From the makers of moral panic, comes the Daily Mail's latest Islamophobic centre piece, which is not about Muslim women wearing the Niqab posing a national security threat or the amount of Muslim babies being born in Britain as being the problem. Instead, it's Muslims who are visiting Legoland, that are the new problem group. I have never actually been to Legoland in Windsor, I am sure it is a really nice place to go to with the family, but after reading an article, in the Daily Mail by Richard Littlejohn, I think all Muslims might think twice now. The main feature of the article, you would hope would be about the Muslim cleric, Haitham Al-Haddad, who in his words is an 'enthusiastic supporter of Taliban policies' and was planning on visiting the theme park. Far from this being the case, the author, Richard Littlejohn, began a campaign of lazy assumptions and poor journalism by branding all Muslims as potential terrorists. Labelling a whole community, Muslim families and children as terrorists takes some doing, but this is the Daily Mail and so anything is possible. The author, actually provides us with the itinerary for the day, which makes me wonder why this is relevant again to this story?
Moreover, the headline: 'Jolly Jihadi Boy's Outing to Legoland' reminded me of all the things bad about parts of the British media and in particular newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the other right-wing Muslim-bashing newspapers. Littlejohn continues his attack on Muslims by using the word, Family 'Fun' Day to mean 'Fun' as in 'Fundamentalism'. Indeed, the high profile Leveson inquiry, which was set up by the British government to examine the culture, practices and ethics of the Press would have been appalled at the lack of ethics in regards to this article. Sadly, it is because of newspapers such as the Daily Mail, that have created an atmosphere which has demonized Islam and fuelled an anti-Muslim narrative.
The media, including newspapers such as the Daily Mail, must provide a more responsible, objective and proportionate way of reporting on stories, but I suppose that is expecting a lot from the Daily Mail. Unfortunately, this article and many others like it, including the one in the Sun last year entitled: 'Ramadan a ding-dong' provide a sensationalised and biased viewpoint that seeks to undermine all Muslims and portray Islam in a negative light. As a result, we are seeing British Muslims as a group suffer from very bad journalism and media reporting that actually fuels attention to extremist and far right fringe groups such as Anjem Choudary and Muslims for Crusades that do not represent Muslims.
These stories are often coupled with poor journalism that do not actually examine the true facts of each case. Let's, not forget for example the story from 2010, when windows at a Black Country leisure centre were being covered up, because according to most newspapers, it was at the request of Muslim women who did not want people seeing them swimming. This apparently was because all Muslim women had demanded the windows be blacked out. However, that did not appear to be the case, and the council revealed later that the requests to black out the windows had not come solely from the Muslim community. No surprises then at the Daily Mail headline: 'Swimmers plunged into dark after council covers swimming pool windows to protect Muslim women's modesty'.
Indeed, we know from previous studies looking at media coverage about Muslims, in particular post 9/11, that the media news stories have often stereotyped Muslims in a negative light. For example, a study conducted by academics at Cardiff University found that the majority of news coverage post 9/11 about Muslims was negative. There research into media coverage of British Muslims found that at least two thirds of newspaper articles were focused around stories on terrorism. These stories were often using the words such as 'militancy' and 'radicalism' to depict Muslims in an overtly negative fashion and were a product of a wider anti-Muslim prejudice which they found across British newspapers. Interestingly, they also found that common adjectives used to describe Muslims included the words 'radical', 'fanatical' and 'fundamentalist'.
As a British Muslim, I find this article both offensive and derogatory, filled with bigotry and Islamophobia. The comments are extremely inflammatory and very much promote an Islamophobic agenda filled with hate and animosity. Let's be clear, Al-Haddad, maybe an extremist cleric, he may in fact hold views we all despise, but this story has labelled all Muslims in a negative light. It is filled with loaded innuendo and stereotypes against Muslims and does not attempt to make any distinction between who is a terrorist and who is a Muslim. This negativity is framed within the construct that Islam and all 'Moozlims' are dangerous people, demanding Shariah Law. Lock up your doors. Be afraid!!! Be very afraid!!!