An Islamic television channel has been hit with a hefty fine after a Muslim hate preacher told viewers, live on air, that it was the duty of all Muslims to murder anyone who shows disrespect for the Prophet Mohammed.
Noor TV, a British-based Satellite Television Channel that broadcasts programs about Islam throughout Europe, was fined £85,000 ($115,000) by the British broadcasting regulator known as Ofcom for inciting people to commit murder.
Ofcom said the fine imposed on August 21 was so large due to "the serious nature of the breaches of the Broadcasting Code." It said young Muslims watching Noor TV could become "radicalized" and take "violent and criminal action as a result of watching videos of Muslims with extreme views."
The program in question, Paigham-e-Mustafa, a talk show aimed at young British Muslims, was broadcast on May 3, 2012. According to an "enforcement bulletin" published by Ofcom in December 2012, the program featured a presenter named Allama Muhammad Farooq Nazimi, who answered questions about a wide range of issues and personal conduct relating to Islam and Islamic teachings.
The questions were provided by people who called in live from various countries, including the United Kingdom, countries in Western Europe such as Holland and Germany, and Pakistan.
At approximately one hour and 18 minutes into the program, Nazimi answered a question from a caller who asked, "What is the punishment for the individual who shows disrespect for Prophet Mohammed?"
In response to the question, Nazimi delivered an impassioned monologue, saying:
There is no disagreement about this [the punishment]; there is absolutely no doubt about it that the punishment for the person who shows disrespect for the Prophet is death. No one [among the Islamic scholars] disagrees about this. No one disagrees about this. The Koran, hadith [orally transmitted quotes of Mohammed], the actions of the companions of Prophet Mohammed, all testify to this [punishment] and there is no room for doubt in it. Whoever shows disrespect for Prophet Mohammed will be given the death penalty.
We salute those who protect the sanctity of our Lord [Mohammed] and we pray for ourselves too, "O Allah, accept us among those who protect the sanctity of our beloved Mohammed." There is no privilege in the world greater than this: that the Exalted Allah should select and accept one to [kill to] protect the sanctity of our beloved Lord [Mohammed].
Speaking directly into the camera, Nazimi concluded his remarks this way:
One has to choose one's own method. ... No one can be more fortunate than the one who loses his life, wealth and children for the sake of glorifying our beloved Lord [Mohammed] whom Allah praises and protects. I say the aim of establishing Noor TV, and the slogan of the founder of Noor TV, is the protection of the sanctity of Prophet Mohammed. ... In the whole world, there should be slaves of Mustafa [Mohammed] everywhere, and disrespectful people should be eliminated. ... The mission of our life is to protect the sanctity of our beloved Lord [Mohammed]. May Allah accept us wherever there is a need [to kill a blasphemer]. We are ready and should be ready at all times [to kill a blasphemer].
According to Ofcom, Nazimi's comments raised issues under Rule 3.1 of the Broadcasting Code, which states that, "Material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder must not be included in television or radio services."
In addition, the material complained of raised issues under Rule 4.1: "Broadcasters must exercise the proper degree of responsibility with respect to the content of programs which are religious programs."
In its decision (pages 22-31), Ofcom wrote:
In this case, statements were broadcast that it was acceptable, or even the duty of a Muslim, to murder any person thought to have shown disrespect to the Prophet Mohammad where the relevant government had failed to take any action. We therefore assessed whether these statements were likely to encourage or incite criminal action against individuals who might be deemed to have criticized or insulted the Prophet Mohammed; or to lead to disorder. As part of this assessment, we considered whether the presenter's statements in the program included any direct or indirect calls to action.
According to Ofcom,
We considered that the broadcast of the various statements made by the Islamic scholar outlined above was likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime. A number of the remarks in Ofcom's opinion amounted to direct calls to action. In particular, we interpreted some of Mr. Nazimi's comments to be a generic call to all Muslims encouraging or inciting them to criminal action or disorder by unambiguously stating that the appropriate penalty for showing disrespect to Mohammed was the death penalty. ... We believe that on a reasonable interpretation of the presenter's remarks, he was personally advocating that all Muslims had a duty to carry out the actions he suggested.
Ofcom also said it considered the remarks to be so inflammatory that they could have inspired a repeat of the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was killed after Islamic clerics condemned his film which criticized the treatment of Muslim women.
Lawyers for Noor TV's parent company, the Birmingham-based Al Ehya Digital Television, said that Ofcom's ruling amounted to Islamophobia.
Al Ehya -- whose corporate motto is "Spreading Love, Peace and Harmony across the Globe" -- said that there was "nothing new or unknown" in the statements made by the presenter relating to the implementation of Islamic law: they are set out in the Koran and it is a requirement that they are taught to young Muslims.
Al Ehya also accused Ofcom of unfairly picking on Muslims and referred to various instances of violence and sacrifice in the Bible. Al Ehya suggested that Ofcom was approaching "this situation in quite a different way in that which it might if any Priest of the Christian Church was reading segments of the Bible that contained such remarks."
Ofcom countered by saying that
the purpose of Rule 3.1 is not to prevent material being broadcast which includes discussion or recital of passages from ancient religious scripture and sacred texts that refer to acts of violence and retribution. However, broadcasters transmitting material under an Ofcom license (who must therefore ensure compliance with UK broadcasting rules) must ensure that such material is not featured in a way that would be likely to incite or encourage viewers to undertake criminal acts and thereby be in breach of Rule 3.1.
Ofcom added that it
is of course aware that there are some texts in the Koran and related documents, well known to Muslims, suggesting that those who blaspheme against or show disrespect towards the Prophet Mohammed should be severely punished, including by execution. ... Precisely however because some extremist Muslims have sought to use various passages from these Koranic texts to seek to justify taking very violent action against those whom they deem to have insulted the Prophet, an important responsibility lies on Ofcom licensees to take due care in providing appropriate balance and context to any discussion of those passages.
In its ruling, Ofcom also criticized Al Ehya for not taking the comments seriously enough after concerns were initially raised by the broadcast watchdog:
The Licensee [Al Ehya] has not at any point broadcast any form of apology for, or condemnation of Mr. Nazimi's remarks, and neither on air nor in correspondence with Ofcom has the Licensee expressed its unequivocal regret that these comments were broadcast. The Licensee regretted only in its submissions that the presenter's comments "may have been misinterpreted" and that he expressed his own political views during the program. Taking all these factors into account, Ofcom was concerned that the Licensee has still not recognized the gravity of the statements made by Mr. Nazimi.
The television network has not broadcast an apology for the comments, and it took six months to air a "clarification."
This is not, however, the first time Ofcom has fined Al Ehya/Noor TV for broadcasting code violations.
In September 2011, Ofcom fined Al Ehya £75,000 ($100,000) for repeated breaches relating to Noor TV's Saturday Night Special program, which features presenters taking calls from viewers who donate money to the channel in return for prayers.
The regulator said (here and here) the program offered "inducements" for donations of up to £1,000 ($1,300), such as special gifts and prayers that were claimed to improve the health, wealth or success of donors.
More specifically, Noor TV had appealed for viewers to make donations of £1,000 in return for the receipt of a "special gift" of dirt from Mohammed's tomb.
According to a transcript of the program, the presenter of Saturday Night Special said:
I want to tell all those brothers who have offered £1,000 each to give us their numbers because I, this humble man, would like to send them a gift which is the earth from the holy tomb of our Lord [Mohammed], whom Allah praises and protects. May you be blessed by this; it is a special gift for you. Our perfect sheikh will send this special gift of the earth from the holy tomb of our Lord, whom Allah praises and protects. Allah willing. All those brothers and sisters who have donated £1,000 each, it is a special gift for you which Noor TV is presenting to honor you. We will send this special gift of the earth from the holy tomb of our Lord.
According to Ofcom, the deception "carried the risk that susceptible members of the audience may have been persuaded to donate money to Noor TV when they would not otherwise have done so." At least 20 viewers fell for the scam.
In a separate case in July 2013, Ofcom ordered DM Digital Television to pay a fine of £85,000 ($115,000) after it broadcast a speech by an Islamic scholar who said Muslims had "a duty to kill" anyone who insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
The Manchester-based channel, which says it has a worldwide audience of 30 million, describes itself as bringing "Asian and English cultures closer by integrating its people, the cultural diversity, communities and the economy.
In its ruling, Ofcom cited a program called Rehmatul Lil Alameen, which was broadcast on October 9, 2011, and featured a live lecture it said was "likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder."
Ofcom stated that some of the scholar's comments could be seen as "a generic call to all Muslims encouraging or inciting them to criminal action or disorder, by unambiguously stating that they had a duty to kill anyone who criticizes or insults the Prophet Mohammed and apostates."
DM Digital TV had also previously been fined £17,500 ($27,200) by Ofcom for perpetrating a series of financial scams in which it misled viewers into investing in phony real estate projects.
In January 2013, Ofcom said that Takbeer TV, based in Nottingham, was guilty of violating the broadcasting code twice in 18 months for programs that incited hatred and violence toward the Ahmadiyya community, a minority Muslim sect.
In November 2012, Radio Asian Fever, in Leeds, was fined £4,000 ($5,400) for breaching broadcasting rules in programs involving a presenter named Rubina Nasir. Also known as Sister Ruby Ramadan, Nasir told listeners that homosexuals should be beaten and tortured.
In a program broadcast on August 17, 2011, Nasir said: "What should be done to those who practice homosexuality? Torture them; punish them; beat them and give them mental torture."
She added: "Allah states, 'If they do such a deed [homosexuality], punish them, both physically and mentally. Mental punishment means rebuke them, beat them, humiliate them, admonish and curse them, and beat them up. This command was sent in the beginning because capital punishment had not yet been sent down."
In its ruling, Ofcom found that Nasir's statements were in breach of Rule 3.1 and likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or to lead to disorder. Ofcom said it considered that the statements could be objectively and reasonably regarded as not only condoning but encouraging violent behavior against homosexuals.
According to Ofcom,
Acts of violence and hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation are prohibited by UK law. We considered that the broadcast of these two statements made by the presenter was likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime, i.e. violence or other unlawful acts motivated by hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation. For the same reasons we concluded that these statements were likely to encourage others to copy the sort of unacceptable behavior towards homosexual people described by the presenter, in breach of Rule 2.4 of the Code.
In another broadcast, Nasir said that that any Muslim who marries a non-Muslim was on "the straight path to hellfire." She asked rhetorically, "What happens when a Muslim man or woman get married to a Mushrek [an Arabic term meaning polytheist, but which refers to Christians, who, Muslims say, are polytheists because of their belief in Jesus Christ]. Listeners! Marriage of a Muslim man or woman with a Mushrek is the straight path to hellfire. Have my sisters and brothers, who live with people of bad religions or alien religions, ever thought about what would become of the children they have had with them, and the coming generation?"
"Where the filth of shirk [the sin of following another religion] is present," Nasir added, "where the dirt of shirk is present, where the heart is impure, how can you remove apparent filth. How many arrangements will you make to remove the apparent filth? We are saying that Mushreks have no concept of cleanliness and uncleanliness."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.