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Nottingham based community radio station, Radio Dawn has been rapped by Ofcom for broadcasting a show which was deemed potentially “harmful” and “offensive” to listeners.

Ofcom received a complaint about a ‘phone-in’ show broadcast in May, in which listeners were encouraged to seek advice from a scholar on Islamic-related issues. During the show, an exchange took place between the scholar, (referred to as “the Mufti1”) and a caller who was seeking advice about fasting with diabetes. The complainant considered that the advice given by the scholar was potentially dangerous.

The station apologised and said that “on no account was it the intention of the presenter or Radio Dawn to suggest to listeners that they do not seek appropriate medical advice”. The reason for giving the reference to seeking advice from a Muslim doctor with Islamic knowledge was because such a doctor would “understand the Islamic theology and the importance of fasting within a qualified medical context”. This was based on “well-known theological opinion”. The Licensee stated that a “Muslim doctor, whilst having a full appreciation of the medical requirements of the patient is likely to have a better sense of being able to suggest a range of options from modifying some medications, to continuing with the fast only if it was perfectly safe, to not being able to keep the fast”.

It stated that it had been following the guidance issued by the Muslim Council of Britain, as endorsed by the Department of Health, which advises that the patient’s choice to fast “should be respected and advice should be offered on medical grounds. The Muslim Chaplain/Imam should be consulted where available”. However, the Licensee admitted that the advice offered in this segment of the programme went beyond the advice of the Muslim Council of Britain by stating that “the patient should seek advice from an appropriately qualified doctor with a knowledge of Islam”.

The station also stated that all its radio presenters would be “reacquainted with the advice of the Muslim Council of Britain” and “the bottom line was that medical opinion should always be sought from an appropriately qualified medical doctor”. However, the Licensee said it was its view that its religious community was “more likely to seek advice about fasting from a Muslim doctor than from a non-Muslim doctor and the scholar’s (the Mufti’s) advice was given in this context so as to encourage the Patient to seek appropriate medical attention”.

Ofcom took into account the Licensee’s representations that the reason listeners were advised to seek the advice of a Muslim doctor with Islamic knowledge was because he or she would “understand Islamic theology and the importance of fasting within a qualified medical context”. Ofcom acknowledged that some listeners to the programme may prefer to consult a Muslim doctor. However, Ofcom considered that advising listeners to disregard the medical advice of a non-Muslim doctor suggested to the audience that a non-Muslim doctor was not capable of treating Muslim people. We considered this was discriminatory and potentially offensive, not only to non-Muslim people, but also to members of the Muslim community.

Ofcom considered therefore that the content was likely to have exceeded listeners’ expectations for a programme of this type. In Ofcom’s view there was clearly insufficient context to justify the offensive and discriminatory statements.