Channel 4 has cited concerns over security as the reason for cancelling a planned screening at its headquarters this week of a documentary film questioning the origins of Islam.
Islam: The Untold Story, which claimed there was little written contemporary evidence about the origin of the religion, sparked more than 1,000 complaints to Channel 4 and the media regulator after it was broadcast two weeks ago.
Its presenter, the historian Tom Holland, was also the focus of substantial criticism, as well as abuse, on Twitter.
The channel said in a statement on Tuesday: “Having taken security advice we have reluctantly cancelled a planned screening of the programme, Islam: The Untold Story. We remain extremely proud of the film, which is still available to view on 4oD.”
A Metropolitan police spokesperson said the force had no knowledge of the event or the decision to cancel it.
However, sources close to the channel said the screening had been cancelled after advice was taken from “relevant security authorities”.
Dr Jenny Taylor, a writer and academic who had been invited to attend the screening, said it was “appalling” the event was being cancelled.
“This party was cancelled for security reasons, so this means that presumably people’s lives are at risk,” said Taylor, who runs the charity Lapido Media, which seeks to foster better understanding and reporting of religion in the media. Holland is one of the trustees of Lapido, which is publishing a series of books on religious affairs, the first of which is about the controversial Islamic group Tablighi Jamaat.
Taylor said media coverage was a factor in whipping up “a false storm of protest” over the programme, which she described as “a good bit of history by one of the most eminent historians in the country”.
“We have got to be able to discuss history. That is the western way. That is what we do here. Every other civilisation that Tim has written about has come in for the same treatment. Why should Islam be left out?”
Among those who criticised the programme was Inayat Bunglawala, who debated with Holland on Twitter. Bunglawala also blogged about the programme, accusing Holland of “bizarre conjecture About Islam’s birthplace”.