Ofcom raps The Islam Channel for antisemitic content

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The Islam Channel has been pulled up by Ofcom after it identified potentially antisemitic content during ‘The Rightly Guided Khalifas’ in November last year.

‘The Rightly Guided Khalifas’ is a religious education series on the history of the Qur’an, detailing its origins, its written compilation and the measures used to preserve its original wording.

The Islam Channel referred to the Code’s definition of hate speech as “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance on the grounds of…ethnicity…nationality…race [or] religion”. It said that the content in question did “not contain either a direct or indirect call for action and [was] not therefore going to encourage or incite the commission of any crime”. It added that “viewers [were] not encouraged to spread, incite or promote hatred” and that the programme did not “seek to justify hatred”.

The Islam Channel also addressed the matter of the English subtitles treating narration about Israel as comments about “the jews”, “the new jews” and “The jewish”. It said that this was explained by the fact that the subtitles were produced by an overseas producer and that “in the context of the Middle East conflict, Israel, Israelis and Jews, much like Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims are all used interchangeably”. However, it added that it did “not endorse this conflation”.

The Islam Channel accepted that its breaches of the Code were serious, but argued that it would be disproportionate to impose a statutory sanction in light of the broadcast apology, and the channel’s review of compliance arrangements. That review had led to new compliance training in relation to hate speech (making use of a specialist), and a process in which any programme previously marked as non-compliant is to be automatically referred to its compliance department prior to any later consideration of including it in the broadcast schedule.

Ofcom concluded that these programmes presented an antisemitic and extremely negative view of Jewish people. In Ofcom’s view, the highly offensive comments were broadcast as religious instruction to be accepted by viewers as fact without any challenge or critique, or sufficient historical context.

Ofcom noted The Islam Channel’s representations on the reasons for the breach, apologies subsequently broadcast, previous compliance record, and steps taken to prevent repetition.

The broadcast of this potentially very harmful and highly offensive antisemitic content represents serious breaches of the Code.

Ofcom has put The Islam Channel on notice that it will consider these breaches for the imposition of a statutory sanction.

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