'Debunking the 'Islamisation' myth' could have debunked other myths, too

Edmund Standing has produced a report, 'Debunking the 'Islamisation' myth', which is well worth a look.

Now, I might have problems with some areas of the report (like cousin intermarriage and congenital birth defects, and perhaps the overall tone) but I won't be going into those here. Of more interest to this blog is section headlined 'The myth of Muslim power in Britain is largely fuelled by sensationalist and inaccurate media reports'.

This section includes some sterling examples of the press over-reporting extremists, and a subsection headed 'Inaccurate coverage of Islam-related stories creates a false impression of Muslim power in Britain', which is great. It says:
In many cases, media scare stories about Muslims and ‘Islamisation’ turn out on closer investigation to be either entirely bogus or based on misrepresentation too blatant to be accidental.
Spot on. Examples abound, mostly taken from the excellent Tabloid Watch.

It's a shame then, that Standing includes a section subheaded 'The myth of Muslim power in Britain is also fuelled by the actions of patronising politically correct white liberals'. Oh, those politically correct white liberals. They've been at it again. The section ends:
Such ‘banning’ stories are not evidence of Muslim power in Britain, nor of ‘Islamisation’, but rather of the bizarre mentality of some on the liberal-Left.
What happened to the scepticism of the press evident in the earlier subsection?

As those poor buggers among you who are regular readers of this blog will know, 'banning' stories are probably as likely to "turn out on closer investigation to be either entirely bogus or based on misrepresentation too blatant to be accidental" as scare stories about 'Islamisation'.

There are four articles used as examples in the report, going as far back as 2003. I've covered two on this blog.

Christmas was never ‘banned in Oxford by a council-owned charity’, as I said in 2008. In fact, the council issued a statement, saying:
"Oxford City Council has not 'banned Christmas' and has not banned the use of the word 'Christmas'. The Council has not even considered doing either of these.

"Oxford City Council will celebrate Christmas 2008 in the same way as it has celebrated all previous Christmases: we will have Christmas trees in the Town Hall and in Broad Street, the Lord Mayor will host a Christmas reception for community workers and will hold the annual Christmas Carols event, and we will be sending out Christmas cards.
Plus, as Christmas approached, 'Christmas' was mentioned several times on the websites of both the council and the charity that had apparently banned the use of the word.

A hospital manager never banned hot cross buns in 2007. Patients at the hospital got their hot cross buns. They just got them on Easter Sunday because, the hospital claimed, the catering manager hadn't ordered them in time for Good Friday. The Express story linked to from the report includes a quote that says (in the article's final sentence, natch):
“It was nothing to do with religious beliefs, (the catering manager) just didn’t order them. It was an oversight not a ban.”
I haven't covered the report's two other examples before, since they're from before this blog existed.  But they're not much better.

Strangely, as the opening example of how, "In many cases, such ‘banning’ stories turn out to have nothing to do with Muslim ‘demands’ and everything to do with the paranoia of white liberals, who presume to know what ‘Muslims’ think and want," Standing includes an article from Spiked in 2005 headlined 'Who killed Christmas?'. The article opens with examples that make it look as though Christmas is being banned, but later says:
Dig a little deeper, though, and it transpires that nobody is banning Christmas. A spokesperson for Havant Borough Council denies that its Festival of Lights had anything to do with avoiding offence. 'The word "Christmas" was never dropped from the celebration. [...]

Meanwhile, Lambeth's naming of its Christmas lights was the decision of one junior staff member, rather than council policy[...]The term 'celebrity lights' isn't plastered over the district - it was mentioned in a small advert in an issue of Lambeth Life. Indeed, Brixton Town Hall bears a banner saying 'Lambeth Council wishes you all a happy Christmas'.

It seems that the defenders of Christmas are fighting phantom enemies. [...]
The final story linked to is one of the very few stories about a ban I've come across that seems genuine. In 2003, a primary school really did ban reference to pigs in lessons for under sevens. This may well be a stupid decision by this one headteacher seven years ago, but as the Guardian's coverage at the time pointed out, the head was reacting to attitudes of parents of children at her school.

Standing includes a quote from the Sun's coverage of Inayat Bunglawala saying there's nothing wrong with stories about pigs, but the Guardian includes a more extended quote, saying:
"It is understandable, but this is a misconception about Islam which is often encountered back in Pakistan and India too.

"The headteacher has acted sensitively, because there are parents and families who believe that portraying the pig in books is wrong. But there is absolutely no scriptural authority for this view. It is a misunderstanding of the Koranic instruction that Muslims may not eat pork."
This is a very different quote than the Sun's, which includes a bit about a ban only on eating pork but also calls the whole thing "bizarre".

In any case, this story appears to be less of an example of something that is "nothing to do with Muslim ‘demands’ and everything to do with the paranoia of white liberals, who presume to know what ‘Muslims’ think and want", and more a reaction to something some actual Muslims appear to have had a mistaken belief about.

Mainly, this section of 'Debunking the 'Islamisation' myth' is about including quotes from Muslims saying they're not bothered by things like Christmas and stories about pigs and that there's no need to ban them, and I can see the need for including such quotes. It's a shame that these stories were included to support the conclusion that it's all politically correct do-gooders' fault.

It's far more likely that stories about politically correct white liberals banning things are completely misrepresented by the press, which - as Standing points out - routinely misrepresents stories about Muslims in general anyway. At absolute best, they'll have been based on things like a junior member of staff misinterpreting the rules (possibly because they've read lots of these stories, which is pretty ironic), people overreacting to actual complaints or people just making innocent mistakes. [Edited to add: Marketing decisions also crop up frequently in these stories].

In the end, it's a shame that the report makes the mistake of taking these stories at face value. Had they been covered properly, they would have strengthened the case of the 'The myth of Muslim power in Britain is largely fuelled by sensationalist and inaccurate media reports' section, and the report as a whole.


uksceptic said...

Alas as if often the case that people are willing to believe that the press is misrepresentational of their particular subject matter but then completely niave to it's manipulations when it comes to any other topic.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

You're probably right.

Could these links have been included in a Nick Cohen-esque eagerness to blame the left for this sort of thing? Who knows?

Claire said...

I don't think the 'political correctness gone mad' lobby care whether it's Moslems or 'Liberal do-gooders' are responsible so long as either (or both) can get the blame. Even when it's nothing to do with either.
I think it was last year when a primary headteacher put a stop to children sending Christmas cards to all of their friends in the class (using the in-school post box which relied on teachers taking time out of making Christmas decorations and teaching in order to distribute the cards). She suggested children send one card to the class instead, or they could give cards out of school. This got interpreted, even among parents at the school, as Moslems demanding the school ban Christmas, and of course as 'political correctness gone mad' and was reported as such in the national media, even though the local press pointed out what the real story was. I bet even today there are people who will believe that the poor children are denied Christmas in the school.

Alex said...

Exactly Claire, many of these stories have been proven time and time again to be set up and distorted to play to the same old similpifed narrative that will probably leave rag readers fumming. I guess it sells, even if the papers reputation goes down the drain for most people.

It's a shame Standing appears to have an issue with "White liberals" as he calls them... repeatedly : http://bit.ly/bC54RG grr... those strawman White liberals and their hypocrisies!

Anyway, thanks for pointing this out 5cc.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Jeez, cheers Alex. Hadn't seen that White Liberals link before, or I'd have been a bit less charitable about this section here.

Strage how such a sceptical report that goes into detail about how the press distort the truth could be so accepting of the press when it attacks an acceptable enemy. That Standpoint article is particularly surprising, since a lot of it is given over to showing that white liberals haven't banned things.

Ho hum. You learn something new every day. Knew I should have paid more attention to Flying Rodeint.