UK

BBC's Muslims Like Us Wins Praise For Showing Moderate Islam Despite Including ISIS Supporter

'The compassionate majority is the true face of Islam.'

13/12/2016 14:58 GMT | Updated 15/12/2016 13:08 GMT

A BBC documentary featuring ten Muslims with contrasting world views living together has drawn high praise... and blistering scorn.

From 76-year-old hijab-wearing Saba to openly gay Glaswegian Ferhan, Muslims Like Us reveals a diverse cross-section of Britain’s 2.7 million followers of Islam.

But the inclusion of Anthony Small, a former associate of jailed hate preacher Anjem Choudary, who now calls himself Abudl Haq, has proved controversial.

BBC
Muslims Like Us will conclude on Tuesday 

The former boxer has expressed support for Islamic State (IS) beheadings and was last year cleared of plotting to travel to Syria to fight with the jihadist terror group.  

The BBC has been frank in its intention to use Haq as the proverbial cat among the pigeons, with Commissioning Editor Fatima Salaria explaining in a Huffington Post UK blog before the first episode aired: “Let me be clear, this isn’t an exercise in giving free vent to the loudest mouths but an opportunity to hear ten authentic voices from a range of backgrounds and opinions so the viewer can gain fresh insights and not just have their prejudices confirmed.

Nick Ansell/PA Archive
The inclusion of former boxing champion Anthony Small, who now calls himself Abdul Haq, has drawn controversy  

“He is outnumbered and often out-argued, most incidentally by the Muslim women in the programme.”

Many viewers seemed to agree with the BBC’s decision, believing it simply demonstrated that, as Prossy tweeted: “every community has dickheads.” 

Others praised the show for revealing “the compassionate majority is the true face of Islam” in spite of his inclusion. 

Anti-Islamophobia campaigner Tell Mama was particularly complimentary, tweeting throughout the show and praising it for “showing a range of members of the Muslim community” and agreeing it is “the silent majority who get on with their lives.”

But while many organisations and individuals were complimentary of the show, some were unconvinced.

Director of Faiths Forum for London Mustafa Field described the programme as an “early Christmas present for both the Far Right and Islamist extremists.”

Referring to Haq, in a blog for HuffPost UK, Field wrote: “For the Far Right it puts up the bogeyman of the mad Islamist who they can characterise as representing all British Muslims. And for Islamists, it gives one of their kind a platform to spout on the airwaves.”

He added: “At a time of the year when the terrorist threat alert often ticks upwards, how appalling that the BBC would poison the season of goodwill with this irresponsible programme.”

On Twitter, Khush Ali Shamalak accused the BBC of “subliminally implying that one in ten Muslims are like him – that is not at all the case.” Other viewers chimed in to accuse the broadcaster of deliberately using “controversial” Muslims in an attempt to show the religion in a negative light. 

Part 2 of Muslims Like Us will air at 9pm on BBC2 on 13 December