Sikh community in Britain has protested against an “irresponsible and misleading” claim made by a presenter on BBC’s Asian Network that their faith was “made up from other religions” such as Islam and Hinduism,prompting the broadcaster to express regret over it.
The claim was made by presenter DJ Nihal Arthanayake during a phone-in broadcast in March.
The programme had discussed the relationship between Sikhism and the other two major religions in India Hinduism and Islam.
A BBC Asian Network spokesperson said today,”We have reviewed the transmission from the Nihal phone-in on 13th March and agree that this short excerpt was less than satisfactory. The debate show deals with difficult subjects on a daily basis and very occasionally we don’t get the tone exactly right.”
The spokesperson added,”We have spoken to the team about this matter and continue to strive to be as balanced as possible and sensitive to people’s religious beliefs,always wanting to avoid any offence.”
Lord Indarjit Singh,director of the Network of Sikh Organisations,alleged that the programme had displayed “ignorance”.
He said: “We are pretty sensitive at the moment,first of all we suffered a lot from the turban being confused with the Muslim turban worn by (Osama) bin laden,we’ve suffered a lot from name-calling,I’ve suffered from that myself.”
During the programme,The Daily Telegraph reported that a text message from a listener was read out complaining about the “incredibly offensive” way the presenters had suggested that Sikhism was “made up from other religions,ie Islam and Hinduism.”
Arthanayake reportedly replied on air: “I’m sorry with all due respect,it is,absolutely it is.”
He added: “It came around in the 15th and 16th centuries in India,how could it not be influenced?”
“A Muslim laid the stone to the holiest places,with all due respect I know more about your religion than you do,” he went on.
The Network of Sikh Organisations asked: “Is the BBC similarly willing to take the view that Islam is a religion made up of Christianity and Judaism?”
Lord Singh said,”They (BBC) initially handled it very arrogantly,they didn’t accept anything. Then they thought about it and said that they should have been more sensitive — but then it goes on to say we do so much with all communities and we have great balance. It’s not a very good ‘sorry’.”