Islam Channel or Haram Channel?
I finally received a judgment handed down by an English county court ordering Islam Channel Ltd. to pay me thirty pounds in costs. A trifle sum you might think for a satellite TV station spending and earning millions. However, when it comes to the people who have contributed and continue to make this enterprise a success, Islam Channel appears to prefer the cut-throat business practices of an East End sweat shop by trying to get everything for next to nothing.
The thirty pounds represented the court fee I had to pay in order to pursue Islam Channel for fifty pounds they owed me in travel expenses. This related to me having agreed to contribute to the show "Politics and Beyond" on the condition that my travel expenses would be met, a reasonable request considering I was not going to charge for my time or demand a fee as would be customary for most radio and tv appearances. But because of the word "Islam" in the name of the business I acted like numerous other Muslims who generously give their time freely without asking for recompense.
The way the show had been run, like much of the programming on Islam Channel, had been rather amateurish. It was meant to be a panel discussion before an audience, but the audience was dispensed with due to technical problems. Since one of the expert panellists did not turn up, a student member of the audience was elevated to expert status. There is very little critical viewing amongst Muslims - as indeed amongst the general population - and any reality presented on screen is usually accepted as factual. This is not unique to Islam Channel, I hasten to add.
The unique Islam Channel experience, however, was that the promised cheque for travel expenses never arrived. Many months later, after numerous reminders and empty promises, I felt I had to keep my own promise of pursuing the matter in court should Islam Channel fail to honour its commitment. To do so, I had to pay thirty pounds to the courts in order to try and recover the debt of fifty. Following my claim the travelling expenses of fifty pounds were promptly paid, not, however the added costs of having to chase the money through the court system. My letter demanding reimbursement of this cost was met with the disingenious reply by Islam Channel's legal advisor Madeeha Dani that at no time had they contracted my services and therefore my claim was not valid. Apparently, they had only paid me the fifty pounds because I was a nice guy, not because they owed it to me.
The court took a different view. It ordered the sum of thirty pounds to be paid, describing the defence comments as irrelevant and wondering why someone would go through the troubles of paying £30 in order to get £50 if there was no possible entitlement to this money at all whilst at the same time receiving that very sum in response after it had remained unpaid until the summons is issued. I suppose such common sense arguments totally escape the legal advisors of large corporations who defend all claims at all costs. Let's hope, I don't have to spend additional funds now to collect the officially confirmed debt.
Besides having wasted time unnecessary, I could put this episode down as one of the comedy aspects of daily life not worth commenting on but over dinner. But the issue cuts deeper. What it reflects is the abuse of the concept of Muslim brotherhood which is epitomised here by Islam Channel but is not their exclusive prerogative. Many a Muslim employer pays his Muslim employees less than their due but acts as if he owns their very souls. Islam Channel became a success because Muslims thought it was representing them. In fact, it is simply another business out to make money, and if programs can be made on the cheap and costs saved, this would certainly serve the corporate objective notwithstanding the lofty statement by its CEO Mohamed Ali on one occasion: "The Islam Channel is an honourable project with high ideals, and those who offer to help us come from eclectic backgrounds, but always their intentions are honourable." Well, my honourable intention, after the experiences just described, is to expose them, and before anybody talks about backbiting and its prohibition in Islam, I did warn Islam Channel that I would make the judgment public should they defend my claim in court.
Many Muslims mistakenly believe that the commercialisation of Islam, which has taken place rapidly over recent years, represents an acceptance of their religion by the Western establishment. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be exploited or to be taken advantage of does not imply to be accepted. If a non-Muslim bank offers so-called halal (Islamically lawful) mortgages at a higher interest rate than their haram (unlawful) mortgages tailored to non-Muslim customers, then this does not indicate their conversion to an Islamic critique of interest based finance nor that Islam has become established in the West - it simply means that they consider us stupid enough (not without justification) to be taken advantage of. The same goes for many of the multitude of commercial enterprises who have added the label Islam or Muslim to their brand names. In my judgment, Islam Channel is just another commercial TV operation out to make money out of Muslims.