A climate of media ‘Islamophobia’has been building up over the past decade, according to a critical report written by TV journalists Peter Oborne and James Jones.
The academic survey, written to accompany a recent Channel Four Dispatches programme, It shouldn’t happen to a Muslim, and submitted to Essex University’s Democratic Audit unit, hits out at ‘shoddy and soulless conduct on the part of the tabloid press”.
But it adds that it also found ‘a disturbing willingness among writers in the broadsheet press and elsewhere to indulge themselves in blatantly anti-Islamic rhetoric”.
The study charts the rise of recent anti-Muslim stories from a 2006 front-page splash in The Sun headed ‘Hounded Out”, which claimed a ‘Muslim hate mob’had vandalised a house in Windsor which four soldiers returning from Afghanistan were intending to rent.
Oborne and Jones claim the story had sprung from an earlier article in the Windsor Express, which hadn’t mentioned Muslims at all, and said the incident was more likely to have reflected nimbyism by residents who didn’t want squaddies as neighbours.
‘The most likely motive was local alarm that the presence of soldiers might damage house prices,’they said.
Oborne and Jones got in touch with the Cardiff School of Journalism where three academics and eight students ploughed their way though almost 1,000 Muslim stories.
One of the most recent tabloid tales was ‘Muslim Sickos’ Maddie kidnap shock’in April. The Daily Star story seemed to imply that Madeleine McCann had been kidnapped by a ‘Muslim Sicko’but actually referred to nothing more than a fringe Muslim website which made comments about the McCanns and the kidnapping.
Many stories cited were first run as more balanced articles by regional and local papers and then inflated by tabloids.
But The Economist ran an article in 2006 headed ‘The crescent and the canteen’which claimed Leicester University students persuaded their union cafeteria to ban pork. In fact, says the study, the college, which has many Muslim students, had just made one of its many cafes halal to cater for the heavy Muslim student population.
Oborne and Jones argue that the more considered and even left-leaning broadsheets are equally guilty.
They cite Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle saying ‘Islamophobia – count me in?’And they quote Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee writing in The Independent: ‘I am an Islamophobe and proud of it.”
The full study is available at: snipurl.com/muslims_study