This is exactly the kind of mini crisis that eats away at the brand pretension of the new link up between the Conservatives and Ulster Unionists… The Reverend Robert Coulter let the multicultural cat of the bag when he criticised the appointment by the BBC of a practising Muslim as head of Religious Affairs, calling it “a juvenile gimmick”. He went on to say, “according to the Church of England 70% of the UK are Christian, 3% are Muslim yet the BBC for its head of religious broadcast appoints a Muslim”. Well, there is a point there, but it strikes me as being a little out of kilter with Cameron project.Here’s Coulter’s fuller statement:
As a Christian minister, I suppose it comes as no surprise that I find this move unacceptable. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have already voiced their concerns about this appointment. I am speaking in this instance, however, as an elected public representative. I have no objection to muslim citizens playing their full part in our society or to equality.
What I am calling for is common sense. It makes no sense in a country, where 70% of people still describe themselves as Christian, to appoint a non-christian to a key religious position with as much influence as this post carries. I am sure moderate muslim leaders will be deeply concerned about this as well because it will make many UK citizens feel that they are gaining too much influence – for a faith that represents such a small percentage of the whole community. It could well lead to many people developing a more hostile attitude to muslims.
The BBC is pursuing a policy of gimmickry. Last year they appointed a member of the Sikh faith as the producer of their most popular and long running religious programme, Songs of Praise. Now we have a muslim as head of religious programming at the BBC. It is insulting to 70% of the people who pay their licence fee.
I have great respect for the journalists who work for the BBC and for their professionalism, but I sympathise with them for having to work under managers who pursue policies as silly as these.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty