May 17, 2012 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London, England (May 17, 2012): As per a news report of “The Telegraph” “the BBC has expressed regret to Sikhs over comments on a radio discussion suggesting that their faith is “made up of other religions” such as Islam and Hinduism”.
Report posted on website of The Telegraph by By John Bingham, Religious Affairs Editor on May 14, 2012 adds that “the Sikh leaders accused the corporation’s Asian Network of displaying “irresponsible and misleading” attitude and suggesting that their religion was simply a “hotchpotch” of other faiths”.
It followed a phone-in broadcast in March in which the presenter DJ Nihal Arthanayake – best known as a Radio 1 DJ – touched on the relationship between Sikhism, which was founded in Punjab in the 15th Century, and the other two predominant religions in India at the time.
A text message from a listener was read out complaining about the “incredibly offensive” way the presenters had suggested that Sikhism was “made up from other religions ie Islam and Hinduism”.
The DJ, known simply as Nihal on air, replied: “I’m sorry with all due respect, it is, absolutely it is.”
He added: “It came around in the 15th and 16th Centuries in India, how could it not be influenced?”
He went on: “A Muslim laid the stone to the holiest places, with all due respect I know more about your religion than you do.”
The comment was a reference to the tradition that a Muslim divine was asked to lay the foundation of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the centre of Sikh worship.
But the Network of Sikh Organisations, headed by Lord Singh – who is himself a regular on the BBC, as a contributor to Radio 4’s Thought For the Day – complained, accusing the programme of a “skewed” approach.
They asked: “Is the BBC similarly willing to take the view that Islam is a religion made up of Christianity and Judaism?”
The corporation initially responded that they would “bear in mind he complaint” in future but did not apologise.
Following a second complaint, the channel’s head of news, Kevin Silverton, wrote to the Network admitting that the discussion had been “less than satisfactory”.
“The Nihal phone-in deals with difficult subjects on a daily basis and very occasionally we don’t get the tone exactly right.
“In this case at the end of an hour of challenging debate, the presenter was unusually forthright about a point of view that some listeners have contacted us about concerning the influence other religions had on Sikhism … We’ve stressed to him and the team the importance to retain an impartial tone on these kind of matters and to back up assertions with solid research where at all possible (considering the live and unpredictable nature of such a show).
“We will monitor both these points closely.”
Lord Singh said: “They initially handled it very arrogantly, they didn’t accept anything.
“Then they thought about it and said that they should have been more sensitive – but then it goes on say we do so much with all communities and we have great balance.
“It’s not a very good ‘sorry’.”
He said that the programme had displayed “ignorance” in mistaking comparisons with Islam and Hinduism for influence.
“We are pretty sensitive at the moment, first of all we suffered a lot from the turban being confused with the Muslim turban worn by Bin laden, we’ve suffered a lot from name-calling, I’ve suffered from that myself.”
A spokeswoman for BBC Asian Network said: “We have reviewed the transmission from the Nihal phone-in on March 13 and agree that this short excerpt was less than satisfactory. “The debate show deals with difficult subjects on a daily basis and very occasionally we don’t get the tone exactly right. “We have spoken to the team about this matter and continue to strive to be as balanced as possible and sensitive to people’s religious beliefs, always wanting to avoid any offence.”
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Related Topics: BBC, Sikh Diaspora, Sikh Religion, Sikhism