Ofcom has determined that the Islam Channel broadcasted “very harmful and highly offensive antisemitic content” in its programme, The Rightly Guided Khalifas.
According to its website, the Islam Channel broadcasts from London and describes itself as providing “alt news, current affairs and entertainment programming from an Islamic perspective,” and it broadcasts to over 136 countries worldwide.
The Rightly Guided Khalifas, a religious education series on the history of the Koran and the measures used to preserve its original wording, claimed that Israel printed hundreds of thousands of deliberately distorted copies of the Koran in 1961 for distribution in Africa and Asia, an assertion based on government propaganda from the period.
The Arabic narration also quoted a “telegraph” from the last century accusing Israel of being “formed on the basis of tyranny and aggression…[and it] continues to live in this tyrannical frame of mind…[and] seeks the destruction of our belief and religion” by distorting the Koran. “In this way, it continues to practice what their forefathers [i.e. the Jews] had done before.”
The English translation on-screen also accused Israel of “poisonous acts”, while the English subtitles added that “the occupying state of Israel (the jews)…is still living in this world with the same evil mind…by doing so the new jews tried to do the same thing their ancestors did when they displaced words from (their) right places [sic].”
The Islam Channel said that The Rightly Guided Khalifas series was produced by an overseas third party rather than in-house, and that it did not endorse its content, despite having broadcast it, noting also that the English translations were produced in the Middle East and claiming that terms such as “Israel”, “Israelis” and “Jews” are used interchangeably there, while insisting it did not endorse this conflation.
Ofcom had regard to the International Definition of Antisemitism, noting in particular the following examples of antisemitism:
- accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews;
- holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel; and
- making mendacious, dehumanising, demonising, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
Ofcom determined that the material constituted hate speech on the bases that that it conflated Israel and the Jewish people (for both Arabic and English language viewers); held contemporary Jews collectively responsible for allegations (based on a single interpretation) stretching from the establishment of Islam to the 1960s; and ascribed a perpetually negative characteristic to Jewish people (namely corrupting holy books and seeking the destruction of Islam).
Ofcom decided that the broadcast “had the potential to promote, encourage and incite such intolerance among viewers” and that it “represents serious breaches of the [Ofcom Broadcasting] Code”. Ofcom is now considering a statutory sanction.
The Islam Channel, which is reportedly funded by Saudi Arabia, has been found on multiple occasions in the past to have broadcast programmes featuring political bias and advocacy of marital rape and violence, and has been accused of promoting a radical cleric.