IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
LONDON — British authorities have accused a public-service TV station broadcasting to all areas of the United Kingdom of doctoring a documentary about extremism in British mosques and stirring up racial hatred in the country.
"The splicing together of extracts from longer speeches appears to have completely distorted what the speakers were saying," Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lawyer Bethan David was quoted as saying by Reuters.
In January, Channel 4 Dispatches program "Undercover Mosque" featured footage shot in a number of British mosques where imams criticized democracy as un-Islamic and praised Taliban for killing British soldiers.
But a police investigation into the Muslims' speeches found that the footage was manipulated.
"In this case we have been dealing with a heavily edited television program, apparently taking out of context aspects of speeches which in their totality could never provide a realistic prospect of any convictions," insisted David.
"The priority for West Midlands Police has been to investigate the documentary and its making with as much rigor as the extremism the program sought to portray," said Assistant Chief Constable Anil Patani.
"West Midlands Police has taken account of this advice and explored options available to them and has now referred the matter to the broadcasting regulators Ofcom as a formal complaint," he added.
Police asked the CPS to consider a prosecution of Channel 4 under the Public Order Act 1986 for showing material likely to stir up racial hatred.
They decided not to bring charges against the preachers featured in Dispatches, a weekly documentary series often featuring hard-hitting investigative reporting.
Police said some parts of the program may have been considered offensive, but, when analyzed in full context, there was not enough evidence to bring charges.
Abu Usamah, one of Muslim imams featured in the documentary, said he was shocked by his depiction in the one-hour documentary.
"To try and demonize the efforts of these people by taking their comments out of context was shocking," he told the BBC.
Abu Usamah, who preaches at Green Lane Mosque, said he had been featured as calling for throwing homosexuals from a mountain at a time he was explaining that this was an opinion featured in some books, and a one he advocates.
He asserted that the Green Lane Mosque has "a 33-year-old tradition of preaching and teaching the moderate version of Islam."
Shazad Anwar, the chief executive of Muslim youth organization the Ramadhan Foundation, described the documentary as a shame.
"Channel 4 should hang their head in shame and apologize immediately for the hurt they have caused those people," he told Reuters.
But the broadcaster was defiant, claiming that police had no evidence to support the accusations.
"We are very confident of successfully defending this unfairness complaint…if Ofcom chooses to consider it," said Kevin Sutcliffe, the commissioning editor for Dispatches.
The documentary was the latest controversy for Channel 4.
In May, the public-service TV station came under fire for "serious editorial misjudgment" over its handling of a racism row on last year's "Celebrity Big Brother" show.
Premium phone regulator ICSTIS has imposed a record 150,000 pound fine on the channel in July over a show which asked viewers to phone to take part in a quiz even though winners had already been chosen
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