Ofcom rules Ahlebait TV broadcast antisemitic hate speech

Ofcom. Editorial credit: T. Schneider / Shutterstock.com

The broadcasting regulator Ofcom has put Ahlebait TV on notice of a sanction after it aired a programme which featured “hate speech” and “derogatory and abusive treatment of Jewish people.”

The primary audience of Ahlebait TV, which broadcasts on the Sky platform, is the Shia community and the offending programme “Money Power, Islam and a Just Order” was aired in March 2021.

Ofcom received a complaint from the Community Security Trust that two guests on the programme “made antisemitic comments and were not challenged by the host of the show.”

The topic of discussion of the programme was the world economic system and Islamic solutions.

A guest, David Musa Pidcock (since deceased), set out how a new monetary system might work before returning to the topic of usury when he said: “The fact is that you’re gonna get hit with all kinds of problems if you deviate and you start to charge interest, there is no blessing and you can only, you know, this is why the Jews have been expelled from 47 different countries and city-states in the last 1,000 years and as they recognise … their antisemitism comes from their actions of impoverishing people and they then respond and then they call it antisemitism but we know that it’s because they do and they get punished and as Allah says, you know, he will expel [sentence incomplete] – send them to all corners of the world to be an excoriation and a hissing and a booing to wherever he had sent them. So antisemitism comes from debt, not cancelling the debt, and usury.”

The presenter responded as follows: “How interesting, yeah, a weapon of war indeed. These days of course we know about psychological operations, soft wars through the media, but economic sanctions, economic, if you like, terrorism, er, as the United States inflicts on Venezuela these days, on Iran, even Russia, and now of course the obvious collisions with China, that are going on, are all kind of testimony to how that wea[pon], to how money is being weaponised by, especially the western imperialist powers.”

A second guest, Chris Menzies, added: “It’s worth just noting that antisemitism was created by Theodor Herzl at the back end of the 19th century in order to frighten and create the circumstances that would encourage Jews to migrate to Israel so antisemitism is actually a Jewish creation.”

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Ahlebait TV apologised for the comments in question, saying that they were “highly regrettable and should never have been broadcast.” It considered that they breached Ofcom rules on offence and abuse and derogatory treatment. However, it argued they did not breach rules on hate speech.

In June 2021 Ahlebait TV broadcast the following apology, which was introduced with the caption “Special Announcement”, and read to camera by a presenter:

“Hello. This is a special announcement. On 21 March 2021, Ahlebait TV broadcast an edition of the ‘20th Hour’ programme. It was a live discussion hosted by Mohsin Abbas. The title was ‘Money Power, Islam and a Just Order’. Mr Abbas had two guests, David Musa Pidcock and Clive Menzies.

“During the broadcast, in the context of a discussion about the principle in Islam prohibiting interest when lending money, Mr Pidcock made some remarks, even though [brief] that could be interpreted as antisemitic. Ahlebait TV condemns all discriminatory language or comments which are abusive or derogatory towards individuals or communities. The channel sincerely regrets that these potentially offensive antisemitic remarks were broadcast and apologises.”

Ofcom used the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, which has been heavily criticised for being pro Israel, as its guide when making its decision.

The regulator said: “We considered that the references to Jewish people practising usury, not cancelling debt and impoverishing people evoked a common derogatory stereotype about Jewish people being disproportionately in control of money lending businesses, being driven by greed and being unwilling to forgo money to the detriment of other people.”

It also took into account that “Mr Menzies falsely accused a key Jewish figure and Jewish people of creating antisemitism.”

“Ofcom considered these breaches to be serious and therefore we are putting the Licensee on notice that we will consider them for the imposition of a statutory sanction.”

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