Our Ref.: AC/RA/OBM.1C4
Date: 7th April 1997
RE: The Tottenham Ayatollah, Witness, Channel Four, Tuesday April 8th
We write with reference to the above programme, which has been brought
to our attention by Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad. We note the advertising
of the programme on the Internet and the recent Guardian article (29
March 1997). We have also had an opportunity to view a video, which was
distributed to the media.
On the basis of the information received from the above sources we write
to express Sheikh Omar's objections to the broadcasting of the
programme. It contains material which defamatory and in those
circumstances we would ask you to halt the broadcast. Sheikh Omar denied
the allegations made against him as they are without foundation.
Sheikh Omar informs us that his participation in the programme was
secured on the basis that it would be accurate and a factual reflection
of his views. As you are well aware Sheikh Omar has been "demonised" and
numerous untrue allegations have been made against him. He was led to
believe that his Islamic beliefs, which challenge capitalism and the
western way of life, would be presented. Instead the commentary to the
programme includes derogatory and offensive remarks taken from tabloid
newspapers without any attempts being made to establish the veracity or
authenticity of the comments attributed to Sheikh Omar together with the
attendant publicity we would identify the following:
1. Sheikh Omar informs us that the meeting in Coventry was not in fact
secret nor was it attended by fundamentalists. No one from Hizbullah nor
FIS or Hamas attended the meeting. It was a simple social gathering
between individuals drawn from the Muslim community in the UK.
2. Sheikh Omar has never said that Jihad has been declared in Britain.
3. The programme slurs Sheikh Omar's character in that it is alleged
that he deliberately and dishonestly performed prayers for the media.
(Muslims are obliged to pray five times a day. In addition there are
seventeen recommended prayers daily).
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4. It is alleged that money collected in bottles was to be used for the
purposes of terrorist activity. This is simply not true. The money was
collected in order to help Muslims displaced by war i.e. women and
5. The So-called Jihad Training Camp in Crawley was no such thing. On
the contrary it is a place of recreation where some youth (Muslims and
non-Muslims) go to keep fit. This particular piece used in the
programme was shot at the beginning of the making of the film. There is
no training or preparation for Jihad in Britain.
The above are mere examples of the general thrust of the programme which
seeks to depict Sheikh Omar as being a supporter of terrorism and
someone who condones such activities. We are aware that Channel four
prides itself on the high quality of its programmes and a degree of
impartiality unrivaled by others. The programme is nothing more than a
vicious attack on Islam and Muslims in general and Sheikh Omar
particular. It is part of the Islamophobia trend that we have witnessed
in recent years. We are shocked at the malicious falsehoods made against
Sheikh Omar and would point out to you that his instructions are that
the allegations only exist in the minds of the programme makers and have
no truth in reality.
In the circumstances we would ask you not to broadcast the programme. If
you do, we have advised Sheikh Omar that he has good grounds for taking
proceedings for an injunction and subsequently libel proceedings. We
require a response by noon tomorrow in order to prevent legal action.
Chairman - Society of Muslim Lawyers.