The appetite within part of the Fourth Estate for frightening their readers with Muslim scare stories was demonstrated very clearly on Friday last, when the Met’s finest arrested a group of street cleaners in central London.
The arrests were as a result of a tip-off, and were classed as “precautionary”. Former head of counter terrorism at the Yard, Bob Quick, stressed “An arrest is a means of investigation – it does not mean someone is guilty of an offence”. But the manner of arrest – apparently at gunpoint – and the suspects being of North African origin set the scare merchants off.
Out of the traps sharpish as the hare of Islamophobia was set running was the Daily Express, with the screaming headline “Muslim Plot To Kill Pope”. It went on: “Islamic terrorists disguised as street cleaners allegedly hatched an audacious plot to blow up the Pope”, but then reassured its readers “The threatened attack was foiled at the eleventh hour”.
Predictably, Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Sun were similarly convinced: “Six In ‘Kill Pope’ Plot” they shouted, helpfully explaining that “North Africa is a hotbed of Islamic Fundamentalism”, in case its readers hadn’t made the Muslim connection. But it wasn’t just the tabloids.
The Maily Telegraph – a supposedly upmarket, quality source of good journalism – splashed “Five suspected Islamist Terrorists arrested over assassination plot”. Except that the men weren’t arrested because they were suspected of being “Islamists”. Moreover, there was no plot. How can we be so sure of this?
Well, because all the men were released this morning without charge. Never mind, though: another excuse to stoke up anti-Muslim sentiment has been gleefully taken up by an assembled hackery that ought to know better.