Muhammad Ali Harrath, the well-respected CEO of London-based Islam Channel has been arrested on arrival in South Africa on a business trip. Despite being very close to the political and security establishment in Britain, Muhammad Ali remains on an Interpol list at the request of his home country of Tunisia, allegedly for “terrorist” activities. It is believed that South Africa is clamping down on security matters in the run up to the FIFA World Cup in June and July. It is unknown whether the South African authorities intend to deport him back to Britain or to Tunisia, with whom there is an extradition treaty.
Islam Channel is a very popular satellite channel broadcasting across Europe, West and Southern Africa, the Middle East and North America; an estimated 59% of the Muslim community in Britain watch the channel regularly. It is interesting that it has been The Times newspaper – owned by global media mogul Rupert Murdoch, of course which has been prominent in its “exclusives” about Muhammad Ali’s problems with his home country, which forced him to seek – and be granted asylum in Britain. The Times is also the paper that broke the story of his arrest; at the time of writing no other major media outlet in Britain has covered it.
It is no secret that Islam Channel has played a major role in publicising through its programmes and news service the plight of the Palestinians; many millions of pounds have been raised by Live Charity Appeals for the poor and needy in Palestine and other parts of the world in cooperation with major Muslim-run charities in Britain. This includes the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, the Tsunami and other disasters.
Commentators have pointed to this role and success as a possible reason why Muhammad Ali is being targeted by a right-wing, pro-Israel media.