Muslim writers say La Plante attack on BBC is 'insulting'

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The Independent Online

Muslim writers have hit back at the crime doyenne Lynda La Plante after she claimed they found it easier to get scripts commissioned by the BBC than she does.

A row broke out yesterday after the creator of Prime Suspect stoked allegations that the corporation favours Muslims by complaining that its drama commissioning team would rather read a script by a "little Muslim boy" than one she had written.

"If my name were Usafi Iqbadal and I was 19, then they'd probably bring me in and talk," the scriptwriter, who has mainly worked for ITV, told The Daily Telegraph.

But Muslim writers hit back, accusing La Plante of "old-style racism" for reinforcing stereotypes. Max Malik, a novelist and playwright, called her comments "divisive, unhelpful and discouraging for young writers". Mr Malik, who won the Muslim Writers' Award two years ago, added: "She's trying to force me and my ilk into a corner. I don't call her a ginger-haired, middle-aged, female writer. That would be insulting."

Sarfraz Manzoor, journalist, broadcaster and author of the memoir Greetings from Bury Park, said Ms La Plante should "get that chip off her shoulder and return to the real world rather than playing the misunderstood victim in the fantasy world in which she is currently residing." He added: "I would love to meet the Muslim writers whose output is currently clogging up the television schedules: can she name any of these mythical individual,s or are her comments simply a headline- grabbing way to yet again bash the BBC and blame Muslims?"

A BBC spokesperson denied that it based its commissioning decisions "on the ethnicity or the age of a writer", adding that executives in its drama department were tasked solely with finding scripts that are "innovative and challenging for audiences to enjoy".

Deepak Verma, the playwright and former EastEnders actor, called on broadcasters to tell stories that "show Asian characters as human beings going about their normal lives and not merely quotas to build up their diversity record", adding: "Multiculturalism and ethnic diversity are concepts that propagate the very thing that they aim to nullify and should be condemned to the dustbin of political correctness."