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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 January, 2004, 08:48 GMT
Kilroy defends Arab states attack
Robert Kilroy-Silk
The Kilroy programme will be suspended from Monday
BBC presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk has argued that he has a right to say "there are Arab states that are evil, despotic and treat women abominably".

In interviews with Sunday papers he also said he was "disappointed" the BBC suspended his TV show, after an article he wrote led to accusations of racism.

He had already said he "regretted" the piece, calling Arabs "suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors".

But the Muslim Council of Britain has demanded a full apology.

'Positive light'

The former Labour MP told the Sunday Telegraph he had the right to criticise despotic Middle Eastern regimes.

I am a British Arab and was totally offended by Mr Kilroy's remarks.
Nihad Moussa, Southampton, England

A furore developed following the publication of the article last Sunday, which also said Arabs "murdered more than 3,000 civilians on 11 September" and then "danced in the streets" to celebrate.

Mr Kilroy-Silk also claimed his secretary mistakenly sent the column to the Sunday Express instead of one on foreigners using the NHS, as he had planned.

He said the article, which was originally published during the Iraq War in April of last year, had not caused offence at the time and was intended as a criticism of certain Arab regimes, and not Arab people.

Mr Kilroy-Silk said: "I clearly do not believe that all Arabs are suicide bombers etc. That would be stupid.

"As we all know most Arabs are educated, civilised and urbane."

I'm disappointed that the BBC didn't feel able to support me
Robert Kilroy-Silk

Mr Kilroy-Silk insisted he was not a racist and that his morning chat show had done a great deal to promote equality.

Mr Kilroy-Silk said: "I have done more for race relations than the Commission for Racial Equality, empowering black people and presenting them in a positive light."

The presenter said he always spoke his mind and had also raised his concerns about human rights abuses in the Arab world when, as an MP, he had visited Saudi Arabia.

"The Arab princes loved it," he told the newspaper. "They kept asking me: 'Where is the militant'."

'I understand'

Mr Kilroy-Silk, whose BBC One show is suspended while an inquiry is carried out, has told friends the corporation is "wobbling and wimpish", according to the Sunday Times.

The article itself I think is of racist nature and it is only appropriate that there should be a full apology
Iqbal Sacranie

It says he believes the BBC should have stood by him, while distancing itself from the Sunday Express piece, which bore the headline "We owe Arabs nothing".

The presenter told this week's Sunday Express: "I'm disappointed that the BBC didn't feel able to support me.

"I said to it that I understand its need to say that the column is nothing to do with it and the views are nothing to do with it, but my impartiality on the programme has never been a problem."

'Racist nature'

On Saturday campaigners rejected a statement in which the presenter said he "regretted" the article.

Iqbal Sacranie, of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: "The article itself I think is of racist nature and it is only appropriate that there should be a full apology so the matter can then rest and hopefully not be repeated again."

But Judith Vidal Hall, the editor of Index on Censorship magazine, said taking people off air was not the way to tackle racism.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today: "I don't think in a country with a free media and a plural society and a commitment to a right of reply, you ever solve anything by banning, removing, censoring."

Police are investigating Mr Kilroy-Silk's comments after a complaint by the Commission for Racial Equality.

BBC Breakfast will continue for an extra half hour on BBC One, to 0930 GMT, while Kilroy is off air.

The BBC's Alex Bushill
"The chat show host insists he won't be gagged"



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