Here is the news . . . for British Muslims

Here is the news . . . for British Muslims

''Your average Arab," says Haitham el-Zubeidi, the editor of Middle East Online, a London-based website, "will watch Arab news at nine, the BBC at ten, Newsnight at 10.30 and al-Jazeera from 11." British Arabs are using their own sources to counteract what the Saudi government labels "the allies' propaganda machine".

Eighty-seven per cent of Arab homes in Britain have access to the satellite and cable networks of al-Jazeera, Abu Dhabi and al-Arabiya Television. Satellite dishes are useful not just for cross-checking sources. British figures are interviewed on al-Jazeera TV with a depth that is lacking when the favour is returned: Clare Short lasted 20 minutes - more than 18 minutes longer than the soundbites reserved for home audiences.

Programmes on al-Jazeera such as Opposite Directions and More than One Opinion have been so openly critical of Arab governments that they won the station an award for best circumvention of censorship last month. But this openness has led to al-Jazeera's repeated dismissal from several Arab countries, and stokes suspicions in the Arab world that the channel is funded by Mossad, the Israeli secret service. (It is in fact owned by the liberal-minded Qatari government.)

The Arab community in Britain can rely on five London-based, Arab-language daily newspapers. The most important, al-Quds al-Arabi, boasts a circulation of 500,000. Its media-friendly editor, Abdel-Bari Atwan, often appears on the Arab television channels and writes for the Guardian. He is convinced of the importance of newspapers that address the Arab community exclusively: "Arab newspapers are for Arabs, English newspapers are for English people."

The other newspapers are al-Sharq al-Awsat, with a circulation of approximately 243,000; al-Hayat, with a circulation of 199,000; al-Ahram (129,000) ; and al-Arab (28,000).

On the internet, Muslims have access to unlimited resources - and they take advantage of this. "We have to educate ourselves," remarked one 19-year-old Bengali girl from Manchester who had spent the morning following up links from her e-mail inbox to articles by John Pilger, stills from Iraqi television and the news service on the Muslim Association of Britain's website. "The contradictions in what western governments are saying really stand out if you know what's going on in the Muslim world. They say Iraq has nuclear weapons and we think of Israel; they say POWs are mistreated in Iraq and we'll remember Guantanamo Bay."

The website of the UK-based monthly newspaper Muslim News, which gets 34,000-35,000 hits per day, opens on a slide show of Iraqi civilian casualties. It is also running the story that the alleged uprising against the government in Basra was fabricated to justify British and US army intervention.

Al-Jazeera has increased the number of its subscribers from four million to 8.5 million in the past week, and there are plans for an English-language news channel within a year. But Muslims still lack an Islamic equivalent of Radio 4, or a broadsheet that addresses both international and local issues. "The slogan for the Muslim Association of Britain," says one of its spokesmen, "is 'Think globally, act locally'. It shows how we see the international society as interconnected." The British government, he said, should "Act globally, think locally".