“The remarks attracted an angry response from some organisations representing Muslims.
It was “astonishing” that Mr Straw chose to “selectively discriminate on the basis of religion”, said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission.
Halima Hussain, from civil liberties group the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, asked BBC News 24: “Who is Jack Straw to comment on negative symbols within a religion that is not his own?”
First, it is extremly sloppy journalism to describe these organisations as “representing Muslims”. They are not representative organisations. They are voluntary associations, whose activists share a common politics, and which claim to represent Muslims. However, they have no mandate to do so. Accordingly, they are best described as “pressure groups”, “campaigning organisations” or “advocacy groups”.
Secondly, it is wrong to describe MPACUK as a “civil liberties group”. It is, rather, an extreme Islamist organisation which republishes material not only from other extreme Islamist organisations, but also from US and UK neo-Nazi websites.
The misdescription of MPACUK as a civil liberties group was repeated by John Humphries to Jack Straw in the Today Programme’s interview this morning.
The BBC has made a similar error before, in relation to MPACUK. In July 2005, Newsnight invited MPACUK’s chief executive, Asghar Bukhari (described as a “young moderate Muslim”) to debate Dr Azzam Tamimi of the MAB/Muslim Brotherhood. A listener complained to the BBC that the “debate” lacked balance. That complaint was upheld, and the BBC Editorial Complaints Unit recommended:
In the light of the ruling, the members of the programme team have done further work to familiarise themselves with the different strands of Muslim opinion and activism in the UK.
Clearly, other parts of the BBC still have further work to do in familarising themselves with the the nature of groups engaged in Islamist fringe politics.
If anybody does contact the BBC to encourage them to correct these errors, and gets a response, please let us know.
The BBC report in question has been edited, and now reads:
Mr Straw’s comments have provoked a mixed response from Muslim groups.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission labelled the article “astonishing” and accused Mr Straw of discrimination.
The Protect-Hijab organisation said the “appalling” comments showed “a deep lack of understanding”.
But Dr Daud Abdullah, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said he could understand Mr Straw’s discomfort adding that women could choose to remove the veil.
– MPACUK is no longer refered to as a “civil liberties” organisation, or indeed at all.
– The suggestion that the groups consulted are “representing Muslims” has been replaced with the neutral, and more accurate, “Muslim groups”.
– The phrase “angry response” has been replaced with “mixed response”, and balance has been introduced into the article, in the form of a quotation from a MCB spokesman.
Well done, the BBC!