Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Are British Police Protecting Islamic Extremism?

Some people think so:-

But then, on Wednesday, without any warning to Channel 4, the CPS and the West Midlands police issued their fatwa. Not only had they investigated, and decided, as they were entitled to do, that there were no charges to bring against people featured in the programme: they also announced that they had investigated the programme itself for stirring up racial hatred.

Again, they had decided not to press charges. But, said West Midlands police smugly, they had pursued the making of the programme "with as much rigour as the extremism portrayed within the documentary itself". They had concluded that comments had been "broadcast out of context" and so they and the CPS had complained to Ofcom.

They did not acknowledge, by the way, that at several points in the programme, the organisations and individuals concerned are given a right of reply, or that several moderate Muslim experts explain on air why they think the remarks shown are extreme. Do the West Midlands police side with Islamists against moderates?


I do not know whether the Dispatches programme is right in every detail. But it clearly raises serious, important questions - about extremists in our midst, about the way apparently moderate organisations give them shelter, about the Saudi Arabian network that supports them.

What security agencies call "thematic analyses" show that, at present, the problems of Islamist extremism are particularly acute, especially in prisons and universities, in the West Midlands area.

Yet the West Midlands police and the Crown Prosecution Service decide that the target of their wrath should be not people who want to undermine this country, but some journalists who want to expose them.

Are they fit to protect us?


Some people are bothered by this police attitude and action:

The recent decision by the West Midlands Police to refer Undercover Mosque -- Channel 4's Dispatches programme of January 2007 -- to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom for supposed shortcomings in its editing procedures has attracted considerable controversy. At the same time, West Midlands Police , on advice from the CPS, declined to take further action against the alleged Islamist hate preachers portrayed in the programme.

As the Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police has observed in the force's joint statement with the CPS on the matter: "...The priority for West Midlands Police has been to investigate the documentary and its making with as much rigour as the extremism the programme sought to portray."

Has the referral by West Midlands Police the potential to constitute a major development in the relations between the public authorities and the free press? Did the authorities prove their impartiality in dealing with all sections of the community? Did they stray over into TV criticism? And what is the broader context of this decision?

Policy Exchange has invited Kevin Sutcliffe, Deputy Head of News and Current Affairs for Channel 4 to brief us on these issues. He will share the platform with Joanne Cash, a leading media barrister and an expert in race hatred laws; Paul Goodman, MP, Shadow Communities Minister; and Shiraz Maher, an ex-Hizb-ut-Tahrir activist, who is now a prominent commentator working as a consultant for BBC's Panorama programme.

This event will take place on Thursday 16 August 2007 at 12 30 pm, in our offices at 10 Storey's Gate London SW1.

I can't be there but maybe some of my British readers can?

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