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The questions you ask...

Mark Sandell Mark Sandell | 08:40 UK time, Monday, 1 October 2007

In answer to a few regular e-mails, can i just explain how we arrive at the questions you hear at the top of the programme (or on top of the blog) ?
It's simple really- if enough of you ask or suggest, then we ask the rest of the audience to join in. For example, ever since the Burma story got going we've had a steady stream of e-mails asking why the world doesn't boycott the Beijing Olympics to put pressure on China. Not enough to have been the main question - alot more of you have been bothered about whether the world will actually take any action, whether outside forces shoud interfere, whether sanctions work etc etc. And these therefore get asked at the top of the show...

and when we do, a few e-mails come in saying things like :
- "how dare you, the BBC, ask whether the world should boycott Burmese goods, that's none of your business "
- "here we go again, the BBC telling people to stop protesting- that is a matter for the Burmese people to decide, and not you"

You get the picture. We could of course not ask any of your questions and each day just say something like "what do you think of Burma then ? " - but i like to think that you, and we -are a bit better than that.

So we'll make it clearer on air (though i think our using the phrase "the programme where YOU set the agenda" is pretty explicit) that we haven't just sat around thinking of how we can ask the questions WE want asking.

Today for example - Burma is still, understandably, in the news. There are a few quotes in papers from people inside the country who support the protests, fearing that this "revolution" will go the same way as 1988., i.e fail. We've had e-mails along those lines, so if we ask the question "have the Burmese protests failed ?" then you'll know where it's come from.

Darfur is another issue that no matter what the rest of the BBC thinks the agenda is, some of you think we should be talking about this every day. Ten AU peackeepers were killed at the weekend as a group of notable world figures fly in to Sudan for still more talks. Your e-mails- and some of the press chatter today focus on the "ineffectiveness" of the AU and the obstructive nature of some of the countries involved in supplying the force. So, again , if we ask the question "The Darfur crisis is too big for the AU" or something better worded, this is not a BBC official position.

And a story you've been contacting us about (particularly in the U.S ) is atheism. professor Richard Dawkins has been making some appearances there to promote his book >? A survey from Minnesota University suggests that "Americans distrust atheists more than any other minority group, including homosexuals, recent immigrants or Muslims ". Quite a few of the e-mails we've had have been from people saying that in the U.S they can't make a big deal of their beliefs (and atheism is still a belief) for fear of being treated differently. Some of you have also written on a grander level, asking if the world would be better without religion at all. We will discuss this at some stage, because enough of you want to....

Finally, this story has caused a big reaction on our sister station the BBC Asian Network. It concerns a group on Facebook called "F*** Islam" and whether it should be banned. This is the note my colleague George Mann at the A.N describing how their debate went :
"The original "F*** Islam" group has just under a thousand members but a group demanding that Facebook close "F*** Islam" have more than a hundred thousand members but yet the company refuse to do so.
The majority of callers said it should be banned because of the title and the language but most (but by no means all) were happy for Islam to be questioned. The debate centred on whether insulting Islam is the same as insulting Muslims."

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