Evidence has emerged of a presenter on the Islam Channel previously describing homosexuality as an “evil action” – with Ofcom subsequently warning the TV station of the need to take “great care” when “discussing sensitive issues such as sexual orientation”.
However, PinkNews.co.uk has learnt that in 2009 the channel was investigated by the broadcast regulator Ofcom following a complaint over the advice given by an Islamic scholar to a gay Muslim.
The complaint concerned the ‘IslamiQa’ phone-in programme hosted by Dr Khalid Khan, a scholar, who had been presenting on the channel for over three years.
In an episode broadcast on 14 February 2009, a caller asked Dr Khan: “What I can do to repent as I am a practicing homosexual?”
According to an Ofcom document seen by PinkNews, Dr Khan responded by advising the caller to “associate with people who are pious, people who are free of these evil actions… [and] make repentance to Allah, dissociate from every evil thing that will remind you of the evil action”.
Ofcom noted that Dr Khan had said that being a practicing homosexual was “the greatest of the Haram” [i.e. forbidden], “greatest of the evil actions for which Allah destroyed communities”.
In responding to the complaint on 6 May 2009, Ofcom ruled that while Dr Khan’s use of the word “evil” to describe homosexuality “would be offensive to some people”, it did not amount to a breach of the Broadcasting Code.
“The Code does not prohibit the broadcast of offensive material, if it can be justified by the context. In this case, a Muslim caller asked the presenter for the latter’s views on homosexuality and what the caller could do to repent. The call was therefore set up as a request from a practicing Muslim, who was actively seeking to repent for his actions as ‘a practicing homosexual’.
In addition, Dr Khan was giving his interpretation of Islamic teaching on the issue of homosexuality. In general, the tone of Dr Khan’s response was measured and he referred to the act of homosexuality, in his interpretation of Islamic teaching, as being ‘evil’, rather than the caller himself.
Ofcom recognises that religious teaching on particular aspects of human activity can be controversial and challenging. It is Ofcom’s understanding that, in general, Islamic teaching prohibits homosexuality and on some interpretations of the Qur’anic text, describes homosexuality as evil. However, we also recognise that the content in question was on an Islamic channel, in a programme that highlighted interpretations of Islamic teachings and texts by Islamic scholars, and that the caller was actively seeking advice as to how to repent, as a practicing Muslim.”
Although the Islam Channel was found not to have breached the Broadcasting Code Ofcom warned the TV station that it was important to take “great care” when “discussing sensitive issues such as sexual orientation”.
The regulator said: “although the content did not breach the Code on this occasion, we wrote to Islam Channel to remind them of the great care that needs to be taken in discussing sensitive issues such as sexual orientation. In this context, we welcome the steps that the broadcaster has already taken to highlight to the presenter concerned, the requirements of the Code in relation to harm and offence as they pertain to sexual orientation.”
PinkNews has asked the Islam Channel to comment on this story, although we have yet to receive a response.