An article by the columnist Rod Liddle suggesting that Muslims should be prevented from voting in the next general election has caused widespread criticism by journalists, politicians and charities, for its Islamophobic and also sexist statements.
Writing on The Spectator on the 2nd of November, Liddle proposed holding the general election on a day when Muslims are forbidden by their religion to vote, in order to improve the Conservatives’ chances of victory. The editorial of the Spectator is generally supportive of the Conservative Party. In the same piece, the commentator also ridiculed Labour MP Rosie Duffield for speaking out about her experience of being in an abusive relationship.
“It was principally the student vote that won Canterbury for the sobbing and oppressed Rosie ‘MeToo’ Duffield. Please don’t let that happen again. My own choice of election date would be a day when universities are closed and Muslims are forbidden to do anything on pain of hell, or something,” Liddle wrote. “There must be at least one day like that in the Muslim calendar, surely? That would deliver at least 40 seats to the Tories, I reckon.”
Muslims groups, such as Tell Mama and the Muslim Council of Britain denounced the vile anti-Muslim tone in the piece. Miqdaad Versi, media spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain tweeted: “When people ask why do Muslims feel they are not treated equally, part of the reason is because nationally recognised and influential newspapers & magazines publish & normalise lies and bigotry about Muslims. And most of the liberal commentators are silent”
The Media Diversity Institute published an article highlighting how Rod Liddle’s racist statements are far from being isolated, but rather fit within the dominant anti-Muslim and xenophobic narratives in our society. Just to name a few, in the same week, the Daily Mail claimed that hate crimes are “a great hoax”, and a former Front National candidate attempted to burn down a mosque in France.
MDI and Get the Trolls Out also joined the Stop Funding Hate campaign, which puts pressure on companies to stop advertising on media outlets that make profit out of hateful articles.
After being contacted by #StopFundingHate supporters, including Get the Trolls Out, companies such as Vodafone UK, Travelodge Naked Wines UK, Averys Wine Merchants have all now said that they are reviewing their advertising with the Spectator, while the National Theatre and Laithwaite's Wine have announced that they now have no plans for any future advertising with the magazine.
The magazine Press Gazette said that the British press regulator IPSO had received four complaints.
The Spectator’s assistant editor Isabel Hardman published a statement on Twitter, distancing herself from the columnist Rod Liddle and showing solidarity with Rosie Duffield and survivors of domestic abuse. Fraser Nelson, the magazine’s editor, told the Guardian that Liddle was just satirising British politics, but that the article “should not have been published in the form that it was”.
Following the backlash online, Liddle too defended himself by saying that his suggestions are “patently a joke”. But this was not the first time that he expressed anti-Muslim statements. As MDI reported, Rod Liddle has a track record of expressing racist, misogynistic, and transphobic sentiments in his columns, while media regulators have been silent.