BBC: Institutional fear of speaking truth on Islamism

There is a problem in Britain when it comes to discussing objectively the issue of Islamism. Nowhere is this more demonstrable than at the BBC

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The BBC: Scared into silence?
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Vincent Cooper
On 26 June 2014 18:20

That the BBC has a left-wing liberal bias in its current affairs programming and news broadcasting is now, like the weather, a staple feature of British national consciousness. Perhaps like the weather, the BBC just cannot be reformed. We simply have to live with it and make allowances.

Still, when one hears yet another piece of skewed BBC news reporting, it’s difficult not to be angered, particularly when the subject is terrorism. 

BBC’s Today programme recently reported on a video showing a young British Muslim from Cardiff, Nasser Muthana, apparently attempting to recruit would-be jihadists. The programme also reported on an interview with Nasser Muthana’s father, Ahmed Muthana, who denied any knowledge or awareness of how his son had been ‘radicalised’.

Sarah Montague of the Today programme, discussing the radicalising of young Muslims in Britain with Sir Peter Fahy, chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, commented: ‘the father clearly had no idea of the influences on his son’.

That comment goes way beyond the evidence. How could Sarah Montague possibly know that? She, like the rest of us, knows only what the father said, nothing more.

Montague’s comment was a classic example of a common BBC practice of skewed liberal interpolation, where a liberal value judgment is insinuated into the factual debate which then passes off as fact into the public consciousness.

This is not news reporting, but a form of social engineering, and is particularly noticeable not just with matters concerning radical Islam but also with liberal sacred cow issues such as immigration and social welfare reform.

Time and time again with current affairs and news, the BBC often gives the impression of wanting to turn the public mind in a liberal direction and seems to see itself as the officially designated fixer of public opinion, while at the same time singing the praises of free speech. Free speech, that is, so long as the boundaries are liberal.

The point is particularly relevant as Montague’s train of thought slipped neatly into the views of Sir Peter Fahy of the Prevent strategy on counter terrorism.

In the interview, Sir Peter certainly gave me the impression of being inordinately concerned to avoid any suggestion of “Islamophobia”, almost to the point of downplaying the jihadist video.

Incredibly, Sir Peter even suggested that concern about young British Muslim radicals is “not dissimilar” to concern about young people drawn to drugs and gangs.

I feel sure that such an analogy surprised many listeners, as it did me. Almost certainly, the majority of British people would find that analogy cringingly timid and forced.

Apparently reluctant to confront head-on and to discuss on its own lethal terms the Muslim jihadist video, Sir Peter went on to talk about “right wing” extremism in Britain and how that was a big concern also.

At that point, even Sarah Montague, to her credit, informed Sir Peter that right wing extremism was not the issue.

What was happening here? What really was going on in that interview? Sir Peter Fahy is asked to comment on a threatening jihadist video, yet much of the discussion is turned to drug abuse and right wing extremism.

Drug abuse and right wing extremism are a concern, but the point at issue on that BBC Today interview was the threat of jihadism in Britain and the need to protect the innocent public. That was the subject that needed to be addressed.

Why was Sir Peter apparently so reluctant to discuss the jihadist video directly? Did he feel the need to assuage Muslim feelings? Did he bring in the issue of right wing extremism in order to compensate for the negative attention Islam was getting and to appear neutral?

The Financial Times journalist Christopher Caldwell, in his book Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, draws attention to a timidity and fear in Western society in dealing head-on with controversial or “sensitive” Muslim issues.

Caldwell points out that in France, when the government decided to ban the veil in schools, it also had to ban all other religious symbols such as Christian crosses and the Jewish yarmulke, simply to appear to be culturally neutral. He says: “every infringement that disproportionately affected Muslim practice had to be balanced by some compensatory restrictions on the majority culture.” (Reflections, page 194)

Certainly for this listener, Sir Peter’s response was strained and convoluted. By the end of that BBC interview, there was the distinct impression that young British jihadists are, just like drug addicts, victims rather than rational operators. Sir Peter sounded more like a social worker than a counter terrorist official.  

There does seem to be a problem in Britain talking about or discussing objectively the issue of Islamism. There is often fear and burying of heads in sand when it comes to Islamic terrorism. In fact, the writer and journalist Melanie Phillips wrote a whole book on the subject in 2006, Londonistan.

Judging by Sir Peter’s BBC interview, little seems to have changed.

Vincent Cooper is a regular contributor to The Commentator

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