|13 January 2004|
Pan-Arab media outlets have reacted with outrage to comments about Arabs made in a newspaper article by UK TV presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk.
A representative of the Muslim Council of Britain, which has protested against the article, was damning about Mr Kilroy-Silk's comments on the Dubai-based pan-Arab TV station Al-Arabiya.
"What he said in his article is venom," Azzam al-Tamimi told the popular TV channel.
"This is not the first time he squirts venom from his pen... He is known for his hatred against Arabs and Muslim and inciting hatred against them."
Al-Arabiya, a competitor to Al-Jazeera, aired a lengthy report on the controversy.
Its London correspondent said Mr Kilroy-Silk had been "inaccurate by mixing up what is Arab, Muslim and Iranian" and "failed to distinguish between the terrorists who carried out the 11 September attacks and the 200 million ordinary Arabs".
Mr Kilroy-Silk, it commented, "committed an offence by making a generalization and putting all Arabs in one basket."
Mr al-Tamimi saw a connection between the article and what he called a campaign against Muslims in the West.
"There are suspicions," he said, "that Kilroy's article is part of an intensive campaign that started with the statements made by Ariel Sharon, the prime minister of the Zionist entity, in which he accused Muslims in the West of being behind growing anti-Semitism."
Al-Arabiya's correspondent said Mr Kilroy-Silk had "denied any role by the Arabs in civilisation throughout history, except oil" — a point taken up by a UK-based extremist Islamist movement Al-Muhajiroun.
"What is important," the Al-Muhajiroun web site said, "is the reality concerning the contribution that 'Arabs' or Muslims (as Mr Silk really means) have made to world civilisation."
"Whether it be the environment or global warming, economic exploitation, social decline or out-of-control crime rates...Islam has a solution that is superior to the decadence resulting from the implementation of man made law (in which Mr Silk has his vocation)," it said.
"When the West was still considering if a woman was an animal with a soul or a human being in the late 15th Century, the Messenger Muhammad had already given her the right of inheritance and divorce."
It ended with a call for a public debate on the contribution of Arabs to civilisation "with Kilroy Silk and his comical historical references on one side and some real scholars of Arab and Muslim history on the other".
Al-Quds Al-Arabi welcomed the BBC's decision to take Mr Kilroy-Silk's morning TV talk show off the air pending an investigation of his comments.
"The BBC decision to suspend Robert Kilroy-Silk's daily talk show deserves a warm welcome and praise," the Arab nationalist paper said.
"Kilroy-Silk not only insulted Arabs and Muslims with his racist attack, he also insulted the organization he worked for, which is renowned for its objectivity and professionality and has gained a world-wide reputation because of this."
The paper attributed the BBC's response to the strong reaction the article provoked in the Muslim community both in Britain and abroad.
"The BBC did not suspend Kilroy-Silk's show due to pressure from and protests by Arab embassies," it asserted.
"It suspended it because of the fierce campaign led by Arab and Islamic groups, including the new generation of the community."
"This success," the paper continued, "clearly indicates the rise of a national Islamic lobby in Great Britain and marks the end of the Jewish lobby monopoly in the British media and political scenes."
BBC News, UK Edition, Last Updated: Saturday, 10 January, 2004, 16:58 GMT at news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3385911.stm