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SALDEF National Geographic Channel Stops At Apology


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Anjur Kaur

SALDEF told the National Geographic Channel last week that clipping a scene from its broadcast program episode, ‘Inside Al Qaeda,’ which juxtaposed Sikhs with terrorists, isn’t enough to alleviate the damage done to the Sikh community.

The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a Washington advocacy group, is asking for a retraction to be included on its Web site, and that the nature channel produce an informative program that would benefit the Sikh community.

When asked if it would consider these requests, the channel would not comment.

“We have no further statement beyond our initial response,” said Christopher Albert, a spokesman.

“We clearly understand your concern in today’s media and political climate whereby Muslim extremists are typically depicted wearing turbans,” was the official response to SALDEF on Jan 21. “It was never NGC’s intention to mislead or confuse the audience watching the program by implying that Sikhs are Muslim extremists.

“The images of the Sikhs should not have been in the program and we apologize for any disrespect or inconvenience this may have caused the Sikh-American community.

“We have edited the program to remove the images.

“We thank you again for bringing this to our attention, and we hope you accept our sincere apology.”

According to National Geographic, in a December episode of its series, ‘Inside,’ the channel explored Al-Qaida and the overall threat of homegrown terrorism in America and around the world. The episode, ‘Inside Al Qaeda,’ was originally broadcast with a scene showing two Sikhs walking around the Lincoln Memorial as the narrator talked about how America had historically been more welcoming to religious and ethnic groups than Europe. The program then cut to a generic scene of the Lincoln Memorial with no Sikhs present with the narrator saying that American Muslims have better social and economic opportunities than their European counterparts.

Kanwarjeet Singh of New Jersey saw the episode on Dec. 4 and alerted SALDEF.

After National Geographic’s response, SALDEF sent another letter on Jan. 27 asking for more.

“Despite these initial positive steps, we are still deeply concerned of the impressions previous broadcasts of ‘Inside Al Qaeda’ may have already had on viewers in conflating Sikhs with terrorism,” said Jasjit Singh, associate executive director, in the letter. “Our concerns are more serious than ones of “disrespect or inconvenience.”

“…We ask that your website, namely the page for the ‘Inside Al Qaeda’ program, include a statement of retraction. …(And) we welcome the opportunity to work with National Geographic to produce programming that examines issues such as racial profiling, experiences of minority communities post-9/11, specifically the Sikh faith.”

National Geographic Channel would not comment on how many times the episode had aired or what was its audience. But according to Nielsen Media Research in, the network reached 52.6 million homes in 2004.


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Gyani ji

It is a first step and a good one. However I am still divided on this matter. National Geographic has a worldwide audience and is one of the oldest, most respected, and authoritative journals for now almost a century.

Why can't they publish a statement? - if not an admission of ignorance - then a serious explanation of how these confusions occur and the damage they do and the importance of having broad knowledge so that mistakes of this kind are not made in the future.

To say one does not know or that one was wrong is a mark of a big person. When you are high up in the hierarchy of influential bodies, like the editorial staff of NG, then every once and a while to speak while "holding your hat in your hand (western saying)" doesn't subtract from prestige. It can only enhance it.

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