When the FA appointed a Swede to head up the management of the England football team there was stunned disbelief- until that is the supporters realised he was the right man for the job. When he was replaced with an Englishman who failed to qualify for the Euros the fans expressed their disgust. Now we are coasting into the World Cup finals in South African led by an Italian.
Yesterday the BBC yesterday appointed a Muslim as its head of religious programming in a radical departure from broadcasting tradition. In the past the post of head of religion at the BBC has been considered a job for a senior and respected cleric or lay churchgoer.The Church of England’s place as the established Church has usually been influential in the choice of post holders.There were deep reservations among church leaders eight years ago when for the first time the corporation appointed an atheist to the role.
Now the post has gone to Aaqil Ahmed,who has been working as an executive at Channel 4.The Christian backlash has already begun. Voices have been raised by the usual suspects who seem to believe that Muslims are the work of the devil, but even more liberal and thoughtful Christian leaders such as Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury have added their critical voices to the debate. Dr Williams raised concerns over the prospect of a Muslim head of religious broadcasting during a meeting with the corporation’s director general Mark Thompson in March and I am sure an official position statement will be issued from Lambeth within the week.
Christians are feeling under attack and marginalised ,and both Dr Williams and Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu have made repeated public complaints over the indifference and occasional hostility to Christianity shown in Whitehall and from other authorities.Last year the BBC gave the job of producing its most popular and long running religious programme, Songs of Praise, to a Sikh, Tommy Nagra.
The Church of England points out that 70 per cent of the population of Britain professes to be Christian, but only 3 per cent are Muslims and is in disbelief that a minority appointment could be made in this instance. Why? An official spokesman for the CofE said: ‘We will judge the new man by his output rather than his label.’ and Christina Rees, a member of the Church’s ‘Cabinet’, the Archbishops’ Council, said: ‘Aaqil Ahmed is a respected professional who has an established record of producing programmes on religion and ethics.It is important that the Christian faith continues to receive coverage that accurately reflects its significance in the lives of most people who live in Britain, the overwhelming majority of whom regard themselves as Christian.’
Mr Ahmed is currently Channel 4’s senior executive for religious programmes. He has commissioned series on the history of Christianity and the Koran.His critics accuse him of dumbing down religion, for example in one programme by presenting an assessment of the state of Christianity by Cherie Blair.Mr Ahmed is a trustee of the Runnymede Trust, a body that has championed the ideology of multiculturalism.He has also taken part in campaigns for a greater Muslim presence in the media.
Doesn’t it say somewhere in the scriptures that God surprises us with the people he choosesto do his work. Jesus made a Samaritan and not a Jew the hero of his most famous parable and told is followers that he had found more faith in a Roman soldier than in his own people. I wonder if anyone has pointed this out to Mr Ahmed or the Archbishops: I think we are in for an interesting time don’t you? I hope every Christian leader in the country will write a warm letter of welcome to Mr Ahmed, and I look forward to some imaginative broadcasting on his watch.
Sing when you’re winning, you only sing when you’re winning…….