muslims and other Muslims who follow different versions of Islam. Although the channel does not directly call for terrorist violence, it clearly helps to create an atmosphere in which religiously-sanctioned intolerance and even hatred might be seen as acceptable.”

“By promoting a single narrow version of Islam – namely Saudi Wahhabism – at the expense of more diverse and tolerant schools of Islamic thought, the Islam Channel is wasting an enormous opportunity to positively shaping British Islam. Young British Muslims need real answers on how to live as citizens in a pluralist, secular and diverse society. Unfortunately instead of providing useful guidance the Channel promotes an intolerant rigid and out-of-date form of Islam that is of no benefit to either Muslims or society as whole.”

The full report is available to download as a PDF here..