Ofcom suspends radio station’s licence over Al Qaeda hate speech

Lectures broadcast ruled to have contained hate speech towards Jews and incitement to violence against non-Muslims


Ofcom has suspended the licence of a UK radio station for broadcasting sermons by an Al Qaeda leader that included hate speech.

Iman FM, a radio station based in Sheffield and broadcasting to the Muslim community in the south Yorkshire area, transmitted a series of religious sermons during the month of Ramadan, including two from Anwar al-Awlaki, a senior Al Qaeda commander killed in Yemen in 2011.

One of the lectures referenced Ka’ab [ibn Ashraf], a Jew who was said to have opposed the prophet Mohammed.

In his sermon al-Awlaki said that “Ka’ab was a Jew but ethnically an Arab, so that shows that our negative attitude towards Jews is not based on racism, not based on their ethnicity, so that proves we are not antisemitic.

“Our problem is not with their ethnicity but their mindset… the issue of the Muslims is not the ethnicity of the Jews but their mindset, which leads such a people to become blasphemous against Allah, to speak against the prophet, and to reject his message, to plot against Muslims, cause disunity. It is against their evil actions themselves”.

In its ruling, published on Monday, Ofcom said that in its view “this statement would have been interpreted justifying a ‘negative attitude’ and critical view towards Jewish people, based on what it termed that community’s ‘mindset’ and their ‘evil actions’.

“We considered this statement would have been perceived by listeners as justifying hatred or violence towards Jewish people, and therefore is a clear example of hate speech as defined by the Code”.

Al-Awlaki was considered responsible for radicalising a number of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attack, as well being involved in the attack on Fort Hood military base in 2009, and the attempted “underwear bombing” of Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas day 2009. He was killed in Yemen via a US drone strike.

In another part of one of the sermons, the preacher told listeners to “prepare whatever strength you have for Jihad fi Sabilillah (holy war in the cause of Allah). This is a form of worship, it is just like praying, fasting or paying the Zakaat (charity) it is Ibaada (worship). So if Jihad is fardh (compulsory), then preparation (for Jihad) becomes fardh as well, so this Ghazu (early Bedouin raids, which the prophet Mohammed took part of) was equivalent to worshipping Allah with training, this was hands on military training”.

Ofcom said it considered the above statement to have “amounted to a direct call to action to members of the Muslim community to prepare for and carry out violent action against non-Muslim people”.

Although after being approached by Ofcom the radio station had broadcast apologies for playing the sermons, the broadcasting regulator deemed the station to be in breach of a number of its rules, and has suspended its licence.

In a statement earlier this month on its Facebook page, Iman FM said it had “temporarily stopped broadcasting… due to the regulator suspending its licence for the next 21 days, on the basis that unwittingly some controversial lectures were broadcast”.

If the station is unable to explain its actions adequately within the 21 day period, it is likely to be closed down permanently. 

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