UK: Islam Channel condoned marital rape and abuse

The Guardian

Ofcom has ruled that Islam Channel, a London-based broadcaster, broke the broadcasting code for advocating marital rape, violence against women and describing women who wore perfume outside of the home as "prostitutes". Five programmes broadcast on the satellite TV channel were ruled to be in breach of broadcasting guidelines, the media regulator said today. Ofcom launched its investigation into the programmes, which aired in 2008 and 2009, following a report by the Quilliam thinktank that was published in March.

In a programme first broadcast in April last year, Ofcom ruled that the Islam Channel host Nazreen Nawaz condoned marital rape when she said: "And really the idea that a woman cannot refuse her husband's relations this is not strange to a Muslim because it is part of maintaining that strong marriage. But it shouldn't be such a big problem where the man feels he has to force himself upon the woman."

The channel also broke the broadcasting code by encouraging violence against women, in a Q&A session on marital violence, and for labelling women who wore perfume "prostitutes".

The broadcaster, which was fined £30,000 by Ofcom in 2007 for a series of breaches, also broke impartiality regulations for broadcasting one-sided coverage of international affairs and the Middle East conflict.

"Ofcom remains concerned about Islam Channel's understanding and compliance processes in relation to the [broadcasting] code," the media regulator said. "This is particularly the case, given that the Islam Channel has previously been fined for breaches of the code relating to due impartiality."

Ofcom is so concerned it has called in the management from Islam Channel for a top-level meeting to explain and discuss its compliance processes in relation to the code.

Talal Rajab, author of the original Quilliam report into Islam Channel, added: "At the same time, there are encouraging signs that the channel is now making efforts to improve its output and to give greater airtime to a wider range of more mainstream Muslim voices. We stand ready to help Islam Channel further improve and diversify its output in order to avoid further problems. The Islam Channel could yet become a powerful voice for greater social harmony."

The report published in March by the Quilliam thinktank had found that Islam Channel regularly promoted violent extremist views and regressive attitudes towards women. The foundation monitored the channel's output over a three-month period and a published a report in March claiming that Islam Channel was implicit in spreading "reactionary, intolerant messages".

Following the report, Ofcom requested recordings of a number of Islam Channel programmes citing the allegations raised potential issues under the broadcasting code regarding impartiality and harm and offence.

In a submission to the Ofcom report, Islam Channel said that it "does not condone or encourage violence towards women under any circumstances", and that it "does not condone or encourage marital rape". Ofcom considered that the presenter at the time was clear that some form of physical punishment towards a woman was acceptable, in contrast to the channel's formal position.