Ofcom vs Islam Channel

Islam Channel criticised for offensive preaching

9th November

The Islam Channel takes a Caning...

Ofcom unimpressed by wife beating advice

The Islam Channel, 18 May 2008
Muslimah Dilemma
The Islam Channel, 12 April 2009
The Islam Channel, 30 October 2009

The Islam Channel is a specialist religious channel that broadcasts on the Sky digital satellite platform and is directed at a largely Muslim audience in the UK. Its output ranges from religious instruction programmes to current affairs and documentary programmes.

In March 2010, the Quilliam Foundation, which describes itself as a “counter-extremism” think-tank, published a report De-programming British Muslims – (the Quilliam Report).

The Quilliam Report was an analysis of the output of a range of the Islam Channel's output over a number of months, looking in particular at various religious and political programmes broadcast in 2008 and 2009.

The Quilliam Report made a number of allegations about compliance of the Islam Channel with the Code. In Ofcom's view, some of these allegations raised potential issues under the Code as regards harm and offence. Ofcom therefore requested recordings of the relevant material relating to a small number of programmes. Having watched the output, Ofcom decided to investigate the three programmes in relation to harm and offence issues .

In these programmes the presenters and their guests all spoke in English.

IslamiQa is a phone-in programme where viewers pose the presenter questions, by telephone, asking for religious-based advice on a range of issues. In this particular programme, we noted a telephone call from a female caller asking:

If your husband is hitting you, do you have the right to hit him back?

As part of his response back to this caller, the presenter, Sheikh Abdul Majid Ali, gave the following advice:

And as far as the hitting is concerned, in Islam we have no right to hit the woman in a way that damages her eye or damages her tooth or damages her face or makes her ugly. Maximum what you can do, you can see the pen over here, in my hand, this kind of a stick can be used just to make her feel that you are not happy with her. That's the only maximum that you can do, just to make her understand. Otherwise your husband has no right to hit you that way and at the same time even if he has done that, may Allah forgive him.

Muslimah Dilemma is a discussion programme considering issues from an Islamic perspective. We noted that in this programme, the issue of sexual relations within marriage was discussed. We noted that during the programme, a guest, Nazreen Nawaz, who was being interviewed, made the following statements:

And really the idea that a woman cannot refuse her husband's [sexual] relations – this is not strange to a Muslim because it is part of maintaining that strong marriage. In fact it is a bit strange, the converse is strange. To refuse relations would harm a marriage.

But it shouldn't be such a big problem where the man feels he has to force himself upon the woman because the understanding should be created within the system through the implementation of all the laws of Islam, that…marriage is about seeking tranquillity, it's about harmony that should be in the mind of the man and the woman alike.

In another edition of IslamiQa the issue of women wearing perfume was discussed. We noted that during this programme, the presenter, Sheikh Abdul Majid Ali, received a telephone call from a female caller asking:

You know when you buy perfume, some have alcohol in it. Is it OK…when you pray while you have the cream on?

As part of his response back to this caller, the presenter gave the following advice:

But, when it comes to the woman using the perfume, then we have to be very, very careful. A woman is allowed to use perfume only for her husband. Woman – if she goes out, from her house – applying – wearing perfume. And even if she goes to the Masjid [mosque] to pray, and her smell of the perfume is smelt by the strangers. Non-Mahram. Opposite sex people. Then she is declared as a prostitute by Rasool Allah [the Prophet Mohammed].

Ofcom considered Rule 2.3 of the Code, which states: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.

Ofcom Decision: In breach of the code

IslamiQa re wife beating

Ofcom notes that at no point did the presenter clearly state on air that he did not condone or encourage violence towards women under any circumstances – which Islam Channel has informed Ofcom is its formal stance on this issue. Ofcom considered that the presenter did therefore give advice to viewers that it was permissible for a husband to physically punish his wife, even though according to the broadcaster it was to be only in certain circumstances, and undertaken with restraint, Ofcom Broadcast Bulletin, Issue 169 8 November 2010 14 and even if the language used by the presenter could be perceived by some as relatively mild. In Ofcom.s opinion, the advocacy of any form of violence (however limited), as happened in this particular case, is not acceptable and would be offensive to many in the audience.

Ofcom considered that it was highly likely that any advocacy and support of any form of domestic violence would be offensive. This was particularly the case given that domestic violence is potentially criminal under UK law.9

The programme was therefore in breach of Rule 2.3.

Muslimah Dilemma re marital rape

We considered that the views expressed in the programme concerning marital relations might have suggested to many in the audience that it would be permissible for a husband to oblige his wife to have sexual relations against her will, whether or not he used some form of threat of violence. This would have had the potential to cause offence.

Further Ofcom considered that this offensive material could not be justified by the context. This was due the lack of any mediating or counteracting views within the programme to Nazreen Nawaz.s opinions on marital relations, and in particular the lack of any unequivocal condemnation of the view that a husband has the right to force a wife to have sexual relations against her will.

Ofcom was of the view that the broadcaster failed to apply generally accepted standards and that the offensive content referred to above could not be justified by the context. Ofcom considered that it was highly likely that any advocacy and support at all of forced sexual relations would be offensive. This was particularly the case given that forced sexual relations within marriage is potentially criminal under UK law.

The programme was therefore in breach of Rule 2.3.

IslamiQa re perfume

Ofcom remained of the view that the broadcaster failed to apply generally accepted standards and the offensive content referred to above could not be justified by the context. Ofcom considered that it would be likely that the labelling of a woman as a prostitute for the act of the wearing of perfume in various public places would be highly offensive.

Further Ofcom considered that this offensive material could not be justified by the context, because for example: of the lack of any mediating or counteracting views or comments to the presenter's remarks; and the fact that there was the potential for the term prostitute to be considered pejorative abuse rather than a comment grounded in religious teaching, given the lack of what appears to be clear theological backing for the remark from Islamic sacred texts.

We therefore considered that the programme was in breach of Rule 2.3.


16th November

Update: Islam Channel Appeal...

Islam channel to defend its wife beating advice against censure from Ofcom

The Islam Channel is planning to appeal against Ofcom's ruling that the satellite TV network breached the regulator's broadcasting code for advocating marital rape and violence against women.

Five programmes were judged in breach of Ofcom's broadcasting code.

Islam Channel was censured for breaching impartiality rules in programmes on the Middle East conflict and for programmes appearing to advocate marital rape, violence against women and describing women who wore perfume outside of the home as prostitutes .

Ofcom launched its investigation into Islam Channel programmes in March, following a report by the Quilliam Foundation thinktank accusing the broadcaster of regularly promoting extremist views and regressive attitudes towards women.

The Islam Channel today said it will request a review of all five Ofcom rulings, claiming it must have been particularly difficult for the TV censor to make an objective judgment about the broadcaster's output given the media frenzy and sensationalist headlines that surrounded the Quilliam report earlier this year.

Ofcom has called in Islam Channel management for a top-level meeting to explain its compliance processes in relation to the broadcasting code.


31st December

Comment: Due Impartiality...

Ofcom rejects appeal from the Islam Channel over censure of TV discussions about Gaza

TV censor Ofcom has rejected an appeal by the Islam Channel over its coverage of Israel.

The English-language satellite station had challenged a ruling last year that it breached Ofcom's broadcasting code in two programmes which discussed Israel's conduct in Gaza.

But Ofcom's broadcasting review committee, in a decision published this month, stated that the London-based channel had failed to maintain an adequate and appropriate level of impartiality .

The committee noted the channel's difficulties in finding guests to represent the Israeli government viewpoint. But it went on: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, however, a matter of political controversy and the Islam Channel... was therefore obliged to ensure some discussion of the policies and actions of the Israeli government which represented its viewpoint.

The two programmes under scrutiny were an edition of Umma Talk , broadcast on October 14 2009, and an edition of Politics and Beyond. The subject was the Israeli blockade of the peace flotilla to Gaza.

The Ofcom review committee said that the Islam Channel was required to ensure that alternative viewpoints are adequately represented . Although the channel's breaches of the broadcasting code were not serious enough to merit a statutory sanction , it was considered appropriate for the Islam Channel to be invited to attend a meeting with Ofcom , to discuss how to improve its compliance with impartiality rules.

Update: Ofcom's response warrants closer examination

31st December 2011. From Alan

Israel illegally occupies adjoining territory, starting when I was an undergraduate and going on as I prepare to collect my pension.

Muslim Channel understandably wants to comment on this state of affairs, but must impartially show Israeli viewpoint. If the channel invites Israeli government spokesman to appear, the latter can effectively censor the progamme by refusing to turn up.

Barmy or what?


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