Saturday, October 11, 2008

Letter of Complaint to the Moral Maze

This is the letter to be sent to the producer of the Moral Maze. Please read it and if you would like to add your name then e-mail me at bradfordmuslimatyahoodotcodotuk with your name and city of residence such as 'Tony Cameron, London'. I will collect the names til Saturday 18 October after which I will send the letter.

Dear sir/madam,

We are writing to you about Melanie Phillips’ appearances as a panellist on Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. We believe that the decision to continue with Ms. Phillips as a panellist seriously undermines the credibility and authority of the programme. This is for several reasons which we will explain.

Ms. Phillips, it would be fair to say, is a controversial figure in the British media. This in itself is not problematic. What is problematic and damaging for the programme is if a panellist crosses the line of acceptability by pushing a range of discriminatory viewpoints. We would suggest that Ms. Phillips has done this recently in two ways which seriously undermines the integrity of The Moral Maze.

Our first concern relating to Ms. Phillips’ appearances centres on her disagreement with the British government’s counter-terrorism strategy which holds that the problem is with an ideological and distorted form of Islam, not Islam itself. Ms. Phillips wrote in The Daily Mail on 8 July of this year that

“[t]he Government believes that Islamic radicalism can be countered by teaching authentic Islam to Muslims. But since Islamic radicalism is based upon those very authentic religious precepts, this will undoubtedly have the effect of radicalising people who otherwise would never have thought in this way”.

This quotation, and its simple and lucid message, is in explicit contradiction to the following correction to an article written by Ms. Phillips for The Observer newspaper, dated May 26 2006:

“The extract below may have given the impression that Ms Phillips's book connects all British Muslims to a campaign of violence, whereas she stresses that the vast majority are peaceful and law-abiding. She also draws a distinction between Islam, which should be respected, and Islamism, which, she believes, is the use of that religion for violent ends”.

To put it simply, Ms. Phillips now believes that the problem is with authentic Islam itself.

Secondly, Ms. Phillips in the article on 8 July 2008 stated: “The reason so many older British Muslims are traditionally moderate is that they were brought up in the Asian subcontinent under a tamed form of Islam…” It is wild animals that are tamed or domesticated. This opinion is not only untrue, but also deeply offensive.

Our contention is that while it is perfectly acceptable for Ms. Phillips (or anyone else who shares such extreme and unpalatable views) to appear as a witness on The Moral Maze, it undermines the credibility of the programme when she appears as a panellist. Not only is it totally disenfranchising to Muslims like myself, it is actually unfair to a range of debates, some of which focus acutely on Islam, Muslims, multiculturalism and integration. This is especially true given that The Moral Maze does not have a Muslim panellist, has never had a Muslim panellist, and now includes an Asian panellist who has publicly stated that Islamophobia is a myth (Prospect Magazine, February 2005). We fund your programme through the license fee, but because of the way you have decided to structure your programme in content and design, we unfairly receive the returns of your work because of our faith.

How can a programme which spends a considerable amount of time discussing Muslims in Britain continue like this with one panelist who believes that Muslims should be tamed, another that Islamophobia is a myth and no actual Muslim representation? We contend that the way in which the programme is set up is unfair, offensive and discriminatory towards Muslims. What is your response?

Yours sincerely,

Andy Disgruntled, Tunbridge Wells;


Mark Damazer, Controller, Radio 4.

Roger Bolton, Feedback, Radio 4.