Finsbury Park Mosque official complains to BBC after ‘Question Time’ ignores attack

Finsbury Park Mosque official complains to BBC after ‘Question Time’ ignores attack
“Question Time,” broadcast on Thursday night, made no mention of the attack on Muslim worshippers close to Finsbury Park Mosque — although it had covered several other terror incidents. (Photo: BBC)
Updated 23 June 2017

Finsbury Park Mosque official complains to BBC after ‘Question Time’ ignores attack

Finsbury Park Mosque official complains to BBC after ‘Question Time’ ignores attack

LONDON: The BBC has been slammed by Muslim groups in the UK after the broadcaster’s flagship political discussion show ignored the recent suspected terror attack at a mosque in north London.

“Question Time,” broadcast on Thursday night, included discussions about the UK election, austerity measures, Brexit and the recent fire at a London tower block.

But the attack on Muslim worshippers close to Finsbury Park Mosque on Monday was not mentioned once during the television broadcast — leading to questions over the BBC’s editorial stance.

Mohammed Kozbar, the chairman of Finsbury Park Mosque, wrote to the BBC to complain that the terror attack was not discussed on the show. He said he was registering his “serious disappointment” that there were no questions from the audience about the attack, according to a copy of his letter obtained by Arab News.

“Members of my community and others across the UK who I have spoken to are outraged that this decision was made,” he wrote. “And many have understandably concluded that the BBC did not consider the lives of Muslims to be equal to those killed in other terror attacks.”

The BBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment when contacted by Arab News.

Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, questioned whether it was editorial choice that stopped the BBC “Question Time” show from addressing the Finsbury Park Mosque attack.

“It is outrageous that BBC Question Time did not even care to mention the Finsbury Park terror attack where Muslims were the victim,” Versi told Arab News.

This week’s “Question Time” contrasted to previous episodes of the show that were broadcast after terror attacks in the UK. It previously fielded questions about the attacks in Manchester and Westminster, for example.

Versi said the fact that the suspect in the Finsbury Park Mosque case is still alive, and therefore media must take care to avoid potentially prejudicing a trial, should not have been a factor in the BBC’s decision.

He said that the 2013 terror-related murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London, in which the perpetrators survived, had been covered by “Question Time.”

“The fact the suspect is alive... did not stop the program discussing the terror attack in Woolwich on at least two occasions — so claims of legal restrictions seem highly dubious,” Versi said.

He also questioned the choice of people the BBC has invited onto its discussion shows, which have including right-wing commentators and conspiracy theorists.

“Given Frank Gaffney, Melanie Phillips and Douglas Murray are invited to discuss issues about Muslims on the highest profile politics shows (often unchallenged), it is very easy to understand why many might think the BBC has a serious problem in how it reports about Muslims,” Versi said.

This week’s “Question Time” show was also subject to another controversy, after presenter David Dimbleby ejected an audience member who repeatedly heckled and interrupted the debate.

The show was broadcast just days after 11 Muslims were hurt in the attack near Finsbury Park Mosque. A man at the scene who had fallen ill before the attack later died after suffering what police described as “multiple injuries.”

Darren Osborne, 47, was arrested by police in the early hours of Monday after allegedly ramming his van into worshippers on Seven Sisters Road.

There was an earlier backlash over alleged “bias” in the UK media over the attack.

Some of the resulting media coverage was criticized for how it portrayed the alleged attacker, who is white, and the victims, who were Muslims.

One Daily Mail headline caused uproar after making reference to the Finsbury Park Mosque’s history, given that a notorious cleric used to preach there.

“White van driver injures at least 10 people after plowing into a crowd outside London’s Finsbury Park mosque where hate cleric Abu Hamza once preached as Muslims finish their evening prayers,” the Daily Mail headline read.

Although it was later changed, taking out the reference to Abu Hamza, and adding the words “terror attack,” Twitter was already alight with consternation.

“What a disgusting way to further add hatred on to an already horrific event, they should be ashamed of themselves,” wrote Mathew James Norman, who tweets @norman_mathew.