The charges against Robert Kilroy-Silk relate to an opinion piece published by the Sunday Express newspaper on 4 January, titled "We owe the Arabs nothing".

 

In the article, the former Labour MP described Arabs as "suicide bombers, limb-amputators, women repressors", and said they "should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States".


He further claimed that Arabs expected to be adored "for the way they murdered more than 3000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders".

 

In other comments, Kilroy-Silk accused the Arab world of contributing nothing to the world's welfare except oil, which he claimed was "discovered, produced and paid for by the West".

 

"After all, the Arab countries are not exactly shining examples of civilisation, are they? Few of them make much contribution to the welfare of the rest of the world"

Robert Kilroy-Silk writing in the Sunday Express

He added: "The Arab world has not exactly earned our respect, has it? Most of them chant support for Saddam, an evil dictator who has gassed hundreds of thousands of their fellow Arabs."

 

Outrage

 

Following the article's publication, a whirlwind of outrage was unleashed.

 

Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, told Aljazeera.net that moves to indict Kilroy-Silk were underway.

 

"We have sent letters to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney-General's office, asking them to look into what we believe was a breach of race relations law and the Public Order Act," he said.

 

"The issue is incitement to racial hatred. Kilroy-Silk's views are blatantly racist and bigoted. They can only be construed as the language of hate."

 

He added: "The Sunday Express has now at least offered us space to rebut this vicious article line by line. But at the same time there also has to be a clear apology.

 

"This article went far beyond the norms of civility. Kilroy-Silk abused his journalistic responsibilities."

 

Police inquiry

 

And Trevor Phillips, the chair of the UK's Commission for Racial Equality, added his group's weight to the move.

 

He said: "Our lawyers have considered the column and we are referring it to the police to consider whether it might constitute an offence under the Public Order Act."

 

There was also support for the decision to involve the police from the Labour MP Alice Mahon, who told Aljazeera.net she backed it 100%.

 

"The issue is incitement to racial hatred. Kilroy-Silk's views are blatantly racist and bigoted. They can only be construed as the language of hate"

Iqbal Sacranie,
Muslim Association of Britain

"What's been said is so dangerous and irresponsible that it has to be investigated," she said. "This appalling stereotyping has to stop. We should be working towards reconciliation between people, not widening the gulf."

 

As outrage at the Kilroy-Silk diatribe spread, complaints were sent out by the Muslim Council of Britain to the Press Complaints Commission, the BBC and the Sunday Express.

 

However, neither of the media giants was prepared to put up spokespeople for press interviews.

 

BBC investigation

 

A BBC statement would only say that the corporation was "looking into how the Sunday Express column, which Robert Kilroy-Silk writes in his capacity as a freelance, fits with his on-screen work for the BBC."

 

The issue of what scope BBC employees have to freelance for other media is a particularly thorny one. 

 

Last summer, a story written for the Mail on Sunday by the BBC Today reporter Andrew Gilligan set in train a series of events which culminated in the death of weapons expert David Kelly.

 

After Dr Kelly's suicide, new BBC guidelines were issued to staff who wrote freelance articles, which said they "should not bring the BBC into disrepute or undermine the integrity or impartiality of BBC programmes or presenters".