‘What is the right punishment for blasphemy?’ asked presenter Shazia Awan in the trailer for yesterday’s The Big Debate. The (entirely justified) outrage over this question - prompted by Pakistan’s call to Facebook and Twitter to help identify blasphemers – reminded me of a similar BBC slip up from 2009 when readers of the news website were asked ‘should homosexuals face execution?’
But the problem went rather deeper than a clumsily worded question. For a start, some of the listeners’ views were grotesque. One caller, Ishaan, was a staunch supporter of Pakistan’s stance and cited Saudi Arabia as a great example of the deterrent effect of hudud punishments. Waajid also expressed support for blasphemy laws in an Islamic state and said he was upset that Salman Rushdie was still alive.
The BBC Asian Network has now apologised:
Shocking though such views are, some of the apparently softer comments were almost equally concerning. Aisha, for example, opposed harsh punishment but still advised counselling for blasphemers, and wondered who, in their right mind, would want to blaspheme in a Mu slim country. [Harry’s Place] Read more