THE BBC sure knows how to pick ’em – religion editors, I mean.
There was Martin Bashir, who did that controversial Panorama interview with Princess Diana in pursuit of which, after an official investigation, he was declared to have used ‘deceitful behaviour’.
And now, after what is described as ‘a competitive recruitment process,’ the BBC has announced that his successor is to be Aleem Maqbool, a Muslim.
I find it intriguing that Maqbool’s appointment was after ‘a competitive recruitment process.’ Is that an unusual procedure at the BBC – as if the normal practice is to appoint anyone who walks in off the street and asks for the job?
Maqbool said: ‘I am delighted to take up a role that focuses on telling stories associated with faith and ethics and reflecting on the complex way in which they continue to shape our society.’
Certainly, BBC chiefs are confident they have got the right man for the job.
The deputy director of BBC News and head of news content, Jonathan Munro, said: ‘Aleem has always been an exceptionally thoughtful reporter and analyst with journalistic drive and a strong vision for reaching new audiences and delivering on digital. I think he’ll be fantastic.’
Interesting choice of word –fantastic.
I confess to my shame that I had never heard of him, so I did a bit of what these days is called research – that is, I consulted Google – and discovered a BBC World interview with him from 2008 about a journey he did retracing the footsteps of Joseph and Mary at the first Christmas.
He was asked about his attitude to Christmas as a Muslim and he replied: ‘Christmas has always been celebrated in my family. Tree, turkey, gifts including Santa socks etc. Of course, Jesus is a pivotal figure in Islam.
‘I read your question out to Nedal, my Muslim host this evening in Al Far’a Refugee Camp. He said, for him, Christmas was about remembering a message of peace and the things we have in common.’ In other words, Maqbool and his family celebrate what they call Christmas in the same style as all Western secularists: with ‘tree, turkey, gifts’ and a pair of those indispensable icons of Christ’s Nativity, Santa socks.
He went on to approve his friend’s – also a Muslim – notion of what Christmas is about: ‘Remembering a message of peace and the things we have in common.’
Well, of course it is about those things, but in a secondary sense. What Christmas truly celebrates is the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who ‘came down from heaven and as at this time was born of a pure Virgin for us men and for our salvation’.
Before all the jihadists and their supporters on the Guardian come after me shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar, death to the infidel!,’ let me make one thing clear: I wish Aleem Maqbool well in his new post. I have no doubt that technically and professionally he will do an excellent job.
My disquiet has nothing to do with him personally and everything to do with the character of the BBC. The first ‘B’ stands for ‘British’ and our country is still officially a Christian country, with Her Majesty as the Head of the Church and head of the Nation. Might we not expect therefore the religion editor in a Christian country to be a Christian also?
They might have chosen a bishop instead. On second thoughts, there’s probably more genuine religion in Aleem Maqbool than in our secularised bishops, and certainly more than in the secularised – no, let me put it plainly – antichristian BBC.