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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 June, 2005, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
Putting the Muslim viewpoint
A British muslim
Nearly two million Muslims now live in Britain
There's been a mixed response to the BBC2 documentary, Don't Panic I'm Islamic, broadcast at 7pm last Sunday.

The programme featured Muslims speaking about what it means to be a British Muslim - at a time when the nation is fighting a "war on terror".

Some viewers complained that the programme was unbalanced and gave support for suicide bombings. Others were unhappy at the inclusion of two young boys being shot dead - inappropriate for the time of the broadcast.

There was also criticism of the "stereotyping" of English women and the inclusion of footage showing drunken women outside a nightclub.

But many viewers expressed appreciation for the one hour special which they found "thought provoking" and full of insight.

Producer Phil Rees explains the thinking behind the programme:

Don't Panic, I'm Islamic presented the views of a cross-section of Britain's Muslim population. The programme clearly indicated that it represented a range of views from within the Islamic community - a segment of society whose voice is rarely heard in the mainstream media.

A programme about the Muslim community doesn't necessarily need non-Muslim voices.

The programme revealed the concerns that Muslims have about their treatment in the UK and highlighted their overwhelming disapproval of Britain's participation in the invasion of Iraq.

The community has felt increasingly isolated and vulnerable since the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. We believed it important to listen to and understand the concerns felt by this two million-strong minority.

The documentary addressed sensitive matters such as the use of suicide bombs by militant groups in the Middle East. While none of the contributors supported such attacks, several understood the circumstances that drove some people to commit such actions.

Strong images

The programme tried, in part, to explain the reasons for some of the political violence we witness daily on our news screens.

It included some strong images, including that of a Palestinian child, Mohammed Al-Derra, whose father was sheltering him from gunfire. The footage had a huge impact on the Muslim community in Britain. We did not show the image of the dead boy for fear of causing offence but we did consider it appropriate to show the child shortly before he was shot.

Many Muslims felt they were under pressure to integrate more fully into British society. That raised the question of what it meant to be British.

"Yob" culture

One woman spoke of the drunken "yob" culture that she witnesses in her home town, Slough, on a Friday and Saturday night.

We used images of the type of drunken young people that she referred to; she asked whether Muslims needed to behave like that in order to become British.

It was a fair point to make but she clearly does not consider yob culture as typical of all non-Muslim Brits.

The programme tried to represent different segments of the British Muslim community. Of our nine interviewees, seven were from South Asian background, one was a white British convert and one had Arab roots. Over 60% of the community is from South Asian ancestry and they were only slightly over-represented in our sample. Most importantly, everyone in the film considered themselves to be British.


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