Channel 4’s ‘Islam: The Untold Story’ stimulated more than 1200 complaints when it was broadcast and its director, Tom Holland, was threatened online with a torrent of abuse via Twitter.

Channel 4 had planned a screening at its headquarters for opinion formers later this month. However, that has now been cancelled due to fears of the safety of particpants after tweets that included warnings Holland may be a target in the streets and should consider getting a bodyguard.

Holland’s film investigated the origins of Islam and examined longstanding claims that the Quran did not emerge fully formed, but instead was selectively put together over a period of many years.

Holland, the writer of bestsellers Rubicon and Persian Fire, said that Islam is “a legitimate subject of historical inquiry”.

Writing on the Channel 4 website after complaints to both the channel and watchdog Ofcom, Holland said: “We were of course aware when making the programme that we were touching deeply held sensitivities and went to every effort to ensure that the moral and civilizational power of Islam was acknowledged in our film, and the perspective of Muslim faith represented, both in the persons of ordinary Bedouin in the desert, and one of the greatest modern scholars of Islam, Seyyed Hossein Nasr.”

However, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) accused him of making “baseless assumptions” and engaging in “selective scholarship”.

The Islamic Republic of Iran also waded into the debate, its state media decrying Holland’s documentary as an “insult” to Islam.

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