I was going to put up a post about how the papers had been a bit quiet lately and I had been a bit too busy to have seen anything nasty. But today (21 February) the Express comes through with one of the most objectionable, hateful pieces of dishonesty and outright lying I have seen in recent times on its front page, so I'm saved the bother.
'Muslims tell us how to run our schools' says the headline of the paper version. Not entirely true, but not as bad as the headline of the online version: 'Muslims: 'Ban' un-islamic schools'.
The paper version of the headline is interesting for its formulation. The use of the words 'us' and 'our' instantly frame the debate by excluding Mulsims from the category of 'us', as if Muslims should have no say in how schools that Muslims go to are run, or what happens in them. The online version is interesting because it's composed of a couple of big, fat lies.
First of all, the word 'ban' is more than a little misleading. I don't just mean that the word 'ban' doesn't appear in the text of the report the Express is referring to ('Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools') this time. That would be bad enough. I mean that the report doesn't make any reference anywhere to any consequences for any schools that do not follow the MCB's guidelines. It just isn't mentioned. The report is a set of best practice guidelines for schools in the treatment of Muslim pupils. That's all.
Secondly, the term 'un-islamic schools' is misleading. It gives the completely false impression that Muslims have called for non-Muslim schools to be banned, leaving only Muslim schools behind. The report makes no mention of un-islamic schools. Plus, as I said before, says nothing about what should happen to schools that don't follow its guidelines. That's one huge false impression to be making, on so many levels. The headline, yet again, bears no relation to reality in any way.
The usual tactic of the tabloids - the Express, especially - is to tell a big old fib in the headline, but mention somewhere in the article something resembling the truth, as discussed in 'Withdrawn!' The paper doesn't do that here. It just lies and lies and lies.
The picture in the online version is great. You may recognise it as the one the Sun used to bully Shabnam Mughal - but at least the Sun were actially talking about veils. This just seems to be used as a stock 'scary Muslim' picture here. That's going to help relations.
Back to the blatant lying, which carries on in the opening paragraph:
DEMANDS for a ban on “un-Islamic” activities in schools will be set out by the Muslim Council of Britain today.Like I said, the document does not include the word 'ban' anywhere - nor does it ask for these things to be stopped completely, but for Muslim pupils to be excused from participating.
Targets include playground games, swimming lessons, school plays, parents’ evenings and even vaccinations.
I was going to go through the report point by point to show what it actually said about the things the paper has listed, but I stumbled at the first hurdle. See, the report says nothing about playground games. The word 'playground' doesn't even get mentioned. It does mention physical education, and it does mention 'games', meaning the curriculum subject. But 'playground games' means something quite different, and would mean playtime activities to most readers. The paper is deliberately creating a false impression.
Still, soldiering on, here's what the report says about swimming lessons:
Schools should make every effort to provide a single-sex environment for swimming and allow Muslim children to wear swimwear that complies with the requirements of modesty and decency according to the teachings of Islam. Some schools have been able to meet these requirements in providing an appropriate single-gender environment and also allowing girls to wear full leotards and leggings in the pool. Provided these guidelines are adhered to, there should be no reason why Muslim children should be withdrawn from swimming lessons.You might not like this - I don't much, to tell the truth - but it's not the same as saying swimming should be banned is it? Not at all.
If schools are unable to make arrangements for a single-sex environment for swimming, then Muslim pupils should have the option to be excused from swimming on religious grounds. Parents should be encouraged to take advantage of single-sex arrangements that some swimming pools offer outside school hours, where their children can go and learn to swim.
Next, school plays:
Dramas, plays and artistic works for Muslim pupils are encouraged for educational purposes. However, parents may have reservations regarding participation in theatrical plays or acting that involves physical contact between males and females, the encouragement of gender role-reversal (girls dressing as boys and vice-versa) or performing in a manner that may encourage sexual feelings. Physical contact with someone of the opposite sex, to whom one could be legally married, is to be avoided as this is not considered acceptable according to Islamic social norms. Schools should avoid placing Muslim pupils in situations where they may feel uncomfortable and believe they are having to compromise their religious moral norms.Again, I don't like this much. But it does not say that school plays should be banned, or even changed. Just that Muslim children should be given the option of not participating.
Muslim pupils should not be expected to participate in drama or musical presentations associated with celebrating aspects of other religions, such as nativity plays or Diwali, as some of these are likely to involve playing roles which are considered to be inconsistent with Islamic beliefs and teachings.
Next, parents' evenings:
During Ramadan, the evenings can be a very busy period for Muslim families, particularly if the breaking of the fast (Iftar) falls in the early evening. Furthermore, some adults will spend their time observing additional religious activities, like the special evening prayers (Taraweeh) at the mosque. This may make it difficult for parents to attend meetings or other functions in the evening during the month of Ramadan. The scheduling of parent evenings before or after the month of Ramadan would be appreciated by parents and is likely to ensure better attendance.How much more mild is that las sentence than calling for a ban? I'd find it difficult to write a more polite request.
And lastly, vaccinations:
No oral medication can be taken by a person who is fasting. Anyone needing regular medication during fasting hours is normally exempt from fasting in any case. Medication can be taken once the fast has ended. Medical injections can be taken by a person who is fasting, although not those injections that influence body nutrition. Guidance should be sought from local Muslim organisations on specific issues if necessary. During emergencies, where a child’s wellbeing is at risk, medicine should be administered. Routine vaccinations should be scheduled for other times of the year.Notice the lack of the 'ban' word.
And that's it. No bans. Not a one. A few requests for accommodation or exemptions for Muslim pupils for some things, and requests not to schedule other things during Ramadan and that's it. Keep that in mind when you read the next sentence:
And the calls for all children to be taught in Taliban-style conditions will be launched with the help of a senior Government education adviser.You read that right. 'Taliban-style'. Never mind that 'Taliban-style' would exclude girls altogether - does anyone honestly believe that the Taliban's style would be to say, 'The scheduling of parent evenings before or after the month of Ramadan would be appreciated by parents and is likely to ensure better attendance,'? If you do, you're a fucking idiot.
Professor Tim Brighouse, chief adviser to London schools, was due to attend the event at the capital’s biggest mosque.
The next sentence is also a lie, and I suspect part of the tabloid technique of asking a public figure what they think of something they've just made up. It says:
His presence there was seen as “deeply worrying”, and a sign that the report was backed by the Government.But it seems to be referring to Greg Hands' comment that it was 'very' worrying. I'm ashamed to say that Greg Hands is my MP. Twat. But anyway - it's not clear whether he's responding to the real report or the Express' fantasy version involving the Taliban and bans. After that, Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society demonstrates why I, as a massive atheist and secularist, would never entertain the idea of joining the National Secular Society. Still, it's not easy to see if he's responding to the real report or the made up version.
And the cavalcade of utter, utter bullshit continues:
The report, Towards Greater Understanding – Meeting The Needs of Muslim Pupils In State Schools, says all schools should bring in effective bans for all pupils on “un-Islamic activities” like dance classes.The report uses the term 'un-islamic' once, and never uses the term 'un-islamic activities'. To put this phrase in quotes is to lie about the report's content. And the paper says the document calls for a ban on dancing. It actually says:
Whilst Muslims have no wish to constrain the freedom of others, they would urge schools to organise and manage physical education so that pupils can choose other acceptable forms of activity, for example, athletics, games, gymnastics, outdoor and adventurous activities and swimming within the curriculum.Where's the demand for a ban? There's a request for things to be treated in a certain way, and then a request to allow Muslim pupils to not participate, but no calls for anything to be banned. Again.
If the above is not possible, parental requests for children to be excused from dance should be treated as an issue of religious conscience and respected accordingly.
It also wants to limit certain activities during Ramadan. They include science lessons dealing with sex, parents’ evenings, exams and immunisation programmes.We know that there are polite requests to not schedule some things in Ramadan, but swimming during Ramadan is treated like this in the report:
The holy month – when eating and drinking is not allowed in daylight hours – should also see a ban on swimming lessons in case pupils swallow water in the pool.
In general, participation in swimming is an acceptable activity whilst fasting. However, for many pupils this activity may prove to be an issue, as the potential for swallowing water is very high. Some pupils or parents consider the risk too great and may wish to avoid swimming whilst fasting. Others may take the view that as swallowing is unintentional it does not break the fast.I'm going to say it again for form's sake - nothing about a ban. There's even acknowledgement that generally, swimming during Ramadan is fine. In certain cases schools should 'try to avoid' it, but nowhere does it say that the practice should be banned.
Schools with a significant number of Muslim pupils should try to avoid scheduling swimming lessons during Ramadan to remove unnecessary barriers to full participation.
When swimming is allowed, boys should wear clothing covering their bodies “from the navel to the neck”, even during single-sex pool sessions [...]This is an enormous, fat, pustulating lie. The report says that, 'In public boys should always be covered between the navel and knee'. Navel and neck? Fucking hell. This cobblers is repeated in both the paper and online versions of the article. It then goes on to mention how girls should be covered except the face and hands. The important thing, though, is that this section of the report is only explaining what the rules on modesty are. It does not say anything at all about what non-Muslims should wear. The paper gives the impression that Muslims have demanded that all children be dressed in this way. It doesn't even claim that all Muslims must be forced to dress like this.
The MCB adds that schools should ensure contact sports, including football and basketball, “are always in single-gender groups”.This is what the report really says:
Some sports involve physical contact with other team players, for example basketball and football. Most Muslim parents would find it objectionable for boys and girls to play such sports in mixedgender groups. Schools can respond positively to this concern by making sure that contact sports are always in single-gender groups.Not the same is it? It's just not. 'Should' and 'can' have completely different meanings. This is why I never trust a partial quotation in any paper. Ever.
And the beat goes on:
Even school trips are targeted in the report, which wants them all to be made single-sex “to encourage greater participation from Muslim pupils”.The report really says:
Class outings for educational purposes should not generally pose any problems for Muslim pupils and their parents. Parents should be made aware of the objectives and purpose of the trip. Care should be taken when planning the event to ensure that Muslim pupils’ needs, especially dietary and prayer requirements, are taken into account.So, even though the report does mention making residential trips single-sex, we can see very clearly that the report does not want all trips to be single-sex. The paper is lying. Again. The report does say this, regarding residential trips:
When organising overnight trips involving Muslim pupils, mixed-gender groups should be avoided. This will encourage greater participation, particularly from Muslim girls, as Muslim parents will be more willing to send their children if they are assured that the Islamic requirements of modesty and morality will not be compromised.Different again, isn't it. Never trust a partial quote. Ever.
It wants Arabic language classes for Muslim pupils, and says the Koran should be recited in music classes. And all schools should ensure they have prayer rooms with washing facilities attached, it says.Lie. It says:
Schools should consider giving Muslim pupils the opportunity to study Arabic and/or other languages relevant to their family background.And:
Particularly in schools with a large number of Muslim pupils, the music curriculum provides opportunities for cultural inclusion. For example, there are opportunities to explore or study the art of Qur’anic recitation and composing and singing of nasheeds.The last bit, about prayer rooms, is the biggest lie here. The report doesn't once mention prayer rooms. At all. The paper has told yet another whopper. The report actually says:
In accommodating prayer requirements, schools need to allow pupils to use an appropriate classroom or area for the purpose of prayer.There's sod all there about providing a special prayer room. Only that an appropriate area or classroom should be used. It's also worth pointing out that the report also says that the prayer times during winter will fall during break times so the children don't miss any education and nobody would have their lessons disturbed, but the paper ignores this. As for washing facilities - what's so special about requiring washing facilities? They have to be provided by law anyway. The report says absolutely nothing at all about 'prayer rooms with washing facilities attached' - just that pupils need access to washing facilities. The paper's just lied again.
In art classes, Muslim children should not be allowed to draw people, as this is forbidden under some interpretations of Islamic law.Lie. Big, fat, hairy, stinking lie. The report says:
In Islam the creation of three dimensional figurative imagery of humans is generally regarded as unacceptable because of the risk of idolatress [sic] practices and some pupils and parents may raise objections to this.There are a couple of problems - the most obvious is that a drawing is not a three dimensional representation. The report says fuck all about drawing people. But the other point is that the report does not say that 'Muslim children should not be allowed' to do anything here. It says 'some parents may raise objections', and 'the school should avoid encouraging pupils'. This article gets worse and worse and worse.
And while the MCB insists that all British children should learn about Islam, it wants Muslims to have the right to withdraw their children from RE lessons dealing with Christianity and other faiths.Notice the old technique of opposing 'Muslim' with 'British', as if Muslims are not and cannot be British. And this sentence is, yet again, incredibly misleading. The report recommends that schools teach about Islam, and points out that there is already a statutory right for parents to withdraw their children from Religious Education, which must be respected. It's not calling for any right that isn't already there. The paper, though, gives the impression that somehow the MCB report wants non-Muslims to not be allowed to withdraw their children from lessons about Islam, which is not the case.
The rest of the article is just nonsense about MCB and some organisations that don't like the report. Meh. Until it ends with a loaded question for a phone vote which goes 'Should Muslims tell us how to run our schools?' As those of us who have read the report can tell you, they don't do that anyway.
The main difference between the paper and online versions of the article crops up at this point. In the paper, this article appears next to one about Lord Ahmed of Rotheram moaning about veils, but in the online version, that artciles tacked on the end of this one because the paper is so desparate to link to something sort of positive about Muslims so it can pretend to be unprejudiced. It's funny that the best it can do is to speak favourably about a Muslim because he's criticising other Muslims, but that's as close as this filthy rag will ever come. Oh, and there's a big extra headline on page two of the paper version that says 'We must fight demands from Muslim leaders' just before it asks whether Muslims should tell us how to run our schools. Which is not designed to influence anyone's vote in any way, of course.
I've made comments before about papers not behaving in a way that suggests they want their readers to know the truth, but this article really takes the biscuit. If you're a secularist like me, there's plenty in the report to object to. If you're an intolerant, fat-headed goon, there'd be even more. But you wouldn't have to fucking lie about it.