BBC R4 guest promotes Qaradawi as a source of “nuanced understanding”

On January 28th 2013, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an edition of its ‘Beyond Belief’ programme, hosted by Ernie Rea, which supposedly dealt with the subject of contemporary antisemitism in Europe. 

Beyond Belief

The programme can be heard here or as a podcast here. Its guests were Dr Edward Kessler – Executive Director of the Woolf Institute,  Dr Yaakov Wise of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester and Mohammed Ansar (referred to by the host as ‘Mo’ during the broadcast) – described as a “social and political commentator”.  Beyond Belief

After listening to the programme, readers may find much to criticize and comment upon. For example, Rea states unquestioningly that there is “little doubt that Jews fared better under Islam than under Christianity throughout the Middle Ages” and, with equal certainty, later says:

“It does seem that it’s very difficult to criticize the Israeli government without in turn being told you’re antisemitc and some people would say that Jews see antisemitism everywhere.”

Yaakov Wise replies:

“Yes – they tend to be Americans actually, rather than European Jews who, I think, are probably a bit more realistic about…and of course have a lot more experience of living with antisemitism.”

Also notable are the repeated suggestions by Mohammed Ansar that it is “far right activity” on social media which promotes antisemitism, his constant attempts to shift the conversation in the direction of Islamophobia, his claim that “Islam is incredibly inclusive”  and his promotion of Norman Finkelstein (he later made it clear on Twitter that this was the specific piece he was promoting – suggesting to his Twitter followers that they read Chomsky and Pilger too). Mind you, Ansar also thinks that Jesus was a Palestinian.

Ansar tweet 1 Ansar tweet 2

Ansar’s inclusion in a discussion panel about antisemitism – particularly one which highlights the recent case of racist Tweets in France – may seem distinctly odd when one considers that, despite his writings on the subject, only four months ago Ansar endorsed a Twitter account entitled “IsraeltheNazis”. 

However, the part of this programme which is by far the most egregious comes at 23:15 when Ansar says:

“I think it’s really important to recognize also that as well as making the distinction in this country and the West about the distinction between Zionism, Israeli foreign policy and Judaism and Jews, this distinction is also being made in the Middle East – in the Arab territories. We have somebody who’s been considered a very controversial Muslim scholar in the West – Yusuf al Qaradawi – who goes to great lengths to ensure that people have a nuanced understanding and saying if you have difficulty with Israeli foreign policy, if you have difficulty with military occupation, this is something distinct from Judaism and Jews. And so regardless of many of his other statements, I think it’s really important that wherever we work we continue to make this distinction.”

Qaradawi – the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood – has been refused entry to Ireland, the US and the UK. The British ban was the subject of criticism from the Muslim Council of Britain, with which Ansar is associated

“Muhammad Abdul Bari, the secretary-general of the MCB, condemned the ban. He said the UK government had bowed to Zionist and neo-con pressure…” 

So let’s have a look at some of Qaradawi’s promotion of what Mohammed Ansar describes as “nuanced understanding”.

(Transcript available here.)

In his 2003 book ‘Fatwas on Palestine’ Qaradawi wrote:

“[W]e believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews.”

And that – as anyone even slightly familiar with Qaradawi knows – is merely the tip of the iceberg.

This BBC Radio 4 programme was not a live broadcast. According to Ansar himself it was recorded on January 23rd

Ansar tweet 6 23 1

Ansar tweet 5 23 1

In other words, the BBC had five whole days in which to edit out Mohammed Ansar’s misrepresentation and promotion of one of the most reprehensible antisemitic hate-preachers around. But it chose not to do that.

That decision by the programme’s editor turns a broadcast supposedly attempting to discuss and inform on the subject of antisemitism into one indirectly promoting it. It makes the BBC part of the problem rather than a contributing factor to any solution. Beyond belief indeed. 


8 comments on “BBC R4 guest promotes Qaradawi as a source of “nuanced understanding”

  1. I also heard this programme, which displayed all the worst of the BBC approach to the question of antisemitism. I was a bit surprised since Beyond Belief is an interesting programme and Ernie Rea normally very good, but this one was a disaster.

    The elephant in the room of course is that the majority of antisemitism in Western Europe these days springs from Muslim communities; but listening to the programme you wouldn’t know so. Also the BBC uses the well-worn tactic of comparing Islam with Christianity in a way that puts the former in a better light and the latter in a worse one (you know – “Islam may have some problems but just look at those Christian extremists in the USA etc etc, and then there’s the crusades etc etc).

    Every time Ansar was given a chance to speak he brought up Islamophobia (why?), as though the holocaust (presuming he believes that such a thing happened) could be equated with someone objecting to a megamosque in East London. Also his glowing reference to Al Qaradawi with no riposte from Ernie Rea or the other gusts was shocking and shameful.

    In our wildest dreams would we imagine that the BBC would have anyone on the programme who endorsed the Twitter account “IsraelTheNazis”, unless they were a member of the Religion of Peace? Disturbing and shocking.

    I would complain to the BBC but it is absolutely pointless to do so these days, as they photcopy standard responses to complaints that do not address the issue at hand.

    All in all badly done BBC, badly done.

  2. The elephant in the room of course is that the majority of antisemitism in Western Europe these days springs from Muslim communities; but listening to the programme you wouldn’t know so

    You have just described a recurring BBC feature. The disappearing of ‘the elephant’ in the room.

    ie. Not the ‘pigs and monkeys’ in the room.

    The BBC and the Guardian try to whitewash Muslim/Islamic excesses while maximising and perceived Israeli sins.

  3. “Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.”

    How terribly nuanced.

    There are but two conclusions to draw here: either the BBC has poor researchers, or, it knows full well who Qaradawi is, what he believes and what he preaches but chooses not to disclose this information.

    Neither bodes well for any of us, let alone the Jews.

  4. Thanks for your usual thorough investigation- I was staggered to hear Mo’s endorsement of Qaradawi’s “nuance”.

  5. His blog proudly announces: Mohammed is a regular contributor on BBC television and radio. Television credits include: BBC’s Sunday Morning Live, The Big Questions and The Politics Show. Radio credits include: Radio 4 Sunday Programme, Beyond Belief, The Voice of God; Daily Thoughts; Faith Dialogues; The Asian Network and regional programming

    Why?? Why is someone with his track record a favourite go- to person for the BBC?

  6. There is a YouTube video of a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan in which Qaradawi is mentioned, specifically that he maintains that suicide attacks on Israelis – even women and children – are justified because Israel is militarised and so all are combatants. Ramadan did not deny this, but said he had told Qaradawi that he disagreed. It was also stated that Qaradawi has an audience of 40 million.

    Suicide attacks on any human being are abhorrent but what kind of man considers them justified against children because they may grow up to join an army?

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