Islamophobia: BBC Under Fire for ‘Hostile’ Interview of Muslim Leader

This is what happens when you ask a member of a protected class a tough question.

The BBC has been up-front about owning up to its sins against leftist orthodoxy, reporting Thursday: “A BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour interview with the first woman to lead the Muslim Council of Britain has been criticised for being ‘strikingly hostile.’” The government-subsidized far-left British network’s self-incrimination session was prompted by the fact that “more than 100 politicians, writers and other prominent figures have signed an open letter complaining about Zara Mohammed’s ‘mistreatment’ on the show.” What mistreatment? Was Zara Mohammed accused of being a terrorist? Classified as a “hate group leader”? Accused of “bigotry” and “intolerance”? No, nothing like that, but in what was likely the first time ever in Britain, a Muslim leader was asked a challenging question.

It seems that BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour host Emma Barnett asked Mohammed several times how many female imams there were in Britain, and persisted when Mohammad offered double-talk and platitudes in answer to the question.

For this, those “100 politicians, writers and other prominent figures” have charged that Barnett “appeared intent on re-enforcing damaging and prejudicial tropes” about Islam.Predictably, the gallant defenders of Zara Mohammed’s honor and good name in the face of this relentless right-wing Islamophobic yahoo who somehow became a BBC presenter were all prominent figures of the British left, including the grievance-mongering Muslim peer Baroness Warsi, Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Naz Shah, journalist Afua Hirsch, Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens, and the Muslim Council of Britain’s Sir Iqbal Sacranie.

In high dudgeon, these guardians of journalistic integrity wrote that “the BBC needs to address its engagement with and representation of Muslim women.” Apparently those representations up to now haven’t been enthusiastically hagiographical enough. Barnett was way out of line for “persistently” asking Zara Mohammed about how many female imams there were in Britain, because “despite Mohammed’s repeated claims that religious adjudication was not within the parameters of her role leading a civil society organisation, Barnett asked the question about female imams four times, each time interrupting Mohammed’s answer.”

The interview, they continued, “mirrored the style and tone of an accountability interview with a politician, rather than authentically recognising and engaging in what this represented for British Muslim women.”

Stung by the criticism, BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour deleted the clip of the interview from its Twitter feed.

This is incredible. These 100 “prominent figures” are enraged over an incident that amounts to nothing more than a BBC interviewer asking a Muslim leader a tough question. Not even a series of tough questions, but apparently only one. Many of these self-appointed guardians of what is acceptable and what is not in journalism no doubt signed on to this because they assume that Muslims are subjected to widespread discrimination and harassment in Britain and all over the West, and so should be given special consideration. 

However, as is always the case with leftist outrage, reality is otherwise. The fact that there is any outrage at all over this is an indication of how far that assumption is from the truth. Zara Mohammed is not downtrodden; she is privileged. That’s the real reason why there is this outcry: Emma Barnett dared to challenge a privileged person whom she should have regarded with reverence and treated with kid gloves. She should have accorded Zara Mohammed all the deference that members of protected and supposedly victimized groups are assumed to deserve in Britain (and the United States) today. But instead, she asked her a difficult and revealing question. As a result, Emma Barnett is likely not going to remain at the BBC for very long.

Note also that the opponents of jihad violence and Sharia oppression are routinely subjected to “hostile” treatment on the BBC and everywhere else in the international establishment media. I myself know that when I receive a media inquiry from an establishment outlet such as the BBC or the New York Times that the inquirer’s intent is to make me, and opposition to jihad terror in general, look as bad as possible. 

No one raises any uproar about it, either, and I wouldn’t expect them to. But the dichotomy shows who has the privilege in British society, and all over the West today, and who doesn’t.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.

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