BBC boss says Islam should be treated more sensitively than Christianity
Islam should be treated more sensitively by the media than Christianity, according to the director general of the BBC.
By Martin Beckford, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:39PM BST 15 Oct 2008
Mark Thompson claimed that because Muslims are a religious minority in Britain and also often from ethnic minorities, their faith should be given different coverage to that of more established groups.
His comments come after the comedian Ben Elton accused the BBC of being scared of making jokes about Islam, while Hindus have claimed it favours Muslims over other religions.
But Mr Thompson, speaking at the annual public theology lecture of the religion think-tank Theos, insisted the state broadcaster would show programmes that criticised Islam if they were of sufficient quality.
The director general, whose corporation faced accusations of blasphemy from Christians after it allowed the transmission of the musical Jerry Springer -The Opera, also said his Christian beliefs guided his judgments and disclosed that he had never watched the Monty Python film Life of Brian which satirises the story of Jesus.
In his speech last night, Mr Thompson claimed there are now more programmes about religion on BBC television and radio than there have been in recent decades, whereas coverage has declined on ITV.
But asked whether it was correct that the BBC “let vicar gags pass but not imam gags”, as Elton claimed, he admitted it did take a different approach to Islam, which has 1.6million followers in Britain, compared to its approach to the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church.
Mr Thompson said: “My view is that there is a difference between the position of Christianity, which I believe should be central to the BBC’s religion coverage and widely respected and followed.
“What Christian identity feels like it is about to the broad population is a little bit different to people for whom their religion is also associated with an ethnic identity which has not been fully integrated.
“There’s no reason why any religion should be immune from discussion, but I don’t want to say that all religions are the same. To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.”