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Kilroy apology ‘not good enough’

Jan. 10, 2004 • Sunday January 11, 2004

Campaigners have rejected an apology by Robert Kilroy-Silk over anti-Arab comments he made in a newspaper.

The TV presenter said he “regretted” the Sunday Express article in which he branded Arabs “suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors”.

But the Muslim Council of Britain‘s Iqbal Sacranie said: “He has basically regretted some of the statements… but he has not made a full apology.”

The BBC has suspended his Kilroy chat show while it investigates the matter.

The corporation said it “strongly dissociated” itself from the comments, which did not reflect its views as a broadcaster.

In a statement, Mr Kilroy-Silk said the article was written in April but “republished last weekend in error”.

The Daily Express has defended the article in its sister paper, accusing the BBC of “attempting to stifle open debate”.

It said the decision to take Kilroy off air was “outrageous” and should be reversed immediately.

‘Out of context’

Mr Kilroy-Silk’s statement said: “It was originally written as a response to the views of opponents to the war in Iraq that Arab states ‘loathe’ the West and my piece referred to ‘Arab states’ rather than ‘Arabs’.

“Out of that context, it has obviously caused great distress and offence and I can only reiterate that I very deeply regret that.”

But Mr Kilroy-Silk’s words were rejected by Mr Sacranie on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

“The article itself I think is of racist nature and it is only appropriate that there should be a full apology so the matter can then rest and hopefully not be repeated again,” he said.

He said the BBC was right to take Mr Kilroy-Silk off air, saying a public service broadcaster had to send out a “powerful message” about its principles.

Stifling debate?

And Judith Vidal Hall, the editor of Index on Censorship magazine, said taking people off air was not the way to tackle racism.

She told Today: “I don’t think in a country with a free media and a plural society and a commitment to a right of reply, you ever solve anything by banning, removing, censoring.”

Censorship could lead to driving debate “underground, where it festers”, she said.

“You’re doing nothing to cancel out the very real hurt and damage to a community that this has caused. You’re making a martyr to a rather nasty cause.”

Instead, she said, Mr Kilroy-Silk should be challenged to an on-air debate with people like Mr Sacranie.

Police are investigating Mr Kilroy-Silk’s comments after a complaint by the Commission for Racial Equality.

BBC Breakfast will continue for an extra half hour on BBC One, to 0930 GMT, while Kilroy is off air.

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