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Monday 9 July 2012

The Demonisation Of Islam

Yesterday morning saw the subject of Islamophobia aired on Samira Ahmed’s Sunday Morning Live, with Ann Leslie on duty to excuse the behaviour of the tabloid press in general, and the Daily Mail in particular, over its routinely slanted coverage of anything concerning Muslims. Leslie was even made to look moderate by the occasional hearing given to a representative of the BNP.

Yet she was not put on the spot over the very obviously selective reporting whenever Islam is concerned: the Heywood grooming case is one such. While there was much punditry devoted to emphasising the line that Muslim males were going after white girls, little space was given to the report that showed the ringleader to be going after any young women, after he was convicted of raping an Asian girl.

We saw the selective reportage reprised last week, when six people arrested on suspicion of offences under terrorism law were widely reported, and merely by coincidence they happened to be Muslims. But there was little reporting, and no punditry, devoted to the six terrorism charges made against Niall Florence from Rochdale, who is not a Muslim.

Added to all of this today are two posts, one from Fiyaz Mughal at Liberal Conspiracy, and one at Comment Is Free by Mehdi Hasan, who has been the subject of a welter of abuse in the recent past, which mostly includes commenters quoting selected extracts from his previous writings back at him while telling him that they mean whatever the commenter has decided they mean.

That is, of course, when Hasan is not getting yet less reasoned abuse and threats. Both posts have garnered replies along the lines of “but what about Islamic countries”, “but Islam is intolerant (or similar)” and of course “what about the cartoonists”. None of these addresses the scale or nature of the abuse to which Hasan, and Muslims more generally, are routinely subjected.

And this is disturbing. It’s not good enough to excuse intolerance by suggesting that “it’s OK because they do something worse in their countries”. There are all manner of atrocities carried out in the name of Christianity. There have been many more carried out in the name of ideologies that have no religious connection. None of this behaviour should be allowed to deflect attention from what happens here.

In the UK, and indeed in any part of the free world, peaceable debate and the ability to enjoy freedom of speech should not be conditional on a person’s religious or political beliefs. Nor should those beliefs be used as an excuse to indulge in hate speech, threats, bullying and intimidation. Mehdi Hasan, and any other follower of The Prophet, must be allowed to say and write as they think fit.

So when he asks “who’s with me”, well, I am. So there.

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