Muslim appointed as BBC head of religion

A Muslim TV boss criticised for having a pro-Islam bias has been appointed as head of religious broadcasting at the BBC.

Formerly an executive with Channel 4, Aaqil Ahmed has also been accused of dumbing down religious TV programmes.

The BBC has recently appointed a member of the British Humanist Association to its new religion board and a Sikh as producer of its flagship religious show, Songs of Praise.

This has led several commentators to say that the BBC is pandering to minority groups at the expense of Christianity.

Aaqil Ahmed’s Channel 4 series, Christianity: a History, which consisted of several programmes fronted by figures such as Cherie Blair and Michael Portillo, was dubbed “inaccurate and badly researched”.

Channel 4 screened a series of special programmes on Islam last summer, including a feature-length documentary on the Koran, and interviews with Muslims around the world talking about their beliefs.

Mr Ahmed has taken part in campaigns for greater Muslim presence in the media and he is a trustee of the Runnymede Trust, an organisation promoting multiculturalism.

Church leaders question the BBC’s decision to take Mr Ahmed from Channel 4, accusing the corporation of preferential treatment for minority faiths.

Last year the BBC’s Director General, Mark Thompson, said that Islam should be treated more sensitively by the media than Christianity.

He said: “There’s no reason why any religion should be immune from discussion, but I don’t want to say that all religions are the same,” he said.

“To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.”

The BBC attracted criticism last year when they appointed a Sikh, Tommy Nagra, as the producer of its flagship religious programme, Songs of Praise.

There have been accusations that the show contains less and less religious content as a result.

As a public service broadcaster the BBC has a duty to provide religious programmes. But critics are concerned that the corporation is continually cutting the length of shows and moving religious programming out of prime time slots.

Atheist groups welcomed the BBC’s announcement in April of a new religion board which included Andrew Copson, a member of the British Humanist Association.

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