Islam Channel fined £20K over antisemitic hate speech

TV regulator Ofcom has fined Islam Channel £20,000 for broadcasting a programme with antisemitic speech.

On November 11 2018, Islam Channel broadcast an episode of The Rightly Guided Khalifas which, according to Ofcom, “ascribed a perpetually negative characteristic to Jewish people; namely corrupting Holy Books and seeking the destruction of Islam in both ancient and more recent times.”

“It conflated Israel and Jewish people, characterising Jewish people as ‘tyrannical’ and having an ‘evil mind.’ The programme also used further negative and stereotypical terms to describe Jewish people,” Ofcom said.

The programme also used further negative and stereotypical terms to describe Jewish people, including that they were guilty of “this crime of distortion [of Quranic text].” According to the regulator, it also associated Jewish people with “tyranny,” “oppression,” “troublemaking” and “poisonous acts.”

The watchdog said the breach met Ofcom’s definition of hate speech and would have been offensive to most people who do not share the antisemitic views expressed.

“We also considered this material would be highly offensive to Jewish people; practitioners of Judaism; and Christian and Muslim people (and others) who esteem the religion.”

Islam Channel apologised for the breach and said one of its key aims “has been to improve dialogue, understanding and cohesion between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.” It also highlighted its record in promoting interfaith dialogue and outreach.

Referring to the specific content broadcast, Islam Channel said that it was not correct to broadcast it and there was no intention of broadcasting antisemitic content.

It explained that the episode was originally “tagged and pulled from the broadcast list” as a result of “strict internal vetting and compliance procedures” applied to each episode in the series, and consequently, “was not broadcast as part of the initial premiere.”

However, it said “following a lengthy gap, when the series was listed for re-broadcasting, as a result of a human error on the part of a junior level scheduler, this particular episode was mistakenly included within the re-run schedule.”

The channel explained that “regrettably, the episode was broadcast before the error was picked up,” adding, “the offending episode was not viewed before it was broadcast by the junior level scheduler, had it been viewed it would have been picked up and removed. Unfortunately, the junior level scheduler selected the series in its entirety.”

Islam Channel stressed that “this was not a systematic or deliberate failing but rather an isolated incident stemming from human error, which is not reflected within the disproportionate preliminary sanction.” It added that, “there was no direct or indirect intention or knowledge of wrongdoing by the channel.”

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