BY FRANK HAVILAND
The world is not fair – we all know it. And yet, curiously, it is those who benefit most from such a state of affairs who insist on lecturing the rest of us about them. It can get rather galling listening to the petulant foot stamps of multimillionaire luvvies, sweatshop-based multinationals, and every tax-dodging athlete who can haul themselves onto one knee before noon.
So, when it comes to honest media depictions of terrorism, the Allahu Ak-bar isn’t set particularly high. Last Monday the Centre for Media Monitoring released a report: How the British media reports terrorism. The CfMM is part of the Muslim Council of Britain (infer from that what you will), so it was always going to be a riveting read.
The report’s major complaints are that more than half of news stories in the UK which mention ‘terror’, ‘terrorists’ or ‘terrorism’ also refer to Muslims or Islam – almost nine times the amount perpetrators were identified as ‘far-right’, ‘neo-Nazi’ or ‘white supremacist’.
Leafing through the 100-page diatribe hoping for a measure of appropriate statistical analysis, a guard against confirmation bias, or an ounce of humility regarding the severity of the subject matter is a lonely business. The report’s fundamental flaws are as follows:
- Clear cherry-picking of attacks / sources consulted to exaggerate the non-argument
- The naïve assumption that religiously motivated jihadi attacks are indistinguishable from far-right ones
- The inclusion of ludicrous recommendations: ‘avoid platforming far-right voices, except where their views can be contextualised and sufficiently challenged’; avoid headlines with the term ‘Allahu Akbar’ (even if the words have actually been said), and do not refer to Daesh as ‘Islamic State’ (even though Daesh does)
Worst of all however, is a breathtaking ignorance of the hard data. Indeed, it is difficult to conclude the authors did not simply tot up the headlines, and declare it unreasonable that Islam came out in the lead:
During the period 2015-2019, over half (51%) of individual online news pieces in 31 of the mainstream British news websites, magazines and newswires which mention the term terror, terrorism, terrorist(s) one or more times, also mention Muslim(s) and/or Islam, Islamic, Islamism or Islamist in the same piece. The equivalent total for far-right, white supremacist, right wing and neo-Nazi terrorist(s) is 6%.
The vaguest glimpse of the raw numbers illustrates not only how foolish such a complaint is, but that if anything the media is downplaying the truth:
- 90% of MI5’s 43,000-strong terror watchlist are jihadis
- 82% of terrorist prisoners in Europe are Islamic jihadists
- As of March 2020, 238 people were jailed for terror-related offences in the UK – 77% were Islamists, 18% far-right extremists
- Since 2016, jihadis have slaughtered 67 people in the UK – the far-right has managed just 2
The idea that far-right extremism is an equivalent threat to Islamic terror in the UK is risible, though one not without its advocates. The BBC (quelle surprise) are willing supplicants in this charade, having already banned its journalists from using the word ‘terror’ last year. The National Association of Muslim Police meanwhile, charged police only last month to drop terms like ‘jihadi’ and ‘Islamist terror’ as they do not aid ‘community cohesion’.
Worst of the lot is Chief Counter-terror officer Neil Basu, who renders the word apologist understated. Basu is keen to tell anyone who’ll listen that Muslims should not be forced to integrate, and that the far-right is the UK’s fastest-growing threat – a disingenuous deflection, which he admits himself on an off day:
Jihadism remains by far the biggest terrorist threat to the UK and has stabilised at a very high level after years of growth
This is not the first time the Muslim Council of Britain has been caught throwing its weight around. Only last year, it demanded a new, practically meaningless definition of Islamophobia: ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’, and then complained that the police did not understand it. In 2020, it has thus far focused its efforts on problems within the Conservative Party – no prizes for guessing which kind.
Increasing pressure on the authorities to sanitise media reporting (a further unwelcome incursion on free speech), appears the real aim behind this paper; one they are likely to achieve. The government appears paralysed in the face of ever-expanding definitions of racism, and it is surely only a matter of time before the Muslim Council of Britain secure the same privilege for ‘Islamophobia’.
Life is not fair, but perhaps the minimum requirement of a religion which so routinely inspires atrocity is that it lives with the headlines while others live with the body-count. At least that is, until our media can get a CNN-style upgrade: Hundreds killed in largely peaceful suicide bombing?