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BBC censors ‘honour’ killings drama

The Independent reports how the BBC censored a Radio 4 drama about ‘honour’ killings, written by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, author of the controversial Behzti.  Performances of this play had to be cancelled back in 2004 following protests from the Sikh community:

Bhatti’s episode, called Heart Of Darkness and due to air on Friday, tells the story of an investigation into the killing of a 16 year-old Asian girl, whose dumped body is found after being stabbed to death.

When it emerges that the girl was a victim of an “honour killing”, DCI Stone is told by his bosses is to treat the case “sensitively” because of her Muslim heritage.

 “At the end, a character says: ‘There is so much pressure in our community, to look right and to behave right.’ The compliance department came back and said ‘we don’t want to suggest the entire Muslim community condones honour killings.’

I looked to see what other coverage there was of this story and found a similar account in the Telegraph.  The comments were full of complaints about Muslims, Sharia, Muslim gangs – and an assertion that Maajid Nawaz was practicing taqiyya in his own article on that topic.

It’s ironic that the silencing of a Muslim character created by a playwright from a Sikh background should be discussed in these terms.  At least in the comments following the Daily Mail’s report of the story the two best rated comments both correctly focused their anger on the BBC.  The BBC’s censorship mirrors the reaction of DCI Stone’s bosses, urging misplaced caution in any context which involves Muslims. 

This kind of (well-intentioned) censorship is equally damaging to freedom of expression and to justice.  It also has the unintended consequence of encouraging the same bigotry it hopes to repress, partly because it feeds the EDL-type narrative on display in some of the Telegraph comments, partly because the victims of ‘honour’ violence carried out by Muslims (and the victims of more subtle pressures to conform from many who would view honour killing with horror) are themselves Muslims, or at least part of the Muslim community.  

It’s ironic that the suppressed line, the character who would have spoken it, expressly demonstrates the very opposite of what the censors claimed – that the whole of the Muslim community not only does not condone honour killings, but also does not condone much milder pressures on women. 

Hat tip: kreplach in the comments