How many more Lord Singhs will the BBC lose in the name of political correctness?

The BBC has been accused of a liberal bias towards transgenderism by former presenter John Humphrys, while Lord Singh quit Thought for the Day after saying the broadcaster tried to stop him from speaking about a point in Indian history in case it offended Muslims.Alexander Svensson/Flickr

Not many people have heard of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. When I informed my regular groups that I wouldn't be working on Tuesday night or Wednesday because of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, I was met with puzzled stares. 'Is it like Passover?' some of them asked helpfully.

For Yom Kippur, the service to take place tonight and tomorrow will include the story of the Scapegoat. But this story will be further illustrated at that time by the case of Dame Louise Ellman, Jewish Labour MP in Liverpool Riverside, a popular MP with a massive majority.

On that night, when Louise should be in Shul, or at least fasting and not working (it being the holiest day of the year), she will actually be discussed in her absence by members of the Labour Party - a party rightfully being investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for anti-Semitism - and will probably be deselected.

So now everyone knows what a scapegoat really is. In case you're still not sure, though, the word 'scapegoat' is interesting. It is based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew by William Tyndale - at least he knew Hebrew though! In reaching his translation, Tyndale separated the single Hebrew word 'Azazel' into two. But we don't actually know what Azazel connotes in Hebrew – it could be a goat, or it could be the rock from which the goat was cast away, or it could even be the demonic in life .

It is interesting that the BBC have actually written about the Louise Ellman scandal, an event of existential importance for the Jewish community, when the BBC themselves are guilty of scapegoating.

Their latest example is Lord Singh, a Sikh presenter for Thought for the Day, their flagship and probably only remaining religion slot, who claims he was told by the BBC he could not share a reflection on the execution of a Sikh guru who had challenged the forced conversion of Hindus to Islam in India in the 17th century. The reason for this, he said, was because it "might offend Muslims", despite his insistence that there was nothing offensive in the script.

In the end, he was allowed to deliver his Thought of the Day as planned, but only after threatening to leave the slot empty. 

It is another frustrating but not altogether surprising story to emerge from the BBC, with even some of its own people complaining about bias at the broadcaster.

I have had my own very small input into BBC religion broadcasting, having participated in a programme about religion on Radio 4 and been asked on one occasion to do some behind the scenes research for Auntie into anti-Semitism within, I'm sorry to say, Christian charities.

I recall one senior producer suggesting to me that the BBC was more sensitive of Muslim sensibilities because otherwise it might receive death threats. When I asked her 'what do Jews do when they want to complain?', she smiled blankly at me.

When I was given a job in Israel not that long ago, my involvement with the BBC had made me look like Wonder Woman in the eyes of the Israelis. 'How on earth did you do it?' they asked. I encountered a similar reaction when I started working at Haifa University's prestigious Medieval and Renaissance Center. They wondered how on earth I could have gotten past the BBC's praetorian guard.

It is tragic when respected and distinguished figures like Lord Singh would rather quit than have to kowtow to establishment political correctness and self-flagellate over the possibility of causing offence towards Muslims.

It should be noted at this point that Muslims themselves have at times felt compelled to state for the record that they are not offended by whatever it was others thought they might be offended by, like Christmas for example!

Sadly, such paranoia over causing offence exists in other sectors of the media too. Having founded and chaired a charitable organisation in support of the people of Burma, which used to be part of India, I therefore know quite a bit about India and once mentioned in passing to someone in the editorial at a particular church publication that Muslims had forcibly converted the Hindus in India. It was the same incident that Lord Singh says the BBC tried to stop him from speaking about on Thought for the Day. 'You can't say that,' I was told down the phone. 'It is true', I assured him, but that was the end of that.

So, no, I am not surprised that a Sikh has now spilled the beans about the BBC. What is surprising is the time it has taken for the truth to be told.

Sadly, Auntie is just one of many.  There are entire groups of people that institutions in this country are attempting to placate at every step of the way but we can be sure that Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, believing Christians, or merely anyone who, when it comes to certain subjects, has an iota of common sense are not among them. No, we are having to live with the fact that we are now second-class citizens and the depressing thought that there is probably nothing we can do about it. 

At this time of Yom Kippur, when Jews like myself are reflecting on the Scapegoat who did nothing wrong, I wonder how many more Lord Singhs there will be. There will be no winners, of course, least of all for Thought for the Day and its listeners who tune in every morning to hear a faith perspective that will challenge and stimulate their thinking, not, as Lord Singh rightly said, more "bland" religious platitudes.

Dr Irene Lancaster is a Jewish academic, author and translator who has established university courses on Jewish history, Jewish studies and the Hebrew Bible. She trained as a teacher in modern Languages and Religious Education.