Urban myths and Muslim bus drivers praying

Here at Five Chinese Crackers, I'm quite big on how Urban Myths can spread, and how witnesses to an event can interpret what's going on in completely the wrong way because of the existence of Urban Myths they might have heard that will affect their judgement. I've mentioned this sort of thing a few times before in connection with eastern Europeans eating swans and Muslims wanting to ban things like piggy banks, but there's a new example that's emerged in the last week.

I thought something might be fishy when I saw 'Get off my bus, I need to pray' in the Sun last week. Having pictures or even video of a Muslim bus driver praying on his bus does not prove that the driver made his passengers get off so he could pray.

Via Islamophobia Watch, we can have a look at this article from the Slough and Windsor Observer, 'Bosses defend Muslim who stopped the 81 bus to pray', which explains:
London United Busways say they have carried out a full investigation after driver Arunas Raulynaitis rolled out his prayer mat to perform his daily prayers, facing Mecca on the number 81 bus in Langley.

Bosses have analysed evidence, including CCTV footage, and say the driver was actually on his 10-minute break when the incident took place at around 1.30pm on Thursday.

They added that the control room had in fact radioed Mr Raulynaitis to terminate the bus outside Langley Fire Station in London Road because it was running late due to road works. Passengers were asked to leave the vehicle while they waited for another bus to pick them up to complete their journey.

Steffan Evans, spokesman for London United Busways, said: “The bus was delayed and by the time it had reached Langley the next bus on the route had caught up.

“At this point the bus service controller decided that in order to maintain the frequency of the buses he would curtail the late bus, and therefore instructed the driver to transfer his passengers in order that they could continue their journey without any further delay.”

But a 21-year-old passenger – who was hoping to join the bus before it terminated – told the Observer: “People were fuming because they said the driver had asked them to leave so he could pray.

“Most people ended up waiting for 15 minutes and weren’t happy. I was late for work so I got a lift with my friend. But it was a hassle I didn’t need.”

So, the driver was told to stop the bus because it was behind schedule, and he decided to pray at that point because it was time for him to take his break. Not really worth reporting in a national newspaper. Unless you make dodgy assumptions about the guy's motives.

It's exactly this sort of story that led the passengers on the bus to believe that the driver had told them to get off so he could pray. If you're primed to think a particular group are arrogant and prone to demanding other people bend to their whims to accommodate their needs, you're far more likely to conclude that anything a member of that group does that you don't like has been done for that reason.

Think about it. It's already unlikely that a bus driver would stop a bus so he could pray, and it's even less likely that he would chuck everybody off his bus while he did it. How likely is it that he would be allowed to stop the bus and terminate the whole journey so he could do it? What would possibly give you the idea that he had that kind of power? Articles like this one in the Sun and the one quoted above - which still gives the impression he stopped the bus to pray in the headline.

The miniscule number of Political Correctness Gone Mad stories that turn out to have a grain of truth in them are almost all influenced by this sort of reporting too. A while ago, a children's book about pigs wasn't shortlisted for an award, in part because Muslims wouldn't like stories about pigs. Of course, that's rubbish, but why would anyone think Muslims would be offended by stories about piggy characters in the first place? Because of stories like this one. And why would anyone think that a bus driver terminating a journey because he's been told to and then praying because it's his break has actually thrown everyone off so he could pray? Because of stories like this one.

And on and on and on...


septicisle said...

Thanks for following this up. I posted on the Sun's article a couple of weeks back: http://www.septicisle.info/2008/03/saying-your-prayers.html

The "clash of civilisations" crowd is already out on the comments on the Observer article.

Andrew Bartlett said...

The Observer story has obviously made its way onto a US hate site such as Little Green Footballs - only one of the comments on that article is from a commentator in the UK.

PC Plastic Fuzz said...

You make a good point. You can always rely on the Sun.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

I love the whole idea that the bus company are lying because they're so scared of the Muslims.

I mean, come on. What's more likely?

Jakester said...

No it sounds like you are a victim of a lame excuse offered by the bus company. If the bus is late, why would they stop and make them get off so they would be not only be later but inconvenienced by being ejected into the elements to board another bus. THe bus shoudl make it's whole run cause it has to turn around at some point and repeat his route, so stopping him would make future passengers late too. At very least, our praying Muslim bus driver should have let them wait on board till the catch up bus came. But I am inclined to believe it was all an excuse conjured up by some feeble politically correct bus spokesman so bleeding hearts like you could rush and excuse more Muslim misbehavior like you always do.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Ah. So now we have a Muslim bus driver chucking passengers off his bus so he can pray and a conspiracy involving the bus company lying to cover it up for some reason. Why would thy do that?

As for why the bus company would cancel a late running service - they do it all the time, as well as cutting a service short and make it terminate at a much earlier main stop. I've been on late running buses that have been terminated and have to get the one behind myself. It's not that strange.

"At very least, our praying Muslim bus driver should have let them wait on board till the catch up bus came."

I've also been on buses that have broken down, and I've never been allowed to stay on the bus.

"But I am inclined to believe it was all an excuse conjured up by some feeble politically correct bus spokesman so bleeding hearts like you could rush and excuse more Muslim misbehavior like you always do."

Why? Show your reasoning now.