From the publication of a list of politicians with alleged Jewish origins to the dissemination of groundless fears about terrorism over Christmas, these December 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.
The propaganda media Origo reports that, in Belgium, some Christian pupils have been “forced to pray in a mosque”, but provides no sources, no footage, and no context, feeding existing Islamophobic narratives on the “submission” of Europe to Islam. This is Hungary’s media monitoring highlight for December.
From preposterous proposals to adopt “French” first names to made-up Christmas bans, these November 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.
GREECE – Centre-Right politician scare-mongers with nonexistent ban on Christmas
Date of broadcast: 4 November 2018
Media Outlet: SKAI TV, one of the main broadcasters in Greece
Author: Michael Voridis, former minister and current speaker of the conservative New Democracy party
Description of the anti-Muslim content: On a morning show on SKAI TV, Michael Voridis, former minister and current speaker of the conservative New Democracy party, stated that, if the government proposal on State-Church relations is implemented, religious icons such as Jesus Christ’s in schools and courts would not be allowed; that the cross must be removed from the Greek flag; and that Christmas would not be publicly celebrated.
Myth debunked: Religious equality, though it can be implemented through different policies and can be problematic, states that people must not be discriminated against on account of their religion or belief. Voridis’ claims are his fabricated and unrealistic interpretation of the government constitutional reform. SYRIZA is not proposing the dramatic change mentioned by the former minister. On the contrary, Voridis is using this opportunity to oppose the government proposal, and in doing so, is spreading exaggerated rumours of an impending nonexistent danger to incite public fear. The public is implicitly encouraged to see this as a consequence of living with people of other religions, among which refugees and asylum seekers. Such statements are divisive and incite violence, they poison the public debate by creating misunderstanding based on lies which actually could have consequences for the safety of migrants.
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UK – Misleading photo fuels hostility towards Muslims and asylum seekers
Date of publication: 21 November 2018
Media Outlet: Politicalite, populist far-right news website.
Author: Jordan James, Editor-in-Chief
Headline: “SEND EM’ SOUTH: Fury as Greater Manchester sees 102% increase in Asylum Seeking Migrants”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: The article reports on an exchange between the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and the Home Secretary Sajid Javid on the government pledge to reduce the number of asylum seekers being sent to Greater Manchester. The photos used to illustrate the article misinform and are inflammatory. In the entire article, there is no mention of the asylum seekers’ religion and yet the photos show a British street filled with many men who are exclusively Muslim, as well as a woman wearing a niqab. The headline used (“Send them South”) is also very biased and polarising against asylum seekers.
Myth debunked: The misleading photo of Muslim people wearing religious garments on the street is used to drive the narrative of the ‘Muslim invasion’. In this specific article, using those photos misleads readers into thinking that those “asylum seeking migrants” that have increased by 102% are Muslims and that, if they are not “sent away” every British street will look like this. Those images sell the message that Muslims are a problem for British society, creating fear and misunderstanding. When put together, both the articles and images on Muslims, create a very strong and negative narrative that has an impact in the life of Muslims in the country. The article also presents an inaccuracy. It is not true that, how the article says, “THE NORTH West of England is stuck with SEVENTY per cent of Britain’s asylum seekers”. Government figures, as mentioned in Burnham’s letter, say that “the north-west of England hosts 25% of the national population of asylum applicants who require housing and support” and that Greater Manchester is housing “70% of the region's numbers”.
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FRANCE – MP wants to force citizens to adopt a “French” name
Date of publication: 19 November 2018
Media outlet: La Provence, South East France regional newspaper.
Author: Julien Aubert, MP for the right-wing party “Les Républicains”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Julien Aubert, French MP for the right-wing party “Les Républicains”, has presented a series of 18 policy proposals on Islam in France called “Oser la France” (“Venturing France). One such proposal would force citizens to adopt a “French” middle name: “We propose, when you become French [citizen], to demonstrate your desire to integrate, that you adopt another first name from the host culture [...].When you have a foreign first name and surname, by definition, people think that you are a foreigner”. The name, Aubert says, should be chosen from the French calendar and history. Aubert sees integration in the community as a civic duty. He also suggests prohibiting the headscarf and because, according to the author, "a Jordanian study published in a [scientific] review beyond any doubt in scientific field, says that when you are growing up, covering your hair causes serious health problems”.
Myth debunked: The proposal to adopt a “French” name goes even further than France’s secularism that is allegedly implemented to protect religious freedom. It criminalises not only immigrants, but also French citizens who happen to have a non-French-sounding name. The proposal claims to to strive for integration and societal cohesion, but would in fact further stigmatise certain communities. Across decades, France’s pursuit of equality through secularism has instead suppressed diversity, particularly in relations to its Muslim population. Beyond the absurdity of claiming that wearing the headscarf is unhealthy and the adoption of a “French” name, it is worth noticing how stances that have traditionally belonged to the far-right are now being embraced and proposed by more centre-right parties such as “Les Républicains”, which is the party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy.
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AUSTRIA/GERMANY – Tabloid constructs narratives of invasion using false figures
Date of publication: 4 November 2018
Media Outlet: Kronen Zeitung Austria’s largest tabloid newspaper with a wide circulation
Author: Richard Schmitt
Headline: “Experts to ‘Krone’: ‘Now, a very different [type] is coming’”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article – which first appeared on the Krone’s website but which was then used as a source by the German outlets such as Compact Magazin – reports about an alleged impending “Grenzsturm” ("storming of the border") at the Croatian border. An unnamed “insider expert” from the Austrian Ministry of the Interior warns about an imminent breakthrough attempt by “at least 20,000 migrants”. These migrants are said to be primarily from Pakistan, Iran, Algeria, and Morocco – all countries with a Muslim majority. According to the “expert,” 95 percent of these migrants “attempting to break through there, are young men, almost all of them are armed with knives.” The Croatian police is said to be struggling to contain this “mass of armed migrants”. The expert also claims that migrants are provided with financial support in the form of “UNHCR pre-paid credit cards.”
Myth debunked: The message conveyed by this piece is that of an onslaught of aggressive invaders who are too numerous and too dangerous to be stopped are entering Europe illegally. The image of a knife-wielding Muslim invaders provokes fear among the readers. The numbers quoted in the article, however, are incorrect. Contrary to what it is implied in the article, 20,000 migrants have never been in the country at the same time – 20,000 is the overall number of migrants that were registered in the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018. When asked by the German public service television network ARD in their Vienna studio, the UNHCR said that there are currently 5,000 migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, the Croatian Ministry of Interior stated that Croatia has sufficient capacities to deal with possible threats at its border. And finally, the pre-paid credit cards provided by the UNHCR would be of little use to migrants crossing to Croatia, as the UNHCR is handing these out exclusively in Greece and that is the only place where they can be used. All this contributes to create a hostile environment for refugees based on misinformation.
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BELGIUM – News story singles out woman for wearing a headscarf
Date of publication: 21 November 2018
Media Outlet: Le Vif, weekly magazine of francophone Belgium
Author: Belga, Belgian Press Agency
Headline: “Macron à Molenbeek”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: In an article about the roundtables attended by French president Macron in Molenbeek, Brussels, one person is singled out as “a young veiled woman” while most of the other people are described by profession. The article originated from the Belgian Press Agency, Belga, and was republished by a number of online news outlets.
Myth debunked: The reference to the woman’s headscarf, and therefore religion, is not relevant to her business acumen. Describing a person according to their religious garment reinforces the Islamophobic assumption that a person is always defined by their religion. This is even more pertinent a Muslim woman is singled out in a neighbourhood like Molenbeek that it’s often associated with Islamist extremism by some media outlets. Muslims are often singled out in news stories where their religious identity is not relevant, especially in crime stories. This case is more neutral but highlights how it has become normalised to speak about Muslim people differently to how people from other religions are spoken about The European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW), GTTO partner for francophone media in Belgium, wrote a formal complaint to Le Vif’s editorial team. The editor-in-chief of the magazine Vincent Genot replied agreeing that “the fact that this young woman is veiled, practically, offers no interest for our readers”, and the reference to the veil has been removed from the article on Le Vif’s website. However, the reference remains online in other media outlets because it’s in the original article by Belga. EFOMW has also sent a complaint to Belga and is waiting for an answer.
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HUNGARY – Public broadcaster publishes anti-Muslim disinformation
Date of broadcast: 15 November 2018
Media Outlet: Kossuth Radio, the public service radio, and MT1, public service television
Headline: “In Islam women are never equal to men”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This news report mentions a trial in Germany where two Afghan men are charged with rape against a 16 years old German girl. According to the report, the two men did not understand that raping a woman was wrong and they did not show regret. After a very short introduction to the crime, an expert is given the space to slur Islam. Nikoletta Incze, researcher at the Centre for the Study of Political Islam, speaks about why Islam is dangerous for Europe: “Migrants in Europe, on behalf of Islam create new political systems in which women are never equal to men”.
Myth debunked: The news report very briefly mentions a case in Germany as a segway to criticise Islam. But no context is presented and no source is quoted. When the expert, Nikoletta Incze, is interviewed, there is no further reference to the German trial. She is allowed to labour her point that in Islam women will never be equal to men. She based her argument merely on the excerpts from the Qur’an, the Sira and the Hadith, but does not take into account the contexts in which they are interpreted. Nikoletta Incze, the expert interviewed by the public broadcaster, has appeared on unreliable conspiracy websites such as Voice of Europe. The Centre for the Study of Political Islam, of which she is a co-founder of the Hungarian branch, defines itself as “a non-profit, non-political and non- religious international educational movement”. Despite claiming neutrality, the content of the website is heavily biased against Islam and Muslims, it only partially publishes the information aimed at proving that Islam is a danger to Western democracies. Having this type of anti-Muslim content on news media is not uncommon in Hungary, but it is more serious when the public broadcaster is the one spreading anti-Muslim hate.
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In a biased article with no original sources, little context, and the point of view of a single expert, the Hungarian public broadcaster promotes prejudices against Muslims. This is Hungary's media monitoring highlight for November.
From Facebook groups mocking the Holocaust to false claims between Muslim immigrants and antisemitic attacks, these October 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.
Hirado, a TV programme on the Hungarian public broadcaster, claims that Hungary is providing a safe space for Jews because of their anti-immigration policies. This is Hungary's media monitoring highlight for October.
Our partner in Hungary, Centre for Independent Journalism, held a workshop in Hungary for 20 journalists. The workshop was titled "Deception, misinformation and the impact – use of journalistic language” and focussed on the topic of manipulative language. Specifically, the workshop covered the Hungarian media and political landscape, which is heavily influenced by emotive and manipulative language. It has come to a point where now even the independent press is taking over the language used by Orbán and his government.
Our partner in Hungary, Centre for Independent Journalism, commissioned an interview with Professor Daniel Monterescu, Associate Professor of Urban Anthropology at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Central European University. Prof. Monterescu talked about anti-Semitism and Jewish responses to the “refugee crisis”. The interview was published in 168óra (168 Hours, a weekly political news magazine in Hungary) both online and in printed version in July.
In July Origo published an article that would be funny if it wasn’t so dangerous. You can read the full story here.
From absurd antisemitic conspiracy theories on the wildfires in Greece to the many platforms giving voice to far-right fringe individuals, these July 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.
GREECE – Rothschild family accused of causing the Greek wildfires
Date of publication: 28 July 2018
Media outlet: Eleftheri Ora, far-right daily newspaper
Headline: "Rothschilds set fires with laser weapons"
Description of the antisemitic content: On the front page of Eleftheri Ora, the Rothschild family are accused of being responsible for the wildfires that devastated Athens at the end of July. According to the paper, the Rothschilds started the fire with droned armed with laser weapons. Eleftheri Ora states that the Rothschilds and the New World Order are doing this to endanger the economic and social stability of the country and result in the breakdown of social cohesion and democratic institutions. A number of online far-right news websites shared and disseminated this article.
Myth Debunked: The Rothschild family is a European banking dynasty started in the early 1800s, by the five sons of Mayer Amschel Rothschild. Born in 1774 in the Jewish ghetto of Frankfurt, Rothschild established banking branches in France, England, Italy, Germany and Austria. Now in its seventh generation, the family’s descendants, and a few external shareholders, still own the core banking business. But they did not cause the fires near Athens. They do not control the weather, they did not assassinate John F. Kennedy, they did not start wars to profit from them, and they did not cause the Holocaust. By virtue of being financially successful and of Jewish descent, the Rothschild family are at the centre of countless antisemitic conspiracy theories. As the Get the Trolls Out’s Linguistic Self-Defence Guide states, some people use the Rothschilds as a conduit for their anti-Jewish hatred and deny antisemitism at the same time. “Being affluent and influential individuals, the references to Soros and the Rothschilds can be misused” by strengthening “the clichés that all Jews are rich and powerful”, the guide states.
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UK – Scientist Dawkins belittles Muslim call to prayer over Christian bells
Date of publication:16 July 2018
Author: Richard Dawkins, renowned evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist
Tweet: "Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great mediaeval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Allahu Akhbar.” Or is that just my cultural upbringing?"
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Richard Dawkins makes a comparison between the Christian and the Muslim calls to prayer, the Church bells and the Adhan. He calls Adhan “aggressive sounding”. After being accused of intolerance, Mr Dawkins told The Independent: “Church bells are beautiful. The muezzin’s call to prayer can also be very beautiful if recited in a good voice. “But also, ‘Allahu Akhbar’ is the last thing you hear before the suicide bomb goes off.”
Myth Debunked: Richard Dawkins, known for his outspoken support of atheism, secular humanism and opposition to religion, is counterposing the sounds of two religions against each other based on a prejudiced view of Islam. He defines ‘Allahu Akhbar’ as aggressive, in line with many Islamophobic tropes that see Islam as inherently violent. As he admits later, Dawkins associates ‘Allahu Akhbar’ with terrorism, ignoring the innumerable occasions when it is used in peaceful contexts. ‘Allahu Akhbar’ literally translates as “God is greatest” and it is used by Muslims in the call to prayer, as well as in daily situations as an expression of gratitude and faith.
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FRANCE – Newspaper gives credibility to far-right terrorist
Date of publication:31 July 2018
Media outlet: Le Parisien, daily newspaper published in Paris and suburbs
Headline: “Ultra right: the secrets of the founder of the AFO group”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: In this question-&-answer interview, the daily Le Parisien gives voice and credibility to Guy Sibra, leader of a French far-right terrorist group called AFO (Operational Forces Action). At the end of June, Guy Sibra, a former police officer, was detained for a few days on “criminal terrorist association” charges. He was later released, but the investigation is ongoing and he is under police surveillance. According to the judges, the AFO group was found in possession of 36 weapons and was planning to attackFrench-Muslim citizens including women wearing hijab’s, imams as well as Muslim singers. The questions asked by the paper allow Guy Sibra to promote his Islamophobic views whilst denying he has any (“They [the judges] told us we want to poison halal food. But now, again, what would be the purpose? It is so stupid compared to throwing pork in front of mosques”) and defending himself (“We are not looking to fight but defend and help ourselves in a humanitarian way”). By giving him a voice without challenging any of his racist and violent statements, the newspaper is normalising xenophobic violence and criminal acts.
Myth Debunked: Perpetrators of previous Paris attacks have not been interviewed by French newspapers before, nor have terrorists who are under surveillance. When giving voice to a far-right terrorist, Le Parisien acts irresponsibly because it gives credibility and normalises racist and violent acts, as if they are worth listening to, and as if they are not harmful. The media have the power to influence public opinion, slowly making acceptable what was once not. A recent study published on the British Journal of Political Science has analysed the case of the populist far-right UKIP party in Britain, showing that media coverage drove party support but not vice versa. In other words, it has proved that media attention towards populist right-wing parties increases support for them. GTTO partner Licra questioned the choice of Le Parisien to publish this interview: “Between unconscious culpability and clickbait, how could Le Parisien give voice to this individual?”
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BELGIUM – Council candidate spouts anti-religious hate while imitating Hitler
Date of publication: 26 July 2018
Source: Twitter and various news media outlets
Author: Tony Hulsmans, member of New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), Flemish nationalist and conservative political party
Description of the anti-Muslim content: In a video, an N-VA party member, Tony Hulsmans, shouts antisemitic and Islamophobic insults while imitating Hitler and doing the Nazi salute. This video was shot about three years ago but re-emerged at the end of July, when it was reposted by a person on Facebook while commenting on an anti-refugee post by Hulsmans. Hulsmans, who stood as a councillor candidate in the town of Zonhoven, was soon dismissed from the N-VA list of candidates. However, he is still a party member.
Myth Debunked: Similar to the Le Parisien case, what is relevant here is not only the antisemitic and Islamophobic nature of the video, but the attention that the national media gave him. Surely local media are right to publish the story so as to inform residents who might vote for him, and the N-VA party, without having a full picture of what a council candidate believes in. But nation-wide media coverage –that includes titles such as La Libre, Le Soir, and HLN – ensured, instead, the notoriety of a racist fanatic who was unknown until the day before. Disproportionate media attention risks reinforcing harmful ideas and presents racist candidates as serious contenders.
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BELGIUM – Newspaper insists on terrorism in non-terrorism-related story
Date of publication: 31 July 2018
Media outlet: Le Vif is a French weekly news magazine published in Brussels
Headline: “A person blows themself up in Stembert: it is not terrorism”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article reports on the suicide of a person in Verviers, Belgium. As the person blew themself up, the newspaper felt the need to clarify that it was not a terrorist attack. The author makes a point of saying this in the headline, in the intro, and in the article. Despite this incident having nothing to do with terrorism, almost half of the article is devoted to recounting how in 2015, a week after the Charlie Hebdo attack, a terrorist cell was dismantled in Verviers.
Myth Debunked: This article links two events that have nothing in common except geography: the suicide of a person in Verviers in 2018 and the dismantlement of a terrorist cell in Verviers in 2015. Le Vif makes this connection because the suicide was committed by an explosion – generally associated, in the European public perception, with Islamic terrorism – and even though the police stated the case was not being treated as terrorism. Spending, then, almost half of the article explaining, in detail, the dismantlement of an Islamic terrorist group three years ago is simply unprofessional. It contributes to creating confusion and misinformation, for which Muslim residents eventually pay the price.
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HUNGARY – Origo uses persecution against Copts to fuel hatred against Muslims
Date of publication: 22 July 2018
Media outlet: Origo, 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: “Journalist: According to Egyptian Muslims, Christian women can be raped”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article reports on the persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, but it does so in order to instil fear of Islam and Muslims among its readers. It says “Egypt is the best example of what happens to Christian communities if Muslim migrants takeover”. The main point of the article is to claim that Muslims and Christians cannot live together because “Muslims believe that women who do not wear the veil deserve to be raped”. The article also mentions that Christian people were already living in Egypt when Arab Muslims came to invade the region, convert residents, and destroy their language and culture.
Myth Debunked: Coptic Christians make up about 10-15 percent of Egypt's population and are the largest Christian community in the Middle East. While it is true that Coptic Christians in Egypt are facing unprecedented levels of persecution due to the rise of radical Islamist groups, this piece by Origo aims to fuel hatred towards Muslims through misinformation and sensationalism. This article equates migrants in Europe with Islamist extremists and accuses all Muslims of persecuting Christians, instead of clearly differenciating between terrorists and ordinary citizens. The persecution of Copts in Egypt is due to the overspill of Islamic terrorists that have driven out of Iraq and Syria, but the article does not explain this, and rather talks about Muslims in general. There are many countries where Muslims and Christians live peacefully together, but Origo does not mention this either. The goal of instilling fear and anger among readers in Hungary is obsequiously in line with the anti-immigrant government agenda.
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GERMANY – Vile blog post accuses all Muslims of antisemitism
Date of publication: 20 July 2018
Media outlet: Die Achse des Guten (The Axis of the Good) is a political blog
Author: Rafael Korenzecher, editor of Jüdischen Rundschau
Headline:“We are not against Jews. We are just blind”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: Guest blogger Rafael Korenzecher claims that Islam has always aspired to be a religion, but it is not. He degrades Islam saying that it is a “backwards, hegemonical, inhumane, intolerant and democracy-hating violent world-dominance ideology" that directly leads to "Islam-generated violence against Jews". The article claims that antisemitic incidents in Germany, “as a rule, they are hardly ever committed by the right [...], but mainly by Muslims.” According to the author, Islam is incompatible with democracy and Western society.
Myth Debunked: Although there are small sections of the Muslim community who have promoted antisemitic views, the author of this blog post completely fails to understand the problem of antisemitism in Europe today. On the contrary, he makes widespread Islamophobic generalisations that are vile and violent. Fighting one form of racism (antisemitism) resurging to another form of racism (anti-Muslim hate) will not decrease bigotry and discrimination. People with hatred against an ethnic or religious group, usually hate other groups too and vice versa. Only when we start to address antisemitism and anti-Muslim hate, through education and community work, we can stamp both out. There are many good examples of interfaith work all across Europe that sees plenty of support for Muslims who stand in solidarity with Jewish communities against both antisemitism and Islamophobia.
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