Muslims protest over Channel 4 cartoon

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The Independent Online
CHANNEL 4 executives will meet today to decide whether to broadcast an animated film about Islam which has drawn complaints from sections of the Muslim community.

The 15-minute film, aimed at primary school pupils, is part of a weekly series about world religions. It is due to be screened tomorrow morning as part of children's programmes.

At issue is whether a ban under Islamic law on the visual portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed and his four main disciples, the Khalifs, also covers his lesser companions. The Muslim leaders who want the programme withdrawn contend that it does.

Imams at some mosques have urged their worshippers to send letters of protest to education authorities and schools, in the hope of persuading them to boycott the film.

At today's meeting, executives will consider representations made to them by religious leaders. They also plan to seek advice from Channel 4's consultant on Islam, Dr Mashuq Ally, a Muslim academic. But it seems highly unlikely that the film will be pulled.

A Channel 4 spokesman said yesterday that the complaints did not necessarily represent the views of the wider British Muslim community. He described the dispute as "an issue of narrow theological concern".

The spokesman acknowledged that it was "sensitive territory".

"But this is not a work of literature, and the issue is not one of artistic freedom," he said. "This is an educational film and, while we want to avoid causing genuine offence, it may well be that the film in its current form would not offend the majority of Muslims."

Sources at the station say executives are highly reluctant to be seen to be dictated to by parts of the Muslim community.