On Monday flagship BBC TV show Daily Politics showed a Khanda during a report on perceived Islamic segregation.
The segment was hosted by Dame Louise Casey, a social welfare government official, and based around her recent report on integration in Britain. As well as airing at midday on the Daily Politics show on BBC Two, the same segment was used on the same day on News at Ten on BBC One.
Having been alerted to the inclusion of the Khanda during the segment which focused solely on the UK’s “Muslim communities” and the “white British community”, Sikh PA contacted Daily Politics to find out why it was included. Sikh PA spoke to a producer of the show and also a senior in the BBC religious affairs department. Contact was made hours before the segment was repeated on News at Ten.
Through a series of emails and phone conversations since, we can share the following from the BBC regarding the issue;
- The BBC are NOT apologising for showing the Khanda as they say it was NOT included by mistake. A Daily Politics producer stated, “The shot in question was used by the producer working on the film to form a bridge…to a more general point about the need for political and community leaders to do more to promote community cohesion.”
- When Sikh PA asked the producer to specifically clarify if this meant the Khanda was put in on purpose, we were asked to refer to the response above.
- Sikh PA asked if it was included deliberately why religious symbols of other faiths used were not used. The producer stated, “we could have been clearer (about showing the showing of the Khanda was meant to refer to a general point about integration) – perhaps as you suggest by reflecting a wider range of religions.”
- For this reason, we were told the Khanda will NOT be cut out of the segment on Daily Politics, as it is “not policy”. This stance was kept even when Sikh PA highlighted that in April 2015 BBC show Jihadi Brides showed a Gurdwara (Sikh temple) after reference to radical mosques. When Sikh PA got in contact with the production team, the clip was removed very swiftly from the iplayer version of the show.
- The Khanda was cut out of the BBC News at Ten report. We were not explained to why it would be cut out of News at Ten and not out of Daily Politics.
- Sikh PA were also concerned a producer claimed “Louise Casey’s report concerned community integration in general. This was reflected in Jo Coburn’s introduction to the film, which did not mention any one religion or community”. This is an attempt to use a technicality – the opening introduction to the report – to claim the report was not focused on the Islamic community. Sikh PA feel the report was very obviously focused on the Islamic community and thus showing a Sikh Khanda is a mistake or deliberate attempt to relate the two faiths.
Prior to showing the Khanda, the segment features Louise Casey showcasing a congestion of Mosques in Manchester, before speaking about “tensions” this can cause with the “white British community”. This segment can be seen here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08503yp/daily-politics-05122016 (watch from 34.15).
Sikh PA feel the BBC are clearly not doing enough to respect the religious sentiments of the Sikh community. There is also a clear lack of understanding of just how serious an issue it can be to relate Sikhs to the Islamic faith. With many being very visibly distinct, Sikhs can often be targets for Islamophobic abuse and even attacks. Just last year Gurdwaras in Glasgow and Middlesbrough were daubed with anti-Islamic graffiti. Sikh PA have also had numerous Sikhs come forward to say they have been abused/attacked due to Islamophobia, whilst overseas there have been numerous Sikhs murdered for such reasons.
Jasveer Singh Gill of Sikh PA stated of the issue the following;
“We are very disappointed that the BBC would not be more empathetic about our position, about the showing of the Khanda in a report focusing on the Muslim community. There is no justification for inclusion of the Khanda. No other religious symbols of other faiths were used.
“Perhaps the BBC simply does not recognise how dangerous it can be for Sikhs to be conflated with Islam. This confusion has led directly to murder, and as such, we feel it is dangerous to relate the two faiths. The Khanda is a very distinct symbol that can be found at the front of many Sikh homes, temples and on display in various other places.
“This is not an issue about Sikhs being confused for Muslims. It is simply about the BBC living up to their duty of educating the public. We hope for the BBC to reach out to the Sikh community to help them stop making these repeated mistakes.”