Mark Steel on the media’s made-up Muslim stories

The attacks indured by Muslims in the UK are no laughing matter – and the extent of such violence and intimidation has been highlighted by the conservative journalist Peter Oborne, who links it to sensationalist (and usually false) media reportage of Muslims.

The reason the tabloid press is full of made-up stories about the Muslim community? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need legitimising and by linking a domestic threat of terrorism to a foreign war of occupation, opposition to these unpopular wars can be diluted. In the seventies and eighties it was the Irish, now it is the Muslims.

Here’s Mark’s hilarious Indie column in full:

Wife-beating? That’s fine – unless you’re a Muslim

The Sun newspaper has come over a bit modest. Following a Channel 4 documentary about media reporting of Muslims, the paper accepts some of its stories were “distorted”. But they’re not doing themselves justice. They weren’t distorted – they were entirely made up. For example, a story about a Muslim bus driver who ordered his passengers off the bus so he could pray was pure fabrication.

But if reporters are allowed to make up what they like, that one should be disciplined for displaying a shocking lack of imagination. He could have continued, “The driver has now won a case at the Court of Human Rights that his bus route should be altered so it only goes east. This means the 37A from Sutton Coldfield will no longer stop at Selly Oak library, but go the wrong way up a one-way street and carry on to Mecca. Local depot manager Stan Tubworth said, ‘I suggested he only take it as far as Athens but he threatened a Jihad, and a holy war is just the sort of thing that could put a service like the Selly Oak Clipper out of business’.”

Then there was a story about “Muslim thugs” in Windsor who attacked a house used by soldiers, except it was another invention. But with this tale the reporter still claims it’s true, despite a complete absence of evidence, because, “The police are too politically correct to admit it.” This must be the solution to all unsolved crimes. With Jack the Ripper it’s obvious – he was facing the East End of London, his victims were infidels and he’d have access to a burqua which would give him vital camouflage in the smog. But do the pro-Muslim police even bother to investigate? Of course not, because it’s just “Allah Allah Allah” down at the stations these days.

Maybe Muslim newspapers should retaliate by publishing their own made-up stories. So it will be reported that “Barmy PC teachers in Leicester have banned children from playing Noughts and Crosses, claiming the cross reminds Church of England kiddies of the suffering undertaken by Lord Jesus. A spokesman for the Board of Education said, ‘We have to be sensitive. Which is why we’ve replaced the game with ‘Noughts and Hexagons’. We did look into calling it ‘Noughts and Crowns of Thorns’ but decided Hexagons was more appropriate.”

Or, “Doctors have been told that patients are no longer to be referred to as ‘stable’, as this is offensive to followers of Jesus, who was said to have been born in one. So medical staff have been informed they must use an alternative word, or if they can’t think of one just let the patient die.”

The most common justification for ridiculing Islam is that the religion is “backward”, particularly towards women, as a fundamental part of its beliefs. The Sun’s old political editor suggests this as a defence of his newspaper’s stance, saying that under Islam, “women are treated as chattels”. And it’s true that religious scriptures can command this, such as the insistence that, “a man may sell his daughter as a slave, but she will not be freed at the end of six years as men are.” Except that comes from the Bible – Exodus, Chapter 21, verse 7.

The Bible is packed with justifications for slavery, including killing your slaves. So presumably the Sun, along with others who regard Islam as a threat to our civilisation, will soon be campaigning against “Sunday Schools of Hate” where children as young as seven are taught to read this grisly book. And next Easter they’ll report how, “I saw a small child smile with glee as he opened a Cadbury’s egg filled with chocolate buttons. But behind his grin I couldn’t help but wonder whether he wanted to turn me into a pillar of salt, then maybe sprinkle me on his menacing confectionary treat.”

In his defence of making stuff up, the Sun’s ex-political editor spoke about the amount of domestic violence suffered by Muslim women. But there’s just as much chance of suffering domestic violence if you’re not a Muslim, as one of the 10 million such incidents a year that take place in Britain. Presumably the anti-Islam lobby would say, “Ah yes, but those other ones involve secular wife-beating, which is not founded on archaic religious customs, but rational reasoning such as not letting him watch the snooker.”

And finally the Sun’s man defends the line of his paper by saying that, after all, these Muslims “are trying to bomb our country”. So it’s their civic duty to make stuff up – the same as keeping a look-out for spies during the Second World War.

So we should all do our bit, and every day send in something, until the press is full of stories like “Muslims in Darlington have been raising money for semtex by organising panda fights.” Or “In Bradford all nurseries have been ordered to convert their dolls’ houses into miniature mosques so that Muslim teddies have somewhere to pray.”

Is Gordon Brown living in the past, or on another planet?

Let them waste less food and go without rights, says Brown.

What century is this man living in?

He’s flying off to a G8 summit in Japan, but he can’t help lecturing us about the food we throw away before stuffing his face with a six course meal.

He’s denied all along that his police state “anti-terror” measures are eroding our rights, but admits that there are rights taken by previous governments that have not yet been returned.

From yesterday’s Morning Star:

Living in the past
(Monday 07 July 2008)

GORDON Brown apparently believes that successful governments are those that do not hark back to the past.

So why does he hark back to the industrial relations regime imposed by Margaret Thatcher in the anti-union 1980s rather than supporting the kind of basic trade union rights that almost every other developed capitalist country regards as normal?

Why is he hooked on the tradition begun by Mrs Thatcher and continued by John Major and Tony Blair whereby Britain is singled out by the International Labour Organisation as being in breach of ILO conventions?

Sound bites such as “combining fairness and flexibility” are meaningless waffle that serve to camouflage new Labour’s subservience to big business.

Trade unions have been patient with new Labour, far too patient, as it has demeaned Britain’s 6.5 million trade unionists, sought to weaken the unions’ link with the party they founded and flaunted its preference for big business and wealthy individuals.

While individual Labour Party membership has plummeted, contributing to a financial crisis, new Labour’s rich fair-weather friends have done a runner now that they can no longer expect knighthoods and House of Lords seats for their largess.

No less than 90 per cent of the party’s finance now comes from Britain’s trade unionists.

Given that the Prime Minister is effectively a dead man walking, just one more lousy election result away from the sack, why should the unions put up with his arrogant disdain.

From the earliest days of Bernie Ecclestone’s £1 million donation coinciding with the government’s watering down of its ban on tobacco advertising on TV, big business has received a return on its investments in Labour.

In contrast, the trade unions have continued to fork out cash for little or nothing in return.

As one prominent leader put it, “We give cash to Labour to secure a Labour government not to buy policies.”

This differentiation between the industrial and parliamentary wings of the labour movement is understandable except in a context where the party’s internal democracy has been suspended, with conference denied the right to take policy decisions and delegates serving only to provide ego-boosting standing ovations for the leadership.

Labour is sleepwalking to electoral oblivion and yet the only response is for unnamed prominent people to suggest that loss of Glasgow East would mean a challenge to Gordon Brown’s leadership.

The situation is too important for such personality games. What improvement would there be if he were replaced by Charles Clarke, Alan Johnson, Alan Milburn or any other of his partners in crime?

The fault lies not with individuals. It lies with new Labour’s entire neoliberal approach, which is undermining the NHS and all public services and driving down living standards for working people, pensioners and the poor.

That approach has to be changed or Labour will go down to be replaced by a Tory-led government that will be, if anything, worse.

However, to expect Labour’s lost voters to return solely on the basis of claims that the Tories will be worse would be futile.

The unions have to force a change in government policies or look for an alternative political vehicle.

And today’s Morning Star editorial points out that the popularity of the nationalists in Wales and Scotland is because of their commitment to the public services:

Lessons on health care
(Tuesday 08 July 2008)

DOES the Prime Minister ever stop to wonder why the Scottish National Party government in Holyrood and the Labour-Plaid Cymru coalition in the National Assembly of Wales constantly outflank it to the left on health issues?

Scottish Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to take action to prevent notorious US health privateers taking over GP surgeries did not arise out of a doctrinaire hostility to the private sector.

SNP willingness to take the Brian Souter shilling, or, more accurately, about 10 million of them, and to drop its commitment to public ownership of Scotland’s rail services indicates a certain political flexibility.

The SNP is engaged on a strategy of seeking to use the early years of its minority administration in Holyrood to broaden its appeal, to win over many left-of-centre voters who traditionally vote Labour and to use this greater constituency to win an independence referendum in 2010.

Like the coalition in Cardiff Bay, it is aware that a non-commercial attitude to the health service is popular with the public.

In Wales, the cancellation of prescription charges and the abolition of car parking charges in hospitals, which served as a tax on the sick and their families, have proved extremely popular.

And the stock of impressive Welsh Health and Social Services Minister Edwina Hart has never been higher by virtue of her principled refusal to countenance the internal market nonsense that has become an article of faith for members of Gordon Brown’s Cabinet.

Despite the disapproval of Westminster Welsh MPs and of erstwhile colonial governor Peter Hain, both Welsh Labour AMs and their sometimes difficult allies in Plaid have stuck to their guns.

Why? Because voters understand that public is better than private when it comes to health care.

They know that health privateers owe priority to their shareholders’ dividends, whereas the NHS ethos is based on care and service, paid for out of the public purse.

Every pound paid out to a United Health shareholder is one pound less to be invested in better care and services. It’s not rocket science.

Voters understand it, but it seems beyond the superbrains of the Labour Cabinet who, bizarrely, equate private with efficient.

It seems inexplicable that a Labour government would seek to learn lessons from the example offered by the US.

Yes, they spend more money on health in the States than anywhere else and they have some of the most modern, state-of-the-art facilities in the world.

Well, that’s not surprising. It’s the richest country in the world, but having the largest health budget doesn’t mean having the most efficient or comprehensive.

They spend most because their health-care model is based on private insurance, encouraging high and ever-rising costs of surgery and bloated bureaucracy, to meet the needs of corporate shareholders.

There is nothing efficient about a health-care system that omits 50 million citizens, who are sidelined because they have no valid insurance.
The US ought to be the last country to which a Labour government looks to learn lessons.

In fact, given new Labour’s obsession with the mythical land of middle England, perhaps it might be better placed to look to Wales and Scotland for brighter examples of rational health care.