Saturday, October 04, 2008

More on Mel P, the Moral Maze and the BBC

I recently asked the BBC under a freedom of information request about the number of times Melanie Phillips has been on the Moral Maze since 2001, how many times she has spoken about Muslims and Islam and how much she has been paid to do so? I asked this question because I could not believe that the BBC - a tax-funded organisation - was paying someone who believes that Muslims should be tamed as 'we did in the Raj' and that the problem with Muslims is to do with Islam itself, not some ideological version of Islam.

She appears on 'The Moral Maze' which is one of BBC radio 4's main programmes tackling the critical issues of the week. Responding to the major moral dilemmas of the day, the programme invites numerous witnesses - usually people directly involved in the debate - to answer questions from a series of panellists. Melanie Phillips is one of these panellists. This puts her into a tax-funded position of authority and because many of the debates and programmes since 2001 have been about Muslims, she has been placed in a position of authority in these debates by the BBC. But Muslims are tax payers too. Muslims have never appeared (as far as I know) on the Moral Maze as panellists but we have appeared as witnesses, numerous times. So in this court of public opinion, the BBC has decided to set up a situation in which we are regularly judged upon but can never take part in (be integrated into) the judgement making. This is while the BBC has run presumably thousands of stories over the years about 'the lack of integration of Muslims', alas, if only they could see the beam in their own collective eye. I will return to this cultural beam later.

Muslims are tax payers too, and the BBC in its wisdom has refused to answer my questions on how many times she has appeared, has spoken in a position of authority on Islam and Muslims and how much she has been paid. The Daily Mail - for which Melanie Philips writes - recently complained about Alistair Campbell being paid by the BBC, insiders estimate that he has been paid £50,000 by the BBC over the last two years. Well, since the BBC won't tell me how much Melanie Phillips has been paid over the last seven years, I am going to guess. I guess that a nationally syndicated journalist appearing as a panellist on a flagship programme for radio 4 at peak times for about an hour is paid about £1,000 per programme. There are approximately forty Moral Mazes per year, so that's £40,000 per year. This is then multiplied by seven so that's £280,000 since 2001 from tax payer's money. It's a guess, so it could be more than this and it could be less than this. I believe though that this guess is wrong and that we have the right to know since she she publicly calls for taming people like me, changing the way I practise my religion and the legitimacy of torture. I call for a collective complaint against the Moral Maze by Muslims of all professions and persuasions. It is not acceptable that the BBC uses tax payer's money to put someone into a position of authority like this. Those who would like to be a part of this, please get in touch with me. Many Muslims I know get very upset by stories that they hear about torture carried out by US forces such as the alleged torture of Aafia Siddiqui, well, Melanie Phillips argues that it is legitimate as she has recently done on the Moral Maze.

As if to make matters worse and to prove the point, radio 4's Moral Maze decided to invite an Asian person on as a panellist: Kenan Malik, who has recently started. Kenan Malik is only really involved in one debate in this country and that is the 'race and multiculturalism' debate. He also has a healthy interest in Muslims, though is not far as as I am aware a Muslim. In fact, his involvement in this debate includes a programme for Channel 4 (a channel which was created to make cultural space for Britian's minorities!) on - wait for it - 'the Islamophobia myth'. Kenan Malik wrote this week for the Guardian in which he suggested that Muslims should put up with the pain of being offended. This is the multicultural addition to the Moral Maze, a brilliant example of the assimilationist ethic at work.

Anyway, in this article, Malik refers to numerous examples of self-censorship at work. What surprised me, and I suppose didn't surprise me, was the number of instances of anti-Muslim representation in culture - which if one treats culture as some form of organism shows that anti-Muslim representation is alive and well, whether it is open or not. Is this important? Of course it is. Is someone seriously suggesting that culture and violence are not related?

Anyway, back to the complaint. If you would like to contribute to a letter to the BBC Trust and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which funds the BBC against the Moral Maze then please get in touch with me. The Moral Maze has no credibility in Muslim eyes and it is time for it to change.

You should also keep in mind that another section of the BBC is at present being investigated for anti-Muslim bias by Stephen Whittle. I would suggest that anti-Muslim bias is not solely located within one department. The Moral Maze and radio 4 may retort that there are no middle class Muslims who are capable enough to take part in these debates. The Guardian has proved this to be a lie through its Comment is Free pages which have allowed many Muslims to enter into debates which affect them and argue their corner in fair terms. The Guardian, though it is not tax-funded, is fairer than the BBC in this regard. I am sure that if the BBC tries hard enough, may be even trains a few people, it will find that there are people out there who can step into these positions. This is after all the great lie in the freedom of speech debate. Freedom of speech without the power and ability to get your point across is of no use to anyone. Kenan Malik may complain of a lack of free speech, but it is he who occupies a position of power in a debate that affects others.