The first ever Muslim to hold the position of Head of Religion and Ethics at the BBC has insisted that Islamic State terrorists are Muslim, and are motivated by their interpretation of Islamic doctrine.
Professor Aaqil Ahmed was speaking at an event at Huddersfield University exploring Britain’s taxpayer-funded broadcaster’s insistence on calling the Islamic State terrorist organisation the “so-called Islamic State”.
“You wouldn’t say ‘so-called Huddersfield University’” questions barrister Neil Addison during the event organised by the Centre for Religious Literacy in Journalism (CRLJ).
“I hear so many people say ISIS has nothing to do with Islam – of course it has,” replied Mr. Ahmed.
“They are not preaching Judaism. It might be wrong but what they are saying is an ideology based on some form of Islamic doctrine. They are Muslims. That is a fact and we have to get our head around some very uncomfortable things.
“That is where the difficulty comes in for many journalists because the vast majority of Muslims won’t agree with them [ISIS].”
Last month it was reported that Mr. Ahmed had told a committee in the House of Commons that he has written a report on how to make the BBC’s output less Christian, after a report found it needed to be more “diverse”.
— Aaqil Ahmed (@aaqil1969) May 23, 2016
The BBC has come under sustained criticism for its usage of “so-called Islamic State”.
From one side, it’s argued that the “so-called” prefix denies the religious focus of the terror group, and on the other, its is argued there should be no mention of “Islam” at all in relation to Islamic terror.
Leading the charge, the Prime Minister argued in December last year:
“I think it’s time to join our key ally France, the Arab League and other members of the international community in using as frequently as possible the terminology Daesh rather than Isil because frankly this evil death cult is neither a true representation of Islam nor is it a state.”
Appearing on the Today programme on Radio 4 in January, the Prime Minister addressed the BBC directly:
“I think Muslim families around the country would have held their heads in despair this morning when once again you just called it ‘Islamic State’. You didn’t even say ‘so-called Islamic State’. It’s so important.”
The BBC has insisted their use of “so-called” is understood to qualify the group’s claim to statehood rather than its religious affiliation. In response to the criticism last year, the BBC’s director-general told MPs that “Daesh” could not be used as it is derogatory and he needed to “preserve the BBC’s impartiality”.
Adding: “We have recognised that, used on its own, the name Islamic State could suggest that such a state exists and such an interpretation is misleading.
“So we have caveated the name ‘Islamic State’ with words which qualify it, eg ‘so-called Islamic State’.”