This is a guest post by George Readings of The Spittoon. It is a new blog venue for the views and ideas of a group of writers and activists who oppose religious supremacism and clerical fascism in all its various stripes and denominations. It aims to contribute ideas to that intellectual tradition, now losing ground to power structures and religious “orthodoxies”. Ideas which respect ‘a willingness to dialogue, a spirit of criticism, moderation of judgment, philological scruple, a sense of the complexity of things’.
There are some people out there rather peeved by the BBC’s decision to appoint Aaqil Ahmed as head of religion and ethics. The Daily Mail’s Steven Glover is a case in point. He asks:
Why can’t the BBC understand we are STILL a Christian country?
He concludes his (rather rambling) rant saying:
In all kinds of ways the publicly funded BBC does not reflect the views of the public it is supposed to serve.
No doubt its secular suits assume that Britain is as anti-Christian as they are. They’re out of touch again. In appointing Aaqil Ahmed they do not simply offend against this country’s Christian heritage and traditions. They also further weaken the hold and authority of the BBC.
So, if Mr Glover is to be believed, the whole country should be in uproar that a Muslim chap has been appointed to this positition. Indeed, the Guardian tries to give the impression it already is:
Over 100 complaints over BBC’s Muslim head of religious shows – ‘Vast majority’ of complaints were about BBC head of religion and ethics Aaqil Ahmed not being a Christian.
Hang on a sec though. In 2007/2008 the BBC received 124,000 complaints, 5,500 of them about Eastenders. In December last year they received 4,680 complaints after cancelling an episode of Little Dorit to show a documentary about Shannon Matthews instead. That’s not to mention the over 20,000 complaints received by the BBC for not showing the DEC Gaza Appeal in January.
“Over 100″ is the same number as complained about Eastenders‘ paedophilia storyline, or Catherine Tate’s sketch about Irish terrorism. Obviously, zero complaints would have been ideal, but let’s keep a sense of proportion: “over 100″ complaints makes this appointment 20% as controversial as Jeremy Clarkson’s lorry driver/prostitute/murder joke. In other words, these complaints are a speck, a mote, a tiny little fleck of spit on the lapel of Britain’s massive TV viewership. And not all of them were even about Aaqil Ahmed not being Christian.
With the mainstream parties rightly in something of a flap at the prospect of the avowedly (pdf) anti-Muslim BNP winning seats in the coming European elections, it should be reassuring that it is such a small group of people perturbed by the prospect of having a Muslim running BBC religious programming. The rest of the British people understand that Aaqil Ahmed is eminently qualified for the job and they choose to judge him not for the faith he professes but for the programming he commissions.
This is what Britain’s “heritage and traditions” means and the Daily Mail is the one that’s out of touch.