Views from the News
Stephen Baker, Manchester
CONFLICT ON COMMUNITY RADIO STATION
Mahboob Masih, a church minister from East Kilbride, is taking legal action after being dismissed from hosting his radio programme for the manner in which Christianity was defended on air, which allegedly offended Muslims. He is being supported by the Christian Legal Centre and has instructed religious liberties barrister Paul Diamond. He is claiming unfair dismissal and discrimination on the grounds of religion. He had been host of a regular Saturday morning show on Awaz FM, a community radio show in Glasgow, for six years before the row with the station's management ended in his dismissal.
Awaz FM is a Community Radio Station that is designed to serve the Asian Community. In the talk show on 26th July 2008, questions were asked by listeners on a recent talk given by a prominent Muslim speaker and critic of Christianity, Zakir Naik on Peace TV, a popular Islamic channel in which the divinity of Jesus Christ was denied. On the radio programme Mr. Masih and co-presenter Afzal Umeed sought to allow a response from the Christian perspective. The questions were raised as part of a discussion on matters of interest to the Asian community; the questions arose from listeners and were responded to. During the discussion their guest, Christian apologist, Asif Mall, said that Zakir Naik’s claim that Jesus Christ was not the only prophet to embody ‘the way, the truth and the life’ showed a lack of knowledge of the Bible and the Koran.
The radio station management, worried that the debate had offended Muslim listeners accused Mr. Masih of not being balanced enough on air. Mr. Masih, says that the management ordered him to apologise to listeners and to worshippers at Glasgow’s Central Mosque who may have been offended by the remarks made by himself and Mr Mall. Mr. Masih reluctantly read out an apology but added his own words, ‘We live in a free country and everybody has the right to express his/her opinion’. He refused to deliver an apology in person at the Central Mosque in Glasgow because he believed that a presenter on a Community Radio Station should not be answerable to the Mosque.
Mr. Masih and his co-presenter were temporarily suspended for breaching the station's code of conduct. After sending a letter criticizing his treatment to the station's management committee in which he also asked for his ‘immediate reinstatement to the radio show and a full apology’, he and his co-presenter were dismissed. In the letter Mr. Masih had also said this was ‘no more than religious debate under the general principles of British law and within the Ofcom Code. No intemperate language was used on our show’.
However, Javaid Ullah, the Director of the radio station, immediately terminated the Mr. Masih and his co-presenter's positions and said that they had ‘failed to remain neutral and as such allowed the guest to make comments which led in [to] offending various members of the community’. Awaz FM’s website claims that it ‘will be the voice of Glasgow's ethnic communities and their respective faiths’.
The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mr. Masih with his complaint lodged with Ofcom claiming that Awaz FM is in breach of the terms of its licence. Awaz FM contests Mr. Masih’s complaints and has so far failed to respond to his questions about the dispute.
The case will be heard at the Glasgow Employment Tribunal.
FIREMAN’S DISPUTE OVER GAY MARCH SETTLED OUT OF COURT
Strathclyde Fire and Rescue Service has paid damages to a firefighter demoted because he felt it was morally wrong to distribute leaflets at a gay pride march. John Mitchell, a Catholic, was one of nine firefighters at a station in Glasgow who refused to do PR work at the 2006 Pride Scotia rally. Mitchell lost his position as watch manager and his salary was cut. The others had to receive ‘diversity training’. After Mitchell appealed to an employment tribunal, his employers decided to make a settlement before the tribunal took place. Besides receiving damages Mitchell gained an apology but the deal also bans him from talking about his case. The National Secular Society has condemned the settlement.
Source: Daily Telegraph (21/1/09)