BBC boss says Woman's Hour will 'reflect' on concerns over interview

BBC boss Tim Davie pledges Woman’s Hour will ‘reflect’ on concerns over ‘strikingly hostile’ interview with Muslim Council of Britain’s first female leader

  • Zara Mohammed questioned by Emma Barnett on number of female imams in UK
  • Discussion criticised for reinforcing ‘prejudicial tropes’ about Muslim women 
  • It sparked 564 complaints and over 100 public figures signed open letter to BBC
  • Tim Davie has supported show’s statement saying it will ‘think hard’ over issues

Tim Davie has pledged that Woman’s Hour will ‘reflect’ on concerns over the ‘strikingly hostile’ interview with the Muslim Council of Britain’s first female leader.

The interview on February 4 saw Zara Mohammed, from Glasgow, questioned by host Emma Barnett about the number of female imams in Britain, to which she replied: ‘I mean, I think again I don’t have a clue on these numbers.’

When asked by the host if there were any women imams in Britain at all, Ms Mohammed, 29, responded: ‘Again it’s not – are you referring to chaplains, are you referring to women that lead the prayer?’

She added: ‘I think my role isn’t really to adjudicate or exam that part of spirituality.’

The interview sparked 564 complaints to the BBC and more than 100 public figures, including Labour MPs Diane Abbott and Naz Shah, signed an open letter to the broadcaster criticising the ‘strikingly hostile’ Radio 4 discussion.

The BBC’s director general has now supported a statement from the radio programme that said it will ‘think hard’ about the matters raised.

Tim Davie (pictured above) has pledged that Woman’s Hour will ‘reflect’ on concerns over the ‘strikingly hostile’ interview with the Muslim Council of Britain’s first female leader

The interview on February 4 saw Zara Mohammed (pictured above), from Glasgow, questioned by host Emma Barnett about the number of female imams in Britain

Ms Barnett, pictured above. The interview sparked 564 complaints to the BBC and more than 100 public figures signed an open letter to the broadcaster

Mr Davie also said the broadcaster has ‘a responsibility to explore and debate issues within all communities’, reports the BBC.

Writers Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Mariam Khan, who organised the letter, called for the BBC to bring more diversity into its editorial and production teams following the interview, which came under fire for reinforcing ‘prejudicial tropes’ about Muslim women, according to The Guardian. 

The letter criticising the interview, signed by Conservative peer Sayeeda Warsi and comedian Deborah Frances-White, said the BBC took down the original tweet with a clip of the interview following online and private complaints.

It read: ‘Despite Mohammed’s repeated claims that religious adjudication was not within the parameters of her role leading a civil society organisation, [host Emma] Barnett asked the question about female imams four times, each time interrupting Mohammed’s answer.

‘The framing of the interview and clipping up of the ‘female imam’ segment for social media mirrored the style and tone of an accountability interview with a politician, rather than authentically recognising and engaging in what this represented for British Muslim women.

‘Moreover, the false equivalence between imams with rabbis and priests in a religion that has no clergy reflected a basic lack of religious literacy needed for authentic engagement with British Muslim communities.’

Ms Mohammed (pictured above, with Nicola Sturgeon) became the first woman Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) after a week of voting

Those who signed the letter – which had 200 signatures in total – included Labour MPs Zarah Sultana and Apsana Begum; author and editor of the Good Immigrant, Nikesh Shukla; Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens, and theologian Dr Amina Wadud.

Ms Abdel-Magied said: ‘This cannot be the way that media organisations, especially the BBC – which is meant to represent Britain and British people – engage with Muslim women and Muslim people.’

A BBC spokesperson previously told MailOnline: ‘This is a topic we’ve been responding to already and now that we’ve received this letter we will reply to it in due course.’

It was revealed earlier this month Britain’s largest Islamic group had chosen human rights law graduate Ms Mohammed, from Glasgow, as its first ever female leader.

In a photo taken during a dinner in June 2019, Ms Mohammed said getting a selfie with the London Mayor (pictured above) was her ‘favourite’ part of the evening 

Ms Mohammed became the first woman Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) after a week of voting.

The training and development consultant said she hoped her election would ‘inspire more women and young people’ to take on leadership positions as they are ‘the future of this organisation’.

Ms Mohammed – who has worked with several Scottish charities – has shared pictures of her posing with Sadiq Khan and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

In a photo taken during a dinner in June 2019, she said getting a selfie with the London Mayor was her ‘favourite’ part of the evening.

Following her election, Mr Khan took to Twitter to congratulate her, writing: ‘Terrific to see Zara Mohammed elected as the first woman Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain.’

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