A common bugbear of commenters across sites and threads critical of the BBC is the way the BBC uses the word 'Asians' when reporting crimes, misdemeanours and other kinds of anti-social behaviour perpetrated by members of the Islamic community in the United Kingdom.
Reading around the internet suggests that this is an issue which some Sikhs, among others, also feel strongly about.
A detailed complaint to the BBC was posted on the Sikh internet forum Sikhsangat.com in 2009, and remains topical. It covered many concerns, among them this very issue, and makes for very interesting reading. Here's the relevant extract:
http://news.bbc.co.u...nds/8191833.stm [last accessed 29th October 2009] The link above refers to arrests made at the anti Islamic protest. The following is a quote from the article:
“I thought they were just football fans, but then a larger group of black and Asian people turned up and it all kicked off.”
Notice the term black and ‘Asian’ is used to refer to predominantly Islamic youth. There are a number of images and video footage taken at this event [widely available on the internet and YouTube] all showing the vast majority of heated youth were in fact Muslim. The BBC news article went on to quote:
“You had people burning the Union flag. People were being kicked - some of them weren't anything to do with the protests”Here, ‘Blacks’ and ‘Asians’ are further reported to have attacked white shoppers at the Bullring shopping complex in Birmingham. It is unfair and against the favour of all Asians (and the Black community) to camouflage a significantly Muslim issue as an Asian issue.
Further supporting the argument of loose reporting from the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.u.../uk/8328743.stm [last accessed 26th October 2009]
Is a BBC news article in reference to the Gaza protests in January stating:“A branch of Starbucks coffee shop was looted and items including coffee mugs thrown at police."Again it is evident to note there is numerous video footage available on news websites and YouTube covering this incident. It is abundantly clear that Starbucks windows were getting smashed in by Muslim youth wearing traditional Saudi Arabian attire, some with Islamic/Arabic themed bandanas on their heads and others wrapped in Pakistan’s Islamic flags. In some videos you can hear Muslim youth shouting:“Allah hu Akbar”.These are certainly not representatives of the wider Asian community. Despite these facts the BBC still failed to mention these protesters as essentially being Muslim protesters causing thousands of pounds worth of damages in addition to numerous injuries.
In 2005 the BBC covered a story on an offensive play ‘Bezti’. There were several protests by members of the Sikh community who were requesting for Sikh artefacts to be respected on site, whilst other Sikhs requested for the setting to be changed from a Gurdwara [Sikh place of worship] to a community centre. The protesters had support from religious representatives across all faiths. After several nights of peaceful protests, on a Saturday night, drunken youth of non-Sikh identity, disturbed the peaceful protesting and stormed the Birmingham Rep theatre. The BBC did not hesitate in broadcasting head lines such as: ‘Theatre stormed in Sikh protest’: http://news.bbc.co.u...nds/4107437.stm [last accessed 29th October 2009]. Unfair references were also made in other BBC news reports such as ‘damaged in a protest by Sikhs over a play’ http://news.bbc.co.u...nds/4109711.stm [last accessed 29th October 2009]. This statement was later retracted when the issue lost focus.
The BBC did not broadcast “Asians stormed theatre” as this would have been the case if members of the Islamic community were involved. The headline ‘Anti-Racist protest’ could also have been used and would equally have sufficed after all this is the approach taken by the BBC when covering protests concerning the Islamic Community (i.e.: the ‘Gaza Protest’ headline). Not a single BBC article covered “Starbucks stormed in Muslim Protest”. The BBC deemed it appropriate not to expose Muslim youth who committed the attack, and merely mentioned the attack in passing within the Gaza protest article. In comparison to the Bezti article, not only did the BBC state that Sikhs stormed the theatre; the BBC deliberately constructed this as the headline.
http://news.bbc.co.u...nds/8261027.stm [last accessed 29th October 2009] above is a BBC news article covering conflict between the EDL and Muslims… or does it? The following is a quotation taken from the article:
"The EDL has been involved in running battles with young Asian youths on Birmingham's streets."EDL is against Islamic extremism not Asians! To say conflict is between EDL and members of the Islamic community is much more appropriate and factual as opposed to portraying conflict being between the EDL and Asian youths as a whole. Such spin on recent events is rather misleading at minimum.http://news.bbc.co.u...ter/8226762.stm [last accessed 26th October 2009] http://news.bbc.co.u...ter/8226968.stm [last accessed 26th October 2009]Above are two BBC links referring to Munshur Ali aged 22 who was sentenced for repeatedly raping two 13 year old white girls in a Church car park. Often Munshur Ali is pictured with a trimmed Islamic style beard. There are two obvious religious elements in this incident, the religious appearance of the individual and the rapes themselves taking place underneath the shade of a Church. Despite this, the BBC did not mention the words Islamic, Islam or Muslim anywhere in the two articles published.
http://news.bbc.co.u.../uk/8326550.stm [last accessed 29th October 2009]
The link above is a BBC article detailing how three men deny being a part of a conspiracy to launch terrorist attacks. Two of the men have Islamic beards showing their alliance to the Islamic faith. Islamic terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda have also been mentioned in the article. Once again, despite the undeniable issue of religion being central to the incident, the BBC article refused to mention the words Islamic, Islam or Muslim anywhere.
http://news.bbc.co.u...rts/7935049.stm [last accessed 29th October 2009] The link above is a BBC article covering a topic particularly sensitive to most British people. 200 British soldiers marched through Bedfordshire to be confronted by Muslims holding placards displaying messages such as:“Anglian Soldiers Go to Hell" and "Butchers of Basra".This article referred to the Muslims as being “anti war protesters”. Again key terms such as ‘Muslim community’ and ‘Islamic community’ are simply brushed aside. If you examine the video in the link above and other videos on the internet you can see that every person protesting are all Muslims. Many of them wearing the Saudi attire and wearing Kufi’s [religious Muslim style hats]. Furthermore, EVERY woman partaking in the protesting [positioned behind the men] were covered from head to toe in burkas [Islamic clothing].Other footage covering the event available on news sites and Youtube objectively show another perspective, one where the British crowds warmly welcome the soldiers amongst which practising Sikhs [visibly representing their faith] are shown in appreciation. This was particularly noticed and appreciated by the general British public who expanded on this point through British websites and other forums on the internet. Please note that members of the Islamic community were not present in support.
|'Asians' protesting outside the Israeli Embassy, London, Jan 2009|
In addition to this the following non-BBC news article positively highlights the attitudes of most Sikh citizens towards British Soldiers: http://www.emgonline...s.php?news=7631 [last accessed 1st November 2009] It is on this basis I would like to emphasise that the term ‘Asian’ should not be used inappropriately as the BBC has done in a number of places including live broadcasts and internet news articles. Evidently the word Asian is being wrongly and tactically used by the BBC when addressing some members of the Islamic community to suit their own agendas.
I would not expect the BBC to acknowledge an event [such as the www.emgonline.co.uk link above] because Sikhs are only distinguished from other communities [Asian] when the BBC are executing a U-turn with a focus for negative reporting. In example, the BBC recently reported a case of rape labelling so called Sikhs as the offenders. The BBC viewed it essential to highlight the offenders as specifically being Sikhs which is evident in the following video report:
http://news.bbc.co.u...ast/8311429.stm [last accessed 27th October 2009] The following quotes are stated:
“her extended Sikh family that robbed her of her childhood”…and “…sentenced the three Sikh men…”Here, the BBC did not refer to the offenders as being members from the ‘Asian’ community as they have done with Muslim offenders as proven above. The term Sikh is used unnecessarily to describe the ‘family that robbed her of her childhood’ and the men receiving their prison sentence. Why it is that Sikhs have been associated so strongly with this disturbing incident of family rape? In the previous BBC news articles I have sited, the religious backgrounds of the Islamic criminals have never been stated. In this incident there has been no indication to say the criminals were motivated by any tenants of the Sikh faith either. This is an incident which has deeply saddened and shocked the Sikh community, as I am sure it did most of the UK. The victim does have every right to express her opinion and views however she wishes and from her own perspective. However, the angle of news reporting in this video does raise further questions because at one point the reporter stated:“the young woman said she’s been ostracised by the Sikh community”yet when the victim was speaking she did not mention the word Sikh once. The Sikh community would like to know:-Was there any specific Sikh Gurdwara or community centre involved?-Was the victim ostracised by practising Sikh community or the ‘Asian’ community?- How was the victim ostracised by the Sikh community?These concerns are incredibly important because the term ‘Sikh’ has been brought to focus 3 times in the video report, which suggests the blame lies in the Sikh community.According to the United Sikhs organisation based in London, the Sikh emblem [Khanda] was depicted within the BBC’s news report covering this case of rape, directly linking the Sikh faith to the crime. To date the BBC have not provided any comment or explanation in regards to this issue.
The BBC have blatantly targeted the Sikh religion in this article prompting the viewer to unfairly cast doubt and suspicion on the Sikh way of life itself. This is completely unacceptable to say the least. When there is an article that involves Muslims planning acts of terrorism, Muslims raping two teens in a religious setting, Muslim youth smashing a Starbucks coffee shop and the list goes on the BBC simply refuse to acknowledge that the criminals in question are from Islamic and even Pakistani backgrounds – even though a majority of the time Islamic issues are often the foundation of these incidents.
Among the questions to the BBC at the end of the complaint come these, both of which sum up the essence of the author's complaint:
- When some members of the Islamic community orchestrate disorder in the UK, why are they referred to as Asians?
- Why did the BBC wrongly tie and promote the storming of the Birmingham Rep theatre to the Sikh Community when they hide the fact Muslims stormed Starbucks in the Gala protest?
The BBC Complaints Department response to Mr. Singh avoided the specifics and included the following explanation as to why they use the term 'Asians' in this way:
Impartiality is the key consideration in the minds of all our programme makers and we ensure that all our staff are aware of this commitment so as to allow us to deliver fair and balanced output. We'd never seek to weight our coverage of any issue towards any particular group or interest, rather we strive to present the facts and allow our audience to make up their own minds.
I assure you that in no way is our use of the term "Asian" intended to be disparaging towards any group of people, rather we feel this is a term that the majority of our audience use to describe Muslims.
As a public service broadcaster we've an obligation to reflect our audience as much a possible, and this includes using the language in use in every day life. No offence is intended by the use of the word and I regret any you may've been caused at any stage.
Mr. Singh's comment in response chimes with my own:
I do not believe the term ‘Asian’ is ‘a term that the majority of our audience use to describe Muslims’ as the BBC put it. Asian’s are people of the continent of Asia (who belong to a huge number of faith groups) including China, India, Hong Kong, Korea, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia Thailand, etc etc.
Indeed. Whether the term 'Asian' is a "a term that the majority of [the BBC's] audience use to describe Muslims", I very much doubt. I would certainly hope not, as it would show great ignorance. Many Muslims are African after all. The word 'Asian' covers such a huge and diverse number of countries, peoples and cultures and its use by the BBC in such contexts risks tarring them all with the same brush, breeding distrust of blameless communities. It is surely less potentially misleading to specify which community is in the news - whether that be by nationality or religion?
Other than being over-sensitive to the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities and Muslims in general, I can't think why else the BBC would keep on doing this. Unless you buy the "we feel this is a term that the majority of our audience use to describe Muslims...and we've an obligation to reflect our audience" line, what other explanation could there be?