8 November 2010
Ofcom, the UK’s broadcasting regulator has today ruled that the Islam Channel, Britain’s pro-Islamist satellite TV channel, has breached the UK Broadcasting Code after presenters on the channel advocated marital rape, justified violence against women and described women who wore perfume as ‘prostitutes’.
Ofcom’s findings were based on material in Quilliam’s report ‘Re-Programming British Muslims’, an evidence-based study of the London-based Islam Channel’s output which was published earlier this year.
Ofcom found several of the Islam Channel’s programmes guilty of breaching its code including:
1) Breach – Islam Channel presenter in breach for having allowed views condoning marital rape:
The Muslimah Dilemma programme, hosted by a senior Hizb ut-Tahrir member, Nazreen Nawaz, was supportive of marital rape.
“Ofcom considered that Nazreen Nawaz was clear that it would be permissible for a husband to have non-consensual sexual relations within a marriage, when she said the following: “And really the idea that a woman cannot refuse her husband‟s relations this is not strange to a Muslim because it is part of maintaining that strong marriage”. “But it shouldn’t be such a big problem where the man feels he has to force himself upon the woman”… we considered that the views expressed in the programme concerning marital relations might have suggested to many in the audience that it would be permissible for a husband to oblige his wife to have sexual relations against her will, whether or not he used some form of threat of violence…Further Ofcom considered that this offensive material could not be justified by the context”
2) Breach – Islam Channel presenter found in breach for encouraging violence against women and describing women who wear perfume as ‘prostitutes’:
A pro-Wahhabi preacher (Sheikh Abdul Majid Ali) on Islam Channel’s IslamiQA programme advocated violence against women and described women who wear perfume as ‘prostitutes’.
“Ofcom considered that the presenter did therefore give advice to viewers that it was permissible for a husband to physically punish his wife, even though according to the broadcaster it was to be only in certain circumstances, and undertaken with restraint…In Ofcom’s opinion, the advocacy of any form of violence (however limited), as happened in this particular case, is not acceptable…Further Ofcom considered that this offensive material could not be justified by the context”.
“Ofcom considered that it would be likely that the labelling of a woman as “a prostitute” for the act of the wearing of perfume in various public places would be highly offensive. Further Ofcom considered that this offensive material could not be justified by the context”.
3) Breach: Islam channel found to have an anti-Israel and anti-Palestinian Authority bias, implying favouritism for Hamas:
Ofcom heavily criticised the Islam Channel’s coverage of international affairs and of the Middle East conflict in particular for breaching rules on impartiality. For instance, its Ummah Talk programme, hosted by the Islamist Azad Ali who has previously praised the Hamas leadership, was ruled to have failed to present or seek to explain the views of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, an outspoken opponent of Hamas. The Politics and Beyond programme, hosted by Muslim Brotherhood supporter Anas al-Tikriti, was also found guilty of similar breaches in relation to the Middle East conflict. Ofcom ruled that:
“Just because a particular viewpoint on an issue of political or industrial controversy or matter relating to current public policy is likely to be supported by the overwhelming majority of a channel’s audience (or various international and political institutions) does not obviate the need for broadcasters to comply with Section Five of the Code.”
Overall Ofcom decision:
‘Ofcom remains concerned about Islam Channel’s understanding and compliance processes in relation to the Code. This is particularly the case, given that the Islam Channel has previously been fined for breaches of the Code relating to ‘due impartiality’. Therefore, the Islam Channel is being requested to attend a meeting with the regulator to explain and discuss its compliance processes further in relation to Sections Two and Five of the Code.’
Talal Rajab, an outreach officer at Quilliam who authored the Islam Channel report, said:
‘Today’s ruling by Ofcom is welcome and richly deserved. Islam Channel’s presenters has been responsible for promoting marital rape and violence against women, for saying that women who wear perfume are ‘prostitutes’ and for breaching a number of important broadcasting regulations. Such behaviour is clearly offensive and unacceptable. It is only right that Islam Channel has been held to account.
‘Islam Channel’s promotion of a fringe and intolerant form of Islam at the expense of more mainstream voices risks having a negative affect not only on British Muslim communities but also on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. There should no place for intolerance and hate-preaching in our society.
‘Quilliam’s evidence-based report additionally found that throughout 2009 the Islam Channel had broadcast adverts for DVDs of Anwar Al-Awlaki, the al-Qaeda linked extremist preacher whose sermons have inspired a number of recent terrorist attacks, including the Printer bomb sent from Yemen and the attack on Stephen Timms, the British MP. Ofcom did not take action on this issue as this was outside its legal remit and this was referred to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) instead. We hope that Youtube’s recent decision to remove al-Awlaki’s videos acts will guide ASA’s future actions in this regard.
‘At the same time, there are encouraging signs that the channel is now making efforts to improve its output and to give greater airtime to a wider range of more mainstream Muslim voices. We stand ready to help Islam Channel further improve and diversify its output in order to avoid further problems. The Islam Channel could yet become a powerful voice for greater social harmony.’
Ofcom’s ruling is available here.
Notes to media:
a. Quilliam holds a number of recorded clips of Islam Channel’s most problematic programmes. Please contact us for copies of these.
b. Talal Rajab, the report’s author, is available for interview in London.