Veteran Sikh commentator quits BBC’s god slot over its ‘platitudes’

Veteran Sikh commentator quits BBC’s god slot over its ‘platitudes’ October 6, 2019

THIS is hilarious. BBC Radio 4’s utterly vacuous feature ‘Thought For The Day‘ – which inspired the creation of the ‘Platitude of the Day’ website  – has lost one of its longest serving commentators who accused it of dishing up bland ‘religious platitudes’ and claimed that Jesus himself would be excluded from the programme.

Image via YouTube

TFTD, which won’t permit atheists and humanists to air their views, was never different, and Lord Indarjit Singh, above, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, was happy to burble platitudes of his own for 35 years.

But the 87-year-old member of the House of Lords has now quit TFTD because of a spat involving Muslims and alleged censorship. He said that slot did not allow him to represent his faith fairly.

Singh alleges said he was nearly prevented from broadcasting his thoughts about an executed Sikh guru who opposed the forced conversion of Hindus to Islam. He claims that he was told his contribution “might offend Muslims.”

The cross-bench peer told The Times:

It was like saying to a Christian that he or she should not talk about Easter for fear of giving offence to the Jews.

But Singh persuaded the BBC to let him say what he wanted – and there were no complaints.

The need for sensitivity in talking about religious, political or social issues has now been taken to absurd proportions with telephone insistence on trivial textual changes right up to going into the studio, making it difficult to say anything worthwhile.

The aim of Thought for the Day has changed from giving an ethical input to social and political issues to the recital of religious platitudes and the avoidance of controversy, with success measured by the absence of complaints. I believe Guru Nanak [the founder of Sikhism] and Jesus Christ, who boldly raised social concerns while stressing tolerance and respect, would not be allowed near Thought for the Day today.

He added the BBC:

Had a misplaced sense of political correctness that pushes contributors to bland and unworldly expressions of piety that no one can complain about.

A BBC spokesperson responded:

Thought for the Day is a live, topical segment and it is not unusual for editorial changes to be made so that it reflects the biggest news stories of the day. We disagree with Lord Singh and don’t recognise his characterisation of Thought for the Day.

Platitutude for the Day, in welcoming Singh “to the club”, pointed out that Lord Wimbledon, as he’s otherwise known, vehemently opposed the introduction of gay marriage in the UK.


Image via YouTube

In the same week that Singh announced he was quitting, former BBC Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys, 76, above, said TFTD should be scrapped because it discriminates against people without a religion.

He described the slot as “rather pointless”.

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he pointed out that host Piers Morgan would be able to deliver his Thought for the Day because he is Catholic.

But Humphrys, who is an atheist, said he would not be able to, and when asked by co-host Susanna Reid if the segment “should go”, the Welshman agreed that it should be discontinued.

I feel quite strongly about certain things and I would love to express my opinion about certain things but I’m not allowed to.

Humphrys has previously voiced his displeasure at the daily broadcast.

It seems to me inappropriate that Today should broadcast nearly three minutes of uninterrupted religion, given that rather more than half our population have no religion at all. Certainly very few of them are practising Christians … we have Hindus of course, and we have the occasional Muslim, the occasional Jew, but by and large it’s Christian. Why?

Humanists UK was quick to respond to Humphrys comments. The organisation’s Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

John Humphrys rightly illustrates the blatant discrimination that exists when he, as an atheist, is rejected from contributing his views on Thought for the Day but Piers Morgan, who is a Catholic, is allowed – just because of his faith.

Thought for the Day is the epitome of unfair religious privilege in this country, giving religious voices a huge vantage to share their views on one of the biggest political programmes while the non-religious, who make up 52% of our population, are continually silenced.

The non-religious have equally rich contributions to make on discussions of morals, ethics, and how to live well. The BBC must reconsider its position and ensure that its programming is fair and equally inclusive to all voices.

Image via YouTube

To my mind, the only person who ever said anything remotely interesting on TFTD was the late Lionel Blue, above, the UK’s first openly gay rabbi who was a guest on the god slot for almost 30 years,

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  • CoastalMaineBird

    Does anyone listen to TFTD? Or is it just a mandated thing?

  • Phil Rimmer

    Ah! Rabbi Lionel Blue. Told jokes and personal stories and promoted simple thoughtfulness for the day. Sweet man.

    Bringing in the full range of ethical perspectives is the only decent solution short of abolishing the slot. Trouble is the humanist pieces will most likely show up the others all the more badly for their vacuity or partiality. It could though lift their standards.

    Myself, I would like thought for the day from scientists (like the guests on Jim Al Khalili’s Life Scientific), from artists, historians, etc., five (or 6?) categories through the week.

  • Phil Rimmer

    Listening is optional, but next to impossible. It is at that time, driving to work, when your mind is freed to wander by the abracadabra of, “And now, Thought for the Day with… ”

    “Breakfast…drive through breakfast… of course…”

    I’d waste away, else.

  • Jennny

    It’s on at 7.50, for 3 minutes, it used to be a 5 minute slot, so there is that. At that time – and I’ve listened to the Today programme for 50years – one is either driving to work, or getting breakfast or in the shower, and as it’s just before the main news bulletin at 8am, it’s hardly worth switching off…one just zones out.

  • Jennny

    The Rabbi was great, and I respected his openess about his sexuality, as well as his jokes. I still remember literally choking over a mouthful of food when the new Archbishop of Canterbury was named once and Blue said he’d got serious letters from people commiserating with him that he hadn’t got that job!

  • Broga

    “Thought for the Day is a live, topical segment”, says a BBC spokesperson who seems as much in touch with reality as Donald Trump. The religious dross that leads to massive switch offs when TFTD begins with its flat, boring and vacant preaching has not been “topical” since before Darwin. And its topicality was flaky then. “Live?” TFTD lacks all vitality and any sliver of interest will be killed stone dead if it remotely challenges the religious incredulity that the preachers state as fact.

  • Broga

    I agree with all you say including the comments on Rabbi Lionel Blue. I liked they way he did not take himself too seriously. I recall him describing the time he had a fit and fell out of the pulpit. His next sentence was one to cherish.

    “You have to laugh, haven’t you?” Pompous pontificating was not in his nature.

  • Broga

    I stopped a long time ago apart from the occasional listen when the radio isn’t in easy reach.

  • epeeist

    I still remember literally choking over a mouthful of food

    Not a recipe from his cookbook I hope.

  • DoctorDJ

    On this side of the pond, Krista Tippett’s drivel deserves the same analysis. Her “On Being” show has as its raison d’etre:

    Pursuing deep thinking, social courage, moral imagination and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.

    Oh, puleez.

  • ManxStuart

    Years back, I made a tongue-in-cheek appeal to the BBC to get TFTD banned on health-and-safety grounds. I complained that an 80+ friend (and regular contributor to the old print version of The Freethinker), Denys Drower, had several times done himself an injury throwing himself across his kitchen to turn it off. As both a WWII veteran and a BBC producer himself from the times when they probably read the news in evening suits I said that it was totally unreasonable for this to continue.

  • kaydenpat

    Can the listeners not have a say in this? Ask them via a survey if TFTD should continue as is, be changed to include the non-religious or be scrapped altogether. I assume that either option two or three will prevail.

  • Jim Jones

    If they want 3 minutes of inspiration, I’ll take this:

  • Freethinker

    “Not offending Muslims” is a perfectly legitimate reason to censor reality and words spoken in public on the account of preventing the unnecessary taking of lives.

  • Broga

    I’m an Elvis fan. In my youth I heard “Heartbreak Hotel” which was exciting enough. But when I heard that Elvis was being condemned by the preachers as an agent of the devil and must be banned I was stuck on him. He was religious himself.

  • Broga

    “Pursuing deep thinking,”… That is the last thing they want to pursue as it would expose the bogus nature of their “truth.” The BBC knows this and resolutely censors all none religious contributions from Thought for the Day.

  • barriejohn

    As I’ve said before on this site, everyone loved Rabbi Lionel Blue!

  • barriejohn

    No need to put up with TFTD:

    And if you think this programme is stuffed with platitudes, you should tune in to BBC1 at 11:30 on Sundays for Sunday Morning Live. The blurb actually states: “An opinionated panel of guests tackle moral, ethical and religious issues”, if you please. Couldn’t have put it better myself. If you enjoy waffles for breakfast you’ll love it, and the inane messages sent in by viewers are unbelievable!

  • Phil Rimmer

    He seemed to find a good word for everyone else.

    Check out his Desert Island Discs on BBC Sounds. It really is a good potted biography of the development of his ideas.

    I think it notable that he was returned to the religious fold by attending a Quaker Friends Meeting. This is religion with Hitchen’s toxin of moral dogma mostly drained away. Trusting rather to instinct, conscience and a sense of good as a task of daily due diligence it is difficult to fault even for an anti-theist like me. (Dogma brings me out in hives.)