The broadcasting regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), has revoked the license of Sheffield radio station, Iman FM, for broadcasting antisemitic and hate-filled speeches by Anwar Al-Awlaki, the “widely known terrorist leader and Al Qaeda recruiter.”
The station was suspended earlier this month pending representations to Ofcom by the radio station, however the radio station’s arguments that it should be allowed to continue to operate did not sway the regulator. In its revocation notice, Ofcom wrote: “On balance, after considering all the relevant factors, it is Ofcom’s Decision that the contraventions of the [Broadcasting] Code and failures to comply with the [Broadcasting Act] Licence conditions in this case are so extremely serious, and that the Licensee’s conduct was so extremely reckless that we have no confidence that the Licensee would be capable of complying with its [Broadcasting Act] Licence conditions or that similar breaches would be prevented in the future. On this basis, in Ofcom’s view it is necessary in the public interest to revoke the [Broadcasting Act] Licence…”
In its 18-page revocation notice, Ofcom confirmed Iman FM admitted to Ofcom that they had broadcast 25 hours worth of lectures by Al-Awlaki. The radio station had claimed that it was “not aware of the background of the preacher and had no knowledge of him being proscribed by the United Nations,” adding that “had this fact been known” they would not have broadcast the lectures.
In one speech broadcast by Iman FM, Al-Awlaki said that “Our problem is not with [Jews’] ethnicity but their mindset.” In another antisemitic comment condemned by Ofcom, Al-Awlaki referred to a highly controversial event in Islamic history relating to the Prophet Muhammad’s alleged order to kill a Jewish opponent. He stated: “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.”
Ofcom found that this statement would have been interpreted as justifying a “negative attitude” and critical view towards Jewish people, based on what it termed as Jews’ “mindset” and their “evil actions”. Ofcom wrote: “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.”
Ofcom first began to investigate Iman FM after a listener complained that they had aired lectures encouraging violence and religious hatred during Ramadan. Al-Awlaki, who advocated violent jihad against the United States, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen, authorised by President Obama, but his writings and sermons remain available online.
Campaign Against Antisemitism applauds Ofcom’s firm enforcement in this case,m which sends a strong message that the broadcasting of antisemitic hate speech will not be tolerated.
The radio station no longer appears to be broadcasting.