One of the more bizarre programmes produced by the BBC in the last twelve months was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on October 21st. Produced by Lucy Ash and narrated by Zubeida Malik – who will be remembered for her 2004 description of Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin as “polite, charming and witty, a deeply religious man” – the programme is titled “Meet the Jewslims“. It was also promoted on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme and on the BBC News website.
There is a sub-text to this programme which is perhaps not as apparent to non-British listeners and that is the fashionable ‘multi-cultural’ ideal which perceives ‘mixed relationships’ and the blurring of national and cultural identities as a positive thing. Hence, when a programme-maker seeks to discover what causes difficulties to such ‘progressive’ relationships, she is in fact trying to shine a light on factors hindering a broader political and social ideal.
Listeners to the programme will go away with one over-riding impression and that is that a prime difficulty facing ‘mixed relationships’ of Muslim and Jewish couples (although two of the three male interviewees had converted to Islam) is not traditional views of ‘marrying out’ or of the role of women, not the navigation of cultural, linguistic or religious differences, not issues of raising children of mixed culture or not even the subject of antisemitism in the Muslim world which one of the interviewees touches upon, but Malik deftly side-steps. No; a major issue facing these couples according to this programme is apparently none other than …Israel.