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UK documentary on Islam's origin sparks row

September 12, 2012 16:57 IST

A documentary on Britain's Channel 4 on the origins of Islam has sparked off a furious row, leading to over 1,000 complaints and security fears that prompted the cancellation of a planned repeat screening in London on Thursday.

The documentary, titled 'Islam: The Untold Story', was telecast on Channel 4 on August 28. Its presenter, historian Tom Holland, soon became the target of criticism and abuse, prompting security fears and over 1,000 complaints to the channel and broadcast  regulator Ofcom.

Holland has been accused of making 'baseless assumption' and engaging in 'selective scholarship' for making the claim in the 'poorly researched' documentary about the origin of Islam.

On the cancellation of the special repeat screening for a select audience at Channel 4's headquarters tomorrow, a statement said: "Having taken security advice we have reluctantly cancelled a planned screening of the programme, Islam: The Untold Story."

Jenny Taylor, a writer and academic who had been invited to attend Thursday's screening, told The Guardian that it was 'appalling' that the event had been cancelled.

She said media coverage was a factor in whipping up 'a false storm of protest' over the programme. Describing the programme as 'a good bit of history by one of the most eminent historians in the country', she said, "We have got to be able to discuss history. That is the western way. That is what we do here. Every other civilisation that Tim has written about has come in for the same treatment. Why should Islam be left out?" she said.

Responding to criticism of the programme, Holland said in a statement, "The origins of Islam are a legitimate subject of historical enquiry and this film is wholly in keeping with other series and programmes on Channel 4 where the historical context of world religions has been examined, such as The Bible: A History".

He added, "An accusation laid against the film is one of bias and, although I believe that absolute objectivity is a chimera, what was incumbent upon us, in making the film, was to be up-front about my own ideological background and presumptions, and to acknowledge the very different perspective that Muslim faith provides".

Prasun Sonwalkar in London
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