"Thousands" more had protested to the BBC, said the Sunday Express on Monday, which accused the public broadcaster of "gagging" Kilroy-Silk, a former Labour party lawmaker. 

According to the Express, the protesters responded in a phone poll to back Kilroy-Silk reinstatement.

The BBC suspended the veteran host's morning show "Kilroy", on which guests discuss topical and personal issues, pending an investigation after the presenter lambasted Arabs as "suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors" in an article published in the Sunday Express on 4 January . 

"We are sick and tired of being gagged" was the front-page response of the Daily Express, which said there was "growing anger over what is being seen as a test case for the very principle of freedom of speech in this country." 

'Not racist'

In its editorial, the rightwing paper accused the BBC of political correctness and of "attempting to stifle open debate".

"The article was not racist. It was legalled by lawyers and there is absolutely no case to answer," said the Sunday Express.

On Monday, the presenter insisted that he had intended to
criticise certain Arab regimes, not Arabs in general. "If that is smearing all Arabs, then clearly I apologise for that because I didn't intend that," he said. 

But that was not enough to satisfy Iqbal Sacranie, head of the British Muslim Council, which groups 350 Muslim associations. 

Sacranie said: "The 'regret' that Kilroy is now expressing...
about his breathtakingly racist anti-Arab rant is plainly disingenuous and an obvious attempt to save his well-paid career."