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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 March 2006, 14:46 GMT
Which prophet?
French daily newspaper France Soir
Why did the BBC adopt the phrase "the prophet Muhammad"?
As the publication of the Danish cartoons continues to reverberate around the world, NewsWatch - and our sister radio programme, Feedback - has received a number of complaints about the terminology used by the BBC to describe the story.

Several dozen people have been in touch to ask why the BBC is using the word prophet. "You do not apply titles of honour to other religious figures, so why do it for Muhammad?" wrote Samuel Green.

Bruce Grant said: "I am a Christian and I cannot find any reference to this prophet in my Bible."

Josef Serf commented: "Muhammad is not considered a prophet by 80% of humanity."

And in Patrick Hall 's view: "You're half way toward endorsing a religion."

In the interests of fairness, said some people, Jesus Christ should always be referred to as Our Lord, or the Son of God. On the other hand, some Muslim viewers objected when the word prophet was not used. So what is the BBC's rule on this?

It's an issue for different outlets on different platforms talking to different audiences.
Stephen Mitchell
Head of Radio News
It seems that there's no hard policy, but a recommendation that the phrase "the Prophet Muhammad" is used to avoid any confusion about which particular Muhammad is under discussion.

The head of BBC Radio News, Stephen Mitchell, was asked whether a double standard was operating when he appeared on Feedback on Radio 4.

"No, it's not the case. I think the reason for the use of the term 'the prophet' is simply for reasons of clarity. There are a lot of Muhammads we could be referring to in news stories and we're being quite specific about which one we are talking about", he said.

However, some people suggest use of the expression "the Islamic prophet Muhammad" might have avoided any unnecessary offence. Stephen Mitchell agreed that this might be more accurate but there's no policy on this.

He said: "It's an issue for different outlets on different platforms talking to different audiences. If any editor or programme-maker wishes to elaborate on the title, he or she is free to do so as long as we think of the audience first - which is what we need in order to convey the information, to make as much sense of the story as we can."


SEE ALSO
BBC's dilemma over cartoons
03 Feb 06 |  NewsWatch
Finding the right balance
03 Feb 06 |  Notes


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