Yet More Tabloid Islamophobia, the Peter Hill Article, by Steven Rose

Are British Muslims receiving preferential treatment in education and finance? That was the conclusion of Daily Express columnist Peter Hill. But do any of his grievances ring true? In short, they do not. The first point of contention focuses on exams and Ramadan.

“The latest nonsense is a plan to bring forward school exams so they don’t clash with the Muslim period of Ramadan. There is an alternative proposal to give extra marks or special consideration to Muslims who have to sit exams during Ramadan.

Both the Daily Mail and Telegraph covered this alternative proposal. But at this point, change remains speculative.

In higher education, some universities do not recognise Ramadan as a legitimate extenuating circumstance. But many will consider amending exam timetables with enough notice. Again, this is not just for the benefit of Muslims.

For example, Jewish students at Oxford can request to change exam dates when observing the Jewish Sabbath. Students observing Ramadan can request to sit exams in the morning.

Like Halal meat and Sharia law, these alarmist stories are cyclical. In 2010, the Daily Mail ran the headline, “Council forces schools to rearrange exams and cancel lessons to avoid offending Muslims during Ramadan.” The Daily Star ran the headline, “Headteachers told to stop sex education lessons during Ramadan.” Yet, there was no evidence of Stoke-on-Trent Council forcing anything upon schools with their guidance.

Peter Hill’s next point of contention is Sharia law.

“The Government also wants to start a sharia-compliant student loans system to get around the Islamic ban on charging interest.

This might mean Muslim students pay back less than others. Solicitors have also decided to work with sharia law and courts and councils spend millions on translation.

But as the government consultation on Sharia-compliant loans states:

“Any such alternative finance product would not result in a student being in any way disadvantaged or advantaged over a student who took out a traditional student loan.”

The guidance drafted for Sharia-compliant wills is non-binding. Mr Hill also implies that the £140m a year spent by public bodies on translation services is for the sole benefit of Muslims.

Islam is not a mono-ethnic faith. But this conflation positions British Muslims as a ‘foreign’ (non-white) element. It also ignores the variety of secondary languages spoken in Britain.

Peter Hill soon turns his focus abroad.

“I wonder if Muslim countries go out of their way to cater for other faiths. Actually, I don’t wonder.

They think “unbelievers” don’t even belong to the human race.

Again, that point is not true. In Iran, Christians hold two seats in parliament while other religious minorities (Zoroastrians, Jews and Assyrians) have one representative in parliament. Jordan also reserves some parliamentary seats for Christians. In Pakistan, the National Assembly reserves ten seats for non-Muslims. At a parliamentary level at least, religious minorities do exist in the above countries, yet much more needs to be done to ensure minority rights and organisations like Faith Matters are actively pushing for countries like Pakistan to ensure the minority rights of Christians, Shia and Ahmaddiya’s through projects such as the Connecting Communities project. The examples given therefore do not take away from the fact that much more work needs to take place to ensure minority faiths in these countries though what it shows is that Mr Hill is factually wrong in the glib assertion that he has made that in Muslim countries ‘unbelievers do not even belong to the human race.’

Perhaps most disturbing of all, is Peter Hill’s final paragraph:

“Those who don’t like the set-up should either make their own arrangements – there are plenty of Muslim banks and financial institutions here – or move to somewhere they feel more comfortable.

That rhetoric once again positions British Muslims as the ‘other.’ It also denigrates the many Muslims who feel more proud to be British and who value this country and all that it stands for, whilst being proud Muslims. Sadly, Mr Hill’s article get’s a thumbs down from us and we hope from those who see a better future for communities in our country through less isolation and alienation and through more engagement, co-operation and understanding.

Richard Benson & Peter Tatchell Demonstrate Mainstreaming – Fiyaz Mughal

“The recent announcements of Richard Benson and Peter Tatchell to the array of patrons associated with TELL MAMA show that we believe that the mainstreaming of this work is essential by involving specialists and campaigners from other communities.

Let me start off by saying that we are truly humbled and honoured to work with the ex-CEO of the Community Security Trust (CST), Richard Benson, who spent 12 years of his life working and leading CST to become the leading agency in tackling hate crime in the UK. The primary role of CST is to tackle antisemitism and to ensure the safety and security of synagogues in the UK, yet they have excelled into becoming the leading agency on hate crime as I have suggested. Furthermore, Richard brings with him experience and a business like approach to this work which will add to the skills and abilities that my team and I have. I warmly welcome that and believe that it will add to our work and ensure that a sustainable base for this work is built.

It is also interesting to note that a small number within Muslim communities link CST to Israel and then use that as a means to caricature the leadership base of TELL MAMA. We are clear. CST’s work on hate crime has been groundbreaking and if organisations in Muslim communities had developed such groundbreaking work, we would have invited them to be part of us. Sadly, there has been a gaping vacuum in this work in Muslim communities which we stepped into and where we have created what we hope is a national project that includes rather than excludes. This is our underlying ethos in TELL MAMA – that any form of intolerance and bigotry goes against our core collective values. With Richard at the helm with me, with a co-Chair from Muslim communities, we will make significant headway in mainstreaming this work and I personally am honoured that Richard has made this decision. He did not have to, but he has again, stepped forward to assist other communities and this reflects his strong desire to ensure that communities live free form fear.

This brings us onto our invitation for Peter to be a part of us as a patron. I have made my position clear in this article. Peter has been an ardent campaigner of human rights focusing on LGBTQ rights and it is important to provide some context. He is a human rights campaigner and we have noticed how a handful of individuals, some purporting to be Muslims, have been suggesting that Peter linked Islam to Nazism in a 1994 campaign. He did not and individuals who do link Islam with Nazism, more than likely have an agenda to alienate and isolate out Muslims in Europe and are more fascistic in their nature by alienating others. In 1994, Peter campaigned with a placard that was targeted at a Hizb-ut-Tahrir conference which targeted a range of communities, including LGBTQ communities as being obscene etc and the placard also made that clear though his detractors want to miss that out. Peter was therefore campaigning outside that HT conference and we are proud of working with a man who sees alliances between Muslims and LGBTQ communities as the way ahead. We are also proud of working with a group that we have immense respect for, Imaan.

The way forward is one where our partners and us develop a stronger, robust and more mainstream Islamophobic hate crime monitoring platform which we will continue to push forward with. If people do not like our mainstreaming approach, I have only one think to say. Muslim communities do not live in isolation – we depend on, interact with, value, discuss and learn from other communities. That is at the core of Islam  – education.”

Statement by the Director of TELL MAMA – Fiyaz Mughal OBE

11 Facts About Anti-Muslim Prejudice You May Not Know

10 Points About Anti-Muslim Hate

Featured in the infographic are Pavlo Lapshyn, the West Midlands terrorist and the doyennes of the ‘Counter-Jihad’ anti-Muslim business which yields them millions of dollars in campaigning funds, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Both Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer are barred from entering the UK and lost their appeal to overturn the Home Secretary’s decision to ban them from entry. Both Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were halted by groups such as Hope Not Hate and TELL MAMA on the basis of their anti-Muslim prejudice. Good riddance and the United Kingdom is in a better place without Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer.

The Luton on Sunday ‘Shuffle’ and Impacts on anti-Muslim hate

The recent dissociation of the Luton on Sunday paper in connection to a 2 page advertisement from the Ahmaddiya community throws up a lot of issues and concerns for our work. More on the incident can be found here.

The concerns for our work are simple, though before we go into them, we want to raise a couple of basic fundamentals that are facts.

- The Ahmaddiya community is a law abiding, socially active and highly driven set of communities and they are usually involved in donating and supporting good causes up and down the breath of our country. For example, recently in Manchester, the Ahmaddiya community raised over £240,000 which was distributed to local Muslim and non-Muslim charities. This in one city alone.

- The Ahmaddiya community has been persecuted by law in Pakistan and is looked down upon because they are regarded by many in Muslim communities as heretical. Yet, some Muslims do not see this division, but most, very sadly, do.

- This means that discrimination, albeit subtle, is present against this community and if this is reported to us, we would log it under the TELL MAMA project as anti-Muslim in nature if the victim perceived it and there was evidence to corroborate this. If someone therefore regards themselves as Muslim and feels that they are discriminated against because of their Islamic faith, then we will record the incident. (However, this does not necessarily mean that it will feature in the 6 monthly and annual reports that we produce since cross verification of data needs to take place, with one element being whether it is anti-Muslim in nature).

So what dilemma does this throw up? Well, the first is the decision for Luton on Sunday to distance itself after a group of ‘community leaders’ met with them, means that the Ahmaddiya community feel that they are, subtly, being discriminated against. It also brings to the forefront divisions and fractures within Muslim communities in Luton, which are dealt with by taking open and public positions on them. (No doubt some within Muslim communities in Luton feel that the Ahmaddiya strategy may be to proselytise to their fellow Muslims through the newspaper article.)

After careful consideration of the Luton on Sunday incident, our position is as follows. Intra-Muslim hate incidents will be logged by us though we reserve the right to publish or not publish them in our six monthly and annual reports. However, they will be logged if reported in and the victim provided with care and due attention. Furthermore, the term ‘cohesion’ has been bandied around for over a decade and tens of millions of pounds of public investment has been put in to ensure that community cohesion is implemented at local levels. This is why, actions like those taken by Luton on Sunday do not only throw up strong feelings of being discriminated against within Ahmaddiya communities, they also serve to re-enforce divisions. We think that this is unhelpful, though we also note that some within Muslim communities will never change their positions on perceived ‘heretical’ groups. Last but not least, we believe that Luton has had its fair share of problems in the past. Deciding who is and who is not a Muslim, should be the least of its worries.

THE INCONTROVERTIBLE FACTS ABOUT ANTI-MUSLIM HATRED SINCE WOOLWICH – RESPONSE BY FIYAZ MUGHAL

Two years on from our birth and the problems of anti-Muslim hatred are, unfortunately, still with us: part of a legacy arising from the senseless murder of Lee Rigby by two deluded fanatics in May last year.

Speaking during a constant round of (48) media appearances in the immediate aftermath of the Rigby murder, I said in one interview that we had faced a “wave of attacks”. In the interviews we also repeatedly asked for calm, urged the public to report in hate incidents and stated that the United Kingdom was one of the safest places in Europe to be. The last thing we needed, was a further instigation of what was then, a very fast moving and sensitive environment with the English Defence League and its sympathisers looking for further confrontations.

Some asked: ‘How can you claim there is an unprecedented cycle of attacks, if your project is only a year old?’ Others told us that: ‘Most of these incidents were online, so they don’t really count’. Others suggested that we were not telling the truth and that Muslims lie to achieve the spread of Islam with a heavy dose of the prejudicial term ‘taqiyya’ thrown in.

Well, dont just take our word for it here are 10 incontrovertible facts about anti-Muslim hatred:

  1. In December, the Press Association revealed that UK anti-Muslim hate crime ‘soars’ across police forces in England & Wales, with 500 “Islamophobic crimes” recorded by the MET police alone (the figures could be much higher: nearly half of the 43 forces failed to reveal how many hate crimes had targeted Muslims).
  2. The MET Police figures remain stubbornly high – up +60% year-on-year (to February 2014) – and which have increased every month since Woolwich, not just in its immediate aftermath,
  3. We have recorded more than 1,000 cases ourselves since May 2013, which includes both online and offline incidents,
  4. There have been at least 35 attacks against mosques since Woolwich,
  5. Ukrainian neo-Nazi Pavlo Lapshyn let off bombs outside three mosques in the West Midlands during June and July 2013, motivated by “racial and religious hatred” according to his trial judge. Lapshyn also murdered 82-year-old grandfather, Mohammed Saleem, in April 2013, stabbing him in the back and stamping on his head,
  6. Two ex-soldiers who firebombed a mosque four days after the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby were recently jailed for six years.
  7. Arsonists burned down a mosque in Muswell Hill, North London, in June 2013 and attempted to burn down an Islamic school in Chislehurst with the pupils still inside, leading the MET Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Commander Simon Letchford to speak of an “eightfold” increase in Islamophobic attacks & leading to 24-hour protection for key Islamic sites
  8. The far-right EDL grew to over 150,000 Facebook ‘likes’ following Woolwich, starting a mini-riot the night of the killing and with supporters writing social media statements such as – “get as many of the rag-head dogs as yous can lads!! much support and best wishes from ulster.. NO SURRENDER!! Kill any muslim u see!!!! – cause carnage on them mother fuckers!!!!!!!!!!! Several EDL sympathisers were jailed after calling for attacks against mosques
  9. Policing EDL street demonstrations has cost the country more than £10m.
  10. There is serious under-reporting of hate crimes – evidence from the British Crime Survey (2009/10; 2010/11) suggests that over 50 per cent of hate crime incidents go unreported and “therefore the majority of victims suffer in silence”

We have three staff working full-time and flat out chronicling incidents and attempting to provide support for victims. We take little joy from the fact that anti-Muslim hate needs tackling and we take little joy from the fact that the murder of Lee Rigby led to serious issues around cohesion in our country. If there was one thing that we have worked towards, it is trying to get Muslims to take control when they are subjected to anti-Muslim hate and to demonstrate to them that they are part of the mainstream and that there are ways to seek redress rather than building on a sense of grievances.

Our work has ensured that TELL MAMA and myself have been attacked from all angles: by far-right activists, by Muslim haters, by hostile voices even within the Muslim community itself.

When we appointed both gay rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, and prominent Jewish leader, Richard Benson, as patron and co-chair respectively, we received further opprobrium from those who said that Muslims can’t unite with the LGBT community, that homosexuality is unacceptable or that Muslims must oppose ‘Zionists’.

We have also been attacked by some in the media, who claim we have exaggerated our claims. We simply don’t accept that analysis and we realize that more work needs to be done to develop the platform of work on anti-Muslim prejudice, yet we have always striven to document the facts and reduce conjecture, whilst caught within finite resources and covering the whole country.

We are, and have been, on a journey. Not an easy one at that. We are making progress: we now have academic verification of our work from analysts at Teesside University, for example, and we have worked with experts at Birmingham University to produce reports on the impact of anti-Muslim incidents upon women. We have further reports in the pipeline.

Let us not downplay the very real fear and harm generated by anti-Muslim hatred, whether it be on social media or in the streets. And let all those who ‘hate hatred’ unite with us to fight for a better Britain – for all our communities.

The ‘Only Muslim in the Village’ – Little Britain anti-Extremism Campaigners

Yes, we come across these ‘campaigners’ quite regularly. You know, the type that scream out on Twitter about Islamist extremism, (which needs to be tackled and challenged), whilst then making out that they are campaigners against all forms of extremism. Yet, we are still to see a single comment from these all encompassing campaigners on tackling anti-Muslim hate and rhetoric which they do not to seem to notice, or choose not to.

Part of the reason may be that some of these campaigners are linked to, campaign with, or give credence and cover to some of the well resourced groups who promote anti-Muslim hate and prejudice. These groups, in turn, attempt to deflect any criticism of them by pointing to the ‘only Muslim in the village’ whom they are linked to and who no doubt, is palatable to only them.

Real counter-extremism work means taking no sides in this work whether tackling faith based or Far Right extremism. Yet, the ‘only Muslim in the village’ has some interesting friends, some of whom seek to undermine work in anti-Muslim prejudice and who seek to promote the farcical narrative that there are no others to work with in Muslim communities, hence back to promoting the ‘only Muslim in the village.’ A clever self re-enforcing strategy, it is ultimately doomed to failure and it makes the assumption that the general public cannot see through Houdini’s smoke and mirrors.

Take this sketch from Little Britain which reflects such a position. In spite of many working against and tackling all forms of extremism, the ‘only Muslim in the village’ ardently disregards others and believes that they are always right at the expense of other’s opinions and others working in the same area. Pompous, arrogant, ill-informed and blighted by arrogance, all they seem to hear is their own voice, though mention tackling anti-Muslim prejudice and all becomes quiet on the Western Front, (and no Islamophobes, there is no Jihad take over of the West as you may well read or twist this statement to suit your ideology).

You see, the ‘only Muslim in the village’ has made some interesting friends in national newspapers who foam when they hear about anti-Muslim hate or Islamophobia. So, to appease them, or to keep their friendships in place, it is a case of see no evil and hear no evil when anti-Muslim hate is clearly evident. Scarily, it is these same journalists in national newspapers who believe that anti-Muslim bigotry does not exist or is made up to ‘promote Jihad through stealth,’ (sound crazy – it is – though some journalists actually believe this nonsense). So the ‘only Muslim in the village’ deflects, ducks, plays to audiences and makes out that being the ‘only Muslim in the village’ is a task that is so difficult that people show bow to the new shape-shifting Messiah with the chutzpah of Merlin the magician.

So next time you see the ‘only Muslim in the village’ do ask him about his views on anti-Muslim hate, why he, (and it is mainly a he), chooses to say nothing on the matter and why the village no longer buys into their empty messages. If nothing else, the village is no longer a village and is now a town, with more Muslims and more voices. So to the ‘only Muslim in the village,’ drop your rattle, it simply does not work any more.

Boycott Divestment Sanctions Anti-Muslim Backlash in King’s College (Guy’s) Campus

Muslim signs at the Guy’s campus of King’s College London have been defaced, seemingly after a BDS motion was accepted. A signpost to a ‘Muslim’ prayer room was defaced in one incident and further details of the incidents can be found here.

A statement from the King’s College Jewish Society issued quickly after the incident stated:

“Over the past couple of days, several of the signs towards Muslim prayer rooms  on Guy’s campus have been defaced. This blatantly Islamophobic behaviour is absolutely disgusting and will not be tolerated on our campus.

The Jewish Society condemns all form of Islamophobia and racism. King’s should be a place where students of all faiths feel free to openly practice their religion without fear or persecution. These actions directly contravene this principle.

We hope that the university authorities will deal with these actions swiftly and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

We warmly welcome the statements from the King’s College Jewish Society and re-iterate that any form of prejudice will not and should not be tolerated on campus. We stand with Jewish students in their campaigns against anti-Semitism and we also want to add that whilst Israel and Palestine are topics that do lead to disagreements and which sometimes lead to heated debates, no student should feel fear or the threat of harm on campus. Our young people, (and we mean this in the collective sense of all young people), are our future.

EDL Girls & Muslims; Less ‘Girls’ and More About Angry Women With Few Opportunities, By Aniqah Choudhary

Cosying up to the Far Right Fascists

There have been several programmes aired that have been similar to the ‘EDL Girls’ documentary recently produced for BBC 3. The Far Right seems to be a constant ‘go to’ for TV networks. Channel 4 ran their ‘Proud and Prejudiced’ documentary on the EDL (English Defence League) and their ‘Young Angry and White’ documentary on the BNP (British National Party). Then there was the ‘BNP Wives‘ on Sky 1 and since their formation, the BNP have had six documentaries made about the Group and their activities.

In these documentaries Muslims are always talked about but rarely alloAniqah Choudharywed to speak for themselves and EDL Girls was no exception. The programme followed three female members of the EDL, whilst mostly focusing on Gail, the founder of the EDL “Angels”. It also included a new 18-year-old recruit and a young woman brought up in a family of EDL supporters.

When I first started watching the documentary I was bracing myself for the usual rants about “the Muslim threat” since this seems to be the favourite topic of the Far Right today, just as antisemitism was the favourite topic and weapon of the Blackshirts in the 1930s. What I wasn’t expecting was the biased nature of the documentary itself.

The Fashionistas of Fascism

I first noticed it when EDL marches were accompanied by Indie rock music which attempts to plaster a fashionable image on what, after all, was a bunch of white supremacists swearing and abusing a section of the British public. So much for the fashionista veneer of cool whilst barking abuse at law-abiding and peaceful members of the public going about their daily activities.

The sub-header to the show, “Don’t Call Me Racist,” was disturbingly similar to a documentary on mental illnesses which BBC 3 ran recently called “Don’t Call Me Crazy.” However, there were no similarities that I could see in being stigmatised because of an illness you didn’t choose and being criticised for joining a movement which promotes racism, intolerance, bigotry and hatred.

Furthermore, the choice of words the voice-over used were uncomfortably biased too. Describing the EDL’s motives, the voice-over spoke of the rise in the Muslim population and explained that the EDL “taps into the concern of what they see on their streets,” and has “fair concerns over Muslim extremism.”

The emphasis on the number of Muslims and the use of language around demographics was probably chilling to the listener and helped to erase the much understated fact that these streets are OUR streets too.

The Far Right is a favourite topic of documentary makers. What is less documented are the anti-fascist groups across Britain that stand up to them. Anti-fascists made a brief appearance in this documentary but only in shots of them being held back by police to somber music or when anti-fascist campaigners were escorted out of a pub the EDL were meeting in before a march. “It’s clear,” the voice-over commented, “that they don’t belong (here).”

Whilst some may disagree with the actions of anti-fascist campaigners, vilifying them and making them out to be individuals without motives, morals or backgrounds, but merely an aggressive throng of people, also showed a certain bias in the documentary.

EDL ‘Angels’ – Fallen from the Heavens

A good portion of the documentary was focused on EDL Angels founder Gail and her court case against two Asian men she accused of beating her up. The jury subsequently went on to find them not guilty. This was the only violence that the show connected to EDL sympathisers albeit as a victim of a crime, yet no mention was made of the damage to property, places of worship, community relations, local economies affected by EDL marches and the hate and intolerance stirred up by sympathisers of this group. The perception given to the viewer was that it was EDL members who were targeted by Asians, which is far from the truth, even though violence and intimidation has taken place against small numbers of EDL members. The reality is that EDL marches and ‘get-togethers’ have been arenas in which some of the worst neolithic and basal types of behaviour, prejudice and intolerance have been shown  by EDL sympathisers.

The documentary therefore did not say a single word about the effects the EDL has had on local communities by holding marches which promoted virulent anti-Muslim hate and racism leading to EDL graffiti being daubed on the properties of Asian and ‘Muslim looking’ residents. The documentary also did not mention documented footage of the EDL chanting “burn a mosque down,” or the many violent attacks against Black and Asian people by EDL supporters and the vandalism of their houses, shops, cars, mosques and temples. It also failed to interview a single Person of Colour for their views on EDL demonstrations or the enormous local fear they generated. Despite a great deal of the program being dedicated to the “threat” of British Muslims, only one Muslim voice was heard talking to an EDL demonstrator.

Cheap Shot

The documentary left many people like me feeling that it was a cheap shot at confirming extremist views promoted by people who were clearly radicalised. It also may have confirmed a ‘them and us’ mentality where Asians were framed in a pathological fashion, as people who may have been involved in violent actions against women. In effect, the documentary pressed all the wrong buttons.

We have given enough oxygen to those who incite racial and religious hatred in Britain. EDL Girls brought nothing new to the table. Judging by this documentary, news of the demise of BBC 3 will not bring a tear to my eye. If the Channel cannot catch the curve of the viewing habits of the British public, then the last thing they should resort to is sensationalist and biased reporting. It wasn’t so much EDL Girls as angry radicalised women with few opportunities. Get it right BBC 3!

Labour MP, Barry Sheerman Wants An Investigation into How Prevalent Sharia Law Is. (By Steven Rose).

No, the heading is not an April Fool’s joke! Calls for a Parliamentary enquiry into Sharia Law have been made by the Member of Parliament for Huddersfield, Barry Sheerman MP.

The latest furore over an impeding Sharia-driven takeover of the legal profession was unfounded. Whilst issues of discrimination (of any sort) should be treated with the utmost seriousness, there is a danger of this debate losing all proportion.

But how prevalent is Sharia law in this country? For Labour MP, Barry Sherman, only a joint investigation by the Commons Justice and Home Affairs Committee will reveal the truth.

However, that may not be the most forward thinking solution. Cooler heads must prevail. After all, like the religion it derives from, the principle of Sharia is not monolithic. It is open to a variety of interpretations. The non-binding advice drafted for solicitors only covers the Sunni interpretation.

Not only that, any Sharia-complaint will must fall within the remit of English law. As pointed out by IBB Solicitors, “The new advice says that clients in England and Wales can legally choose to bequeath their assets according to Sharia, providing that the will is signed in accordance with the requirements set out in the Wills Act 1837.”

So there is no surrender to Sharia, as it will work within an established framework of English law.

As Nicholas Fluck, President of the Law Society, pointed out, “We live in a diverse multi-faith, multicultural society. The Law Society responded to requests from its members for guidance on how to help clients asking for wills that distribute their assets in accordance with Sharia practice.

Our practice note focuses on how to do that, where it is allowed under English law

For the English Defence League (EDL), this story created a new wave of conspiracy and racism.

“Ugly bearded monkeys take the piss out of our laws because our government is weak and useless.”

“The Muslim takeover is slowly happening in America, but there’s one difference. We’re armed to the teeth.”

“Are we creeping to total control by these people or creeping to civil unrest and civil war / revolution….or will there be a seismic political shift and the people “WE” elect carry out the will of the majority???”

If a debate is required, let us focus on fact and not conjecture. For too often, whether the issue is Halal meat or Sharia law, sensationalist reporting muddies the water of sensible debate.

EDL comments, anti-Muslim in natureEDL2, anti-Muslim rhetoric

Creeping Sharia law Through the Law Society? No, Just Bad Journalism; Article by Steven Rose

The Telegraph’s alarmist reporting once again puts Sharia law in the spotlight. An utterance of this phrase guarantees a level of indignation in some corners. But in this context, is such indignation justified?

In short, it is not. A careful reading of the story demolishes the headline, “Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs.” Yes, the Law Society drafted guidance for solicitors on this issue, but it remains just that, guidance (nor legal advice.)

As it states:

“Practice notes are issued by the Law Society for the use and benefit of its members. They represent the Law Society’s view of good practice in a particular area. They are not intended to be the only standard of good practice that solicitors can follow. You are not required to follow them, but doing so will make it easier to account to oversight bodies for your actions.

Practice notes are not legal advice, nor do they necessarily provide a defence to complaints of misconduct or of inadequate professional service. While care has been taken to ensure that they are accurate, up to date and useful, the Law Society will not accept any legal liability in relation to them.”

So for the Telegraph to claim that Islamic law is “effectively enshrined” in the British legal system is a dangerous falsehood. An accompanying editorial lambasted the practice as ‘anti-women’ and incompatible with British values of fairness and decency.

Rather interestingly, it goes on to assert that the British legal system “has its roots in Judaeo-Christian morality.” This othering of Islam positions it as incompatible with Britain, which is deeply Islamophobic and exclusionary to the millions of British Muslims who peacefully observe their faith.

Other newspapers repeat this falsehood, the Daily Mail claimed, “Sharia Law to be enshrined in British legal system,” as the Express labelled the development ‘deeply disturbing.’

Both Baroness Cox (who invited Geert Wilders to the UK) and the National Secular Society are quoted heavily and oppose the measure. Nicholas Fluck, president of the Law Society, is directly quoted near the bottom of the Mail article but such quotes are notably absent in the Metro, Express, Telegraph, and ITV.

When context is substituted for sensationalism, the story takes on a life of its own across various social media platforms. The original Telegraph piece has over 10,000 shares on Facebook alone. In comparison, both the Mail and Metro articles received thousands of shares.

Poor journalism helps reinvigorate the far-right and other Islamophobic groups as it provides evidence to support their anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.

For Fiyaz Mughal, of TELL MAMA, more care is needed when reporting such stories: “the accuracy of reporting rather than spin is fundamental to ensuring that the facts are provided to members of the public. We all value a free and fair press who have a right to probe into areas of public interest. What we don’t want is reporting that is inaccurate, driven by journalists trying to find facts to fit their pre-conceived notions on faith communities, stories that are not only inaccurate, but sometimes just untrue and which play on the fears of people. All that does it to further re-enforce Far Right extremist positions and isolate Muslim communities as a whole who are caricatured as some malign block of people intent on Islamicising Britain. That is far from the truth.”