Wednesday 18 September 2019

BBC apologises over Stacey Dooley Panorama inaccuracy

The Strictly Come Dancing champion wrongly described a Muslim prayer gesture as an ‘IS salute’ in a BBC Panorama documentary.

Stacey Dooley’s recorded voice over was amended (Ian West/PA)
Stacey Dooley’s recorded voice over was amended (Ian West/PA)

By Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

The BBC has amended a scene from Stacey Dooley’s Panorama documentary after she referred to a Muslim prayer gesture as an “IS salute”.

The programme, due to air on BBC One tonight, sees the Strictly Come Dancing winner visit camps in northern Syria and speak to women who left their own countries to join Islamic State.

In one scene Dooley, 32, says in a scripted voice-over that as she and her crew left the al-Hawl refugee camp they “saw women raising their index fingers in an IS salute”.

The salute is used as a symbol of tawhid, the belief in the oneness of God, although it has been co-opted by IS supporters.

Monitoring group Tell Mama tweeted: “Tawhid (Tawheed) is the defining doctrine of Islam, demonstrating the oneness of Allah (God). To reduce such a fundamental and important concept to a mere “IS salute” is grossly wrong, ignorant, and damaging.

It added: “This again demonstrates the importance of having Muslim representation in media, and more broadly, improving religious literacy.”

A spokesman for the BBC said: “We wrongly described a gesture made by women filmed in a Kurdish controlled detention camp in Northern Syria as an ‘IS salute’.

“While IS have attempted to adopt this for their own propaganda purposes, for accuracy we should have been clear that many people of Muslim faith use this gesture to signify the oneness of Allah.

“We apologise for this error and have removed this description from the footage.”

The al-Hawl refugee camp, close to the Iraq border, is home to some 70,000 displaced people and was where 19-year-old IS bride Shamima Begum was discovered by a British journalist.

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Islamic State bride Shamima Begum (PA)

The BBC also edited a teaser clip and removed the August 4 edition of the News At Ten from iPlayer, as both contained the description.

It comes after Dooley said British IS fighters operating in Syria are “struggling with identity” and “belonging”.

Speaking on boxing promoter Eddie Hearn’s BBC Radio 5 Live podcast on Monday, the documentary film-maker said she understood why countries were hesitant about letting these women return.

She said: “I think it’s about, and I’m not an expert, struggling with identity… and I think it’s just about belonging and being represented, maybe.

“I’m just speculating but there are a few Brits over there.”

“There are now situations where our countries are hesitant to take any of these people back and I understand why people are hesitant because we don’t know what to do with them and if they are a threat, how do we deal with that?”

Dooley’s representatives have been contacted for comment.

PA Media

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