Last week The Sun outdid itself as the bastion of shameless tabloid sensationalism, claiming that “1 in 5 British Muslims sympathise with Jihadis”. Capitalising on the environment of fear towards Islam in the wake of the Paris attacks, the shocking claim is based on a telephone survey of British Muslims, and seems to suggest the existence of a subversive element in British society. But on closer inspection, the claims the article is making are wholly misrepresentative of the truth.
Unpleasant content from The Sun has become almost expected, but with this headline, they have gone beyond their reputation and become actively racist. The survey is based on a sample size of 1,003, a tiny proportion of the two million strong British Muslim population, and while the language of the article implies that one in five British Muslims actively support the actions of ISIS, participants were actually asked whether they have ‘sympathy’ for young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria. Jihadists are never mentioned at all.
The writer helpfully imagines that “if the poll reflected views across the country, it would mean 500,000 have some support for jihadis”. This bold claim is utterly baseless, and serves simply to generate fear, suspicion and hatred for the Muslim community, a community which has no responsibility for the actions of a minority group of extremists. Indeed, Muslim leaders and those of Islamic faith have often spoken to condemn ISIS for their misrepresentation of the religion.
When the situation is reversed, and white Christians commit acts of terror – like Dylan Roof murdering innocent church worshippers, or Anders Behring Breivik, who killed nearly 100 people in Norway, claiming he wanted to destroy Islam – the media are quick to cry ‘not all white people’, or ‘not all Christians’, but when it comes to another race, another religion, the rules are suddenly changed. Millions of innocent Muslims are implicated in the actions of an extremist minority.
The sympathy expressed by these one in five Muslims seems to be an emotion alien to tabloid journalists in Britain at the moment. Last week The Daily Mail published a cartoon depicting rats entering the EU alongside refugees, associating those vulnerable people with terrorists. Refugees from Syria and other affected nations have been forced to flee their homes, often due to conflicts involving ISIS, and are just as fearful of the extremists as western nations, but are being met with fear and disdain.
A wave of Islamaphobic attacks in the wake of the events in Paris haa occurred – even on the Edinburgh campus – and an official petition to close the UK borders until ISIS is defeated was quickly signed by over 400,000 people. Instead of reporting the truth, The Sun has chosen to play on this moment of fear, and cast blame on millions of innocent Muslims and vulnerable refugees.
Nothing is to be gained from demonising the innocent. This moment of international crisis is a time to unite, not to divide. Creating a hostile environment will not stop those who want to join ISIS, and it will not help the refugees who have lost everything to ISIS already. But the writers at The Sun know all of this, which makes this article all the more sinister.
We must ask ourselves: what agenda are they serving? Perhaps we can find an answer in looking ahead to the EU referendum, and the growing support for leaving the European community, for closing the gates of Britain. The Sun has chosen to capitalise on a moment of grief and distress to serve their own ends, and their appalling demonisation of the Muslim community must be called out.
Image credit: Mikey