BBC apologises after presenter describes Muslim prayer gesture as terrorist salute


The BBC has been forced to apologise after presenter Stacey Dooley called a prayer gesture an 'IS salute'. (Photo: BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
The BBC has been forced to apologise after presenter Stacey Dooley called a prayer gesture an 'IS salute'. (Photo: BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

THE BBC was forced to apologise on Monday (5) after presenter Stacey Dooley described a Muslim prayer sign as a terrorist salute.

Dooley went to the al-Hawl Camp in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria for her documentary. A trailer for the documentary showed the television personality speaking to several women behind a fence and one footage showed two women raising their fingers towards the sky as they walk away.

Dooley’s voice over then said: “As we left the camp, we saw women raising their index finger in an IS salute.”

BBC journalist Anisa Subedar tweeted: “Raising the finger is NOT an IS salute.

“Does #StaceyDooley know us Muslims raise it everytime we pray (that’s 5 times a day) to remind us of the oneness of God?”

In a statement to Mail Online, the BBC said: They said: “We wrongly described a gesture made by women filmed in a Kurdish controlled detention camp in Northern Syria as an ‘IS salute’.

“While IS have attempted to adopt this for their own propaganda purposes, for accuracy we should have been clear that many people of Muslim faith use this gesture to signify the oneness of Allah.

“We apologise for this error and have removed this description from the footage.”

Tell MAMA, an organisation that measures anti-Muslim attacks, said the symbol had a much wider use.

“Tawhid (Tawheed) is the defining doctrine of Islam, demonstrating the oneness of Allah (God),” they said, according to the Guardian.

“To reduce such a fundamental and important concept to a mere ‘IS salute’ is grossly wrong, ignorant, and damaging. This again demonstrates the importance of having Muslim representation in media, and more broadly, improving religious literacy.”

Journalist Oz Katerji, too, linked the mistake to a lack of diversity in newsrooms.

“While I am disappointed Stacey herself has not apologised, I am satisfied with the BBC response and will draw a line under this here,” he tweeted.

“I have no doubt that this retraction was prompted not by me, but by dozens of female Muslim BBC journalists that were also offended and expressed their feelings about it. I can’t stress this enough, newsrooms need to be diverse, and if you hire more diverse staff, this won’t happen.

“I hope Stacey and producers involved also see how many racist responses my complaint instigated, and how many people Tweeted me to tell me that there is no difference between IS and Islam. This is what incidents like this cause, and the media has a responsibility to prevent that.”