stoking the fires of Islamic fury
BY MARK GREAVES AND EDWARD PENTIN
Tim BBC has been accused of fanning the flames of Muslim outrage by devoting so much of its coverage to the opinions of Islamic extremists.
The BBC's news website was condemned as "irresponsible" this week for giving uncritical attention to militant organisations such as Hamas, Hizbut Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood.
According to critics, the skewed focus of the reporting has succeeded in lending credence to mistaken ideas about what the Pope said in his lecture last week — and fuelling Muslim anger as a result.
The BBC's coverage has also drawn the attention of the Vatican. A senior official referred on Monday to "exaggerations" in the corporation's reporting. He said there was annoyance in Rome at the way the media has handled the crisis. "It's sad that people are having to take their cue from what the press is saying, what makes headlines, without realising that the media are making shortcuts, and not explaining that the Pope said A, B and C," he said . "On the other hand we're quite happy that some of the exaggerations have worked to our advantage. The BBC reported that Cardinal Bertone had said the Pope was sorry and was extremely upset, but if that stopped the burning of effigies then we don't mind that kind of mistranslation."
Critics of the BBC point out that the news website gave little or no space to the views of Catholic commentators, even though Mark Thompson, the directorgeneral of the BBC, is himself a Catholic.
Journalists and writers expressed their anger over the failure of the BBC's news website to defend or clarify the Pope's comments.
James Delingpole, a novelist and critic for the Spectator, said: "I find it bizarre, dangerous and irresponsible that the BBC should choose to pour petrol
on the flames of this row by quoting extremist organisations like Hizbut Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood."
He continued: "Of course if you ask whether they've been offended they're going to say yes. They're offended by the very existence of the West, let alone anything the Pope might have said in some obscure lecture which has only been picked up on — as the Danish cartoons were for crude propaganda purposes. One day the BBC is going to realise that this isn't a game. This is a battle for free speech and the defence of western values and, with organisations like the BBC batting for the opposition, it may well be one that we're going to lose," he said.
Melanie Phillips, writing for the Daily Mail, insisted that the BBC had behaved in "a very questionable
She said: "As so often, it has given undue airtime to extremists, thus lending credence to the false interpretation of the Pope's remarks."
Ms Phillips added that the BBC reported in news bulletins and on its website that the Ripe had apologised, rather than merely expressing regret for the misinterpretation of his comments, "thus helping Islamic extremists believe that the forces of intimidation had cowed the Pontiff and scored a notable victory in the war against western civilisation".
In a website news report on the Pope's apology on Monday the BBC included the reactions of the Muslim Council of Britain, the Council of Muslims in Germany, Turkish government ministers and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The article also quoted "influential scholar" Yusuf alQaradawi as well as spokesmen for llamas and Hizbut Tahrir. No Catholics were called upon to comment.
A spokesman for the BBC denied accusations of bias.
He said: "We reported the [Pope's] comments, their context and the reactions to them. We had reactions from a wide range of organisations, as did every other news organisation."