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Tuesday, March 25, 2008 

Making it up with the Express and Sun.

No news, a cartoon character once said, is a great opportunity to make it up. Facing a dearth of any real news over the holiday weekend, the tabloids decided that this ancient nostrum was worth following, except in slightly different flavours. The Sun went for outright fabrication, creating a "news" story where there wasn't one, the Express instead going for that other hardy perennial, distorting an actual story so far that it becomes a "fury" which no one other than the journalist themselves is participating in. Both just happen to involve the same minority.

Not that Muslims have had all the fun to themselves. The Sun yesterday revealed in another non-story that "gipsies" (not gypsies, as this is how the tabloids get around potential censure as the Roma are considered a race and therefore subject to various legislation) had err, moved onto land that they legitimately own which just happens to be in the vicinity of Olympics minister Tessa Jowell's country house, which also led to a usual attack on the "detestable" human rights act.

Even less newsworthy and made-up was today's splash - BAKRI SLUR ON AMIR, which also manages to tick two boxes - attacking a nutjob who in the Sun's twisted reasoning is somehow someone who speaks for Muslims, while glorifying in Amir Khan's proud patriotism. As you're probably aware, Bakri Mohammed left this septic isle for the sunnier clime of Lebanon, only for his presence here to be declared as not conducive to the public good before he could return. Since then he's been broadcasting to his tiny and dwindling band of followers via the interweb, previously using Paltalk, although they might now use alternative services. This is reasonably common knowledge, and doubtless the security services monitor and keep a close eye on Bakri's movements and statements, although it's quite possible that if we hadn't simply kicked him out he could now be sharing a cell adjacent to Abu Hamza's in Belmarsh, with him taken out of the public eye altogether.

The Sun's story then is completely and utterly created, controlled and dictated by them. As the article states:

The rant by 49-year-old Bakri — exiled in Lebanon after being kicked out of Britain — came in an internet exchange with other extremists.

Asked if Amir was setting a bad example by draping himself in the flag, he replied: “I don’t think somebody should really look to Amir Khan as a good example for the youth.

“So now for him to be wrapping himself in British flag is another sign of somebody who is completely jahil. You give him the excuse of ignorance for living among the kuffar. So you can’t call him kuffar but you can call him jahil and deviant person.”


Let's give the Sun the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they didn't personally pose the question to Bakri; maybe that was the job of a gopher, or even just maybe it was part of a question posed about whether Amir was suitably Islamic enough for Bakri's liking. Either way, that conversation found its way to the Sun, and they've taken what by Islamist standards is a mild condemnation and turned it into a front page splash.

While condemning Bakri for everything he's every done, the Sun has the good journalistic grace to phone him up and ask whether the allegations it's making are true:

Last night he went even further when he talked to The Sun from his hideaway in Beirut — attacking Amir for having a Union flag on his shorts.

He said: “Amir Khan is not a good example for Muslims. He wears shorts with the Union Jack. That is a sin.

“He should not be wearing the flag because sovereignty is for God. His only allegiance should be to the Prophet Mohammed.

“The ideal situation would be to have a Muslim team not registered to any state so he can represent the Islamic community.”


Fair enough you might say. Bakri's a twat and newspapers make rubbish up all the time. Where's the harm. That, dear reader, is in the Sun's leader column:

Unlike cowardly preacher Omar Bakri, who is not fit to lick Amir’s boots.

Bakri was also given a home here. He spat on Britain’s hospitality, hailed the 9/11 bombers as “magnificent” and urged misguided young Muslims to follow their violent path.

From exile in Lebanon, where he still lives on British handouts, he has the gall to denounce Amir as “deviant” and “ignorant”.

We hope decent Muslims will denounce this despicable wretch who claims to speak on their behalf.


Ah, there we are. Sun concocts a story which even Melanie Phillips would blanch at, then it demands that "decent Muslims" denounce him. That the entire episode wouldn't have come to light if the Sun hadn't made it out to be some new horrific outrage by an Islamist mad-man on the rates doesn't matter; Muslims who don't agree have to speak out against this "despicable wretch who claims to speak on their behalf", except nowhere has he suggested that his views are anyone's other than his own. Aspiring tabloid hacks take note: this is how journalism works.

At least the Sun article shows some enterprise and effort on the part of the hacks responsible, actual news story or not. The same can't be said for the Express's front page lead:

FURY OVER PLAN TO TEACH KORAN IN SCHOOLS

STATE schools should be forced to open their doors to Islamic preachers teaching the Koran, the largest classroom union demanded yesterday.

The National Union of Teachers’ conference also said existing religious schools – almost all of them Christian – should have to admit pupils from other faiths.


The articles do have one connection - both are pretending that there's righteous anger where there is none. In case you haven't already realised, the Express interpretation of the National Union of Teachers' proposal, because that's what it is, not a demand, is rather different from their own. Here's how the Grauniad reports it:

Union calls for end to single-faith schools

· NUT plan reflects concern over faith segregation
· Heads 'should make space for private prayers'

Schools would offer faith-based instruction, prayer facilities and a choice of religious holidays under a plan developed by the country's biggest teaching union.

Headteachers would bring in imams, rabbis and priests to instruct religious pupils as part of the curriculum in an attempt to satisfy parental demand for religion in schools and prevent the establishment of more single-faith schools.

The National Union of Teachers proposals represent an attempt to rival faith schools. All schools should become practising multi-faith institutions, and faith schools should be stripped of their powers to control their own admissions and select pupils according to their faith, according to proposals in the union's annual report, backed at its conference in Manchester yesterday. The daily act of "mainly" Christian worship required of all schools by law should be liberalised to include any religion, the union says.

The general secretary of the NUT, Steve Sinnott, said the plan represented "more than simply religious education - this is religious instruction.

"I believe that there will be real benefits to all our communities and youngsters if we could find space within schools for pupils who are Roman Catholics, Anglican, Methodist, Jewish, Sikh and Muslim to have more religious instruction. You could have imams coming in, you could have the local rabbi coming in and the local Roman Catholic priest."

Far from it opening the door just then to the local imam and that vicious religious text, the Koran, the NUT is actually proposing an alternative to the segregation that some research suggests faith schools contribute to. I actually think it's an abysmal plan, mainly because it seems to cater for everyone other than the decent percentage of the population that couldn't care less for religion at all. Similarly, you don't respond to the mess of faith schooling by deciding to throw even more faecal matter around, ensuring that some sticks everywhere. That aside, the NUT deserves to have its proposal reported accurately and not used by a third-rate dog-whistling newspaper to stir up yet more hatred towards the Muslim community, which is quite clearly what it hand in mind when it asked a Tory MP for his views on the matter:

But the proposals prompted immediate outrage. Conservative Party backbencher Mark Pritchard said: “This is just further appeasement for Muslim militants.

“We should just follow the existing laws on religious education, which state that it should be of a predominantly Christian character. All this will do is further divide many communities that are already split on religious lines.”

These Muslim militants get everywhere yet they seem to be invisible, don't they? Far from being appeasement towards Muslim militants, the plan if anything is appeasement towards those of a religious bent that just have to their children brought up in a God-fearing environment, although even that's not really true as likely the majority are only pretending so that their darling princes and princesses can go to a good school rather than the falling apart local bog standard comprehensive. As ever, it seems Pritchard has been asked to comment something that he hasn't ever seen or read about, and so has only been given something of the slightest background in order to produce said quote. Or maybe he had and I'm giving him too much credit.

As FCC has discovered, the Express has kindly provided a place to discuss this latest news development. In doing so, it had to chose a photograph of an imam in order to illustrate the finer points of where it thinks the debate should lead. Can you possibly guess whose image they've chosen?


Stupid question really. As FCC also points out, we've become so inured to Muslims getting in the neck, being the current minority singled out for special opprobrium or scrutiny, that this somewhat loses its offensiveness. If the headline had been "FURY OVER PLAN TO TEACH TALMUD IN SCHOOLS" with a photograph of a rabbi used for the discussion, it would be sinister rather than something approaching a joke. Because Islam, or the extremist version of it is currently seen as such a threat, somewhat legitimately, it's become almost accepted that all its practitioners are fair game, simply for exercising their own views.

Two examples of making the news up; one minority directly targeted. Journalists' job: done.

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