“Nothing of importance will not offend somebody, somewhere.”
Is the BBC biased against the EDL?
I think it is…though arguably justifiably. The EDL does get a lot of airtime and coverage…but there is definitely not a neutral stance from the BBC when it talks about them or to them, there is always an undercurrent to every BBC report on them…the default approach is always that the EDL is extremist, violent and racist, that their anti-radical Islamist rhetoric is just an excuse to have a go at Muslims rather than to reform the ideology as they claim.
Regardless of the actions of some EDL members at demonstrations the EDL would have a problem…that problem being the fact that the vast majority are white, working class and Christian. The BBC takes one look and shudders. Someone like Tariq Ramadan though can say the same things and get a warm welcome at the BBC…as noted later in this post.
Here is Sarah Montague talking on the Today programme about such groups:
Montague says: ‘It’s one thing to say these are extremist groups on the fringes…but it’s the extent to which they pollute the rest of the population I suppose in terms of how you deal with it is the concern and how much pollution do you think has gone on?’
What other politcal group would get spoken of in such terms? Their ideas ‘pollute’ the rest of the population? Can’t imagine her saying that about a religion.
Of course the EDL do themselves no favours by presenting a certain ‘face’ to the world….however that is almost inevitable given the demographic that they mainly spring from and the method of passing on their mesaage…but is that any reason to discount and ignore their beliefs?
This was John Simpson’s reaction to riots in Paris a few years ago:
‘The riots in France by the Muslim immigrants were due to Muslim’s fury and resentment, bitter grievances, ignored and demeaned, kept in poverty by a system which cares very little about them.’
There is a similar BBC reaction to the riots in Sweden….and of course to the ones the UK recently.
It would be interesting to see the BBC’s reaction if the EDL adopted the ‘Sinn Fein/IRA’ approach and separated the ‘direct action’ protest group from the political…and got themselves some media savvy spokesman with some gravitas and stature….perhaps even a Muslim.
The BBC were always ready to talk to Gerry Adams…going so far as to evade a government ban on broadcasting interviews with the IRA…despite his links to the murderous IRA who tortured, bombed and killed so many.
A few facts about the EDL:
The EDL has just over 30,000 members.
The EDL’s basic values are laid out in this document:
Memorandum of Understanding relating to the formation of a European network of advocates for human rights and personal freedoms, in opposition to Sharia Law and other forms of oppression.
The EDL’s avowed intention is to stop radical Islam, which they believe stems from the Koran which they view as ‘barbaric’ and out of date…they want to see the Koran reformed and brought into the modern , progressive world…controversial stuff.
How different is that to the call by highly respected, and controversial, Muslim ‘reformer’ Tariq Ramadan who says Muslim communities must take immediate steps including facing down literal interpretations of the Koran that bear no relationship to modern life?
The BBC is quite happy to chat to Ramadan and accord him the greatest respect….
Islamic extremist or the man leading reform of the faith? Professor Tariq Ramadan explains why his critics are wrong and why the London bombings mean more than ever that Western Muslims must split from the East.
Muslim communities must take immediate steps, he says, including facing down literal interpretations of the Koran that bear no relationship to modern life.
So is Tariq Ramadan a ‘far right extremist’ then? His views are the same as the EDL’s…expressed somewhat more diplomatically.
Dr Usama Hasan is also allowed a voice on the same subject:
‘Specific examples of literalist, fundamentalist readings that still dominate Muslim attitudes worldwide are manifested in the resistance to progress in human rights, gender-equality and democratic socio-political reforms that are too-often heard from socially-conservative Muslims.’
Is he on the ‘far Right also…is he ‘polluting’ the population?
How popular is the EDL and just how many people agree with their views?
Matthew Goodwin, a leftwing academic has made it his job to study the ‘far Right’ and the ‘Counter Jihad movement’……from his work we can see that 50% of his poll agree that there will be a ‘clash of civilisations’ between white Britons and Muslims…36% disagree. Further more 52% of Conservatives, 33% of Labour, 18% of UKIP and 24% ‘other’, and only 5% of the BNP agree with the EDL.
So there is a large ground swell of opinion that does think the EDL have something worth saying…Goodwin himself admitting:
‘Their beliefs about the threatening nature of Islam have wider public support.’
Having said that the EDL say it came into existence precisely because the voices of those people were being ignored:
‘We’re English, we’re working class, millions of us out there, we’re not being listened to.’
The BBC followed the EDL in a film: ‘Young, British and Angry’ from which that quote came.
The film maker, Ben Anderson, concluded that they may still not be listened to…not because the message is wrong…indeed many Muslims, as shown above with Tariq Ramadan, support the reform of Islam but the violence and abuse at EDL marches turns people away:
‘I was in a Luton pub with two of the founding members of the EDL, who had been celebrating St George’s Day.
Two childhood friends of theirs arrived, brothers, and African Muslims. One was practising, the other wasn’t.
“We agree with you about Islamic extremism,” they told their EDL friends.
“We’d be side by side with you at those demos, but there are just too many idiots there, we’d end up in fights.”
This summed up perfectly the problem the EDL has – as long as you can hear and see racism and violence at its demos – as long as its main tactic remains organising what is essentially football awaydays – where hundreds, and sometimes thousands of young men get tanked up and march into town centres, looking and sounding like they want that civil war they have predicted, it’s difficult for many people to take any political point seriously.’
That is a dangerous game though from the BBC to join in…to dismiss the EDL because of their ‘football hooligan’ image only serves to further their frustration at their views not being taken seriously…once they believe that democracy and the politicians have failed them some on the Far Right might eventually conclude that the IRA or Islamist approach is the only one that gets respect and results….everyone takes what they have to say seriously….before 9/11 no one cared a jot about ‘Muslim issues’…no one even knew what they were…now everyone listens.
As I say a dangerous game to keep denigrating, demonizing and whipping up hate against these people because of their views…views which coming out of the mouth of a Muslim the BBC respects.
Mathew Goodwin himself admits in a letter to the Labour Party advising it on its immigration and identity politics that faith in politics will fail if such issues are not addressed ….though he is no friend of the EDL:
‘You [Labour] will be nervous about the conversations above. But not having them may well undermine your longer-term goals. The same applies in Britain, where academics such as Lauren McLaren have shown how feelings of cultural disunity do not apply only to feelings toward other citizens: they also stretch to feelings about political elites and how the overall community is governed. Put in other words, by ignoring these concerns over immigration and identity – and in particular getting to get to grips with the cultural dimension – you risk undermining not only your own goals, but broader trust in the British political system.’
It is perhaps ironic that I use those figures from Matthew Goodwin because he is someone who is engaged in a battle against the EDL…not the Islamic radicals though…just the Far Right and the EDL.
All the more ironic when he lectures Labour on the need to listen to the ‘people’ about immigration and national identity when Goodwin seeks to push the EDL out of the debate.
In his study : The Roots of Extremism: The English Defence League and the Counter-Jihad Challenge, he makes the case for an intensive campaign against such groups:
‘Few mainstream voices in Europe are actively challenging counter-Jihad narratives, or the surrounding reservoir of anti-Muslim prejudice among the general public, but this is an essential part of any successful counter-strategy.’
‘The paper takes the English Defence League (EDL) as a case study to reveal the drivers of support for counter-Jihad groups, which can assist in designing effective and appropriate responses to the counter-Jihad movement.’
So rather than believe that the EDL may have something to say Goodwin has immediately decided they must be silenced. You have to wonder how much the BBC has bought into Goodwin’s ‘strategy’ and shapes its approach to reporting on the EDL based on ‘countering’ their movement as he suggests.
Goodwin has of course made regular appearances on the BBC promoting this approach.…on the Big Question, on Today, on various news programmes.
How much can we trust Goodwin? Is he a disinterested bystander?
He is pro Labour as noted above…
What is it that he claims about the likes of the EDL?:
‘They are not simply anti-Muslim or overtly racist, but xenophobic and profoundly hostile towards immigration. They are more likely than others in society to expect inter-communal conflict and to believe that violence is justifiable.’
That’s taking a pretty broad brush to a whole organisation…the ‘silent majority’ of whom do not shout racist abuse or engage in violence.
Back with Montague on the Today programme we are told:
Muslims are scared…they are gripped by an endemic fear after this attack…which alienate and isolates them from society.
Not only that but: There was a general fear of [British] society…not just of the EDL and the Far Right.
The EDL are exploiting the murder [of Lee Rigby]…aiming to be ‘at war’ with Islam…encourage low level conflict and tension in communities.
You have to ask, as the BBC doesn’t, just what is the real cause of this supposed ‘endemic fear’?
The non-Muslim’s ‘endemic fear’ of Islam is of course not considered….or just dismissed as islamophobia.
What is it that Muslims fear? Attacks in retaliation? Retaliation for what? Retaliation caused by bombs and a horrifc murder by other Muslims in the name of Islam.
So in other words the problem isn’t really the Far Right…it’s Muslim extremists…who were the ones who openly declared that they wanted to start a war and went ahead and tried to start one.
As said, no one had the slightest interest in Muslims, or Sikhs, or Mormons, or even Christians before 9/11….who changed that atmosphere of benign neglect and tolerance?
The BBC has carried out many interviews with ‘Tommy Robinson’, leader of the EDL.
The problem is of course that the EDL are mostly white, working class and haven’t been to Oxbridge…not only that but they promote a view that the BBC recoils at. They lack credibility in the BBC’s eyes to talk about Islam and reform..whatever the actual merits of their case, Tariq ramadan is ‘brown’ and Muslim…he wears a suit and doesn’t get involved in street demos…the BBC loves him.
Here is one of Jeremy Paxman’s interviews with Tommy Robinson which demonstrates the contemptuous disdain the patrician journalists of the BBC hold the EDL in. Here Paxman is only concerned with linking the EDL to Breivik….Paxman states that no one denies there is lots of concern [about Islam]…but he doesn’t address those concerns at all….I wonder if Tariq Ramadan’s work gets referenced in Breivik’s ‘manifesto’?
In this other interview Paxman denies the Muslim rape gang theory (now proven of course)and again treats Robinson with disdain.
Listen to the radio and you will always hear the EDL talked of in the same breathe as the BNP, labelled as extremist, far right and racist.
In this report the BBC side step the EDL’s reason for existence…to ‘fight’ Islamism…stemming from the ‘barbaric 7th century Koran’…instead the BBC declares that its members join up because they are fed up with the mainstream political parties and the economy…nothing to do with Islam…..in fact it compares the EDL and the Far Right to the Green Party bizarrely…whilst calling the EDL extremist.
Widely held assumptions about their supporters – which often stress economic austerity, political protest and Islamophobia as the key drivers – are challenged by new survey data on public attitudes towards the ideas of one leading counter-Jihad group, the English Defence League.
The BBC has a highly defensive attitude towards Islam….firstly we know that the hierarchy are concerned about violent retribution if they broadcast something Muslims might find offensive:
“Without question, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms’, is different from, ‘I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write’,” he said. “This definitely raises the stakes.”
Second, the hierarchy look on Muslims as an besieged minority….to allow criticism of Islam would stoke racism and communal conflict.…Mark Thompson refusing to broadcast a play that claimed Islam was damaging free speech…and saying other faiths had “very close identity with ethnic minorities” and as a result were covered in a more careful way by broadcasters.’
That is why a Muslim like Tariq Ramadan is ‘allowed’ to speak in the subject of Islam, the detrimental cultural practices that result from a literal reading of the Koran and reform of it.
This is the theatrical performance that the BBC wouldn’t show: Can We Talk About This? is a verbatim theatre work investigating the interrelated issues of freedom of speech, multiculturalism and Islam as manifest in Western democracies. How does the West support progressive Muslim voices that want a modern and moderate version of Islam which offers equality to women, homosexuals and tolerance towards other faiths? If we don’t, won’t or can’t discuss aspects of religions that are oppressive, as we do in debate over secular matters, how does a society, or community, develop?
But who defines what is offensive and on what grounds?
As one of our interviewees succinctly noted: “Nothing of importance will not offend somebody, somewhere.”
Matthew Goodwin says (in 2011) supporters of the far right are generally neither irrational nor isolated, and that a far right party without extremist baggage could be electable in Britain.