Too many Muslim stories?
I happened to overhear a BBC editor saying "these Muslim stories are like buses - they all come along at once". I suppose it might have been expressed more sensitively but you get the point - there were a lot of stories about Islam in the news yesterday.
The editor of the Six O'Clock News on BBC Radio Four said no fewer than ten items in his running order had a Muslim angle. The big one was Jack Straw's comments about women wearing the veil; but there was also Frank Gardner's piece about the radicalisation of Muslims on university campuses and - earlier in the day - much prominence was given to the case of the policeman who asked to be excused duty at the Israeli Embassy. The headlines all said he was a Muslim; but was that really the point? An emailer has suggested that it was far more relevant that his father was Syrian and his wife Lebanese. There was no need to draw attention to his religion.
Is there force in this? Do we jump at the word Muslim too readily, in these days of relentless debate about multi-culturalism? Should we think harder about whether we need to draw attention to those Muslim angles? The team making Victoria Derbyshire's programme on Five Live usually think hard about these matters - even before the emails come in. They were very keen to test the policeman's motives and to tease out the views of his bosses and fellow Muslims.
One of the guests on Victoria's programmes was Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei, who advises the Black Police Association (hear it here). And the Association of Muslim Police Officers also commented. Superintendent Dal Babu suggested (hear that here) it was a welfare issue and the Sun had been wrong when it suggested the policeman had acted on moral grounds. So - overall - the fact that the policeman is a Muslim is a factor in the story and deserves prominence. But we might never know the full details behind his request to be excused duty at the Israeli Embassy - in spite of everything that's been said since the news emerged.