Graham Smith, Daily Mail (London), August 20, 2009
The BBC’s Asian Network has become embroiled in a race row after Sikh listeners accused the flagship digital radio station of being insensitive towards their religion.
The BBC was forced to remove a show from its website after Muslim presenter Adil Ray received threats from Sikhs who said he had denigrated one of their religious symbols.
Members of the Sikh community complained that Mr Ray had been disparaging about whether they really needed to carry kirpan daggers.
During the offending August 6 show, Mr Ray was discussing a Punjabi music concert in Canada where police had refused entry to Sikhs wearing kirpans.
But a number of listeners were upset that Mr Ray appeared to mock Sikhism, a charge that the Birmingham-based Asian Network denies.
The Sikh Media Monitoring Group has written to the BBC requesting a full transcript of the show.
The organisation has accused the Asian Network of being insensitive towards Sikh listeners.
‘We should not be paying a licence fee for promoting the ignorance-based ramblings of those bent on self-promotion who sneer at Asian religion and culture,’ group spokesman Hardeep Singh told The Independent.
The Asian Network was set up eight years ago by the BBC’s then director general Greg Dyke after he described the corporation as ‘hideously white’.
The row has raised fresh questions about whether the radio station is adequately serving its Asian listeners.
Earlier this year, the BBC Trust told the network that it needed to attract more listeners after its audience fell by nearly 20 per cent to 405,000 in a year.
In 2008 the Labour peer Lord Ahmed accused the station of being biased against Muslims in favour of Sikhs and Hindus. An internal investigation by the BBC later exonerated the network
A BBC spokesman today defended Mr Ray.
He said: ‘Adil Ray did not make any judgement about people’s faith or the rights and wrongs of wearing the kirpan.
‘We welcome the fact that Adil has listeners of all faiths who enjoy his humour and presentation.’