London: The BBC has appointed its first Muslim head of religious programming, in a move likely to further raise concerns within the Church of England that Christian views were being sidelined.
Aaqil Ahmed will join the state-funded broadcaster from privately run Channel 4 television and take up a new joint role of head of religion and ethics and commissioning editor for religion TV, the BBC announced on Monday.
Ahmed commissioned programmes examining both Christianity and Islam for Channel 4, as well as the BAFTA-winning documentary “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” about children in poor parts of Nigeria being blamed for witchcraft.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the leader of the world’s Anglicans, was reported last month to have told BBC Director-General Mark Thompson that he feared the “Christian voice” was being marginalised.
A spokesman for the archbishop declined to comment on Ahmed’s appointment.
But another senior cleric, the Bishop of Manchester, Nigel McCulloch, said the church would closely monitor the BBC’s religious output under its new chief.
“Aaqil Ahmed comes to the post with a good reputation. At a time when the BBC’s coverage of religion caused some disquiet, the Church of England will be watching how the future of religion and ethics develops,” he told the Guardian.
It is only the second time in the BBC’s 87-year history that a non-Christian has held the position. Alan Bookbinder, an agnostic, filled the role from 2001 to 2006.
The BBC also appointed a separate head of religion radio, Christine Morgan.