Robert Kilroy-Silk - anti Arab Articles in the Sunday Express
On 8 January 2004 I tabled the following Early Day Motion after reading an article that appeared in the 4 January edition of the Sunday Express by the presenter of the topical BBC show Kilroy, Robert Kilroy-Silk.
EDM 383 RACIST COMMENTS BY MR ROBERT KILROY-SILK
That this House deplores the racist comments directed at Arab people, made in the 4th January edition of the Sunday Express by BBC presenter, Mr Robert Kilroy-Silk, branding over 200 million ordinary individuals as 'suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors'; views with contempt his abhorrent contention that Arab states and their populace 'murdered more than 3,000 civilians on 11th September and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate'; and calls upon the BBC to consider Mr Kilroy-Silk's position within the Corporation.
Mr Kilroy-Silk's article made accusations, criticisms and derogatory remarks about all Arab people not just Arab states, for example:
"We're told that the Arabs loathe us. Really? For liberating the Iraqis?
For subsidising the lifestyles of people in Egypt and Jordan, to name but two, for giving them vast amounts of aid? For providing them with science, medicine, technology and all the other benefits of the West? They should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States.
What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders?
That we admire them for the cold-blooded killings in Mombasa, Yemen and elsewhere? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb-amputators, womenrepressors?"
(Sunday Express 4 January 2004)
The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has quite rightly referred these remarks to the Police to consider prosecution for inciting racial hatred.
BBC suspension and the Tom Paulin comparison
Due to the seriousness of this matter, on 9 January, the BBC disassociated itself from the comments made by Mr Kilroy-Silk and took the decision to suspend the Kilroy show pending investigation. Some people have asked why the BBC did not take similar action when Tom Paulin, a cultural commentator who appears on BBC Newsnight, allegedly in an interview with the Egyptian newspaper, Al-Akram, published in April 2002, called for US-born Israeli settlers to be killed. Mr Paulin's response was that he did "not support attacks on Israeli citizens under any circumstances". Whatever the truth of the matter, Tom Paulin is a commentator not a presenter. He is a critic, paid to give opinions, however offensive. If he hosted a daytime talkshow called 'Paulin', then he would deserve to be investigated by the BBC in the same way as Mr Kilroy-Silk.
At the time of tabling the Motion about Mr Kilroy-Silk's article, I was not aware of the alleged remarks by Tom Paulin (which, as attributed, I abhor) and I so I wrote to him to ask whether he was quoted accurately. Mr Paulin responded to my letter by referring me to a BBC Press Office statement, which referred to a statement he made to the Daily Telegraph. Mr Paulin states "I do not support attacks on Israeli citizens under any circumstances. I am in favour of the current efforts to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians" and that his views were "distorted". However, he gives no explanation as to how they were distorted. I do not find Mr Paulin's statement at all convincing. However, the truth of the matter is far less clear than in the case of the article by Robert Kilroy-Silk, therefore, condemnation of the alleged remarks is the only supportable action on the evidence available.
Some people have criticised the CRE for not referring the case of Tom Paulin's alleged remarks to the Police as they did with the article by Robert Kilroy Silk. The CRE have informed me that in the past they have referred incidents to the Police when they believed that there was a significant threat to good race relations. Speaking at an event to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, CRE Chair Trevor Phillips, announced that the CRE will draw up a code of conduct for referring material to the police under the incitement to racial hatred provisions of the Public Order Act, after consultation with the Press Complaints Commission, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Attorney General. Trevor Phillips said: “I think that the public has every right to expect consistency and transparency in the exercise of my judgement in these matters.” I welcome this proposal for clear criteria for CRE referrals. Click here for CRE press release on the announcement.
BBC suspension not about freedom of speech
This issue has promoted a significant amount of media coverage and a campaign by the Express claiming that the BBC is preventing freedom of speech. It is not. The Sunday Express is free to decide what is printed in its columns, provided it is within the law. For the BBC, the issue is about the responsibilities of a BBC presenter and how what they write and say publicly may impact on their on-air role. Kilroy is supposed to be the impartial host of a topical issues programme with an audience that reflects a cross-section of the British public. As such it is not acceptable for him to publicly express such extremist and biased views whilst simultaneously holding a BBC position which requires him to be impartial.
However, there is a question about incitement to racial hatred with regard to Mr Kilroy-Silk's comments and this is being dealt with separately by the referral to the Police by the Commission for Racial Equality. Surely even Mr Kilroy-Silk and the Express would recognise that in a civilised society, we accept that there are limits to freedom of speech? It is right to have laws against incitement to racial hatred paedophilia and exploitative pornography.
Within these accepted limits, freedom of speech is something that all democrats must fight to uphold. Following unfounded criticisms that I have attempted to stifle freedom of speech, I have now tabled the further Commons Motion:
MR ROBERT KILROY SILK AND FREEDOM OF SPEECH Lynne Jones 15.01.04
That this House regards freedom of speech as a precious component of democracy; therefore believes that the Sunday Express and all other newspapers should be free to decide the authorship and content of their publications, subject to the law; supports the public service broadcasting obligations of the BBC in ensuring the impartiality of presenters of current affairs programmes, noting the distinction between a critic paid by the BBC to give opinions and a presenter paid by the BBC to field opinions and that the latter must remain publicly impartial; further notes that with regard to the article by Robert Kilroy-Silk in the 4th January edition of the Sunday Express, the BBC investigation is about impartiality and the Commission for Racial Equality referral of the article to the Police is to investigate whether it constitutes incitement to racial hatred; supports the freedom of the press but also believes that it is right to have laws against incitement to racial hatred, paedophilia and exploitative pornography which necessarily introduce some limits to freedom of speech and expression; notes that the rise of Nazi fascism in Germany was assisted by propaganda which dehumanised and vilified Jewish people as a race and believes that the present day use of similar tactics in relation to any ethnic or religious group, for example blaming Arab people in general for the events of 11th September, should be condemned.
Mr Kilroy-Silk's article is a stupid, ignorant rant but we cannot ignore the comfort that it gives to small-minded racists as evidenced by the volume of offensive and threatening communications I have received as a result of publicity about my objections to Mr Kilroy-Silk's article, examples of these are given below. In my view these people condemn themselves by their own words:
Racist communications from the public in support of Mr Kilroy-Silk received between 9 - 14 January 2004
"Look after the WHITE Brits FIRST instead of wogs...
...When are theses (sic) Muslim pieces of sh*t scum WOGS going to p*ssoff out MY COUNTRY the UK? I am sick to the back teeth of muslim a*selickers sucking up to dirty wogs cluttering up our streets, houses & benefit offices. Now you have the gall to start giving sh*t out to Kilroy off the BBC for his comments. Kilroy is 100% correct on the scum rabble wog filth. The cockeroaches & rats give nothing to the world except trouble, terrorism, whinging & bleating about all and sundrie. Their beheadings & persecution of women is an affront to decency. Who the hell cares a sh*t about their numbskull backward religion loosely based around some fictitious homo who had a few lucid dreams after smoking to much wacky-baccy."
"Arabs are barbaric, dirty, and born thieves."
"YOU SICKEN ME, I VOTED LABOUR LAST TIME, BUT YOUR (sic) PUSHING ME TO VOTE FOR THE BNP"
"...no mosques should have been allowed to have been built in Britain"
"...now the country is full of asians and Arabs, you have to grovel for your vote...I don't remember being asked if I wanted my country being turned into a crap hole, a haven for all the shit from the rest of the world. Perhaps if you read my letter, you will be able to tell me exactly what Arabs do?...Kilroy-Silk was spot on!"
"We, the British public are sick of so many races entering the country of late...It only makes Enoch Powells statement many years ago more to the point."
"We will, in a few years, be taken over by the hoardes allowed in by this Government."
"let me tell you the foreigners do not think British, or have, or exise ANY of our values."
"If you love the blacks so much you want to go and live in their country and be paid by them not out of ENGLISHMAN TAXES YOU STUPIT (sic) LITTLE COW....You're not going to get away with it shouting your mouth off you BRAINLESS BITCH. I hope this gives you a measure of what the English think of you. Well (sic) be watching you."
"So Lynne you look upon Mr Kilroy-Silks comments as deplorable, when in fact he was only supporting his own country and his own people in as good a manner as he thought fit. I note you are MP for Birmingham, is that Birmingham, England or Birmingham , Saudi Arabia ? Tell me how many churches do they have in Saudi Arabia Lynne ? You are a member of the Labour party but really youre a Liberal arent you Lynne and that means selling your own country and your own children down the river doesnt it! No doubt this situation helps to establish and enhance your own position of power and thats all that counts isnt it! You are scum! What kind of rights do you think you have in Saudi Arabia Lynne ? remember of course that your (sic) a woman ? Do you know how Muslims treat women Lynne? they certainly dont make them MP's of course most muslim countries dont have parliaments do they Lynne ?
YOu are a traitor bitch!"
Messages of support
I have also received a large number of emails from people supporting my stance on this issue, including the following message from Shahid Mursaleen, Media Secretary of Minhaj-ul-Qur'an Midlands, an international organisation that works to achive good community relations and harmony within society:
"We as a Muslim community would like to live in peace and harmony with all the community members regardless from their ethnic or cultural backgrounds, this is also the true message of Islam."
Click here for more details about the organisation.
Criticism of repressive states
I have been accused of not being prepared to criticise repressive and undemocratic Arab states - this is not the case - I am more than prepared to criticise any repressive regime. I held an adjournment debate on human rights in Saudi Arabia. I have supported numerous Commons motions openly criticising repressive states and practices. For example condemning the practice of stoning women to death in Nigeria, stoning women and men in Iran, the religious oppression of women in Jammu and Kashmir and the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Most recently, in November 2003, I tabled a motion condemning the penalty of cross amputation in Sudan (reproduced below). I have been a member of Amnesty International for many years and criticise regimes who repress their people irrespective of the majority race or dominant religion of the state in question.
CASE OF MOHAMED HASSAN HAMDAN Lynne Jones 03.11.03
That this House notes the penalty of cross amputation, involving the amputation of right hand and left foot, that has been imposed on Mohammed Hassan Hamdam, a 16 year old Sudanese boy convicted of armed robbery by an emergency court which does not meet basic fair trial standards; and calls for the sentence to be commuted in line with international human rights standards that have been ratified by Sudan.
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