BBC Talk Show Host Suspended For Anti-Arab Column

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

London ( - A British Broadcasting Corp. talk show host accused of writing an anti-Arab newspaper column has protested a decision by BBC executives to take his program off the air.

Robert Kilroy-Silk, a former Labor Party member of Parliament who hosts a topical morning BBC TV talk show, made the comments in an article published Jan. 4 in the Sunday Express tabloid.

In the column headlined, "We owe Arabs nothing," Kilroy-Silk described Arabs as "suicide bombers, limb amputators, woman repressors."

He questioned the contribution of the Arab world to civilization, and in an apparent reference to videotaped scenes of celebration on 9/11, he referred to how Arabs "murdered more than 3,000 civilians" then "danced in the hot, dusty streets."

"Indeed, apart from oil - which was discovered, is produced and paid for by the West - what do they contribute?" he wrote. "Can you think of anything? Anything really useful? Anything really valuable? Something we really need, could not do without?"

Although the column was actually a reprint of an article that ran in April of last year, the paper and the BBC received complaints along with letters of protest from Muslim organizations.

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) said it would refer the article to police to consider whether it incited race hate and violated public order laws.

"This article is indisputably stupid and its main effect will be to give comfort to the weak-minded," said CRE chairman Trevor Phillips. "Given the extreme and violent terms in which Mr Kilroy-Silk has expressed himself, there is a danger that this might incite some individuals to act against someone who they think is an Arab."

The BBC announced late Friday that the show, Kilroy, would be taken off the air pending an internal investigation.

In a statement released over the weekend, Kilroy-Silk said the version of the column printed last year referred only to "Arab states" and "Arab countries" and that taken out of context, "it has obviously caused great distress and offense and I can only reiterate that I very deeply regret that."

Phillips said that the CRE wasn't satisfied and demanded a "proper apology."

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) called for the Sunday Express to drop Kilroy-Silk's regular column.

"Britain's Muslim and Arab communities, indeed all right-thinking people in this country, will be relieved to see that the BBC is treating this matter in a prompt and serious way," said MCB Secretary General Iqbal Sacranie.

"We hope that the Sunday Express will also now follow suit and scrap Kilroy's weekly column, which has regrettably become a platform for furthering bigotry and Islamophobia."

However, on Monday, the newspaper and its sister title, the Daily Express, defended the talk-show host.

"The article was not racist. It was legalled (cleared) by lawyers and there is absolutely no case to answer," the paper said in a statement.

In an interview to be broadcast later on Monday on Britain's ITV network, Kilroy-Silk explained his comments and said he was speaking about Arab regimes rather than individuals.

"If they understand that I was actually telling the truth, that there are Arab regimes that are evil and tyrannical and dictatorial and that is the truth are we not allowed to say that?" Kilroy-Silk said.

"I was sad that the BBC had felt [it] necessary to take the programme off the air," Kilroy-Silk said.

The broadcasting corporation is currently reviewing its rules regarding its employees writing for newspapers and magazines.

"They may have had views on the future of the column, or indeed perhaps even the nature of the program, but I would have hoped they just kept the program going and dealt with the criticisms," Kilroy-Silk said.

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