Aaqil Ahmed – can a Muslim be head of BBC’s religious broadcasting?
When the Religion Editor of The Daily Telegraph reported that Aaqil Ahmed was favourite for this post, all purgatory broke loose.
It wasn’t hell, for that would have been ‘racist’. But it was certainly – how shall Cranmer put it – not received warmly by The Barclay Telegraph. Mr Pitcher (or the Reverend George) is persuaded that this appointment is pivotal and will determine whether or not the BBC ‘takes religion seriously’.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has already met with the corporation’s Director General Mark Thompson, a Roman Catholic, to express his concern that the BBC – the state broadcaster – should not downplay or marginalise Christianity – the state religion.
As the Reverend George observes: Mr Thompson ‘may have taken the view that no prelate was going to dictate the BBC’s religious policy to him and the silly old fool needed to be taught a lesson’. And so Mr Thompson decided to appoint a Muslim to affirm the Archbishop’s support for shari’a law.
Aaqil Ahmed is presently commissioning editor for religion at Channel 4. He is highly qualified, suitably experienced, and by all accounts consummately professional. But the Reverend George states on the one hand that ‘an agnostic or atheist might bring an interesting objectivity to religious broadcasting. And so might a Muslim to Christianity’. But on the other hand he is persuaded Mr Ahmed ‘shouldn’t have the job because I doubt he is up to it’.
The Reverend George is desperate to avoid an accusation of ‘Islamophobia’, and is fence-sitting, like all Anglicans for The Telegraph are compelled to do. He is quite right to observe ‘you don’t have to be a footballer to be a football commentator’, but you certainly have to have a passion for it, to live and breathe it, to believe in it as a worthwhile pursuit. The Reverend George thinks Mr Ahmed should not have the job simply because ‘his work to date seems lightweight’. Some might say that of the Reverend George. He cites the C4 programme ‘Christianity: A History’ as evidence of Mr Ahmed’s religious ineptitude. It was, he asserts, ‘a showcase of dumbed-down religion, a History of Platitudes’.
Cranmer agrees that that particular series was ‘banal’. But he would like to ask his readers and communicants to consider what has become of the BBC’s Christian output while a Christian (Methodist) has led religious broadcasting and while a Christian (Roman Catholic) has been the corporation’s Director General.
The marginalisation of the state religion has been systemic and inexorable. It is not only that ‘Jerry Springer - the Opera’ was broadcast on their watch, but a Sikh was appointed to produce ‘Songs of Praise’, minority faiths are treated more respectfully than that of the majority, an atheist has been appointed to the board which oversees religious output, and the Church of England has been sidelined to the point of irrelevance. The corporation has been guilty of religious cleansing on a scale comparable with that of the Balkans. The BBC’s spiritual war machine has reduced Christianity to a harmless and toothless myth which can do nothing but suck at the pervasive ecumenical pantheism which genuflects ever so slightly to Islam. Under ‘Christian’ leadership, the BBC has become a secular humanist organisation which now propagates its own objective worldview through its own biased history and its own version of truth. It has a self-styled mission to inculcate the ignorant masses with the Gaia spirituality of the New Age, and it has embraced the pseudo-gospel of environmentalism to that end.
If religious broadcasting under ‘Christians’ has become such a secular joke, why should a Muslim not be given a chance to redeem the situation?
He might even prove to be more respectful of Christianity, the Bible and Jesus than the ‘Christians’ have hitherto been. He might feel compelled to make some hard-hitting programmes about the Islamic world – the treatment of Muslim women, the persecution of non-Muslims, the human rights breaches, the destruction of churches, the cleansing of Christians from Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel...
With reports that an Aaqil Ahmed ‘dossier’ has been compiled, the contents of which will be disseminated in the event of his appointment, there is more than a hint of anti-Muslim prejudice in some of the reporting on this story. Minority bashing is unacceptable (as unacceptable as minority-favouring). An Asian Muslim is just as capable of making religious programmes about Christianity as a Caucasian Christian is about Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism or the Jedi Knight fraternity.
Why on earth should a Muslim head of commissioning for religion be any more unacceptable that a Roman Catholic director general?