19/07/2010

When someone might be Asian but you're not sure

A Reading man, George Herridge, has apparently been the victim of hostile reactions to his guide dog.

The local paper, in 'Blind passenger hounded off bus because of his dog' told early last month of four occasions in which people have overreacted to the sight of his dog.




At one point it explains:

He is unsure what has provoked outbursts but said he thinks some have come from Asian people and that it may be due to religious or cultural differences.
So, he thinks that some of these confrontations involved Asians, but he can't be sure. The paper goes on to explain:
If the people who were upset were Muslim, they consider dogs to be ritually unclean.
If they were Muslim, this might explain why they didn't like the dog. We're taling about reactions from a couple in Asda, a woman at the hospital and two mothers with children on the bus.

The Mail has picked up on this speculative story about a man who thinks some people may have been Asian, so may have been Muslim, but is unsure. The headline?

'Muslim bus drivers refuse to let guide dogs on board'

Eh? The original story doesn't seem to suggest the bus drivers were Muslim. They were dealing with a situation where other people had a problem with the dog. And how can 'he is unsure what has provoked outbursts but said he thinks some have come from Asian people' become a definite 'Muslim bus drivers'? And where did the plural 'guide dogs' come from?

In any case, the headline is quickly withdrawn in the opening sentence, which says:
Blind passengers are being ordered off buses or refused taxi rides because Muslim drivers or passengers object to their 'unclean' guide dogs.
This sentence ingeniously introduces cab drivers, so it could be about cab drivers and bus passengers. An excellent way of withdrawing a headline, I think you'll agree.

The plural apparently comes from:
Yesterday both the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the National Federation of the Blind confirmed the problem was common, and, according to the latter organisation was 'getting worse'.
Ah, two organisations have said 'the problem' is getting worse. But what problem?

There is no quote from Guide Dogs for the Blind. Not a word, which is odd. From the National Federation of the Blind spokesperson comes this:
Jill Allen-King, spokesman for the NFB, said she had been repeatedly left on the kerb by Muslim taxi drivers who refused to take her dog.

One cab driver told her he would have to 'go home now and wash myself' when she tried to enter his car with her dog.
Cab drivers both times, not bus drivers. The Mail can quote nobody saying that there is a problem with Muslim bus drivers, let alone that the problem of bus drivers is 'getting worse'.

In the third paragraph, the story says:
The problem to carry guide dogs on religious grounds has become so widespread that the matter was raised in the House of Lords last week...
See the claim? Specifically says 'guide dogs' right?

Here's the Hansard entry for the House of Lords Written Answers on 13 July. The question from Lord Monson is:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether bus drivers can prevent would-be passengers with well-behaved dogs from boarding on the ground that one or more individuals on the bus may object to dogs on cultural or religious grounds.[HL936]
No mention of guide dogs in th question, and no evidence that the question has been asked because the problem is'widespread'. It may have been asked in response to the original article on getreading. Also, the question is about objections from people on the bus. Not drivers, which would make sense if it was in response to the original article that doesn't mention drivers being Muslim.

Back to the story of the man who couldn't be sure, but some of the people who had a problem with his dog might have been Asian, and we find:
On the first occasion two years ago, he got off at the request of a Muslim driver because some Muslim children on board were 'screaming' because of the dog.

He found himself in a similar scenario in May last year, when a Muslim woman and her children became 'hysterical'. Mr Herridge this time refused the driver's request to alight.
They're all Muslims! Definitely Muslims!

As you'd expect, the Express has also picked this up, and given it the headline 'MUSLIM BUS DRIVERS’ BAN ON GUIDE DOGS'. It's illustrated with a stock photo of a guide dog, above the caption 'Muslim bus drivers consider guide dogs to be ‘unclean''.

The Express coverage minimises the case of George Herridge in favour of this quote, which directly contradicts earlier coveraget:
I was coming home on the bus and there were some Muslim children screaming
I am sceptical, since everything else in the Express coverage appears in the Mail, and this sentence very strongly resembles a sentence in the Mail that is not attributed to Mr Herridge.

Well, I say everything else comes from the Mail but that's not strictly true. Remember Jill Allen-Kiing only mentioned taxi drivers in the Mail coverage? The Express inserts:
She has had similar problems with Muslim bus drivers.
Yes, the Express. I'm sure she did.

**UPDATE** I've put up a version of this post at MailWatch.  It includes a statememnt from Gude Dogs and some slightly clearer thinking.

7 comments:

Ray said...

This story is either completely wrong or (if we assume that it is, for once, accurate) the Muslims portrayed in the story are wrong.

As I understand it, and please note that I am not a Muslim, a guide dog is not unclean. Working dogs are fine under Islam.

From Koran 5:4:
They ask thee (O Muhammad) what is made lawful for them. Say: (all) good things are made lawful for you. And those beasts and birds of prey which ye have trained as hounds are trained, ye teach them that which Allah taught you; so eat of that which they catch for you and mention Allah's name upon it, and observe your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is swift to take account.

Again, as I understand it, the misconception comes from the Hadiths of Muhamed, where he said taht dogs are unclean. However, he also points out that caring for animals - even dogs - is a good thing.

With all that said, I suspect that this is yet another stick that the Mail and Express are using to beat the Muslims. Truth is no longer important to newspapers.

ACG said...

re: ray

i remember the issue of working dogs and muslims came up a few years ago. i think then it was in realtion to sniffer dogs at airports and stations. the thing i remember specifically, was the debunking.

we'll see it again in a few moew years probably.

Dave said...

The story's all so fluffy and vague... not trying to be mean, but isn't the thing with this guy that he's, y'know blind?

Five Chinese Crackers said...

I've had a closer look, and the story has cleverly avoided describing the driver in the most recent story as Muslim. You know, the one where the bus company has reprimanded him so he can be identified.

So it looks as though the paper has a story with one person who might possibly be Muslims (but probably isn't from the context of the original story).

The lack of corroboration leading to mentions of cab drivers instead is a fantastic bit of smoke and mirrors.

atomicspin said...

"Yesterday both the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and the National Federation of the Blind confirmed the problem was common, and, according to the latter organisation was 'getting worse'."

It's a classic bit of misdirection that, in that they don't say what the problem is exactly. Is Muslims bus drivers forcing blind people off buses common (unlikely, since this is the first article I've seen about it), or drivers in general banning guide dogs?

I'm guessing it's the latter, but the Mail is twisting the context to make it sound like they mean the former.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

What car crash journalism, half-thought out ideas and none-truths mixed with hearsay.

They must be proud s they peddle their bigotry.

Mrs Grimble said...

Of course, the fact that some cab drivers will refuse to carry dogs because they have an allergy to dog hair - or because they're concerned about carrying passengers with such an allergy - simply doesn't cross these peoples' minds.
If you don't like dogs, then you MUST be a Muslim.