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Scrap episode, urge Muslims; BBC unruffled

Muslims are incensed that despite protests, BBC has refused to scrap Spooks' latest episode.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2003 23:20 IST

Muslim groups are incensed that despite earlier calls and protests, BBC has steadfastly refused to scrap the latest episode of spy drama <i>Spooks</i>. They have again mounted pressure on BBC, claiming it would encourage anti-Islamic feeling and could also trigger attacks on Muslims in this country.

The episode under dispute shows an extremist organisation take-over a mosque in Birmingham to recruit young children and train them to become suicide bombers for targeting British establishments. Thereafter, MI5 agents get involved.

A Muslim volunteers to infiltrate the Islamic extremist group in order to help MI5 foil the plan for attacking British targets. The Chairman of the Birmingham Central mosque, Mohammad Naseem, said that the episode which has already been televised on BBC 3, "maligns Muslims in Birmingham and elsewhere.

"We have done a lot in Birmingham to create good community relations and this will have an adverse effect. It will create fear about what is going on in mosques. There is no evidence of this kind of suicide bomb plot taking place in Britain."

A London-based Muslim Public Affairs Committee has also demanded that the episode be shelved. Its spokesperson Sophia Desai said that if the episode is screened more Muslims may come under attack. She said that women who wear the hijab headscarf, as it is, have often been victims of Islamophobic attacks.

She claimed that one of the supporters of her organisation and another woman were attacked, pushed and insulted, after the episode was shown on BBC 3.

Those who have seen the episode believe that it is based on the events that happened at the Finsbury Park mosque. The radical cleric Abu Hamza who used to preach at the mosque was banned from there by the Charity Commission and has also been stripped of his British citizenship. Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber also attended prayers at the mosque.

Desai said there were 800 mosques in the country that were attended by nearly two million Muslims in the country. "The programme stigmatises the entire community."

BBC remains unconvinced. Its spokesman said: "The episode was extensively researched". Advice was also obtained from Islamic experts and the BBC's "usual rigorous editorial policy and legal requirements have been followed.

"We do not believe that it incites hatred or disrespect for Muslims or Islam." So the episode is slated to be screened.

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 21:35 IST