A SIKH peer has quit BBC’s Thought for the Day claiming bosses tried to block one of his discussions in case it “offended Muslims”.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon left his role on the BBC Radio Four slot after 35 years as he accused programme chiefs of censoring one of his broadcasts about an executed Sikh guru – believed to be Guru Tegh Bahadur – who opposed the forced conversion of Hindus to Islam in India in the 17th century.
Thought for the Day is a daily slot on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 offering “reflections from a faith perspective on issues and people in the news”.
The Times reported that Indarjit Singh, 87, blasted the Beeb for “prejudice and intolerance” after he was told the broadcast may have offended Muslims.
The respected equality activist said: “It was like saying to a Christian that he or she should not talk about Easter for fear of giving offence to the Jews.”
He also hit out at the BBC’s “misplaced sense of political correctness”.
The lord – an advisor to the Commission for Racial Equality – was let go by bosses after he threatened to quit over the row.
Lord Singh then made an official complaint to the BBC but director of radio James Purnell rejected it.
He said: “The need for sensitivity in talking about religious, political or social issues have now been taken to absurd proportions with telephone insistence on trivial textual changes right up to going into the studio, making it difficult to say anything worthwhile.
The need for sensitivity in talking about religious, political or social issues have now been taken to absurd proportions with telephone insistence on trivial textual changes right up to going into the studio, making it difficult to say anything worthwhile.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon
“The aim of Thought for the Day has changed from giving an ethical input to social and political issues to the recital of religious platitudes and the avoidance of controversy with success measured by the absence of complaints.”
He even claimed Jesus Christ and the founder of Sikhism Guru Nanak would not be “allowed near Thought for the Day” if they were alive today.
A spokesman for the BBC said: “Thought for the Day is a live, topical segment and it is not unusual for editorial changes to be made so that it reflects the biggest news stories of the day.
WHO WAS GURU TEGH BADAHUR
GURU Tegh Bahadur was the ninth of the ten Gurus who founded Sikhism.
He’s honoured and remembered as the man who championed the rights for all religious freedom.
During the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb, Islam was forced on the people.
Hindu temples were demolished and turned into mosques, higher taxes were charged to non-Muslims and the Emperor persecuted those who would not conform to Islamic law.
Guru Tegh Bahadur spoke out amid this persecution. He refused to convert to Islam and in 1675, he was beheaded in Delhi.
The site of his execution was later turned into an important Gurdwara.
He’s also remembered for his poetry, much of which is included in the Guru Granth Sahib.
He married Bibi Gujjari and they had one son: the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
He founded the city of Anandpur which later became a centre of Sikhism.
“We disagree with Lord Singh and don’t recognise his characterisation of Thought for the Day.”
Former Today host John Humphrys has called for the slot be axed, claiming it is “discriminatory” against people with no religion.
He said on Good Morning Britain: “Here we have a situation where Piers would be allowed to do Thought for the Day because he can approach it from a Christian perspective, and say as a Christian I believe XYZ.
“I could not do it because I do not believe in any.”
Piers asked: “So it’s anachronistic to you then and it should go?”
Humphrys replied: “Totally. I would go further. I would say it’s discriminatory.”
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The BBC said: “Thought for the Day is a long-standing part of the Today schedule and an important part of Radio 4’s religious content.
“It features speakers from the world’s major faith traditions reflecting on topical events and issues, and serves a distinct purpose as part of the BBC’s overall output which of course includes many non-religious programmes.
“It provokes a range of different views including John’s, and this isn’t the first time he’s made these known publicly.”
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