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The Times must be brought to account for its Islamophobia

29th Sep 2017
The Times must be brought to account for its Islamophobia

There was little objectivity regarding the plight this month of the young girl put into care in Tower Hamlets, which The Times splashed on its front page for four days in a row. On the one side was the five-year-old victim, emphasised as being white, Christian and a native English speaker. On the other side was the supposed foster parent, described as Muslim and niqab-wearing. The child was claimed to have been taken from her family and forced to live in such an environment and even allegedly encouraged to learn Arabic. The culprit doing the bidding was the ‘scandal-ridden’ Tower Hamlets Council.

Such deliberate emotive language, orchestrated by The Times newspaper, in breaking the self-styled story was unfortunately copied elsewhere in sections of the media. The articles themselves soon became the story, with calls for the ‘climate of hostility’ against Muslims to be investigated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) for the Islamophobic outburst seen as aimed to demonise Muslims. IPSO has also been called to investigate the broader “climate of hostility” not just from this story but from a “constant stream” of articles that have been anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim within mainstream media. However, IPSO has since ruled that The Times article is not inaccurate or misleading.

In order for the watchdog to make an “effective, unbiased enquiry”, the Global Justice Now campaign group has suggested – and nor for the first time – that Trevor Kavanagh, the former Political Editor of The Sun, another of Murdoch’s publications, step down as a board member of IPSO.

The National Union of Students supported the call to investigate “the prevalence of Islamophobia, racism and hatred espoused in the British press”. Under its code of conduct, no material should be produced “likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.”

Getting in on the act, not for the first time, former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, in an Islamophobic rant, went as far as claiming that the decision to put a five-year-old Christian girl into Muslim foster care was “more akin to child abuse.” Baring his teeth, he wrote in The Sun that it was hardly “surprising in a council dogged for years by accusations of being dominated by an Islamist clique.” At the “risk of being branded a raving Islamophobe, I need to say that the officials who decided to place a white, non-Muslim five-year-old in a conservative, burqa-wearing Muslim household must have been (technical term) off their chumps,” he said.

Far-right extremists including the former English Defence League Leader, Tommy Robinson, as well as Britain First and the EDL itself, have used this misleading story to strengthen their narrative. The smear campaign started by The Times and taken up by The Daily Mail, as it can only be called, yet again shows the failure of much of the press to clean up its act and put its own house in order. Journalists and editors wishing to make sensationalist headlines to feed upon their prejudices must be made accountable. Tabloids have been too long in the last chance saloon and IPSO must act if it is to retain any credibility.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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