Sunday 31 January 2016

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Questions?

Good grief, what a dispiriting programme The Big Questions was this morning! 

Live from a school in Bradford, with what Nicky Campbell promised would be a "lively" audience, an exclusively Muslim front-row panel engaged in "lively" discussion about Islam in Britain - and the 'big question' "Do we need a British Islam?" 

Yes, there were no non-Muslims on the front row, and no ex-Muslims either. It was Muslims all the way, thus significantly restricting the debate from the very start. 

It was voices of 'moderation' versus voices of 'extremism' from within one faith community, and even the bitterest opponents (and there was a lot of bitterness on display!) agreed on rather more than they should have done. 

I bet you can guess what it was like though: plenty of insults flying around, lots and lots (and lots) of angry people loudly talking across each another; lots of partisan clapping; a rude pair of eyes in a burqa playing the drama queen; that hefty chap from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee who's always on this kind of programme being unpleasant to other people; some Muslim Labour MP saying it's nothing to do with Islam; and Nicky, as ever, elegantly pirouetting around the floor like an enthusiastic conductor, enjoying himself.

That said, I don't think Nicky Campbell did a bad job and it was slightly heartening to see some people on the panel's determination to stand up to the bullying of the aggressive MPAC UK types. 

And, of course, thanks to the immigration policies of successive governments, we're going to be hearing many, many more such absurdly-heated debates for generations to come, whether we want to or not. 

Anyhow, for the record, here's who was invited onto the front row today:

Adam Deen, Quilliam Foundation
Sahar al-Faifi, geneticist and community organiser
Tehmina Kazi, British Muslims for Secular Democracy
Imam Fazal Dad, Abu Bakr Mosque, Bradford
Raza Nadim, Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK 
Yasmin Rehman, Centre for Secular Space
Nahid Rasool, Shantona Women's Centre, Leeds
Dr Afshin Shaki, Bradford University
Naz Shah MP, Labour, Bradford West
Muhbeen Hussain, founder, British Muslim Youth

And here's how Nicky Campbell framed the debate:
Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United Kingdom. The 2011 census found 2.75 million Muslims in the UK and their numbers are growing ten times as fast as the general British population. But there's as much divides as unites British Muslims. Their forebears came from very different parts of the world. Here in Bradford most Muslims originated from Pakistan. In the east end of London Bangladeshis predominate. But some emigrated here from the Caribbean or Arab countries or Africa or the Far East. And then there's the converts - 100,000 of them. Two-thirds of those are women. Now, what unites them all is where they live now: Britain. And some British Muslims are now asking if the time has come to develop a distinctly British version of Islam. So we have gathered together Muslim theologians, academics, social activists, scholars, campaigners and politicians to debate that idea.


  1. Anyone who knows anything about Islam knows that, in similar fashion to Christianity (but even more so), it claims to be a transnational, transtribe, transworld religion.

    All Islamic scholars of any note are agreed that Arabic is the language of the religion, that Sharia it its law and that Mohammed's example in every respect is perfect and should be followed by all men. The very BBC-like hope for a "British" Islam is hubristic nonsense.

  2. So now the goal is to get them to unite under Islam in Britain? So much for integration.....

  3. In related news:

    Muslim extremists' 'campaign of lies' to undermine the government's fight against terror

    Islamist activists linked to Cage, a group known to sympathise with terrorists, are using coordinated leaks to mainstream news organisations, including the BBC, to spread fear and confusion in Muslim communities about the Government’s anti-terror policy, Prevent.

    It's Andrew Gilligan on his hobby horse, so take it with a grain of salt, but there's something to it.

    1. That's definitely worth looking into. He suggests there are "corrections" on the BBC online reports about these stories. It would be interesting to track them down.

      If true (as it may well be), this would show very shoddy journalism from the original BBC reporters.

    2. If I may... that would show even more shoddy journalism from yet more BBC 'reporters'.

      At the moment the whole sorry edifice that is W1A seems a hive of misinformation on just about all topics.

  4. Anyone who watched (as I did) this programme, who wanted to find out about Islam, its moderate side and its radical side, would have come away (as I did) just as confused as before the programme started. The programme was ruined by the participants shouting over each other - particularly the women. The whole episode was a complete waste of time. The ONE impression I came away with was the oft-repeated "it's all the fault of everyone else and, certainly, not the followers of Islam. Typical BBC though; whilst there is a current debate about the appropriateness of wearing of the veil, what do they do? Have a woman in a veil - one of the loudest contributors too. A shameful programme.

    1. Sarah AB

      I think Adam Deen in particular (though I'm sure Tehmina and Yasmin either made such points or would have endorsed them) was very clear about the links between extreme views and traditional Islamic teaching - he instructed Sahar al-Faifi (who seems either ignorant or deeply disingenuous) about traditional positions on apostasy. So although what you say was true of some on the panel, it wasn't all like that.

  5. Fact to Fiction might describe quite a lot of what passes for news on the BBC.

  6. Surely a mistake here. No Salma Yacoob? Medhi Hasan-and, doubtless, no link to Supermax Colorado to get the views of Abu Hamza.
    The taqqiya house trained "Darb Al JIhad" are the same rag bag of snake-oil bully boys...and the BBC continues to feed them baby antelope in return for not getting the chop...well, not yet anyway-not until we`ve "had that conversation"...albeit in Arabic.


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