Remember that Saturday evening at the Olympic stadium? First Greg Rutherford, then Jessica Ennis, and finally Mo Farah brought triumph for Team GB. It seemed that, as commentators explained that Mo was short for Mohamed, and that Farah, born in Somalia, was a follower of The Prophet, we were finally able to think of Muslims as people, rather than a cipher to be demonised.
Sadly, it seems, Farah has had his fifteen minutes: in the aftermath of the hostage taking at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria, it is back to casting Muslims as the bad guys, getting frightened about Them being Over Here, and paranoid visions of the new order in countries like Egypt visiting terror and maybe genocide on the weak and defenceless west.
And this cheap and nasty frightener is coming from the Fourth Estate’s best known pincer movement, the Murdoch Sun and the Daily Mail acting in concert. Going in to bat for these two bastions of moderation and tolerance are obedient Rupe conduit Trevor Kavanagh, and Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips, which tells you all you need to know about the content.
These two seasoned purveyors of prejudice each work their chosen strand: Kavanagh has recycled the McCarthy-era “reds under the bed” concept into Muslims Over Here And In Our Midst. We must be frightened of blokes with beards who fail to dutifully go down the pub and get wasted. And they pray a lot more than they should. Plus those funny hats are a dead giveaway.
Mad Mel, on the other hand, chooses the broader canvas of geopolitical analysis, or rather she would if only she could stick to keeping her brain engaged and not going off on a jibbering rantfest as soon as anyone mentions the Arab Spring or Barack Obama. The Algerian business, she asserts, is not some mere isolated incident, but “a war of religion being conducted against the free world in order to destroy it”.
Sadly for Mel, Jason Burke at the deeply subversive Guardian is there to puncture her overinflated balloon: the “Islamist threat” was non-existent at the Olympic Games and the US Presidential Election. Local populations have turned against exploiters of the al-Qaeda franchise when they realise that the participants are just “thugs, criminals and fanatics pursuing interests that had nothing in common with their own”.
Rob Ford at the Staggers also weighs in to dismantle Kavanagh’s paranoia-inducing rubbish, especially the sheer dishonesty about the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (allegedly “staunchly Muslim” because around a third of the population are followers of The Prophet). As Ford points out, whatever Muslim populations do is wrong and shows some kind of evil intent in the eyes of the Sun.
But what can’t be corrected here is the returning torrent of Islamophobia. Sadly.