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BBC drama sparked racial attack, say irate Muslims
Vijay Dutt, PTI
London, December 27, 2003
First Published: 21:35 IST(24/12/2003)
Last Updated: 23:20 IST(27/12/2003)

Muslim leaders, who had been orchestrating against the screening of a BBC drama showing how suicide bombers are brainwashed in mosques but failed in their last-minute effort to have it taken off the air, have now accused it of provoking a racial attack immediately after its telecast on Monday night.

They have alleged that two white youths assaulted a Muslim student in Birmingham on Monday telling him: "You have been spooked." On Sunday evening the slogan "Suicide bombers inside - kill the bombers" was found scrawled on a wall of the Central Mosque in the city.

Dr Mohammad Naseem chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque branded the BBC as "irresponsible" and claimed that the graffiti could be the first in the line of attacks against local Muslims.
He added: "It would appear to me that the BBC is aware that it has made a mistake with this programme and the decent thing would be to withdraw it." He said the graffiti was a result of the screening of the particular episode.

The award-winning episode of the serial Spooks, on MI5 agents shown earlier on BBC3 and on BBC1 on Monday, featured a fictional Imam of a fictional Birmingham-based mosque inducing a 16-year-old student to carry out a suicide attack, and it also showed Muslim students torturing an MI5 infiltrator, who gets traumatised. In a scene boys chant "Death to the West".     

The episode, technically excellent, has indeed a dramatic impact on viewers. But, the hero in it is also a Muslim, an Algerian on the run from both the fundamentalists and the secret service in his country. He helps MI5 after infiltrating the Imam's inner circle in identifying the target chosen for a 16-year-old suicide bomber.

The Algerian dies along with the boy while attempting to stop him from pulling the fuse. The conclusion is that the boy was in complete sway of Imam's preaching and could not be brought back to normalcy even by a Muslim telling him that suicide bombing was no way to paradise.

The drama could have a far-reaching impact on the psyche of Muslim youths. It might make many think about futility of suicide bombing missions. But, the episode has got BBC embroiled in a serious controversy.

Inayat Bunglawala, secretary of the Muslim Council, said the programme was defamatory against Muslims across the country. "The main character is a Abu Hamza figure (the cleric now stripped of British citizenship) who everyone in the community just accepts. That could not be further from what is actually happening in the Muslim community.

"It is very dangerous to let the public think that all mosques are led by extremists and if there is a major backlash to the programme then BBC should feel extremely guilty."

But in a letter sent to Bunglawala by Lorraine Heggessey, controller BBC1, she said that the programme was inspired by a true story of an Algerian agent who assisted British Security Services.

She said: "We do not believe that the programme reinforces negative stereotypes of British Muslims, nor does it pander to offensive or Islamophobic caricatures." But a poll on the BBC website revealed that 68 per cent voted in favour of taking the programme off the air. 

BBC has clarified too that the show was extensively researched and legal requirements followed.


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