Censorship or Fear?

It was on Monday, January 15, 2007, when a line drawn across the Saudi sands also seems to have   left a deep and nasty gash on the body of British independence and integrity.  At 9 PM that evening, Channel Four, the UK commercial national TV network owned by the BBC, aired a documentary called “Undercover Mosque.”  The fallout from that 60 minutes of television has become a twisted tale of confused and divided loyalties, a parable of what occurs when multiculturalism goes mad and religion pumps up on steroids.    Forget reality TV.  This is the real thing.

“Undercover Mosque” was culled from 56 hours of tapes secretly made at various Islamic houses of worship in England.  It took nine months to edit the footage.  Channel Four believes that some of the comments they recorded can be characterized as incendiary and treasonous.  Vociferous critics have labeled it unfair and badly spliced.

The West Midlands Police launched investigations in both directions.  The outcome of these inquiries could indicate which way English history is headed. Either the people of the United (or slightly disunited) Kingdom will arise to affirm documents like the Magna Carta  (a real copy of which is now on sale for about $20 million) or they will have their national sanctity sold out by the kind of military industrial complex which Ike warned us about way back when.  

The asking price for this deal  (and a nation’s soul) may have been set when military contracts – totaling in the billions of dollars — were signed by BAE. BAE, a British firm, is Europe’s biggest supplier of defense and aerospace equipment. BAE is building the new and improved Royal Saudi Air Force.  Hints were dropped to the press that Saudi Prince Bandar (the former ambassador to the United States and close friend of the Bush family) had been paid a substantial “commission” to assure that this lucrative contract was awarded to a UK company.  This raised the hairs on the white wigs hanging from the heads of the SFO (the Serious Fraud Office) in Britain. These are the lads and ladettes assigned to keep the government and industry on the straight and narrow.  The investigation on what went down between BAE and the Saudi Prince was begun with gusto when suddenly — PRESTO —  outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair called off the dogs.  Number Ten said to the SFO – “drop it” and it was made so.   Zero tolerance in reverse.   Next thing you know, Tony Blair is a special envoy to the Middle East. Another story.

But back in January, Channel Four’s documentary implied that some of that “finder’s fee” to the Prince was being channeled into extremist mosques and stoking the bank accounts of Wahahbist fire breathing imans in England.  Some saw the dots connected.   Right out of the gate, the documentary makers were charged with racial bias on the basis that they edited the words of three British imams “out of context.”

A few quoted phrases prove that cannot be true.   In what context does one say things like:  “An army of Muslims will arise”… “we must dismantle British democracy”…. “we must live like a state within a state until we are strong enough to take over”

Enter the Bobbies.  The West Midlands Police, whose territory includes one of the mosques featured in the documentary, then did the wildly unexpected.  They reported Channel Four to the media regulator Ofcom  (the British version of the FCC) asking them to investigate how the program was edited.  The Crown Prosecution Service entered the fray and initially claimed the show “completely distorted” what the imams said.

Kevin Sutcliffe, the commissioning Editor of the Dispatches documentary series, said the West Midland police had produced no evidence to support their claims. “We find it extraordinary that they have gone public on these concerns without discussing them with us first.   We believe the comments made in the film speak for themselves — several speakers were clearly shown making abhorrent and extreme comments.”

For the record, Channel Four offered all the speakers whose images and voices were depicted in the film a right to reply and deny that they made these comments. No takers and, says Channel Four, “nor have any of them complained to Ofcom to our knowledge.”

Channel Four has further stated that it was fully aware of the sensitivities surrounding the subject matter, particularly its effect on community relations, but believed there was a greater public interest in exposing what was being preached in the name of Islam in some mainstream British mosques.

In blogs linked to articles on Undercover Mosque, there was no shortage of heated discussion.  The lurking question was whether or how the West Midlands police came under pressure from Muslims to act against Channel Four, as opposed to investigating the radical imams preaching violence in the mosques.  One gentleman asked:  “If those imams in the documentary had been Neo-Nazis preaching hatred and war against Muslims, would the police still be taking that stance?”   Another gent wrote: “If you don’t stand up to bullies, welcome to the concentration camp.”  

In an official press release, Channel Four observed that Prime Minister Tony Blair had described tolerance as ‘what makes Britain Britain’ but the Dispatches program clearly    reveals how a message of hatred and segregation is being spread throughout the UK and examines how Britain is being influenced by the religious establishment of Saudi Arabia.
Dispatches claims:  “The investigation reveals that Saudi Arabian universities are recruiting young Western Muslims to train them in their extreme theology, then sending them back to the West to spread the word”.  Channel Four further asserts that radical Saudi-trained preachers are promoted in DVD’s and books on sale at religious centers in London and other UK cities and that the influence of Wahabism extends beyond the walls of some mosques into influential organizations that advise the British government on inter-community relations and the prevention of terrorism.

 The legal waters have been further muddied by the passage of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act of 2006.  This legislation makes it a crime to express what is deemed to be  “hatred against a person on religious grounds.”   

Dr. Al Alawi of the Islamic Heritage Foundation has warned: “If this continues, you will have extremist mosques in every corner of the UK. You will not have moderate Muslims walking on our streets anymore.”  

Winston Churchill is credited with calling the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe “the Iron Curtain.”  One wonders how he would describe the curtain of political correctness and abject fear which is now enveloping his homeland.

Postscript:  Will US justice trump Tony Blair?   One of America’s most aggressive law firms (Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman & Robbins) has launched an investigation of the BAE Saudi deal.  The charge is that BAE has committed a “systematic abuse of national and international corruption laws.”  The plaintiffs in the case are the City of Harper Woods Employees Retirement System, a public pension group which holds only a small number of BAE shares.  The argument is that BAE’s actions constituted a  “reckless and negligent breach   of their fiduciary responsibilities,” causing a devaluation of their share prices, as well as the company’s reputation.