Panorama: Another attack on Muslims masquerading as journalism

Roshan Muhammed Salih argues that last night’s BBC Panorama on “The Battle for British Islam” was yet another example of shallow journalism, sensationalist scaremongering and the targeting of the weak by the rich and powerful. 

BBC Panorama journalist John Ware has form.

In a 2005 Panorama he blasted the MUSLIM Council of Britain. In a 2006 show he targeted the MUSLIM charity Interpal and the Palestinian MUSLIM group Hamas. In a 2010 programme he slammed MUSLIM schools. And last year he took aim at the MUSLIM mayor of Tower Hamlets.

So it was no surprise when last night he laid into … wait for it … British MUSLIM “non-violent extremists.”

Now if John Ware had spent at least part of his recent career taking pot shots at Britain’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Israel’s slaughter of Palestinians, or right-wing fascism in the UK, then I wouldn’t complain so much about his treatment of Muslims.

But given that he hasn’t, surely I’m not the only one who can see a pattern emerging here?

Home Office propaganda

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Last night’s Panorama was the usual Home Office-sanctionned claptrap regurgitated by the BBC and masked as “investigative journalism.”

BBC reporter John Ware
BBC reporter John Ware

It was unbalanced, it lacked context and it reduced the rich, deep tradition that is Islam to tabloid, emotive issues such as the “killing of apostates” or “stoning to death.”

One day I might make a documentary that reduces Christianity to the Spanish Inquisition or secularism to the War on Terror.

The programme also amplified the voices of British Muslims who are either sponsored by government or who have pro-establishment views that many British Muslims would find objectionable.

And in the tradition of so much British propaganda since 9/11, the show deflected attention away from the main causes of radicalisation – foreign policy and Islamophobia – and put the attention on the weak and divided Muslim community to clean up its own act.

“Non-violent extremism”

Panorama’s basic premise was that “non-violent extremism” leads to violent extremism.

So Haitham al Haddad’s Salafist ideology, Trojan Horse schools in Birmingham, niqabis and people who don’t like the Happy Muslims video are effectively a slippery slope to the head-choppers of ISIS.

Several times in the programme Ware declared that such-and-such a Muslim had declined to be interviewed by him. He forgot to say why – because they knew his agenda and track record and thought that he would stitch them up!

Sheikh Haitham al Haddad
Sheikh Haitham al Haddad

Those he did interview seemed like a Prevent officer’s idea of a tea party – Adam Deen, Sara Khan, Manwar Ali and British Muslim TV.

These were obviously the “good guys” and met with Mr Ware’s stamp of approval. They can all sleep easy now knowing that the Establishment has given them a pat on the head.

As for the scary “bad guys,” well Haitham al Haddad took pride of place and now that public opinion has been prepared I guess it won’t be long before his bank accounts are closed down.

I should also add that by broadcasting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) during the show the BBC has intentionally insulted Muslims all over the world.

In so doing they have promoted Islamophobia and racism, and given the highly-charged context of the past few days this monumentally stupid editorial decision has poured fuel on the fire.

Foreign policy whitewash

John Ware also went to lengths to dismiss the notion that British Muslims are victims and that they’ve been radicalised by foreign policy.

So one million dead in Iraq, tens of thousands dead in Afghanistan and rampant Islamophobia at home obviously have nothing whatsoever to do with making Muslims angry.

And the fact that every perpetrator of every major terrorist attack or plot on British soil since 9/11 has cited “British foreign policy” as their main grievance is completely irrelevant too.

No, it’s all the fault of those big beardy extremist preachers who want to stone the kufaar to death and create a global caliphate.

Sarcasm aside, I’d like to make three points.

Firstly, the fact is that even the government and intelligence agencies will privately acknowledge that British foreign policy is the main radicaliser of Muslims. Anyone who is close to the politics of the British Muslim community (unlike John Ware) will have no doubt about this.

There were simply no plots to blow up trains and buses in Britain prior to Britain’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. And those who do try to recruit people for terrorism always use foreign policy as a motivating factor.

British soldiers in action
British soldiers in action

Secondly, the drip-drip of Muslim demonisation by the right-wing (and increasingly the left-wing) media feeds into the victim complex that Muslims already have.

And that rhetorical demonisation leads directly to street violence against Muslims which has been on the rise for years, as has been documented by organisations such as The Islamic Human Rights Commission and TellMama UK.

Thirdly, Britain’s blood-soaked foreign policy and the British establishment’s demonisation of Muslims at home has indeed created fertile ground for a minority of violent extremists to flourish.

Like Ware, I too am worried by the “takfiri-isation” of British Islam which has its roots in Saudi Arabia’s petrodollars and power politics. I am also concerned by British Muslims who’ve gone to fight for terrorist groups in Syria.

But this is an internal discussion for Muslims to have and an internal problem for us to deal with, and John Ware’s views on the subject are simply irrelevant.

Moreover, the really dangerous extremists in our communities are clearly identified – they preach hate and violence and they come up with plots to hurt people. They are the ones who should be targeted by a much more focused and intelligence-led counter-terrorism policy.

As for those who simply promote a political or a conservative brand of Islam – but who denounce terrorism and are committed to staying within this country’s laws – they should be left alone by the authorities and should play a full part in the national debate.

In short, the Establishment should stop trying to ideologically mould British Islam and should simply make sure that the nation’s laws are obeyed and that criminals are prosecuted.

Good Muslim, bad Muslim

Last night’s Panorama was another attempt by the Establishment to play the good Muslim, bad Muslim game, to fashion a government-sponsored British Islam.

Those who declined to be interviewed by John Ware realised that this was the programme’s agenda.

Happy Muslims
Happy Muslims

But in my opinion those who did consent made a mistake – wittingly or unwittingly, they played into the establishment’s toxic counter-terrorism agenda which casts its net so wide that the innocent are lumped together with the guilty, the radicals are lumped together with the terrorists, and all Muslims become potential suspects.

Finally, we should put the “Islamist threat” to Britain in proper perspective because it simply doesn’t require so many high-profile TV shows.

Muslims are a weak minority in this country. They are by and large disenfranchised and are on a lower socio-economic scale than the general population. They are also under-represented in almost every major area of national life.

They are a relatively powerless minority who are subject to racism and Islamophobia. They are struggling for equality (not supremacy) and to be protected by the state just as other minorities – such as Jews and homosexuals – clearly are.

They are not “taking over” Britain or seeking to “impose their way of life” on the rest of the population.

So enough of the bloody scaremongering.


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