This joke appeared on the BBC show Have I Got News For You earlier this year.
The reaction was predictable.
Muslim groups are urging a widespread protest at the BBC over a Have I Got News For You joke they say was Islamophobic.
On Friday’s edition, host Sharon Horgan said: ‘The Independent described the Dostoevsky metro station… as the Mecca for suicides. Not to be confused with the Mecca of suicide bombers – which is Mecca.’
The joke received a slightly uncomfortable reaction from the studio audience, and is now set to lead to a torrent of complaints to the BBC.
Campaign group The Muslim Public Affairs Committee said: ‘By making such a comment she is giving the message that the holiest site in Islam is the centre of all terrorism and that Islam is inherently linked with violence.
‘This offhand comment does nothing except reinforce the message that Islam has something within its fundamental beliefs that makes it a threat to civil society Allowing this comment to go unchecked justifies the statement and condones such demonisation, as the comment implicitly implies that all Muslims are terrorists and all terrorists are Muslims.’
It urged viewers to email the BBC demanding an apology; echoing an online campaign being propagated by individuals on Islamic forums and via Twitter.
Today, Horgan apologised if any offence was caused, saying the line was ironic – and said she had received threats from those who misunderstood that.
In an internet post she said: ‘I am anti any prejudice of any kind. And particularly the generally lazy media portrayal of Muslims or any blanket negativity towards Islam.
‘But HIGNFY is a political satire. Its job is to hold a mirror up to most media prejudice. It deals in irony and in that sense it does the OPPOSITE of what it’s actually saying.
‘Any of the comments on here, which are suggesting I am racist or in any way anti-Muslim are a load of nonsense. HIGNFY, like all good satire plays on prejudices and that’s exactly what we were doing with this joke.
‘Really hope that people understand this and stop threatening me. But if anyone misunderstood the intention of the joke – for it was a joke – then I apologise for any offence caused.’