Muslims back police in Channel 4 row

A senior British Muslim last night defended West Midlands Police from fierce criticism after it attempted to discredit a TV documentary exposing Islamic extremism in Birmingham. The force was accused by Channel 4 bosses of “staggering naivety” for referring an episode of the flagship documentary Dispatches to media watchdog Ofcom.

Police claimed the programme, Undercover Mosque, misrepresented the views of Muslim clerics in the city and undermined community cohesion and safety. But Ofcom yesterday ruled the documentary was “a legitimate investigation” and “found no evidence that the broadcaster had misled the audience”.

Channel 4 bosses and opposition politicians condemned West Midlands Police, with the broadcaster describing the force’s actions as “perverse” and giving, in some people’s eyes, “legitimacy to people preaching a message of hate”.

However, Tahir Alam, assistant secretary for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “I think the police acted responsibly by investigating within the current context. There is an unhealthy focus on the Muslim community and coverage has been very unfriendly. It was not the first such programme to pursue a similar line of inquiry. These kind of irresponsible programmes damage community relations. Yes, there is freedom of the press, but that is no reason to target a select community in this way.

Birmingham Post, 20 November 2007