The BBC's fantasy extremists

Imagine for a moment that you're a BBC reporter. You're on the Sunday programme, the Radio 4 early morning religious affairs show. In September, it'll be a decade since the events of 9/11. You've been asked to look at the impact on the relationship between Islam and the West.

So what do you focus on? The alliance between the hard left and Islamists? Maybe. The rise of radical Islam on campus? Perhaps. The failure of some in the West fully to grasp the threat? Possibly.

Or the rise of Christian extremism? Because that's where the real story lies, according to BBC reporter Kevin Bouquet.

Last weekend I was a guest on the programme. As I sat in the studio listening to his report, I began to wonder what fantasy world we were in. Mr Bouquet informed us that, after the attack, "some in the west felt personally threatened by Muslims." Heaven knows why. It's not as if murdering 3000 people provides any real reason to feel threatened by radical Islam.

Is a man burning a book really the same as global Islamist terrorism?

"They believed," he went on, "that Muslims had nothing but hatred for America and its allies."

Here's where the problems really start. It's the missing word 'radical'. The BBC subscribes to all the multi-culti PC shibboleths, one of which is that it is only 'neocons' who draw attention to the rise of radical Islam. So Mr Bouquet himself has to lump all Muslims together, and so fail to distinguish between peaceable and radical Muslims.

But that's just the start. Soon we got to the real story: Christian extremism. Cue a recording of pastor Terry Jones, who last year threatened to burn the Koran. As Mr Bouquet put it: "It's an example of another significant development over the last decade - the ease with which extremists on all sides can now make their voices heard."

On all sides. Who wouldn't equate a man in a field in Florida threatening to burn a book with a global jihadi network that has already murdered thousands?

Then we switched to Zahed Amanullah, a Muslim, who told us that the internet is to blame for "amplifying the extremes of society on all sides".

Mr Bouquet then reiterated that the problem is "extremism on all sides". Just in case you missed the point.

On and on it went, including this useful aide memoire from Mr Bouquet: "Late in 2010, a plot by al-Qaeda in Yemen targeting synagogues in the United States served as a reminder that it's not just Christians who are under threat from Muslim extremism."

Thanks. I'd forgotten that jihadi terrorists have also killed Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, Jews and other non-Christians, and that the Islamic Republic of Iran is developing a bomb to wipe Israel off the map.

After taking the report to task, I was swiftly silenced by the presenter, Ed Stourton (who had derisively snorted at my comments).

The producer rang me later, worried that I might think that, having broadcast a report arguing that extremism "on all sides" is the big problem, the BBC might actually think that extremism "on all sides" is the big problem.

I'll tell you a real problem: that for our main broadcaster, this is what passes for analysis of the jihadi threat to the West.

    Last updated: 11:03am, January 6 2011