The broadcasting regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), has suspended Sheffield radio station, Iman FM, for broadcasting antisemitic and hate-filled speeches by Anwar Al-Awlaki, the “widely known terrorist leader and Al Qaeda recruiter.”
In one speech broadcast by Iman FM, Al-Awlaki said that “Our problem is not with [Jews’] ethnicity but their mindset.”
According to Ofcom’s breach decision posted online: “Overall Ofcom considered the breaches in this case to be extremely serious and has today issued a Notice under section 111B Broadcasting Act 1990 suspending the Licence.” According to the suspension notice, Iman FM has 21 days to provide an explanation for the broadcast before the station is shut down.
Iman FM confirmed to Ofcom that they had broadcast 25 hours worth of lectures by Al-Awlaki, claiming that they were “not aware of the background of the preacher and had no knowledge of him being proscribed by the United Nations.” They added that “had this fact been known” they would not have broadcast the lectures and accepted the material breached the Broadcasting Code.
Ofcom began to investigate Iman FM after a listener complained that they had aired lectures encouraging violence and religious hatred during Ramadan. Al-Awlaki, who advocated violent jihad against the United States, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen, authorised by President Obama, but his writings and sermons remain available online.
In one antisemitic lecture condemned by Ofcom, Al-Awlaki referred to a highly controversial event in Islamic history relating to the Prophet Muhammad’s alleged order to kill a Jewish opponent. He stated: “Ka’ab was a Jew but ethnically an Arab, so that shows that our negative attitude towards Jews is not based on racism, not based on their ethnicity, so that proves we are not antisemitic. Our problem is not with their ethnicity but their mindset…the issue of the Muslims is not the ethnicity of the Jews but their mindset which leads such a people to become blasphemous against Allah, to speak against the prophet, and to reject his message, to plot against Muslims, cause disunity. It is against their evil actions themselves.”
Ofcom found that this statement would have been interpreted as justifying a “negative attitude” and critical view towards Jewish people, based on what it termed as Jews’ “mindset” and their “evil actions”. Ofcom wrote: “We considered this statement would have been perceived by listeners as justifying hatred or violence towards Jewish people, and therefore is a clear example of hate speech as defined by the Code.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism welcomes the finding from Ofcom and the strong message that it sends that the broadcasting of antisemitic hate speech will not be tolerated.