The BBC gives a platform to Douglas Murray’s hate speech
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Thursday June 01 2017
Viewers of the BBC’s Sunday Politics show on 28 May were horrified when its guest, Douglas Murray, produced a rhetoric that could be interpreted as calling for what some viewers deemed the ethnic cleansing of Muslims.
The show gave a platform to Douglas Murray, Associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), and Sara Khan, the CEO of Inspire (a counter-extremism advocacy organisation in receipt of Prevent funding), to talk about terrorism prevention. However, many took exception to Murray’s views, which have prompted complaints to the broadcaster with one commentator arguing that Murray advocated an ethnic cleansing.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has now submitted a formal complaint about the clip, which they say has breached editorial standards by allowing Murray to make a number of inaccurate, controversial, and untested assertions.
‘Less Islam leads to less terrorism’
Firstly, Murray claimed “Eastern Europe does not have a problem with Islamic terrorism because it does not have much Islam”. However, the MCB point out that Eastern Europe is actually the only part of Europe with Muslim-majority countries (like Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania and Azerbaijan). Murray then used this false statement to argue that “less Islam in general is obviously a good thing”.
In reality, the facts do not support Murray’s opinion. In fact, a restricted MI5 report from 2008 actually debunked the view that religion causes extremism. Its key findings were reported in The Guardian at the time, and concluded that:
“Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation.”
‘Muslims do not report terrorism to the police’
Murray also produced a ‘statistic’ that two thirds of British Muslims would not report someone to the police if they knew they were involved in extremism.
Again, Murray’s implication that Muslims passively allow extremism to flourish is entirely contrary to the evidence available. There have been several studies carried out on this issue that do not corroborate this sweeping claim. Indeed, an ICM poll carried out on behalf of Channel 4 News in 2016 concluded that 34% of Muslims said they would report someone they knew to be involved in extremism to the police. However, 46% and 37% respectively said they would intervene themselves or seek help from friends and family. Furthermore, a later poll conducted with the same company for Policy Exchange found that 52% would, in fact, report someone to the police. Likewise, an earlier ComRes poll for the BBC found that 94% of British Muslims would report someone to the police.
Unchallenged platform for someone with a hate agenda
Murray is notorious for his right-wing and anti-Islam rhetoric, which he has repeatedly polemicized in The Spectator and in his regular appearances on the BBC.
He has claimed that Islamophobia is a “crock” and a “nonsense term”, and has claimed that “conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board” so that Europe would appear to be a less attractive proposition. How this must be done was not set out exhaustively, although Murray has mentioned demolishing certain mosques: “where a mosque has become a centre of hate it should be closed and pulled down”, and has further suggested that “all immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop”. In another statement, he claimed that “Muslims of Europe have let down Europe.”
Having refused to distance himself from such comments, former Conservative Shadow Minister, Paul Goodman reported how the Conservative Party frontbench was eventually forced to severe formal relations with Murray and his Centre for Social Cohesion.
Given the reputation of the HJS, Murry’s current position as their Associate Director is also indicative of his anti-Muslim views. A right wing, neoconservative think-tank, HJS is known for its distinct anti-Muslim and xenophobic tendencies, where key staff, including Murray, have made worrying comments. Amongst these comments are those of William Shawcross in 2012 when he said that “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future”.
A breach of guidelines
Regarding Douglas Murry’s polemic on Sunday Politics, MCB Secretary General, Harun Khan, has stated:
“Whilst it is of course important to allow freedom of expression for those from a variety of standpoints, inaccuracy is in clear breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines.
Pointing to a number of editorial guidelines, the MCB claims the BBC breached guidelines on accuracy (3.4.11 and 3.4.12) by “misleading” the public, and also on impartiality (4.4.14, 4.4.18, 4.4.8) by not signalling a controversial subject, not rigorously testing it, and assuming the commentator was unbiased.
What you can do
Complain to the BBC if you believe this broadcast breached standards.