British Anglican bishop, alongside other Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders react as BBC moves to scrap Head of Religion post.
BBC’s unprecedented decision to scrap the post of Head of Religion from its hierarchy has irked many notable figures in the religious community.
The announcement, which was made On January 23, has been greeted with a crescendo of backlash, with Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders warning that the BBC risks turning its back on efforts to tackle extremism and intolerance in Britain simply to cut costs.
In a letter signed by the group and sent to the Telegraph, they are collectively urging the British media house to rescind its decision to decommission its Head of Religion post, which is currently being occupied by Aaqil Ahmed, the first Muslim to act in that capacity.
Stating that BBC’s decision ‘could not have come at a worse time’ in the wake of Charlie Hebdo saga, the faith figures are strongly warning it is a wrong move.
As part of a larger plan to overhaul of its programmed commissioning operations, Religion is intended to be merged with science, history and business issues under a new head of “factual” programming. In a bid to effect “increased focus on leadership and creativity,” as the BBC put it, alongside the specialist role of Commissioning Editor for Religion, three other top commissioning jobs will be cut.
“Religion is not history,” the letter jointly signed by Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, leader of Reform Judaism in the UK, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Dr Shuja Shafi, the Bishop of Manchester Right Reverend David Walker, and Prof Linda Woodhead, of Lancaster University, insists.
The letter continued, “from religious efforts at tackling Ebola in West Africa, to the interfaith solidarity that has so far helped prevent the horrors of France being imported to these shores, religion remains a force for change at home and abroad.” “Religious literacy is essential to the diversity we treasure in Britain – and a tonic to the extremism and intolerance that threaten it. The BBC plays a key role here, providing robust and rich coverage of religious life to the British public.”
In a similar vein, the Anglican Bishop of Leeds has also joined his voice to the criticisms against BBC for “failing to prioritize religion.” Bishop Nick Baines said “at a time when it is impossible to understand the modern world – its politics, economics, military and humanitarian events – without understanding religion, why isn’t religion being prioritized by the BBC as needing expert commissioning.”
The BBC has however come out to defend its position, stating that Mr. Ahmed, the erstwhile Head of Religion, can apply for the new role of Head of Factual Programming and will continue to oversee in-house production of religious programs.