UK – TR.news Leaves Out Key Facts in Anti-Muslim Article
Date of publication: 19 May 2019
Media Outlet: TR.news a website founded by Tommy Robinson which claims it “reports the unreported news to the forgotten people of Britain.”
Author: Shazia Hobbs
Headline: “ISLAMIC ATTACK: WHAT REALLY HAPPENED YESTERDAY IN OLDHAM”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article by TR.news is one of many in the rolling coverage of Tommy Robinson’s (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) campaign to be elected to the European Parliament.. This specific piece is about an altercation in Oldham, a town which Robinson visited during his campaign, where which clashes occurred between Robinson’s supporters and a group which call itself the Muslim Defense League. The Muslims Defense League’s presence was an organized counter demonstration however, tensions rose quickly between the two groups. There were reports of bricks and eggs being thrown, with two police cars damaged but no one injured. The headline refers to the case as an “Islamic attack” and throughout the article, the Muslims Defense League is described as a “Muslim mob” and “Muslim thugs”. The article paints a dramatic picture, painting Robinson and his supporters as a good and peaceful light, and the Muslim Defense League as evil and threatening. The article creates this image by using phrases like “sinister twist” and claiming that “the good old boys in blue then passively allowed the baying Muslim mob to launch bricks and bottles at peaceful members of the public, including women and children.” The author builds on this police conspiracy by stating: “It truly is a sad day when you realize and have the video proof that the police are on the side of Muslim thugs and their useful idiots, not the white working class people of Great Britain and their families.” Finally, the article ends with a clear reference to supposed ‘Muslim rape gangs’, by professing: “Is it any wonder that the children in these towns and cities have been gang-raped with impunity while the police, the politicians and the press ignored it?”
Myth debunked: The aim of this article is clear: the author wants to set a scene where a peaceful and much-loved Tommy Robinson is brutally attacked by a group of angry and violent Muslim thugs. It is an image which complements Robinson’s EU election campaign, which turned out to be woefully unsuccessful, and within the overall editorial stance of the TR.news website. However, it soon becomes clear that this is a very one-sided take to the story. Other articles on the same case talk about a disturbance taking place in which both Robinson’s supporters and the Muslim Defense League acted violently, and that the majority of the perpetrators were from out of town. Of course, there is no excuse for committing violent acts by any party at a political event like this and the perpetrators should be dealt with according to the law. What is worrying is how the author of this TR.news article has framed it in an extremely biased and dangerous manner, leading anyone reading the piece to believe that something truly ominous occurred.
Following on from the event, the Greater Manchester police condemned the “speculation and ill-informed comments on social media” about the clashes. This article is exactly that, ill-informed content that does more harm than good. The way the article alludes to other anti-Muslim ideas, like the ‘Muslim grooming gangs’, helps to paint an extremely hateful image of the Muslim community in Britain. The author makes a clear distinction between the “white working class people of Great Britain” and Muslims, spreading that idea that the two are inherently different and unable to live cohesively.
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FRANCE – Online Newspaper Dismisses Anti-Semitism in Guillaume Pradoura Case
Date of publication: 17 May 2019
Media Outlet: France Soir, online daily newspaper with a populist stance
Headline: “His parliamentary assistant disguises himself as a Jew, Nicolas Bay sees it as a "private matter"”
Description of the antisemitic content: The issues with this case are twofold, with the photo itself and the way France Soir reported on it. Nicolas Bay is the General Secretary of French far-right party National Rally and it was uncovered that his aide, Guillaume Pradoura, dressed as an anti-Semitic caricature in 2013. The photo reemerged recently and was picked up widely by the French press. In the photo, Pradoura is pictured dressed as an Orthodox Jew while grimacing and extending claw-like fingers at the camera. Responding to the incident, Bay stated that “it was a disguise, a mere joke made in bad taste and made privately.” There were many articles on the case, with newspapers such as L'Observateur and Libératio rightly describing the photo as an “antisemitic disguise” and La Parisienne and Paris Match referring to an “antisemitic photo.” The Huffington Post and Le Figaro used quotation marks for “dressed up” and “Jew”, to highlight the antisemitism in the photo. France Soir was the only newspaper to not do any of this: their headline states that Pradoura “disguised himself as a Jew”, without any quotation marks and the article itself never clearly calls the image is antisemitic.
Myth debunked: France Soir takes a decidedly neutral tone in this clearly antisemitic case, seeming to disregard the seriousness at play. The photo of Pradoura is alarming as it perpetuates some extremely harmful antisemitic tropes. The claw-like fingers suggest an evil greediness, a much-used antisemitic idea also employed by the Nazi regime. The National Rally party has had cases of anti-Semitism exposed within the party in the past, and so it is clear that this is not an isolated case. With all this in mind, taking a neutral journalistic stance on the case is not ethical. It should be made clear to the reader that this is a case of anti-Semitism and that Pradoura’s behavior is unacceptable. France has been experiencing a sharp rise in anti-Semitic acts, with a 74% jump in anti-Semitic incidents between 2017 and 2018. It is of the utmost importance that journalists play their part in combating it, something which France Soir failed to do so in this case.
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GREECE – Opinion site refutes the accidental nature of Notre Dame fire in an anti-Muslim narrative
Date: 5 May 2019
Media Outlet: The Analyst, an opinion site dealing with current affairs
Headline: “The domination of Islam in France”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: TheAnalyst.gr published an opinion piece about the “decline of Western civilization” as “symbolised by the fire in Notre Dame”. Without explicitly asserting that the Notre Dame fire was an act of terror, the author Serena Nomikou casts doubt on the fact that it was an accident. She writes that the former chief architect of the Notre Dame de Paris said that the “church’s fire control regulations were strict” and that “a very effective alarm system was installed”, but she also recalls how a few years ago a terrorist plot on Notre Dame was discovered and prevented and that when the Bataclan attack happened the government initially withheld some information. The article then goes on to focus on the Yellow Vests movement which “turned into the largest European religious protectorate of Islam” and that countries such as Belgium are “at the helm of Islamic terrorist groups”.
Myth debunked: Anti-Muslim narratives around the burning of Notre Dame emerged within hours of the accident and keep being used across Europe. Making unsubstantiated assumptions for tragic events such as the Notre Dame Fire and the attacks in Nice or to the Bataclan is not professional journalism. Yet, the author here refers to the attacks to frame her statements about what she calls “the domination of Islam” in France and Belgium. The author of this opinion piece strategically hyperlinks external trustworthy sources as evidence for her conspiracy theories, but the linked articles do not back up her claims. Together with unsubstantiated claims on Islamic radicalism in Belgium, this opinion piece fuels dangerous anti-Muslim sentiments.
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GERMANY – Far-right Blog Frames Swiss Muslim School Children as Missionaries
Date of publication: 22 May 2019
Media Outlet: Journalistenwatch – a far-right alternative media blog in Germany focussing on anti-Muslim rhetoric and other talking points of the so-called “New” Right
Headline: “Islamisation: Swiss Muslims force irreligious classmates to observe Ramadan”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This JouWatch article picks up the story of a school in Switzerland where irreligious school children joined their Muslim peers in practising fasting for Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year. This is considered an “alarming report“ by the article which goes on to point out that non-Muslim Swiss pupils do not have “fixed values” yet and are “therefore easy victims for the fundamentalist ‘missionaries’ of political Islam who have been trained since childhood.” The article cites an interview from the original report with one of the teachers at the school in question who says she saw “the children in the class encourage each other to fast.” However, the JouWatch article deems this to be coercion and a clear case of alleged “Islamisation” of European countries. This is emphasised in the conclusion of the article: while “bullying is of course a very elastic term”, the article infers that the “Islamisation and submission under the rules of Sharia are proceeding according to plan.”
Myth debunked: The article’s anti-Muslim sentiment manifests itself right from the beginning when the article frames school children as “missionaries” who have been “trained since childhood.” This conjures up mental images of an alleged “re-education” of the European population and of militarily drilled child soldiers. The latter is a reference to another narrative popular among right-wing populists and right-wing extremists, namely the existence of an alleged “invasion” of Europe. According to this narrative, all Muslims are foot soldiers in the large-scale cultural war between “the West” and Islam. Since this issue has been covered in previous monthly Media Monitoring Highlights, let us examine the use of the term “submission” in this context.
For one, this word evokes the existence of a nebulous and nefarious Islamic authority before which those lacking in moral strength are compelled to bow. Following this world view, anti-Muslim far-right media outlets such as JouWatch itself are thus framed as brave rebels with the noble cause of speaking truth to power. Moreover, by claiming that showing consideration for Muslims and their customs is an act of submission, the article implies that Islam is a powerful manipulative force but also that subservience acknowledges the existence of such a force, too. After all, submission is an active act, so submitting oneself to an authority presupposes the recognition of said authority. In one fell swoop, the article’s use of the term “submission” thus 1) insinuates the existence of an authority (Islam) to which one can submit, 2) imputes that the submitting party acknowledges this authority, and 3) denigrates all those showing consideration for Muslims by indirectly calling them cowards. The multifacetedness of the term might explain why it is has been used repeatedly in articles railing against the supposed “Islamisation” of Europe.
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HUNGARY – Pro-Government News Site Misreports Facts to Promote Anti-Muslim Agenda
Date of publication: 4 May 2019
Media outlets: Origo, a pro-government news site. It changed its editorial stance in 2015, moving from being critical of the Fidesz-led government to be supportive of the current government in its political reporting.
Headline: “A Muslim bus driver in Paris didn't allow a woman to get on the bus because he thought her skirt was too short ”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Origo reported an incident that happened in France, in which it claims a Muslim bus driver in Paris did not allow a 29-year-old woman and her friend to get on the bus because her clothing was not appropriate. The article states: “The driver pulled over at the bus stop, but did not open the door and went on. But, soon after, he had to stop at a red light. The woman ran after the bus, knocked on the door and asked to open it. The driver squinted: ‘if you dress properly, you can get on’. And he left the young woman there.” The article also reports that the father of the young woman, who is an Algerian poet, wrote a post on Facebook denouncing the episode and which was subsequently removed by the platform. The post was removed because it contained anti-Muslim hate speech, but the article by Origo does not say that and rather focus on the fact that the Facebook “censored” the truth and that the father was right to call the bus driver “an Islamist”. The article then ends with a comment about RATP, the public transport company in Paris: “it is even more outrageous that […]a council-run company, RATP, has allowed to be infiltrated by the parallel society of Muslim immigrants or people with immigrant backgrounds to terrorise other people there”.
Myth Debunked: The article is based on an incident that happened at the beginning of May in Paris, but the dynamics of the episode are not clear yet and are under investigation. On one side, the woman and her father claim that the (allegedly) Muslim bus driver did not let her get on the bus because her skirt was too short. On the other side, the bus driver, supported by his trade union, claims that he refused to let the young woman and her friend in because they were smoking a cigarette when the bus was stopping and that the two women tried to board the bus 30 meters further but he refused to let them in because it was not an official bus stop. Despite the ongoing inquiry over the incident, Origo reports the news story with certainty. It is true that the father’s post was removed by Facebook, but it is incorrect to call this censorship. Rather, the post violated the platform’s community standards because it contained hate speech that went beyond the criticism of the bus driver’s behaviour. Origo operates like some fake news sites, adopting deliberate misinformation strategies to promote their pro-government agenda. In this instance, the story is partially based on facts, which are highlighted and simplified to create a distorted representation of reality and incite hatred against Muslims. Other facts, those that would add complexity to the events, are not included. Using the same fear-mongering techniques, Origo has published many deceptive articles that describe France and Germany as “Islamised countries”.
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BELGIUM – News Site Provides Megaphone to Anti-Muslim Election Advert
Date of publication: 22 May 2019
Media Outlet: DH.be, La Dernière Heure, a French-language daily newspaper published in Belgium
Headline: “Listes Destexhe’s campaign ads on burqini provokes new outcry”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article reacts to the inflammatory message and image used by the “Listes Destexhe” party in their electoral campaign. The photo, republished by DH.be, visually compares the policies of the green party “Ecolo” to the policies of the right-wing “Listes Destexhe” regarding the usage of the burqini, a swimsuit for women which covers the whole body except the face. The image promotes anti-Muslim hatred as it shows three women, who are all running in the elections within the party, looking sad when wearing the burqini and happy when wearing a bikini.
Myth debunked: The article reports on the Ecolo party’s reaction to Islamophobic campaign material by Listes Destexhe. However, the magnified republication of the election advert on the top of the page actually propagates and spreads the same Islamophobic narrative. Additionally, the article does not provide enough contextual information or critical reporting about the campaign. Journalists should not be megaphones of hate-mongering politicians, but rather scrutinise their messages. A professional and ethical article would have provided an analysis of the xenophobic campaign by Alan Destexhe and would have used several images to illustrate the story, rather than reuse an Islamophobic poster as a clickbait.
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BELGIUM – Performance Group Disguises Antisemitism with Anti-Zionism
Date: 8 May 2019
Artist: Action Zoo Humain, led by Chokri Ben Chika
Description of the antisemitic content: The Belgian city of Ghent hosted an art festival, called Tumult 7 in its public library in May. The five day festival hosted over 40 artists from the area, one of which was Chokri Ben Chika’s performance group Action Zoo Humain. The group performed an adapted version of the recent Eurovision theme song “Dare to Dream”, the moto of this year’s Eurovision, which was held in Israel. The aim of the adapted song, according to Action Zoo Humain, was to be “ironic about ‘dare to dream’ and its message of inclusion, diversity and unity.” The song was meant to be critical of the Israeli government, with Action Zoo Humain claiming the Eurovision was being used as a smokescreen for apartheid in Israel. Throughout the song, there is no distinction made between Israel and its government, and Jews as a whole. There are very clear signs that the song is talking not only about Israel, but about Jewish people, too. At one point in the video there are people dressed as soldiers standing in front of an EU flag, which has been altered to have the Star of David with the word ‘Jew’ written in different languages inside it. It bears similarities to the the yellow badges used to identify Jews during World War 2. The lyrics also allude to Jews being taught to hate other religions and about fear and terror.
The case and the festival in general did catch the attention of local media. However, when talking about the Action Zoo Humain performance, journalists remained passive and failed to point out the antisemitic tropes. An article on Het Laatste Nieuws mentions that the collective was adapting the symbolic #DareToDream to the “Israeli reality”.
Myth debunked: The main issue here is that the Action Zoo Humain group failed to differentiate between Israel and Jews, grouping them and the criticism of them together. The yellow badges with Jew written on the European flag clearly signal that this song is not just about Israel and therefore brings a different level of meaning to the song. The line between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism is one that has been much debated, and one that is at times abused by those who want to cover up their antisemitism. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) defines antisemitism as: “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Anti-Zionism, or criticism of Israel, is not inherently antisemitic: one can critique the state of Israel without being antisemitic. Dr. Anna Szilagyi explains: “Any country can be criticized for its domestic or foreign policies. Nevertheless, in the case of Israel, a state of which majority of population is Jewish, the real purpose of the criticism of the country can also be the spread of antisemitism. This happens when instead of meaningful critique, anti-Jewish clichés are evoked in the context of the Jewish state.” Action Zoo Humain’s performance crosses the line from anti-Zionism to antisemitism, a fact which the media failed to pick up.
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