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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006, 11:19 GMT
Islam and the West
On Monday 6 February, Jeremy Paxman chaired a special debate on the relationship between Islam and the West.

The London Central Mosque

Has what began as an argument about the publication of cartoons, depicting Mohammed, exposed deeper tensions and an irresolvable clash of cultures?

You can watch the debate again here online, and read a selection of your comments.

THIS FORUM IS NOW CLOSED


The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.

The one underlying thing to note here is that the media provide the interface and report on what they feel is the news
Humaira Ali
The Newsnight debate would have been so much more productive and thought inspiring if guests such as Professor Tariq Ramadan, a voice which would represent the feelings and thoughts of the wider Muslim community, was given more time to express opinions. Narrow minded extremists like Anjem Choudary and BNP leaders do not represent either Muslims, Christians, Jews or secularists. Those people should be left out in the cold and given no respect and time.
M A Mannan, Rossendale

Monday night's programme was priceless, if only to hear Jeremy Paxman refer to a panellist as "matey". On a serious note, I find it troubling that even the notorious Paxman was unable to moderate the discussion and keep the aforementioned panellist quiet while others were speaking. Are people afraid to speak out against fundamentalism? I sincerely hope not.
Chip, Wassenaar, Netherlands

To have a hot head like Anjem Choudary shows how little we understand the need for dialogue within safe boundaries acceptable to all
Taj Hussain
Interesting! With people twisting words in front of a national audience what chance do we have? The one underlying thing to note here is that the media provide the interface and report on what they feel is the news. Funny how camera angles can sometimes make a few people seem like a lot more. When are we going to hold the media responsible for the way they report things?
Humaira Ali, London

Journalists need to realise the sensitivity of the situation and the gravity of the argument. It was nice to see Tariq Ramadan, who is respected for his understanding of Islam and the western world, but to have a hot head like Anjem Choudary shows how little we understand the need for dialogue within safe boundaries acceptable to all. The debate would have been far more mature without the the rabble rouser Choudrey - what a shame!
Taj Hussain, Bradford

It is time the politicians and the police began to protect those who live in peace and care for their fellow man
James
How dare Mr Choudary offer "security" to the British? He stated that the Muslim population of this country were granting us the favour of peace in return for their own. Let us not forget the Muslim fanatics who sought to kill and maim British citizens last summer, and whose actions have been praised and legitimised by Mr Choudary and his "brothers". It is time the politicians and the police began to protect those who live in peace and care for their fellow man, rather than worry about inflaming a group who have done very little to endear themselves to the liberal people of Europe in recent times.
James, London

I think the deliberate polarisation of the debate by Newsnight is very irresponsible
Admas
The programme was very good - as always, it's good to see Anjem Choudary spewing crap out of his mouth. He wasn't a person of knowledge - he was cocky and intrusive and I feel that he was only acting like he was because there wasn't any scholarly opposition sat beside him. I loved the bit where Paxman said "ay ay matey".
Asif, Rochdale

I think the deliberate polarisation of the debate by Newsnight is very irresponsible. Couldn't we have someone as articulate (but not as pushy) as Mr Choudary pushing the middle ground of common sense? Most normal people agree in principle to freedom of speech, and disagree in practice with insulting others' culture. What is so complicated about this? How does one wrong justify another?
Admas, London

This is not a time for headstrong, emotional outbursts but one for dialogue and resolution of the 'undercurrents' which exist in the western media
Amer
I had my head in my hands watching Monday's Newsnight debate. All Muslims want is a FAIR representation in the debate; why does a tiny extreme faction get coverage over the huge number of religious and knowledgeable men and women in our community? Muslims welcome, nay, relish a debate with those who think our way of life is wrong - only let it be done fairly. Or perhaps that cannot be done for obvious reasons.
Abu Khadijah, Bradford

I was surprised that Newsnight would invite such a character as Anjem Choudary for a debate of this nature
Joshua Scarlett
I was astounded that the programme chose a guest such as Anjem Choudary to portray the great religion of Islam. His views are not representative of mainstream Islam and in my view the only reason these types of guests are invited is to propagate the "stereotypical" view of Islam in the media. In order for engagement in meaningful, intellectual and reasoned debate, Newsnight would have been better off inviting scholars such as Dr Zakir Naik. Views of Anjem Choudary and his like have detracted focus from the cause - ie the ill-informed, ill thought and, in my opinion, deliberate provocation of Muslims by publication of these cartoons. This is not a time for headstrong, emotional outbursts but one for dialogue and resolution of the "undercurrents" which exist in the western media.
Amer, Watford

I was surprised that Newsnight would invite such a character as Anjem Choudary for a debate of this nature. I was proved right and I believe that his disrespectful behaviour was handled with admiration by Jeremy and his guests. It would have been easy to revert to argument as opposed to debate, and yet the style of debate was, despite being difficult, handled with care and intelligence.
Joshua Scarlett, Cardiff

I felt for Jeremy Paxman! Not only did he have Anjem Choudary expressing his extreme views, interrupting him and his other guests and then insulting half of them, but just when he thought he was going to get some reasoned points of view he turned around to find another guest unnecessarily bringing up veils, and then a Tory MP suggesting mass deportation! The restraint that he showed until the brilliant "look matey... we're moving on" comment was legendary!
Richard, Fleet

I was rather disappointed not to hear Mr Choudary's response to the introductory report
Rachel
As "interesting" as this programme was, it did get to the heart of the matter - the irreconcilable values of free expression and religious belief. Christianity has managed - over centuries and not without contradiction and difficulty - to accommodate itself to secularism and freedom of expression. It is these core differences in values both sides need to debate calmly, because if we don't we are in for some very serious trouble.
Anthony Deane, London

I greatly enjoyed the debate - essential viewing. Mr Paxman gave a fine performance. His calm, concise and polite manner proved the most effective way to handle Mr Choudary's persistent and rambling outbursts - even if the guest did have his microphone turned down at one point!
James, Dublin

I was rather disappointed not to hear Mr Choudary's response to the introductory report. I listened to the man from UKIP and immediately dismissed him as mistaken in his analysis, in my belief. How are we able to do the same with other people who hold extreme views if they are not allowed to finish a point without being interrupted by an obviously biased Paxman? Let me make up my own mind.
Rachel, London

Contrary to some other responses I felt that Jeremy Paxman did a poor job as 'moderator' of this debate
Bryan White
Golom's response [below] shows just how fundamentally many Muslims do not understand "western" secular values. Calling the separation of state and religion "flimsy grounds" and arguing that "Koranic injunctions" should supersede it, not to mention the animal rights and cruelty issues surrounding Halal slaughter. Muslims must understand that their religion has little weight in a secular society, and their only chance of changing this is through getting Muslims elected democratically. As Muslims are a minority in Britain, that means accepting that their views are not representative of the majority and will therefore not be represented by law.
Paul Qureshi, Portsmouth

Contrary to some other responses I felt that Jeremy Paxman did a poor job as "moderator" of this debate! In admittedly difficult and testing circumstances he gave the outrageous Anjem Choudary far too much airtime for his fundamentalist cause, and also allowed him to perpetually interrupt the other speakers. He should simply have been told to keep quiet after insulting the three females in the debate.
Bryan White, Westbury, Wilsthire

It was refreshing to see Jeremy Paxman meeting his match in the form of Anjem Choudary on last night's programme. The guests invited on to your programme should be allowed to express their views, extremist or otherwise - isn't that the whole point of debate? I often feel frustrated when Jeremy Paxman doesn't allow the guests to speak or ends the talk in a somewhat aggressive manner when he doesn't share the same views as them. Although I don't agree with some of the views held by Mr Anjum Choudhary, he did give Jeremy Paxman a taste of his own medicine!
Arfa Maqsood, Manchester

By giving undue coverage to extremist expression, we will make the real issues hostage to militancy and mulishness
J Zackey
Well done for the debate. The man from UKIP said what most of the public really believe about over-political correctness. It was self evident what a REALLY DANGEROUS MAN THE MUSLIM FANATIC IS. As for his comment WHERE SHOULD WE LIVE? I think many would have suggestions! Just when will the government listen to the public and take a STRONG line against such people.
John Graham, Lancaster

My admiration for Jeremy Paxman soared when I witnessed the calm restraint he displayed whilst trying to control the Muslim fundamentalist cleric who set out to bully his way through Monday's Newsnight. That man probably did as much to damage race relations as the hate placard marchers in London. Listening to his words and watching his antics I felt transported out of a civilised Western democracy and back into the dark ages. I'm sure many people regarded him as a blustering clown and even more certain am I that a good few consider him and his like highly undesirable. He's the best publicity the BNP could wish for. Why is he living here at all?
Jeff Clarke, Maidstone

All this hate, violence, and burning business, from some members of the Muslim world, is just helping to make them more isolated
Maria
Perhaps there is no need to bring people on Newsnight who are unwilling and unable to offer a way out of this dilemma? By giving undue coverage to extremist expression, we will make the real issues hostage to militancy and mulishness. Why give any platform to elements driven by either xenophobia or zealotry?
J Zackey, Surrey

I just can't believe the huge row created by this cartoon. I believe it's just a trigger and an excuse to start something that has been in the air all the time. All this hate, violence, and burning business, from some members of the Muslim world, is just helping to make them more isolated, and helping to create a world more polarised.
Maria, Birmingham

As ever with stories such as this the reason behind the original act is missed and forgotten in the fire storm of hysteria. Jyllands-Posten's original article was concerning self-censorship and freedom of speech. Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of Jyllands-Posten, commissioned 12 cartoonists for the project and published the cartoons in response to the difficulty experienced by Danish writer Kare Bluitgen in finding artists to illustrate his children's book about Mohammed. Cartoonists previously approached by Bluitgen were reportedly unwilling to work with him for fear of violent attacks by extremist Muslims. Not once since the story has arrived on the UK News Media radar have I heard this explanation to the background and I would hope Newsnight would address this omission.
Iain Scarlett, Rickmansworth


Newsnight responds:
Newsnight has already addressed the origins of the controversy - it formed part of the debate we held on Thursday's programme. You can watch the programme again by click on the link below:


This was a fascinating programme - I fail to remember seeing a more rude, overbearing, belligerent and ignorant man than Mr Choudary
Phil
Jeremy Paxman dealt brilliantly with the verbal bully from Al-Ghurabaa. I feel sorry for all the fair minded, peaceful Muslims who live in Britain, and have to put up with his bigoted views being represented as theirs.
Malcolm Freemantle, Botley

Monday's Newsnight was compulsive viewing - but was it responsible journalism?
Mark English
This was a fascinating programme. I fail to remember seeing a more rude, overbearing, belligerent and ignorant man than Mr Choudary. His presence on the programme must surely have highlighted to many, hopefully even some of his followers, just how ridiculous the concept of any violence following the publications of those cartoons is. Surely the violence and horrific threats do far more to insult the prophet than any cartoon could?
Phil, London

Monday's Newsnight was compulsive viewing. But was it responsible journalism? First, Nick Griffin, last seen emerging from the dock surrounded by shaven-headed goons, was given a platform to talk about "defending British democratic values". Even this sickening drivel was arguably topped by the Islamic fundamentalist guest suggesting that the views of a more reasonable contributor were worthless because he did not have a beard. No one sensible will be converted to the views of these ludicrous individuals. But equally no-one who sympathises with them will be dissuaded by rational debate which they, by definition, reject. Instead, their 15 minutes of fame can further motivate their respective supporters, who can cause trouble disproportionate to their numbers. I wonder whether refusing to give these people a platform might be a better contribution to calming the current dangerous situation. This is not denying "free speech" - both can stand on their soapboxes in any High Street, fringe mosque or seedy pub full of racists if they obey the law (a big "if" in both their cases). But there is no reason why licence payers' money should aid and abet them.
Mark English, Brussels

It is unfortunate that the West pretend not to understand Islam and the Muslims
Ahamad A Gbadamasi
I am not normally a great fan of Mr Paxman, finding his style too hectoring and tinged with arrogance. Monday's programme changed all that. He struggled to control the rather bullying extremist Muslim, and kept his composure throughout. He defended his other guests' right to speak, exercising this by force of personality without resorting to expressing some of the anger and frustration he must have felt. Respect, Mr Paxman.
Bill Rivers, Oxford

I would have liked to have seen Peter Tatchell join that little grouping
Alex Payne
Jeremy Paxman's fire-fuelling rhetoric question to Sayeeda Warsi, "so you would deport them", was disgraceful. In the circumstances his interpretation of what she said was highly irresponsible because he gave her no right of reply.
Roger Bale, Reading

It is unfortunate that the West pretend not to understand Islam and the Muslims. If the world should remain peaceful, the West, especially America, Britain and Israel, must accept the high rate of converts in their people. The Western media has not help matters. Their total support to these Western nations is not acceptable. If they are truly democrats following the rule of law, the Americans and the entire western world must allow Muslims to practice their faith according to their beliefs.
Ahamad A Gbadamasi, Kano City

On any issue, but particularly those involving community relations, you are quick to talk to middle class professionals and ethnic leaders
Adam Wright
I would have liked to have seen Peter Tatchell join that little grouping. Too many Muslims, not enough representation of the other 97% of the UK. UKIP is hardly representative!
Alex Payne, London

Muslim riots are totally unnecessary. Immigration has been too liberal in all parts of the world. We should remember Enoch Powell's philosophy. If he had been heeded, there would not be the racial problems there are today.
Zena Taylor, Canada

On any issue, but particularly those involving community relations, you are quick to talk to middle class professionals and ethnic leaders, even the poor of the ethnic minorities, yet rarely have I seen anyone whom I would recognise as a peer. I am an Anglo-Irish disabled single father, and as such I feel insulted when ethnic minorities or women's groups, for example, think they are the ONLY people who have ever been discriminated against. Why, when you pick up on each point made by a politician and aggressively analyse each point he or she makes, do you allow someone like Mr Choudary to bully and dominate an entire section of the programme without asking him to justify why his rights to freedom of religion are greater than my right to LIFE? I suspect self censorship for fear of more extreme action by his followers, as you have little trouble in keeping Nick Griffin in check, but even he does not believe in the kind of demos we have seen this week.
Adam Wright, Southampton

By giving so much airtime to such an unrepresentative fringe element you make the 'clash of civilisations' a self-fulfilling prophecy
Mustafa Arif
Watching Newsnight I was appalled by the double standards employed by the BBC over the cartoon race row. I understand why the Muslim cartoons have not been printed in newspapers or seen on television, and I'm not saying they should be shown. But to then show a cartoon of Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler - is that not offensive to Jewish people? Both cartoons are meant to offend, but why is it ok for the BBC to show the Jewish one and not the Muslim one? If you're going to host a fair and balanced debate shouldn't you show both of the cartoons or none at all?
John, London


Newsnight responds:
The Anne Frank cartoon was undoubtedly offensive. The point of using it was to demonstrate that some of the people complaining about the Mohammed cartoons are at the same time publishing highly offensive anti-Semitic material. The Mohammed cartoons were in fact shown briefly on BBC News programmes including Newsnight, as well as on Channel 4 and ITV News, in order to help explain the context and strength of feeling in the current dispute.


Congratulations to Jeremy Paxman on his handling of tonight's discussion on the cartoon furore. It was a great display of slightly irascible grace under pressure.
Seamus, Middlesex

The angry demonstrations in the UK were wrong but ... the hypocrisy of the West is worse
Golom
Why, oh why did you invite Mr Choudary to be part of your panel? You've had him before and it's obvious to anyone who has ever heard him that he is never going to be courteous to other guests (or indeed anyone). By giving so much airtime to such an unrepresentative fringe element you make the "clash of civilisations" a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Mustafa Arif, London

Monday's programme was very interesting but hardly any of the guests really touched upon the heart of the matter - namely, that the cartoons in a Danish newspaper were clearly insulting but there are other scores between the Muslim world and the West. The angry demonstrations in the UK were wrong but it must be clearly stressed that the hypocrisy of the West is worse and needs to be explored by the media, especially the BBC. There is great distrust between Muslims and the West for which the reasons are not hard to find both today and in history. Five or so EU countries have banned Kosher and Halal slaughter by using legislation and without resorting to debate or discussion with those who will be directly affected. The French have banned the hijab, allegedly on some flimsy grounds, thinking that it is just a cultural matter but in fact there are clear religious and Koranic injunctions regarding the importance of the hijab. The recent cartoons were no slip of the tongue but arose due the the same hypocrisy of the West and deep ignorance. Historically, the West has been likewise hypocritical towards other people but as the saying goes "you cannot fool everyone for ever" and that is why there is this inevitable clash of civilisations.
Golom, Midlands

THIS FORUM IS NOW CLOSED




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