Discussing Islamophobia, the UK’s security minister just defended the ‘mainstream’ media

Selection of Islamophobic front pages
Fréa Lockley

On 18 March, the UK’s security minister made a terrifying claim on BBC Radio 4‘s Today show. As the world mourns for victims of the Mosque massacres in New Zealand, Ben Wallace defended our “mainstream media”. The same media that’s led a relentless attack on Muslim people for years.

“Robust”

Nick Robinson asked Wallace:

Are you saying that there really is an exact parallel between the radicalisation that we have seen in people’s bedrooms as they watch horror videos that leads to acts of Islamist terrorism… between that and this far right terrorism?

Wallace replied:

There is certainly very similar characteristics, which is: people’s ignorance and intolerance is going unchallenged. And… that’s partly because they can hide away from it. And it’s why I believe that one of the most important things in Britain’s society, and why I… have some optimism for the future is we have a strong mainstream media that does challenge people’s perceptions; that does challenge people’s views.

Wallace also defended the government’s controversial Prevent programme and said our “strong mainstream media” was a “rock in the storm”. When Robinson asked about measures to “recognise and confront Islamophobia” in the Conservative Party, Wallace did acknowledge that Islamophobia exists “up and down the country”. But he failed to answer Robinson’s question directly. There are growing concerns that the Conservatives have not dealt with complaints about racism in the Party.

Sorry, what?

Clearly, Wallace isn’t aware of the appalling coverage of this latest atrocity from many establishment media outlets. He also seemed to miss the BBC giving a platform to a known far-right group the day after the killings. And certainly, he failed entirely to acknowledge the extent of negative media reports about Muslim people.

Miqdaad Versi, a spokesperson for the UK Muslim Council, took time to explain fully the role played by the mass media:

As Versi pointed out, an academic study showed that establishment media reports contribute “to an atmosphere of rising hostility towards Muslims in Britain”.

Versi meticulously listed 26 examples of Islamophobic reporting by “mainstream” outlets. He also pointed out that even when those outlets are forced to apologise for “serious inaccuracies”, it’s too late. Because known far-right cheerleaders share these articles:

Versi was accurate and clear when he said that the media fuels Islamophobia:

Many other people agreed:

And Wallace also failed to acknowledge that, as The Canary reported, Conservative MPs continue to make Islamophobic comments. Yet calls led by Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi to investigate fully the “overwhelming evidence of Islamophobia” in the party are ignored.

So, yet again, the BBC allowed a Conservative MP to make inaccurate and misleading claims about the extent of Islamophobia and the crucial reasons it spreads, live on air. As the Christchurch massacre showed, this has to stop. Because the consequences if it doesn’t are deadly.

Featured image via Twitter – Miqdaad Versi

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