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Donkin's World: Something For The Weekend

...I do think there is a link between Islamic intolerance and Western moral decline. Every terrible outrage demands that we hold a mirror to our own behaviours, actions and beliefs...

Richard Donkin comments on the deplorable lack of taste in a BBC programme, yet another example of the weakening values which have created a moral vacuum in Western society.

Do please visit Richard's well-stocked Web site

Details of his book Blood, Sweat and Tears which is acclaimed world-wide can be found here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Sweat-Tears-Evolution-Work/dp/1587990768/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1214554429&sr=1-2

I don't know which is worse - day after day of ever more worrying financial headlines or the unedifying behaviours of celebrities.

I do know that continuing fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo should be dominating discussions among world leaders just now. According to some estimates as many as 5 million lives have been lost in this troubled country over the past 40 years. The factional fighting in eastern Congo is symptomatic of the conflicts ravaging Africa in which the western powers are reluctant to intervene. It never stopped them in the days of empire and it does not stop western mining interests today.

Sadly, we live in a self-absorbed materialist world that has far more enthusiasm for debating the rights and wrongs of a BBC radio broadcast, than it has to debate a solution for the troubles in Africa. After all, the chattering classes need something other than house prices for the pudding course.

Do I think Jonathan Ross is talented? Yes. Do I think he is overpaid? Vastly. Do I think he should be fired? Without doubt. Do I think the BBC has lost its way? Yes. Do I think Andrew Sachs was right to feel offended? Of course. Do I think his granddaughter stands to make a small fortune by carefully exploiting the celebrity earnings potential of all this publicity through the well-paid advice of Max Clifford? Yes, in less time than it takes me to say Jade Goody.

Do I believe that the real tragedy of this story is that it exposes our society's distorted value system? I do, and I don't think I am stretching credulity to say that weakening values have created an alarming moral vacuum in Western society that continues to be exploited by Islamic extremism.

It's not the reason behind such extremism, but it makes it more difficult for Islamic parents in western countries to impose their own value systems within their families when they see them undermined in this way.

We have seen the BBC stories in the British press but few of us in the UK will be exposed to the way such behaviours are condemned in Friday afternoon mosque sermons. Of course, there will be sermonising in all religions over this affair. But not all will have the potential to feed the disaffected minds of young hot heads who may, too readily, allow themselves to fall for the dangerous anti-western doctrine of Al-Qaeda.

One sermon does not an extremist make. It doesn't happen like that. The outrages of 9/11 and 7/7 were underpinned by drip-fed, hate-filled ideologies emerging initially from those who demanded Islamic states in Islamic lands. Britain is not an Islamic state but we know that Al-Qaeda's influence has taken root here.

The leader of the 7/7 bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, had a middle class background, earning enough to make frequent trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan. He and his fellow bombers killed 52 innocent people that day in 2005 and one other indirectly. This was Jean Charles de Menenzes. He was as much a victim of the bombings as those who died in the initial blasts.

If there was tragedy in that death, we can recognise heroism elsewhere in the George medal awarded to Royal Marine lance corporal Matthew Croucher who saved the lives of others and his own by throwing his body over a grenade as it was about to explode.

Servicemen and women have paid a high price fighting what George W Bush has called the "war against terror." They sign up for a life of active duty as an alternative to the frothy, shallow existence that characterises our gossipy obsession with celebrity.

It's difficult to set such heroism against the juvenile actions of Ross and his co-presenter Russell Brand who used valuable radio air time to such dismal effect.

Soldiers are not innocents. They have their own prejudices. But most of them do stand for something, even if, in some cases, it is little other than the laudable principle of fighting for your friends.

I couldn't see any principles, however, in the behaviours of Brand and Ross. Brand, at least, did one honorable thing and resigned. Ross has not even been capable of that, allowing managers to take the blame for his irresponsible actions.

Incredibly the BBC, even now, has yet to be convinced that it does not need these people, such is its attachment to a fickle and distracted "youf" audience. Ross is paid large sums because of his ability to connect with younger viewers.

I'm not saying he should be dispatching moral guidance in every breath but he understands full well that some of the things he does are reprehensible, then does them anyway simply because he knows (or thinks) he can get away with it. Being outrageous has paid his wages. There should be no second chances this time.

Others have flown too close to the sun in the past. Remember Simon Dee, the former BBC presenter who abandoned his given name, Cyril Nicholas Henty-Dodd? If not, then perhaps I have made my point that contrition can go only so far.

Meanwhile, when the dust has settled on this nasty little drama, much greater suffering in this world will continue to struggle for our attention. But perhaps we needn't worry about that until Children-in-Need and Comic Relief days when the luvvies, Ross included no doubt, will lead us in these perennial chuck-some-money-at-it guilt-assuaging fests.

No I'm certainly not blaming Jonathan Ross, the BBC and the rest of the media for Islamic terrorism. But I do think there is a link between Islamic intolerance and Western moral decline. Every terrible outrage demands that we hold a mirror to our own behaviours, actions and beliefs.

The BBC used to stand for something important and solid in our society that attracted and continues to attract the respect of foreign regimes. Its values used to be our values. It really is a power for good in this world but, with power, comes responsibility and that must be exercised judiciously. The second chance should be reserved for a rare lapse of taste. There was nothing rare about this one.


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