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Islam Channel breaks British broadcast rules, regulator says

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
  • NEW: The station promotes a fringe, intolerant form of Islam, a critic says
  • The channel encouraged violence against women and backed Hamas, officials say
  • Channel representatives are asked to "explain and discuss" the issue

London, England (CNN) -- Britain's Islam Channel broke broadcasting regulations by condoning marital rape, encouraging violence against women, and promoting an anti-Israel, pro-Hamas line, the country's broadcast regulator Ofcom ruled Monday.

One violation came during an advice program in which a female caller asked if a woman could hit her husband back if he was beating her. The host, as part of his answer, said the most a husband could do was hit her with a stick the size of a pen "just to make her feel that you are not happy with her."

The same host said in another program that for a woman to wear perfume when praying in a mosque made her a prostitute in the eyes of the Prophet Mohammed.

Another violation took place in a discussion about an Afghan law that, critics say, allows men to rape their wives.

"To refuse relations would harm a marriage," a guest on the program said.

The Islam Channel "does not condone or encourage violence toward women under any circumstances," the broadcaster told Ofcom during the investigation.

But the author of a report into the channel said it promotes "a fringe and intolerant form of Islam."

"It is only right that the Islam Channel has been held to account," said Talal Rajab of the Quilliam Foundation. He wrote its report "Re-programming British Muslims" this year.

The channel's agenda "risks having a negative effect not only on British Muslim communities but also on relations between Muslims and non-Muslims," he said.

But, he added, "there are encouraging signs that the channel is now making efforts to improve its output and to give greater airtime to a wider range of more mainstream Muslim voices."

Ofcom asked channel representatives to meet the regulator "to explain and discuss" how it plans to comply with rules, saying broadcasters must not cause offense and must be politically impartial.

Ofcom investigated a number of programs broadcast by the London-based satellite channel in 2008 and 2009 after the examination of the station by the Quilliam Foundation, which calls itself an "anti-extremism think tank."

Ofcom found violations of the code in five programs.

The Islam Channel did not respond to a CNN request for comment.