Critics who attacked Songs of Praise's Jungle episode lack 'religious literacy' - BBC religion head

Those who attacked the BBC's edition of Songs of Praise from the Calais "Jungle" migrant camp only did so because of poor "religious literacy", according to the broadcaster's head of religion.

In a blog post for Open Democracy Aaqil Ahmed said people who critiqued the BBC's decision failed to understand the concept of Christian compassion.

"Changes to Songs of Praise have made it a multi-denominational weekly, reflecting the changes within Christianity in the UK," he wrote."This was seen recently in its visit to the notorious migrant camp 'The Jungle' in Calais.

"Religious literacy is so poor that many didn't understand why Songs of Praise would be there, but compassion for the vulnerable is at the core of Christianity."

The flagship religion programme filmed an episode from a makeshift Orthodox Church in the Calais migrant camp in August.

However it was billed as the most controversial episode in the programme's 54-year history, sparking outrage from those who saw the move as a political statement.

A number of MPs and commentators said the decision was ill-judged as it focused on those trying to enter the UK illegally.

However Ahmed, the first Muslim to hold the position of head of religion at the BBC, brushed concerns aside in a wider article highlighting the importance of religious news coverage.

"Almost a century of 'post-Christian Europe' and decades of drift into secularism have created a society with poor religious literacy," he said. "Whilst this may not have mattered in the past it certainly does now.

"Across all groups in society very few people know about each other's beliefs, values and customs. Into this vacuum it's possible to say anything and for prejudice to kick in. Given what a lack of religious literacy in a time of demographic change could mean, it is vital that we get this subject right today and plan for the future."