A Sheffield-based Muslim radio station has had its license suspended after broadcasting 25 hours of sermons “encouraging and condoning” violence against non-Muslims.
Ofcom investigated Iman FM after a complaint that the radio station had, during Ramadan, aired lectures by Anwar Al-Awlaki, an influential cleric killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011.
The broadcasting watchdog said it had “serious concerns” over Iman FM’s decision to air the series of pre-recorded lectures by a “widely-known terrorist leader and al-Qaeda recruiter.”
The material “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,” according to Ofcom, which suspended the community radio station’s license and gave managers 21 days to explain themselves or have the channel shut down.
Ofcom further stated that the cumulative effect of al-Awlaki’s statements in the lectures broadcast would “condone, promote and encourage violent behaviour towards non-Muslim people,” the Star reported.
“Further, the lectures appeared to link violent acts of the past with actions that might potentially be taken today,” judged the regulator, taking the view that the content therefore amounted to a call to action which was likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder.”
Bosses at Iman FM, the mission statement of which is “equipping the generation towards a cohesive society”, admitted to having downloaded and broadcast Awlaki’s lectures during Ramadan, but claimed to be unaware of the hate preacher’s background.
The station said it had listened to 12 hours of the audio, which it “judged to be within the parameters [of the Broadcasting Code]”, but only samples of the remainder were checked because of time constraints.
The Ofcom ruling described this defence as ‘not credible’.
Iman FM’s chief executive Mohammad Mughal told the Daily Mail: “This is very, very sad because none of us had any idea this lecture was preaching hatred.”
A petition has been set up “in support of IMAN FM being allowed to carry on with its radio broadcasts and for Ofcom not to revoke its license,” on Change.org in response to the radio station’s suspension from air.
“As listeners we have never had any cause of complain [sic] against IMAN fm and the content has always been exemplary,” says the plea, which has been signed by nearly 300 people.