During her stint as political editor of the Sunday Express, Julia Hartley Dooda penned an article titled “Don’t draw a veil over free speech”. This was back in October 2006, but the framing of the argument will be familiar to anyone conversant with today’s far-right: equate Muslim women covering their heads with freedom to speak out. Claiming that “we aren’t allowed to talk about it”, except of course she was doing.
Last Friday, she confirmed “Yep, in 2006 I wrote that in a column about free speech. Here is the full article. Happy to stand by it today … Bugger all to do with today’s horrific terror attack on a mosque”. Except it had everything to do with the irrational hatred that has built up towards Muslims. Consider some of the low-level bigotry on show.
“I’m bored with Muslims. Bored with being told what I can and cannot say about Islam … the professional Muslim complaints brigade … the rest of us are just tired of having Islam thrust in our faces day in, day out … [The Muslim population] is just three per cent of the country. Yet these days we seem to spend 90 per cent of our time worrying whether or not they are offended about the latest innocuous remark about their religion”.
This is where it starts ...
The message is clear: we can say what we like about Muslims, and they have to suck it up. Ms Hartley Dooda would not have even thought about saying this about Jews. And that’s the comparison she should be making: this is where anti-Semitism came from, the idea that it was OK to say anything about Jews, and they should just accept it.
We know where anti-Semitism led, and still, sadly, leads. We also know where Islamophobia leads, after Friday’s mass shooting in Christchurch. And we know that the far-right is becoming emboldened here in the UK, as evidenced by an incident at the weekend in Stanwell, Surrey. The BBC report shows what happened.
... from pundits who still think it's nothing to get fussed over ...
“Counter terror police are investigating a suspected far-right inspired attack in which a 19-year-old man was stabbed. The victim suffered non-fatal injuries after being struck by a man armed with a baseball bat and knife and shouting racist abuse in Stanwell, Surrey. The man, 50, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and a racially-aggravated public order offence”. So far, so prosaic, but the eye-witness testimony is disturbing.
One told “He started saying some crazy things about Muslims and just shut the window and went inside … I’m a Muslim and I got a little bit worried”. Another recalled “He was shouting 'kill a Muslim' and 'white supremacy', and then I went inside and I heard a load of banging”. That second eye-witness also told “He's polite, he always says hello to me”.
... and it ends with this thug recycling 1930s Nazi propaganda
A neighbour who says hello to you. Like so many of us know. Just an ordinary person who seems to have flipped. Why? Well, it’s not as if there is any shortage of anti-Muslim comment in the press. And that can be traced back to the likes of Julia Hartley Dooda and her pals telling Muslims to shut up and stop complaining, because it’s only innocuous comment. They’re just moaning, it’s only a bit of fun, innit?
Then it just goes beyond just a bit of fun, but hey, what are they moaning about? And so on, and so forth, until we get all-out hatred and the Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh asking “What shall we do about The Muslim Problem?” The normalisation and ramping up of hate speech finds its predictable end point. But it’s not the press’ fault, honestly.
Enjoy your visit to Zelo Street? You can help this truly independent blog carry on talking truth to power, while retaining its sense of humour, by adding to its Just Giving page at