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Anti-Arabism surges after BBC host remarks

An Arab rights group has condemned the surge in anti-Arab racism in the UK following "racist" comments by a BBC presenter.

Last Modified: 14 Jan 2004 06:56 GMT
The BBC has suspended Kilroy-Silk's show

An Arab rights group has condemned the surge in anti-Arab racism in the UK following "racist" comments by a BBC presenter.

The Council for Arab British Understanding (CAABU) said on Tuesday individuals and groups were stirring up racial hatred and inciting violence against Britain's Arabs.

The heated climate follows an article by BBC presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk in a Sunday tabloid, in which he described Arabs as "suicide bombers, limb amputators, and women repressers".

CAABU said radio phone-ins, internet chat rooms and other media forums had been deluged with racist and ignorant comments about Arabs.

It said it had been contacted by a number of radio show producers who were shocked by the high numbers of racist and anti-Arab comments made by callers to their phone-ins.

Media furore

CAABU said it was "deeply worried that individuals who hold anti-Arab views will consider the media furore surrounding the Kilroy-Silk story as a legitimate platform to air their racist opinions in public". 

The organisation has also written to the Commission for Racial Equality,
 urging it to "pursue organisations or individuals who openly support and circulate the racist views expressed in the article". 

"(We are) deeply worried that individuals who hold anti-Arab views will consider the media furore surrounding the Kilroy-Silk story as a legitimate platform to air their racist opinions in public"

Centre for Arab British Understanding 

Betar, a Zionist youth movement and a registered charity, was particularly singled out by CAABU for disseminating anti-Arab hatred. 

In a widely circulated e-mail, Betar called Kilroy-Silk's article
"excellent", and urged its members to complain to the BBC for suspending him.

The movement, which describes the Palestinian people as a "terrorist organisation", stated he was "fired because his article spoke the truth".

CAABU also complained about Betar to the Charities Commission
 because it said their comments should be regarded as a breach of charity regulations.

Inflammatory article

The BBC suspended the popular daytime television presenter after he sparked outrage in a Sunday Express article.

The former Labour MP said Arabs "should go down on their knees and thank God for the munificence of the United States".

He wrote: "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."
 
He also claimed 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".

Arab civilisation

The article provoked outrage among Muslim and racial equality groups, as well as politicians.

Kilroy-Silk accused Arabs of
murdering 3000 civilians on 9/11

Trevor Phillips, chairman of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality, said he would urge the police to launch an investigation into the remarks.

And Labour Party lawmaker Lynne Jones called on the BBC to "consider Kilroy-Silk's position within the corporation".

Following the article, Britain's public broadcaster disassociated itself from Kilroy-Silk's comments, and took his programme of air while investigating the incident.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Express has claimed thousands of people have inundated the BBC with calls in support of the presenter.

And in an editorial, the rightwing paper accused the BBC of political correctness and of "attempting to stifle open debate".

Source:
Aljazeera
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