Saturday 3 October 2015

A very 'BBC' debate

Last night's The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 began with the sentencing of "a 15 year old [Muslim] boy from Blackburn" for plotting a terrorist attack in Australia. 

Presenter Razia Iqbal's coverage opened with a clip from the lawyer for the defendant's family, defending the boy's family. (They say lots of nice things and knew nothing, apparently.)

She then spoke to a Muslim criminologist from Birmingham City University, Imran Awan (whose self-described "expertise" is in "Islamophobia"). 

Razia's line of questioning focused on the length of the sentence, her voice projecting a sense of surprise at its severity.

Imran wants us to go back to the roots of the boy's "lone wolf behaviour". His research suggests "anger, perceived injustice, a sense of vengeance, or looking for identity and belonging" are why boys like this one "fall prey to" self-radicalisation.

Then came a lengthy extract from a hang-wringing BBC-hosted debate from the fringe of the Labour conference on the general issue of radicalisation and the UK government's policies on the issue, chaired by Owen Bennett Jones.

This was a depressing listen. 

The selected panellists were Labour MP Keith Vaz, Dr Afzal Ashraf of RUSI, Dr Evan Lawrence of Liverpool Hope University and Dr Usama Hasan of the Quilliam Foundation - a very 'BBC' gathering of guests. 

If you crudely divide them between (a) those who stuck to saying safe, Muslim-friendly things and (b) those who didn't....well, they fell 3:1 in favour of those saying safe, Muslim-friendly things (as you might well expect from a BBC debate). 

Only Usama Hasan dared to offend the audience - saying, for example, that "Islamophobia" is mainly caused by people's understandable reactions to Muslims committing large numbers of acts of terrorism, trying to chop people's heads off on the streets of Britain (and so on)...

The audience - yet another 'BBC audience'! - gave Usama Hasan (and only Usama Hasan) a hard time, heckling him, arguing with him, smearing him...

That audience - or at least the part of it that spoke during the debate (which might not be the same thing) - seemed to be almost entirely Muslim....

....and what a bunch of self-pitying, grievance-mongering British Muslims they were! 

Listen and weep! 

I like Owen Bennett Jones (his articles at the London Review of Books are one of that publication's high points), and due credit must be paid to him for stopping the audience from shouting Dr Hasan down. (OBJ genuinely appears to relish debate...unlike, it seems, much of his audience). 

What was that audience though, beyond the Muslims who spoke? Given that it was a Labour Party fringe debate, presumably it was mostly Labour Party activists? (Another one who spoke was a second Labour MP). 

It might have been more interesting if the BBC had organised two such debates - one at the Labour conference and one at this week's Conservative Party conference. Would there have been any significant difference? 

The whole thing was very BBC. Only Usama Hasan came anywhere near close to saying what most people here in the UK (which the British Broadcasting Corporation might be expected to speak for) actually think.


Update: Auntie Anita on Any Answers framed the 'Blackburn boy terrorist' story in a similar way to Razia Iqbal. Here are her exact words:
Also a 14 year old plans murder and mayhem overseas. Does he deserve to lose his liberty for the rest of his life? And what does such a sentence achieve?  To all extents and purposes he was a normal school boy going through the same system as our children. How do we stop the radicalisation of our young?


  1. What the? Government to introduce rules to stop 'political' boycotts

  2. Does he deserve to lose his liberty for the rest of his life?

    Of course that will never ever happen so the question is a bit silly. My nausea at the BBC's response to the upcoming release of Shaker Aamer from Gitmo will easily last the boy's minimum 5 year term.

  3. Plenty of time now to pursue a new found interest in horological matters.

    May even get an invite to No. 10, you never know. And the security would not dare check.

    May be fun to send a 15 yo youth with a close crop to w1A toting a briefcase and see what happens.


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