Hope Not Hate are sending a polite letter to the Daily Star telling them to be not quite so aggressive in their coverage of Muslims as they have been recently. It's a fine initiative and we'll wait and see what comes from it. I am guessing the answer is 'nothing', but you never know. This is the paper, after all, that very nearly once had a "Daily Fatwa" edition published.
But there seems to be a pattern emerging with the Daily Star. The tone is getting more and more shrill as time goes on. Last week, there was an article using the tried-and-tested 'us and them tactic' which we've seen so many times before with Richard Desmond publications. And then, on Friday, the front page headline said that Christmas had been 'nicked' by Muslims. Nicked by Muslims? No, not really; a council has left up Eid and Diwali lights alongside Christmas ones. Big bloody deal.
But it adds to the narrative. Today the Star carries a story that a lot of the screamsheets are wailing about, with KIDS AS YOUNG AS SIX TAUGHT TO HATE. As ever it's important to look at the language and the tone:
THOUSANDS of Muslim children are being brainwashed against Brits at weekend schools run by extremists.
Pupils as young as six are taught that all “non- believers” will face the fires of hell.
And they are instructed in the best way to hack off the hands and feet of thieves.
Now I'm no fan of teaching kids to hack off people's hands, but as ever it's Muslims being brainwashed against Brits, as if the two things are incompatible. It's us and them; it's them and us. They are being brainwashed against us; they are being taught to hate us.
You'll remember, also, the delight with which the Stormfront regulars greeted the Daily Star's coverage of the EDL threatening to 'close down towns' that weren't Christian enough. They were amazed that a mainstream paper should have treated them so well. Sadly, I'm not amazed; this is just the way the Star is going. The Daily Fatwa doesn't seem far away now; if they did go and print it tomorrow, it wouldn't really be that much out of step with the rest of their output.
What's the reason for the anti-Muslim agenda, and racism? Well, as Tabloid Watch reported the other day, the PCC couldn't even give the Mail and Telegraph a slapped wrist, even though they'd told a story that was complete rubbish, and which happened to blame Muslims for something which wasn't Muslims' fault. And of course there are plenty of appalling things done across the world and up and down this country in the name of Islam, which deserve to be exposed - but the agenda-driven rubbish you see in a lot of papers should disturb anyone who cares about freedom and not demonising people from one particular group.
I hope that Hope Not Hate do get a good response from the Star, but I'm not holding my breath. You can co-sign the letter and see if it makes a difference. The more people who do, the more impact it may have. But I rather fear that someone, somewhere has decided that pandering to racism and fear of minorities is something that's selling papers; if that is to be believed then I don't think that things are going to stop. All the rest of us can do is expose it and challenge it; they are the ones with a national newspaper to spread their message, after all, and we're not as powerful. But we are many, and they are few. It's the only thing we've got.
Some stories just keep coming back, like zombies, or boomerangs, or boomerang-zombies. The "Mohammeds are taking over!" nonsense is getting to be such an annual event now that you can almost sense the weariness with which the ONS compiles its stats on popular baby names. Whatever they do, however they do it, the story - as far as the Mail, Telegraph and others - will be "Mohammeds are taking over (but the PC folk at the ONS want to keep it a secret!)".
Same thing last year, same thing this year - you can see my 2009 article about the Telegraph's efforts here, and you'll notice that not a great deal has changed if you pop over to the Telegraph's tale from this time around. I imagine it's marked out in the newsroom diaries in red pen, because it's an easy enough free hit for a hack in a hurry: a bit of listmaking, a bit of class prejudice against 'chavvy' names and a bit of "Oh my goodness! Those brown folk are reproducing at ungodly speed!" all wrapped up in one easy-to-C&V story.
Primly Stable points out:
The problem is, the Mail has had to fix the facts in order to make the story fit its readers' prejudices. As they admit halfway down the story, Mohammed is actually the 16th most popular name in Britain. But Home Affairs Correspondent Jack Doyle has taken the liberty of including various other spellings of the same name - Muhammad, Mohammad, Muhammed and so on - and added them all together in order to give the "true picture". The Office for National Statistics didn't feel the need to do this, but who are they to argue with the Mail's methodology?
Of course, Mohammed is the only name to get this treatment from the Mail. Alexs are not bundled in with Alexanders, Alixs and Alecksanders. Charlie and Charles are kept distinct. Thomas and Tom apparently have nothing in common at all.
The paper also fails to mention that naming your firstborn son after the prophet is a standard thing for Muslims, so there is always going to be a bias towards it
There is indeed. What makes that context important is the fact that the Telegraph is (once again) saying that the ONS is 'disguising the truth'. If you're going to say people are disguising the truth, you'd better be pretty sure not to do it yourself, I think. So, as No Sleep Til Brooklands points out, if you're going to add up spellings, then you really ought to do it for all the spellings, not just the scarily Islamic-sounding ones:
As someone who occasionally gets a mild semi-on over statistics, this isn't actually totally unreasonable, allowing for variations like that. However, if you're going to apply statistical massaging like this, you have to be, y'know, fair about it. By 'fair', I mean simply applying the same rules to everyone. So, if you're going to add up all the various spellings of 'Mohammed', then you should do the same for other names in the list.
So, I went to the source at the ONS There I found the full list: 2009 Baby Names Statistics Boys (.xls file - 535kb). Here, we discover that there are 127 Oliviers, 104 Oliwiers, 9 Olis, 9 Oliwers, 4 Olivers' (plural!), 4 Ollivers, and most significantly, 511 Ollies (with an additional 16 Ollis). Even just adding Oliver and Ollie together, we get to 7,875, putting it back above Mohammed into first place again (and it becomes 8,148 if you add all the above variants). And that's before we get onto the more controversial stuff about how 'Jack' is historically a diminutive of the name 'John' (although of course many would argue that the former has now become a name in its own right).
But let's assume Mohammed is the most popular boys' name, and it's right to add up all the spellings. Does that represent a scarily high amount of Muslim births? Tabloid Watch says:
The Mail says that when you add 12 other recognised variations of Mohammed together, the number of boys given that name in 2009 was 7,549 (out of 362,135 boys born).
Yet the ONS figures show that the number of boys given those same 12 names in 2008 was 7,673.
Overall, this accounted for 2.09% of all boys born in 2008, a very slightly higher number than the 2.08% in 2009.
Two per cent. Not quite as scary as all that, then, surely, especially when you put that two per cent into the context of cultural tradition giving a male child the name of the prophet. So did the Mail and Telegraph (and others) put the figures into that context? The Telegraph, to be fair to them, did say this:
Experts said the development reflected the name's overwhelming popularity among British Muslims rather than any "explosion" in the British Muslim population.
The only thing that seems a little odd is the 'explosion' in quotes, because I can't see anyone saying there has been an explosion. Nevertheless, the Telegraph has, to be fair to them, put the figures into some sort of context. It comes after saying that Mohammed is the 'secret' popular name and that the official figures 'disguise the truth', but still: I don't think they're trying to be scaremongering. The Mail has a slight bit of context, too, pointing out that Mohammed has appeared in the popular names list since 1944 - though it's actually been there since 1924 if you look at the data. You'll also see that the variant spellings of Mohammed have been kept separate for decades, and the variant spellings of other names too (Fred and Frederick kept apart in 1904, for example - wonder if the Mail and Telegraph did articles adding them up then?).
As I wrote yesterday, this kind of story carries with it a responsibility. This is the kind of thing that will be used by extremists and racists to paint a picture of Britain as a place where the Muslim birthrate is accelerating, where Mohammeds are taking over from Jacks and Johns, even if that's not the true or full picture. The onus on people reporting these stats, then, is to be fair and accurate, and place the data in context. If you don't, I think you run the risk of being seen as sending out dog-whistles, appealing to racists or trying to imply that somehow there's some kind of Islamification going on when really there isn't. That can be done deliberately or accidentally, of course; though when the same thing happens time after time, year after year, you have to wonder how much of an accident it can be.
This glimpse of the 'worst-rated' comments on the Mail website might give you a clue as to how some people have seen it:
"I'm Muslim" - CLICK TO DISAPPROVE! As I always say, you can't tell whether online comments, red or green arrows or anything like that really represents a readership in its entirety, or just online readers, or just readers of a certain mindset who look out for certain types of stories to try and skew polls, comments and so on to make their points of view appear more popular than they really are. However, all I do know is that it's pretty depressing to see that - and it's pretty depressing to think that the context into which the name Mohammed is popular has to come from online commenters, who are then voted well into the red. Does that represent a failure of journalism to put the facts into context, or a success of cherrypicking certain facts to create a false impression? I'll leave that up to you.
One last thing: it's been pointed out to me there might be a personal reason why the Mail writer took such an interest in the story:
(Thanks to Chris F, wordwidewade, reevery, tabloidwatch, press_not_sorry and others.)
(I'd already done Halal, is it meat you're looking for?)
There's a debate to be had about a secular institution like a state school providing food that conforms to certain religious standards. There's also a debate to be had about the animal welfare standards of halal (and kosher) food, and whether it inflicts undue suffering on the animals that are being slaughtered. But this story in yesterday's Daily Star isn't that debate:
Let's get the 'exclusive' out of the way first. This isn't a new thing. Halal-only meat in schools has been around for ages - I managed to find this story from 2006, and I'm sure there are plenty more from down the years. Actually if you compare that story
Halal meat is being served to pupils in state schools without their knowledge, even if they believe the religious slaughter is cruel.
Parents have reacted furiously after being sent letters telling them their children's school dinners have been all-halal for 'some time'.
To conform with Jewish and Muslim religious tradition, animals are prepared for halal products by having their throats slit while conscious - a method many people believe is inhumane and which the RSPCA has condemned.
with the Star's story of yesterday:
PARENTS are reacting with fury as children across Britain are served halal dinners even if they do not want them.
Schools are not offering youngsters any alternatives to the Islamic-prepared meat.
Fuming parents hit out after the Daily Star revealed plans to force halal-only lunch on children of all faiths in London borough Harrow, to avoid offending Muslims.
You can see the similarities. Parents reacting with anger/fury at the decision. All parents? Well I dare say some parents might be pleased that halal meat is being served in schools as the standard rather than an option; others might not be fussed either way; some might think that all animal slaughter is equally cruel, and not be bothered; others might give their children a vegetarian diet anyway, and so on. But the focus is on the ones who are shocked, annoyed, angry, and so on.
The main difference is the 'to avoid offending Muslims' bit of the Star story. It's a common phrase from 'PCgawnmad' stories wherever you might see them. Even Baroness Warsi, as we saw this week, had bought in to some of these myths. It's always 'to avoid offending Muslims', which was what the Mail said with its KFC Halal story back in March. I bet 'to avoid offending Muslims' has bugger all to do with it.
Actually it's a pretty good rule of thumb when reading the papers: when you see the phrase 'to avoid offending Muslims', you can be pretty sure that's not why something's been done. With KFC it was a matter of simple market forces; with these schools I imagine it's to do with there being such a significant proportion of pupils being from a Muslim background that it's more straightforward and cost-effective to offer halal-only meat.
But this isn't an argument about parents demanding RSPCA-certified freedom food in their children's school meals because of concerns about animal welfare. No. It's about 'BRIT KIDS' being 'FORCED' to eat 'MUSLIM MEALS'. You could make the point, and I wouldn't entirely disagree, that it's almost as if the Star are suggesting that children from a Muslim family are not 'Brits'. It's not as if the Daily Star and their stablemates the Daily Express have been shy about doing that before:
It's all about 'us' and 'them'. I think the image that's meant to be conjured up with the latest story is of some bearded fanatic forcing a chicken dinner down a poor seven-year-old's throat from an animal that was possibly slightly more unpleasantly treated than most other factory-farmed meat.
The thing I find interesting is the idea of 'offence'. As I've said earlier, the idea of 'to avoid offending Muslims' isn't quite the right way of putting it. But then again, if non-Muslims are a minority in an area with a large Muslim population, do they then become the 'offended' minority who should be catered for? Are people offended by a chicken that's bled out from a knife wound, for example? Or are people just offended that the majority's needs or wants should trample all over their freedom to eat what they want? Which makes you wonder: would the offended minority be such a concern for our newspapers if they were Muslims, as opposed to non-Muslims?
It's an interesting situation, and like I said at the beginning of this, there's a debate to be had about secularism, education, religion and so on, as well as the animal welfare aspects. It's just that our newspapers choose not to have that debate. They choose to have the one in which PCgawnmad Britain bends over backwards to those pesky Muslims.
PS You'll be pleased to hear that this story has already been picked up by our friends in the ultra-nationalist and anti-Muslim community and used as an example of why there's a 'jihad' against the 'indigenous' population. Well done, Daily Star!
PPS See Tabloid Watch's post.
Just a quickie - and no, I couldn't resist the headline.
The Mail reports today about a man who was terribly traumatised upset about not having a chicken burger with bacon, due to wanting to have it at one of a handful of KFC restaurants which are part of a trial in which they're serving Halal food.
You might think: So fucking what? Is this man so much of a fucking baby he goes crying to the Daily Fucking Mail when he can't quite get the chicken-and-bacon fast food sandwich he fucking wants, the feeble little shite? Who gives a shit? I mean, who really gives a shit? KFC is a massive fucking multinational corporation and it's doing this not because of cultural sensitivity per se but because of the bottom line: there's a market for this product, and they think they might be able to exploit it, and make a profit out of it. This isn't political bleeding fucking bastard correcticuntiness gone fucked up in the fucking head; this is just a way of trying to compete in a marketplace in which there are plenty of Halal chicken shops already.
And you would, of course, be right. But no. The Mail has been waiting for this moment ever since its previous article on KFC's outrageous policy on Halal some time ago. And so:
Mr Phillips said he found the change 'extremely unfair' on non-Muslim customers.
'I can't believe a chain like this has taken this stance,' he said. 'Staff told me that due to the dietary laws halal meat could not be prepared in the same place as other meats, so I couldn't have my bacon.
It was like they were saying I couldn't buy bacon because it might offend people.'
Tool though he is, let's not be too harsh on Mr Phillips. I would bet a gold nugget to a non-Halal sausage roll that the final paragraph there came from the journo asking him: "So, would you say that it was like they were saying you couldn't buy bacon because it might offend people?" and him saying: "Er, I spose, yeah" or something like that.
Oh, boo hoo. You can't get your Big Fucking Daddy burger because of Muslims. Call yourself a Big Daddy? You're just a Little Baby. If it matters that fucking much to you, fuck off home, get a frying pan out, sizzle up some lovely bacon, then bring home your KFC and put your fucking bacon in it, seeing as that makes all the bloody difference in the world and transforms an ordinary chicken sandwich from KFC into the most splendid culinary treat in the whole of humanity.
But no. Here we go again. The Big Daddy has been 'banned' by KFC because of Muslims. Does anyone except the fundamentally feeble or wilfully stroppy really care? I might go out and buy a big fuck-off bucket of chicken tonight, just to redress the balance.
If you remember this
from the other day, you'll remember that it was a story about extremist Muslims but packaged as one about all Muslims. As Tabloid Watch pointed out, implying that Islam4UK represents all Muslims is rubbish, and deliberately misleading. It's like saying the odious Stephen Green of Christian Voice represents all Christians.
Today's Express story, then, is pretty much exactly the same thing, repeated just in case you didn't see it last time.
There you have it - instead of a minaret plonked on the top of Nelson's Column, we've got a big mosque badly Photoshopped on to Buck House.
Notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary is calling for the palace to be renamed Buckingham Masjid, the Arabic word for mosque.
The Mall, which approaches the palace, would become Masjid Road.
Well. It 'would' in the sense of 'it would if these nutters ever got into power, which they won't'.
Tory MP Philip Davies compared Choudary to the leader of the BNP, saying: “This man’s a complete idiot. He’s the Muslim equivalent to Nick Griffin. I’m all for free speech and people having the right to have their say but, equally, there are all these ridiculous laws the Government has introduced about inciting racial hatred. Quite clearly, that’s what he is doing.
Our Tory friend is right on one thing: Choudary is a complete idiot. But then I can't understand where he goes from there. He says there are 'ridiculous' laws about inciting racial hatred, but then says the 'Government' has introduced them - which is true if the 'Government' he's on about is the Conservative Government which introduced them in 1986. Publishing of material that incited racial hatred was made punishable under the law in 1994*, which again is before Labour came to power. Maybe he means the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 - but if so, how is Choudary inciting hate against another religion, or race, in what the Express has quoted?
Additionally: if these laws are 'ridiculous', and Philip Davies says this is what Choudary is doing, then what does he want? For him to be prosecuted under 'ridiculous' laws?
At least this time, though, this story and headline make it clear that Islam4UK are 'fanatics'. That's a step in the right direction for the Express. But you still have to wonder why they're following the antics of these most extreme Muslims and reporting every bonkers thing they come out with.
* Yes, I know. Surely the Express would be No 1 candidates to be hauled up under this?
Spotter's badge: Jesus_John
I had been a bit concerned, given that it's getting towards the end of October. But here we are at last. Hooray! The first "Christmas is being called something else for fear of offending terrorists or something" quote is IN - and it's been found by the BBC, of all people.
The Bishop of Lichfield, the Rt Rev Jonathan Gledhill, said Christians should wear [crosses] at work and not be intimidated into putting them away.
He also criticised councils which tried to "rebrand Christmas" for fear of offending other religions.
Such decisions were made out of "sheer ignorance," he said.
As most people know, the sheer ignorance on display is from the Bishop of Lichfield, who has fallen for the tabloid-tripe-cum-urban-mythology surrounding 'Winterval' - a marketing campaign surrounding the winter months by Birmingham City Council several years ago, nothing to do with rebranding Christmas, but which has been repeated and embellished like a ruddy great Christmas tree ever since. "They're banning Christmas because it will upset people of other faiths and there's nothing we can do about it!" the screamsheets like to squawk. It's not just Christmas that starts earlier every year: the bullshit about Christmas being banned turns up before Bonfire Night almost every year nowadays, as well.
As I wrote last year back in September, these stories don't have to be true. A quick bit of fact-checking would expose them for the silliness they are - but obviously would negate the story, and so doesn't take place. And the result is that people like the Bishop of Lichfield - who really ought to know better - get hooked (or should that be crooked?) in.
Also at around this time of year people can be tempted to do the classic "Ooh look! He/she isn't wearing a poppy on television or walking in public! How dare they! The heartless bastard WANTS OUR BOYS TO DIE!" article. Or even, as the Daily Star did last year, the "You can't buy a poppy from these evil brown-skinnned newsagents because they all support terrorism, obviously" story. So those are others to look out for in the coming days.
The Express are on a mission against Muslims, as yesterday's disgraceful front page
clearly shows. I'm sure when silly-haired hatemonger Geert Wilders arrives in Britain today he'll have a happy look at the Express before he pops over to his friends at UKIP - he'll probably scratch his head and wonder, though, why he's labelled as a dangerous extremist when anti-Muslim hatred far worse than his bleating sophistry gets chucked onto the front page of national newspapers almost every day. He must think he's a bit too liberal and wishy-washy for the likes of the Express.
As Tabloid Watch says, it's not just the idea that some Muslims want sharia law - it's MUSLIMS in the headline, as if there's no difference between extremists and the rest. In a lot of ways, that is an extreme point of view to take, one shared by the likes of Melanie Phillips and Wilders, but one not held by the vast majority of people.
This smacks of a crusade, a vile attack on one group of people - not extremist Muslims, but all Muslims. Just look at the Minaret on top of Nelson's Column - what the hell is that supposed to represent? That's the fearmongering shit you'd expect from the far right, not from a national newspaper. But seeing as they think it's fun to Photoshop a landmark, I thought I'd have a go. Here's the Northern and Shell building in London, home of the Express. I thought I'd just make a slight alteration. See if you can spot it (I've tried to make it as subtle as their one, for reasons of fairness).