A prominent British Sikh, Lord Singh of Wimbledon has quit his role with the BBC after 35 years in protest after being told to drop one episode on a Sikh guru who opposed the religious conversion of Hindus since it “might offend Muslims”.
According to the Times, Indarjit Singh, member of the House of Lords, announced he was quitting Thought for the Day after 35 years to protest the BBC trying to prevent him from broadcasting an item commemorating an executed Sikh Guru for fear that it “might offend Muslims". The script, which was broadcast last November, did not criticise Islam and did not recieve any complaints for discussing the Sikh guru, who had spoken out about Hindus being forced to convert to Islam under the 17th century Mughal emperors of India.
Indarjit Singh, the journalist has been accused the corporation of "prejudice and intolerance", according to The Times. Lord Singh told The Times: "It was like saying to a Christian that he or she should not talk about Easter for fear of giving offence to the Jews." The 87-year-old crossbench peer subsequently filed a complaint about the way he had been treated, claiming it was not the first time he had been prevented by the BBC from addressing subjects important to the Sikh faith.
Lord Singh made an official complaint about the incident, saying it was not the first time he had been prevented from discussing subjects important to Sikhs. James Purnell, the corporation's director of radio, ordered a review, which rejected the complaint. Lord Singh said that the other speakers on the radio show had made reference to being subject to the “thought police”.
Singh said: “The need for sensitivity in talking about religious, political or social issues has 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 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. I believe Guru Nanak and Jesus Christ, who boldly raised social concerns while stressing tolerance and respect, would not be allowed near Thought for the Day today.” He accused the BBC of “a misplaced sense of political correctness that pushes contributors to bland and unworldly expressions of piety that no one can complain about”.
A BBC spokesperson told the Telegraph: "Lord Singh has been a respected contributor for many years and remains so but given our commitment to increasingly feature a range of voices from Sikh and other communities, we can’t agree to his request for a guaranteed number of appearances. By its nature Thought for the Day is a live, topical segment and it’s not unusual for editorial changes to be made so that it reflects the biggest news stories of the day. We disagree with Lord Singh and don’t recognise his characterisation of Thought for the Day and the team who make it."