Islam Channel used to ‘promote intolerance’

Programmes on a leading Muslim television channel have been hosted by Islamists and members of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir, a counter-extremist think-tank has claimed.

Islam Channel is the largest satellite station aimed at British and European Muslims. The Quilliam Foundation said it was being used to promote “intolerant and bigoted interpretations of Islam”.

A spokesman for the channel said it would not be responding to the foundation’s claims.

The English-language station is based in central London and was launched in 2004. It is broadcast in Britain on Sky channel 813 and is also available throughout west Africa.

The Quilliam Foundation claims at least four presenters are “active members” of Hizb ut-Tahrir and use their roles to support the organisation’s call for the reintroduction of the caliphate (pan-Islamic leadership).

Opposition leader David Cameron has previously called Hizb ut-Tahrir a “conveyor belt to terrorism” and said it should be “put out of business”.

The government has so far declined to proscribe it on the grounds of insufficient evidence but the group is banned in many Arab countries and in parts of central Asia.

Other presenters include Azad Ali, who has hosted the Ummah Talk discussion show. He was suspended from his job as a civil servant in January for writing a blog attacking “the Zionist terrorist state of Israel” and denying the attacks on Mumbai last November were organised by terrorists.

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, presents a show about politics and the media.

In March, the government suspended contacts with the MCB after its deputy general secretary Daud Abdullah attended a conference in Istanbul where he signed a controversial declaration which claimed those who stood with Israel would be considered the same as the “Zionist enemy”.

A spokesman for the Quilliam Foundation said: “Islam Channel claims to be committed to giving a platform to a range of views from across Britain’s Muslim and non-Muslim communities. However, one unfortunate side-effect of this laudable and broad-minded policy has been to give an undue prominence to Islamist voices that represent only a small minority of British Muslims.

“This over-representation has also led to other voices, for instance from the UK’s Shia community or from non-Islamist Muslim groups, being under-represented on the channel.”

Media regulator Ofcom criticised the Islam Channel as biased in August 2007 over two broadcasts about Jerusalem.

It reprimanded the station’s documentary Jerusalem: A Promise of Heaven, which studied territorial claims to Jerusalem purely from the Palestinian perspective.

Last updated: 11:45am, May 7 2009