Wells, media correspondent
Thursday July 4, 2002
the most extreme figures in the race relations debate claimed yesterday
that they were denied a platform in the media because of a misplaced
"liberal consensus". Nick Griffin, leader of the British National
party, and Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri, a fundamentalist Muslim cleric,
said they expressed views held by many people, and shutting them out
of the debate would not make them disappear.
"The more you demonise us the more you create tensions," Mr
Griffin told the Radio Academy's annual festival in Cambridge.
The event was organised and chaired by Rod Liddle, editor of the BBC's
Today programme. He said both men had a right to be heard on the media:
"We suspect they will say on air something that will be grossly
offensive to sections of our audience. They probably will. But we put
on Israelis and Palestinians who grossly offend sections of our audience."
Abu Hamza, who preaches at the Finsbury
Park mosque in north London and has been accused of promoting terrorism,
said the views of Muslims were rarely heard because they challenged
the prevailing view.
He said: "We Muslims have a lot of proposals to put to you. We
are not racists. We need to be questioned, cross-examined."
Mr Griffin said: "Between any ruling class and the people there
is a gulf. There is a big gulf between the British ruling class and
British Muslims, and I've no doubt there is a big gulf between the British
ruling classes, the BBC and young, white males in places like Bradford
"You should be confident
enough. Let us on air and demolish us. Not by demonising us and talking
over us, but letting us put our point and then tearing our arguments
Mr Liddle said the BNP
was ostracised because of fears about the effects of publicity.
The Labour party had plans
to have elected mayors - this was quickly shelved after the BNP
won council seats - they thought the BNP
He said broadcasting executives found it hard
to admit that the "liberal consensus" on race issues was often
wrong. He pointed to a survey showing that 80% of British Muslims opposed
the war on terrorism. "If we banish from the airwaves people from
the outside, we blind ourselves to a few hard truths and cheat our audience
in the process."