A recent Daily Star “exclusive” is correct to highlight discriminatory “to rent” adverts but other elements of the story remain problematic.
The headline: “EXCLUSIVE: Fury over ‘Muslim only’ rental advert” is undermined paragraphs later by references to adverts that specify “Asian only” and “preferably Eastern European.”
Not only that, the sub-heading, “HOMES are being illegally advertised for rent to “Muslims only” yards from where soldier Lee Rigby was killed,” blurs the lines between individual guilt and collective responsibility.
Why should it matter if a Muslim decides to rent near the scene of that horrific murder? A murder widely condemned by a great majority of British Muslims. That sentence will only appeal to those who believe in collective responsibility for the crimes of Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. It also sounds strangely reminiscent of those who barked that Muslims should not be building a cultural centre to be used by Muslims in the Park 51 furore. The suggestion was that people would be offended by a ‘mosque’ near the Twin Towers.
Later in the piece, it claims that property sites, (namely Gumtree), host hundreds of discriminatory adverts that favour Muslims. But caution is needed when viewing that figure in isolation.
On Gumtree, properties that specify Muslim in the “to rent” category total 51, but just under half are individuals looking for somewhere to rent. In the “to share” category, there are 218 listings, and 27 of these adverts include individuals looking to rent. A breakdown of the figures further demonstrates that some are repeat adverts as others date back to February. So it is fair to assume that either demand is not met or some rooms were successfully rented (but not removed from the site).
Yet, Gumtree’s rules are clear:
“13) Is it lawful to advertise accommodation for a particular gender, age group, sexual orientation or religion?
Landlords and letting agents are not allowed to state any preference on race, religion, sexuality, gender, disability, etc. This is not allowed on Gumtree.
Housemates are allowed to state a preference (excluding race) but need to explain why. If an ad says ‘Muslim Only’ or ‘Women Only’ then it will not be allowed on Gumtree. If an ad states ‘Muslim preferred – we are a Halal household’ then this is fine, as they’ve stated their preference and offered a justification.”
According to the Daily Star article, this type of discrimination fuels a “ghetto culture” in towns and cities, which could help the far-right. To further this evidence-free claim, a screenshot of one advert is included with the caption, “GHETTOS: It is feared this adverts will create ghetto culture.”
Due to a glaring oversight, the telephone number in the screenshot remains visible, and the English Defence League (EDL) were quick to notice, posting to their Facebook wall, “Anyone interested can ring the number supplied on the advert.”
Within a few hours, some of the comments from supporters went beyond simple offence:
“Let them all rent in the same place. Then blow it up.”
“Cant rent them with a petrol bomb thrown through a window!”
“Fence the fucka off with the filth inside like the polish ghettos & starve the fvckas by making them self-sufficient, no dole. Let them kill & eat each other.”
It is perfectly understandable that some individuals would prefer to live with a person that shares cultural or religious ties, but a balance is needed when placing “to rent” adverts, as many are likely unaware of their breach of equality legislation.
Websites like Gumtree should do a better job of enforcing their own anti-discriminatory policies (but that is not always possible).
Otherwise, the anti-Muslim echo chamber will fill with fresh whispers of a two-tier system that benefits Muslims, as sensationalistic journalism potentially helps fuel this perception.