Sheffield radio station faces sanction after broadcasting Islamic war nasheed

A Muslim radio station in Sheffield has been censured by the broadcast regulator Ofcom after it broadcast an Islamic war nasheed.

Ofcom found Link FM, which is run by the Pakistan Muslim Centre, Sheffield, to have twice broadcast material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder.

The breach related to the Arabic nasheed “Jundullah” which Link FM played out on December 16 and 22, 2020. Ofcom said it is minded to consider a sanction for these breaches.

The regulator received four complaints from listeners who raised concerns about material which they described as containing “jihadi lyrics” and “promoting terrorism.”

The lyrics of the nasheed are as follows:

Never will we ever divert from our faith

Our path is long, with the guidance of the Qur’an

Marching on, the path of the truth, oh soldiers of Allah

Oh, soldiers of Allah, Oh soldiers of Allah

ًPromise, oh lions of the battlefield

We will march forward, never will we yield

When the call comes to mobilise for the battle

ًَُWe return as soldiers answering the call

Oh, soldiers of Allah, Oh soldiers of Allah

ًAnd undoubtedly one day, Aqsa will return

So, the sacrifice will forever remain

To the gardens of my Lord the martyr went

ًFrom His path never will we ever divert

Soldiers of Allah, Soldiers of Allah

We will go forth as soldiers crushing our enemies

ًWith Qur’an of our Lord as our guide

ًIt will inspire in us a new certainty

And it sends in us a new certainty that the day of martyrdom is a glorious victory

Soldiers of Allah, Soldiers of Allah.

‘Indirect call to violence’

In its decision Ofcom said: “Although this nasheed did not contain any direct calls to violent action, we considered the cumulative effect of its lyrics and imagery was to condone, promote and actively encourage others to participate in violent acts as a form of devout religious expression and therefore amounted to an indirect call to action…

“By repeatedly referring to and glorifying the act of martyrdom within the nasheed, Ofcom was concerned that the use of these terms would have been understood as having a clear association with violent jihad, particularly when considered within the context of the imagery and lyrics…

“In our view, these references to martyrdom contributed to the cumulative narrative of this nasheed which glorified violence as an expression of Islamic faith and therefore carried an overarching message that violent jihadi action was a religious duty which was to be encouraged and condoned.”

In its response to Ofcom, the Pakistan Muslim Centre (PMC) said that it understood that a breach had taken place and that it “wholeheartedly [apologised] for the error.” PMC acknowledged that it was an “unfortunate incident… and one we hope not to repeat again in the future.”

PMC said it understood the potential harm that can arise from “any form of hate speech,” but in mitigation argued the harm in this case would have been minimal “due to the language it was played in and the languages our audience understands,” given that the nasheed lyrics were in Arabic whereas the language of listeners to the service is predominantly Urdu and English.

It added that as a “responsible management team” it had always tried to ensure that the station avoided any “controversial subject areas,” and tried to “empower” its presenters and “ensure that they can continue to develop with training and mentoring.”

Meanwhile, the presenter who played out the nasheed said it was “a genuine mistake which I sincerely apologise and feel quite embarrassed about including the reputational damage to the station and myself this has caused.”

She added that she had “no intentions of inciting hatred or negativity of any shape or form” and always adhered to “the broadcasting codes of practices with upmost professionalism and integrity.”

But Ayaan Institute director Jahangir Mohammed told 5Pillars that Ofcom must now treat all religious groups with the same yardstick when it comes to well-known war songs.

He said: “Many religious communities have hymns or songs where war/struggle/battle is mentioned in the context of a religious struggle for survival and freedom from persecution. Ofcom needs to have a consistent policy across all faiths and view such songs within a religious not purely contemporary security/terrorism context.

“Would for example singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ on radio also fall foul of Ofcom’s view that it might incite violence? The Muslim community needs to know which experts Ofcom is using to make sense these issues in reaching its decisions.”

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