A wild(er) day!
I was called by the BBC on my mobile phone at 2:30 pm
I sat in the lobby and watched Dev Patel (star of Slumdog Millionaire) walk in with his family. They have to keep an eye him, I suppose – keep the girls away.
The producer came down and took me, not to the studio as I expected, but to the Blue Peter garden, and a cameraman came out and set-up quickly. The background was a bush and it started to snow. The producer stayed off camera, holding the mic, and asked me a few questions, to which my answers had to be self-explanatory (ie the viewer would not hear the questions). I wondered if this was not for the main News, but for some local thing that no-one watches – hence the use of a bush in the Blue Peter garden as background. I was disappointed.
However, the producer liked my answers and, as the snow fell, he called someone on his mobile phone. There was talk of Newsnight, but apparently they already had some regular players lined up for that. However, he took me back inside, asked me to wait in the lobby again, and went away for a while. Eventually, he came back with another producer and they said they couldn’t promise anything, but would I mind waiting in the Green Room, and they would see what they could do.
In the Green Room I met a man from Lloyds who insures satellites and a woman who works as a dating consultant. Then the host of the Green Room – a delightful young lady determined to make her career in media and cheerfully working her way up with dignity – looked at her screen and said to me: ‘Looks like they’ve got you down for the News at 7:04’.
Live, it was going to be live in the studio! I watched the News start from the Green Room at 7:00 and they came to get me at 7:01
It was Tim Wilcox and Sophie Long, sitting in a large room with screens and automated cameras, but no people except myself and the gentleman who brought me in, standing to one side.
He sat me down next to beautiful Sophie at the appropriate moment.
They allowed me to speak at length and I was able to make the following points. This is more or less what I said, in response to Sophie’s questions.
‘Mr Wilders is an EU citizen and he has the right of freedom of movement around the European Union, as well as the right of freedom of speech, which we all have.
The Government’s move to ban his entry into this country has reinforced the perception that Muslims use bullying tactics and threats of violence to suppress free speech. This is completely the wrong message to send.
Muslims already have a terrible PR problem, and this has just made things worse.
The correct Muslim reaction should have been no reaction. Let him come, show his film and go about this business, without Muslims making a fuss. This response of banning him has merely reinforced all the negative stereotypes about Muslims being violent and unreasonable.
I have seen the film and it is truly awful. It’s completely unbalanced and it serves no positive purpose. Its intention is to provoke anger and hatred.
Let me explain to you with a simple analogy what Mr Wilders has done. I know that Judaism is a religion of peace and spirituality. That’s a fact. I know many Jewish people who are peaceful and spiritual. But if someone made a film showing what the Israeli army just did in Gaza, and played against it a soundtrack of some of the difficult verses from the Old Testament … instructing to ‘enter this township and slay every man, woman and child’ … that would be a hideous distortion of what Judaism is, it would be grossly unfair and utterly immoral, there would be an outcry … no-one would be stupid enough to do this … but that is exactly what Mr Wilders has done … but because it’s about Islam, he knows he can get away with it.
The correct response should be calm communication … respectful dialogue. I would like to sit down with Mr Wilders and have a respectful conversation with him.
I sent him a Dutch copy of my book a year ago, but he never replied.’
Apparently it was repeated at 10 pm
. My title on screen was ‘Imran Ahmed (sic) – British Muslims for Secular Democracy’.