BBC apologises after Stacey Dooley labels Muslim prayer gesture 'IS salute'

A trailer for the Stacey Dooley Panorama shows a group of ISIS brides pointing to the sky. (BBC)

The BBC has been forced to apologise after presenter Stacey Dooley referred to a gesture made by a group of Muslim women as an “IS salute”.

In a special episode of Panorama called “Stacey Meets the IS Brides” Dooley travels to Syria to talk to ISIS followers currently being held the al-Hawl refugee camp.

A trailer for the programme, which airs tonight on BBC One, shows the women pointing to the sky as Dooley says in a voiceover: “As we left the camp, we saw women raising their index finger in an IS salute.”

But soon after it was aired several social media commenters claimed that the signal was a Muslim “declaration of faith” rather than a sign of ISIS affiliation.

Stacey Dooley travelled to Syria for the Panorma documentary to meet the women being detained at refugee camps. (BBC)

Anisa Subedar, a journalist working at the BBC, tweeted: “This issue raised by @OzKaterji and others needs to be addressed before tonight’s #Panorama is aired.

“Raising the finger is NOT an IS salute.


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“Does #StaceyDooley know us Muslims raise it everytime we pray (that’s 5 times a day) to remind us of the oneness of God?”

“Islam is a monotheistic faith. One of the five pillars – the declaration of faith – states there is only one God. Raising the index finger is a manifestation of that. It has nothing to do with IS.”

Journalist Oz Katerji claimed to have reported Panorama to Ofcom over the alleged mistake - calling it “ignorant and offensive to adherents of Sunni Islam”.

The index finger gesture is commonly used in Muslim prayer as a symbol of “tawhid”, the belief in the oneness of God.

Despite its religious affiliation, however, the symbol has been adopted in recent years by Islamic State supporters in propaganda images.

A spokesperson for the BBC told Yahoo News UK: “We wrongly described a gesture made by women filmed in a Kurdish controlled detention camp in Northern Syria as an ‘IS salute’.

“While IS have attempted to adopt this for their own propaganda purposes, for accuracy we should have been clear that many people of Muslim faith use this gesture to signify the oneness of Allah. We apologise for this error and have removed this description from the footage.”

The broadcaster also confirmed it would be removing the trailer from online platforms and deleting the scene from Monday’s Panorama episode.

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