The BBC seems to be getting it from all sides these days. So it should also be praised when it does the sort of journalism which is praise-worthy.
Yesterday, the BBC revealed that they had got hold of a tape recording from a mosque in Didsbury. Not any old mosque, but the mosque that the Manchester Arena bomber – Salman Abedi – attended. The recording is from Friday prayers at the Didsbury mosque just six months before the Ariana Grande concert bombing. It is possible, indeed likely, that the bomber who killed 22 people and gave lifelong injuries to many more was sitting in the congregation during this sermon. Abedi apparently bought a ticket for the Manchester Arena concert just 10 days after the sermon was given.
In it the imam prays for the ‘victory’ of ‘our brothers and sisters right now in Aleppo and Syria and Iraq’ and clearly calls on his listeners to stop using just words and commit to action in the name of what two Muslim scholars who have listened to the tapes confirm to be ‘military jihad’. The imam who gave this sermon – Mustafa Graf – denies that he called for armed jihad. Presumably, once again, in the portion in which he said ‘Jihad for the sake of Allah is the source of pride and dignity for this nation’ he was talking about inner spiritual struggling and by ‘nation’ meant the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
It all brings to mind something that happened in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester attack. I wrote about it here at the time.
‘On Question Time when an audience member, who happened to have the triple disadvantages of being white, male and not being young, waved an anti-Western leaflet he said had been handed out at an open day at the Didsbury mosque where Salman Abedi worshipped. This significant revelation mainly attracted awkward shuffling. By contrast, a young woman in a headscarf in the audience immediately dismissed the man’s leaflet as probably not from the mosque and in any case ‘taken out of context’. Along with the programme’s chair, David Dimbleby, she implied it was possible the man had made the leaflet up himself, leaving the poor man spluttering, waving his leaflet and clearly wondering why he wouldn’t be believed.’
I thought then, and think now, that the reaction to that Question Time audience member was hugely symbolic. Imagine if the concerns of the general public had been listened to a bit earlier? Imagine if the default position of shutting people down was not the trend it has long been in these matters.
Greater Manchester Police say that they are looking into the contents of the BBC tapes. I hope they know that this whole country, and particularly the citizens of Manchester, will be most interested in the actions they take from here.