Friday, 02 August 2019 15:34

JULY - MEDIA MONITORING HIGHLIGHTS

From a Der Spiegel article alluding to antisemitic tropes to Origo's exploitation of Christian persecution to incite hatred against Muslims, these June 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.

UK – The Telegraph Mischaracterises Muslim Players’ Actions at the Cricket World Cup Victory Celebrations, Reinforcing Anti-Muslim Sentiments

Telegraph Cricket Champagne CelebrationsDate of publication: 16 July 2019

Media Outlet: The Telegraph (on Twitter), national daily British broadsheet newspaper

Link:https://bit.ly/311WcSE

Headline: “Two of England's Cricket champions were forced to walk away from the champagne celebrations because they are Muslim and therefore choose not to drink. But in a multicultural Britain should this be happening? And are champagne celebrations outdated in multicultural Britain?”

Description of the anti-Muslim content: Earlier this month, the England men’s team won the Cricket World Cup. The Telegraph posted a video on their Twitter account showing two players walking away from the team celebrations to avoid being sprayed by the celebratory champagne popping. These two players were Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, who have both been playing for the England team for many years. Both players are Muslim, and therefore choose to not be in contact with alcohol. The Telegraph stated that the players were “forced to walk away from the champagne celebrations” and “stop their celebrations,” posing the question of whether such celebrations should still be happening in multicultural Britain. The content from the Telegraph paints the whole situation in a very negative light and seems to suggest that Ali and Rashid were very upset about being ‘forced’ to no longer celebrate their win. Moreover, the way the Telegraph chose to frame this issue makes it seem like Ali and Rashid, and the wider Muslim community, are the ones questioning whether champagne celebrations should still be taking place, and wanting to change this. Responses to the post on Twitter show a reflection of this rhetoric, with one user stating: “Then they should learn to fit in with us. Why is it we always have to change to accommodate them? Enough is enough. Time they learned to integrate and adopt our traditions.” And another claiming: “If this continues, West wouldn't be West any more. A whole civilisation and culture is going to be wiped out in the name of accommodation and multiculturalism.

Myth debunked: The main issue with this piece of content is the framing, which puts Ali and Rashid in a negative light. A day before the Telegraph published their video, Ali wrote a piece for the Guardian titled: “Diversity is one of our strengths and it helped us win the World Cup.” In the piece, Ali explains: “Once again you will have seen Rash and myself stepping away when the champagne was sprayed on the podium and I find it weird that people still think it is strange that we do it. We respect our teammates and their desire to do this, they respect our beliefs. It’s really that simple. The amazing thing about our team is that guys took time out very early on to talk to us about our religion and our culture. They have made adjustments for us and we have for them. And we live in harmony.” It is clear from Ali’s words that he has no issue with the champagne celebrations: he and Rashid chose not to participate, while respecting their teammates’ desires to do so. However, this standpoint is not reflected by the publication. The Telegraph could have been well-intentioned, wanting to point out how certain celebrations might exclude certain individuals from participating. However, the way the news piece was framed mischaracterizes the two Muslims players’ actions, falsely portraying them as having issues with this practice. Moreover, the framing encourages those already holding anti-Muslim and anti-multiculturalism sentiments to spread those in response to the post, as they are seeing their narratives reinforced. What should have been a celebration of a multicultural team winning a World Cup becomes a hateful diatribe against believers practicing their religion.

More to read:

Diversity is one of our strengths and it helped us win the World Cup

Muslim sports heroes like Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali have helped to bridge Britain’s toxic cultural divides

 

FRANCE – Media Outlets Fail to Fact-Check Nationality of Killer When Reporting on Murder Case, Spreading Anti-Algerian Sentiment

Europe Israel Mamoudou BarryDate: 21 July 2019

Media Outlet: Europe-Israel, a news site that addresses European citizens who support Israel. It often publishes anti-Muslim content.

Link: https://bit.ly/2yu4qqF

Headline: “Mamoudou Barry, Guinean, beaten to death by Algerian supporters because he was Black”

Description of the Xenophobic and anti-Muslim Content: On the night of the African Cup of Nations match between Algeria and Senegal, a Guinean man was murdered by a man of Turkish origins in a racist attack in Rouen, France.  However, a number of media outlets, especially on the far-right, immediately reported that the killer was of “Algerian nationality.” Europe-Israel is one of the publications that did not fact-check the nationality of the assailant, stating that: “the Algerian started beating his head with a hand weapon.” Along the same lines, the TV show “Les Grandes Gueules" on the RMC channel was also quick to report that the perpetrator was Algerian. The TV host Barbara Lefebvre said “we don’t’ want to mention the identity of the aggressor, but it is quite clear that it was a person of Northern African origins.” Underneath the Europe-Israel article, people posted comments attacking North Africans and Muslims. After other news media said that the murderer had Turkish origins, and not Algerian, Europe-Israel corrected the article.

Myth Debunked: During the Africa Cup of Nations, people of Algerian origins have often been falsely accused of violence. People belonging to the fachosphere, the far-right in France, spread fabricated news about French-Algerians who committed crimes during Algeria’s football matches. Before including the religion or the ethnicity of a perpetrator, journalists should aim at the utmost accuracy and always ask themselves if this information is relevant to the story. The immediate blaming of Mamoudou Barry’s murder on an Algerian man, by media outlets and social media comments, reveals a problem of stereotyping and marginalisation against people of Algerian roots. Algeria was a French colony for 132 years until 1962, when it became an independent state after a war that left a heavy Algerian death toll.  The colonial history of France is crucial in understanding the discrimination and the segregation that people of North African origins experience in the country. It is a complex form of discrimination where key categories of the Franco-Algerian identity intersect. Other than ethnicity and class, religion plays an important role. As the NGO Minority Rights Group states, “anti-Muslim sentiments have led to France’s North African minority being deemed a threat to security and French values.”

More to Read:

French-Algerians are still second-class citizens

Being Muslim in France

Getting the facts right: reporting ethnicity and religion

 

BELGIUM – Jewish MP says the kippah is a symbol of faith and the veil a symbol of oppression

Freilich le soirDate of publication:: 14 July 2019

Media Outlet: Le Soir, a liberal French-language newspaper in Belgium

Linkhttps://bit.ly/2yzSMu9

Description of racist and anti-Muslim content: Interviewed by the newspaper Le Soir, the conservative N-VA MP Michael Freilich said: “the veil is not a religious symbol, but rather a symbol of oppression of women by men. We cannot say the same for the kippah, which just remind us that there is something more up there, over us.” Freilich’s statement was a response to a statement by minister Denis Ducarme who equated the MP Farida Tahar’s hijab and MP Michael Frelich’s kippah, which were worn during their oath of office. Freilich was editor-in-chief of Belgium’s largest Jewish magazine, the Antwerp-based Joods Actueel, until earlier this year, when he resigned to run for parliament. When he left his editorial position, he published a statement in his own magazine saying that he was “particularly concerned about immigration policy” because Belgium had let in “people with extremist views.”

Myth Debunked: Although everyone has a different reason for wearing the kippah or hijab, both garments signify the religious belief and cultural affiliation of those who wear them. Both are an expression of identity, and should be respected as such.

“Kippah” is the Hebrew word for head-covering, and can be worn by Jewish men for either daily or special occasions. “Hijab” translates to modesty, and is the most common type of Islamic headwear in Europe.

Calling the veil a symbol of oppression deprives Muslim women who wear the hijab by choice of their agency, and implies that they are uniformly being subjugated by men. While there are certainly women who do not choose to wear the hijab by choice, criticism of the headscarf often flattens the diversity of experiences of women who chose to wear it, and instead functions to “other” those who do wear it. This emboldens Islamophobic attitudes, and further obscures the lived experiences of Muslim women.

More to Read:

Questions and Answers on Restrictions on Religious Dress and Symbols in Europe 

Connection between Kippah and Hijab 

Why do Muslim women wear a hijab? 

 

HUNGARY – Origo exploits Christian persecution to incite hatred against Muslims

origo christiansDate of publication: 6 July 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.

Link:  https://bit.ly/2OvtpES

Headline: “Also Christians in Africa are Increasingly At Risk”

Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article by propaganda media outlet Origo focuses on the discrimination and violence that Christian communities face in Africa. It claims that  Western countries are not taking any action to address this issue even though “the disappearance of Christian communities in the Middle East is causing very serious security policy risks in Europe.”According to Origo, Western media do not report on hatred against Christians, but they “give a huge amount of exposure to Islamophobia.” It is also stated that “in many cases, Christian communities have been an impediment to the advance of Islam.” The article uses Algeria as an example: Algeria was a centre of Christianity when Saint Augustine lived in the 5th century, but now almost the entirety of the population is Muslim: “how many countries are still waiting for this fate, and when will the West do something?”, the reporter asks.

Myth Debunked: Reports by Christian organisations, such as Aid to the Church in Need, have denounced an increase in the persecution and discrimination against Christians around the world in the past few years. An interim report by the Bishop of Truro commissioned by British Foreign Secretary warns that Christianity is risking being “wiped out” from parts of the Middle East. However, while this report states that “a focus on Christian persecution must not be to the detriment of other minorities, but rather to help and support them,” the Origo article uses facts and figures to attack Muslims, a common theme in the pro-government news outlets which are aligned with the ruling Fidesz party. Using the same fear-mongering technique of other articles, this story is only partially based on facts, which are simplified to distort reality and incite hatred. Other facts, which would add nuance and contextualize the story, are not included. According to Pew Research Center’s 9th annual study of global restrictions on religion, harassment of religious minorities around the world continued to increase in 2016. The results, published in June 2019, show that “Christians and Muslims have typically been harassed in the largest number of countries around the world”, respectively in 144 countries and 142.

More to read:

Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith

How Islam Created Europe

 

GERMANY – Pseudo “investigative” article perpetuates antisemitic stereotypes of hidden Jewish political manipulators

spiegel lobbyingDate of publication: 12 July 2019

Media OutletDer Spiegel, a German weekly news magazine, one of the oldest and largest of its kind in Europe.

Link: https://bit.ly/32zcjJk

Headline: “‘Lobbyism in the Bundestag: How two associations want to influence German Middle East policy”

In May 2019, the Bundestag – Germany’s parliament – passed a resolution which condemns the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as antisemitic. Furthermore, the resolution holds that the German government cannot support any organizations which support the BDS movement, call for a boycott of Israel, or question Israel’s right to exist. According to the resolution, the “radical nature of the all-encompassing call for a boycott leads to the stigmatisation of Israeli citizens of Jewish faith as a whole."

Proponents of the BDS movement assert that the movement attempts to emulate the campaigns against South African apartheid in the 1980s. However, critics of the movement point out that comparisons between apartheid South Africa and Israel are “an unfair and inaccurate slander.” After all, while problems between different ethnic groups in Israel might persist, Arab Israelis are citizens with the right to vote. Aside from ending an alleged Israeli apartheid, the goals of the BDS movement include stopping the occupation of the Palestinian territories and allowing Palestinian refugees and their descendants (which would amount to roughly five million people) to their ancestral homeland. As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) argues, some supporters of the movement might genuinely believe that boycotting, disinvesting and sanctioning Israel could bring about policy change; however, “the predominant drive of the BDS campaign and its leadership is not criticism of policies, but the demonization and delegitimization of Israel.” This is in line with the Bundestag’s resolution which holds that the “argumentation patterns and methods used by the BDS movement are anti-Semitic” – and this resolution is the backdrop to the article in question published in Der Spiegel, one of Germany’s most popular news magazines.

Specifically, the article claims that two lobby groups – WerteInitiative (“Value Initiative”) and Nahost Friedensforums (“Middle East Peace Forum”, abbreviated as “Naffo”) – which represent Jewish-German positions had influenced German politicians in order to mold and further the resolution. The authors find evidence for this alleged manipulation in donations made to the parties by private people associated with the lobby groups, group dinners held by the associations for the members of parliament, and similar lobbying efforts. In doing so, the article evokes and perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotypes of scheming Jews influencing politics for their private purposes.

Myth Debunking: The article is problematic for three main reasons: 1) the examples given as proof appear to have been chosen arbitrarily, 2) the language used is polemic, and 3) the article alludes to anti-Semitic tropes. 

First, it is unclear why the authors single out this case and these lobby groups. While one might criticize political lobbying as a practice in general, the authors specifically focus on Jewish lobbying groups. Furthermore, the article suggests that the resolution was passed due to the efforts of WerteInitiative and Naffo – which is a stretch to say the least. 

On the issue of a dinner after which several attending representatives had tweeted similar content regarding a documentary on antisemitism, the article asks suggestively “All of it mere coincidence?” – leaving it to the reader to draw connections while allowing itself sufficient deniability. This is poor journalism and far below the standard to which the public can hold a magazine such as Der Spiegel.

Secondly, the choice of words in this article repeatedly bears negative connotations. For instance, the authors write that the lobby groups promoted their cause “offensively” – “so offensive”, in fact, that one interviewee apparently spoke of “systematic exertion of influence” which resulted in the resolution passing. The article also speaks of “aggressive” and “dubious methods” and highlights how “subtle” the work of the lobby groups was.

Lastly, the article alludes to the antisemitic stereotype of a small hidden Jewish cabal manipulating global affairs. For instance, the authors write that “It is remarkable, however, how large the influence of these two associations is, considering how relatively small they are and how little the wider public knows of them.” Sentences such as these attribute awesome and unnatural power to groups that appear to be insignificant to the uninitiated eye – thus playing into conspiracy theories about allegedly powerful Jewish string-pullers. This leads into the main argument of the article, which holds that scheming Jews are using their money to change the course of history—AKA, a classic anti-Semitic stereotype. The following sentence is problematic, too: “The Israeli government then celebrated the Bundestag resolution as though it were a trophy.” Again, the article insinuates that the resolution would not have been passed without these two lobby groups. More importantly, it invokes the idea that the Bundestag played into the hands of the Israeli government in some kind of game – one which was won by the Israeli government now celebrating its triumph. Sentences such as these may lead to a further demonization of Israel and perpetuate the anti-Semitic notion that Israel is meddling in other countries’ affairs.

Spiegel’s own follow-up article – which was meant to address some of the criticism levied against the original – does little to truly address any of the criticisms. It fails to explain why these lobby groups were singled out and why the respective examples of allegedly worrisome practices were brought up. Even with the additional explanations, the examples still appear to be arbitrary. It also does not address any of the polemic language used and dismisses the allegation of antisemitism without sincerely reflecting on why these criticisms were levied in the first place.

In sum, this article bases its arguments on far-fetched, speculative, and superficial evidence that is a textbook example of some of the most common tropes and stereotypes.

More to read:

BDS: how a controversial non-violent movement has transformed the Israeli-Palestinian debate

German magazine under fire for promoting anti-Jewish conspiracy

Pro-Israel Groups Promoted anti-BDS Resolution in German Parliament, Der Spiegel Reports

„Der Spiegel“ und das gefährliche Spiel mit den Israel-Freunden

Heftige Kritik am „Spiegel“ wegen Antisemitismus

 

BELGIUM – Right-Wing Blog Quotes Quran Out of Context to Spread Anti-Muslim Sentiments.

westerseMedia Outlet: westerse-beshaving.org

Link: https://bit.ly/2SRLrQf

Description of the anti-Muslim content: The online blog Westerse Beschaving (Western Culture) is a platform dedicated to spreading anti-Muslim hate. It does this through cherry picking quotes from the Quran to ‘prove’ that Muslims are violent, sexist and backwards, and therefore do not belong in the West. The blog is set up in a similar style to Wikipedia, a disinformation tactic that makes it aesthetically look like an official and reliable source. One recent piece, titled “Hating, because it’s required” uses certain verses from the Quran to argue that Muslims are required to hate all non-Muslims, and use extreme violence to showcase this hate. It states: “This is the basis and foundation of the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. War, hostility and hatred from the believer to the unbeliever.” The piece further goes on to quote an ISIS propaganda video to show how Muslims are taught to hate non-Muslims, framing this as an understanding for all of Islam, rather than an extremist group. It is one of many pieces on the platform that implements this editorial style and narrative to further an Islamophobic agenda.

The blog is often used by people who want to get an anti-Muslim point across. Specifically, the blog is referenced a lot in the comment section of the Vlaams Belang Facebook page. Vlaams Belang, a right-wing populist Belgian political party, often spreads Islamophobic sentiments; it is not surprising that they often use Westerse Beschaving as a source.

Myth debunked: The main issue with the Westerse Beschaving blog is the process of cherry-picking certain Quranic verses to spread a message that all Muslims are hateful and violent. The quotes are taken out of context, and never provided alongside the historical and theological origins of the Quran, Islam or specific verses mentioned. Without this context, the authors are able to manipulate these topics into a dangerous narrative.

It is not just Islam; taking religious texts out of context is an issue that spans across religions. This is why a specific verse must always be put in the context of the broader passage and the overall message of the religious text. If we fail to do this, we run the risk of mischaracterizing a religion, the bread and butter of anti-religious hatred. The main issue in this case in the intent. Westerse Beschaving is specifically using this technique to paint a very negative image of Islam, and to ‘prove’ that Muslims do not belong in the West. It is not in line with Westerse Beschaving’s ideology to put verses into context and explain to their readers the theological background of the Quran. Outlining what certain verses mean in the broader context of the Quran would defeat the dangerous rhetoric Westerse Beschaving is trying very hard to push. Moreover, using sources such as ISIS propaganda to make certain points about Islam and Muslims is not only extremely hurtful and unfair, but very misrepresentative.

More to read:

Taking the Qur’an out of Context

Yes, You Are Taking Those Verses out of Context: A Muslim Responds to Atheist Ali A. Rizvi

Is it ever appropriate to take a single verse of Scripture out of its context?

 

GREECE – Religious News Platform Hosts Author Spewing Anti-Muslim Claims With No Evidence

vima orthodoxias serena nomikouDate of publication: 14 July 2019

Media Outlet: Vima Orthodoxias (‘Orthodox Tribune’) is a website which reports on ecclesiastic issues as well as overall religious and social content

Author: Serena Nomikou

Link: https://bit.ly/2YtfRxv

Headline: “The Islamic State of Sweden”

Description of the anti-Muslim content: Vima Orthodoxias hosted Serena Nomikou, a writer who is known for their conspirationist and anti-Muslim views. She authored a piece for a different platform in May which refuted the accidental nature of the Notre Dame fire, blaming Muslims for the event. In this Vima Orthodoxias piece, Nomikou discusses Sweden, labeling it an ‘Islamic State’ due to the high population of migrants from the Middle East. Throughout the piece, she claims that the country is being overtaken by immigrants and that have created a situation where “the level of crime and violence that this once quiet country faced is like a small-scale war.” She goes on to claim that “car fires, unknown until recently, are now a daily occurrence and are commonplace, as are bomb blasts—none of which is true. Deadly shootings have risen sharply in a short period of time, witnesses have become intimidated and the code of silence has prevailed in Sweden's socially and economically depressed migrant areas.” The image used for the article - often used in conspiracy websites like Breitbart and Infowars - shows a Swedish flag on the background with two masked men, who look like Islamic fighters photoshopped on top of it.

This is not the first time Vima Orthodoxias has published pieces with such extreme anti-Muslim views. Last month we outlined how the platform published an article authored by Bishop Amvrosios which also contained many similarly extreme tropes. This month, Vima Orthodoxias hosted Bishop Amvrosios again, who this time talked about the apparent “domination of Islam” coming to Greece. It seems this rhetoric is becoming common place for the religious news platform, whose owners are failing to properly fact-check articles in favor of fuelling anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Myth Debunked: There is a severe lack of evidence supporting this article. Throughout the piece, Nomikou makes very serious claims without backing them up with any proof. Although she says that a series of sources support her claims, thereby showing awareness of the importance of supporting evidence, there is not a single link to additional resources in the article. However, through a simple Google search we can find that many of the things she is claiming are either untrue or highly exaggerated. For example, Nomikou claims that car fires are now commonplace and occurring daily in Sweden. There is no evidence backing this claim. Yes, in 2018, there was a severe incident during which around 80 cars were set on fire by gangs, mainly in the city of Gothenburg. This rightly got a lot of media attention; however, since then, there are little to no reports to be found about the “daily” fires the author is referring to. It is also interesting to note that while the headline of the article refers to the ‘Islamic State of Sweden,’ the author barely mentions Islam or Muslims in her article. Is this because the author assumes we will make this connection between migrants and Muslims subconsciously, as she does? There are no sources which support the claim that Islam is behind a supposed ‘war-like’ Sweden, yet this is what the article is leading with through its headline and imagery.

More to read:

The Balkans Are the World Capital of Islamophobia

Why do far-right Islamophobes use Sweden as a hate propaganda against Islam and Muslims?

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