Saturday, December 20, 2008

A suggested response to the Moral Maze

I've put the following together as a response to the Moral Maze's letter in response to our initial complaint (see earlier posts). I'd appreciate any advice on this and if you would like to add your name to this letter that I will send them in early January then please e-mail me on bradfordmuslimatyahoodotcouk.

Dear Moral Maze,

Thank you for your response to our complaint about the appearance of Melanie Phillips and Kenan Malik on the Moral Maze. We raised the point with you that Melanie Phillips has called for the ‘taming’ of Muslims and that therefore we regarded your continued patronage of her as a panellist as unacceptable in that you are allowing her the privilege of state-sanctioned power. We also raised the point of Kenan Malik’s recent involvement in the Moral Maze. It saddens us that the first Asian that you have chosen as a panellist on the Moral Maze is someone who publicly asserts that anti-Muslim prejudice is severely exaggerated.

In your response, you stated:

a) That you have only covered Muslims and Islam on three occasions in the last two years.

b) That the programme achieves balance through the invitation of Muslims as witnesses.

c) That Melanie Phillips’s views were not broadcast by the BBC

We wish to take you to task on these three aspects of your response.

First of all, you have stated that the Moral Maze has only covered Muslims and Islam on three occasions in the last two years. You mention the Archbishop of Canterbury’s speech on the Sharia, the government’s approach to language in counter-terrorism and the counter-terrorism approach in general as three themes that have been covered. But this is the central ‘conceit’ of your programme and the fundamental moment in which you are discriminatory in the most powerful of ways against us. These moments are times of national debate and conversation: the debate is heated and serious and has huge consequences for everyone including us Muslims as the objects of this discussion. At this moment, you stage a debate in which you have empowered one person who holds extreme perspectives in this debate to act as a regular panellist – inquisitor – of us who have to represent ourselves, and can only represent ourselves, as witnesses. The closest analogy is the court, and because of the way you have set up the debate, we can only appear on one side of it. The side which is guilty or not guilty. The inquisitor is someone who has publicly stated that the problem is with our religion itself and that we should be ‘tamed’. You state in your response:

It is indeed true that at the moment we do not have a Muslim panellist on the programme, but that is not unfair, nor does it amount to discrimination against Muslims because when we do discuss subjects that affect Muslims in Britain, we have Muslim witnesses.

And in doing so, you miss the above point. You have set up a panel which is unfair and discriminatory towards us. We feel it strongly and are telling you that it is the case.

Secondly, while remaining on this first point. You have mentioned three occasions in the last couple of years in which you have directly discussed Islam and Muslims. But some of us remember that you have also discussed the legitimacy of torture at the end of the last season in which Melanie Phillips argued for the legality of torture as part of the war on terror. You have not included this programme in your list. It was around this time that Melanie Phillips called for the ‘taming’ of Muslims.

You have also only gone back to the beginning of 2007. We feel that it would be more appropriate to go back to 2001 and count the number of programmes that discuss Islam and Muslims and then the number of times that Melanie Phillips has participated in these programmes. We also feel that it would be more appropriate for an independent person to analyse the topics, indeed, we think it would be most appropriate for an independent person to conduct a discursive analysis on all of your programmes that have discussed Islam and Muslims since 2001 as this would provide the most objective and fair analysis of the data. We are willing to recommend some academics to you whom we regard as fair.

Combined, we are suggesting that the number of times that you have discussed us would be more than you suggest, and even if proven otherwise, the act of representation that is ‘The Moral Maze’ is not a matter to be belittled.

Finally, you state in brackets that Melanie Phillips did not broadcast her remark on ‘taming’ Muslims on the BBC. We remind you that the BBC cancelled ‘Kilroy’ because of Kilroy-Silk’s comments made about Arabs that were published elsewhere. So we do not hold to this point and wonder what BBC editorial policy is on this?

To conclude, we do not accept your points. We still regard your programme as discriminatory towards us, in fact your choice of Kenan Malik seems to confirm this. We certainly feel that your programme is unfair. But in the first instance, we wish to provide you with the opportunity to make the programme fairer than it is at present.

In summary:

We do not believe that your programme is balanced as a whole because of the power difference between the panellist and the witness.

We do not believe that you have accounted for the frequency of your coverage of matters that affect us directly as a community in the most transparent of ways.

We seek to call in an independent academic to study the programme since 2001.

We ask you to change the structure of the programme in order to make it fairer in its treatment of us.

We look forward to hearing from you,