Thursday, September 20, 2007

Seumas Milne - Muslims Are Under Attack

Fascinating article by Seumas Milne in today's Guardian about the witch hunt being conducted by the mainstream media.

Britons are now more suspicious of Muslims than are Americans or citizens of any other major western European country, including France. According to an international Harris poll last month, nearly 30% of British people believe it's impossible to be both a Muslim and a Briton (compared with 14% who think you can't be French and a Muslim); 38% think the presence of Muslims in the country is a threat to national security (compared with 21% in the US); and 46% believe that Muslims have too much political power in Britain, far above the level of any other surveyed country. You might think that these findings, reported in the Financial Times, would have been the occasion for some soul-searching about where British society is going, the state of community relations, and a new self-restraint in the way Muslim stories are covered in the media.

Not a bit of it. The fact that a large minority of Britons have some of the most Islamophobic attitudes in the western world has passed without comment. Instead, we have since been treated to a renewed barrage of lurid and hostile stories about Muslims which can only have further inflamed anti-Muslim opinion and the community's own sense of being under permanent siege. This isn't just a problem of hate-filled tabloid rants, such as the Express's denunciation of Muslims' "alien and threatening outfits", or Richard Littlejohn's Muslim-baiting in the Mail. For the past three weeks, there has been a stream of hostile coverage in the heavyweight press and on TV current affairs programmes.

This week it is was an hour-long Channel 4 Dispatches about attacks on Muslim converts to Christianity; last week it was the BBC Newsnight programme's 20-minute interview with the latest defector from the non-violent Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir; the week before that it was a Newsnight special on radical Islamist books in east London libraries, complete with sinister music and a round-table debate. The same week there was a Times front-page splash about the "hardline takeover of British mosques", focused on the deeply conservative Deobandi religious movement which has long had a strong presence among British Muslims of Pakistani origin. For both Newsnight programmes, it was apparently felt that Patrick Mercer - the Tory MP sacked by David Cameron for making racially inflammatory remarks and appointed a security adviser by Gordon Brown - was the ideal person to comment on Muslim issues. Meanwhile, the novelist Martin Amis denounced "liberal relativist appeasers" of a "racist, misogynist, homophobic, totalitarian, inquisitorial, imperialist and genocidal" doctrine.

He also adds:

.......and Crown Prosecution Service figures show that 82% of convictions for identified religiously aggravated offences last year involved attacks on Muslims.

A reader on CiF adds an extra bit of context regarding this statistic:

"A total of 51 religiously aggravated charges were prosecuted, an increase of 18.6 per cent on 2004-05. Nearly 70 per cent of these cases were prosecuted in the magistrates' courts with religiously aggravated public order offences accounting for almost half the charges.The actual or perceived religion of the victim was not known in 21 out of 43 cases. In the 22 known cases, 18 victims were identified as Muslim, three as Christian and one as Sikh. The data covers the period following 7 July 2005 London bombings and the number of victims identified as Muslim throughout the whole of last year was 81.8 per cent, a rise of five per cent on the previous"

The media (and society as a whole) is on the offensive against a religious minority. Souhnd familiar?