Last week, the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based counter-extremist think tank, published a report on the output of the Islam Channel based on viewing three months of its content. The report concludes that the Islam Channel is responsible for proliferating extremism, chauvinism and anti-Semitism as well as giving platforms to known supporters of terrorism and members of the Islamist group, Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The Islam Channel has promoted speeches by the Yemeni cleric, Anwar al Awlaki, whom US officials have linked to an airliner bombing attempt and shootings at an army base. The CEO of the Islam Channel is Mohammed Ali Harrath – a man for whom Interpol have issued a Red Notice for offences involving “the use of weapons/explosives, and terrorism.” Tunisia, his country of birth, has already convicted him in absentia on terror charges.
From Quilliam’s press release:
Promotion of backward attitudes to women. The Islam Channel’s presenters and preferred guests repeatedly promote socially conservative, Wahhabi-influenced views of women, which see female freedom as a threat to social harmony.
Intolerance towards other sects and religions. Religious preachers featured on Islam Channel programmes such as IslamiQA repeatedly make derogatory remarks to the followers of other forms of religious expression and urge viewers to reject the practices of non-Muslims and non-Wahhabi Muslims alike.
Promotion of extremism. The Islam Channel has also promoted extremist individuals and groups, for instance, by advertising recorded lectures by Anwar al-Awlaki, the pro-al-Qaeda preacher, on the channel and allowing members and supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir to host religious programmes. The Channel also uses the phrase ‘human bombs’ to describe suicide bombers.
Quilliam calls on Ofcom, the UK broadcasting regulator, to hold a full investigation into the Islam Channel’s recent output.
Talal Rajab, the report’s author, says:
Islam Channel is the most watched Muslim TV channel in the UK. Unfortunately during the three-month period that we monitored its output, it repeatedly promoted bigoted and reactionary views towards women, non-Muslims and other Muslims who follow different versions of Islam. Although the channel does not directly call for terrorist violence, it clearly helps to create an atmosphere in which religiously-sanctioned intolerance and even hatred might be seen as acceptable.
By promoting a single narrow version of Islam – namely Saudi Wahhabism – at the expense of more diverse and tolerant schools of Islamic thought, the Islam Channel is wasting an enormous opportunity to positively shaping British Islam. Young British Muslims need real answers on how to live as citizens in a pluralist, secular and diverse society. Unfortunately instead of providing useful guidance the Channel promotes an intolerant rigid and out-of-date form of Islam that is of no benefit to either Muslims or society as whole.
Executive summary (download PDF)
Full report (download PDF)
The Islam Channel has responded with this press release, largely attacking the Quilliam Foundation in an ad hominem fashion without refuting the substance of the report:
Within the Muslim community, the Quillam [sic] Foundation is regarded with disdain and broadly with very limited or no credibility. It is an organization with no community support, depending for its existence on government funding including the PVE scheme.
It should be of no surprise that an institution such as the Quilliam Foundation is not taken at all seriously across the Muslim community in Britain. In contrast, the Islam Channel is a community funded and community centred channel covering a wide range of opinions and subjects that has been broadcasting for over 6 years and enjoys unparalleled support across the many sections of the Muslim community.
As a matter of principal, Islam Channel does not accept discrimination and rejects all forms of racism, islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Islam Channel believes that the Jews should not be held responsible for the acts of the state of Israel and the criticism of the Israeli brutality should not be seen as anti-Semitism.
Islam Channel promotes the role of women in society and that is why almost half of those working at Islam Channel are women. The channel encourages the Muslim community to take an active role in civic society and to take part in the social and democratic process. We strongly reject all forms of extremism including such extremist views displayed by the Quilliam Foundation. We condemn unreservedly all forms of violence and the killing of innocent people regardless of their faith and ethnicity.
As Quilliam’s Maajid Nawaz puts it:
Regulatory bodies such as Ofcom must step up their game in monitoring and bringing to task the channel for repetitive violations of their broadcast guidelines; a full investigation is needed. Finally, other media must not shy away from scrutinising the content of the channel, to continue to hold it and its CEO to account. Freedom of speech carries with it freedom to scrutinise. Let that scrutiny begin.
I’ll second that.