The Cowardly British Media


At the tail end of last year there was an incident where students at the London School of Economics (LSE) were asked (forced even?) to cover up their T shirts during a freshers fair because they depicted images from the Jesus and Mo cartoon. Apparently the images could be construed as offensive and radical Muslims have been known to react violently when images of their prophet are publicly displayed (

The incident at the LSE made national headlines and the LSE apologised to the students concerned ( That wasn’t the end of it though, the ripples continued when Muslim Maajid Nawaz tweeted a Jesus and Mo cartoon stating that it didn’t offend him ( He appeared on the BBC show The Big Questions, where he reiterated his comments and reinforced his position that he is defending his religion from the loud radicals. The show is not available on the BBC site, but is on his own site (

It is at this point that the press show their yellow colours. BBC News and Channel 4 News each showed clips from the show, which featured wearers of the same T shirts. Both organisations blurred out the Mo image and claimed they were doing it out of sensitivity and desire to not offend. Each framed their actions as though they were doing an honourable thing. When I heard that explanation, my mind immediately went back to when the BBC received a bucket load of complaints about the Jerry Springer opera ( Back then the BBC did not back down and insisted they had a right to air the show as it was a cultural commentary. I was a Christian then and despite not seeing it, I argued against it because I held the view that the show intentionally meant to offend Christians. I did not go so far as to be one of the thousands who complained officially, but I did think there was an argument to be had. So far as I am aware, no Christians went out and killed anyone over it, or publicly threatened to, a detail which marks the event as different to that of Muslims and the publishing of the Mohammad image.

Oh how times have changed.

I suspect that if the Jerry Springer Opera were to be happening now, the BBC would still go ahead because what is really going on here is that death threats and murder has actually made some organisations to become cautious about what they publish and have by default allowed the bullies and the scoundrels to get their way. The problem with this is that it gives the message that this is a good method of getting your own way and will only encourage similar action again.

What bothers me more is that it is often reported that displaying the image of Mohammad is contrary to Islamic law, well the last time I checked, this country was not answerable to Islamic law. What is happening here is that bullies and radicals are forcing their own laws into a foreign culture through threat and violence, while also using the same tactics in their own land to force visitors to abide by their own existing laws. This is an imbalance and one that needs to be resisted and the BBC and Channel 4 should be ashamed of themselves for being so cowardly.

The creator of Jesus and Mo has a good retort to the recent events (

I also like what the Richard Dawkins Foundation has to say on the matter (

For those who which to buy a Jesus and Mo T shirt here:



Dieing with Religion

An article on the BBC News website caught my eye today, ( Its basically about a Muslim family who want to force the hospital, where the father is very ill, to resuscitate him. Watching a very ill parent lie immobile on bed, struggling to breath and incapable of any self-motion is considerably distressing.

I remember seeing my mother ill with cancer, struggling to breath and no longer able to feed herself, let alone make it off the bed and round the house. Its horrible and oh how I wanted to see her back to her old healthy self again. I hated seeing her like that, yet I also wanted her to cling to life for as long as possible. I wasn’t ready to let her go then and in many ways I am still not, four years later.

So I sympathise with the family concerned.

Yet, I am also concerned about the message they are sending through this action. Their statement is that under Islam, they believe that you prolong life. I imagine this is a sentiment that many Christians would agree with, one I am sure I would have too. Still do in many ways. However, is this actually life they are seeking to prolong? What life is it they seek? They certainly are not going to get their father back, no matter how long they keep his body breathing and his heart beating? While I will readily accept that I am in no way a knowledgeable person on Islam and what it teaches. I do find myself asking the question “does Islam really teach that we must do all we can to prevent a body from physically dying, even when the person inside has no active part to play in life?”.

There is a time for everything; we all must die someday, it would appear that the time is nigh for this gentleman. It is sad, at 55 he is not old by today’s standards and he is younger than my mother was when she passed. Its sad that people do still fall ill and die at that age, there is always a family grieving a loved one who was taken from them way too young.

What concerns me most about this case is that there is a subtle message here that places this Muslim family, during what should be a private time, in the public eye because they are being denied a religious right by the big evil state. The cynic in me wonders if this is intentional, to create unhelpful headlines elsewhere in the world when the story gets repeated with a pro-Islam slant. I hope its not true, but we live in a time of constant suspicion of motive and second guessing.

The spokesperson who is quoted gets it right when they say that it is prolongation of death and lack of dignity. This was something I had to come to terms with after Mum died, the three or four years she bravely fought the cancer started off hopeful and got progressively more desperate. There have times since when I have genuinely wondered if it would have been better for everyone if the cancer treatment had never been given and death be allowed to come swiftly. Those years were a long death, with much pain and sadness. The false hope created by each new treatment made the come down on the realisation of the truth even more painful. Dignity was most certainly not increased and her barely breathing unconscious body had none. Resistance really was futile.

I hope this family comes to terms with their loss and does not feel bitter afterwards because of this action. That would likely taint the memory of a loved father in a way that is not helpful.

The Life of Mohammad

The BBC recently ran a series about the life of the Islamic prophet, Mohammad ( This is something I was very interested in watching as I had previously not had very much knowledge of the man or his influence.

I was expecting the programme to result in me having genuine reason to dislike him. The main reason for this is that previous descriptions of him that I have heard include the words; raider, polygamist and paedophile. Not words you’d want to have associated with any prophet.

The programme was very different though and did not portray Mohammad as the monster I was expecting. It was obvious that all those being interviewed held a respect for the man and his values that was more than just skin deep. I’d even go so far as to say that some held a reverence like respect for his legacy.

However, there is a caveat to that glowing praise. The presenter and producer appear to be Muslim and the majority of those interviewed were also Muslim. There were a couple of others who had written about Mohammad and they included a couple of Anglican Reverends and a Jewish leader (Priest?). There was no one who was an obvious atheist. The result is that I am left with a feeling that the whole programme was somewhat biased in favour of the prophet.

Impressions from the Programme

That said, I still watched all three episodes and found them informative and interesting. Even if I had no way of telling how much was left out or how much spin was being employed.

There are a few things that stood out for me from the programme. The most obvious one being the revelations that he had; they all seemed to be just the right thing at just the right time and to my sceptical mind it smacked of a man who was making things up to suit him and his continued establishment of power. At no point at all was anyone else the recipient of these revelations, it was only him. This seemed far too convenient and to me does not constitute satisfactory evidence of a man of God (or Allah), quite the opposite in fact.

Inclusive, ecumenical and respectful.

Mohammad’s early adult life seemed to be one that very few modern critics of Islam would recognise. Women were apparently valued as equals and respected and other religions were accommodated and given equal validity too. Those who look at modern Islam and see the oppression of women and the desire to be the dominating religion and a special zeal to eradicate Jews would not recognise the young religion that was growing during Mohammad’s lifetime.

In fact, all the commentators agreed that the modern activities of extremist Muslims were not in accordance with Mohammad’s legacy or the words of the Koran.

The Covering up of Women

The origin of Muslim women covering up was traced to an instruction by Mohammad to his wives to cover their whole bodies. I can’t remember the exact reasons given in the programme, but it was an instruction for a specific reason in the context of a specific situation at that time. The modern following of it seems utterly ridiculous and irrelevant. I can’t help but be reminded of the Christian Church’s issue with women and head coverings.

What a Young Wife to Have

Among the most uncomfortable issues to get brought up was that of one of his wives, promised in marriage at very young and still young when finally married. Some narratives place her age at 9, while others put her as a teenager. One commentator said that it was his belief that she was 16 or 17. Either way, it was a very young bride for a man close to 50.

I don’t know how I feel about this revelation really. Obviously by modern standards its not acceptable, but in the context of that time when an older man would take more than one wife and some very young, is it right that we should judge them by our standards today? If she really was as young as 9, then it is an act that can’t be defended well; even then, I don’t think he would have been alone in doing such a thing. If the culture of the time habitually did that then his actions should be seen in that context.

The Killing of the Jews

There was another major keystone event in the life of Mohammad; that of an act of war where he slaughtered the men from a tribe of Jews when they sided with his enemies.

The bigger story here is that these were Jews who had an agreement with him to help and assist him. The Jews in question saw a chance to usurp his leadership when he was busy defending from other attackers. The plan failed and punishment was exacted.

A Jew interviewed for the programme called it the first holocaust, which I think is a bit rich frankly. The slaughter was a clear punishment for a specific act that could easily be called treachery. It was not a specific attempt to rid the area of Jews. I think Jews who take the holocaust stance on this event should go and read about what the Israelites did in some of their battles in the Old Testament.


Having watched the programmes, I am not sure exactly how accurate much of the information was; but I now have some information with which to form a view of Mohammad.

I think he was a leader with ideals around personal integrity that people today would recognise as decent. He was one of several religious leaders in the area who were all fighting for greater boundaries of power. As such his personal ideals clashed with a greater desire and being a leader with growing power resulted in some of those ideals being sidelined when it suited.

I certainly don’t believe Mohammad was anything special, I was just one of many leaders, he was just the one that got lucky. I also don’t believe that he was the horrid despot that others would say he was.

The Islam that I see today in the news does not seem to bare any resemblance to the Islam that Mohammad was trying to practice in his day and that does seem to be a very real shame.

Islam and Evolution

In recent weeks there has been a bit of a buzz in the press (National, Scientific, Sceptic and Religious) about an Islamic Imam by the name of Dr Usama Hasan.

In summary, Dr Usama Hasan recently gave a talk at the Mosque he holds a his position at about Evolution. During the talk some of what he said was objected to and discussion got a little heated. In the argument and counter-argument that followed the Dr has cancelled a further appearance and a retraction has been published on his behalf.

For The Independent’s take on the story see here:

Now I have just spent an hour or so reading some of what is being said on the subject.

The national press are reporting that deaths threats were made against Dr Usama Hasan and the retraction and subsequent cancellation are in response to those death threats. The finger of blame is pointed at Saudi Muslims.

One thing that occurred to me when reading this is that whenever we get stories of Muslims being unreasonable in the UK press, there is always a reminder that Saudi Muslims practice a stricter version of Islam than that which we see on our fair shores. So the Saudi link is not surprising, but equally I feel concerned that its also not proven. It also feels a little bit like we are being intentionally fed information that leads us to distrust anything that is Muslim, especially that which is associated with Saudi Arabia and its neighbours. However, since my knowledge is limited further speculation from me on that would be ill advised, especially as I am not one to pander to conspiracy theories, its far more likely to be sloppy journalism, of which there are many examples.

The scientific and sceptic press and commentary takes a predictable line. They praise the Imam for his open stance to scientific evidence and hold him up as an example of enlightened religiosity. This praise is quickly followed by disgust at the closed minded individuals who shouted down this poor man who was only telling the truth and has suffered death threats and infamy as a result.

Religious comment is the most interesting. Christian comments are mainly along the lines of support for the moderate Imam.

It’s the comments from and among Muslims that are the most polarised and in some way bothered me about the whole affair. A brief run down of the type of comment I have read is as follows:

  • There were no death threats, its been blown out of proportion to create a stir
  • The biggest trouble actually came from white British Muslim converts
  • The fact the Christians support him proves his is a problem
  • Evolution is a lie and Dr Usama Hasan should be removed from his post
  • Dr Usama Hasan actually started the fracas by insulting his audience

The most striking thing for me on reading some Muslim blogs was the assertion of the creation of Adam from clay. Being from a Christian background and having never paid any attention to Islam, when I read things on Islamic forums that echo my Christian knowledge it makes me stop and ponder on just how much is shared between the two.

On the flip side, it is also concerning that Muslims share the same distrust of Christians that I did of Muslims as a Christian. I guess that should not surprise me, but its still concerning. There is probably much more common ground between the two religions that they are each prepared to admit.

What was the more enlightening was just how many Muslim blogs and comments there were expounding the notion that Evolution is a lie and that any Imam who teaches it should be removed form his post. The accusations aimed at him regarding his Muslim faith were much fiercer than I have ever seen aimed at a Christian church leader.

While its foolish to assume that the blog comment proportions accurately reflect the Muslim populace, there were still far more Muslim comments refuting evolution than there were defending it. In fact the defence was a very small minority, which is the opposite of my experience of Christians and evolution in this country.

I’m not sure what to make of these events but it does seem that the Muslim community in this country is going through a bit of a challenge and I only hope that those who espouse the truth of evolution win over and that those who do promote it are allowed to have their say and do not face death threats, real or imagined.

I am reminded of the Salman Rusdie and The Satanic Verses episode, lets hope it doesn’t go that far.

British Schools, Muslim Rules

Not surprisingly, there is much talk on the web this week about the recent Panorama programme featuring British Schools teaching British Muslims the Saudi national curriculum. Of particular focus is the fact that these imported text books teach young children that homophobia and anti-Semitism is okay. Some commentators have put it far more strongly than that.

This sort of bigotry is deeply concerning and children should not be taught it. It encourages segregation and isolation of people groups, which is harmful to everyone. This wasn’t the only thing that bothered me though; the text books features were not in English, which is absurd, schools in this country should teach in the national language, English, and from text books published to this country’s national curriculum. Importing foreign language books that teach to another national curriculum puts those children at a disadvantage in this country. That’s before you get onto the subject of the racist and bigoted matter therein.

Not surprisingly, and even understandably, there are many comments from Muslims saying that this is a twisted reporting of Islam and that not all Islam is like that and the British press are on a witch-hunt against Islam. The question I would like to ask those people is “why are you not joining the people who are rightly criticising those extreme views featured?”.

If Muslims are concerned that there is not anything good about Islam in the British press or on the TV then they should make an effort and change that themselves. Go public in criticising the bigotry of the Saudi curriculum that is being taught in British schools, go public in supporting those who want rid of the absurd system that has allowed this to happen. When the British public see Mulims joining them in fighting prejudice and bigotry then they will see Islam being positive. If all that the British public see is Muslims complaining when some parts of Islam are justifiably focused on as wrong then of course it will reinforce any negative views that are already held.

Of most concern for me in the programme was the fact that the schools are not Ofsted inspected, but instead are inspected by a separate organisation, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which inspects faith schools. Faith schools should adhere to this country’s national curriculum first and foremost and the teaching of faith should come secondary to that, minus the homophobia, anti-Semitism and any other bigotry. Self imposed seclusion will only damage religious credibility even further.