The not at all right-slanted line-up of “The Commentators Who Count” on yesterday’s edition of the BBC Sunday Politics featured the Sun’s non-bullying political editor Tom Newton Dunn, token liberal Dawn Foster, and for some reason Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips, for whom controversy is never far away.
Maybe not totally fair and balanced
Ms Phillips proceeded to tell viewers that Islamophobia was merely a term used to close down legitimate criticism and debate, a view which remains unappreciated by many who fail to be swayed by the finer points of her argument, probably because there aren’t any.
After she had her say, Carole Collins responded “Rather a disgusting comment by @MelanieLatest , on @daily_politics suggesting, in fact stating, that Islamophobia doesn't exist! I think there needs to be questions asked of this woman”. Mel wasn’t letting that one pass. “I said in terms that prejudice against Muslims Sikhs Hindus etc exists but Islamiphobia is a term invented to silence legitimate discussion. I think questions need to be asked of this woman why she misrepresented my words”.
But there was no misrepresentation, with Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain coming to the same conclusion and telling “Thank you @DawnHFoster for standing up to Melanie Phillips' disgusting semantic excuses for #Islamophobia on @daily_politics. People use the same excuse for anti-semitism and it is appalling in both cases”.
That comment brought in Labour MP Wes Streeting, a forthright critic of the his party leadership on the issue of tackling anti-Semitism, but someone who realises the dangers of selective response to racism. “Swap Melanie Phillips’ use of the word Islamophobia with antisemitism and vice versa and what you get is every antisemites’ excuse for Jew-hatred. Neither are acceptable. She should be ashamed”. Quite.
The response by Ms Phillips was all that the most discerning rant connoisseur could have expected. “By moral obtuseness in failing to grasp that antisemitism is based on paranoid and demonic lies while Islamophobia is itself a lie, instead equating the two, this Labour MP shows why his party is incapable of ridding itself of its scourge of Jew-hatred. Shame on him”. Logic leaps and calling your opponent a thicko. Real class.
So let me put Melanie Phillips straight on this. Wes Streeting is right, and so is Miqdaad Versi. To illustrate this, we need look no further than the infamous article by the Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh from last August, which concluded with this deeply sinister comment: “One day soon … we will be back in charge of immigration. What will we do about The Muslim Problem then?”. 1930s Third Reich language, with one change.
Kavanagh, riding not necessarily to Ms Phillips' rescue
That change was to transform “The Jewish Problem” into “The Muslim Problem”. The first example is viciously anti-Semitic. The second, despite Melanie Phillips’ semantic wriggling and logic leaps, is not a mere device for shutting down debate. It is equally vicious, except that, instead of being anti-Semitic, it is Islamophobic in nature.
There are no lies, demonic or otherwise, about that. Both examples are totally unacceptable. Melanie Phillips has demonstrated that she is an apologist for selective racism. Another Murdoch pundit caught bang to rights. And that’s not good enough.