BBC
The BBC has been accused of "extraordinary" censorship over a play about honour killings (Reuters)

The BBC has committed an "extraordinary and awful" act of censorship over a play that deals with honour killings in the Muslim community, playwright Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti has said.

Bhatti had written a piece about an investigation into the murder of a 16-year-old Asian girl, entitled Heart of Darkness.

The piece is due to be broadcast on the BBC's Radio 4 DCS Stone series on Friday.

In the play it emerges that the girl, whose body is found with stab wounds, was the victim of an honour killing. The detective is told to handle the case "sensitively" because the girl's family is Muslim.

The BBC's compliance department asked Bhatti to remove lines from the play over fears they suggest the Muslim community condones honour killings.

Bhatti issued her condemnation at the Index On Censorship conference on artistic freedom of expression in the UK.

The Independent quotes her as saying: "At the end, a character says: 'There is so much pressure in our community, to look right and to behave right'. The compliance department came back and said, 'we don't want to suggest the entire Muslim community condones honour killings'."

Fear-ridden culture

Bhatti continued: "It's an extraordinary and awful situation. They said the lines were offensive but they absolutely were not. We live in a fear-ridden culture.

"Unbelievably, what the compliance department said was if you can find a factual example of community pressure leading to an honour killing, you can have the line.

"But it's a drama, a story. It's a crucial part of that story."

In response, a Radio 4 spokesman told the newspaper: "This is a hard-hitting drama about the realities of honour killing in Britain.

"A single line in the script could be taken to infer that the pressure and motivation to commit such a crime in a family comes from the wider Muslim community, potentially misrepresenting majority British Muslim attitudes to honour killing.

"Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti was asked to amend this line in the normal editorial process of script development."

Bhatti's work has been censored in the past. In 2004 her play Behzti - meaning Dishonour - was withdrawn from the Birmingham Repertory Theatre after sparking a riot over its content. The play depicted rape, abuse and murder within a Sikh temple.

She continued: "I was very disappointed given my previous experience of censorship. If you take out the line, the whole thing changes, it's a betrayal of the character and the truth of the unfolding story."