The head of the BBC, Mark Thompson, has finally admitted what many of us have long known: that his organization treats Islam more respectfully than it does other religions. In a speech to a religious think tank, Thompson claimed the BBC has to treat Islam with greater sensitivity because Muslims are a minority in Britain and aren’t fully integrated into society.
The BBC’s “sensitivity” has for several years manifested itself in news reports that offer excuses for Islamist terrorism, most commonly by linking radicalization to British and American foreign policy. The failure of many Muslims to integrate, while acknowledged by Thompson, is invariably blamed by the BBC on poverty, injustice, and racism on the part of less enlightened sections of the British public. And the words “Muslim” and “Islam” are invariably omitted from stories about honor killings and forced marriages; such crimes are instead framed as issues for Britain’s “Asian community” to address, to the consternation of reform-minded Muslims and non-Muslim British Asians alike.
The BBC’s kid-gloves approach to all things Islamic isn’t limited to its news coverage — it informs the corporation’s fictional output too and stands in stark contrast to its apparent eagerness to offend Christians. So, while viewers are treated to Jerry Springer: The Opera and numerous shows in which Christians are portrayed as either idiots or villains, the producers of a popular hospital drama last year scrapped a storyline about a Muslim suicide bomber for fear of causing offense.
Few of the BBC’s critics would seriously suggest that the broadcaster should refrain from satirizing religion (the obvious solution for people who think they’re going to be offended by a program is not to watch it); they ask only that the BBC be as “fearless” in dealing with issues surrounding Islam as it is in its treatment of Christianity. But of course that’s not going to happen.
Thompson attempted to justify the BBC’s blatant double standard in his speech, telling his audience:
What Christian identity feels like it is about to the broad population is a little bit different to people for whom their religion is also associated with an ethnic identity which has not been fully integrated.
There’s no reason why any religion should be immune from discussion, but I don’t want to say that all religions are the same. To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.
Thompson is certainly right to assert that Muslims are not “fully integrated” into British society. And one of the reasons why many Muslims feel no obligation to assimilate is that the BBC, along with other proponents of multiculturalism, has for years been telling them that they don’t have to integrate.
As for Muslims being a minority — well, they’re a considerably larger minority in the UK than Jews, but the BBC’s hostility to both Israel and the Jewish settler movement is legendary. And Roman Catholics comprise a minority of Christians in the UK; yet, after George Bush, the Pope is one of the favorite targets of the lefty comedians that populate the BBC’s late-night schedules.
(Thompson himself is keen to point out that he’s a practicing Roman Catholic, as if this fact should somehow reassure us that the BBC couldn’t possibly be hostile to Christianity. The archbishop of Canterbury, the increasingly unhinged Rowan Williams, is ostensibly a devout Anglican, but that hasn’t stopped him parroting bogus Muslim grievances and calling for elements of Sharia to be recognized in the UK.)
The fact is that the BBC’s deference to Islam has very little to do with its “minority” status in the UK or the lack of integration on the part of its followers. The real reasons are fear and political correctness.
BBC executives don’t want their heads cut off or their homes burnt down any more than the rest of us do. Program-makers don’t have a problem with offending Christians because they know they’re unlikely to wind up in a video on the internet, wearing a hood and surrounded by a pack of sword-wielding nuns. Christians are exhorted to turn the other cheek; extremist Muslim leaders, on the other hand, encourage their followers to both get mad and, where possible, get even.
The reluctance of BBC types to do anything that might invite violence from Muslims is, if not admirable, at least understandable. Their continued enthusiasm for the discredited doctrines of political correctness and multiculturalism is arguably more troubling, given the corrosive effects of those ideas on free speech and on the “social cohesion” our elites profess to be so concerned with.
The BBC has become the standard-bearer for the cult of post-colonial, white, middle-class guilt (middle-class in the English rather than the American sense). This is the British strain of what Mark Steyn and others call Western civilization’s self-loathing: the belief that white Westerners and the Judeo-Christian tradition are to blame for much of the world’s ills. One manifestation of this belief is the assumption that people with dark skin are inherently “nobler” than people with white skin — one particularly apologetic former head of the BBC memorably referred to the organization as “hideously white” — and that any religion practiced by such people is consequently more deserving of our respect than Christianity.
Of course the BBC’s worldview encompasses much more than an uncritical disposition towards Islam. A couple of years back Charles Moore, a former editor of Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, summed it up thus:
The BBC’s mental assumptions are those of the fairly soft left. They are that American power is a bad thing whereas the UN is good, that the Palestinians are in the right and Israel isn’t, that the war in Iraq was wrong, that the European Union is a good thing and that people who criticize it are “xenophobic,” that racism is the worst of all sins, that abortion is good and capital punishment is bad, that too many people are in prison, that a preference for heterosexual marriage over other arrangements is “judgmental,” that environmentalists are public-spirited and “big business” is not, . . . that government should spend more on social programs, that the pope is out of touch except when he criticizes the West, that gun control is the answer to gun crime.
Everyone’s entitled to their worldview, of course. What the BBC is not entitled to do is abuse its position as a respected broadcaster to ram its views down the throats of those who look to it for information and entertainment — and to demand hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to do so. Neither is it entitled to give encouragement to extremists by reassuring them that contrived grievances are legitimate, and that intimidation and violence are understandable responses.
Ironically, Thompson, in his eagerness to demonstrate his Christian bona fides, likes to tell interviewers that he’s never seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Despite the controversy that film generated, it’s not especially disdainful of Christianity, and can be read as a satire on both unquestioning religious belief and secular cults. Islam is sorely in need of a similar lampooning right now, but the attitude of Thompson and others like him means we’re unlikely to ever see a Life of Mohammed.