The broadcast regulator Ofcom has fined the broadcasters of Islamic TV channel Noor TV £85,000 after a broadcast on 3rd May last year in which their presenter, Allama Muhammad Farooq Nizami, said it was “acceptable to murder anyone who disrespected Mohammed”.
During a phone-in programme, a caller from Pakistan asked what the ‘punishment’ should be for those who disrespect the prophet.
Nizami’s response was “Our way is the peaceful way but when someone crosses the limits, faith-based emotions are instigated…The mission of our life is to protect the sanctity of our beloved Lord. May Allah accept us wherever there is a need [to kill a blasphemer]. We are ready and should be ready at all times [to kill a blasphemer].”
Ofcom ruled that the comments were ‘likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder’. Ofcom criticised the channels parent company, Al Ehya Digital Television, for not taking the comments seriously when they were initially contacted about the broadcast.
‘The Licensee [Al Ehya] has not at any point broadcast any form of apology for, or condemnation of Mr Nizami’s remarks, and neither on air nor in correspondence with Ofcom has the Licensee expressed its unequivocal regret that these comments were broadcast.
The Licensee regretted only in its submissions that the presenter’s comments “may have been misinterpreted” and that he expressed his own political views during the programme.
Taking all these factors into account, Ofcom was concerned that the Licensee has still not recognised the gravity of the statements made by Mr Nizami.’
Despite the ruling, Ofcom only fined the company £85,000 out of a potential full fine of £250,000 citing that it wished to protect the station’s “right to freedom of expression”.
‘If any financial penalty was to be so high that its effect would be to close a service down, then it might be a disproportionate interference with the Licensee’s and the audience’s right to freedom of expression in particular and exceed the purposes of imposing a penalty.
Ofcom therefore carefully took this point into account and carefully weighed it in reaching its decision on the proportionality of the financial penalty.’
Al Ehya Digital Television is no stranger to Ofcom. In 2010 the broadcaster was fined £75,000 for asking viewers to donate money in return for ‘prayers or the receipt of a “special gift” of earth from the tomb of Prophet Mohammed.’
Noor TV has not broadcast an apology for the incident involving Nizami.
It is a crime to incite racial hatred in the UK under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006, and carry a maximum sentence of 7 years imprisonment and a fine.
Although Ofcom has cited the channel’s “right to freedom of expression” the law is clear that there is a line which must not be crossed, and Nizami and the channel certainly seem to have crossed it in this instance. Nizami clearly intended to promote religious hatred against anyone who dares to ‘disrespect’ Mohammed. The channel has condoned Nizami’s actions by its failure to take any action to respond appropriately to Ofcom’s investigation.
Promoting hatred is a crime – it is that simple.
It is obvious that Al Ehya Digital Television is an irresponsible broadcaster which allows the promotion of racial and religious hatred on its channels. To be lenient by reducing the fine that should have been imposed on them sends a message that they are able to virtually get away with anything and still be allowed to broadcast.
We have seen a rise in prosecution of people who post unsavoury messages on social media sites – sometimes for comments which are not really offensive at all – and yet a broadcaster is allowed to continue to promote extremist views without prosecution.
There have been cases where other minority channels have been allowed to get away with promoting extremist material – again without any meaningful penalty being imposed.
As with Birmingham based Al Ehya Digital Television, these channels are also based in the UK.
We often hear of organisations such as the EDL being prosecuted or in some kind of trouble for their actions – something the authorities are keen to promote in the press, but we rarely hear of minority organisations who are engaged in much more radical activities being prosecuted or pursued.
The law is supposed to the equally applied to every citizen and organisation in the UK – not just to those who the authorities think will not make too much fuss.
This broadcaster should have its licence revoked and those involved and complicit in the broadcast by Nizami prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Ofcom stated that it was concerned that young people watching the show could become ‘radicalised’ or take ‘violent and criminal action as a result of watching videos of Muslims with extreme views.’
If that is the case, then surely the incident must be addressed and investigated by the authorities as a crime.
Over time, extremists and other preachers of hatred have learned that there is virtually no penalty or significant risk to preaching their poison in the UK. The result is that those extremists can freely use the UK as a safe base without the risk of receiving the serious penalties they could possibly face in their home country or similar states, including being put to death.
The feebleness of the authorities in addressing these kind of issues for fear of upsetting someone’s right to freedom of expression has resulted in the situation we have today.
Human rights are often cited as an excuse not to address important issues, although the authorities seem to conveniently forget that human rights laws and freedom of speech apply equally to everyone.
If a citizen of the UK were to proclaim that anyone who disrespected the Queen or a Christian God should be killed or tortured, they would be arrested and in the judicial system at the blink of an eye.
The kind of hatred that Nizami preaches and which Al Ehya Digital Television allows to be broadcast has to be addressed in the strongest way possible.
Freedom of speech is important, and is something that is rapidly dwindling under the current government as restriction after restriction is placed on us.
But there must be clear limits which are enforced, and promoting the use of killing or any other violence is where that limit must be, and the limits must be enforced regardless of religious or ethnic excuses.