Racism in the Daily Express and the uselessness of the PCC

As the Express continues to cement its reputation as the most overtly racist tabloid in the country (it's been working on that since at least 2007, with it's story 'Ethnic baby boom 'crisis'), I'm reminded of the paper's disgraceful behaviour in the past by 'Council doesn't 'force' schools to do anything about Ramadan' at TabloidWatch and 'It's tabloid correctness gone mad!' at Liberal Conspiracy. The stories are about how schools are being forced to rearrange exams and cancel things to avoid offending Muslims. They're quick to strike at any vaguely perceived slight, those Muslims. Like cobras.

Of course, the truth is that some schools have been sent guidance on how to make life a bit easier for Muslim pupils who have to go to school during Ramadan and their parents. Schools don't have to follow the guidance if they don't want to. Muslims haven't, en masse, said they're offended by having a swimming lesson during Ramadan. Have a look at TabloidWatch and Liberal Conspiracy for more.

As Tabloidwatch points out, these guidelines are either based on or include copies of guidance produced by the Muslim Council of Britain back in 2007, which I blogged about at the time. The Express must have found it particularly easy to misrepresent these new guidelines, since the paper did the same with a front page splash about the original MCB guide that included such ludicrous misrepresentations as stating that boys should be covered from navel to neck while swimming.

So bad was the article that I took the time to make a complaint to the PCC. My complaint stretched to 8 pages long, containing bullet points of each misrepresentation in the original article, both paper and online versions. It was rejected because I didn't represent the MCB, and they had sent in a complaint of their own.

The PCC found in favour of the MCB, pointing out examples of where the Express really had crossed the line, and the paper admitted some 'mistakes' like the 'navel to neck' howler. However, the PCC proved its utter uselessness by only making the judgement that the paper had to print a letter from the MCB. If I recall correctly, the paper had said it would make amendments to the most obvious mistakes.

The MCB declined the offer of writing a letter, probably reasoning that it would do more harm than good, which meant that the paper had to do absolutely nothing. As long as the MCB didn't sue the paper, that was the last of it. It could say nothing about the ruling and leave an online article that the PCC had ruled was misleading completely as it was. Hurrah for honesty.

The thing is, the paper didn't leave the story as it was. I don't mean that it went ahead and amended the most obvious howlers. It didn't bother with that. You can still see the 'navel to neck' claim if you have a look at the story on the website (link to follow shortly, be patient).

It made two changes to the story that actually made it more misleading, and both seem to reference things the MCB and I said in our complaints to the PCC in a way that looks quite deliberate.

One of the things in my complaint was that the headline of the online version 'Muslims: 'Ban' un-Islamic schools' was misleading for a couple of reasons. Obviously, Muslims hadn't said any schools (or anything else) should be banned, but I also said that saying 'un-Islamic schools' gave the impression that the article was talking about 'non-Islamic schools', meaning schools that aren't specifically Muslim schools.

Some time after the PCC adjudication, the headline to the online version was changed to 'Muslims: 'Ban non-Islamic schools' - it now contains the very phrase I'd mentioned in my complaint to describe the false impression the old headline could create.

Much of the MCB's own complaint focused on the paper pretending its guidance had called for swimming to be banned. If I remember correctly (I didn't keep a copy of the adjudication), this is one of the areas that the PCC ruled specifically was misleading.

Some time after the PCC adjudication (I certainly don't remember seeing it before), the online version was changed and a pull out quote box was added, saying ""Swimming lessons should be banned during Ramadan" - Muslim Council of Britain". One of the main things the MCB had complained about for being misleading has at some point been given its own pop-out box, put in quotation marks and attributed to the MCB.  Have a click around the Express website.  How many other pull-out quote boxes do you see?  Email me if it's more than 'none', because I've never seen any.  Looks as though the Express has gone out of its way to highlight something the PCC ruled was misleading.

This is how effective the PCC is. Articles that are found to be misleading can actually be made more so in a way that looks completely deliberate and spiteful if the complainant doesn't think the judgement is good enough.

Good luck if you want to complain about todays disgraceful headline (more on that at Enemies of Reason, No Sleep 'til Brooklands and TabloidWatch - I'll try to follow it up here).


Iftikhar Ahmad said...

Free Our Schools
Almost all children now believe they go to school to pass exams. The idea that they may be there for an education is irrelevant. State schools have become exam factories, interested only in A to C Grades. They do not educate children. Exam results do not reflect a candidate’s innate ability. Employers have moaned for years that too many employees cannot read or write properly. According to a survey, school-leavers and even graduates lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. More and more companies are having to provide remedial training to new staff, who can’t write clear instructions, do simple maths, or solve problems. Both graduates and school-leavers were also criticised for their sloppy time-keeping, ignorance of basic customer service and lack of self-discipline.

Bilingual Muslims children have a right, as much as any other faith group, to be taught their culture, languages and faith alongside a mainstream curriculum. More faith schools will be opened under sweeping reforms of the education system in England. There is a dire need for the growth of state funded Muslim schools to meet the growing needs and demands of the Muslim parents and children. Now the time has come that parents and community should take over the running of their local schools. Parent-run schools will give the diversity, the choice and the competition that the wealthy have in the private sector. Parents can perform a better job than the Local Authority because parents have a genuine vested interest. The Local Authority simply cannot be trusted.

The British Government is planning to make it easier to schools to “opt out” from the Local Authorities. Muslim children in state schools feel isolated and confused about who they are. This can cause dissatisfaction and lead them into criminality, and the lack of a true understanding of Islam can ultimately make them more susceptible to the teachings of fundamentalists like Christians during the middle ages and Jews in recent times in Palestine. Fundamentalism is nothing to do with Islam and Muslim; you are either a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

There are hundreds of state primary and secondary schools where Muslim pupils are in majority. In my opinion all such schools may be opted out to become Muslim Academies. This mean the Muslim children will get a decent education. Muslim schools turned out balanced citizens, more tolerant of others and less likely to succumb to criminality or extremism. Muslim schools give young people confidence in who they are and an understanding of Islam’s teaching of tolerance and respect which prepares them for a positive and fulfilling role in society. Muslim schools are attractive to Muslim parents because they have better discipline and teaching Islamic values. Children like discipline, structure and boundaries. Bilingual Muslim children need Bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods, who understand their needs and demands.

None of the British Muslims convicted following the riots in Bradford and Oldham in 2001 or any of those linked to the London bombings had been to Islamic schools. An American Think Tank studied the educational back ground of 300 Jihadists; none of them were educated in Pakistani Madrasas. They were all Western educated by non-Muslim teachers. Bilingual Muslim children need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. A Cambridge University study found that single-sex classes could make a big difference for boys. They perform better in single-sex classes. The research is promising because male students in the study saw noticeable gains in the grades. The study confirms the Islamic notion that academic achievement is better in single-sex classes.
Iftikhar Ahmad

Five Chinese Crackers said...


Again, I have to say that I could not possibly disagree with you more.

The absolute worst thing you can do when faced with two groups, at least one of which is at least partly ignorant and intolerant of the other is to separate those two groups.

The Express (and newspapers like it) panders to and encourages fear of the other in its shrill and inflammatory anti-muslim coverage. Its approach has a tough time working on people like me who grew up with Muslim kids at school and know first hand that the picture the papers paint is a skewed and inaccurate one.

Muslims will only lose out and become further demonised as non-Muslims are robbed of the experience of actually knowing, mixing with and enjoying the company of knowing them. Non-Muslims will no longer have direct experience to compare the misinformation of the press with. The press will have the gift of another thing they can distort and turn into evidence of Muslims wanting special treatment and scare its readers with scary speculation of just what goes on here. Potential legislation against Muslims would gain more support and, ultimately, life for Muslims in the UK would become increasingly difficult to live.

While none of the people you mention went to Islamic schools, plenty of the IRA terrorists of late last centiry went to sectarian Catholic schools, and plenty of their Loyalist counterparts went to Protestant ones. Separating children into being taught only with people of the same faith, or even sect within that faith, is no guarantee that they will not turn to extremism. This is not to say that they definitely will - just that you cannot say that they definitely won't.

The claim is also based on poor reasoning. How many Islamic schools were there in the UK when these people were growig up? Is there a great number of alumni from Islamic schools that you can fairly compare with the sheer numbers of thise who went to mixed schools?

Faith schools, of any kind, are divisive. In the case of Islamic schools, they would potentially cause more problems and make life more difficult for Muslims in general. The only way for children to mutually understand one another and respect differeces is for them to be taught in a secular environment in which whatever faith they have is respected and accommodated for, but ultimately left to time outside school for their pursuit and preaching.