William Rees-Mogg in The Times on Jerry Springer and Muslims

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 10 January 2005

William Rees-Mogg wrote an opinion piece on the "Jerry Springer furoreTM" in The Times today, which includes his belief that the production breaks the current law on blasphemy:

The Director-General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, is quoted as saying: "I'm a practising Christian but there is nothing in this I perceive to be blasphemous." As the second act shows Eve fondling Jesus's genitals, while Jesus suffers from an infantile complex and is dressed in nappies, most people would take a different view.

In terms of public policy, which is the concern of Parliament and the regulators, including the BBC governors, the question is whether the BBC ought to be broadcasting blasphemous attacks on any religion. Religious discussion and debate is, of course, part of the BBC's normal remit.

This is not primarily an issue of legality. I do not doubt that Jerry Springer, The Opera breaches the existing law on blasphemy, but I cannot imagine that any jury would convict. The question is, I think, a broader one. Does a public service broadcaster, financed by a universal poll tax, owe a duty of respect to the various religions of its viewers? That is a matter for the governors. At present the BBC is afraid of Islam, but feels completely free to mock Christianity.

If Rees-Mogg believes the BBC is "afraid of Islam" maybe he should examine the reasons why. Would one of the contributary factors be the consistent demonisation of Islam in the press? After all, later on in his own article he writes:

Why should people be compelled to buy the BBC's services if they do not want to do so? Christians were burning their licences yesterday & and why not? Muslims might have been burning more than their licences if their Prophet had been similarly introduced.

He may think he has an expert view on the current blasphemy laws in the UK, but perhaps he needs to polish up his reading of the laws covering what we quaintly used to call "race relations"?

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