Hugh Fitzgerald: The BBC Does It Again, This Time Not About Islam


There are many things to deplore about the BBC’s coverage of Islam and Islamic terrorism. There is its failure, ever since the 9/11 attacks, and despite the thousands of reports the BBC has carried about Muslim terror attacks all over the world, ever to quote, even once, any of  the relevant Qur’anic verses or stories in the Hadith that explain such attacks. You have not heard, from anyone working for the BBC, any attempt to make sense of Islamic terrorism by discussing such verses as 2:191-194, 3:110, 4:89, 8;12, 8:60, 9:5, 9;29, 47:4, 98:6. Only once, as far as I know, have such Qur’anic verses been quoted on the BBC, not by one of its reporters or presenters, but by Robert Spencer, who, back in 2013, appeared on a show to discuss why he and Pamela Geller were banned from entering the U.K. During that program, he managed to quote 98:6 (“Unbelievers are the most vile of created beings”), 4:34 (Husbands may “beat” their disobedient wives), and 9:29 (“Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”) I have not heard since then on the BBC news any quoting of the Qur’an or hadith; if you have, please let me know what, and when, you heard.

Any intrepid BBC reporter who tried to help listeners understand the basis for Islamic terrorism by quoting those texts would be censored for “islamophobia” and likely be assigned other subjects to cover, or even be dismissed for failing to toe the BBC’s party line. It’s not just the disturbing verses in the Qur’an that are ignored, but also the most relevant hadith. Even after 34,000 terrorist attacks by Muslims since 9/11, the BBC has never permitted its worldwide audience to hear the clear claim made by Muhammad that  “I have been made victorious through terror.” (Al-Bukhari, 9.57) Isn’t that a remark that  the world’s non-Muslims need to know?

On January 24, I was forcefully reminded that this lamentable coverage by the BBC of Islam does not occur in an ideological vacuum, but is part of a larger pattern reflecting left-wing bias at Bush House that extends to subjects other than Islam. I happened to be listening to the BBC report on the popular uprising against Maduro’s narco-communist regime in Venezuela, and on the alternative government, headed by Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, who swore himself in as interim president. The BBC announcer said that Trump had recognized the Guaido government, as did “Brazil’s Bolsonaro and other right-wing governments.” This was clearly meant to frame the Venezuela story as one where outside right-wingers — not millions of enraged Venezuelans, furious at the collapse of the economy and at the corrupt and dictatorial regime that caused it — have been  behind the move to depose Maduro. The BBC shares the view of the military men who have appeared on Venezuelan television to peddle this line; Major General Manuel Gregorio Bernal depicted Maduro, a dictator, as bravely defending an independent country in the face of “imperialist aggression.” That “imperialist aggression” consists of millions of ordinary Venezuelans, especially former members of the country’s shrinking middle class, who have seen their life savings, their jobs, their pitiful pensions disappear. Three million Venezuelans have already fled the country in despair.

“Only Brazil’s Bolsonaro and other right-wing governments” have, according to the BBC, followed Trump in recognizing the government of Juan Guaido. This is where the casual meretriciousness of the BBC comes in. For how many of its listeners, in the United States and Europe, would realize that one of the “right-wing” countries that quickly recognized the Guiado government was Canada, now governed by the distinctly left-wing Justin Trudeau?  This omission was no accident. Someone at the BBC made a decision not to mention Canada, for that would have fatally vitiated the BBC’s attempt to insinuate that only “right-wing” governments would recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president.  And on January 26, the U.K. recognized the legitimacy of the Guiado regime when the Bank of England refused to hand over to the Maduro government $1.6 billion in gold owned by Venezuela. Surely the BBC doesn’t consider Theresa May’s government to be “right-wing.”

What are these other “right-wing governments” in Latin America, as the BBC calls them, that are condescendingly assumed to merely be following Trump, as if they lacked agency themselves? In fact, their recognition of the Guiado government was announced nearly simultaneously with that by Washington; there was no need for them to be prompted by Trump. Venezuela’s neighbors have watched in horror, over the last few years,the collapse of the Venezuelan economy. They have felt its human effects in the three million Venezuelans who are now economic migrants all over Latin America, and have seen the Maduro government tighten its dictatorial screws on the political opposition. These governments  include every important member of the Lima Group save Mexico, which is “still studying the matter”: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Peru. Some of these governments are conservative, or center-right — for example, in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay — but only Brazil fully merits the stark epithet “right-wing.”

Suppose the BBC had covered the Venezuelan story matter-of-factly, without imposing its politically tendentious view? It might have reported that “the Trump administration was not alone in quickly recognizing the new government of Juan Guaido in Venezuela. Eleven countries, all  members of the Lima Group, from the left-wing government of Canada to the right-wing government of Brazil, have recognized Guiado’s interim government. These include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, and Peru. Members of the E.U. have so far expressed support for Guiado, but not yet recognized the interim government, except for the U.K., which did so on January 26. Countries that have come out in full support of Maduro are the dictatorships and despotisms of Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and, in Latin America, Cuba and Nicaragua.”

While perfectly accurate, such a report could never be broadcast on the BBC, as it is currently constituted. Eventually we will be informed by the BBC  that because of “American pressure,” even centrist countries have “started to recognize” Juan Guiado as the interim president of Venezuela. The left-wing narrative remains: “right-wing” Washington is leading a cabal against the unfairly maligned Maduro government.

But here’s consolation, albeit slim: at least we have further evidence, with this slanted coverage of the Venezuela story, that the BBC’s sanitized version of Islam, its refusal to quote from the Qur’an and hadith, its unjust coverage of Israel, are not stand-alone defects; they are part of a pattern, aspects of a much larger problem of left-wing bias at Bush House. And the only way to improve matters is to note down every example, no matter how fleeting or seemingly small, of the BBC’s bias, and to hold that example up for examination, and criticism, as has been attempted here.

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