[Update at end of post]
The Murdoch press knows two things very well: its target demographic, and how to press those rage buttons with them. Hence today’s “exclusive” telling that “I wed aged FIVE in the UK ... shocking story from a British town”. Yes, it happened in not just any town, but a British town. And there is an admittedly posed picture to make sure readers know that this is about Muslims.
But a problem enters almost at the outset: the supposed “marriage” did not happen this year, this decade, or even this century: as the woman concerned is now in her early 40s, it happened in the mid 1970s. And the person to whom she is supposed to have been “married” was not there at the time. Moreover, she did not meet him for another nine years.
So whatever the “Islamic ceremony” was, it does not appear to have been marriage (there was a “formal wedding ceremony” at age 14). Thus the effects of over-egging the pudding, and therefore tarnishing the whole story, and that is a pity, as there are serious issues here, such as rape and under-age sex, as well as domestic violence, imprisonment, and their consequences, including obsessive-compulsive disorders.
And only at the end of the piece is it admitted that forced marriage is not an Islamic principle, far from it: what happened to the woman in the story had more to do with the customs of the region of Pakistan where her family had relatives. But by that time – and one look at the comments sewer is all you need – the readers have been guided to draw the conclusion that Rupe’s downmarket troops want them to.
That fits the “bad day for Muslims” idea floated by Tory chairman Sayeeda Warsi in a Guardian piece today. As she puts it, “In certain newspapers there are two kinds of days: a bad Muslim day and a bad day for Muslims. The first is when somebody has done something really awful and they just happen to be a Muslim. The second is when completely fabricated stories are blown out of proportion and damage an entire community”.
The Sun story is not “completely fabricated”, but its telling is slanted, and readers are not told that the events clearly took place many years ago. There is no doubt still coercion in some marriages, but forced marriage is not a product of Islam, but of a small number of communities which happen to be Muslim.
But the bandwagon is well and truly rolling, with the obligatory and inevitable intervention from another in the Tory Party, self-promoting MP for Witham Priti Patel. If only she paid as much attention to her constituents as she does to generating column inches.
Still, the Sun successfully presses the hate buttons. No change there, then.
[UPDATE 9 April 1415 hours: the story has been lifted - with acknowledgement - by the Mail, although some subtle editing has taken place. Whereas the Sun had the 14 year old being "bundled on to a plane to Pakistan", in the Mail she is "forced onto a plane". Her compulsion for cleanliness is summarised as "crippling obsessive compulsive disorder", although it was this blog, and not the Sun, that introduced the label.
Then those looking after her in the UK are referred to as Guardians (with a capital G, although the generic use of the term should not be capitalised), just to send readers the hint of a message telling them that this is what all those yogurt knitting liberals in Islington sympathise with. And of course there is a posed photo of a woman wearing a full - black - veil, although this form of dress was not mentioned once by the subject of the article.
All of which means that readers should get the message that forced marriage means Muslims, and that they are therefore A Very Bad Thing, and certainly not the Mail's kind of people]