Anyone reading the Sun newspaper a few days ago would have thought that the end of the world had arrived since the ‘Muslim’ Head of Religion and Ethics, Aaqil Ahmed, had simply made a comment. So, what was that comment that the ‘Muslim’ Head of Religion and Ethics had made – (apologies for stressing the ‘Muslim’ element, though you see it is precisely what the Sun article casually threw into their piece on him.)
“the corporation’s (religious) output should be measured against the “religious make-up” of Britain.”
Sounds logical. Well quite, but not according to the Sun piece that decided to snipe from the sidelines as to the professionalism and judgement of Aaqil Ahmed. Not to be outdone in the, ‘we have an opinion and we will fit what we believe are facts to the story we want to spin stakes’, the Sun decided to open its frontal attack with fears of the Adhan or the Call to Prayer being commissioned by someone who was Muslim. Not exactly what Aaqil Ahmed had said, but what better way to generate some fear than to suggest to Middle England that they will be shaken out of their slumber because of those muezzins and mullahs, all blasting out some Arabic sounding calls to prayer.
This was followed by the ‘how dare he’ framing of the Commissioner as the person,
“who previously compared Mary and Joseph to illegal migrants.”
Just in case, you missed it, the (Muslim) Commissioner who simply mentioned that programming should reflect the audience, was now insulting Mary and Joseph, as though they were those pesky, dark looking and ‘foreign’ illegal migrants.
Which then led onto the Sun’s strategy of suggesting that Aaqil had a secret bias for Islam, as thought he could not set aside his judgement at work from his faith. The salvo’s on his judgement were summed up in the following statements,
“Mr Ahmed — whose appointment in 2009 was criticised by the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time Rowan Williams,”
“While working for Channel 4, Mr Ahmed upset Roman Catholic priests by commissioning documentaries that appeared to contain a pro-Islam bias.”
“One series, called Christianity: A History, was criticised by Church figures for trivialising the religion.”
Judging by the comments made by the Sun, you would think that the mild-mannered and introspective Aaqil Ahmed was a raging Islamist with undertones to attack Christianity and secretly create the conditions for a favourable treatment of Islam. Well, doesn’t that sound like promotion of anti-Muslim tropes, we think so.
Lost to the Sun
What has been lost in the Sun piece has been the variety of programmes about other faiths that have been commissioned by Mr Ahmed during his tenure, including programmes that have challenged rigid doctrinal thinking in faiths, including Islam. Hardly the image that the Sun portrays, which in reality is of a professional man who is willing to challenge issues within faith, including his own. Nor does the Sun want to consider the challenging work that he has commissioned in order to highlight how some people are treated just because they are fleeing from wars and turmoil and who are refugees.
The issue here is whether the Sun would run such a story against any other Commissioner from another faith? All of this just because Mr Ahmed suggested that programming should reflect the variety of audiences in the UK. So, next time any Commissioner makes a suggestion that is vaguely in line with this comment, we are assuming that their past will be dredged up, suggestions of bias made and their faith brought into the equation.