The Media Diversity Institute(MDI) has filed a complaint against an article by The Daily Mail that spreads fear about Muslims.
The article, published on Mail Online on 3 May 2019, claimed that “Mohammed was the most popular first name for boys born in Berlin in 2018”, but a closer look at the results of the Society for the German Language (GfdS) study revealed that this is not accurate.
In the complaint letter addressed to the Managing Editor at The Daily Mail, MDI expressed its concerns about the way the statistics were interpreted to spread anti-Muslim fears among the readers.
In German, there is a distinction between “vornamen” and “erstnamen”. In English, both translate as “first name”. A “vorname” is the general term for “first name”, but “erstname” is the very first name out of a series of first names.
For Berlin, the graphics on the GfdS website presents both the “vornamen” (“1. Alexander, 2. Maximilian, 3. Paul”) and the “erstnamen” (“1. Mohammed, 2. Luis, 3. Emil”). While most of the German media presented the statistics referring to the “vorname”, the statistic that the Mail Online quoted referred to the top 10 “erstnamen” in Berlin in 2018,
In the complaint, MDI pointed out that Daily Mail reporter Tim Stickings “looked at one federal state (Berlin) and then only at one very specific sub-set (“erstnamen”) of a sub-set (boy’s names) for one year (2018).” In short, it seems that Tim Stickings sifted through the study on most popular first names ignoring the wider picture and the overall facts and opting instead for one name, “Mohammed”, which was number one in one category and then proceeded to build an article around this less relevant result”.
Out of around 22,000 baby boys born in Berlin in 2018, only 280 have “Mohammed” as “erstname”. A very low number, that also includes all its 25 variations, something that is unusual with other names. Mohammed is also frequently given as a very first name, which means it leads to a higher frequency than other names in the same category.
The complaint letter says that “by focusing on a hyper-specific case and inflating its significance, your article distorts facts and misleads readers.” “The way the statistics are interpreted and framed in your article suggests that the Muslim population in Berlin has outnumbered non-Muslim residents”, the letter continued. “It also suggests that this is a wider trend across Germany which is linked to the arrival of refugees from the Middle East and North Africa. In doing so, your reporting implies that this trend is problematic, that having “Mohammed” among the top first names is something negative and worth highlighting.”
In the context of a media coverage as defined by ECRI as using “offensive, discriminatory and provocative terminology”, MDI believes that the Mail Online article is dog-whistling Islamophobia. It recalls inflammatory narratives of “Islamisation” and spreads unfounded fears among those who read your newspaper.
Der muslimfeindliche Blog Philosophia Perennis nutzt eine weltweite Statistik über ermordete Christen, um die Idee in den Vordergrund zu stellen, Muslime würden eine existentielle Gefahr für Christen darstellen. Dies ist das deutsche Medien Monitoring Highlight für April 2019.
The far-right blog Philosophia Perennis uses global statistics of Christian killings as a means to promote the idea of an existential attack on Christians by Muslims. This is Germany’s media monitoring highlight for April.
Am Tag nach dem Massaker von Christchurch relativiert die muslimfeindliche Plattform PI-News den Anschlag, indem sie umgehend auf islamische Terroranschläge verweist. Dies ist das deutsche Medien Monitoring Highlight für März 2019.
The day after the Christchurch massacre, far-right platform PI-News relativises the attack by pointing the finger at Islamic terror attacks. This is Germany’s media monitoring highlight for March.
Die islamfeindliche Webseite PI-News stellt den Islamkundeunterricht an deutschen Grund- und weiterführenden Schulen als eine Form von heimlicher Missionierung im Namen der angeblichen Islamisierung Europas dar. Dies ist das deutsche Medien Monitoring Highlight für Januar 2019.
The far-right PI-News portrays Islamic studies classes in German primary and secondary schools as a form of clandestine missionary work in the name of the so-called Islamisation of Europe. This is Germany’s media monitoring highlight for February.
From a far-right newspaper accusing the president of Greece of being a “traitor” because of his Jewish identity, to an alternative media website compiling a selection of crime stories based on the assumed nationality of the perpetrators, these January highlights are an overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
FRANCE – MP blames Muslims for her own homophobic views
Date of publication: 18 January 2019
Media outlet: Valeurs Actuelles, conservative magazine
Author: Agnès Thill, La République En Marche (LREM) MP in the French national assembly. The Valeurs Actuelles reporter is Bastien Lejeune
Headline: “Medically assisted procreation and Koranic schools: Agnès Thill's controversy, the symptom of progressive sectarianism”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: At a French parliamentary debate, Agnès Thill, MP of President Macron’s party LREM, presented a note to the National Assembly expressing her opposition to the new law on medically assisted procreation (known in France as PMA). Regarding the introduction of the word “parent”, to replace “mother” and “father”, she said that “this absence of gender in the word ‘parent’ will encourage the growth of Koranic schools”. Her note reads: “Our Muslim friends, who, as we know, are against this gradual distancing from the concepts of father-mother, man-woman, for the word parent include parent 1 and parent, [...] live in a parallel world, in our Republic, where everything is as they want, where a man is a man, a woman is a woman, and there are not, for our Muslim friends, parent1 and parent2”. According to Agnès Thill, the introduction of the PMA law would “lead moderate children to become less moderate teenagers”. In this article, the right-wing magazine Valeurs Actuelles, does not criticise her anti-Muslim and homophobic remarks, but simply points out how unusual it is for a LREM politician to hold these views. The controversy is presented as “a new example of the majority's difficulties to tolerate divergent views”. The reporter writes: “Agnès Thill's crime? To be the only one in her parliamentary group to defend the idea of a real debate about medically assisted procreation”. Last November, Agnès Thill came under attack from many, including her own political party, for saying that the “powerful LGBT lobby” was influencing the debate on the PMA. In a video interview at the end of January, she compared the “suffering of single women” who want to use the PMA to “drug addicts”: “If a drug addict suffers, do we give them drugs? If a woman is suffering, do we give her a child so that she stops suffering?” A child is not a type of medicine”.
Myth debunked: In vocalising her opposition to the law, Agnès Thill is proposing a gender binary which is intolerant of other gender identities and of any family that is not heteronormative. And at the same time uses the opportunity to accuse French Muslims of being homophobic because they have more gendered roles of mother and father, or a traditional family structure. In her opinion, the state moving away from the mother-father and woman-man dichotomy, Muslim people would turn to their own communities’ schools, which, she says, are more prone to radicalising the children than the public institutions. In saying so, she is insinuating a correlation between attending an Islamic school and Islamic fundamentalism. When mentioning the expected effect of the law on the Muslim community, Agnès Thill is attributing her own homophobic views to Muslims and, at the same time, using them as the reason for her objection to the law.
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UK – Anne Marie Waters’ fallacies about Islam and the establishment
Date of publication: 7 January 2019
Media Outlet: Politicalite, populist far-right news website
Author: Anne Marie Waters, founder and leader of the far-right party “For Britain” and founder and director of Sharia Watch UK
Headline: “ANNE MARIE WATERS: After Terror Attacks, The State Is Protecting Islam’s Reputation”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: In this article, Anne Marie Waters claims that Islam is inherently violent because that is what the Quran prescribes. However, she continues, there is no public debate around Islam’s teaching because “such discussion would reveal the truth about Islam’s teachings”. According to her, the British state defends Islam because it wants to let “masses from the Middle East and Africa” to come and settle in the UK. “For every cruelty or atrocity associated with Islam, whether it be the grooming gangs, child marriage, FGM, or jihadi violence, the priority of the establishment is always to protect the religion”. Anne Marie Waters also claims that Sharia law will “be accommodated in all areas of life” and that Europe will be radically transformed. The well-known anti-Islam activist Anne Marie Waters founded the political party “For Britain” after leadership bid for the Eurosceptic UKIP party failed.
Myth debunked: It is deceitful and false to claim that “the priority of the establishment is always to protect the [Islamic] religion”. Facts show that Muslims in Britain are repeatedly stigmatised and attacked, not only by “ordinary people”, but also by government officials or “the establishment”. To name a few: Boris Johnson, Former British foreign secretary, compared full-face veiled women to letterboxes; Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid uses the term “no-go areas”, an expression imbued with anti-Muslim sentiments; the then-Communities Secretary Eric Pickles sent a letter, endorsed by Cameron, asking Muslim leaders to “explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity”. Furthermore, there is no such thing as “truth” when it comes to the Quran and Islamic teaching. Islam is a religion, with the Quran as its central text and, as such, is subject to different interpretations that vary across time and space. As with all the major religions, there is not one single understanding and application of the holy book that all the believers who identify with that religion follow in the exact same way. Some Islamic terrorists justify their violent acts through their interpretation of the Quran, but this is also in conformity with their objectives and world view, and it is different from those of the overwhelming majority of Muslims across the world. Claiming that, compared with the major religions, Islam is inherently violent because of the words contained in the Quran is a fallacy. A comparative text analysis of the Old and New Testaments and the Quran has shown that the Christian texts, especially the Old Testament, contains more references to killing and destruction. However, when Christian terrorists, such as Anders Behring Breivik (who had the Bible in his manifesto), kill people, no one blames the Old Testament and claims that Christianity is inherently violent.
More to read:
GREECE – Eleftheri Ora accuses Greek President of being a traitor on account of his Jewish origins
Date of publication: 28 January 2019
Media Outlet: Eleftheri Ora, far-right daily newspaper
Headline: “Prokopis Traitor with… Kippah”
Description of the antisemitic content: Eleftheri Ora’s front page accuses the President of Greece Prokopis Pavlopoulos of being a traitor for his soft stand on the Prespa Agreement which formally recognises the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to be recognized as the Republic of Northern Macedonia. On the previous day, Holocaust Memorial Day, he attended an event in Thessaloniki’s Music Hall. The far-right newspaper shared information about protests against the President to be held outside the city hall and by the use of inflammatory language actually indirectly encouraged attendance at the protest. Clashes with the police were reported that night. The following day, the newspaper published the front page mentioned and accuses the president of being a traitor. It also described the previous days’ clashes as an ‘’angry mob’s attempt to lynch the president’’. This front page is an example of unprofessional journalism that borders on incitement to antisemitic hate.
Myth debunked: Eleftheri Ora is taking advantage of public opinion surrounding the highly contentious Prespa agreement to fuel hatred against Jews. The newspaper connects two separate issues –the President acceptance of the Prespa agreement and his assumed Jewish identity – which have no correlation. The newspaper does not provide any evidence to support the claim. Furthermore, last week, a majority of Greek MPs voted in favour of the Prespa agreement, but Eleftheri Ora has singled out and disparaged, the role of the president. The accusation that Jews are not loyal to society or the country in which they live is one of the oldest antisemitic tropes. In line with previous articles that attributed Jewish origins to many politicians, Eleftheri Ora is once more feeding conspiracy theories that accuse Jewish people of being disproportionately represented in spheres of power and to secretly pulling strings in Greek politics.
More to read:
HUNGARY – Research Institute Director makes controversial statements on the 1920 anti-Jewish law
Date of publication: 7 January 2019
Media Outlet: Magyarhirlap.hu
Headline: “Some people want to create a political debate”
Description of the antisemitic content: This article is an interview with Sándor Szakály, Director of the Veritas Research Institute run by the government. While discussing current affairs with his interviewees, Sándor Szakály claims that there is confusion around the numerus clausus, a 1920 law that restricted Jewish students’ access to higher education. According to Szakály, “Jews were not specifically targeted by the law”, but “only those Jewish people who were not baptised”. Furthermore, Sándor Szakály states that the law “was not a legal disqualification but rather a restriction of rights, and it is, by no means, appropriate to call it a Jewish law". The journalist rightly challenged Sándor Szakály’s statement and said that the numerous clauses law had led to the Holocaust. This was not the first time that the Director of the Veritas Research Institute made an antisemitic statement about the numerus clausus. In a 2016 interview with the Budapest Beacon, he similarly claimed that the law was not directed against Jews, as it does not even mention the word “Jewish” and, while he admitted that the quota certainly did limit the rights of some, it also “gave greater opportunities to others”.
Myth debunked: Mazsihisz, the Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities released a statement saying that Sándor Szakály’s “approach and vocabulary are particularly unfair to Jews” and “his historical interpretations are not only deceptive but also dangerous”. A number of historians have rebutted the Director’s comments in the past. Ignác Romsics, one of the most authoritative researchers on the period 1919 to 1944 in Hungary stated that “indeed, the word Jewish or Israelite did not appear in the text of the numerus clausus law; however, parliamentary records about instructions for implementation of the law and the practical application of the law clearly show that it was exclusively directed at the Israelite denomination or ‘nationality.” In 2016 GTTO published an article by journalist Dóra Ónody-Molnár which stated that “the trivialisation of the numerus clausus law [...]contributes to the interpretation that, before 1944, i.e. while Hungary was a sovereign state, Jews were basically safe, and that the persecution of Jews only began under the German occupation”. Even if Sándor Szakály were not involved in politics, the fact that the Veritas Research Institute is run by the government makes the Director a political influencer. His antisemitic statements are therefore in sharp contrast with the “zero tolerance on antisemitism” position by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. If Orbán stated the “need for firm policy to combat rising anti-Semitism”, how can a Director of a Research Institute make antisemitic remarks without being asked to consider his position
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BELGIUM – Former Migration minister favoured Christian refugees for humanitarian visas
Date of publication: 17 January 2019
Media Outlet: RTBF, Belgian public-service broadcasting organisation
Author: The former Secretary of State for Migration, Theo Francken, of the Flemish nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA).
Headline: “Humanitarian visas: Theo Francken favoured the arrival of Christians”.
Description of the anti-Muslim content: In this interview, Jan De Volderhead of the Belgian branch of the charity called Community of Sant’Egidio, discloses details on the country’s humanitarian visa programme. De Volder revealed that the Community of Sant’Egidio, which was selected by the immigration ministry to cooperate on humanitarian visas, received instructions to only select Christian Syrians. This shows that the former Secretary of State for Asylum, Migration and Administrative Simplification, Theo Francken, of the Flemish nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), has been choosing refugees on the basis of religion.
Myth debunked: As an EU report states, “Humanitarian visas are one of the tools that countries can use to enable people in need to access international protection legally and safely”. While it has not yet been fully implemented by all EU countries, the humanitarian visa system was proposed “to address the intolerable death toll in the Mediterranean [...], to combat human smuggling, and to manage arrivals, reception and processing of asylum claims better”. Using religion rather than vulnerability to select refugees is discriminatory. This anti-Muslim bias wrongly creates the impression that some people, Muslims, are less deserving of being granted refuge on the basis of faith. Asylum seeker selection should be based on people’s need and on the vulnerability, regardless of anyone’s religious background.
More to read:
BELGIUM – Media site publishes crime stories assuming foreign nationality of perpetrators
Date of publication: ongoing
Media Outlet: Sceptr, alternative media covering news in Belgium and the Netherlands
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Sceptr is a news outlet that, according to its website, reports “hard topics that traditional media neglect” and “aspires to be a taboo-free place and an instrument for politically active citizens”. In one of its sections, called “migration and integration”, almost all articles focus on crimes committed by migrants. However, in most of the cases, there is no proof that the perpetrators are actually migrants. The site rewrites articles from other newspapers in a way that discredits migrants without providing any evidence. The word “allochtoon” (“foreigner”) is used in almost all headlines to describe the criminal as a non-Belgian national. A story from Gazet Van Antwerpen, about a man named Toufik C who was convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl, is taken by Sceptr and framed in a way that describes him as a migrant with a Muslim background. No other media outlet who reported the story mentions the nationality of the perpetrator, including the sensationalist HLN. Sceptr considers his Arabic name as proof he is a foreign national.
Myth debunked: Attributing foreign nationality to anyone who has a foreign sounding name or non-white skin colour, as Sceptr does, asserts that Belgian people cannot be anything other than white Christian people with traditionally “Belgian” names. It means that citizenship and nationality are not given on the basis of the country where one was born or grew up or live, but rather on the name. It fosters a view of society where ethnic or religious minorities are considered alien, with harmful consequences on people’s life. In crime reporting, it is unprofessional to highlight someone’s religion or nationality when it is not relevant, let alone assuming it (and highlighting it). Journalistic deontological codes prescribe that, unless there is a direct connection with the crime, or unless it is useful for the public to identify a suspect and report them to the police, information such as nationality, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation should not be stated. Mentioning the nationality when it is not necessary might cause an overestimation of the proportion of the crimes committed by foreigners, as Sceptr does, which might lead to stereotyping and discrimination.
More to read:
GERMANY – Is this what the country will look like in 2021?
Date of publication: 16 January 2019
Media Outlet: PI-News (“Politically Incorrect”) is a far-right news website that defines itself as “Against the Mainstream, Pro-American, Pro-Israel, Against the Islamisation of Europe, For Fundamental Laws and Human Rights”
Headline: “Muslim baby boomers cause radical societal restructuring”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: The article starts with a fictional account of how Germany will be in 2021, according to the author: “Turkish language courses are well attended by former Germans […] Tanja is now called Birgül, Stefanie Cidgem and Beatrice-Jacqueline is called Züleyha. In the streets, heaps of trash are piling up, so that germs can spread […]. Democracy has long given way to sharia-communism. There is no blossoming sense of community anymore, and personal freedoms are gone anyway […] standards have gone down in every respect. […] Every small village has a mosque […]”. The article quotes Germany’s birth-rate statistics, defining “nightmarish” the percentage of newborns with a migrant background in some cities compared with the decreasing numbers of “German” birth rates and marriages. The author envisages a societal disaster due to the number of foreigners living in the country: “an exploding crime rate, crumbling houses, indebted people, Islamisation, Muslim parallel societies and conditions which continuously start to look like their countries of origin”.
Myth debunked: The myth of “Islamisation”, according to which Christian Europeans will be replaced by Muslim immigrants, is a fabrication that conjectures and exaggerates the consequences of immigration in Europe. Even if the birth rate of people with a migrant or Muslim background is increasing in Europe and the birth Germans without a migrant or Muslim background is decreasing, this does not equate to Muslims living in Europe wanting legislations based on religious teachings, as several polls show. There is a wide range of socio-economic factors that influence the lifestyle and customs of people living in a country that make it impossible to predict how society in Europe will look in five or more years. According to Paul Hedges, Associate Professor in Interreligious Studies at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, the Islamisation agenda is based on a number of assumptions: “that Islam is foreign to Europe” – which is historically false – and that “Islamic values are antithetical to European/Christian ones” – which is incorrect because, as Hedges states, “the key ideas of Greek philosophy and science that came to underpin mainstream Christian thought for centuries, as well as enable the Renaissance, and the development of modern science were all mediated to Europe through Islamic societies and advances made by Islamic thinkers”. Finally, the derogatory discourse that associates “germs”, “trash”, “crime” and “crumbling houses” to people with a migrant background is a racist rhetoric of denigration. Through stigmatisation, it creates otherness to build a national identity that excludes some on the basis of ethnicity and religion.
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Die islamfeindliche Webseite PI-News präsentiert eine fiktive Darstellung davon, wie Deutschland in 2021 aussehen wird, indem auf rassistische Verunglimpfungen und falsche anti-muslimische Verschwörungserzählungen zurückgegriffen wird. Dies ist das deutsche Medien Monitoring Highlight für Januar 2019.
The far-right PI-News offers a fictional account of what Germany will be in 2021, using racist slurs and false anti-Muslim conspiracy narratives. This is Germany’s media monitoring highlight for January.