Open letter to Channel 4 re: ‘What British Muslims Really Think’

This letter was originally sent to Channel 4 on 14th April and published on Facebook the same day. I have since received a reply from the broadcaster which said “we feel that this programme goes to the heart of Channel 4’s public service remit to represent the views of a religious minority on a matter of critical national importance – with careful contextualisation and insight throughout.” I have not replied yet, nor am I sure I will do so. 

Dear Channel 4,
As I sat down last night to watch some TV with my dinner, I stumbled upon what I thought might be an interesting programme: What British Muslims Really Think. I naively thought that the programme, which presented the results of an ‘extensive and rigorous’ survey conducted by the ICM, might open up a positive dialogue about the Muslim faith in an attempt to build bridges with one of the country’s most marginalised religious groups. I was very wrong. The programme turned out to be bigoted, scaremongering and sensationalist. I had to turn off halfway through. It was as though the programme had been commissioned by The Daily Mail, and, of course, Katie Hopkins has already penned her two cents for the newspaper, where she declares that the programme confirmed her preconceptions about Muslims. Unsurprisingly, her preconceptions are drenched in racism and ignorance. My problem with the programme was partly to do with the so-called robustness of the survey, which I have no time to look into further but which has already been criticised by many, and partly because of the way in which the data was presented and how it presented Muslims as a homogenous and dangerous group, the majority of whom are apparently misogynistic, homophobic, unwilling to integrate/assimilate, and apologists for ISIS. When those interviewed attempted to justify the reasons behind the ‘scary statistics’, the presenter, Trevor Phillips, was quick to explain away their justifications: insisting that Muslims are a group that we should be worrying about. In addition, I am horrified that the programme has been aired at a time where, following recent terrorist attacks, Islamaphobia is at its peak. Bigots don’t need another reason to carry out hate crimes towards innocent people. What we need is transparent dialogue that will provide a way to understand each other’s cultures and religions, because fear almost always comes from a place of ignorance or misunderstanding. I am an atheist, and may well disagree with some of the beliefs held by Muslims, as well as those held by Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs, but this is not a reason to be scared, nor is it a reason to further enforce the notion that Britain Knows Best. I was impressed by how the programme managed to make even David Cameron seem progressive, as they showed a video of him saying that the extremist Muslims – the tiny minority – who have perpetrated terrorist crimes should be feared and their actions condemned, but that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims live peacefully and contribute positively to society. The presenter then said that Mr. Cameron might be wrong. What use is such slander in the current social political climate? I worry that this programme may have inflamed existing prejudices towards the Muslim community, and that this could well play a role in inciting hatred or even hate crimes. For that reason I find your programme to be very dangerous indeed, and am very disappointed that your channel, that I once associated with fairly liberal and open-minded views, deigned to air such a programme.

About the Author

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22-year-old grad student at Oxford University's Dept. International Development. Here you will find mini-essays/long articles on some of the issues I find most interesting at the moment.




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