Muslims, The Media And Poor Reporting

We are often caught up with our own lives. Attempting to understand how others see the world is frequently near-on impossible, but we should try, particularly when it comes to societal racism.

Daily Racism

Since 2001 increasing hatred and loathing has been directed towards Muslims. Political opportunists, such as the English Defence League, have tried to exploit the prevailing xenophobic climate in Britain and incite racial hatred.

Every day in Britain Muslims suffer racism. From verbal abuse to physical attacks. On-line animosity towards Muslims is stoked up daily by racists and semi-professional bigots. On-line activities have real world consequences as the site, EDL Criminals has shown time and again.

The real lives of real people in Britain are blighted by racism, yet these facts receive scant coverage in the Oxbridge dominated media. There are a few lines here or there, but little real investigation.

Factual Reports
Infographic-TELL-MAMA-1109131-1024x662
However, there is no shortage of informed commentary on Islamophobia or its negative consequences:

One academic report details how the Far Right and extremists exploit negative sentiment towards Muslims.

Another scholarly paper looked at the impact of racism towards Muslim women.

HMG report

The new government report on extremism has been welcomed by Tell MAMA, but highlights the complexities of these issues (I paraphrase):

  • It is very important to have a subtle approach to this topic and a dire need to tackle extremists who promote hatred towards communities.
  • Greater use of pastoral care should be made in prisons, etc, helping people in the most vulnerable of positions and playing a role in countering extremism.
  • On-line extremism is an unfortunate reality and in the Internet age we have to acknowledge this fact.
  • Extremism is often stoked up by international events, e.g in Syria or Middle East. We must ensure that whole communities, British Muslims, etc. are not blamed, labelled or isolated as a result.
  • Getting the balance is tricky, previous Governments talking tough simply fuelled isolation and helped extremist groups, like Al-Muhajiroun.
  • The new position by HMG is far more informed and nuanced, it should be welcomed.

A Societal Issue and The Independent

A piece in the Independent seems to have grasp the headline of this issue but not the subtleties, as expressed above, and:

In society we need to admit that anti-Muslim prejudice is quite widespread. That such reports can lead to a flare up of on-line hate against Muslims and cause more problems.

We should accept that anti-Muslim prejudice has to be tackled.

It is wrong to blame whole or part of communities as it further exasperates extremism, increasing societal disconnect and isolation. Such an approach aids the extremists, be they the EDL or Al-Muhajiroun.

We need to take care on these issues, racism, whatever its forms should not be encouraged.

National Secular Society: Occasionally Agitated

Lingering prejudice in Britain can bring out the worst in people. Such attitudes are not confined to thugs in the EDL or the BNP, rather are often found on the periphery of the Hard Right, spoken in polite tones and impeccable English.

More importantly, there is denial about racism towards ethnic minorities in Britain. Denial of the facts.

Recent examples of this form of negation were Douglas Murray’s extended rant in the Jewish Chronicle and Charles Moore’s piece. Sadiq Khan deals with it.

Notable in this trend was Andrew Gilligan’s hack journalism. It sought to deliberately play down racism in Britain and deny the evidence. Tim Fenton’s ably picks it apart, Gilligan’s Islamophobia Goof:

“…Gilligan to put out an article without him getting called out for a mixture of falsehood and misrepresentation. This is probably because falsehood and misrepresentation is exactly what he indulges in. And today he has been at it again, twisting the available facts to fit the Telegraph’s narrative, that the “Islamophobia Industry” is getting above itself.”[My emphasis.]

In all of these articles the conclusions were long decided upon, even before writing and the supposed evidence was shoehorned into place, each according to the authors’ particular bias.

It is all the more annoying when these slanted pieces are used as good coin.

NSS1a

The National Secular Society made such a mistake last week, using Gilligan’s suspect form of journalism, Muslims must be protected. Islam must not.

They should know better than use singular and questionable sources.

If the National Secular Society are truly interested in the welfare of Muslims and ethnic minorities in Britain then they should contact the groups monitoring prejudice against them, Tell MAMA.

Picking a single source, that has a clear bias against an antiracist organisation, was a sign of poor judgement by the National Secular Society. They should know better.

I would recommend that the National Secular Society and secularists read the [PDF] report: Anti-Muslim Hate Crime and the Far Right By Professor Nigel Copsey, Dr Janet Dack, Mark Littler and Dr Matthew Feldman.

Update 1:Tell MAMA’s response to the original article, National Secular Society & the ‘Money’ Shot Which Never Was!

“Furthermore, the flippant manner in which anti-Muslim prejudice is discarded, does a disservice to victims such as this woman, or this one. What is the worst element of all of these discussions, is that the victim’s voice is drowned out by figures, numbers and statistics. It would do the National Secular Society a world of good, if they simply took a few minutes out to listen to the stories of these Muslim women. For Amina, she is starting to put her life together against after 14 months of anguish. For Jamilah, the scars will never heal.”

Genteel Racism at Liberal Conspiracy And Cranks Around Up

We tend to think of anti-Jewish sentiment as coming from the Far Right, yet nowadays it is fairly common to find examples of it on liberal or left wing web sites. It is not overt or blunt as found amongst the extreme racists, but there are tell-tale signs: conspiracy theories and strange terminology.

Some posters at Liberal Conspiracy indulge in such activities without a moment’s recrimination or actions from the site’s moderators or post’s author.

I am not surprised that racists mount their pathetic hobbyhorses, rather that the non-racists who read that material at Liberal Conspiracy can’t see a problem or are willing to let it go unchallenged. If I were charitable I might conclude that most at Liberal Conspiracy don’t understand racism, and in particular anti-Jewish racism.

Snap 2013-03-30 at 15.38.33

Shorter version: maligning Israelis and Jews gives the game away. Particularly if there is a pejorative reference to the “Chosen”, or consciously linking to Rense, a site which proffers conspiracy theories, anti-Jewish racism and approvingly advertises David Duke.

This is not an isolated incident at Liberal Conspiracy as I have covered such poor behaviour before.

Even George Orwell spotted this form of usage in the post war period.

In an under reported topic on the British media, Asiya Islam looks at discrimination faced by Muslims, as seen by five women:
Continue reading

On France, Richard Dawkins And Atos

The French President has stated what might be obvious to many people, but seems to go unsaid in Britain, that the victims in Toulouse last year were killed because they were Jews.

A similar point should have been made in the British media when killers deliberately sought out Mumbai’s Chabad House, however, given the peculiar nature of the British press, it wasn’t.

Tell MAMA takes on Richard Dawkins:

“Naturally, Dawkins, his supporters, and the broader movement of self-identified ‘liberal, nice, decent people’ may yet defend themselves as critics of Islam who do not adopt the violent extremist attitudes of EDL members. Many of them may well be decent people though it is important that they realise that their actions may feed into the rhetoric of hate organisations like the EDL.

Sometimes, the language and comments used may well be perceived by Muslims as being identical to groups like the EDL and whilst they are coming from different places, the impact and perceptions on Muslim individuals may be the same – whether from the liberal or political left or whether from the Far Right.

Any form of speech that lumps groups of individuals together and abuses them collectively is unacceptable in a tolerant, diverse, and equal society.

Furthermore, these ‘decent, nice and liberal people’ need to understand that some in society attack Islam to undermine and dehumanise Muslims. Some genuinely believe that by attacking Islam, they are having no impact on the perception of Muslims by others.

It is therefore not a simple issue and saying that hating and attacking Islam does not impact or affect Muslims in our communities is naive.”[My emphasis.]

Spot on.

Having scanned Richard Dawkins’ timeline on Twitter I can see the issues.

It is peppered with questionable argumentation, fields of straw men and a depressingly simplistic approach to the issue of racism. It would take a whole blog post to pick them apart, but his failure to understand that religious identities can be used as a way to attack ethnic minorities is surprising.

Even President Hollande got that point fairly quickly and he is not a professional academic.

Elsewhere, Atos’s callousness knows no bounds, as the Independent reports:

“A Thalidomide victim with a brain tumour who is blind in one eye and has trouble walking is battling against a decision by Atos that she is capable of “work related activity”.

Martine White, 50, is due to appear at a tribunal in which she will appeal against the decision which she fears could force her to take employment or face losing up to half of her benefits.

The mother of four from Burnley, Lancashire, is one of a number of victims of the morning sickness drug which left more than 500 people in Britain with severe birth defects who claim they are being unfairly treated by the Government’s controversial back-to-work assessors.

Mrs White, who has deformed arms and is facing spinal surgery which she fears could put her permanently in a wheelchair, was assessed by Atos and moved from incapacity benefit to the new employment and support allowance last year.

She was placed in the category which deemed she was capable of “work-related activity” which can require attending a “work-related interview” once a month and putting together a CV in order to continue receiving her benefits of £212.70 a fortnight.

Mrs White, whose late husband Michael was also affected by Thalidomide, has twice appealed against her assessment but has now been told to argue her case in front of a judge. “

The Reality of Anti-Muslim Bigotry

We should not underestimate or diminish the extent of anti-Muslim bigotry in Europe.

In Britain, long-standing animosity towards immigrants has been rekindled and focused on Muslims. Police forces and other organisations have been slow to catalogue, detail and deal with this pernicious form of racism.

However, one excellent organisation is MAMA, as they say:

“When reporting an anti-Muslim prejudiced incident to TELL MAMA by SMS, Email or Facebook, please include Your Name, Contact number and Location of the incident. One of our caseworkers will endeavour to contact you within 12 hours. In case of emergency please dial 999.

1. By filling in this form
2. Phone TELL MAMA on 0800 456 1226
3. Text TELL MAMA on 01157070007
4. Email TELL MAMA at info@tellmamauk.org
5. Tweet TELL MAMA @tellmamauk
6. Message TELL MAMA on Facebook at TellMamaUK

Our caseworkers will be able to assist you in a number of ways, including (i) providing a ‘listening ear’, (ii) signposting, (iii) casework and referrals to mainstream partners like Victim Support or Neighbourhood Watch and (iv) working with you to collect evidence that can be used by the police in possible prosecutions. We also have a range of solicitors that provide pro-bono advice that you may be able to access through the project if you have suffered an anti-Muslim incident. “

The report on Anti-Muslim ‘Cultural Racism’ is a must read for those serious about combating racism.

Update 1: Rob Ford takes Trevor Kavanagh to task.

Update 2: Some time ago, Giles Fraser identified the problem of slippage and the comparatively subtle nature of racism in Britain:

“No one actually comes out and directly says “I hate Muslims” – at least, not on the liberal dinner party circuit that was the target of Lady Warsi’s speech. Conversations generally begin with the sort of anxieties that many of us might reasonably share: it cannot be right for women to be denied access to education in some Islamic regimes; the use of the death penalty for apostasy is totally unacceptable; what about the treatment of homosexuals? The conversation then moves on to sharia law or jihad or the burqa, not all of it entirely well informed. Someone places their hands across their face and peers out between their fingers. Another guest giggles slightly. Someone inevitably mentions 9/11. Later, guests travel home on the tube and look nervously at the man in the beard sitting opposite.

The problem Warsi identifies is the problem of slippage. What can begin as a perfectly legitimate conversation about, say, religious belief and human rights, can drift into a licence for observations that in any other circumstance would be regarded as tantamount to racism. Like the 19th-century link between anti-Catholicism and racism towards the Irish, one can easily bleed into the other.”

Update 3: Tell MAMA’s blog asks the question, Problem? What problem? America and Islamophobia.

Anti-Muslim Violence Pictured Across The UK

Racism is on the rise in British, again, and TellMamaUK is a great initiative to help combat it.

The graphics below, which covers only a small period of time, shows the sad necessity of Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks):

Faith Matters explains more:

The majority of Muslims being physically attacked, harassed or intimidated because of their faith are women, according to interim results from the UK’s first ever ‘official’ anti-Muslim violence helpline.

Victims have included children as well as pensioners in their 80s. Even Baroness Warsi, the co-chairman of the Conservative Party, and socialite and journalist Jemima Khan, have been subject to online threats picked up and reported to the police by the TELL MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) campaign.

TELL MAMA, which was set up with Government backing at the end of February by interfaith organisation Faith Matters, has chronicled over 140 cases to date and led to the arrests and charging of three far-right English Defence League (EDL) sympathisers, with more cases and arrests likely in the coming months. Approximately 75% of the cases involve female victims, with far-right British National Party (BNP) or EDL sympathisers linked to one-third (33%) of all incidents.

The helpline records a disturbing picture of low-level anti-Muslim harassment: incidents in the workplace, in the street, between neighbours and particularly online, which may not always hit the headlines but have a devastating effect on peoples’ lives.

How Racism Takes Root

This is a very good piece in the Guardian by Joseph Harker:

“While our media continue to exclude minority voices in general, such lazy racial generalisations are likely to continue. Even the story of a single Asian man acting alone in a sex case made the headlines. As in Derby this month, countless similar cases involving white men go unreported.

We have been here before, of course: in the 1950s, West Indian men were labelled pimps, luring innocent young white girls into prostitution. By the 1970s and 80s they were vilified as muggers and looters. And two years ago, Channel 4 ran stories, again based on a tiny set of data, claiming there was an endemic culture of gang rape in black communities. The victims weren’t white, though, so media interest soon faded. It seems that these stories need to strike terror in the heart of white people for them to really take off.

What is also at play here is the inability of people, when learning about a different culture or race, to distinguish between the aberrations of a tiny minority within that group, and the normal behaviour of a significant section. Some examples are small in number but can be the tip of a much wider problem: eg, knife crime, which is literally the sharp end of a host of problems affecting black communities ranging from family breakdown, to poverty, to low school achievement and social exclusion. “

Dealing With Anti-Muslim Racism & More.

The advent of the MAMA project is most welcome.

Until now it has been hard to quantify the extent and level of racism which faces many Muslims in Britain. Years back when I tried to research the topic I found scattered information, incomplete police reporting and a serious lack of concrete information.

It is going to be a hard and depressing task, to correlate and document the level of racism faced by Muslims on a day-to-day basis in Britain, however, I hope that the MAMA project has the success that the Community Security trust does. Good luck to them.

James Bloodworth looks at a common British habit, When did looking down on others become the national pastime?

Report from Lhasa: February 18, 2012 makes difficult reading:

“Lhasa consists of approximately 1.2 million Chinese and approximately 200,000 Tibetans. The majority of these Tibetans live in an area which is now almost entirely enclosed by military compounds with walls between 10-16 feet; some with barbed wire. This isolation gives the impression of what the Warsaw Ghetto was like. Inside the “enclosed” area groups of armed soldiers, S.W.A.T. teams, and police patrol the streets 24 hours a day. Military drill songs can be heard throughout the day. S.W.A.T trucks and rows of 6 to 15 armored vehicles and tanks come through the area on a daily basis. Each vehicle has 3 to 4 soldiers at the opening turret, armed with assault rifles or machine guns aimed at the Tibetans.

All Tibetans must carry identification at all times. Tibetans residing in Lhasa are required to register with the police. There are approximately 134 new Police station checkpoints in Lhasa for random searches of pedestrians and vehicles. In addition to the military compounds in and around Lhasa, permanent military posts holding 1-10 armed soldiers have been established throughout the city. “

It could be just like Switzerland, that’s what Hirsh Goodman thinks.

Spiegel Online reminds us the Neo-Nazi Terrorist Threat Remains Real.

In local blog news, the Third Estate on How rich institutions, the big parties and the mass media have colonised the blogosphere.

Jeff Goldberg has a worrying piece, Iranian Scientist’s Wife Says Husband Sought Annihilation of Israel. The Fars News Agency has the original copy.

Norms of intervention.

Finally, Bradley Burston makes some excellent points:

“It’s Israel Apartheid Week 2012. Time for people who support Israel to tell the truth. Yes, the settlements are an obstacle to peace. Yes, the occupation, which exists to protect the settlements, is the opposite of democracy. Yes, the present government speaks of two states in theory alone.

In the democracy that was the United States in the year 1840, there were those who said that slavery was essential, irreversible, eternal, God’s will. And that people of color and women of all races should not, and therefore would not, be granted the freedoms and rights of full citizenship, that the only good Native American was a dead one.

And, at the same time, there were those who believed that democracy and equality would become law, however dreadful and protracted the process might be, and they were right.

It is 2012. America’s freedoms, its promises of opportunity and openness to immigrants and minorities, are still under attack, still being tested. The answer is not to dismantle America, but to strengthen its freedoms.

All Americans deserve democracy and self-determination. So do both of the native peoples of the Holy Land, Palestinians and Israelis alike. Just as in 1840 America, in this Holy Land there are people working on both sides, quietly, continually, toward that goal. Not freedom for one people at the expense of the other, but freedom and independence for both.

This is the lesson that BDS has yet to learn. And this is why BDS, and Israeli Apartheid Week, are failures. “