From Sputnik France voicing ultranationalist Islamophobia to Leave.EU combating antisemitism by smearing British Muslims, these March 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.
Germany – Unsubstantiated dystopian article fuels fear against Muslims
Date of publication: 31 March 2018
Media outlet: Epoch Times
About the source: Epoch Times Deutschland is a right-wing news website. It is the German edition of the newspaper Epoch Times, headquartered in New York City.
Author: Barbara Köster, author of the book “The Misunderstood Koran — why Islam must be founded all over again”
Headline: "Think ahead rather than too late: What lies in wait for us if Islam spreads across Germany?"
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article claims to depict what the future Germany would look like if Islam was widespread in Germany. With fabrications and hyperbole – such as “To All Homosexuals: You should know: The death penalty applies to you” – the author is intentionally fuelling fear and anger against all Muslims.
Myth Debunked: According to the Pew Research Institute, the amount of growth in Germany’s Muslim population depends on future migration. The Muslim share of Germany population under different migration scenarios is expected to be between 8.7% and 19.7% in 2050. The author of the article, however, uses one specific interpretation of Islam, shared only by a minority of extremists, and ascribes it to all Muslims in order to depict a dystopian future. Those who follow Islam are portrayed by Köster as one monolithic block with no differences in thoughts, beliefs, and culture.
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France – Ultra nationalist militant equals Muslims with terrorists
Date of publication: 27 March 2018
Media outlet: Sputnik France
About the source: Sputnik France is a Russian news agency operating in France. Western officials and observers have criticised Sputnik for being part of the "Kremlin misinformation machine."
Headline: "20,000 Muslim extremists on watch list. This might be only the tip of the iceberg"
Description of the anti-Muslim content: The article is an interview with Maxime Lépante, leader of the anti-Muslim and identitarian group "Secular Response". Lépante claims that terrorist attacks in France “will increase, because Muslims continue to enter our country by the thousands each week” and that, in France, “we have to stop all immigration”. He then continue to say that there are “four million bi-national Muslims who live in France right now [...]. All of them could, if we decide to do so, be stripped of their French citizenship and sent back to their other country.”
Myth Debunked: By publishing this interview, Sputnik France is giving voice and legitimising the point of view of a ultranationalist militant who, with his hateful words against Muslims, is harming the whole community. Lépante is proposing a common and dangerous myth that equates Muslims with terrorists. This false perception is likely to originate from a non-representative media coverage of terrorist attacks. “The disparities in news coverage of attacks based on the perpetrator’s religion may explain why members of the public tend to fear the ‘Muslim terrorist’ while ignoring other threats,” says a research study published on Justice Quarterly. Furthermore, while Lépante blames Muslim immigrants for terrorist attacks, data show that a large number of those involved in terrorism are actually born in the country and “lack religious literacy”.
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France – Antisemitic crimes said to be a concern just for the Jewish community
Date of publication: 26 March 2018
Media outlet: Le Parisien
About the source: Le Parisien is one of the largest daily newspapers in France. It is considered a soft tabloid with a neutral political alignment.
Headline: “Emotion within the Jewish community after the death of a 85-year old woman is stabbed and burned”
Description of the antisemitic content: This article reports on the antisemitic murder of Mireille Knoll, a French Jewish woman who, as a child, managed to escape a mass roundup of Jews in Paris during World War. The article recounts the details of the events, the development of the police investigations, and some quotes. However, the way the reaction to the crime has been framed is problematic. The headline states that this hate crime has caused “intense emotions” “within the Jewish community”. Despite that the article says “within the Jewish community and beyond”, reporters are making an implicit distinction between Jewish French and non-Jewish French and their different concerns.
Myth Debunked: Although it is fine to give voice to Jewish people expressing their fear of antisemitic attacks, it is also responsibility of the journalist not to create divisions and misunderstanding among society. There have been thousands of people marching in solidarity, and antisemitism should be acknowledged as a problem for the whole society, not just the Jewish community. Commenting on the media coverage, Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur tweeted: “I dream of a France that knows that someone killed a grandmother, and not just ‘mine.’ A nation that rises up to confront the horror and doesn’t send its condolences to a ‘community.’ #MyFranceHadaGrandmother.”
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Hungary – Propaganda media promotes hatred towards Muslim migrants
Date of publication: 14 March 2018
Media outlet: Origo
About the source: Origo is Hungary’s second most popular news website. It is a pro-government news portal. It changed its editorial stance in 2015, moving from being critical of the Fidesz-led government to becoming more government-friendly in its political reporting
Headline: “I’ll cut off your head, we’ll kill the infidels!”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article blames Muslim migrants in Germany and France for 97 anti-Christian crimes recorded in 2017. The reporter exploits the figures leaked from the Federal Criminal Police Office to smear Muslim refugees and asylum seekers. The article makes strong judgements and assumptions which are not based on facts: “The attacks were committed by migrants. This year hundreds of thousands of migrants from Syria came to Germany and France. Migrants claim they are living by the sacred book of Islam, the Koran.”
Myth Debunked: Religiously motivated crimes should always be condemned and we should not overlook anti-Christian hate crimes. However, indiscriminately blaming Muslim migrants, as Origo does, is a fear-mongering generalisation. While acknowledging that some offences might have been committed by asylum seekers, “some press reports have expressed doubt that all of the incidents were religiously motivated”, states DW, as in several cases the perpetrator was suffering from serious mental health problems. The article by Origo does not mention that the same report leaked from the Federal Criminal Police Office contained data on widespread Islamophobic attacks. Disparaging Muslim migrants is part of the Hungarian government’s anti-immigration agenda. News outlets with close ties to the government, like Origo, extensively reproduced these narratives in the run up to the general elections.
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United Kingdom – Leave.EU combats antisemitism by smearing British Muslims
Date of publication: 29 March 2018
Media outlet: Twitter
About the author/organisation: Leave.EU is an organisation that campaigned for Brexit in run up to the EU referendum
Tweet: "Is it any wonder that Labour can't be bothered to deal with the disgusting antisemitism in their party when they are so reliant on the votes of Britain's exploding Muslim population? It's a question of maths for these people, not justice!"
Description of the anti-Muslim and anti-refugee content: The tweet states that there is antisemitism in the Labour party because the party is very reliant on the Muslim population, and therefore Muslims are the cause of antisemitism in the party. The tweet has been condemned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews , an organisation that has denounced antisemitism in the Labour Party.
Myth Debunked: The tweet is an attempt to create division between Muslim and Jewish communities. It exploits antisemitism to stir up anti-Muslim sentiments. British MPs have issued a formal protest: “This tweet is thoroughly distasteful and offensive. It is also nothing to do with leaving the EU. It is however proof that Leave.EU is a front organisation for a far right group that is more interested in spreading hatred and creating division than upholding British values of respect and tolerance.”
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Greece – Jewish communist conspiracy theories used to attack MP
Date of publication: 2 March 2018
Media outlet: Eleftheri Ora
Author: Isaiah Konstantinidis
About the author/organisation: Eleftheri Ora is an ultra nationalistic and far-right wing newspaper in Greece.
Headline: “Jewish Communist agent Fotis Kouvelis!!!”
Description of the antisemitic content: The article attacks Fotis Kouvelis, current deputy minister of defence and former president of the Democratic Left, claiming that he is Jewish and communist. Kouvelis is accused by the paper of being involved in international Zionist and communist conspiracies designed to cause the disintegration of the Greek society and Orthodox values. The author refers to previous research by journalist Paul Anastasi to claim there is a connection between the deputy minister, his supposed Jewish background and his past espionage activities with the USSR, KGB, and Israel. In the past Eleftheri Ora has asked Kouvelis about his Jewish origins, but he has never responded. Now the author claims new evidence proves that he is a Jewish communist despite his family changed their religious status and name.
Myth Debunked: The international Jewish communist conspiracy is an antisemitic theory. As the scholar Andre Gerrits states, while it is true that, in the past century, for historical reasons, there was an evident Jewish involvement in socialist and communist parties and movements, it is also true that those Jews involved were not representative of Jews as a whole. This antisemitic theory assumes the collective guilt of all Jews and delegitimizes the Jewish involvement in politics today.
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Belgium – Unproven allegations against Muslim council candidate
Date of publication: 8 March 2018
Media outlet: Le Vif/L’Express
About the source: Le Vif/L’Express is a French weekly news magazine published in Brussels
Author: Marie Cecile Royen
Headline: "Local elections 2018: unrest within the Ecolo party a Verviers"
Description of the anti-Muslim content:This article accuses Hajib El Hajjaji, Ecolo green party candidate in the local elections in Verviers of working for the Muslim Brotherhood. The allegations are based on a document released in 2006 by the Nine Eleven Finding Answer Foundation (a terrorism research institute). This document claims that two of Hajab El Hajjaji’s uncles are invested into two organisations that are close to the Muslim Brotherhood. El Hajjaji is reported to have denied the accusations of being associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. He states that he cares about his independence and he stands by his values, which are respect for freedom, democracy and rule of law, as well as social justice.
Myth Debunked: The statements in this article might constitute defamation. They are based on assumptions, against a Muslim candidate five days before the elections, which are not backed by evidence. Hajib El Hajjaji’s claimed Islamic belonging seems to be, for the journalist, a prior identity marker. The Green Party has strongly condemned the article. On their website, the Party denounces the journalist’s insinuation that there is a link between Hajib El Hajjaji and the Muslim Brotherhood, despite the lack of any evidence. After the Green Party’s reaction, Le Vif/L’Express edited the article by adding “in Verviers” to the headline and deleting a sentence stating the national support for the candidate – keeping the focus of the article on a local level.
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