Page last updated at 12:39 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 13:39 UK

Muslim jokes 'scare' BBC - Elton

Ben Elton
Elton said people have 'no right not to be offended'

Comedian and writer Ben Elton has said the BBC is too "scared" to broadcast jokes about Muslims for fear of provoking radical Islamists.

Elton, in an interview with Christian magazine Third Way, added that the broadcaster would "let vicar gags pass but would not let imam gags pass".

He said fear rather than "moral sensibilities" fuelled decisions about what material was appropriate.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "No subject is off limits for BBC comedy."

READ THE FULL INTERVIEW

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"The treatment should not cause harm or offence as defined by the BBC's Editorial Guidelines or breach other BBC Guidelines. There is no evidence that the BBC is afraid to tackle difficult subjects," she added.

Muhammad joke

Elton told the magazine how he had sat on a panel and suggested a joke involving Mohammed, which was rejected.

"I wanted to use the phrase 'Muhammad came to the mountain' and everybody said, 'Oh, don't! Just don't! Don't go there!'

"It was nothing to do with Islam, I was merely referring to the old proverb, 'If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.' And people said, 'Let's just not!'"

The comedy writer, whose credits include Blackadder and The Thin Blue Line, added the Muslims would not want to be excluded from comedy.

"I'm quite certain that the average Muslim does not want everybody going around thinking,'We can't mention you. We've just got to pretend you don't exist because we're scared that somebody who claims to represent you will threaten to kill us.'"

The 48-year-old writer of Queen musical We Will Rock You, professed to being an atheist, but said he did occasionally go to church and sent his children to Church of England schools.


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