Eat your greens - or MULTICULTURALISM will get you

Another day, another couple of scare stories about multiculturalism in the Mail and Express. These are covered in 'Multiculturalism 'drives young Muslims to shun British values'' in the Mail and 'Surge in Muslim youth who want Islamic rule' in the Express. As we'd expect from the paper that tries to out-Mail the Mail, the Express one is the less measured, including at least one outright lie. It might even be worth a complaint to the PCC on accuracy grounds.

Both stories are based around the findings of the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange. Who'da thunk it, eh? Right wing think-tank examines Muslim fundamentalism and comes to the conclusion that multiculturalism is to blame. It's the shock conclusion nobody could ever have seen coming.

The Policy Exchange's study is, surprise surprise, deeply flawed. The main reason is that Policy Exchange do not define multiculturalism, and seem to be suggesting that multiculturalism is Tony Blair addressing Muslims as a monolithic block of people. Which it isn't. The report says:
We should allow people to express their identity freely and in a climate of genuine tolerance.
That's pretty much a definition of multiculturalism right there. It's actually a lack of a proper multicultural policy the think-tank are bemoaning. Not the existence of one.

There are more reasons why the report is flawed in its conclusion about multiculturalism being to blame. It says:
One way to tackle this [Islamism] is to bring to an end the institutional attacks on national identity – the counterproductive cancellation of Christmas festivities, the neurotic bans on displays of national symbols, and the sometimes crude anti-Western bias of history lessons – which can create feelings of defensiveness and resentment.
What do we know about the banning of Christmas festivities and displays of national symbols? That's right - they're exaggerated or made up in the first place and perpetuated by the right-wing press, even after they're exposed as fake. Winterval, anyone?

The study states that:
We asked them to give their opinion about the actions of authorities in two different scenarios. 75% believe it was wrong for a local council to have banned an advertisement for a Christmas carol service in 2003 for fear it would cause tensions.
But as we know from the brilliant article about banning Christmas in the Guardian from Oliver Burkeman:
Of course, to dismantle the myth of a full-scale War on Christmas, it isn't necessary to prove that no low-level council functionary has ever once misguidedly tried to avoid offence by eliminating references to religion. That's what seems to have happened [...] in High Wycombe, where a member of the library staff refused to display an A4 poster for a carol service in 2003 because of a rule excluding religious or political posters from a noticeboard. (The High Wycombe Carol Service Poster Incident is now regularly wheeled out as an example of how diabolically militant the anti-Christmas forces have become.)
The poster was never banned for fear of causing tensions, but because there's a rule about not displaying religious posters at all, and the staff member was probably being a bit over zealous.

The second scenario is:

64% believed it was wrong for a council to have banned all images of pigs from its offices (on calendars, toys, etc) in 2005, for the reason that they might offend Muslims’ feelings.
This is another distortion of the facts. In 2005, the benefits department of Dudley Council banned images of pigs from its offices (and only that department of the council's offices) after a complaint from a Muslim employee. The ban was lifted very shortly after for being too extreme. The Council didn't order the ban. The Council ordered for it to be lifted.

So it's not actually multiculturalism that's to blame, but a dodgy strawman version of multiculturalism where the actions of overzealous individuals that are later overturned by their superiors are taken for the actions of the superiors themselves, and their being overturned is ignored. Who creates and perpetuates the lame strawman? The right-wing press, and this think-tank itself.

So, onto the press coverage. As we'd expect, there's the familiar implication that sharia law means the same thing to all Muslims, as if they're some kind of monolithic block who interpret the Qur'an in the exact same way. The study actually critiscises the attitude that all Muslims are the same and should be treated as if they all share the same views.

The Express article probably warrants most scrutiny. The second sentence includes an outright lie. It says:

Three-quarters of Muslims aged 16-24 believe women should be forced to wear veils or headscarves [...]
The study does not say that at all. It says:
74% of 16-24 year olds would prefer Muslim women to choose to wear the veil, compared to only 28% of 55+ year olds.
Spot the difference. 'Would prefer someone to choose' is not the same as 'should be forced'. Before I met my girlfriend, I would have preferred the women I fancied to choose to sleep with me. I didn't want them to be forced to. That's the difference between an ordinary bloke and a rapist. Plus, the study specifies 'Muslim women' and the Express does not. I think a complaint to the PCC is definitely in order.

The survey also found more than one in eight young adult believers “admires” Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
No it doesn't. The study says:
7% “admire organisations like Al-Qaeda that are prepared to fight the West’. 13% of 16-24 year olds agreed with this statement compared to 3% of 55+ year olds.
The actual question is a leading question. It defines organisations like Al-Qaeda as ones that fight the West. It's impossible to answer this question by saying you support organisations that fight the West without making it look like you support Al-Qaeda too. Even so, the study definitely does not say what the Express says it does. There is no question that asks 'do you support Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups?'

It's odd that the Express would feel the need to exaggerate the negatives, given the shockingly high number who advocate the death penalty for apostasy. Isn't that scary enough? Not for Express readers, who are unlikely to be Muslim in the first place. That's also why the paper drops the reference to 'Muslim women' in the second sentence. The potential threat to its own non-Muslim readers must be maximised.

The rest of the report is not as bad, but includes some quotes that are a little misleading, like:
Today, David Cameron will admit that “uncontrolled immigration” has undermined social harmony in Britain.

“You can’t have proper integration if people are coming into Britain at a faster rate than we can cope with,” he will say in a speech in Birmingham.
Which creates the false connection between Islam and immigration. A large number of Muslims were born in Britain.

The Mail's coverage is less brazen. It at least admits that most younger Muslims are likely to have been born in Britain. It does include a lovely opening sentence/paragraph though:
The doctrine of multi-culturalism has alienated an entire generation of young Muslims and made them increasingly radical, a report has found.
The doctrine of multiculturalism. It's a fantastic phrase that isn't once used in the Policy Exchange study. What is this doctrine, and where can we read it? Nowhere. It's another Daily Mail bogeyman.

The rest of the article just repeats stuff from the flawed study. It makes a lot of the number who'd prefer to send their children to an Islamic school as if this is a Bad, Bad Thing - although it defends the practice if sending children to church schools - and even advocates the teaching of Christianity by non-denominational schools. Like the Express article, it makes much of the admiration of organisations like Al-Qaeda, although it doesn't exaggerate it nearly as much. What both articles neglect to mention is the study's own conclusion that:
What is clear is that this 7% do not constitute a coherent political movement with shared ideas or experiences. More likely is that they are expressing a vague sense of disillusionment with the West.
Or that:
When the same question was asked of the general population, 3% said they “admired organisations like Al-Qaeda that are prepared to fight against the West”.
But for me, the most chilling quote from the Mail is this one:
A series of Labour ministers have broken recently with the idea that different communities should not be forced to integrate but should be allowed to maintain their own culture and identities.
The paper seems to be defining multiculturalism as not forcing people to integrate. It thinks multiculturalism is a bad thing, so what is the implication here? That different communities should be forced to integrate. Not encouraged. Not given reason to. Forced.

Nice, eh?

*UPDATE* Just noticed where the PCC will let off the Express over the paper's lie about Muslims wanting women to be forced to wear the veil. Much later on, the article says:

Of Muslims in the 16-24 age group, the poll found 37 per cent wanted Islamic sharia law in the UK, 31 per cent wanted heretics put to death and 74 per cent wanted Muslim women to wear the full-face niqab veil or the hijab headscarf.
So, the PCC will probably claim that it's okay for the paper to lie early on because it includes the real figure later on. The thing is, the only reason I know that this is the real figure and the earlier claim is false is that I read the report. Most Express readers will have no idea that this is not a separate claim.

Also, notice that great lie, '31 per cent wanted heretics put to death'. This statistic is worrying enough without lying about it. The report does not include the word heretic, but uses the very specific phrase 'if a Muslim converts to another religion they should be punished by death.' Again, this is bad enough, and really shocking. It's not something I'm going to defend. Still, 'heretic' does not mean the same as 'convert'. It could mean people who were never Muslim in the first place. Hence the Express's use of the word instead of the correct one. All the better to frighten its readers with.

Nice again, eh?

1 comment:

septicisle said...

Great post. Only thing is I've now got no idea what to post about today. :)